Nutritionist Laminn-Thaynt McMahon speaks about the role of nutrition as part of wider health-care, and the question of AI and automation in wellness
This week, we speak to Nutritionist Resource member Laminn-Thaynt McMahon about the role of nutritionists in wider healthcare.
Laminn-Thaynt is a BANT registered nutritionist, working full-time in her private practice, Intrasymphony, based in Buckinghamshire.
Her special area of interest is brain health and its bi-directional relationship with the gut. Laminn-Thaynt is fascinated by the brain’s connection with the rest of the body, especially the immune and endocrine systems and the effects of stress.
So, what’s her professional opinion?
Why did you decide to join your profession?
I think one of the most rewarding jobs in the world is one that involves helping people. I used to be a management accountant in my early career, but I was not feeling a sense of purpose and it was not giving me a connection with my true self. I then went on to do massage therapy where I could help people and it fitted with the therapist in me. However, something in the whole realm of health and wellbeing was still missing.
I knew that my favourite question ever since I was a child has been ‘why?’ It has always made logical sense to me to figure out the root cause of symptoms and illness. The functional medicine model we use in nutrition and lifestyle medicine allows us to seek that root cause and figure out the ‘why’. Therefore, I knew nutrition made sense, it was me, and what I wanted, needed, and had to do!
Since you began, what have you found to be the most surprising thing about the work you do?
Not many people appear to realise nutritional therapy is not about creating meal plans! In fact, most of us avoid creating meal plans for clients, as it is important to enable clients to learn and understand about foods and help them create new habits where they are choosing the right foods themselves, instead of giving a prescribed diet plan.
What has been surprising is how much is unknown about the work, the extent of training and knowledge, of nutritional therapy practitioners.
I think one of the most rewarding jobs in the world is one that involves helping people
What do you like about your profession?
I love that it is ultimately about helping people to help themselves. It is not doing the work for the clients but guiding and empowering them to make the necessary changes and helping them build healthier habits that become a part of their lifestyle.
I also love that there is more than one way to help people through nutrition. It can be one-to-one personalised consultations, generalised group work, providing information and education through talks and written work, practical workshops, cooking, retreat days, and the list goes on. I love the wide scope and endless creative ways you can help people in this profession.
What are some of the challenges that come with your line of work?
In terms of working with clients, one challenge is health culture and mindset. We have been conditioned to expect a magic pill to alleviate symptoms quickly, rather than make long-term consistent efforts with our diet and lifestyle. Therefore it is not always easy for clients to take action on the recommendations. Most people find change hard, so it can be gradual and slow progress.
In terms of a wider challenge, there is of course a misaligned way of thinking between functional medicine and allopathic medicine. For example, clients come to me feeling unwell and needing support often after they have had tests done and told all ‘normal’, however from a functional medicine perspective, some may be out of range and need investigating.
A personal challenge is working on my own, mostly online at home, which can feel lonely and isolated at times. Online consultations are more convenient for all and from a business perspective, I can expand my reach further, however it is always nicer to see people in person.
How do you address some of the challenges that you face?
I explain to clients about the sense of taking control and responsibility for your own health. To shift mindsets and change behaviours takes time. In future, I will be learning about health coaching and utilising coaching techniques to help my clients.
To stay connected with people in person, I make efforts to attend in-person events, network with local business groups, and hope to offer in-person consultations in future.
What do you think could be done to improve the profession for you and for others?
This comes back to the wider challenge of integrating nutrition and lifestyle interventions within the current healthcare service. There are many chronic conditions or what we call non-communicable diseases, which are led by poor diet and lifestyle. We know the current healthcare system is under a burden and in crisis. I believe the healthcare service working collaboratively with Registered Nutritional Therapy Practitioners can improve individual health outcomes and promote a healthy society.
I also believe initiatives, perhaps from professional bodies, government, media campaigns and such like, promoting understanding of what nutritional therapy practitioners do would help in giving the profession more recognition and regard.
To shift mindsets and change behaviours takes time
What do you see being some of the major challenges your profession will face in the next 10 years? How do you think the way you will operate may change?
I think it’s fair to say computer science and technology will have a huge impact. The whole AI revolution may be a big challenge for us all in every profession! I think the trend seems to be going more and more away from person-to-person human connection and more and more towards automated online programmes.
Perhaps this means the way we work would also have to be part of the automated systems, who knows? Even if AI can take care of the health assessment, food diary analysis, and produce personalised nutrition and lifestyle recommendations, what about the client and therapist rapport? What about health coaching to help clients change their habits? I do hope we don’t have a future where we are building rapport with robots!
What advice would you give to others in the profession?
From a practical point of view, I would advise being part of a practitioner group so you can discuss cases anonymously, share ideas and learn from each other. Also to never stop learning and do CPD.
From a holistic point of view, I’d say the world is an unhealthy place at the moment and we in this profession are in a wonderful position, absolutely in the right place, to be part of the workforce that changes that and makes it healthy. Let’s say hooray to that!
BA (Hons), DipION, ITEC Dip, MBANT, RCNHC, MCTHA