Therapist spotlight: Dr Kirstie Lawton
We speak to Dr Kirstie Lawton, PhD AfN Registered Nutritionist and nutritional therapist, about her career journey so far, and her advice for those interested in nutritional therapy.
Hi Kirstie! Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
I’m an AfN Registered Nutritionist and a BANT registered nutritional therapist, specialising in paediatric and young adult health, although I have clients of all ages with a wide range of conditions. I live in a lovely village in Rutland with my cats and dogs, and I have a clinic here in my garden.
I like to keep busy, so I also work for a fantastic NHS endorsed digital health programme called Second Nature, where I coach people who want to change their relationship with food, and I am also module coordinator for the new and exciting Graduate Diploma in Functional Nutrition at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION).
What led you to a career in nutritional therapy?
I started my career in nutrition in 1998. After becoming really poorly, I met an amazing man called Andy Baggott (he still practices!) who made me realise how important nutrition was. From there, I went to Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh to do my Honours Degree and a PhD.
I’d been practising for over a decade when I realised that I just wasn’t practising the kind of nutrition I was passionate about and didn’t have the knowledge I needed to really have an impact, so I undertook a three-year Nutritional Therapy diploma at ION.
Remember that the Nutritional Therapist is only your facilitator. You are the change maker.
You practise the Functional Medicine approach. Can you share more about how this works?
Absolutely! Functional medicine is really going back to where medicine first started. It’s a systems-based approach to medicine, looking at all of the biochemical and metabolic pathways and how they interact, and how these are impacted through diet and lifestyle. I’m often asked how this differs from conventional nutrition and I always use the analogy of iron.
As a nutritionist, if a client had an iron deficiency, I would review their diet and provide them with a list of iron-rich foods. As a functional nutritionist, I still consider dietary intake, but I also consider a much wider range of possible root causes. It’s a much more in-depth approach.
What can clients expect from their first chat with you?
First, I arrange a free 15-minute chat to explain the process and put my clients at ease. I send a detailed questionnaire for them to complete and, in the first consultation, I ask the client to talk me through their health concerns so that I can build a picture of their health story.
From there, I give a summary of any biochemical pathways that might require support, put forward ideas for initial steps including diet, lifestyle or supplementation, and discuss any tests that might help determine the root cause of their health concerns. I want my clients to leave the appointment feeling heard, supported and encouraged.
You specialise in maternal and paediatric dietary interventions. Can you tell us more about this?
I’ve been working in paediatric and maternal health since the beginning of my career, which, until I retrained, was predominantly weight management and education. My PhD focused on the dietary intake of pre-schoolers and their mothers from disadvantaged communities. I work with children and young adults on a wide range of cases, from gut health issues to neurodiversity, food intolerances to immune health, and weight-related concerns and associated health issues. I love what I do.
The impact you can have on the health of a young person is profound. I also work with women pre, during and post-pregnancy, to ensure that their bodies are optimally nourished. I’m caring for my clients before they are even embryos!
Have you any advice to give someone interested in trying nutritional therapy?
I would say do your research and find a practitioner that is qualified and experienced, who you feel comfortable working with. Nutritionist Resource is an excellent resource, as is the BANT register. Be clear of your budget, as functional tests and good quality supplements can be quite expensive. I only suggest testing when I feel it is essential, and I always approach the clients’ GP first to source tests through the NHS.
And remember that the Nutritional Therapist is only your facilitator. You are the change maker. So be open and honest about your readiness to change and the speed at which this change is comfortable.
Where can people find you?
You can find out more about me via my profile, website younutritionclinic.com or on Instagram at @younutritionclinic. To schedule an appointment or discuss your case, feel free to get in touch with me.