Physio & Nutrition: Can They Work Together?

Nutrition. Physio. Whole-life Wellness. If you're reading this or are already one of our awesome clients, then you know we do things a bit differently to conventional allied health practitioners. Which makes it even more exciting when the conventional associations start seeing the value in this truly multi-disciplinary approach.

AP founder, physio, C.H.E.K. Practitioner and nutritionist, Sissy Taufika, was interviewed for InMotion, the Australian Physiotherapy Association national magazine about 'Adding Value Through Nutrition'.

Read her full contribution below. And we'd love to hear your thoughts on how taking a more holistic approach has helped you too so make sure you leave a comment!


Excerpt from ‘Adding Value Through Nutrition’, InMotion Magazine, April 2017

Sissy Taufika is another physiotherapist who feels there can be a tendency to stick too rigidly to the biomechanical realm when assessing patients.

 ‘We might look at an ankle sprain, for instance, and see that it could be coming from a dysfunction of the hip, but I think a whole other level is looking at how the food someone eats and the stress levels in their life impact on their physical well-being,’ she says. ‘People spend a decent amount of time with us—half-an-hour to an hour, one to one—so, often we can identify that patients are stressed or need more holistic lifestyle advice. There is so much more that we can do to help people, on top of manual therapy and giving exercises.

‘If a person’s an athlete, they train four or five times a week, their personal life could be really busy, they might be going through a breakup—these compounding factors add to stress levels; and, physiologically, the body doesn’t differentiate between physical stress and emotional stress, so the stress hormones are elevated, which impacts on the person’s ability to recover from a particular injury.’

Sissy says an early career spent juggling positions across paediatrics, aged care, private practice musculoskeletal as well as hydrotherapy, lead her to pursuing a more holistic practice. She undertook further training in conjunction with the US-based CHEK Institute, qualifying as a CHEK Holistic Life Coach and CHEK Practitioner, and is now close to completing an Advanced Diploma in Nutritional Medicine.

‘I do both [physiotherapy and CHEK-based lifestyle and food coaching because that’s the way I want to practice—my passions lie in a holistic approach and I love being able to talk to people about food and their whole wellbeing,’ Sissy says. ‘That’s not going to be for every physio, but identifying where a client might need nutritional help can really complement what we do. It’s not something we learn at uni and is why I decided to do the CHEK training and am studying to become a nutritionist, so I can combine the two.’

Sissy cites paediatric health as a crucial area where effective change can be made via nutritional medicine towards confronting obesity.

‘Epidemiological studies have shown that the chances of becoming an obese adult are much higher if you were an obese child, and much higher if you also had obese parents,’ she says. ‘Trying to work in nutrition with kids, at that age where you can really make that change, will have better long-term outcomes for the whole population. As a practitioner, I wanted to be able to look deeper into what was going on with somebody, to be able to talk with them about their diet and their body’s requirements, because I felt like it was the foundation of what I was trying to do from a physical point of view. ’

In addition to chronic conditions, like obesity and diabetes, research has shown nutritional medicine can play a big part in fracture healing and the repair of other short-term physical injuries.

‘For example, with a sprained ankle, we can mobilise and educate the patient on how to minimise the inflammation, but a ligament is made out of collagen, so where does that collagen come from, and how can we enhance that person’s ability to be able to rebuild a strong ligament? That’s where knowledge of nutrition can come in really handy.’

According to Sissy Taufika, reluctance to extend one’s scope of practice, through further study, could be one reason why practitioners might avoid incorporating nutrition into their approach.

‘There’s not a lot of people that I know who are doing it and for the most part that’s just how the profession has evolved - you’ve got your physio, your massage therapist, your dietician, and they’re all very separate. Plus it does take extra study to be able to give nutritional advice appropriately and that’s not for everyone. But for me, being able to look at someone’s lifestyle and diet was the missing link, so I’ve been more than happy to do that.'

In general, Sissy believes that, so long as a practitioner undertakes adequate training in nutritional medicine, they should feel confident in passing that knowledge onto clients.

‘I want to emphasise that if you do want to practice and give advice on those topics, It’s really important that you get the necessary training', she says. ‘We need to still work within the scope of practice, so I’m not advocating that physios go out and start giving nutritional advice if they don’t have qualifications for that, but I think the important role for most of us is being able to identify that patients may benefit from that support, and be able to refer on.

‘The tendency to stick to conventional physiotherapy may be just a little bit about the culture of the profession—people perhaps get a bit worried that, if physios are giving that nutritional advice, it may be outside of their scope. But just as not all physios do Clinical Pilates or dry needling, I think the ones who are interested in it and want to, can, so long as they get the necessary training.’