2016 was the year I became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and my goal at the time was to open my private practice and teach Spanish-speaking clients how to manage their diabetes using food as medicine.

Little did I know what life had ahead for me. Today, I work closely with a gastroenterologist in my practice at Elmhurst Digestive and Liver Diseases and I see primarily digestive and diabetes related conditions with clients ranging from age 2 and above. But, let me tell you the story since the beginning.

Two months after receiving my license I began working as a dietitian and diabetes educator at a large primary care clinic in Manhattan, as well as in my nutrition practice at Elmhurst Digestive and Liver Diseases.

During the first months as a dietitian, I was fortunate to meet wonderful people who inspired me to work deep into my craft. A colleague and mentor encouraged me to enroll in a one year fellowship training so I could learn about non-conventional modalities for health and healing.

At the time, I could commit to schooling again as I had a baby practice with just a few patients per week and worked only a few days at my other job. So without giving it too much thought, I enrolled as a fellow in integrative medicine at the Institute for Family Health.

I am going to share what ‘integrative medicine’ is and how I began to practice ‘integrative nutrition’ to be able to help my clients use food as medicine to heal their digestive issues.

Complementary vs. Integrative Medicine

We’ve all seen the words “complementary,” “alternative,” and “integrative,” but what do they really mean?

The National Institutes of Health defines integrative medicine as a “non-mainstream practice used in place of conventional medicine”… “We use ‘integrative health’ when we talk about incorporating complementary approaches into mainstream health care.”

Integrative medicine is an approach that focuses on the whole person using evidenced-based recommendations from all therapeutic approaches – such as nutrition, acupuncture, yoga, osteopathic manipulation, complementary and alternative medicine or CAM, among others – together to achieve optimal health and healing.

Over the past year I’ve learned that integrative medicine practitioners are truly practicing a revolutionary approach that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between the practitioner and the patient.

nazirber De La Cruz Integrative Nutritionist

Today, I use these teachings to formulate highly individualized plans to influence changes in behaviors for my clients. I still see people with diabetes, but I have developed a BIG interest in digestive health through my practice at Elmhurst Digestive and Liver Diseases and my teachers.

Integrative nutrition is a type of approach that  focuses on the whole person, is patient/team centered, and health/healing oriented.

Whether or not a nutritionist uses this approach, nutrition is a form of integrative medicine.

The Bottom Line

You might think that I tell people to take expensive supplements or herbs and to eat salads all day to achieve their nutritional goals, but this is not reality, enjoyable, or sustainable. That is not what I do. My secret is to encourage my clients to use the resources available in their own environments and to make their reality work for them instead of against them.

Rather than diet, ultimately my integrative nutrition prescription aims for lifestyle changes that people can adhere to for the long term. 

P.S. Grab my 8 tips for crafting a healthy diet and the 10 rules to break to start enjoying food and exercise.

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