By Tyler Hebron
I had the pleasure of interviewing Maureen Rieras, Nutritionist at Third Space Wellness.
Maureen is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Specialist and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in health, wellness, and fitness. She first found a passion for helping others better their health and overall quality of life after she overcame a personal health setback in her early twenties. She now uses her years of experience, education, and wisdom to help enrich the lives of those who are struggling just as she did.
Before meeting up with Maureen in person, I was able to generate a list of questions that I was dying to hear her answers to!
When it was time for the interview, Maureen entered the room bright eyed and cheerful, eager to answer whatever I had prepared to throw at her. I warned her that there was no particular way in which I had organized the questions, but that didn’t serve as a setback for her whatsoever. We both jumped right into this short, uncut, yet informative conversation without hesitation.
Tyler: Do you believe that ideally food should serve as our only source of medicine?
Maureen: Ideally yes, I do think that food can serve as our only source of medicine. Food as well as herbs definitely can be medicine. I think sometimes when people’s disease states are a bit too far gone then there is a role for pharmaceuticals as well. But I think food definitely has all of the nutrients, has all of what our bodies need, and some foods specifically are very healing for certain conditions. Definitely food is the primary medicine… it is the first medicine.
*I felt inspired to ask this question after finding out that Maureen’s practice is based upon the concept of “food is medicine”.
Tyler: Are there any specific and/or common reasons or circumstances that someone would choose to see a nutritionist/dietician versus consulting their medical doctor regarding their diet?
Maureen: Well, I think a lot of times people see nutritionists or dietitians because doctors don’t always have a lot of training in nutrition. You know, they might take a class or two during medical school with all of their other course load. And so, they might make the general recommendations. When people want to get specific about their diet, then they usually come to a nutritionist or a dietitian.
Tyler: Okay, that makes sense because when I first started researching I found out that doctors don’t get that much of nutrition training and education. I just remember thinking how crazy that was to me. At first, I had a hard time understanding how that even could be.
Maureen: Yeah it’s amazing! It blows your mind how they just get this little course in school and tell you “eat vegetables!” and that’s pretty much it.
*”On average, students received 23.9 contact hours of nutrition instruction during medical school (range: 2–70 h). Only 40 schools required the minimum 25 h recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.”
Tyler: How do you go about approaching health issues stemming from lifestyle choices versus health issues stemming from personal genetics (family history)?
Maureen: Hmm, I think a lot of times those two are tied to each other. With the recent research into epigenetics which is how your environment plays into your genetics. You see that lifestyle really has a role in how genes are expressed. So, they sometimes go together. A lot of the time common health issues like heart disease can be treated with your lifestyle. They kind of go together, but they are also different. Is there anything specific you had in mind when referring to genetics?
Tyler: I was thinking more along the lines of hypertension, stroke, high cholesterol… things like that because that’s what “runs in my family” or at least that’s what I’ve been told. With that in mind, I am curious about your approach to the situation. Is there a difference in the method(s) you use in the treatment room?
Maureen: Not necessarily, because so much of it is lifestyle, you know your daily habits make up your overall health and so it’s something that you can see within the things you do every single day that really do add up. We end up saying things like “Oh, my grandmother had hypertension,” and “my uncle had a stroke,” and this and that, but we need to start asking questions like, “well, when did they have them?” and, “what was their life like leading up to that event(s)/health setback(s)?” before we go ahead and say it runs in the family.
Maureen: It really does sort of go hand-in-hand. I mean, if someone is already in a diseased state then you might treat them a little bit differently, you might get very specific with certain foods instead of focusing on what a general healthy diet looks like. If somebody does come in with hypertension then I might give them a list of specific foods and nutrients that they should focus on. If they’re already on pharmaceuticals that could make for a difference. That has to do with how they can interact with certain nutrients.
Tyler: Are there any questions you as a nutritionist wish people would ask you?
Maureen: Oh, that’s a good question! Um, what would I want someone to ask me? Like as a new client?
Maureen: I wish people would sometimes ask me how long some things will take to adopt, you know the real process of making lifestyle changes. A lot of people just want results really quickly. Asking that question would help them get to understand what they’re getting themselves into.
Tyler: Like what you said, nine times out of ten people want results super quickly without being willing to put in the work, which is unrealistic.
Maureen: Yeah, and what they fail to realize is that with the work you can do a little bit every day and within a matter of months you can look back and see the changes that you’ve been able to achieve by taking baby steps.
Tyler: How do you tell the difference between a food sensitivity and a food allergy?
Maureen: Mmm, that’s a good question too! Well, food allergies can be tested and there’s different ways that they look at different types of immune responses. Whether it’s more of an anaphylactic reaction, you know if somebody’s throat closes, if they get hives, things like that. There’s ways to look for different types of immune reactions, there’s a variety of tests being developed by labs. Sometimes the intolerance shows up as a delayed immune response and there are some tests that look at that as well. But for me, an allergy is when somebody has an immediate reaction such as hives, experiencing a tingling sensation, their throat closes up, eyes becoming itchy. Whereas intolerance can be more of a delayed reaction to something. It takes a few days or it just might not settle well, it’s not necessarily the red flag alarm immune response. But those intolerances can just ruin your day, make you feel unwell, and make you get to a place where it just isn’t healthy for you.
Tyler: Mhmm, I remember a while ago I was talking to Rachel about peanut allergies and why so many people have them in the first place. We discussed the possibility of it having to do with the way that peanuts are processed in the West and our immune systems or if it’s truly because so many people just happen to be allergic to peanuts themselves.
Maureen: Yeah! I mean you see more and more food allergies these days. One theory is that we’re a bit “too clean” in terms of our lifestyle which affects our digestive and immune systems. Western culture is really focused on using antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, not letting kids play outside and touch dirt, etc. This makes it so our immune systems just aren’t as strong as they could be. If you think about a child growing up in Central India, I don’t know if they have as many food allergies as kids growing up in the United States. A lot of it has to do with their immune systems being stronger, better trained, and knowing how to deal with a bit more of outside triggers. So when you have a really clean diet and environment (sometimes referred to as the “clean hygiene theory”) your immune system just kind of reacts, and overreacts. All because, it needs something to do. A lot of time there are these common allergens, such as the “Top 8”, peanuts being one of them and we’re starting to see more and more of allergies especially in young children.
An appointment with Maureen can be booked online or by calling us at 301.328.5326 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her upcoming workshop here on Sunday 9/23/18 about boosting your immunity with food and herbs!
Tyler Hebron interned at Third Space Wellness for the 2017/2018 academic year. After years of battling with eczema, intense seasonal allergies, and an eating disorder (by the name of orthorexia), she became motivated to switch to a plant based vegan diet. It became her passion and mission to help educate others about the positive effects a balanced wholesome diet can have on health. Tyler recently graduated from Glenelg High School in May of 2018, and will major in Biology on the Pre-Med track at Hampton University starting this fall 2018. She hopes to pursue her future career goal of becoming a Naturopathic Physician.