How it works

It makes sense to think that the fuel you put into your body affects how it works. That includes how it responds to stress and that’s why what you eat is vital in ensuring a strong and healthy response and recovery when stressed. Stress can also make you lose your appetite, or trigger binge eating or drinking. It is easy to forget how important nutrition is in relation to all sorts of health problems, but it is key and something only you can control.

What it could help:

Fatigue, indigestion, bloating, IBS, depression, stress, anxiety, insomnia, migraine, headaches, pains, aches.

Evidence base:

Studies have shown that the body depletes its stores of nutrients when under stress, mainly protein, vitamin C, A, and the B vitamins. The stress response also naturally results in changes to magnesium and calcium levels in the body. A review suggested that magnesium deficiency can intensify adverse reactions to stress, such as an increased release of stress hormones. Magnesium deficiency, which helps muscles relax, has also been linked to “Type A” or high-stress personalities. The combination of being stressed and sacrificing a healthy diet for other factors, and a stressful body depleted of useful nutrients, together makes for a harmful cycle that makes the body more stressed. Since every person is unique, nutritional needs vary to some degree.

What to expect:

A nutritionist or dietician (see below for the difference) can help you alleviate your problems by changing food habits. They should take a detailed medical history and may also take measurements and carry out some food sensitivity tests to identify any allergies or nutritional deficiencies. They’ll also ask you to describe your health concerns, and then advise you on foods you should avoid or increase, and perhaps ask you to keep a food diary. Subsequent meetings depend on your individual needs – most patients set up regular appointments to monitor progress and make any appropriate changes. Initial consultations are longer than follow-ups, usually taking up to 90 minutes.


Nutritionists advise on food and healthy eating but do not have to be registered by law or have any particular qualifications – anyone can call themselves a nutritionist or a nutritional therapist. Dieticians can also advise on food and healthy eating but have more expertise in medical conditions, and are more likely to have experience in the NHS. Their title is legally protected and they must have an appropriate degree.

Find out more:

Find a therapist:

The Association for Nutrition is the voluntary professional body for nutritionists and their website includes a register of nutritionists with approved levels of training:

Alternatively, registered dietitians can be found through your GP or by searching online at one of these certified resources:


If you are referred to a dietician or nutritionist on the NHS your visits will be free. For freelance nutritionists and dieticians, costs vary depending on their experience, your needs and the number of sessions. These will depend on your progress as monitored by your practitioner. The changes made with a dietician are intended to be long-term, so follow up sessions may be beneficial, particularly at the start. Initial sessions usually cost up to £100, and any follow up sessions around £50.

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