Gut health specialist Nicola Russell shares her career story and explains why her own experience with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) inspired her to help others with the condition.
Running her own practice in Midhurst, West Sussex, Nicola treats patients in person and online via Zoom. She also runs a ‘4 Step to IBS Freedom’ programme, which looks at stress, sleep and exercise as well as nutrition.
Starting out in gut health
I qualified eight years ago and set up my business straight away seeing clients privately in my home.
You will find that most practitioners specialise in the area they do because they suffered with it themselves. So, in my case, the reason I trained as a nutritionist and then focussed on IBS, was because I suffered with it for 20 years before seeing a nutritionist myself who transformed my life.
Also, after training, you realise that everything starts in the gut. However, you don’t just ever focus on one area, you must take the whole body into consideration.
Studying at university
The first time round I dropped out after four months as I’d had a year off and got a great job which I didn’t want to leave. I then returned when I was 37 as I wanted to get a degree in this field as there are a lot of unqualified people out there.
I decided to re-train when my youngest daughter started school. It was a correspondence degree and took me five years to complete.
What people can do to improve their gut health
The best advice I can give is to ensure you are eating a good variety of foods. Our gut bacteria feed off fibre so we need to make sure we are eating lots of vegetables and in all colours (at least seven a day).
Also, stress affects our digestion. My clients look at me like I’m mad sometimes as they come to talk about nutrition and I’m more focused on stress. However, the gut and brain are linked (think butterflies in your tummy when you’re nervous) so if you are stressed, your digestion will be affected.
The common problems I treat people for
I treat patients for on-going constipation, diarrhoea (either separately or both), wind, bloating and reflux. I literally talk about bowels (well poo) all day!
Find your niche
I made the mistake of thinking I could be everything to everyone, so instead, become the expert in the area that interests you the most. You are not going to make millions in this field but the satisfaction you get when you hear you’ve helped relieve someone’s symptoms that they’ve had for years is priceless.
Advice I’d give my younger self
Don’t doubt your abilities. I suffered for years with imposter syndrome, now I’m turning 50 I’ve decided to just get out there more and say exactly what I like!
To find out more about Nicola Russell and her ‘4 Step to IBS Freedom’ programme, visit: nicola-russell.co.uk