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Health Coaches & Nutritional, Metabolic, Endocrine Disorders

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Health Coaches & Nutritional, Metabolic, Endocrine Disorders

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Roughly 133 million Americans have at least one chronic disease. Three of the most common are hypertension, arthritis, and respiratory disorders.

Understanding disease is important for health coaches. It helps these professionals create menus that include foods that may relieve certain symptoms. And they are able to do so without aggravating other symptoms. 

Health and nutrition professionals should also be aware of diseases of the endocrine system and nutritional diseases. They also benefit from understanding what it means to have a metabolic disorder or autoimmune disorder. 

Why It’s Important to Know About Endocrine, Nutritional, and Metabolic Diseases and Immunity Disorders as a Health Coach

A health coach helps clients develop nutrition plans for their lifestyles. One of the goals of these plans is to meet the client’s dietary needs. This begins with knowing the recommended ranges for various nutrients. But each person’s body is different. And sometimes it is different due to a disorder or disease. 

Having a basic knowledge of some of the most common health conditions helps health coaches create a more specialized meal plan. For example, if a client has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, research supports a gluten-free diet. Other studies have found that people with Addison’s disease may benefit from an evening snack.

Plus, endocrine, nutrition, immune system, and metabolic disease are all rather common. Take diabetes, for instance. Diabetes is just one of many endocrine disorders. And this disease afflicts approximately 34.2 million people in the U.S. Autoimmune disease is a concern as well. Why? Because it appears to be on the rise

Not only that but these types of diseases are often related. For example, Graves’ disease is an immune system disorder. People with Graves produce too much thyroid hormone. Thus, this disease also impacts the endocrine system.

Learning more about these disorders helps nutritionists and health coaches better meet the needs of these clients. So, let’s take a look at each one individually. We’ll start with diseases of the endocrine system.

Endocrine Disorders

The endocrine system serves a variety of purposes. It assists the body with proper growth and development. It helps control metabolism. It plays a role in sexual function. It even influences your mood.

There are eight glands within the endocrine system. The pituitary gland is considered the master gland. That’s because it produces hormones that control most of the other endocrine glands. These other glands include the thyroid gland, the adrenal glands, testes in males, and ovaries in females. 

Sometimes an endocrine gland doesn’t function as it should. It may not react to hormones effectively. Or its hormone levels are off, creating some type of malfunction. This could be due to excess hormones or a hormone deficiency. 

The most common endocrine disorder in the U.S. is diabetes mellitus. Though, it is often simply referred to as diabetes. With diabetes, blood sugar levels become too high. In type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes, it produces insulin, but doesn’t produce or use it efficiently.

Other endocrine disorders include:

  • Thyroid disease. A thyroid disorder can take many forms. If the thyroid is enlarged, it can become a goiter. If it makes too much thyroid hormone, it’s called hyperthyroidism. If it makes too little thyroid hormone, it’s called hypothyroidism. You can also develop cancer in the thyroid. 
  • Adrenal gland disorders. A disorder within an adrenal gland can cause cortisol or sex hormone levels to be off. If this gland makes too much cortisol, it can lead to Cushing’s syndrome. If it makes too little, it can cause Addison’s disease. Inadequate production of adrenal hormones is referred to as adrenal insufficiency. This can lead to adrenal fatigue, creating tiredness and body aches. 

Symptoms of endocrine disease vary. With Addison’s disease, a person may have low energy, loss of appetite, and increased thirst. If the pituitary gland is malfunctioning, they may experience headaches, vision issues, and dizziness. Pituitary tumors can cause these symptoms as well.

Endocrine disorder treatment also varies based on which disease exists. For instance, diabetes mellitus treatment changes depending on the type. Type 1 diabetes mellitus may involve the use of an insulin pump. Or it may require insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is often treated with lifestyle changes and medication.

Some research indicates that a ketogenic diet may help people with endocrine disorders. A keto diet is high in fat and low in carbs. It’s thought to promote healthier endocrine function.

Nutritional Disorders

Nutritional disorders exist when the body doesn’t get enough of the required nutrients. They may also occur if it has trouble with nutrient absorption. 

Crohn’s disease is one example of a disease that hinders the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Research indicates that up to 85% of people with this disease are malnourished. Iron deficiency is the most common for people with Crohn’s. So too is a vitamin D deficiency.

Understanding when a client’s disease may result in nutritional deficiencies is important. You may want to suggest higher quantities of certain vitamins and minerals to better meet their needs. You might also want to recommend blood testing to learn what deficiencies exist.

The symptoms one might experience with a nutritional disorder depend on what nutrients are low. If iron is low, for instance, the client may feel weak, tired, have chest pain, or shortness of breath. If their vitamin D is low, they may experience bone, joint, or muscle pain.

Treating the disease can sometimes help ease the symptoms by increasing absorption rates. Other times, supplements may be necessary to fill the gap. 

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome refers to several conditions that co-exist. Together, they increase one’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. High blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol are all trademark signs. People with metabolic syndrome also commonly carry excess fat in their abdominal area. 

Metabolic issues can occur from birth. Studies show a connection between congenital malformation (birth defect) and metabolic disorders. When this occurs, the metabolic disorder can disturb brain development. 

Metabolic syndrome can also be caused by being overweight and/or inactive. Additional risk factors include being older, being Hispanic, having diabetes, or having another disease. 

One major issue with metabolic syndrome is that it can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Thus, people with this condition benefit from taking actions that reduce these risks. This includes eating a diet high in fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Limiting saturated fat and sodium help as well.

Studies suggest a Mediterranean or vegetarian diet for people with metabolic disease. A benefit of the Mediterranean diet is that it helps fight inflammation. A plant-based diet may be more desirable to some clients. This includes those with certain environmental beliefs or who disagree with the treatment of animals being raised for food. 

Immune System Disorders

The immune system doesn’t always function as it should. With Graves’ disease, this malfunction leads to too much thyroid hormone. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is when the immune system attacks the thyroid. This causes thyroid hormone levels to drop. Other immune system diseases include rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

So, the immune system can be underactive or overactive. Either one can have negative consequences for the client. If the immune system is weakened, the person becomes more susceptible to the latest bug or virus. They might also have trouble healing. If it is in overdrive, it can actively attack itself. 

Treatment is different for each immune system disorder. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can sometimes be treated with a synthetic hormone. This helps resolve a hormone deficiency. People with Graves’ disease may be prescribed a beta-blocker or antithyroid medicine. 

Diet matters too. For example, avoiding iodine-rich foods is recommended for people with Graves’. This includes watching their consumption of multivitamins and even cough syrup.

How to Help Clients with These Conditions Improve Their Overall Wellness

The best way to help clients with any of these conditions is to work directly with their medical care providers. Learn what food items they can (and should) eat. Also learn which ones they should avoid. 

This helps you create a menu plan that fits the client’s needs. It might also help them manage their disease. Together, this improves their overall wellness. They feel better on the inside and out. 

Learn more about how to help clients create nutrition plans and build healthy behaviors to support their lifestyle. Sign up for ISSA’s Health Coach Certification. This course teaches you what you need to know to help all clients meet their dietary needs, adjust behaviors for a healthier future, and increase motivation to succeed.


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