Geri Brewster, RD, MPH, CDN, on the Vital Role of Nutrition to Good Health

Geri Brewster, RD, MPH, CDN, on the Vital Role of Nutrition to Good Health

I have known master’s level nutritionist, Geri Brewster, RD, MPH, CDN, for years. We have worked together on articles, book chapters, and radio shows. Geri began her clinical career nearly 30 years ago, specializing in pediatric and young-adult developmental disabilities, including metabolic and gastrointestinal disorders; specialized tube feedings; dysphagia; autism; behavioral, attention, sensory, and oral-motor integration disorders; and eating disorders. (I’m always surprised that Geri has been at it for nearly 30 years – looking at her, she is a personal testimony to healthful habits.) In her current practice, Geri develops comprehensive individualized lifestyle, nutritional, and supplement programs for each client's specific conditions.

I wanted to share some of Geri’s information with you. Here’s what she had to say:

1. Do you work in conjunction with doctors who help individuals, families, or both, and what ages and conditions do you mostly serve?

My clients come to me from a variety of sources. Some are self-referred because they find me through my website, have heard me speak, or read something I wrote. Most are referred by current clients or by a health care practitioner, either a physician or therapist from a variety of backgrounds. When a practitioner of any sort refers an individual, a family, or a child to me, I generally maintain some communication with that person and often have collaborative meetings by phone with them and the client. It is a wonderful team approach.

2. When clients come to you, are you seeing that gut issues, metabolic issues, or other issues are more foundational to first address in their health program?

It depends on the individual. These conditions are all interrelated. Clearly there needs to be a triage of sorts and prioritization given to the most significant issue, but once a comprehensive medical-nutritional history and assessment is taken, it is easier to know how to proceed. Also, by the time that information is taken and examined and a rapport established, it is also easier to know how much change the individual is willing or capable of making following an initial visit. Generally, with chronic issues, gut function and metabolism are impacted, so an understanding of how current intake and lifestyle are impacting those conditions and having more systemic effects is the first step in discovery. Then, dietary changes are recommended to help abate the sequelae, and supplemental support to help in recovery is addressed. I prefer a slow, steady approach, beginning low and slow and making progress. I'm not a big fan of the "kitchen sink" approach.

3. Based on your experience with your client base, what is the one thing you most wish physicians would not say to families?

That diet has nothing to do with "this" (insert condition).

4. What is the one thing you most wish physicians would proactively tell families?

That while medications can assist with symptom suppression, addressing nutrition will help mitigate some of the long-term side effects while assisting in true healing. That food is medicine. You are what you eat and that if your nutritional house is in order, you will most likely be able to withstand whatever illness might come your way with fewer complications and rapid recovery. That nutrients are the core building blocks of everything good in your body and that today's lifestyle, pollutants, and adulterated foods tax our nutrient needs making paying attention to our nutritional needs that much greater. When all you do is put the same things into your body and you are getting only the same health issues resulting, then it is time to change up what you are putting into your body. Food regulates everything -- especially inflammation vs. balance. And everyone should see a nutritionist. It is those truths I wish they would tell a family proactively.

5. What are the nutrients that can be provided in supplement form that you’ve seen as most key to restoring the health of your clients, and did these nutrients need to be taken alone, with other nutrients, or as part of a larger program?

Wow, this is a detailed question and one that most likely deserves its own future Q and A. Suffice it to say, every nutrient most likely belongs to a larger program. But if one wants to begin to make a dent, especially this time of year, I would select vitamin D-3, probiotics, a multi-mineral, and omega-3s EPA and DHA. These nutrients can all be taken with a meal and at the same time. For folks who take nothing, they can really feel a big difference both mentally as well as physically after taking these supplements after just two weeks. Before the onset of the spring allergies, making sure vitamin D and probiotics are on deck to bolster the immune system is something I feel is essential. All of those nutrients will also help improve mental outlook. They can all be taken with dinner. Once those are established, I would most likely introduce a B-complex, at breakfast, preferably with methylated folate and B-12 and also CoQ10. All of these are generally well tolerated, beneficial, and often necessary for most folks these days.

Various nutrient protocols offer exquisite support and assistance in recovery for any number of chronic and/or metabolic conditions, but generally these are individualized per the condition.

6. You are also very interested in preconception health. What roles do you feel healthful eating or nutritional supplementation serve in that regard? Immune issues in mom that could affect baby? Toxins? Something else?

Oh my. This is an enormous issue. The body burden everyone is carrying these days is large. We have industrial chemicals that wreak havoc with our immune, nervous, and endocrine systems stored in our body fat and organs when not circulating freely. Our food supply is also a big source of exposure to chemicals and chemical waste -- not to mention GMO foods, which the American Academy of Environmental Medicine urged a moratorium on several years ago due to associated immune and reproductive concerns. Studies on epigenetics have demonstrated the impact of one generation's food exposure influencing the genetic expression of disease and lifespan in future generations. We have also become a society reliant on pharmaceuticals for symptom suppression from a very young age. So, the use of proton pump inhibiting acid blockers for reflux, which inhibits nutrient absorption and proper flora proliferation, and dependence on laxatives for elimination have become an acceptable norm as have stimulant and mood-altering medications to assist learning and socialization, as well as antidepressants. Sometimes medications are necessary and lifesaving; however, overdependence in the absence of regard to the big picture and a person's nutritional status is ultimately going to have an impact on not only that individual but their offspring as well.
One of the biggest ways to detox is to gestate and nurse. So, it is best to clean up before conception. It's not just the nutrients from a mother's body that wind up in her fetus. Cord blood and meconium studies have shown the toxic body burden of newborns. How this taxes a baby's ability to detox early on while nourishing and nurturing a brand new immune and neurological system leaves much to wonder regarding the correlation between the epidemic of chronic illness in children and the quality and purity of their origin.

We have one opportunity to build a better baby bump, and I think it is best served with preconception detox and nutritional support. Eating clean, alkalizing the body, reducing one's body burden through detoxification, reducing inflammation and metabolic syndrome, and replenishing with essential nutrients are all necessary steps prior to conception to establish the most baby-friendly environment for gestation. In my opinion, it takes more than just doing one month off the pill and taking a prenatal to ready a woman's body for conception.

7. Can you please share a couple of quick success stories about your clients being helped with special diet and nutritional supplementation?

After more than 30 years in clinical practice, there are almost too many to share. From finding the right tube feeding for a gastrostomy-dependent little one, to an elimination diet for a food-sensitive toddler and a gluten-free diet for a 40-year-old, the anecdotal stories of recovery from failure to thrive to improved behaviors and improved skin conditions are numerous and significant. In addition to dietary changes, there is always nutrient support. Removing offending factors, replenishing with nonreactive proteins and nutrients, and building up with targeted supplements have always yielded good results. I am very outcome oriented. A customized nutritional care plan goes a long way toward improved outcomes.

8. Any other take-home messages that you would like to share?

There is always hope. The body, when given the right macro and micro nutrients, has great capacity to heal. Like the old adage, you cannot keep doing something the same way and expect different results, so it goes with what we put into our bodies. Nutritional biochemistry dictates the high regard we should have for the food we put into ourselves and our unique biochemical response to food. When we are aware of the intricacies of our gastrointestinal tract and the gut-brain connection, we are more likely to respect what we feed ourselves, our children, and how we take care of Mother Earth, which is the source of what feeds us all. Thank you.

Geri practices in New York and can be reached via her website at