Over the last several decades, we have been witnessing a number of health issues and conditions affecting a growing number of children, such as obesity, diabetes, attention-deficit disorder (ADD), among others. In Medicine, we have learned that there is much truth to the statement ‘We are what we eat”. Indeed, our nutrition and the foods we eat can play a significant role in the development as well as the worsening of these and many other conditions.
We interview today Dr. Helena Gaviria, Board-Certified Pediatrician and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, about the importance of Health Coaching our patients. In particular, health coaching at an early age can help our younger patients develop a sense of responsibility for their own health, and can prove to be very rewarding. As a Pediatrician and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Dr. Gaviria is helping families to develop a sustainable lifestyle and live a healthier life. Her passion for Nutrition and Mindset are palpable in her answers.
myDoqter: Dr. Gaviria, what is Health Coaching and how can it help us manage our health better?
Dr. Gaviria: Health Coaching is a method to support our patients on their wellness path, in order to achieve their best self through individualized food and lifestyle changes that meet their unique needs and health goals.
myDoqter: What are the factors that define a successful health coaching approach?
Dr. Gaviria: Using the concept of Bio-Individuality is key to the successful implementation of Health Coaching. Every person is a different and very unique organism, with different levels of metabolism and very diverse genetic predispositions or tendencies. And, therefore, every person’s needs can be different from one another. What works well for someone in terms of nutrition and specific foods, could be harmful to another person. This is where taking into account the Bio-Individuality concept is so important.
Also, for successful Health Coaching the accountability portion is key. The patient should feel supported by the Health Coach all the time, during the visits and in between visits as well. One can see how this is even more relevant with children, where the pediatrician, the parents, and the young patient have to work together to adhere successfully to a specific plan for treatment and/or lifestyle changes. But in the end, the results can be exceedingly positive and long-lasting.
myDoqter: Can you share with us more about how children can benefit from learning this strategy through their pediatricians?
Dr. Gaviria: The best time to learn how to take control of our health is always during childhood! Not only families and teachers have the responsibility of teaching children, but we as Pediatricians have that responsibility as well. If there is something missing from the Education System it is teaching children from a young age how to take good care of their minds and bodies. We have the opportunity to impact children’s lives every time they come in for a visit, and most kids listen to what we tell them.
myDoqter: How can Health Coaching help children afflicted by specific medical conditions (diabetes, heart disease, obesity, metabolic disorders, etc) and who also have learning disabilities?
Dr. Gaviria: Since Health Coaching looks at every patient as a unique individual, with different needs, goals and characteristics, it also takes into account all the factors that can cause disease and affect the life of each individual patient. And not only the child with special needs requires a unique approach, but his/her family will often need help and guidance as well. As Pediatricians and Health Coaches we can discuss and help create specific nutritional and activity regimens for each patient, according to their metabolic needs and the disease or condition that they may have. Not only will our young patients learn to practice a healthier lifestyle in general, but they will also help their medical condition improve in most cases.
My family specifically was impacted 18 months ago with the diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes in our son, who was 30 months at the time. My experience and knowledge as a Health Coach has helped us understand and accept this condition in an easier way.
myDoqter: Could Health Coaching also improve the lives of children with Mental Health Disorders, who would otherwise only receive treatments that consist of medications?
Dr. Gaviria: I believe that Integrative Health Coaching definitely does help children with mental health conditions. However, I emphasize that this must not replace the care by a Child Psychiatrist or Child Psychologist. Health Coaching, in combination with the adequate psychological support by a physician or psychologist, can be very successful in managing mental health disease in some children. As Health Coaches, we learn to understand the physiologic and mental aspects of patients, so we can help them to heal by themselves, by going to the root cause of the conditions from which they are suffering, and by healing through good nutrition, spirituality, good relationships and alternative medicine.
It is important to note also that there are some diagnoses or circumstances that are out of our scope as Health Coaches and that require the involvement of other medical specialists to handle. We, as pediatricians, will be able to address these situations and make the appropriate referrals to the necessary specialist.
myDoqter: The present Covid-19 pandemic has posed many challenges to our maintenance of health. Children in particular have been exposed to various levels of emotional distress, in great part worsened by limited outdoor activities and exercise. What can you tell us about the impact and benefits of health coaching via telehealth in the lives of our children?
Dr. Gaviria: The present times have certainly been quite challenging to most families around the world. The inability to go outdoors as freely as before, has reduced the level of physical activity in children and their families. But I believe that this is the perfect time to use the tools that we have and to help even more people. With Telehealth consultations, we can give ideas and recommendations to the families so they can be active even when indoors. We can guide them on how to eat healthy by cooking together and trying new recipes, and by doing activities to keep them mentally active and creative. We can help children and families with guidance on a healthy lifestyle throughout this covid pandemic, so that they can remain healthy in mind and body and be ready for life after Covid!
For more information or to schedule a TeleHealth Consultation with Dr. Gaviria, you can visit her medical profile at myDoqter.com, or email: DrGaviriaHealthCoach@gmail.com