Graduate Focus – Dr Catriona Walsh, The Food Phoenix

Catriona is a Diploma in Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching graduate and founder of The Food Phoenix. Her focus is on supporting people who’ve experienced declining health in the aftermath of a contrast MRI scan. She is also writing a book called Contrasts: More than meets the MRI.

Catriona Walsh

“In addition, I specialise in helping busy professionals feeling the effects of chronic work-related stress and burnout, looking to recover their vibrancy and health.

I see clients in Belfast and Mid Ulster in Northern Ireland, but also internationally. Right now, I’m collaborating with Health and Wellness Expert, Byron Clarke, to create a strategically guided group coaching program for people suffering from burnout.

Although I’ve only been a Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach for a couple of years, I’ve worked in healthcare since 1999. I used to be a consultant paediatrician. In 2010, I realised that practically everything I thought I knew about nutrition might have been wrong, and that diet and lifestyle were probably more potent than drugs for promoting health.

I succeeded in introducing dietary changes with some children and their families, with a lot of really positive outcomes, but met with surprising resistance from my medical colleagues.

Then in 2015, I succumbed to a combination of burnout, moral injury, and a genetic condition. Moral injury is “the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress one’s own moral beliefs, values or ethical code of conduct.” I had to take time off work.

I was diagnosed with a genetic condition called hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), which magnified my exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety, physical pain and gut symptoms. It also made recovery much more difficult.

Further disillusioned by my own experiences as a patient in the conventional healthcare system when side effects from a contrast agent for an MRI scan compounded my problems, I decided to pursue a career in nutrition, as that was something I was still passionate about. And I’m glad I did.

So I researched nutrition courses, looking for the best ones. I knew that nutrition education wasn’t always rigorous, so I was looking for an institution with an evidence-based approach. I wanted a school that used the functional medicine model in its training and supported distance-learning.

That’s what initially attracted me to IHS. And then I learned IHS use evidence-based teaching methodologies to support learning, which was really appealing. Their courses are very comprehensive, including lifestyle changes as well as nutrition. Not only that, but they train you in coaching so that you can help clients with mindset and goal-setting. This means they’re more likely to engage with the transformation process and get great results. They also provide you with advice on career options and setting up a new business. And that’s all in the NLC qualification.

IHS offer plenty of opportunities for further development and training. My goal is to eventually return and complete the Nutrition Therapy qualification. But since I have the NLC qualification that lets me practice after the first year of NT training, I decided to start The Food Phoenix to have some income before getting back into studying. I’m also much more aware of burnout now and I’ve no desire to bite off more than I can chew.

I’ve attended a few excellent events hosted by IHS, like when Dr Rangan Chatterjee and Dr Patrick Hanaway came to teach on the Bredesen Protocol to reverse Alzheimer’s. And when Dr Jeffrey Bland, the father of Functional Medicine, and other experts spoke at a conference on Nutrigenomics in Clinical Practice. IHS draw some of the highest calibre speakers from around the world.

I love how nutrition and lifestyle continue to fascinate. We may have just started to unlock their incredible power to rescue health, which I find truly exciting. This is the real future of healthcare and I feel fortunate to be in the vanguard, thanks to leading-edge health and nutrition college, IHS.

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