Alicia Galvin has always had a fascination with the way food and nutrition influence health. So it’s no surprise that today she’s an integrative and functional dietitian who helps patients develop customized solutions that empower them to take control of their health challenges.
Alicia’s wide-ranging expertise gives her a unique perspective on evaluating patients’ test results and health — both physical and emotional — and developing the best eating plan and nutritional supplementation to help them achieve optimal wellness. In addition to identifying food triggers of inflammation, Alicia guides people in modifying their diet, creates recipes and meal plans and provides nutritional education in both individual and class settings. (See more about her history at the end of the article!)
Alicia was kind enough to answer Oola’s questions about the world of nutrition. She touches on misconceptions with dieticians, myths surrounding certain foods and practices and provides us with clear, concise information about proper nutrition and diet. Read on to learn about food and health from a true expert!
Oola: What inspired you to focus on the field of diet and nutrition?
Alicia: I have always been passionate about food and nutrition and the impact it has on our long-term health and well-being. Even before we are born, the health and nutritional status of our parents impacts our health and the health of our children! That to me is amazing with how deep the power of nutrition can go. When I ran track and cross country in high school, I began to understand how the fuel you choose to put into your body can impact performance. And from there, in college, I began to learn how food impacts our biochemistry. The human body is the most amazing machine on the planet, and we still don’t fully understand all that it does. But what we fuel it with can greatly impact how well it runs.
The human body is the most amazing machine on the planet, and we still don’t fully understand all that it does.
Oola: Do you specialize in a particular area? Can you elaborate on what that entails?
Alicia: Yes, I specialize in GI health: IBS, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, GERD. I also work with any autoimmune disease. I also have had extensive training in food sensitivities. With every person that walks through my office, I individualize the diet that is appropriate for them based on their history, lifestyle, preferences, and health concerns. I prescribe therapeutic diets, which are diets designed specifically to address their concerns, but uses food therapeutically to help them feel better. Those diets also exclude foods that could exacerbate their condition. We then monitor progress with follow-ups.
Oola: You’ve got an interesting quote from Thomas Edison on your website: “The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” Was he right?
Alicia: Yes. If you look at the top 5 causes of death in the US, they are all chronic in nature. Chronic disease is brought on by diet and lifestyle choices, so diet and lifestyle are the answers to curing that disease. Not a pill or a medication, which just manage the symptoms of the disease. In our clinic, we see people get off medications all the time once they start to eat right and live a lifestyle that supports health.
Most people think that if they see a dietitian, all we are going to say is to eat your veggies and don’t eat sugar.
Oola: What’s a common misconception people have about working with a Dietitian?
Alicia: I think most people think that if they see a dietitian, all we are going to say is to eat your veggies and don’t eat sugar. Which yes, that is true to a point, but what a dietitian mostly does is look at your biochemistry and your health and lifestyle, and how your lifestyle choices are impacting your health. There is a lot of science we have to learn in school (biochemistry, chemistry, biology, organic chemistry) plus all of our nutrition classes. We also know how to construct a therapeutic diet specific for the client: how to use certain foods, the nutrient composition of foods that would be most appropriate for people’s needs, and which foods would be less optimal for people to choose based on their health history.
Oola: One day we read in the news that something is bad for us, the next day we read it’s good. Is there a rule of thumb or method to use to figure out which to believe?
Alicia: The problem with the news is even if an expert is quoted, you never know how close the printed news article is to the original quote from the expert. But in general, if a nutrition news story is written by a dietitian (RD or RDN) you can bet it is credible.
Most people eat too much fruit in a day
Oola: What’s a food that a lot of people consider healthy that is actually pretty unhealthy?
Alicia: I am always explaining to people that fruit has to be used in the right way and eaten in the right combination. Most people eat too much fruit in a day, which can lead to elevated triglycerides, GI problems, and increased blood sugar and insulin. Especially if you are eating a lot of the high sugar fruits (think pineapple, watermelon, dried fruits, etc). I ask that people limit their fruit consumption to 2 fruit servings daily and focus mostly on eating veggies like cabbage, carrots, spinach, peppers, cauliflower, and squashes.
Oola: Eating healthy while traveling can be a real challenge. Any tips for making it more manageable?
Alicia: Yes! My favorite go-to travel snacks are meat-based bars (Epic, Tanka, Chomps, Vermont), nut butter packets (Artisana nut butter single packs), Simple Mills paleo crackers, and Biena Roasted Chickpea Snacks in the individual serving sizes. These all travel well and offer protein and fat so it keeps your blood sugar steady on long travel days. I usually make a trail mix of nuts/seeds and unsweetened coconut flakes as well. If you are staying in a hotel or Airbnb try to find a grocery store nearby to grab some groceries to have on hand to make a quick breakfast or dinner if you have access to a fridge or kitchen. Many airports have the option for hard boiled eggs or hummus and some companies have started making protein packs with veggies, nut butters, hard-boiled eggs, and olives. If flying, stay hydrated by drinking an extra 8oz of water for every hour in the air. Getting dehydrated makes you hungrier.
Juicing completely strips all the fiber your gut bacteria needs to keep you healthy.
Oola: What’s a big trend in American diets that you think is really positive or negative?
Alicia: I think a really positive trend is the concept of eating more whole foods and less processed sugar and food additives. The food companies are making changes to their products based on this demand, which is great to see. I think a negative trend is juicing. Juicing completely strips all the fiber your gut microbiome (bacteria) need to keep you healthy. And some juices have so much sugar in them, especially if you drink juiced fruits. Even juiced fruits with juiced veggies have a very high sugar and carbohydrate content, without any fiber to help dampen the sugar spike that can ensue after consuming.
Oola: If you could only keep one of the following items in your diet for the rest of time, which would it be: Coffee, Ice Cream, or Bacon?
Alicia: I never drink coffee. I don’t have a sweet tooth so would not do ice cream. But I love salty and crunchy, so I would have to go with bacon!
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Some backstory about Alicia:
After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences from Texas A&M University, Alicia’s early career was spent in an inpatient hospital setting and then delivering in-home nutrition care. She later earned a Master of Education in Counseling degree and Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner (IFNCP) certification, and became a Certified LEAP Therapist (CLT) with a specialty in food sensitivities and chronic inflammatory conditions.
At the private practice she founded in 2013 as well as working with Carpathia Collaborative Functional Medicine Clinic in Dallas, Alicia has a keen interest in gastrointestinal (GI) disease, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. She also treats patients with autoimmune conditions, including autoimmune thyroid disease, as well as infertility, developing therapeutic diets to manage and treat these conditions.
If you enjoyed the insight Alicia provided in this interview, be sure to check out her projects here and dive further into the world of nutrition.
Company: Alicia Galvin Smith LLC
Company Site: http://www.aliciagalvinsmith.com/
Specialties: GI health, Autoimmune Conditions, Crohn’s, SIBO, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, Food Sensitivities.
Designations: MEd, RD, LD, CLT, IFNCP