In this insightful interview, we are pleased to feature Robert Iafelice, MS, RDN, whose initial foray into the world of nutrition began with a passion for track and field during his teenage years. Robert’s quest to enhance athletic performance through diet led him to explore the broader realms of nutrition, far beyond just sports-focused dietary strategies.
Robert shares his journey from experimenting with protein powders and searching for performance-enhancing foods to developing a deeper understanding of the connection between nutrition and disease prevention. His commitment to nutrition has since evolved into a versatile career encompassing research, clinical practice, industry roles, and education.
Join us as we delve into Robert Iafelice’s exploration of nutrition and its impact on health and wellness, highlighting his multifaceted approach to this vital field.
1. Could you share a bit about your journey into naturopathy/nutrition? What inspired you to pursue this field?
My desire to excel in track & field as a young teenager was what initially triggered my interest in nutrition. I was determined to find a specific food or diet that would enhance athletic performance. Like most other sports-minded teens, I was also fixated on experimenting with protein powders to help build muscle. While I never found that magical superfood, my passion for nutrition broadened from sports nutrition to the link between nutrition and disease prevention, inspiring me to pursue a career in nutrition – whether it be research, clinical, industry, or teaching.
2. How do you approach treatment plans for your patients? What role do you believe natural supplements play in these plans?
I always begin nutritional consultations with an assessment of the patient’s goals, health history, and current dietary patterns, as well as use of nutritional supplements. While food is always the best medicine, nutritional supplements are usually recommended, at least to some degree. This, of course, depends on the patient’s current diet, health history, and health goals.
3. In your view, how important is a holistic approach to health and wellness, and how do you integrate this into your practice?
My role as a nutritionist is inherently a holistic approach to health and wellness. With that said, I always look at a patient’s level of physical activity as well. Diet and physical activity should always be an essential component of any holistic treatment plan.
4. What are some common health issues you encounter in your practice? How do you address these with natural therapies?
Weight gain is the most common issue, not surprisingly. Most often, this requires diet changes that include an overall reduction in carbohydrates, particularly processed foods, and greater consumption of high-quality protein, as well as increased activity that includes resistance training. In addition, supplementation with insulin-sensitizing nutrients such as chromium and omega-3 fatty acids can help promote weight loss.
Food allergy is another common issue that I encounter. An elimination diet followed by food reintroduction is the standard treatment strategy.
5. How do you perceive the connection between gut health and overall wellness? Could you share your insights on this?
Health begins in the gut. Maintaining integrity of the gut lining is critical to preventing entry into the body of pathogens and foreign molecules. Poor gut health is associated with increased permeability (“leaky gut”) of the intestinal lining, which can lead to allergies and autoimmune diseases. Leaky gut, along with an imbalance of the gut microbiota (flora), can also contribute to many inflammatory conditions.
6. What general dietary and nutrition advice do you often find yourself giving to your patients?
Eat at least 30 grams of high-quality protein at each meal; reduce overall carbohydrate intake to around 25% – 35% of total calories; avoid ultra processed foods, trans fats, and seed oils (e.g., soy, corn, cottonseed, etc.); practice time-restricted eating by eating only within a window of ~ 14 to 18 hours; take a daily multi vitamin/mineral that includes activated forms of B12 and folate; take at least 2,000 IU of vitamin D along with al least 200 mcg of vitamin K2 daily; take about two grams of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA on days where you don’t eat oily fish; and include some fermented foods (e.g., yogurt, fermented vegetables) in your diet
7. When introducing supplements into a patient’s regimen, what key factors do you consider?
The patient’s current supplement regimen, the patient’s diet, and the patient’s current issues as well as health and family history. I also consider their ability to digest pills or powders, their willingness and compliance to taking supplements, and their current lifestyle (e.g., work schedule, exercise patterns, etc.).
8. Without disclosing personal details, could you share a memorable success story from your practice involving natural treatments?
Yes. A patient at an allergy clinic where I worked asked our medical team if there was any alternative treatment that could help lessen tinnitus (ear ringing), a common condition for which there is no effective treatment. Since tinnitus is an inflammatory condition, we suggested that he try Wobenzyme – a proteolytic enzyme supplement used for decades in Europe to reduce inflammation related to sports injuries. He built up to taking 30 pills a day in divided doses. After about two months, he reported to us that his tinnitus had remarkably improved. He was eventually able to taper the dosage down to 15 per day without recurrence of significant ear ringing.
9. What are some challenges you face in the field of naturopathy/nutrition, and how do you overcome them?
Misinformation and bias related to what is the best way to eat for optimal health and longevity. The notion that avoiding all animal protein (aka eating vegan) is healthy is misleading and dangerous. Such an extreme way of eating necessitates supplementation with several nutrients not found in plants, with the obvious implication that it is certainly not a ‘natural’ way to eat. The risk of muscle loss (sarcopenia) and bone loss (osteoporosis) increase significantly with total avoidance of high-quality animal protein. This can only be countered with education and positive results.
10. Where do you see the future of naturopathy and functional medicine heading?
Functional medicine is the best approach to healthcare. It should be the wave of the future in medicine. However, thoroughly investigating the underlying causes of a person’s health issues is very time intensive for the practitioner. Also, people still want quick fixes. So, there are certainly challenges to overcome.
11. What personal wellness practices or routines do you follow to maintain your own health?
I prioritize high-quality animal protein (at least 30 grams per meal) along with resistance training and high-intensity interval training to optimize and maintain muscle health – the key to disease prevention and longevity. I also keep carbohydrate intake on the low side and avoid processed food. Lastly, I practice time-restricted eating by fasting for 16 to 18 hours most days.
12. Finally, what advice would you give to individuals aspiring to enter the field of naturopathy or nutrition?
Get a strong base in biochemistry. Learn how to evaluate and interpret research studies. Don’t be swayed by so-called nutrition experts who have hidden agendas, e.g. ties to the food industry. Use common sense.
Connect with Robert Iafelice
To learn more about Robert Iafelice’s work and to stay updated with his latest insights and offerings, we invite you to visit his website and follow him on social media:
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CanXida. The content provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Readers are encouraged to consult their healthcare provider for any health-related questions or concerns.