Lancaster Dietitian Believes in Whole-Person Approach to Wellness
Dec 01, 2015 07:17AM
● By Sheila Julson
Registered and licensed dietitian and integrative functional nutritionist Dana Elia understands personal struggles. After suffering health issues as child and discovering how making dietary changes can positively impact overall health, she became determined to help others improve their lives through healthy eating, education and lifestyle choices.
Elia had dealt with myriad health issues as a child, including a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis when she was only six years old. “All through childhood and high school, the battery of medications and concoctions the doctors prescribed had a lot of negative side effects,” she recalls. “As I got a little older and wiser, I started to question things. I began to change what I was eating, and I noticed a tremendous difference in how I felt.”
Those personal experiences inspired Elia to pursue nutrition and dietetics. In 1995, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics from Montclair State University, in New Jersey. Through Montclair, she completed an intense, 1,000-hour dietetic internship—just one of the steps required in order to sit for the RDN exam—that included supervised practice experiences in community nutrition programs, inpatient, long-term care, outpatient and school nutrition.
Celebrating 20 years in the field, Elia began her career working in a hospital setting, providing inpatient dietetic services. She routinely offered part-time individual counseling in addition to working a full-time job. Elia completed additional training in integrative and functional nutrition and pursued a health sciences master’s degree in integrative health and wellness from Rutgers University. She completed the program this past May.
After relocating to Pennsylvania in 2001, she went on to provide nutrition counseling and education at multiple locations throughout Lancaster County. In the spring of 2014, an opportunity arose to sublet a space on Granite Run Drive. “It was perfect timing,” says Elia. “It’s a convenient location, smack in the middle of two other spaces where I was seeing patients.” Fusion Integrative Health & Wellness, LLC opened in May 2014.
Elia offers integrative and functional medical nutrition therapy. She notes that most of her patients come in seeking an integrative, functional approach after trying mainstream allopathic practitioners or other alternative options. She sees each person as an individual and does not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. Each patient’s plan is designed for his or her own set of circumstances. Elia meets each individual on their level, identifies their goals and willingness to make changes, and helps provide the necessary tools and resources for success.
“I want people to realize that they have the power of choice,” Elia stresses. “They choose what they put into their bodies. I try to empower each of my patients to be their own advocate. I speak from my own personal experience. I had struggled with weight as a consequence of years of medical mismanagement and poor dietary choices, so I can definitely relate to patients who have obesity challenges and health issues.”
This past summer, registered dietitian nutritionist Jacqui Zimmerman joined the Fusion Integrative Health & Wellness team, bringing over 10 years of experience helping individuals make healthy, yet practical lifestyle changes. Elia stresses that it’s important for people considering seeking nutrition counseling to carefully research where they seek advice, especially in the age of the Internet. She cites as an example a six-hour online course that anyone can take to become a “nutritionist.”
“Consumers are often unaware of what differentiates a registered dietitian nutritionist from the variety of titles people use today that may insinuate an expertise in nutrition,” Elia says. “There is quite a difference in the appropriate scope of practice amongst those using the ‘nutritionist’ title with a lack of consistent standards and guidelines to protect the consumer. One thing I’ve unfortunately dealt with too frequently in my practice is seeing patients after they’ve gone to one of these nutrition coaches and were given very poor advice, or sold supplements that made their health worse.”
Elia stresses the importance of learning about the knowledge, education and advanced degrees necessary to provide integrative and functional medical nutritional therapy. “Be sure to look for proper credentials and do not be afraid to ask questions about where a practitioner received their training,” she recommends.
Fusion offers functional lab testing to help get to the root of health issues that may not be solved by dietary changes alone. Elia also stays active in the community, leading classes and workshops on a variety of nutritional topics including sports nutrition and celiac disease. She’s a member of the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine practice group.
Elia feels blessed to be in a position to do work that she loves. “This never feels like work to me. The feedback that I receive from my patients is so rewarding,” she enthuses. “Recently, one of my patients told me that she feels like a completely different person. Patients notice the drastic changes, and they’re feeling better.”
Fusion Integrative Health & Wellness, LLC is located at 270 Granite Run Dr., in Lancaster. For more information, call 717-917-5259 or visit FusionIHW.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.