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Transforming Health Through Nutrition Science And Research – Exclusive Interview With Dr. Kim Ross

Dr. Kim Ross is a respected clinician, educator, and researcher in the field of nutrition science. She has been in clinical practice (Ross Nutrition Team) since 2010, specializing in hormonal, mental, and gastrointestinal health, though she and her team of nutritionists work with a broad range of health conditions. In recent years, she has passionately pursued the completion of multiple peer-reviewed publications demonstrating the use of amino acid therapy and psychobiotics for mental health disorders and case reports and narrative reviews about the use of maca for women’s hormone health. She is on a mission to help transform, educate, and mentor individuals on the power of nutrition.


Image photo of Kim Ross

Dr. Kim Ross, Doctor of Clinical Nutrition


Introduce yourself! Please tell us about you and your life, so we can get to know you better.


Gosh, let’s focus outside of my career. I am married to my long-time love and supporter, Curtis. We spend our time bouncing between Florida and New York, where we both have family. I have been blessed to be the mom of the most amazing son, Byron, who has brought me nothing but sheer joy. He then enhanced my world when he married Niki, and they are raising my two grand puppies. I think I have the most incredible parents on the planet, who will be married 55 years as of September 2024. I have a fun brother who keeps me laughing with his “brotherly bantering” and a sister-in-law who shares my love of music. 

 

In my non-work time, I enjoy getting lost in reading, bouncing from one book to another. My goal this year is to read one book per week, which is nothing compared to my daughter-in-law. Weekly card games are a massive form of stress relief for me as they come with much family time and laughter. (Okay, maybe sometimes it is a bit of fierce competition as well.) I love putting together puzzles, seeing a good movie or TV series, and enjoying a meal with friends or my hubby (we have date night every week!) Biking is my newest favorite hobby, and generally, just being outside in warm weather is a sweet spot for my soul. I will always turn the volume up when a good song comes on that I can sing to, even though I can’t sing. The Enneagram fascinates me. I talk to my best friend nearly every morning and multiple times on the weekend.


What inspired you to pursue a career in nutrition science?

 

It was a personal health challenge that led me to this industry. Many years ago, I was in a car accident. Long story short, this led me to chiropractic care, which provided me with the greatest relief compared to other modalities. This was also my first exposure to supplements and herbs. This piqued my curiosity about the human body and non-pharmaceutical treatments. Fast forward a few years, I started a position with a supplement company and that is when I found my purpose. Everything about the science behind the supplements and how nutrition plays a role in health fascinated me and I knew I needed to learn more. So, back to school, I went for a Masters in Science in Applied Clinical Nutrition.

 

What led you to specialize in hormonal, mental, and gastrointestinal health?


Wow—this might be a bit of a story, so stick with me!

 

Learning about the human body made it abundantly clear that GI health is where it all starts and ends! Everything we eat and drink must come through the GI tract to be absorbed, metabolized, and utilized by all the organs of the body. Once I was in clinical practice, GI concerns were super common, from bloating to constipation and everything in between, people were simply struggling. So, I embarked on the path of always looking at gut health as a foundational aspect of care, ensuring this system worked well to help make other systems in the body work well. Besides, the GI tract is remarkably fascinating! I mean, do you see all the news about the gut microbiome these days?

 

Moving ahead, a pivotal time came when I was facing an annoying hormonal symptom myself: cystic acne. Thanks to a colleague of mine, I learned about a supplement that helped provide hormone balance and eliminated cystic acne! This was a game-changing moment as I realized I could help women with a plethora of hormonal concerns using this supplement alongside my other nutritional gems. I dove into the science to understand the complexity of the endocrine system, and I loved it, so I narrowed down my clinical focus to women’s health, specifically focusing on hormones.

 

Continuing along the timeline, when I went for my doctorate, I wanted to challenge myself in what I could learn. Early on, one of my professors stated that (at the time) a comprehensive review of psychobiotics had not really been done and that she would love to see that in the literature. I took that as a direct challenge! While I didn’t have the bandwidth to write a review paper then, it made its way to my bucket list. By the time I got to a functional neurology class, it was becoming clear to me that mental health was going to be a dear part of my future. This was my first exposure to amino acid therapy for mood disorders and it quickly translated into clinical care. As part of my doctoral work, my first manuscript, Innovative Therapies for Mood Disorders: A Case Report, was published, highlighting how amino acid therapy was a powerful tool for one individual with a mood disorder.

 

Did you ever take up the challenge on the psychobiotic review paper and what are they anyway?

 

Ah, yes! I did publish that review paper in 2023. Psychobiotics are beneficial bacteria in the gut that directly impact neurotransmitters in the brain, ultimately influencing mood. In that paper, I explored the bacteria that impacted GABA and serotonin, the two neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of depression and anxiety. Super cool stuff and I am grateful for my professor who indirectly challenged me!

 

What are some of the most significant findings from your recent research on amino acid therapy and psychobiotics for mental health disorders?

 

Both of these topics are so fascinating and deserve to have their own interview! One fact I discovered is that tryptophan, an amino acid, was first noted in the scientific literature in 1982 to treat depression successfully. Yet today, this remains a highly underutilized option for care. Another is that dose and timing are everything. Too much can be problematic, and too little may not produce appreciable improvements. This is not a therapy meant to be used long-term or without guidance, even though amino acids are readily available for purchase over the counter for many people. When it comes to psychobiotics, strain is everything. Based on the studies available, it is evident that specific strains of psychobiotics provide benefits for depression and anxiety. Basically, someone should not plan to pick up any probiotic supplement on the shelf and expect to see an improvement in mood. It is about the right strain(s) for the given concern.


One of your roles is as a Certified Nutrition Specialists (CNS) supervisor. What does this mean exactly and how does the certification and training process work for those aspiring to be a CNS?

 

The CNS is a nationally-recognized credential in the United States. It requires a Master’s degree in nutrition, the completion of a rigorous exam, and 1,000 hours of hands-on clinical experience. My role as a CNS Supervisor relates to their practical experience. I oversee the clinical work conducted by aspiring CNSs, mentoring them, providing feedback, and ensuring top-notch care is provided to clients.


If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be and why?

 

That’s not easy to answer, as there is some interconnectedness to the changes I would like to take place as it relates to the nutrition profession within the US.

 

I believe we need greater awareness about the extensive education of nutritionists/Certified Nutrition Specialists to both healthcare providers and the general public. Nutritionists are necessary to help combat the current state of chronic diseases our world faces, as many of these chronic diseases are rooted in poor nutrition and lifestyle.

 

Yet, many people do not know about CNSs and the help we can provide. We understand the complexity of the human body, stay well informed of nutrition and medical science, and are well-versed in multiple dietary patterns, macronutrients, micronutrients, supplements, botanicals, lifestyle therapies, and more. We are a valuable member of the healthcare team but remain underutilized. I think we ultimately need some enhancements to the current model of care, and it starts with knowing the scope of practice nutritionists have and how it can benefit an individual’s health.

 

Why do you think this awareness is lacking?

 

I am afraid nutritionists are often misunderstood, especially concerning what is involved in our education and training. The term “nutritionist” is loosely used, not providing a clear distinction as to the training a person may or may not have.

 

I often use the phrases “nutrition noise” and “social media nutrition.” Many people on social outlets have a passion for nutrition through their own interest and success with it (which is awesome) or may have some training in nutrition. But it doesn’t mean they are a nutritionist. Unfortunately, with this comes a lot of “nutrition noise” circulating out there, which sadly includes some bogus (and maybe even flat-out false) guidance. For example, I tell my students there is a well-formulated ketogenic diet rooted in science, and there is a social media ketogenic diet made up of a lot of misinformation. 

 

“Nutrition noise” permeates back to healthcare providers, like doctors and nurses, who then may get the impression that nutritionists don’t know what they are talking about. And this simply is not true for those properly educated and trained. Nutrition is much more complex than one might be aware, and this is because the human body and the environment it has to function are more complex than we often give it credit.

 

Just like people cannot practice medicine without a license, I believe people should not practice nutrition without proper education, training, and credentials.

 

How would you like to see healthcare providers and qualified nutritionists work together?

 

It would be my dream to see more collaboration between doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, etc., and nutritionists. This is the right approach to clinical care. It would be fabulous for medical providers to routinely refer patients to a nutritionist, just as they may refer to other specialists.

 

This, I guess, brings me to another enhancement in the current model, which is the need for more insurance reimbursement for ongoing nutritional care. Some companies may allow for a few nutrition visits, which may even be limited to certain medical conditions. But I am talking about insurance coverage becoming a standard of care. From making nutrition services available as preventative care, which would save the insurance companies substantial money in the long run, as well as medical nutrition therapy for the many complex chronic conditions people face. Nutrition care should be a service that is available to all, not just those who can afford to pay for it out of pocket.


Tell us about your greatest career achievement so far.


There is not one single achievement I can highlight. Each degree and credential I have earned has been a unique achievement worth celebrating. I was delighted to have my first publication on PubMed and those that followed. It is rewarding to teach future nutrition professionals in the classroom and mentor those after they graduate. Working with clients who trust me to be a part of their healthcare team and partner on their journey to their best health is a complete honor!


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

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