Victorian RN and naturopath Anita DiStasio has a passion to help others help themselves and a focus on the prevention of disease.
DiStasio started nursing at 15 years old, in a nursing home where she used to get residents up on a Saturday morning.
“I really loved it. Even as a young kid I wanted to be of service. I just wanted to help people. At the nursing home, I just thought I could save everyone.”
DiStasio’s father died from cancer three months before she started her nursing training at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, aged 19.
“I would give him injections of painkillers at home. I went into nursing still in a little bit in shock but I got through. I think it gave me that extra personal journey right from day one. I used to walk past Dad’s room at the Alfred every day.”
DiStasio completed her nursing training at the Alfred Hospital, working mainly in neuro and cardiac. She moved to WA and worked at the Charles Gairdner Hospital in the neuro ICU for 10 months. On return to Melbourne, she did district nursing for three to four years before returning to her specialty of neuro at the Epworth Hospital.
It was then DiStasio had a life-changing event both personally and professionally.
“I was at home one day when I thought I was having a stroke, I had a sharp pain down my throat. I wasn’t but I was put on medication that you are not supposed to be on longer than six months. I was on it for more than one year.”
DiStasio required filtration for her kidneys and to this day needs to look after herself. “My brother was seeing a naturopath at the time. I was sceptical but I went and saw someone: whatever he said and whatever did helped me a lot. I made changes to improve my health.”
It made Di Stasio more attune to medications her patients were taking; she also embarked on a journey in natural medicine, while nursing at the Epworth.
“It just put everything all together for me – both nursing and natural medicine.
I think as a nurse it gives you so many different skills. What you pick up on people: I can be talking to someone and looking at the iris of their eyes, looking at their skin, their nails, tongue. People do not realise that I pick up so many things just by my talking to them, this comes from my nursing training – all nurses can do that.”
As a naturopath of 26 years, DiStasio educates and provides people with an understanding of the influences that affect their health.
“It’s not just about taking a probiotic. A lot of people just want a quick fix. When you work in natural medicine you look at the bigger picture. You ask questions, get a history, you ask what happened, then you break it down – what’s the story?”
DiStasio provides cellular health analysis which looks at muscle mass to fat mass to cell toxicity.
“Some health professionals will say ‘they’re just fat and need to lose weight’. For some, it’s more complicated. We need to look at their cellular health and whether we need to support their liver.
“Fat holds on to toxins, so you are not able to burn fat if your body is focused on breaking down toxins. If you do a detox and clear the toxins, then the body can burn fat.”
DiStasio has worked for the past nine years as a Diabetes Nurse Educator at the Coliban Medical Centre in Kyneton.
“I’ve always been interested in nutrition. My background is Italian. My Dad was a fruiterer; there were six kids but we thought we were rich because we always had lots of fresh fruit. We were really lucky, we always ate well.”
DiStasio says she works with clients to incorporate small changes they can manage. “I get them to do one thing. It might be getting protein at each meal rather than carbs and starch.
“They are not going to make changes it you make it too hard for them. You need to look at their level and what’s the next thing they are able to do and then do that.”
Naturopathy can complement orthodox treatment, she says.
“Gymnema, is an Indian herb that blocks the sweet receptors on the tongue. If people have a drop in between meals, it stops them wanting to have a snack.
“People do not need to snack. If people ate better during their meals, they would not need to eat snacks.’
DiStasio’s husband is a homeopath and they work in the same clinic Wholistic Health Macedon Ranges. Both share the vision of natural medicine.
“I believe in bringing hope to people. It empowers them to take more control and not listen to what everyone else says: ‘What do I need to do for me?’ says DiStasio.
“We were always taught if there’s a problem then do something about it, work on fixing it. Find an answer. A good diet can make all the difference; whether it’s protein to build muscles; or sugar regulation to lose weight.”