A lot of my clients have been asking what the difference between a nutritionist and nutritional therapist is. I thought Id post it as a blog for everyone else to read as its really important to know what you’re getting into when you’re trying to do the very best for your health.
The truth is that every country has their different medicine and health laws and so names, roles and terms do change accordingly. But below are the 3 BASIC terms used for health professionals in the industry. Please note that the below article is not written by myself, this is written by Maria Davies from Nutrition Central. While doing my own research on the industry, I came across her article and I just couldn’t have worded the comparisons any better. I completely agree with her comparisons and think everyone should know what they’re getting into when it comes to healing the body.
Hopefully after this article, you’ll be able to not only do the right thing for your body but KNOW the right questions to ask when it comes to your health professional and not jump into any new fad / trend just because some ”professionals” promise quick (damaging and unrealistic) fixes.
The dietitian is currently the only professional in the field who is regulated by law and whose title is also protected by law. They hold either a four-year degree in dietetics, or a science degree followed by a two-year postgraduate qualification.
Most dietitians work within the NHS, either in a hospital setting, or an out-patient department. They may work in general wards or in intensive care, where special feeding, such as tube-feeding, is required. Some choose to specialise in one area, such as paediatrics. To see an NHS dietitian as an out-patient requires a GP referral, though some practitioners do work as consultants in private practice. No referral is required for a private consultation, and a register of dietitians in private practice is held by the British Dietetics Association (BDA) and is available on their website www.bda.uk.com.
Why would your doctor send you to see a dietitian? According to Dr Frankie Phillips, spokesperson for the BDA, “GPs refer patients to a dietitian where there is any indication of adverse effects of diet, for example obesity, allergy, poor growth in children, or where dietary intervention may help to control a condition such as diabetes, raised cholesterol or cancer-related anorexia”. However, there is a chronic shortage of dietitians working within the NHS, which means that waiting lists are long. You also have to hope that your GP recognises that your condition is diet-related and therefore is willing to refer accordingly.
The Nutrition Society, a learned society established in 1941 “to advance the scientific study of nutrition and its application to the maintenance of human and animal health”, describes a nutritionist as a scientist working in a particular field: research, academia, the food industry or the media. In as far as the Nutrition Society has defined the role, nutritionists do not give direct health-related advice to individuals as, unlike dietitians, they are not trained in clinical practice. They may be employed in the food industry to help devise new recipes, write food labels and provide information to the general public. Most of the large supermarket chains employ in-house nutritionists to communicate positive messages about their products. Public health nutritionists work in communities to promote health, or get involved in policy development or campaign work.
The Society holds a register of nutritionists and public health nutritionists and has an accreditation scheme for courses which provide at least degree-level training in nutrition. Full members of the Society can use the titles Registered Nutritionist (RNutr) and Registered Public Health Nutritionist (RPHNutr) but only after three years of relevant experience, after graduation.
The nutritional therapist
Of all three disciplines, nutritional therapy is the most contentious. It is also, arguably, the most popular. Although still in its infancy, more people are training in the field than ever before, possibly because GPs frequently fail to link disease with diet so people find they have to seek help elsewhere. Nutritional therapists work largely in private practice, advising people on health and diet on a one-to-one basis. The discipline is based on the premise that everyone has an individual level of optimum nutrition, with diverse nutritional requirements.
Nutritional therapy is regarded as a complementary therapy, unlike dietetics. This is mainly because, although dietitians do occasionally prescribe food supplements, they are likely to do so only in case of obvious deficiency, whereas a nutritional therapist will make judicious use of supplements for therapeutic purposes.
Patients typically present with chronic health problems including digestive disorders, fatigue, skin problems, hormonal imbalances, stress, anxiety and depression. Often, they have been through the whole process of seeing their GP, possibly even a specialist, and have eventually been signed off, because no diagnosis could be made. They may be told they are fit and healthy, but they feel unwell, often in an indefinable way. Nutritional therapist Penny Crowther describes many of the people who consult her as “the walking wounded”. “These are people who hold down jobs, relationships, families – but it’s a struggle. Their GP often finds nothing wrong with them, even though they feel terrible. The most common complaint I encounter is fatigue. Sometimes they’ve lived with irritable bowel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome and mood swings for so long they think it’s normal. They’ve long forgotten what it’s like to feel good.”
Nutritional therapists focus on the link between health and diet, with an emphasis on identifying the root cause of a health problem. Fatigue, for example, could be caused by a food sensitivity, or blood sugar imbalance. Then again, it could also be caused by an underactive thyroid, or adrenal imbalance. Digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, often regarded as an umbrella term for something unidentifiably wrong but definitely not right, can be triggered by any number of causes, from food sensitivities to stress, from poor gut bacteria to parasites. Once the cause has been identified, the therapist can work out a programme to address the situation. “Most people cannot believe how their health can be transformed, just by changing their diets and possibly taking a few supplements,” says Penny. “But it’s different for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and that’s what makes nutritional therapy unique.”
With this being said, Id like to give my 2 cents and tell you a little bit about my role and what I believe when it comes to my business:
In my own words, nutritional therapists prevent disease and minimise symptoms related with diseases / illnesses. We believe that every individual is unique and thats why we do extensive assessments before going ahead with a health program for that individual. Its our job to to decide whether the individual’s current diet is working for them or not based on their current state of health. Going deeper into the role, we closely assess nutrient deficiencies that may be effecting the individual’s lifestyle and unwillingness to reach certain goals.
The body is a scientific and beautiful machine and I work very closely with getting the body to reach a perfect state of homeostasis. The balance the body needs in order to reach optimum health.