The question often gets asked what is the difference between a naturopath, a nutritionist and a dietician? Are these modalities the same but with different names or are they different specialties? There does seem to be some confusion between these three different modalities. I would like to give some insight so it may make things clearer, particularly if you are considering seeing one of these practitioners and don’t know which may be more suited to your needs.
Naturopathy and Nutrition courses have become more scientific and evidence based. A naturopath is taught food, lifestyle, nutritional supplements and herbal medicine. A nutritionist has the same skills/knowledge as the naturopath but doesn’t necessarily have any training in herbal medicine. In summary the main difference between a naturopath and a nutritionist is the ability of the naturopath to prescribe herbal medicine. A nutritionist will focus more on food planning, lifestyle changes, nutritional supplementation and run specialised programs for weight loss as well as detoxification.
So what then is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietician? If the nutritionist has trained via natural therapy training (eg via private college education) they look holistically at each client and are able to recommend food changes (diet planning), lifestyle changes, prescribe nutritional supplements and look more closely at nutritional (vitamin/mineral) imbalances and generally have access to testing facilities for food allergies, hormones and other testing. A natural therapy trained nutritionist has the philosophy of preventing diseases and maintaining good health wherever possible in line with naturopaths.
A dietician is trained at a public university and more along the lines of regular medicine. Not usually trained from a holistic/preventative approach but focuses more on each individual disease state and gives food recommendations to improve that particular condition. They are not trained so much from a cellular level and there isn’t as much focus on the role that vitamins and minerals have in the body. A medical doctor will usually refer patients to a dietician rather than nutritionists if they require a food specialist.
Most naturopaths and nutritionists will often specialise in certain areas (for example digestive health, skin complaints, hormonal issues), but usually they can address any health issue a person may have with foods, nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes. When it comes to herbal medicine, this is often the choice of naturopaths as herbs can be used effectively to help with a number of different conditions at the same time.
As above a nutritionist can address any health issue a person may have, but there can be specific focus on such things as:
- Healthy Detoxification programs – ensuring the body detoxifies properly with no/limited side effects while using food and supplementation;
- Healthy Weight Loss programs – Tailoring eating plans and lifestyle changes to help lose weight and change eating habits long term in a healthy, sustainable way – no fad diets;
- Addressing metabolic disorders such as diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome – These 3 disorders are becoming increasingly more common and are not necessarily associated with those that are overweight – thin people are prone to these conditions too.
Megan is a natural therapy trained nutritionist and she has done herbal medicine studies. Click here to read more about Megan.
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