Dietitian, Nutritionist and Naturopathic Nutritionist what’s in a name?

Different titles but what do they mean and how do they differ?

Dietician vs. Naturopathic Nutritionist

Dieticians generally work in the National Health Service to treat people with diagnosed medical conditions. They are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Naturopathic nutritional therapy is a form of complementary medicine. It should never be confused with dietetics or ‘nutrition’. A nutritional therapist carries out a diagnostic procedure and works towards a therapeutic goal. They will try to answer the questions ‘What is making this person ill’ and ‘What can I do to get them better?’.  They look at the symptoms presented and not a named disease.

A dietician’s job, on the other hand, is to carry out a doctor’s instructions and to advise on healthy eating in accordance with official guidelines. The doctor makes the diagnosis (High blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes and so on) and refers the patient to a dietician for a diet low in sugar or low in fat or a high-fibre diet. Some dieticians work in hospitals, for instance giving patients with severe liver or kidney disease diets to manage these conditions, that is to say diets to help them cope with the disease.

Nutritionist vs. Naturopathic Nutritionist

Nutritionists have an understanding of the scientific base of nutrition and provide evidence-based information about the impacts of food and nutrition on the health and well-being of humans and animals.  Nutritionists are generally not trained in clinical practice and can only give healthy eating advice to healthy individuals.

Nutritional Therapy has a long history. A Naturopathic nutritionist uses a wide range of tools to evaluate the health of a patient, then subsequently advises on lifestyle and dietary/nutritional practices to maintain good health, reduce the risk of disease and help support chronic conditions. This is all underpinned by the recognition that every person is unique and the programmes they devise are personally tailored to the client.

Unlike dietitians and nutritionists, nutritional therapists follow the Functional Medicine Model which looks at, amongst other things, how diet, lifestyle and genetics can all play an important part in the makeup of an individual. It’s important to remember that nutritional therapy is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and if a practitioner identifies any ‘red flag’ symptoms indicative of a serious health issue, they will refer clients on to an appropriate medical professional.

What qualifications and experience should nutritionists have?

Nutritional therapy is not regulated in the UK, however to ensure a good standard of practice, there are professional bodies that therapists can register with, these bodies have strict criteria on the qualifications accepted and the therapist must comply with their code of ethics and complaints procedure.

Susan is registered and insured via the Federation of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners