Difference between a dietitian and a naturopath?

By Meeghan, 29 October, 2011

Dietitians are trained to assess an individual’s diet in order to treat a wide range of conditions including diabetes, food allergies/intolerances, and gastrointestinal disorders (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome), as well as overweight and obesity. A dietetic consultation usually involves a diet and lifestyle assessment, plus nutritional education and counseling. Progress is monitored at regular follow-up sessions as required.

Dietitians are primarily focused on diet and nutrition. However, dietitians regularly consult with and refer to other health professionals (such as GPs, physiotherapists, psychologists) as part of a multidisciplinary team to achieve the best the health outcomes for each client. There are many nutrition ‘myths’ out there, a dietitian is able to sort out nutrition fact or fiction and translate scientific nutrition information into personalised and practical advice about what to eat for better health.

Individuals who may benefit from a dietitian consultation include those who:

  • want advice on nutrition for general health, weight loss or specific medical conditions
  • wish to make changes to current eating patterns
  • want to learn about choosing the right foods when shopping, reading food labels, and healthy food preparation methods
  • need accountability, encouragement and motivation to achieve nutrition goals

Naturopathy on the other hand is an holistic approach to healing based on natural remedies including herbs, mind-body connection modalities and massage. Naturopathy aims to treat the cause, rather than the symptoms, of certain conditions. For example, if you go to a GP with a cold or the flu, the GP will look for solutions to reduce the severity of symptoms or duration of the cold. In contrast, naturopathy aims to analyse the entire body to determine the cause of the cold/flu.

Naturopaths use non-invasive techniques such as iridology (analysis of the colour and structure of the eye) and live blood analysis (where blood is viewed under a microscope) to gain information on the health status of the body. Naturopaths also focus on the impact of environmental factors on the body, such as exposure to toxicity from pollutants. Naturopathic therapies recognise the healing power of nature, especially plants, and make extensive use of herbs as medicinal remedies.

There is some evidence to suggest that herbal remedies may be effective in treating some conditions. As many herbal remedies interact with pharmaceutical medicine, it is advisable to consult your GP before commencing such remedies. In terms of diet-related remedies, naturopaths tend to promote consumption of natural and un-processed foods and beverages.

Individuals who may benefit from a naturopath consultation include those who:

  • are looking to convert to a more natural lifestyle
  • want a holistic approach to healthcare
  • are looking for an alternative to Western style medicine.
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