What Is the Difference Between a Naturopath and a Dietician?

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Updated April, 2019

Naturopaths and dieticians both utilise nutrition to help people improve their health. We spoke to Danielle Henderson, the owner of a highly successful matcha tea company based in Australia who said “we have customers directed to us every month from dieticians and naturopaths”, and “the advice that our customers receive is very consistent”. They both practice evidence-based medicine and hold the same overarching vision of better food and better health and wellbeing. However, the two practices draw on substantially different philosophies.

Naturopathic medicine draws on a holistic approach to healing which considers the whole person – body, mind and spirit. They recognise that disease is complex and caused by a combination of factors. They often work in private practice in a centre with other like-minded practitioners.

Dieticians are trained to give dietary advice for a range of different health conditions and translate nutritional information into a tailored diet plan for each client to address their health goals. Some dieticians work in private practice, others work in health promotion or community health settings, particularly where clients have specialised dietary needs, such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Education, registration and rebates

Both naturopaths and dieticians have a degree as their base level qualification. Naturopaths do a Bachelor of Health Science in naturopathy, while dieticians need to complete a Bachelor in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Naturopaths need to be registered with a professional body, such as the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA), and they may also choose to register with the Australian Register of Naturopaths and Herbalists (ARONAH).

Dieticians need to be registered with the Dieticians Association of Australia (DAA).

Private Health insurance rebates are available for both naturopaths and dieticians. Rebates with Medicare, Department of Veterans Affairs and WorkCover may also be available when you see a dietician.

Areas of work

Dieticians give dietary advice for a variety of health conditions such as gastrointestinal problems, weight loss, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. They also provide nutritional advice for different life stages such as pregnancy and children’s health, or where there are specific nutritional requirements such as sports nutrition or vegan diets.

Naturopaths can help with a large variety of health needs across the lifespan, including men’s, women’s and children’s health. They provide treatments incorporating evidence-based nutritional and herbal medicines, and dietary and lifestyle advice for many health conditions across all body systems. This includes gastrointestinal problems, immune problems, hormonal imbalances, thyroid problems, mental health conditions, stress, fatigue and energy levels, pain and inflammation, skin conditions, cardiovascular health, diabetes, and other complex health issues.

How does the nutritional approach differ between naturopaths and dieticians?

While there are many health professionals who are trained to give nutritional advice, there are differences in the underpinning knowledge and the application of nutrition by naturopaths when compared to other practitioners such as dieticians.

Because of the significance of these differences between naturopaths and other practitioners in nutrition, the term ‘naturopathic nutrition’ was coined to identify it as a distinct approach to nutritional practice.

What is naturopathic nutrition?

Naturopathic nutrition is the practice of nutrition in the context of natural medicine. It integrates both scientific nutrition and the principles of natural medicine into a distinct approach to nutritional practice.

It recognises the role of:

  • food as medicine
  • An understanding that whole foods are greater than the sum of their parts
  • That each individual has unique needs in relation to nutrition

The practice of naturopathic nutrition may include the appropriate use of:

  • Behavioural and lifestyle counselling
  • Diet therapy
  • Food preparation and medicinal cooking
  • Therapeutic application of foods with specific functions
  • Traditional approaches to detoxification
  • Therapeutic fasting strategies
  • Nutritional supplementation.

Treating the individual

Naturopathic nutrition upholds as the ideal a diet based on whole, natural foods, particularly one that emphasises quality, fresh, seasonal and organic produce and demonstrates reduced dependence on animal foods.

But equally important is the concept that we are all individuals, and therefore the ideal naturopathic diet may take many different forms within this basic framework, in order to meet the diverse needs of patients.

Naturopaths look at all the influences that make an individual truly individual, and in the context of nutrition, alters their requirements for nutrients. This includes giving consideration to a person’s genetics, age, gender, environmental exposures (e.g. heavy metals), medication use, particular health conditions they may have and their emotional response.

We are all unique individuals. Good nutrition is about more than just getting the recommended intake of nutrients each day. It’s about having a diet that is tailored to your unique needs and your body’s specific requirements so that you can achieve optimal health.

If you would like a naturopathic assessment of your health and wellbeing, book an appointment at SA Wellness Centre by calling 83221788.

Reference:

Arthur, R. (2012) ‘Principles of Nutritional Medicine’, in Hechtman, L. (Ed), Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Elsevier Australia, pp. 14-16.

Danielle Henderson, owner of Happy Matcha Australia.

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