I'm going to be writing about nutrition and foods, a subject that is close to all our hearts, and our stomachs, especially post diagnosis.
Many of you will have been referred to a Dietician, for advice on how to get started and manage your gluten free life, so my first posting is about the similarities and differences between dietetics and nutritional therapy.
What’s the difference between a nutritionist and a dietician?
This is an excellent question. Within the general public (this is an observation of mine), the two terms are often used interchangeably, to mean a person who gives food and nutrition advice if you have an illness / health concern or want to lose weight.
Within the industry however, there is some tendency to dissension between the camps. (And, I’m sorry to say, some occasional very bad behaviour, from both sides, in the form of a little mud-slinging).
There are some differences between the two titles. (Just for the sake of clarity, I would like to add here that I am writing as a Nutritonist.) However, there are far more similarities than there are differences, and in many ways the two are flip sides of the same coin, with the exact same purpose. In very simple terms, it boils down to this: Helping people to improve their health, via the food they eat.
One of the most important differences is that the title of dietician is a registered one, which means that to call yourself a dietician, you must have a degree in dietetics. In the UK a dietician needs to be registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC). Dieticians are qualified to work in hospitals and within government and NHS sectors, and often a referral to a dietician is free.
Unfortunately, there is no regulation of the title nutritional therapist (NT) or nutritionist, and it is easy for someone with a small amount of qualification to call themselves a nutritionist. However, this does not mean that everyone with the title nutritionist or nutritional therapist is not very qualified. There is a fairly broad spectrum within the title nutritionist, and at the higher end of that, a nutritionist will hold a degree and/or a diploma in Nutritional Therapy or Nutrition Sciences. The regulatory bodies that a nutritionist may be registered with in the UK are The British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) or the Nutritional Therapy Council (NTC) / Complimentary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).
Where to find them
In general, NT’s predominantly work in private practice and dieticians work largely in the public sector, although there is some crossover.
Dieticians have long been a part of staffing in hospitals and long-term care facilities, and are now also found in many local medical practices.
NT’s are gaining popularity as more people seek to manage their health outside of doctors visits and prescriptions medications, and the link between food and health (or food and ill-health as the case may be) becomes better understood. Both give advice on food and diet in relation to health, weight management and in some cases disease management.
Dieticians often work within given guidelines, as they are classically trained, and NT’s are often taught to think a little more outside the box. There are positives and negatives to both of these approaches, and it’s this aspect to the differences that leads me to believe it would be a good thing for NT’s and Dieticians to work together, as the strengths of one support the weaknesses of the other.
At the end of the day, we are all working towards the same thing. To support and educate people, empowering them to make choices about their health and the foods they eat.