I get asked this a lot! And I’m still working on my answer, because it’s simply not cut and dry.
In Australia, both Nutritionists and Dietitians can use the title ‘Nutritionist’, which in itself is confusing. And we have a lot of similarities.
We’re both in the business of helping people. We’re both focused on working with an individual to eat to heal. We’re both about preventive health. And we both believe that the food we eat plays a huge role in determining our health.
When I realised I wanted to go back to University to study, I had to decide whether to study to become a Nutritionist, or a Dietitian. Nutritionists study for 3 years, Dietitians for 4; but the difference in the length of study really didn't matter to me. Instead, the decision was made when I was drawn to the content of the Nutritional Medicine degree, because the emphasis was on treating people holistically. The Hippocratic oath of – ‘First do no harm’ rings true in every aspect of my practice.
This means looking at a pregnant woman who is low on iron, and not simply prescribing the popular supplement because it has the right therapeutic dose of iron. It’s about understanding that prescribing a lower dose of highly absorbable, low-constipation iron, is the better option for this patient.
It means understanding that the form a supplement takes is just as important as the dose, and that individuals will react differently to supplements, foods and drugs, so there is no one size fits all option.
It means working with a client not only on their physical health, but understanding how emotional and spiritual health manifest in the physical. And that all three aspects of an individual’s health need to be adequately addressed when creating a treatment plan.
That’s not to say that there aren’t dietitians that also work this way. There absolutely are. So whether a person uses the title ‘Dietitian’ or ‘Nutritionist’ actually means very little to me. What I take note of is whether they view clients and health in a similar way to me, and they’re the people I consider my peers.