Dietitian vs. Holistic Nutritionist, what’s the difference? This is probably one of the most common questions I get when I tell people what I do for a living. It can be confusing for many on what the differences are between a Dietitian and a Holistic Nutritionist, especially given the fact that a Dietitian may also be interchangeably referred to as a Nutritionist. Back, before I had digestive issues, I had no idea what the differences were between the two titles as I had never been to see either. It was only when I started experiencing digestive issues my Doctor referred me to see a Dietitian. Unfortunately for me at the time the recommendations from the Dietitian didn’t provide any improvement to my own situation. Months later, (after much hesitation) I decided to see a Holistic Nutritionist. I wasn’t sure a Holistic Nutritionist would provide much help, as nothing had really helped to that point. After seeing my Holistic Nutritionist my symptoms decreased in severity and slowly disappeared over time. I’ve tried to summarize here for you some of the main points for each job title so you can see what similarities and differences exist between the two.
- A Dietitian has completed a 4 year Bachelors of Science degree in Nutritional Science from an accredited university as well as an internship component.
- Dietitians must pass a licencing exam to be registered with the Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR) and licenced to practice diet and nutrition consultations. Dietitians therefore are part of a regulated industry.
- Many Dietitians work in or with hospitals and other public sector health care facilities.
- Dietitians are typically covered by health insurance plans (in Canada).
- A Dietitian is someone who can provide advice and recommendations on diet and nutrition.
- For Dietitians here in Canada- Canada’s Food Guide is one of the guiding principles for general dietary recommendations.
- Dietitians are also qualified to provide dietary advice to help you manage a diagnosed disease.
- Medical doctors will often refer patients to see a dietitian.
- Dietitians are scientific evidence-based trained nutritional professionals
- Holistic Nutrition is currently an unregulated industry which means currently that any person can claim to be a nutritionist. It is therefore, very important to seek out a Holistic Nutritionist that has completed education from an accredited school and received a qualified designation such as CNP (Certified Nutritional Practitioner) or RHN (Registered Holistic Nutritionist). Specific designations vary based on which school the program was completed at. Additional designations such as Natural Nutrition Clinical Practitioner or NNCP (from Canadian Association of Natural Nutritional Practitioners or CANNP) or Registered Orthomolecular Health Practitioner or ROHP (from the International Organization of Nutritional Consultants or IONC) may also be obtained which are not for profit corporations to assure the public that members have met the educational requirements and standards. Members of IONC are also required to obtain 25 hours per year of education upgrades. (I currently hold the ROHP designation and I’m a member of the IONC).
- Holistic Nutritionists have the right to provide educational information to their clients about diet and nutritional support for building and maintaining nutritional well-being (ionc.org).
- A Holistic Nutritionist, will provide nutrition and detoxification protocols that are specific to a person’s unique biochemistry and food sensitivities (vs. a “one diet fits all” approach). Protocols typically include food, supplement and lifestyle recommendations to help build and maintain wellness (ionc.org).
- Holistic Nutritionists are not permitted to diagnose or prescribe for illness of any kind.
- Insurance plans may or may not cover consultations with a Holistic Nutritionist.
- The word “Holistic” simply refers to the acknowledgement that other factors beyond diet can impact your overall health and well being such as stress, exposure to toxins and lack of physical exercise (this is often when lifestyle recommendations come in).
- ROHPs & RNCPs are scientific evidence-based trained nutritional professionals.
I chose to become a Holistic Nutritionist based on my own past experiences with digestive issues. I saw both a Dietitian and a Holistic Nutritionist when I was experiencing IBS symptoms. It was after only after seeing a Holistic Nutritionist when I started to see an improvement in my overall health and well-being and my symptoms started to subside.
When I decided to go back to school to learn more about nutrition I made a conscious decision to go down the path to become a Holistic Nutritionist vs. a Dietitian as I felt more aligned with that path based on my own experiences and early learnings.
As with any industry out there, you need to do your own research and seek out a practitioner that you connect with and feel most aligned with. You may even want to try both to see what differences you experience. Regardless, be sure to find someone you trust and who has the education and designations to back it up, so that you know you are getting the best information from a knowledgeable expert.