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Naturopathic Doctor vs Nutritionist – Which Do You Need?


Have you decided to see a professional about your health and wellness needs? Deciding to get help is often the first step, and often the hardest, so well done! The next step is to decide what kind of professional help you need. This can be confusing and difficult, as there are so many options to choose from. To make this process easier we have compared two of the common professions people often seek for health advise. Below, we will discuss the background and education of a nutritionist compared to naturopathic doctor.


What’s Is a Nutritionist?

computer-1149148_1280.jpgWhen it comes to training and education, there are some similarities and some differences between nutritionist and naturopathic doctors. First lets define what we mean by nutritionist.  There are two titles that are thrown around somewhat interchangeably for someone that helps with diet advice. Dietitian or Registered Dietitian (RD) and Nutritionist or certified nutritionist have similar roles but different backgrounds.  RD is sometimes referred to as Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) as well.  The RD has a much broader and deeper understanding of the human body and how food effects it.  This is a reflection of their training.  The RD has to complete a Masters level education in nutrition 9as well asl clinical and life sciences), they also  complete a year long clinical supervision (internship).   After the degree is complete, they require ongoing continuing education and are regulated. The information delivered to become a certified nutritionist is less standardized, rigorous, and and has little to no regulation.  Therefore while you may get similar information from a certified nutritionists and RD you can put much more trust in the information from an RD.  You can check out this article for more information on this.  

If you are considering going to a nutritionist/ dietitian do some careful research on the person you are going to see. Reviews are good but also look and see if they are an RD verses a certified nutritionist.  So how does all this compare to the information and help you might get from a naturopathic doctor?


Naturopathic Doctor verses Nutritionist

To compare, a naturopathic doctor to a nutritionist is like comparing apples to oranges really.  To be fair a RD is an expert in analyzing diets to make sure they provide adequate nutrition.   A naturopathic doctor is an expert in evaluating diagnosing and treating pathology and disease states in a more holistic way than traditional medicine. 

As noted RD have a four year Bachelor's degree and complete additional Master's level training.  A naturopathic doctor has 4 year (pre-medicine) Bachelor's degree followed by a 4 year doctoral degree.   The topics of discussion in the course of training are important too. The naturopathic doctor is learning the same information that is presented in traditional MD medical school with a few exceptions.  For instance, when it comes to treatment there is much less emphasis on medications and more emphasis on diet and nutrition, botanical medicine, hormone therapy, and other holistic treatment options to help the body resume balance. 

Naturopathic Doctors have national standards of practice and are accountable to their corresponding state medical board.  Rather than simply providing nutritional advice, naturopathic doctors are primary care health providers. They can write prescriptions for bacterial infections and other acute situations or recommend health promoting preventative treatments.  In our practice in particular, we are focused on problem solving the health issues you have, finding and treating the underlying causes of chronic and acute diseases.   For instance if you are struggling to lose weight a nutritionist may put you on a healthy eating plan, which is great. However a naturopathic doctor will do this and also dig deeper and look for other reasons why you are not loosing weight. 

Or, if you are suffering from headaches, they won’t simply provide standard painkillers, we try to understand why you are experiencing headaches, and then recommend a course of action to stop this.

An RD can be very helpful for a lot of people for a lot of reasons.  For instance, when you are on a very restricted diet either because you have digestive issues or trying to loose weight.  They can make sure you are not missing amino acids or some other vitamin or nutrient in your diet. You won't get that levels of granular diet analysis from most naturopathic doctors.  Instead they might run some labs to find out what you might be missing. 


Naturopathic Therapies 

Naturopathic doctors believe the body has an innate ability to heal itself and, therefore, are extensively trained in natural therapies that support this. This includes Traditional Chinese Medicine, naturopathic manipulation, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, clinical nutrition, hormone therapy, and botanical medicine.

One of our favorite things to do is specifically tailor nutritional plans that are unique to our patient's genetics (nutrigenomics).  This is usually used to help treat more complicated diseases but can also be used for health optimization.  If you suffer from hormonal imbalances, skin conditions, chronic allergies, or autoimmune conditions, we can tailor a nutritional plan to suits your condition. 

Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding regarding the key differences between nutritionists and naturopathic doctors. This should make it easier to choose the right profession for you. 


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