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What is the Difference Between a Nutritionist and a Nutritional Therapist?

There’s a reason why people still say, “you are what you eat.” Nutrition plays an important role in every aspect of human health. The foods you eat not only impact your risk for heart disease and diabetes, but they also impact your mental health. The symptoms of disorders such as anxiety and depression can be made worse by a diet filled with refined sugars and saturated fats.

If you have been referred to a London nutritionist or nutritional therapist, you may be confused about what role these health professionals play. The titles sound similar, but there are key differences between a nutritionist and a nutritional therapist.

What is a Nutritionist?

A nutritionist educates people on which foods can lead to a healthier lifestyle. They might offer insight into how using food can help you achieve a health-related goal, such as reducing high blood pressure or losing weight.

Nutritionists work in skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, medical offices, and other settings. Licensing and educational requirements for a nutritionist vary by location, which means anyone can use the title if they wish. You can check if a London nutritionist is registered with the U.K. Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN).

Only those who are registered can refer to themselves as associate nutritionists. To register, an individual must complete accredited courses in education and nutrition and fulfil professional development requirements.

A nutritionist might also use the title of “health coach” or “holistic nutritionist.” For this reason, it’s important to be proactive and ask about an individual’s credentials before booking an appointment.

Speciality tracks for a nutritionist include:

  • Sports nutrition
  • Paediatric nutrition
  • Gerontological nutrition
  • Nephrology nutrition

A nutritionist can only offer information, not treatment. Some nutritionists are supervised by dietitians and are allowed to offer advice regarding specific conditions.

Clinical Nutritionist vs. Community Nutritionist

There are two main environments in which nutritionists interact with the public: in clinical settings and in the community.

Clinical settings include both outpatient and inpatient facilities. In a clinical setting, a nutritionist typically works one-on-one with a client but may also meet with a client’s family to help design dietary strategies.

Medical issues discussed in a clinical setting can include but are not limited to:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Food sensitivities
  • Mental health

A community nutritionist typically works with subgroups, such as seniors, children, and at-risk families. They are often employed by schools, recreational and community centres, and governmental agencies.

What Is a Nutritional Therapist?

A nutritional therapist has the education, certifications, and licensing needed to diagnose and treat medical conditions, such as sleep difficulties, metabolic issues, and hypertension. Nutritional therapists may be self-employed or work in clinical or private-sector settings.

The responsibilities of a nutritional therapist include:

  • Creating a dietary plan
  • Recommending and analysing diagnostic tests
  • Educating clients
  • Evaluating client progress
  • Record keeping
  • Patient referral

Nutritional therapists must complete an undergraduate programme that specialises in nutrition and/or dietetics. Courses may include genetics, nutritional biochemistry, and other classes related to biology and physiology.

Once the first phase of education is complete, nutritional therapists have the option to pursue a Master’s degree or even a Doctorate. However, advanced degrees are not necessary to work as a nutritional therapist.

Once licensed, a nutritional therapist may open their own practise or work in a clinical setting. A nutritional therapist may be registered with several agencies, including the Naturopathic Nutrition Association, the British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutrition Therapy, or the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. However, registering with any of these agencies is not required.

Like all healthcare professionals, a London nutritionist should not offer services or make claims that are outside of their area of expertise and licensure.

What Is Nutritional Therapy?

Nutritional therapy is becoming more widely recognised in the treatment of mental health conditions and as a complementary therapy to substance use disorder treatment programmes. Many clients choose to explore nutritional therapy as a complementary service to their mental health treatment because they desire a whole-person approach to wellness.

Treating the symptoms of a mental health disorder is an important first step to better overall health, but if root problems like nutritional deficiencies are not addressed, medications are only a partial solution.

What is nutritional therapy when compared to psychotherapy? Both approaches are effective methods for treating mental health concerns. However, psychotherapy is mainly limited to mental and emotional wellness.

Nutritional therapy considers how the body’s different systems function and communicate with one another. It is normal for these functions to change throughout a person’s lifetime.

Different physical and psychological demands influence how the body’s systems respond and interact. The role of nutritional therapy is to identify any current imbalances and use a targeted nutritional plan to help correct them.

A high-quality nutritional therapy programme begins with an in-depth consultation and individualised treatment programme. Clients may be referred for further health testing or other therapies that can provide whole-person support.

Treatment plans address both immediate concerns and long-term goals. Your nutritional therapist will work with you over several weeks or months, adapting the programme as needed.

Nutrition and Mental Health

Most people understand that the wrong foods can increase your risk for health complications, but not everyone understands how the right foods can help improve health, especially mental health.

Certain foods trigger the release of neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that carry information through the brain and to other parts of the body.

Two well-known neurotransmitters are dopamine and norepinephrine. They play an important role in helping people stay calm and emotionally balanced. If these chemical messengers become imbalanced, it can lead to depression, anxiety, or mania.

Processed foods can cause the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, which leads to inflammation. This type of inflammation not only affects gut health but can also contribute to mental disorders. In addition, multiple studies have confirmed a connection between impaired brain function and a diet high in refined sugar.

Unprocessed foods like whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables combat brain inflammation caused by depression and anxiety. Certain foods help keep neurotransmitters producing and operating correctly. Foods high in omega-3 acids have been found to be especially important for neurotransmitter function.

It should not be surprising that a highly nutritious diet promotes better mental health. All “machines” function better when given the best fuel. However, nutritional therapy takes this concept even further. When working with a nutritional therapist, you can learn exactly which nutrients your body is missing and pinpoint the necessary changes.

Using the services of a nutritional therapist while also receiving group or individual therapy can increase the efficacy of your mental health treatment.

5 Tips for Getting the Most From Your Appointment With a London Nutritionist

Nutritional therapy isn’t a magic cure, and though making dietary changes is effective, healing through nutrition can be a slow process. There are several steps you can take to ensure you’re getting the most benefits from a nutritional therapy programme.

1. Know and Share Your Goals

Working with a nutritionist is more effective if you know what your health goals are and talk about them honestly. Do you want to have more energy, better memory, or gain or lose weight? Think about your health goals before your first visit so you can be prepared to discuss them and set realistic milestones with your nutrition expert.

2. Be Honest

A nutritionist is your partner in health. In order to be effective, they need to collect information. Be prepared to answer questions about your eating habits, food preferences, medications, and weight history. These questions are not meant to cause discomfort, but understanding your lifestyle and habits is important to a nutritionist’s job. Without accurate information, they cannot help you meet your health goals.

3. Follow Recommendations

Making dietary changes is hard to do, and no one expects you to be perfect. However, a nutritional therapy plan won’t be effective if it’s not implemented correctly. Do your best to comply with your nutritionist’s recommendations, including suggestions like recording your food intake, weighing and measuring foods, and drinking a specific amount of water.

4. Practise Patience

Medications and other medical interventions often provide fast results. If you’re experiencing pain, even an over-the-counter pain medication provides quick relief.

While nutritional therapy is effective, it is not a quick answer. Depending on the condition being addressed, you may feel an improvement in symptoms after just a few days of following your nutritionist’s advice, but you may not.

Lasting improvement takes time to achieve. Be patient and share any frustrations or obstacles with your nutritionist. Adjustments to your programme can be made as necessary.

Are You Ready to Improve Your Health Through Better Nutrition?

Nutritionists and nutritional therapists are dedicated to helping people live healthier, more vital lives with the help of better nutrition. Though the terms “nutritionist” and “nutritional therapist” are sometimes used interchangeably, these healthcare professionals fulfil different roles and have different educational backgrounds.

To learn more about the value of nutritional therapy for mental health, call 0203 984 7699, chat with us, or complete our confidential online form.

References:

  • Liang, Shan, et al. “Gut-Brain Psychology: Rethinking Psychology from the Microbiota–Gut–Brain Axis.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 19 July 2018, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnint.2018.00033/full.
  • MD, Eva Selhub. “Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food.” Harvard Health, 18 Sept. 2022, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626.
  • Nelson, Jennifer. “Nutrition’s Influence on Mental Health.” Psych Central, Psych Central, 17 June 2021, psychcentral.com/blog/the-critical-role-nutrition-plays-in-mental-health#food-as-prevention.