Dietitian or Nutritionist: 10 Ways They Can Improve Your Health
If you have a gut issue, a nutritionist or dietitian can have a powerful positive impact on your symptoms and long-term outcomes.
·October 15th, 2021
A dietitian or nutritionist does more than just help people lose weight–they can help adjust the quantity and type of food you consume to improve your health and lifestyle.
Nutrition professionals can help devise diet plans that prevent and manage symptoms of diabetes, heart disease, digestive diseases, and chronic women’s health conditions.
Dietitians and nutritionists can also help those who are recovering from eating disorders or have food sensitivities and allergies.
Nutrition experts can help you with everyday issues too, like achieving a balanced diet, sustain weight loss, making dietary changes, and optimizing sports performance.
Nutrition and trying to nourish our bodies with a balanced diet is overwhelming for many—in an age of nearly unlimited choice, what kinds of food to eat and how much are sometimes confusing. This is where seeing a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist or a Nutritionist can help.
As specialists in field of nutrition and dietetics, these professionals work with clients to promote overall health and make necessary lifestyle changes. Whether you’re struggling with chronic conditions like autoimmune disorders or trying to improve your lifestyle and make more informed decisions around food, an appointment with a nutrition professional is a great place to start.
Read on for 10 ways a dietitian or nutritionist may help you improve your help.
10 ways a dietitian or nutritionist can help you
1. Helping patients with sustainable weight loss
Many people struggle with their weight; some studies have shown that nearly half of Americans have tried to lose weight in any 12-month period. There are a number of biological reasons we struggle to lose weight—metabolism slows and our brain chemistry changes when we start to lose weight, making the maintenance of these adjustments harder.
Working with a nutritionist can help those struggling with weight make positive lifestyle changes by providing a framework of accountability and support, as well as essential tools like mindfulness exercises and healthy recipes.
2. Preventing disease
Lifestyle and weight management are integral to preventing diseases like obesity and high blood pressure. Working with a dietitian can help patients avoid lifestyle choices that lead to weight gain and inflammation, primary factors in the development of disease.
Dietitians and nutritionists can help tailor your diet towards prevention—encouraging a low-fat diet to avoid things like diabetes, or supplementing with calcium in older adults to stave off osteoporosis.
3. Aiding in eating disorder recovery
Seeing a dietitian is a major part of any eating disorder recovery plan—as our relationship with food is majorly impacted by eating disorders, these professionals can help by providing their clients with concrete meal plans and eating schedules that offer structure and support.
It’s a good idea to work with a mental health professional like a psychologist as well, as both can work together to improve the emotional health of patients through processing thought patterns and supplying helpful coping mechanisms. Alternative methods like hypnotherapy have also been shown to improve weight management in patients working with a mental health professional.
4. Managing cardiovascular diseases like high cholesterol and high blood pressure
Diet plays a huge role in managing cardiovascular health—obesity is one of the largest risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and studies have shown that a healthy diet is one of the most effective preventative measures of cardiovascular disease.
In instances of a major cardiac event like a surgery, doctors will usually suggest working with a nutritionist afterwards. These specialists can assist patients in reforming habits and beliefs around food, and make lasting changes to improve symptoms by taking into account things like activity level and stress management.
5. Testing for – and adjusting to – food allergies and intolerances
A large number of Americans suffer from food allergies—whether you’re well aware of your allergies or looking to get tested, a dietitian or nutritionist can help. Allergies occur when eating a certain food prompts an immune response in the body.
Similarly, an intolerance occurs when the body has trouble digesting a particular food. Working with a nutritionist can help patients adjust to both allergies and intolerances, and give them the resources to eat a balanced diet regardless.
6. Dealing with chronic women’s health conditions
Women suffering with chronic reproductive conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) can greatly benefit from the guidance of a dietitian. Hormones have a huge effect on our appetite, and reproductive disorders are intimately linked to them.
Because of this, those suffering from PCOS are more insulin resistant and are more likely to be overweight. Similarly, those suffering from disorders like PMDD are more likely to struggle with weight gain because of the dip in hormones, and subsequent increased cravings, that the disorder brings on.
Nutrition professionals can help by tracking blood sugar levels, and working to balance these levels over time, as well as working to reduce the risk of other related disorders, like type 2 diabetes. A
7. Controlling symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders
As diet is the primary factor impacting our digestive systems, those suffering from gastrointestinal issues like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can benefit from seeing a nutritionist. The specialists can help patients by identifying possible trigger foods for flare-ups, and determining the best possible diet to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.
Studies have shown that for patients struggling with IBS, dietary interventions are some of the most effective at treating the disorder.
8. Achieving balance in your diet
A balance of different energy sources, vitamins and minerals is essential for maintaining good health. For those who struggle to try new foods or are overwhelmed by the amount of choice, an appointment with a nutritionist can be a great option.
The nutritionist will go over an average day of your eating habits, and identify any deficiencies or areas for improvement.
9. Making dietary changes, like transition to a gluten free or plant-based diet
Specialized diets like plant-based eating are rapidly growing in popularity, both for health-related and emotional reasons, but starting them can feel intimidating without guidance.
Dietitians can aid patients in making sure their diet is still balanced in this transition—for example, that plant-based clients are still getting enough protein. They can also recommend foods to substitute in, like gluten-free items and plant-based proteins.
10. Helping athletes properly fuel their bodies
For athletes, sports nutrition is central to performance and recovery. Our bodies use different amounts of different food sources—protein, carbohydrates, and fats—based on what kind of activity we’re doing. For example, long distance runners use primarily carbohydrates for fuel, while weightlifters need to supplement their diets with extra protein to recover properly.
The kinds of fuel our body needs also changes based on what phase of exercise we’re in: preparation, activity or recovery. Knowing which kinds of foods to eat to perform at the ideal level is essential, and nutrition specialists can help by creating a schedule for patients to fuel and recover.
Recreational athletes, or those who have recently made a lifestyle change and increased their amount of exercise, can benefit by talking to a professional about the ways their body is reacting to these shifts and how diet can help.
Differences between dietitians and nutritionists
While they can perform many similar functions, the training paths and educational requirements are different.
Registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN): An RDN is qualified to provide medical grade nutrition therapy to people with medical conditions. The registered dietitian nutritionist credential requires a bachelor’s degree, passing a national exam, completion of 1,200 hours of supervised practice at an accredited program, and maintenance of a registration. The term registered dietitian is interchangeable with registered dietitian nutritionist.
Certified clinical nutritionist (CCN): A CCN is qualified to give nutrition counsel to the general population. They must hold a degree in nutrition (at minimum, a Bachelor of Science), complete professional training hours, pass an exam, and complete regular training every two years.
Certified nutrition specialist (CNS): A CNS is a qualification that a nutritionist can apply for once they already have an advanced degree in nutrition (e.g. Masters in Science or doctoral degree in nutrition or related field). They must complete coursework as well as 1,000 hours of supervised practice, pass an exam, and re-certify their credential every five years.
Nutrition or health coach: In many states, a nutrition or health coach does not need to meet any minimum standard of education. There are wonderful, effective providers who work as un-credentialed coaches in private practice, so don’t necessarily dismiss one—but do your due diligence and make sure they have the experience required.
Specific medical conditions
For specific medical conditions, clinical dietitians or clinical can provide medical nutrition therapy. Many dietitians and nutritionists specialize further, focusing on diabetes, kidney diseases or even metabolic diseases and conditions.
If you’re interested in exploring nutrition science, the right provider can help you build a personalized plan to support your wellbeing. Connect with a credentialed expert who serves your area here.