What is a Clinical Nutritionist?

Years ago, when I studied my first degree (communications), most people…including the business community…had no idea what it ‘was’ and therefore what it qualified me for.

Now the profession (which includes journalism, advertising, marketing, event management, public relations, content writing + more) is better understood in business, and as a result valued. Especially after COVID-19 when the whole world relied on communications experts in government health departments to keep them safe.

With this health science degree in nutritional medicine, I feel like its history repeating on me. It feels like the industry is so new (and as a result undervalued) in Australia that part of my role is to help educate the public on what a clinical nutritionist is and their ability to help individuals and communities. Read on to learn more.

Our focus is predominantly on preventative health strategies and food/lifestyle education.

Our purpose

A clinical nutritionist in Australia is a degree qualified, integrative health practitioner (this means we work with other practioners including doctors) with in-clinic/practical client experience (as part of their degree). Our focus is predominantly on preventative health strategies and food/lifestyle education. Clinical nutritionists integrate traditional food wisdom and current scientific evidence to motivate individuals and communities to eat well and live happier, healthier lives.

A clinical nutritionist takes a holistic (whole person) centred approach to helping individuals and communities. This means treatment plans are customised for the individual. Our aim is to bring people back into balance, through food and lifestyle modifications.

Nutritional science

The Bachelor of Health Science degree in Nutritional & Dietetic Medicine (which is what I studied) is a 3-year full time degree. Each nutrition degree is different, depending on the educational provider. My degree was heavily science based with subjects that included psychology, pathology (1,2,3), biochemistry (1,2) and clinical nutritional medicine (1,2). These subjects provided me with a crucial and fundamental understanding of how the body works and what it means when something is ‘out of balance’. Added to these subjects, I’ve studied food science and food medicine, so that I understand how to improve health conditions and disorders with food, lifestyle and (potentially) nutritional supplements.

Is a nutritionist the same as a dietician?

In Australia, no. Our approaches are very different. Nutritionists focus on preventative health care. We work people 1:1 and broader communities to help keep people as healthy as possible, for as long possible. Our aim is to keep people out of hospital by providing sustainable, individualised nutritional support.

Another point of difference is that a nutritionist focuses on the nutritional value of food (i.e. what are the benefits of eating this food type vs another). We are not focused on calories in vs calories out, as this is too simplistic and proven not to be effective long term. Dieticians on the other hand tend to work and be based in hospitals. They use protocol health approaches to manage and support people with chronic disease. Often this involves calorie counting and specific diets.

What health conditions can a nutritionist help me with?

Niggling pains and ‘weird things’ that may be a sign of something bigger is my short answer. These include (but are not limited to):

  • upset tummies
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • bloating, indigestion, heartburn
  • constipation and diarrhea
  • high or low blood pressure management
  • heart health prevention
  • type 2 diabetes prevention
  • skin disorders – including acne, flare ups
  • frequent colds and/or flu symptoms
  • mood disorders such as anxiety, panic attacks
  • healthy and happy ageing
  • perimenopause and menopausal support
  • stress management – strategies with food + lifestyle
  • pregnancy support (before, during and after the birth)
  • male health conditions – including prostate care, sperm health
  • female hormonal disorders – including polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis)