Clinical Nutrition and Naturopathy: What is the difference?
By Georgia Hartmann Senior BHSc (Naturopathy)
The practice of clinical nutrition and naturopathy approaches to disease prevention and management through a multidimensional and holistic lens. This includes addressing all aspects of an individual’s life that are impacting their health.
Clinical nutrition refers to the therapeutic management of individual patients using an evidence-based understanding of nutritional principles and the functional role of food and nutrients in the body. Understanding of digestion, absorption, transportation, and excretion of nutrients is required to comprehensively acknowledge the physiologic and biochemical processes involved in health and disease.
To implement a successful nutrition plan, clinical nutritionists thoroughly asses the client’s current nutritional status by addressing nutrient adequacy, food quality, dietary behaviours and lifestyle factors that may impede the client’s current health status. It is the role of the nutritionist to also assess the client’s medical history, anthropometric measurements, biochemical and laboratory values, and information on medication and supplement use for potential food-drug interactions.
It is also the practitioner’s role to understand the client’s attitude to health and success and to be able to understand the physical, emotional, spiritual, familial, social, occupational, and financial stressors that impact their health. In doing so, a holistic approach to health and disease is applied.
The practice of naturopathy is a unique system of health care that is not limited to a single modality of healing. Naturopathy combines the art and science of medicine using traditional forms of healing and modern scientific knowledge to prevent and treat illness. Naturopathic medicine combines herbal medicine, nutrition and dietary planning, lifestyle modifications, and other modalities including flower essences, iridology, tissue salts and celloids.
The practice of naturopathy is based on six traditional principles:
1. The healing power of nature
Nature is both perfectly balanced and organized intelligently to create, maintain, repair and destroy matter synchronistically. The body also has its own intuitive and sophisticated mechanism of healing. The use of natures healing agents – air, earth, water and sun – in combination with a clean diet, exercise, adequate sleep, relaxation, meditation, and an optimistic outlook that influence and support the body’s innate ability to heal.
2. Identify and treat the cause
Underpinning this principle is the basic understanding that all illness must have a cause. For health to be restored and optimised the cause or causes of the disease state must be identified and removed.
3. Treat The Whole Person
Health and disease are the results of an intricate interplay of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social, familial and occupational factors. Failure to address all aspects of health fundamentally ignores the complexity of the human being.
4. First Do No Harm
The naturopath’s role is to facilitate the body’s natural ability to heal and if this approach underpins practice, then harmless practice will be a direct result. Naturopathic practice that respects the principle of harm free treatment is traditionally noninvasive and avoids the suppression of symptoms and the prescription of harmful doses of medicine.
5. Doctor As Teacher
The word doctor has a Latin origin, meaning ‘teacher’. The power to eliminate disease and optimise health lies within the body, not with the naturopath. In this sense, the naturopath assumes the role of the teacher so as to educate, inspire and motivate, and encourage self-empowerment to the patient.
Naturopathy is employed to prevent both the sequel of disease states and the development of new states. In a time where medicine is reactive rather than proactive, it is the naturopath’s role to facilitate disease prevention.
Conditions treated and managed with nutritional and naturopathic medicine
In all of the conditions below, nutritional and naturopathic medicine plays a vital role.