Since you’ve stumbled upon this article, chances are you may want or need a integrative dietitian nutritionist (“integrative dietitian”) in your corner. Or perhaps you’re interested in walking the path of an integrative dietitian!
In this article you’ll learn the many benefits of working with an integrative dietitian, what makes us different from other types of nutritionists, how you can get started working with one, and even how to become an integrative dietitian.
Table of Contents
7 reasons to work with an integrative dietitian nutritionist
- Integrative registered dietitians = clinical + holistic (the best of both worlds)
- You can receive a “food-as-medicine” approach to health
- Most types of chronic illnesses are majorly impacted by food
- You can support your health at the root-cause level, beyond symptom management
- You can access cutting-edge nutrition lab tests to find out what’s going on in your body at the subclinical level
- You’ll receive custom protocols unique to YOU, to support your wellbeing on all levels
- A holistic dietitian will teach you how to live more optimally
Reason #1: Clinical + holistic = the best of both worlds
When you combine the extensive clinical knowledge and experience of a RDN with that of a holistic nutritionist, you’ll get an integrative dietitian: aka a nutrition expert who is clinically trained, board-certified, holistic-minded and who has received formal continuing education in the field of herbal medicine, functional nutrition, and more.
What’s an integrative dietitian nutritionist?
In a nutshell, an “integrative dietitian nutritionist” is a type of RDN who is also a holistic nutritionist.
We can bring a LOT to the table, since we’re formally educated and trained in both clinical and holistic aspects of nutrition and health. Integrative dietitian nutritionists bridge the gaps and can deliver the best of both worlds!
- You may have also heard functional dietitian nutritionists and holistic dietitian nutritionists referred to interchangeably as “integrative dietitians” / “integrative nutritionists”.
What’s a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN)?
A registered dietitian nutritionist or “RDN” has completed a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, followed by 1200+ hours of accredited, supervised internship work in dietetics.
- Dietetic intern experiences include a clinical rotation, a foodservice management rotation, a community nutrition rotation, a research component, and more.
Once completing the dietetic internship, the next step to receiving the “RDN” credential is to pass a national board exam.
From there, in order to STAY credentialed as a registered dietitian, we’re required to complete a minimum of 75 hours of continuing education every 5 years so we can stay up-to-date on the latest research in our field.
Registered dietitian nutritionists are also the only nutrition professional who can legally provide medical nutrition therapy, aka “clinical nutrition recommendations” or “MNT” due to the extensive training we receive in hospital settings.
What’s a holistic nutritionist?
While all “holistic dietitians” are also considered to be holistic nutritionists, not all holistic nutritionists are holistic registered dietitians.
By working with a holistic / functional / integrative dietitian, you’re essentially getting supported on the clinical level (interpreting your labs, taking into consideration food-drug interactions, receiving medical nutrition therapy, etc.) while also getting the opportunity to address chronic health conditions via a holistic approach.
Reason #2: You’ll get a food-as-medicine approach
Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food. – Hippocrates
While each of us has our own unique experiences and continuing education paths that led us to eventually become integrative dietitians, the common ground we all share is our “food-as-medicine” philosophy.
Integrative dietitians also share the belief and understanding that the human body is capable of healing itself (to a certain extent, in many cases) via the right combinations of real foods, herbs, and lifestyle changes – when implemented consistently enough over time.
That being said, chronic health issues tend to respond better to integrative nutrition interventions because they’re drastically impacted by food (for better or worse).
Reason #3: Most types of chronic illnesses are majorly impacted by food
Chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and even most types of autoimmune diseases are often overlooked or brushed off in the field of clinical nutrition.
However, each of those chronic conditions have been well-established to be majorly impacted by food due to the many roles of nutrients and the gut microbiome on virtually all aspects of health. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
The integrative nutrition approach essentially INTEGRATES evidence-based clinical AND holistic interventions so you can get the best possible health outcomes – not just on the symptom management level, but long-term. (It’s about “both-and” versus “either or”.)
Reason #4: You can support your health at the root-cause level, beyond symptom management
Integrative dietitian nutritionists are holistic-minded. We believe there’s more to health and wellbeing than just managing/reducing unwanted symptoms or remaining clinically stable.
That said, if you’d like to address your health and wellbeing via a root-cause approach, working with an integrative dietitian nutritionist is the way to go! This approach is your best shot at feeling better and finding relief beyond just symptom management.
We strive to go the extra mile by helping you crack your code via a combination of critical thinking, a multidimensional lens, and of course clinical judgment.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and you suffer from constipation, a surface-level, symptom-management approach would be to take laxatives and “eat more fiber.”
- Taking a root-cause approach means to dig deeper to figure out what types of imbalances in the mind/body are causing the constipation.
If you’re chronically constipated, some examples of “root-cause” questions a holistic dietitian might ask could be:
- Are you already eating a balanced diet with plenty of fiber from fruits, veggies and whole grains? (Fiber intake is always something to consider and assess!)
- Are you hydrating? (Not enough fluids can contribute to constipation.)
- What is your level of physical activity? (Not enough or too much exercise can alter gut motility.)
- Have you been taking any medications that cause constipation as a side effect?
- Have you taken many rounds of antibiotics (which can disrupt the balance of your ecosystem of microbes in the gut)?
- Do you suffer from stress? (Stress alters the enteric nervous system and migrating motor complex (MMC) which regulates gut motility.)
- Is there an underlying medical condition (such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth / “SIBO” or hypothyroidism or Parkinson’s)?
- Is there a constitutional imbalance that can be addressed?
Another aspect of the integrative, evidence-based root-cause approach is running specialty tests as needed, to obtain more information about what’s going on in your body.
Reason #5: You can run cutting-edge functional nutrition lab tests
Integrative and functional registered dietitian nutritionists are able to order specialty lab tests which show you a great deal about what’s going on in your body, at the cellular level.
Functional medicine lab tests allow you to detect subclinical imbalances, so that you can:
- Receive exponentially more clarity around the full picture of your health, helping you crack your code and take informed action accordingly.
- Identify and address your health imbalances at the cellular level, before symptoms get worse or snowball into bigger issues.
- Receive diet/supplement protocols that are exceptionally customized to what’s going on in your body.
Some examples of functional nutrition lab tests you can run via a holistic/functional dietitian include:
- Comprehensive stool analysis testing (such as the GI MAP test)
- Micronutrient testing
- Food sensitivity testing
- Hormone testing
- Cardiometabolic panels
- And lots more!
These tests aren’t usually covered by insurance but they’re invaluable to taking your health and wellbeing to the next level.
Reason #6: You’ll receive custom protocols unique to YOU
All holistic and functional dietitians understand and acknowledge that one size doesn’t fit all! We believe in bio-individuality.
That said, there is no cookie-cutter diet that an integrative dietitian is going to put you on. Instead of handing you a fish, we will teach you how to fish! 😉
Integrative dietitian nutritionists will help you craft your own diet and lifestyle which incorporates all the best foods and herbs unique to you, so you’ll feel more whole and realigned.
(This can be done with or without functional nutrition lab testing.)
Reason #7: An integrative dietitian will teach you how to live more optimally
Health is more than the absence of disease!
Integrative RDNs have a burning desire to help you live optimally and support your overall health and wellbeing on all levels (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual).
What to expect when working with an integrative dietitian nutritionist
An integrative dietitian will meet you where you’re at, and we will teach/coach around the following “holistic nutrition fundamentals”:
- Adopting a holistic mindset (which sets the stage for sustainable behavior/lifestyle changes)
- Choosing more whole, minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods/beverages
- Eating nutritionally sound, balanced meals
- Intuitive eating / mindful eating, in the sense that you’re honoring your innate hunger/fullness cues and honoring physiological food cravings
- Choosing foods and meals you truly enjoy and that appeal to you
- Eating with the seasons and/or eating in alignment with your constitutional energetics
- Partnering with the right herbs for your body (as needed)
- Reducing/minimizing exposure to harmful pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals
- Not following a set of diet rules but living in accordance with your own unique, dynamic state of being
Disclaimer: we are not doctors!
It’s important to keep in mind that all types of dietitians and nutritionists are most definitely NOT doctors. 😉
Our services are meant to complement and enhance the medical support you can and should receive from your doctor.
We don’t prescribe, diagnose, cure, or give medical advice, and we also aren’t “on-call” 24/7. 😉
Holistic dietitian nutritionists work within our scope of nutrition/herbs, within our own established hours of availability (usually during normal weekday business hours). We all encourage our clients to consult with their doctors for medical management and diagnostic testing, as needed.
Common benefits of working with an integrative dietitian nutritionist
While everyone is on their own unique journey, the most common “client wins” I’ve witnessed as a holistic dietitian nutritionist in private practice include, but are not limited to:
- More energy
- Better moods
- Sounder sleep
- Healthier digestion
- Happier hormones
- Stronger immunity
- More physical, mental and emotional resilience
- Increased levels of confidence
- A newfound sense of empowerment
How to get started working with one
If you’re someone who is open-minded, eager to learn, and ready to start making changes and tweaks to your diet/lifestyle to improve your health over a period of time, working with a holistic dietitian could be a wonderful next step for you on your journey!
Most holistic dietitians can be found in private practice. Some holistic dietitians in private practice even accept some health insurances!
Below are a few different ways you can find and start working with a holistic dietitian:
- Google search “holistic dietitian near me”, “integrative dietitian near me”, or “functional dietitian near me” and check out the listings that come up.
- Search on HealthProfs.com (U.S. only) and customize your search based on what you’re looking for.
- Customize your search on “Nutritionists Near Me”
- Or if you’d like your integrative nutrition services to be covered by insurance, while this is never a guarantee, your best bet is to call your health insurance Member Services line (on the back of your insurance ID card).
- Related article: Does Insurance Cover Functional Medicine Services?
How to become an integrative dietitian nutritionist
Are you feeling inspired to become an integrative registered dietitian? If so, you’ll first need to:
- Become a registered dietitian, and then…
- Start getting continuing education and/or obtain a certification in the field of holistic health, herbal medicine, and integrative & functional nutrition.
… Yup – that’s it! (There is no formal track to becoming an “integrative dietitian” at this point in time.)
While those steps may sound simple enough, becoming a holistic RDN is very time-intensive (about 5 years or longer) and it can also get pretty expensive.
- Curious about this path of becoming a holistic registered dietitian, but you aren’t sure which step to take next? If so, I’d love to offer more custom advice based on where you’re at in a 1:1 Strategy Call!
If you’re intrigued about my field of holistic health, and you’d like to learn more where this came from, please feel free to check out the following resources!
- Functional and Integrative Medicine, Explained
- What is a Holistic Dietitian Nutritionist?
- What is Holistic Nutrition & How Can It Help You On Your Journey?
- Living Holistically: What it Means & What it Entails
- What is Functional Nutrition?
- What is a Functional Dietitian Nutritionist?
- Does Insurance Cover Functional Medicine?
Training programs and continuing education
- Institute for Integrative Nutrition
- Dietitians in Integrative & Functional Medicine (DIFM)
- Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy (IFNA)
The bottom line is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and all of your organ systems are intricately interconnected, impacting how you feel and function moment-to-moment.
Choosing to make holistic lifestyle changes (with help from an integrative dietitian nutritionist) is something you’ll reap the return-on-investment on for many years to come!
If you’d like to take the next step in working together 1:1, please feel free to apply for a Complimentary Connect Call to see if we could be a great team on your healing journey.