Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Ditch the meds: a dietitian dispensing drugs

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Image by mkhmarketing on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

One of my biggest pet peeves as a dietitian is the fact that so many non-dietitians fancy themselves to be nutrition experts. It’s one thing when it’s a “holistic nutritionist” at least they have some degree of nutrition education. It’s another entirely when it’s another regulated healthcare professional who seemingly has no concept of scope of practice. For those, such as the pharmacist I came across on twitter who states in her twitter bio “Pharmacist who would rather dispense nutrition than Rx.”, who may not know what scope of practice is: scope of practice describes the procedures, actions, and processes that a healthcare practitioner is permitted to undertake in keeping with the terms of their professional license. For a pharmacist, that means providing evidence-based advice and guidance on medications. For a dietitians, that means providing evidence-based advice and guidance on nutrition.

The pharmacist in question decided not to become a dietitian because she didn’t want spend the money to study the “low-fat” guidelines that apparently comprise the entirety of a degree in dietetics. How easy it is to be critical of a program when you clearly have no idea what the area of study consists of.

You know, I’d really like to be a pharmacist but I don’t agree with the excessive prescription of antibiotics. I think that instead of going to uni and studying pharmacology I’ll just start telling people what medications they should take for their ailments based on my own research and dispensing them online. Oh but that would be dangerous and I’d probably lose my licence to practice dietetics and face prison time. Yet, somehow it’s totally okay for someone who’s never studied nutrition to use their credentials as a regulated health professional (in a completely different field) to advise and influence people through social media, a blog, and conventional media. Ironically, as a registered dietitian I can’t even provide specific nutrition advice through those channels because sensibly one knows that I don’t have enough knowledge about the recipient of that advice to provide appropriate information.

Why even go to university for years, complete internships, pay to write a national exam, pay the college of dietitians $600 a year, and continue to learn about nutrition when it’s so easy? I could be cherry picking sensational “science” and promoting a “sexy” diet without having taken a single course in nutrition/dietetics. Sigh.

My point is, be savvy about where you get your information. Just because someone has credentials in one field does not make them a credible source of information in another field.

 

 

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

10 thoughts on “Ditch the meds: a dietitian dispensing drugs

  1. Yes, if she didn’t want to dispense prescribed medications, she should have entered another line of work. I frequent a weight-management online community where people regularly get nutrition advice from personal trainers and sketchy (to me) nutritionists or (my favorite) “nutritionalists.” Argh. I have two professional licenses and the first thing they do is drum into you is what you may NOT do.

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  2. I’m a retired primary care doc. Just as anyone who has ever had anything to eat is qualified to give nutritional advice, anyone who has ever watched TV is qualified to give medical advice. Or not.

    It’s an anxiety relieving mechanism. People like to believe that they have the secret to prevent aging, sickness, weight regain, even death. If they can convince someone to follow their advice, they validate their own beliefs and relieve their own worry.

    I left an on-line cooking group once. A woman asked about feeding her diabetic, hyperkalemic husband. I suggested asking his doctor for a referral to an RD while someone else suggested plenty of healing, freshly prepared fruit juice (!!!). I called that advice “potentially lethal” (it was!) and you can guess who the group decided was the bad guy.

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    • Obviously, I understand your frustration. Amazing how readily people will accept advice from unqualified people. When I worked in a grocery store I once had a customer ask me for natural remedies for something. I said she should speak to the pharmacist as that was not my area of expertise and she replied that she trusted me more! :O

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  3. What I find scarier is that there are so many professionals who are willing to cross these boundaries and pretend to be experts outside their field of work. It is worse when they recommend that you do not seek other professional help and guidance. I find this kind of arrogance appalling.

    My sister sees a nutritionist at her gym who told her she has celiac disease and is allergic to milk. So she cannot eat gluten or dairy and has her on all kinds of enzyme supplements to help her week stomach digest food properly. The same nutritionist also told her that she shouldn’t bother to be tested by her doctor for celiac or an allergist for milk allergy because it would be too hard to do the tests an they could come back negative. The nutritionist is SURE she is celiac and has milk allergies because everyone knows gluten and dairy are bad for you.

    I tried talking to my sister about it, but she won’t listen. She is now a full member of the gluten/dairy free camp and won’t hear anything that goes against it. – sigh –

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    • Oh dear. I assume this nutritionist is not an RD. It’s so hard to see family members or friends blindly accepting advice from unqualified “professionals”. Hopefully eventually she’ll come around to your point of view.

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      • I asked and the nutritionist is not an RD. She did an online course about diet and exercises and works out of a gym to give advice to gym members.

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      • Typical. I hope your sister comes around or at least is following a nutritious diet.

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  4. Excellent article! One of my pet peeves too! One of my patient recently came in with a letter from their doctor giving them all sorts of unfounded diet advice! That kind of stuff drives me nuts!

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