Monday, March 23, 2009

Natural and Alternative Nutrition Practitioners Threatened by Legislation: Why I oppose Senate Bill 115

As I have been writing about for the last two months, I have been consultinga Naturopathic Doctor, Katy Wallace. She specializes in nutrition and healing with whole foods. I have had great success with her help, in losing weight, reducing pain, improving my energy and digestion, and overall well-being. I believe in alternative and natural healing, and in our right to pursue whatever kind of health care and health information we so choose.

There is a bill currently moving through the Wisconsin Sate Senate, SB115. This bill aims to regulate the field of dietetics and nutrition, creating a licensing regulation for anyone who provides nutritional services. I strongly oppose this bill, as it would limit what information practitioners are allowed to provide about diet and nutrition to solely western-science based information.

The bill extends the control of dietitians to all nutrition care services in the state (developing a monopoly over nutrition services available) and makes it illegal for any professional with a position different from the American Dietetics Board (ADA) to provide individual nutrition care to consumers. This is problematic, as the ADA has a specific perspective. For example, one of their positions is that there is no evidence that organic foods are healthier than conventional foods.

Under this bill, my Naturopath's practice, as a natural health consultant, would be considered illegal and she would be put out of business. I wouldn't be able to obtain the kind of health care or information I choose and want. The excellent information she provides and education she has in her field would be considered illegitimate and illegal to share.

In order to be a registered dietitian, practitioners will be required to:

1) receive a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in certain nutrition fields from a college or university that the board determines is accredited or receive a degree from a program in nutrition approved by the board;
2) complete at least 900 supervised hours of dietetics practice; and
3) pass the registration examination, or its equivalent, established by the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

Because many of the alternative health practitioners do not prescribe solely to Western Medicine's views on diet and nutrition, they would not be able to become registered dietitians, or if they did, they would have to provide information they do not necessarily endorse nor agree with. It would limit the source of nutritional information available to the public to one perspective: that of the ADA. To keep consumers and communities healthy, Wisconsin deserves access to a variety of valid approaches to nutrition.

This bill is primarily being pushed by Registered Dietitians, who on the whole take the stance that they are the only practitioners with "real" nutritional knowledge. Many of them consider naturopaths to be "quacks" (as one RD described to me). I am willing to recognize that from their perspective, this bill would "protect the public" from receiving "bad" or "unfounded" health information and services. I respect that they are trying to push an agenda that they feel is best for people. I realize that in general, having regulations and licenses for health practitioners sounds like a good idea (I myself am a licensed massage therapist; I have a level of ambivalence about this I would be happy to discuss) but not when it means that the state is taking away our right and ability to choose alternative care or to use medical practices not currently recognized or endorsed by Western medicine.

Western medicine provides a lot of valid information about health and nutrition. But it is not the only "right" source, and I want to be able to choose what I believe about my health, how to manage it, and what kind of practitioner I want to see about it.

I believe it should be up to individuals to research their own practitioners and find what kinds of treatments and practices best serve their personal needs and align with their own beliefs.

Please contact your legislator (find out who your legislators are and get their contact information at: and encourage them to oppose SB 115.

The text of the bill can be found here:

and for more information, the Wisconsin Health freedom Coalition website is useful:

Please pass this information along to other alternative and natural health minded friends.


RD said...

I have a feeling that your position on massage therapy should be directly applied to the way dietitians feel about their practices. If you put in as many hours as are described in your requirements to become a registered dietitian, wouldn't you want to know that everyone else providing nutritional services to everyone, regardless of which form of medicine they practice, western or otherwise? Physicians are not shut down, if a person has a DO, they are perfectly legal to provide health information. This bill and others similar in other states simply seek to shut down "nutritionists" whom have little to no education in nutrition. A specific example might be a "nutritionist" at a gym that tries to sell you protein powders, shakes, etc by telling you the only way to bulk up is to drink/eat as much protein as possible. This information is simply not true and should not be disseminated to the public. I know many dietitians and all will have varying views on many topics in nutrition, to say that NONE will go outside of western medicine is completely false. Also, to your comment on Organic Foods: The ADA simply states that it is no more healthy - studies have shown that there are no more vitamins or minerals in organically grown foods over other growing methods. While organic growing may be better for the environment, from a "health" stand point, there is no foundation in saying that it is any healthier if a food is grown organically.

In conclusion, this bill may not be as limiting as you believe or have been fed to believe - it simply is designed to protect the services of a licensed individual such that their practice is not diluted by those that are not as qualified to give advice or prescribe treatments.

Registered Dietitian

Nicole said...

in response to RD:

Thanks for your post. it's always good to have all viewpoints represented. I find that the statements in your comment support my points.

- re: Massage Therapy licenses: Massage therapist licenses in WI are title protection only. This means you can only call yourself an MT or Bodyworker if you have a license, but anyone can practice massage legally under any other title, and many people do.

The license only demonstrates that you've had a certain amount of state-approved education and that you've passed a state and National certification exam. It does not say anything regarding the quality of your services. I think it is helpful to the public to know that if they want assurance of qualifications, they can look for a licensed therapist. However, I think it is also valuable for people who have not taken the exams or who have had other education in the field to be able to offer their services.

I think the burden of responsibility regarding the validity of a practitioner's skills should be determined by the client, not the legislature.

The proposed licensure for RD, however, goes beyond title protection and would make it illegal for other practitioners to even practice, rather than simply saying that only people with specific qualifications can call themselves dietitians.

2. You put anyone who is not a Physician or RD into the category of "nutritionist" and group them all as unqualified. There are many Naturopaths, Chiropractors, and others whom have had extensive training in nutritional health, and have valuable knowledge to share. Sure, there are some snake-oil sales "nutritionists," but, for example, my ND has a fantastic depth of knowledge and training. Some complementary practitioners may have training or knowledge that may even exceed that of some university-trained RDs. Yet they would have to go back to school to continue to practice under this bill. It completely rejects non-institutionalized knowledge. Some of us don't trust the legislature to know what kind of training best suits our individual belief systems about our health.

3. I will concede your point that there may be some RDs who will offer information that is beyond the scope of Western Medicine. Unless the ADA disapproves of it. In which case they won't be allowed to. I personally find that the ADA doesn't support some of my own views on nutrition and health, and therefore I would struggle to find a practitioner who would work with me in alignment with how I want to take care of my body.

4. The point on organic foods: exactly. The ADA states that it is no more healthy. I disagree. I think it is healthier on a toxicity and energetic level. Just because Western science and the ADA hasn't yet seen what they consider to be adequate evidence that it's healthier doesn't mean it isn't. Yet under this bill, no health care practitioner could tell me that it is.

5. I take offense to your statement about being "fed" to believe these things. I wasn't "fed" all of this; I read the bill and the Legislative Research Bureau's summary, and arguments on both sides, then formed my own opinion.

6. Finally, I'm not interested in a bill that protects any one kind of practitioner over another. I'm interested in protecting the interests of the general public. And I don't think that the legislature should be the body that decides who is and isn't qualified to give advice or prescribe treatments.

The idea of a law making a single group of practitioners all with the same education the sole source of "approved" information scares me. It means that the state is telling us this is the only "right" way to think about health, and preventing us from exploring alternatives.

If an individual disagrees with the ADA's opinion on a matter of health, they will have no other practitioners to turn to. How is that better for public health?

Make it a title practice law the way that MT licenses are and I'm fine with it. Ban any complementary or alternative practitioners from offering any nutritional information whatsoever, and you're letting the state tell me what to eat for dinner.