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What to Look for in a Gut Health Nutritionist

From nutritionists and dietitians to health coaches and weight loss influencers, various professionals counsel individuals on digestion, nutrition, and overall health. That said, these "healthcare professionals" are not the same and should not be treated as such. While gut health nutritionists and health coaches may have similar goals, their focus and approach to nutrition advice can differ wildly.
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If you are trying to figure out which healthcare professional is right for you, you've come to the right place. This comprehensive article will discuss the benefits of consulting with a gut health nutritionist and what to look for in a nutritionist. We will also discuss how a gut health nutritionist differs from other health professionals. Let's get started!

How a gut health nutritionist works with you

A nutritionist's primary goal is to equip you with the tools you need to manage your health and diet. A gut health nutritionist will help you navigate your digestive issues by teaching you about gut health and practicing mindful eating. During your initial sessions, your nutritionist will explain the basics of your health condition, walk you through health and nutrition guidelines, and myth-bust any inaccurate information you may have read online about good gut health. You will also learn about the brain-gut connection and how your gut has a significant impact on your mental health as well as your physical health.

As you learn more about gut health over time, you will become increasingly confident and feel empowered to manage your health. In the long run, you will be able to understand nutrition labels, shop confidently at grocery stores, dine out, and prepare healthy, gut-friendly meals that you enjoy. 

In addition to providing nutrition education and counseling, your gut health nutritionist will collaborate with you to create a plan to ensure you have the healthiest possible gut, digestive tract, and immune system. Your nutritionist will help you incorporate high-fiber foods (such as kidney beans and whole grain bread), probiotic supplements, fermented foods, and plant-based foods into your diet. 

Qualities to look for in a gut health nutritionist or dietitian

There are a few things to remember while searching for a gut health nutritionist or dietitian. Here is a checklist of factors you should consider before signing up for a nutritionist's services. 


From health coaches to holistic nutritionists to registered dietitians, there's an endless list of terms, credentials, and jargon in the health food world. This can make it challenging to determine what each professional is qualified to do. The best way to hone in on an individual's certification, education, and experience level is to scrutinize their credentials. 

A registered dietitian nutritionist will typically have the letters "RD" or "RDN" after their name. This nutrition professional will have completed (at minimum) a bachelor's degree, a dietetic internship, and a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). 

On the other hand, individuals who use the term "nutritionist" can have varying levels of professional experience and expertise. While some nutritionists may have advanced degrees and thousands of hours of supervised experience, others may have few academic qualifications and limited professional knowledge. Ideally, you should choose a nutritionist who is a registered dietitian. Standard nutritionist certifications include Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS), Clinical Nutritionist, Certified Sports Nutritionist, and Certified Holistic Nutritionist. A CNS is the most advanced certification for personalized nutrition practitioners. 

Customer service

When you work with a nutritionist, this person will become your go-to health resource. 

The last thing you want is to work with someone who is an inconsistent communicator and challenging to reach. If you have questions or concerns about your health or diet, you'll want access to a nutrition expert who will get back to you within a couple of hours, not several business days. For example, Top Nutrition Coaching's registered dietitians are available 24/7 via a secure messaging service to provide advice and support when their clients need it.

To avoid working with a nutritionist with poor customer service, inquire about their typical response time upfront. Depending on the severity of your digestive disorder, customer service may be an essential factor in your choice of a nutrition professional. 


Before you begin working with a nutritionist, identify your goals and intentions. What do you want to get out of this experience? Many nutritionists have a particular area of expertise that they specialize in, whether it's eating disorders, diabetes, or gut health. Instead of working with any nutritionist, try to find someone who specializes in food sensitivities, stomach pain, an unhealthy gut, or whatever you need assistance with. It may take a little more time to find the right fit, but it will ensure you get the most out of your experience with a nutritionist. 

Approach and methods

A nutritionist's specialty, customer service, and credentials are essential factors to consider when finding a top-notch nutritionist. That said, you could be frustrated while working with the best nutritionist in the world if they are not the best fit for you. 

As the point person for your health and well-being, you want to ensure that your nutritionist is someone you like, respect, and trust. While some professionals may have a demanding and rigorous approach, others may be more gentle or nurturing. One of these approaches is not better than the other, but you may prefer one method over the other. 

One of the best ways to get a feel for your nutritionist's methods, approach, and personality is to hop on the phone. Even a five-minute conversation will give you an idea of whether or not you two are compatible. With Top Nutrition Coaching, all clients are entitled to an introductory call with their nutritionist to ensure the match is a good fit.


Finding a nutritionist within your price range is another factor to consider during your search. A nutritionist may be highly qualified and a good fit for you, but if their fees are too steep, this individual's services will not be financially sustainable. To avoid signing up for overly expensive services, consider how much you can afford to spend on a nutritionist every month. Then, consider how long you plan on working with a nutritionist. If you are experiencing a short-term issue, you may be able to dole out a little more dough than you would if you were planning on seeing a nutritionist for several years. 

An increasing number of insurance companies have also begun to provide reimbursement for gut health dietitians. While some dietitians and nutritionists take insurance, out-of-network practitioners can provide a bill for reimbursement if you have out-of-network benefits. Discuss fees and insurance with a potential nutritionist before your first session, so you don't get hit with an unexpected bill. 

Other gut health professionals who can help you meet your nutrition goals

While a nutritionist is a great go-to resource to assist with your gut health, there are other professionals you can also work with. Here are some other health practitioners you can work with and how they differ from a gut health nutritionist. 

Health Coach

A health coach is a mentor and supportive resource who helps clients make healthy diet and lifestyle choices to improve their overall wellness. A health coach may be a good fit if you want to lose weight, get in shape, or adopt a more balanced lifestyle. Unlike dietitians and nutritionists, a health coach is likely to focus on lifestyle factors such as sleep, relationships, stress, and exercise, as well as diet and nutrition. 

It's vital to remember that health coaches only have basic nutrition training. While they may have rudimentary knowledge about improving your gut, this person won't be able to assist with severe digestive disorders such as pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, and gallbladder conditions. If your primary concern is improving your gut flora, gut microbiome, and digestive process, then seeking a nutritionist or dietitian may be a better fit. 

Registered Dietitian 

A registered dietitian (RD) is very similar to a registered nutritionist. Dietitians specialize in dietetics, a field focusing on diet and its effects on health. These professionals mainly work with clients to alter their nutrition based on a medical condition or individual goals. 

Like certified nutritionists, an RD will have earned a bachelor's degree, completed supervised experience, and passed a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. 

Dietitians are qualified to diagnose eating disorders and design diets to treat specific medical conditions. Working with a registered dietitian can significantly benefit individuals with IBS, bloating, SIBO, GERD, and other gut health issues. 

Watch out for these red flags when considering gut health coaches, dietitians, and nutritionists

Curious to learn more about the role of a gut health nutritionist? Read more here.

There are few things more important than your health. When you work with a nutritionist or dietitian, you place some responsibility for your well-being into their hands. Here are some red flags to look out for when working with a health coach, dietitian, or nutritionist. 

Selling Products

If your nutritionist begins pushing you to buy certain products – especially if they are expensive – this is an immediate red flag. A dietitian or nutritionist should rarely try to sell you special foods, nutrition bars, or supplements unless you have asked for recommendations about this or have extensive medical needs. It's unlikely that highly processed powders or packaged snack bars will be preferable to whole foods. 

The focus of this relationship should be on everything you can eat to support your digestive system. One of the biggest myths about gut health is that you must follow a restrictive diet to stay healthy. In reality, it's more about what you include in your diet than what you exclude. Eating a wider variety of foods can lead to a more diverse range of gut bacteria, which is good for your microbiome. 

No Credentials

If you plan on working with a personal trainer or health coach instead of a nutritionist or dietitian, remember that this individual most likely only has rudimentary nutrition knowledge. 

While a coach may be able to offer sound advice on exercise, sleep, and stress, they should not be offering you any serious dietary guidance. Some personal trainers may convince clients to embark on extreme diets, consume unnecessary supplements, and adopt unhealthy habits. 

To avoid putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation, ask about a coach or trainer's methods upfront. If they sound overly aggressive, rigorous, or unhealthy, politely opt out of their services. 

Removing Food Groups

Another red flag is receiving a tiny "acceptable food list" from a nutritionist. The more foods you remove from your diet, the more you rob your body of valuable nutrients. For instance, cutting out dairy often limits access to calcium, which is key to maintaining bone strength.

Eliminating carbs can be especially harmful to people experiencing digestive issues. Carbs are packed with fiber, which is a necessary digestive aid. Complex carbohydrates also keep you full for longer, which is vital for weight management. 


Another gut health myth is that "detoxing" helps clean your gut. The body has its own detox system that includes the lungs, colon, liver, and kidneys. These organs regularly detoxify the body. Juice "cleanses" are often touted for their ability to detox the body, but they're just starvation diets in disguise. If a health coach or trainer encourages you to do a juice cleanse, recognize that it is impossible to cleanse your liver and body by only drinking juice. By doing so, you will end up damaging your metabolism and doing your body more harm than good. 

Planning Your Life Around Eating

A health professional should collaborate with you to create a diet plan that makes your life easier, not harder. If sticking to your diet takes over your life, this may be a red flag. 

If you find yourself declining invitations and skipping social eating occasions for fear of breaking diet rules, this could indicate your eating habits are too rigid and have become disordered. 

What is the cost breakdown of working with a gut health nutritionist or dietitian?

If you’ve already searched for a “nutritionist near me,” you may already know that, on average, a nutrition counseling session will cost around $70 to $100 per hour. However, these rates will differ significantly depending on where you live, the expertise and background of your dietitian, and what you need assistance with. 

Regardless of whether you can get your insurance to cover the costs, this is a sound investment for your health. A gut health nutritionist can help you take preventative measures to prevent your digestive issues from worsening. They can also help you take reactive steps if you ever experience a health crisis. 

Manage Your Mental Health

While a nutritionist is not a therapist, they are someone who can support your mental health and your physical health. Along with developing a healthy eating plan, a gut health nutritionist can help you find ways to manage your mental health. A nutritionist can recommend approachable exercise routines, mindfulness activities, and easy meditations. A nutritionist can also help reduce the factors you have identified as causes of stress and any food anxieties you might have. 

Assist with Meal Planning

Along with providing cooking tips, meal prep guidance, recipes, and healthy snack ideas, a nutritionist will help you develop a healthy diet plan. Sticking to this nutrition plan or eating pattern is a great way to ensure you stay on top of your digestive issues. 

Is your diet not working for you? No problem. While your nutritionist is there to hold you accountable for your health plan, they are also there to help you resolve any issues you might have with your nutrition program. 

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About the author

Nicolette Star Maggiolo, RD, LDN
I'm a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with education from Boston University and clinical training from both Brigham & Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I specialize in helping the military and non-military individuals embrace nutrition as a partner in both their mental and physical health.

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