As we age, our dietary needs might change and shift based on our health status. We might try our best to maintain optimal health even when we age. However, chronic diseases with age might ruin health at times. Fortunately, there are therapeutic diets that might help treat various chronic diseases. Medical Nutrition Therapy is a nutritional treatment plan that might help you control many symptoms associated with chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, Cancer, COPD, Osteoporosis and many more.
What is Medical Nutrition Therapy?
Medical Nutrition Therapy or MNT is an evidence-based medical approach used to treat specific chronic health conditions by using individually-tailored nutrition plans that are ordered and approved by doctors and registered dieticians.
The term Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) was introduced in 1994. Medical Nutrition Therapy is based on several decades of medical research on the relationship between nutrition, diet, and health outcomes. It might be conducted in an outpatient clinic, in a hospital, or as a part of a health program. The following sections of this article review more about Medical Nutrition Therapy and how this therapy works.
Who Needs Medical Therapy?
Diet is a crucial part of our lives. Food provides energy to our bodies and minds to perform daily tasks. Diet affects every facet of our lives and we need to see a dietitian every year and have regular check-ups to remain confirmed that we have optimal health. Medical Nutrition Therapy plays an important role in reducing various complications linked with some chronic conditions like Chronic Kidney Disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. So, patients with these chronic conditions usually need Medical Nutrition Therapy.
What Happens When You Visit Your Doctor For Medical Nutrition Therapy?
Your dietician counsels you on behavioral and lifestyle changes that are essential to affect your long-term eating habits and health positively. You will have to go through an assessment by your dietician and will be educated about proper eating habits.
During the assessment, your dietician will perform a kitchen inspection, evaluate your physical state, and assess overall nutritional requirements. During educating you, the dietician will provide you with a tailored nutritional plan.
How Does Medical Nutrition Therapy Work?
Medical Nutrition Therapy instructs people on various ways to use their diet to best support their specific medical conditions. MNT not just addresses existing medical conditions but also helps in reducing the risk of any new complications.
To start with Medical Nutrition Therapy, the dietician performs a comprehensive assessment of your nutrition. Then they prepare a nutritional diagnosis and care plan, and also particular nutrition interventions to help you manage and treat the condition in a better way. (1) Your dietician provides repeated follow-up visits to support you with your lifestyle and behavioral changes.
Medical Nutrition Therapy might involve tasks like designing a diet to reduce calories for weight loss and prescribing a high protein diet for promoting the healing of wounds for those with severe burns. Intravenous or IV feeding might be recommended in severe cases, like for patients with cancer to prevent malnutrition.
What Are The Common Conditions That Can Benefit Medical Nutrition Therapy?
Medical Nutrition Therapy could be beneficial for managing various health conditions.
Diabetes is a health condition when the levels of your blood sugar get too high. Diabetes can either be type 1 or type 2 diabetes.(2) If left untreated, this condition can cause severe complications, such as vision damage, stroke, nerve damage, poor blood circulation, kidney disease, gum infections, and heart disease.
Research shows that Medical Nutrition Therapy can help control this condition of diabetes. (3, 4, 5, 6)
Individuals with ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and Celiac disease can benefit from Medical Nutrition Therapy.(7)
A registered dietician can develop an appropriate tailored Medical Nutrition Therapy plan specific for each digestive condition, that would help in reducing the symptoms and improving quality of life.
For instance, people with Inflammatory bowel disease might be benefited from a proper elimination diet, in which specific foods are excluded and slowly added to the diet again to identify the foods that trigger symptoms.(8, 9)
Any serious condition that affects the functioning of the heart, such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and plaque buildup in arteries, is referred to as heart disease. When left untreated, heart disease can cause stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and even lead to death.
Research has suggested that Medical Nutrition Therapy can reduce various risk factors for the occurrence of heart disease like LDL or bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, and triglycerides.(10, 11)
Your dietician might recommend you adhere to a diet that is low in cholesterol, saturated fat, sodium, and different inflammatory foods.(12) You might be advised to consume a more plant-based diet including fruits and vegetables.
In cancer, the abnormal cells begin to divide uncontrollably. Any part of the body like bones, blood, or organs might be affected by cancer.
Dieticians can help cancer patients with medical nutrition therapy as the cancer treatment leads to poor appetite(due to chemotherapy and cancer medications).
Thus, many people with cancer struggle to eat enough and become prone to malnutrition. However, dieticians recommend high-calorie nutritional shakes or various protein-rich and fat-rich foods.(13)
Nutrition Medical Therapy is also beneficial for patients with kidney disease. Medical Nutrition Therapy helps patients with kidney disease to adjust their diet well.
For instance, some individuals should limit their intake of potassium, sodium, phosphorus, and protein, while others might require to adhere to specific fluid restrictions. These requirements vary depending on the severity and stage of the disease.(14)
When Should Be Medical Nutrition Therapy Be Prescribed?
Medical Nutrition Therapy is prescribed only after a thorough evaluation of your medical condition by a dietician and only if there is any chance of improvement by adhering to this treatment method.
Again, Medical Nutrition Therapy is not always required. For instance, someone admitted to the hospital for any medical treatment and is determined to be eating well and is not at risk of malnutrition, might not need Medical Nutrition Therapy.
Medical Nutrition Therapy is beneficial in alleviating, managing, as well as treating specific medical conditions and it has been proven to be effective in managing some of the common chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, and digestive disorders. You can also try this therapy if you feel its importance to your health. However, make sure to seek this treatment only after properly evaluating or researching the dietician providing you with the therapy.