How can a dietitian nourish your soul?
Dietitians are experts in nutrition who have an in-depth understanding of how our intake of foods and beverages affects our wellness. All dietitians are qualified nutritionists who have undergone specialist training in dietetics, enabling them to work in a clinical setting and prescribe therapeutic dietary plans.
While there are several similarities between a dietitian and a nutritionist, only dietitians are qualified to help manage and treat medical conditions ranging from diabetes and cancer to disorders of the digestive system such as Crohn’s disease. Some practitioners help manage food service in child care centres, facilities for the disabled, hospitals and other organisations, advising on menu development, and providing training for staff.
In Australia, the title ‘dietitian’ is not regulated, so the best way to ensure you are receiving the best care is to choose an Accredited Practising Dietitian registered with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). In order to be awarded this credential, a dietitian must meet stringent standards for education and ongoing professional development, uphold the DAA’s Code of Professional Conduct, and may be subjected to a random audit.
Benefits of a dietitian
This modality incorporates a variety of specialisations, such as sports dietitians who advise people on maximising their athletic performance, and paediatric dietitians who are trained to support children with developmental delays or intolerances to specific foods. Dietitians can also offer expert advice on gut health, an aspect of health which has recently been suggested to possibly have significant effects on neurological function.
One of the key advantages dietitians provide is their ability to prescribe “medical nutrition therapy” to improve outcomes for a range of health problems, including chronic kidney disease. The strict requirements for credentialing set out by the Dietitians Association of Australia mean accredited practising dietitians can be relied upon to provide dependable, evidence-based advice regarding nutrition and dietetics.
In a review of relevant studies, dietitian support is reported to be “clinically effective” in the management of type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that dietitian-prescribed nutritional therapy may reduce the necessity for medications that decrease lipid concentration in the blood for people who have triglyceride and/or cholesterol imbalances. It is also reported that dietitians have an important and increasing role in providing support and education both before and after stomach surgery for weight loss.
A dietitian may assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Anorexia, bulimia and eating disorders
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol imbalance
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME)
- Circulation and cardiovascular conditions
- Coeliac disease and gluten intolerance
- Crohn’s disease
- Digestive and gastrointestinal issues
- Food allergies and intolerances
- Heartburn and acid reflux
- Hormonal issues
- IBS and bowel disorders
- Kidney and renal issues
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Pregnancy, birth and antenatal support
- Skin, hair and nail issues
- Sports performance
- Weight control and obesity
What to expect from a dietitian session
Your first visit to a dietitian might take up to an hour, but follow-up visits are usually shorter. During your first appointment, your practitioner will take a detailed medical history and ask you about any specific health concerns. They will usually measure your height, weight and waist circumference, and enquire about your eating, exercise and lifestyle habits. If you have any blood test results or other relevant medical documentation, please bring everything to your appointment.
Your dietitian will use evidence-based principles to evaluate how your intake of food and drinks can support your continued wellness, or support the management or treatment of a health concern you have. If you do have a medical condition for which you are receiving nutritional therapy, your dietitian will work in consultation with your referring GP to ensure your best health outcome. In Australia, you may be eligible for a Medicare rebate if you are being treated by a dietitian for a chronic issue such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease under a health care plan provided by your GP.
Your medical professional is likely to be the person who recommends seeking the expertise of a dietitian. If you have any questions or concerns about your dietetic treatment, don’t hesitate to speak with your dietitian, who will be happy to address these and explain how the dietary aspect of your program will support your wellness. They will also explain the ways in which the diet you are prescribed is personalised to your requirements.