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Why You Should Have a Dietitian in Your Care Team

STUDENT CONTRIBUTOR: Neha Dhanda | School of Nutrition, Ryerson University

October 15, 2020

With all the information available on the internet and through social media, these days, it can be tough to get to the bottom of what the real deal is when it comes to healthy food, More and more people are focusing on their health and wellness and looking for reliable, trustworthy advice regarding their diet and nutrition needs. That's the good news.

The bad news is that there are a ton of foodies, fitness trainers and self-proclaimed nutritionists out there flooding cyberspace with fancy pictures, flashy infographics and quick-bites of information about the food and drinks we enjoy.

The takeaway: it's really important to be cautious of where you get your information from. Many influencers claim to be health experts; offering advice that's not always accurate. Worse yet, their approaches can be downright dangerous for your health. So, now what? What is the difference between a nutritionist and a registered dietitian?

Registered Dietitian to the rescue...

A registered dietitian (RD) is the only recognized expert in the field of food and nutrition. They must meet strict requirements legislated by The College of Dietitians, which involves a 4-year Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) degree in food & nutrition from an accredited university program, a 1-year long internship or integrated masters degree and successfully writing the Canadian Dietetic Registration Examination (CRDE).

Only after completing all educational and practicum requirements and meeting strict standards in their education, training, professional conduct, and ethics has someone earned the right to use the protected title of Registered Dietitian (RD) in Canada.

RDs qualify as healthcare professionals because they are highly educated, licensed and regulated by government bodies. RDs are trained to practice with empathy and cultural sensitivity, which involves being aware of and building nutrition care plans to support a varied diversity of beliefs, backgrounds, preferences, traditions, and values when providing nutrition support. RDs offer practical nutrition therapy to promote a healthy lifestyle. They encourage their patients to make healthier food choices. They take your nutritional and medical concerns such as allergies or certain diseases into consideration when creating meal plans. RDs are also nutritionists, but nutritionists are not RDs.

RDs and T1D

It is important for people with diabetes to include a dietitian in their care team. RDs work with patients to develop individualized nutrition care plans and help to educate about carbohydrate counting, meal timing and using food as a chronic disease management tool. RDs are an integral member of healthcare teams, helping patients to improve glycemic (blood sugar) control, manage weight, and reduce the onset of serious, diabetes-related, long-term complications.

Registered Dietitians support people with diabetes by assisting them to manage their blood glucose (sugar) with food and nutrition. Carbohydrate counting is a key strategy i self-management of diabetes. Carbs can be found in grains, dairy, and sweets and elevate blood sugars levels because they break down into glucose before getting absorbed into the bloodstream. Patients with diabetes do not produce enough insulin to effectively uptake sugars from the bloodstream into the cells. A dietitian can help people with diabetes make choices that include whole and complex carbs choices, which can help to lower or stabilize their blood sugars.

RDs can help prevent negative short- and long-term health outcomes in patients with diabetes Short-term concerns include hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), fatigue, numbness, blurred vision, and unintentional weight loss. Potential long-term health consequences include hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) leading to diabetic ketoacidosis, heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage and amputation.

Some of the different methods that dietitians use in order to help their patients gain optimal health benefits include food records, meal planning, nutritional education and counselling, carbohydrate counting, portion control, doing a nutritional assessment that involves evaluating their biochemical data, nutrition history, and anthropometric measurements (BMI, weight, height etc.).

All of these strategies help diabetic individuals maintain their blood glucose/time-in-range and reduce further complications. It helps them to stay in range, lower their blood sugar, and improve their glycemic control.

RDs are critical members to have as a part of a diabetic patient’s care team. By providing nutritional care they can create healthy meal plans that can optimize a patient’s health and overall lead them to a better lifestyle.

If you'd like to improve your health and wellbeing, and need someone to provide you some additional nutrition support, contact a Registered Dietitian, today!

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