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Nutritional Therapy Enhances Health Outcomes

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Specialized nutrition plans are essential components in the treatment of many disease and health care conditions. Nutritional therapy has been proven to help achieve therapeutic outcomes for conditions such as cardiac disease, weight imbalance, pediatric issues, diabetes, renal dysfunction, allergies, auto-immune disease, and many GI disorders.

Baptist Health Lexington has had an outpatient nutrition counseling service for approximately five years to address the needs of the greater Lexington community for medical nutrition therapy. The program is located at Lexington Green Mall, next to HealthwoRx fitness facility. A physician’s referral is necessary for services to confirm diagnosis and medical treatment plan.

Patients referred for counseling – for example, those with diabetes or celiac disease – receive specialized counseling from experienced registered and licensed dietitians. The registered dietitians (RDs) will perform a thorough nutritional assessment of each individual, including information such as personal food preferences, food tolerances, budgetary limits, and cultural and lifestyle influences. The RDs believe in a patient-centered approach and encourage patients to identify their needs upfront so that an individualized educational plan can be developed.

The key to crafting a realistic and effective meal plan for an individual is listening to the patient. The RDs at Baptist Health Lexington use an established approach called motivational interviewing. Food is a very personal choice, therefore, it is essential to understand the needs of the patient and incorporate their food preferences for long-term success.

When counseling patients, the RDs utilize evidence-based practice recommendations from reliable sources such as the American Diabetes Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Celiac Sprue Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, to name a few. When a patient has been prescribed a modified diet, it can be overwhelming to the patient to change food habits that have been in place for a lifetime. Therefore, a stepwise approach is implemented, and the clinician and patient collaborate on short-term and long-term goals. To maximize the experience for the patient, individual instruction is provided.

Instruction will include the purpose of prescription, identification, or classification of prescribed foods, benefits of nutritional intervention, and record keeping. Computerized nutritional analysis can also be performed based on food diaries to provide specific information on macro- and micro-nutrient intake. Individuals will also receive reference options such as written materials, menus, web-based applications, and phone apps to enhance the learning experience and for post-instructional support.

During the session, information will be provided on shopping, menu planning, cooking, and eating out, which is integral to an individual’s lifestyle and is lacking in simple “tear-off” nutritional prescription plans or typical fad diets found in magazines and books.

Follow-up is essential to success, so individuals are given a follow-up appointment within 30 days of their initial appointment to assess their ability to apply the information and skills learned. This also gives the RD the ability to measure the achievement of personal goals and track clinical outcomes such as weight changes, fasting blood glucose levels, and other biometrics.

It is not uncommon for people to have multiple nutritional challenges, such as hypertension and diabetes, heart disease and obesity, or even diabetes and Celiac disease. In these situations, nutritional counseling can ease the frustration of multiple diagnoses affecting food choices. RDs at Baptist Health Lexington prefer to emphasize food choice opportunities, rather than provide a restricted food list, which is discouraging and usually temporary for most patients.

All encounters with patients – face-to-face sessions, phone calls, follow-up assessment, and other correspondence – are communicated back to the healthcare provider for review and continuum of care. Making nutritional changes that produce positive health outcomes requires knowledge, skills and motivation. RDs are trained professionals that can help your patients achieve desired results that will improve their medical status without negatively affecting their lifestyle or food pleasures.

Kathleen Stanley is the coordinator of Outpatient Diabetes Education & Nutrition Education Services for Baptist Health Lexington.