The Importance of Nutrition in Disease Management
Discover the vital role of nutrition in disease management from a senior dietitian. Learn about the challenges & tips to maintain proper nutrition for quick recovery.
Joan Collins the English actress and author quotes that the body is like a car, the older you become the more care you have to take care of it and you don’t leave a Ferrari out in the sun, set us thinking. We realized that a car can be compared to a human body in many ways. This is how. Both the car and our bodies work on the right fuel and neither will function if the tank is empty. Hence what petrol is to the car, good nutrition is to our physical and mental well-being.
Stressing the role of nutrition in disease management, Mubaraka Palanpurwala, a senior dietitian from Apollo 24/7 says that chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, can have a significant impact on a person’s health and quality of life. “While there is no apparent cure for these conditions, proper food and nutrition can be a saviour and play an important role in managing symptoms, facilitating faster recovery, and improving overall health. It provides the body with the essential nutrients it needs to repair and maintain its key functions, during and after being unwell,” she adds.
Giving an example, the dietitian mentions that a person with diabetes may need to carefully monitor their blood sugar levels and limit their intake of carbohydrates and sugars. Following a healthy, balanced diet can manage their blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of complications, such as heart disease and nerve damage. Similarly, a person with heart disease may need to follow a low-sodium and low-fat diet to manage their blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. “A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help manage cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation, which can contribute to heart disease,” she mentions. Taking a step ahead, she also shares that research has shown that a healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can not only help in disease management but reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancers.
Nutritional challenges during disease management
The situation is not always copacetic when it comes to nutrition in disease management.
- Arwa Zhaveri a homemaker from Hyderabad says dealing with her father-in-law’s nutritional needs as he battles prostate cancer is an arduous task. His loss of appetite makes it difficult for him to meet his calorie and nutrient quota. Additionally, he also complains of nausea, vomiting diarrhoea and constipation and shows a strong aversion to certain foods due to his treatment. This leaves her confused regarding his diet and she worries about how to meet his additional nutritional requirements to support his immune system given his condition. She also brings in the cost factor for the food supplements that must be added to his diet due to his inability to eat regular food.
- Ranjini Iyer a Bengaluru-based senior technical writer says she is exhausted preparing special meals for her husband suffering from Microvascular Angina. This cardiac condition affects the blood vessels. This leads her to lean on processed or convenience foods sometimes that may not provide adequate nutrition and also harm his overall health.
Tips to maintain proper nutrition during an illness
Palanpurwala acknowledges the challenges faced while maintaining proper nutrition in disease management and shares the following tips-
- Work with a healthcare professional: A healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian can help develop a personalized nutrition plan based on an individual’s specific health needs and goals and provides alternatives in case of any challenges.
- Manage portion sizes: Portion sizes can play a significant role in managing chronic illnesses. Again a dietitian can help determine appropriate portion sizes based on an individual’s health requirements.
- Hydration is vital: Drinking plenty of water can help manage symptoms and improve overall health.
- Be mindful of food sensitivities: Some chronic illnesses, such as celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome, may require individuals to avoid certain foods. One should be careful of that.
- Hire help: Preparing a special diet daily can be a cumbersome task with the regular food for other family members. Hence hiring a cook to take care of either of the meals can take some load off. But it is important that the cook strictly follows the instructions if they are cooking for the patient.
- Consider a rehabilitation centre- an assisted living facility or a rehabilitation centre providing nutritionally balanced meals for the patient and the family member staying with them along with other services.
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