As we age, our bodies just don't work quite like they used to. We may lose energy or flexibility, or even become more prone to illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or osteoporosis. Luckily, medical nutrition therapy can help.
The medical world has started to turn towards nutrition as the answer to many illnesses and ailments. So what is medical nutrition therapy, exactly, and could it help you?
What is medical nutrition therapy?
Medical nutrition therapy (MNT), also referred to as nutritional counseling, uses nutrition and diet to treat injuries, illnesses, and other medical conditions. Usually, a registered nutritionist will help you with your MNT.
Under the supervision of a professional, nutrition therapy can be tailored to you and your specific needs. This not only helps with preexisting conditions but can prevent harmful diseases down the line.
Once a medically trained dietitian makes an individualized assessment of your condition, they can create a custom treatment for you. While the treatments vary from person to person, they generally involve counseling, nutritional planning, and the use of nutritional supplements.
Why is medical nutrition important?
Since it is your doctor who recommends MNT in most cases, it should already complement the use of any medications you currently use. That said, it is not meant to replace other medical treatments.
Some very common diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension have been shown to be reversible with medical nutrition therapy. MNT may be able to help you ease off medications or even relieve some symptoms associated with your disease or ailment.
Additionally, medical nutrition therapy is often the most affordable medical intervention option. Because medical nutrition therapy is based around adjusting your diet and general lifestyle, you won’t need to pay for as many doctor visits or prescription medications.
Essentially, you are just reworking your day-to-day life to the benefit of your health!
What is medical nutrition therapy helpful for?
Let’s dive into the most common reasons medical nutrition therapy is used for treatment. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are a multitude of things MNT can be used for.
Most often, MNT is used to help with:
As we’ve mentioned, type 2 diabetes is one of the diseases that MNT is used for the most. That’s because type 2 diabetes is essentially caused by diet.
When you first start seeing the early warning signs of type 2 diabetes, your doctor may recommend MNT as the first course of treatment - even before prescribing medication.
MNT may help you to get control of, and manage, your diabetes. It may also be useful when treating and stabilizing patients that have type 1 diabetes.
When MNT is used to treat type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the main focus is on blood glucose levels. You can use a special diet and nutrition drinks to keep your glucose levels within your target range.
You may wonder, “Are protein drinks safe for diabetics?” Generally, the answer is yes. You just need to pay close attention to nutrition labels and follow the advice of your nutrition therapist.
Many health experts agree that diet and nutrition can impact our likelihood of heart disease and other associated diseases like high cholesterol and hypertension. Approaching heart disease through the lens of MNT gives patients a chance to control their current health situation.
Even the American Heart Association agrees that diet is a key player in our heart health.
During an MNT consultation, you’ll likely learn that it is best to avoid foods that include high fats, cholesterol, and refined carbohydrates.
When trying to avoid or treat heart disease, cholesterol and fats are huge players in your ability to recover. If you are eating foods high in fats (especially saturated fats) and cholesterol, you are feeding your heart disease.
Most animal products and processed foods will likely be eliminated or at least scaled back from your diet during nutritional therapy for heart disease. When you take those foods away, your body can begin to heal and restore a natural balance.
Nutrition after any surgery is something that many patients can end up overlooking. You’re busy managing your pain and getting through your day-to-day, so diet is probably the last thing on your mind.
But, post-surgery recovery may actually improve with the right diet!
No matter what type of surgery you had, your body is in the process of healing. Whether you had a broken bone, or are working through the plastic surgery healing process, your body is going through the same stages of healing.
MNT can help you, your doctor, and your dietitian to find a diet, often including supplements, that supports and assists your body’s natural ability to heal.
In most cases a post-surgery diet will focus on both healing and pain reduction by targeting anti-inflammatory foods, antioxidants, and easy to digest proteins.
Some doctors recommend MNT before surgery as well. That way, your body will be in tip-top shape before undergoing the stress of surgery. This boost in nutrition will give your body extra strength to begin the healing process early.
While malnutrition isn’t something we commonly think would be in a developed country like the United States, it happens far more often than you’d think.
As you age, it becomes significantly more noticeable if you have been missing out on certain vitamins or nutrients. That’s why nutritional drinks for seniors are so important.
In addition, malnutrition is exceedingly common during post-surgery recovery.
If you are experiencing malnutrition in any form, MNT is one of the safest ways to start implementing more nutrients into your diet as it is an evidence-based nutrition therapy.
Joint support and weight loss
It may be surprising to group both joint support and weight loss into one application for MNT, but they are actually interconnected.
Joint pain often becomes more prominent as we age. This may be due to the fact that our collagen production naturally decreases, starting as early as age 25.
Collagen is important in our joint health because it makes up a third of our body's natural protein, including the cartilage protecting our joints. So, if we aren’t producing enough collagen naturally, we may start to notice changes in our skin and our joints.
Now, if we also happen to be overweight, we are adding another stressor to our joints.
When doctors and dietitians use MNT to treat disorders like arthritis, one of the first things they’ll do is address weight loss and weight management through diet.
When patients can maintain healthy body weight, their joints are already undergoing less stress. After that is established, they can work on other aspects of their diet.
Irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's Disease, colitis, leaky gut, and many other disorders that directly affect our digestive system could be treated using medical nutrition therapy.
These diseases are one of the most common in the world of MNT. That's because what we eat must pass through our GI tract.
Every individual’s diet needs to be tailored to their specific disorder. But one of the most important things patients learn is that many things contribute to their overall comfort throughout the day. This goes beyond diet, and includes activity levels and other underlying conditions.
When using MNT to treat gastrointestinal disorders, some commonly implemented strategies are an altered amount of fiber consumption, a higher food/fluid intake, and collagen supplementation.
Since GI disorders are directly related to bowel movements, regulating your stool consistency and frequency is important. Recommended diets may also incorporate low FODMAP foods.
Pressure ulcers, commonly known as bedsores, can occur when we stay in one position (sitting, lying down, etc.) for too long, such as when you are bedridden during hospital stays, illness, or post-surgery recovery.
The continued pressure from our body against another surface creates friction. The pressure combined with the friction can damage tissues in our skin, leading to inflammation and infection that can be quite painful.
Bedsores are especially common in older diabetic patients, but they can develop with frequent use of wheelchairs or bed rest. If hospitals or caregivers are struggling with how to prevent bed sores, collagen can actually help there too.
When using medical nutrition therapy to treat bedsores, medical-grade collagen protein is one of the most commonly recommended pressure ulcer treatments.
Just as with your joints, your skin needs collagen to stay healthy and happy. Collagen can also speed up your body’s healing process. If chosen carefully with the help of your doctor, collagen protein may help you heal bedsores and even prevent future bedsores from occurring.
Collagen protein for medical nutrition therapy
As you may have noticed by now, collagen protein is a common supplement used in medical nutrition therapy.
Since many issues arise in our joints and skin as we age, it makes sense that our body may need extra collagen supplementation.
Of course, you should always seek the advice of your doctor or dietician before implementing collagen protein into your diet. Collagen supplements may be prescribed to you post-surgery, but if you are using them to help with joint health or bedsores, how they are used in MNT will differ.
Collagen production naturally slows down as we age. That means that when we are injured, it takes even longer for our body to heal. There are several medical and surgical applications of collagen, but it is also important to remember that not all collagen is equal.
Collagen peptides, especially nano-hydrolyzed collagen, will generally be much easier for your body to digest and absorb. This makes the collagen faster acting and far more effective for medical purposes. ProT Gold medical-grade collagen protein can be absorbed within 15 minutes and is trusted by over 3,000 medical facilities for use in MNT.
If you’re looking for a new way to approach your chronic illness, or just improve your overall health as you age, ask your doctor about medical nutrition. And, be sure to ask how collagen could help you with your body’s recovery and treatment.
Sometimes, a little guidance is all we need to get our lives and health back on track. Medical nutrition therapy can help jumpstart your journey towards not only a long-lived life, but a better quality one.
FAQs about medical nutrition therapy
Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about MNT:
What is the goal of medical nutrition therapy?
The specific goals of MNT can vary greatly from person to person, but the overall goal is the same – to improve your health and quality of life through nutrition. This could be by managing diabetes, improving your cholesterol levels, or helping you heal faster after surgery.
Is medical nutrition therapy the same as nutritional counseling?
Yes, MNT and nutritional counseling are the same thing.
What are the benefits of medical nutrition therapy?
There are numerous benefits to treatment through medical nutrition. Through MNT, you may be able to:
- Achieve and maintain a more healthy body weight
- Reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes
- Protect against some forms of cancer
- Increase your energy levels
- Prevent bedsores
- Improve bone density
- Manage diabetes
- And more!
Will my insurance cover medical nutrition?
Actually, you’ll be happy to learn that the majority of insurance plans do cover services from registered dietitians. Of course, you will want to check with your insurance provider, as individual plans vary.
Please note that while services and office visits are often covered by insurance, the food and supplements your dietician recommends likely won’t be.
Luckily, supplements are a fraction of the cost of most prescription medication, and can have just as powerful of an effect on your health in some cases.