What is the purpose of diet therapy ?

Jonathan Swift-

The best doctors in the world are: “Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet and Doctor

Food is an integral part of patient care and is a major contributor in his/her recovery. Therefore, careful selection of foods, their preparation and ensuring that these are consumed by the patient is an important part of the therapy. The medical personnel are responsible for diagnosis and indicating the kind of modifications to be made in the normal diet in view of the condition of the patient. The diet section staff use this information to plan the patient’s diet. Diet can be described as the sum of food consumed by a person or any living organism.

Different diseases can be treated following strict diet management techniques. It has been followed since a long time ago, where medicines for diseases were not available readily. Nowadays, due to increasing attention towards the diet and its impact, its use also has been increased.
Another factor might be the increment in different lifestyle related diseases, which are the outcome of the mismanaged diet and lifestyle.

Purpose of Diet therapy:

  • Regulate amount of food
  • Assist body organs to maintain normal function
  • Aid in digestion
  • To improve specific health conditions
  • Increase or decrease body weight
  • Modify the intervals of feedings.

Diet can work under two major basic functions: to prevent the disease or to treat the disease.
In most illnesses, the patient’s diet complements the medical or surgical treatment.
The rate of recovery thus is determined by the patient’s acceptance and intake of the diet prescribed.
All therapeutic diets are modifications of the normal diet made in order to meet the altered needs resulting from disease.

Normal diet is modified to feed young children, elderly members or sick members of the family.
The planning of diet whether normal, soft or liquid has the same basic objective—to maintain, or to restore the good health of the person through a proper diet. The modifications are based on the changed needs of the individual, due to age or sickness. Normal diet is planned according to the recommended daily dietary intakes, which are designed to meet the needs of all healthy persons and may not meet the needs of sick persons. The nutritional requirements depend on the activity, the increased or decreased demands for certain nutrients, which need to be considered in planning the diet.

Modifications of Normal Diet:

The normal diet may be modified to:

  1. Provide change in consistency, e.g., soft and fluid diets;
  2. Provide foods bland in flavour;
  3. Modify intervals of feeding;
  4. Increase or decrease energy content;
  5. Increase or decrease other nutrients, e.g., protein;
  6. Increase or decrease fibre.

Therapeutic diet is planned to meet or exceed the dietary allowances of a normal person as the aim of diet therapy is to maintain health and help the patient to regain nutritional wellbeing.
In certain ailments it may be necessary to restrict intake of calories (as in weight reduction diets) or sodium (as in heart ailment).

Diets are usually prescribed by a dietician or a person who has detailed knowledge regarding the anatomy of body, food composition and disease management. Different diseases such as fever, constipation, CVD, diarrhea, diabetes, can be controlled by the modification of normal diet being intake on daily basis. Diet therapy also includes the use of different food supplements that has different functional properties in the human body.

Sometimes, therapeutic diets are also used for treating malnutrition. Malnutrition is a condition of the body where there is either excess or less nutrients available for the human body. Diet therapy is used in such condition: providing excess nutrients for the case of undernutrition and limiting the nutrient’s for overnutrition. Good nutrition can prevent or delay different diseases.

Nutrition counseling

Nutrition counseling is a two-way interaction through which a client and a trained counselor interpret the results of nutrition assessment, identify individual nutrition needs and goals, discuss ways to meet those goals, and agree on next steps. Nutrition counseling aims to help clients understand important information about their health and focuses on practical actions to address nutrition needs, as well as the benefits of behavior change. Nutrition counselors may be nurses or other facility based providers or community health workers or volunteers. It is not just teaching and it not simply listening, but rather is a sensitive combination of both. Effective counseling takes months and even years of practice and constant critical improvement. Nutrition counseling involves three basic skills: Assessing, Interpreting, and Teaching.

Combination of palatability with proper balance of nutrients in food is essential for healthy life. Moderation rather than elimination or addition is the guiding principle. As one of the hospitals in India circulate to their cardiac patients in their information brochures as “No Hurry, No Worry & No Curry” as the tag-line to reduce the modifiable risk factors in the incidence of coronary artery diseases, moderation of all such dietary content is very important. Malnutrition (over or under Nutrition) predisposes the body to many risk factors. Each diet should provide all required essential nutrients in appropriate proportions in relation to the disease for which it is prescribed.

In particular it must be suitable for patient with respect to cost, personal preference and any religious obligations.

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