A Patient Advocate’s Thoughts On Nutrition

I am continually amazed that the medical community hasn’t integrated nutrition into preventive care thinking.  I don’t think my doctor has ever asked me what, where, when and how I eat.  I think the only thing she ever told me was use less salt.  My doctor is thoughtful and thorough in her work but diet and nutrition just aren’t on her radar screen.  I find that with most medical providers there isn’t much interest in examining this part of a person’s life.

If a patient has diabetes or high cholesterol or high blood pressure, they may be provided with some literature on what to eat.  Making dietary changes is difficult.  A person needs to understand how it can make a difference and what it means to their life.

When I was in practice I use to talk to people about how to make simple choices with food.  I also would ask did they eat on the run, eat fast food often, or eat alone.  The answers told me a lot not just about the eating but the person and their lifestyle. The problem is, it takes time and insurers don’t always pay for nutritional input or consult.

For me, diet and food choices make a difference in physical and mental health at any age.  Recently, I attempted to tweak a nursing home client’s diet.  I realized after I stepped in a minefield.  There was no changing a diet because the menus were set and, I was told, the resident was happy and had rights.  It didn’t matter that the food was giving my client problems.

I have studied how cultures use food as medicine.  There are many foods that have nutritional value as well healing qualities.  For instance, ginger is great for nausea or menstrual cramps.  There is an old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  What it means is, by eating an apple a day and getting the fiber and vitamins, the intestines will stay healthy and work better.

I have learned when it comes to diet and nutrition to tread lightly and leave the big stick at home.