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Manage Your Food, Manage Your Health

Sep 12, 2017

Diet Matters — Particularly for Those Dealing with Chronic Conditions

Why does diet matter when you’ve already been diagnosed with a chronic disease? Eating right is not only a part of disease prevention, but also disease management. Everyone’s nutritional needs are different based on their age, their underlying disease state, blood work, and other factors. Diet management can be a crucial tool when it comes to managing diseases and maintaining quality of life.

Dietitians are trained to manage complex disease states and create individualized plans that will help patients achieve the best possible health and recovery. Patients in eastern Arkansas now have access to help like this through the Outpatient Nutritional Services at Forrest City Medical Center.

Diabetes is just one of the chronic diseases that can be managed through proper nutrition, according to FCMC’s Dietitian, Amanda Smith. “A healthy diet is a major factor in reducing your risk of many diseases, and it’s also a key component in managing diseases once you have been diagnosed.” Chronic diseases like gastrointestinal disorders, high blood pressure, kidney disease, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and even eating disorders are just a few of the diseases that can be managed with proper nutrition.

Diet management serves many purposes when it comes to disease management, according to Smith, from slowing the progression of the disease to managing symptoms such as swelling, GI issues, unintentional weight loss, and decreased appetite. An improvement in energy levels is another benefit of diet management through making healthier meal choices.

Smith says when a patient is diagnosed with a disease such as diabetes or heart disease, there can be much frustration and confusion about what foods may be off limits. “It’s so nice to be able to put someone’s mind at ease when you let them know that no certain food is off limits and that they don’t have to go hungry. I tell my patients they can have any foods as long as they practice portion control. I don’t tell people there’s anything they cannot eat.”

Two of the most prevalent diseases in eastern Arkansas that can be addressed nutritionally are diabetes and obesity. The prevalence of those two diseases has increased in every state in the US over the past twelve years, with Arkansas ranking among the worst in the nation. At least one out of every ten adults in Arkansas has been diagnosed with diabetes, and one in four classified as obese*. Many diabetics in the state remain undiagnosed, making it impossible to know the total number of Arkansans with diabetes.

Consultations are also available to persons who have not been diagnosed with a chronic disease. Anyone with concerns or questions regarding proper eating habits can benefit from nutritional counseling. Those with chronic diseases, however, require specialized care, which calls for a physician referral. Background information is needed on patients that will provide the dietitian information like how long a patient has had a disease, or if the patient has been given any previous education.

A physician referral is also needed for the sake of insurance, which in most cases will pay at least a portion of the cost of the consultations. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services passed a regulation in 2000 stating that medical nutrition therapy is a service that insurance would cover. Smith recommends that each person check with his or her own insurance provider to determine the amount of coverage available.

To learn more about the Outpatient Nutrition Services available at Forrest City Medical Center, call 870-261-0121.

*Source: Center for Disease Control, Maps of Trends in Diagnosed Diabetes and Obesity, April 2016,