“My dietitian saved my life” – Dietitian’s Week 2021

7th June 2021

Each year, the British Dietetic Association build the general public’s knowledge and awareness surrounding ‘What Dietitians Do’ and how they can help you. We want to help spread the word!

For those with digestive conditions, it can be hard to know where to look for diet advice. Different websites tell you different things. People online may tell you what worked for them, but it doesn’t work for you. Social media only worsens the confusion!

Diet advice for those with digestive diseases is often specific to each individual. Dietitians are experts in nutrition. They use science, evidence and your personal circumstances to help you. They’ll consider a range of factors and will work with you, explaining along the way, to make the best food choices for you.

In the UK, we can request a referral to a dietitian from our GP or gastroenterologist, particularly those with a digestive disease, although not everyone is aware of this.

“I spent months in ICU with pancreatitis. Before my attack, I didn’t have a clue what dietitians did. I’d never thought they could help people with digestive diseases.

After my attack, I had lost a lot of weight and was malnourished. At one point, my dietitian even put me on a feeding tube. I didn’t want to do this, but it was absolutely the best decision that was made. In short, my dietitian essentially saved my life” – Rebecca.

Read Rebecca’s full story below.

 

Rebecca's Story - Pancreatitis & my dietitian

“My name is Rebecca and I spent months in ICU and in hospital with severe acute pancreatitis. Before my attack, I didn’t have a clue what dietitians did. I assumed they might help people get healthier or lose weight. I’d never have thought they might help people with digestive diseases.

I am now back home and on the road to recovery, but not too long ago, I didn’t know what my pancreatitis diagnosis meant short and long term. I didn’t know what I could and couldn’t eat. After my attack, I had lost a lot of weight and was malnourished. I was also diagnosed with Type 3c diabetes (a type of diabetes associated with pancreatic disease). There was so much conflicting information. I felt really overwhelmed.

I first saw a dietitian as part of the NHS team looking after me in hospital. My dietitian spoke to me about the importance of increasing certain food groups temporarily to return to better health. My dietitian explained that they needed to move me from being malnourished to healthy again. I was given great advice on what I should eat short-term to do just that, including which meals were best to order off the hospital menu. They discussed so many food options, so I didn’t feel like I was eating foods I didn’t enjoy. We also tried a variety of shakes, to work out which I enjoyed.

I was extremely malnourished and struggling to eat. My dietitian explained the need to put me on a feeding tube at one point. I really didn’t want to do this, but looking back – it was the best decision that was made. In short, my dietitian essentially saved my life.

I finally had someone I could ask questions, whenever I felt confused. I explained that I was confused between managing the diabetes/sugar intake, versus consuming enough calories and protein after losing so much weight during my hospital stay. My dietitian explained that the priority is getting me back to better health, and then we can discuss the diabetes. This was such a relief. I had answers, a support system.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a digestive disease and you’re confused by the conflicting (and often dangerous) information online, I’d encourage you to see a registered dietitian. They can really help and personalise what you need.”

This is Rebecca’s experience with a dietitian. You can read Rebecca’s full story about her experience with pancreatitis here.

Nutritionists & dietitians. What is the difference?

Dietitians:

Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law. This is very important, as they are governed by an ethical code to ensure that they always work to the highest standard.

Nutritionists:

Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. This can unfortunately lead to patients being taken advantage of. However only registrants with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) can call themselves a Registered Nutritionist (RNutrs).

For further detail, see the British Dietetic Association’s information here.

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