When I started out in college, I began as a premed student. Then, I took my first nutrition class. While I had been very interested in nutrition even in high school, my first college nutrition class made me quickly realize that there was a huge potential to “treat” people with food. No, dietitians do not write prescriptions, but we do a lot to help people take care of themselves. It was at that point I decided to give up the idea of being a doctor. Instead, I chose the path of dietitian.
What we do instead of writing prescriptions
Bottom line, in the traditional sense, dietitians don’t write medication prescriptions. But, we do effectively treat people with diet and lifestyle modifications that we “prescribe”. Most dietitians individualize those prescribed diet and lifestyle “prescriptions”. While we can’t heal everyone with our strategies, they are usually effective enough to impact the course of traditional physician management.
Here are just a few examples from my own practice:
- “Ray” is referred for weight loss in order to be ready for a heart transplant. He loses 100 pounds, and in the course of the weight loss process, his cardiac enzymes return to normal. Now, he no longer needs that transplant.
- Countless diabetics and prediabetics have been able to stave off treatment with medication by tweaking both diet and lifestyle. There are so many “dietary” bullets and lifestyle strategies that these patients can use which are effective and well tolerated. Why take medication if you can tweak your diet and physical activity to lower your blood sugar level?
- Want to lower your blood pressure? Did you know that most of your sodium intake is from the restaurant and carry out food you consume? A dietitian can help you cut your sodium intake by making simple suggestions for alternative food options. Did you know your potassium intake can drastically affect your blood pressure? A dietitian can help you to increase your potassium intake as well!
- And your cholesterol? If you are concerned about heart disease, there are so many dietary manipulations that can be suggested to lessen your odds of death from heart disease. Numerous clients have saved themselves with the proper diet and lifestyle recommendations that began in my office.
It’s a good feeling helping people with dietary and lifestyle “prescriptions”. While in some cases it is tougher to follow through on a dietitian’s suggestions than taking a traditional drug prescription, for those that can work with a dietitian, the benefits are boundless. You might even look and feel better, as well as be healthier!
To find a dietitian to work with in your area, check out the Registered Dietitian Finder from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.