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Therapy for your diet?

If you’ve ever read health statistics, you probably know that ‘diabetes’ is a scary word. According to the CDC, diabetes affects 30 million people in the US and is 7th leading cause of death in our nation. Furthermore, over one third of our population is estimated to be prediabetic with 90 percent of these people unaware. Diabetes can cause heart disease, stroke, amputation, kidney disease, blindness and death, but the risk of these complications is lowered when the disease is well managed.

  The American Diabetes Association’s Nutrition Recommendations and Interventions for Diabetes emphasizes the importance of Medical Nutrition Therapy in preventing diabetes, managing existing diabetes and preventing and slowing the onset of diabetes-related complications.

  “The integration of MNT into diabetes care has the potential to improve patients’ diabetes management and to lessen the burden on physicians to provide nutrition information,” as noted by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 2009 clinical practice recommendations.

  Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) is covered by a variety of insurance plans. Although it is a form of nutrition counseling, it goes beyond the reinforcement of essential nutrition- related knowledge, because it is distinctly tailored to a certain disease. Medicare MNT legislation defines Medical Nutrition Therapy as “nutritional diagnostic, therapy and counseling services for the purpose of disease management which are furnished by a registered dietitian or nutrition professional.”

  Patients who have diabetes, and in some cases prediabetes, can be referred by a physician to participate in MNT to help improve their health and prevent complications. Once a referral is completed, a registered dietician (who has sucessfully completed a specialized MNT certification program) will review the patient‘s related medical history and schedule an initial consultation. During this hour long, one-on-one meeting, the MNT specialist will do a thorough assessment  of the patient’s eating habits, lifestyle and nutritional status to create a personalized treatment plan and goals based on the individual. After the first session, follow-up appointments and check-ins will be planned to monitor progress and adjust goals accordingly.

  Dr. Jarelle Scott, Family Practice Physician at St. James West Bank Clinic, believes that MNT helps diabetic patients become more aware of what they are taking in. “Patients are sometimes unaware that certain foods are carbohydrates or they may have questions about good sugars, bad sugars and how much protein is appropriate. During MNT, a registered dietician can take a closer look at each individual’s diet and answer questions,” said Dr. Scott. “The goal is not only con- trolling blood sugars, but doing that while maintaining a healthy diet. MNT can help patients find this happy medium.”

  “Diet is the most important factor when managing diabetes. The more sugar and carbs a diabetic patient eats, the more sugar stays in the blood. When blood sugars continue to rise, so do the complications,” said Cullen  Ocmond, MD, Lutcher Family Clinic.  “I have long sup- ported the influence of nutrition counseling on the health of diabetic patients and continue to refer many of my patients to this service.”

  “Medication can only  do so much for you and even that will not be as effective if you choose the wrong foods,says Kourtney Wingate, RD, LDN, MPH, Director of Food and Nutrition Services at St. James Parish Hospital. Wingate, recently certified in Medical Nutrition Therapy, will be leading the new program at St. James Parish Hospital. Wingate will privately meet with patients in a scheduled location at the hospital or connected medical plaza. Patients do not have to be seeing a physician at the hospital to participate as long as a referral is completed by the primary physician managing their care.

  “When it comes to chronic dis- ease, there may be some factors we cannot change, but patients always have a choice when it comes to food, said Wingate. “It is very rewarding to know that with education and support, every patient has the opportunity to choose a better diet, which can lead to a better quality of life.”

  “Diabetes threatens the livelihood so many people in our community. We are extremely excited to have a new resource to help patients across the River Parishes. Our goal is to offer the support and expertise  to help patients with diabetes thrive,” said Kassie Roussel, director of marketing at St. James Parish Hospital.