The Role of the Registered Dietitian in the Management of Rheumatic Disease

registered dietician

Registered Dietitians (RD) can assist patients with rheumatic diseases in making the most appropriate nutrition choices to manage symptoms and prevent or treat comorbidities.

What does the Registered Dietitian do?

A nutrition and behavioral assessment provides the basis for the Registered Dietitian’s intervention. This assessment includes evaluation of the patient’s diet and lifestyle habits including:

  • Meal frequency and hydration status
  • Nutrient excesses and deficiencies
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Anthropometrics
  • Nutritional biochemical assessment
  • Digestive issues
  • Supplement use
  • Weight and medical history
  • Activity level
  • History of emotional eating in response to pain, fatigue and stress
  • Shopping, cooking and restaurant habits
  • Family and social support/influences
  • Readiness for change

The Registered Dietitian assesses each patient to determine if their diet contributes to symptoms and comorbidities, such as overweight or obese status, heart disease, diabetes or osteoporosis. Supporting materials such as menu ideas and recipes are often provided to support dietary recommendations and improve patient adherence.

Some Registered Dietitians specialize in food sensitivities and may prescribe elimination or exclusion diets to determine if there are any specific foods that may exacerbate symptoms and digestive issues. The Registered Dietitian also addresses emotional eating issues, which may arise in response to chronic pain and fatigue. Weekly or bi-monthly support is often recommended to help the patient achieve nutrition goals.

The Registered Dietitian can become an integral part of the health care team, and can provide information about dietary issues that can guide health care professionals in their treatment, management, and interaction with the patient.

Where does a Registered Dietitian Work?

The Registered Dietitian typically works in hospitals, outpatient clinics, physician offices, community programs, food service, schools and nursing homes. Private practice Registered Dietitians often work independently, or act as a part of a healthcare team in a clinical setting.

What kind of training do Dietitians have?

A Registered Dietitian must have the minimum of an undergraduate degree in Nutrition Science in addition to completion in a one-year accredited internship in a variety of hospitals, clinics and community services. They must pass a national registration exam and must complete ongoing continuing education to maintain licensure. The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) is the national credentialing agency for Registered Dietitians.

This information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnoses and treatment of a medical or health condition.

© 2016 American College of Rheumatology