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

registered dietitian

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) can help patients with rheumatic diseases in making the most appropriate nutrition choices to manage symptoms and prevent or treat comorbidities.

The RDN is 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.

What does a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist do?

A nutrition assessment provides the basis for the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist’s (RDN) intervention. Evaluation of the patient’s diet and lifestyle habits includes:

  • Diet recall/food frequency for overall assessment of energy, protein, fluid and nutrient intake
  • Nutrient excesses and deficiencies
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Growth and development
  • Evaluation of pertinent labs
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Supplement use, including vitamin/mineral supplements, herbal supplements, nutritional supplement drinks
  • 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 RDN assesses each patient to determine if their diet contributes to symptoms and comorbidities, such as overweight or obesity, heart disease, diabetes or osteoporosis. Supporting materials such as menu ideas and recipes may be provided to support dietary recommendations and improve patient adherence.

Some RDNs specialize in food allergies and may recommend elimination or exclusion diets to determine if there are any specific foods that may exacerbate symptoms and digestive issues. The RDN 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.

Where does a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist work?

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

What kind of training do RDNs have?

An RDN must have the minimum of an undergraduate degree in Nutrition Science in addition to completion in a one-year accredited internship in a healthcare facility, community agency, or a foodservice corporation or combined with undergraduate or graduate studies. An internship will typically be six to twelve months. After completion of an accredited internship, they must pass a national registration exam and complete ongoing continuing professional 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.

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