The role of the dietitian

The role of the dietitian is a supportive one, where quality advice and customised care can make a tremendous difference to a patients well-being.

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Samantha Cowan
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Sports Dietitian

I think these days more and more the role of the dietitian is that support role. With the knowledge, yes the dietitian is going to be a good source of knowledge, there is now with the internet and with self-help books on nutrition, lots of information out there. Not all of that is going to be correct but people can find good quality advice elsewhere but the dietitian is unique in that they can help you stay on track. They can help you make that information suitable for your unique circumstances and for your lifestyle.

So not everybody with arthritis will need to see a dietitian. I guess the people who I most commonly see with arthritis are those people who are perhaps above their healthy weight range; where I can help them get to a healthy weight and in that way reduce the pain and the pressure on their joints. If patients with arthritis are above their healthy weight range, looking just from an arthritis perspective, the excess weight that they are carrying is going to put pressure on their joints, it’s going to make the area more inflamed, more swollen and of course it’s going to lead to more pain. That means their mobility is going to be reduced and that can have an impact on their everyday life. Not only is losing a little bit of weight to get to their healthy weight better for their arthritis but also in the long run it’s going to be much better for their everyday living and quality of life.

I also on the other side see people who perhaps are in the more advanced stages of their arthritis where their arthritis is limiting their ability to shop or prepare or cook foods and in that way they have lost weight and are below their healthy weight range. And I try and help them with strategies to move up to their most healthy weight by giving them tips on easy ways to prepare simple meals that they can do with their condition. So if you are underweight, that can pose not so much risks to your arthritis per se, but more health risks in general.

If you are underweight, you are more at risk of becoming sick or getting an infection, and if you think about it especially for those who are taking immunosuppressant drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, those drugs are also increasing your risk of getting sick or getting an infection so the two together is not a good scenario. Also, if you were underweight, that might also reduce your strength, reduce your ability to do certain tasks at home, you might be more at risk of falling over if you’re not as well balanced on your feet.


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