A dietitian provides a high-quality therapeutic and nutritional advisory service to improve a person's health. This may be done within the hospital setting as part of a multi-professional team or within the community.
A healthy diet is important for everyone and many people with MS find it a good way to manage their health. A healthy, balanced diet, combined with the right exercise, can help to:
- control weight
- decrease fatigue
- maintain regular bowel and bladder function
- minimise the risk of skin problems
- keep bones healthy and strong
- maintain healthy teeth and gums
- strengthen the heart
- improve muscle strength and range of motion
- increase flexibility
- reduce the risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and certain cancers
Many different diet therapies have been advocated in the management of MS. Some people feel specialist diets make a difference to how they feel, perhaps by reducing relapse rate or improving their overall quality of life; others don’t feel this way. At the moment, there isn’t any conclusive evidence to suggest they are effective.
Following one of these diets is an individual choice – but if you do decide to try a new diet, it’s important to make sure you still get enough energy and all your essential nutrients. You should speak to a dietitian before making any major changes to your diet, particularly if you have any other health conditions which might also affect your dietary needs.
In some centres, dietitians work as part of a multi-disciplinary team in the care of those with MS. In this situation, one may access the dietician while attending the multi-disciplinary MS clinic. Otherwise, a dietitian will be available through referral from the hospital consultant. You can also contact a private dietitian via the website of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute
Dietitian or nutritionist?
It is important to understand the difference between a dietitian, a nutritionist and a nutritional therapist. Many people claim to be experts in nutrition yet have very limited knowledge and do not offer protection to the public. Choosing the right person from whom to seek help and advice can sometimes be a confusing task. This is not helped by an increasing number of self- proclaimed or alternative ‘nutrition practitioners’ emerging from informal courses. Such courses are not recognised by the State or by Irish Universities.
Further information and advice on choosing a qualified practitioner can be found on the website of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute