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Can a Nutritionist Help with Diabetes?

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Can a Nutritionist Help with Diabetes?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Diabetes and prediabetes affect almost 40% of Americans.
  • A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help you individualize your diet and lifestyle to manage diabetes and its possible complications.
  • A CDCES dietitian is a specialist who has completed an advanced specialty certification to understand and explain all aspects of diabetes care.

At least 37.3 million Americans have diabetes. Another 96 million adults (about 30% of Americans) have prediabetes. Prediabetes occurs when a person has blood sugar levels higher than normal but not quite high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. 

Diabetes affects how the body breaks carbohydrates into sugar and its release into the blood. Insulin enables the cells to take in sugar from the blood, causing an appropriate decrease in blood sugar. Blood sugar levels naturally change throughout the day, depending on what you eat and drink, as well as other factors such as medications, stress, and exercise

With type 1 diabetes, the body stops making insulin because of an autoimmune reaction that causes your immune system to attack your body’s insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. As a result, you must take insulin to survive. 

With type 2 diabetes, carbohydrate breakdown is changed. People with type 2 diabetes cannot make enough insulin or are unable to use insulin properly. 

Another type of diabetes that affects pregnant women is gestational diabetes. Women with gestational diabetes don’t make enough insulin during pregnancy, and uncontrolled blood sugar levels can negatively affect the mother and growing baby. Healthcare providers monitor pregnant women for signs of gestational diabetes to prevent any complications. 

Keeping blood sugars in a target range is critical for overall health. Too low or too high blood sugar is unhealthy for the body.

Making lifestyle and diet changes while in the prediabetic stage can help prevent diabetes and its possible complications. Working with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help whether a person has prediabetes, diabetes, or is at risk for diabetes. 

In this article, you’ll learn how a registered dietitian nutritionist can help with diabetes, the benefits, and what to expect when working with one.

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Can a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Help with Diabetes?

Managing prediabetes and diabetes is essential for preventing the progression of diabetes and the possible complications associated with uncontrolled blood sugar levels.

Since blood flows through every part of your body, elevated glucose or sugar levels in the blood can affect many body systems. Common health complications include heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, and problems with the feet, eyes, and hearing. 

An RDN is an integral part of the healthcare team and can help you transform your eating and lifestyle to prevent these complications. They help provide tools and knowledge to help you individualize your specific lifestyle and eating habits to manage your diabetes. 

Since RDNs are critical to diabetes management, Medicare covers medical nutrition therapy (MNT) services for individuals with diabetes referred by their healthcare provider. Most insurance providers cover MNT appointments performed by RDNs. 

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Benefits of Working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Diabetes

RDNs have the unique academic preparation, supervised training, and expertise to provide MNT appointments for people with diabetes. An RDN is also trained to help you manage other health conditions simultaneously. 

The American Diabetes Association provided a consensus report with strong evidence from systematic reviews that supports the importance and effectiveness of MNT appointments by RDNs for improving A1C levels by 2% after three to six months of appointments for individuals with diabetes.

An A1C test is a blood test that measures average blood sugar levels over the past three months. It is used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes and indicates how well diabetes is managed. Higher numbers are linked to complications. An improved hemoglobin A1C level marks success.

Evidence also supports that people with prediabetes should meet with an RDN to achieve the following goals and prevent progression to diabetes:

  • Improve eating habits.
  • Maintain 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity.
  • Achieve and maintain a 7 to 10% body weight loss if needed.

RDNs provide compassionate, evidence-based, and practical steps for someone with prediabetes or diabetes. An RDN will help inspire you to transform your relationship with food. 

What to Expect at Your First Appointment

It is helpful to know what to expect when working with an RDN. An MNT appointment can be virtual or face-to-face. Your first appointment will include reviewing your health history, medications, lab results, typical lifestyle, diet, and clarifying questions regarding your diabetes symptoms. 

You can manage diabetes through many ways. Each person's diabetes is unique, so their eating plan will be unique. An RDN will address recommended amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and fat specific to you, along with research for recommended foods to consume more often. 

Additionally, an RDN will cater your session to your specific health conditions and eating needs. Education topics may include label reading, meal planning, grocery shopping, and simple cooking methods. An RDN uses evidence-based recommendations and custom strategies to help you manage and thrive with diabetes. 

Follow-up Appointments

An RDN will partner with you to create an individualized plan. After each appointment, you put the plan into action and provide feedback on what went well and what was challenging. Together, you will find a plan that fits your life and eating preferences.

Research shows a significant improvement in diabetes management after working with an RDN for three to six MNT appointments in the first six months after diagnosis. More sessions may be needed based on individual needs. A minimum of one yearly MNT follow-up appointment is also recommended for long-term management. 

How Do I Find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Diabetes?

Diabetes requires daily management. Look for an RDN with experience managing glucose and insulin levels. Some RDNs choose to pursue an advanced certification for managing diabetes called a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

A CDCES dietitian has extra training to help you understand how to use your blood glucose meter, insulin, medications, and pumps. They teach you how to use the information from these tools to manage your diabetes and solve problems. A CDCES RDN will help you understand how foods and drinks affect your diabetes and ways to optimize your diet. 

Choosing a CDCES RDN ensures you are getting the best information to manage your diabetes. A CDCES is required to meet extensive education standards and maintain continuous learning to understand new developments in the management of diabetes. 

Nourish can connect you with an RDN, and many have CDCES certification. Nourish provides a list of over 150 RDNs, their specialty areas, and their style to help you find the best fit for you. 

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Takeaways

Diabetes is a common health condition. Diet and lifestyle are the primary management routes along with medications

RDNs are pivotal in helping people with prediabetes and diabetes manage their symptoms and prevent any further risks. Insurance companies recognize the positive impact of education and treatment for diabetes, and most cover visits to see an RDN.

How Nourish Can Help

Partner with a knowledgeable and compassionate diabetes nutritionist with Nourish. Registered dietitians can help you develop an individualized eating plan that makes sense and manages your diabetes symptoms.

Nourish has a team of dietitians available for online appointments. Every dietitian is covered by insurance, and many are certified in diabetes management. Find a dietitian near you that accepts insurance using Nourish.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a registered dietitian nutritionist do for diabetes?

An RDN helps you make realistic changes to your diet and lifestyle to reduce your blood sugar level, manage your prediabetes or diabetes, and help prevent complications.

Is it better to see a dietitian or a nutritionist for diabetes?

All registered dietitians are nutritionists, and often call themselves registered dietitian nutritionists. RDNs have completed the requirements to provide nutrition care for people with all health conditions, including diabetes.

Nutritionists do not have to follow a standard education or training, meaning someone without adequate training could call themselves a nutritionist. The RDN title ensures the individual has completed the required education and training to provide the safest and best care.

Can a registered dietitian nutritionist diagnose diabetes?

Neither a nutritionist nor an RDN can diagnose diabetes. A doctor can diagnose diabetes with different blood tests to check your blood sugar level while an RDN can help you create a personalized diabetes management plan.

References

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Your Result

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While you don’t seem to be at risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes based on this quiz, please contact your healthcare provider with any concerns. If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

Your Result

Your results are in!

You should seek guidance from your healthcare provider about the possibility of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

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