Diet: a Key Part of Your Treatment
Nutrients that can worsen a condition
Some diseases can be made worse by overconsumption of particular nutrients. Here are a few examples:
Sodium and hypertension
Canadians consume, on average, more than 3,400 mg of sodium (a component of salt) a day, which largely exceeds the recommended daily amount (1,500 mg to 2,300 mg). This excess sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and can make it more difficult for patients to reach treatment targets.
Most of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods such as fast foods, prepared meals, processed meats, canned soups, bottled dressings, prepared sauces, condiments, as well as salty snacks like chips and crackers.
Everyone, especially people with (or at risk of) high blood pressure, should aim to reduce their salt intake.
Carbohydrates and diabetes
In diabetes, the pancreas either does not produce any insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the body no longer uses it properly (type 2 diabetes). When people with diabetes eat foods that contain carbohydrates (which are transformed into sugars during digestion), their blood sugar level rises too much because insulin cannot perform its job as it should.
Carbohydrates are found in grains and starches, fruits, legumes, dairy products, sugary foods, some vegetables, and many prepared foods.
People with diabetes need to keep a close eye on the amount of carbohydrates they consume, especially if they use insulin to control their disease.
Saturated fats and cardiovascular diseases
Fats are an essential part of your diet, but not all fats are healthy. Eating too much saturated fat can increase LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood. LDL-cholesterol can form deposits in the blood vessels, which increases the risk of a cardiovascular event such as heart attack or stroke.
Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products, including red meat and full-fat dairy products, but also in many processed foods. Some evidence indicates that saturated fats from plant sources such as coconut oil may not affect blood cholesterol levels in the same way.
People who have experienced a cardiovascular event or who are at risk of such events should strive to eat a balanced diet that is low in saturated fats.
Nutrients that can help with a condition or prevent it
Inadequate intake of certain nutrients can also lead to various health problems:
- Insufficient fibre in your diet can cause constipation
- A diet low in calcium increases the risk of osteoporosis
In cases like these, increasing your dietary intake of the missing nutrient (such as fibre or calcium) will be a key part of your treatment or preventive measures.
Eliminating a food componentSometimes, even a balanced diet can cause health problems. For example, people with celiac disease (gluten allergy) or other food allergies (e.g., peanuts, milk proteins, or eggs) must completely avoid any foods that contain the allergen to which they are hypersensitive, even if they are healthy dietary choices.
Modifying your diet to attain a healthy weight
A number of studies have shown that obesity plays a role in the onset of various chronic diseases and cancers. Being overweight also aggravates pain associated with osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees.
To reduce your health risks, you should strive to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Making changes to your diet is key to reaching that goal. Don’t be tempted by detox diets. They are not a healthy way to lose weight.
Health professionals are there to help
If you have—or are at risk of developing—a disease that requires a modified diet, you would be wise to consult a registered dietician.
In addition to supporting you in your efforts to improve your diet, your pharmacist is always there to answer any questions you have about your treatment.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.