Managing chronic illness through diet

Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2020

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” and “Prevention is the best medicine.” These sayings may be old-fashioned, but they’re tried and true especially when it comes to diet and its impact on chronic health conditions.  

Diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and osteoporosis are all chronic illnesses that can be controlled, in part, by smart nutrition choices. But many of the approximately 60% of Americans living with at least one chronic condition underestimate the importance of what they eat on their overall health and on controlling their condition. 1 In fact, a poor diet is directly related to seven of the ten leading causes of death in America. 2

The good news is that if you or a loved one has a chronic condition, simple dietary changes can be very effective in managing the condition. And those changes can have a financial impact too. Medications, treatments, and doctors’ visits for managing a chronic illness can be extremely costly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, combined with behavioral health care, chronic conditions costs the U.S. $2.7 trillion in annual health care spending. 3  

It’s far less expensive to make lifestyle changes that can keep the chronic condition in check – or even reverse it. No matter what, it’s wise for everyone to eat fewer processed foods, reduce consumption of sugary drinks, and focus on eating fresher, whole foods. A healthy diet and portion control will also help with weight control which is important in managing many chronic conditions.

So, what dietary changes should you make if you have a chronic condition? First, check with your doctor about your specific condition and health factors that can impact dietary choices. There are general recommendations for people with certain chronic conditions.

Heart disease 4

A healthy diet can help reverse the effects of heart disease, particularly lowering blood pressure and preventing further narrowing of the arteries.

  • Reduce sodium intake
  • Focus on high fiber foods – whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fruit
  • Opt for lean meats and fish instead of red meat
  • Consider eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day instead of three larger meals

Diabetes 5

Diabetics must focus on controlling blood sugar and balancing meals with insulin intake and prescription medications.

  • Select foods that won’t increase blood sugar levels
  • Choose high fiber foods
  • Have three meals a day at regular intervals
  • Eat more heart-healthy fish like tuna, salmon and sardines

Chronic kidney disease 6

A kidney-friendly diet (also called a renal diet) helps reduce further damage to the kidneys and keeps fluid and waste from building up in the system.

  • Control potassium intake
  • Limit phosphorous
  • Manage fluid intake – some stages of the disease require cutting back on fluids

Osteoporosis 7

People with osteoporosis have bones that are thin or weak. A healthy diet can help reduce further bone loss and support better bone health.

  • Choose calcium-rich foods including low-fat dairy, salmon, fruits and vegetables
  • Manage mineral intake including vitamin D, magnesium and potassium

Mom’s Meals offers a variety of refrigerated, fully prepared meals for nationwide delivery. You can select meals that are nutritionally tailored for common health conditions including heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes. Learn more.

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/food-can-help-control-some-chronic-health-conditions-in-some-cases-eliminating-the-need-for-drugs/2019/10/18/65207532-e93f-11e9-9c6d-436a0df4f31d_story.html
  2. https://www.healio.com/primary-care/nutrition-and-fitness/news/online/%7B8cb75055-8426-42d8-b32e-e5b80de63952%7D/how-to-use-food-as-medicine-to-prevent-reverse-chronic-diseases
  3. https://www.fightchronicdisease.org/latest-news/curbing-costs-chronic-conditions
  4. https://www.supportivecarematters.org/info/the-importance-of-diet-and-nutrition-in-managing-chronic-illness/
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-diet/art-20044295
  6. https://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/kidney-friendly-diet-for-ckd.html
  7. https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/nutrition/

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