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Therapeutic nutrition refers to the use of food and the nutrients it contains to prevent or treat a disease or condition. There are studies which show that if the body become deficient in certain nutrients, illness can result. By replenishing the missing nutrients, it is sometimes possible to prevent, reverse, or slow down an illness. When using nutrition therapies for an existing illness, it is important that patients are monitored by a health care professional.
The use of nutrition to prevent illness is not an uncommon practice. Dietary guidelines have been put in place to guide people in making smart choices when it comes to eating. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy are all recommended for a well-balanced diet. Each of these contains raw materials that they body needs to function normally and optimally. If any of these materials are absent or depleted, illness can occur.
In many cases, nutritional conditions develop slowly. For instance, diabetes often starts as pre-diabetes. Those with this precursor to the actual condition can often make dietary and exercise changes to stop the disease from forming. This is one method of therapeutic nutrition, since eating the right food can prevent an illness.
In other cases, therapeutic nutrition may involve the treatment of a condition that already exists. A small example may be someone who eats high levels of vitamin C to boost immune function when he or she has a cold. On a much larger scale, vitamin C may be delivered intravenously to a cancer patient. While there is some debate on how effective this particular example is, there are many medical professionals who advocate for the use of vitamins and other nutrients to combat disease.
For those who already have a diagnosed condition, or those who are a high risk for developing one, therapeutic nutrition should be used under a doctor's supervision. Most times patients will be given a combination of nutritional and medicinal therapies to help fight their condition. Eating healthily and getting as much physical activity as possible has been shown to help with recovery, but does not always work as a replacement for medical care. This is not always the case, and sometimes nutritional methods of care can eventually be used in lieu of conventional medicine.