Our Registered Dietitians help our patients heal
A typical American diet consists of 30 to 40% fat, 10% protein, and 60 to 65% carbohydrates, but when you’re a young child with epilepsy, food becomes a medical therapy that can reduce or eliminate your seizures.
Such is the case with a three-year-old Health System patient whose EEG showed he was having about 100 seizures a night. But only two weeks after Health System registered dietitians put him on the Ketogenic Diet—85% fat, 10% protein and 5% carbohydrates—the boy was having fewer than two seizures a day. One month later, after a few tweaks to the diet, he was seizure free.
Three months later, he traveled with his family to Disneyland, an amazing feat for a child who had been exhausted and practically housebound for months.
“Patients tell us all the time, ‘I have my kid back,’” says Registered Dietitian Denise Potter, RD, CDE, who is part of the Ketogenic Diet program. “Up until then, they’d virtually lost them to the seizures—mentally and emotionally. Now they can go to school. They can grow and develop to their full potential.”
“These are the kinds of results our registered dietitians see daily with all sorts of patients throughout the Health System—adults and pediatric alike,” says Sandhya Padiya, MS, RD, CSP, manager, Clinical Nutrition Services and C&W. “The pediatric dietitian works with the medical team by understanding the medical necessities and the parents’ desires to feed their child.”
Typically, treatment also includes hours of teaching and counseling families before, during and after the special diet has begun.
Potter notes that approximately 40 contacts were made with her patient’s family, through clinic and office visits, phone calls and email.
“These patients have to weigh everything, down to the very gram. It’s a very intense experience for the family, but it’s so worth it,” she says. Patients stay on the diet for an average of 2 to 3 years, and some remain on it for much longer.
“I follow my patients from infancy until the age of 21, and watching them grow because of our nutrition interventions is extremely rewarding,” says Mary Beth Harris, RD, MPH, who works with CHIRP—the Children’s Intestinal Rehabilitation Program. Patients in this group have intestinal failure due to a short or non-functioning intestine. “Many of our patients would not be able to thrive without the help of IV nutrition, also known as parenteral nutrition.”
Harris’s goal is to safely wean our patients off of this nutrition by finding ways for them to tolerate more of their nutrition through their intestinal tract.
“While IV nutrition is a lifesaving necessity for many of our patients, it is also a dangerous therapy to be on long term. Getting off of IV nutrition is a major milestone for our patients, and one they would not be able to reach as quickly without us,” she says.
We have 26 pediatric, 22 adult and 6 outpatient dietitians who handle a wide range of issues—from reducing malnutrition during hospitalization to educating medical students, residents, and dietetic interns about the appropriate medical nutrition therapy for different diagnoses.