Nutrition and health: how can nurses help address food insecurity and chronic disease?

Health and fitness is one of the most important parts of anyone’s life. Leading a lifestyle which helps to promote better health is therefore something which is worthwhile. While exercise and getting enough sleep are key examples of this, nutrition is also something which greatly affects overall fitness. 

While this area might not have gotten as much attention in the past, educating people about better nutrition is something the healthcare sector is now fully focused on. A key aspect of this is the work that nurses do with patients about the effects of proper nutrition on health. 

But how can you get into nursing if you want to make a difference in this area, and what is the link between health and nutrition? 

How do you get into nursing to help people improve their health with nutrition? 

If you really want to have a direct impact on improving people’s health through better nutrition, nursing is one profession to consider. As well as caring for patients who are sick, this role often sees nursing staff educate patients about how important proper nutrition is and how best to achieve it in their daily lives. 

But how do you get into this sector to begin with? As you might guess, you need to be properly trained first and hold the right qualifications to work as a nurse. The University of Indianapolis ABSN program is a good choice if you are looking to move into nursing from another industry, are looking for a BSN course with 100% online coursework, or hoping to find one that can be completed in as little as 15 months. 

What is the link between nutrition and health?

In simple terms, proper nutrition is what keeps you healthy. By following a sensible, varied diet, your body is able to access all of the nutrients it needs to stay in shape from the food you eat. As you might expect, this includes essential minerals and vitamins from meat, dairy products, fruit, vegetables, fish, and vegan/vegetarian friendly food sources. 

These nutrients are what keep your internal organs functioning properly, your skin looking healthy, and your bones remaining strong. In addition, proper nutrition achieved through a good diet helps boost your immune system, control your mood, and keep you feeling mentally alert. 

A good example of this is getting your recommended daily amount of vitamin C each day from sources such as oranges, sweet potatoes, lemons, and tomatoes. By doing this, you provide your body with enough vitamin C to keep you feeling good and protect yourself from illness.  

Good diet avoids malnutrition 

While we have looked at the positives good nutrition can deliver for health and fitness, it is also worth delving into what it can help avoid. The main takeaway is how taking in the vitamins and minerals you need each day through diet can help avoid malnutrition. 

This condition occurs when your body is not getting the nutrients it needs on a regular basis and it starts to affect your overall health. One thing to remember is that overnutrition can be just as bad as malnutrition. As this suggests, to remain in the best health, you need just the right levels of key nutrients in your body.  

Food insecurity can be an issue nurses deal with

We have already noted that nurses are key figures when it comes to patients achieving better health through proper nutrition. One good example of this is people with insecurities around food. This involves people being worried about the effects of consuming certain types of food. 

A common food anxiety is worrying that eating certain items or unhealthy ingredients will cause them to put on weight. Other people can worry that certain food items will make them choke, be hard to chew, or cause a previously unknown allergic reaction.

How can nurses help people with food insecurities achieve better nutrition? 

To begin with, nurses can talk to people about their food insecurities and try to help them move on. By explaining that there is nothing to worry about and even eating the food in question themselves while the patient is there, nurses can offer reassurance. 

They can also help encourage patients to try small amounts of foods they might be avoiding before moving onto larger portions. If nurses also explain how being able to follow a more varied diet can lead to better nutrition and improved health, then they can make a real difference. 

How can nurses help those with chronic illness get better nutrition? 

Unfortunately, it can be quite common for those with chronic illnesses to have problems with nutrition. This is because people who live with very painful conditions can often feel too unwell to eat. In addition, the illness may not be painful but may still impact their appetite. 

Even if they can eat, those who are chronically ill often find it is only a small selection of food items they can manage. This is obviously poor in terms of taking in all the vitamins and minerals your body needs on a regular basis. 

Nurses can help in a number of ways here. To start with, they could talk to patients to find out what nutrients they may be lacking in, which foods they can eat, and what they can’t ingest. After this, nursing professionals can then find new foods which the patient may manage to help aid better nutrition, based on what they are eating currently.

Supplements can help the chronically ill 

If eating is something that remains a tricky issue, nurses can help suggest key supplements in tablet form which could help give patient the nutrients they require. In addition, they could also suggest liquid supplements which are packed with a range of key nutrients to help. 

If pain is the major issue, nurses can ascertain what might be the cause and what medication could help control it better. By doing this, the patient’s appetite may return, and their diet may improve to aid better nutrition. 

Health and nutrition are closely linked 

When you delve into it more, it becomes clear that good health is closely linked to proper nutrition. By ensuring our bodies take in the right amounts of key nutrients on a regular basis, we are able to look after it properly. Sadly, people with conditions such as food insecurity and chronic illness can find this tough. Nurses are vital in these situations and help people who struggle with proper nutrition to tackle issues which affect it.