How do medical foods help patients manage diseases

Author: Mukesh Kumar
Medical foods are meant for a patient who has limited or impaired capacity to ingest, digest, absorb, or metabolize ordinary foodstuffs or certain nutrients because of therapeutic or chronic medical needs, or other special medically-determined nutrient requirements that cannot be addressed through modification of the normal diet alone.

Here are certain points to remember while taking medical foods to manage certain diseases.
1. Usage of medical food products
Medical products should be used only as directed by the doctor. Ensure the dosage by checking the label. Consume medical food products through the mouth and check with your doctor whether it should be consumed with food or without food. In case of skipping a dose, take it at the earliest and if it is almost time for taking the next dose, then leave out the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule.
2. Dos and don’ts in consuming medical foods
Do not take overdose medical foods without consulting a doctor. Before undergoing any medical or dental emergency care, inform your doctor about the medical foods that you take. If you have the habit of smoking, inform your doctor in prior because some of these products contain beta carotene. Medical food products must not be consumed by small children and pregnant/breastfeeding women without consulting a physician.
3. Ingredients in medical foods
An ingredient that is added to a medical food must be safe and suitable and comply with all applicable provisions of the FD&C Act and FDA’s regulations.
4. Type 1 and type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Patients with type 1 DM must use carbohydrate exchange system to equal the insulin dose to carbohydrate intake and aid physiologic insulin replacement. Patients with type 2 DM should limit calories, increase fiber intake, eat regularly and restrict the intake of saturated fats and refined carbohydrates.
5. Allergic Conditions
Medical foods for allergic conditions management would contain both gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a short chain omega-6 fatty acid sourced from borage plant seeds and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid sourced from fish. EPA helps to inhibit the production of leukotrienes in the system. Leukotrienes causes inflammatory response and narrowing of the airways, more mucus production and swelling of tissues associated with both allergies and asthma. To control symptoms of allergy, research shows that it helps to slow down the production of leukotrienes in the body.
6. Metabolic Stress
Medical foods for the management of metabolically stressed out patients offer supplemental Glutamine to nourish the GI tract and reinstate Glutamine while a patient is in a stressed state.
7. Gastrointestinal tract impairment
Medical foods for managing of gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) impairment provide an amino acid-based diet in its most easily digestible (elemental) form to aid in poor nutrient absorption due to digestive disease, mal absorption, rigorous food allergies, or other circumstances in which the GI tract is severely compromised.

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