When you are undergoing cancer treatment, there’s no such thing as having too much support. From your pharmacist to your psychologist, to your friends and family, everyone in your support system plays a different role. Having a cancer dietitian or nutritionist be a part of your medical team is important for many reasons. A cancer nutritionist can help you manage your side effects and maintain a nutritious diet during treatment, and provide you with individualized nutrition advice based on your specific cancer type, stage, and treatment plan. To top that off, a registered dietitian can also find ways to support you emotionally during this time. Cancer nutritionists can provide you with practical tips for coping with stress and anxiety, help you develop healthy eating habits, and help you work towards your individual health goals.
If you are in the process of searching for a registered dietitian nutritionist, you've come to the right place. It’s one thing to know that you want to work with a cancer nutritionist, it’s another thing to find a qualified nutritionist who is worth your while. In this article, we will equip you with all of the tools you need to find the best cancer nutritionist for you.
The Bottom Line
- Am I a good candidate to work with a cancer nutritionist? – If you want to learn how to improve your overall health during cancer treatment and provide your body with proper nutrition, you can benefit from working with a cancer nutritionist. A cancer nutritionist can also help you deal with side effects such as changes in appetite, exhaustion, and digestive issues.
- How to find a cancer nutritionist near me – Ask your doctor for a referral, investigate at your hospital or local health department, consult your insurance company, ask around your community, and utilize online nutritionist networks
- Benefits of working with an online cancer nutritionist – Online nutritionist services vet all of their healthcare professionals, match you with a compatible tutor, and offer you a complimentary session if you don’t like the nutritionist you are matched with
Am I a good candidate to work with a cancer nutritionist
Whether you need help with intuitive eating or are trying to lose weight, most people with a cancer diagnosis can benefit from working with a cancer nutritionist. A registered dietitian can help you with any individual health problem, and also teach you more about cancer nutrition and food choices. If you are grappling with one of the scenarios below, here is how a cancer nutritionist can help you.
Changes in Appetite
Poor appetite is one of the most frustrating side effects for cancer patients and their families. It is also extremely common. One research study found that 40% of participants experienced a decreased appetite since starting cancer treatment, whereas 30% reported eating fewer foods. A majority of cancer patients also battle with weight loss, changes in food tastes, and even malnourishment.
A cancer nutritionist can help patients avoid severe weight loss by encouraging various strategies and approaches. Firstly, a nutritionist will spend time getting to know a patient’s food preferences and what foods they find the most appetizing. Then, they will slowly begin to build a meal plan that is both tolerable but also healthy, and calorie-dense. Many nutritionists will also suggest behavioral strategies such as eating smaller meals and consuming milkshakes. If none of these solutions work, a nutritionist may resort to prescribing functional medicine that can help increase appetite and alleviate nausea.
More than any other symptom, people with cancer most commonly experience fatigue when they undergo treatment. A slew of factors can lead to fatigue in cancer patients. Individuals may experience fatigue if cancer treatment damages healthy cells in addition to cancer cells.
Some treatment side effects including anemia, nausea, vomiting, pain, insomnia, and changes in mood may also lead to exhaustion.
A nutritionist can help you discover coping mechanisms to help with fatigue including resting throughout the day, drinking lots of fluids, eating well, and getting moderate amounts of exercise. A nutritionist can also recommend healthy and easy-to-prepare foods that you can purchase at the grocery store including microwaveable rice, canned beans, tuna, peanut butter, yogurt, canned fruits, and vegetables.
Cancer treatments, and even cancer itself, can cause diarrhea. Patients who are receiving radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area are especially susceptible to experiencing diarrhea. Diarrhea can also be caused by chemotherapeutic agents, decreased physical performance, and infections, among other things. While it might not seem detrimental, diarrhea can cause serious complications in cancer patients. Loose stools can lead to life-threatening issues including dehydration and low levels of salt and potassium in the body.
A nutritionist can suggest several different ways to alleviate this critical symptom. A nutritionist may recommend that you monitor how many liquids you consume each day, and encourage you to only consume clear liquids for a short period. Your healthcare professional may also encourage you to eat smaller meals throughout the day (six to eight smaller meals instead of three large ones) and focus on eating foods that are high in sodium and potassium (minerals that you lose when you have diarrhea). Sticking to the BRAT diet, bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast, can also be beneficial for individuals with diarrhea.
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How do I find a cancer nutritionist near me?
When you are undergoing cancer treatment, the last thing you want to do is spend hours scrolling through your web browser looking for a nutritionist near you. Enlist the help of friends and family and check out some of the places below.
Ask Your Doctor for a Referral
When searching for a nutritionist near you, one of the best places to start is with your current medical team. Your oncologist is likely part of a large network of other oncology experts. Your oncologist has also most likely worked with numerous other cancer patients in the past, thus, there’s a strong chance that they have referred patients to nutritionists and dietitians before.
Additionally, no one is going to be more familiar with you and your cancer journey than your oncologist. Being familiar with your medical needs and personality will help your oncologist refer you to the best nutritionist or dietitian for you.
Investigate at Your Hospital or Local Health Departments
If your oncologist is unable to refer you to a nutritionist, ask around your hospital. One of the few benefits of spending so much time in a hospital is that you have constant access to a wide range of medical experts. Many hospitals employ registered dietitians and nutritionists as full-time staff members. There’s a chance that there is an oncology nutritionist or dietitian available to join your medical team.
It’s also worthwhile to check out any local health departments or nutrition centers in your hometown. Local health departments consistently host programs such as WIC (women, infants, and children, which is a nutrition program for low-income families) and senior living programs. If you are looking for a more budget-friendly nutritionist or dietitian, you may be able to work with someone at a health department who is a little more affordable.
Consult Your Insurance Company
Another way to keep your finances in mind when selecting a nutritionist is to consult your insurance company. An increasing number of insurance companies are now providing coverage for nutrition counseling, especially for life-threatening diseases and health conditions like cancer. Check your policy and provider directory to see which services and providers are included in your network or call up your provider to speak to someone about your situation. This could provide you with a good starting point on where to begin looking for a nutritionist.
Ask Around Your Community
Even if you don’t know anyone who has worked with a cancer nutritionist or dietitian, odds are, someone in your community has worked with this type of healthcare professional before. Ask your friends and family to put the word out at schools, workplaces, and within their networks. Getting feedback from someone who’s been there once before will allow you to make a better-informed decision about which nutritionists are worth your while (and which ones are not).
Utilize Online Nutritionist Networks
When in doubt, you can never go wrong with turning to an online nutritionist network for support. In this day and age, many people are choosing to work with online nutritionists instead of in-person nutritionists. Online nutrition counseling is similar to traditional nutrition counseling, but it is often offered at a lower price point and it takes up less time because you don’t have to commute anywhere.
How to choose the right cancer nutritionist for you
During your search for a cancer nutritionist or dietitian, focus on finding the right nutritionist for you, rather than the best nutritionist. The perfect nutritionist for your next-door neighbor, might not necessarily be the best nutritionist for you. Before anything else, make sure that any candidate you are considering has worthy credentials, which include a respectable title and at least several years of experience working with cancer patients. You also want to ensure the nutritionist or dietitian you are working with specializes in cancer and oncology nutrition, rather than general nutrition or another area of expertise.
If a candidate meets the basic requirements for a qualified nutritionist, you can then begin to focus on compatibility. To have a positive working relationship with a nutritionist or dietitian, you need to have well-suited personalities and working styles. Some nutritionists may be tough and firm with their approach, while others may utilize gentle and nurturing encouragement. If you are unsure whether a nutritionist’s working style is right for you, ask if they would be willing to hop on the phone before your first session. Even a brief conversation will give you an idea of whether you can see yourself having a successful working relationship with this healthcare professional.
Still struggling to find the right fit for you? Learn more about what to look for in a cancer nutritionist.
Benefits of working with an online cancer nutritionist
Aside from being more affordable and convenient than traditional nutritionists, there are many other benefits of working with online oncology dietitians.
One of the most difficult parts of searching for a nutritionist is performing background checks. In the United States, the title of a nutritionist can be applied to anyone who gives out general nutrition advice. While some nutritionists hold advanced degrees and certifications, others may have little to no professional experience or expertise. With an online nutritionist service, you never have to worry about whether or not you are working with a highly qualified nutritionist. Every online nutritionist service will have already thoroughly vetted each professional in its network to ensure that its customers are only working with the best of the best in their field.
Throughout this article, we have hammered home the importance of working with a compatible nutritionist. It’s not enough to work with a highly qualified nutritionist. If you are working with a nutritionist with an ill-suited working style, their services are not going to be positive or beneficial as you undergo cancer treatment. With an online nutritionist service, you don’t have to worry about getting matched with an incompatible tutor. Online services will do the heavy lifting of matching you with a well-suited tutor by asking you a series of questions upfront regarding your preferences.
Full Money Back Guarantee
There’s a chance that you won’t like the nutritionist that you are matched with. It happens. But if this happens to you at an online service, you don’t have to pay for a session that wasn’t worth your while.
Many online nutritionist services will provide a refund for patients who don't like their first session. This gives you the peace of mind to fully experiment with a service, knowing that if you don’t like your first session, you don’t have to pay for it. If something feels off about your first session with a nutritionist, make sure to be vocal about this with your online service provider. This will allow the company to match you with a more compatible nutritionist moving forward.
Cancer Nutritionist Checklist
Now you are equipped with all of the tools and information you need to begin searching for a cancer nutritionist. As you research, make sure to consult this checklist periodically to confirm that you are on the right track. Good luck with your search!
Places to Look
Instead of aimlessly scrolling through hundreds of nutritionist candidates on the web, here are some places where you can begin a productive search.
- Ask your doctor for a referral — your oncologist will have recommended nutritionists and dietitians to patients in the past. Your doctor will also know your health journey better than anyone else and will be able to use this knowledge to match you with a well-suited nutritionist.
- Inquire at your hospital or local health departments — ask around the hospital to see if you can connect with any nutritionists who work there as full-time staff members. Your local health department may also offer budget-friendly services regarding nutrition education
- Consult your insurance company — an increasing number of insurance policies are now providing coverage for nutrition counseling.
- Ask around your community — ask your friends and family to put the word out at schools, offices, and within their networks to see if anyone they know has previously worked with a cancer nutritionist in your hometown
- Opt for an online service — Online nutritionist services are a more affordable and convenient alternative to in-person nutrition counseling
Conduct Your Own Background Check
Unless you opt for an online service, you are going to need to vet the nutritionist you work with yourself. Here are some factors to pay attention to.
- Credentials — you can ensure that you are working with a highly qualified nutritionist by checking their credentials. Most highly qualified nutritionists will have the letters “RD,” “RDN,” or “CNS” in their title.
- Specialty — every nutritionist has a different area of focus, whether it’s sports nutrition, general nutrition, or weight loss. Make sure you are working with a nutritionist who has a specialty in oncology.
- Customer Service – you want to ensure that you are working with a nutritionist who consistently responds to emails and phone calls.
Find the Right Fit
Make sure that the nutritionist that you hire is not only a great nutritionist but a great nutritionist for you.
- Working Style – it’s paramount that you and your nutritionist have compatible working styles and personalities. Because working style can be a hard thing to suss out on paper, ask your nutritionist if they would be able to do a short phone call with you. Ask what a typical session with them might look like. Inquire about their go-to strategies and tactics.
- Budget – the right nutritionist for you is going to be someone that you can afford. Sit down and figure out how much you can afford to spend on a nutritionist given your other medical expenses.
Need a little more time to decide? Take the quiz, and let us help you decide if a cancer nutritionist is good for you!