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Why Nutrition Matters in Inpatient Rehab

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of National Nutrition Month, Reunion’s Neaka Khalilian speaks with registered dietitian Louis Forsberg about why nutrition matters in inpatient recovery.

This March, healthcare providers across the US are watching what they eat in celebration of the 50th anniversary of National Nutrition Month. National Nutrition Month was created in 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to teach families and communities about making informed food choices to develop healthy eating habits. Healthy eating habits are important for everyone, but specialized nutrition is especially important for patients in rehabilitative care. That’s why Reunion dietitians and chefs alike work hard to provide patients with meals that are both nourishing and tasty.

This week, Denver Market Director of Operations Neaka Khalilan spoke with Reunion Denver registered dietitian Louis Forsberg about his background in the field of nutrition and the importance of good and healthy food in recovery.

Meet Louis

Louis first thought about becoming a dietitian during a high school nutrition class in his sophomore year. As a self-proclaimed “science geek” he was fascinated by the impact nutrition and malnourishment could have on the body in outcomes ranging from quality of life to wound healing. Nutrition, Louis says, is also “something that everyone can . . . control” and, during occupational therapy in particular, patients who relearn how to prepare food for themselves report feeling increased self-esteem which may contribute to a greater sense of autonomy over their healing.

Why Nutrition Matters in Recovery

For patients in an inpatient rehab hospital like Reunion, Louis tells Neaka, nutrition is even more important. Whether a patient comes into rehabilitation following a hip fracture, a heart attack, or an amputation, good food can improve a patient’s treatment outcomes for all conditions by supporting wound healing and improving cardiovascular and endocrine system functioning.

Wound Healing

Many patients who seek care at Reunion are healing from physical wounds. As a treatment provider for patients recovering from amputation, hip fracture, and other kinds of surgery, wound healing is fundamental to overall treatment goals. Studies have shown, for example, that patients who are malnourished before an injury have increased rates of wound infection and exhibit delayed wound healing. This is why Reunion begins the admission process by carefully evaluating each patient’s bloodwork; many of our patients have age-related protein, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies and diabetic patients, in particular, are at higher risk of malnourishment due to the depletion of magnesium, zinc, B12, B6, and folic acid.

Endocrine and Metabolic Changes

After surgery, the body undergoes a series of hormonal and metabolic changes known as the stress response. The stress response causes the body to change how it uses energy and, for many patients, it can lead to fatigue in recovery. For this reason, Reunion understands the importance of not only diet, but rest during the recovery process. While our patients spend fifteen hours a week in therapy, recovery time is equally, if not more important, to healing.

Cardiovascular Endurance

Though most patients understand the importance of heart health in their overall wellness, cardiovascular care is more critical than ever in rehabilitation. Studies show that one in five high-risk patients who have undergone non-cardiovascular surgery will develop one or more heart complications in the year following surgery. Heart-healthy nutrition matters, then, for patients at every stage of recovery, which is why we offer patients meals low in saturated fat as well as meal plans to support them in longer-term care.

The Reunion Difference

In addition to providing patients with nutritionally-dense food, the Reunion team is committed to creating recipes that patients love. Every Reunion hospital is home to a master chef who delivers five-star meals three times a day. Learn more about Reunion Denver Chef Canton Keyes, then watch our full interview with Louis and Neaka in the video below.

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