Ep. 158 – How can a registered dietitian help during cancer treatment?

Episode graphic: Ep. 158: How can a registered dietitian help during treatment with Dr. Krystle Zuniga, RD.  TheOncoPT Podcast.  Headshot of Dr. Krystle Zuniga, RD.  Background image of brown-haired woman with white mug in hands, sitting behind silver microphone.

Those treating people with cancer can feel overwhelmed & confused by nutrition for cancer treatment. Many healthcare providers are not trained in nutrition, but nutrition is vital to the health of their patients. It allows them to maintain the strength and function of their bodies. Our guest today is Dr. Krystle Zuniga, a registered and licensed cancer dietitian who discusses why having a dietician on your patients’ team can be beneficial.

We are discussing a dietitian’s role & how they differ from a nutritionist. Understanding the difference between them is essential. Dietitians are knowledgeable about the biology, physiology of different diseases and how diets might need to be adapted for each. This is crucial for treating each patient properly. 

Dieticians are able to perform a complete nutrition assessment, which includes not just height and weight, but also lab results and their medical history. A dietitian will look at factors that might adversely affect their ability to eat. It is important to know the individual, their personal history, as well as their medical history, before they can create a nutrition plan that is tailored to their unique needs.

Dr. Krystle Zuniga debunks diet myths that cause treatment setbacks. One myth is that sugar causes cancer. Cancer cells use glucose for energy, but so does every other cell in your body. Your body, your brain, & other cells require it. No matter what you do, your body will still produce glucose using protein. 

Another factor contributing to confusion about nutrition is access to nutrition information.  Influencers & social media play a major role in setting people back on their journey. If you listen to the wrong person, you could delay treatment, spend more money, or worsen your symptoms by taking supplements or following diet plans that don’t meet your needs. Now is the time to focus on providing your patients with evidence-based nutrition throughout the cancer journey.  

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About Dr. Krystle Zuniga, RD

Dr. Krystle Zuniga is a registered and licensed cancer dietitian in Austin, Texas. She is an assistant professor in the department of oncology at Dell Medical School and supports patients at the Livestrong Cancer Institutes of UT Health Austin. She is also the owner of ZNutrition. Krystle completed her dietetic internship and earned her doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. After completing a postdoctoral experience in Kinesiology and Community Health at UIUC, she was an assistant professor of Nutrition at Texas State University. Her research in the area of nutrition, physical activity, and cancer has been published in scientific journals including Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, Cancer Prevention Research, Nutrition and Cancer, and Journal of Geriatric Oncology. Krystle is also a founding board member of the Moving Beyond Cancer Collaborative, a non-profit that provides accessible and affordable integrative oncology health and wellness services. Dr. Zuniga aims to empower cancer survivors to use nutrition to optimize their health and quality of life.

Connect with Dr. Krystle Zuniga, RD on Instagram here

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