Whole Person Health: Diet & Nutrition

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People living with chronic conditions have health management needs beyond their primary treatment that are not being met. This four-part series examines the behaviors and attitudes of chronic condition communities to determine approaches that can help them better manage their health — holistically, for their entire selves.


Managing healthy diet and nutrition habits is a requirement for anyone living with a chronic condition. These habits can include everything from knowing which foods trigger flare-ups to understanding whether certain foods interact poorly with medications. They can also include experimenting with different diets to provide relief from symptoms. Many in chronic condition communities routinely experiment with — and crowdsource information about — what works best for them on their personal health journeys. This constant calibration is challenging and time-consuming, yet many people are still without answers.

The need for more knowledge and expanded care teams

Recent data (2019-20) from proprietary Healthline Media research shows that chronic condition communities would like more information about how their diet and nutrition are related to their condition.

Percent who would like additional nutrition information:

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Psoriasis

Psoriatic Arthritis

65%

62%

69%

However, the overwhelming majority of those living with a chronic condition receive little if no additional care from anyone beyond their primary condition specialist, such as from a registered dietitian or nutritionist. 

Percent who receive care from registered dietitians or nutritionists:

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Psoriasis

Psoriatic Arthritis

3%

1%

4%

Those living with chronic conditions cite a variety of factors, including access, coverage, lack of referrals, and knowledge of availability, as the reasons for not including nutritionists in their care plans. 

It is worth noting that even for conditions in which diet is tied to condition management, very few people have expanded care teams that include a nutritionist. 

Percent who receive care from registered dietitians or nutritionists:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Ulcerative Colitis

Crohn’s Disease

2%

1%

4%

Independent research and solution-seeking

Limited care inspires people living with chronic conditions to be in continuous research mode, always seeking solutions that might work for them. 

They most often use digital resources to learn about how their diet and nutrition habits impact their overall health. This includes hunting for science-backed information through internet searches, as well as soliciting advice from others who share their condition.  

People living with psoriasis desperately want to better understand the connection between their condition and their nutrition. But because they have little access to a medical team that includes a nutrition expert, they’re left to seek answers, clarity, and solutions on their own. Combined with the boom in interest around wellness and lifestyle more generally, those living with chronic conditions are more active than ever in their research.

One example from our research shows a 190% year over year increase in searches for “celery juice for psoriasis” after this fad was rumored to help with autoimmune conditions. 

Conditions manifest differently for each person

Two Facebook users share:

“Any good tips on what to eat? I’ve had UC for 4 months and it’s tough figuring out what to eat. Any ideas or help would be appreciated.”

“I’ve had it for 6 years now. I still have no idea. Everyone is different.”

Often, two people with the same condition will have unique and different experiences with food and nutrition. Frequently, they’ll connect with their condition community to find advice, then research on their own to confirm the science behind each recommendation to see if it’s safe and works for them. 

Food, recipe, and nutrition tips are the most popular among gastrointestinal social communities

Because conditions manifest differently in different people, many who live with chronic conditions turn to health advocates and influencers to learn about their diet and nutrition habits and connect with others who understand their experience.

What they need

Chronic condition management is much more than just primary treatment considerations. To manage the whole person, people need to understand how to balance their diet and nutrition habits with their conditions. This can include:

  • Knowing which foods to eat (and which to avoid) 

  • Learning how food and drinks interact with treatment

  • Understanding how alcohol can impact triggers or flares

  • Navigating diet trends like keto, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc.

  • Comprehending how to integrate better nutrition into their lives

One Healthline Media reader shared,

“I have a problem finding a doctor that actually listens to me. My doctor just told me to eat healthier. I already eat healthy, but it’s not working.”

Clearly, people living with chronic conditions also need specialists who have knowledge of condition-specific best practices for diet and nutrition or who offer referrals to medical teams that include registered nutrition experts. 

They need information that cuts through the clutter and guides them through their decision-making process. Our proprietary data shows that readers connect the most with content that brings to light the impact that food has on their health management.

33% of those that read psoriasis content, then go to nutrition content onsite.

Let’s talk

Healthline Media provides clarity for these communities with medically reviewed content that bridges this information gap, speaking to chronic condition communities about their diet and nutrition needs so they can focus on living stronger and healthier lives.

If you’re interested in deeper analysis of diet and nutrition and its relationship with chronic conditions, reach out to your Healthline Media representative or email us to find out how we can provide custom solutions for your brand. 

Explore other topics in whole person health:

MENTAL HEALTH

COMPLEMENTARY HEALTH

FINANCIAL WELLNESS

Sources: 2019 Healthline Media Planning Insights Lab data (IBS, UC, CD); 2020 Healthline Media Planning Insights Lab data (HIV, PsO, PsA, COPD, RA)

About Healthline Media

As the #1 health media property in the US, Healthline Media reaches 90MM unique visitors each month (Comscore, May 2020). We provide credible health information with a compassionate approach.