Digestive Health Clinical Nutrition Program | Loyola Medicine

Digestive Health Clinical Nutrition Program

Comprehensive Nutrition Care

The physicians, dietitians, nurses, clinical pharmacists, social workers and wound care experts of the Clinical Nutrition Program work as a team to support patients with nutrition disorders or malnutrition through all stages of the care process. Loyola has staff dietitians in several of the outpatient multidisciplinary clinics, and patients wishing to consult with a dietitian can be seen at various Loyola locations. Additionally, patients with complex problems such as abnormal weight loss, malnutrition/malabsorption, short bowel syndrome, celiac disease, long term IV nutrition (“parenteral nutrition”), feeding tubes and other nutrition-related disorders are managed by physicians and dietitians working together to treat the entire patient.

Why Choose Loyola for Nutrition Care

The care provided by our board certified physicians and dietitians have contributed to the national ranking U.S. News & World Report gave Loyola University Medical Center's gastrointestinal & GI surgery care. Loyola’s clinical nutrition specialists ensure that nutrition care is a central part of your healthcare experience and path to wellness.

Our commitment to “also treat the human spirit” shines in our Clinical Nutrition Program. Loyola is fortunate to have a unique outpatient Nutrition Assessment Clinic where patients with nutritional difficulties are seen at the same time by a dietitian and a physician. Our program is fully integrated into all of Loyola’s clinics and hospitals so that nutrition support is a key component of the total care of the patient. Our registered dietitians are top-notch clinicians, most with specialty experience managing particular diseases. Our nutrition support pharmacists have decades of expertise managing complex intravenous feeding and supplementation. Our physicians all have advanced training or board certification in nutrition support and are nationally recognized for their expertise. Loyola’s clinical nutrition specialists ensure that nutrition care is a central part of your healthcare experience and path to wellness. 

What Conditions are Treated by the Clinical Nutrition Program?

The clinical nutrition specialists at Loyola Medicine are experts at diagnosing and managing patients with the following conditions:

Diagnostic Services Offered in the Clinical Nutrition Program

The Clinical Nutrition Program uses a variety of testing to help diagnose and manage nutrition-related diseases.  As part of the evaluation of nutrition conditions, patients undergo one or several of the following tests:

  • Indirect Calorimetry: Patients who are losing weight for unknown reasons may have a problem with metabolism and may need more calories than expected. Loyola has the ability to measure the body’s daily calorie needs and metabolism through specialized breath testing to help your doctor determine how much food you need to eat to maintain, gain or lose weight.
  • Hydrogen breath testing for lactose and fructose intolerance: Breath testing for food intolerances involves administering a small dose of oral lactose and fructose and then blowing into a balloon collection container every 15 to 20 minutes for several hours to determine if your body can digest lactose and fructose.
  • Small intestine bacterial overgrowth testing by hydrogen breath test and/or small intestine fluid sampling: Patients with gas, bloating, diarrhea or weight loss may have too many bacteria in their small intestine, causing malabsorption. In a similar process to lactose and fructose intolerance testing, we give a small dose of a liquid medication and have patients blow into a balloon collection container every 15 to 20 minutes for several hours to determine whether excess bacteria exists. We also perform direct cultures of small intestine fluid by performing an endoscopy to obtain the fluid and then growing bacteria in the lab.
  • Gastrointestinal motility testing: Some people have poor nutrition due to a malfunctioning GI system. Loyola offers the full range of intestine functioning tests, including tests to determine the stomach’s ability to empty (gastric emptying scans), tests of the function of the esophagus, stomach and upper small intestine (esophageal and antroduodenal manometry) and tests that can determine the function of the entire GI tract (SmartPill). 
  • Other tests for malabsorption:  Loyola’s clinical nutrition specialists perform a wide array of tests to determine the cause and amount of intestinal malabsorption. This includes stool tests, blood tests for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, gastrointestinal endoscopy and biopsies, “pill camera” endoscopy where patients swallow a small capsule that takes pictures of the entire small intestine, and small bowel enteroscopy where doctors can use specialized endoscopy cameras to go deep into the small intestine.

Clinical Nutrition Treatments at Loyola

Loyola’s clinical nutrition specialists have advanced training in all levels of nutrition support and offer comprehensive management of nutrition-related diseases using a multidisciplinary approach. At Loyola, all members of the Clinical Nutrition Program are available to help patients and their families return to a healthy diet that supports healing.

Loyola’s clinical nutrition specialists are experts in:

  • Comprehensive nutrition evaluation and assessment: People with nutrition-related disorders have consultations with our experienced registered dietitians and physicians to assess their current diets, degree of malnutrition, and to provide a patient-centered feeding plan to support health and healing.
  • Placement and management of intestinal feeding tubes: Many people have diseases that prevent them from eating normally, and often those people need to have devices inserted into their nose, stomach or intestines to provide feedings. Most of these devices are called “feeding tubes” and are usually made of medical-grade plastics or silicone.  Loyola’s clinical nutrition specialists are experts at placing these devices and managing problems that can occur when using them. We also have a device to allow us to place feeding tubes through the nose into the stomach or small intestine without the need to put people to sleep or perform an endoscopy.
  • Endoscopic closure of fistulas: Sometimes people who have had feeding tubes removed have wounds that do not heal. The Interventional Endoscopy and Minimally Invasive Surgery programs that work with the Clinical Nutrition Program have expertise at closing non-healing wounds through minimally invasive techniques, including endoscopy, a non-surgical procedure where open wounds can be closed in ways that traditionally were done by a large complex surgery. This allows faster healing with less risk than a surgical repair.
  • Management of parenteral nutrition: Patients who have non-functioning intestines or who have had large portions of their intestines removed often need intravenous feeding through a catheter inserted into a large vein in the arm or chest. Our nutrition support pharmacists and clinical nutrition specialists have extensive experience managing patients on parenteral nutrition and are well trained to minimize the discomfort and complications associated with intravenous feeding.
  • Dietary counseling for patients on special diets: Loyola’s registered dietitians have advanced training in medical nutrition therapy, including educating people with certain medical diseases like Celiac disease, pancreatic insufficiency, food allergies and irritable bowel syndrome about the types of diets that can help them improve the symptoms of their disease.
  • Intestinal rehabilitation: Patients with intestinal failure and short gut syndrome need intensive medical therapy and dietary counseling to manage their nutrition and symptoms through a detailed and often difficult-to-follow diet. Loyola’s clinical nutrition specialists have helped many patients manage this difficult disease and bring some control back to their life.
  • Medical therapy of poor appetite due to chronic illness: Many people who suffer from chronic illnesses lack an appetite or desire to eat. Loyola’s clinical nutrition specialists are familiar with techniques and medications that can help improve nutrition for patients who are struggling.
  • Treatment of vitamin deficiencies: While many vitamin deficiencies can be treated with pills or oral supplements, some require intravenous infusions, and all require monitoring to avoid side effects and complications. Loyola has several forms of intravenous iron and other vitamins, and our clinical nutrition specialists routinely monitor for vitamin deficiencies.
  • Nutrition support during transplantation and cancer therapy: Organ transplantation and cancer therapies cause severe strain on our systems, and good nutrition is vital to improving outcomes from therapy. Loyola’s registered dietitians have advanced training in transplantation and cancer nutrition support, working with patients throughout the care process to ensure the best path to wellness.

Ongoing Research

Loyola’s clinical nutrition specialists are actively engaged in patient-centered research that focuses on improving the outcomes of medical care through nutrition support and diet. Our specialists are routinely invited to speak at national meetings and serve on guideline committees that develop standards of care for patients with nutrition-related diseases.  We also support patients enrolled in clinical trials within the Loyola System. Learn about Loyola’s current clinical trials.