Nutritional Therapy

At Tays, nutritional therapists treat child and adult patients who need nutritional planning or counselling related to a disease or its treatment. Such situations can include, for example, malnutrition, excess weight, a diet required by the treatment of a disease or a special diet. With nutritional therapy, we promote the patient's recovery, well-being and functional capacity by ensuring an individually planned, sufficient and varied diet and instructing the patient.

Falling ill usually affects appetite and choices of food, and the patient's nutritional condition therefore declines. This is common in e.g. infectious diseases, during cancer treatments, in connection with major operations or when a memory disorder worsens.

As the nutritional status declines, weight often decreases, but an overweight person can also be malnourished. Falling ill should not be used as a method to lose weight, as good nutrition promotes recovery. A patient in danger of becoming malnourished requires intensive nutritional treatment. The goal is to achieve and maintain a good nutritional condition, as it has been found to be linked to a good quality of life.

When is a nutritional therapist needed?

There may be a need for counselling and a nutritional treatment plan from a nutritional therapist in the following cases:

  • the treatment of the disease requires a special diet or changes in the choice of foods
  • the patient eats less
  • swallowing or eating food with a normal texture is difficult
  • eating is not possible via the mouth, and hence hose feeding or parenteral nutrition is needed
  • the weight decreases without losing weight on purpose
  • a child's growth is delayed or the diet is not suitable for the age
  • the disease involves changes in the need of nutrients or metabolism
  • the patient's symptoms can be alleviated with the choice of foods
  • eating has to be coordinated with the medication
  • a health-promoting diet can decrease or prevent additional diseases or decrease the side effects of treatment.

At Tays, nutritional therapy is related to treatment of the following patient groups, for example:

  • preterm babies or children who grow poorly
  • paediatric diabetic, cardiology or neurology patients
  • paediatric kidney, cancer or gastroenterological patients, congenital metabolic diseases
  • extensive developmental and neurological disorders that are congenital or incurred in early childhood, such as a developmental disability or CP
  • food allergy
  • lung diseases, such as COPD patients and sleep apnoea patients
  • diabetes
  • gastroenterological diseases
  • coeliac disease
  • obesity and obesity surgery
  • hypertension and cardiology patients
  • kidney patients during the different stages of the disease
  • musculoskeletal diseases
  • cancers
  • strokes
  • progressive neurological diseases in adults which affect swallowing, e.g. ALS or Parkinson's disease
  • eating disorders and other psychiatric patients.

Nutritional therapist receptions at Tays

You can get an appointment for a nutritional therapist based on a physician's referral or according to standard care practices in specific situations. The nutritional therapists at Tays meet approximately half of the patients in the ward and approximately half at the outpatient clinic.

The nutritional therapy in specialised health care includes the following:

  • assessment of nutritional condition: height, weight BMI and evaluation of the risk of malnutrition as well as a clinical evaluation
  • assessment of energy and nutrient needs
  • investigating the patient's use of food and assessment of whether nutrition is sufficient
  • creating a nutritional treatment plan
  • nutritional guidance
  • follow-up and evaluation of the implementation and results of nutritional therapy, as well as making changes to the nutritional plan when necessary
  • planning how the nutritional treatment is continued in the future.

The patient's eating habits, life situation and needs are the starting points in nutritional therapy. The patient's family members and friends are also welcome to the appointment. Together with the patient, we plan nutritional therapy that is suitable for the disease and the patient's life situation.

The nutritional therapist gives practical counselling on the choice of ingredients and special products and cooking. If the patient does not get enough nutrients from ordinary food, clinical nutritional products can be used to support nutrition, and the nutritional therapist will guide in their usage.


The patient's independent self-treatment is essential in nutritional therapy, both at the hospital and in follow-up treatment. At Tays, some nutritional guidance services are organised for groups, e.g. on the orientation day when the patient and family members receive information from several different health care professionals. Peer support provided by other patients is important in groups.

The nutritional therapists work in close collaboration with the hospital's different units. Nutritional therapy is interprofessional collaboration where nearly all employees in the hospital are involved.

Communication is active between Tays hospitals, basic health care and the nutritional therapy staff of the Tays catchment area hospitals. Collaboration is also important with the staff of day cares, schools, health centre wards and service centre staff in order to ensure the continuity of nutritional therapy.

Special expertise at Tays

In Finland, we are pioneers in the development and implementation of nutritional therapy in collaboration with different professional groups, as well as in the range of nutritional therapy services available for as many patient groups in the hospital as possible. We have also been involved in planning the national nutrition recommendation.

We have developed different operations models for the treatment of several patient groups and made ground-breaking work in identifying malnutrition related to diseases in Finland. We support the treatment of child psychiatric patients with a nutritional education method where the focus is on becoming familiar with food through different senses and thereby learning through experience.

We have special expertise in the nutritional therapy for e.g. diabetes, kidney failure, coeliac disease, neurological diseases, blood and cancer diseases, gastroenterological diseases, eating disorders, food allergies and patients with developmental disorders, as well as rare metabolic diseases and preterm babies.

Our scientific research activities are related to coeliac disease, obesity surgeries, sleep apnoea and the effect of nutrition on the functioning of the vascular system.

Persons in charge

Chief nutritional therapist Kirsti Sammallahti
Nutritional therapist Hanna Viitala