Why some doctors are integrating nutrition and lifestyle into their practice, and what it means for us

As the NHS struggles to cope, many of us are looking at ways to better support our health. In this collection of interviews, medics talk to Optimum Nutrition about why real food, nutrition and lifestyle should be an important element of healthcare.

Read how these doctors have changed the way they work:

“The power of food and healthy living isn’t taught in medical school, and it took my own experience to realise just how much of an impact nutrition can have… 

“Practising good nutrition and lifestyle medicine means we can pre-empt disease rather than react to it in the emergency department…

“I witnessed my mother take control of her medical condition, which had baffled multiple physicians, by changing her diet and lifestyle.”

“You can tell people to eat less, you can’t tell them to stop feeling hungry. So, when people approach their food they should think: ‘how is this food going to help my appetite, my satiation as well as nutrition?’... 

“…the important thing that’s going to have the biggest impact on population health is when we improve the food environment to help people make healthier choices.”

“I realised that what they were telling me [at medical school] was worse than garbage — it was detrimental…It put the pejorative and the onus on the patient rather than on the biochemistry or the food… 

“Fibre is the nutrient you don’t absorb. It is the barrier that prevents [sugars] being absorbed early so that they don’t flood the liver. Remember…‘protect the liver, feed the gut’.”

“I love nutritional therapists. I think they’ve got really great training and I think a lot of them understand this stuff really, really well... 

“We’re giving case studies showing just how powerful nutrition can be. And I think for nutritional therapists that’s going to lead…to a lot more referrals from doctors. Time will tell, but I hope nutritional therapy gets a lot more of the limelight going forward… 

“…be open minded to learn from other healthcare professionals who’ve got different expertise. Listen to what they’re telling you and, most importantly, don’t think you know it all just because you’ve been to medical school. Your patients are likely to teach you more than you teach them.”

Dr Unwin - “It’s essential that people enjoy the food that they eat; I don’t force patients. It’s an option, and it’s an exciting option if you want to come off medication. I’ve discovered that patients are very interested — and are prepared to make dietary changes to avoid going on lifelong medication. That really surprised and pleased me.” 

Dr Sadhra - “I told [a patient who was a consultant radiologist] the choice was his; either go with the standard spiel and start on medication, or did he want to try and put it in remission?

“I had an awful lot to unlearn. I was to some extent still in the conventional mode. I thought purely in diagnostic terms — you’ve got disease X or you haven’t. And if your symptoms don’t fit any pattern in my textbook then you haven’t got a disease, ergo you must be well. Of course, we know that isn’t the case. We know there is a vast spectrum between health and [a named] illness.”

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