Shifting towards Preventive Medicine

My name is Dr. Shazia Faisal. I am a medical practitioner and I have worked in various settings. I am also a qualified registered nutritionist.  It is a common perception that medical doctors and nutritionists are two different entities, but I believe that these two professions are synonymous in many ways since they are both concerned with improving overall health care amongst groups of people.

I completed my medical degree 17 years back and our medical curriculum was based on one thing; that was, how to cure patients just like other medical schools. Very few bits of nutritional education were included like biochemistry and key vitamins and minerals. During our training, we learned about symptomatic treatments, surgical procedures and other medical interventions for different diseases but nutrition was not a part of it.

As a GP, like other primary care physicians, I came across patients with chronic diseases like diabetes; hypertension, IB, PCOS and many of these are related to nutrition and lifestyle. The majority of the patients were seeking advice from their doctors about nutrition as they trusted them, but unfortunately lack of solid evidence-based nutritional education, I often fell short in addressing the nutritional aspect of chronic disease.

I did an MSc in clinical nutrition in 2018 from the University of Roehampton. This course helped me to understand diet and disease relationships and why dietary interventions are as important as other forms of treatment. It is widely accepted that lifestyle modifications achieve substantial benefits for individuals diagnosed with chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and PCOS. My masters thesis was based on dietary interventions in women with PCOS and this study elaborated that switching diet to a plant-based diet full of  vegetables, fruits and whole grains may improve nutritional status as well as improving symptoms.

After getting this qualification, I am confident to give evidence-based advice to my patients about their dietary intake along with medicines. For example, different dietary interventions like the DASH diet for hypertensive patients, low glycemic index (GI) foods and their role in chronic disease prevention. I also have a knowledge base on the FODMAP diet, how it works and when IBS patients need a referral to a specialised dietitian. However, one size does not fit all when it comes to nutrition, so we need a holistic approach. Nutritional advice should be personalised but time limitation is the main issue in the GP practice.

Recently, I took a career break and became involved in a research project investigating the effects of lifestyle interventions in patients with non-alcoholic liver diseases (NAFLD). I am also working with my local community to promote wellness and a healthy lifestyle, especially in Asian women. I also started my blog to promote evidence-based nutritional and health-related information.

My plans are to get certification from the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine (IBLM) and will start my wellness clinic where my practice strategy will be based on treating the whole person by integrating my nutritional education with clinical skills.

Nutritank is promoting nutritional and lifestyle education and resources for medical doctors and is also an entrusted source of information for the general public.

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