The benefits of dietary changes in chronic conditions: A functional Doctor’s perspective
I have practiced as an integrative and functional medicine doctor for 15 years, and always had a strong interest in food as medicine. Growing up on a farm, harvesting our own vegetables and home cooking embedded in me the importance of unprocessed healthy food as the basis for a healthy life. I also travelled extensively before and throughout medical school and being introduced to other cultures, foods and medical systems brought awareness of different traditions around the world which interested me. During my medical training I was acutely aware of the limitations in nutritional teaching, being already quite familiar with basic nutrition and reading and researching extensively myself, as well as having an allotment and growing my own food. I developed a deep interest in nutrition and preventative medicine as I progressed through my training and left the NHS to pursue this in 2002. I now use functional and nutritional medicine as the foundation of my practice and have continued my nutrition study. I found functional nutrition brings the scientific and research led approach which satisfies my need for an evidence-based understanding. The bringing together of physiology, biochemistry and nutrition is so exciting, and I love the systems biology approach which functional medicine brings, looking at the whole body and the interaction between organs and systems.
In practice I find nutritional intervention a very effective therapeutic strategy and will always begin a treatment plan with focusing on optimising digestion and gut function and addressing diet and lifestyle. I find this approach particularly effective in skin conditions, allergies, IBS and IBD, migraines, GORD and in mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression. I find many patients are able to reduce or stop their prescribed medications and get full resolution of symptoms which had bothered them for years. Diet is also a key part of any intervention focused on addressing recurrent infections, cancer support, fatigue, diabetes and PCOS. I find many patients overwhelmed with conflicting advice in the media and very keen to learn about how they can take some responsibility and control for their health.
I fully support the work Nutritank is doing and wish this organisation had been in existence 20 years ago when I did my medical training, I strongly believe the integration of nutrition into medical training is long overdue. I see in practice every day the benefits dietary changes can make in many chronic conditions, and patients need advice and support with this. They are often confused by sensational and unscientific media information and I believe doctors can play a critical role in educating patients and signposting them for specialist nutritional advice in more complex conditions. This will reduce the burden of chronic illness on the NHS and improve the health of the nation overall. Educating patients will empower them to educate their children therefore improving the health of future generations and is true preventative medicine. We now have extensive knowledge and research into the importance of diet, and incorporating this into undergraduate medical training is key to giving doctors the tools to support patients in taking responsibility for their health and reducing drug spending and the burden of chronic illness on the NHS. I am therefore very excited to see the opening of the first Culinary Medicine programme in the UK, and the Toolbox which provides a wonderful resource of online and practical training for all levels of interest.
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