Lifestyle Medicine and Chronic Disease
Working as a nutritionist and functional medicine practitioner, I am able to work with my clients on a number of different levels. I work on every single aspect of their lifestyle to elicit the most optimal change in their health, we look at sleep, stress, digestive health, immune, energy levels, blood sugar regulation, exercise to name a few. Most my clients are for fat loss, however my view is fat loss should be a side effect of improved health, this is why few of my clients will lose lean tissue when reducing their body fat levels and their health and energy levels improve.
The bigger picture for me is that whilst I am helping my client achieve their goal of fat loss we are also potentially adding years to their life and increasing their longevity. As long as I am doing my job properly, I am educating rather than simply telling someone to do something. I want my clients to take what they have learnt from me and educate those around them, and for them to hold on to the information I have taught them for life.
When consulting with me you will realise how much time we take building a picture of you, as I believe I am treating the individual and not the symptoms. Yes you have to fill out questionnaires before seeing me, yes we will talk in detail about your health history and yes you may find it strange someone wanting to know everything about you. Let’s be honest we simply are not use to someone talking to us in detail about our health, we have been conditioned into walking into a room, listing some symptoms and then being given a prescription for some medication or a supplement will be prescribed to try and treat the symptom. I hate this approach health; it is reductionist, lazy and rarely gets to the root cause of the symptoms. My goal is to empower you to make change, and for you to understand that you are 100% responsible for how you feel at this moment in time and 100% responsible for your own health. Not me, not your doctor, you choose, become educated and make educated decisions. Be aware of how these decisions make you feel and make further decisions from your personal experiences.
Evidence that current methods are not working
Currently both our country and all other developing nations are facing an epidemic of chronic disease and obesity. According to a recent report in The New England Journal of Medicine (1), for the first time in 1000 years, future generations are likely to die at a younger age than their parents. With all the advances in technology and medicine seen in the modern world, people are suffering longer with more chronic disease than ever before and it is affecting us at younger and younger ages. Chronic diseases are one of the biggest threats to modern society, the treatment of these diseases using a conventional approach is becoming enough to bring a country to their knees let alone their healthcare systems.
At present the pharmaceutical approach to managing chronic illness has not been successful in reducing the rising burden of type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disease, certain cancers, dementia, and cardiometabolic disease. The approach of treating one disease with one remedy, or the ‘pill for an ill’ approach used both in the medical and alternative fields is outdated and it is time to change. Unfortunately this change does not suit the big companies that profit from the consumption of drugs on a mass scale. Don’t get me wrong I think modern medicine is a marvel and it certainly has a place, but when it comes to preventing chronic disease and reducing the epidemic of obesity it simply does not work.
The Journal of the American Medical Association stated:
“The present state of affairs as it relates to the management of many chronic diseases is changing due to the recognition that what was thought to be beneficial is being questioned by new science” (2)
What we must realise is that a true approach to the prevention of chronic disease and obesity is a systems based approach that revolves around the education and adaptation of our lifestyle habits, such as the way we eat, how we move and the environments we live in.
The reason we must adopt this multi systems approach to health is because everyone is affected differently by drugs, diet, supplementation, toxins, stress and activity. The Journal of the American Medical Association states that there is no one cause of any disease so we need a complex systems approach, as seen in personalised lifestyle medicine (3). Remember a headache is not a paracetamol deficiency; constipation is not a deficiency in laxatives, lack of energy is not a deficiency in caffeine, I think you get my point.
Alzheimer’s is becoming the most feared disease out there, understandably so because of the financial and emotional burden it can place on the loved ones of the individual. Lifestyle medicine is now being widely accepted as a superior treatment for conditions such as type 2 diabetes (4), cardiovascular disease (5), insulin resistance (6), and obesity. Not only that but if you can manage these conditions with lifestyle adaptations your chances of living healthier for longer are greatly increased, reducing your healthcare burden and the pressure on those around you to care for you. Whilst we must accept at some point in our life we are going to experience ill health the ultimate goal should be to live a long healthy life, not just a long life. These days many people simply live for a long time yet their bodies and minds died a long time before, they accumulate a vast quantity of medications on their journey through life, most of which are no better than placebo at preventing chronic disease, yet lead to the prescription of other drugs to offset the side effects, some of which such as statins can actually increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in certain populations (7).
Imagine if I had created a drug that between the ages of 70-90 years of age was able to lower the risk of mortality by 50% and increase longevity by 50%, I would be a very rich man, right? What if this could be achieved with lifestyle medicine? Unfortunately there is little money to be made in lifestyle medicine so government and drugs companies are not interested in the evidence demonstrated by lifestyle based medicine (8). If you are able to manage areas such as regular exercise, body fat levels, smoking cessation you are able to reduce disability in late adulthood (9).
- The New England Journal of Medicine, March 17th 2005
- Journal of the American Medical Association Jan 4th, 2012: pp37-38
- J Am Medical Assoc, 2008, pp:1580-1581