IT’S TIME DOCTORS WOKE UP TO THE HEALING POWER OF WHAT WE EAT
IT’S worrying just how little student doctors are taught about nutrition and health. My own experience has been that even gastroenterologists — specialists in intestinal disorders — have little or no interest in what their patients are eating.
Partly this is because there’s so little hard evidence, as distinct from hearsay, that foods cause or cure ill health. Even those scientifically trained in this, dietitians, are at best, struggling in the dark. Yes, we know that a Mediterranean type of diet greatly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease; and adopting that way of eating goes a long way towards preventing further heart attacks in those who have already suffered one.
We also have clear ideas about how to treat type 2 diabetes: the problem is that all too often we fail to persuade patients to do it. But this is all very general — more needs to be known about what foods should be eaten to
treat some conditions. However, revelations over the past five to ten years about the vital role gut bacteria has in many aspects of our physiology, from the immune system to the brain and the heart, are surely set to trigger a revolution in our understanding.
We are on the edge of a breakthrough on knowing how the food we eat might change the treatment of disease — and significantly, what foods can be used to change the microbiome, which has the capacity, so we believe, to do the curative work for us. With that comes the possibility that one day we might use food, not drugs, as medicine.
Until then, we cannot dismiss the benefits of the dietary approaches described on these pages. I quote Hippocrates: ‘Let medicine be thy food and food be thy medicine’. But take good advice before you jump, and never rely on the words of enthusiastic amateurs. And don’t give up the pills, at least not without your doctor’s say so.
Ultimately however, the message must be to focus on prevention, start with children — so many illnesses can be avoided in the first place through correct eating.
How to achieve it is the real question.