IT’S TIME DOC­TORS WOKE UP TO THE HEAL­ING POWER OF WHAT WE EAT

Irish Daily Mail - - Good Health - By DR MARTIN SCURR GP AND COLUM­NIST

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.

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