The Times (they are a-changing)



Last month I read an article in The Times that I found so astounding it’s still on my mind today. It wasn’t that it told me anything I hadn’t heard many times already, but there’s something about it that’s holding my attention – in part simply because it was in The Times.

It described a new book, The Doctor’s Kitchen by Dr Rupy Aujla, an NHS doctor based in North London. Briefly, the message from Dr Aujla is:

“Your health starts on your plate and it’s more powerful than any pill I can prescribe.”

“He is less likely to write a prescription for high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes than he is to copy out his recipe for herby mushrooms and greens.”

“He is passionate about the curative powers of nutrition for everything from high blood pressure to cancer, depression to cognitive decline… and he has read the scientific papers to back up his recipes.”

Do you find this as bold as I do? Or maybe unbelievable? The backstory is that Dr Aujla was headed for heart surgery, in large part the result of eating the food provided at the hospital he worked in. He cut out “the canteen sandwiches” and restored his health to such a degree that he ended up convinced that,

“What you put on your plate is the most important health intervention anyone can make.”

Over the next few years he kept thinking he could bring what he’d learned about nutrition into his work,

“…but first he had to fill the glaring gaps in his medical training. He read papers, attended conferences, all of this without the help of a research grant. He began asking patients about what kind of food they ate.”

Now, I’m not in a position to say anything about medical training in this or any country, but if there are “glaring gaps” in our doctors’ education – gaps that can make the difference between major surgery and vibrant health – isn’t it important for everyone to know about this? Does this deserve to be buried in an article in the magazine supplement?

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  1. Argh, my pet subject. Gp’s and their complete lack of concern or acknowledgement of dietary contribution to ill health.
    I once – about 30 years ago – went to my GP as I was suffering from really debilitating unexplained lethargy…. he told me there was nothing wrong with me….”you need to eat more pies, custard, cakes to get your energy” Doh!
    Lost respect for GP’s then – was and still am, astounded! Something does need to be done. Thanks Gillian 🙂

  2. Janet

    Some time ago there was a series of programmes on TV called “the food hospital” – or something like that. The patients were carefully assessed and treated with nutrition. I particularly remember a little boy who was tortured by eczema. Changes in his diet made a huge difference. Ever since those programmes I’ve been aware that the NHS apparently doesn’t put any effort into helping people choose a healthy diet. Unfortunately, it’s probably too huge a task and a difficult one to ‘box tick’. Also, we’re all so addicted to our sugar laden diets that I’m afraid that even if my GP did offer dietary advice, I would still find it difficult to change my habits. Keep up your good work Gillian. Your blogs are always spot on.

  3. Alix

    Absolutely agree, Gillian. The times certainly are a-changing and hopefully functional medicine will find it’s way into medical training and become available to patients who, as you rightly say, rely on their GP for advice, soon. But the beauty of functional medicine is that if we were all to take steps to improve our diet, exercise a bit more and pay better attention to our stress levels and mental wellbeing we may well not need the GP at all, radically reducing NHS funding requirements! Here’s hoping… 🙂

  4. gillian

    It’s a shocking situation. I have family with lupus and to my knowledge, neither have ever been counselled on nutrition. There are more and more stories of doctors now experiencing epiphanies and saying they can’t believe they were taught what they were and believed it for so long. I’ve nothing to do with the medical profession but the first serious book I read on good fats (an unthinkable notion to me back then) was in 2005. That was 13 years ago. On two recent visits to the gp I asked for probiotic advice since I had to have antibiotics. They had none. I was recommended to « google it » myself. On another visit I wanted advice on gut health testing and again we told to « google it ». It’s a complete shambles. I’m privileged to have the time and resource to investigate and manage my own health and that of my immediate family but I’m horrified that other people you’d think would be knowledgeable are eating low-fat processed « yogurt » to lose weight in the new year. The shift for me happened when I stopped seeing excess weight as a problem and instead appreciated it as a clear symptom of my underlying health – for good or bad.

  5. Wow – thanks for all these great comments. I nearly didn’t post that piece, but clearly it’s good to connect with others who feel the same way. The last thing I want to do is express disrespect for anyone in the health professions who do so, so much, but clearly, as has been said, something has to change.

  6. Christine

    I learned a long time ago not to ‘bother’ doctors – they just hand you a statutory diet sheet and send you home!
    I recommend Gillian’s CD on the matter of healthy eating and play it in my car regularly. It’s like having her with me!

  7. Jakki

    However, more dietitians are being trained and appointed. My daughter in law has just completed a gruelling training with very varied work placements. She has certainly studied, in depth, dietary solutions, even having to prepare and test recipes for specific restricted diets. Unfortunately there is still a lot of contradictory advice around, particularly from pseudo nutritionists. We certainly do need reliable and realistic dietary guidelines. I believe that registered dietitians may be the best people to provide this on behalf of the NHS.

  8. Andrea

    I was sent to an NHS nutritionist last year due to a bowel/ digestion problem. Very nice person but I knew more than her! They are trained to stick to the basic (very damaging) food pyramid. I have a dairy intolerance too and she didn’t know anything about food intolerances. Quite disappointing. My mum has type 2 and they still tell you to eat “complex carbohydrates” fortunately we studied the blood sugar diet (Michael Mosley) and my mum has now lost nearly six stone and has come off most of her medication. She is close to curing herself! My niece is now trying this for polycystic ovaries, finger crossed for her health as she is so young and again convention advice is hopeless. I do believe we are responsible for our own health and should take action but not everyone has the same resources, education and support.

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