Dr Angela Goyal: Diets can be crucial to our overall health

Dr Angela Goyal. Picture by Simon Hulme
Dr Angela Goyal. Picture by Simon Hulme
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Over the past 20 years as a doctor I have come to the conclusion that modern medicine is often only applying a sticky plaster to patients by prescribing long-term medicines.

It would be much more satisfying to get to the root cause of the illness and cure people more often.

Our patients would thank us too.

Our medical system is brilliant at treating acute problems such as pneumonia, broken legs and heart attacks.

However, when it comes to chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, IBS or dementia, what is the solution?

There is not a cure – you have to take life-long medication to suppress the symptoms.

So, over the past few years I started studying what I call “lifestyle medicine”.

This includes nutrition, meditation, physical activity and functional medicine.

I have found that not only are many of these conditions preventable but they can be reversed too.

We know that 40 per cent of all ill health in England is preventable according to a Public Health England report.

Poor diet now has the biggest impact on the NHS budget - that’s more than smoking, alcohol and physical inactivity combined.

Therefore, is it not shocking that most doctors still receive next to no training in nutrition?

I certainly didn’t at medical school. Here are some of my top tips with resources so you can look into it further yourself:

* Type 2 Diabetes - Currently treated with advice to eat less, base meals 
around starchy carbs and drugs for life. However, new results are showing that it can be actually be reversed if sugar and processed carbohydrates are avoided. Instead, eat lots of ‘real foods’ such as vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, nuts and healthy fats such as olive oil.

Does this way of eating sound familiar?

Yes, it’s basically how your grandparents would have eaten and in those days there was very little diabetes or obesity!

* Obesity- The above also works for weight loss too so you won’t feel hungry.

See phcuk.org, fatismyfriend.co.uk and www.diabetes.co.uk/lowcarb for more information.

* Depression – this affects one in five of us. The relationship of diet and mood is less obvious than with obesity.

It can be difficult to adjust diet when motivation is low.

However, a modified Mediterranean diet has been shown to help depression in the ‘SMILES’ trial this year.

Similar to the real food lifestyle as above.

Add in lots of vegetables to your diet like broccoli, cauliflower and fatty fish too for omega 3.

Cut out sugar and processed carbohydrates; that’s sweets, fizzy drinks and processed bread as these send you on a sugar rollercoaster which can contribute to depression.

So, don’t just think of a good diet to keep the weight down, it could also prevent and reverse disease.

Dr Angela Goyal is a GP in Leeds with 20 years’ NHS experience.

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