In today’s medical model, we are so focused around diagnosing/labelling people with health issues, so we can prescribe a drug or give a “treatment.”
While some life threatening cases and acute cases require a quick diagnoses and treatment, most of the time, the issues that people are suffering from these days are chronic health issues that if they progress far enough, can result in the need for life saving treatments.
Therefore, rather than placing all of our emphasis on signs and symptoms to diagnose and label someone with a disease or health issue, more importantly, we should be focussing on examining the inconsistencies around peoples diet and lifestyle habits first.
This is because we know that most chronic health issues are caused by an interplay of genetics with diet and lifestyle habits. They are also exacerbated by poor diet and lifestyle habits. This means that sometimes, the diagnosis is irrelevant. If a person presented with a chronic health issue and the individuals diet and lifestyle habits were examined through questioning, there would likely be some inconsistencies around their diet habits, sleep habits, exersize habits, stress levels, smoking and alcohol intake. This means that regardless of the diagnosis, these lifestyle habits need to be addressed first in order to treat the underlying causes of the heath issue at hand. Prescribing medications will simply patch up symptoms, which is not a long term solution as the real drivers of the health issue are still manifesting. This leads to decreased effectiveness of medications, side effects as well as increased medication doses over time for symptoms that progressively get worse due to unresolved underlying drivers (i.e. diet and lifestyle habits).
Medications may need to be used to get rid of uncomfortable or life threatening symptoms, as well as decrease disease risk factors, however they should always be prescribed in conjunction with sustainable diet and lifestyle coaching. Once these underlying factors are improved and symptoms start to reduce, we can then look to wean people off the medications. At best, we can reduce the doses/amounts. This is so people do not stay on these medications at high doses for long periods of time due to their damaging effects and sometimes harsh side effects.
Addressing diet and lifestyle factors first and seeing what symptoms resolve from these changes, would in turn save peoples time, money and stress from bouncing around to different doctors and specialists to get a diagnosis. Once the person is relatively consistent around their diet and lifestyle, if some symptoms are still persisting, it may then be prudent to get more specific around treatment and testing.
For example, if a person is overweight and presents with a whole host if peculiar symptoms that don’t fit into a neat category of a specific “diagnosis.” Rather than sending them for testing and trialling certain pharmaceutical treatments in order to put a label on their symptoms, it is more important to first address the diet and lifestyle factors that are driving the weight gain. Research has shown time and time again that weight loss, via good diet and lifestyle habits significantly improves health markers and parameters. Therefore, it is likely that losing weight will improve their peculiar symptoms. This saves peoples time and money to try and find a “diagnosis.”
Why do doctors not treat with diet and lifestyle medicine?
Doctors diagnose and treat health issues with medications and/or surgery. They are not trained in changing people’s diet and lifestyle, as well as understanding how their diet and lifestyle could be causing/exacerbating a person’s health issues. They also work in a time restricted medical model, so even if they wanted to help change a person’s diet and lifestyle, most doctors’ consults are 15-30 minutes, therefore they don’t have time to coach people even if they wanted to. They may say something in passing to patients, but this is not going to stick as the person needs to be told how to change their diet and lifestyle. They need to be guided.
Also, due to the “pill for ever ill” nature of the medical industry, many people walk into doctors’ offices and have expectations of receiving a “treatment” – as they may not recognise the connection between their lifestyle and health, as well as the fact that it is much harder to change diet and lifestyle habits. The doctor is seen as the “healer” rather than a “coach” that can help facilitate behaviour change around peoples diet and lifestyle. This is not only at doctors’ offices, a lot of the time it occurs in offices of manual therapists (e.g. physiotherapist). People want to be treated with massage, needless, stretching etc., rather than changing their diet and lifestyle habits that are likely contributing musculo-skeletal issues. This may also be due to a lack of knowledge on both the client and practitioners part of how diet and lifestyle habits can effect joint, bone and muscle health.
In conclusion, our medical model needs to start treating the inconsistencies in peoples diet and lifestyle habits before we become fixated on diagnosing them with a health issue or disease that will ultimately result in a prescription, without addressing the underlying causes. Treating underlying causes will ultimately lead to better results and decrease the need for using individual drugs for every different presenting symptom. Treating underlying causes of health issues via lifestyle change leads to the resolve of symptoms on their own.