Food is the Most Powerful Medicine Known to Humankind

We all know that the NHS is under considerable pressure. The cost of diabetes alone to the NHS is over £1.5 million per hour (Diabetes UK). The conventional medical view on type 2 diabetes (T2D) is that this condition is irreversible and requires long-term medication to control.

We (the so called ‘alternative health care industry’) have known for sometime that T2D typically responds very well to specific dietary and lifestyle interventions. I have seen first hand clients come off/reduce their diabetic medications by making substantial changes to their diets and lifestyle (working in collaboration with their GPs). This scenario reminds me of the classic Mark Twain quote – ‘It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so!’

I am therefore somewhat perplexed by the fanfare that has surrounded the results of a very recently published randomised controlled trial in The Lancet, that has concluded that after the participants focused on a weight loss programme for 12 months that ‘almost half achieved remission to a non-diabetic state and off antidiabetic drugs. Remission of type 2 diabetes is a practical target for primary care’. This is great news, but not new news. There is considerable existing evidence to suggest that calorie restriction (in particular carbohydrate restriction) is one of the most beneficial approaches to optimally managing diabetes, which after all is an intolerance to carbohydrate. Obviously any such intervention does need to be carefully managed by a suitably qualified health care practitioner in conjunction with the client’s GP/medical consultants. The reality is that standardising this type of approach, has the potential to save the nation around £7 billion with just this one condition!

It is time to stop simply focussing on how much more money the NHS requires and really start thinking about reducing overall load on the system, by using well managed dietary and lifestyle interventions that are supported by unbiased science, as opposed to ‘junk science’ which has a history of being sponsored by questionable institutional agendas. Food is one of the most powerful medicines known to human kind; maybe we should start to use it! We might end up experiencing a pandemic of wellbeing.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) – breaking the vicious cycle

UTIs are very common, especially in women. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will have a UTI at some point in their lifetime and once you have had one infection you are much more likely to have another. The standard medical treatment is with antibiotics. The problem with antibiotic treatment is that whilst it will tend to work in the short term (and is often an essential treatment to avert a more serious infection of the kidneys), there is an increased risk of developing imbalances in the beneficial bacteria (microflora of the gut and urinary tract) and antibiotic resistance (which has recently been described as a significant threat to our future health by Professor Dame Sally Davies – England’s Chief Medical Officer). It is the disruption of the microflora in conjunction with growing antibiotic resistance that are the key reasons as to why UTIs often re-occur.

Thankfully numerous clinical studies indicate that several natural substances work very effectively to help prevent UTIs and there is also considerable evidence to suggest that these natural substances can also work very effectively even in acute infection scenarios, as long as the intervention is initiated as soon as an infection is suspected.

The best studied natural agent to help with UTIs is D-mannose (a simple sugar – available from any good health store), and is very effective at helping control UTIs that are caused by E.coli bacteria. The majority of UTIs are caused by E. coli. When however E.coli is not the cause, the use of D-mannose is unlikely to help. There are a number of other bacteria that can cause UTIs and often it is possible to find out what bacteria are involved through testing. Once the species of bacterium involved has been identified a suitable natural intervention can be applied.

Another reason to consider, if natural compounds such as D-mannose do not work, is biofilm issues. Biofilms surround a collection of bacteria that are attached to the body, effectively creating a shield that protects them from being attacked/controlled (the best example of this is plaque on the teeth) – this makes this type of infection very difficult to control. The key to breaking this cycle is to therefore disrupt the biofilm, which can be done using specialised enzymes.

So, if you are presenting with regular UTIs and you want to break the vicious cycle, you might want to consider working with a  suitably qualified practitioner to improve overall gut health and the balance of the microflora, inbetween infections.

The Problem With Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease (CD) is not a minor ‘intolerance’ to gluten, it is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks the small intestine, reducing the ability of the body to absorb nutrients from food. If left undetected, CD has the potential to cause significant long-term health complications. CD is one of the most common life long disorders in North America and Europe and only 1 in 8 coeliacs are ever diagnosed. These are disturbing facts.

Diagnosis of CD currently requires a positive blood test and then subsequently the detection of damage to the small intestine via an endoscopy.

The first problem is that less than 50% of coeliacs are presenting with the classical symptoms of diarrhoea and abdominal cramping. The majority of coeliacs are ‘silent’ in their presentation – no overt digestive symptoms but are presenting with signs and symptoms including iron deficiency anaemia, osteoporosis, arthritis, neurological degradation, depression, fertility issues, migraines and chronic kidney disease. This point alone, is likely to be having a significant impact on whether testing for CD is even to be considered.

The next potential issue is with the blood testing itself. The standard NHS test for CD is good if you are presenting with significant damage to the small intestine and your immune system is functioning properly. We know however that damage to the small intestine is a gradual process that can take years or even decades to manifest, the immune system is often underperforming and the markers being measured for are not broad enough. This can lead to very high rates of false negative results (up to 70%), which is a dangerous outcome if the result is that you are told that it is fine to consume gluten, when in fact it is not! Remember you have to be eating gluten and not taking any steroid or immune suppressing medication for any blood test to have half a chance of picking up an issue.

Finally, it is possible to have positive blood markers for CD and no damage to the small intestine – ‘latent’ CD (over and above the fact that the biopsies can often miss the ‘damaged’ areas of the small intestine).

Is it any wonder that CD is such a poorly diagnosed and managed condition?