Updated: Jan 18
Have you been told by your doctor that you have a health condition because of bad luck or bad genes?
As a doctor, I can’t stand to hear that.
Two reasons: Firstly it promotes a victim mentality and a sense of helplessness among patients, but more importantly, it takes away a big chunk of (and perhaps the most important) interventions that could be harnessed to help patients: lifestyle changes.
Your health destiny is in your hands and NOT dictated by your genes contrary to what doctors may tell you. Studies have now shown that only 10-30% of cancers can be attributed to genes – which leaves the other 70-90% being caused by lifestyle factors.
Our DNA is inherited and cannot change, but did you know that you can influence which part of your DNA is active and expressed?
Genes are like recipes. Most seasoned cooks don’t follow recipes to the T, and likewise our bodies don’t have to follow instructions given by our genes fully. The imprint is there, but our genes are interacting with our environment constantly and reacting to messages from the environment in order to protect us. You may have heard the phrase, food is information. What that means is, every bite of food you eat sends information to your genes and affect whether certain genes are activated or silenced. For example, even if you did inherit the famous BRCA gene known to be associated with breast cancer, you can still reduce your chances of getting breast cancer with lifestyle measures. Only 5-10% of breast cancer is thought to be hereditary. Similarly, studies have shown that prostate cancer genes can be altered through diet and lifestyle intervention.
It doesn’t stop at cancer. Back in 1998, Dean Ornish showed that the No 1 killer of the developed world, heart disease, can be reversed through intensive diet and lifestyle changes. Yes you heard right. Not maintained, not kept at bay, but REVERSED.
You are probably asking, well if this is true, and there is data dating back from 1998 how come doctors don’t talk about it?
It’s simple – lifestyle changes don’t make money. Pharmaceutical drugs do. So much of what you hear, and what your doctor practises is determined by the Big Pharma and policy makers. To quote a former Harvard Professor of medicine and Editor in Chief for the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Arnold Seymour Relman, “The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”
One of the reasons why I experienced physician burn out as a family doctor in the UK was that I experienced an overwhelming sense of helplessness as a doctor. I became disillusioned. 80% of my workload was dealing with chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes etc. Day in day out, I saw the same patients with chronic diseases coming in with different problems, and I was trained in a conventional western medical model of giving each symptom a prescription. After years of practice, it no longer felt right to me. I began to hate seeing patients because deep down I felt so helpless in helping my patients. I saw my patients on increasingly larger amounts of pharmaceutical agents with no improvement in their quality of life. In fact, I would say that they experienced a worsening in their quality of life because of the many side effects of these drugs.
Take a typical patient with diabetes. When they are initially diagnosed, I might offer them dietary advice with one medication to control their blood sugar. After a few years, it becomes 2-3 medications, plus one to reduce their blood pressure, another to reduce their cholesterol, and then a few years after that insulin injections – which made them gain weight, which meant their diabetes worsened, which meant more insulin, which meant more weight gain. You get the drift? It was a vicious cycle that made the detective in me question:
Is there a way I can permanently help my patients so they can live a life with energy and TRUE wellness?
And the answer is a resounding yes.
You might be shocked to hear that diabetes can be reversed. So can hypertension.. and MS… the list goes on… And no, not through expensive drugs but through lifestyle and diet (the best things in life really are free). I have coached many clients (including my own husband) in using lifestyle strategies (e.g. nutrition, exercise, meditation) to improve their overall health and come off medications. For me, THIS is being a doctor. I entered the medical profession wanting to help people, and after losing myself and my purpose for a while, I finally have regained my WHY and my passion in life.
In my opinion, the key to health is to remove the blocks, provide the right conditions/terrains, and let the body heal itself. Our bodies have an amazing ability to repair itself. However, the standard american diet, pollution, sedentary lifestyle, stress, poor sleep, chemicals in our food chains/households have all put such a strain on our bodies that it can no longer heal. There is definitely a place for conventional medicine, if you have a fracture, an infection, or a heart attack, it is absolutely life saving and necessary. But when it comes to managing chronic diseases, conventional medicine fails miserably. In an ideal world, patients suffering from a heart attack would be treated in the cath-lab and then be coached to go on a whole plant based diet when they leave the hospital to prevent it happening again.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love conventional medicine, it’s how I was trained, but I believe that in order to overcome the burden of chronic diseases on our society, a paradigm shift is necessary. More and more doctors are waking up to this and I’m hopeful that we can come together, change our genes back to health, and beat the heck out of chronic diseases.