A different way of looking at disease + the charming Dr Chatterjee

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Think about the people you know- your relatives, friends, acquaintances- and think about their health. Are they in 100% good health? Most people that I know have symptoms of some sorts. Some feel super tired no matter how much they sleep, some others get digestive problems and don't know what to eat, and then there are friends with headaches or skin problems, allergies, hormonal problems, aching joints, low mood, circulatory problems or various other complaints.... Up until a year or so ago I would have put up my hand for eczema, hayfever and joint pain (and I'd get those again if I didn't eat and live well!). 
So there's a lot of ill health around!

And when we're in pain or discomfort we obviously want this to end as soon as possible. So it's too easy to go for the quick-fix-solution and take drugs that suppress your symptoms. Phew- relief! But then as soon as we stop taking that drug or cream, the symptoms often reappear, perhaps in the same form or in some other way.
(Important side note:I'm not saying that there isn't a place for medication- there absolutely is! When you're acutely ill and are getting worried then thank goodness for potentially life-saving drugs and treatments!)

A different approach to chronic disease

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And now for the really interesting bit: There is another way of looking at ill health and it's quickly gaining popularity in mainstream media. Have you come across the rather charming Dr Rangan Chatterjee? Well, he was the star of the BBC One documentary series "Doctor in the House" in which he would visit one family each episode, investigating every aspect of their lives and then supporting the individuals with their health problems. He achieved remarkable results!

 

So what's new?

Say you meet Mr. Baker who's complaining of migraines. You give him a prescription for painkillers, or perhaps some drugs more specific for migraines called triptans, and you truly hope that they will make him feel better. Of course they won't actually stop the migraines from happening in the first place but Mr. Baker is a bit happier!

What if you instead decided to really get to know this Mr. Baker as a patient/client? You ask him to tell you all about any other symptoms that he may be getting, past and present. You ask him about his energy levels, his digestion, his mental health. You ask what he used to suffer from in his childhood and adolescence, and you talk a lot about his stress levels, and discuss big events in his life that might be linked to his present health. You talk about his diet -past and present-, how he's sleeping, whether he exercises, whether he smokes or drinks a lot. You talk about his social network, his job, and his general outlook on life. In short- you really get to know what's going on for Mr. Baker.

And then suddenly the whole scenario shifts from being "a case of migraines" to "Mr. Baker (who sometimes gets migraines)". You're not looking at or treating the disease, but rather you are supporting the person who has the disease. 

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Dr. Chatterjee calls this "personalised medicine". Nutritional Therapy also uses this approach: It is a highly individualised service that focuses on getting to know the client, understanding their health issues and then using diet, supplements (where needed and desired) and lifestyle changes to help address root causes of illness. 

If you're keen to hear more about this very different approach to health and disease then I'd highly recommend watching the video below. It's a TED talk by Dr. Chatterjee in which he's talking about his own experience practising as a GP in the UK, what got him interested in personalised medicine and in how far it can help people to get better. 18 minutes well spent!