I am a medical doctor and a qualified Lifestyle Medicine Physician (dipl BSLM/IBLM). I also have a PhD (DPhil) in genetics.
After working for several years at hospitals in Brighton and London I took a career break to focus on my family.
My journey into Lifestyle Medicine began when I started my own family and researched the best choices I could make for them in terms of physical and mental wellbeing. I found that there are a wealth of quality studies showing the staggering benefits, in both the short and long-term, of making positive lifestyle choices. Up until this point I had a very conventional medical approach to health, but once I went back to the science I realised that whilst there is a definite place for pharmaceuticals, these are relatively blunt tools compared with shifting a person’s trajectory away from illness altogether.
I think we would struggle to think of anyone who's own life or that of a loved one has not been affected by illness.
My own father was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in his early 40s. Since my 20s he has suffered multiple heart attacks, had open heart surgery and multiple stents to open up the blood vessels that supply his heart. He has been blind from diabetic eye damage for the past decade which means he has never seen the faces of 3 of his 4 grandchildren. His body has been degrading for decades robbing him of a quality of life, and my mother has been his carer at a time in their lives when they should be enjoying financial stability and quality time with their children and grandchildren. There is no drug treatment that reverses diabetes, but there is very strong evidence that it can be prevented and reversed by making moderate lifestyle changes.
These very same changes reduce the risk of dementia, cancer, strokes, depression and a huge number of other illnesses. I am certain that if we had implemented these changes at the start of his diagnosis my parents' lives would be strikingly different today.
My first foray into Lifestyle Medicine came with helping a family member, who felt he was being sensible, yet couldn't get his diabetes under control. Since he knew my father, the worsening state of his kidneys and eyes were really worrying him. We started by modifying his diet and exercise and within 6 months we reversed his diabetic eye damage and kidney damage. Typically these would have worsened, potentially leading to blindness and dialysis.
Whilst medications deal with symptoms and can slow deterioration, they do not reverse disease. It is one thing to read the theory, but quite another to see the effects on a person‘s life of making such changes.
At this point I realised that this was how I must practice medicine - it is more powerful to truly treat rather than simply obscure the effects of illness.
Every year, our Chief Medical Officer (CMO) produces a report on the state of the health of our nation. Chris Whitty's report for 2020 found that we spend 20% of our lives in poor health- and worryingly this proportion has been increasing.
Having seen what this looks like I would not want it for myself, anyone I care for or anyone at all.
Whilst modern medicine has turned the tide for infectious diseases, maternal and infant mortality and a range of illnesses, it is not the solution for our biggest causes of disability and death anymore. These illnesses- such as heart disease, diabetes, most cancers, dementia, are lifestyle diseases - we don't have to suffer from these diseases and their consequences.
I am fortunate to be a part of the process when people want to take control of the trajectory of their health and happiness. I think there is a grassroots movement within the NHS towards a style of medicine that deals with preventing and reversing disease which is where the real power of health lies. But such cultural changes take time. and I feel too passionate about this style of medicine to wait for that to happen.
Thus 'My Wellness Doctor' was born.
I am delighted you've stopped by to join us on this exciting journey!
My own journey into lifestyle medicine began with my father.
At the age of 5 I woke to find my dad on the landing outside my bedroom door, balancing on his head, pulling strange faces at me. Naturally curious, I queried his actions; “It’s y-yoga.” he grunted.
The following morning, I suspiciously eyed his bowl of
soya yoghurt, berries and crushed nuts. “Yoghurt! I blurted, I dreamt about that.” Over the years this led to further discussions about the importance of balance in life in general…
As is often the case, my motivation for a career in medicine was also personal experience. My Nan suffered badly with an autoimmune disorder that affected the function of her organs including her heart which would occasionally ‘fail’.
I know what you may be thinking: “Her heart would
OCCASIONALLY fail?!” Yes. As a teenager I would watch as a quick ‘magic’ intervention from her GP would transform her from a gasping, breathless, blue horror show, to her normal conversational self.
I wanted to understand this ‘magic’ and so I became a GP.
Every day I see the extreme consequences of poor (or even
sub-optimal) lifestyle choices, in the form of cancer, diabetes,
COPD, heart disease, strokes, heart attacks – all preventable.
Often people think they have a “good diet doc”, but in fact,
although they watch their sugar and salt, and take the dog out
for a walk each day this is not enough, given how ubiquitous
sugar and salt are, and how stressful modern life can be.
I have spent a greater proportion of my life eating meat, dairy,
eggs, junk food, takeaway food, salt, sugar etc. My Fitbit
informs me that over a 5 year period I averaged about 5 hours
of sleep per night and managed about 6000 steps per day. I am
in no position to judge anyone (except perhaps myself, and
maybe the Fitbit marketing department (:-) so I understand
when people believe that to change more than this would be
“extreme” and “too diffcult” (I often hear the phrase: “What’s
the point in living longer if life is miserable?”).
Given the new studies coming out, this sentiment is far from the truth and through personal experience consisting of small but consistent steps towards impactful lifestyle changes I have seen first-hand how a transformation is possible.
To explain this more poetically;
just as a wonderful scent is a natural expression of a flowering rosebud, compassion is the perfume of awakened living.
In other words, we must put aside defensive or long-held ideas about how we thought things should be done, and honestly ask ourselves if the way we’ve always done things carries a scent of compassion to ourselves, the world and others.
Welcome to My Wellness Doctor.
I look forward to hearing from you.