Living With Chronic Illness is never easy but eating the right foods can help improve symptoms. 

More than 15 million people living in the UK have a long-term condition for which they require treatment. That’s more than 20 per cent of the population. Suffice to say, chronic illness is a national crisis, but one that we don’t seem to be able to do much about. 

Let Food Be Thy Medicine

Things may change in the future, but modern medicine today is all about “managing” disease. Rarely do practitioners use the word “cure” as they might have done in the age of antibiotics in the mid-twentieth century. We’ve slipped into a medical culture which sees disease as an inevitability. The goal is to manage illness so that people can have a slightly higher quality of life than they would otherwise. 

But is that the best we can do? Or is there scope to avoid these diseases entirely? 

The idea that a proper diet can prevent chronic disease is not new. It dates back to Hippocrates and the foundation of medication. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food.” But the notion that we can seriously make an impact on chronic disease with diet remains controversial. 

Dr Dean Ornish

Important note: not all chronic diseases can be changed by diet and living with chronic illness is not something one should take lightly! With that said, let’s move on. 

The Power Of Food To Fight Disease

You can’t just give out dietary advice to people without jumping through hoops. Can personal trainers write meal plans? Under current rules, they need to be careful. Registered dietitians are the only group of people in the UK who can recommend dietary changes to combat chronic disease. 

The problem is that the education that dietitians receive is highly conservative. There’s a prevailing view in the mainstream medical community that dietary interventions are at best an adjunct therapy – not something that can make a real difference to health. But anyone who looks into the science finds a different story. What people eat makes a profound difference in their health outcomes. 

We’ve Known Since The 1990s That Diet Can Help Fix Heart Disease

Dr Dean Ornish

Dr Dean Ornish

In the early 1990s, Dean Ornish, a US physician and researcher, wondered whether changing people’s diets could reverse heart disease. He decided that he wanted a definitive answer to the question, so he devised an experiment that would prove his hypothesis. He got rid of all the fatty food in patient’s diets and replaced it with veggies. 

The experiment was a randomised controlled trial – the best available. And it tracked patients who were severely ill with heart disease. Many had already had heart attacks. The study showed that you could reverse heart disease with diet, opening up arteries. It was as if people had never had heart disease in the first place.

Dean Ornish Study Reversing Heart Disease

Ornish published the results in The Lancet, the most prestigious medical journal in the world, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. The medical community wasn’t interested, and even today, the notion that you can reverse heart disease with vegetables is not widely accepted.

We have the evidence, but we don’t have the culture to go with it. People in the know understand the science and apply it in their lives. Everyone else has to make do with mainstream thinking. 

*This is a collaborative post*