The Full Story
To be well again with Lifestyle Medicine
Practicing medicine in the 21st century is extremely intriguing. What we practice today came from the amazing works of von Liebig’s invention of chloral hydrate, Fleming’s invention of penicillin, Curie’s discovery of radiation as a form of therapeutics, and the subsequent cascade of synthetic pharmaceuticals that has helped cure diseases, remission cancers and prolong life.
However, that is also where trouble begins.
Whilst our average life expectancy is now extended to an additional 15 to 20 years compared to those born in the 1950’s, long term health conditions are also occurring at a younger age. Although the longevity of life is not affected, the quality of life is. It is also not uncommon for one health condition to lead to another, or a person to be prescribed one medication only to add on another (a situation termed polypharmacy). For example, there is a child in school who has difficulty focusing and whilst we have the medication to treat and resources to support the child, will the same needs be met as an adult? Another example is the older person who had survived two different cancer types and is on medication for both inflammatory and metabolic health conditions. There are also many examples of tired and fatigued young adults whose life is only just beginning and who are still approaching their prime.
Here’s the question – what is making people sick?
We can also liken our body to that of a Ferrari. This feat of mechanical engineering is stunning, remarkable and fast. Anyone would stop and pay attention to the Ferrari whether it is stationary or on the move. However, with the wrong fuel and lack of maintenance, this majestic machine will soon sound horrid on the road and then breaks down frequently. With persistent neglect over time, it will soon look sorry and we all know it will not last much longer on the road despite repairs.
Amidst the chaos of today’s world, it is normal to force our body to perform like the Ferrari. We must be clever, look good, meet deadlines and be available to those we love. However, we have become unskilled in nourishing, nurturing, and resting it. This neglect manifests as feeling chronically fatigued, falling sick on the first day of our holiday, a persistent infection despite antibiotics, or annoying bodily functions often invalidated by clinical findings and panels of laboratory tests. Over time, earlier onset of familial health conditions often occurs like gout, obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, dementia, inflammatory conditions and even cancer.
Poor health is a concern demonstrable on the annual New Zealand Health Surveys. Our health budget has increased at least 3 times for the treatment of chronic health conditions in the past decade. In 2021, it is forecasted that 1.77 billion NZ dollars will be needed to treat diabetes alone. We are also developing chronic health conditions at a younger age and living longer in poor health. Like the neglected Ferrari, it is a painful thing to watch especially as a doctor.
Lifestyle Medicine is a new branch of medicine that helps people optimise their diet and lifestyle habits with the intention to reduce medication use. We now know it also remissions chronic health conditions, turns oncological conditions to chronic health conditions, and catapults human performance. This is achieved in a multidisciplinary manner with the person involved as the expert in their personal lives. The therapeutic interventions include adjustments to their diet, physical activities, sleep, psychological state, and optimising conventional or alternative pharmaceuticals. These might be big or small adjustments, but the focus is on consistency and done so with a lot of care and attention.
Perhaps this is the fountain of youth.
As the little I do in Family Medicine already makes a huge impact on the patients I see, I wanted to do more and as a result, needed to break away from the traditional model of care. I started Real Healthy Me in Christchurch 3 days prior to the first COVID-19 2020 lockdown in New Zealand. Despite the difficult start, the results we see here are amazing, and almost magical. The time required to help patients achieve their health goals is 3 times faster than what I would see in primary care. I believe the reason is not only due to the motivation of the clients I see but the allied health and multidisciplinary support the clients receive from health coaches, dietitians and other affiliates. Results, of course, vary between clients, and it is the long game rather than the immediate effect clients want.
At Real Healthy Me, let me and my team help you optimise your body and health. We do this by identifying your health needs and goals, and then hold you accountable to your individualised health plan with health coaches. You will learn how to nourish and heal your body with what you are already doing everyday – eating, moving, sleeping, thinking and connecting. We can also teach to you “boost” your health for specific life goals. The health solution is simple as the body already knows how to take care of you. The hardest part is for you to take care of it. For that, we are here to help.
Wishing you good health.
Dr. Olivia Currie
MBChB DCH PGDipGP FRNZCGP FASLM
Family and Lifestyle Medicine Specialist