Food Hospital blog (Tues Nov 29 2011) The Food hospital with its shiny steel and glass exterior, bland blond interior and nice smiley presenters couldn’t be a less threatening place. Yet it is raising serious questions about just how competent is the treatment many of us are getting for chronic disorders. For several weeks now we’ve watched a parade of patients with conditions that aren’t life-threatening but can make life thoroughly miserable – depression, eczema, smelling like fish or faeces, gout, gall stones – being helped.
Two elements of their stories stand out. All were told there was nothing more to be done but to keep taking the pills/creams that obviously weren’t working or that they were imagining things. Some had also checked out possible treatments in the web and found nutritional treatments but wanted more guidance; that’s what many people do these days but doctors lack the knowledge to distinguish the silly from the plausible. Of course the Food Hospital was able to help but there has been nothing special about the treatments. They are what any competent nutritionist would recommend. Just how unacceptable would that be if we were talking about a garage chain? One that said you had to put up with the smoke billowing out the back or that you were just imagining the spongy feel of the brakes.
Especially when a rival chain down the road carefully found out what was causing the problem and then had solutions that didn’t involve major removal of parts. The complacent one would go out of business. The continuing medical resistance to making use of supplements, targeted diets and investigating allergies looks less and less like good medicine and more like defensive action in a turf war. This week we saw Ellie whose life was being made hell because she often stank like a fish. Her doctor had gone for the “you’re imagining it” diagnosis. The Hospital pointed to the cause – compound called choline commonly found in protein rich foods – which the body doesn’t break down properly, creating smelly by-products.
Basic biochemistry says you avoid choline-rich foods. What she needed was help putting together a diet that didn’t lead to severe protein deficiency. One reason why few doctors know about this is because it’s very rare but also there isn’t a drug involved. But there is far less excuse for ignoring food in cases as common as eczema. The case involved a teenager with nasty weeping patches on his hands that were ruling out his dream of becoming a flight attendant. Even though his condition was getting no better the only medical advice was to keep on with the creams. The food doctor explained that 10% of children responded to dietary changes but that it hadn’t been proved to work with adults. Still it was worth trying and the results were remarkable. After two months of taking out various foods his previously red itching hands were virtually clear.
The official position is that there is no proven link between eczema and foods but why have the trials not been done? The answer is depressingly familiar – little profit in it. Last week the Food Hospital was at No. 20 in the C4 charts with 1.78 million viewers, not brilliant but not bad considering half of the programs above it were either editions of the Simpsons or Come Dine with Me. For the next series what’s obviously needed is to play up the turf war. Have two sets of doctors - one lot relying on drugs, dismissing allergies and complaining about patients who imagine thing, while the other lot prescribe nutrition. Bring it on! If you want to really understand why drugs are bad medicine and which foods work better buy my book Food is better medicine than drugs which I co-wrote with Jerome Burne. Read this book and incorporate its advice into your personal health plan and strategy when dealing with your doctor.