Why Doctors Should Ask About What You Eat

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Nutrition and Preventative Healthcare When I was young, I would eat fast food like it was my part-time job. I remember the day I came to the realization that my life needed to change.

It was July 19, 2011. I was fatigued, always exhausted, and I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Then I had an epiphany. What if my lifestyle choices were making me sick and tired? I began to focus on the bigger picture: my food. I started by eating more fruits and vegetables.

A few times a week, I would take time from my day to “consciously” walk through a grocery store and browse through the food packages.

In other words, I began reading the labels on the products I was eating. I would question the chemical additives and other ingredients that I put into my body. I wanted to clearly understand the impact of my eating habits on my health.

What Should You Eat?

It is clear that a similar epiphany must click with others. In the U.S., 25% of people are eating fast food on a daily basis. Poor diets and nutritional deficiencies are root causes of most degenerative diseases, including skin problems, diabetes, heart disease, and various cancers.

Most people would agree that diet and nutrition are vastly important to their health. The problem is they just don’t know what to eat, and there are many conflicting medical opinions about what people should be eating.

The other day I tuned into the popular political, satirical talk show, HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. In this episode, Maher and his panel discussed skepticism in the medical establishment, vaccines, and food. Maher brought up some profoundly thought-provoking commentary about modern medicine and Western doctors.

Here is a summary of Maher’s most impactful points concerning food and our health care system:

  • “I’ve never heard of a doctor asking anybody—and no one has ever asked me (a Western doctor) when I went to them for anything—‘What do you eat?’ [It’s] the thing that perhaps is most influential in whatever may be wrong with us, or maybe it is exacerbating it.”
  • “[Doctors] address symptoms and not root causes.”
  • “[Doctors are] OK with things like aspartame…”
  • “GMOs—I remember five years ago if you said, ‘I don’t eat GMOs,’ you were a nut. Well, there’s a lot of nuts now, who at least want to know about GMOs.” (GMOs stand for genetically modified foods.)

Why Doesn’t a Doctor Ask About Food’s Impact on Health?

If you’re not questioning what you eat, why isn’t your doctor? I mean, if food has that big of an impact on your health, then why won’t doctors consider your food choices more closely?

The truth is doctors likely don’t really know what you should be eating. In a study published in Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that nutrition education at medical school is very inadequate.

The researchers distributed a two-page online survey to 127 accredited U.S. medical schools, and 109 schools completed at least some of the survey. Only 25% of the schools offered the minimum recommended nutrition education of 25 hours.

A Greater Impact on Whole Foods

I strongly believe there isn’t one single way of eating for everyone; however, the universal “healthy” diet should always contain whole foods. Because your doctor only addresses symptoms, you should address the root causes of your symptoms with additional health practitioners, like naturopathic doctors or holistic nutritionists.

For instance, holistic nutritionists will focus on your diet and nutrition choices as the root cause for your symptoms and diagnosed health conditions. They also lead you to other specialists that help you discover hidden food sensitivities or intolerances that could have an impact on digestion and other health issues. Then, they suggest appropriate nutrition advice to help you improve your health.

Although alternative therapies can be an expensive cost for people, I believe such therapies should be available within health plans. Also, doctors should have a greater foundation about diet and nutrition. This way, when they suspect a health condition, they can recommend a nutritional approach, or refer to a holistic nutritionist for more expertise.

Doctors currently refer patients to dietitians that also treat symptoms, whereas holistic nutritionists educate about the dangers of processed foods, environmental factors, and other root causes of the disease.

The Important Takeaway

When I heard Bill Maher’s segment, it was like I traveled back to 2011 when I had my epiphany about the impact of food on my health. The difference being, I made the change without being influenced by the media.

The important takeaway here is that there are large audiences, including the millions of Bill Maher viewers that are now being exposed to important questions about what they are eating.

By questioning the food they eat, it’s quite possible that the majority of people will greatly improve their health, thereby preventing the many diseases that plague the average American.

“Real Time with Bill Maher: Vaccination – February 6, 2015 (HBO),” YouTube web site, February 6, 2015; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7yvI0tu3Ho.
Chen, P.W., “Teaching Doctors About Nutrition and Diet,” The New York Times web site, September 16, 2010; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/16/health/16chen.html.
Adams, K.M., et al., “Nutrition Education in U.S. Medical Schools: Latest Update of a National Survey,” Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges 2010; 85(9): 1537-1542.