The National Health Service – Is it a National Disease Service and what will really precipitate change?

Is this a familiar scenario for you?


  • You struggle to get an appointment with your doctor
  • you sit in the waiting room surrounded by ill people
  • you have a few precious minutes with your doctor
  • the doctor’s attitude seems to be “I need to treat the symptoms that this person is presenting”
  • after an initial cursory chat the doctor reaches for prescription pad and writes a prescription
  • you leave the Dr’s surgery clutching your prescription and head for the chemist to have it fulfilled


The above scenario is very much what happens when I visit my doctor, and I’m sure it is a common scenario that resonates with many people.


But does it have to be like this?


Is there an alternative approach that could be taken as to how doctors interact with patients and the advice and support that is given?


I’ve been asking my Twitter followers today if they have a doctor who thinks about lifestyle and nutritional changes before reaching for the prescription pad.


Most of the responses that I got were consistent with the scenario that I laid out above. Almost nobody in the UK said that the doctor even considers lifestyle or nutritional changes as part of the consultation process.  Interestingly from the USA the response I got were different.  Some folks said that due to the cost of healthcare in the US that they are forced to or choose to consider what they can do to support or improve their health before paying to see a physician.




So what would precipitate change, here in the UK?


As we all know, the National Health Service (NHS) is one of the key expense areas to any British government of modern times. It’s something that as a nation we are and should be (in my opinion) proud of and that we are keen to retain. The NHS is part of the British DNA, however I believe that it faces a huge challenge in that it cannot simply continue digging ever deeper into the country’s pockets for more and more money to support the many and varied services that it provides.


The issue of funding is going to become ever more important.  I envisage that a serious funding crisis will be the catalyst for change in the way that doctors deal with their patients and how patients will have to begin to take responsibility for their own health and well-being. In an age where the National Health Service can no longer provide a “a pill for every ill” that is paid for or highly subsidised by the government, both doctors and patients will see a paradigm shift in the way that they interact with one another.


I strongly believe that it will only be a crisis of funding that will make our health service sit up and take notice that there are alternatives to simply prescribing many of the products of pharmaceutical companies to address the many and varied symptoms and the underlying causes of some of the chronic diseases that we see so frequently in British society. When there is no money left in the kitty to provide these medications and procedures then we will have no option but to consider other courses of action. My sincere hope is that before we get to this point, the NHS and doctors will wake up and realise that discussing lifestyle changes and supporting their patients in taking responsibility for their own health through nutrition is one way in which the health service can dramatically not only save money but increase the health of the nation.


I for one want to see the day when I go to my doctor and find that the surgery is no longer a place where people are waiting to receive a prescription, but rather a centre of wellness, where good practice nutrition and health are being promoted rather than disease care and a system that rewards the shareholders of the big pharmaceutical companies. Of course I recognise that some diseases and ailments will still require medication, however I believe that a large proportion of the NHS’s budget could be saved through a radical change in which GP services are re-focused.


I look forward to the day when my doctor’s surgery will provide health and wellbeing classes, advice on nutrition, even discounted fresh food that will help patients change their health destiny and address their health concerns in a holistic way.

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Plant-based eating – Does it improve athletic performance?

Ok. So I am a sample of 1, but if my experiences are anything to go by, the answer is yes.

Yes – My athletic performance and recovery are both massively improved on a plant- based diet.

Ok – So I am not known for my athletic prowess, BUT….I have found that I do not ache after Personal Training Sessions.  My muscles recover quickly so I can train the next day.  Not bad for a (still) flabby 50 something.  My performance at my training sessions is stellar compared to what it was years ago.  Today i did 3 sets of 32kg bicep curls, I’d never have done that years ago.  I can work out so much better that before, training for longer and lifting heavier weights.

So, a sample of 1 – and not the most shining example of health and fitness yet, as I am still on my journey to improve my health.  So I asked others.  Here are a sample of what I had back as replies:

  • “Personally, I recover much faster. Most of our community will tell you the same. Plants are nurturing foods. :)” @VegRunChat
  • “for me that was the first benefit I noticed after becoming plant based, first of many” and “not a scientist but I think that a lot of plants are anti inflammatory as well as vitamin e aids in muscle recovery” @Bry_nFlynn 
  • “I find I recover faster which allows me to go longer & faster.. & lift heavier!” and “digesting massive amounts of animal protein takes days while the body quickly breaks down plants & absorbs their nutrients” @MeaganDunnCole

So then I started digging and found lots and lots of articles on how plant-based eating improves athletic performance.  One of the best, I have re-produced below.

This was written by @VegRunChat and the original article can be found here: http://vegrunchat.com/blog/5-benefits-of-running-plant-based/

Its a great site with lots of great info – check it out – http://vegrunchat.com/ but not before you read the article….

I went meat free about 3 weeks ago. I already notice that I have more energy, stamina, and I recover faster.” @Futurisa

I can run longer and faster with less fatigue since switching to a plant based diet.” @IRanWithRobert

These are a just a couple of the tweets making their way onto Twitter from plant-based runners who claim that a meat-free diet has remarkably improved their athletic performance.  It’s no surprise that, with books like Eat & Run, Finding Ultra, and the newly released No Meat Athleterunners have jumped on board a plant-based diet.  But what are the real benefits?  Is it all a bunch of hype?  Here are five ways that a plant-based diet can help boost your running career:

Less weight to carry – Eating a diet that excludes meat, eggs, cheese, and dairy will not only shed pounds, but keep the weight off.  Add running to the equation and you’ll have a body that’s perfectly sculpted, ready for any athletic challenge.  Many vegan runners (including Scott Jurek) claim that a plant-based diet has allowed them to become faster and use far less energy due to their decreased weight.  This is especially beneficial to those who run marathon (or greater) distances, as they can make better use of their energy stores.

Perfect Proteins – A plant-based diet provides runners with all of the nutrients that the body requires. Yes, even protein.  In fact, plants contain some of the most complete proteins around.  A complete protein contains each of the nine essential amino acids which we cannot live without (Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine).  Take hemp hearts and flax seeds for example; they contain all of the essential amino acid chains and contain 20 and 31 grams of protein per serving, respectively.  Furthermore, plant-based foods don’t contain artery-clogging saturated fats or cholesterol like animal-based sources of protein.

Increased bone density – Although the meat and dairy industry would love for us to believe that the secret to strong bones is milk, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Yes, milk contains up to 300mg of calcium per cup.  But what the nutrition label doesn’t tell you is that our bodies hardly absorb this calcium, or make good use of it.  Milk (like all animal proteins) acidifies our bodies PH level which triggers a natural counter-reaction.  In an attempt to correct matters, our bodies pull calcium (which is a natural acid neutralizing element) from our bones.  The excreted calcium then leaves the body through urine, leaving us with a calcium deficiency.  On the other hand, plant foods with high levels of calcium (collards, kale and sweet potatoes) will boost bone health without affecting the body’s PH.

Energy Surge – Many runners claim that after switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet, their energy levels are restored to a level they haven’t experienced since childhood.  But why is this?  Simply put, plant-based foods contain all of the essential vitamins and nutrients we need to perform at our best.  Moreover, plant-based eaters appear to be more consciousness about other ingredients in their food.  Animal-free eaters typically omit foods that contain preservatives, additives, sweeteners, and other artificial ingredients.  Removing these ingredients from your diet enables your body to make the best use of your food.  Without these foreign ingredients, your body can process and digest foods easier, allowing for more energy to be used for better things – like running!

Faster Recovery – Plants are often referred to as nourishing foods.  This is because they do just that; nourish our bodies, replenishing lost vitamins and nutrients.  Most running pains which occur in the hips and joints are due to inflammation – the body’s normal protective response to an injury or infection.  But many plant foods contain anti-inflammatory properties that alleviate this pain and reduce inflammation.  So put that Aleve and Tylenol aside.  Use walnuts, garlic, turmeric, or fresh olives the next time you experience joint discomfort.  You will be back to running before you know it!

Are you still concerned about making the switch to a plant-based diet?  Worried it could impede your running?  You don’t have to make a full commitment to eating plants and go all-in at first.  Start out by making a few changes, and see how you feel.  You may be surprised to find that removing just meat and milk from your meals will promote faster recover and energy.  If you would like more information, I invite you to join us for#VegRunChat on Twitter Sunday nights at 9pm EST.  During the hour-long chat we discuss plant-based foods and how they relate to running performance.  You will find that it is extremely educational and fun.  We even give away prizes!

Have you ever considered going plant-based or vegetarian?  What has kept you from giving it a try?

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