How Much Does Your Doctor Know About Nutrition?
Dr. Kristie Leong
As more and more studies confirm the importance of healthy food choices in preventing and treating disease, nutrition has become an important part of what constitutes good medical care. Unfortunately, the curriculum taught at most medical schools only superficially touches upon this fundamentally important topic. This means that doctors are taking on the role of health care providers without a firm grasp of the role nutrition plays in causing, preventing, and treating diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. When it comes to healing and nutrition, why is there such a gap in knowledge among practicing medical doctors? Can you trust what your own doctor tells you about nutrition?
One of the reasons for a lack of focus on nutrition in the training of doctors is that physicians are primarily trained to treat disease using conventional methods which generally involves the use of antibiotics and drugs. Drugs and antibiotics are a “quick fix” that gives both the patient and doctor the immediate gratification they're looking for, although in some cases these medications can do significant harm in the process. Doctors feel most comfortable when they can see immediate improvement in a patient’s condition and may feel inadequate when they can’t achieve a fast cure. Plus, the lack of in-depth knowledge and training in the principles of nutrition are a limiting factor for some doctors.
What about the role of healing and nutrition in disease prevention? This is where nutrition can have its strongest impact. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of pursuing a healthy diet for weight control and disease prevention. So, why do so few doctors discuss a patient’s diet with them? Again, this goes back to lack of knowledge and training as well as the time pressure of needing to see patients quickly. In the best case scenario, the patient will be referred to a nutritionist for nutritional counseling or diet and nutrition will only be mentioned briefly in passing.
If this is the case, how can you find a doctor who is knowledgeable about the role of healing and nutrition? One way is to explore the marketplace in your area and find a doctor who practices both conventional and naturopathic medicine. Doctors who have training in both disciplines are more likely to have a strong background in nutrition and more willing to use it for disease prevention and treatment. Naturopathic doctors usually have N.D. at the end of their name in addition to M.D, which signifies their more conventional training. If you have a newspaper or journal in your area that deals with alternative medicine, as many cities do, you can often find these doctors advertising these services.
Another alternative is to use the services of both a conventional medical doctor and a naturopathic one. This would allow you to get a second opinion from either practitioner in the event you’re not comfortable with a treatment. You would also have the option of getting more in-depth nutritional advice from the naturopathic doctor. At the very least, make sure your regular medical doctor is willing to refer you to a good nutritionist who understands the role of healing and nutrition so you can get the best care possible.
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