What is Lifestyle Medicine?
“in order to keep well, one should simply avoid too much food, too little toil”
"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human body, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease."
- Thomas Edison
The evolutionary process, from which modern humans arose, selected for traits optimized for an environment very different from what we live in today. Our hunter-gather forebearers, walked and ran long distances, often carrying significant weight. Hunger was a frequent companion, and they ate when, and as much as they could. Night-time was dark, a time for rest and sleep, daytime was active. By our standards, they were filthy - colonized by a diverse collection of bacteria, fungi and viruses. And though their microbiota were large and diverse their social groups were small - no greater than 150 people.
Not surprisingly, evolution selected human genes that optimized our abilities to be calorie efficient and benefit from activity. We are designed to store excess calories in fat, to draw upon when calories are scarce, as they so often were. Our muscles and bones get stronger with usage. Our bodies operate on a diurnal rhythm with up to 30% of our genes turned on or off by the light-dark cycle, building in regular periods for cellular repair and regeneration. Many of our biological systems depend on interaction with a diverse variety of micro-organisms and their genetic products. Socially, our capabilities max out at around 150 relationships.
So we find ourselves in an evolutionary mismatch between the world our genes were selected for and the sedentary, fast-food, 24 hour, constant stimulus, Facebook world.
It is any wonder that the diseases we increasingly face at epidemic levels are rooted in this mismatch?
Simply put, we are not designed to live the modern lifestyle.
Lifestyle medicine leverages this insight by utilizing lifestyle interventions such as nutrition, physical activity, stress reduction, sleep, smoking cessation and the avoidance of alcohol abuse to prevent, manage and reverse disease.
This approach can be implemented at any point in a disease process, but it is important to realize that since most chronic diseases take 15 to 20 years to develop, environmental evolutionary mismatches slowly disrupt biological systems eventually cascading towards disease. These disruptions can be detected prior to the diagnosis of disease, and reversed through lifestyle behavioural interventions. Progress can be measured through improvements in key biomarkers. This strategy can be used alongside conventional medical approaches to help manage and actually even reverse disease. The most powerful examples of disease reversal come from Ornish’s (http://www.healthways.com/blog/the-future-of-health-care) work with heart disease and the recent application of therapeutic nutritional strategies for diabetes.
It is no wonder that Lifestyle Medicine has been called "the Future of Healthcare”.
At Wellness Garage, we use a lifestyle medicine approach to precisely assess our client’s current risk - we then help them develop lifestyle strategies to optimize their health and prevent disease. Where disease is present, we look to manage and reverse the underlying processes, often eliminating the need for medications. Our approach is evidence based and personalized to each client’s goals.
To learn more - book a free consultation or request more information
Dr. Brendan Byrne