Lifestyle medicine is strictly connected with lifestyle. The 20th century is a period of quantum-leap progress in fighting illnesses and epidemics afflicting mankind.
20th century – a century of success in corrective medicine
The number of infections significantly decreased, and the mortality of infants and women in the perinatal period dropped. It was thought that some infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, diseases of childhood, and typhus disappeared once and for all. The improvement in health conditions was connected mainly with an increase in hygiene and the state of sanitation (water treatment, sewage system, higher sanitary norms for food, and increase in personal hygiene).
Corrective medicine has been taking the lead in therapeutics for many years. It has been paving the way in fighting diseases. Spectacular successes were accompanied by the conviction and people’s hope that it is actually a basic key to health and longevity. Unfortunately, the activities of correctivemedicine frequently damage health, leading to unnecessary pain, disability or even death. At the end of the 20th century it was estimated that 20% of patients left hospital with health complications in the wake of the drugs used as well as mistakes in treatment and diagnosis. How does it look at present? It is enough to look at the leaflets attached to drugs to convince oneself about the frequency of the occurrence of side effects or even serious complications and disease.
This all tends to lead to the conclusion that particular treatments may save life and health in individual cases, but their role is negligible in regard to the health condition of the overall population. The position of severe diseases is occupied by diseases of civilization, which are difficult to treat. Saving life only prolongs the period of old age, which is accompanied by many difficult to treat diseases and dysfunctions. Also, the progressive contamination of the environment as well as food produced and industrially processed add to new health problems with which even the best correctivemedicine cannot deal. Despite the further development of medicine, effective ways of treatment or prevention of chronic infectious diseases, a basic cause of death in industrialized societies, have not been developed.
Chronic diseases – the plague of our times
Diseases constituting a problem for medicine (diseases of the circulatory system, malignant tumors, psychiatric disorders, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune diseases and allergies) are strictly connected with living conditions, the environment, particular patterns of behavior and consumption, the overuse of drugs, too much or inappropriate food, lack or excess of physical activity, as well as ever-present stress.
Initially it was believed that the desired changes could be achieved through health education. Educational programs were created and implemented, brochures, posters, and leaflets were published, and the techniques of information-transfer were improved. Practice proved though that education itself and medicine functioning in its traditional form will not guarantee success. Completely new influences are needed, a change from dominating, corrective medicine to medicine focusing on activities sustaining and creating health and, consequently, providing increased immunity to illnesses untreatable on a mass scale.
A new discipline has been shaped – lifestyle medicine – seeking the origins of diseases at their base, dealing with them prophylactically, and fighting the causes of ailments, not just eliminating their negative effects. Scientific research confirms that comprehensive modification of lifestyle including diet, physical activity, addiction to stimulants, and the handling of stress may prevent many chronic diseases, constitute effective therapy, and complement medical corrective therapies.
Lifestyle medicine – hope for the better
WHO (the World Health Organization) estimates that soon two-thirds of diseases will be the result of improper lifestyle. Lifestyle Medicine is to be a discipline which will help to lower these estimates. Established in the year 2004, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) adopted the main standards for this branch of medicine:
- promotion of behavioral changes allowing the organism to treat itself independently
- concentration on the optimal way of nutrition, stress management, and properly selected physical activity
- active partner participation of patients
- treatment of the cause of a disease not only its effects
- a physician/guardian is to educate, lead and support patients in order to implement behavioral changes
- drugs are to be used complementarily to therapeutic changes in lifestyle
- household and environmental factors of a patient are to be assessed.
The foundation of lifestyle medicine is team care – strict cooperation between physicians, dietitians, personal trainers, as well as psychologists. Although recommendations in the scope of chronic diseases unambiguously show the necessity of lifestyle change as a first-line therapy, physicians frequently do not take them into account in their practice or they give the patient dry, unclear instructions such as: “please lose weight” or “please move more” without indicating the way to do so and the people who can help to achieve the goal. Nonetheless, it is slowly changing and, in more and more clinics, (especially those providing fully comprehensive medical care outside the NFZ), a dietitian, physiotherapist, or a psychologist are an indispensable part of the team.
There is not one universal, nutritional model for everyone
In accordance with the concept of lifestyle medicine, there is not one universal nutritional model for all people around the world regardless of race, sex, or age. One needs to seek individual solutions using solid knowledge and the available diagnostic methods. Products recommended in individual nutritional programs are supposed to provide not only a proper supply of nutritional elements but also belong to the foods most tolerated by a given person. It is a must to eliminate foods triggering IgE-dependent allergies or gluten for patients diagnosed with celiac disease as well as products for which there is scientific evidence that they are not recommended or even forbidden in particular ailments. In order to indicate the safest foods for a patient, a beneficial strategy is to identify and eliminate those products and food additives (dyes, preservatives, artificial sweetening substances which are ingredients in many food products and supplements) which trigger an inflammatory response.
The MRT – Mediator Release Test – is helpful in the development of such an individual nutritional map. Eliminating foods that trigger or exacerbate the chronic inflammatory state enables the limitation of ailments, the improvement of immunity, and the decrease in the systemic inflammatory state, which has an indirect impact on a more comfortable life and prevents or delays the development of chronic diseases. Developed on the basis of MRT test results, the LEAP program (Lifestyle, Eating and Performance) is a good solution for the selection of an individual, pro-health nutritional strategy.