I remember it like it was yesterday. It was an event that, on the surface, seemed relatively trivial yet when faced with what I was seeing in front of me completely changed my perception of what it meant to be a doctor. How often does that happen? How often do we face something that completely changes our paradigm of what is possible? Maybe once or twice in our lifetime. And here it was for me. Staring me in the face on just another normal day in a busy NHS practice.
Up until that moment I had trained at some of the best medical institutions in the UK and worked in some of the busiest hospitals covering a wide range of specialities. A whole bunch of brilliant professors, senior doctors and surgeons had helped me understand the human body, learn how diseases affected us and how to treat them through pharmacological drugs and invasive surgery when required. My education took place just before the information age and so I never questioned what I was being taught. It was a time when we actually learned from books not screens. Looking back now I feel I was so naïve. We never questioned, why when people got certain diseases caused by their lifestyle, like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure or heart disease, why did we not look to address the underlying cause? Why were we so quick to prescribe a lifelong pill?
Think of it like this – if you keep banging your head against the wall three times a day and you go to see your doctor with a headache – he (or she) may choose to quickly prescribe you a painkiller which helps relieve the pain. However had he addressed the underlying cause and told you to stop hitting your head and let your body recover, not only would you feel better but you also would not need any medication. Now replace the head hitting exercise with the three meals we eat per day and you start to see that what we eat and how we live our lives has a tremendous impact on our long term health and well being. We all know how important nutrition is to our health. So with that in mind let me ask you another question – How many lectures do you think as a trainee doctor did we have on nutrition over 6 years? I’ll give you a hint – the answer rhymes with hero.
So now back to that fateful day – it was 4 years ago. And in front of me were the blood test results of one of my patients. She had been a late diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and previously had high sugar (HbA1C) readings. However, she had agreed to try a different approach to her treatment – and had worked with me to make small changes to her diet, the amount she moved, how much she slept and how she dealt with stress. And six months on, in front of me now, her sugar readings were entirely normal. The same as a non-diabetic person. Not only that but her cholesterol was improved and her blood pressure readings were down the previous week at her nurse appointment. And she had not taken any medication. As a lovely side effect she had also lost 2 stones in weight, felt lighter, her joints no longer hurt and her self confidence had improved. She was the same patient but she felt like a new person.
“So this is what it means to help someone restore good health rather than just manage ‘their chronic long term condition’. And this is how good it feels”. Truth be told I had only acted as her guide – she had done the hard bit and made the small changes required. Although looking back at her journey she said the thought of making changes was harder than actually making them.
Over the next 2 years I read everything I could find about this “lifestyle medicine” which is where clinicians use evidence based lifestyle changes to improve their patient’s health including the reversal of chronic diseases. I helped more patients improve their lives through these means – it was not always successful – there was one key ingredient that some people really struggle with – consistency enacting positive changes. I think we all know that feeling.
And then in December 2017 I read in the Lancet about a ground breaking clinical trial where people with type 2 (non-insulin) diabetes were placed on 800 calorie meal replacement shakes and soups to lose large amounts of weight and stop their diabetic medication. They were then transitioned to a healthy eating plan to maintain their weight loss and the results were remarkable. Overall almost half of the people in the trial reversed their type 2 diabetes and in those people who had managed to lose more than 15kg of weight almost 9 out of 10 reversed their diabetes. That’s almost 90%. I had to find out more.
I reached out to the team that ran the trial to find out how I could offer this to my patients. However there was no NHS or private service that offered this. I looked at the market to see what meal replacement options I could recommend – however the more I learnt about the industry and the use of high level of artificial sweeteners the less inclined I was to recommend them to my patients. So I spent the next year working with dietitians and industry experts to create a range of meal replacements products that tasted great and were as natural and healthy as possible. However just as important was the clinical support required to help people in their weight loss journey and to this end I managed to create a family of highly skilled clinical experts in weight loss and maintenance. Our GPs lead this team and through experience and research became specialised in helping people come off their diabetic and blood pressure medication as their condition improved – something most GPs are reluctant to do due to lack of guidance and experience.
Our programme combines the science underpinning the clinical trials and our experience delivering effective lifestyle interventions to help people lose weight quickly and safely, which can significantly improve or even reverse their long term health conditions. Our programme has been set up to be delivered remotely to anywhere in the UK and our team are able to work around your busy schedule. Our registered nutritionists and dietitians are super friendly, highly experienced and tailor the programme to your individual habits and behaviours.
It has been an incredible journey so far and we have enjoyed every minute working side by side with our patients who have seen incredible results. We look forward working with you in 2020 and beyond. The decision to let us help you achieve your best health may be the most important decision you make this year. Stay safe, look after yourself and each other.
Dr. Farhan Rabbani
NHS GP & The DRC Founder/Medical Director
Learn more about The Diabetes Reversal Company.