Preventing, managing and reversing chronic disease
Lifestyle medicine is a branch of evidence-based medicine in which comprehensive lifestyle changes (including nutrition, physical activity, stress management, social support and environmental exposures) are used to prevent, treat and reverse the progression of chronic diseases by addressing their underlying causes.
However, lifestyle medicine is not just about avoiding or treating disease. It’s also about feeling well and having the energy and physical capacity to engage in activities that are personally meaningful – to truly thrive.
Lifestyle medicine is not integrative, alternative or functional medicine – it is based on conventional medical and health sciences – and the prescription of supplements is limited to proven deficiency states (eg. iron) or environmental scarcity (eg. B12, Vit D).
The lifestyle medicine approach does not preclude simultaneous use of conventional therapies although it often works so well that medications are no longer required.
In lifestyle medicine, the patient-practitioner relationship is more collaborative than prescriptive, with the patient (if we may continue to use this term) taking an active role in planning and implementing behaviour change.
Lifestyle medicine takes a team approach to patient care: the doctor, dietitian, health coach and other health practitioners all working together as an interdisciplinary team which includes the patient.
There are at least six foundations of health that are encompassed by lifestyle medicine: nutrition, stress management and emotional wellness, social connectedness, physical activity, sleep and substance use. I consider nutrition the keystone. When you get the nutrition right, mental health improves, sleep improves, and you feel more like physical activity. However, all the domains of healthy lifestyle are important. It’s a bit like a combination lock which can only be opened by turning each dial to the right number – you need to do reasonably well in every domain to optimise your health and well-being.