The history of medicine over the last 100 years has been nothing short of miraculous. The diseases that used to kill millions, smallpox, tuberculosis, typhoid, typhus, cholera, pneumonia have all but disappeared. Doctors have effective treatments for heart failure, diabetes, renal failure, liver failure, colitis, coeliac disease, and many other long term conditions. They can prevent heart attacks, strokes, treat Parkinson’s Disease and arrest the course of many different cancers. People are living far longer; eighty is the new sixty.
We have come a long way and might be forgiven for thinking that human disease will soon become a historical curiosity, a thing of the past. Yet why is it that nearly twice as many people harbour long term illnesses now than they did 40 years ago. Obesity, food intolerance, the Irritable Bowel, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Depression, Fibromyalgia, Dementia, auto-immune disease, allergy are so much more common that they used to be; some were unknown 40 years ago. Modern medicine has failed to keep up with the long march of poorly explained illnesses; the 40% of the population that are chronically sick usually have several diagnoses. So what is going on? Is it all in the mind? Is it lifestyle; greed, sloth and the obesity epidemic? Does our diet and antibiotics deplete the beneficial bacteria that make up 90% of the cells in our body? Is it all the above and more?
Medical philosophy has remained stuck in heady days of the last century – a pill for every ill - make a definitive diagnosis, apply a specific treatment and receive thanks from a grateful patient. It has become clear that this approach does not work for most ‘illness’, yet people are conditioned to expect it and doctors trained to deliver it. We urgently need to change the paradigm for long term sickness, while retaining the technological miracles for those who need them. Nick's talk will propose a way that this could happen, which might even save money.
Dr Nick Read (www.nickread.co.uk) is a retired gastroenterologist, physiologist and nutritionist and currently maintains a private practice in psychotherapy. During his academic career, he held chairs in Gastrointestinal Physiology, Human Nutrition and Integrated Medicine at The University of Sheffield, published over 500 original papers and reviews and 11 books, including ‘Sick and Tired; healing the illnesses, doctors cannot cure,’ (Phoenix, 2006), which helps people understand and manage illnesses that have no clear cause or pathology. Dr Read is now an active blogger (www.thesensitivegut.wordpress.com) and the Chair of Trustees and medical adviser for The IBS Network (www.theibsnetwork.org), the UK’s national charity for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome with a mission to facilitate patient efficacy and self-management. A dedicated advocate of self-care, Dr Read attempts to delay the ageing process by fell running, wild swimming and infinite curiosity. His latest book, Cooking for The Sensitive Gut (Pavilion, 2016), co-authored with Joan Ransley, was published in January.