The Tim Noakes HPCSA Trial started again this week and after reading up on how it has been proceeding I felt compelled to share my point of view. I will end off this post with an excerpt of an article written on me by Forbes Magazine which clearly highlights why I feel so strongly about this topic and why I have so much disdain for what I deem are apathetic practitioners.
A Quick Recap for Those Who Haven’t Been Following the Story:
- The hearing is by the Health Professions Council of South Africa on behalf of dietician Claire Strydom.
- Claire Strydom is the former president of the Association for Dietetics in SA (ADSA).
- Claire Strydom lodged a complaint with the HPCSA following a tweet posted by Professor Tim Noakes in February 2014, in response to a question posed by a mother (see tweet below)
Apathy in the Medical Fraternity
The actual case seems rather ridiculous and the media has recently reported that Claire Strydom has subsequently said she ‘overreacted’ to the tweet however I do believe that this is a pivotal trial in the nutrition world and it is in no way trivial. This trial has shown that people are getting sick and tired of being sick and tired. They are searching for information on how to get more life out of life! There is a movement developing where people are taking charge of their own health and this is exciting. The trial has been dubbed the “Nutrition Trial of the Century” precisely because it should, and hopefully will, highlight the number one cause (in my humble opinion) for ill health over the last two to three decades: irresponsibility. We, you, me, society in general have abdicated responsibility for our own wellbeing. We have been irresponsible by virtue of the fact that we have succumbed to marketing tactics and have taken our health and the maintenance thereof and completely handed it over, placing it into the care of others. And those ‘others’ we have entrusted with our health have somehow forgotten what it actually means to be responsible for the care of another’s wellbeing. In my view, to be responsible means to be open to the acknowledgement that perhaps you don’t know it all. It means possibly having to change your mind, do an about turn and admit that perhaps what you knew or know is not what is best. Prof Noakes did that when he back-tracked on his original theory regarding carbo-loading and more and more physicians are following in his wake. Watch this 16 minute TED talk to see what I mean. We desperately NEED more physicians like Dr Peter Attia!
How Well Do You Know Your Home?
Whenever I am asked to speak about my health journey, the number one tip I give to people has absolutely nothing to do with exercise or nutrition. My number one imperative to getting healthy is to take responsibility for it and get educated, the onus is on you as the individual to get healthier. I often use the analogy of a home: You don’t live in your house not knowing where the light switches are, or where the washing machine or bedrooms are located. Nor do you not know how to operate the various appliances in your home. You didn’t buy a washing machine and neglect to read the instructions, operating it incorrectly and thereby causing it to malfunction because if you did you paid the heavy cost of making that mistake. And while you may not be the expert on how all those appliances function, you certainly know enough about them and how to use them. And when something fails due to normal wear and tear, you call in the experts; the plumber, the electrician, the DSTV guys. So it stands to reason that to the degree to which you are ignorant about the functioning of the various appliances in your own home, is the degree to which you will be successfully helped or taken for a ride and possibly ripped off when you need to consult an expert when things go awry. In this information age of increased internet connectivity and access and with the advent of social media, you have more than enough resources to consult in order to clue yourself up, free of charge might I add. So there is pretty much no excuse for being ignorant.
So when it comes to your health, the same principle applies, however simplistic as it may seem. Here’s a typical scenario: You visit your doctor because you’re not feeling well and you arrive at his/ her rooms completely ill prepared. He/she does their best to draw information out of you because at the end of the day, they have studied for all those years in order to make what is pretty much an educated, informed guess. And so, to the degree that you cannot provide them with as much helpful, complete information as possible, is to the degree that you will spend a fortune trying to solve the problem through further consultations and unnecessary medication. It is meant to be a reciprocal relationship, you do your part and he or she does theirs. By the same token, their ‘doing their bit’ includes remaining abreast of current research and trends, however, all too often physicians are quick to dismiss new treatments on the premise that evidence is “anecdotal” or that “not enough research has been conducted” on the matter. So they wait until such evidence is available and by then it could be too late for many a patient. I believe it is a physician’s responsibility to lay out ALL possible options before their patient, giving the patient the best chance at treating their given ailment.
Hippocratic Oath, Antiquated or Not?
Before I go off on my personal rant, I need to state that while it sounds like I’m generalising, and to a great extent perhaps I am, I am not lambasting every doctor out there. I am currently working with an excellent naturopathic physician, Dr Gerrie Lindeque; I have friends who work in the medical field and I certainly do respect the many doctors and specialists out there who serve with the sole purpose being to benefit humanity. That being said, far too many doctors and specialists (and I’m going to throw in dieticians here) forget the underlying principles and ethos of why they do what they do.
The original Hippocratic Oath, whether it is considered antiquated or not, was written by either Hippocrates, who was considered the Father of Medicine, or one of his scholars and while it has been amended over the years, the original Greek translation includes a powerful phrase (emphasis my own): “With regard to healing the sick, I will devise and order for them the best diet, according to my judgment and means; and I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage. Hippocrates is also quoted as saying that “all disease begins in the gut” and yet very few doctors will look at a patient’s diet when treating sickness and disease. Moreover, very few doctors are actually qualified to give nutritional advice so we are expected to seek this advice from qualified dieticians which is what makes this case all the more interesting. Guess what? And this shouldn’t be a newsflash to anyone, but to the many dieticians choosing to oppose the idea that there is merit and value in a Banting lifestyle, SUGAR AND ADDITIVES AND PRESERVATIVES HARM PEOPLE and they are present in the many foods you DO recommend to people over a Banting diet. More importantly, and referencing this points of this case, sugar and preservatives, fillers and additives destroy the digestive tracts of babies yet so many of you would so easily recommend foods that contain these substances, including commercial baby foods which are loaded with sugars and other harmful ingredients, over Banting approved foods or a Banting lifestyle. The foods and the eating philosophy that Prof. Tim Noakes recommends in Banting and the principles he encourages people to adopt do not ‘hurt’ nor do they ‘damage’ when they are applied according to the specifications in his book and I have to wonder whether any of you have actually read the book and specifically the 10 Commandments of Banting?
Am I Banting?
While I have taken this opportunity to defend Banting and Prof. Time Noakes the answer to this question is yes and no. Ha ha ha don’t worry, I am not double dipping!! I currently follow a diet very similar to Banting which is based on the work of a UK-based Neurologist and Nutritionist, Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride. In previous posts on my blog I have made mention of my fight against leaky gut syndrome and my struggle with eczema since I was a baby as well as other allergies and associated conditions and some of the foods approved in the Banting diet (such as milk and cream) are not recommended in the first stages of the GAPS protocol prescribed by Dr McBride. Once my gut is healed and my symptoms abate or are eradicated, I will be able to follow a diet that closely resembles that of a Banting or even Paleo lifestyle.
So, as I mentioned in my intro, to round off this post I’d like to share the answer to a question posed to me for an article in Forbes Woman Africa last year. It will highlight how strongly I feel about the dynamics of this case and more importantly why I am an obvious Tim Noakes supporter in this instance.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Forbes Magazine: There is currently a war of diets going on with some “experts” saying fatty foods are important and others saying [its] dangerous to your body. What are your thoughts on this?
Stacey: Ah the controversial Big Fat Debate! I am by no means as qualified as Prof Noakes nor the many ‘experts’ who are opposed to his Banting Diet but here are my thoughts on the bigger picture, and take into consideration this is coming from someone who does not currently follow Professor Tim Noakes’ diet:
- I have seen it work for people, especially those who are obese, in that it prescribes a healthier eating lifestyle, one that is easy to transition into. There’s pretty much no cold-turkey effect with his diet because there are a lot of enjoyable foods to eat and quantities are based on satiety.
- Professor Noakes is sharing with people what worked for him as a diabetic. He has written a book based on what he has practiced and I am of the firm belief that there is more credibility in preaching what you practice than trying to practice what you preach. We all know and talk about what’s good for us but do we really do it?
- Doing nothing about your unhealthy lifestyle is more dangerous than trying something especially something which advocates eating whole, unprocessed, real food. Yes we warn against yo-yo dieting but this often implies severe calorie restriction which is not what Banting promotes. People want to get healthier and Prof Noakes is giving them something worth trying, better yet, it’s not a thumb-sucked approach, it is well-researched and documented.
- There is no one-size-fits-all approach to weightloss. You have to find what works for you. Your health is YOUR responsibility. This [Banting] may work for you, it may not and Prof Noakes has been open and honest about that.
- Prof Noakes cannot be held responsible for people who do not follow his plan to the T. Those who feel that they can double dip, a little bit of the old lifestyle and a little bit of the new, will mostly likely see their bad cholesterol increase, they will most likely put on weight and they will definitely increase the possibility of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Finally, I’ll share my own experience when it comes to the notion that a high-fat, low-carb diet is “dangerous” and that there is “no evidence” to support its supposed benefits as well as the fact that many a GP, specialist, dietician and all sorts of experts are opposed to Prof Noakes sharing his diet with the world because the evidence is reportedly ‘andecdotal’. I have a 27 year old sister. She has never attended a normal school. She has never done many of the normal things you and I have done. Her daily life has been a fight for practically 26 of those 27 years. She has epilepsy, a type of which has been extremely challenging to control. She has at least two seizures everyday, having experienced her first seizure at eight months old. When she was about nine years old, my parents, through their own research, came across the Ketogenic Diet. A hight fat diet that could assist the body in healing itself, in particular the myelin sheaths around the nerves. Brain impulses are transmitted via the nerves, protected by these fatty myelin sheaths. Think of an exposed wire that short circuits and you get an idea of what happens in the brain when a seizure occurs. I am over-simplyfying things for the sake of brevity and understanding.
International case studies of children with epilepsy who subscribed to the Ketogenic diet showed that the body started repairing the myelin sheaths around the nerves. Parents and doctors saw a dramatic reduction in the amount and even in the type of seizures experienced by these children. Amazing stories were coming out of America where doctors were researching, prescribing and freely sharing the Ketogenic diet and it’s powerful impact with those who had the condition of epilepsy. The younger the children were who were placed on the diet, the better the impact and the greater the opportunity of healing. Some doctors and parents reported cases of children living completely free of medication after having been on the diet and weaned off anti-convulsants. It was particularly effective in repairing the brain of children under the age of six. In other words, the younger the child and the earlier they could be placed on the high-fat diet, the higher their chances of living a normal, seizure-free life.
When my parents heard about the diet, they researched it extensively and took the research to my sister’s neurologists. Their responses? “The evidence is purely anecdotal” , “There is not enough research to support it” , “It is potentially unhealthy”, “How can a diet do what years of research and conventional medicine cannot?” Sounds eerily familiar doesn’t it? They would rather keep her on medication that made her experience a range of horrific side effects than consider the option of a diet that could reduce seizures and improve quality of life.
My parents needed the help and supervision of a neurologist to effectively implement the diet and monitor my sister and the search wasn’t easy. There were few people in the medical fraternity willing to consider diet as a means of treating the condition of epilepsy. They eventually succeeded in finding a physician who wasn’t skeptical and critical of the diet and guess what? It worked! Well sort of. It dramatically reduced the amount and type of seizures that my sister experienced but here is the critical point of my story: Many of the skeptical neurologists had heard of the diet long before my parents did. But they were communicating amongst themselves. They didn’t think the information was worth sharing with my parents or any of their other patient’s parents for that matter. And as a result, by the time we managed to implement the diet, and even though it was fairly successful, my sister had long passed the age where the full healing and reparative effects of the diet could be seen and experienced. By choosing to withhold information they played God with her life, causing more harm than they could ever imagine. This was not the first time medical practitioners had made a decision to ignore the pleas and requests of my parents. In fact, it was the administration of the DPT vaccine that brought on her seizures despite my parents sharing the information that epilepsy occurred in our family and that they had been advised that the vaccine in this instance should not be administered.
So back to my thoughts on the Banting debate… I believe that Professor Noakes is openly sharing what changed his life, what gave him a sense of normality and even vitality. I believe he felt a duty and moral obligation to share this knowledge and discovery with the world and I believe that he should be compensated for the time it took to research, write and disseminate this knowledge and information with all of us in a digestible manner. Based on the boldness it requires to do that, I salute him.
It’s easier for critics to wait until the research may prove whether or not his method is indeed healthy or unhealthy, dangerous or beneficial but the reality is that still remains to be seen and the question remains: what are those critics doing in the meantime? They are trash-talking, laying complaints and well, not doing anything helpful at all because if they were —they’d probably write a book about it!
So I urge you to go, read the Tim Noakes book from cover to cover, try it for yourself and if you’re scared or skeptical get a doctor who is willing to monitor you from day one. Document it. Stick to it, follow it to the letter and then come and share your thoughts with me. I’d be more open to discussing it with you after you embarked on that process but chances are, that if you decide to take that approach, you’ll probably be healthier and leaner than when you started anyway!
(Update: The Tim Noakes Hearing with The HPCSA has been scheduled to continue in 2016)