Today’s columnist, Dr Mary Wren: Daring to challenge set ideas

050922c b 1 mar 1'A vegan food selection....
050922c b 1 mar 1'A vegan food selection....
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I had a really inspiring conversation with a patient recently.

He had been diagnosed with a bowel problem a few years ago, something called Crohn’s disease, where the bowel becomes inflamed, often causing general ill health as well as bowel symptoms.

He had been under hospital care and had tried many medications.

Some of these had helped, but not completely. He felt that traditional hospital medicine was not the whole answer and so had started looking at other options.

He read widely on the internet. Some things he looked at he knew were just money-making scams, but others he tried with variable success.

A year ago, he decided that diet seemed to play a big part, and he realised that much of what he ate was not healthy.

He then did something very wise, which was to not try and change everything all at once, but rather to make small, slow dietary changes over time.

He started by cutting out red meat, then processed food, then increased fibre and fruit and veg. Then he eliminated other meats, and finally fish.

A year later he is following a vegan diet, which he is sure is making a big difference to his bowel problems and also his energy levels.

The other thing he decided was to not let the illness define him or dictate what he could do.

He has started exercising more and now exercises several times a week, feels much fitter and more energised and more positive about the future.

He has a friend who is a medical student and is very aware that doctors don’t get much training in things like nutrition and exercise, or even in helping patients with their mind-sets.

He wanted me to raise the profile of these things, which I am happy to do.

Mind-sets are set ways of thinking – ingrained patterns of thought which we believe are true and immovable.

If I believe that because I am ill I can’t do anything or change anything, then that is what will happen.

This man is a great example of daring to challenge some of the set ideas and try different ways.

Sometimes the different way didn’t work, but at least he tried.

And eventually, his perseverance has paid off and he has found some lifestyle changes that benefit him not just physically but emotionally as well.

Sometimes it is good to challenge what we think we know.