Interview with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, GP and author of The 4 Pillar Plan

Dr Rangan Chatterjee's 4 Pillar Plan

The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life by Dr Rangan Chatterjee was published by Penguin Life on 28th December and can be bought from Amazon or from other major UK bookstores.
Read my review of The 4 Pillar Plan here.

For anyone reading this who doesn’t already know about you, could you explain a bit about your training and background?

I am a Medical Doctor (GP), BBC One’s Doctor in the House and Author of the No.1 bestselling book, The Four Pillar Plan.

I have seen tens of thousand of patients over the past 17 years as a doctor and have come to the realisation that almost all of us have the ability to feel better than we currently do.

The last few years of scientific research has turned our understanding of human health on its head. Only 10% of our health is down to our genetics. A whopping 90% is down to our environment and our lifestyle.

The way that we are collectively living our modern lifestyles is having a negative impact on the way that we feel. When we make small, consistent changes to what I call the 4 pillars my health: Relax; Eat; Move and Sleep, they can completely transform the way that they feel.

What do you call this new way of practicing medicine?

I call this Progressive Medicine. It is simply a progression of our understanding of human health. We now have an increased understanding of the different factors that keep us healthy and make us ill. It is the recognition that allopathic medicine is brilliant at treating acute disease, such as a heart attacks or infections, but that our training is inadequate for the epidemic of lifestyle-driven conditions that we are seeing today: type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, obesity, fatigue etc.

We need to stop applying 20th century thinking to 21st century problems. I call this the medicine of aetiology not symptomatology. The medicine of why, not what.

How has learning the functional medicine model of healthcare helped your practice?

A few years back, I realised that I was only really helping about 20% of my patients. Sure, I could give them a pill to suppress their symptoms, but get to the root cause of their problems? Not so much. This led me on a journey of discovery around the world, to learn from leading experts who taught me how to look for the root cause of my patients’ problems.

A hugely influential part of my training, like yourself Amelia, was with the Institute of Functional Medicine in the US. They taught be a new framework through which I could assess and treat many of my patients. This training has changed the way that I practice and re-ignited my passion for medicine.

I now truly feel that I can get to the root cause of my patients problems and really get them better. I have never prescribed fewer drugs that I do now yet I am getting better results than ever before.

I have managed to show millions of people in the UK on BBC One, as well as millions more in 70 countries around the world, that it is possible to dramatically improve and sometimes reverse conditions such as type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, unexplained fatigue, menopausal symptoms, brain fog, sleep problems, fibromyalgia as well as weight problems in just a few weeks by applying the lifestyle principles that I outline in The Four Pillar Plan

Who do you feel would most benefit from the approach in The 4 Pillar Plan?

The reality is that almost everyone these days can feel better than they currently do. Many of us are walking around feeling tired, needing caffeine to get us through the day, alarm clocks to wake us up, jumping from deadline to deadline. The uncomfortable truth is that the way that we are collectively living our modern lifestyles is having a detrimental effect on our health.

This book is for everyone. If you already have a disease or complaint – this book will help you feel better. If you wish to prevent getting ill in the future, this book will help you. Or, if you simply want more energy, less brain fog – more vitality in your everyday life, this book will help you.

I wrote this book so that it is accessible and applicable to absolutely everyone.

Dr Rangan Chatterjee's 4 Pillar Plan

Healthy living has become incredibly popular in the last few years. So many unqualified people are dishing out random dietary and exercise advice via social media and blogs that it has become a bit of a joke and the message rather diluted!

Your show “Doctor in the House” with the BBC has been a great way to reach a wider audience and sensibly demonstrate the benefits of functional / lifestyle medicine. But there is still so much negativity and mistrust around what we do – how do you think we can protect and promote this way of working and avoid it being dismissed as a silly fad?

This is a great question and I am not sure I have the answer. I think social media has changed the playing field for us all. Information around health is no longer the preserve of doctors and universities, and overall, I think this is a good thing! People are sharing their own stories online which many people find engaging and inspiring. The problem is that we live in the era of information overload. So many blogs, so many videos – it can be very confusing for people. As you know, Amelia, I have always been a fan of the way in which you put out your content. Very balanced, very informative and very helpful for people.

My book only came out last Thursday but within 3 days had climbed to the No.2 slot in ALL books on Amazon. It is incredibly humbling but I think it shows that people are thirsty for good quality, achievable advice about their health.

I would like to think that my in depth medical training, 17 years of clinical experience as well as my 2 seasons of Doctor in the House documentaries on BBC One has earned me a certain level of trust with the public

All we can do, Amelia, is continue to put out good quality information to help people. There is a growing movement of like minded professionals and the more we support each other, the more chance there is that we can help more and more people.

How does Nutritional Therapy fit into your work as a GP?

As you know, Amelia, I am a huge advocate of nutritional therapists. I would love to see a nutritional therapist in every single GP practice across the country. For me, the army of NTs around the country are an untapped resource that could have incredible benefits for the NHS

Tell us a little bit about your book and it’s structure.

I think that we have become far too reductionist around health. Many people are looking for the magic bullet in their lifestyle that will transform their health. But is simply does not exist. Food, for example, is just one component of good health. Many people are reducing food to simply being about fat or carbs. The truth is that food is more than fat versus carbs, and good health is more than just food.

I have actually found that many of my patients actually are doing pretty well with their diet, yet they are still struggling with their health and their weight. Food is just one component of good health. I recently helped a patient reverse their pre-diabetes by addressing their stress levels and not touching their diet!

I see many patients, particularly women, jumping form diet to diet, searching for the magic one that will help them lose weight. What many of them actually need help with are relaxation, sleep and the right kind of movement rather than diet.

Good health is the result of a combination of factors. The 4 most controllable factors that have the most impact on our health are Food, Movement, Sleep and Relaxation. My book gives every reader simple, achievable strategies in each pillar.

I think this is what is resonating with people the most about my book. I put all controllable aspects of health together in one book. 25% of the book is devoted to each pillar and there are 5 chapters in each pillar, each with a suggestion at the end. The goal is not perfection in any one pillar, it is balance across all 4. Instead of people scoring 5/5 in 2 pillars with a total score of 10, I would much rather they score 2 in each pillar, with a total score if 8. I am really pleased with the structure and format and I don’t think that I have seen any other book on the market that takes this 360 degree approach to health. I think this is what makes this book unique and I am so humbled by all the positive feedback.

The book is peppered with many real life case studies to illustrate how many different conditions can be improved by applying the book’s principles.

I love that one of your 4 pillars in your book is around good quality, restorative sleep. It is all to often completely ignored. Could you share with us a sleep tip you find particularly effective to help us all get a good night?

In my experience, I have found that for the majority of people with sleep issues, they are unconsciously doing something in their everyday lifestyle that, unwittingly, is having a negative impact on their sleep. My book goes into detail of how to assess your sleep health (using my RATE sleep questionnaire) and then gives you a plan as to what you can do about it.

My top tip for sleep is what I call a No Tech 90. The idea is simple – 90 minutes before bed, try and switch off all modern technology – this can be highly effective for 2 reasons. Firstly, these devices emit blue wavelength light, which can reduce levels of the sleep inducing hormone, melatonin. The second reason is that you reduce the amount of ‘emotional noise’ you are being exposed to at night whether that be news stories, work e-mails, social media updates etc. This ‘emotional noise’ is one of the biggest reasons that people cannot unwind and go to sleep.

Achieving a work-life balance is a huge issue for so many people and yet is so crucial for wellbeing. How do you manage this?

This is something I really struggle with, especially since I started appearing in the media. One of my strategies to try and cope with this is to have some dedicated screen free time with my wife and kids several times per week. I find that the time spent with them is so much more productive and mindful when there are no distracting devices around. The other strategy that I adopt is to get up around 5am every day and have 30 minutes to myself before anyone else wakes up – I will go downstairs, mediate for 10 minutes, then brew my coffee and do some of my daily movement practice. This morning routine sets me up for a much more productive day both professionally and personally.

Do you have a favourite meal?

Honestly, I have so many favourites, and they change every week!! My favourite one at the moment is my wife’s homemade buckwheat bread, which I really enjoy with olive oil, avocado slices and sea salt each morning. I have had hundreds of request on social media over the past few months for the recipe so am delighted to have finally put it up on my new website!

What are you up to next?

The last year has been a complete whirlwind for me. The first thing I need to do is to diary out some quality time for myself each week. Work will always fill up whatever time you have available, so the key is to diary in some time each week for a passion!

Professionally, I have managed to co-create the very first Royal College of General Practitioners ‘Prescribing Lifestyle Medicine’ course, which runs in London this January. I hope to teach 1000 healthcare professionals this year how to apply the principles in my book with their patients.

I am also working on some exciting new projects in the media to help improve the nation’s health. I will be able to say more about them in the coming weeks!


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