The GP who promotes healthy eating

London GP Dr Rupy Aujla explains why he started his website The Doctor's Kitchen to promote the medicinal benefits of food and what he hopes to achieve with his forthcoming book.

Dr Rupy Aujla (Photo: Natalia Powers, Humans of the NHS / www.humansofthenhs.com)
Dr Rupy Aujla (Photo: Natalia Powers, Humans of the NHS / www.humansofthenhs.com)

What is the Doctor’s Kitchen website?

I started The Doctor's Kitchen to inspire my patients about food and the medicinal effects of eating well. I create recipes and talk about the clinical research behind the ingredients I use. I'm bringing a reliable, evidence-based approach to healthy eating and starting the conversation about how we can use food in medicine.

Rather than scaring patients into a restrictive way of eating my philosophy is to use flavour and celebrate our cultural diversity to make healthy eating enjoyable and deliciously accessible to everyone.
I'm introducing everyone to the incredible effects of food on health whilst showing people how it can be vibrant and easy to slot into a hectic lifestyle.

How did you become interested in nutrition?

I’ve always been interested in the medicinal effects of food. I grew up in an Indian household and as most second-generation kids will concur our families tend to have an encyclopedic knowledge of ‘healing foods’.

My mother overcame an illness by using diet and lifestyle when I was about 12 so I went to medical school with the understanding that food was exceptionally important to health. However, it wasn’t until I became ill myself that I really started to recognise the immense impact of food on the body.

When I was an F1 I started suffering from paroxysmal fast atrial fibrillation episodes a few times a week. I was admitted for monitoring on a few occasions. There didn’t appear to be any triggers and after multiple investigations a cause wasn’t found. I was told an ablation was my best chance.

I could control most episodes with a large dose of flecanide (an anti-arrhythmic) but the side-effects were terrible. With the blessing of my cardiologists I decided to focus on nutrition and optimise my health and wellbeing for a good 12 months while I weighed up the decision of having a procedure.

The goal wasn’t to reverse my condition it was to focus on wellness and see if anything helped. The worse that could happen was I’d have to have the ablation and take medications in the meantime. I concentrated on sleep, meditation, exercise and I made sure my meals were as structured as possible given my hectic schedule. I started eating a lot more fibre, tons of green leafy vegetables, coloured foods and healthy fats.

I never gave up being a foundation doctor, I was determined not to be owned or controlled by my AF. My episodes reduced from 2-3 per week to zero. Looking back it’s hard to determine exactly what happened. I could have replaced electrolytes that were missing and not picked up by blood tests, my increased fibre perhaps helped nurture my microbiome and the omega 3 content of my meals could have helped with my mood as well as the meditation exercises.

What my experience reaffirmed for me was the incredible potential of the body to ‘self heal’ and just how important and effective lifestyle medicine can be.

Why did you decide to start the website and YouTube channel?

I started talking to more of my patients about their nutrition and lifestyle in clinic. But, I kept running late in clinic and it was just not sustainable to keep writing recipes for my patients in an effort to get them excited about food and health.

So, that’s when The Doctor’s Kitchen was born. A multiplatform resource inspiring patients about the beauty of food and the medicinal effects of eating well.

You have a book coming out next year, can you tell us a little bit about this?

It’s essentially The Doctor’s Kitchen in print. A culinary journey through food in medicine where I try to inspire people about the incredible health benefits of nutrition using an evidence-based approach. I’m trying to shake off the stigma of healthy eating being expensive or pretentious and making it inclusive for everyone. It’s accompanied by 100 delicious recipes that span cultures and have the science woven into the dishes.

I also tackle common fad diets using a balanced, open-minded approach and science as my guiding principle. I sincerely hope I can do my profession justice by creating a book my colleagues will support and stand behind.

It’s been an overwhelming experience having a book deal with HarperCollins but I’m enjoying the process and I really hope everyone likes it.

How do you combine running your website with your role as a GP?

I literally do everything for The Doctor’s Kitchen. I edit the videos, film them, upload pictures, create the recipes, I designed the website.

It’s a long and time-consuming process and if I wasn’t passionate about the subject I wouldn’t have the patience, but I love it. 

I currently work as a locum GP and I do urgent care centre shifts on weekends. The flexibility is perfect for my career right now and it means I can attend the nutrition conferences globally and take time off to write the book.

What does the future hold for The Doctor’s Kitchen?

I want to pioneer culinary medicine in the UK and change the conversation physicians have with their patients. As GPs we all need a ‘nutrition elevator pitch’ just like we have for smoking cessation and I’m concentrating on how we can achieve this.

I also want to change the way medicine is taught to include a large proportion of the curriculum on nutrition. We need to teach our medical students to cook just like they are starting to do in American medical schools and I’m designing a course to do just that.

I also have a vision to affiliate every GP surgery with a community kitchen, which would serve as hubs for people to receive accurate nutrition information from a nutritionist. Teaching our patients and colleagues about the importance of food is the only way to reverse our chronic lifestyle disease epidemic. I work as an ambassador at a lottery-funded community kitchen ‘Made in Hackney’ which I  love. I remember thinking when I first started leading cooking classes there how amazing it would be if all my patients had access to these. So, I’m working hard on making this a reality nationwide.

You can visit The Doctor’s Kitchen website here

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