Dr. Alan Desmond MB, BCh, BMedSc, MRCPI, FRCP is an NHS Consultant Gastroenterologist & General Physician based in Devon. He is passionate about the prevention and treatment of digestive diseases.
He has presented at numerous international medical conferences on the benefits of this approach to food, alongside other renowned advocates including Dr Michael Greger, Dr Michael Klaper, Dietician Brenda Davis, Dr Kim Williams, and Dr Neal Barnard.
He is a sought-after podcast guest and has featured on several well-known podcasts.
To mention a few, “Deliciously Ella”, “the Plant-Proof Podcast”, “Nutrition Nuggets with Dale Pinnock” and “the Exam Room Podcast”.
Dr Alan has also featured in the Sunday Telegraph and Virgin Radio’s Chris Evans Breakfast Show.
In 2021, he will be speaking at both the Plantrician Project’s Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference, and at Physician Committee’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine in Washington DC.
His research publications can be accessed at www.researchgate.net/profile/Alan_Desmond/publications
We are thrilled to host him on GreenLivingUK for this interview. He talks about his work, the new book, and his top tips on having a healthy gut.
Dr. Alan, first of all, thank you very much indeed for accepting my invitation to this interview. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and the projects you are involved with currently?
I’m a doctor who specialises in gut health. As a Gastroenterologist, I am keenly aware of the importance of maintaining optimal gut health.
Alongside my NHS work and private practice, I am also a vocal advocate for the gut health benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet
What led you into studying Gastroenterology in the first place?
As a young doctor I was surprised to find that many young people suffer from long-term gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Seeing the toll that poor digestive health can take on people, and realising how much we can improve our patients’ quality of life by restoring good gut health really inspired me to dedicate my career to the practice of gastroenterology.
You are an ambassador for Plant-Based Health Professionals UK which is a recently launched online service. Plant-based Health Professionals aim to educate health professionals, members of the public and policy makers on the benefits of whole food plant-based diet. They also guide people on how to adopt a plant-based nutrition. Can you tell us a bit more about this collaboration? What does it mean for you to be an ambassador for Plant-Based Health Professionals UK?
The benefits of a healthy plant-based diet have truly entered the medical mainstream.
Many patients however, have difficulty finding a doctor, dietician or health practitioner who is fully up-to-speed on the latest science around nutrition and health.
At Plant-Based Health Professionals UK we are determined to change this for the better, providing resources and support for colleagues who wish to make evidence-based dietary advice a part of their practice.
I am extremely proud to be a founder member of PBHP!
Eating meat has several implications in peoples’ lives. Besides health, animal consumption contributes to increasing World Hunger, Climate Change, and Human Inequalities such as exploiting the industry’s workers. How do you, therefore, expand your message to be accessible for everyone regardless of their social-economic status or background?
In my clinic, my talks, and in my book, I attempt to meet people where they are.
Whether individuals are restricted in finance or in their understanding of the science, it’s crucial that the message is relevant and actionable.
I truly believe that the benefits of eating more plants should be available to everyone.
On your website, you mention that the results you have seen in your gastroenterology clinic have led you to become a dedicated advocate for the gut health benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet. Can you please tell us about your findings? How the plant-based diet can help ease the symptoms, treat chronic digestive disorders and help us have a healthy gut?
In the 20th century, the Standard Western Diet took over the world.
Most high-income countries now eat a dietary style that is low in plants, low in fibre, high in dairy, high in meat and high in ultra-processed junk foods.
This dietary style has been implicated in surging rates of obesity, heart disease, type2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and bowel cancer.
The good news is that the research is clear: we can push back against the Standard Western Diet by un-processing the food on our plates and choosing to get our calories from plants.
This is what my book is all about. A guidebook to eating like the healthiest people in the world!
Which low-cost whole foods are the best for boosting a healthy gut during the lockdown?
In order to maximise our health, I recommend that the food in your shopping basket should be made up of: about 50% fruits and vegetables (in variety and abundance!),
and about 25% whole grains (oats, brown rice, brown pasta, whole grain bread, quinoa, etc).
The remainder should put a firm focus on beans, peas, split peas, lentils, chickpeas and other legumes.
Whatever country you look at, these are the foods that are consistently linked to lower risk of chronic disease.
Is lifestyle a factor that can contribute to a healthy gut and the associated conditions? Can you give us a few examples of healthier habits we should all try to include in our daily lives?
Our gut microbiome thrives on a variety of plants. This is important as the trillions of bugs living in our digestive tract have a crucial role to play in maintaining our health.
We can also improve our gut microbial health by getting regular exercise, spending time in nature, getting a good night’s sleep and by avoiding unnecessary medications.
You have recently released your book ‘The Plant-Based Diet Revolution‘ which has been very well received. What would you like to achieve with this book?
I hope that anyone who picks up “The Plant-Based Diet revolution” will be inspired by the science and won over by the simple and delicious recipes.
Some of the great myths about going plant-based is that its too complicated or expensive, and that the food is boring.
I hope that the book will show people that the opposite is true!
What should we expect from the book? What have you included?
You’ll find clear explanations of the science behind food and health, clear answers to the most important questions about food, and exactly why eating more plants is the key to a healthier gut, heart, body and mind.
Readers will also find more than 80 simple and fully illustrated recipes to get them started on their plant-based adventures!
I’ve also included success stories from my clinic and an important “plant-based Q&A section”, to tackle all the common questions around calcium, protein and the need for supplements.
My book, ‘The Plant-Based Diet Revolution: 28 days to a happier gut and a healthier you’ is available right now in the UK and Ireland.
It will be published in the USA, Australia and elsewhere on April 20th, 2021.
More details at alandesmond.com/revolution
Can you share with us any of your future plans?
A Gastroenterologist’s work is never done! In 2021 I will continue to focus on my NHS work, spending time with my family and finding new ways to educate as many people as possible of the benefits of a plant-based diet.