Panel discussion offered insights into the pandemic and how to align food and lifestyle habits to reverse chronic health conditions.    

 Circle of health hosted a Panel Discussion on ‘Health Lessons From A Pandemic’ on 10 May 2020. The panel comprised Dr Rupa Shah, MBBS; Dr Rashmi Menon, Certified Plant-Based Reversal Expert specializing in Homeopathy, Dr Vidya Chakravarthy, Plant-Based Ayurvedic Doctor; Mugdha Pradhan, Functional Nutritionist and Kajal Bhatia, Nutritionist & Propagator Of Plant-Based Lifestyle.

Ila Pathak, Senior Nutritionist, KB Health, and anchor of the webinar opened the panel discussion with some statistics from Worldometers site: “The number of corona cased globally are over 4 million odd, out of which about 2,80,000 deaths have occurred. But the wonderful news is that over 1 million have recovered from this disease. She asked for Dr Rupa Shah perspective on the state of this disease.

“Western Medicine Is Missing The Point”

Dr Rupa Shah said, “I have been observing the way the disease has been managed by the western model. The problem is that the model used in western medicine is faulty. The problem lies is that there is no holistic perspective. A disease is seen as an organism, like a bacteria and we kill the bacteria with an antibiotic, as if that is going to solve the problem, or ‘We get a vaccine, which is going to prevent the disease’. This is a very linear point of view. We are missing the point that not all human beings are the same, and not all our bodies react in the same way. And it is not necessary that the same vaccine has to be used for the whole population.

She continued, “We are still struggling to understand the disease. We have to shift the model from “attack the disease” to a more holistic perception of the disease. We have to look at health as a totality. There are so many factors affecting our health. We are not separately from the rest of the world. A bacterium, a virus, a fungus or a parasite – our body is full or micro-organisms and bacteria. We come in contact with people everyday. Isolation is not the answer. How can you isolate something that is the very foundation of our existence? We have to find a way to co-exist. We have to become immune naturally. We cannot be healthy without the entire earth’s ecosystem becoming health together. This includes the flora and the fauna as well. The new paradigm is “All of us being healthy together. We also need to consider an integrative approach to healing a disease. We are not just managing a disease, but also preventing a disease from occurring. An integrative approach means giving a platform for all streams of healing starting with Ayurveda, Homeopathy, yoga, meditation and other remedies.

“Food Is Information That Goes Into Your Genes”

Ila Pathak directed the next question to Mugdha Pradhan. “What is the role of nutrition in human health or how does a person get sick? Mugdha Pradhan replied, “What people don’t realise is that food is information that goes into your genes. Give the body the fuel it needs and it will run so beautifully. Most diseases are a red flag telling you that what you are doing right now is very wrong, and you have to do something about it. Diseases are a signal system, depending on your genes and what activated it.

In as less as 3-4 months, if you change what you put in your body, if you correct your habits, these signs and symptoms are going to disappear. We change what is going in, and what you get is reversing diseases. That is the impact of food, that is the impact of nutrition. If you eat what is right for your body. Also, every human is genetically unique, so one food may not work for another. Thus, that’s what we have to do as nutritionists – to help someone learn what their body is asking for, so that it may function optimally. And most people do really well on plant-based nutrition. I have seen incredible things happen when people switch to plant-based diets.

“In our nutrition community, you must have come across many diets floating around. What re-affirms your belief that the plant-based diet is the most sustainable diet for mankind?” asked Pathak to Kajal Bhatia. Kajal Bhatia answered, “Across 2 decades of my experience, even though I was exposed to other forms of nutrition academically, I totally knew what the body was meant for. Because with the physiology of the body, and a plant-based diet completes it on its own.

I like to looks at things holistically, and would like to address the audience on the issues related to other diets. The data of evolution and food only shows for the last 2 million years. Whereas we have been existing much earlier to that. Based on the data coming out as we research across universities globally, is confirming that we an evolution we first started on a plant-based eating, then moved on to the hunter-gatherer or the Stone Age. Then the agricultural revolution came in, and we got onto more grains. And now COVID is going to be an age; 2020 is going to an age in mankind where plant-based foods are going to be the new thing. It is essential to have a healthy gut and the microbiome. That is why is it important to have that in a healthy plan. There is no fibre in meat and dairy, which reduces the beneficial bacteria. The probiotics that everyone is running after, is taken away on an animal-based diet. That’s why anybody who is on a keto diet experience a high degree of constipation. They have high deficiency of Vit C or scurvy like situation. Even though the diet is rich in fat and protein, the diet shows a loss of iron or anaemia. So the keto diet, as much as it is trending and helped in a few cases… and of course weight loss is going to happen, when sugar is taken away—it’s not magic, you don’t need to go to a nutritionist for it. But what happens in terms of long-term sustainability?

As health-care advocates, it is our duty to make human health better, not only individually, but collectively, and also for the carbon footprint. And last but not the least, the raw diet that is also trending, and I’m only speaking from academics and practitioner point of view, the raw food diet is highly cardio-protective. It is full of antioxidants. And the absence of cooking is beneficial in a raw diet, as we are meant to be eating more raw foods in a plant-based diet. But it’s not practical for a lot of our cases. A lot of people who take it on, take it on a hip-hop like situation, where they constantly want to detoxify every week, or go on a crash course on raw.

Coming to the holistic-ness of all the diets around us, the plant-based diet is anti-inflammatory, rich in antioxidants, has all the micro-nutrients that are protein, carbohydrates and fat in a great balance, low in sodium, low in sugar and low in fat. And it so beautifully synergized with the body. And that’s my journey and way of life.

Ila Pathak commented, “To reverse the chronic disorder that seem to be the issues in the people dying with this infection, the WFPB lifestyle is the way to move forward. We have the 4 pillars of good health, as per Ayurveda and yoga­­-which are aahar, vichaar, ahaar or diet and vihaar. The last is lacking in today’s times, leading to obesity. Obesity was the pandemic before this new pandemic. We have to strengthen all of these pillar and stay very positive during these times.

We have also been experiencing the pandemic of fear.”

Dr Rashmi Menon stated, “Along with the Corona pandemic, we have also been experiencing the pandemic of fear. And everyone is keeping tabs on the number of cases in their vicinities. Nobody is focussing on how many have recovered from it. No data is easily available, which shows that people have recovered from it as well. This caused a lot of stress, plus you cannot do the regular activities that you are used to. Your relatives are around, some of you are facing relationship problems because of that. Then there are no maids around, so you have to do your housework. And the information you are being bombarded with about latest pandemic developments are not at all conducive to help your immunity blossom.

She added, “Your immunity is governed by a thymus gland, which is connected to the hormonal system of your entire body.  And when you get stressed your adrenalin secretes the stress hormones. And over time they get exhausted. And the hormonal balance has to be taken by the rest of the glands. And one of the glands affected by it is the thymus gland. And that is how your immunity starts decreasing. Also, when your mind is operating out of fear, you also start making the wrong choices for yourself. You exercise less and you reach out to bad food-that your mind has identified as “comfort foods”. So fear can really make a mess of your immune system. So if your immune system is in a mess… you will just get a cough or a cold, and your internal organs will start acting up.”

Menon also said, “Recently, I’ve read a report that said that people infected, are not even going out of the house. Then how are they manifesting the symptoms when they are not in touch with anybody who is infected? This is one of the examples, where stress plays a big role. To an extent, stress is also related to the food that you eat. So if your food is heavy on animal products, the animals are also emotional beings, they feel pain, and they also have stress hormones. So when you eat animal products, you are also consuming the stress hormones. Add to that you eat friend food, plus caffeine, plus processed food­­—everything is going in. So how is your immune system going to be balanced?  This is why we look at nutrition, what we are doing about stress reduction. These points are v imp if we want to take have overall good health.

‘Fruits and vegetables are the best prebiotics”

Ila Pathak asked, “We often hear nutritionists say that if we need to build immunity, you need a very healthy gut. And for that we must have more probiotics and pre-biotics. What is your view of people obsessed with curds as a probiotic? Are there any other probiotic options?

Dr Vidya replied, “Fruits and vegetables are the best prebiotics. Because they are fibre-rich, nutrient-dense and they have the right amount of vitamins and minerals that can nurture these micro-organisms. As we know that the gut-brain access works wonders and enhances our immune system. The best way to boost a healthy gut is to consume fruits and vegetables in bounty. And coming to curds, we are in the habit of consuming curds as our culture said it. We are also conditioned by the commercial industries and traditions. Additionally, Ayurveda also speaks about the probiotic effects of curds. I would say that it’s all about bacteria – as long as you can eat food that grows bacteria in your body, you are good to go, as long as your prebiotics is going to feed the bacteria. So the best way to enhance your microbiome, the best thing is to eat plant-based curds. You can prepare any yogurt with plant-based milks. You can also take kombucha or Vit B12 supplement. Also, you can get your hands dirty- do your gardening and hugs animals- that’s also a way to get probiotics to your body.

We are so inter-connected and I believe that our mother is our planet. So the more you enhance and build our mother – our planet, that’s also going to help enhance our immunity, not just that little bit of curds. Because, if you just take the curds, what’s the guarantee that you are going to assimilate it?

A lot of my patients say complain of hyperacidity, burps or sore throats because they have curds, so you don’t know if curds are really going to improve the effects of your microbiome. You can take probiotic supplements in the form of Enterogermina.

Pathak commented, “Recently, since we are in a lockdown, we can see out Plant Earth healing- air and water is clearer. Coming back to our bodies, diseases are a symptom. It may be as small as a fever, a cough or a cold. How do we learn to listen to our bodies? This disease is how the bodies are trying to communicate with us, if there is something wrong within. When we pop medicines, we just eliminate the symptom, but we not look at the cause that is causing that headache.”

“We Have Forgotten Our Own ‘Inner-Doctor”

Dr Rupa answered, “How do we listen to our body and how do we maintain a health diary? When an animal is sick, he or she will not eat anything for 2-3 days until he gets well. When an animal is sick, it will seek the right herb for its sickness and only eat its own food and not anything else. But we humans do not do that. We are disconnected to listening to our own bodies. We need to be empowered. We have outsourced our health to the doctors and have forgotten our own ‘inner-doctor’. I inspire people to maintain a health diary to make notes of all the things that are happening to you. And this make you make notes of where I make mistakes in my diet, lifestyle and in my thinking, in my relationship with others – am I absorbing something from the environment?  So start listening to your body, look for the cause and then correct it. You don’t have to always outsource your health to your doctor. The body has tremendous healing capacity – it does know how to heal. Even as of this moment the body is constantly repairing and re-generating itself. All the cells of the body are constantly replaced.  And this happened quiet, silently all our life. So we have the capacity to heal. We have to capacity to understand out problem and correct it.

(Highlights from the webinar)