Friday, September 21, 2018

Food is medicine

I have been reading about nutrition and diet a lot lately. In fact, I have always belonged to the ilk of people who think & practice that if one is exercising and eating clean (no junk food, no refined carbohydrates like chocolate pastries, cakes, coke, chips, GARBAGE like this) then there is not much attention to be paid to the knowledge and wisdom of food. Not any more, I am transforming. Well, the process has already started and I am loving it. Now before you jump to label me as a “Vegan” I want to make it clear that I am really not a great proponent of all this labelling farce that happens all over the world in all categories imaginable. (Someone recently told me Section 377 got revoked in India. Well yeah! Good thing! In fact, its a watershed! Too bad that people’s uniqueness is categorized into some abbreviations for ACCEPTANCE. Nightmare!) Anyway, more on that in a later post. 

So yeah, I have been reading a lot on nutrition , the wisdom and healing power in nutrition and diet.The more I am reading, the more my ignorance is coming to surface and the more connected I feel to the natural state of things we ingest to survive. I am reading Dr. T.Colin Campbell, the man behind the China Study, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (heart disease can be cured by whole-plant based foods), Dr. Neal Barnard (I am totally inspired by his presentation abilities), Dr. Anthony Lim, Dr. Goldhamer, Dr. Dean Ornish(The God of nutrition wisdom), Dr. Brenda Davis and a lot many others who are actively working to spread the word about the benefits of WHOLE PLANT BASED FOOD (WPBF). The interesting thing is that most of these happen to be physicians, doctors, trained in medical colleges to treat the symptoms of a disease using a drug, like prescribing statins, metformins, lupitor, Xanax, prednisone (there is no end really, isn’t it?). These doctors have become converts courtesy to the results of the meticulous research done by them in the domain of treating chronic diseases. And when they speak, you listen. You listen even when the Coke industry blames lack of exercise for obesity and not the products it produces in trillions to literally kill the people. You listen when the sugar industry blames the Fat industry and the Fat industry blames the sugar industry. A classic case of passing the buck, if you will. 


When doctors speak, we usually listen (there have been moments when I have not.). But when they say about going the natural way to heal our body, then it would be a disaster if we dismiss their claims as misleading and dreamy. Why? Because they are doctors, they thrive on patients and when they show you the direction of preventive medicine and natural healing mechanisms, they are actually doing us a favor. They are being real doctors. Lowering down of cholesterol, Blood pressure regulation, lowering down of HBA1c (Glycated hemoglobin) is not happening in a utopian world where there are elixir type drugs, but it is happening right in front of us. Although all attempts are being made to hide these highly scientific studies, who has been able to contain the truth anyway? Now I am not asking you to be blind followers, but I am asking you to have an open mind and read the literature out there. To start with, you can google the names I have listen above and that will help you in making your decisions yourself. 

I am also absolutely not disregarding the use of drugs, I respect doctors. They have saved my life multiple times!  If on Friday night you eat some poisoned food and complain of vomiting and nausea in the middle of the night, you got to have a drug to save yourself from dying! Perfectly normal. But there is a deeper issue in sight here. We are facing an EPIDEMIC of obesity, diabetes, cancer, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOD) , hypertension, insulin resistance and these are all what? Yes, these are lifestyle diseases and yet we are not paying attention to lifestyle that we are following. Dr. Greger, I forgot to mention his name above, another pioneer in this movement of WPBF says clearly, “If it is a disease of lifestyle, it needs to be treated by lifestyle”. Such simply put, indeed! 

But there is one thing that has been hanging on my mind ever since I began reading, more reading about the magic of nature in healing us by annihilating the root cause of the disease. What is that? It’s a question. The question is this, “Why do negative forces win so much and so often in hoodwinking the public by selling the items they claim are healthy?This question has been doing rounds on my mind a lot and that is the reason I wrote this post at the first place. I thought to myself the answer to this question. An answer came, “May be we do not have sufficient information which can help us make choice”, “May be we do not make any attempt to gather that sufficient information which can help us make a better choice” or “May be we have fallen prey to as what Dr. Goldhamer says, ‘a pleasure trap’”.  But I really feel that we as public have made markets for GARBAGE FOODS (I am really sorry, I could not think of a better name) to thrive in market. We have fallen prey to them, be it sugars in sodas, in chocolates , cheese in pizzas, salt in potato chips, PROTIEN in meat and eggs and justify their increased consumption on a daily basis. But see what it is doing to our brains, to our arteries, to our kidneys, to our hearts and to our SOUL? To prevent this infiltration of unhealthy foods in the market around, it is our responsibility to make wiser decisions, to resolve to make our own food. Cooking allows us to connect to food and to really appreciate the hard work of the farmers that has led the food to end up on our plates. How can these negative forces win when we do not create breeding grounds for them? 

Now I know, we crave taste. For a long time I used to think that overweight and obese people are lazy people but now I have transformed in that thought as well. When I see someone working hard in gym to shed those extra stones, I get it, I get that it is extremely hard to maintain an optimal body weight, let alone lose some and be healthy. If there is one thing that is clear on my mind, it is the discovery that fitness is a journey and that it is not an easy one, but an achievable one, a doable one. And guess what? Fitness is an everyday decision, we have to work every day to ensure that we are healthy and fit – no shortcuts sorry! But again, it is a personal decision. No one wants to become fat, sick and nearly die and everyone wants to eat and enjoy food. But we have to ask ourselves a question. 

“Should I compromise my health for the sensation this food will provide my taste buds which will not even last?”

I want every single one of you to be healthy because I love you. We have been given this precious human birth, let us live it responsibly and help our brothers and sisters along the way in their endeavors.

“Money is not important, I want to walk”

(This article was written by the author for Indian Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation).
Indian Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation (IOFI) visited Laasya Shetty and her family as part of their aim to create sensitization about Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) or the “brittle bone disease”. Another equally important objective behind the visit was to understand the challenges that the family and the person affected face together. One of the fundamental principles on which IOFI is based is the understanding of the struggles the family as an ecosystem faces and to create awareness among the common public. The intention is not to sympathize but to understand, support and empower.  To this end, the young organization took its first step with the Shetty family. 

Laasya is a cheerful 7 year old girl and the first child to the Shetty couple. She had her first fracture in the 4th month while her body was being oiled.   Like most of the couples whose children are diagnosed (with much difficulty) with OI, her parents had no clue as to what could have led to the bone breakage. After a series of fractures in early childhood, multiple and various doctor visits and a lot of anxiety, it was diagnosed that Laasya had Osteogenesis Imperfecta. Naturally, what ensued after the diagnosis was a sense of disbelief, then a resistance and finally the acceptance. The journey has obviously not been easy for the family but they have decided to become more informed about OI and to create a fulfilling life for their child. In the process, they have experienced a number of challenges, moments of despair but continue to hold their head high. 

In a candid conversation with the Shetty family, IOFI got to know about various issues that a family faces which also echo challenges related to OI in general. The prime and the first concern that often springs up is the difficulty associated with the detection of OI. Given that there are more than 7000 rare diseases in India in addition to the widespread and commonly known health disorders, it can be extremely tough to diagnose them. Increasing instances of rare diseases prevalence and their cumbersome detection signal the importance of developing physicians especially trained to handle the cases related to rare diseases in India. A diagnosis of an unheard disease can be emotionally taxing for the parents of the child therefore, as Saumya, Laasya’s mother, had emphasized that parental stress in such situation is real and calls for suitable counselling services. 

Saumya also told us about the difficulty they faced while enrolling their daughter in the academic schools. Most schools were not willing to accept Laasya after getting to know about her health condition. However, due to the consistent and prolonged efforts of her parents Laasya has finally been enrolled in a school close to her home. She and her mother go to school together, she attends her classes and also writes exams. Saumya and Rajesh (Laasya’s father) have taken major responsibilities to ensure that their child is educated in the best possible way. It is no surprise then that Laasya is the top rank holder in her class. We asked her how does she finds school, she smiles and says that she has friends there. It is often taken for granted what studying in a school can do to young minds until the horror of not getting the opportunity to study strikes upfront. In fact, inclusion, a principle heavily quoted in theory but seldom practiced widely needs more traction. This traction can be built by sensitizing our community collectively about rare diseases, be it parents, teachers, faculties, young children and the like. Through this approach, rather than being seen as a task to be taken care of, children with special needs will be embraced as they are, treated with dignity and nurtured to become empowered individuals. 
Laasya with her parents Rajesh and Saumya.
Another concern highlighted by the family was the expensive care that OI entails. Given that the fractures happen recurrently, most commonly used treatment is rodding. Multiple rodding and replacement of rods as the child grows can wreak a financial crisis on the family not equipped to handle the demand imposed due to health care. This brings our attention to the need for financial assistance to families based on their economic sufficiency. It is often not spoken about widely but the rising health care costs and increased privatization of health care in India will to create holes in the pocket of middle-class Indian families. Add to it the cost of managing a rare disease, things can begin to get murkier. 

Amidst all these happenings, Laasya comes across as a well-informed and mature kid. Having seen so much at a young age, she herself makes efforts to make life easier for her parents. In fact, Saumya does not shy away from admitting that, “Laasya has made our lives easier”. Laasya walks with support in her legs and is still learning to walk. We asked her, “What her aim is in life?” Her answer was, “Money is not important, I want to walk”. This profound sentence coming from a 7 year old is a testimony to the fact that this kid has been living life at a very close range, keenly observing all events in her life. Therefore, it is our responsibility as a society to create life easier for them and not more challenging. Schools, public places, institutions of higher learning all need to understand that a child is not defined by their physical structure but by their thought process, dreams, ambitions and aspirations. It would be terrible to block young aspiring minds to come into mainstream and deprive the entire community of the magic that comes along with them. In essence, our infrastructure needs to become flexible and robust to include everyone ending the resistance and a helpless hostility towards anyone different from the mainstream. 

IOIF thanks the Shetty family for giving us the privilege to have a candid conversation with them. They are our crucial team mates in this journey, we highly value them and also extend our support to them. IOIF is actively working towards creating an awareness about OI in the community so that the society, in general, can participate in the nurturing of the young minds to make them empowered adults. In this mission, we cannot overemphasize the support of all of you.

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