Ommani Center Blog

Do You Have Low Testosterone?

Bill is a 48-year-old male with symptoms of increasing fatigue for the past few years, muscle aches after exercise and worsening mental fog.  He feels his mind is not as sharp as it used to be and it takes considerable effort to stay organized.

Mike is a 58-year-old male who has noticed a decrease in muscle tone over the past year  Despite working out and lifting weights on a regular basis, his muscles look out of shape.  He has also noticed a decrease in his exercise capacity and feels tired and unmotivated.  As an architect, who relies on his creativity, he is not able to focus on his job and his self-confidence has suffered in the past year.

Marty is an 80-year-old male who has developed an unstable gait and random and increasing urinary leakage.  He finds it difficult to remember names and suffers from mood swings and depression. 

What is the condition that explains all of the symptoms in the men described above? 

They all had low levels of testosterone in their blood.  These men are patients I saw in my medical practice, a small sampling of what has become only too common in the US  over the past two decades.  Despite this, most primary care physicians do not check testosterone levels routinely in men. When they do, they do not know how to treat them.  All three of my patients mentioned above had seen their traditional doctors for their symptoms and were prescribed medications merely for symptom management. Low testosterone was not even considered in their differential diagnosis.  Bill was prescribed Adderall, Mike an anti-depressant, and Marty, a neurology consult. All three men were referred to me for consultation by their wives. All three had low levels of free and total T.  Free testosterone is the bio-available testosterone that functions to maintain cognitive function, muscle and sphincter tone, mood, sex drive and endurance in men.  

 

After prescribing an adequate dose of bio-identical testosterone gel, the quality of life and health of all three improved significantly, and most of their symptoms resolved within a few weeks.  All three noticed significant improvement in their physical, mental and emotional well-being, quality of life, self-confidence and mood.

 

Testosterone is the primary gonadal hormone in men, produced by the testicles in high concentrations during adolescence with a gradual decrease during midlife and beyond.  In the US, men run low testosterone levels which have decreased significantly since 2010. In addition, lifestyle plays a significant role in testosterone production and maintenance of a normal level.  The Standard American Diet (SAD), high in processed foods, animal protein, sugar, alcohol and additives disrupts the endocrine system resulting in low testosterone production and impaired receptor binding.  A plant-based diet and regular aerobic exercise with moderate weight lifting can maintain normal testosterone levels. In fact, men who transition from a Standard American Diet to a plant-based diet with regular exercise can often raise their testosterone levels without pharmaceutical replacement.  

 

Low testosterone impacts physical, mental and emotional health in men, so checking the free and total testosterone level needs to become a routine part of yearly blood testing for men, age forty and older.  Any male patients who complain of fatigue, reduced muscle tone, or depression should especially have their testosterone level tested.  In older men, many neurological symptoms like those described by Marty, are often misdiagnosed as neurologic disorders, as testosterone levels are not checked.  Testosterone is a biomarker for the diagnosis of dementia and low levels have been shown to be associated with memory loss and cognitive decline.  

 

I remember when I first began practicing medicine after my residency nearly 30 years ago, there were concerns about rising numbers of men with low sperm counts and infertility.  This coincided with the introduction of genetically modified (corrupted) food.  We now know that hormone production is directly impacted by the quality of food we eat as the building blocks of our cells’ molecular structure are derived from the breakdown products of food.  Pesticides, used prolifically in US farming, also act as hormone disruptors and run interference with hormonal production and binding.  This impacts the normal functioning of hormones in our body.  The explosive use of chemicals in farming and processed food has resulted in an epidemic of hormonal conditions such as estrogen dominance, PCOS, hypogonadism, low testosterone, infertility, and obesity.  It is vital to incorporate an awareness of how what we eat affects our health.  

 

Alcohol is another significant offender for hormone disruption, autoimmune disease and cancer, in the US, and worldwide. Not only is it the #1 cause of leaky gut by creating disruption of the biodiversity of gut flora, but it also interferes with the liver’s ability to process and deactivate hormones once they have completed their role in the body. An increase in alcohol intake in the US along with an animal-based diet over the past two decades has caused an exponential increase in estrogen levels, resulting in an explosion of diseases of estrogen dominance. In fact, alcohol alone or along with a diet high in animal protein (including dairy) is now considered to be the primary cause for an increase in breast and prostate cancer rates in both women and men.  Alcohol is a neurotoxin, which is the most common cause of erectile dysfunction in men. The tiny nerves that cause an erection die off as a result of the neurotoxic effects of alcohol.  We have years of evidence that emphasizes the importance of lifestyle modification as the most effective way to correct hormonal and sexual dysfunction, in addition to preventing and reversing the myriad of co-morbidities that plague our country.

 

Testosterone is available in both synthetic and natural or bio-identical forms.  Synthetic testosterone is not bio-identical in molecular structure to human testosterone, and as a result, can cause more side effects.  Bio-identical testosterone is synthesized from plant sources to identically match the molecular structure of human testosterone, making this a more natural approach to hormone therapy. It has a gentler effect on the body with fewer side effects and is also easier and less messy to apply.    After prescribing bio-identical testosterone for my patients, I check free and total testosterone levels in their blood every 3 months to maintain therapeutic levels of testosterone by adjusting their dose as indicated.

 

Every primary care physician has the responsibility to learn about the effects of low testosterone in men, and the benefits of bio-identical hormone balancing and replacement.  This can be a life-changing intervention for men, contributing to a significant improvement in the physical and emotional quality of their life and health.  Aging does not have to be the degenerative condition we have normalized it to be.  There is enough scientific evidence available for us to be able to help our patients reclaim their health and vitality as they age.  

Our patients truly deserve this.

©April2021 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com   Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press. Dr. Kumar is currently accepting new patients. Call 262.695.5311 for an appointment, either virtual or in-person for those free of symptoms. 

 

Showing Your Soul – A Way to Live in These Turbulent Times

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires.”   ~Dr. Clarissa Pinkole Estes

I have been thinking so much about the signs of our times. As one who has always been an ‘out of the box’ thinker, I find myself looking for meaning and precision about the state of our country and the state of the world. Is there some meaning to be gained from all of what is happening? Have we finally come to a place where we can see how harmful our compulsive addiction to duality is? Are we living the koan of the ‘illness we need for our healing?’

As a physician, I am always looking for the aerial view, the bigger picture, what an illness means in my patient’s life; and seeking to understand it not just physiologically but symbolically. I see the body as naturally equipped with the capacity to heal. We are all born with this capacity. Our body knows how to heal itself with one caveat — the environment we create for it. We have learned from the field of epigenetics that genes can turn on and off based on the environment they are subjected to. We know that prayer has healed many, and a change in diet can reverse disease. We may consider disease reversibility as a miracle, but it is not. It is just our body doing what it knows how to do. Many spiritual traditions see disease as information that the body provides us for our awakening, even if the awakening is as obvious as changing the food we eat or the thoughts we think. We know that chronic depression sabotages the body’s capacity to heal and seeking meaning evokes this ability. I believe the body often manifests illness to detoxify us. In this capacity, illness can be viewed as a purification.

Many of my patients who have suffered from life-threatening illnesses have been transformed by them. The illness evoked the seeker in them; they viewed disease as a portal, a door that led them into a deeper level of meaning, where their capacity to understand the meaning of life and death deepened them beyond their conditioning by society. They entered the inner sanctum and accessed their inner Wisdom and what they have called Medicine of their Soul.

This is a paradoxical journey into healing, but one that requires us to stretch our perspective beyond what we are taught by our culture, and especially our medical system. 

From this perspective, illness can be seen as a stage in our journey to wholeness. I see our country today in a quagmire. I see us as suffering from a grave illness.

I invite us to see this time from an aerial view — as a moment in a larger process. We are suffering from an illness that can take us deeper into our collective healing. We must create the proper environment to evoke our healing. We must seek alignment by behaving with integrity, love, truth, and respect for one another like never before and open our inner eye to see through illusion. We must remove value from what we have thus far assigned it to — progress at the cost of the process; fixing at the cost of healing; money at the cost of contentment. We must assign value to integrity, truth, love, and common ground.

We must, we must.

When we choose to live in this way, we align with our Soul. We become the light in the darkness that Dr. Estes writes about. This is contagious. We ignite others to live from this place alongside us. It offers us all the courage to be authentic and to allow for transformation.

Maybe we were born for this time, and we created this illness to seek meaning like never before.

Maybe our healing lies in weaving meaning from this ill time, to finally seize the opportunity to transform ourselves into a world we have always longed for.

©March2021 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com   Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press. 

 

Dr, Kumar is currently accepting new patients.  

Call 262.695.5311 for an appointment, either virtual or in-person. 

The Need to Return Home to our Inner Life: Lessons from the Pandemic

 

“The more a man’s life is shaped by the collective norm, the greater is his individual immorality.” ~Carl Jung 

I’m not alone in reeling from the fragmentation we are feeling and witnessing in our country.  How did we lose our kindness and our connection to one another and accept beliefs as facts? How did we let our external identities separate us? What has happened to us?

As a physician, my focus is often to uncover the underlying cause of illness, its seed, for me to find a cure.  This requires me to sift through many layers of history to uncover where it lies.  This process of unraveling always leads me to the root cause.  It is only then that I can recommend the medicine that has the greatest ability to heal.  Unlike traditional medicine where palliation prevails over all else, I work my forensic skills to dig deep, sometimes even deeper than the body into the history surrounding the causal seed where the illness first took hold.  The best chance of a cure depends on uncovering the level of this seed or, as Robert Johnson states, “The right medicine at the wrong level is ineffective.”  Illness, in fact, can be seen as a stage in wholeness. Many who have lived beyond their prognoses recognize how their journey through illness evoked a deeper level of meaning. As a society we are clearly ill, but how do we move towards wholeness?  Maybe these ideas can shed some light on where to begin.

“Society needs to put out the fires but it also needs people to scan the terrain and see where the trouble spots are and how each one is related or dependent upon another. “ ~June Singer.

Our medical system is addicted to only putting out fires, and has lost touch with where the trouble spots are and is not interested in where the illness comes from.  Trouble spots are important to identify so bigger fires don’t start.  But you and I both know that physicians aren’t paid to identify these.  Our assembly line corporate model has become a profit-generating machine, one that has lost sight of its core vision – its responsibility to guide, heal and make whole again.  It has conditioned us to ignore the big picture, to dig deep, to go within to make needed changes. It no longer guides us in how to promote health.  It does not encourage authenticity.  Its goal of symptom management is not interested in our relationship with ourselves. It does not teach us to find the seeds of our illness.  In fact, it discourages this.

Over the past year during the COVID Pandemic, I have heard my patients speak of their disillusionment, hopelessness, fear, anguish and grief.  I have wiped many tears and held space for much sorrow.  Many have lost loved ones. Many have gotten sick.  Many have felt desolation, loneliness and isolation like never before. Anxiety has reached an all-time high.  Many who pushed their feelings aside for decades have finally had to acknowledge them.  What is suppressed rises up.  What is suppressed for long gets amplified. When separated from the outside, we are thrust back inside, not by choice, but by necessity.  This is the discomfort a lockdown can evoke, but maybe, just maybe this is what our inner life requires.   

Lockdowns  are necessary for controlling viral spread.  So are masks and social distancing. This being said, we had to quickly adjust to a new way of life, one we were not prepared for.  We were separated from our jobs, our colleagues, our friends, our families and our familiar way of living.  We found ourselves separated like never before.  External norms no longer provided comfort.  We tried them but they were fleeting.  This made us vulnerable.  Vulnerability opened us to our inner life.

The COVID pandemic has forced us to look within.  Not only are we vulnerable to infection, we are vulnerable to uncertainty, to an unknown future, to not seeing an end in sight, to the loss of predictability and of control.  Even our goals and dreams are interrupted.  Most days we find ourselves standing on shifting sands. 

Vulnerability is not a feeling we like.  In fact, we have been taught to avoid it, to cover it up, put on a brave front, and pull up our bootstraps to keep going forward.  This way of being is normalized by the collective.  2020 changed this.  Vulnerability rose up and made itself known.  It brought us in contact with our unacknowledged feelings.  Our society does not honor feelings. Separation from the outside has forced us inside.  In a culture where our life is shaped from the outside, going inside can be unbearable.  

An illness in our culture is a disconnection from true feeling, from authenticity, the inner life, the inner world. The corporatization of our society is a symptom of this.  We do sentimentality well, but true feeling, not so much. If feeling is natural to being human, then why do we avoid it?  

Our culture devalues the inner life.  When our inner life is not of value, we get out of alignment with our deep Self, our True Nature, the authentic ground of our being.  Being out of alignment creates an emptiness, a void.  We fill this with distractions.  These distractions are normalized, in fact, our economy relies on them.  The collective encourages us to distract ourselves.  It encourages it over inner pursuit.  For a time, it palliates vulnerability, but over time it leads us away from our inner life.

Our inner life is where our energy, creativity and sanctity lie.  It is the true ground of our being.  It is here where we connect with our instincts, our authentic Self.  As Jung says, “Most of our difficulties come from losing contact with our instincts with the age-old forgotten wisdom stored up in us.” 

When our instincts rise up, they can offer us clarity, but only if we value them.  Some part of us knows where our inner life is, but the dreaded distractions prevent us from listening.  If we rely on the external world for assurance and self-worth, we project our feelings on the outside, onto others. We become dependent on the outer world, the outer sway and become vulnerable to losing sight of who we are.  Society places value on money, power and status.  If we are externally defined, these become our values, and we let society do our thinking for us.  Its goals become our goals. 

But our inner world has no interest in external values.  They are not sacred to it, on the contrary.  Our inner world values authenticity, kindness, love and connection.  Most of all, it values our relationship with ourselves.  For it, money and power have no intrinsic value.  The inner life is the abundant life.  This is where our true meaning lies.  

The external world separates, the internal integrates and makes us whole.  In order to feel whole, we must cultivate a relationship to our inner life.  Like any relationship, this requires practice and nourishment.  But most of all, we must value it.

So, the Pandemic through paradox, has connected us with our inner life, one that has suffered from neglect for a very long time.  We must learn to feel, to listen, and to validate what we carry inside.  We must learn to find meaning in our suffering and be dedicated to our necessity for growth. We must begin to value what is authentic and real.  Only then, can we transform the external, and reorient its focus to what really matters.

This is our individual and collective work.  We have to be in contact with the inner ground of our being to shift our perceptions, to see life as sacred, once again.  I believe it is the only real solution for finding meaning in our times, to evoke kindness and care, equanimity and love.  In fact, our relationship with our inner life shapes our humanity.   In the final analysis, an authentic life is the only life worth living.

I leave you with a reflection by Laurence Van der Post  who advised POW’s in the Second World War with the following sage advice: “Don’t think the continuity of what you are has been broken.  It is still there.  It simply needs to be discovered in a new way, and together we can live our lives in a way that maybe we should have lived it before.”

©February2021 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com   Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: ReclaimingYour Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press. She is currently accepting new patients-call 262.695.5311 for an appointment.  During this time of the COVID19 pandemic, she is offering both telephonic or in-person appointments for those people free of symptoms. 

 

Decoding the COVID19 Vaccine

December 2020 heralded the release of the COVID19 vaccine. It was created at an unprecedented speed after a clinical trial demonstrated its efficacy. The vaccine was shown to be 95% effective in protecting humans against the COVID19 virus.  

Many in the public are skeptical about this vaccine.  I would like to offer some basic knowledge to assist in clarifying any confusion you might have about how this vaccine works to protect against the COVID19 virus.

First, a recap of the immune system and how vaccines work:

When a foreign protein (antigen) enters our body, our innate immune system is the first to respond. This part of our immune system consists of ‘foot soldiers’ on the front lines that see the enemy and run towards it to destroy it.  These foot soldiers are billions of Natural Killer (NK) cells, whose job is to attack any foreign antigen that is considered a threat to the body.  These are released into the bloodstream by the liver, which find and kill the foreign antigen through a process called phagocytosis.  This antigen could be a virus, a bacteria or a cancer cell.  After killing it, parts of the antigen are carried on the surface of these cells and presented to the adaptive immune system, where a type of B-cell called plasma cells to manufacture antibodies against the specific parts of the antigen presented to them. This takes a few days to occur after the antigen first enters the body. Another category of B-cells called memory cells, memorize the configuration of the antigen that the antibodies are made against, and lay waiting in case the same antigen invades again.  If the antigen enters the body, the memory cells stimulate antibody production which destroys the antigen and protects the body from invasion.  

Antibodies are Y shaped proteins whose tips are shaped to fit a precise antigen, like a lock and key.  Antibodies bind to precise antigens they are created against, forming antigen-antibody complexes.  The reaction is called an antigen-antibody reaction.  This reaction draws white cells towards the complex whose job is to phagocytose and destroy these complexes. During immune reactions, cytokines are released by white cells, necessary to signal more cells for assistance in defending the body. The side effects of cytokines include inflammation, fever and fatigue, and when too many cytokines are released, they can cause high fever and tissue damage.

The same antigen-antibody reaction described above occurs after a vaccine is administered.  A vaccine contains an antigen or parts of it that are injected into the body to stimulate the production of antibodies, in this case, against the COVID19 virus.

Many vaccines are made from the actual virus or bacteria. This introduces the infectious particle itself into the body.  The virus or bacteria is typically weakened or attenuated  before it is injected.   For example, the influenza vaccine contains the influenza virus (which causes the flu), in an attenuated state. This is why some people can actually get the flu after being vaccinated, especially if their immune system is weakened by an illness or an unhealthy lifestyle.  

The COVID19 vaccine is different from a vaccine that contains an infectious particle in a fundamental way.  It does not contain an attenuated COVID virus. Instead, the antigen injected into the body is a strand of the genetic code of the COVID19 virus, the part of its blueprint for the spike protein, which sticks out from its capsule.  The spike protein contains the docking mechanism needed by the COVID19 virus to engage with the surface of cells (receptors) to enter them. The antigen in this vaccine, a messenger RNA that codes for its spike protein was synthesized in the laboratory by copying the genetic sequence from COVID19, then surrounded by a lipid or fat layer creating a lipid nanoparticle. This lipid layer helps it merge with the lipid layer of the cells in our body for easy entry of the messenger RNA into the cell. Our cells then use the RNA to manufacture the spike protein of the virus.  Once the spike protein is manufactured, our cells recognize it as foreign and mount an antibody response against it. This takes about 2 to 3 days after vaccination. Antibodies generated destroy the spike protein, memory cells are created, and if the COVID19 virus enters our body after vaccination, the immune system will recognize the spike protein on the COVID19 capsule as the foreign antigen it has seen before (from the vaccine) and create antibodies against it.  The antibodies will attack the spike protein and destroy it, preventing the entry of the virus into our cells. The mRNA present in the vaccine is short-lived, never enters our cell’s nucleus containing our DNA, and completely degrades within a few days. It does not become a permanent part of our DNA.

Since no infectious particles are used in this vaccine, its side effects are relatively mild. These include soreness at the vaccination site and a mild cytokine reaction described earlier, with fatigue and possibly a low-grade fever that lasts for a couple of days. The mild cytokine reaction is an indication of an antigen-antibody reaction confirming the presence of antibodies made against the spike protein after vaccination.  The COVID19 vaccine is administered in two doses delivered 3 weeks apart.  After the first vaccine, a booster is given 3 weeks later, which amplifies the antibody response, ensuring greater protection against COVID19. 

So far three companies have manufactured the COVID19 vaccine, Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford (AstraZeneca-Oxford). Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are available in the U.S.

In the clinical trial conducted by Pfizer and Moderna, 95% of participants developed immunity against COVID19 after vaccination.  The clinical trial was quite large and the phase 3 trial  included over 43,000 subjects, 45% of whom were 56 – 85 years of age, from diverse backgrounds.  So far, the COVID19 vaccine shows great promise with few side effects.

We know that in patients infected with COVID19, antibodies last about 6 months or longer post-infection, and reinfection can occur after even being infected after this period of time.  It is not clear how long the antibodies produced after vaccination will have a protective effect.  It is still too early to tell. 

Another concern for researchers has been a question about the efficacy of the vaccine if the COVID19 virus mutates in a way that makes the vaccine ineffective. Remember, antibodies are specific for specific antigens, in this case, the spike protein of the virus.  If the virus mutates after people are vaccinated, completely changing the composition of the spike protein, the antibodies won’t work to neutralize the mutated antigen. 

The COVID19 virus has gone through two mutations per month since it entered the human population a year ago.  This is a known phenomenon among viruses.  When a virus jumps from animal to human, as in the case with this virus, it mutates to become more stable in its human host to spread more effectively. 

If today’s COVID19 virus is compared to the original one originating in Wuhan in December 2019, it has undergone 25 mutations in the past year! So far, one mutation of potential concern relative to the vaccine, is that of the docking apparatus of the spike protein.  This has been called the N501 mutation

As we now know, all three vaccines released so far stimulate the immune system to attack the spike protein of the virus.  The good news is, one area of mutation on the virus may not impact the efficacy of the vaccine, because once vaccinated, the body learns to attack many parts of the spike protein, so if one or two parts mutate, other parts are still rendered ineffective by antibody attack.  

Once enough people are vaccinated, will SARS-CoV-2 mutate in a way to avoid being rendered ineffective by the vaccine?  

It is too soon to tell. 

Our antibody response is only as strong as the health of our body.  Our lifestyle choices have a direct impact on our immune system.  We have ample evidence about what choices support our immune response and what choices weaken it.  A diet high in sugar, saturated fat, alcohol and the lack of exercise will not mount a strong immune response.  A low vitamin D and Vitamin B level also negatively impact the strength of our immune response. 

I am very impressed by the technology engaged in the production of this vaccine to create an effective antibody response with few side effects. I am hopeful that this will assist in reducing deaths from COVID19.

As promising as this vaccine is, it does not prevent transmission of COVID19, so please continue to use a mask, observe social distancing of 6 feet or greater, and continue to hand wash and use hand-sanitizer.  

Our health is our greatest asset, and 2020 has been a year that has illuminated the power of our lifestyle choices.  In fact, they can make a difference between life and death.  It is up to us to support the health of our body and I ask that make this a priority in 2021.

For more information on gaining knowledge to promote health, visit https://rosekumarmd.com/webinars/.  Her learning platform will inform you with evidence-based information about how to transform your health.

Dr. Kumar’s integrative Internal Medicine practice focuses on disease prevention and reversal.  For an in-person or remote appointment, call 262-695-5311.  

©January2021 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com   Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: ReclaimingYour Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press. She is currently accepting new patients-call 262.695.5311 for an appointment.  During this time of COVID19 pandemic, she is offering both telephonic or in-person appointments for those people free of symptoms. 

 

Belonging in a Time of Separation

“Love and compassion are necessities not luxuries.  Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

~His Holiness, The Dalai Lama XIV

If there is anything I’ve learned this year, it is that life is full of uncertainty.  Yet there are some certainties that we can all agree upon:

  1.  If we are born, we will die; 
  2. Struggle cannot be escaped (no matter how hard we try); 
  3. Living from meaning is essential at any stage of life; 
  4. We belong to one another no matter how separated we feel. 
  5. Life is always propelling us towards healing and love.  
  6. The Unknown is always present, whether we acknowledge it or not.
  7. We all want to matter to one another no matter what our differences.

We have learned hard lessons this year.  Lessons in how painful it can be to stay in conflict with one another (because of our differences), how fleeting life is, how if we don’t focus on our health, we can become ill at a moment’s notice, or die sooner than expected, and how destructive public opinion can be when followed over evidence-based and critical thinking.  

We have also learned that most of the systems that comprise our infrastructure – Medicine, Education, Politics and Law are due for an overhaul.  At this time in history, they are not serving their core missions. In fact, they haven’t for a while.  This year has uncovered their shadow more than any other time in memory.  We can no longer adapt to how dysfunctional our systems have become, or turn a blind eye to their neglected essence.  It is up to us to acknowledge the imperative for their transformation, so they can once again be aligned with their essential mission and who they serve. 

In my more optimistic moments, I feel that maybe we are at the threshold of a rebirth, a renewal, a rewriting, and a reawakening of our individual and collective consciousness.  Maybe this has been long overdue.  A Pandemic more than any other catalyst can bring this to light. Maybe as a world, we are in a phase of deconstruction, a death that precedes a new birth, as part of a powerful and collective initiation. We must honestly review what has worked and what has not, not only in our collective systems, but also in our own lives.  We must lay inauthenticity to rest so we can emerge as more authentic versions of ourselves.  Our patterns of what we value and live from that we have erroneously adapted to are not working.  What society has normalized is not working.  What public opinion has upheld as truth is also not working. A review before renewal and rebirth must engage our honest and conscious insight.  This requires much courage.  Our egos have a frightful time adjusting to the keen eye of discernment that heralds change, yet honest self-reflection and surrender to a Higher purpose, are sorely needed.  Although the ego often meets insight with resistance, being honest with ourselves the only way for us to experience growth and meaning.  It is a sign of maturity and adulthood. We have been stuck in a stunted state of maturation for too long. It is time for us to grow up and transform.

This part of our process requires patience, endurance and tenacity.  I have learned that endurance and struggle always evoke creativity.  Transformation itself can be deeply creative, and befriending the unknown seems to be a necessary prerequisite.

Given this context, we can surmise that we are also in a deeply creative time.  Even though it has been necessary for us to be separated from one another physically (to prevent infection), we can still practice belonging.  In a time like this, I would call this a ‘spiritual practice’.  Like any spiritual practice, the practice of belonging requires conscious intention till it becomes a part of who we are.  Belonging requires us to access our heart in a time of chaos and confusion, and share it with others despite the distance between us.  This may sound paradoxical, yet is as necessary and vital as oxygen is for survival.  Belonging is what makes us feel like we matter.  It can offset depression, anxiety and loneliness.  It even boosts our immune response and inspires us to show up for our life.  It also inspires creativity.   

Kindness is a way in which we can show our love, and create a sense of community.  It is an antidote for separation and conflict.  It costs nothing and yet can be profoundly healing.  One kind word can make a huge difference in another’s life, and can even inspire them to get through the day when they feel hopeless.  Kindness is an expression of love.  It can begin to heal our deepest wounds.  

So, let us remember to engage in belonging and kindness, even a little bit each day.  Living with this intention opens a quantum field of love in our world, which is more contagious than fear.  In our hearts, we know this to be true.  These acts may be small, yet have a quantum power for healing.

Despite the necessity for physical separation from one another during the COVID19 Pandemic, we must remember to offer ourselves in these ways to one another.  To feel like we matter can be lifesaving. In the final analysis, it is not what but who we are, which can only be felt through our intention and behavior. Being loving and kind (despite our differences) may be the greatest gifts of all.  

 

“The love I feel is not a mask

but a deep cauldron

though carrying pain,

offers beauty to life.

It is an opening to the sublime,

a portal to what is Holy,

It bears everything transforming

and never breaks or dies.”

~Rose Kumar, M.D. Becoming Real: Reclaiming Our Health in Midlife

 

©December 2020Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com   Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: ReclaimingYour Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press. She is currently accepting new patients-call 262.695.5311 for an appointment.  During this time of COVID19 pandemic, she is offering both telephonic or in-person appointments for those people free of symptoms. 

 

What Should I Eat

“What should I eat,” is a question my patients ask on an almost daily basis. With information overload on the internet and ‘public opinion’ invading evidence-based medicine, I thought it would be helpful for you to have some evidence-based suggestions that would make conscious eating more enjoyable and fulfilling while knowing you are also supporting your health and well-being.

Diets have a 98% failure rate and are public opinion, not evidence-based. In my practice, I do not encourage my patients to go on diets. They are embedded with performance anxiety, shame and the fear of failure. Instead, I educate them about how to freely eat foods that support their health. When they choose this approach over-restrictive dieting, they are happier, healthier, and more successful at preventing and reversing disease and lose weight as an added benefit. In addition, they enjoy being an active participant in reclaiming their health!

It is always safer to align with scientific evidence than public opinions and beliefs. The (scientific) evidence that has demonstrated the health benefits of various foods over time is always the best practice we should align with. Dieting to lose weight as our short-term goal is often at the cost of our health in the long run. Besides, fast weight loss is often followed by rebounding weight gain, evidence of a failed attempt at health. We currently have plenty of evidence that demonstrates the negative health effects of carbohydrate restrictive, animal-based diets, which are the rage today. They have exponentially exploded our incidence of kidney disease, heart disease, autoimmune disease, cancer and dementia. They may work in the short run for specific results people are seeking, but in the long run, they are unsustainable and unhealthy.

Gaining even a little knowledge about how our body works and what foods assist it, offers us the ability to make more conscious choices and enjoy countless benefits while putting the pleasure back into eating. After all, eating is one of the most instinctual, necessary functions we have. Why not approach it as our ‘medicine’ in addition to a joyful and sacred act of self-nourishment.

My intention is to provide you with some basic principles that can ease your understanding of what foods to choose to increase your vitality, assist your organ systems to function more efficiently, and also to prevent and reverse disease. What could be more important than this!

1. Eat color.

Color is a sign that a food is rich in anti-oxidants. The deeper the color of your food, the more antioxidants it contains. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are toxic/carcinogenic by-products of normal body reactions, and environmental toxins like alcohol, pollutants, pesticides, preservatives, BPA in plastics and canned goods, petroleum-like products common in processed foods ( e.g. propylene glycol) and deep-fried foods. They damage our DNA and create cancer cells. It is no wonder that people who frequently eat or apply these toxins to their skin as they are commonly present in soaps, shampoos, lotions, and makeup, are more at risk for chronic diseases and cancer. When free radicals are generated, our liver produces antioxidants to neutralize them so they do not harm us. When we overload our liver with additional free-radicals laden in our food, alcohol, and the environment, it has to work overtime and becomes overwhelmed. For example, if the liver is busy breaking down alcohol or is heavy with saturated fat, it is not able to perform its many functions optimally. Then, free radicals that alter our DNA, go unchecked, and promote inflammation and cancer as well as many of the chronic diseases so common in our society today.

Our liver is also our first defense against viruses and cancer cells. The two billion natural killer cells, (among other immune cells) it houses protect us from invaders that can overwhelm our body viruses (like COVID19) and bacteria. The healthier our liver is, due to our lifestyle choices, the better it can assist us in staying healthy and protect us from infections and cancer.

Deep dark-colored foods are only present in the fruit and vegetable family. Aronia or chokeberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, rhubarb, eggplant (with peel), beets, tomatoes, red peppers, dark leafy greens and dark-colored vegetables, broccoli, carrots, arugula, radicchio, are all examples of foods that are deep in color.

Color is a sign that antioxidants are present. When you eat colored foods, you can be certain that you are helping your body neutralize free radicals to prevent and destroy viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells.

The ORAC score is the total antioxidant capacity in foods. The higher the score, the more antioxidant effect your food has. Print out a list of foods with a high ORAC score and take it grocery shopping with you. Select plenty of these as a regular part of your daily diet.

2. Eat the correct kind of carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates have been vilified by public opinion as ‘bad’ for us. In the 1970s, we ate carbohydrates in lieu of fat. We were fat averse. But what this did is caused us to gain weight and accumulate ‘toxic’ fat, from carbohydrate overload, which is inflammatory, and a storage house for hormone disruptors. Then we became carbohydrate averse. This yo-yo belief has not supported our health. Gaining basic knowledge about healthy carbohydrates is the best way to make healthy choices from this food group.

Carbohydrates provide fuel for our bodies’ functions. But the quality of carbohydrates we eat does matter. Processed carbohydrates easily convert into sugar and are stored as fat. They cause insulin resistance, inflammation, and weight gain. Examples are white flour, white sugar, and white rice. But complex carbohydrates like those found in whole grains, lentils, beans, and plant fiber, are excellent sources of energy for the body’s functions. Eat foods that have a low glycemic index. They are less likely to breakdown quickly into sugar which is then converted to fat and also one of the causes of insulin resistance. Instead, they provide sustained energy for our body functions for longer periods of time than those with a high glycemic index.

3. Eat natural fiber.

Fiber scrubs the intestines clean and binds toxins and excess cholesterol to be eliminated by the bowel. A high fiber diet is one that contains plenty of soluble and insoluble fiber contained in green vegetables, lentils, grains, and fruit. It helps form bulkier stool and passes through the bowel more quickly, aiding detoxification and also assisting bowel motility. Fiber alone can sometimes improve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome when it is caused by unhealthy food choices.

4. Don’t go overboard on protein.

We have become ‘protein crazy’ in the U.S. People are terrified that they are not getting enough protein so they overdo its intake. Protein is a macronutrient that is required to build our cells and muscles and provide enzymes for our body’s functions. An adequate amount of protein is good but too much creates disease. All we need is an average of 50 to 60 grams of protein per day in a healthy diet. The quality of protein does matter. Animal protein accelerates the formation of cancer, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, arthritis, kidney disease, and dementia. Plant-based protein does the opposite. In fact, it reverses the above-listed diseases that are so common in our society. I suggest that my patients try a combination of lentils, beans, nuts and seeds, and organic soy as healthy sources of protein, on a daily basis. This provides structural vitality, supports digestion and offers adequate protein content to assist our body’s functions without creating disease risk. It is also an alkaline source of nutrition that wards off cancer and chronic diseases.

5. Eat healthy fats.

Deep-fried, trans, saturated and animal fat is toxic to our body. Fat found in a Whole Food Plant-based diet provides more omega 3 and support to our nervous system as well as energy storage that we can access when needed. If too much fat accumulates in our body, it becomes toxic for us. It emanates inflammatory toxic breakdown products and its own set of free radicals while disrupting our endocrine system. Fat found in nuts, avocados, olive oil, are the best kind of fat. They have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties in contrast to animal-based fats which are toxic and contribute to the previously mentioned diseases including dementia. The quality of olive oil you use matters. Spend time researching high antioxidant extra virgin olive oils and use those that are processed correctly and stored in dark-colored, glass containers to prevent denaturing.

6. Read labels

If you are buying boxed or prepared foods, ALWAYS read the ingredients on the food label. What it says on the label is what you are putting in your body. Know your ingredients and keep them as simple, natural, and organic as possible.

7. Cook your food from fresh ingredients

Cooking our food is always the best way to ensure that we are putting pure ingredients in our body. It is more time-consuming but the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience. Make it a normal part of your day and organize your time so you create time to cook if even a few days a week and prepare meals for a few days at a time if you are too busy to cook every day.

8. Choose organic.

Pesticide residues dysregulate our bowel flora, the trillions of organisms that are essential to a healthy body and brain. Whatever we eat feeds our flora so if we want to make healthy choices we support healthy flora, which assists in ALL of our body’s functions. Organic produce is grown with methods that support healthy bacteria (flora) in the soil. Healthy soil means more nutrients in the food grown in it. The seeds used in organic farming are not genetically modified and toxic pesticides are not used in assisting the plants to grow. This adds up to no pesticide residues and healthier, more nutritionally rich food.

9. Intermittent fast

Intermittent fasting is an easy and effective way to breakdown fat and thereby increase ketone concentrations in your blood, the breakdown products of fat. Try not to graze at night. Eat early in the evening, and leave 12 to 16 hours between your last meal of the day and your first meal the next day. This stimulates the liver to breakdown fat into ketones, a powerful energy source for your body and brain. It is also the easiest way to burn toxic fat and lose weight!

10. Eat a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet

Overwhelming evidence over the past four decades supports the health benefits of a whole food plant-based diet. This kind of diet is not really a diet but a variety of food choices that nourish your body. The advantage of this kind of lifestyle is not just the disease-preventing and reversing the power of the foods included, but you don’t have to count calories or restrict your intake of the amount of food you eat! It is impossible to gain weight on a whole food plant-based diet!

If you would like more information on how the body works and how to feed yourself for the most health and vitality, please see my latest webinar What To Eat to Prevent and Reverse Disease

If you need assistance in changing your lifestyle to one that is Whole Food, Plant-Based, disease-preventing, and reversing, please contact us. We are here to educate you on how to advocate for your health backed by scientific evidence-based advice. Now more than ever, this needs to be an essential part of your value system and a priority in your self-care program.

©November (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: ReclaimingYour Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press. She is currently accepting new patients-call 262.695.5311 for an appointment. During this time of COVID19 pandemic, she is offering both telephonic or in-person appointments for those people free of symptoms.

Reducing Stress Can Be As Simple As ABC

Over the past three decades, the stress level in our world has escalated.  This year, as the COVID19 Pandemic has unfolded, stress has taken center stage.  Research has shown stress to be an underlying risk factor for most of the common diseases in our society, in fact, 75 to 90% of all doctor visits have been shown to be for stress-related complaints. Stress impacts both our mind and body in unhealthy ways. Understanding the mechanism of the stress response is the first step towards mitigating its negative impact on our bodies. Then, when we learn skills that have been shown to intercept its negative impact on our mind and body, we can reap the lasting benefits that can restore our health and well-being.  

What is stress? Stress is defined simply as ‘a pressure or tension exerted on an object.’ This can be physical, mental, or emotional in nature.  The response generated by a stressor in our body triggers a physiological cascade of reactions designed to help us survive. The stressor or threat can be either real or perceived.  Both will trigger the same response in the body.  When an external event is perceived as a threat, we react automatically or unconsciously to it, in the same way as we do in the presence of a real threat. Our brain perceives either kind of threat as a threat to our survival. Our response against a real threat can save our life, but against a perceived threat will often create disharmony in our mind and body. This is why a skill set to decipher a real from a perceived threat can be so helpful.  Learning how to reduce perceived stress can also be lifesaving in the long run, so learning the skills described below, can be an important addition to your toolbox for promoting health and well-being.

The biological pathway of the stress response is fascinating. When our senses perceive danger, they send a signal to a part of our brain called the amygdala.  This is an area of the brain where emotional processing takes place. The amygdala interprets images and sounds. When it perceives danger, it sends an instant distress signal to the hypothalamus, another part of the brain located in its vicinity. The hypothalamus functions as a command center and communicates with the rest of our body through the involuntary or autonomic nervous system.  This happens without our awareness or control. The amygdala and hypothalamus comprise the limbic system, the part of our brain that reacts and responds to stress. 

The autonomic nervous system has two components, sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is like an accelerator in a car. When it is triggered, the autonomic nerves send messages to our adrenal glands to pump out adrenalin. Adrenalin increases our blood pressure and heart rate and sends out a burst of energy through our nervous system that helps increase blood flow in our large muscles that helps us to ‘fight or flee.’ This is commonly known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. The parasympathetic nervous system is like the brakes in a car. It calms the body down after the threat has passed.  It is the ‘rest and digest’ response of our body. If our parasympathetic nervous system is not strong and healthy, our body will stay activated long after the stressor has passed.

When the stress response is prolonged or chronic, our adrenals glands pump out the hormone cortisol, in addition to adrenalin.  When the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated repeatedly (as in a stressful job or relationship), cortisol levels remain elevated.  Chronically elevated cortisol can wreak havoc in the body and is thought to be a contributor to many of our chronic diseases.  In fact, it also acts as an immunosuppressant, causes weight gain, heart disease, ulcers, microbiome disruption, and inflammation, anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness, and many others, independent of lifestyle choices.

When our limbic system is activated, it reacts within nanoseconds, high jacking our gray matter, the executive function of our brain.  This nanosecond response is meant for survival only, and nothing more. It triggers us into fighting or fleeing from danger, as described above, rather than offering us the ability to respond in a level headed, conscious manner.  In contrast, when our parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it assists us to respond more consciously rather than react by fighting or fleeing.  With this engaged, we have more access to consciousness, reason, and logic, because unlike the nanosecond sympathetic response, this response takes milliseconds, which is 1×109  times slower. This gives our nervous system time to access our executive function.  

The parasympathetic response is so much better for our health than the repeated fight or flight response, that a company called Heart Math, founded by Doc Childre in 1991, developed a scientifically based system to empower people to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and to intercept the impact of the stress response on health.  The results of their interventions ranged from the resolution of anxiety and panic to the resolution of life-threatening arrhythmias. 300 studies have documented the benefits of Heart Math’s protocol for resolving emotional and physical health conditions caused by stress.

Herbert Benson, a prominent Harvard trained cardiologist, also demonstrated the powerful impact of stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, in his technique termed the Relaxation Response. This too was a skill set he has taught for the past four decades to intercept the stress response and promote relaxation instead.

Given that we know that the parasympathetic nervous system can be lifesaving and healthier for us, how can we stimulate it more often?  I have created a set of tools that can easily intercept the stress response mechanisms and promote a healthier way to encounter a perceived threat. I call it the A, B, C’s, of reducing stress, where A stands for Awareness, B for Breathing, and C for Consciousness. 

As stated earlier, our sympathetic response highjacks our connection to executive function, so becoming Aware that we are triggered is a critical first step.  In this moment of awareness, we can evaluate if the threat we are feeling is real or perceived. This momentary pause can be enough to short circuit the fight or flight response, and prevent our body from dumping adrenalin and cortisol into our bloodstream. Awareness can buy us enough time to slow down our nervous system from reacting in nanoseconds to responding in milliseconds, enough to engage our executive function.  If we realize during this time, that the threat is perceived and not real, we can take the next step to assist us, by engaging conscious Breathing. 

Breathing consciously from our abdomen is an age-old technique known to promote relaxation and centeredness.  When we are stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid, but when we breathe consciously from our abdomen, (expanding it when we inhale and contracting it when we exhale), we can stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system. Breathing this way requires practice. When our abdomen expands outward as we inhale, our diaphragm moves downward into the abdomen, stimulating the vagus nerve.  This stimulates the parasympathetic neurotransmitter, present in the vagus nerve called acetylcholine, which triggers relaxation. In addition, the downward movement of the diaphragm enlarges the chest cavity, increasing oxygen delivery to the heart and vital organs, which supports and relaxes our cardiovascular system. Acetylcholine intercepts our limbic circuitry, allowing greater access to executive function.  This offers us the ability to respond more Consciously, offering us access to our maturity and wisdom, by engaging our problem-solving abilities rather than our desire to fight or flee.

So next time you are triggered by a stressor, try using the A, B, C skill set to bring yourself back from an adrenally charged and reactive, fight or flight, adrenalin triggering reaction, to a more centered and conscious response to mitigate the perceived threat.   You will be amazed as to how much easier this gets with practice.  An added benefit of cultivating this response pattern is that it adds an additional measure of respect towards ourselves and also from others towards us.  We unknowingly mentor others around us with our mature and conscious responses to stress which creates a healthy environment around us.  I think we could all use a more conscious way of responding during these uncertain times of transformation.  Don’t you?

Additional modalities that reduce stress by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system are CranioSacral Therapy, Acupuncture, Reiki, and Yoga, all available at The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine.  Call to make an appointment with one of our skilled practitioners: (262) 695-5311.  

  ©October 2020Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com   Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: ReclaimingYour Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press. She is currently accepting new patients-call 262.695.5311 for an appointment.  During this time of COVID19 pandemic, she is offering both telephonic or in-person appointments for those people free of symptoms. 

 

COVID19 AS A CALL TO SHIFT OUR PARADIGM IN MEDICINE

“We read the world wrong and say it deceives us.”

~Rabindranath Tagore 

A month ago, a headline from the New York Times read,” Coronavirus Patients Betrayed by Their Own Immune Systems.”  I have actually heard different versions of this statement in venues of medicine over the years.  When we approach our body as a betrayer, there is no real hope for us.  We are at war with Nature, with our own nature, and guess who wins that war?

Before I decode the proclamation from The New York Times, we must contemplate the question of how we arrived here, at this place in history where we actually view our body as a betrayer.  I see this way of thinking as a disease of our perception. Rather than blaming our bodies for responding in the ways, they do it may be wiser to look at the effects our lifestyle choices have that elicit unhealthy responses from our bodies.  

COVID19 is a lifestyle virus.  It trips switches in our body if we have altered its fundamental and foundational matrix by unhealthy lifestyle choices that are unsupportive to its operational systems.  With a sedentary lifestyle, processed, genetically modified, and pesticide-laced foods, industrial meat, dairy, and sugar-laden diets, our bodies have become inflamed and toxic. This makes it impossible for our delicately balanced organ systems to work collaboratively to support our health.  

Five fundamental systems of our body have to work systemically with one another for us to have a healthy foundation, as well as a protective immune response:

  1. The gut microbiome
  2. The liver
  3. The nervous system
  4. The immune system
  5. The hormonal system

The main two systems that regulate the others are the gut microbiome and the liver.  They work together to run the body in its functions of detoxification, inflammation, immune balance, and nervous system support.  When the liver and gut microbiome isn’t healthy (due to unhealthy lifestyle choices) the body is unable to work efficiently, affecting the healthy functioning of remaining systems.  These organs are vital in preventing co-morbidities, and their normal function depends upon our choices. In fact, evidence shows that when the liver and microbiome are not healthy, the prognosis of survival from a COVID19 and other infections is negatively impacted. 

How did we arrive at this state of poor health in the Western world?

The seeds of our modern way of viewing the body were sown in the 17th century with Rene Descartes.  Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist whose treatise proposed separation between the mind and the body.  His proclamation, “I think therefore I am” heralded a paradigm shift in the Western world.  Before the 17th century, the dominant world view was organic.  People lived close to nature and perceived their own needs as subordinate to the community.  Natural science had its basis in reason and faith; the material and spiritual were inextricably linked.  By the early 17th century, this world view had changed.  

 

Rene Descartes introduced a way of thinking that was mechanistic.  His strategy was “to consider false, any belief that falls prey to even the slightest doubt.” This way of thinking greatly influenced the mindset of the Western world, including Medicine, and the paradigm shifted to the one we have today. It introduced the idea of ‘the body as a machine’ which is still the prevailing paradigm in Medicine.  It influenced our reductionistic view of the body.  Reductionism reduces the body into its component parts.  This way of viewing the body has harmed us for the past 400 years.

In Traditional Medicine, our approach to the body focuses on its component parts with specialties in Medicine claiming expertise and dominion over organ systems, with no collaboration with one another. But the body works as a community of systems, each system influencing and dependent on others, as in an organic, interdependent community.

It is time for this mechanistic/reductionistic paradigm to be laid to rest and replaced by one that approaches our bodies and our health from a “system approach which sees our body as a system of interconnected and interdependent parts that work together to maintain health. In addition, this way of viewing our bodies is aligned with how nature functions as well.  

This shift in perception can heal our disconnected relationship with our bodies and assist us in consciously supporting it and making lifestyle choices that promote health. This approach is the only way we can restore health and wholeness after being disconnected for so long. This also depends upon our fundamental understanding of how our body works and clearly our perceptual paradigm of how we can assist it in remaining healthy.

Now more than ever, we must shift this paradigm of erroneous perception.  COVID19 has more than ever made this an imperative and urgent necessity.  If we view the mechanism of how the Sars-CoV2 virus operates to overwhelm the immune response when the liver and microbiome are compromised and compare it to infection in a person with a healthy liver and microbiome, we will be able to glean how a healthy foundation can eclipse an exaggerated immune response and restore health in a short time when under attack.  Our body is wired for health.  Let us offer it what it needs, to do what it does best, to support and protect us from harm.  For that, it relies on us to make conscious choices.

This paradigm shift can save us from a diminished quality of life and an untimely death from not just COVID19, but all other co-morbidities as well.  

Being healthy is ultimately a choice, whose time has finally arrived.

 ©September 2020 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com   Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press. She is currently accepting new patients-call 262.695.5311 for an appointment.  During this time of COVID19 pandemic, she is offering both telephonic or in-person appointments for those people free of symptoms. 

Can Our Choices Save Us From COVID19?

As time passes, and the coronavirus continues to spread with a rising death toll, we must ask ourselves, what do we need to learn during this pandemic?  Any event with this level of magnitude arrives as a lesson for humanity.  To gain insight, will require us to apply self-reflection, critical thinking, and a large measure of common sense to learn what we need for transformation to take hold.  Time and time again, we have learned that sometimes the best solutions for complex problems are simple ones.  This pandemic has brought many feelings to the fore. For many, it has triggered fear, confusion and helplessness.  For others, conflicting belief systems, different sides of politics, whether or not to wear masks has taken precedence, and yet underneath the varied amplifications that this pandemic has triggered, it has affected a much needed global reset to evaluate what is truly important and meaningful in life.  

For the Medical community, this time has brought much to the fore.  Now more than ever, it is critical to follow enduring scientific evidence and to fortify Medicine’s fundamental foundational principles. Medical evidence is not a belief system. Belief has no place in health care.  As physicians, we are taught to distill and interpret evidence, and we must practice evidence-based medicine and educate our patients to promote their health and well-being.  This is sacred work and requires diligence, discernment, and a sustained effort.  It also requires sacrifice.  As physicians, we have a responsibility to ‘sacrifice’ public opinion for what has been shown to be true.  It also requires flexibility, so we can amend our ideas of evidence-based ‘truth’ when new evidence uncovers the limitations of previously held theories. 

Healthcare today is faced with many problems.  We have repeatedly heard how broken our healthcare system is and why it needs to transform.  I would like to add my personal experience to this opinion.

Over the past few decades, the intention of corporate medicine shifted from patient care to profit, altering its emphasis from caring for patients to viewing patients as ‘consumers’ and commodities.  Understanding that the business of medicine is necessary for this system’s survival, using patients and physicians to make money at the cost of care and choosing treatments that offer greater profit margin in lieu of safer and more effective methods, has eroded the public’s trust of the current healthcare system.  Insurance companies have added yet another layer to the corporate model, withholding payments for promised services to patients, as well as withholding payment for services rendered by physicians.  Nearly two decades ago, this shift witnessed a movement of physicians from private practice to hospital employment. The price they paid was grave.  Unbeknownst to them, they were required to sacrifice their integrity of practice for corporate profit.  This was the root cause of the loss of trust patients suffered towards healthcare.  Today, this distrust has a great impact on the manner in which the public is responding to health care’s representation of the COVID pandemic.

Once broken, trust is difficult to restore without a radical transformation in behavior.  Without trust, public opinion about medical issues replaces scientific evidence, causing potentially harmful theorizing and decision making to take hold.  Left to their belief systems that are influenced by fear, public opinion cannot provide the needed protection when medical evidence is cast aside.  In fact, it can be dangerous for both personal and collective health. 

Since the pandemic began, I have been appalled at medical proclamations about COVID19 which are released to the public without rigorous auditing known as peer review.  Once reviewed, the vast majority of the unaudited conclusions have been retracted, further shaking public trust.  During a pandemic, the global collective is in fear and looking for ways to stay healthy and heal quickly, if infected.  But the health care system, rife with decades of fundamental conflicts of interest, has not been able to lead the way with scientific integrity during this infectious disease crisis, after decades of business practices that have been out of alignment with its essential mission.  The lack of public trust in Medicine, from this context, is understandable, and no surprise given the lengthy history of its money track.  What I believe we are experiencing are the symptoms resulting from the deep-rooted illness that has infected health care for decades – its emphasis on profit at the cost of care.  

As one who walked away from corporate medicine with its inflated salary and golden handcuffs decades ago, I vowed to practice from the integrity of the scientific method in which I was trained and which was also based in the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship and a high standard-of-care. Believe it or not, Medicine once practiced from this platform. It has been difficult in many ways to run a solo practice from this essential platform but the meaning I derived from this form of practice more than offsets the challenges it presents. 

I have observed how corporate medicine has handled the COVID pandemic.  I am appalled by the lack of support the system has provided for physicians who are risking their lives to save their patients.  We all know the dangers they have been subjected to due to a shortage of PPE, safe practice environments, and the threats towards them restricting their freedom to voice fear and anger resulting from the injustice with which they are being treated. This is in the hospital environment, but what about the community?  We have not heard en masse, the importance of preventive measures which have gone virtually ignored during the COVID pandemic.  Decades of medical evidence shows that supplements such as Vitamin D, broad-spectrum probiotics, zinc, healthy lifestyle choices, and stress reduction are vitally important as antivirals and immune enhancers.  Instead, these have been ignored in favor of conventional methods of treatment, with emphasis on treatments for the hospitalized, the promise of a vaccine, and means of preventing death.  This emphasis has created fear and confusion without instruction or guidance in choices people can make to subvert the mechanism of Sars-CoV-2 assisting people to improve their health and their prognosis if infected.  

 

Where do we go from here? How do we assist our communities to stay healthy? The threat of comorbidities is a prognostic indicator so we must educate our communities to make healthier choices that not only prevent them but also reverse them.  Now more than ever, we must apply what we know to present healthier choices to our patients and communities. Overwhelming evidence has shown that our choices do matter and can make a difference between health and illness, life, and death.

 

COVID-19 is a virus whose course is directly impacted by lifestyle choices. It is old news that our immune systems’ capacity to fight infection is directly impacted by these choices.  Recently, researchers have shown that the body’s T cell response is an important indicator of the severity of infection.  In fact, this is the direction in which vaccine research may be headed.  T cells not only assist B cells in antibody production, but they also have a direct destructive effect on viruses. The strength of the T cells response is directly impacted by our lifestyle choices.  In fact, these choices can also reverse (or create) comorbidities. Prior to a disease manifesting, how we choose to eat and live impacts the function of all of our body systems. Our choices can lead to an illness, and if altered, can result in health. When we state that the elderly have a poorer prognosis when infected, we fail to mention that the elderly are generally low in vitamin D, which impacts prognosis from COVID and other infections.  The elderly who exercise, eat a plant-based diet, have an adequate level of Vitamin D, have a much better prognosis than those who don’t.   It has been shown in the elderly that 6 weeks of exercise and a plant-based diet can enhance immune response. We also know that alcohol depresses (innate) immunity, and disturbs sleep. A plant-based diet enhances immunity and promotes good sleep, zinc has antiviral activity,  and daily food choices impact our health.

We must stop making generalizations about age groups and be more precise and empowering in our instructions to society and also mention how choices as simple as those mentioned above impact prognosis.  Making general statements by the medical system leaves a society with fear and helplessness, which is irresponsible on the part of the medical system. We must focus on evidence-based means of assisting our patients so they can be empowered to make the needed adjustments in their lifestyles to improve outcomes and restore health.  When facilitated in this way, our communities can become healthy once again.  

I believe now is the time when education of this nature and magnitude can save millions of lives. Uncovering the mechanism of a virus is only as valuable as our ability to understand how to subvert its survival in our body.  We know enough about the immune system to be able to understand how to do this, and a shift in our choices will not only repair our personal and collective epidemic of comorbidities but will even alter the trajectory of morbidity and mortality from COVID.  Occam’s razor, an idea used in medicine means, “All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one.”

 

In the final analysis, the simplest solution to COVID may be a matter of choice.  Our choices do matter and we must bring consciousness to them not just to survive this pandemic, but to evolve towards a healthier future.  Maybe the cure for COVID19 indeed is consciousness.  Maybe this pandemic is a call for us to gain insight and choose wisely.  Maybe if we applied consciousness to promote health, it can be a means for us to be unified beneath our differences of opinion rather than polarized and divided.  Our choices always matter and informed and conscious ones can truly save us.

 

 ©Aug 2020 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center For Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press. She is currently accepting new patients-call 262.695.5311 for an appointment. During this time of COVID19 pandemic, she is offering both telephonic or in-person appointments for those people free of symptoms.

 

Nourishment versus Ego-Gratification: What is Your Measure of Self-Worth?

The COVID-19 Pandemic, more than any other collective event in the history of our lives has informed us of the gaping difference between the terms “nourishment” and “ego-gratification.”  

Ego-gratification is a feeling pursued by the masses when anxiety arises from being with oneself without worldly support. An example of this can be seen on social media, which has done an excellent job in amplifying and normalizing this behavior as the masses flock to their posts to see how many “Likes” they get from the sound bites they put out.  “I got 500 Likes,” they tell themselves, which their egos translate to “I have 500 friends who agree with me, so I must be ok”.  But this form of false reassurance from the outside ultimately feels empty and perpetuates the illusion of belonging.  In fact, it energizes societal values like fame and status. The social context is vested in perpetuating the status quo, what it normalizes, and the path of least resistance.  How many of us have watched societal pundits who having presented their authentic work decades ago, now ride on their egos gratified by New Age proclamations?  They give the market what it wants to hear, no longer assisting in true transformation. If they were, we would not be in the state we are currently in. 

We can all relate to how seductive ego-gratification is. It offers a temporary high that palliates anxiety.  The ego has anxiety management systems that it creates around itself – busyness, alcohol use, shopping, food addiction, pornography, and also social media.  One of the most common ways the ego manages anxiety is in its attempts to be validated and praised by upholding the views of the majority.  This offers a (false) sense of belonging and merely a temporary relief to anxiety born out of a separation from the Authentic Self.

Mass consciousness is threatened by authenticity.  A person’s authentic behavior does not support the values society upholds.  Not belonging does not bring us comfort.  Yet ego-gratification does not provide nourishment.  It merely palliates the anxiety we feel.  We can convince ourselves that we have 500 likes from ‘friends’ on social media, but these are not friends by the true definition of the word.  A true friend is one who mirrors back both your strengths and weaknesses and is committed to mutual growth. A true friend is in the trenches with you when you are struggling.  A true friend sees your shadow and still loves you.  “Likes” from social media “friends” are a flash in the pan, bringing the ego a temporary high, then dissipating.  This feeds a new kind of neurosis where you need to continue to post to feel palliated.  It becomes a kind of addiction for external validation.  It does not truly nourish the heart or soul.  True nourishment runs much deeper than external validation.  

When people had to spend time outside of their comfort zone during the Shelter-at-Home phase of the Pandemic, the rates of depression, suicide, violence, abuse, and addiction skyrocketed.  One of the reasons for this was because people were physically removed from society and had the time and space to reflect on meaning in their lives.  This collective ‘pause’ was a drastic alteration of dependence on external validation which caused feelings of emptiness to surface.  This uncovered a deeper lack of alignment with the Authentic Self.  The symptoms that arose from this were an indication of the lack of self-nourishment.  

As a primary care physician, I have seen an uptick in weight gain, apathy, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and amplification in feelings of shame and self-hatred in my patients.  Society offers little-to-no true support or understanding for these feelings.  We have normalized palliating them, but do not offer ways of transforming them.  Transformation is difficult.  People post how they feel (on social media), hoping for nourishment and guidance, but what they get instead is validation that is short-lived. This can actually be an impediment to the transformational process as the palliation of discomfort often arrests the struggle necessary for transformation and wholeness.  The emotional symptoms in our society reflect this.  The work of alignment with our Authentic Self is an inside job, rife with the struggle caused by the tension presented, between the inertia of societal values and the intrinsic nature of the ground of our being.  This part of us that does not care about societal values.  It only values our quest for truth and meaning.  

The very nature of transformation and alignment with Self requires us to depart from society and its collective value system and go solo on our inner journey with guidance, patience, and tenacity.  This is a long hard process, one which is unpopular, as it does not align with normalized inertia, quick fixes, or ego-gratification. It takes us back inside ourselves to evaluate and discern our relationship with ourselves.  If not addressed, we are in danger of remaining out of alignment with our Authentic Self and will likely continue to substitute true nourishment with ego-gratification.  This often results in a life without meaning, one that may be supported by the outside world, but not our inner self.  

The word nourishment means “a substance necessary for growth and health.”  It has become a keyword in my own quest for living authentically.  For me, it represents my longing for loyalty to the truth, beauty, authentic connection, and meaning.  It always creates a tension between societal values which often pull me back into them, triggering the struggle to align with what I long for and deeply value.  For me, ego-gratification is no longer enough to sustain the journey that will result in my alignment with Self.  I would rather belong to the few who resonate with authenticity than be ‘liked’ by many who are driven by the inertia of the masses.  My sense is this deeper process of alignment may be the very catalyst that can deeply heal the symptoms of our hungry egos far more than any medications we can take or addictive behaviors we are led by.  Maybe “what nourishes us” is what we need to attend to in order to heal the emotional symptoms of this Pandemic.  Maybe this is our opportunity to shift our values to more authentic ones.

© July 2020 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: ReclaimingYour Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press. She is currently accepting new patients-call 262.695.5311 for an appointment.  During this time of COVID19 pandemic, she is offering both telephonic or in-person appointments for those people free of symptoms.