Ommani Center Blog

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. 

   

 

Healers or Heroes? You Decide

Two months into the COVID pandemic, physicians on the front lines were referred to as ‘Heroes’. Are physicians actually heroes? I have a perspective on this that is different from popular culture.

Most physicians are born with an instinct to heal. We run into danger, without concern for our own safety, to save lives. Our intense and arduous training to become a physician has an alchemical effect on our instinct to heal. It in fact, amplifies and hones it. We train under conditions of intense pressure, diagnosing and treating patients with contagious diseases, unimaginable traumas, and a myriad of illnesses that range from mild to devastating. We show up every day to take care of whoever walks in our door with whatever ailment and range of suffering, from superficial to life-altering. In fact, this instinct feeds our life-force and keeps us returning day after day, to help heal the wounded and sick. This is the instinct of a Healer, NOT a Hero.

For a majority of physicians, this instinct awakens at some point in their lives and propels them to endure more than a decade of rigorous training after college, to equip them with the expertise to offer safety and healing to all whose paths they cross.

As a physician, not only is this my sacred work and vocation, it is also woven into the very fabric of my being. Regardless of what I have endured in life, my instinct to heal has never grown dim. It is who I am and will always be, interwoven with the essence of Medicine itself.

In addition to my training in medicine, I have also received ‘training’ as an abuse survivor. My abuse journey began in childhood and followed me through my medical training and beyond. My marriage of nearly 20 years embodied two decades of emotional abuse and degradation until I finally had enough. After decades of immersion in this form of toxicity, recognizing abusive behavior has also woven itself into the fabric of my very being. It is present alongside my instinct to heal and serves to keep me aware when that instinct is threatened.

When I was 36, nearly 22 years ago, I left Corporate Health care forever, never to look back. My experience within it was no different than my years of abuse. I was told that I was dispensable, that in fact, all physicians were. I was told that my role was to admit patients to the hospital, where most profit was generated. Healing my patients was a conflict of interest for Corporate Health Care, and any personal intention to practice would not be tolerated if I did not comply with the corporation’s financial mission. In short, practicing medicine from integrity would not be tolerated. These words were like acid to my soul. They came out of the mouths of administrators in the last corporate system I worked for, the third health care system I sought employment from after they promised to allow me to practice ‘patient-centered care’ from a place of integrity. What they actually wanted me to be was a prop for advertising them in the name of wellness to increase patient volume. I was unable to practice medicine this way, despite my inflated salary and benefit package. However, when I left Corporate medicine over two decades ago, I was still a ‘boiling frog,’ unable to discern patriarchal behavior in my personal life, as abuse in the form of gaslighting and degradation was the norm in my marriage. When betrayal was added to this mix, bearing this form of treatment became intolerable despite how adapted I had become.

It has now been fourteen years since my divorce and nearly 22 years since I left the patriarchal system of Corporate Health Care. When one individuates from a longstanding pattern, it leaves an imprint, a memory, like an antibody in one’s psyche that develops over time, and has the ability to recognize and stave off behavior that is degrading, abusive and erosive to one’s instinct. I can now sense abuse from a distance. With the benefit of time and decades of separation from Corporate Health Care, I can see clearly, how physicians are treated by that system — used, abused, degraded, and in fact, incarcerated with ‘golden handcuffs’ — the promise of affluence for the price of their souls. Over time, this causes significant damage to their instinct to heal, resulting in the health care system we have today.

The patriarchal pattern will continue to operate as it always has. It has not changed in 5000 years. It has consumed health care with its insatiable appetite for money and profit, using health providers as minions to meet bigger and bigger profit margins, a different bottom-line than what nourishes a healer’s instinct, a different matrix altogether. In fact, the Patriarch often camouflages its abuse, using slogans, symbols, and sentimental words to hide its true agenda. With COVID, we can see this more than ever before, the abuse patterns embedded in the matrix of what is now normalized. The dynamics of abuse are hiding in plain sight. It is hard for one to see them when physicians and health providers are called ‘Heroes’ yet placed in needless danger in unsafe working environments. Calling a Healer a Hero is actually a kind of code, a sentimental projection that is designed to throw off the scent. Words and titles often act as deflectors to get workers to perform according to the mission of the corporate agenda during a time of crisis. Of course, physicians will run towards danger, given their instinct to heal, but placing physicians and health providers in unnecessary danger and putting them and their families at risk, is unconscionable, and not what they signed up for.

Why a Hero? A Hero is a mythic archetype, one that people look up to, an image of hope, during a time of crisis, unknown outcomes, and amplified suffering. But when archetypes are used to camouflage, not only do they perpetuate the illusion, they cover up truth and hide the shadow. If the collective is caught up in Hero worship, they are less likely to see how Healers are being abused behind the curtain. This is a common tactic used by Patriarchy over millennia, no different today than in times gone by.

Furthermore, calling physicians Heroes places inordinate pressure on them to continue on, under duress, in suboptimal and unsafe environments. Archetypal projections are powerful and can elevate as well as harm the people or group they are projected onto. Physicians and health providers have been placed in an untenable situation with COVID, where they must choose between their patients and families. Unhooking a collective projection to keep their families safe, triggers a crisis of conscience. This choice is not a part of the healer’s instinct or the Hippocratic oath. In fact, working without safety is not even a part of their employment contract.

The condition that physicians are suffering from is learned helplessness. When financial incentives are coupled with production line performance, physicians get used to this treatment and consider it the ‘norm’. Their commitment to healing regardless of how they are treated places them at risk for being used and exploited for corporate profit. It was no different from what I experienced in my marriage. My incentive to stay was my commitment to my marriage, regardless of how I was treated. I had been trained to bear abuse for nearly a lifetime. It felt ‘normal’ to me. The physician’s employment contract is their commitment. Once signed, physicians are expected to justify their salaries and signing bonuses and patients become metrics. They are delivered a series of shocks when they place their integrity as a Healer over profit and are discouraged to voice their truth, let alone, practice from it. Their Healer’s instinct suffers grave damage, and this form of classical conditioning leads to learned helplessness. The lack of meaning in their work is in fact, the primary cause for physician suicide, depression, anxiety and drug abuse, epidemic in corporate health care today.

So, I propose we stop calling physicians and health providers Heroes. They are Healers. Let us pull back the mythic curtain of illusion and open our eyes to see how physicians are actually being treated in Corporate Health Care. This has been underway for nearly three decades. In order to transform dysfunction, we must first become conscious of the truth. Without truth, we remain trapped in illusion, entranced by sentimentality, and add to needless personal and collective suffering. Becoming conscious is a personal choice and a powerful and necessary one.

The shadow of health care has been operating in plain sight. COVID has now brought it to the fore. Now more than ever, we must awaken to it, call it out, and transform it into one that is aligned with the essence of Medicine. Let us liberate the instinct to heal in our physicians so they can offer it freely in the practice of medicine. And most of all, let us begin demanding integrity from a system that touts to offer both health and care — and provides neither.

©June 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.

The COVID Pandemic as a Call to Transform

There are times when we must sink to the bottom of our misery to understand truth, just as we must descend to the bottom of a well to see the stars in broad daylight.

~ Vaclav Havel 

 

The COVID19 Pandemic could never be created by human design.  It is much larger than any of us.  It has placed our world in a collective pause.  Life as we knew it stopped and transformed into one we would have never voluntarily chosen.  How and why can an invisible virus paralyze us at so many levels?

At some point over the past few months, we have all asked this question.  Each one of us may have our own version of an answer, as there is no one answer to this question.  This pandemic pause is affecting all of us in unique yet precise ways.  But for us to use this time for transformation is imperative, both collectively and personally.  Understanding its grand design will require deep insight.

COVID has affected each one of us personally.  It has plummeted each one of us into massive change and a confrontation with death, death of an old way of being, or the death of a loved one or a relationship.  From a mythic perspective, after death, new life always emerges.  We experience this as the season’s turn as generations die and are born, and also when we become ill or go through a trauma or crisis. Birth is followed by death which is followed by birth. Death and birth are part of the cycle of transformation.  

The COVID pandemic is a clarion call for us to transform.  Sheltering in place, has required us to withdraw from our familiar routines, alter our lives, spend more time with our families and ourselves more than ever before.  In a time like this, it is important for us to go deep within, to reflect on how this has personally impacted us, to take inventory of what in our life is no longer serving us, what parts do we need to leave behind, and what we will bring into the future.  I believe we are being asked to bring a clearer, more conscious, more authentic version of ourselves to the fore.  We compromise this in favor of our imprinted adaptive ways of behaving in order to fit in with the collective.  This is too great a compromise to make for the pursuit of societal values, which begin to lack meaning over time.  

 

I see this pandemic as a time for both a collective and individual initiation.  In tribal cultures, an initiation is required for a person to undergo transformation from one phase of life into another.  Initiations are consciously performed in a way that follows the mythic path.  This path has been embedded within our deep unconscious as it is a universal context for growth, yet in the West, we have forgotten this.  Going through an initiation with awareness is necessary for us to transform in order to live a meaningful life.  Since we do not go through formal initiations, we are initiated by illness, death, divorce, loss, or any crisis.  The larger intent for these is for us to connect with our authenticity, grow in wisdom, and learn to love better.  Anyone who has undergone these experiences consciously emerges stronger, wiser, and transformed. Joseph Campbell called this the Hero’s Journey. 

There are 6 stages involved in the transformational process:

  1. Initiation through shock, trauma or loss
  2. Descent into the underworld
  3. Confrontation with the shadow
  4. Connection with the Authentic self
  5. Integration of our lessons
  6. Return to the community transformed 

Every initiation is designed to take the initiate through a process where the death of the old self or an old way of being is experienced.  It often begins with a shock or trauma, an altercation in our life.  Then begins the descent into the Underworld, where we wrestle with the ‘demons’ of our shadow for a period of time.  This is a time when we deeply feel loss, despair, struggle, and suffering.  As we confront these shadow aspects and struggle with them, we earn humility, open-heartedness, and compassion as gifts from the deeper Self.  These are qualities that we may not be living from in our adapted or conditioned life, our familiar way of being before being initiated.  Remaining in the underworld until our time is done at this stage requires great courage and patience. 

In the next stage, we experience connection with our inner spirit and parts of our authentic self that have been buried, neglected, or forgotten in favor of what family and society have expected from us.  These parts contain the ‘best of us,’ our authenticity or True Nature, which we often ignore while adapting to the ‘herd or collective consciousness.’  Their awakening marks the end of the descent, after which we must integrate these into our behavior, before returning back to our community with renewed clarity and consciousness.  This is not an easy process, in fact, it is extremely difficult, but necessary and required for us to grow and gain higher consciousness.

This process of growth, requiring struggle and suffering is hard for people in our society to endure. Since we don’t have a context for initiation and transformation, we shirk from struggle and suffering.  As soon as we are touched by anything that does not ‘feel good’ we are conditioned to numb it with pharmaceuticals or addictive substances.  In fact, our medical system normalizes medicating this phase of transformation. An additional way we cope is also through denying our feelings or dissociating from them.  We are not comfortable expressing them in our society.  This is seen as a sign of weakness and we are shamed when we do.  Sadly, this interrupts our process of transformation at its earliest stages and stunts our growth and wisdom. 

In many cultures, these authentic parts are considered expressions of the Feminine Principle, also called the Self.  When Patriarchy became the ruling principle 5000 years ago, the Feminine Principle was pushed underground and this way of being was normalized over time. We began to behave in disconnected ways, disconnecting from ourselves, one another, and even nature. Fear is at the heart of Patriarchy.  We have been conditioned to undermine and devalue the Feminine Principle and still do, 5000 years later.  We treat ourselves with little to no compassion and compromise even our health in order to fit in.  Much of how we behave towards ourselves is abusive.  Many of my patients tell me they would never treat their worst enemy in ways in which they treat themselves. These behaviors make us ill in mind and body.  We treat our bodies like garbage dumps and when we get sick, we say that “our body has betrayed us.”  This kind of thinking has never worked. It turns us against ourselves and creates further separation from who we really are and how we must treat ourselves.  Transforming our relationship with ourselves to one that is aligned with our True Nature is urgent. In fact, I believe the COVID pandemic may be urging this level of healing that we need.

The Feminine Principle eventually rises up by creating a ‘destructive’ process to restore balance. Eastern cultures understand this to be a natural cycle of restoration of balance.  This is the way it has been throughout history. Our way of life prior to COVID has caught up with us.  Our materialistic values are no longer working.  We have consumed without limits. We have tipped the balance in Nature, and she is settling the score to restore balance.  

It is incredible to see how quickly Nature has healed.  Around the world, we see pictures of blue skies. Smog has virtually vanished in places where it was thick and hard to breathe.  Canals and rivers are crystal clear, teeming with life and animals in the wild have come out of hiding.  It is with remarkable rapidity that within a few months of decreased human activity, Nature is rebalancing.

Since we too are a part of Nature, we too can be restored and renewed and made healthy and whole again.  Since we are no longer living in harmony with nature, our way of life cannot be sustained.  Like nature, the body’s biochemistry changes within ten days of adopting a healthy lifestyle.  My hope is that in addition to gaining insight and transforming our consciousness we will choose to use this time to detoxify our bodies and emerge in better health.  

The COVID pandemic has taught us many things.  It has taught us the importance of health, relationships, consciousness, and meaning.   It has also stripped us from collective values that are shallow and unhealthy, values that place materialism above relationship.  

Our initiation is not yet complete.  The pain we are experiencing during this time is worthwhile and necessary for positive change.  Who we become after this will entirely be up to us.  This is both an individual and collective process and we must stay conscious during every phase of this Hero’s journey.  Our authenticity is waiting to be embodied, and each one of us who transforms, will add consciousness to the world. 

 

I hope this prayer brings you solace and peace as you navigate through this initiation:

 

May I transform into a higher consciousness.

May I honor those who are suffering during this time of collective change.

May I honor my own suffering and begin to treat myself with the compassion I deserve.

May I live from my Soul more than my Ego.

May I find the courage to live Authentically.

May I transform into who I was born to be.

Amen

©May 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 telephonic or in-person appointments for those people free of symptoms. 

Your Lifestyle Can Make a Difference Between Life or Death with COVID-19

Our world is no longer the same since the beginning of 2020. The wave of affected people around the world with COVID-19, a novel Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, whose first cases were revealed in December 2019 in Wuhan China, has created an unprecedented shake-up of every aspect of our reality. COVID-19 is highly infectious, contagious and transmissible. It lives on surfaces for days and can be transmitted through the oral and fecal-oral route. In addition, if you carry the virus, even in the absence of symptoms, you can transmit it to another person. If you cough or sneeze, you can transmit it through droplets of saliva sprayed into your mouth or nasal passages if you are in close proximity to a carrier. Coronavirus can also be transmitted through the fecal-oral route if your child is a carrier, as the virus is spread through fecal shedding.

How does the COVID-19 virus cause the damage it does? The virus itself, which is round with spike-like projections docks on ACE2 cell receptors present in the lower lungs and small intestines. Once it has docked, its membrane merges with the cell membrane and it enters the cell. Once inside, the virus needs an acidic environment to engage the cell’s DNA to manufacture its RNA and replicate itself. The liver produces ‘antigen-presenting’ cells to illuminate the virus so the immune system can attack it. At this initial stage, you may experience mild symptoms of cough, fever, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, loss of smell or taste or diarrhea or loose stools, as the immune system attacks the locations the virus has docked. Early on in the infection, this reaction can reduce the replication of the virus as the immune system attacks it. If your liver is compromised, the immune system does not attack the virus during the early stage of infection. In addition, if the immune system is weak or compromised as is commonly present in the elderly or immunosuppressed patients, and the virus is also not killed off early, which allows it to multiply rapidly. This increases the viral load in the body. When the immune system attacks this high viral load, its response is amplified causing severe tissue damage. This response is known as a ‘cytokine storm’. This is the reaction that causes shortness of breath due to damaged lung tissue often requiring hospitalization and ventilator support. This carries a much higher risk of morbidity and mortality.

There has not been much published about the importance of lifestyle to potentially prevent and reduce the intensity of COVID-19 infection, likely due to the current focus on crisis management of infected patients. Lifestyle choices are of critical importance since there is so much you can do in a relatively short time to maximize your ability to fight this virus and mitigate serious damage to your body.

  • Remember, COVID-19 needs an acidic environment to replicate. The best way to alkalize your body and increase its pH is by eating a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet. The standard American diet is high in animal protein and dairy, both acidify the system creating a lower pH. This creates optimal conditions for viral replication.
  • If your liver is compromised due to alcohol consumption or fatty liver, it will be slow to assist the immune system in reducing viral load early in the infection process. The best way to assist the liver in its immune support function is to discontinue alcohol and eat lots of greens, which cleanses the liver and optimizes its function. A Whole Food Plant-Based Diet combined with daily aerobic exercise will reduce abdominal fat and begin reversing fatty liver and also assist a liver that is sluggish from alcohol use. The liver is highly regenerative so once you begin making lifestyle changes, it will respond rapidly, which will optimize its immune support function.
  • The COVID-19 virus favors a cool and dry environment that air passages provide, and does not fare well in moist heat conditions. Inhaling steam with a steam tent or a home sauna or hot shower and using a warm mist humidifier while sleeping is highly beneficial for moisturizing and warming the nasal passages to create an unfavorable environment for the virus.
  • Aerobic exercise is extremely important to reboot the liver’s ability to provide support to the immune system and optimize detoxification and antioxidant production. 20 minutes of aerobic exercise per day is the minimum amount that should be done (of course, after clearance from your physician).
  • Reduce inflammation. This is best accomplished with a Whole Food Plant-Based Whole Food Plant-Based Diet. If your inflammatory platform is healthy and your body is not inflamed, the damage to your tissues from an amplified inflammatory response to COVID-19 can be reduced.
  • Seven to eight hours of sleep at night is highly important to increase regeneration and reduce inflammation. Deep sleep relaxes the body and neutralizes stress hormones which are inflammatory and immunosuppressive.
  • Supplements to boost and support your immunity may be helpful. There have been no studies thus far on the beneficial effects of supplements for preventing COVID-19 but using what we have learned are the beneficial effects of specific supplements may assist in recovery if you are infected. They should by no means provide a (false)sense of security or act as a substitute for advice you need to seek from your physician in case you have symptoms of COVID-19.

Supplements cannot prevent you from getting infected by the Coronavirus, but the supplements listed below have been shown to support the body in viral defense:

  • Zinc 20 mg per day has been shown to reduce viral replication  in vitro studies. Although has no evidence for COVID-19, it may hypothetically assist in reducing viral replication and is safe to take in small doses.
  • Vitamin C 2000 mg per day (if you have kidney stones, check with your doctor before taking this) is a potent anti-oxidant which assists the body in anti-viral activity.
  • Vitamin D3 2000 to 5000 IU per day has been shown to assist in immune support (be sure and get your blood level checked before taking more than 2000 IU per day in case you have a normal 25 OH-Vitamin D level. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and can be toxic if taken unmonitored in high doses.)
  • A broad-spectrum probiotic is key in keeping the gut microbiome and immune system healthy and the general immune system from being chronically activated. An effective probiotic should have 5 strains of Lactobacillus and 5 of Bifidum to populate both the small and large intestine. Since one of the docking sites of the virus is the ACE2 receptors in the small intestine, fortifying the small intestinal microbiome can be of assistance. To ensure that your probiotic is temperature stable, it is better to get one that does not need refrigeration.
  • An immune support supplement shown to modulate immune response and assist in glutathione activation may also be helpful. In my practice, I have observed this assist hundreds of my patients in reducing inflammatory flares of their rheumatologic diseases.

While on a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet, make sure you eat a variety of deeply colored fruits and vegetables. The color indicates the antioxidants present in the food which supports many different body functions including cancer-fighting properties. Add lentils and beans if you can tolerate them (best cooked from scratch rather than from a can). These increase Nitric Oxide in the body which increases blood flow and oxygenation to the tissues. This creates an unfavorable environment for viral replication.

A note about Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin:

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial pharmaceutical agent as well as a commonly prescribed drug for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, and Porphyria Cunea Tarda. For rheumatologic conditions, it is prescribed at much lower doses for chronic conditions than it would be in an acute setting. An article was published in France touting the benefits of using HCQ and Azithromycin for severe cases of COVID-19 but this study was anecdotal and did not meet the criteria for a clinical trial. Moreover, the side effects of HCQ range from dizziness, nausea, vomiting and retinal damage causing blindness and this medication should not be taken unless proven to be safe and effective for COVID-19.

The combination of HCQ and Azithromycin can cause a fatal arrhythmia called Torsade the Pointe at any age, but especially in people with cardiac rhythm issues and underlying heart disease.

There have been no large clinical trials to prove the safety or efficacy of these medications for COVID-19 yet physicians are prescribing them prophylactically and pharmacists are promoting them as well. This is very dangerous in light of public panic and fear regarding COVID-19.

The public should be aware that taking pharmaceuticals that have only anecdotal evidence can lead to a tsunami of unknown harm. In fact, we do not even know what doses, if any, are effective for prophylaxis or treatment of COVID-19 infection. We must wait for the results of clinical trials. The scientific method has always had the responsibility to keep the public safe from harm by studying the effects of pharmaceutical agents through the rigor of clinical trials. The combination of HCQ and azithromycin is advised for compassionate use at this time in serious cases.

Because of the potential for assistance by HCQ, the public requests for it of their physicians have generated a shortage for patients who need them for their ongoing rheumatologic conditions.

My advice is to steer clear until we have more definitive data on the efficacy and safety of any medication to treat Coronavirus infection.

Of interest are two of the mechanisms of action of Hydroxychloroquine. It increases the pH of the cell while reducing inflammation. Why not begin doing this yourself with a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet and all the evidence-based lifestyle suggestions listed above. You may have neglected to start this before now, but now is a great time to start given the COVID-19 pandemic. You will notice a difference in about a week as your body responds quickly to positive changes you make in case you contract COVID-19, you will increase your chances of having only a mild case of it.

If you feel you have any sinus or respiratory symptoms, please contact your primary care physician first and begin your triage there. Please do not self-medicate without first speaking to your PCP while we are in this Pandemic. Do not go to your Emergency Room or Urgent Care Center if you have these symptoms as you could inadvertently transmit the virus to others or become infected by others.

If you feel you have any sinus, respiratory or digestive symptoms, such as:

  • fever greater than 100.4
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea or loose stools

Please contact your Primary care physician for further advice.

The best preventive measures so far are to wash your hands frequently and engage in social distancing and abide by the shelter-in-place orders from your state. Our goal is to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 to arrest transmission and to reduce the spread of this virus.

For CDC guidelines and updates, please visit the CDC website . For Dr. Kumar’s videos on COVID-19, please visit Youtube.

For The Ommani Center’s COVID-19 protocol, please visit www.ommanicenter.com

Are We A Bigger Soul or a Smaller Person Because of COVID-19

Twenty-one years ago, when I left corporate health care my inner guidance spoke these words, “THIS IS THE TITANIC, IT WILL SINK. GO BUILD A LIFE RAFT.” “THERE WILL BE A WAVE OF LOSS THAT YOU NEED TO PREPARE FOR.”

At the time, my now ex-husband did not want me to leave corporate medicine. I was making six figures and supporting my family, and that was that. “I would rather live in a trailer home than go back there”, I said to him. And I began selling anything I could from my home to create a buffer of financial support as I knew I would not return to practice in the corporate setting.

Since I was a child, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. It was a deeply sacred spiritual calling that resonated with the essence of Medicine. I knew without any doubt that this healing path was what I was born to take, and I was willing to make whatever sacrifices I needed to accomplish this. After my Internal Medicine residency in 1990, I worked for three different corporate health care systems going from one to the other, thinking that I would find an environment to support Medicine’s sacred essence. I never did. After experiencing its business model that expected me to compromise my soul in favor of profit, I knew I had to leave and create a model that was rooted in integrity as well as a sustainable business. In fact, I was told by hospital administrators that my practice in their system was a conflict of interest, as it was not generating hospital dollars because I was keeping my patients healthy! This is when I heard the words from my inner guidance, mentioned above. I created The Ommani Center. This vision came straight out of my heart. It was a place where I could practice the best of medicine with love and integrity.

A few years later, I was betrayed in my marriage and business by my husband and business partner in the most heinous manner, and experienced gaslighting from all around me who I trusted. I had to move through the rubble of my old and shattered reality. I was left alone and afraid, in massive debt, The Ommani Center damaged and shaken, with my unprocessed and undiscovered Self. Something inside me refused to let this destroy me. That voice that told me to leave corporate medicine said, “YOU NEED TO PROVE YOURSELF WORTHY TO CARRY THE VISION OF OMMANI.”

It was an excruciating time when I was tested at all levels. I engaged many therapists and healers to guide me through and out of this death. I refused to take pharmaceuticals, as my inner directive wanted me to feel my suffering down to my bones, to awaken authentic empathy towards people I would be seeing in my practice from that moment forward.

THIS WAS A SPIRITUAL TEST OF A LIFETIME.

After unspeakable losses that continued for over a decade, I somehow (with the love and confidence of my patients, when I barely had any in myself), kept putting one foot in front of the other. I survived and transformed. The Ommani Center also survived and transformed, and is still here, a guiding lighthouse in the darkness for many, the ‘life raft’ I was instructed to create.

After death comes rebirth, and we must believe and know this as a Universal truth. All spiritual traditions teach this, but it is only after we experience this magnitude ourselves, can we know its sublime truth.

COVID-19 has triggered a death of the world we once knew, the death of what we thought was our reality. This reality was consuming us at all levels, our cell-tissue, our life force, and also, our natural resources, before now.

I see this process as a collective time to reset, to pause. A death of this magnitude can only be Divine. When the ‘ego’ doesn’t listen, the soul steps in, just like mine did 14 years ago. This time our collective Soul, the Soul of the world, has stepped in to reset us! During this time, we are being forced to go inside, amidst many fears, personal, relational, financial among so many more. Most of all, we have to confront our fear of the unknown. In the midst of this chaos, we must remember, “We are in this together.”

Many, whose self-worth is externally derived are being ‘forced’ to go within. They will have to confront their shadow, their fears and emerge with a greater sense of self.

Marriages will be tested, and either transform and heal or come apart. So will relationships of all kinds. Children will need to pause and be with parents, parents will need to get to know their children. It will be hard and stressful but sorely needed for deeper healing.

We are being forced to live on budgets, reframe our relationship with money, experience its impermanence and evaluate true worth. We must find what is of real value, when money disappears and prestige is of no use. More than ever, all we have are relationships, despite social distancing. We are relying on connection, revisiting what community means. This time is unprecedented, and calling us to rise from our essence, towards what matters most, what lasts longest and holds truest value.

We cannot let this opportunity go to waste. This is our clarion call as a country, society, community, and world. It is asking us to engage our forgotten wisdom. During this time of collective stress, we must remember, without struggle, we cannot transform, in fact we never do.

Speaking for myself, I learned so much from that time in my life of intense suffering, when I didn’t think I could survive when I prayed for death and prayed for my suffering to end. As a Sensitive, I didn’t think I could bear one more day of it, but I did and got through it only when I surrendered to the power of transformation. I learned that scar tissue is strong and can bear incredible stress especially when all feels lost.

Those of us who have lived long enough, through many deaths and rebirths, can now help carry our world with the process that’s underway. We know the territory of the unknown, it does not frighten us, we can use what we know to help others transform. Please reach out to us, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

We do not know what health care will look like at the end of the COVID-19. As a business, corporate medicine is unsustainable. It lacks the essence of Medicine as it lacks its sacred intent. Physicians everywhere attempt to carry this but are unable to in a system that demands profit in exchange. Health care must go back to its original intent to heal and to serve. It must also strike a balance to thrive as a business based on integrity. It can no longer sacrifice one for the other and expect to survive.

As physicians, it is our sacred work to guide patients back to health so they can grow in wisdom and learn to live better. We are now seeing the power of this love, this essence, as physicians and nurses are putting their lives on the line to save patients in need.

I pray that:

Physicians and nurses on the front lines are protected from harm,

They feel the essence of Medicine guiding them day and night,

They feel whole in their willingness to help and to heal,

They feel the love of the community and world around them.”

Amen

We have so much to transform during this time. I humbly request you to believe in the possibility of transformation and trust in this process, even when you are afraid.

This quote from Michal Meade offers guidance in this collective crisis:

“In every crisis the issue becomes whether we become a bigger soul or a smaller person”.

Let’s become a bigger soul together.

At the end of the day, it is our relationships with one another that help us through life.

Let us lean up against them and transform them into authentic and loving ones.

How To Maximize Your Safety From The CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19

THE HISTORY OF CORONAVIRUS 

The Coronavirus is an RNA virus, first identified in the 1960s, which has been divided into 4 genera, two of which infect humans.  Remember SARS? Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome occurred in the early 2000s carrying a 10% death rate. The initial transmission was from animal to humans via live game markets, then human to human through aerosol spread – coughing, sneezing and hospital procedures on the respiratory tract, which caused nosocomial spread. This taught us that animal CoVs could jump the species barrier, expanding the perception of pandemic threats.  

In 2012, a beta-CoV made the species jump as the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome was identified in the sputum of a Saudi man who died from respiratory failure.  This virus was contained and smoldered. As of 2019, MERS -C0V has caused 2494 cases and 858 deaths, the majority in Saudi Arabia. The reservoir for this is presumed to be bats, but the human transmission events have been through the dromedary camel.  

The most recent Corona Virus, COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan China again in a live animal market.  The initial transmission of the virus was from animal to human, classifying it as zoonotic transmission. The action of the WHO which placed SARS and MERS-CoV on its Priority Pathogen list was responsible for Chinese authorities reporting the cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan China on December 31, 2019.   So far, the fatality rate of COVID-2019 is lower than both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. 

As of 8 March, the outbreak has affected more than 89,000 people globally, with a total death toll in excess of 3,000. In mainland China, of the 80,734 confirmed cases, over 53,638 people have recovered, and 3,045 (or 3.6%) have died. Over 148 deaths have occurred outside of China.

MODE OF TRANSMISSION

Person to person transmission is still considered the primary mode of spread of this virus.  Standing less than 6 feet from a coughing and/or sneezing person who is infected carries the greatest risk for transmission.  

COVID-19 presents with symptoms similar to a bad cold, and mild to moderate respiratory problems such as a runny nose and sore throat.  The spread of this virus has been greater than SARS and MERS, infecting over 89,000 documented cases, but with a death rate of only 2%. People vulnerable to mortality from this virus are the frail elderly and people with co-morbidities such as diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases with compromised immune systems.  

The trajectory of this virus is unknown so the best measures we can take are to strengthen and fortify our immune systems to prevent infection, or to fight it early so it dissipates.  

CDC PRECAUTIONS 

The CDC recommends the following precautions to prevent infection from the virus:

  1. Avoid non-essential travel to China, Italy, Iran, South Korea and travel to  Japan with precautions
  2. Disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces by wiping them down with a household cleaning spray or wipe.  COVID-19 can live for up to 9 days on surfaces. 
  3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  4. Stay home when you are sick.
  5. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  6. Follow CDC recommendations for using a face mask.  The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from COVID-19.  They should be used by health workers with exposure to patients with upper respiratory symptoms. 
  7. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, sneezing or coughing. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol.
  8. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

A DOSE OF PREVENTION TO KEEP YOURSELF HEALTHY

I would like to offer some solace and tips for minimizing your risk for Coronavirus infection. While attempts to contain COVID-19 are underway, we are still more at risk with the influenza virus than Coronavirus, but the newness of this virus among humans, its lack of symptoms early after infection, and person to person contact has created justified concern.  

Our lifestyle has the most profound impact on our immune system and some simple measures to reset our lifestyles can help prevent and contain this virus are as follows: 

  1. Eat a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet.
  2. Exercise daily for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Utilize stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga and abdominal breathing – holding stress in the body negatively impacts the immune system.  
  4. Try to get at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep per night .
  5.  Drink plenty of water, a minimum of 4, 8oz glasses per day
  6.  Take a broad spectrum probiotic daily that contains at least 5 Lactobacillius and 5 Bifidum strains.
  7.  Stop smoking.
  8.  Minimize to eliminate alcohol.  Alcohol disrupts the gut flora by inducing leaky gut and making the immune system vulnerable.  It also reduces the production of vital proteins by the liver that assist in    foreign bacteria/virus recognition by the immune system. It also reduces the production of natural antioxidants and reduces the liver’s detoxifying functions.  A healthy liver assists the immune system in fighting bacterial and viral infections.

So although we are in the process of containing COVID-19, we need not panic, but take the necessary precautions listed above.  The most important steps you can take to prevent getting sick, are the same evidence-based steps listed above for decades that detail lifestyle methods providing maximal prevention and recovery from illness.

With concerns for a potential pandemic with Coronavirus, why not begin taking these steps now and building resilience and strength to fortify your body’s inner pharmacy so you can stay healthy?

After all, prevention is the best medicine.

We at The Ommani Center are taking the necessary precautions to minimize viral transmission and to keep our patients and health providers safe.  We do not see a large number of patients for typical symptoms seen in Urgent Care and Emergency Department settings, so our patients and health workers are at a lower risk for Flu/Coronavirus transmission.

However, we are following the guidelines outlined by the World Health Organization to take the necessary precautions to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

©March2020 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.