Lifestyle Medicine: The initial approach to prevent, treat, and even reverse disease.

April, 2024 by Asha Gala
The relationship between nutrition and health is frequently misunderstood and ignored until either we ourselves experience health issues or we see a loved one experience health issues. We often believe that we are experts on food choices and that we are immune to lifestyle diseases.  I, too, was completely ignorant regarding the importance of nutrition.  That changed when my daughter started facing severe food and environmental allergies, eczema, and asthma soon after her birth.

In 1990, my journey into the realm of nutritional education began when a food allergy specialist prescribed lifelong medical treatments for our one-year-old daughter. I was very much against this plan. I started feeling extremely overwhelmed and lonely as the vast medical community seemed to only offer drugs as a half-baked solution to our daughter’s symptoms. Eventually, after two desperate years of evaluating alternative treatments, I stumbled upon the book “Shopper’s Guide to Natural Foods” by The East-West Journal. This book, which I casually picked up from the local health food store’s clearance section, had a profound effect and changed my approach to nutrition.

Sometime later, we were trying to help our daughter through severe recurring ear infections that were not healing, even after multiple antibiotic courses.  My husband, who holds a PhD in Industrial Pharmacy, had already mentioned that the antibiotics were not going to work for the viral infections my daughter was suffering.  I continued to search for alternative treatments.

I hit the jackpot when I took our daughter to Dr. Joel Fuhrman. His philosophy on medicine and health relies heavily on a nutritious diet and exercise and less on drugs. This was unlike conventional medical professionals and in line with the book I casually picked from the health food store. During our visit with Dr. Fuhrman, he explained that my daughter did not need another dose of antibiotics.  Instead, he prescribed fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains as his diet. He discouraged the consumption of animal products and was firmly against dairy products.  Since my husband and I were raised Jain, we were already refraining from consuming meat. We now focus on eliminating dairy products from our diet.

The following six weeks were stressful.  Were we choosing the right path?  Was it ok not to give our daughter another dose of antibiotics?  We were facing weekly calls from nurses that my daughter’s ear infection was not clearing.  We had done as instructed and removed all the dairy products from our diet.  We were consuming more vegetables than before. I had weekly calls with Dr. Fuhrman and told him that the ear infection was not clearing up.  He continued to reassure and encourage me to follow the plan he had laid out. Finally, by the 6th week, the ear infection had cleared with no antibiotics. Since then, my daughter, now a mother of two, has had no ear infections.

In one of the early visits to Dr. Fuhrman, my husband raised some concerns. How was our daughter going to get her protein and calcium if dairy products were taken away? Dr. Fuhrman responded to my husband with a question of his own: how do giraffes and elephants get their protein and calcium from just eating leaves? My husband had no response.

My husband’s health journey further solidified our conviction in the power of a nutritious diet. At the age of 31, he felt that he was making healthy food choices.  He was not overweight and was generally fit. However, in his annual blood work, his triglycerides were 455, with his total cholesterol being 223. In past years, his cholesterol fluctuated between 271 and 223, and he was not on any cholesterol-lowering medications yet. For reference, triglycerides above 130 and total cholesterol above 200 are both considered high (2018 AHA Guidelines). He believed that lowering cholesterol without drug interventions would be difficult.  He was torn between what he heard from working at a pharmaceutical company versus the information I was learning and sharing – that food was the culprit in the rise of his high cholesterol. After seeing amazing results in our 6-year-old and how her chronic colds had disappeared, we approached Dr. Fuhrman to address my husband’s health issues. In following his plan, our meals primarily consisted of vegetables, legumes and beans, whole grains, fruits, and limited nuts and seeds. Dr. Fuhrman emphasized taking out all the dairy products like paneer, ghee, yogurt, ice creams, and milk-based sweets. We would stay strict for about three months and would see my husband’s cholesterol results go down. Then, in the next annual check-in, after relaxing on dairy consumption, it would rise back up to abnormal levels. We would again go back to a stricter diet and again see a corresponding drop. This yoyo-ing went on for a few years. Finally, we both had to admit that our food choices were playing an obvious role in his health. When we actually set our mind to staying consistent with our diet, we saw consistent positive results in my husband’s routine blood work. Today, my husband is 63 years old with cholesterol well below 200 all the time without any drug intervention at all. He has a strong family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes but has stayed clear of all these health issues that so often plague members of our community. We attribute this success entirely to our strict, whole foods, plant-based meals that contain no animal products as well as no added oil, salt, or sugar. Right now, at the age of 63, he regularly practices for half marathons and enjoys working in his garden.

My daughter’s and my husband’s health successes have encouraged me to educate myself on the relationship between our lifestyle choices and chronic diseases. I currently work at Ethos Primary Care under Dr. Ron Weiss, MD, who prescribes lifestyle changes in favor of drug interventions. To learn more about myself and Ethos, please go to our website, Ethos Primary Care

A step to transition :

I invite you to explore your relationship with food. Are you willing to eat just one meal over the next week mindfully, being aware of where your food came from, who helped prepare it, and whether the food you’re eating is working for your wellness or illness?

About Author

Asha Gala is the Lifestyle Clinical Director at Ethos Primary Care, a first-of-its-kind medical practice specializing in holistic lifestyle changes for their patients. She is certified by the National Board of Health & Wellness as a Lifestyle Coach and approved by Brown University’s Mindfulness Center as an MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) teacher. She has over 15 years of experience helping patients achieve their health and wellness goals. She can relate to her patients’ hectic schedules, technology struggles, and any other challenges life throws one way or another. Her partnership with Dr. Weiss MD in designing yearly regenerative human health and wellness programs and applying them has helped many in successfully losing over 50 pounds of weight, getting off all medications, and/or reversing chronic illness.

Outside her busy work life, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids and staying active through walks and hikes. Her love for dancing becomes apparent when she moves to any music or rhythm.

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Hemant CHHADVA
Hemant CHHADVA
1 month ago

What practice you are saying is excellent self experience thing in life you have gone through
Well said & explain all the best in your coming journey GOD BLESS YOU

Ruhee Gala
Ruhee Gala
1 month ago

A very commendable personal journey, and your clarity, discipline and conviction on eating right, proven through practice makes it a journey that have impacted our eating choices too. Thankyou for that.

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