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A simple life, a healthy life

By Anuradha Das | NT BUZZ
It is the cry of the new millennia – ‘adopt a healthy lifestyle for a healthy life’. Add to this the voices of positive mental attitude coaches and gurus who will tell you that everything begins with the mind; that what the mind conceives it can achieve, and you have a powerful new age mantra for life.
Nutritionist and International Collaborator with the University of Yale, Griffin – Prevention Research Center, CT, USA, for South East Asia, Luke Coutinho is a firm believer of both schools of philosophy and at the very outset of the conversation says, “People have to be made to understand that to achieve health goals they need to change their lifestyle.”
Since this is the ‘Pink Month’ the topic naturally veers towards how lifestyle changes can benefit cancer patients.
“While I am not totally against cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, let me share a couple of stories of cancer patients from India, who were my clients – a brain cancer patient who came to me in stage IV  and a patient of pancreatic cancer with less than a month to live. The former was cured, the latter died three months later, peacefully and with dignity, in his sleep”, shares Luke making it a point to say that while he advocates and guarantees a healthier life, one that comes with developing a stronger immunity through the adpotion of healthy lifestyle, he in no way guarantees that a patient of cancer will live.
A great part of recovery has to do with the patient’s attitude towards the disease. “If I was to create any awareness about cancer I would tell patients that the body is capable of miraculous recovery”, says Luke and to explain why of all the things he could say to cancer patients this would be his message of choice he adds, “When people learn that they have cancer they give up in their mind and the body responds accordingly. If I can get you to believe half your battle will be won, and believe me I have seen people cured through the power of positive attitudes.”
And such an attitude helps contrary to sceptics claiming that the entire concept is a load of hogwash and bunkum. Why and how? Because positive attitude is a sort of auto-suggestion or self hypnosis that help one focus one’s energy and acts as an effective tool in adopting all the changes that will bring about a positive desired outcome; in the case of a patient, recovery, and if not, at least a less traumatic experience, and for the rest a healthier and as far as possible disease-free life.
“Healthy living deals with developing a strong immune system and this comes from a healthy way of eating, living and thinking,” says Luke pointing out to the healthier generations of Indians of even a couple of decades ago as compared to the present generations that are seeing the manifestations of various diseases, lifestyle or otherwise, like depression, hypertension, diabetes, PCOD (polycystic ovarian disorder), cancer, etc, in age groups as young as sixteen and seventeen.
“When we followed the Indian way of eating and living (which is indigenous to us) incidences if these diseases were low, but today with affluence and exposure to the west and with the adoption of a lifestyle not indigenous to us (including eating non indigenous diets) we are following in the footsteps of the west where disease is already a huge problem”, says Luke adding that while the West has already begun implementing corrective lifestyle measures, following healthy eating, exercising and  thinking patterns, we in our mimic-the-west enthusiasm are failing to see that we are heading down exactly the same path, that a few years down the line we too will be grappling with large incidences of various diseases.
“What we need to realise is our lifestyle is taking us there. I am by no means suggesting that you give up your lifestyle at one go. I am simply saying that you adopt one healthy living option at a time till you achieve a complete change”, says Luke who is co-authoring a book with actor Shilpa Shetty titled ‘The Great Indian Diet’.
The increasing incidence of cancer in children can also be attributed to bad living, not on the part of the child, but that of the parent. “Parents don’t change their lifestyle, smoke, live stressed lives, all of which collects carcinogens in the body which they pass on to the child”, says Luke.
Stop Internalising: “Emotional stress and resentment is a big cause for any disease, even cancer”, says Luke. “Emotional stress is an immense stress, one that causes immunity to drop, which is when disease can get a foothold in our bodies.” And emotional stress is greatly prevalent among the women of India, who in the face of the inability to stand up for their rights and beliefs internalise all grief and suffering. Observe the rising figures in breast cancer says Luke.
“That people should not hold on to stress or resentment is an important awareness that needs to be created. We need to tell people that stress throws the hormonal balance out of gear”, he says, further explaining that imbalanced hormones lead to depressed immunity, which in turn leads to disease susceptibility.
Stop smoking: “As simple as that”, says Luke. “For one it is not a solution for anything, not even being perceived as ‘cool’ or getting entry into the ‘cool’ club.”
“In fact”, he adds, “Some of the worst cancer cases I have seen were in smokers.”
Smoking also affects the body’s immunity by disrupting the hormonal balance.
“If only smokers realised that the suffering that they would face in the eventuality of being struck by cancer would negate all the so-called pleasure they derived from smoking, and more. Cancer takes a toll on a lot more than health, it can bring relationships to end, it takes a toll on finances…
Monitor the pH levels your body: “If the body becomes acidic it provides a conducive environment for cancer to thrive and grow”, shares Luke for which his advice is that people be consciously aware of the pH (acidity/alkalinity) levels of their bodies. “Ensure that you are eating alkaline foods like spinach, cucumber, green vegetables, and don’t forget to squirt a dash of lemon juice on your foods in the age-old Indian food tradition.”
Lemon juice according to Luke while itself acidic when ingested creates alkalinity. So, if you drink a glass of alcohol compensate it by drinking a glass of lemon juice. If you eat fish-curry-rice and fried fish, make sure you are also eating your greens.
“Remember diet has a lot to do with where you live. Nature has provided food for man region-specific keeping in mind weather conditions. “So while pasta is fine for an Italian it is not for an Indian”, says Luke who also hastens to add that a once in a while indulgence is fine but a compensatory diet must follow.
Follow mind body nutrition: “You may find that you are following diet plans to the T but not achieving results, and are left wondering why”, says Luke, a firm advocator of the theory that it is not what you eat but how you eat that matters.
In following this nutrition module one must keep the following in mind.
a) Don’t Overeat: “Eat in moderation because what is excess the body will store as fat”, says Luke pointing out that obesity is another big risk factor for cancer and many other diseases. Once again the hormone balance is disrupted and a disrupted hormone balance is a great mischief maker when it comes to immunity.
“Don’t do guilt eating either”, warns Luke because, “When you eat food with guilt the body responds by increasing cortisol levels.” Cortisol levels are the body’s way of indicating that food has to be now converted to fat and stored, and happens by way of the body’s response to stress, which in this case was guilty feeling about overeating.
b) Keep body flushed with oxygen while eating: “For which it is necessary to eat mindfully. Oxygen helps digest food better.”
The way to eat is slowly with the intake of deep breaths at regular intervals. “Take three deep breaths before you begin eating. Then between each morsel take a deep breath. Finally conclude the meal with three deep breaths”, says Luke guaranteeing that those who complain of bloating and acidity after eating will have nothing to complain about thereafter, “Because your body will have received enough oxygen to break down food.”
“I call oxygen Vitamin O”, he says adding that oxygen is also know to kill cancer cells.
Sleep well: “Because sleep is the time during which the body repairs itself and grows, resets hormone balance and flushes out toxins”, says Luke drawing attention to a thing as simple as dirt collecting in the eyes by morning. “Sleep is a very natural process of the body and no amount of coffee the following morning is going to help”, says Luke also red-flagging lack of sleep in the context of cancer.
Don’t lead a sedentary life: “Obesity is another major cause for ill health, including cancer and it affects the body by way of disrupting hormone balance”, says Luke.
“Exercise does not mean pounding away at various machines at a gym, even a simple walk will do”, he says, adding a little rider to any exercise plan, “Exercise mindfully.”
Where exercise is concerned his guidelines are simple – don’t over workout because the body will produce cortisol and don’t workout with feeling of loathing or dread  for you will not enjoy the process and  this will stress you body, which will then produce cortisol.
“A tip for effective exercising is mindfulness along with healthy doses of Vitamin O”, for then he maintains even a simple walk suffices to keep fit.
As the conversation draws to an end Luke says, “By 2018, one in 10 women and one in 8 men will suffer from cancer. Manifestation of disease is nature’s way of giving man a sign that he is doing something wrong. Use it as a wake-up call, make one lifestyle change a month and set a healthy cycle rolling for yourself.”

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