Chapter One: Spiritual Nutrition
What a beautiful day for an epiphany. Here I am on a seventeen-mile mountain bike ride at an altitude of 6,700 feet in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The air I'm breathing in this pristine environment is clear and cool. It's a fresh, warm, early summer afternoon, and along with some new friends I am relishing a bit of free time at one of the most enlightening medical conferences I've ever attended. The event is devoted to using food to prevent and heal illness, and I feel so inspired that I can't wait to get back to Tucson to begin writing. I want very much to share all this new and exciting information with you, such as
- how cancer can be prevented and reversed using food.
- how heart disease can be treated using specific foods and nutrients.
- how Alzheimer's disease can be prevented and treated with food and nutrients.
- how food can cure chronic fatigue.
- how diet and vitamins can restore emotional energy.
It turns out that every major ailment has a specific natural food prescription that can reverse its course. This is the cutting edge of medicine.
The Buddha wrote:
Don't chase after the past,
Don't seek the future.
The past is gone.
The future hasn't come yet.
See clearly on the spot
That object which is now.
In my work as a physician specializing in integrative medicine, I have used nutrition as part of my practice for many years. This type of medicine, as you may know, is the emerging field that blends the best of conventional Western science with ancient healing therapies such as yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbal medicines, and acupuncture. Because I use both Eastern and Western medicine, many of my patients have made unexpected recoveries from illnesses they had been struggling with for many years. Some of them have considered their recoveries to be miraculous, but I see only the natural outcome of good science and good sense. The one thing I have come to believe while participating in these recoveries with my patients whom I call my healing partners is that your body has the ability to heal itself if you just give it a chance. Using food as medicine gives my patients the greatest chance of all to heal.
One of the chief reasons my program has been so successful is that it treats each person as a unique being. If you come to see me, I take into consideration your biochemical uniqueness and then design a program to restore you to maximum physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. When that happens when you once again attain a healing balance in your body, mind, and spirit it certainly feels miraculous. It is the answer to your deepest prayer.
The practical use of modern nutritional principles, which I will present in this book, will allow you to activate your own natural inner healing force and bring you back into a balanced state. Since no two patients are alike, no two require exactly the same therapy. When a patient comes to me for pain, fatigue, memory loss, cancer recovery, high blood pressure, or some other ailment, I always have my nutritionist, Luz-Elena Shearer, R.D., M.S., meet with us. Working together, my patient, the patient's family, Luz, and I construct a perfect dietary prescription based on patient needs and preferences. Only rarely do two patients receive the same diet. I will present the information in this book so that you will be able to create a unique healing experience for yourself.
What I learned at the conference in Wyoming brought my knowledge and ability to help heal to a higher level. I learned the latest information on preventing and healing illness at the cellular level by using food to maintain genetic integrity. If you have been following the news about the human genome project, you are probably aware of the great advances it promises. One day, drugs or therapies will fight illness by treating our genes. But I believe we can do that right now by using food as our form of genetic therapy. My program will act on your body, your brain, your mind, and your spirit. It will also touch you on your deepest inner level: your soul. After all, mind, body, and spirit are united; they are one. True healing requires we affect them all. This is the future of medicine and here we are together at this precious moment.
Perhaps you are one of the many people today who are aware of the deep spiritual awakening occurring on the planet. You can see it in the latest best-selling books and seminars. Some of the most popular speakers of our day, such as my colleagues Dr. Deepak Chopra and Debbie Ford, bring a spiritual slant to everything they say and do. Take a look at Oprah Winfrey's show, the most popular program on daytime television, which has showcased many influential new authors and spokespersons for the benefits of a spiritual lifestyle. Each Oprah program ends with a segment called "Touching Spirit," which is very popular and empowering to the members of her audience. It stirs them at a deep level.
This kind of elevation in consciousness recently touched one of my healing partners, a forty-year-old woman named Jane, who had spent a lot of time searching for help in dealing with her serious case of chronic fatigue syndrome. Jane had visited some of the most highly regarded physicians in America but had made little progress. One renowned doctor saw her for fifteen minutes, glanced at her chart in a cursory way, and told her that he wasn't optimistic about her recovery. Despite that unpleasant experience, she kept searching for a cure or at least someone who believed in her ability to heal. Finally, she was referred to me. Working together, Jane and I designed a program that returned her to wellness.
One day she wanted to discuss a realization she had had, based on her meditation practice and reinforced by her travels around the country. She felt that something important was happening in the minds of people, but she couldn't put her finger on it. She asked me if I knew what it was. I told her that I saw the situation as more than just a change from the old way of treating people medically to a new way. The real shift we are witnessing today, I said, and still believe, is in how we look at the world in relation to ourselves.
I have written about the reasons behind this shift before. As I discussed in my book Meditation as Medicine, we are now entering a new age: the Age of Aquarius. Age shifts are natural phenomena that occur every two thousand years. Jesus Christ ushered in the previous transition, from the Age of Sagittarius to the Age of Pisces. Astrological scholars believe that the world changed again at midnight on November 11, 1991. At that moment the Age of Pisces ended and the Age of Aquarius began. Astrological transitions are marked by three seven-year periods totaling a twenty-one-year cusp. This current transition will end in 2012. Each seven-year stage brings with it accelerated change. I think you will agree that we are certainly seeing such a positive change now as people become more aware of their spiritual nature. But we are also witnessing the polar opposite of that positive change. The negative corollary in this age of transition includes an increase in terrorism, fear, violence, and rage. On a medical level, we can see a rising incidence of illnesses such as chronic fatigue and obesity, as well as escalating rates of some cancers.
The single most significant change we are witnessing in this Age of Aquarius is how it revolves around experience rather than information. In its initial stages, the Age of Aquarius still centered on information and its effects on us. For example, our collective quest for information led to the development of the personal computer and the rise of the Internet. During the information age, the cry was "I want to know, I want to know." While it is still useful, the desire for pure information for its own sake has subsided as we realize that what we need most is useful personal experience. As we ride the crest of the second seven years of this cusp, a new impulse has emerged. Now the shout is "I want an experience." This is readily apparent in many aspects of modern life in reality TV, for example, and in the increase in adventure travel.
This change in paradigm is especially vivid in the practice of medicine. Because patients have become so utterly discouraged with medical practice as driven by big business and HMOs, they now visit the offices of alternative medical practitioners in droves. In the 1980s, very few Americans had consulted an alternative medical practitioner, be it a nutritionist, yoga therapist, meditation expert, chiropractic physician, massage therapist, acupuncturist, or herbalist. However, in a 1991 Harvard study, this number had increased to 34 percent, and in 1999 over 50 percent of Americans had visited an alternative medical practitioner. This number is further climbing with every passing day. Extrapolation of the 1991 Harvard study suggests that Americans made an estimated 425 million visits to providers of alternative medicine in 1990 alone. The financial ramification of this shift to integrative medicine is staggering. Expenditures associated with unconventional medical therapy in 1990 were approximately $13.7 billion, three quarters of which was paid by patients out of their own pockets. These uninsured costs are now up to $27 billion, based on a survey reported recently by the New England Journal of Medicine.
The reason people are embracing integrative medicine is apparent. Patients crave the experience of wellness that this type of treatment gives. It is what I call the feeling of healing. You usually leave the office of an alternative medical doctor feeling a lot better than when you entered. You have hope and the experience of happiness. The practitioner usually spends quality time with you, asking questions and seeking feedback. It has been my experience that when conventional doctors see you they are rarely in the moment. Their minds seem to be elsewhere. Many people tell me that a trip to the doctor leaves them feeling like a number or a file, not a person. It's no wonder, then, that so many patients, even those with chronic illnesses, are bailing out of the system. For the most part, conventional medicine does little to provide them with a true healing experience.
However, because patients demand it, conventional medicine has been forced to integrate proven natural healing techniques into the standard care of surgery, radiation therapy, and drugs. Yet, there is still a long way to go. One reason the evolution toward alternative or holistic medicine becomes bogged down is that we are taught to rely on technology instead of on our lifestyles and ourselves to heal. We have been taught that optimal health, deep healing, satisfaction, gratification, happiness, and even God can be found out there somewhere. This concept of looking outside is simply not correct. All answers lie within. As long as words have been written, saints, sages, poets, writers, philosophers, and yogis have commented on this concept and shared this truth. About five hundred years ago, an Indian guru named Arjun clarified my favorite interpretation of this reality. He was known as the Fifth Master, the king of this world and the next. Here is what he wrote:
All things are within the heart,
The home of the self.
Outside there is nothing.
Those who look outside themselves
Are left wandering in doubt.
Guru Arjun tells us that the truth we seek is within ourselves, and I agree. The answers to many of our greatest desires, needs, and longings are inside. We only need to learn how to retrieve them.
The most powerful vehicle for retrieving our longed-for answers is applied intelligence, which is the combination of information and experience. Applied intelligence brings true wisdom because it includes experience, usually on a deep level. Because times are changing, medicine must embrace change. It will do so for one simple reason: we, the people, want it to.
FORWARD TO THE FUTURE
In his best-selling book Eating Well for Optimal Health, Andrew Weil, M.D., outlined his seven basic principles of diet and health. I'd like to repeat them here for you:
- We have to eat to live.
- Eating is a major source of pleasure.
- Food that is healthy and food that gives pleasure are not mutually exclusive.
- Eating is an important focus of social interaction.
- How we eat reflects and defines our personal and cultural identity.
- How we eat is one determinant of health.
- Changing how we eat is one strategy for managing disease and restoring health.
From Eating Well for Optimal Health by Andrew Weil, M.D. Copyright 2000 by Andrew Weil, M.D. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
I'm sure you will agree that all seven principles are reasonable and true. Nevertheless, I believe we can continue to go forward in our approach to food based on available new knowledge. We can begin with Dr. Weil's last principle and move beyond it with a new intensity. In the pages of this book, I will show you why it is so vitally important to leave your old nutritional habits of the past century behind and chart a new and different course. For example:
- I will tell you how food acts as a messenger to your genes and
- how you can use that knowledge to create vibrant health and healing.
- I will give you an introductory course on the latest scientific knowledge about why food is actually medicine for your body, mind, and spirit.
- I will share with you my new seven principles of eating a modern healing diet. You will learn about organic foods and determine how to identify them and where to find them. I will also tell you about the risks of genetically modified foods and how to avoid them.
- I will teach you how to gently and safely detoxify your body from the environmental pollutants you absorb every day.
- I will lead you to discover uncommon uses for common natural foods.
- I will teach you to craft special food combination diets for specific illnesses.
- I will teach you to use organic juices as natural medicines.
- I will show you how to institute specific vitamin and herbal therapies to accelerate healing.
- I will provide you with innovative recipes for meals that heal. Many of them come from my own family. My wife, Kirti, is Italian, and she is a wonderful cook. My son, Sat, is a professional natural food chef. My daughter, Hari, is a graduate of the New Mexico School of Natural Therapeutics. All of them have happily agreed to share some of their cooking ideas. Finally, with the blessings of my teacher, Yogi Bhajan, and his talented wife, Bibiji, I will instruct you on the preparation of spiritual nutrition recipes from the ancient healing tradition of yoga nutritional therapy.
You will be asked to complete various assignments during the course of the book to determine your intake of food and help design the best diet for your ailment, issue, or concern. The first interactive exercise will begin at the end of this chapter. At various times I will also suggest that you log onto my website, www.drdharma.com, to explore further information, such as a complete list of non-genetically engineered foods, which space limitations prohibit me from listing fully in the text of this book.
YOGA NUTRITIONAL THERAPY
Yoga nutritional therapy originated in India over five thousand years ago and was brought to the West in 1969 by Yogi Bhajan. He taught these time-tested nutritional techniques along with the ancient (and formerly secret) sacred science of kundalini yoga and meditation.
Yoga nutritional therapy differs from Ayurvedic medicine in that the former doesn't require you to understand the three different body types: kapha, pitta, and vata. Unless you take the time to really study Ayurveda or go to an experienced qualified practitioner, which can be very difficult to find, you may not be able to fully benefit from the Ayurvedic method. But healing doesn't have to be so complicated. Everything you need for self-restoration can be found in this book. Understanding and using yoga nutritional therapy is actually very easy.
In yoga nutritional therapy, there is little distinction between food as basic nutrition and food as medicine. This system intertwines highly developed aspects of healing and cuisine. It is a true delight for my wife and me to dine with Yogi Bhajan and Bibiji. Bibiji is an outstanding food-as-medicine cook as well as the author of two cookbooks. Thanks mostly to her, meals at their home are memorably tasty, optimally healing, and easy to digest. At a time when so many people are seeking a return to a more natural way of living, nutritional healing is becoming more popular. Hence the saying by Yogi Bhajan, "Doctors diagnose, food cures, and God heals." If you follow the advice I give in this book, you can reap the benefits of nutritional healing for yourself.
Copyright © 2003 by Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D.
Copyright © 2002 by by