Your Propensity To Get Ill Or Contract Diseases Depends On How Your Mind Is Reacting To Stress: Nutritional Therapist Rachna Chhachhi
In a conversation with BW Businessworld Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Annurag Batra and Abhinav Trivedi and Kavi Bhandari of BW Businessworld, Chhachhi emphasises the unavoidable connection between the mind and the body. Excerpts of a BW Wellbeing Dialogue:
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Nutritional therapist and author Rachna Chhachhi is transforming lives of people in corporate India and beyond it. She has patients across the globe and has transformed many people and made their lives better. In a conversation with BW Businessworld Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Annurag Batra and Abhinav Trivedi and Kavi Bhandari of BW Businessworld, Chhachhi emphasises the unavoidable connection between the mind and the body. Excerpts of a BW Wellbeing Dialogue:
Q. You were a hotshot corporate executive. Why did you become a nutritional therapist and how did this miracle happen?
A. I was heading business development for a large multinational financial services company when I was struck by an incurable auto immune disease. I had rheumatoid arthritis. What happens typically is that the arthritis attacks your small joints and then it goes into attacking various parts of your body and after that, your organs. My life, from being a globetrotting, high energy corporate executive with a wonderful future and career, came tumbling down.
I was pumped with toxic medication, including chemotherapy drugs, steroids, immune suppressants ‒ in one single session for 45 minutes. I was given 13 injections across my wrists and knuckles without anaesthesia to handle my pain and I passed out for three days. When I resurfaced, I wanted my old life back and if not that, at least my old energy levels back. Today when I look back, I realise that the doctors were helpless, as there is no cure for auto immune conditions.
So, I went on my own path to find a solution and I think I was blessed that I was able to make the connection between inflammation, the immune system and the disease. It changed the way I eat, live and respond to stress. I managed to heal myself and after that I realised that if I can do it for myself, I can do it for people across the world but I would need a certification. That is when I did my nutritional therapy certification course, my WHO certification course in malnutrition and I also became a certified cancer coach.
Q. Do share some case studies or give us examples of people you cured. Apart from your advice and the discipline it entailed, what were the other things that cured them? Please tell us about your patients across the globe and in India.
A. I have patients across 27 countries and it is amazing, actually almost miraculous how the human body and mind can repair themselves with the right kind of nutrition. Each and every time, whatever plans I have given them, clinically we have been able to reverse and repair their problems. It is personalised, as each one of us has a different DNA and each one of us looks different, respond or react to our environment differently. So, the input has to be customised for each person. Then I look at the chronic disease patients that I have helped to overcome their conditions. They are the ones who need the most attention during these challenging times.
The pills we take are a reactive mechanism to suppress our symptoms. You nourish yourself physically and emotionally and indulge in physical and emotional nutrition. When I say physical, I mean what goes into your mouth, while emotional is what goes into your mind. So, the mind is not an organ or the brain that we can identify with and so the actions and responses will be determined by your mind and your propensity to get illnesses or diseases depends on how your mind is reacting to stress. I have worked with people to change their response with right physical and emotional nutrition.
Q. I know this is a vast topic but could you please tell us a little about how holistic nutrition contributes to the repair of the damaged DNA by lengthening telomeres? So, in a nutshell, what are the food and lifestyle changes one can adopt to approach and support this repair?
A. When you nourish yourself with the right nutrition for your condition and you take some cognitive techniques to reduce stress, such as pranayama and meditation techniques, there is scientific proof of the element lengthening in clinical studies. This is a science we call epigenetics. This is basically the science that I deal with. Even if you have a bad gene, when you give it the right nutritional input, your response towards disease starts changing. If you are genetically prone to a disease, but if you live a nutritionally good life, then you won’t get it.
Q. You spoke of mental, physical and emotional nutrition. Physical nutrition people know about but you don’t find nutrition charts or tablets about emotional nutrition. We are the youngest country in the world but we are also the most depressed country in the world. Suicide cases are very high amongst students and amongst youngsters. So, what do you think is lacking there? What are we missing? Is it too much pressure or are there mismatched expectations? Are we dealing with a generation gap? What is troubling youngsters today?
A. There is a gap between expectations and reality, so when someone is growing up and they are given a certain amount of pressure and told that if you put pressure on yourself for this period of time then the world is going to be better for you at a later stage. Things change, they are volatile. You cannot tell someone that you have to study 18 hours a day and do engineering or MBA, then you are definitely going to get that amazing job or admission to a certain college. Setting of expectations in itself is flawed, because parents don’t look at their children as guardians of their children to be nurtured in our country… They look at them as their property.
Say this is my child and he or she will fulfil my aspirations and dreams. So, when a child is say, 12 to 14 years of age, they are already in puberty. They say that our childhood is the best time of our lives, carefree times when a child is young. But when they are dealing with puberty, they don’t know what is going through their minds and then on top of that, pressure is being put. Now imagine this 12-year-old child is told to study for IIT, at 15 you study for JEE. At the age of 18, the child does not get through JEE. Now how will that affect the child who has been in a state of chronic stress from the age of 14 to18? That is four years’ of chronic stress, disease activity shoots up, even if the child is eating right, physical nutrition is only 50 per cent.
Q. There is a taboo around expressing mental stress or the dilemma one is going through depression because people are not ready to identify it as a problem. So, do you think that there is also a taboo around talking of depression in India?
A. I think the situation today is better than a few years back, thanks to celebrities coming out with it. You are absolutely right. There is a stigma attached to it but it should be dealt with like any other disease is dealt with. So often I meet parents and children together and often the child is depressed and the parents just turn around and say, ‘We have given him or her everything on the platter. We had to struggle so much when we were younger etc.’ That time was different and this time is different. It is not an apple to apple comparison. The competitive levels are different. There is constant pressure, thanks to social media.
Q. In Covid times we have people getting less vitamin D and Indians are always short on vitamin D because of less exposure to the sun. Someone told me that if your vitamin D is low you are more susceptible to the novel coronavirus. Tell us a little bit about vitamin D. Of course, there are vitamin D supplements, but how can one get it in a natural way? Is standing in the sun for 15 minutes a solution?
A. Vitamin D is related to your immune system and heart health. How you absorb your vitamin D is a huge factor. A lot of us can take vitamin D supplements and we may not be able to absorb it. Always remember that the sun is not going to give you vitamin D. The kind of foods that have it are not easily available today. We are not getting organic eggs, which if organic, have vitamin D. We can take our supplements, but there are two things to remember when taking supplementation. First is, never take a sachet more than once in 15 days. If you combine it with fat, then it will get absorbed in your gut. For people who need to up their levels, they need to take some measures like sunlight along with vitamin D foods.
Q. What are the things we can do generally to up our immunity?
A. The first thing getting compromised and which causes low energy in today’s times is circulation. We are in the house mostly. We are not getting natural sunlight and fresh air. Most senior corporate executives I treat right now, do not have boundaries of office hours. They work from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. When circulation goes down, the nutrients do not get absorbed and it leads to fatigue. Having a glass of water every hour increases blood circulation. Get up to get the glass of water. Toxins get released and we lose a bit of weight.
Sitting is the new smoking. When you are upping your system, you need to raise your hands up. What happens is that there is a spasm at the back of our neck. When the spasm is not in order, then blood flow doesn’t go to your brain. Lack of circulation is caused. We are having a limited amount of vegetables. More vegetable intake makes your energy levels go up. If you don’t get enough vegetables it is best to take out raw foods and increase your immunity.
The third problem is lack of sleep, as people are anxiety prone. We can’t change the situation. One of the things we can do to get a good night’s sleep is listen to a guided sleep meditation before you go to sleep. For 20 minutes listen to it. It really helps.
Q. Please tell us about the connection between a warm bath and a good night’s sleep.
A. A warm bath calms us down and we sleep like a baby, as they say. It unwinds your day’s stress and the way babies feel are how we feel. Chamomile tea does wonders.
Q. Please tell us about the importance of the gut and breath?
A. Pranayama also repairs your gut. The body knows how to calm itself down. Breathing right is very important and yoga is also advised. Fifteen minutes a day can make your pulse rate lower, hence your heart is healthier and you sleep better also.
Q. Please tell us the effects dairy products and milk have on us
A. After the age of nine, we don’t need milk. Always remember that the milk should be organic. The normal milk we have is not pure. Milk is known to cause breast cancer. There is a lot of clinical data around on why we shouldn’t have milk. If you have type 2 diabetes, high lipid profile, heart problems, then you should know that milk is inflammatory and full of sugar. People with diabetes have heart problems and people with heart problems have diabetes. Milk is not advised for both these categories. We can get calcium in spinach and nuts.
Q. Please tell us about two cases that will illustrate what happened in these instances.
A. The first case is that of a person who had lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and heart issues. He was with me for nine months and he lost 35 kilos and all his conditions were clinically reversed. It is the lifestyle, the environment that leads to the disease. The other patient lost her mother, but she fought with her father for giving her medication when she came to me. Today she is fine and her father is very grateful. There was also a case of a lady with cancer, who came to me. She had to undergo chemotherapy and a surgery and within 45 days we got her condition to a level that was vast. She couldn’t believe she got such results in only 45 days.