Have you ever thought that common spices like cumin and coriander that we use daily can be a solution to some of our most serious health issues? Did you know that herbs like Ashwagandha and Brahmi can ease the impact of grave illnesses like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s?
US-based neurologist, Kulreet Chaudhary in her book, The Prime resolves tough health issues through simple solutions from the kitchen garden. Her book is so engaging that it almost reads like a novel, keeping the reader hooked till the end. Filled with ancient wisdom and positivity, The Prime is Dr Chaudhary’s discovery of the ancient Ayurvedic wisdom.
How did a neurologist turn into an Ayurvedic doctor?
I wish I could say it was a moment of inspiration, but the reality is that I became a patient. I developed severe migraine and I was surprised that as a neurologist I was not able to adequately treat my own problem. So after months and months of experimenting unsuccessfully with different medications, I finally turned to Ayurveda and soon I was completely headache free. But it went beyond just being headache free, I noticed my energy was improved and my mind was clearer. I felt like I had turned back time—I felt younger. It was a critical point for me both personally and professionally and I knew I had to take a deeper look at what Ayurveda had to offer my patients.
Your book explains the basics of Ayurveda and talks about how diseases are the by-products of toxic build-up in our bodies. Do you think during our times, it is possible to stay away from toxins?
Unfortunately, we have made so many changes to the environment that it’s impossible to stay away from toxins. Instead, it’s about managing the amount of toxins we are exposed to and ridding ourselves of them. That is why programs like The Prime are so critical right now—we are bombarded by toxins and if we don’t find a way to cleanse our body on a regular basis, we will lose the battle to disease.
What does The Prime mean?
The Prime means actually getting your body ready for health and spontaneous weight loss. It is the necessary “pre-step” before jumping into dietary changes. You have to prepare your body for those changes, literally priming yourself to be successful with the changes before you take them. There is a science to changing your eating habits and The Prime scientifically prepares your body for those new habits. Without priming your body first, it’s an uphill battle and that is why most people fail at making dietary changes.
The word ‘ama’ comes several times in the book and it seems to be the main cause of all physical troubles. Can you define it?
We don’t have a perfect translation of ama in western medicine but the closest translation is undigested products, what I refer to as toxic inflammation. This doesn’t just include physical substances though—it also refers to mental and emotional toxins that have been “undigested” by an individual. One of the many discoveries of this century is how important mental and emotional health is for physical health—they are inseparable. Ama encompasses all these things that people have not processed, from environmental toxins, unnatural preservatives in our foods, to traumatic events in life.
Your key to weight loss and well being includes just a handful of kitchen ingredients. Does it not sound incredulous?
We underestimate the power of simplicity in the modern world. Even though these are just a handful of key ingredients, each one is nature’s gift to the human body. For example, take turmeric. It’s so unbelievably simple and yet look at the myriad of studies that are being done on the medicinal capacity of turmeric from Alzheimer’s disease to cancer. It seems miraculous, but that is the capacity of foods to heal our bodies. In The Prime, each and every step is powerful. I chose only the steps I felt were truly transformative. What I’ve learned in my practice of Neurology is that if you take simple steps and implement them on a daily basis, you can create amazing results. What we are learning from fields like epigenetics is that what you do every single day changes the expression of the DNA in your cells. Our simple daily choices are literally changing our DNA. It doesn’t get any simpler and more powerful than that.
Indians include cumin, fennel and coriander in their diet everyday. Do you think this plan would help them as much as it would work for the foreigners?
I still have a lot of family in India and I visit them on a regular basis and the thing that has shocked me the most is how much the Indian diet is following the American diet. My cousins in India eat at fast food places more often than anyone I know here in America. So even though traditionally in India we had a very solid basis for a healthy diet, the Indian diet is following the footsteps of the American diet as convenience is trumping nutrition when it comes to our food choices in both continents. As a result, Indians are facing many of the same challenges that Americans are facing—obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. They may be cooking with some of the spices, but they are also incorporating processed foods, refined sugar, and hydrogenated fats into their diet and the solution is still the same—turn to the foods and spices that heal the gut and detox the body in a systematic way to remove inflammation.
What’s special about cumin, coriander and fennel and how do they help in cleaning away toxin and in the weight loss process?
These key spices are amazing at healing the gut and bringing back digestive balance. A healthy digestion is the key to vitality and weight maintenance. Each one of these seeds individually play an important role in reversing damage to the digestive tract, but when they are combined together they become even more powerful. As the digestive tract heals, the bacteria living in the gut is restored to healthier gut flora and what we are learning now is that the role of the gut flora is one of the keys to a health weight long term.
What’s special about Ashvagandha and Brahmi? Should they be given to kids?
Ashwaganda and Brahmi are two of the most powerful herbs for combating stress and stress is a key aspect of chronic disease and weight gain in the modern world. In addition to helping reverse the chemical onslaught of stress on the body and mind, these two herbs also help fight food addictions. Many of the processed foods that are created today are chemically designed to be addictive to the brain and Ashwaganda and Brahmi help to break that addiction cycle naturally. There are times that children are prescribed these herbs, but I always recommend that children be evaluated by an Ayurvedic practitioner before being started on any herbs.
What are some dos and don’ts in food (like not taking honey with hot water that I discovered in your book) that you would like to share with our readers?
I’m always so impressed with the depth of knowledge that Ayurveda has when it comes to food. So when I first learned that honey actually releases a toxin when it is heated, I was surprised as well since we do it so often. There are many other don’ts in Ayurveda that are done routinely such as combining milk with meat and eating yogurt at night. So many of these things are passed on as wisdom from older generations in India but people don’t realize that there is an actual science behind this. Many of these recommendations are based on the resulting production of ama or toxins in the digestive system from these habits.
Can Ayurveda cure deadly diseases like Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer?
Ayurveda sees these conditions differently than western medicine. We recognize conditions like multiple sclerosis and cancer only in the later stages once we find evidence on imaging studies or on lab tests. But in Ayurveda, the earliest stages of these conditions can be detected before they have late clinical manifestations. If you can catch these conditions in the earlier stages, they are often time curable. But even in my medical practice where we were dealing with chronic diseases in the later stages, we were still able to stabilize the conditions. One of the great challenges of western medicine is that our diagnosis of disease occurs only in the very late stages, whereas someone can feel ill for many years before their first abnormal lab test. Ayurveda is aimed at first finding imbalances in the early stages to prevent it from becoming anything more serious.There is an entire section in Ayurveda dedicated to the treatment of infectious diseases and I’ve been surprised just how effective these treatments have been without side effects. But the main premise of Ayurveda is to maintain a healthy digestion as the first line of defense against infectious diseases. The gut houses the majority of your immune cells and is directly related to your ability to fight off infections conditions before they become systemic. So although there are special treatments for an active infection, the goal is always prevention.