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By Reena A Jadhav

What if everything you believe about health is upside down?

Could that explain why you can’t lose that extra weight or reverse diabetes or get your blood pressure and cholesterol under control?

After all, despite billions spent on disease management and diets, we are still a growing nation of sick, fat and unhappy citizens.

I am here to tell you it’s not your fault. You are an intelligent, committed person looking for health and fitness. But everything you do seems to fail. So you try again, another way, hoping this time it works. It works temporarily, then fails. You get more frustrated and at some point binge on everything you’ve been told not to eat as it appears nothing works anyway.

Sounds familiar? That was me too. Until I figured it out and now am on a mission to share with everyone.

What if food and diet were actually the least important drivers of health? What if I told you that the foundation of health is not food and exercise but calm and sleep. That if you are calm all day and sleep well at night, your food and exercise will fall into place. You won’t battle cravings or stuff yourself at midnight with leftover pizza. You will have the energy to workout and go for a walk, easily crossing the 10,000 steps recommendation. You will naturally eat less, smile more and have bursting energy.

Oh, and you’ll look younger too! 

I am living proof as my health pyramid is what saved me and helped me reverse 28 symptoms and unleash better health. I had two health crisis across a decade, the last one taking 15 months to reverse. It was the best thing that ever happened to me as it directed me towards the path of finding my passion: helping others get their health back.

No one should suffer from preventable and treatable health issues. No one should live a half-life due to their diabetes or heart disease.

Great health is your birthright. Read on about the true foundation of health and share with all your loved ones too. Let’s get healthier together!

Key Points

  • I have created this Health Pyramid to share how I healed myself from 28 symptoms
  • Having “faced off” and won against both cancer and autoimmune, I propose a new Health Pyramid. Its based on not only my own experience but also thousands of hours of interviewing World leading doctors, healers, and functional medicine practitioners.
  • My Health Pyramid has 7 steps of which 3 form the foundation without which the top 4 topple apart.
  • Food is the last step on my pyramid, getting to Calm is the first step.
  • Why do some people escape disease but others catch everything? The base of their pyramid is strong.
  • Our body has two goals: to keep us alive and to procreate. Sickness only comes when the body starts losing the battle to stay alive.
  • What battle? Our body is battling stress, chemicals, lack of nutrients. sleep deprivation and more every minute of every day.
  • On a daily basis we are either in “sick zone” or “heal zone”. When “sick zone” exceeds “heal zone” we get sick and then diseased.

Key Stats (that scare me!)

  • Despite $2.3 trillion in annual health spending, over 50% of US adults have a chronic illness. Over 50 million people suffer from an Autoimmune illness, and they are forecasting that 1 in 2 newborns will be autistic within 20 years. 
  • That means some of your grandkids will be autistic. 
  • So, basically you, dear reader, are either sick, about to be sick or helping a loved one with sickness. Read up on my Health Pyramid for insights into how to stop or prevent disease.

Some Myths & Mistruths

Our understanding that our health is primarily a function of our diet is just plain wrong.

  • Our belief that point solutions to our health issues are the only option (steroids for knee pain) is a myth,
  • Our trust in our doctors as the Experts who will heal us when we fall sick is misplaced. 
  • Our body is the most sophisticated complex interconnected dynamic “alive” machinery with only one purpose- to keep us alive and procreating. 
  • Symptoms and sickness are just the “red light” on your dashboard – blaring loudly “something wrong, pull over and check’.
  • Pull over now, read this article and do a quick check of your “engine”.

 

Reena’s 7 Step Health Pyramid

My 28 Symptoms …

If you read health books or listen to health podcasts, I know how you feel.

Overwhelmed. Confused. Should you eat vegan or meat only? Is eating eggs ok now? I thought coconut oil was saturated and terrible but now I should put it in my coffee?

When I had my second health crisis in September 2016 (with 28 symptoms), and conventional doctors couldn’t figure it out, I embarked on a journey to get my health (and my life) back. I had been tested for EVERYTHING (except SIBO, but that’s another story) and was told I was the “healthiest sick person” they knew.

Yes I was severely underweight at 90 pounds and 5’6, yes they could see the hives, rashes, black lines, number little finger, eyesight changes, but those could be psychosomatic. One doctor prescribed anti-depressants, another suggested steroids. What broke me was the day one doctor said it could be 5 to 10 years of living with these 28 symptoms. His exact words were, “Look, this is your new reality, you’re getting older, get used to it.”

So, of course, I decided to ignore all of them and fix myself. The first step in my mind was figuring out why my body was so angry at me.

That’s how I saw it. My body was literally freaking out, screaming and throwing tantrums at will, like a little child.

I could yell back, duct tape it, ignore it or I could try to listen and understand the issue.

There had to be a trigger.

I had always assumed there was one trigger because of the way I got sick. One day I was dancing on the edge of a swimming pool in Cabo and the next day I was in ER with my eyes swollen and faced puffed up. That was the first symptom but within a month there were 27 more.

So, I decided to get an unofficial degree in healing. But in diving into all the research, forums, books, interviews I ended up with a severe migraine every night. There were way too many very sick people who weren’t getting better. And every new article from a renowned expert contradicted the last one I had read. One night, looking at all my notes on the computer, it hit me that this process was becoming counterproductive. I had to figure out an answer to my health crisis, not sort through the mess of conflicting sensationalized information I was reading constantly.

In times of crisis, we all fall back on what we know best.

In my case that was chocolate and startup principles. So I dove headfirst into gooey deliciousness while trying to apply the golden rules that had worked really well for me in my career

  1. Don’t believe, hypothesize
  2. Know your starting point
  3. Experiment a lot, test and track, then analyze
  4. Small changes often make a big impact so try everything in small doses
  5. There’s a tipping point to everything, find the tipping point to my health

Then get back my health so I can move on with my life.

That was it. Those were the 5 things I was going to do till I reversed all my symptoms and got back my health. I was going to do this forever if that’s how long it took me.

I never once considered the option of steroids or antidepressants or living with my symptoms for the rest of my life.

15 months later, I got back my health.

Along with it came the personal insights from all the experimentation and outcomes. And the shocking revelation that everything we believe about health and why we get sick is just plain FALSE.

Having been urged by so many to share my experience and insights I decided to write this brief article to summarize what I now know and believe.

Why We Get Sick

There is no single trigger to a full body meltdown.

Our body is a beautiful strong complex machine designed to keep us alive and to procreate. It’s not about to fall apart from some pollen or milk or gluten.

So it fights back valiantly, for years, all the crap we throw at it. Till one day, it fights back a little less vigorously. Then another day it can’t rebuild the gut lining as well. It starts to slowly lose the fight. That’s when symptoms start. Those aches, nasal drips, migraines, gas and bloating, fatigue, mood swings…

Finally, one day, with a heavy heart, its forced to accept defeat. Now you have a diagnosis of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, lupus, thyroiditis. And those are the lucky ones. Some simply die of a sudden heart attack.

Just as we humans have different capacity to fight, so do our bodies.

A skinny Indian like me will lose pretty badly fighting a trained boxer. Similarly, we are all born with a different innate capacity to fight off sickness and stay in health. Some never get cancer no matter how much they smoke. Others, like me, get cancer despite being a healthy vegetarian for most of my life.

Cancer can take 6 to 10 years to develop. Heart disease, diabetes take decades too. No one falls sick overnight. We all pay the price of our fun 20s and stressful 30s in our 40s and 50s.

So, if you or a loved one you know is sick, here’s why: their body is overwhelmed with triggers and doesn’t have the strength to fight back anymore.

How To Heal

The greatest insight from my own healing experience is this: everybody can heal.

You can reverse all your miserable symptoms and get to a youthful life full of vigor, zest, and excitement. It doesn’t even take that long, depending on how long you have waited before reacting to your symptoms. The sooner you react, the faster you get back to the baseline of health, which is where your body thrives.

My Health Pyramid is my way of sharing what I believe are the true priorities for getting back your health. Our focus on food and diet as the tool for health may have been true decades ago when everyone slept around 10 pm and the word stress was reserved for military personnel in times of war. Today, food or diet is the last notch on the top of the pyramid. Let’s dive into the pyramid so I can share what I believe should be your priority list.

#1 CALM

If there was one thing and only one thing you were willing to do to get back your health, do this.

You know how we all know that 90-year-old aunt who smokes like a chimney and is strong like a horse. And we all point to her or him as the reason living a healthy diet makes no difference….yeah well chances are she’s never worried much in her life and THAT’S her secret.

After hundreds of hours of research, it was so obvious to me that if my body is in “flight or fight” it won’t do anything else. It won’t digest or sleep or rebuild or procreate or anything else. It will simply try to focus on staying alive from that “tiger” chasing it. After all that’s what killed our ancestors.

The part that was not obvious and that is still shocking to me is that we are all constantly in this “flight or fight” mode.

Each and every one of us has tuned our bodies into imagining it’s trying to survive a tiger attack simply while driving in traffic or arguing with your spouse or watching a horror movie or reading social media posts. Don’t believe me, hook up a heart rate monitor and track it all day. You might be blown away and then become conscious and aware of your state of being. 

I call it not your state of mind but a state of being.

Its how you feel about the World around you, no matter what is transpiring. Its how each cell in your body is feeling at any given moment. Its how the trillions of bacteria in your gut are feeling as you go about your day. Those “nervous butterflies” or “sick to your stomach feeling” is real. It’s tangible. It’s changing your body chemistry. It’s deciding whether you are in “health creating” mode or “sickness creating” mode.

So the first, most important, and the only thing you must do, immediately, starting right now (have I convinced you yet?) is to be mindful of how you are feeling and cognitively bring yourself into a place of CALM whenever you drift away from it.

This was the first thing I did. And it was the toughest thing I did.

When you are hiving and rashing and losing weight and everyone’s staring at you like you’re dying, it’s very ..very.. very hard to stay CALM. But the facts were there- my body would not lift a finger to fix me if I didn’t get into the right state of CALM and healing. The only way forward was meditation.

So I tried a whole bunch of meditations from every renowned guru. I tried every app. Nothing seemed to calm my monkey mind. Not till I got to the root of the issue – until I changed my beliefs and disassociated from my body I could not get to a place of CALM. After all I was a miserable mess of 28 symptoms, how could I be calm in such carnage.

The meditation that finally worked was Sadhguru’s “I am not the mind I am not even the body.” I would repeat just this simple chant over and over for 30 minutes twice a day. Within a week I was believing it. Another week and I had achieved a state of acceptance and relative CALM for most of the day. That began the foundation of my healing. It also lead me to yoga which I cover in the MOVEMENT section of the Health Pyramid.

My #1 tool for CALM is journaling daily. I started initially tracking what I was eating, thinking, feeling, adding, removing, testing as it was too overwhelming to manage with all my brain fog. But soon it turned into something more powerful than an analytical exercise. It became my go-to best friend that I was sharing everything with. In fact it became so instrumental that I created a better journal for myself as what was out there was either ugly or boring, I call it My Heal Journal and it’s my #1 tool for getting to calm. I recommend you start your day by writing a word of gratitude and end your day by writing a word of gratitude in your journal. There’s so much science to back the fact that evoking gratitude rewires our monkey brain away from stress.

Gratitude is like a warm blanket on your shivering body.

My #2 tool for Calm is breath work. Your breath is your life essence. Its what gives the signals to your body about whats transpiring outside of you. Just as you can fool your body into thinking it’s being chased by a tiger through rush hour rage, you can fool your body into thinking it’s lying on a hammock on a balmy beach sipping Mojitos. Deep long belly breathing is scientifically proven to bring down cortisol, blood pressure and even insulin spikes. My breath work is simple: close your eyes and breathe in deeply to the count of 10, then hold your breath for the count of 5 and let us very slowly to a count of 15 or 20 and hold to a count of 8 to 10. If these counts are too long, start shorter but always exhale longer than your inhale and pauses are 50% of the count of inhalation and exhalation on either end. In our Bootcamps, we send daily curated meditations and breath work so you have new and exciting ways to get to Calm.

My #3 tool for Calm is sitting in the sun. There’s something magical about soaking in the sun with your feet on the ground or grass. There are hundreds of chemical reactions that take place when we are in the sun and each and every one of them reassures your body that you’re safe. There is more correlation between lack of sun exposure and cancer, depression, autoimmune disease than anything else. Sunshine is a pharmacy that’s free, waiting for you to come in and redeem your medicine. Do it daily. Combine it with your lunch or morning smoothie and gratitude journaling.

My #3 tool for Calm is self-massage. There’s something magical about self-massage that you won’t believe until you start doing it consistently. Now we really should have known this given we massage newborns to help them thrive and most Asian countries have an obsession with massages. In India we called it Abhyanga and there’s a whole science to it including which oil to use to calm down you’re messed up imbalanced Dosha. Sesame oil if you’re feeling anxious, agitated or suffering from insomnia. Coconut oil if you’re feeling irritable, angry, rashy. The best part is it takes less than 10 minutes with a dry brush and creates a calming effect for hours after.

I came up with a little trick where every time I went to the hospital for some test and was feeling jittery about the results (as in my teeth were starting to chatter) I would head outside in the sun and massage my arms as I did my deep belly breathing. Within 10 minutes I would be back to feeling warm, safe and Calm.

So don’t knock it till you try it! Give the above three a week and let me know if they worked for you!

The other tools I swear by are:

  1. Meditation
  2. Drinking any warm herbal tea with touch of honey
  3. Removing garlic, onion, alcohol and other “heating and agitating” foods from your diet (per Ayurveda)
  4. Taking a picture of 3 things that make you smile and keeping them on your cell phone for emergency

————————

#2 SLEEP

Every minute of every day our body is breaking down and rebuilding. On this one fact, there is complete agreement across all scientific, medical and alternative practitioners. Sleep is where a significant portion of the rebuilding occurs. If the ingredients to build you back up are in short supply, you’re not going to feel as great as you did 7 years ago. As apparently, in 7 short years, we are a whole new person!

Please note I am exhibit #1. I have gone through hell and back in 15 months only to emerge a more vibrant, energetic, healthier version of me.

Somehow, somewhere, at some point in my life, I decided subconsciously that sleep was a waste of my time. Perhaps in undergrad when I worked hard to graduate Summa cum laude. Or during my Oracle years when I stayed up nights fixing demo code so I could win the consultant award again. Or when I was dating in grad school and “he” was more fun than sleep. Either way, the outcome was the same. I built up a sleep deficit to rival our national debt by the time I hit 40 years. You know what that does to a body living on sugar and no sun? It creates autoimmune.

The fundamental truth about our health is this: whatever crap we throw at our body, mind, and soul during the day must get exorcised at night.

If we don’t completely clean out and rebuild during the night, we pay the price like a backed up toilet the next day. Yes, that’s not a pretty image but its a pretty accurate analogy. Now imagine your toilet backs up a little each day and its a year later, what do you think will happen? Yes, everything smelly will overflow all over your beautiful tiled bathroom.

And that’s what we call symptoms.

To fix your backed up toilet you can close the bathroom door, ignore and keep using the toilet anyway, spray air fresheners, or call a plumber.

When our body backs up and we start to overflow we take painkillers, steroids, breath mints and call a doctor.

I am convinced from reading all the science as well as from my own experience that sleep is a foundational element to health. If sleep is erratic, minimal, interrupted then the body starts to break down. We see the results in terms of cravings, brain fog, lack of interest in exercising, depression, anxiety and finally the emergence of disease.

Now, why is sleep not strongly emphasized by medical doctors if it’s that important?

Because to become a doctor the first thing they sacrifice is sleep. There are more doctors with horror stories of getting through their residency using stimulants than you can imagine. Ask your doctor next time you go in, “Hey Doc how much sleep did you get in medical school or residency?” and you’ll hear some fascinating tales of survival.

So, I ask you this: if you are being reborn every minute of every day, wouldn’t you want to know how to be reborn better each time? Wouldn’t you be a little bit curious as to how our body dies and then regenerates? That became my big obsession after Valentine’s day in 2016. I felt my body was dying, given all the symptoms, but I couldn’t understand why and the conventional doctors had given up.

What I learned changed the fundamental structure of my day.

Sleep is when our body fights invaders, repairs, and rebuilds. Compromise that and you are neither fighting off nor rebuilding, you’re just dying. It appeared so basic and common sense yet no one had said to me in my entire 6 months of doctor visits, “you should sleep more, sleep better.”

I decided I would be in bed by 9:30 pm and fast asleep by 10 pm, as recommended by Ayurveda. It also meant dinner had to be finished by 6 pm and lunch by 1 pm in order to give my digestion the needed 4-hour break between meals.

That meant no TV after 8 pm, lights out at 9:30 pm even for my husband. For 6 months I also took a hot Epsom or dead sea salt bath each night after doing a 10-minute self-massage. Both of those were part of my new sleep routine or sleep hygiene. Having spent most of my sleep with terrible sleep habits (sleeping around 2 am and waking up at 7 am) my body was thoroughly confused at what to do with lights out at 9:30 pm. I had to cajole and caress it to sleep during the “middle of the day” for us historically.

The point I am trying to make is that when you prioritize sleep you actually end up restructuring your entire day for health. Sleeping better doesn’t just happen. You have to design it, then commit to it and finally live it. But the results are transformational. What else can you call a life without sickness and disease?

I can share with you thousands of studies on the link between sleep and autoimmune disease, sleep and obesity, sleep and depression, sleep and cancer …yet those are just studies and you don’t really care. You just want a formula to test out to reverse your symptoms, lose the weight and get back to living a full life of health and joy. So here are my top tips for prioritizing sleep for the first 90 days, after that, you can skip a few and just focus on one or two that help trigger your body into the sleep zone as I call it:

#1 Take a hot bath or shower each night after a short self-massage. 

#2 Take magnesium supplement in some form (I use a cream) at 9 pm to get into a calmer more restful state 

#3 Turn off cell phone, TV, social media, laptops and everything else digital by 8:30 pm

#4 Get at least 30 to 45 minutes of sun on the majority of your body during the day

#5 Write in your Heal Journal a word of gratitude and do breath work or listen to a nighttime sleep meditation starting at 9 pm

There are also some DON’TS: don’t get discouraged and jump on your cell or put on the TV if you are having a hard time sleeping. Hang in there, imagine sitting in a hammock on a beach on your favorite vacation….fantasize, dream, just please don’t make lists of any type. Stop thinking of tomorrow and the tasks and drama ahead, just visualize all things loving and joyful.

Over time, you’ll wake up looking and feeling younger, without the blaring of a digital alarm.

TOMORROW TUNE back to this article to read up on #3 NUTRIENTS!

Each day I will share one of the rungs of my HEALTH PYRAMID. Please share with your loved ones and on social media so we can together unleash better health!

 

Health Bootcamps

Follow Reena on Twitter @reenajadhav, connect with her on Linkedin www.linkedin.com/in/reena or Facebook Reena Jadhav

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