Vegan vs. Doctor - My 3 lessons learnt from 2 days of testing
Over the weekend, I was invited to speak at Thanyapura. Nikki (the clinic and operations manager) was my wonderful host for my stay there. In the 3 days that I was in the resort, she scheduled a whole host of treatments for me to trial (you are a star Nikki!) and some health testing at their integrative medical centre. I was pleasantly surprised with my results.
The two main tests that I did revolved around heavy metals and oxidative stress. For the heavy metals test, Dr Sukhti used the Oligo Scan to ascertain metal toxicity in my system. A blood test was done to measure oxidative stress in my system.
Test results came back for heavy metals and I expected to have some present in my system. I knew this was going to be the case as I used to consume a large amount of fish (fresh and canned tuna, salmon, flake, basa) and I also have mercury fillings in my teeth. Heavy metal toxicity unchecked, can lead to organ dysfunction, neurological damage and even cancer. Present in my system were moderate levels of aluminium, silver, lead, mercury and cadmium (just to name a few). During my consult with Dr Sukhti, he mentioned that I did not have to worry too much about my levels as my body was extremely efficient in chelating (or detoxifying) these metals. The next day, oxidative stress test results arrived, results were optimal as well with a high level of antioxidants present in my system.
All in all, I was happy with my results with points to improve and dial in my nutrition even more.
This made me think.
As a kid, I suffered from kidney disease (nephrotic syndrome) and my doctor was always telling me to test for elevated protein levels excreted in the urine (an early sign of kidney disease). If I had a reading of 2-3+ for more than a few days, I had to immediately go to the hospital to seek further diagnosis and treatment.
I remember years ago before I was vegan (and a heavy meat eater) I went in for my yearly health check up.
I had elevated protein, LDL cholesterol and ketones in my urine which I knew wasn't a good sign. At that point, I disregarded the thought and justified that my body was metabolising fat effectively. My whole focus was 'getting leaner' whatever the cost. Not only that, I was also extremely constipated (and even suffered from piles...sorry for the detail) at times and finding trouble digesting foods. None of which were of great concern as my sole focus was aesthetics first, health later.
In retrospect, I realise how reckless that mindset was. I was consuming a diet rich in animal protein, fat and supplements. A diet devout of any fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals. If I were to have continued this lifestyle, I am certain I would have developed health complications down the track.
Through this experience, I have learned this 3 things:
1. A plant-based diet is protective towards health.
Part of my daily diet includes goji berries (25,300 *ORAC value) , blueberries (9621 ORAC value), kidney beans (8606 ORAC value), walnuts (13541 ORAC value) and herbs like cinnamon (131,420 ORAC value), turmeric (127,068 ORAC value) all rich in antioxidants which prevent oxidative stress in the body (oxidative stress leads to disease, pre-mature aging and cancer). Not only that, I include herbs such as cilantro in salads, and chlorophyll rich superfoods such as spinach, spirulina, chlorella, alfalfa, wheat grass and barley grass (in the form of my PranaOn supergreens powder) in green smoothies. All of these ingredients and my fibre rich diet aids with better overall detoxification, the chelation of heavy metals and also cell regeneration.
*ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) - A measurement of antioxidant capacities in foods. The higher the value, the more antioxidants present. This site provides antioxidant values of foods and beverages.
2. A low body fat percentage and 'fitness' does not equate to health.
Back in 2010 when I competed as a non-vegan bodybuilder, I managed to get to a low body fat percentage (about 7-8%). Caloric deficits, modulation of macronutrient ratios and the use of some supplements got me there. Whether I felt energetic and healthy at that point, was a different story. Pro-bodybuilders suffering from kidney, heart or liver failure, not living past the age of 55 because systems have shut down. Right now in Singapore, I even witness kids as young as 15 jumping on anabolic steroids and growth hormones to achieve the 'aesthetic' look. I've read reports of marathon runners, triathletes suffering from cardiac arrest during a race and passing on. Just about a week ago, an individual died at a spartan race from a heart attack. As they say, heart disease is a silent killer and it can affect anyone, at anytime, with any shape or size. Having researched the work of Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, he says 'Heart disease is an absolute toothless paper tiger.' Knowing what I now know, I could not agree more.
Mark Haub did an experiment and went on a calorie restricted diet comprising of junk food (twinkies and powdered doughnuts). He managed to drop his LDL ("bad" cholesterol) by 20% and increased his HDL ("good" cholesterol) by 20%. He also reduced his level of triglycerides by 39%. With that in mind, many diets and programs will help with weight loss and might temporarily improve health markers (like in Mark's experiment). Whether it supports long term health and longevity, is a different story.
3. A low body fat percentage is a byproduct of nourishment, health and energy.
Since turning vegan for almost 5 years, my joint issues have went away, my digestion has improved significantly (I assimilate nutrients a lot better), inflammation around my body has disappeared, I have boundless energy and recover twice as fast while training twice as long. I am lean all year round. I attribute these benefits to a nutrient dense, alkaline forming, antioxidant and fibre rich whole food plant-based diet. This shift in perspective has literally turned my fitness and health around.
I really appreciate this experience at Thanyapura. This simply affirms that a plant-based diet is the future of health, fitness and food.
A little snippet of this amazing place that is Thanyapura
Spread peace, live strong... eat plants!