Autoimmune Diseases can be Transformational

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From the desk of Dr Nandita Shah

In 1997, I suffered from an acute autoimmune disease called the Guillain Barre syndrome (or acute ascending polyneuritis). The symptoms included rapidly progressing weakness in the fingers and toes. Within three weeks, I was completely paralysed – to a point that I couldn't move an inch on my bed. For someone who has led a very active life, my inertness came as a shock. Some of my physician friends recommended hospitalisation as the paralysis could impact my internal organs like the lungs and heart.

I took a conscious decision to avoid conventional medicines and work on my recovery with the help of friends and family. In about six months, I was able to walk with a stick and steadily get back to my regular routine. But my disease forced me to think about the cause of the illness and the steps I needed to take to regain my health.

Based on my personal experience, I now help people reverse diseases solely through lifestyle changes. I guide them to get off medications and reclaim their health. My approach is rooted in the premise that the body always works to heal – if we are willing to tune in. My insights from my own story of transformation helps me understand how best to help my patients. In this edition of the newsletter, I am also thankful to a friend for sharing his journey with an auto immune disease and how he is helping others heal too.


My Story of Transformation

Syed Abbas – In 2003, I started to lose strength in my muscles. It took doctors 18 months to diagnose me with an autoimmune muscle wasting disease called LGMD (Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy). I was told it was a progressive disease with no way to stop the degeneration. I became weaker as my muscles continued to slowly break down. Mentally, too, I was in a bad state. I was unable to play with my kids, my family life was severally effected. I became scared of any sort of movement as I invariably fell flat while walking or even standing. I was prescribed several medications for anxiety, depression, chronic constipation, skin disorders and chronic pain. Many a times, I would just lock myself in the bathroom and cry for hours in helplessness.

My depression and disillusionment worsened over time. I started getting excruciatingly painful bouts of hip-bursitis and had to routinely opt for the steroid based injections. Eventually, they too stopped working. Needless to say, I completely lost all hope of living a normal life.

Then a very dear friend of mine recommended that I try learning a breathing technique called 'Sudarshan Kriya'. What followed was surreal but true. After practicing the Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique for about 40 days, my years of stress, anxiety and depression simply went away. The rhythmic breathing gave me immense amount of energy. The best part, I no longer needed anxiety and depression pills and my dependency on stimulants such as coffee simply vanished.

I began to think more clearly. and took the bold step of taking charge of my own health by enrolling for a year-long holistic nutrition program. Based on what I learned, I adopted a Whole Foods Plant Based diet, and underwent lots of cleansing through juicing and smoothies among other things. Very soon, I saw my pains and aches begin to disappear, my balance improved, and frequency of falling down become less and less. Within a year, I stopped taking all medications. It has been six years now that I have been medication free! My condition has improved significantly and even though I still have LGMD, I consider myself the luckiest person on the planet. I am able to walk and do many of the daily chores that I once thought were impossible. I can even play with my son! In the last four years, I have completed three 5K walks as a proof that true health lies in adopting a holistic lifestyle. This has allowed me to find a deeper meaning to life.  

Now, my passion is to help others maintain, improve and restore their health. As a health coach, I encourage people to make the necessary changes to their and their loved one's diet and lifestyle before they are diagnosed with some form of sickness. It is much easier to prevent an illness than to recover from one.  

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Nature gives different fruits and vegetables every season and that is for a reason. So with winter on, treat yourself to all of nature's fibrous goodies that she shares with us.

With a chill in the air, warm yourself with this comforting creamy pumpkin soup.


  • 250 gm red pumpkin, with skin (keep seeds for garnish)

  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced

  • Salt to taste

  • 1 1/2 cups medium thick coconut milk

  • Black pepper to taste

  • Water


Chop the red pumpkin into large chunks. DO NOT PEEL the pumpkin. Thinly slice the onion. Sauté the onions with a pinch of salt in a wok. Add the red pumpkin chunks. Add just a little water for the vegetables to cook without browning. Cover and leave to cook until the onions and pumpkin are soft. You can add lemon grass or kaffir lime leaves at this point if required. Blend the vegetable mixture into a smooth paste, retaining the water released from the cooking, if any. DO NOT STRAIN. Pour the blended mixture back into cooking vessel to heat.

Just before serving, remove the soup from the heat and add the coconut milk. Do not allow the soup to boil once you have added the coconut milk. Pour as much milk as required, depending on the desired creaminess and thickness of the soup. Add crushed black pepper.

Garnish with parsley or roasted pumpkin seeds. Marinate the pumpkin seeds in lime juice and salt, and then bake in the oven until seeds are crisp and toasted. Sprinkle as garnish to the soup.

This creamy soup is delicious served either hot or at room temperature. Can also be served chilled.

Serves 3-4

Pause to Ponder


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Decoding our Bodies

Each of us can become our own best doctors. Our body constantly guides us through our instincts. We just need to tune in and listen.

Here are a few learnings from Dr Nandita gained from her experience as a patient and as a doctor.

1. The body is always working to heal

Sometimes it's not easy. But we have to trust in the healing power and work at the level of the cause. There is always a reason for disease and we must identify it and actively remove it in order to heal. This could be wrong nutrition, psychological reasons, or even physical reasons such as lack of sleep or lack of exercise.

2. Symptoms are just messages from the body

We can understand our body’s progress by listening to the symptoms. As we improve, the symptoms reduce. We should not be in a hurry to remove the symptoms, but rather appreciate them as guides of our progress.

3. Medicines only remove symptoms

Medicines only remove symptoms, and therefore medicines can never cure. Only the body can heal. This does not mean that medicines are never required, they can be helpful, but they usually have their own side effects too. Therefore our goal should always be to reduce medicines or avoid them. 

4. Nutrients are spare parts for healing

What you put in is what you get out. Always put the highest quality nutrients in your body to get the very best results. 

5. Your body will guide you

Your body will guide you on how to heal, but you have to listen and trust like an obedient servant. The body knows better how to heal you than any doctor. When the body tells us to rest, we must obey. When the body says, “Don't eat, I'm not hungry”, it's not wise to stuff something in.

6. We have to eat and live the way Nature designed for us to eat and live

Today too many people are living contrary to nature. Sleeping late, eating unnatural foods, working long hours. Urban living can be hard on the body.

7. Chemicals are toxic to health

Chemicals are a load on the liver, kidney and other parts of the body. The liver breaks down chemicals and poisons that enter our body and the kidney excretes them. It is always wise to minimise the chemical load. Today we unknowingly apply chemicals in the form of creams, perfumes, dyes etc, and we ingest chemicals in non organic and ready-made and processed foods. Medicines, too, are chemicals.

8. The body can heal only one thing at a time

Healing requires time. The body has many different functions, and it cannot do too many at the same time. Healing can stop when we are too busy or stressed when the body is diverted and has to excrete medicines or chemicals. Whenever we are sick, the body automatically asks for rest. It rarely asks for food unless it needs nutrients to heal. It's not wise to divert the body towards digestion or any other work when it is trying to heal. We have to learn to eat only when hungry.

9. Healing occurs best during rest

Healing occurs best during rest. Even if there is an injury, the body may ask for rest. It's always best to obey the body to get the quickest results. It’s never wise to take a tablet and keep going.

10. Disease is a path to personal growth

If we follow the body's path to healing we will be forced to change our lifestyle, our way of looking at things. We will always be learning. Most people that have undergone a severe illness have learned a lot from their condition.

11. You can’t solve a problem from the same level of thinking that it was created

Healing requires change. We need to be willing to make that change.

This newsletter was compiled by SHARAN Head of Mumbai, Reyna K Rupani, She facilitates the Six Weeks to Health & Weight Loss program and also conducts health talks for schools, groups, corporates and more.

Edited by Vasanti Sundaram, Bangalore who has also benefitted from the SHARAN programmes, and now spreads awareness of the benefits of plant based lifestyle through her talks.

Sanctuary for Health and Re-connection to Animals and Nature (SHARAN) is a non-profit organisation with the goal of spreading awareness about holistic health and an ecologically sustainable compassionate lifestyle.

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