Or, my first lesson that chronic “diseases” can be reversed.
One day in the fall of 1985, at the University of Maryland, I was walking around my office rubbing my itchy eyes to get some relief. My secretary Janice said that my eyes looked bloodshot and suggested that I should go get them checked out with my doctor. When I told her that I did not have a doctor, she promptly made an appointment with her own doctor.
The doctor took a quick look at my eyes and told me that it was “just seasonal allergies.” I had arrived from India eight year earlier and can honestly say that I had never heard of the word “allergies” before coming to the US. So naturally, I asked the doc what seasonal allergies were. He said not to worry too much about it. It is probably Ragweed that I was allergic to. I should just go buy a bottle of non-prescription one milligram Chlorpheniramine, a generic anti-histamine, to take it for a few weeks until the season passed. When I asked him how I would know when to stop taking it, he said to take it for just a few weeks, I would know when season changes and not to worry too much about it since it was not a big deal.
Well, the following year, my allergies were a little worse. I started sniffling in addition to having itchy eyes. So, I started taking 2 milligrams. Even bigger dose the next year and so on. A few years later, my allergies would now kick-in even in spring season with pollen from blooming trees. In DC area, we have a lot of those. By 1995, I was suffering from allergies for about six months in a year, two months of spring season and four months of the fall season. Allergies had gotten so bad that I would feel like a zombie for half of the year, sneezing, sniffling with fever-like symptoms.
In 1993, I started learning how to fly. I could not afford to take drowsy antihistamine while flying. So, the doctor started to give me cocktails – non-drowsy stuff during the day and drowsy meds for the evenings. I was taking equivalent of 12mg antihistamine during the day and another 12 mg at night. Some of these meds had side-effects, like increased heart palpitations. So, I needed to go the doctor regularly to get checked out. My immune system was getting worse. I would get viral infection two three times a year, each episode started to last longer and longer
During all this time I would ask my physician about what was going on with my body and he would say, “Well, it’s the immune system. We don’t know much about the immune system.”
While this was going on, I had also gotten my cholesterol checked. My first blood test, in July 1990, showed my total cholesterol as 275, LDL of 205, HDL 39 and Triglycerides 155. Doctor gave me some pamphlets about lowering cholesterol through change in diet. Following that diet guidance, my cholesterol came down by as much as 52 points; this was still much higher than the then standard of 180 for the total cholesterol and 130 for LDL. My doc told me that I probably had genetic issues and had to get on some cholesterol lowering drug. A couple I tried had serious side effects like itchy skin and rash, so I discontinued those.
In September of 1995, I attended a 10 day program, Life Mastery, my first of Tony Robbins’s three Mastery University programs. At that program, on the first day, as part of creating our health baseline, we got our blood work done. My total cholesterol that day was 265. Seven days into the program, everybody who had excessive cholesterol got tested again. This time my total cholesterol was 183, an 82 points drop in 7 days! I was pleasantly shocked. That is big a change in one week. I had never been able to achieve such results, nor had my doctor ever shared even a possibility that such a change was possible with any change in lifestyle.
Armed with that experience and more knowledge about some methods for cleansing, when I returned I started to aggressively explore the possibility of curing my allergies. In my search, I ran into an organization called Washington University of Integrative Medicine. Starting October 1996, I worked with them to undertake a number of different lifestyle changes and therapies. I changed my eating habits. I quit dairy, meat, alcohol, coffee, and chocolate. They did colonics for me every other week to cleanse my colon, coffee colonics to stimulate my liver, and I would take various supplements to support my liver and immune system.
When the spring of 1997 rolled around, results became very clear. I suffered allergies only for just a few days at the beginning of that spring season and on a few very bad pollen days. In the fall of 1997 also, my experience was similar. Every season that followed, my allergies got better as opposed to getting worse as I had been experiencing since 1985.
A couple of years after my experiment with the alternative methods of curing my allergies, I went back to my physician. I needed to have him sign some papers so that I could use my health savings funds for alternative therapies. I told him my story of how I had cured my allergies. He thumped the table and got visibly angry and yelled, “These things don’t work!” I had always known him as a very mild mannered gentleman. Then I told him the other reason I had pursued this therapy was to manage my cholesterol. Regaining his composure, he said that cholesterol he could measure objectively. He challenged me to get blood work done and then return to see him.
Well, in March 1998, I got the blood work done. Total cholesterol came out to be 192 with LDL at 131. See the chart below of my cholesterol history for the last 25 years. Back paddling a little, he said, “The reason we don’t push lifestyle changes is because 95% people cannot make those changes. Whatever you are doing you should keep doing since it is working for you.” As for the allergies he wrote on my chart, SPONTANEOUS REMISSION. I left doctor’s office shaking my head in disbelief and decided to change doctor.
Nineteen years later now, I am totally free of allergies and my immune is system is strong enough that I don’t much get sick from common colds and flus. If I do catch a cold I bounce back in a day or two. Cholesterol is a whole another story. Few years later, the new standard for cholesterol became 150 for total and less than 100 for LDL. In 2007, I finally gave in and started taking Lipitor to bring my cholesterol within that range.
More recently, I have learned some more about impact of nutrition and lifestyle on coronary diseases and as a result made further changes. About a year ago, I discontinued Lipitor and have done three blood works since then, each a little bit better than the one before. The most recent blood work shows total cholesterol of 146 and LDL of 90. Moreover, my HDL is a fairly healthy 46, while triglycerides at 48, the lowest ever in 25 years!
So, that is my story about curing my allergies and managing cholesterol through nutrition. Motivated by this experience, I have accumulated a few other personal stories about preventing or curing certain other issues and have also collected further knowledge that many of the “chronic conditions” I discussed in earlier posts measured through vitality biomarkers are preventable and curable.
And that’s where I get this passion for collecting and disseminating evidence and research based information about preventing and curing chronic conditions through lifestyle changes.
Do you have a similar story?
Have you been able to reverse certain chronic conditions through lifestyle changes?
I would love to hear of such stories, both as a means for gathering inspiration and for collecting accurate experiential knowledge that we can pass along to others.
Michael Jacoby said:
Good story! I can relate. Took allergy shots for years! Magic change in lifestyle and haven’t needed them in 20+ years.
Great. I would love to hear about the lifestyle changes you made to get rid of your allergies?
Topic of allergies comes up very frequently in conversations with people – especially in the context of seasonal allergies in the DC area. So, it is definitely worth collecting experiential evidence.
Vinay Patel said:
Great story, its getting me thinking and motivating!!!
Mike Jennings said:
You’ve really got me thinking on this allergy thing. I have struggled with seasonal allergies for as long as I can remember – going back to when I was a child. Finally just about 1 month ago my wife got fed up with some of my noisier symptoms and forced me to go to an allergist. His response was pretty standard – run me through the typical set of environmental allergy tests and – surprise! (not) – I’m allergic to trees, grasses, dust, cats, dogs, etc. The next step is the not-inexpensive allergy shot regimen. I have held off doing it because it is a big commitment (3-5 years!) and certainly no sure thing. But maybe this lifestyle angle is the way to go, eh? Not sure I could give up all that good stuff, though….
Mike, Allergy shots or giving up the “good stuff” – that is an Interesting tradeoff, isn’t it?
It reminds me of a story Dr. Esselstyn told in his book.
A fellow heart surgeon, comes up to him and says, “Asking people to become vegan to prevent and reverse heart diseases is kind of extreme.” To which, Dr. Esselstyn replies, “Is it really more extreme than cutting people’s chest open, then cutting their legs open to extract veins to sow on to their heart as a bypass and charge them $50,000 to $100,000?”
Don Zacherl asked me via email: Ashok, what did the Tony Robbins Mastery course teach you that caused your cholesterol to drop? What was the causal link to the cholesterol to drop?
At the course, it was not what I learned that dropped my cholesterol level. Rather it was what I did during those seven days. I ate what they served us, and when they served us for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Also, I was doing all the activities that we were being asked to do.
So, the causal link for me was what I put into my mouth and the physical activities I undertake determine my cholesterol levels. Not my genes or some other invisible factors. And, I received a very clear experiential demonstration of that for me personally and not from some study of a random or controlled sample of N people.