Updated: May 6, 2021 8:43:47 am
In the last 20 years, Mumbai-based GP and nutritionist Dr Vishakha Shivdasani, who is popularly known as DoctorVee, has focused on reversing chronic diseases such as diabetes, PCOS and obesity. Dr Shivdasani applies her experience and medical expertise in a new e-book titled Covid and Post-Covid Recovery: DoctorVee’s 6-Point Plan (HarperCollins Publishers India; Rs 125). Dr Shivdasani uses the 6-Point
Plan in the reversal of chronic diseases, and applies the premise for Covid-19 patients and survivors. The plan spans diet, gut health, sleep, exercise, stress management and supplements, looking closely at the connection between inflammation and immunity. Dr Shivdasani speaks about the challenges for patients with co-morbidities and why boosting their immunity, even if they don’t have Covid-19, could be one of the ways ahead in this pandemic. Edited excerpts from an interview:
You draw a connection between inflammation and immunity, and how it’s seen across people with chronic diseases. Could you tell us about inflammation and its connection to Covid-19?
Basically put, we have two kinds of inflammation—acute and chronic. Acute inflammation can be good for you. It can be life-saving. You have a scab when you get bruised—that’s inflammation, the body’s protecting mechanism. It prevents you bleeding to death.
The problem is when the inflammation doesn’t come down after the offending agent—a pathogen or bruise or knock or cut or insect bite—has disappeared. The body doesn’t come down to baseline. It’s a chronic inflammation and is life-threatening. The irony is that this inflammation is invisible. That’s why we call it a silent killer.
Diabetics or obese people or people with PCOS—this is almost 50 percent if not more of our country—are in a chronic state of inflammation. So what happens in Covid-19 is that once the virus has attacked you, for the first 14 days, or 17 in the new variant, your body is fighting that and that’s when the acute inflammation happens. The people with the worst outcomes of Covid-19 are the ones with co-morbidities—with heart disease, preexisting diabetes, obesity. That’s because your body is already in a state of inflammation and then you have this new virus. Your body doesn’t have enough resources to fight both.
Why do they give steroids? They give steroids to reduce inflammation in Covid-19. If you follow the 6-Point Plan, you can bring down the inflammation and CRP (C-Reactive Protein, a blood test marker for inflammation) in less than a week. Whether you do it through medication externally or lifestyle changes, the effect on your body is the same.
Your book states that the 6-Point Plan is useful irrespective of whether you are recovering from Covid-19 or long Covid. Could you tell us more about this?
The 6-Point Plan can be prescribed irrespective of what stage you are at. I would go a step ahead and say if you don’t have Covid-19 and want to build your immunity and have better outcomes if you do get it, the 6-Point Plan will even help you then. If you do have Covid-19, you will not reach to being a long hauler and expedite recovery. If you have long hauler symptoms, then I have covered specific things that you can do for that, too. It will help in all stages—pre, current, post.
From your 6-Point Plan, what would you say are the most important steps? If we had to pick and choose among them, would you recommend some points over others?
All the steps are crucial. Within the diet, it would be to up your protein. Covid-19 is a catabolic disease, which means you have a breakdown of muscles. So if you are not going to eat enough protein, you are not going to form antibodies to fight the virus.
Stop all sugars. That should actually be Number 1. It’s the single most inflammatory food group. Don’t fear the food far. Good quality fat prevents the virus from entering the cell.
Pre and probiotics help your gut function better. And whatever you do, you must get six to seven hours of good quality sleep, else your immune system is not going to function well. Within exercise, the six-minute walk test is a lifesaving test.
You cover stress, breathing and meditation as part of the 6-Point Plan. However, in this pandemic, we have a constant underlying anxiety that makes it difficult to eliminate stress altogether from our lives. What do you suggest we do?
You can have stress for so many reasons — financial or medical or anything, but the stress is always there. When that happens you go from parasympathetic to a sympathetic overdrive, a cascade of hormonal effects which affects your physical body and doesn’t let you breathe. That’s why it is so important to make that shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic, which is what correct breathing and stress management teaches you. Without you even knowing, it will take you to that state. Those external factors are not going anywhere—whether someone’s lost a job or a dear one. It’s only our coping mechanisms and how we cope with it.
I have started telling everyone to not entertain WhatsApp. People spread fear without meaning to. It takes a toll on your psyche. If you feel you are already in the state, then switch off all forms of social media. I tell my patients that this is not a time to start sleeping pills because they reduce immunity. You want to do everything right now to improve your immunity.
Your 6-Point Plan seems easy enough to follow. Is it more difficult than it looks?
A lot of people probably don’t know that this can have an impact on Covid-19. The prescriptions I see—so many medications with no rationale behind them. People don’t realise that certain lifestyle changes have an impact. I don’t have noncompliance in my patient group. When you explain to them, everybody wants to do it.
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