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Intentional Health with Dr. Chiti Parikh


Join us for a captivating discussion with Dr. Parikh where we explore the transformative power of integrative health and well-being. Dive into practical strategies for a balanced, mindful lifestyle and discover how to incorporate holistic health practices into your daily routine.

Integrative health and wellbeing with Dr. Chiti Parikh. 0:00
Integrative medicine and its benefits. 1:43
Holistic and integrative medicine approaches. 5:26
Integrative medicine and its benefits. 7:52
Spirituality, healing, and stem cells. 12:49
28-day detox for optimal health and vitality. 18:27
Ancient health secrets and their modern applications. 23:18
Gut microbiome and its impact on health. 28:09
Food education, gut health, and the impact of processed foods. 36:30
Gut health, microbiome, and diet. 39:02
Gut microbiome, fermentation, and seasonal eating. 44:48
Gut health and its impact on weight loss and overall wellness. 50:08

Natalie 00:00
Hello, and welcome to the Invigor medical Podcast. I’m Natalie Garland. I’m here this morning with Derek Berkey on a just lovely Monday morning in southeast Washington, a little bit of fog, not a lot of sun.

Derek 00:10
A little bit of clouds. Yeah.

Natalie 00:11
How are you doing this morning?

Derek 00:12
Uh, honestly a little tired.

Natalie 00:13
Yeah? Long weekend?

Derek 00:15
But overall pretty good.

Natalie 00:16
Good. I’m really excited. I feel energized just in the little pre conversation we’ve had with our guest today, because we’re going to cover a lot of topics that I love to talk about and learn about. And I’m confident that our listeners are going to be walking away with information that they’re going to be able to take and plug into their lives, and live a better life, which is what we’re all about here on the Invigor medical podcast. So we’re just so honored to have Dr. Chiti Parikh, who is the Executive Director of the integrative health and wellbeing program at New York Presbyterian Hospital. She’s also the author of Intentional Health. She’s going to be sharing her journey in medicine and enlighten us on how to achieve a balanced and energized life. Dr. Parikh, welcome to the Invigor Medical Podcast.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 00:55
Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited.

Natalie 00:58
Good me to. Okay, so I always like to start a little bit with your background and how you got here. And so I want to hear that from you. But I also want to make sure we touch a little bit on the phrase Integrative Health, because I’m not sure a lot of people have a really full understanding of what exactly that is. So if you would give us a little bit of background and maybe touch on that as well.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 01:21
Absolutely. I’ll start with my story. And then I’ll weave into the story of Integrative Health itself.

Natalie 01:27

Dr. Chiti Parikh 01:27
So I grew up in India and I moved here when I was a teenager and I grew up in a small town in India, where sort of food was medicine. So if I got sick, my grandma would go into the kitchen and open the spice box and kind of combine and do her magic and fix up her thing so that’s just how I grew up. Once I came to this country, and you know, I pursued medicine, and before I actually decided to start medical school, I took a gap year. Because I wanted to learn more about myself and also the the field I was about to go into. So I packed my bags, and I spent a year traveling, backpacking through Asia.

Natalie 02:03

Dr. Chiti Parikh 02:03
And this was pre iPhone, this was the days when you had to guide book and ask people for directions.

Natalie 02:09
Unfold the map, try to hold it.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 02:11
It was a different time. Exactly. But I traveled through you know, I spent time in solid meditation retreats and spending time with monks indigenous medicine, and really saw what life is. If you see how life is in different settings from different cultures, then you can see what health is and what it takes to maintain it. So really opened my eyes and least to say completely transformed how I looked at my own health, and how that would be such a big part of my career going forward.

Natalie 02:43

Dr. Chiti Parikh 02:43
So we came back, you know, went through my training at top medical institutions. But I realized that something was missing. Because this is not the type of medicine I wanted to practice where it was just sort of reactionary a bandaid or a revolving door. That’s what it felt like honestly.

Natalie 02:59
For sure.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 03:00
But I wanted to be the kind of Doctor who not just took care of sick people, but helped people stay healthy.

Natalie 03:05
I love that.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 03:06
And you know, it’s sort of counterintuitive,

Natalie 03:08
It shouldn’t be though.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 03:09
Like people come to me to stay healthy. Not when they get sick, you know. So that’s, that’s the type of doctor I wanted to be. So I obtained you know, I always say was a whole new set of medical training. You know, I trained at the best institution, we’re the best in the country. But then I had to go out there and learn about holistic medicine. I learned ayurveda, which is traditional Indian medicine that goes back 1000s of years, I learned acupuncture, I learned functional medicine. So I wanted to expand my toolkit so I could bring that to my patients. And then I started this program that does exactly that. It brings 5000 years of science under one roof. And it’s been my life’s work to make this type of medicine standard of care.

Natalie 03:52

Dr. Chiti Parikh 03:52
And bring it inside the hospital system so that everyone can benefit from it. It’s not just people who can afford it. But it’s everyone who needs it.

Natalie 04:01
I love that.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 04:01
So that’s how I’m here. And I continue to kind of I want to spread the word that there’s so much more to life, there’s so much more to health than just medications and diagnosis and doctor’s visit. There’s so much more we can do. And integrative medicine, the story of a nuclear medicine is very similar. A lot of people call it alternative medicine many years ago.

Natalie 04:23

Dr. Chiti Parikh 04:23
So it was like either you go to your doctor or you you do this, you know there was no in between it was just black and white. Then we talked about something called complementary medicines to kind of warming up to the idea that there’s more than just the Western medical approach. Integrative Medicine is is about combining best of Eastern Western medicine in a scientific and in a safe and effective manner. That’s what it really is. It’s all the therapies we’re talking about in the world of integrative medicine have been validated by science, and have been around some of them for 1000s of years and a part of cultures across the world. So instead of praying To sing in isolation, we’re not saying do this, or this, we’re saying we’re doing this and this. So it’s really bringing a whole new set of toolbox, you know, to our patients to not just treat conditions and diseases, but also keep them healthy. So that’s what integrative medicine is all about. And that’s sort of my what gets me up in the morning keeps me going for hopefully, for years to come.

Natalie 05:25
I love that.

Derek 05:26
That’s awesome. You know, when I hear about that, the term that I grew up kind of familiar with is holistic medicine. I don’t know if you can touch on the on the differences between holistic and integrative medicine, if they’re pretty similar.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 05:37
They’re very similar and holistic is, and I think holistic, really nails. One thing really well is the word holistic really emphasizes that it’s not just physical health, that it’s more to just the body, there’s also a mind and the spirit. So I think about holistic medicine is just dressing not just the physical symptoms, but also bringing into the conversation about our mental or emotional well, being in a spiritual well being as well.

Derek 06:02
Yeah, I really liked that. You know, as you talk about this, I kind of think about traditional medicine, and the role that is played in basically what America is today, right? I think you touched on it, it’s very much like you go in when you’re sick, and then they try to give you some sort of pill or cure to like, reverse that. I really like this idea of integrative medicine, I think specifically because it kind of makes it more accessible. I feel like with regular medicine, it’s very, like, what’s the word safeguarded or like, behind behind a wall, right. And the doctor is the one that administers it to you, and you have to trust the doctor, right? And whereas in this case, I’m guessing you probably equip people with the tools and the things that they need to be able to address things on their own and be able to say, like, Okay, this is what I need to do if I want to feel better.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 06:50
Yeah, exactly. And a lot of the work we do is really helping people understand and get to know their body better. Because I think we are still in that mindset, you get sick, you go to the doctor, you get a test, and the blessed blood test is telling the doctor what to do instead of the person. So that’s the reason why, you know, people always ask me, Do you treat thyroid, you treat chronic fatigue? Do you treat gut health? What do you treat, I always say don’t treat any diseases and symptoms, I treat people, right, because two people can walk into the door with the same exact diagnosis or symptom or a label. But how I approach them – their story, the story of their symptom, or their illness is always completely different. So that’s why I think we need to open our eyes and say, yes, let’s, let’s look beyond the labels and the diagnosis and understand the story and create the treatment framework around that. Because then you’ll get real success rather than just one size fits all approach that Western medicine often often embraces.

Natalie 07:51
Right. I mean, we’re just barely into the beginning of this conversation. And I’m already so excited and grateful for the work that you’re doing. Because I think this is just something there needs to be way more conversation and awareness around, you know, I feel like the way that we’ve done medicine, and America for a long time has been kind of stuck. And you know, you yourself just mentioned 1000s of years of these types of healing being practiced across the world. And like, I feel like we’re so far behind in a lot of ways. And in some ways as a country, you know, kind of got this big idea of like, Oh, we’re the smartest, the best, the biggest, the baddest. And then and there were so much that developed and came out of that that is so important and necessary. But I think in the in the race of that there are so much wisdom left behind. And so to know that there are people like you out there that are doing this integration of the two is so incredible and important. You know, I grew up with a mom, who had this big old book called The prescription for nutritional healing. And so when you mentioned your grandmother, and it’s like when you’re sick, it’s all about food, like, I almost never had medications growing up, you know, if I had a cold or this whatever, and still to this day I read, I rarely do if I, you know, there are certain things that my mother taught me when I feel a cold coming on, that I make this tonic and I start drinking it. And I kind of avoid getting the full bust of it, you know. So I’m really grateful that I had a mom who was smart and was doing that. And you had your grandmother who taught you all of that. I didn’t take it and go to prestigious school and become a doctor. So kudos to you for doing that. Because it is it is necessary. And do you find when you’re when you’re bringing these ideas to patients into people? Do you do find a bit of resistance and like, oh, no, this isn’t the way it’s meant to be and wait, I need you to do something else. Or are you finding that people kind of heaving a sigh of relief? Like oh my gosh, now we’re going to do something about this and get out of sort of that revolving door that you mentioned.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 09:45
Exactly. I think it’s the latter all around because, you know, typically when I see a new patient, my in my office, right I spend at least an hour with them. And during that time we’re talking about not just your checklist of what allergies you have, what medications you’re on. Yes, we do that. But a lot of time is spent and just saying, Okay, tell me what is your goal? You know, what does health look like to you? What are things that bring you sense of joy and happiness?

Natalie 10:11
Well, I just like pause you for just a second just the fact that you saying you’re spending an hour. Like, that is blue blows my mind because usually it’s just like so so fast get and get out. What do you got to do? You know, the dot, and there’s a lot of pressure on doctors, I don’t want it to seem like, I’m like digging on doctors, like how dare they not spend more time like, it’s high demand, and the expectation of what they’re supposed to turn out every day is intense. So just the fact that you’re saying you’re sitting with your patients for an hour is incredible. So sorry to interrupt you, but I just wanted to emphasize the difference there.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 10:41
But thank you for highlighting that. Because I can tell you that time is that secret ingredient that facilitates healing, to be honest, just having that freedom for someone to tell their full story not be interrupted, not be rushed, just verbalizing that putting it together and have someone actually listen to it in itself is so therapeutic. And I kind of joke about this, but not really. It’s I always tell people, you know, one thing that I have in my office that I never thought that I would really need. And it’s not a stethoscope or any fancy tech, you know, technology. It’s a box of tissues. Because I can’t tell you how many people actually cry, like leave the office. And I hope I’m not scary. I can assure you. I’m not intimidating.

Natalie 11:25
You don’t seem that way.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 11:26
I’ve confirmed that. But it’s just that having that time and space for the first time for some of the people who have gone to…

Natalie 11:34
Feeling heard.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 11:35
…20 Different doctors. Yeah. And feeling heard. Exactly. And someone asked actually asking the question, you know, what does health look like for you? What brings you joy and happiness in your life? It’s not just like, what’s your lab test? You know, what’s your CAT scan saying? So…it works both ways.

Natalie 11:50
You’re no longer just a number and a result on a test. Yeah.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 11:54
Exactly. So I think that therapeutic relationship that starts with that commitment on both sides, it’s a great foundation to build on. And I understand that this type of medicine might not be for everyone, because not everyone’s there yet. And I get it. But for people who are there, this can be that light at the end of the tunnel, right? This can be that that answer that yes, I can do more, I can play a more proactive role in being engaged in my health care than just sit here and wait for a diagnosis or wait for a pill to come around. Yeah, the Western medicine is amazing at certain things. I’m not saying there’s, you know, we obviously love what Western medicine has to offer. But it focuses on a certain spectrum of health, right, that’s towards the disease end. But there’s years and decades of our life where we can really optimize our health, where we’re not doing such a good job at and we really need to use integrative medicine to get that done.

Derek 12:49
Yeah, well, you know, there’s a recently we just did a podcast ever recorded, where I went to Andrew Haberman one of his live events. And…

Natalie 13:00
I’m going to start setting a timer for like, how many minutes will it take before Derek mentions Huberman?

Derek 13:06
You know, okay, the last podcast, I didn’t even bring him up once.

Natalie 13:08
I know!

Derek 13:08
I was like, I’m holding myself back.

Natalie 13:12
He’s a big fan.

Derek 13:13
Big fan. But at this event, he recently he’s actually come out and talked a little bit more about his spirituality and kind of how he sees things. And during this event, someone asked him a question of like, should we be doing more studying and more, like science around like spirituality and religion? And he’s like, No, I don’t think we really should. Because it’s like, it’s in its own domain, right. And there are certain things that you can get out of spirituality and out of these things that you just can’t get anywhere else. And that studying isn’t necessarily going to like, scratch that itch. And so it’s very interesting to hear you bring it up and really like it, it’s my thought about it is is that like people are resistant to the spiritual side of things and healing because there isn’t, you know, like, there’s rigorous studies and meta analyses and all these things, but like, to just throw that out is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And so with that being said, I’m actually really curious to hear more about like, how this all goes into your book, and really kind of what the premise of your book is and and what people can expect if they started to pick that up and start to read.

Natalie 14:24
Yeah, and I want to know, like, what led to the book? Yeah, you You clearly have a lot of passion and a lot of knowledge to share. And you know, what was the point where you were like, it’s time to get this in a book.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 14:35
Yeah, I mean, I’ll tell you this is a little bit of a fascinating story, and I’m still I get chills even thinking about this. So obviously, I you know, my, my patients always told me Dr. Perry, you gotta write a book. Because you know, I have 1200 patients on a waitlist. I can’t see everyone but I want this knowledge to be out out there. But I think the pivotal point was really actually during COVID. So I was on the front lines and you know, in New York City, and you know, April 2020, I got COVID and it was pretty bad. I had three days to rest, and I was right back onto the world and I got really bad long COVID. And this was before long COVID was even a thing.

Natalie 15:15
Right. There’s no name for it.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 15:17
I was really, no one even knew, right? It took months, if not years before people recognize that. It was really the frontline workers were getting COVID at first. So just like talking to the people, I’m like, there’s something there’s a pattern here, there’s something going on. And I felt it, I was losing weight, hair falling out in chunks, and I just felt miserable. I’d get short of breath going up a flight of stairs, you know, even after a few months. So and I was looking, scouring medical journals, I was doing all this work to figure out what was going on. It’s a completely new disease, right. And to this day, people might not believe me, but to this day, I have no explanation for this, but I went on Amazon to order something. And at that time, all of a sudden, like a suggested book came up. And it was a book about 185 people yogi. His name is Mr. Paz Fuji and it was like completely out of print book. It was published in India decades ago. And it was like two people selling like a used, like tattered copy of it. And I don’t know how it came up. It was not really to any of my searches. And it was like, Ah, okay, so it was just like, Okay, I’ll order it and read it. And then it was like, I know this. So it talks about the science of something called Kaya Kalpa

Natalie 16:28

Dr. Chiti Parikh 16:28
It means transformation of your body. And Yogi’s used to use this. And these are Yogi’s across the world, I’m not just talking about India, but a lot of spiritual traditions, for them to continue their spiritual journey, they have to maintain their body. That’s how the physical science of yoga came about. So then they can be fiscally strong to continue their spiritual pursuit.

Natalie 16:48

Dr. Chiti Parikh 16:48
So Yogi’s would use this detox again, to rejuvenate their body. And there are instances like this yogi, he used it three times in his life. So it’s a year long detox, and it mimics almost like being in the womb. So it’s complete sensory deprivation, you’re meditating, living off of some milk and herbs for a year. And again, only intense Yogi’s can do this, not for mere mortals like us. But really, I mean, he did it when he was 90 something and he emerged after a year looking like he was 30 something.

Natalie 17:18

Dr. Chiti Parikh 17:19
New teeth, hair. So it sounds like myth, right? But it’s not. It’s all about activating your stem cells. And we’re doing this research now we’re able to regenerate liver, we’re able to cure cancers with stem cells, we’re doing this. So yogis just figure out a technique to activate these stem cells in a certain way that we’re still trying to figure out. So inspired from that I did a similar detox called something called Panchakarma that’s very widely used in Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine.

Natalie 17:49

Dr. Chiti Parikh 17:49
So did it for 30 days and I mean, after like five days into it, like my hair completely stopped falling.

Natalie 17:57
Oh, wow.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 17:57
And a couple of months after my detox, like, I never felt better in my life, my hair and nails, like, I remember cutting my nails every few days, because they were growing so fast.

Derek 18:07

Dr. Chiti Parikh 18:07
I’ve never experienced that in my life. And that’s just what I could see outside. I can’t I could not see inside when my other organs were doing. But it told me obviously something activated my stem cells and helped me heal. So I was like, Okay, this was a transformative time in my life. I was like, alright, I need to talk about this, I need to tell people that science exists. And again, I’m not promising anything. That’s why I don’t lead with this in the book. It’s not about fixing long COVID or a magical cure. But I tell people over and over again is one thing I’ve learned from years of medical training and seeing 1000s of patients is that our body is so incredibly intelligent. Like it has the wisdom of millions of years of evolution that’s etched into our DNA. So when something goes wrong, it’s often because we’re getting in its way.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 18:56

Dr. Chiti Parikh 18:56
It’s not that the body is broken, it’s just our diet, our lifestyle, our stress level, something is affecting our body from functioning at its best. So the book is all about using 5000 years of science to activate and tap into that inner intelligence that our body carries. So we’re doing it by combining eastern and western medicine and I simplify the concepts of seven ancient secrets that talks about our circadian rhythm, gut microbiome, mind body connection or metabolism. So people can understand how these concepts are really working for them. And I break it down with simple patient stories, takeaways that you can implement in your life. And then I summarize the detox I did – simplified it into a 28 day reset. So to this day, every year since then, I do this detox, and it’s contrary to – it’s not the detox and most people are used to like drinking green juices and doing coffee enemas or somethings like that. It’s actually about doing less, not more.

Natalie 19:58

Dr. Chiti Parikh 19:59
But I wanted to give people a tool to bring their body back to balance whenever they needed it. Because life happens, right? Ups and downs in life, it’s not about perfection. It’s about balance. That’s what Eastern medicine always says. So my goal in this book is to give people all the tools they need to bring their body back to balance and keep it there for – and to live a life full of vitality.

Natalie 20:24
I love that. Would you be willing to give us a brief rundown of what this 28 Day reset detox looks like? And you know, because I’m sure people are, you know, they have their ideas about what it is. And so I’d love to hear kind of briefly from you, if you could summarize for us what it is, and what’s the purpose? What’s it doing in your body?

Dr. Chiti Parikh 20:41
Absolutely. So the idea behind detox, and it’s recommended everyone does it at least annually is the idea is that we get it out of the way of our body and let the inner intelligence do the job. So we do that we get out our bodies way by simplifying our diet and our lifestyle, our routines, it’s about doing less. So there’s four steps in the detox, the first step is preparation, the most important part, you don’t just go jump straight into detox. It’s not something that happens overnight, right, you have to prepare your body for that. And the way you do it during preparation phase is you simplify your diet. And I give all the recommendations. It’s something called a mono diet, you simplifying your diet where you eating the one protein, one carb, one fat and some vegetables. cutting out gluten, dairy, nightshades, not because they are bad, but they just add more – they’re harder to digest, we’re simplifying things for the body, right? with the preparation. Simplifying your life, you know, kind of focus inward, get off social media, spend more time doing things you enjoy, you know, and simplify your life that’s preparation, then you actually go into the detox space where you might take some herbs that I recommend, but that’s when the diet becomes even more simpler. We’re eating two times a day and doing much longer intermittent fasting 16 to 18 hours to further, you know, exaggerate the detoxification response. And then the third phase, third week is reintroduction, just like we took our time going into the detox, we’re taking our time to come out of the detox so that our body can shift gears back from detox to doing everyday stuff, right. And even for our lifestyle, we’re slowly easing back to our you know, busy routine, traveling, you know, busy work schedule, whatever it might be. And then the last part is rejuvenation. And that part, you’re starting it within the last part of the detox, we’re actually continues on for several weeks, if not months.

Natalie 22:41

Dr. Chiti Parikh 22:41
That’s when you’re kind of figuring out okay, from this detox, what did I learn? What are the foods that I know, kind of when I added them back, I just didn’t feel right. I know that going off social media does great things from my mental health, the extra time I had to exercise. So you figure out from the three weeks what works for you, what doesn’t. And the idea is that you make it part of your routine into the rejuvenation phase. Yes, we add some herbs and things like that. But that’s the whole detox is these four phases, and it’s broken down, because we want to ease into it and ease out of it, to get the most out of it.

Derek 23:18
You know, I absolutely love that I love that it’s kind of broken into those stages, right? Because it allows you to prep and then you’re in the middle of it. And then when you’re coming out to give you time to really reflect and think about, you know, the experience. You know, when I think about the name of your book, intentional Health, you can’t be intentional about your health unless you know what you’re thinking about. Right? Other you know, without without knowledge, you’re just kind of going through it blindly. And so I really liked this idea that you have and that you really condensed down into this 28 day thing of being able to like, okay, look, how you know, you can’t actually make these choices until you know what choices you can make and how they affect you. So I think that’s absolutely phenomenal. You also so you touched on a lot of really interesting things. You know, you talked about intermittent fasting. You talked about circadian rhythms. You talked about the gut microbiome. I’m curious with the you said that there’s a total of seven, I can’t remember them off the top of my head. Could you list the seven ancient secrets that you’re that you talk about in your book as well?

Dr. Chiti Parikh 24:19
Yeah, so you mentioned several of them. But I start out there’s a reason why I do it in a certain order, because it builds towards the final step when I talk about breath of life. So circadian rhythm is the foundation. It’s sort of like the the software of our computer. So if circadian rhythm is off, no matter how perfect of a diet you’re eating, even if you’re meditating, if you’re exercising, you’re not going to get the full results. So that’s the reason why we go step by step building on it right? So once your circadian rhythm is in sync, then you can focus on things like your gut microbiome, then I talk about the digestive fire, which talks a lot about your individualized metabolism. Now because we all know two people can eat the same diet. One person gains weight, one person loses weight. How do you explain that, right? So this is why Eastern medicine is so good at it says. And I want to emphasize the saying, because it really summarizes this chapter beautifully. And I read it, there’s a saying that food that is metabolized properly becomes nutrition, and nourishment. And food that is not metabolized properly becomes toxins and the root cause of diseases. Food is the same, right? It’s the metabolism. So in Eastern medicine, there’s no perfect diet. It’s all about matching your diet to your metabolism. So I introduced the idea of digestive fire or how strong that fire is, how strong your metabolism is, what are the signs, how can you recognize where your digestive fire is? And how can you adjust your diet and your lifestyle to match it? That balance is where health is. That’s why there’s no perfect diet.

Derek 25:53

Natalie 25:53

Dr. Chiti Parikh 25:54
So that’s why I get into the metabolism piece the gut microbiome, right? So important. And it seems like a western medicine concept, but again, in Eastern medicine, and Chinese medicine is saying every disease starts in the gut. They’ve known that for 1000s of years. And now we’re like, yes, they were right. So that’s why I’m talking about the gut microbiome. It’s so important, because that’s where really East Meets West beautifully. Then I talk a little bit about the food energetics. Again, this is a very new concept. But I use the concepts in Chinese medicine, that tells you that we’re all different, our body types are different. And I simplified in four categories, you know, heat, cold dampness and dryness. So in Chinese medicine, different elements combined to create our constitution. So if I’m someone who is runs typically dry and cold, then fall or winter weather when it’s dry and cold outside, I’m not going to do too well, I’m going to feel a little bit more seasonal affective disorder, I’m going to have more constipation, more dryness in my body. Put me on a beach in Miami, and I will be happy because it’s it’s the opposite, right? It’s warm, and it’s humid. So I love that weather. So that’s why it gives people tools to understand, hey, this is how my body is different, I totally get what you’re talking about. So then we talk about individualizing your diet and lifestyle approaches based on your constitution. Depending on Eastern medicine, I combine Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, then we talk about the mind body connection, talk about how stress affects us. And then last but not least, the last chapter is called Breath of Life. So that’s where I talk about the one most important thing that everyone can do for our well being is learn how to breathe, right? So I talk a lot about yoga based breathing exercises, and then I combine the science of vagus nerve and how to get us out of fight and flight. So I build up to it. because that can be an esoteric topic for some people, the spiritual, the mind, body, the spirit component. So but I want to start with the basics, and then get you ready for the ultimate things that really matter. Does that make sense?

Derek 28:05
That totally makes sense.

Natalie 28:06

Derek 28:07
It’s resonating with me on a very deep level, yeah.

Natalie 28:09
Right. And I appreciate how it you know, it feels really simple when you’re breaking it down like that. And I don’t I don’t want to minimize it and say that it’s like, it’s not you know, that it’s not easy, or I don’t know, I just for me, it helps to have it broken down in such a simplistic way. And I love that the last one that you added is the breath of life. That’s something that I’m just continually more and more fascinated to learn about is how important breathwork is, you know, we’ve had a lot of really incredibly smart, accomplished people on here. And I myself, love to listen to other podcasts and listen to book as as Derek does, too. And there are some things that just consistently, you see, repeated these patterns of these highly successful healthy people and what they’re doing and what they’re practicing and what they’re preaching. And you know, meditation and breath work is one of them, and you know, good sleep and the food that you eat and movement. It’s like their basic things. But for some reason, it’s so difficult for us all to really step into this. So I love hearing about how your book is, is breaking it down very simply. And I want to take just a moment to talk about gut microbiome because this is when we before we started recording kind of talked about a little bit. It’s something that I think about a lot and it has really changed the way that I approach any health and nutrition and fitness plan. Instead of thinking about and I think this is how most of our society considers diet which I hate the word diet because it used to just mean what you eat. And now it’s a thing that’s what you eat to be a certain weight, size, shape, right? And so, I thinking about my diet, what I’m eating now is less about, you know, calories or what am I cutting out so that I can cut you know, fat or whatever. I’m now thinking about what can I eat that will feed and support a healthy gut microbiome. And I had to kind of learn that the hard way I always knew, I don’t want to say abstractly, but I knew that it was important. But it wasn’t until a little over a year ago that my body just kind of went into this full reject. This full like, okay, we’re done, we’ve been sending you signals that you’re not well that your gut microbiome is out of balance, it’s been little things like, you know, feeling very tired, having brain fog, kind of putting on weight for no reason, I started to get some eggs in the patches. And then next thing, you know, blew my entire body covered in eczema. And I was like, okay, body, I hear you, we need to get things worked out here. And kind of starting on that path is is so so different, and the way that I feel and I can tell, when I’m not feeding my gut microbiome in a good way, when I’m not eating things that support healthy, a healthy gut, because I feel it in every way. And sometimes it’s almost instant. It you know, I can see it in my skin and the way I look, it’s puffy, I might have some more acne, I feel in my energy levels. I feel it in my ability to think clearly. I mean, it’s literally just everything. So I would love to spend just a little bit of time explaining to our listeners, what is gut microbiome, what are we actually talking about? And why is it so important?

Dr. Chiti Parikh 31:22
Absolutely. One of the things I start out with talking about is I want you to think about 57 years ago, when we discovered DNA, everyone thought that that’s gonna be the Holy Grail, right? Everyone thought you find the gene for baldness or diabetes, snip, snip, you fix it, no more baldness, no more diabetes. Clearly that didn’t happen. But when they actually coded the DNA of different organisms, what they found was that a grape actually has way more genes almost three times as many genes as a human being.

Natalie 31:55

Dr. Chiti Parikh 31:56
And a chicken almost has the same amount of genes as a human being. Yeah, that’s so we thought we had a chip on our shoulder, right? Wait a minute. So I definitely think that you know, we’re more advanced than a chicken and a grape, right? But they have more gene. It’s like how do you explain this?

Natalie 32:13
I would like to think I’m more advanced than a chicken.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 32:15
I have a smartphone, right? So people were mind boggled, like, how do you explain how complex we are? And the way we are? Clearly our genome is not the answer, then we realize it’s the bacteria in our gut. Trillions of bacteria in our gut that have evolved with us and they have sort of taken over a lot of parts, you know, a lot of physiological functions for us to outsource a lot of things from our body to our gut microbiome. So when you add the genetic diversity of these trillions of bacteria, now we have access to millions times more genes than we have in our own DNA.

Natalie 32:55
That’s crazy.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 32:56
That’s what explains how complex we are.

Derek 32:59
Can I just touch on something?

Dr. Chiti Parikh 33:00
We think genes are our destiny. Yeah.

Derek 33:02
So so with that? So you talk about how we have trillions of like microbiota in our in our body? Like, isn’t there? How many people are on the planet? Eight point or nine point something billion?

Natalie 33:13
Oh I don’t know. I always have to ask Alexa that because my son wants to know and I’m like, “I don’t know, ask Alexa.”

Derek 33:19
That’s right. So I mean, it’s, it’s crazy to think we actually think about the sheer number to my knowledge. And I’d love to hear more about this from you as well. That is, it’s not just like one type of bacteria that’s in there. It’s like, there’s what hundreds, thousands of different bacterias that each have different roles and have different basically jobs in your body to do. And there’s trillions of them that like to me, that’s just absolutely mind boggling.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 33:41
I mean, we think about the universe and the number of stars and galaxies, we’re carrying the entire universe within us. It’s so wild to think about.

Derek 33:47
Yeah! We’re like – planet Derek.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 33:53
This is fascinating to see. So now we know okay, this is why we’re complex. And we’re so dynamic. We’re constantly changing. So the gut microbiome, I always say that they’re like, finicky guests that you’re inviting, right? If you want them to stick around and be happy, you got to feed them, right? You got to take care of them. You gotta entertain them. So…

Dr. Chiti Parikh 34:12
Same, honestly.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 34:13
So, you have to be a good host. Yes. If you want to host a great party, you got to be a good host. Yeah. So a lot of times I teach people how to be a good host. To keep your gut microbiome healthy and happy. And diet is a huge part of it. You know what you won’t believe what I end up focusing a lot on that a lot of like, stuff that’s out there by gut microbiome doesn’t even address because I have patients who eat a perfect diet, exercise, do all the right things, yet they have a lot of issues.

Natalie 34:44

Dr. Chiti Parikh 34:45
I recognize is the huge environmental factor. So the food that we’re eating all the hidden ingredients, how much that alters and affects our gut microbiome.

Natalie 34:55

Dr. Chiti Parikh 34:56
So now I started to focus so much more on it because like I said, so many people eating healthy, yet they have all these issues, right? It’s because all the hidden like I talk about different foods that you’re supposed to avoid to nurture your gut microbiome. So my take in this book is very different than what you would see somewhere else we’re talking about, yes, but only kimchi, we can all take probiotics, but it’s so much more than that. And I’ve seen 1000s of patients with these conditions, right. And I know just eating kimchi and a perfect diet, and all of this not enough. So I even do advanced gut microbiome testing for my patients to tailor different diet and lifestyle approaches based on what I’m seeing. But in the book, I talk about ingredients, you know, different emulsifiers, food additives, preservatives, different foods that are very high in pesticides. So my approach is Do No Harm first when it comes to your gut microbiome. And that’s one of the reasons you know, I’m sure you might have experienced this, let me know. But a lot of my patients say, Dr. Parikh, you know, I went to South America, I went to Europe, and I ate bread, cheese, everything you can think about, but I felt great.

Natalie 36:02
Oh, yeah.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 36:03
In America, if I eat those things, and I feel terrible.

Natalie 36:06

Dr. Chiti Parikh 36:07
Clearly it’s not just a food. Right?

Natalie 36:10

Dr. Chiti Parikh 36:10
So that’s what my big focus with the gut microbiome is, first of all, do no harm, understand how some of these chemicals and ingredients that are even in like healthy foods, sometimes were marketed as can do more damage than good. So starting there as the first step, then we can build on that with the right diet and everything else.

Natalie 36:29
Yeah. Most people in my family have a gluten sensitivity to to varying degrees. And I know multiple people in my family that they can get the semolina pasta, imported from Italy, and not feel any of the symptoms, they normally would if they were to have something gluten that’s produced and hybridized in the States. And so that’s, that’s kind of, uh, exactly what you were just talking about, and how our food is made, and how its raised. And all of that really does play a big role. And, you know, I think it’s easy to feel really overwhelmed. You know, because I think our food machine has done such an incredible job of marketing certain foods as being healthy, you know, and we get it in our heads. And you know, how there was that marketing campaign a long time ago about how you know, animal fats are bad. And it’s because soybean and corn oil, all of that we realized how cheap it was to make. And so it got marketed as being this like, better, healthier alternative, even though to my knowledge and correct me if I’m wrong, there wasn’t a lot of science to back that up at the time. But it was just like push, push, push, this is healthier, this good Country Crock instead of actual butter. And, you know, use Crisco and this and that, and, and like I was listening or reading something once that actually said, you can almost kind of pinpoint when the obesity epidemic, kind of really hit.

Derek 37:43
Took off.

Natalie 37:43
And it was very shortly after that huge reframe, and all of that to say, it’s so hard because you may think what you’re eating and what you’re putting in your body is good for you. And you might even see results on the scale, and you might even see your weight go down and your clothes fit better and everything. But at the end of the day, long term, you will feel and see the results of not treating your your your little tiny planet and your gut well! And there’s gonna be there’s gonna be fallout from that. I mean, you even mentioned in your in your detox, reset, excluding nightshades. And I think a lot of people don’t even know what night shades are, and you know, potatoes, peppers, those sorts of things that – they’re vegetables, they’re whole foods. And I know you’re not saying they’re bad, but when you’re in the process of trying to reset your gut knowing that they’re harder to digest. And I think that we just in general have been lacking for such a long time, education on food, and what it’s doing in your body. I mean, how long did we purport the food pyramid? Yeah, how long did we keep doing that? Even though more and more science was coming out that this is not the way so even though it’s it’s been too long? In my opinion, I am so glad to see that we are kind of moving away from that and having having more education around it. So I’m thank you for taking me some time to explain what is actually happening in the gut and why it’s so more so important. We’ve had lots of conversations with other guests around the you know, what, there’s been so much focus on the brain, the brain, the brain leads everything and how much more research is coming out that like, its the gut.

Derek 39:20
Well, to touch on that, you know, one of the things that.. yeah, one of the things that I think is absolutely crazy, is I think I remember reading this somewhere, and maybe you can touch on more, more of this, but like, the gut has almost just as many neurons as like your brain.

Natalie 39:35

Derek 39:35
And so in a lot of cases, it’s called like the second brain and so that’s why it’s like, when you get a gut feeling, you know, that’s part of the reason, you know, because it’s like, literally you have so many little nerves down there and like there’s so many ways that it’s like a brain, you know, these these little microbiota, they’ll actually like under the right circumstances will actually release like serotonin or dopamine or different neuro chemicals to like, actually affect your mood. So yeah, it’s it’s absolutely insane like that. It’s been around for so long. And obviously, like people have known about it for 1000s of years, but like the science just hasn’t been able to catch up yet. So yeah, I’m super excited about this stuff as well.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 40:16
Yeah. There’s so much more to it. And well, there’s one study I recently read, I think a study that came out of Korea, the what they did was really interesting. They had a group of participants take a personality test. And then they also looked at their gut microbiome. And there’s direct correlation between certain types of bacteria and personality traits. And those some of the more inflammatory bacteria were associated with sort of negative personality traits, and some of the beneficial bacteria associated with sort of a more positive personality trait. So it’s just and we kind of all experienced that, right? When we eat like pizza and fast food and some days, you just don’t feel right, we get more irritable and angry, right. So…

Natalie 40:58

Dr. Chiti Parikh 40:59
Clearly there’s a correlation, we’ve all experienced it. But think about like, that’s just fascinating to see how much of that is affecting us and how important it is for us to think about it.

Natalie 41:11
And I would love if you would just touch on very briefly, because I also feel again, kind of the marketing thing, there was, I don’t know, started like 10 years ago, starting to be this thing, talking more about pre and probiotics. And like, you know, there were certain yogurt that was like, eat a cup of this yogurt every day, it’s giving your gut all this good bacteria, or, like take this pre or probiotic. And it’s so helpful. And I recently listened to a podcast. And I want to say the guest was Dr. Amy Shaw, all about gut health. And these resets, and she was asked the question like, Okay, well do we take probiotics like, and she kind of explained it as like, it can do good, but it’s almost like you’re in an airplane, and you’re flying over these fields, and you have a handful of all these different kinds of seeds, and you throw them out and and kind of hope maybe something will stick a lot of it really won’t is gonna be lost with the wind? Is it even the appropriate like climate and soil for that kind of seed? You don’t really know. And that’s kind of how she explained taking probiotics, not that they’re not good, but that maybe they’re not having quite the impact that we think they are. So what are your thoughts on that? And what would you say, around the people listening that are like, Oh, well, I’ll just go take a probiotic. And that will help.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 42:15
Exactly. Like I said, this is a living, breathing ecosystem that we have to take care of, right. It’s not just you put a lip provide again, and your job is done. That’s often I feel like not the problem. The problem is twofold. First is cultivating diversity. So diversity is key when it comes to the gut microbiome, the more diverse your gut microbiome, the less chances that even if you get a few bad bacteria won’t cause as much of a problem. That’s one of the reasons why you go to certain countries where they have so much diversity in the food they’re eating, the got microbiome, they don’t have autoimmune conditions, they don’t have a lot of the heart disease, some of the types of cancers that we have in this country.

Natalie 42:53

Dr. Chiti Parikh 42:54
So diversity is key. So diversity is not just about taking 10 different types of probiotics. It’s really diversity in the food that’s feeding this gut bacteria. So diversity in probiotic foods, diversity in prebiotic foods, so different types of fiber. So eating a whole host of different foods, vegetables, whole grains, and I often add additional component to this is seasonality.

Natalie 43:18
Oh okay.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 43:20
So eating foods that are actually in season can make a huge difference. Here’s the reason why. Because let’s say right now, it’s in December, and I go to the supermarket to buy blueberries, or strawberries or watermelon, right? It’s clearly not being grown in in Pacific Northwest or northeast, it’s not being grown here. It’s coming from another side of the planet, often they’re being flown in from Chile or Mexico, right. And to make that journey, think about the amount of pesticides and everything that needs to go on it to preserve it.

Natalie 43:56

Dr. Chiti Parikh 43:57
Versus if what’s in season right now there are a lot of cruciferous vegetables are going to be in season, root vegetables are going to be in season. So if I’m eating them and buying them, especially from a local farmers market, it’s going to have so much healthy dirt on it so many healthy gut microbiome, right? That’s not going to be washed out or dipped in like pesticides. So a lot of times eating seasonal foods, eating local foods can give you access to that diversity, not just from the food itself, but also how it’s grown the dirt that’s on them. People don’t think about these things. So diversity is absolutely key and then obviously pick your probiotic rich foods, whether it’s kimchi or fermented anything that you gravitate towards and adding more of that in your diet. So combination of the two is really key in maintaining and sustaining gut health. It’s so much more than just popping in a probitoic.

Derek 44:48
I kinda want to make two, two small notes. I really liked that analogy you gave of like the airplane and you’re basically throwing out a whole bunch of seeds. One of the things is it’s like usually it’s in those pills. It’s like a monoculture, right? So it’s usually one type of bacteria. And it’s, you know, you know, when you have 1000s of different kinds of bacteria, and you’re just taking one, it’s like, alright, well, that that’ll do something. But then they also, like, I think normally it says something like, there’s millions of, of bacteria or millions of like little microbios. It’s like, when you’re taking millions and compared to trillions, it’s like, such a small effect. Yeah, it’s so crazy. I also wanted to touch on – I love like this idea of like, getting so many, you know, getting a variety of different foods. There’s a, there’s a phrase that’s been popping in my mind, it’s from Peter Attia, it’s called the SAD diet, which is the standard American diet. Which is, which is so typical of just like, I watched his whole interview that he did, but he talked about, like, how it actually is kind of like, a miracle that that we can basically feed an entire population. So what the, what the SAD is very good at is making sure that everybody has enough calories, which is a feat of the modern age, you know, it’s great that really the only thing the reason, the only reason people are starving right now is because they just can’t get access to food. But, you know, everyone if they could, like would be able to live. So now we have to go on to the next step of like, how do we actually make sure that we are getting the right food for our bodies to fill us best as possible? So sorry, I’m kind of going on. I’ve had a lot of thoughts, and they’re kind of all going through my head I, I like making bread. And so like sourdough, I make my own little sourdough starter. And it’s incredible how it can just capture the microbiome that’s in the like, the air. And like, basically, you get this whole culture that gets up and growing. And it’s, it’s absolutely incredible. Like…

Natalie 46:45
My mom used to make kombucha.

Derek 46:47

Natalie 46:48
And kinda gross actually thinking about the…

Derek 46:51
The scobby.

Natalie 46:51
The mother is what they call it, the like giant slimy mushroom fit. And like, if anybody ever came into our kitchen…

Derek 46:57
And there’s just like layers of them.

Natalie 46:58
What is that? It’s like, she’s, you know, oh, it’s kombucha. It’s this and that, you know, but it is really, it really doesn’t look good. But obviously, Kombucha is another you know, full of all of that amazing bacteria for your gut. And I would always like, have Kombucha. And I almost feel like a little bit of a buzz afterwards. Like it, I felt it affect my energy after I after I drank my mom’s kombucha.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 47:22
Absolutely. And then what you mentioned is so key is that, I think we’re sometimes we’re so far removed from how our food is grown or prepared. So a lot of these little exercises making your own sort of cultured yogurt, I make my own yogurt, making a kombucha or sourdough or just going to your local farmers market and eating food that’s grown within a 50 mile radius of you can do so much for more for your gut microbiome, than just following just a list of foods you’re supposed to eat. So I think we need to focus on more about the quality of the foods and sort of how much they’re traveling and how much the foods are getting exposed before they get to us. How processed they’re becoming, even if they’re healthy. So starting to eat like our grandparents did, or their grandparents did, right? Sort of simple local foods. And that’s what’s really key. And that’s why I love the diabetic perspective, Chinese medicine perspective, the seasonality of it. And I think that’s completely overlooked in western medicine. So in one of the chapters, the gut microbiome chapter actually talk about what foods are typically in season and like, I know, it varies depending on where you are, but just getting understanding of you know, okay, apples, maybe not in July, but sweet potato and broccoli are berries, but eating slightly more according to the seasons. There’s also another huge benefit of you know, benefit of that is also your digestion. So the way that summer fruits or summer vegetables are designed to be digested versus winter. They’re actually very different. Our gut microbiome actually has seasonality. So they’ve done large scale studies across different countries, different continents, they’ve found that the gut microbiome is different at different times of the year.

Natalie 49:04
Oh, wow.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 49:05
Because so let’s say if you live in the northeast, right, or you live in England, and this is a fall winter season, that’s when you get a lot of flu and a lot of cold viruses. So our genetics actually which genes are sort of transcribed and activated? What type of good bacteria do you find a certain times of the year are very different, depending on the needs of the season and what the body needs at that time. So something else like probiotics and things miss is that again, our body’s so intelligent, it will say I need more of these bacteria. Because it’s winter, I’m not getting enough sunlight, I’m more likely to get a little seasonal affective. So I need more of these gut bacteria that produce a bit more serotonin or the produce more of this anti sort of, you know, immune modulating effects. So it’s so intelligent. So the way we can support it, is by eating in a way that makes sense that’s in sync with nature. and that will automatically facilitate our body to tap into that intelligence and tweak the gut microbiome in a way that we can’t even fathom.

Natalie 50:07
Right. it just like, kind of like a parallel thing that I’m thinking as you’re talking. And you know, I just think you probably anybody you meet is probably going to saying that they would love to lose a few pounds, or this or whatever. And there’s been this common teaching for a long time of like, calories in calories out, all you got to do is be at a calorie deficit in order to lose weight, which I know there’s, you know, yes, on one hand, there’s like science to back that up. But in my experience, and with what I’ve learned, and I feel like, again, this is kind of like a parallel line, what we’re talking about, when you eat the foods that feed your gut microbiome, the way they need to be fed, you can have, you know, say 2000 calories of those kinds of food and 2000 calories, or the other kind of food, like you, you are still – I think about the impact to your mood, to the way your body composition, the way you feel your energy levels, how, you have the clarity of your thought, all of that is impacted by the food, that you’re feeding the bacteria that you’re feeding your gut, and how for me how much easier it is because I’ve done, I’ve done so many different forms of eating over the years, you know, we learn about one thing, oh, maybe I’ll try that one. And, and had a level of success, you know, moderately, with with pretty much everything. It’s really about sticking to something. But the difference in when I’m feeding my gut properly, I’m able to stay on track. So much better, because the overall impact of what I’m doing is so much broader, versus just Yes, I’m losing weight, and I’m gonna feet in, fit in those shorts that I wanted to for summer. It’s it’s just, it’s such a difference. And so I just wanted to point that out. Because I know some people it’s like, whatever good food like how do I lose the weight? Right? But it’s like, I just I just don’t think it can be overlooked? Oh, yeah, it’s, it’s all connected. And I feel like we’re running out of time here. But I knew I knew before we started like, there would just be so much to cover. And I’m just so grateful for you spending the time and for all of the work that you’ve been doing. And before we sign off here, is there anything that you want to leave our listeners with?

Dr. Chiti Parikh 52:08
Yeah! Absolutely. I just want to last thing I want to say is that have faith in your body. Your body is so incredibly intelligent. It has everything it needs to function on to help you lead a long, healthy life. So listen to it, respect it, take good care of it, because that is the vessel through which you experiencing life. So it’s not just about a weight, or disease or anything like that. This is your vessel to experience life in its full form. So let’s nurture it. Let’s listen to it. And let’s respect it.

Natalie 52:39
I love that.

Derek 52:40

Natalie 52:41
Is there anything that you wanted to add, Derek? Any final thoughts?

Derek 52:43
No, I just I just wanted to say thank you so much for joining us it it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on I mean, we I would love to have you on again to talk about more topics. And you know, you’ve got such a such a broad range of things that we could potentially talk about. But for anyone that’s interested in learning more about you and your work and what you’ve done, where can they find all that?

Dr. Chiti Parikh 53:03
Absolutely. So you can check out my website is called intentional And the book Intentional Health will be out on January 9, you can purchase it on any of your, you know, online retailers. So…

Derek 53:14
That’s exciting.

Natalie 53:14
I’m gonna be purchasing. I like wanted to do as soon as this conversation was over. So now I have to wait. But I’m very excited to to read the book and excited for this information to be out there. Thank you so much, Dr. Parikh, for your work, for having and creating conversations around something that is so important to our health and wellness and vitality. I hope that at the end of your life, you can look back and say I was a part of a very big and necessary change because I think that you will be able to say that and I’m glad that we got to have the time to chat with you about it.

Dr. Chiti Parikh 53:50
Thank you so much and it’s been a pleasure talking to both of you.

Derek 53:52
Thank you.

Natalie 53:53
Thank you so much.

Podcast Guests

Intentional Health with Dr. Chiti Parikh

Chiti Parikh


Podcast Hosts

Intentional Health with Dr. Chiti Parikh

Natalie Garland

Intentional Health with Dr. Chiti Parikh

Derek Berkey


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