“Plant-based Nutrition and Lifestyle Modification Will Lead to a Longer Life,” Dr Sant Chaiyodslip
Dr Sant Chaiyoslip is a respected authority on a scientifically proven method to prevent and reverse chronic diseases through plant-based nutrition and lifestyle modification. Recently, Elite+ had the opportunity to meet Dr Sant at the Wellness We Care Center in Muek Lek, Saraburi, to discuss his “Good Health by Yourself” philosophy as well as the upcoming, virtual “Asian Plant-based Nutrition Healthcare Conference” where he will be one of the keynote speakers.
After sitting down to an organic khanom chin, fermented rice vermicelli in a plant-based, coconut-based broth with bean sprouts and vegetables, under the shade of a massive jamjuree, or raintree, we began our interview discussing the unexpected route that took Dr Sant to where he is today.
“I was born into a rice farming family in the north of Thailand and expected to continue the family tradition by attending agricultural college in Chiang Mai. Then, my younger sister became ill, so I decided to become a physician. After graduation from medical school at Prince Songkhla University in Hat Yai, I planned to become a general practitioner and trained at the hospital in the remote district of Sangkhlaburi, Kanchanaburi. Then, one day, I was asked to take care of a prominent cardiac surgeon from New Zealand who had come to Bangkok to give a lecture at an international conference, and because of the impression he made on me, I followed him back to New Zealand where I trained in his cardiac unit at Greenland Hospital in Auckland. After this, I returned to Thailand and began to treat patients not so far from here at Saraburi Regional Hospital before moving to Bangkok and joining the staff at the Rachavithi Hospital in 1993. From there I moved to Phyathai 2 Hospital where I became director of the Phyathai Harvard Heart Center in 1999 and then executive director of the hospital in 2002 as I no longer wanted to work as a cardiac surgeon.”
As I understand it, it was at this time that you were diagnosed with ischemic heart disease and then decided to alter both your professional and personal life. Could you expound about this, please?
“I started to experience chest pain when I exerted myself, which is a typical symptom of ischemic heart disease. As a physician and cardiac surgeon, I was scared. I was only 55 years of age and not at all ready to die. I also did not want to undergo an invasive procedure such as bypass surgery or angioplasty in which a balloon is inserted to widen an obstructed artery.
“So, I began to review medical literature looking for a non-invasive direction and learned about the concept of “Total Lifestyle Modification”, TLM. I found a lot of research had been conducted about this, particularly by Dean Ornish who compared TLM with conventional treatments using the repetitive coronary angiogram as an outcome measurement. The scientific evidence was obvious. So, I quit my management position, changed my diet, started exercising regularly and gradually manage my stress. And it worked. Here I am, 15 years later, still alive and not required to take any anti-hypertensive or anti-lipid medication that previously, when I was first diagnosed, I had to take regularly.”
Can you tell us about what you have been doing these past 15 years?
“I am a consultant at the Check-up Center at Phyathai 2 Hospital, but have reduced this to just once or twice a month and focus on teaching patients how to reduce their chronic diseases themselves. For the past five years, since meeting Vivek Dhawan, who co-founded the Wellness We Care Center, I have worked to attract and gather patients and ordinary people to come here individually or as a group to spend a few days and learn how to prevent and reverse chronic noncommunicable diseases such as heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
“Vivek is the founder of Mega Lifestyle PCL, the holding company for his other enterprises such as Mega We Care Co, Ltd, which produces and distributes vitamins and supplements in nearly 30 countries, mostly in Asia. He also now produces some plant-based products like Dr Drink and Natural We Care Baby Food.
“Both Vivek and I believe that healthcare has been moving in the wrong direction and must change from hospital-based treatment with medications and operations. Science has already proven that conventional treatment does not work for chronic noncommunicable diseases. The right way to go is total lifestyle modification in a self-management fashion.
“The practice is quite simple and straightforward, focusing on three main areas: plant-based, whole food nutrition, exercise and stress management. We examine seven indices to measure an individual’s success. Called the “Simple Seven”, these include: (1) body weight, (2) blood pressure, (3) blood sugar, (4) blood cholesterol, (5) amount of fruit and vegetables consumed each day, (6) amount of time allocated for exercise each week and (7) smoking status.
“All a person must do is maintain these seven indices within their normal range. That’s it. This will reduce premature death rate by from 30% to 91%. There is no other way to improve mortality this much. Our society, as a whole, must change the way we deal with healthcare. We must turn from hospital-based treatment toward disease prevention and reversal by ourselves as I said before.”
And this is what you do here at the Wellness We Care Center?
“Yes, that is correct. Vivek came to consult me at my clinic over five years ago as he realised that changes in healthcare similar to what I was advocating were necessary. After we spoke for a few hours, we decided to establish this non-profit social enterprise, our Wellness We Care Center. Since then, we have been expanding our activities under the slogan, “Prevent and Reverse Disease by Yourself”. We have been promoting PBWF – plant-based whole food nutrition and been training patients, ordinary people and healthcare providers more and more.”
What are some of the programs you offer?
“Our programs begin with year-long Reverse Disease by Yourself, which is designed for patients who suffer from chronic diseases. Patients must come to the centre in two phases; however we maintain close contact with each individual and monitor their progress and offer advice when required. The program begins with a meeting with one of our expert physicians in family medicine. After this, they spend a couple of days learning how to cook plant-based whole food. Then, they are instructed in meditation techniques and yoga and tai-chi as well as the “Simple 7” indices I mentioned earlier and monitoring their own condition and symptoms.
“We also hold camps that people can join, including our Cancer Retreat, Rejuvenation Retreat for patients who have suffered a major illness or trauma, like a stroke or major surgery. They can come for a few weeks or months to recuperate. Then there is our most popular Spiritual Retreat, a four-day training program in which participants learn how to look within using facilitated discussion and meditative techniques, followed by practicing different ways to be more conscious using Yoga and Tai-chi. On the last day, they are taught the art of peaceful living, disengagement and spiritual awareness. We also have one- and two-day programs in Mindfulness Based Treatment and Good Health by Yourself.
After the new year, we will begin to offer an online one-to-one clinic to advise patients on how they can treat themselves, reverse and prevent diseases. Everything we offer is based on the philosophy of medically-directed and evidence-based programs.”
As I understand it, you were recently named one of the “Quality Persons of the Year 2021” by the Foundation of Science and Technology Council of Thailand (FSTT) for your involvement in alternative healthcare as well as some of your other worthwhile activities. What do these include?
“Well, I have been producing videos to promote and teach lifestyle modification and plant-based nutrition. I also write a blog where anyone interested can consult me on these matters, and this has attracted more than 10 million visits in all. Meanwhile, I was the president of the Resuscitation Foundation which works closely with the Thai Resuscitation Council under the Lifesaving Standards Committee of the Heart Association of Thailand under Royal patronage. We provide courses on CPR, cardiac pulmonary resuscitation, for hospitals and other organisations to ensure Thailand’s medical services are up to international standards. Secondly, I cofounded and am still actively engaged with the Paediatric Cardiac Surgery Foundation of Thailand which treats and provides surgery for needy children suffering from congenital heart disease.
I have also been told that you will be one of the keynote speakers at the virtual, international “2022 Asian Plant-based Nutrition Healthcare Conference”. Can you provide us with some details?
“Wellness We Care, as an initiative of Mega We Care, will be hosting this one-day conference in collaboration with US-based The Plantrician Project on Saturday, 22 January 2022. Initially, we hoped to hold this event onsite, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we moved all the activities to be online. However, because of this, the conference can be viewed on demand throughout the year until 31 December. Next year, we hope that the pandemic will have been alleviated or much more under control so we can invite all participants to join us in Bangkok.
“The Patrician Project has been holding its own plant-based nutrition healthcare conference now for nine years. This will be the tenth. Through their promotion of alternative preventative and reversal plant-based treatment, medical practitioners in the US and Europe are much more aware of these very successful forms of treatment. Mr Vivek and I believe it is now time to inform and educate Asian physicians, nurses, medical personnel and the public about this alternative, research-supported direction for non-invasive healthcare.
“A number of years ago, I read the bestseller The China Study by T. Collin Campbell and his son Thomas Campbell II. It is based on a 20-year study that examined the link between animal products and chronic disease. They concluded that by following a vegan diet and avoiding animal products as a source of nutrition, a person could reduce or reverse the development of many diseases. I decided to follow their advice and it worked.
“I also read another bestseller, The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, in which he reported on five communities where the people lived the longest and they mostly followed a vegetarian diet. Today, because of this book, there are I think as many as 24 communities in the US practicing a similar lifestyle that includes good diet, good fresh air and exercise and good relaxation, or reduction of stress.
“This is what Vivek and I want to promote. With The Plantrician Project, we have gathered six renowned authorities to speak at this conference beginning with the co-founder of The Plantrician Project, Dr Scott Stoll, who will join as a panellist in two discussions. There will also be keynote speakers discussing how plant-based nutrition relates to their specialties. These include Dr Reshma Shah, a paediatrician; Dr Dean Ornish, a heart and cancer researcher; Ayesha and Dean Sherzai, both physicians specialising in brain health, Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, who focuses on diabetes; Dr Alan Desmond, a specialist in gut-health and Dr Kim Allan Williams, the previous president of American College of Cardiology.”
As I understand it, you will also be one of the keynote speakers.
“Yes, that’s true. I feel quite honoured and somewhat humbled to be included in this group of distinguished speakers. I will talk about immunity and plant-based nutrition, which I have been studying now for more than 10 years.”
In addition to the many articles you have written, you also published a book. Can you tell us about that?
“Well, it’s a few years ago now. It’s called Good Health by Yourself, which promotes much of what we teach in our Good Health by Yourself program. The text is quite detailed and I believe anyone who reads it will understand and be able to modify their diet and lifestyle to enjoy a much healthier and happier life.”
To conclude, do you have any final thoughts or advice you would like to leave with our readers?
“I would just like to reiterate and emphasize once again that we all need to change our mindset, which means healthcare practitioners and providers as well as patients and the general public. Conventional and hospital-based treatment have been proven not to work. We all need to turn in a new direction and focus on self-management and total lifestyle modification, which includes adopting a whole food plant-based diet. Right now, in Thailand, we are just starting and need to persuade individuals to make the change. As others see this happening, they will make the transformation and communities, like discussed in the Blue Zone, will emerge. Then, it can expand to include provinces and the nation as a whole, and if this evolution takes hold worldwide, our populations will become healthier, stronger and live longer.”
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