I’ve always been someone who strived to eat healthily. I avoided junk food, sodas, chips, etc most of my life. Sure – an occasional pizza would sneak in, but my diet mostly consisted fruits, veggies, nuts, meats.
I shopped at Whole Foods – bought organic despite the cost. And when I did eat out, I made sure to eat out at high-quality restaurants that used good ingredients (not just fried junk food). I’m one of those people who googles “the health benefits of ___” when I eat something.
Yet, something happened in my late 20s. I gained lots of weight, my skin became highly red and irritated, and I started having vision problems.
Western Medicine Fail
I went to several Western dermatologists, but they just gave me a pamphlet of a bunch of highly-chemical treatments as soon as I walked through the door.
They didn’t ask anything personal about me at all… At the time, I was going through a period of high stress, a lot of travel, and unhealthy eating…
Some called it “eczema”, some “adult-onset acne”, some had no name for it. And none of them could tell me the cause or what to do. They told me my skin was hard to treat because it was oily and dry at the same time.
They prescribed highly-chemical treatment creams I’d need to use forever as far as I understood. I wasn’t into getting addicted to steroids… One of the treatments offered was something equivalent to removing my pores. All for a few acne spots!
Regardless, all the creams I did try just burned my face after 2-3 uses. I was resigned to live with these issues for the rest of my life.
One time, when my skin got extra bad, an Indian co-worker and good friend told me to try a turmeric face mask. Turmeric is a spice widely used in India and other parts of Asia to treat all sort of health conditions. Yet, I never heard of it…
I was skeptical at first (did I mention that everything I put on my face burned it?!!!), but she explained that turmeric is used widely in Ayurveda, ancient Indian medicine. Ayurveda literally translates to “The Science of Life” and is one of the first medical systems in the world! It could be as old as 5,000 years old!
I was intrigued to try it. The one big catch – it turns your skin orange. So I had to use the mask on the weekend, so my skin would be my normal color by the time I returned to work on Monday.
The results were incredible! My skin wasn’t cured, but the main redness and inflammation subsided. I used it several times, and unlike anything else I tried before this, it did not burn my face after repeated use. I was impressed.
Becoming Mostly Vegan
In Spring 2016, I was staying in a small town in the Pacific Northwest to destress from a lot of travel and work. I went to get a massage at the Annapurna Center for Self-Healing and met a real healer.
She started with a foot massage and was able to tell me what was wrong with my body (I couldn’t turn my neck to the right!) just from the feet! She told me I needed to become vegan.
It was like I already knew this, but she gave me permission.
When I went to the grocery later that day, I went to the meat aisle and realized that I don’t actually like meat. There is this amazing quinoa dish I make – it’s made with vegetables and chicken. I always eat the chicken first to “get it over with”, so I can actually enjoy the rest of the dish.
My dislike for milk is even worse. I haven’t been able to drink it since I was forced to as a child. I can’t even eat foods that look milky, even when I know it’s coconut milk curry.
I stayed vegan for most of the next few months without any problems. My rule was that if I crave meat, I’ll eat it. I did not crave it until I went to Japan at the end of that year – I love sushi!
The Liver Flush
The same healer recommended that I read The Amazing Liver and Gallbladder Flush, a book written by her mentor. It talks a lot about the health benefits of being vegan. But more importantly, it recommends doing a liver and gallbladder flush. You can view the highlights here.
In Eastern medicine, vision problems could be a sign that you have liver issues. In the West, when I went to an Optometrist, they simply gave me contacts. But in my mind, deep down, I knew it was more. It was like there was fog in my brain, preventing me from seeing. The contacts were great for the vision symptom though…
This pushed me to do the flush. The flush intrigued me because it was so simple – drink apple juice for 6 days, then drink a concoction of olive oil + grapefruit juice. No chemicals or fancy things involved.
I was shocked by how many stones I had in my body! It’s pretty terrifying. I’ve done the flush several times now with great results. Each time, I feel a lot more energized. And now, after a few times, combined with the other Eastern-medicine things I’ve been doing, my vision is back to normal – without the brain fog!
The Ayurveda Resort
In Winter 2017, I was working in Asia and needed a big break. Instead of going to the Maldives, I asked a friend from India to find me a good Ayurveda resort. He found and helped me book the Manaltheeram Ayurveda Beach Village (you have to do it via email…).
Over email, they asked me about my health issues and told me that the minimum required reservation is 15 days. They also told me to just do a basic detox treatment called Panchakarma… It felt a bit impersonal – I wanted them to treat my skin specifically! But they kept insisting…
It was a bit of a risk – I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but they had mainly good reviews online… I decided to go for it!
My treatment started off with an in-depth consultation. They asked all-encompassing questions about my life. About my food patterns, my physical and mental conditions – whether I tended to get angry… Even embarrassing details about my… elimination… patterns… It was in stark contrast to how I got examined in the West.
Upon a body examination, they pronounced me as “Pitta-Kapha”! While my condition was a mystery to Western physicians, skin issues are the most predictable result of a Pitta (fire) imbalance. And weight gain is due to a Kapha(water) imbalance. I wasn’t a unicorn after all!
They explained to me that my skin is just a mirror into my body. My body is full of toxins, that’s why my skin is inflamed. The program, Panchakarma involved two weeks of mostly nice treatments – who doesn’t like 2 hours of messages per day – to detox and heal my body!
They also gave me a special diet for my body and I did a yoga class almost every day, living according to the Ayurveda lifestyle.
After about a week, without them doing any facials or even touching my skin directly much (I told them I was terrified of more irritation!), my skin was GLOWING! But more importantly, I felt amazing!
At the end of my stay, they gave me a pamphlet explaining more about my body, including food guidelines.
I was surprised to find that many of my favorite health foods – such as pistachios and tomatoes – were not on the list! Just because a food is generally healthy, doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you specifically! I used to eat a whole bag of pistachios! Well, turns out those are oily and bring out my fire (and skin problems!)!
I was also interested to see that my body type should avoid meat and milk. I was doing what I was told in eating these – hurting my body in the process!
Now when I buy food, I google whether it is good for my Ayurveda constitution, for me specifically.
Adjusting My Lifestyle
After the Ayurveda resort, my next stop was spending summer in Italy… not the optimal place to start a diet! But I kept with the Ayurveda principles – eating a fruit in the morning, eating my biggest meal at lunch, and eating a light dinner as much as I could. Going out less and cooking more.
Little by little, reading and googling, I incorporated more and more Ayurveda principles into my diet.
When I was back in the U.S., I had no problem staying completely vegan and eating more healthy in general.
I didn’t realize it then, but everything came together when I did a 10-day Vipassana Meditation Course in Leh, Ladakh in December 2017. The course itself was a miserable experience. But it followed the Ayurveda lifestyle principles.
Waking up was at 5:00 am, sleeping a 9:00 pm. Meals were served as a small breakfast, large lunch, and very tiny (basically none) dinner. The meditation aspect of it and a prison-like environment forced me to learn about my food cravings and hunger.
I noticed that when I was hungry if I stayed with it and observed it (which was the only option in this course), it would pass. Hunger was just a little temporary gassy feeling, not something to get crazy over.
When I finished the course, I couldn’t believe it – I was down to my high school weight. I haven’t dreamt of ever being that weight again…
By January 2018, I noticed that my skin was completely cleared! Before, it was like a protective layer got removed and that’s why everything that touched my face was burning. Now, that protection was back!
Other small health problems I took for granted suddenly cleared up too.
Adjusting My Lifestyle, Part II
Japan, like Italy, is a place where I have a hard time controlling myself. The food is soooo good! After spending two months there and other life events, I fell completely out of balance.
Luckily, this time I knew exactly what to do to never feel this bad again.
I’ve been following the Ayurveda lifestyle in a much deeper way, with meditation included, since June 2018, and it’s been the most life-changing experience.
I was visiting family friends in Vancouver in early July and one of the family members who doesn’t know me at all tried to guess my age. She guessed that I was 21, specifically because my skin was so good!
I wanted to cry – I’m 10 years older than that and my skin wasn’t this good when I was actually 21!
I feel incredible like I can take charge of my life, like I can focus, like I can conquer the world for the first time in years. My brain fog has finally cleared.
I’m starting this blog to document my journey. I hope you join me!