Proper Nutrition Can Reverse Many Chronic Diseases – CEO, Carib Health Group

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Dr Patrick Ijewere

An alumnus of the prestigious John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr Patrick Ijewere is also a pharmacist, having studied Pharmacy at Howard University in the United States. His outstanding strides in the healthcare industry have seen him champion the cause of good nutrition as both prophylactic and therapeutic to the human system.

In this exclusive interview with PATRICK IWELUNMOR, he sheds more light on the response of the human body to nutrition and lifestyle, while calling for better collaborations between medical doctors and pharmacists in Nigeria.

EXCERPTS:

As a medical doctor and pharmacist, which of the fields do you find more interesting?

They are both very interesting and this is tied to how one approaches both fields. You can marry them beautifully. There are tremendous areas that are untapped in both fields. Both are interesting and I joggle them in ways that I would explain shortly.

 

You have devoted most of your time to working on nutrition. How does nutrition offer therapeutic benefits to the human system?

To answer this question concisely, I will have to share my story with you. There was a time I had asthma. I was diagnosed at age 11, when I was in secondary school at St. Gregory’s, in Lagos. After secondary school, it got worse and my parents shipped me off to the United States for my university education.

After my training as a pharmacist and medical doctor there in the US, I met a senior colleague, while working in Florida and he said to me that if I could change my lifestyle and mindset, the asthma would go away. We were taught that asthma and other non-communicable diseases were chronic ailments but this senior colleague told me they were not. Changing one’s mindset about these ailments is the number one factor that can lead to overcoming them.

Secondly,- he made me realise that lifestyle is very important in the management of these ailments. When you are stressed and you don’t get enough sleep, your system becomes prone to some of these ailments. Thirdly, he talked about nutrition. Then I was eating a lot of meat. Whenever I came home on a visit, I would always go to Obalende market to buy suya. Even in my church in the US, I was deputy barbecue chef. My fridge always had smoked turkey and different kinds of meat. I was told to change my nutrition by this senior colleague.

Initially, I was hesitant. But as soon as I tried changing what I ate, I noticed the difference. It has been 17 years that I have not had an asthma attack, thanks to the massive changes I made to my nutrition.

Around that time, I married a woman who trained as a nutritionist. She had been telling me things about nutrition. One day while on my way home from work, I bought a big bottle of Sprite and drank it all the way home. After a few hours, I started feeling unwell. The next morning, I was feeling horrible. It was through a local newspaper’s feature on sugary drinks that I discovered I had consumed 32 cubes of sugar in that bottle of Sprite. That was my wake-up call to the importance of nutrition.

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It is sad that most medical schools around the world don’t teach nutrition. Our doctors are totally oblivious to the impact of nutrition on health and wellbeing. In our practice, we focus a lot on nutrition.

 

How does nutrition impact those suffering from non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cancer?

While working for an HMO here in Nigeria, I was privileged to travel to many communities. During one of my journeys to Emene, near Enugu, I gave a talk in a hospital run by reverend sisters. After my talk, the then COO of the hospital requested that I come back because of the rising health issues amongst the sisters. In their late thirties, forties ad fifties, most of these sisters were having diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure.

For the three days that I had to come back, I made sure I ate together with them, just to observe their activities and nutrition. Their typical breakfast was bread, butter, margarine and egg. Their lunch was semovita and rice. Dinner time was spaghetti, noodles or rice. Their foods were mostly made from wheat, which is an inflammatory food. They were consuming foods that were highly inflammatory to the body. No wonder they had all those problems – obesity, arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure.

In my own case, once I changed my nutrition, my body began to heal itself. God has designed this body with a system to heal itself. We are the ones who are disturbing our bodies with the incorrect things. It is like a car. If you put the wrong oil in a car, there will be problems after a while.

 

What are those foods that the body requires to stay healthy, as opposed to junks?

You can break them down into micro and macronutrients. When God made man here on earth, He placed him in the Garden of Eden, where there were lots of fruits and vegetables. If you stay close to nature, you will live long. Your body will take you far.

The further you drift away from nature nutritionally, the sooner Mother Nature says, “Return to sender.” The more processed food you consume, the further away you are from nature. And that is when you begin to have problems.

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We have handled the case of a 34-year-old with severe heart disease and blocked vessels, to the extent that cardiologists had said there was nothing they could do for him. He was sent to us for nutritional intervention. Within six months, we opened up those blocked vessels.

 

This means that even diabetes is not a death sentence?

Most of us are born without disease. So, if at age 40 you discover you are diabetic, it means something has happened along the way that caused this disease to show up.

We need to redefine this thing called disease. Disease is simply the body’s way of saying that what you have been doing is not consistent with wellness. God created us to be at ease but we are always deviating from what we are supposed to be consuming, thereby bringing diseases upon ourselves.

When you sleep at night, your heart and kidneys do their work, even without your consciousness. God has designed a perfect system for us. Instead of living in the Garden of Eden, man brings sicknesses upon himself when he begins to think he is smatter than God.

According to Hippocrates, all diseases are curable, except for the patient who is impatient. My hospital has handled a diabetes case that was successfully reversed after a couple of months. Today, as we speak, the patient has stopped taking her drugs and is only observing strict nutrition. And this applies to many non-communicable diseases.

To stay healthy and well, one must observe the five pillars of wellness – nutrition, lifestyle, mindset, environment and spirituality. When any of these is compromised, then the human health is threatened.

 

Would you say Nigerians are adhering to good food and nutrition standards, based on your engagements with patients?

Our nutrition is getting worse and worse. As a young child, I was privileged to meet my great grandmother who was approximately 110 years. Every morning, as soon as she woke from sleep, she would sweep the compound, go to the farm to fetch firewood, take her bath, eat, pack her basket and head to the market.

When she came back, she would play Ludo or ayo game with the children. She ate fresh, healthy and chemical-free foods. She never had high blood pressure or diabetes.

Generationally, we have become worse in our nutrition. Today, we are glorifying highly processed foods, whether imported or local brands. All those noodles and sugar drinks are poison. If you want to be healthy and live long, you have to consume less of those things.

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The other areas of lifestyle that are important include exercise – which could include sweeping, washing clothes and other physical activities. Our mindset is also important – how we deal with stress; and our spirituality. Science has been able to show that anger, bitterness and unforgiving spirit attract sickness. These things weaken the immune system. The environment also plays a huge role. Your quality of sleep also plays a role.

Nutritionally, we are worse off than our grandparents and our great grandparents.  And this is why our life expectancy is very low, at 52. Early missionaries wrote books that showed that those who ate fresh foods were less prone to these diseases. The chronic diseases we are having these days are manifesting in early deaths, abnormal dentition and shape of mouth, in our lack of bone density and in sight problems, like cataracts which make us use glasses at early ages.

 

In what ways does poverty impact lifestyle and the escalation of diseases in Nigeria?

Looking at poverty from the perspective of lack of money is limited; let us also expand it to the lack of knowledge. Limited finances can lead to malnutrition and the diseases associated with it.

However, we have to also look at malnutrition from two perspectives, namely under-nutrition and over-nutrition. While undernutrition (due to poverty) can cause diseases, over-nutrition (due to affluence) can also cause diseases. The poor, in trying to envy the rich also eat what they are not supposed to eat. So, under-nutrition and over-nutrition can cause diseases. This happens when the cells are starved of important nutrients.

 

Pharmacists in Nigeria seem to play a second fiddle to their counterparts in the medical profession. What is your take on this?

In an orchestra, you have first violin and second violin. You also have first rhythm and second rhythm.  Together, they create that delightful awesome music. In my practice, the doctor, the pharmacist, the nutritionist, the psychologist and the nurse are involved in the decision-making process. We should let go of this arrogance and get to work together.

Doctors and pharmacists have their different trainings and roles in the health arena. The nurse, the physiotherapist and the nutritionist all have their roles to play. In the US, we have what is called the multi-disciplinary approach to healthcare. There is no first or second fiddle; everyone is as important as the other in their own areas of strength.

In fact, pharmacists are the evolution of our ancestors who were herbalists. Together, we can make that melodious piece of music.

2 COMMENTS

  1. one health ! The unity of all health care professionals is & ought to be in vogue to enhance distinctively the role of each professional without overstepping boundaries .This approach to delivery of medical practice will foster unity in the health sector for the delight of all .
    This will enable goodwill for success when each cadre is pressing for better conditions of service – rewards & infrastructure for optimal delivery of service.
    #GTJMST
    7523

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