When mind-body medicine man and spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, M.D., aligns with the venerable power team at UCSD’s Center for Integrative Medicine, you get a holistic prescription for healing from the inside out.
Chopra recently spoke at an event hosted by the integrative center to launch a collaborative association. (Other healing partners include Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and Bastyr University.)
The fare served illustrated Chopra and his associates’ determination to walk their talk by nourishing guests with organic and vegetarian delights of red quinoa succotash, assorted gazpacho shots of Heirloom tomatoes, carrot, honey ginger and avocado cucumber, seven colors of the rainbow-marinated veggies (from orange cauliflower and purple carrots to golden and ruby beets), tapenades of roasted garlic, artichokes and mangoes to spread on multigrain crackers, washing it all down with biodynamic wines from the Organic Wine Exchange.
Attention-getting highlights of Chopra’s presentation (reminiscent of a spiritual stand-up comedy routine) began with a navigational tour through the shoals of the five buckets of total wellbeing: physical, community, social, financial and career balance.
Chopra also thrilled the audience with assurances that most inherited weaknesses can be overcome (he said only 5 percent are set in stone like Angelina Jolie’s BRCA1 wired for breast cancer) by reprogramming genes through modifying eating habits and lifestyles, so they don’t behave badly and trigger disease. Chopra said, “even biomarkers for aging can be reversed as genes’ activities are constantly being influenced by breathing, thoughts, desires, drives and eating.”
The Center’s ultimate goal is to transform the health industry into a more holistic-focused lifestyle system. Integrative physician Gordon Saxe, the Center’s director of research, and executive director Gene “Rusty” Kallenberg, M.D., the original architects of UCSDCIM, are still operating on the enthusiastic level of space explorers. Their work infuses the community with a hopeful message of better health through common sense and self-control. The integrative team put its proselytizing into practical action with acupuncture, a stress reduction program, group classes in tai chi and yoga, osteopathic manipulation, and a series of natural healing and cooking classes.
Lauray MacElhern, educator and healing cooking virtuoso, is co-founder of the program, which uses a “food as medicine” approach for various classes. This Hippocrates ethos for prevention and wellness is embraced by an eclectic patient body from those with cancer, heart disease, obesity, autoimmune conditions and diabetes to concerned parents, vegetarians looking for nutritional balance and “the worried well,” who want to boost their health and ward off any future conditions.
According to Saxe, the comradery of the group-based educational setting is more fulfilling, fun and effective than a one-on-one in a sterile office. The program offers a series of eight interactive classes at the teaching kitchen of Casa de Luz in North Park. Participants enjoy easy, breezy, tasty, organic plant-based meals, while learning healthful techniques for dialing up the powerful properties and flavors of foods, herbs and spices as they break GMO-free bread with friends.
In his three decades of study, Saxe said he learned about food’s remarkable potential not only to prevent, but even reverse many diseases, including some notorious ones. He advocates a whole food, primarily plant-based diet that is balanced, organic, seasonal and dairy-free with a mother lode of whole grains (quinoa, kasha, farro), cruciferous and brassica vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts), beans and legumes.