Deepak Chopra offers six pillars of wellbeing

The healthcare industry is changing rapidly, said Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, at the 2018 Integrative Healthcare Symposium Annual Conference in New York City. In the face of environmental toxins, potential epidemics, superbugs, and the accelerated aging process, the significance of achieving optimum health has never been more crucial—and the burden to achieve it now rests on individuals making the right lifestyle choices every day.

While that burden may seem overwhelming to both practitioners and patients, Chopra offers six pillars of wellbeing to focus on in your journey towards optimal physical health and wellness:

  1. Sleep

  1. Meditation and Stress Management

  1. Movement, Yoga, and Pranayama

  1. Emotions

  1. Nutrition and Nourishment

  1. Biological Rhythms and Grounding

Sleep is considered a self-organizing and self-regulating process in our body that brings about homeostasis at every level, said Chopra. The endocrine system and immune system resets during natural sleep. If you look every single metabolite, from blood sugar to blood cholesterol, studies show sleep is essential to self-regulation, said Chopra. “There is no biological organism, including plants and bacteria, that doesn’t sleep,” he said.

One of the biggest risks for cardiovascular disease and premature death is lack of sleep, said Chopra. “Sleep is your window to the cosmic mind,” he said. “It is a spiritual experience.”

There are numerous studies on meditation and stress management, said Chopra, that show a one-week disciplined retreat combining self-reflection, mantra meditation, and meta-cognition can upgrade your gene activity. Some of the genes that cause homeostasis go up 17 times over baseline, he said, and the genes that cause inflammation go significantly down.

The level of the enzyme telomerase, which controls the biological age, showed a 40 percent increase during meditation, said Chopra, who cited a research study in the journal Nature. “With our ability to measure metabolites and gene expression, meditation is both a practice for self-regulation but also a practice to get into the deeper nature of our being,” he said.

In the third pillar, movement, yoga, and pranayama, movement refers to meeting current scientific advice of 10,000 steps a day, with or without going to the gym. Chopra mentions yoga and pranayama specifically because every yoga asana has a different effect on the visceral nerves, most importantly the vagus nerve, which regulates activity in the body.

This same effect on the vagus nerve can be achieved through pranayama, he said, citing the Breathing App as a resource. There are other pranayama variations to regulate other processes in the body as well, he says.

At the beginning of his career, Chopra focused primarily on stress management. All stress starts with fear and is a misuse of our imagination, he said. This fear can lead to anger and hostility, which then leads to grievances, resentment, guilt, shame, depression—the whole gamut of emotions that causes inflammation and are linked to 95 percent of all illness, Chopra said.

It is well-documented that stress causes inflammation, which has been included in research for some time now. What we did not know, Chopra said, was that love, joy, equanimity, and gratitude have the exact opposite effect. In a recent study, Chopra said heart failure patients who kept a gratitude journal had inflammatory markers go down. “There are no drugs that have the anti-inflammatory effect that gratitude has, or love has, or empathy has, or compassion has,” said Chopra.

For nutrition and nourishment, we know that nutrition can almost instantly change the population of the microbiome, which means the content of genetic information. If we put food in our bodies that is manufactured, refined, and processed, we mess with our microbiomes, which in turn produce metabolites that talk to the human genome and essentially poison the body. “Our food today is contaminated with poison,” said Chopra, listing hormones, steroids, and chemicals.

In fact, 30 percent of the microbiome disappeared in the industrial world. “If nothing else, that is a cause for great alarm right now,” said Chopra, “because it could lead to the extinction of life on our planet.”

The more diversity of foods in a plant-based diet, the healthier your microbiome will be, said Chopra.

Lastly, Chopra discussed biological rhythms and grounding. Based on Ayurvedic medicine, Chopra noted four rhythms in our biology, the circadian rhythm, the seasonal rhythm, the tidal rhythm, and the lunar rhythm. By connecting with the Earth, we reset these rhythms, which is why a barefoot walk on the beach, or the grass, or the ground often has a positive effect on how we feel. There are even grounding devices that can be used anywhere, which resets and recharges the human body. Grounding decreases inflammatory markers and changes gene expression, he said.

The universe is one, wholeness of activity down to the level of our genes, said Chopra. This new model will revolutionize healthcare and energy-based medicine.

“The future of wellbeing is personalized, it’s predictable, it’s preventable, it’s participatory, and it’s process-oriented,” said Chopra, “because the mind-body process is an activity in your awareness.”