Most people have to deal with stress almost on a daily basis. Psychological stress is a leading cause for almost all illnesses faced by man today. While many would resort to having western medicine to find cures for stress, Dr. D.B Nugegoda advises people to also focus on self-care such as getting closer to nature. Having graduated in the field of Medicine from the Faculty of Medicine Peradeniya, Dr. Nugegoda joined the University of Peradeniya, as a lecturer in Community Medicine. He obtained his post-graduate qualifications in the field of Community Medicine from the University of London and the Royal College of Physicians, UK. After 34 years of teaching at Peradeniya, he retired as the Professor of Community Medicine. After retirement he served the Rajarata University of Sri Lanka and the South Asian Institute of Technology & Medicine as the professor of Community Medicine.
“During my days it was the craze to become a doctor,” Dr. Nugegoda said in an interview with the Daily Mirror. “So I took up to medicine and ended up specialising in the field of community medicine. Community medicine, also known as public health, is a discipline where the emphasis is on preventing illnesses. Medical students are taught on preventive aspects of illnesses and how to lead a healthy life. For example if you take heart disease, we have to study risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, psychological stress, obesity, lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet, lack of sleep etc. which are factors positively associated with this illness.”
Towards a Stress-Free Healthy Life
In his book titled ‘Towards a Stress-Free Healthy Lifestyle’, Dr. Nugegoda explores connections between the mind and the body. The book includes chapters that shed light on how areas such as living with nature, diet, laughter, sleep, obesity, earthing, social support, love, compassion, empathy, relaxation, meditation, massage, mental imagery and visualization are linked to health. He carefully explains each factor by drawing examples and backing these facts through research reported in scientific medical journals. It could be clearly seen that most of the physical ailments occur due to psychological factors. While Dr.Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School claims that healing has three components; pharmaceuticals, surgical and self-care, Dr. Nugegoda particularly deals with the aspect of self-care in this book.
“If you get close to nature you can overcome most of these illnesses, and keep away from illnesses” he added. Research using functional MRI scans, have shown that even looking at city scenes does increase the blood flow to the amygdalae- the two structures in the brain which initiate the stress response. On the other hand, natural scenes light up areas of the brain associated with empathy and altruism. This clearly shows that living with nature is the key to control stress and associated illnesses.
He further said that students should at least two to three days before an examination keep their books aside and live with nature, such as a leisurely walk in a park, where there are many trees. A study found participants scoring 50 % higher on creative problem solving tasks after 3 days of wilderness backpacking. This way our cognitive powers would increase, improving the power to recall.
“There’s evidence to show that there have been fewer deaths and less diseases among people who live near green spaces, even if they didn’t use them. Some paediatricians in the US write prescriptions for children together with their families to regularly visit green parks as part of the treatment programme for their patients. Those who have window views full of greenery, tend to recover faster in hospitals, perform better in schools and display less violent behavior. In another study, a minimum nature dose of five hours per month is recommended to overcome the high rates of depression, alcoholism and suicide in Finland. A 40 to 50 minute walk through a forest is enough for positive psychological changes, mood changes and attention.”
Dr. Nugegoda refers to a study which says that getting an adequate dose of vitamin D is the most important thing you could do to your health. “Exposure to sunlight can result in elevation of mood and prevention of depression because of the production of the hormone serotonin in the brain. It also has a preventive effect on such diseases as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, gum disease etc. In labs they have found that vitamin D to turn off prostrate, colon and breast cancer cells. They have also found that when you expose yourself to the sun, the surface cells of your skin produce nitric oxide - a very important chemical which is necessary for the functioning of all cells in the entire body. In addition it has an effect in lowering the blood pressure.”Some are scared of being exposed to the sun because of the risk of skin cancer, a rare event for us. Dr Garland says “We could save ten people from deaths from internal cancers (breast, colon, prostate etc.) for everyone who dies from skin cancer”.
Diet and health
Dr Nugegoda quotes an article “You are when you eat; the secret to better health could be an early dinner”. A lady managed to shed the 30 kg she gained after childbirth in just 9 months simply by having her dinner by 5.00pm. Eating the last meal of the day very early had been the practice for thousands of years when we had to depend only on sunlight, as there was no artificial light. This practice resulted in night time fasting for a period of 13 hours or more, which is now recognised as a very healthy practice. Now with “development”, we have dinner late in the night, sometimes closer to midnight. It seems that our bodies are primed to process food most efficiently when it is eaten during daylight hours. Harvard Neuroscientist Frank Scheer says “We now recognise that our biology responds differently to calories consumed at different times of the day”. In an animal experiment, one group was given food during a 9 to 12 hour time restricted period which allowed a long fast, while the other group could eat the same amount of food throughout the day. When the two groups were tested, the biological markers such as cholesterol, liver enzymes and sugar levels were much better in the group whose diet was restricted to a time period. Ruth Patterson says “When you eat all the time, your insulin and glucose levels are elevated all the time”. Constant presence of insulin in the blood stream (which is very unhealthy), may give the precancerous cells a deadly boost, in addition to promoting heart disease, diabetes, learning and memory problems. A study was carried out among a group of patients with breast cancer, making them to have an early dinner followed by a 13 hour night time fasting. With this practice there were less recurrences and appearance of new breast cancer cells among these patients. This should apply to patients with any type of cancer.
Earthing or Grounding
According to Dr. Nugegoda, the earth’s surface is full of free electrons giving it a negative electric potential. “When any part of the body touches the earth directly you absorb these free electrons,” he further said. “These electrons act like antioxidants. All illnesses we have including cancer, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease free radicals play a vital role. Free radicals are produced by cells during normal metabolism. If they are not neutralized they can harm the cells in the body bringing about all types of diseases. We take fruits, vegetables, tea, green tea and various other things to destroy these free radicals.
Another important, easy, cheap and efficient way of destroying free radicals is through earthing. Research shows that contact with earth may be a simple, natural and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, autonomic nervous system dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed heart rate variability, hyper-coagulable blood and many common health disorders. The best place for earthing is the sea beach but even walking on grass or sand is very effective.
During earthing, a negative charge builds up on the surface of red blood cells, which is referred to as the zeta potential. These negative charges on the surfaces of red blood cells make them repel from one another resulting in thinning of the blood. Now we take anti-coagulants such as aspirin to thin the blood which have lots of side effects. Also with earthing improvements in muscle stiffness, joint pain, chronic backache and general well-being has been reported.”Now there are even earthing mattresses available for sale. Earthing during a single night’s sleep has been shown to result in statistically significant changes in concentration of minerals and electrolytes in the blood stream affording protection against osteoporosis in addition to all the other benefits mentioned earlier.
“You have to be connected to nature, which is now being practiced by more and more in the western world,” he said in his