1. Food as Medicine

1. Food as Medicine

Food, Supplements, or Drugs: best way to increase Focus?


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Disclaimer: The information in this Podcast is for educational purposes only. Vaishnavi Sarathy, Ph.D. is an educator, not a doctor, specifically not your child’s doctor. Please consult your physician before implementing any supplement or diet recommendations.

Food is the single most frequent intervention our body receives.

Food – when digested, absorbed, and metabolized correctly and completely – can

  • affect nutrient deficiencies,
  • calm inflammation,
  • optimize digestion, and therefore
  • boost focus, energy, etc.

But because it is the single most frequent intervention, food can also cause inflammation, damage tissue, cause nutrient deficiencies, increase hyperactivity and so much more.

Pharmaceutical MEDICINE might be more potent and powerful, but this is usually because the target is often at a very high level.

What’s a high-level target?

The best analogy is a band-aid, that does NOT address the root cause of the symptom. This works very well in acute situations, and with varying degrees of efficacy in chronic situations.

ACUTE distress: A cold, a cut, a strong, sudden infection, a disease, etc.

CHRONIC distress: joint pain, Alzheimer’s, headaches (sometimes), obesity, continuing mood issues, brain fog, etc.

What about supplements and bio hacks?

Supplements may seem like an easier intervention than food and less toxic than pharmaceutical drugs, however, when our food continues to cause inflammation, reduce digestive ability, affect immunity, even a supplement will become a band-aid. The same is true for bio hacks, including something like bulletproof coffee (which I drink regularly) or cold water showers (which I take regularly as well).

When food and lifestyle are nutrient-depleting and inflammatory, using supplements and bio hacks can become like layering a fancy home on a weak and decaying foundation.

Both supplements and pharmaceutical drugs can be very important and life–saving in the case of the latter, but it is important to know the context with respect to when, how long, and what your internal terrain looks like.

What does FOOD (or DIET) do?

Food is not just a source of MACRONUTRIENTS (fat, carbs, protein) and MICRONUTRIENTS (vitamins and minerals).

Let us talk about 5 ways food can make changes that are hard to believe in your body. There is some storytelling involved, and you may be tempted to jump into any of these diets as soon as you hear about them. And I am all for empowering you, but please reach out to YOUR doctor before doing so, since I am a Ph.D. but not a medical doctor, specifically not YOUR doctor.

  1. I want to share a time in my son’s life when he was around 4 years old. My son is now 13 and has multiple disabilities, including diagnoses of Down Syndrome and Autism. He is non-speaking AND a poet. I share this with his permission.It was a time when he was fully included in a fantastic Montessori school, but despite the initial victory of this achievement, there was a problem. He was constantly maniacally laughing his head off. Let me assure you that this is not a good thing. I mean he was laughing without the ability to stop for about 5 hours at least a day. I was at my wit’s end. I had figured out that it was yeast thanks to our great naturopath at that time, and though medications worked initially, they stopped helping.I had resisted changing his diet because I felt bad for him. The kid was already going through too much I thought, without it making it obvious to the world that he shares nothing with them, not even the great leveler: FOOD.BUT when left without a choice, humans will do anything for their kids. So I transitioned him into the deep world of a completely sugar-free diet, the Body Ecology Diet, and in a few months into GAPS.Let me assure you that we never saw yeast as a chronic condition ever again, even 9 years since when he is no longer on these diets, but continues to eat a moderate carb anti-inflammatory diet.
  2. Anti-inflammatory Carbohydrate restricted diets such as SCD and GAPS have been shown to successfully bring remission to patients with IBD. Remember that these are purely dietary modifications in the absence of pharmaceutical treatment of the disease.Since gut issues are so common in children with Autism, these diets have also been found to significantly improve symptoms and behavior in children with Autism – at this point, much of this information is anecdotal.
  3. You may have heard of the amazing Dr. Terry Wahls, whose journey is documented in the must-read book “The Wahls Protocol” who took herself into remission from debilitating MS symptoms: she went from a RECLINING wheelchair to biking several miles independently.
  4. Intermittent Fasting has proven to be one of the most effective ways to treat Diabetes
  5. A ketogenic diet is more consistently powerful than single medications in resolving seizures in a majority of people and often has better outcomes that combinations of medications for some people.

There are two rules about diets that I am going to share right off the bat since dietary restriction or modification scares so many people.

RULE no. 1: Through restriction comes freedom. Deep (but sensible) changes give great freedom. But … Given a choice of sugar or a life without maniacal laughing, what do you think my son would choose?

Rule no. 2: A supplement routine cannot outmaneuver a sub-optimal diet.


Hello, everyone. Welcome to functional nutrition for kids, a podcast that is trying to swing food habits from old research and new traditions to new research and ancient food traditions. Welcome to the short and sweet podcast packed with information and action items to take you from where you are to where you want to be a podcast that stops on time in 20 minutes or less, where you learn powerful ways of using food and nutrition to optimize focus behaviors hyperactivity so that your child can function optimally. In short, you learn about the gut, brain axis, and ways that food modulates this axis. If you haven’t heard about the gut-brain axis before, don’t worry, we’re going to be talking about it a lot in the upcoming episodes. In fact, I can probably guarantee that every episode is going to have components of how food affects the gut-brain axis. So hello again, I am so excited that you’ve stopped here to listen and maybe to chat.

I am Dr. Vaishnavi Sarathy and I go by vise VI, sh and the doctor is because I have a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry. I am not a medical doctor. I am a chemist and educator. I am also a TEDx speaker and functional nutrition practitioner slash educator. Now, most of all, I am a mom to two unique and extraordinary kids, one of whom has Down syndrome is autistic has suspected cerebral palsy, and is nonspeaking. But he communicates using a letter board is very fluent in his thoughts extremely intelligent and secretly an agony and in disguise.

And like I said, I’m here to bring your research both old and new, common-sense strategies, traditional food, wisdom, herbal knowledge, and more in your quest to use food and nutrition as medicine for your child, for yourself, and for your family. Alright, let’s jump in. Why are we talking about food? Why are we not talking about medicines that can probably give you quicker results? You’ve heard of Ritalin being prescribed for ADHD for example? Or why not supplements? Why aren’t we starting out with omega-three fatty acids or a methylated B complex? Why not bio hacks MCT oil, how to hack your sleep schedule, and so on.

All of us love those rights. In all fairness, we will talk about supplements and bio hacks in the episodes to come. However, we are talking about food because food is the single most frequent intervention that our body receives. Food along with proper digestion, assimilation, and metabolic ism can affect and cure nutrient deficiencies, calm inflammation, and optimize digestion. And meanwhile, in the process of these three things that I talked about, right, digestion, assimilation, and catabolism, it can therefore boost Focus Energy, cure things like picky eating, and so on. And because it is the single most frequent intervention, it can also swing the other way.

Food can also cause inflammation and damaged tissue, it can cause nutrient deficiencies. Food can lead to picky eating, increase hyperactivity, and a bunch of other symptoms. Now medicine might be infrequently is more potent and powerful and quicker. But this is usually because the target of every allopathic medicine is often every pharmaceutical is what I should be saying is often at a very high level, like a bandaid off not addressing the root cause of the symptom. And this works very well in chronic sickness in acute situations, not in chronic situations.

This works very well in acute situations like a scratch that you have like a cut that you have like an injury that you have that needs to be treated right now even an infection and with varying degrees of efficacy in chronic inflammatory issues. What are chronic inflammatory issues? I quickly tell you that it can range from eczema to allergies to autoimmune disorders, supplements may seem easier and they are and they can get deeper, but they may not be sufficient if the very process of eating and digestion is inflammatory. What about bio hacks? Bio hacks are great, but the same idea where you can’t layer a hack on a nutrient-deficient or depleting lifestyle. Right? It won’t stick. It is like putting a fancy structure on a vehicle decaying foundation.

Not that I am not dissing medication by any means. You might absolutely need to function, especially in the short term or even in the long term, or you might not. But you deserve to know what food can do for you. And that medication is not the topic of today’s chat, or any day’s ship, actually, food is to illustrate the value of what food can do for you. What food can do in your body? Whether simple changes in your diet all the way to intense therapeutic diets. We’re going to talk about the role of food in five very different situations. Think of them as case studies. And I’m going to briefly explain each situation with the use of some very interesting examples.

These are mostly research-validated case studies, except for the first example, which is my personal anecdote. Some of them live there in the realm in between research and anecdote. Okay, if you do want to access more research, post a note on my Facebook page www.facebook.com/functional nutrition for kids, you may be tempted to jump into any of these diets because it sounds like a magic answer to your problem. And I’m all for empowering you to do that. But please reach out to your doctor or your nutritionist before doing so. Since I’m a Ph.D., but not a medical doctor, and specifically neither your doctor nor your nutritionist.

The first story is my personal anecdote. And while time restricts me from going into more detail, I’d like to give you the short version, which is equally powerful. I’m pretty sure I’m going to come back to it later in future episodes. Why my son’s journey and how he experiences his disability is a complex story. And some of it is chronicled in my TEDx talk.

You can google TEDx followed by my name, which is Vaishnavi Sarathy, to get the stock. But today, I want to tell you about a time in his life, when he was four to five years old. It was a time when academically he was included, perhaps for the last time in his life is an excellent Montessori school. But despite the initial seeming victory of this achievement, there was a problem. And the problem is really strange. I’m just going to say it he was constantly maniacally laughing his head off. If you’re confused about why this is a problem, let me assure you that this is not a good thing. He didn’t have access to the off switch.

He was doing this four to five hours a day. And I was at my wit’s end, as I am sure he was as well. Eventually, with the help of our excellent naturopath, we figured out that this was due to a chronic yeast infection in his gut. And this resulted in the help of pharmaceuticals that are antifungal, but then they came back. And eventually, the medication stopped working. I had really resisted changing his diet until this moment, partly because I felt bad for him. And I hadn’t seen any data. Honestly, I hadn’t gone hunting for it, that diet would help with East right.

The kid was already going through too much. I thought without it, making it obvious to the world that he is completely different from any other child on this earth. That he shows nothing with them. Not even the great equalizer food. We all rely on food as the one thing to bring our communities together right. When left without a choice, we jumped him into the deep world of a completely sugar-free diet, even without natural sugars.

I mean, the sweetest thing he got, I believe at the time was blueberries. This is called the body ecology diet. And I must say that it is much more complex than just being sugar-free. But it is intended as a diet to kill pathogenic organisms in the gut. So after we did the body ecology diet for a few months, we moved on to a different diet, which was slightly carbohydrate restricting. And you may have heard of it. It’s called the GAPS diet, where gap stands for gut and psychology syndrome.

Now, we never saw east as a chronic condition ever again, he is 12 now, so this is eight to eight, about eight years since he’s no longer on any of those diets for long. In fact, he was only on either of those diets for about six months, he continues to eat a moderate carbohydrate anti-inflammatory diet. That is the end of my story, which is simply here to show you the power of specific diets, right. But here are two rules about diets that I’m going to share right off the bat since dietary restriction or modification scares so many people and if you have a notebook, pull it out and take notes. Rule number one, through restriction, comes freedom. Now I’m going to qualify this a little bit for you.

Deep but sensible and well-thought changes give great freedom. You cannot stretch the statement beyond it. Deep URL changes, longer changes do not necessarily give you more freedom. Right? In fact, given a choice of sugar and treats, or a life without maniacal loving, which do you think my son would have chosen or which gives him more freedom? Rule number two, a supplement routine or pharmaceutical routine can never outmaneuver a sub-optimal diet. Are you ready for example number two? Moving to an anti-inflammatory carbohydrate-restricted diet, such as a CD, which stands for Specific carbohydrate diet, or gaps, which I just spoke about, has actually allowed a few children to lose their autism diagnosis.

This is a pure testimonial and is on testimonial pages on the GAPS diet official website. Now, whatever you may think about this, this brings in a scenario in my mind where major food sensitivities and bacterial imbalances these are the things that are addressed by the diet caused an immune reaction, which caused perhaps neuroinflammation that was diagnosed as autism and the diet addressed these root issues. There is actually research showing incredible efficacy of the SCD diet in autoimmune gut conditions such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. case study number three, you may have heard of the amazing dr.

Terry walls whose journey is documented in the must-read book the world’s protocol and that is spelled wh H LS. She took herself into remission from debilitating MS symptoms of multiple sclerosis. She went from a reclining wheelchair to biking independently several miles. Her diet has many more do’s and don’ts. But she has achieved great freedom from this restriction and is currently conducting clinical trials to see how this diet could help patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Do go check it out.

Number four, formally based in the research arena, is that it’s very well known that one of the best ways to reverse diabetes without medication is through intermittent fasting. Number five, a ketogenic diet is known to be much more consistently powerful than single medications in resolving seizures in many people. It often has better outcomes than even combinations of medications in a subset of people. Can you believe that? I’m sure you’ve heard of the ketogenic diet, right? And what is common among all of these five examples that we discussed so far? Diet, Food modifications. Now, the aim of this podcast is not to suggest that you go and put your child or your family on a GAAP style, the ketogenic diet, or even the world’s protocol. But rather, I hope this has given you a pause to examine the effects that just food can have on your child’s biochemistry and physiology on your biochemistry and physiology.

A remarkable article published in Science Magazine in 2013 talks about the folly of viewing food as just macronutrients, and by macronutrients, we mean carbohydrates, protein, or fat. How many times have you heard of people restricting either their carbs or their fat or their sugar, right? Without talking more in detail about food can have complex effects on your body? In fact, the author says and I quote, viewing food as a hormone could substantially influence how we make dietary recommendations to promote health or treat specific diseases, and quote, did you get that viewing food as a hormone? So what does food do besides giving you energy? Here are five at least five major magic properties of food that I’m going to list out.

1.Food directly impacts your microbiome, and food indirectly impacts your microbiome. By that, I mean the tons of beneficial gut bacteria, viruses, and fungi living in your gut. For example, just one example quickly, prebiotics, fiber, and so on. We’ll talk more about this in future podcasts.

2. Food can cause or reduce inflammation by interacting with your immune system. You’ve heard of leaky gut or intestinal permeability caused by food sensitivity perhaps that’s an example.

3. Food can reduce or increase pathogenic overgrowth, bad bacteria, yeast, and so on.

4. Food can create oxidative stress. Think trans fats. Food can reduce oxidative stress. Think antioxidants number five, food can give you energy.

How often do we think of any of these four factors? We just think of number five food can give you energy. So if you have been asking the question, can I get better without addressing food? Can I lose weight, gain weight, increase focus, address my behavior simply through supplements, bio hacks, and pharmaceutical medications?

My answer is, I don’t think you can do that sustainably or without side effects. When you change your food, you change your metabolism, your immune system, your microbiome, your oxidative stress. In short, you change your biochemistry. In today’s world, there are reports of food having lower nutrient density than there was 50 years ago, the same tomato has fewer nutrients than it had a few years ago. Right? Benign foods cause huge allergic reactions to thinking wheat and the whole gluten fiasco. And of course, you know, you all know the plethora of processed foods available that we know are inflammatory that we know cause oxidative stress, and so on. In this scenario, I think that the single most effective intervention is to simply eat whole unprocessed food, you know, food that grows on a plant or comes directly from an animal without a middle step.

Now, if you think you’re eating healthy, I do want you to reexamine your diet. What are the action items for today’s podcast? Yes, you’re right. We’re at the end of today’s podcast, we’ve talked about the huge impact food can have in different ways and the fact that food can be considered a hormone. Okay, I don’t want you to leave this podcast without thinking that you have something to do. So I want to see if you can maintain a three or five-day journal, a food journal, and include everything that goes through your child’s mouth, or your mouth if you’re doing it for yourself.

Take notes on how much of this is whole and without judgment? I want you to sincerely ask yourself, what stands between you and a whole food diet for your family? Make a list of T three top things that do. Again, there is no judgment. You don’t need a diagnosis of ADHD or autism to eat a whole foods diet. If you’re not eating a whole foods diet. Why not? You deserve to know why not. Right and accept the reason if needed. All right. If you thought that this ride was intense, I am here to take you on many more saturates. pop back up on our Facebook page facebook.com/functionalnutritionforkids. One word, to tell us what you’d like to hear about. Or to tell us what you thought about this podcast. You were listening to functional nutrition for kids where we’re trying to move food from all research and new traditions to new research in ancient traditions. Take care and join us next Thursday for a chock full episode yet again. Thank you for joining me bye





Magical Hot Cocoa Recipe (2 versions)

Magical Hot Cocoa Recipe (2 versions)

With a lot of iterations and failures and eventual success (with my kids as judges of course), I present to you two recipes to easily ramp up the anti-inflammatory quotient in your child.

In my previous blog, we talked about chronic inflammation being the root cause of widespread disease and dysfunction in our children, including conditions like ADHD, Eczema, and Asthma. IF you haven’t read that, do take a quick detour here.

Among the simplest interventions I have tried, in my quest to amp down inflammation is a superfood-filled night time drink. It is tasty, kids love it, and I usually dose just 2 superfoods at a time.

Recipe 1: Skin and Gut friendly Hot Cocoa

This recipe is great for healing your child’s skin and gut. It uses cacao (which is the raw unprocessed form of cocoa, and very rich in antioxidants). Cacao, a rich source of tryptophan is also great to help your child’s anxiety and sleep.

The other two superfoods are 1) Rice Tocotrienols, a great natural food source of vitamins, minerals and the skin-healing Vitamin E; and 2) Marine Collagen Protein: an excellent source of amino acids that help heal the gut lining (and skin lining).

Marine Collagen is an animal food, sourced from fish, but tasteless and odorless. Feel free to drop it if you are strictly vegetarian.


  • 1 cup almond or macadamia milk
  • (Note: I soak 5 -6 almonds the previous night of morning and make my own almond milk with 1 cup of water)
  • 1 date
  • 1/2 tbsp raw cacao powder, now available in Costco!
  • 1/2 tbsp rice bran tocotrienols
  • 1/2 tbsp Marine Collagen
  • Challenge: Try introducing 1″ Cinnamon / 1″ piece off Star Anise
  • Pinch Sea Salt

Heat the Almond Milk to your desired temperature. Blend in a high-speed blender preferably, but really any blender will be fine (you may need to soak the dates with a weaker blender).

Recipe 2: Calming and Anxiety Reducing Hot Cocoa

We continue to use anxiety-lowering and kid-favorite raw cacao here. But the super foods are different: Maca, an ancient Peruvian superfood used for energy and stamina (both mental and physical), and Ashwagandha, a similar adaptogen, used for thousands of years in the Ayurvedic Tradition.


  • 1 cup almond or macadamia milk
  • (Note: I soak 5 -6 almonds the previous night of morning and make my own almond milk with 1 cup of water)
  • 1-2 tsp Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp Maca Powder
  • 1 Capsule Ashwagandha, opened up

Heat the Almond Milk to your desired temperature. Blend and serve.

Alright! Good luck in your cocoa, sorry cacao travels! Did your kids like it? Let me know.

Quinoa and Soy: the story of health, fashion and starvation

Quinoa and Soy: the story of health, fashion and starvation

Note: This is a very old blog that I wrote in 2013 but realized that it is even more relevant today. It is one of my favorite blogs, and I had loads of fun writing it.

In this blog, I focus on two of the biggest intruders in the area of ancient foods. They are ancient foods themselves. Keep reading for a classic story of how too much good in the wrong place and time can be indistinguishable from evil. 

Both quinoa and soy aren’t grains, but they are the faddest grain-alternatives to hit us in a long while. They are not only high in protein, they are even complete proteins, a very rare feat in the plant kingdom. For Indians, they fit very nicely into our regimented world of traditional foods. Quinoa substitutes for sabudana and rava so well in upmas and pulaos (the aftertaste is a sacrifice at the altar of one’s health -whatever that may mean these days). And soy, well, it substitutes for anything, for grains of course, for beans, for milk and more popularly, in its heavily processed form, for meat.

What follows is a story of the devastation that has trailed behind these incredibly versatile grains (or grainoids). There are untold stories behind every fad, behind every new super-food that will “transform your health”. Changing traditional diets comes with a cross that we must bear, or that others must bear for us.

High protein: check. Traditional food: check. Low fat: check. No dead animals: check. In fact the New York Times notes that NASA scientists declared quinoa to be the perfect balanced food for space missions.

The untold back story of Quinoa exploded with a  NYTimes article in early 2011. Several other magazines have since noted that Quinoa’s price in Bolivia has tripled since 2006 making it unaffordable to many of those that cultivate it. In Lima, chicken is now cheaper than quinoa and of course imported junk food is too, as it is anywhere else. Somehow high processing costs + high transportation costs always translate to super cheap food. Sadly, over the same time period, quinoa consumption in Bolivia has dropped by a third, being replaced by rice, noodles and junk food. Malnutrition among children in quinoa-growing areas has risen.

Diverse rotation farming in Peru and Bolivia has turned into mono-cropping of quinoa over the years, a very dangerous practice potentially stripping soil of nutrients, and creating an extremely unbalanced environment. An article published in 2010 in The Guardian noted a similar story with asparagus cultivation (also in Peru). Asparagus is a water intensive vegetable that has caused drought like conditions in its native Inca valley, with a massive decrease in the water table. Mono cropping is involved in soy cultivation as well, and will continue to be a cultivation method for all fad foods that have a sudden increase in demand.

Vegetarians are one of the biggest markets for Quinoa and Soy. Given that the ethics of veganism hinges heavily on ecological destruction due to confined lot animal operations (i.e., factory farms), the ecological footprint of soy (which is the go-to food of choice for a majority of converted vegetarians) is ironical: Soy cultivation is one of the two main reasons for deforestation of the Amazon (the other being cattle ranching, quite justly). 

The upsides to the stories are similar. Asparagus cultivation has resulted in 10,000 new jobs in the Inca valley, leaving us with the question: should one buy asparagus from Peru so the farmers can go to work, or not buy it so their children don’t face drought? Ditto for Quinoa, except the scale of jobs created in Peru and Bolivia is much higher.

But we don’t really buy Soy and Quinoa because we can send more people in the Altiplano to work. Neither do we eat them because they are tasty(most people can attest that both foods have a highly acquired taste, the activation energy for which is high enough that you would have to be sufficiently motivated otherwise).

Traditional food habits of Asians have long been a justification for the safety of eating Soy. But as much respected food author and science writer Michael Pollan says, there isn’t really much record of any culture eating as much soy in as many forms as is being consumed now. Quinoa, or the other hand hasn’t been modified much yet. It is likely safe, but perhaps unnecessary.

The point that I hope this discussion leads to is: Eat local. Eat traditional. Eat traditional and local if you can. What if traditional is vegetarian? Can one eat local and vegetarian? I am not sure, if you don’t live in a tropical country. For sure, one can’t eat local and vegan in temperate climates. What does one eat in winter? What then, is the most ethical way to eat?

The scale is tight: there lie “health”, animal welfare and fashionable tastes on one side, and ecological devastation, malnutrition, genetic modification and jobs on the other. What will you choose?


  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/americas/20bolivia.html?_r=2&
  2. http://personal.lse.ac.uk/weinhold/Soy%20Paper_310.pdf
  3. http://commodityplatform.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/factsheet_paraguay_final_120609.pdf
  4. http://marcfbellemare.com/wordpress/2013/01/quinoa-nonsense-or-why-the-world-still-needs-agricultural-economists/
  5. http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/michael-pollan-answers-readers-questions/
  6. http://www.examiner.com/article/the-politics-of-soy
  7. http://environmentalcommons.org/cetos/articles/soystory.html
  8. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2110890,00.html
  9. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/14/quinoa-andes-bolivia-peru-crop
  10. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/sep/15/peru-asparagus-british-wells