It sounds suspiciously like trendy psychobabble, or some hippie tree-hugger pablum.
It’s not a formal diagnosis—not yet, anyway—but there’s actually a growing body of scientific evidence linking our excessively urban and digital-dependent lifestyle to a host of physical and psychological ailments, ranging from obesity to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression.
In short, our unnatural lifestyle is making us sick.
We know this instinctively—who doesn’t feel instantly better the moment they leave the city and enter a wooded mountainside or a peaceful bamboo grove?
Some health professionals actually prescribe taking regular nature jaunts to keep these problems at bay.
Easier said than done during a quarantine.
Luckily, say some health and nutrition experts, housebound urbanites can also address their nature deficit by eating more wholesome, natural plant foods and taking organic dietary supplements, or “nutraceuticals.”
This is where Sekaya comes in.
Recently launched by Synnovate Pharma Corp., the natural products subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Unilab, Sekaya (which stands for Sentro ng Katutubong Yaman) is the brand name for a line of products designed, their marketing copy goes, “to bring nature back into our lives.” Sourced from organic farms and containing no chemical additives, Sekaya products are processed in Synnovate’s pharmaceutical-grade facilities and scientifically analyzed to ensure consistent quality.
To start with, Sekaya has introduced four product lines: Botanic Infusions which are herbal teas with proven health benefits, Raw Actives which are “superfoods” for people with active lifestyles, Food Supplements which are 100-percent locally sourced, and the Botanicare skincare line.
In a recent online conference called “Prescribing Nature: Revealing the Science Behind Nature in Promoting Overall Wellbeing,” Synnovate marshaled two experts to bolster Sekaya’s health claims.
In the midst of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, we are also suffering from an epidemic of chronic lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, says Dr. Rolando “Oyie” Balburias. Balburias is one of four practitioners of functional medicine in the Philippines, a school of thought that focuses on the overall health of the patient rather than any specific disease.
‘3 M.D.’ syndrome
Health is not a cycle, he says, but a continuum between illness and wellness. People can manage, restore and optimize their health by making the right choices regarding nutrition, exercise, sleep, detoxification, weight and stress management.
Unfortunately, says Balburias, the medical field tends to focus on disease rather than health, leading to numerous patients exhibiting what he calls the “three M.D.” syndrome—patients seeing three different specialists for three different ailments and taking three sets of medications. Nutrition is hardly considered at all.
“We are being fed by a food industry that pays no attention to our health, and we are being treated by a health-care industry—which is actually a sick-care industry—that pays no attention to our food,” he says.
Functional medicine tries to nip health problems in the bud by looking for symptoms of imbalances before they manifest as disease.
Nutritional deficiencies, he notes, are a key risk factor in the development of chronic disease. We need to eat more nutrient-dense, whole foods.
Body and mental state
Through the magic of Zoom, nutrition expert Deanna Minich, Ph.D., was able to take up where Balburias left off from her home in Seattle in her talk “Healthy Food Is Happy Food.”
She began by noting that psychiatry was the first branch of medicine to take a serious look at nutrition when it discovered the link between diet and depression. The typical unhealthy diet of fried food, processed meats, refined sugar has long-lasting effects on mood. It can become a vicious cycle.
“Our body creates our mental state, and our mental state leads to changes in our body based on the decisions we make,” she said.
The typical fast-food meal leads to inflammation, she says, which affects the immune system. The features of an inflammatory diet, she added, are high-heat cooking and frying, foods with a high glycemic index, poor quality trans fats, foods which are high in sugar, low in color and are highly allergenic.
“During this time of COVID-19, we need to think of what will help our immune system better,” she said. “Eating a variety of colorful, plant-based foods leads to a vital, vibrant body, which translates into a better quality of life. If you want to change your mood, you need to change your food.”
Eat the rainbow
The key, she says is to add more plant-based foods to your diet. This doesn’t necessarily mean going vegetarian or vegan, but people should have five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
She cites a study that found a positive correlation between the number of servings of fruits and vegetables people consumed, and their subjective feeling of life satisfaction.
People should also pay more attention to the color of their food, what Minich calls the science of eating the rainbow. “Science shows us that the more varied our food, the healthier it is for our gut, and all good health starts from the gut.”
Rather than rely too much on brown, yellow and white foods (think cheeseburger), she suggests trying to eat a rainbow of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple foods.
“Think about eating as an art—focus on color instead of numbers,” she suggests. “Blue and purple foods help your mood the most.” INQ
Sekaya products will be available at Real Food, Robinson’s Selections, Landmark Supermarket, Diabetes Store, Apotheca, Allganic Store and Aegle Wellness Center; and on Lazada in June.