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Wellness on the menu: Decoding the diets of premium spas

Link to the Episode

Anshu Bahanda: Welcome to Wellness Curated. As you know, the aim of this podcast is to help you lead a healthier, happier, more hopeful life. And we do so by bringing you tools, techniques, ideas, and approaches from all over the world. This season we’re talking about exploring the fascinating world of nutrition and food and the impact that has on your health.

And for that, we have two very interesting people here today. I would say we have the best of the best in the world of nutrition. We have with us Austrian physician, co-founder of the award winning Viva Mayr and now creator of Modern Mayr Dilijan Center, Dr Harald Stossier.

And we also have with us someone who is a legend in the world of naturopathy. He’s a celebrated practitioner and naturopathy doctor and director of Pema Wellness Resort, Dr S N Murthy. Welcome to the chat, gentlemen, and thank you for taking the time out to be with us.

Dr Harald Stossier: Hello to everybody and thanks for the invitation.

Dr S.N Murthy: Thanks everybody.

AB: Dr. Stossier, I will start with you. Can you give us an overview of the unique approach to eating that Mayr adopts and how is it different from other diets? 

Dr HS: Yeah, so, first of all, the methodology we are talking about was founded by Dr. Mayr, who was an Austrian physician. I think the main difference is that when we are talking about Mayr therapy, we are not primarily talking about healthy nutrition. We are talking about how to use nutrition, specifically fasting and detoxification, to treat different diseases and to help people get rid of their complaints and diseases. But the core message is that when we are talking about nutrition it is not only the food which is important, but we have to consider the capacity of our digestive system, because that is the key factor. All the ingredients we want to reabsorb have to be extracted from the food by our digestive system. And what we do in the Mayr therapies, we train the digestive tract, I would say, to get a better capacity, to be able to eliminate or extract the ingredients from the food more, not only the micronutrients, also the macronutrients, and how to use this capacity later on to stay as healthy as possible. I would say it this way. 

AB: Thank you. And as you know, I’m a big fan. I’ve been to the Mayr Clinic many times. And I’ve also been to the Pema Wellness Resort. So Dr Murthy, tell us about the unique approach of eating that you adopt at Pema and also talk to us a little bit about naturopathy.

Dr S.NM: Naturopathy is a science which treats patients without using any type of medicine. It uses only the basic elements of nature, like water, sunlight, food, nutrition and exercises. Yoga is also part of it. And Nature Cure came from the roots of Ayurveda. The SwasthaVritta of Ayurvedic Science, which is ancient in India, is nothing but naturopathy. And nutrition especially— we believe that nutrition or food is medicine. So we give more importance to food, whatever we serve to the patients, whoever comes to our centers, and we carefully monitor them from the day they enter into the premises till the day they go. 

AB: Thank you, Dr. Murthy. So, Dr. Stossier— let’s talk about your approach to dealing with intolerances and allergies and also about how you personalise it to every client.

Dr HS: First, let me explain a little bit about modern Mayr medicine. Dr. Mayr lived about 100 years ago, and he didn’t discuss allergies, which have become increasingly prevalent in recent years or decades, particularly with the growing number of food parameters. Therefore, we have adapted Dr. Mayr’s traditional diagnostics and therapy to suit modern times. Additionally, we have incorporated orthomolecular medicine as an essential component, which involves supporting the healing process with natural substances such as minerals, vitamins, and trace elements. Furthermore, we have integrated a method called applied kinesiology to diagnose specific situations that may not be detected through conventional muscle tests. This method was originally introduced by George Goodheart in the medical field around 50 years ago. By combining Dr. Mayr’s diagnostics, muscle tests and orthomolecular medicine have created a unique approach. This combination allows us to identify inflammation at an early stage, even before conventional tests like lab tests, x-rays, or ultrasounds can detect any symptoms or complaints. When examining the intestine, inflammation resulting from food intolerance, such as lactose intolerance or wheat intolerance, may appear similar upon palpation. However, with the aid of applied kinesiology diagnostics, we can specifically identify intolerances, such as an intolerance to wheat. One of the key principles of Mayr therapy is to provide the intestines with rest. This involves reducing the challenges placed on the intestine, allowing it to regenerate and increasing the capacity of the digestive system. This rest period typically lasts a short period of time, ranging from a few weeks to months, and occasionally even up to a year. During this period, individuals need to avoid certain trigger foods. However, it is important to note that often it is not the food itself that causes the problem, but rather the inflammation in the intestine, which is generally caused by poor eating habits. These habits can include overeating or consuming food at inappropriate times. In some cases, intestinal inflammations can also be triggered by bacteria, parasites, or other pathogens. As a result of this inflammation, individuals may develop food intolerances. The objective of Mayr Therapy is to restore healthy intestinal function and gradually reintroduce foods, monitoring any adverse reactions.

AB: Thank you. And that’s, I guess, what’s so wonderful, is that it’s personalised to every person.

Dr HS: Absolutely. It has to be individualised, otherwise it doesn’t work.

AB: Lovely. And Dr. Murthy, let’s talk about food cravings. How do you encourage people who come to Pema to get rid of food cravings and to develop a healthier relationship to food 

Dr S.NM: Craving also starts because of their consciousness; unconsciously, they lose their consciousness and start eating like animals. Eating habits should be regulated. And regulated eating habits mean that, again, it comes down to the timing, the quantity, and the quality. Whatever we eat, it should be under the discipline of human beings.  

AB: Thank you. Thank you for that.

Dr HS: Sorry, may I add more to that? I totally agree. But additionally, we have been talking about food intolerance before. If people eat, for example, the wrong food, they challenge their hormonal system and, specifically, the adrenals, and then they create what we call an “addictive allergy”. So specifically, people who always eat the wrong food develop an addiction to this wrong food, and then we have much more problems. And this is more or less the same with junk food. If you always challenge your hormonal system, then you also develop an addiction to it. And of course, that creates some cravings too, because you always want to have the wrong food to activate your hormonal system.

AB: Right. So, Dr. Stossier, on that note, tell me about the common mistakes that you see in diet and nutrition.

Dr HS: I think the most important mistake people, but also medical science and doctors make is that they think nutrition depends only on food. And we are talking about the quality of food, the quantity of food, they want to have organic food, and so on. This is, of course, an important factor. But much more important is how we are able to digest the food. Even if you take junk food and eat it the right way, you get the ingredients. So if you go to McDonald’s, if you know that company, and get a burger, and if you chew it, very sorry, you may get a salad leaf in the last bit. And that could be even better than having the best organic food gulped down between two meetings. So I think we have to focus, specifically in the medical field, we have to focus and explain the importance of the digestive tract for nutrition. So it’s much more important to eat slowly, to chew well, to allow the body to, I would say, get some awareness about the ingredients of the food, and to be able to prepare the right digestive saliva. Also to accept a natural routine and rhythm because we know our digestive capacity is much better in the morning and less in the evening. And if you look at the social habits, people go out in the evening and eat late in the evening. I’m sorry to say, I like Indian food, but if you eat the dal very late in the evening, it is not possible for it to be digested in time. And that creates, I would say, a lot of problems.

AB: Right. And Dr Murthy, what would you say is the most common mistake that you see in diet and nutrition when your clients come to you?

Dr S.NM: The common mistake that we observe is, number one, timing. They don’t have fixed times for food. They eat whenever and whatever they want, as the doctor told them. However, when they eat whenever they want, the digestive system is not ready to receive the food. When you take food at a particular time, the stomach is prepared with acids to receive and digest it. When you don’t consider this and eat whenever you want, the body has to produce the acids only after taking the food, which takes some time. In between these timings, there is a chance of food getting fermented, leading to inflammatory conditions. The second thing is the combination of foods they consume. Wrong combinations are indigestible. The most important aspect of our concept is that what we eat is not the primary focus. The crucial factor is what we digest and assimilate in the body. If digestion and assimilation are correct, there is no disease. Let me quote Louis Kuhne, one of the philosophers of naturopathy who introduced nature’s cure to India. He says, “There is no disease. There is nothing like a disease. All diseases are nothing but symptoms.” So, remove all the causes, understand the basic cause of any disease condition, and eliminate that cause, and your so-called disease is cured.

AB: So it’s interesting that both of you have said the same thing, that even more than what you eat, it is how your body is reacting to what you eat and how it’s absorbing it, or not absorbing it, or what is causing inflammation. So it’s basically about sorting out the gut, and everything else will follow. But Dr. Murthy, when clients come to you and then they stay for a week, two weeks, three weeks, and then they leave. So how do you help them maintain the healthy eating habits that they’ve learned at Pema Wellness? Even when they leave you.

Dr S.NM: In Pema Wellness, we first teach them discipline. How to live the correct way of life, what time are you supposed to get up in the morning, what time do you start your exercise, what type of exercises you have to do, what type of juices you have to take, what type of food you are supposed to take, what time you are supposed to eat, what time you are not supposed to eat, and what time you should sleep. All of these things are regulated in a well-planned manner, and people become accustomed to this type of planning. This is discipline, and when they adopt it, they will continue to enjoy good health and we will be in touch with the party on a regular basis, guiding them. That is the specialty of Pema.

AB: Thank you. And Dr.Stossier, how do you do this? How do you ensure that the Mayr principles that people have learned, they carry on with them once they leave you? 

Dr HS: So I think first of all, when we are talking about the Mayr principles, we have to focus on how we treat people. And as I said at the very beginning, Mayr therapy is not talking about healthy nutrition. We are talking about how to treat complaints and diseases. Again, I also agree that this is a very natural pathway. So the therapy starts by advising people how to eat. They get the piece of bread. Of course, we have been talking about intolerances, so they will get the right bread that they are able to digest. There are no errors, and they are advised to chew every bite 50 times. Then they will get the food. They take the food in their mouth, mix it again, chew it again, swallow it down, and stop when they feel a light feeling of satiation. We serve three meals. The smallest meal is in the evening because we have less capacity to digest food in the evening. People are advised to drink a lot [of water] in between meals. It is also important not to drink with the meal. So all the practical steps are practiced by the client, so they do it by themselves. So, of course, at the end of the day, it’s also a plan. But how do you eat and train the eating habit? This is, I think, one of the most important aspects, because even if you tell a person to chew 50 times, at the very beginning, they have to count how often they have chewed. And they will realize after 10 to 15 times that they are swallowing the food because they are not used to doing that. And of course, by training that and creating this new routine, which takes time and is also a major problem, you establish this healthy eating habit and healthy routine. But I agree totally with Dr Murthy. We are not angels; we are not all angels; otherwise, we wouldn’t sit here and go back into the daily routine and have the challenges and stressful life, as we all have people who forget to do it, and the eating habit again goes back to the old, not-so-healthy routine. But what we teach people is also dependent on how long they have trained themselves. The shorter it is, the less time they have to repeat it. We also advise them to do it at least one day a week, or however often they can do it, to train themselves again and to remember this eating habit. And this is also fasting. And detoxification is part of our healthy nutrition, and this is what we want. Of course, we stay in contact with our clients; we ask them how they are and if they have any complaints.

AB: So in terms of people trying to incorporate this into their daily lives, say if someone hasn’t been to Mayr, would you tell them three meals a day; the last meal should be the lightest; drink lots of water between meals, but not with the meal; try and chew each bite 50 times, and try and fast one day of the week. Is there anything I’ve left out or is this a good summary of what you’ve just said?

Dr HS: It is nearly a perfect summary. Yes, I agree. I would like to add that it is advisable to avoid consuming raw food in the evening. Raw food tends to be less digestible and can lead to fermentation, which in turn initiates inflammation in the intestines. This irritation often serves as the starting point for many diseases. Therefore, I recommend refraining from consuming raw food during the evening. One potential challenge is that if people only rely on knowledge without experiencing the actual change, they may not fully grasp its benefits. Starting with a cleansing process or detoxification can provide a different experience altogether. Personally, I am not so happy with juices and smoothies as they tend to be rich in carbohydrates, which can contribute to fermentation in the intestines. I believe that we already possess the best tools in our mouths for mechanically breaking down food, and we can prepare excellent blends and teas without the need for juices or smoothies. Additionally, it is important to incorporate periods of fasting into our routines. Once a year, engaging in a fasting period can be beneficial for maintaining optimal health. Similarly, practising intermittent fasting or eating less once a week is recommended in various societies worldwide. These practices can help promote our overall well-being.

AB: Thank you. And Dr Murthy as we know, Pema wellness is based on a plant based diet. So  what would you say are some of the benefits of a plant based diet?

Dr S.NM: It doesn’t produce toxicity. That is the only point. Toxicity is very low in plant-based diets. The Nature Cure asserts that the body produces toxins, which are the cause of all diseases, and there are some toxins that are exogenous and outside the body. As they enter the body, they’re going to cause disturbance. Only plant-based diets are helpful to remove these toxins. That means that for the process of detoxification, plant-based diets are the only useful addition. We should also clean our bodies once a week, and for that, fasting is required. So our forefathers of naturopathy, Indian naturopathy, said once a week, one day in a week should be a fasting day. You should drink only liquids on fasting days, preferably only water. So [practice] fasting, a nutritious diet, a locally produced diet, and a balanced diet at the proper time.

AB: Thank you. And Dr Stoisser, what is your thought on superfoods? I mean, the world is going crazy eating avocado and quinoa and things that are considered superfood. So tell us, do you think this is a marketing gimmick?

Dr HS: Yeah. First, may I add a few words about the plant-based diet? I accept it. I have no problem if somebody decides to adopt a plant-based diet. I believe that as humans, if we go back to the very beginning of evolution, we wouldn’t have survived solely on a plant-based diet. We were hunters and collectors, so we needed animal protein, and we are capable of digesting it. Nature provides us with a wide variety of different foods. I fully agree with the importance of local production and similar concepts. It doesn’t make sense, for example, to have strawberries in Europe during Christmas time that come from South Africa. Moreover, I disagree that on a plant-based diet you are unable to produce toxins. If one consumes excessive amounts of raw food, fermentation can occur, leading to inflammation in the body. Similarly, if one consumes an excess of certain plant-based foods, such as lentils or dal, it can result in bloating, which generates a significant amount of toxins. Therefore, I believe that dietary choices should be personalised based on individual needs. We know that there are differences in the digestive tracts of individuals, and certain foods may be easier to digest than others. For example, grilled fish, although not plant-based, can be easier to digest than legumes. Hence, when considering a plant-based diet, we need to consider the individual’s digestive system from a different perspective. In some cases, supplementation of minerals, vitamins, and trace elements may be necessary to ensure adequate micronutrient intake for a healthy lifestyle. Regarding superfoods, I believe that every food is super. There is no need for an additional “super” label because superfoods exist in various forms worldwide. Recommendations for specific superfoods are often based on the perception that they contain a high concentration of minerals, vitamins, and trace elements. However, as Dr Murthy mentioned, it is essential to focus on local, seasonal foods and embrace the diversity available in different regions. Transferring the hype around superfoods globally doesn’t make sense. We have excellent food options in every area, and we should prioritise local and seasonal choices over the transportation of superfoods.

AB: And Dr. Murthy, what is your opinion on superfoods? 

Dr S.NM: Whatever is available on the day, at that season, that is superfood.

AB: And Dr. Stossier, you talked about chewing a lot, right? But people get into their crazy busy lives. And they forget to chew. I forget to chew. And it’s been grilled into my head by my mom since I was born, I think. So how do you remind people to chew? 

Dr HS: At the very beginning, we have a chewing trainer. This is a piece of old, stale bread, and we advise them to chew it 50 times. This is for therapy. And I totally agree. In our daily lives, in our hectic schedules, with stress, we forget. But again, it is part of the training programme, and to remember that we advise people to take this piece of bread at least once a week, or maybe even more often, if necessary, and train their chewing. And when they realise—and people realise after a couple of months they forget to chew—then they should take this piece of bread and chew and chew and chew. Again, I’m not a fan of chewing gum because that doesn’t make sense. It should really be a food that should be chewed. And the old bread is one of the best you can do. But of course, you have to chew every bite. You can also chew a piece of meat or choose some salads. You can choose some vegetables. That’s the important thing. Or even if they eat some noodles, they have to be chewed. That’s the important thing. And we recommend people to come back at least once a year to train that and to help the body eliminate again.

AB: Thank you. And Dr Murthy, would you like to add anything to that about the chewing?

Dr S.NM: Actually, there is a quotation: eat your liquids and drink your solids. So eating your liquids means you have to slowly mix with saliva. You should take the liquid diet and drink the solids. That means unless you chew, you cannot make it a liquid. So chewing is a very, very important item.

AB: I’m going to write your quotation where I eat. It’s very interesting. Eat your liquids and drink your solids. Very good. Thank you, Dr Murthy. 

So when I was at Pema, I remember there was a gentleman who had come in with his sugar numbers high. He didn’t want to go on diabetes medicines, but by the end of his trip, he was sorted out. So tell me— to you, which was your biggest success story in all these years with the people who’ve come to you, which health story have you felt like Oh my God, this is amazing!

Dr S.NM: So the first patient is myself. This started when I was a student at Nature Cure College in Hyderabad. It was mid-summer when the temperature reached beyond 45 degrees. I was working in the laboratory when the hydrochloric acid bottle exploded and the acid spilled on my face. My face got totally burned. And it was dangerously burned. I jumped and ran to the treatment section, jumped into a tub of water, and stayed in the tub for about half an hour to 45 minutes until the burning sensation stopped. And then, by that time, our principal came, and she asked me, “Are you ready to take treatment here or do you want to go to a hospital? I said, I am going to take nature care treatment. Only then was I kept in a sanitised room, and nobody was allowed to meet me, and neither could I meet anybody. And I kept fasting on water for 15 days…

AB: Oh my God.

Dr S.NM: Only drinking water, some packs, and coconut oil application on the face. Nothing more than that. I was fasting, and for the next 15 days, I only had juices, and for the next 15 days, I only ate salads. After two and a half months of treatment, my face completely recovered. There were no scars on my face; there was no septic, and nothing septic happened in my facial skin. So when Nature’s Cure is done properly, systematically, and with faith— of course it helps.

AB: Thank you. But what I’d like to add here, Dr Murthy, you talked about fasting with water. What I’d like to add to the listeners is please don’t try this on your own. This fasting has to be done under supervision.

Dr S.NM: If it is beyond three days, nobody should try it at home without [expert] supervision.

AB: Yes, thank you for that. And Dr Stossier, I know you’ve got many, many celebrity clients and they talk about weight loss and things like that after having gone through the Modern Mayr treatment. But tell me, what have been your major success stories?

Dr HS: If you ask the best of the best, it’s difficult to say because there are so many people. And if you look in our feedback book, there is very often the sentence, “It’s a life-changing experience.” And this is for sure— fasting and detoxification gives us a quality of life we can’t really imagine. But one of my friends would say, “You can’t see the best results, but this is always a positive story.” There was a couple coming to therapy because of fertility problems. And you also have to know that fasting Mayr therapy, and specifically, the approach of modern Mayr therapy improves fertility a lot. And after both had gone through this therapy for three weeks, she got pregnant. And we have, by the way, many so-called “Mayr babies”. But thanks to God, they don’t look like me. But it is then a pleasure to see that fertility improves. And another success story was a young woman at that time, 17-18 years old, or something like that, was not really able to finish her studies at school because of intestinal problems. She always had headaches and brain fog. Today we would say chronic fatigue, and so on. And after three to four weeks of cleansing, she was able to finish her studies. And because of this experience, she became interested in medicine and became a medical doctor too.

AB: The other thing I wanted to ask both of you was do you know how a lot of people turn to nutrition because of weight loss? Because they want to lose weight at different stages of their life? But there is something else which is taking over the world at the moment— these heightened levels of anxiety and stress. So Dr Stossier, tell me, do you feel that food can cause as well as counter this?

Dr HS: Of course, it has an influence, and you asked about weight loss initially. In my opinion, weight loss is a positive side effect of the therapy. When you eat less and undergo detoxification, weight reduction naturally occurs. However, recent research on the microbiome and the presence of different bacteria has revealed interesting connections. For example, individuals with depression often exhibit a distinct intestinal flora compared to those who are healthy. Similarly, individuals with diabetes and other diseases face challenges in altering their bacterial flora to restore a healthy lifestyle and alleviate anxiety. One thing we do know for sure is that inflammation in the intestine can reduce the absorption of essential amino acids like tryptophan, which are responsible for producing serotonin and melatonin. Therefore, if there is a  problem in the intestine, it can have a significant effect on the emotions. Inflammatory processes, particularly in the small intestine, can lead to various emotional problems. We also know that fasting helps to get rid of these emotional problems, and after a couple of days, people have, I would say, a high in their emotions, what we call a “fasting euphoria”. So, of course, it has an effect and we have had great experience in using fasting and detoxification to treat people with different intensities of anxiety, depression, and all these emotional inferences. Interestingly enough, very often there’s a link with parasite infections. So if people have a parasite infection, they specifically lack amino acids like tryptophan, and then they experience mood swings, depression, and sleeping problems. Additionally, I think with all these depressive disorders and mood swings, when you undergo fasting, people get much better and you can reduce the medication, if there’s any medication, and you can treat them in a naturopathic way.

AB: Thank you. And Dr Murthy, what would you say? How do you use food to help with anxiety and depression?

Dr S.NM: Anxiety and depression are also digestive problems. So we say that serotonin and all those hormones which are responsible… the loss of serotonin, melatonin, and all these things, when they are not produced in proper quantity, or necessary quantities in the body then tension will build, and your tolerance to take up the stress will come down. Stress is there for everyone. Even children are stressed nowadays. But how much stress one can take is the deciding factor. If digestion is all right, everything is alright. All the components that are required for a happy life are produced in the stomach. Keep the stomach happy, everything is happy.

AB: Thank you.

Dr HS: Please. Sorry, may I add one word, because I totally agree. If the intestine is happy, people are happy too. We know serotonin is important for, I would say, feeling well. But serotonin is the most important amino acid for the intestinal peristaltic activity. So if we are not moving all the ingredients of the intestine in the right way, not having enough serotonin, then of course the rest can be supplied well with serotonin. So there are also a lot of, in the meanwhile, biochemical links which allow us to explain the complaints and the different diseases in the emotional field.

AB: I totally agree with both of you. So at the end of each session we do a rapid fire round. So I’ll start with you, Dr. Stossier. One common mistake that people make when it comes to nutrition?

Dr HS: Not eating in the right way, having the wrong eating habit. Nutrition is food and digestion. 

AB: Lovely. One eating habit everyone should start working towards today, right now.

Dr HS:  Have your next meal with a very relaxed atmosphere and chew it in the best way.

AB: 50 times. Thank you. Most common problem people come to you with…

Dr HS: Mainly intestinal problems, but they don’t think it’s related to the intestine. But we have the whole bunch of medical problems that you have, as a doctor, so there are no specific things.

AB: Thank you, Dr Murthy: one healthy eating habit that you wish everyone would adopt? 

Dr S.NM: Timing. Timing. They should eat at the proper time.

AB: When do people most need personalised nutrition plans?

Dr S.NM: When their stomach starts growling. The stomach starts growling when you are not eating properly. Stomach will tell. Then you just hear your stomach.

AB: A powerful tip for anyone looking to overcome food cravings. How can you help them?

Dr S.NM: Discipline 

AB: Thank you. And thank you very much, Dr Murthy and Dr Stossier, for taking the time out to talk to my listeners. I’m really grateful to both of you. 

Dr S.NM: Thank you.

Dr HS: Thank you. Pleasure for me too. And I hope everybody can take the most important information for their health.

AB: Yes, I’m sure this will be a really helpful session for a lot of people. And to my listeners, I hope you learned something new today and that we brought you a little closer to leading a healthier, happier, more hopeful life. And if you enjoyed it, please press like and please share this episode with your friends and family. Get them to subscribe to our channel. We have something for all age groups, all generations. And most importantly, please do get in touch if you have any questions or if you have any topic suggestions. My email is: Thank you so much for listening and see you next week.