Luke Coutinho is amongst the most sought after holistic nutritionists specialising in the field of integrative and lifestyle medicine. He is the recipient of several awards including the Middle-Eastern Leadership Health award, Vogue Best Nutritionist of the Industry – 2018, amongst others. He has a global presence with an enviable list of clienteles that include celebrities from the filmdom and even royal families around the world.
Luke and his team of doctors and nutritionists design personalized wellness plans with a holistic approach towards prevention, weight and disease management. His expertise lies in cancer care. I spoke to Luke on his work, illnesses plaguing people, diet fads, tryst with healing cancer and more.
Anjana: Hi Luke, how would you define a Holistic Nutritionist?
Luke: Holistic is when we look at the person as a ‘ whole’ – you cannot separate the body and mind, the environment, inside and outside of that body. When addressing any health problem, we look at a balanced nutrition, adequate exercise, quality sleep, emotional health, surrounding environment and many other factors. Holistic medicine or nutrition is not intended to be a replacement for doctors and medicines but when the patient is looked at holistically and the root cause of the problem is identified and worked on, there is a huge possibility for the patient to heal and eventually get rid of medication in a supervised and controlled manner. Nature and the human body have the intelligence and power to heal. I believe in science and respect it, but I also believe in common sense and nature, and the fact that aligning the human body and mind with nature plays a huge role in healing and prevention, human wellness and happiness.
A: Very true. It is intriguing that you have a background in hotel management but you drifted into integrative and lifestyle medicine. How would you define your system or approach?
L: I studied hotel management and fell in love with food science and nutrition technology. Thereafter, I delved deeper into the subject, studied further and got my MD in holistic and alternative medicine. I have a science background, and did most of my studies in Goa. I continue to study lifestyle medicine and research papers from all over the world. I prefer to practice and use lifestyle as a drug. My focus is on preventive medicine. Though I respect what I studied, I don’t practice under any of my fields anymore and instead, practice as a lifestyle and holistic coach because the drug I use to heal is lifestyle.
I want to follow the truth and a path that is not taught to us. There is so much of unlearning to be done. For instance, it is a well-known fact that parts of the medical curriculum are designed and controlled by the big pharma companies and it is sad that a lot of the nutrition school curriculums are also controlled by the food lobbies. We were taught to believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and today, I feel that is a terribly wrong advice. It is only important for people who are genuinely hungry or who need to eat in the morning because of their illness and blood sugar level, but so many kids and adults don’t feel hungry till much later, yet they are forced to have breakfast because it is a well-known fact that a lot of nutritional curriculum is also funded by the large cereal companies.
Sometimes, when patients don’t heal, we have to think out of the box, away from the rigid way of thinking that we have learnt, and rise beyond that to understand that there is so much more to learn from common sense, real life experience and the fact that everyone is unique in terms of their health, genetic make up and emotional feelings. I believe that a holistic approach to health is what has really led to so much of success in giving back people’s lives and health. I feel safe to practice under no system because the drug I use is lifestyle. We try to understand the root cause of their problem or disease because if we address that, we can heal everything. Since we don’t prescribe medicines nor do we interfere with doctors and their expertise and prescriptions, I like to push my thinking beyond just science, and fixed, rigid ‘mindsets and theories’ (not that they may be wrong) and use nature, food exercise, sleep, emotional balance, hope, miracles, belief, faith, prayer, sunshine, rest, and harness the immune system which is really the body’s most intelligent healing and prevention system. I truly believe there is so much more beyond medicine.
A: What do you think is the most important thing in leading a healthy life?
L: I think it is a fine mix of the nutrition we put in our body, the movement we put our body through, quality sleep and focus on our emotional health and internal environment of our mind and heart.
A: You have programs for cancer patients. How do you use nutrition and other holistic methods to heal/reverse cancer? Is cancer curable?
L: We are lucky to have several patients across the globe in remission. Nutrition and food are the building blocks of human life and plays a huge role in treating and healing cancer coupled with exercise and quality sleep. Sleep is an important element as it is during sleep that most of the healing happens. Also, I cannot stress enough on the importance of emotional health. We see so many people getting diagnosed with cancer having a strong commonality of deeply rooted emotional distress. Cancer is multi-factorial and there are many reasons that one can get it, but we cannot ignore stress and lifestyle. I believe my amazing success today in the fields of disease, cancer and prevention is because my team and I have been able to facilitate lifestyle changes at a physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and intellectual level in people who come to us.
A: I hear and see people following all kinds of diets- Keto, Mediterranean, Protein and several others. Are they healthy? After all, our parents’ and the earlier generations lived much healthier lives without these diets by just eating locally available food, being physically active and they did just fine.
L: People need a diet and lifestyle that suits their health goals, body type, condition, if any, and environment. I think it’s pretty much established that fad diets don’t work. They give short-term results but then, once you are off the diet, you have the same problems or in many cases, more. We are products of nature and nature works best when it is in balance. We need balance but most people are following fads today because of the herd mentality as “everyone is doing it”. We need to change that mentality. With a little bit of common sense, discipline and by exercising control over greed and laziness, we can live with a balanced lifestyle and diet. Extreme diets are unnecessary in most cases.
A: Coming back to your professional life, you would have had several amazing experiences. Can you share some?
L: My first success case with cancer happened a couple of years ago. I was woken up early one morning by a call from someone who wanted to send me a car to get me to another far away city. The caller told me that the patient was given about 2 weeks left to live. They requested me to come and put him on a food plan that would keep him comfortable. I reached that city a couple of hours later and as I was going through all the reports, I noticed that over the last 4 years, the person had gone thru every possible chemo, radiation etc. and one thing that stood out was the low immunity right through. I saw a gap that I wanted to fill. It is sheer common sense that immunity needs to be strong for the healing of any patient. I started him on an immunity boost plan. Two weeks passed and the patient was not only alive but more strong. Once bedridden, he even started walking and went on to live for another two years. That is the power of immunity, hope, belief and miracles.
A: Wow! That’s truly amazing!! So, what is the one thing that you wish people would stop doing with regards to their health?
L: People should cut down sugar, stop compromising on sleep and be aware of their emotional health.
A: Can you share some tips on leading a disease-free life?
L: Be happy. If you are not happy, find out why, and make changes, but make decisions that lead you to feeling happy. Feed your body and cells clean and wholesome food, cut down sugar and junk, don’t live on a caffeine high all the time, sleep well at night, move more, breathe deeply, stop living to please others, live for yourself – the right people will stay, the wrong people will fall off. Find your spiritual path and follow it as it keeps you grounded and in tune with who you are. Engage in giving back or making a difference on this planet or in someone’s life – that is the most meaningful happiness one can find.
A: What about you Luke? How do you keep fit?
L: Balance. I listen to my body. I push it when I feel it needs to be pushed and I rest when it needs rest. I eat what I want and feel is right for my body at that time. I love my sleep, and yoga and mediation are my daily linchpins.
A: It’s interesting that you have co-authored the book “The Great Indian Diet” with Shilpa Shetty. How did this book come about?
L: The book is about using Indian food to lose weight, be healthy, prevent and heal … it’s about bringing us back to our roots to learn the wisdom of our food and culture, and the science in the food we once ate. Shilpa is a role model when it comes to living in balance and eating an Indian diet. We both believed that’s what our country needed, especially when people were moving to more Western ways of eating and ignoring the beauty, wisdom and healing powers of a well-made Indian diet.
A: What are your future plans?
L: I want to make cancer care affordable and reachable to the masses, and am in the process of setting up India’s first school of lifestyle medicine which will be open to everyone. People can enroll online and learn more about disease, prevention and healing in a holistic way. This will be doctor backed and recommended, and my integrative team of dietitians, nutritionists, homeopaths, allopathic doctors, endocrinologists, yoga therapists, etc. will put this content together and deliver. I want a 100% focus on preventative health and medicine.
A: Am sure the school will be really useful, especially in this era of unfiltered data. Apart from this, what is your vision?
L: My vision and goal is to heal using food, exercise, sleep and emotional balance as my drugs. I believe that lifestyle is the new religion and my vision is to use it to improve healthcare and well-being across the globe. I am not against doctors or the medical system. In fact, we work with them in an integrative manner and we never stop people from taking pills and medicines that have been prescribed to them until we change their lifestyles in such a way that the doctors themselves reduce or stop the medicines. We don’t claim to be a replacement for doctors, chemo, radiation, and medication, but in my heart I know that when lifestyle changes are made and the body begins to heal, it will automatically replace all of that. We don’t prescribe allopathy or drugs but may recommend high quality food supplements that a client may need but it is always the patient’s choice.
A: Luke, this has been an interesting and eye-opening interview which am sure is going to help many people in their quest for healthy living. Finally, would you like to give any advice?
L: Awareness is important and we need to know ourselves. I see that it around everywhere that people of all age groups are plagued with low self-esteem. People are constantly comparing their lives and success with others and they are lost amongst the various masks they keep wearing everyday and are also losing sync with their own selves. People are using more and more coping mechanisms to deal with stress, bad days and negative emotions. Sometimes, we need to face our problems head on and deal with them instead of pushing them deeper and deeper into us where it will only end up hurting us more and surfacing again at some point. We need radical self-love and self-care. We need to feel good inside of us and only then can we be better versions of ourselves.