MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Yes, I know, lately I have been neglecting my ‘ALT MED HALL OF FAME’. This is entirely my fault; there are so many candidates waiting to be admitted that, I have been hesitant as to who should be next. Today, I came across an article about Deepak Chopra and his latest book, Super Genes. It tells “how lifestyle shifts can help you reboot your health at a genetic level.” If it were just for this single sentence, he would deserve to be admitted – no, not into what you just thought, into the ‘ALT MED HALL OF FAME’, of course’.

I will save you the expense of buying his book (don’t worry, Deepak is already a multi-millionaire) by repeating what the article said about his ‘6 pillars of wellbeing’ (another cracker!!!):

DIET

• A typical modern diet is very likely to cause inflammation, which research has linked to many chronic diseases and obesity.

• To reduce inflammation, add prebiotics – substances that buffer the body from inflammation – such as oatmeal, pulpy orange juice, bran cereal and bananas to your breakfast.

• Consume probiotics – foods that contain active bacteria – once a day for gut health. These foods include active yoghurt, pickles and sauerkraut.

• Eat mindfully – eat only when you’re genuinely hungry and stop when you are full.

• Reduce snacking by eating only one measured portion in a bowl; never eat straight from a bag or packet.

STRESS

• Three factors generally lie behind the problem of chronic stress: repetition, unpredictability and a lack of control. Think of a dog barking outside your window; you don’t know when it will end and you have no way of stopping it.

• Decrease background noise and distractions at work. Also, avoid multitasking by dealing with one thing at a time.

• Leave work on time at least three times a week and don’t bring work home. Leave the office at the office.

• Avoid people who are sources of pressure and conflict. Even normal office behaviour, such as forming cliques and gossiping, is a source of stress that has the potential to be emotionally devastating.

• If you struggle to deal with negative emotions, ask your doctor about cognitive behaviour therapy.

EXERCISE

• The secret to exercise is this: keep going and don’t stop. It’s better to be active all your life at a lower level, rather than to be at a near professional-level in high school, say, and then stop completely.

• At work get up and move around once an hour and devote half your lunch break to movement, even if it’s walking around the block.

• Be in nature more: go outside for five to 10 minutes three times a day.

• Acquire more active friends and join them in their activities. Plan a shared exercise activity with your spouse or friends twice a week.

• Make leisure time more creative – think beyond TV or internet.

• Volunteer to help the needy with housecleaning, painting and repairs.

This will serve as both exercise and a morale boost.

MEDITATION

• Meditate every day for 10 minutes.

Sit with your eyes closed in a quiet place, put your attention on the tip of your nose and focus on the sensation of your breath coming in and out of your nostrils.

• Don’t look at meditation as an aid for the bad days you experience (“I’m feeling good today, so I don’t need to meditate”). It should be a lifelong practice.

• Take 10 minutes out of your lunch break to sit alone with eyes closed, preferably outside in nature.

• Notice what a relief it is to take big deep breaths when you are upset or nervous, and how ragged your breath becomes when you are anxious or stressed.

• Join an organised meditation course in your area. Search for meetup.com to find local groups that meet all around the country.

SLEEP

• Make your bedroom as dark as possible. If total darkness is impossible, wear a sleep mask.

• Drink a glass of warm almond milk, which is rich in calcium and promotes melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

• Experiment with herbal teas associated with good sleep such as chamomile, valerian, passionflower, lavender and kava kava.

• Explore abhyanga, a self-massage technique that uses warmed sesame oil, lightly massaged into arms, legs, neck and torso (go to YouTube to see tutorials).

• Don’t ignore insomnia. In some studies sleep disorders have been associated with triggering Alzheimer’s disease and are also associated with high blood pressure.

EMOTIONS

• Take responsibility for your feelings. Wellbeing depends upon happiness, yet most people don’t really make that connection.

• Write down five specific things that make you happy and, on a daily basis, do at least one of them.

• Set a “good news policy” at meal times, whether it’s the radio station you choose to listen to or the topic of conversation around the table.

• Explore a time in your past when you were happy and learn from it, whether that means re-embracing an old hobby or getting in touch with an old friend.

• Become comfortable with delayed gratification – consider how your choices will make you feel in the future as well as today.

END OF QUOTE

My favourite website about Deepak Chopra is the one by Tom Williamson. It states that “it has been said by some that the thoughts and tweets of Deepak Chopra are indistinguishable from a set of profound sounding words put together in a random order, particularly the tweets tagged with “#cosmisconciousness”. This site aims to test that claim! Each “quote” is generated from a list of words that can be found in Deepak Chopra’s Twitter stream randomly stuck together in a sentence.” It seems to me that Deepak himself might have made ample use of this site for writing his latest book, and if you should ever run out of platitudes or empty phrases, this site will serve you well.

Deepak has published plenty of best-sellers, but he has as good as nothing to show for himself in the peer-reviewed medical literature. (When you are that famous, you obviously don’t need to bother anymore with trivia such as evidence, science and all that jazz.) This means that I had to deviate from my usual admission criteria for the “prophet of alternative medicine”, as Deepak likes to be called. But he is well worth making an exception, I am sure you agree, he is the absolute super-star!

Super-star of what?

I let you decide!

 

30 Responses to Deepak Chopra enters my ‘ALT MED HALL OF FAME’

  • Do common sense everyday living suggestions need to be science based? If so, no-one would ever get anything done!

  • I’m no particular fan of Chopra (don’t know much about him), but what upsets you about the ‘6 pillars’ you quote? Seems generally like sensible advice to me. Have you read the book?

    • let me pick out just one:
      ABYANGA (http://www.chopra.com/ccl/the-benefits-of-ayurveda-self-massage-abhyanga)
      A daily Abyanga practice restores the balance of the doshas and enhances well-being and longevity. Regular Abyanga is especially grounding and relaxing for Vata dosha imbalances, but everyone can benefit from this practice.

      “The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age”

      Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
      (One of the Great ancient texts of Ayurveda)

      Benefits of Abhyanga
      1.Nourishes the entire body—decreases the effects of aging
      2.Imparts muscle tone and vigor to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
      3.Imparts a firmness to the limbs
      4.Lubricates the joints
      5.Increases circulation
      6.Stimulates the internal organs of the body
      7.Assists in elimination of impurities from the body
      8.Moves the lymph, aiding in detoxification
      9.Increases stamina
      10.Calms the nerves
      11.Benefits sleep—better, deeper sleep
      12.Enhances vision
      13.Makes hair (scalp) grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy
      14.Softens and smoothens skin; wrinkles are reduced and disappear
      15.Pacifies Vata and Pitta and stimulates Kapha—to learn

      SENSIBLE ADVICE?

      • Have you ever tried it?

        • do you think I should? it might make my “hair (scalp) grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy”
          I HAVE TO ADMIT, I AM TEMPTED!!!

          • If just one works than it would be worth it. I know that when in India towards the end of a tight filming schedule last year, I felt refreshed by an authentic Ayurvedic massage and steam bath, but it is a long way to go to India!

          • No, if “just one works” it absolutely would not be worth it. Consider a treatment that costs ten pounds and has a one in a thousand chance of producing a temporary effect. Cost to provide temporary relief to one patient is ten thousand, mostly paid by people who don’t benefit.

            The numbers here are arbitrary but the point is not: assessing the merits of something by only counting the results you like and ignoring all costs and conflicting results, is like trying to work out if playing the lottery is a good idea by interviewing only winners.

            I cannot imagine where you got the idea of looking at all positives, uncritically reported, while ignoring all costs and conflicting evidence. Unless of course you are a homeopath.

        • @Colin
          Why don’t you try it and tell us? Common sense and reliance on facts and knowledge tells us these claims are seriously exagerated.

          • I have been practicing much of this for years, so I repeat, why are you wasting time on this subject, as I certainly do not intend to repeat myself any further on the subject.

          • @Colin.

            Colin on Tuesday 12 July 2016 at 16:27
            I have been practicing much of this for years,..

            Doesn’t seem to have made your scalp grow “luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy” (point 13 in Chopra’s list of the magic of oil-massage) Either you somehow omitted the hair-stimulating part of “Abhyanga” or your avatar image is from before you started rubbing it in? Let’s see a more recent one.

            Sorry for the pun Colin. It was simply to good to let pass. Or to put it another way: You asked for it! 🙂

          • Thank you for your humorous response.

            That’s always the risk with short sharp answers, but to be fair, I did use the word “much”. It would; however, be interesting to research the effects on hair in India, where from my own observations, it may just be true. Personally I do not like oily hair so if it is true, I will just have to accept the consequences and age with good grace!

          • @Colin

            It would; however, be interesting to research the effects on hair in India, where from my own observations, it may just be true

            A nice example of the difference between reality-based medicine and SCAM.

            In reality-based medicine, “it may just be true” would lead to objective tests designed to find out whether it is true. In the alt-med world, “it may just be true” will lead to it being sold as if it is true, some “tests” designed to prove that it is true, and if the tests come up negative, the sales will continue as if nothing happened.

            The problem here of course is that Chopra is part of the world of SCAM, having left reality-based medicine some decades ago.

          • @Colin

            Don’t you find this reasoning a bit vague Colin? You say “it may just be true”. It is not enough to believe something ‘may’ be true or ‘may’ exist.

            If it were so simple as regular oil massage, don’t you think we should see much fewer receding, thin scalps?
            Wh do you keep applying the “may be true” reasoning to everything?

      • You’re asking if daily massage is sensible advice? Yes, daily massage is quite sensible. What else upsets you from the 6 pillars list?

        I don’t know much about Chopra either – but you post suggests he advises good diet, exercise, manage stress, emotional health, good sleep…??

        • Therein lies the problem; Chopra advises all sorts of sensible things that nobody ever need pay a cent for, then throws in some of his own special brand of nonsense. His “spiritual” fantasies and rank pseudoscience end up seeming plausible to an audience softened up by a dose of the kind of good advice one’s grandma might give. That’s how naive people have ended up making him rich and famous. Take his claims one by one, examine them on their own merits and I think you’ll find a generous dollop of nonsense in everything he writes. A bedtime massage might be delightfully relaxing, but it’s typically Chopra to ascribe some sort of magic to doing it with sesame oil.

        • B Hill

          What sort of magic are you talking about? The post seems pretty straightforward. Maybe the magic part is on the youtube link? The rest of the post seems pretty benign as well. Again, what I know of Chopra is pretty much what Edzard posted.

  • QUOTE: (When you are that famous, you obviously don’t need to bother anymore with trivia such as evidence, science and all that jazz.)

    They seen sensible to me, so who said that it is not common sense and where is their evidence to support such a view?

    • what seems sensible to you might not be sensible!

      • I really don’t understand why you and your colleagues are wasting time on what is obviously harmless and leaves people to make their own choices as to its validity or otherwise.

        • perhaps because this blog is largely dedicated to ‘harmless’ BS of this nature?

        • What is harmless in the worried well, becomes dangerous when people are genuinely ill. The faux-profound statements of people like Chopra can delude people into thinking that “doshas” actually exist, that wishing can make things so, that illness is your own fault for not living a pure enough life and so on, none of which is helpful and some of which is actively harmful.

          To paraphrase Harriet Hall, that which is good in Chopra’s writing is not unique to him, and that which is unique to him is not good.

      • The quotes you have chosen just seem remarkably inoffensive for a post that aims to hold someone up for ridicule. A lot of it could be backed up with peer reviewed evidence in fact. I hope you’re not losing your edge!

        • The problem is that a good portion of what Chopra says *is indeed* backed up by peer reviewed evidence — and is in fact utterly mundane stuff you could read in an inflight magazine. But he packages it as utilizing magical forces, while building his rainbow bridge to quackery. He generally stops short of overt quackery, but is happy to make very slippery and exploitative business deals with deadly quacks like Bruce Lipton and Gregg Braden and a host of others. (See his “Evolutionary Leaders – End of the World 2012” scam, for example.)

          He is also an extremely nasty and vitriolic character who trolls proper scientists with personal insults, while his brainless horde of followers cheer him on in his opposition to “scientific jihad”.

          His latest gig is promoting the Brazilian breast-groping faith healer whose name I don’t want to write here.

          He is one part quack, one part plagiarizer of science, one part cliche-ridden health advisor, and three parts holographic expression of the entire universe that is manifesting as a continuum of probability amplitudes for space/time events.*

          He is entirely unethical and an extremely unpleasant character. And he doesn’t understand basic concepts of biology, to say nothing of quantum physics.

          (*That is really how he describes himself — I’m not kidding.)

  • If you want a little light relief, follow some of the “conversations” Prof Brian Cox has had with Deepak Chopra on Twitter, concerning Chopra’s mangled lack of understanding of quantum physics.
    http://www.newstatesman.com/future-proof/2014/07/deepak-chopra-doesnt-understand-quantum-physics-so-brian-cox-wants-1000000-him

  • Yes, meditation, massage, eating a healthy diet, exercise, and fresh air are all good for you. Yoga? Sure! The problem is when people are led to believe that doing any/all of these things aren’t merely things that help you feel better but are, in and of themselves, a sure-fire way to prevent, treat, or cure serious illness, injuries, or mental problems. They’re not. At best, they’re good advice in addition to medical, psychiatric, or psychological treatment.

    Unfortunately, people such as Chopra couch these “common sense” things in language that strongly suggest that if you merely follow their advice (and buy books, seminars, workshops and/or their proprietary supplements, essential oils, and homeopathic “remedies”), you’ll never need a doctor or require surgery to be on any sort of medication. There is often a not-so-subtle suggestion that people who do wind up at the doctor’s office, need surgery and/or require medication have done something wrong which can cause people to delay seeking medical treatment for serious conditions. The result of such a delay can have terrible and sometimes fatal consequences. (Good luck suing Chopra or anyone else if it’s you that wound up suffering permanent damage from taking his advice. Good luck to your loved ones in suing him and others if following the advice proved fatal.) THAT is why this superficially “common sense” advice has to be called out for what it is–woo.

  • Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weils, Dr. Oz all have one common denominator: OPRA (all are rich, famous, narcissistic, and combine ethical readily accepted practices with unethical fraud), or so I have heard.

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