Physician Profile: Peas vs. Pills: Nandita Shah, M.D.
Nandita Shah, M.D., asks her patients to listen to their symptoms, which often provide clues to how the body can heal. She believes that the best way to keep the body healthy is to work with it rather than against it.
“Take, for example, back pains,” says Dr. Shah. “The body produces pains to prevent us from making certain movements so that it can heal. If we take pain killers and continue to make all the movements, we end up with chronic backaches.”
Dr. Shah works with her patients in Tamil Nadu, in southern India, and encourages them to adopt a healthful plant-based diet and exercise to help fight disease and pain.
“In India, eating animal products is relatively recent,” says Dr. Shah. “However, today, India is the largest producer of milk in the world, and the consumption of animal products has increased, especially in cities. Although there are many people who are still vegetarian, most consume dairy products with every meal. The result is that they are not much healthier than meat-eaters and suffer from heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.”
Dr. Shah conducts health workshops and cooking classes entitled “Peas vs. Pills” in India and abroad. She teaches participants about the health benefits of a plant-based diet and includes as many meals as possible in every course.
“The goal is to show people that there’s a huge variety of foods to enjoy, and that the meals can be really tasty,” says Dr. Shah. “And, of course, to let them observe how their bodies feel when they have eaten this way.”
In December 2009, PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., went to India to conduct health seminars with Dr. Shah. In workshops in Bangalore and Mumbai, they shared findings from the latest research showing that a low-fat vegan diet can help many diabetes patients cut their blood sugars, improve their insulin sensitivity, and reduce, if not eliminate, their medications. Dr. Shah presented cooking classes to demonstrate how to prepare healthful plant-based meals that can help fight disease.