“Food needs to be understood as baseline medicine” | Sunday Observer

“Food needs to be understood as baseline medicine”

14 February, 2021

Below are excerpts of the interview with Dr. K.S. Dahanayake (MBBS, DLM, MD) on health and its link with diet as well as the mental and spiritual condition of a person.

Dr. Dahanayake is a Clinical Forensic expert who promotes holistic Sri Lankan traditional medical knowledge, mainly Nila Wedakama and the use of Buddhist meditation practices for the wellbeing of the body and mind.

In this interview Dr. Dahanayake explained the reason he was studying traditional medicine. He also explains how a vaccine works on the human body and how immunity can be achieved through traditional Sri Lankan food. He said that Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine focused on holistic solutions and considered food to be the best medicinal choice as opposed to other means, such as inedible medicines or surgical knives.


Q: At what point did you become a supporter of alternative views to Western science?

A: What made me shift is the failure in diagnosing and treatment of a yet ill understood and untreatable ailment in Allopathy called Craniosynostosis (severe) in a child of a close relative in 2009. The disease was characterised by gross congenital deformity of the skull affecting brain development resulting in a permanently handicapped child in the course of the disease.

The only treatment was a reconstructive skull surgery with a questionable outcome owing to the high possibility of life threatening post-operative complication and or permanent disability. The vision and hearing of the child had been deteriorating.

I as a doctor, along with other doctor friends, was in a dilemma whether to go for surgery or not. This confusion directed me towards alternative means of treatment. It was the landmark event which changed my thought process towards Nila Wedakama (HNW). The child was cured with Hela Nila Wedakama (HNW) in 1 ½ years without any allopathic intervention.

While I was getting experience since 2009 in the field of Hela Nila Wedakama under the guidance of Priyantha Senanayake, the founder of Helasuwaya, a holistic health based organisation dedicated to Nila Wedakama in Malabe, I started exploring indigenous medical knowledge – curative and preventive.

I started look at the burning socio-health issues faced by rural communities. I focused on the issue of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) which is a devastating crisis affecting three generations of farming community mainly in major rice growing areas of the country.

The fact that arsenical compounds, a deadly non-threshold carcinogen (cancer causing agent with no safe limit) could be involved in disease causality in Sri Lanka, had never occurred to me before. But the pathological (non medicolegal) postmortem studies conducted under the guidance of Senanayake, had revealed Arsenic in significant quantities in patients dying of CKD. Arsenic was significantly present in diagnosed patients and to considerable extent in the general population as well. The data were presented in the annual scientific sessions of the College of Forensic Pathologists in Sri Lanka in 2012.

Q: You were involved in promoting traditional non-chemical farming?

A: Yes. We, at Helasuwaya as a team, established a wide framework of indigenous knowledge in society and brought farmers to the reality by introducing govithenata aushadha, an eco-friendly herbal (not so-called compost/organic) farming technology. This technique is part of HNW, which made me compare it with Allopathy where we are not taught farming and its importance in medical practice.

This broad-based holistic knowledge considers food as the primary medicine. We introduced cultivating indigenous/traditional Sri Lankan rice varieties enriched with nutritive and medicinal value compared to toxic-chemical input-dependent rice varieties of sub optimal nutritional profile.

The practice and recognition of Kenda, the traditional grain-based porridge; the Sri Lankan staple medicinal cuisine in daily diet, had been lost owing to the acquisition of western knowledge. It had been undervalued by the foreign invaders who colonised the country, connecting drinking porridge to “laziness”, while their “soup” was being introduced. Our Kenda, which could be described as porridge and made with grains/leaf varieties/herbs, had been the main ‘medicine’ behind the longevity and immunity of our ancestors.

Q: How do you emotionally, scientifically and rationally identify with the indigenous medicine of Sri Lankan forefathers?

A: We need to understand the difference between modern traditional medicine, modern ayurveda and modern Western Medical practice. Have we ever thought whether these disciplines of medicine have their own classical / ancient/ original versions as well? If we go back to history, all these disciplines have classical/ancient/original versions which are based on wisdom gained by developing mind along the path of meditation or other religious practices by the practitioner.

For example, in previous practice prior to starting the career as a medical student in Allopathy he/she has to swear the Oath (as in the classical Hippocratic Oath) before the Gods of the Celt religion (in ancient Greece during 400 BC): Appollo, Esculapius, Hygea and Panacea. Unfortunately, it is not appearing in the ‘modern oath that we swear on. The oath is taken after the completion of the degree. Why should there be two oaths; classical and modern? Why has this religious based component been eliminated?

Q: Could you explain how a vaccine works on the human body?

A: We give an organism whose life is attenuated or part of its body to a human/animal with the expectation of generating, inducing or augmenting the immunity against the organism. It is an artificial or a man-made technology. The generation of optimal host immunity is based on properly functioning hormonal, enzymatic and signalling pathways i.e. metabolic equilibrium which requires proper nutritional status, such as micronutrient availability. The optimised immune function is intimately bound with nutritional status of the host.

For example, the immune response in the deadly outcomes in Covid-19 is a result of disordered immune reaction called “cytokine storm” which damaged host organs causing death. It is common in those who have pre-existing illnesses whose metabolic functions are already disordered. What can be exemplified here is the importance of micronutrient balance as far as the maintenance of metabolic equilibrium and the optimal immune status is concerned.

A vaccine deals with only one organism but the traditional non-chemically grown food is enriched with a vast diversity of micronutrients, a host of dietary fibres and millions and billions of beneficial microbes which have the potential of producing nutrients, such as Vitamin B, the ability to detoxify toxins and to establish the natural immunity for a wide range of harmful organisms.

Q: There is a view that what is practised today as Western medicine is not what Hippocrates, considered the founder of medicine intended, but rather what the oil tycoon Rockefeller created for profit. How fair is this view compared with the reality we see around us?

A: Hippocrates focused on holistic solutions and considered food to be the best medicinal choice as opposed to other means, such as inedible medicines or surgical knives. He was said to have said, “let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food”. It is also supported by the view that the treatment section of the classical Hippocratic oath commenced as, “I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.”

But the “modern” Hippocratic oath is lacking the first sentence.

Q: How much do practices, such as meditation, contribute to health?

A: It is clear to me that the one’s negative energy called “Akusal” (Loba, Dwesha, Moha) in his/her mind connects with his/her body causing negative change/imbalance of four humors of the body (Patavi, Aapo, Thejo, Wayo) called a disease, i.e. Karma wipakajaabaadha. Meditation aims at accumulating “Kusal” (Aloba, Adwesha, Amoha) in the mind while giving up “Akusal”. The cause is dealt with by meditation. Meditation also aids the doctor to understand the causality of his/her patients and encourage them to practise meditation.

Q: Could you explain how important it would be for entities, such as the Health Ministry to promote traditional food and non-chemical agriculture?

A: The policymakers should understand the intimate/close relationship among farming, food and health. Vast diversity of soil biology (from worms to uncountable microflora), diversity of natural nutrient chemicals and minerals; produced, processed and made available for root absorption and bio-remedial action exerted by certain soil organisms will aid the traditional food crop to give a yield of vast medicinal and nutritive value with no toxic contaminations.

We need a medicinal treatment (compared to external fertiliser, pesticide applications) to revitalise the agricultural soil degraded by long term agrochemical use. Those at Helasuwaya are successful at eco-friendly farming and are working to popularise this. Such upgraded soil is a prerequisite for better growth of traditional crops as it depends on natural eco-systems. Food has to be understood as the baseline medicine; the foundation for health upon which the wellbeing is achieved. Otherwise, it looks as if we are trying to construct a building without a foundation.