When Sachi Doctor - Ayurvedic expert and founder of Elemental Alchemy - was 10 years old, she was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder. With 2 Western doctors as parents, she spent years going from specialist to specialist and test to test, alleviating some of her symptoms, but never finding the root cause of her issue in order to eliminate it completely. In grad school studying nutrition, she decided to take her healing in her own hands. And guess what? It worked. And now she wants to help you to do the same! We caught up with her to find our more!
Can you tell me more about auto-immune disorders, and how this approach can work in conjunction with, or independent of Western medicine?
Autoimmune disorders occur when your body’s cells fail to recognize each other and mistakenly start attacking friendly cells. When this goes untreated, it creates inflammation that eventually cascades into a variety of diseases such as: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Rosacea, and a host of others. At the onset of any one of these conditions, symptoms are generally non-specific which makes diagnosis a challenge from a Western/allopathic perspective; Allopathic medicine relies on symptomatic treatment of specific areas of the body. Once the disease is well-established and inflammation identified, such treatments can provide great symptomatic relief, but Ayurveda doesn’t view this as a solution.
Ayurveda, differs in that we are most interested in the root cause of diseases and examine the entire body system to uncover its origin. Working backwards, Ayurveda sees autoimmunity as a by-product of weak agni and low ojas: inflammation is caused by a lack of cellular recognition/communication; breakdown in communication is due to the cells being covered with “ama” (toxic waste product); this ama causes low “agni” (digestive strength) and low “ojas” (immunity). Therefore, Ayurvedic treatments focus on restoring agni and ojas.
As a daughter of allopathic physicians, I have great respect for Western medicine in both it’s treatment of acute trauma and life-threatening diseases as well as the evidence-based research that allows us to better understand ourselves on a cellular level. In my opinion, the best scenario is to use insights gleaned from the later (lab reports, genetic tests, etc) to thoroughly eliminate the root cause of an autoimmune disease so that the body is both symptom free and healthy.
What are some of the strategies and methods you use to help people work to diagnose themselves? Ie. what could a typical healing or coaching session look like?
I do not advocate for individuals to diagnose themselves but encourage everyone to become incredibly curious about their body, and in doing so, develop a sense of what diet, habits, and lifestyle choices promote health and vitality--and which do not. The distinction is subtle, but important. It is when we are disconnected from our body and unable to sense minor dis-ease that systemic disease manifests. Thus, it self-awareness that I focus on most with my clients, all beginning with a detailed understanding of their unique mind-body type, or “dosha”. In identifying their constitutional makeup and tendencies, I show people what they already know: that we are all unique, and therefore our path to wellness is an individualized one. My goal is to help people break from our cultural reliance on outside sources that tell us how we feel, what we should eat--how to live our very incredibly unique life!
What is your background in healing and how did you come to start your practice?
I was first diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (Ulcerative Colitis) when I was 10 years old. From its onset, it was painful and chronic. Despite my Indian culture’s Ayurvedic undercurrent, my parents, both accomplished physicians, entrusted my care to the Western system they knew firsthand to be life-saving. The diagnosis was made early by an incredible doctor, but I then spent many years bouncing from specialist to specialist, test to test, to figure out how to manage the wide-ranging, persistent symptoms. Through this process my understanding of physiology and diet deepened, and while in graduate school, I got a certification in nutrition -- the first step I made to put my health back in my own hands. I followed that up with book after book on everything from medical texts to self-guided awareness practice. In doing so I realize that the answers sought weren't hidden in someone else’s prescription for wellness but a combination of many things and completely unique to me. That meant that the first step towards long-term health was actually tuning out what was right for others -- and tuning into myself. This is where it started, years before Elemental Alchemy. Everything I teach and offer comes from direct experience accumulated over twenty years of experimenting with different health modalities, treatment plans, diets and mindfulness practices to help alleviate chronic pain and restore balance. My business, Elemental Alchemy, blends Ayurvedic principles, plant-based nutrition, yogic philosophy, and mindfulness techniques to help others better understand their unique makeup, and identify specific tools to set them p for a lifetime of vitality. Above all, I truly believe that the elements foundational for health — the blueprint many of us so fervently seek — is within each of us, waiting to be restored.
As far as results go, what do you see as the main difference between aided self-healing and the current Western method?
Self-awareness and agency. This is the foundation for the physical healing, emotional balance, and consistent daily habits we seek. Once we understand that mind-body health is a self-healing process rather than a state of being that's symptom free, we can reconnect with our innate resources, the complete programing which provides the body’s instinctive alchemy — its “inner healer” — with the cues and information necessary for optimal health and wholeness.
To find out more , please visit her website at www.elemental-alchemy.com .
Photo: Courtesy of Sachi Doctor
Post written for SFYogaMag.com