Life as a Ayurvedic Medicinal Healer
Updated: Mar 23
Note: transcription provided by Otter.AI, which is a technology company that develops speech-to text transcription and translation applications using artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week's show. We have a very special guest we have Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD, coming to us from Phoenix, Arizona. I'll bring up her bio. Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD is a triple Board Certified Medical Doctor in internal medicine, integrative medicine, hospice and palliative medicine. She grew up in the East Coast got trained there, she went to Mayo Clinic for internal medicine residency. She's also an INFP manifesting generator. So today, you're going to actually hear a lot of interesting concepts. Ayurvedic principles, diet, nutrition, autoimmunity, wholeness, wellness. So without ado, Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD, welcome to the show.
Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD: Good morning. And thank you so much for the invitation, I'm really excited to be here to share more about things that I'm really excited. Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Absolutely. And the purpose of my podcast is actually to promote three types of freedom. So one is financial freedom. It's also time freedom, location, freedom, as well as wellness. So we all know the current allopathic standard of care. But there are also a lot of emerging types of wellness and holistic therapy. And so that's why I wanted to bring the audience in Have you then reached you because we bring a whole host of information. So tell us a little bit about yourself your journey, how you came to be and how you transitioned?
Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD: Absolutely. So I always like to say that I had kind of a curious mind when I was young, I actually went to a very prestigious Math and Science High School in the suburbs of Washington, DC, and became very firmly entrenched in the scientific paradigms. And when I went to do my pre med studies, which of course, everyone from this high school went on to be a stellar Academician of some kind is unique that way, while he was a college, I started noticing that like, when I would have very high levels of stress, I would physiologically stop feeling good, I would have insomnia, I would have digestive issues, I would feel low energy. I grew up in a very standard American household and high school. We're not talking about healing modalities by any measure. And when you go from high school, what are you 18 years old, you make the transition to college, you're 18-19 years old, you think, you know, a lot like if I went back and talk to an 18 year old man, I'm like, Yeah, I know everything. But you learned his life goes forward. And I think one of the first things I began to understand is that the box that pre med and allopathic medicine, sat around the human condition, was needing to expand and needed to be bigger than anything I was going to personally learn about. And that just came about through a series of kind of health crisis and seeking out healing and never really getting satisfactory things through the conventional system. And so I just started expanding my circle. I was always a bit of a maverick, you could say like, well, that's cool. You think that but I think there's these other ways. And so my undergraduate was at the University of Virginia, which actually has this pocket of very progressive healers, I don't know it's about the Shannon novas. Maybe the mountainous regions, I'm not sure. But I started learning about initially botanical medicine, and Tai Chi and Qigong, that was my first sort of introduction. And I was very athletic. I was a competitive soccer player. So learning the Kung Fu, and martial arts was a really great way to keep my body mind and spirit attuned. Later, I went on to study yoga. One day, I was in a local bookstore, and I happen to grab a book and it said, Ayurveda for self healing? And I was like, how do you pronounce that? What is this? And what the heck, and I was probably 19 years old, and I'm now 49. So we're talking about something almost 30 years ago, it was interesting because I actually quit pre med in college for a good period of time and said, I'm going to be a chef. I'm going to learn about food. I think food is our, one of our primary routes of healing. And I took a step back and said, that's going to be a lot of work to let me see I have this desire to know about healing and to serve people. And so I circled back into medicine a number of years later, but in that interim, I did a lot of study in botanical medicine and Ayurveda traditional Chinese medicine, aromatherapy Mind Body techniques and so when I went into residency in medical school starting in 1998 already had incredibly solid foundation of these integrative therapeutics. When I finished residency, I moved to the southwest started providing instruction at one of the primary integrative medicine fellowships, you could say I was a little precocious in a way. Normally they have more seasoned clinicians, but because I've been studying for so long, and then I took a little break, or a long break in 2011 2014, where I studied Ayurveda in depth in India and in Albuquerque. And so that's kind of a short summary. It's been quite a journey. I always like to kid I'm in the 46th grade now. Eternal students.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Wow, that's such a incredible journey and things that you pointed out. It's just really interesting, because I think we have all these sectors, and they're almost like predetermined paths. So you know, you have school, and school is supposed to prepare you for either medicine or some sort of trade or job. You have the food industry that controls the sourcing, the distribution, the production, and based on my readings and studies, the salt, fat and sugar, and they put this food into you to sort of make you addicted, and it's causing a whole host of auto immune problems, obesity, cardiovascular disease. So what was your breaking point? How did you go from this traditional allopathic into this more of a more holistic and very integrative approach.
Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD: kind of where I'm at now, when I returned back from my studies in Ayurveda, I went to work for a large multinational company that wanted to bring in some integrative really, they wanted me to do primary care, but there was an interest in that large company to do integrative medicine. And I was really excited. And then I realized for the 100th time, that until someone could figure out how to pay actually, for true prevention, which takes time, nobody really was interested in what I had to say. But someone would much prefer that I write a script than sit down and teach someone about how to manage their stress how to sleep better, because it takes time. And so I just had a moment, one day, I was sitting at my desk, and there was a series of things that happened, you got very busy clinical practice. And I just said hard stop, I cannot do this. Another second, I'd always had a certain altruism within me where I didn't want to be a cash pay practice, I didn't want to be a very high ticket kind of console model that was prohibitive to many people. So for 15 years, I really wanted to try to stay in a model that took insurance. And I finally just had a moment where I said, it's going to break me in what good does that do really, to just keep slogging away, where I'm losing my health, I'm losing my sanity, because I have a certain internal ethic of how I want to practice. And nobody wants to pay me to do that. Now patients loved that I would go the extra distance, I would send them things through email, I connect them to resources that promoted their health and healing, in addition to treating their disease. And so when I left my patients were all very discouraged by that. And they all asked, When are you coming back? And I finally after about a year and a half, I said, I don't think I want to come back. Yes, I was very good at it. Very good at it exceptional. But my own health my own well being, there's a quote by Einstein that said something to the effect of insanity is looking at the same problem, expecting it to change when you're doing it the same way every time. And I finally just realized, I'm gonna go insane, expecting this system to change when Here I am 20 years plus into it starting with medical school. And really the system is not valuable enough to expand and hold the principles that I believe. And so it was a hard stop. It was just one day, I just said I gave him 30 days notice. And they were like, Whoa, how can you do that? And I just said, very easy. Here's my notice, I really never looked back. Although, in all honesty, and I know for your listeners, for me, there was a period of grieving because I had invested so much in my identity as a physician and the salary and just there's a whole persona that goes with that, that I needed to grieve and say goodbye to because if I just tried to bypass the fact that it was going to be a loss, I came to the decision quickly. But the grieving process, if you will, which isn't always all sad. It's more just a natural sort of processing and letting go. It took me about 18 months to come through to where I had some creativity and ingenuity and what am I going to do next?
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, that's very powerful. Because our system is so entrenched. You have the insurance companies, and it's really protected by Washington and protected by Wall Street and high powered lobbyists. So there's this increasing divide between the provider healers, the caregivers who are empaths and the corporate bureaucratic side and there's a increasing divide we're competing interests, then, of course, the people that are going to survive are the people that own and operate the system. As we saw last year, a lot of physicians were expendable. So I think people are gradually waking up to the fact that this system is not what it used to be in being a physician in the past is not going to guarantee me anything anymore. And I'm glad we know we're bringing guests such as you on to the show.
Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD: It's funny, I always joke when I'm like, the water's nice over here, folks, you know, it's not so bad. I'll start with us, I think the elephant in the room is that if you did not have a sustainable financial picture, you will make a big adjustment in your lifestyle. So whether you saved or you spend, so if somebody here is listening, definitely tune in to all the great resources, Chris is providing around sustaining your wealth and investing, I could have been much better about that. So if you don't have that financial piece where you're in effect retiring, you do have to find some new sustainable way to make a living. And it turns out that there's actually a lot of ways that you can leverage your degree and your training and your expertise to earn a living. And I think that was really, again, like you said, we have these lanes we think we're supposed to stay in. And I'm going to dive into something quite serious here for a moment, but I just was in clubhouse last night in a room where they were talking about physician suicide this week in the emergency department. It's just recognizing that sometimes people feel such a sense of weight and failure, that there wouldn't be anything else they could do outside of this. I'm just here to say that it's okay. There are other things to do if medicines making you Of course, there could be some underlying concerns, depression, anxiety that are independent of the career that will follow you wherever you go. But I sometimes have conversations with physicians and they say, Why can't imagine letting go. And I always say, once you do it, you'll see it's a little bit easier than you thought the house to say it. And I want to say it very timely, because there's a part of our minds, it's just so much like I need to stay in this lane. And this is where I was told I'm supposed to stay, even though I'm powerless to things that are really affecting me. And so I always like to just point that out that there are lots of people that are there to support you, if you're having that eureka moment of I don't think this is where I want to be whether it's from sustainability, or personal efficacy, or just life interests, you'd rather travel and you don't want to do locums or you'd rather be location independent. There's so many different ways to live life. And as physicians, we really, I think because of our early educational experience of achieve external carrot, achieve external carrot, we really just have this identity of this is fully who I am. So once I made the transition, so long tangent there. But once I made that transition, I really began to de escalate the stressors in my life. So first thing I did was just simplified. Because I didn't have a huge nest egg to speak of, I downsize my house, which I know is not pragmatic for everyone. But that's what had to happen for me. And so now I live in reasonable living conditions, I own my home. And it gives me a lot of freedom to structure my day as I see fit. So I wake up in the morning, have a meditation, mindfulness practice, I do some writing, sometimes I'm creating. So I have a lot of artists in me. I'm working on photographs, or showcasing principles that I've learned along the way through photography and visual art. And then I work with clients and create online instruction around integrative lifestyle or Vedic medicine. So I work on the writing the evidence, the research, I just like doing all the design pieces. So that takes up time. And so the day goes pretty quickly, then it's sort of rinse and repeat. I will say, it's a seven day a week gig which I guess the position acclimated to that you're always working and you're looking at your social media, looking at what's happening to your online content. And even if that's not for you, there are options like speaking, there's options, like being an expert contributor to companies, you can be a consultant, I'm sure you have many guests on talking about different pathways they've chosen as well. So I think there's a lot of ways to do it. But that's how I've designed it and I'm actually the happiest I've been in a long time for sure.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That's awesome. Now you have a lot of time, freedom and a lot of choice in how you spend your life. So you're not really bogged down by you have to do these and you have to get these deadlines done. So physicians would be envious of you because you basically get to control your life now.
Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD: Yeah, it's so powerful and honestly and I think you would probably agree some of that comes from living simpler. I have a 2010 Subaru Impreza wrong, if that's your route, and you're earning a lot of money, and it's your way, but because I didn't have a lot of that money in the bank saved, it didn't make any sense to try to have desire things that I thought would be indicative of success. That's what gave me the freedom to be honest. You know, I don't shop for fancy jewelry, I keep it simple. And by keeping it simple, I have that freedom. And sometimes there's that internal tension a little this thing would be nice. And then you figure out your financial objectives to get there. But yes, oh my gosh, because I was so thorough. I was charting at home three, four hours a day. I mean, you're talking, six, seven hours, patient care, three, four hours of charting, that's 12-14 hours medicine, and then on the weekends, you're catching up on emails, and it was really unsustainable.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: I experienced the same thing, you know, when I was working 120 hour work weeks and functioning on one hour of sleep for an entire month. So you know, when I took that time, and I had also the hard stuff, I spent 30 days of just pure rest 10 hour of sleep. That's how long to recover that sleep deficit.
Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD: Yeah. And it's somehow it's like a badge of courage. If you can maintain that when in reality, it's like, yeah, did not normalize that. It is normalized. And I know that when I did residency, there weren't any work hour restrictions. So I would have 24 hour work we go in at six for between 430 and six leave the following day at six, seven at night. Yeah, I almost died coming home one day, you know, they talk about having the what is it point eight, almost like your blood alcohol levels. point eight when you drive home sleep deprivation. I was at the Mayo Clinic in Florida and the hospital was 20 minutes from my home. So true story. So I was driving home one day and the Mayo Clinic pagers are funny. They paid you to a number you have to call that number quickly. Because it's a phone calling you not a pager. It's a weird system anyway, so how they set it up, but any rate, so the pager would go off and you'd need to look quickly because otherwise you couldn't reach the person. But I was on my way home super long shift. And I dozed off at the wheel and the pager went off like miraculously to this day, I think it might have been guardian angel. Because no one was there. Ultimately, I pulled over and there was no link to a phone number but I had fallen asleep was going off into the divider. So I was going to probably launch myself into oncoming traffic even that should have been assigned like hey, he laughed it off is what you do you laugh it off. Yamaha Stein coming home today just distorted this badge of courage like, guess what happened guys? Like he's? Yeah, so we did that we just realized.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: I think you've given a lot of resources. If someone were interested in getting started in these practices, I'll put the links to your website and your resources. I know you've written a book, around plant-based cooking and recipes, and you've have a course and coaching program. So I'll put those in the show notes.
Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD: I'd love to share some other resources too. So yeah, people are interested in learning about integrative medicine. There's the American Academy of integrative medicine and AI hmm. And that's a great place to start. The Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine has a website, they also have a practitioner database in case someone's looking for someone who's been trained in these modalities. Institute for lifestyle medicine as a practitioner database and a lot of great education. And Ayurveda I'd say reached out to me directly, because it's very individualized. And there's probably four or five different smaller schools that you can go and study a little bit like traditional Chinese medicine. And I elected to take time off to study for three years, which I know is not practical for nearly every other physician for just so many reasons. But there are some distance programs. And so if somebody is really interested, I definitely encourage them to reach out to me. And Ayurveda, in essence is a whole person healing system that looks at all aspects of our life, from sleep, to food to movement, to interpersonal interactions, yoga, mindfulness mantra, you name it all packed in there. Yeah, considered to be almost 5000 years old, and was the original healing system of India. And so it's very fast, very comprehensive.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Well, and I know your husband is also a healer. So reach out to Siri Chand Khalsa, MD. What's one last parting word you have for our listeners?
Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD: Yeah, I would say the most important thing is that listen to the inner whisper. Listen to the internal intuition that's guiding you. Ultimately, medicine may try to override that the intellectual process may try to override that. But there's an internal whisper that will wake you up and lead you into the right directions, whether it's staying in medicine, or leaving medicine and the steps after that and cultivating the listening for that it can be so profound.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Intuition is so key, your sixth sense I was reading there's neurons from your brain to your gut and that's why your gut intuition even though you can't explain it, you just have that feeling and most of the people that I've talked to, you know, have said intuition. That's your number one asset.
Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD: Oh, interesting. Oh, yeah. That's profound. You're really bringing that out in people, I think.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. We've really enjoyed having on the show. And we'll stay tuned for more episodes and we'll put all the links that Dr. Shawn put, we'll put those in the show notes. So until then, we'll see you next time.
Dr. Siri Chand Khalsa, MD: Thank you so much for having me.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you're new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I'll see you there in on next week's show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via email at ChristopherLooMDPhD@gmail.com. I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!