The inseparable bond between mother and child is timeless, beautiful and one that helps to shape the spirit and purpose of the next generation. Dr. Keerthy Sunder, a physician who has devoted 20 years to researching the mind-body connection, is proof of that union.
Dr. Sunder was inspired to pursue mindfulness medicine after being an eyewitness to his mother’s devastating health challenges. The experience had a profound effect on him that left him forever changed. His approach to medicine — healing the mind first to heal the body — became his life’s work.
One of the cornerstones of Dr. Sunder’s practice is the use of targeted natural supplementation to enhance the brain. He believes incorporating the right mix of vitamins, herbs and oils gives your brain a boost that promotes and supports overall good body health. This supplementation can be used to help treat everything from stress and cravings to depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
When the author, teacher and researcher spoke with Vital Updates, he shared his career experiences in mindfulness medicine. Dr. Sunder also recounted his mother’s story and explained how targeted supplementation can both heal and enhance one’s health.
Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us about your birthplace in India. How did being born in that region of the world influence your interest in mindfulness?
I was born in the Northern part of India, which was actually very close to where Buddha was born. My early childhood was spent in Bhutan, which is a Buddhist kingdom. Those were the seeds that influenced me in the importance of mindfulness and meditation and how important it was to regulate the brain, mind and body. I think it colored my whole perspective generally for the good because those were my earliest inspirations of the mindfulness approach, which has stayed with me throughout my entire career path.
You’re a mind authority and have developed treatments for several disorders including PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and postpartum depression. How did you become interested in treating the mind, and what led you into the field of medicine?
Around the time when I was born, India and China were at war, and we [my family] were living up in the Himalayan region. My mother developed postpartum depression during this time. My father was a structural civil engineer, and with the war happening he was very involved in the reconstruction effort. And him being away [from the family] really created a lot of stress for her. My mom used to get a lot of bronchial asthma attacks. When she would be stressed out it would trigger her asthma, and when the asthma attacks settled down, she would get depressed. It was a challenging situation. And that’s what propelled me towards medicine. Because I saw her really suffering from the fact that her mind was not restful, and I saw how it impacted her body. My mom’s suffering inspired me to become an obstetrician and gynecologist (Ob/Gyn) doctor and then later become involved in a lot of research geared toward treating pregnancy and postpartum depression. So it all came from looking at mother and all the women who suffered with childbirth related complications. Those were my early origins of understanding of how the mind and body interface.
That’s a powerful story, and your work is such an amazing tribute to her. It also makes sense because all of your treatments involve the integral and powerful role that the mind plays in healing the body. So I’d like to discuss natural supplementation. When did you started using it? And why is it such an important part of your practice?
The whole idea of introducing natural supplementation came about with my involvement in pregnancy and postpartum depression. The earlier research that I got involved with was related to the psychological approaches that target the mind and also the nutritional approaches that target basic pathways in the brain and affect the body and the brain. And subsequently that’s the area that we now focus on in our practice. The more I’ve traveled to India during the last two decades or so, the more I’ve trained in mindfulness approaches and the use of supplementation. Herbal supplementation is a common practice in India. Ayurvedic medicine, which is the traditional Indian medicine, has been around for over 5,000 years.
So targeted and specific supplementation can replace pharmaceuticals to treat illnesses and disorders?
The research is much more focused in that direction now. Basic pathways that affect signal transmission and nerve conduction are being utilized from supplementation. High quality, targeted and supported supplementation can also therapeutically address conditions we often treat like insomnia, cravings, anxiety and depression. Fish oil is a great example of that. There is a lot of research about fish oil supplementation helping to heal bipolar disorder and ADHD.
Turmeric is the prime ingredient in your Brain Tune Premium Curcumin Complex. It’s a plant from the ginger family that is a buzz addition in a lot of products right now because of its health properties. They are even making designer coffee drinks with it! Could you explain why turmeric is so good for the body and one’s overall well-being?
Turmeric is from eastern traditions. It’s a component of Indian curry, an antioxidant and has health promoting properties. It’s a tremendous supplement for gut-brain health and for protecting the gut barrier. Turmeric is especially helpful in people who use a lot of antibiotics for illness, acne and other things. Antibiotics kill good gut bacteria, which causes the gut to completely derail. Also, increasing research shows that Turmeric can also relieve anxiety, depression and help to treat addiction. It works as a scavenger that takes away all the free radicals, detoxifies your body and the brain, and promotes healing.
In what other ways does the Brain Tune Premium Curcumin Complex improve the gut health, which also works to boost brain health?
Our Brain Tune Curcumin Complex has got a formulation called EPM 95, and it’s actually 100% pure Turmeric extract — it has the essential oils of the Turmeric herb. Also it’s designed in such a way that it crosses the gut barrier and the gut-brain barrier very quickly where it is needed, so it’s available in your body in the most significant extent that it can be. The Curcumin Complex also promotes brain health for a healthy mood, and it promotes antioxidants for joint health.
Can you explain more about your Brain Tune Brain Shake? What are some of the health benefits of drinking it?
The Brain Tune Brain Shake we’ve created targets the basic ingredients of molecules that are involved with neurotransmission and maintaining the optimal productivity and connectivity in the brain. So it helps to improve memory and cognitive function, decreases stress and essentially improve properties associated with neurotransmission.
And what about your Brain Tune Premium Omega 650 supplements? We all know we need more Omega-3 oils in our diet. But how is your brand different? And more importantly, does it taste good?
Let’s start with the taste — it’s a very good quality preparation, so you don’t get any of the fish oil aftertaste, the burping that comes with lots of fish oil products. This is a patented product that’s got 3 times or 300% EPA and DHA of all other leading fish oils. We all need the exact DHA and EPA ratio in our bodies, and Brain Tune Premium Omega contains 600 milligrams of EPA and 260 milligrams of DHA. Another good thing is it uses the technology that enhances the absorption of the ingredients to a significant extent. It’s a much more readily absorbable form, so it enhances the body’s normal digestion. So its EPA and DHA absorption is superior to all the other brands out there. Also it’s non-GMO, coated and antibiotic free.
Could you tell us about the mind-body-health connection as it relates to the changes our minds and bodies go through as we age?
The body is dynamic, and there is a lot to juggle each decade of your life. Both men and women have life events that happen, developments they must face and hormonal transitions as they complete your entire lifespan. And all those things impact your body and your brain. They also impact your sense of fulfillment, your sense of happiness, contentment and your ability to function and perform.
Finally, how can people with a variety of diets benefit from supplementation? And how does supplementation help our bodies as we all grow older?
Not everybody has a regimen they can consistently pursue, and not everyone’s diet is perfect — especially with the environment and other toxicities that exist in water and food. So it’s important to both purify our bodies as well as possible to enhance its overall function. That way we’re able to recruit those parts of the genes that give us the best performance in each decade. And that’s where the supplementation comes in, at each developmental period, to help everyone to be their very best.
Dr. Keerthy Sunder is the founder and chief medical officer of the Mind & Body Treatment and Research Institute in Riverside, California.