Speaker: Akil Palanisamy

The Middle Way in Medicine and Healing: Where East Meets West, Ancestral Meets Novel

When Dr. Akil Palanisamy recounts his recovery from a debilitating illness during medical school, he says it began with two words: "bone broth." In hindsight, this may not sound so surprising, because Akil (or "Dr. Akil," as his patients know him) has been a doctor, author, and educator at the forefront of the food-as-medicine movement for the past 20 years. Dr. Akil has been described by leading integrative doctor Mark Hyman as "a unique triple threat in the field," combining expertise in functional medicine, Ayurveda, and the Paleo diet and ancestral lifestyles.

At the time that bone broth was given to him as a "prescription," however, Dr. Akil was a vegetarian. He had renounced meat a few years earlier "for ethical, environmental, and spiritual reasons" and had become an active member of the San Francisco Vegetarian Society while in medical school there, having completed his undergraduate work at Harvard. The Ayurvedic practitioner he had sought out for his ailment -- because conventional medicine and physical therapy did not help -- was well aware of this. But she saw it as a necessary means to nourish his depleted body and rebalance his excess "vata" (or "air" energy).

Dr. Akil was torn. What had started out as a repetitive stress injury to his wrist -- while writing his senior thesis in biochemistry at Harvard University -- had now escalated into chronic pain, severe fatigue, and a weight loss of 30 pounds (from his already lean baseline of 138). He had to take a prolonged leave of absence from medical school.

In his desperation, he turned to the story of the Buddha. After practicing an extreme form of asceticism that left the Buddha weak and near death, he was visited by a milkmaid who offered some milk. Despite the taboos, he accepted the offer and eventually regained his health. The Buddha would go on to teach about "The Middle Way," living by neither indulgence nor deprivation. Dr. Akil reached a similar turning point. He started with bone broth, which he could rationalize as being "animal bones that were to be discarded." Eventually, after more stalled periods of healing, he decided to experiment with eating meat again. "I could not fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor without a healthy body."

With a nutrient-dense diet that supported his individual constitution, Dr. Akil tried other alternative and complementary therapies, including a holistic chiropractor who practiced functional medicine -- or root-cause medicine. He would heal his gut, regain his weight, and eliminate the pain for a full recovery, allowing him to graduate from the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, then complete a residency program at Stanford Medical Center. He went on to receive a fellowship in integrative medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona, study Ayurveda in Southern India at the Arya Vaisya Chikitsalayam, and certify in mind-body medicine from the Georgetown University Center.

With this breadth and depth of knowledge, Dr. Akil has treated thousands of people living with chronic diseases and conducts clinical research studies. He serves as the Department Chair for Integrative Medicine at the Sutter Health Institute for Health and Healing (IHH) and as IHH Physician Director for Community Education. Dr. Akil has also served as a consultant with the Medical Board of California for many years.

A widely known speaker and educator, he is the author of two books, The Paleovedic Diet: A Complete Program to Burn Fat, Increase Energy, and Reverse Disease -- a customized Paleo diet that incorporates spices, specific fruits and vegetables, intermittent fasting, and an Ayurvedic lifestyle -- and most recently, The Tiger Protocol: An Integrative 5-Step Program to Treat and Heal Your Autoimmunity.

Dr. Akil lives in Sacramento, CA. In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis, traveling, and spending time with his wife and daughter. Originally from India, he grew up in Singapore before immigrating to America.

Join us in conversation with this "Middle Way" practitioner of medicine and healing who is skillfully weaving East and West, ancestral and novel.

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