Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Not So Sweet Reality

Lets introspect on how things were a half century ago. At that time people consumed lots of fat, butter and pure ghee. Sweets were eaten rarely and the sweetener used was honey. Ninety percent of the food that people ate was cooked at home. The fast food industry was nearly non existent and there were few available brands of biscuits, potato chips, cakes, mithai, chiwda, chocolates, colas or ice cream. Going out to eat ice cream would be nothing less than a family event which would be fondly remembered for days. A box of mithai would come home but once in months. All of these snacks were consumed rarely! Restaurants were few and going out to eat was infrequent. Also infrequent at the time were here heart attacks, blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

Then cholesterol was identified as the substance which was found in blocked blood vessels. This lead to a diet revolution based on fear. We were told that dietary cholesterol is bad for our health. We started avoiding fatty foods like cheese and butter, oily food or deep fried food. We didn't eat the egg yolk and only preferred the egg white. At a restaurant we started to ask for normal roti and not 'butter-roti'. We would frown if we saw a dish with excessive oil. This movement against fats and oil tilted the diet towards carbohydrates. Slowly but surely diets around the world became carbohydrate rich.

Simultaneously there was a surge in the economy and people's spending power increased. The food industry expanded and packaged foods and fast food became affordable. Refined sugar and refined flour became the main ingredients of these snacks. What was a luxury enjoyed once in many months, could now be easily consumed every week or even every day. Today, the smallest event is celebrated by cutting a cake. Home refrigerators are loaded with ice creams and colas. They have become oft consumed midnight snacks. Historically sugar consumption has increased from barely 2kg per person per year in the eighteen century to a whopping 70kg per person per year in the twenty first century. Calorie intakes have increased but physical activity has reduced. People are enjoying a sedentary lifestyle. With elevators and cars there is no need to exert. What has also increased unfortunately are the rates of obesity. People are developing pot bellies more than ever before. Low fat and high carbohydrate diets are not having the desired effect that was hoped for. In fact the absolute opposite is happening. Along with obesity, rates of blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease are up.

Only recently, the veil has been lifted. It is not fat, butter or cholesterol that is the real devil. It is the carbohydrates, especially the simple ones like refined sugar and foods that contain large quantities of this sugar. To reduce the rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease we must re-adopt the lifestyle our ancestors. We have to change the way we think about food. It is time for a paradigm shift. We should not consume sugary drinks like colas, tang, rasna or sugary tea. They are directly linked to obesity and therefore many diseases. Biscuits are a strict no, at least not daily. We can eat a biscuit, or a piece of cake, or a few chips once in a while. Jam is full of sugar and we must stay away. Same is true with tomato ketchup. Snacks and mithai must be consumed only occasionally. On the same note, we must not eat out often. It is desirable to stick to home cooked food made with hand picked, quality ingredients. In addition to simple sugar, we must eat less quantities of starchy foods like potato, maida, rice and bread.

Sugar from a cola or an ice cream or a chocolate is easily digested and quickly absorbed in the blood stream. This puts a strain on the pancreas to produce a large quantity of insulin. This insulin in turn reduces the sugar in the blood by converting it into fat. Moreover it makes you hungry and you end up eating more food. Regular high sugar consumption literally burns out the pancreas and the end result is diabetes.

Along with diet we must re-adopt the physical activity of our ancestors. We must exercise by going to the gym, walking, cycling, swimming or similar activity. The best results are seen with weight training either in the gym or by using body weight (push ups, dips, squats etc).

In conclusion, sugar is the real problem. Lots of sugar indirectly enters our system through packaged foods. We must make it a habit to read the ingredients before we consume any foodstuff. Our food should come from our own kitchens and not from restaurants, bakeries or factories. Carbohydrates are the new enemy!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Pot Belly - a sign of prosperity ..... think again!

It's customary in India to see a man with a pot belly/paunch and say "it's a sign of prosperity". The origins of this comment are deep routed. Weight loss is associated with illness. Weight gain is associated with newly acquired wealth and hence access to richer foods. In addition a typical Indian mother is obsessed with feeding her children. A rolly-polly child seems to bring immense satisfaction to his/her mother. She feels she is doing her job well. This obsession continues even when the children become adults. If an adult male loses weight it is assumed that his wife/mother is not looking after him. To his/her friends and family, a person's pot belly is accepted easily. It's hardly a matter of concern! It's to be joked about and forgotten. 

The truth couldn't be further from this. The pot belly is the root cause of all health issues today. It's literally a house of disease. It will bring in its wake horrendous illness' like blood pressure, diabetes and the dreaded coronary heart disease (heart attack).  It is a measure of a persons lack of physical fitness. People with pot bellies are more prone to back pain (lumbar spondylitis) and knee pain (osteoarthritis). It is also a direct indicator of a persons unhealthy eating habits. 

Pot bellies were not so common until recently. Why didn't our ancestors have a pot belly? What are we doing wrong? Our fore-fathers did a lot of physical activity. No access to vehicles meant they were walking a lot. No elevator meant they were climbing stairs. They were lifting their own bags. They were using cycles and not motor-cycles. They had to walk to the market to buy their vegetables, walk to pay their bills and walk to the bank. With the progress in technology, mobile phones and internet, we are doing everything from the comfort of our home or office. The result is a near complete lack of physical activity. That is not all. There is a change in diet patterns. Our fore-fathers ate natural and home made food. Going to a hotel to eat food was not even a monthly event let alone every week or every day. There were no fancy bakery products like cakes, biscuits, toasts, etc etc. There was no packaged food industry and therefore no (or less) chocolates, sweets, ice creams, colas, chips, chevda, mad angles, etc etc. As a result, people in those days did hard physical work and ate healthy food. So it comes as no surprise that in today's day and age, the pot belly is common and so are lifestyle illness' like diabetes etc. 

The new age brought with it a food evolution. Sugar became the new mantra. Adding sugar made food tasty and easier to sell. As a result packaged food items associated with with wealth like chocolates and colas were packed with sugar. In fact most packaged food items contain sugar. May it be a seemingly harmless biscuit or apparently healthy cornflakes. This kind of sugar is hidden and we don't know about it till we read the ingredients. Only recently research has shown a direct correlation with sugar intake and obesity. 

Now it becomes clear ..... A paunch is truly a sign of prosperity as only the wealthy can indulge in these expensive packaged sugar products. And the whole food and advertising industry wants you to spend money on these food stuffs. The newspaper is full of the adverts and so is the television. Gullible people like us are falling prey. They are doing exactly what the adverts tell them to do. Biscuits, jams, chocolates have become part of our lifestyle. We cannot imagine a world without them. 

We need to wake up and realise how foolish we have been. We need to go back to the ways of our ancestors. We need to say no to the cola and yes to a walk. We need to look down on our pot belly and get rid of it immediately. We need to caution our friends and relatives and inspire them to get rid of theirs. A pot belly is a recipe for disaster and no trivial joking matter. 

It is now time for a paradigm shift. Exercise must not be seen as an optional leisure activity that you do if you have spare time. It's a necessary task of daily routine like eating a meal or having a bath. Similarly food must not be viewed as ‘going on a diet to lose weight’ but a healthy, natural (low sugar, low oil) eating habit must be developed as a permanent lifestyle change. 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

PAINLESS - Total Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement is a highly successful surgery. Patients disabled with knee pain who can barely walk on their deformed legs undergone a dramatic transformation after the surgery. They experience complete relief from pain and complete correction of deformity. After surgery they don't need pain killers. They can walk normally without a stick or walker and at a normal pace. 

However the surgery is a major procedure involving cutting of muscle and bone. This leads to a slow and painful recovery. Post surgery pain after knee replacement can be unbearable and remains as a major deterrent to someone who wants to undergo the operation. Traditional methods of pain control include intravenous or intramuscular analgesic injections and epidural pumps. Intravenous medicines have safety issues and are not effective. Epidural pumps involve placing an epidural catheter (a very thin tube) in the epidural space near the spinal cord. Through this tube medicine is administered which numbs the spinal nerves and relieves pain. A well functioning epidural pump is very effective but has certain problems. Firstly, placing an epidural catheter is a blind procedure and many times the catheter is not in an ideal position. As a result it fails to reduce pain. Secondly, epidural pumps may cause a drop in blood pressure in some patients which requires constant monitoring. Lastly, epidural medicines may cause temporary sensory loss and motor weakness in the legs which makes walking after surgery difficult. 

In recent years, technological advancements in the science of anaesthesia and pain management have made painless knee replacement possible. Patients are standing and walking by evening on the day of surgery! Nerve blocks are a known technique of analgesia (pain relief). Two technologies have become available to the anaesthetist in the operation theatre which have revolutionized the efficacy of nerve blocks. First is a nerve locator. As its name suggests it helps in precisely locating a peripheral nerve which then can be blocked by administrating medicine. Second is portable ultrasound. Combining these technologies increases the accuracy of locating a nerve to 95%. This allows the anaesthetist to confidently block peripheral nerves (nerves outside the spinal cord) with predictable success. In the case of knee replacement, a femoral block and an adductor canal block is used to numb the pain. These blocks are effective and safe. There is no drop in blood pressure and no motor weakness. As a result we have successfully eliminated the need for epidural pumps. 

Another advance that we routinely use is called LIA - Local Infiltration Analgesia. This involves injecting a combination of medicines in the local tissues around the knee joint at the end of the surgery. With modern drugs and optimal doses, this technique alone numbs the knee for 12 to 24 hours. Again the technique is safe and effective. it does not require monitoring of blood pressure and does not cause any weakness. 

The last addition is that of pain patches. Newer opioid analgesics (artificial morphine substitutes) are available as pain patches. A single patch can work for a week. The action is not only long lasting but fast as the medicine is directly absorbed in the blood from the skin (bypassing the stomach). 


Not only is total knee replacement a highly successful surgery, it is now a comfortable and pleasant experience as well. Today’s analgesia is safe and effective. All patients are able to walk on the day after surgery and many manage to walk on the same day. Nerve blocks, LIA and Pain Patches are so effective that they have made painless knee replacement a reality today.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Self Preservation

How often have we seen a personal crisis ruining life? A young man just managing to settle down in life suffers a heart attack! He now faces a prolonged recovery and loses his job. Medical expenses coupled with a loss of income push him into a financial crisis. A young woman juggling her job and family life suffers an accident. A slow recovery means she cannot look after her children. All of us dread a personal crisis but what do we do to prevent it? We must think about self preservation. We must take precautions to avert a potential crisis!


An accident is top on the list. Accidents can occur in a variety of places. They can occur on the road, at home, at work or when travelling. The most common and the most dreaded are road accidents. The road conditions in many developing countries are pathetic and accidents occur rampantly. Yet I see few people thinking about prevention. Wearing a helmet is a simple basic precaution which will save a person from a potentially lethal or paralysing head injury. It is the difference between getting up and walking away from an accident versus an injury which may  lead to permanent disability and handicap if not death. The same applies to wearing a seat belt in a car. Seemingly simple, easy and effective precautions and yet many of us don't do it! Why? Because we don't think about life preservation untill it's too late. Following road rules (like using an indicator or not cutting lanes), avoiding rash driving and speeding, stopping at signals, keeping the vehicle well maintained and regularly serviced go a long way in accident prevention. Talking on the phone while riding a bike or driving a car is another recipe for a catastrophe! What about accidents at home? In the kitchen, be careful with the cooking gas! Old malfunctioning pressure cookers can burst, hurriedly used sharp knives can cut fingers and hot utensils and boiling oil/water can burn. The other danger zone at home is the bathroom. Make sure the bathroom floor is non slippery. There should be support handles for old people to get up. Beware of sharp shelf edges which could injure if one falls.  Don't climb on a chair to reach for a high shelf or clean the fan, use a stable ladder. The same rules apply for the work place or when travelling. We must be extra careful when travelling. An accident in a foreign land can be particularly nasty as we are helpless and often end up with less than ideal medical care.


The next is a medical crisis. We cannot control all the factors that lead to illness! But we can definitely control some of them. Young people get so busy with work and family that they don't have time for health preservation. The modern motto is to work hard now and enjoy the fruits after retirement. But reality is quite the opposite. By the time they retire,  people are bogged down with so many medical problems that their old age is nothing more than suffering, pain, doctors visits and a long list of medicines. Little does one realise that the efforts to achieve a healthy old age need to start when one is young. The idea of an investment which will pay returns in the future appeals to all but they are unable to apply the same logic to health. And yet, the truth is that investing in health remains the most profitable proposition. What factors can one control? Most critical is to stay away from addicting substances like cigarettes, alcohol, tobacco and drugs. These substances guarantee a life of suffering and a miserable old age. Beyond that, a healthy lifestyle boils down to two main factors - diet and exercise. I have written a number of articles on diet and exercise. Interested readers can access them on my blog - www.orthindia.blogspot.com. A good diet is about good quality foodstuffs and portion control. We must educate ourselves about which food is good for us. We ought to consume more protein and fibre (vegetables and fruits) and less carbohydrates and fats. We need to differentiate between good carbohydrates (chapati) versus not so good carbohydrates (rice) versus bad carbohydrates (potato, bread, maida, cake, jam, biscuits, cold drinks, sugar, mithai, ice cream, bakery products, chocolates and sweets). Stay away from bad carbohydrates. They are poor quality foodstuff. Portion control remains the key to weight reduction. Amount of food to be consumed in each meal should be decided before we start to eat. Eat only small amounts of food for lunch and dinner and compensate by having healthy snacks in between. A heavy meal neutralises the benefit achieved from a long period of starvation or a session of exercise. We must eat slowly to feel satiety with seemingly small quantities of food. Make it a habit to read the ingredients label on food packets to look for hidden sugar. As a thumb rule, food cooked at home will always be healthier than eating out. Be careful when eating outdoors or when travelling as chances of ending up with an upset tummy and loose motions are high. For exercise, do activities that you enjoy! There are no set rules. Choices are plenty from walking, running, cycling, swimming, aerobics, going to the gym or doing yoga. Remember that the only bad workout is the one that didn't happen. Aim to do some exercise for at least half hour, 5 times a week. Ideally one needs to exercise for an hour every day. Today people lead stressful lives, eat poorly, avoid exercise and buy medical insurance. The smart choice would be to work towards health and not ever need insurance.
The last aspect of illness prevention is timely screening for silent diseases and treatment of medical problems. Problems like blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease may not result in any symptoms for many years. An early diagnosis is crucial for preventing permanent damage. So everyone must get themselves screened for these illness' on a regular basis. It does not end with screening. One needs to to take proper treatment of his/her illness. For hypertensive patients, blood pressure should be controlled. For diabetes, blood sugars should be controlled. A diabetic patient must own a home blood sugar testing machine and must check blood sugars every week. Timely and regular intake of medicine coupled with regular testing and doctor's follow up is essential. 


A mention must be made here about the weekend warrior. These are the people who indulge in contact sports like football only on the weekends. Such sports require a high level of physical fitness which can come only with vigorous daily exercise. Those who don't exercise have weak muscles which offer poor protection to the joints. Hence the weekend warrior is much more prone to injury to the shoulder, wrist, knee or ankle than the physically fit person. Those who don't exercise daily are better off avoiding weekend sports.


Self preservation is an awareness that must be cultivated in the mind. A constant vigil will reduce the chances of a potential tragedy. Simply put it is the difference between happiness and suffering. The choice is really ours to make. Is it worth riding a bike for thrills or spending all your time at work or gorging on meals till your shirt buttons pop? We ought to rely on ourselves to look after our health rather than medical insurance ...... prevention will always remain better than cure!!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Secrets to losing weight…

Many want to lose weight and many need to. Many try but few succeed. What is the secret of their success? Is there one secret or are there many? Do doctors know all the answers? Maybe, but aren't there lots of obese doctors around? 
In my practice I have had the opportunity to speak to both types of people; the ones who have lost weight and the ones who have failed. I myself have struggled for many years to lose weight only to find success recently. So what are these secrets? 

Secret 1: Sincerity. People who successfully lose weight have a deep commitment and sincerity in their effort. It is akin to a project that they have taken up and need to see it to completion. They work hard to lose weight, they have pride in their effort and they celebrate their achievements. Quite often the commitment comes due to a life altering mishap that they have suffered like a heart attack or a complication from diabetes. It is only after a major near death experience do they realise how fragile life is and how much they have taken for granted. I urge readers to take weight loss seriously and not wait for their wake up call!

Secret 2: Exercise or Diet? Is dieting enough to lose weight? or is exercising enough? or do we need both? the reality is that diet is far more crucial to reduce weight than exercise. Exercise helps but diet is the key. Those who exercise but continue their usual eating habits almost never lose weight. Of the weight one loses, 75% will be due to changes in diet and 25% will be due to exercise. 

Secret 3: Quality of food. Is it acceptable to buy petrol mixed with water? We are so particular about quality of the things we buy, however we stop thinking of quality when it comes to food. We are ruled by taste. What tastes good is good. Its time to stop and think about what we consume. We ought to eat only quality food. We should avoid deep fried foodstuff. We should also avoid artificial sugar. Avoiding sugar doesn't stop at adding Splenda to tea. One cannot imagine the extent to which artificial sugar has infiltrated our eating habits! Biscuits, chips, packaged snacks, cakes, chocolates, sweets, mithai, cold drinks, ice creams etc etc are all loaded withartificial sugar. This modern sugar stresses the body's mechanisms to control blood sugar. The body converts all this excess sugar to fat and stores it, resulting in a pot belly. The hotel industry, the biscuit manufacturer, the bakery, the chocolate industry, the Paani-Puri Wala or the Wada-Pav Center are not interested in your health. They thrive on our weakness for taste. So when I say avoid fried foods and artificial sugar, I really mean one must avoid eating packaged food (what is typically stocked at a Kiraana store) and one must avoid eating outdoors. Home cooked meals will always have the quality you are looking for! In addition to this we must reduce our consumption of the GREAT FOUR! They arerice, potatoes, pasta (and other maida products) and bread (bakery products). These products are similar to sugar and have high carbohydrate content which will be converted to fat. Once one learns to avoid these poor quality foods, what remains is all healthy. Wheat (or jowar, bajra) chapatis, dals, vegetables, meat (in limited quantity)  and nuts are healthy to eat. To this we can add cereals(without sugar), muesli, oats, milk and eggs. Milk products without sugar like dahi and chaas are good. The sugar in fruit is natural and far far superior to artificial sugar. One can safely consume all types of fruits unless diabetic. Raw vegetable salads (without unhealthy mayonnaise dressings) are a complete winner. Now with this knowledge lets assess the quality of some of our foodstuffs - first the seemingly harmless 'wada-pav'. It has got potato, maida and bread. Plus it is deep fried. Its a total disaster, isn't it? Lets see another scenario: a visit to MacDonald's. What do we end up eating? A fried patty in bread? Still not so bad one may feel. But lets see the accompaniments. A sugar filled cold drink and fried potato chips! Another disaster. What about the people who drink many cups of tea in the day? Not much harm done? Actually lots of harm done if the tea has sugar! All the sugar just ends up in one's belly. 

Secret 4: Portion control. Now we come to the most difficult part of weight reduction. We may be very motivated to lose weight and we may be willing to let go of our tasty snacks, but are we ready for portion control? What does one mean by portion control? It means that one has to control the quantity of food consumed at a particular time.  This is very critical for the major meals which are lunch and dinner. I have devised the 1 to 2 rule. For lunch or dinner one should not consume more than 2 chapati's or 1 chapati and 1 small helping of rice. Obviously this is hugely difficult as we will feel hungry. There are 2 secrets here to succeed. First is to reduce the speed of eating. It takes time for the stomach to send a signal to the brain that it is full. If we eat too fast, we have already over eaten by the time the signal reaches the brain. Vice versa if we eat very very slowly, we will feel full even with seemingly small quantities of food. One should chew slowly and swallow only after chewing the food completely. One should not put another morsel in the mouth till one has swallowed the previous morsel. The second secret is to eat healthy snacks in between meals. So one can have a fruit or a salad or some nuts at 11:00 am and in the evenings at 4pm and if required even at 7pm. If one feels hungry after dinner, one can have a healthy snack at 10pm. This way we can counter the hunger we will feel because of portion control. I must emphasise here that the snack must be healthy! People have a habit of skipping meals and then binge eating at dinner time. They feel proud of skipping a meal and think it will help reduce weight. Then they feel the need for a reward and feel justified in eating a heavy meal. Little do they realise that all the benefit from skipping a meal is not only lost in the binge eating, in fact more harm is done than good. Binge eating can never result in weight loss! The tough truth is that we can never have a heavy meal ever, if we are serious about weight loss! 

This is a sure shot way of losing weight! Many of us feel that we don't eat much food, we eat healthy and still we don't lose weight! But I request you all to introspect sincerely! You must take into account exact quantity of food consumed rather than your best estimate. You must look at the quality of food as well. Learn to pay attention while eating and actually count the chapatis and helpings of rice. Also every small unhealthy snack eaten in between, like a chocolate, a biscuit, a piece of cake or a few chips, matters! 
Armed with these secrets, I am confident that all of us can start losing weight and move towards a more healthy and happy life! 





Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Website

Read patient testimonials, see individual case results and much more at my newly launched website http://jointreplacementsurgeonpune.com/testinomials.php

Friday, October 17, 2014

Trapezitis

Neck pain is common and most of us have experienced it at some point. It brings with it the anxiety of a serious illness like spondylitis!  Fortunately most cases of neck pain are not due to spondylitis. One of the commoner and less understood causes is trapezitis!
The Trapezius Muscle
The trapezius is a large muscle that forms the nape of the neck. It extends from the neck to upper back and fans out to the shoulder. The muscle has many functions but the most relevant one is to lift the head to look upwards. Any work that requires the head to be stable like working on a computer, reading a book, working on a kitchen table, driving for long or watching television etc. brings the trapezius into action. With our modern lifestyle, one can imagine the extent of overuse and often abuse this muscle faces!
Fatigue and inflammation of this muscle leads to trapezitis. The symptoms are typical. It starts with mild pain or discomfort in the nape of the neck at the end of the day. Initially a good night’s rest solves the problem. In the early stages, massaging the muscle or a hot water bag brings relief. As time passes, the attacks become more frequent and painful. The muscle goes into spasm and feels hard to touch. The pain becomes constant and is not relieved easily. Eventually the pain and spasm can become unbearable. At this point, the patient seeks medical intervention and needs muscle relaxant tablets to decrease the spasm. Understandably this disorder is confused with spondylitis. However it is a different illness with a different approach to treatment.
An acute episode of trapezitis is treated with anti – inflammatory, muscle relaxant tablets. In addition, patients require physiotherapy modalities, a soft cervical collar and rest. A physiotherapist will use interferential therapy (IFT) and short wave diathermy (SWD) to reduce the spasm. The severe pain settles in 7 to 10 days.
We cannot avoid our daily routine and daily work! So how do we protect our trapezius from fatigue and bouts of inflammation? Firstly one must strengthen the muscle so that it can take the rigours of our routine. One needs to do neck and shoulder exercises regularly. Here I will emphasise the importance of doing exercises that involve the hands going above the head (overhead exercises). Swimming is an ideal exercise for trapezitis and regular swimmers seldom get such pain. The second philosophy of treatment concentrates on the ergonomics of work! Poor postures are ripe environment for trapezitis. Working with a laptop on bed or watching televisions lying down are a strict NO. Chairs at work should have a lumbar support. One should sit erect. Avoid slouching. The computer screen should be at eye level. A break is necessary every 20 minutes during long hauls in front of the computer or long drives. One should get up, move around and stretch the neck, shoulders and back.   

Trapezitis is a modern day epidemic brought on by our lifestyle. Awareness of the issue and a logical approach to the problem will help most people avoid it all together!