Luke Coutinho is a holistic lifestyle coach based in India and a frequent visitor to Dubai. He’s a passionate advocate of using balanced nutrition, adequate exercise, quality sleep and emotional detox to heal from just about everything that ails us. During his appearance on The Livehealthy Podcast, he talked about everything from how our spiritual beliefs are linked to our health to why we shouldn’t be so obsessed with fitness trackers to why the body is the essence of intelligence and resilience.
How did you come to make nutrition and holistic healing your life’s work?
I was with IBM for about 10 years. As I grew up the corporate ladder, one day I heard a very, very top person in the company say: ‘my back hurts so much. I can’t even enjoy a first-class seat, my flight in New York’. I was like, ‘this isn’t how life should be. We’re earning money. You are the owner of a massive company, but your health isn’t allowing you to even enjoy your life’.
I started to look into this deeply and I realized people don’t change their lifestyle. They’re popping pills to treat the symptom, but they’re not addressing the root cause of the problem.
People are going too deep into spirituality, but they’re not looking at the physical part of their body. I figured that everything in the human body’s fragmented, it’s broken to pieces. Someone’s trying to treat the heart separately, the liver, the kidney mental health. I said: ‘I want to put it together. I want to be the person treating the symptom. I want to be helping people change their life at a root cause level. I further studied deep cellular nutrition, advanced integrative and lifestyle medicine.
Do you think people are just disconnected from their bodies?
Most people today are disconnected from their spirit, because we’re constantly connected with the outside world. If I have that pain today, my body’s gently telling me that, ‘hey, I’m giving you a little warning. If you take care of it right now, it doesn’t have to become a bigger pain or it doesn’t have to become a bigger problem’. But we’re not listening to it. Everyone is like, ‘oh yes, I have this pain, I pop this pill. I have a shrink on speed dial’. People have glorified this. Burnout is glorified. Hustling is glorified. Then we don’t change and we ignore these little warnings, these little gentle whispers that the body is giving. I always say symptom isn’t a bad thing. The symptom is your body doing the right thing at the right time. It’s telling you and if you listen to it, great, if you don’t listen to it, it becomes something bigger. It’s unfortunate that when we sit down to break it down with our patients who have cancer or autoimmune, a lot of them, when we’re talking, they say, ‘Luke, I knew it was happening in my body. I knew when this happened’. Then we know that besides chemotherapy, radiation, nutrition, we’ve also got to work on this emotional baggage. We also got to work on your sleep deprivation. We got to also work on your activity. Maybe you were over-training, you were under-training. All of this comes out, and it’s important for it to come out in our prognosis because it’s not just about the medication and the nutrition. It’s about what else you got to work on, if you want to really heal and recover completely.
Where do you even start?
It’s true practice. There is no magic pill. Our subconscious mind supports any action on repetition, the good and the bad. There’s always the starting point and it’s never too late. I have a patient at 92 years old who’s battling cancer for the fifth time and is in remission. What is in your control? I have a simple question for everyone. Before you sleep at night, just ask yourself, ‘do I feel good?’ Irrespective of your struggles, irrespective of how your day was, if you can still feel good, that is a measure of great health. It isn’t about a life without struggles. It isn’t about no fights in your relationship or failure. It’s about, despite everything, I’m able to feel good. That’s true gratitude. Because I can focus on the things that I’m going well for me, because even gratitude is overrated today. It’s hyped, everyone’s got a journal and a pen and they’re writing down stuff. I’m saying don’t write it, feel it. Feel it.
If you’ve that warmth coming to your heart, when you feel like, wow. That is a feeling that is magical at a hormonal level… If I have to put two things at the top of the paradigm, it is sleep and emotional wellness.
How do you help people be resilient?
In a form, the truest form of gratitude is first, respect and love for yourself. The moment I want to be someone else, I’m rejecting myself. When I’m operating from an intention of comparison, that just brings more and more misery in my life. Today I deal with people who got the body they want, and they’re still unhappy because they found someone else now who looks better than them. And it never ends, or it’s like a billionaire who is never happy with their money because there’s someone else richer than them.
They don’t know how to enjoy what they have. They’re disconnected and that’s why they’re miserable, empty, even though some of them have the greatest bodies, money, everything, but they can’t enjoy what they have. Comparison is basically why social media is bad for so many people because they don’t know how to handle it. We teach them number one, ‘what do you like about yourself? What do you not like about yourself? Now, do I want to improve this?” These are the three actions. Let’s start doing that with consistency, because comparison is not going to give you those results.
Why do you think cancer and chronic disease is such an issue?
Many things contribute towards it. No one can say that air pollution is causing cancer, because we all breath the same air. We should all have cancer. No one can say the pesticides in your food cause cancer. Yes, they play a role, but they don’t cause cancer alone because we’re all practically eating the same food, drinking the same water.
Everyone has stress. Stress doesn’t cause cancer, but it plays a massive role in everything together. If I’m really stressed out, chronically stressed, I have a low-immune system. Now, my immune system can’t manage the pesticides coming through food or the carcinogens coming into my air. That builds an overload on the body. Also, we should never forget that cancer is an inflammatory disease. What does that mean? It’s caused by excessive inflammation in the body; 95 of the diseases are inflammatory, created by excess inflammation. Your own immune system doesn’t know when to shut down or stop inflammation.
Where does that inflammation come from?
Everything: the kind of food that we eat, the excessive sugar, not sugar, the excessive sugar. Sleep deprivation and cancer are directly connected. Again, if you’re chronically stressed, you can’t sleep. Now, because you can’t sleep, you can see low immunity, hormonal imbalance. You have hormonally-driven breast cancers, endometriosis, auto-immune conditions. You can see the picture. Everything is linked, deeply-rooted emotional distress. People stuck in a toxic relationship. Adrenaline is up, progesterone is low, estrogen is up. All your communicators, your hormones are driving the wrong communication. Wrong communication, wrong action in the human body. Up-regulation, down-regulation of genes. The genes that should be switched off are turned on. The ones that should be turned on are switched off.
What about the role of the environment?
We have an internal environment within us and we have an external environment around us. Both of them have everything to do with whether we’ll fall sick, recover quickly, get a cancer, go into remission, get an auto-immune condition. The root cause is in an immune system that is erratic. Instead of protecting you, it’s attacking you. Now, what’s triggered off that immune system? A particular food. If you cannot digest, maybe you’re celiac. Maybe your lactose some tolerant. It’s stress. People with vitiligo, eczemas, psoriasis, arthritis, when they’re stressed, they’ll have all their flare-ups.
When they’re relaxed around a holiday, they say, ‘I don’t have any flare-ups’. Why? The environment has changed. If we break it down, we should all be dead right now with the amount of toxins and the pesticides and food. The body is resilient every second of the day, trying to protect us, keep us in survival mode, that’s the job of the body. When we don’t respect this, it’s taken away.
People don’t even understand how the intelligence of the body works. When we were just little eggs in the womb, for zero to nine months, it is only nature’s intelligence, there is no interference from mankind. Those nine months is a reminder of the intelligence that exists in us today, and we found a way. Of course, we need doctors, we need medicine. We need all of that, but don’t try to compromise the intelligence of the human body. Health is very simple. Give your body, mind, heart, the platform it needs to run its own intelligence. Don’t interfere with the fundamentals.
Do you think people should be tracking everything?
The problem is never the tracker. The problem is the person behind it. If you’re so dependent on your tracker to tell you everything. I wear one for steps. It’s a great benchmark for me: 10,000 steps, it’s just a benchmark: ‘hey, look, you’ve been active over and above your workout”. That’s it. I don’t go into sleep and all of that stuff, because most people are, ‘Oh, my watch told me I didn’t sleep well tonight’. There’s one question you need to ask, am I rested or do I feel sleep-deprived?
We have to understand the only accurate voice data point comes from within. For that, we got to be mindful and connected, and you are getting the best data in the world.
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is the founding editor-in-chief of Livehealthy and host of The Livehealthy Podcast. She is a veteran Canadian digital journalist who has worked in North America and the Middle East. Her past roles include features editor for The National, trends writer and columnist for the Canadian newspaper chain Sun Media, and correspondent for CBC Radio.