"Understanding that everything you consume either fights dis-ease or causes it creates very conscious living. Without accurate nutritional knowledge, this is impossible to do. With each of us being completely unique, living unique lives, logic suggests that we will all require different foods at different times. Understanding this shows why the blanket nutrition approach we have been taught simply does not work, and why we are at unprecedented levels of chronic disorders affecting the nation."
Melissa Toleman is the founder of The Alternative Healthcare, one of my favourite resources for Ayurveda, and has been committed to natural therapies for 12 years. Years later, when her son was diagnosed with a long-term deteriorating disease, Melissa took him to an Ayurvedic clinic in India, where he healed entirely. Observing the life-changing science of Ayurveda, Melissa understood that the practice could help to heal all kinds of ailments, which is why she created The Alternative Healthcare, where practitioners provide a holistic and highly personalised treatment plan.
Website: The Alternative Healthcare
"Once you understand why DISEASE IS there, how IT WAS triggered and how to reduce the symptoms, it is very motivating to start the healing journey back to health."
What does Ayurveda mean to you?
Ayurveda to me means healthcare. I know many people use it as a wellness tool, but I have seen first hand, many times, how powerful Ayurveda is when used as a healthcare modality. Helping people to see why their bodies have created dis-ease and understanding how to eliminate that dis-ease using knowledge, foods, herbs, treatments, yoga and meditation is an all-encompassing method to heal the body.
Understanding that everything you consume either fights dis-ease or causes it creates very conscious living. Without accurate nutritional knowledge, this is impossible to do. With each of us being completely unique, living unique lives, logic suggests that we will all require different foods at different times. Understanding this shows why the blanket nutrition approach we have been taught simply does not work, and why we are at unprecedented levels of chronic disorders affecting the nation. Neither the blanket nutrition or healthcare approach is working; we are becoming sicker by the day as the NHS struggles to keep up with the ever increasing demand.
When did you discover Ayurveda?
I discovered Ayurveda 12 years ago when I was studying Feng Shui and energy healing. One weekend was dedicated to covering the basics of Ayurveda, with the intention that if you were helping heal other people, you should be of optimum health yourself. I was intrigued by it, but not sold on it at this stage. I got the impression that if you were feeling a little out of sorts, you could go to India for three weeks and feel better...
What has Ayurveda helped you with?
That was the extent of my knowledge, up until five years ago, when my 9-year-old son became very ill with Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. After two and a half months, Louie had 27 swollen and painful joints affected with arthritis and was using conventional medicine to manage his symptoms. The next stage was chemotherapy, as the drugs weren’t working. This was when I made a huge, controversial decision to discharge him from the hospitals and take him to India for four weeks to an Ayurvedic hospital. During these four weeks, they detoxed him completely of the foods that were affecting his body and the medication that was suppressing his immune system to create an environment where his body could do the healing it was designed to do.
When we returned to the UK, he had just three joints affected. I found another Ayurvedic doctor in the UK, who helped us further understand the relationship between food and disease, and we followed her nutritional advice, took herbs, whilst I gave him treatments every day for the next three months. To everyone's astonishment, Louie, who was supposedly going to have arthritis for life and be on medication forever, was 100 percent symptom-free. He has been well for the past five years now. This is the power this ancient science holds. It is without doubt the answer to the current healthcare system’s problems.
Have you been practising it ever since?
After this experience, I sought to learn all I could about Ayurveda. I have studied it for the past four years, and set up an Ayurvedic centre in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, called The Alternative Healthcare. I have brought over an Ayurvedic doctor from India, Dr. Mathew, formerly at Ananda Spa in the Himalayas. We also have a resident yoga instructor, Dr. Shine Babu, who we met at the Ayurvedic hospital when Louie was ill. We have Ayurvedic therapists, a yoga studio and an Ayurvedic kitchen serving those going through treatment. I have tried to recreate a little bit of India, to keep the authenticity of this wonderful science, whilst offering people an effective healthcare solution.
Is it part of everyday life or merely part of your medicine cabinet/fall-back routine?
I now use aspects of Ayurveda for everyday life. I have a greater understanding of my body, so I eat within its limits. As soon as I feel a little out of balance, I know what to do to remedy it. Having control over my health is very important to me. I am gently introducing more aspects of Ayurveda, as I adjust to the new lifestyle little by little.
Top 3 Ayurveda tips that have worked for you?
Everything in moderation
Listen to your body: eat when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty
Eat within your environment
What surprised you most about Ayurveda?
I was surprised at first that Ayurveda can heal any disorder there is. It views every disorder or disease as an imbalance of the body or doshas, which can therefore be balanced again when given the right environment to do so.
Did you integrate it gradually or overnight?
I integrated Ayurveda overnight, as I also went through treatment in India when my son was ill. I went through a four-week panchakarma treatment programme. This is very deep cleansing, which helped me with stress, anxiety and a recently slipped disc (as I had to carry my 9-year-old son around everywhere whilst he was ill). After that, I have slowly introduced it into my life, so I now lead a much healthier lifestyle, with a greater understanding of my body.
Do your children/family eat like this? And if they do, do they know it’s Ayurveda or do they just see it as home cooking?
Louie now eats "Ayurvedically," and he is very interested in Ayurveda. He understands that if there are any symptoms he is experiencing, like headaches, indecisiveness, dry skin, etc., that it is an imbalance and he knows what to do to balance back up again. My other two children eat healthily on the whole, but they are less interested in Ayurveda. They do however come to me as soon as they are not feeling 100 percent. They like the new "medicine cabinet" full of herbs, food and oils.
What is your favourite Ayurvedic recipe or go-to ingredient?
My favourite ingredient is cumin. I think this is the one I associate most with getting Louie better. I used to roast it every night, then fill capsules of ground roasted cumin for Louie to be able to consume. I put cumin in many dishes now, and make a great digestive tea with it too.
How does Ayurveda influence your day-to-day routine?
My day-to-day routines which involve Ayurveda are: oil pulling, tongue scraping, drinking coriander, cumin and fennel tea in the morning, and eating warm food throughout the winter — chai tea, and a lovely tri-doshic lunch at my centre.
What do you wish was more accessible in our society to make an Ayurvedic lifestyle more simple?
I wish our society changed altogether to make Ayurvedic living more achievable. It is very hard with our society to live this sort of lifestyle. Too many coffee shops and bars as meeting places, and not enough healthy eating/drinking cafes and bars. Our current society supports a "drinking 8 cups a coffee a day" and "copious amounts of alcohol" lifestyle, and is not conducive to healthy living. It is considered anti-social and inconvenient to eat healthily or to not drink alcohol. Perhaps not so much in London and Brighton, but in the suburbs, anything else is considered "odd," "nonsense," or "too alternative" for many people.
How does Ayurveda support your lifestyle?
Ayurveda very much supports my lifestyle, as I run an Ayurvedic centre. I am surrounded by it all the time. Many of my family and friends come to the centre, but it has taken some of them quite a long time to adjust to it.
What's the one thing you would encourage everyone to try, or you think would benefit the majority of people’s health for the better?
The one thing I would encourage everyone to try is having a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor. I think it is very eye-opening initially to make sense of any issues or long-standing health concerns people have been experiencing, including IBS, menstrual issues, constant headaches, inflammation, skin issues, asthma, lupus, cystic fibrosis, anxiety, depression, stress, etc., etc. Things that they have just put up with for years, or medicated unnecessarily. Once you understand why these issues are there, how they were triggered and how to reduce the symptoms, it is very motivating to start the healing journey back to health.