Noted Physician : to Make Key Address at Veggie FestJun 27, 2019 ● By Kathryn Kruger
Kunwarjit Singh Duggal, M.D., FAAPMR
Kunwarjit Singh Duggal, M.D., FAAPMR, is a board-certified rehabilitation specialist in the field of physical medicine and an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Rush University Medical Center. Duggal will deliver a talk, Eat Green, Get Lean, from 4 to 5 p.m., August 11, in the main tent of Veggie Fest, on the grounds of Danada South Park, in Lisle, at the Navistar Circle.
Along with overseeing a thriving medical practice in Chicago, Duggal lectures extensively on the health benefits of lifestyle modifications including meditation, a plant-based diet, therapeutic exercise, inner peace and stress management. We asked him about his views on the role of diet in medicine.
What role does food play in medicine?
In the USA, the number one killer is cardiovascular disease, and there’s no question that it’s brought on by food. Genetics plays a part, no doubt, but the food we eat makes a considerable impact on our health. If you look at some of the most common chronic diseases facing Americans, they are high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol—which all stem from eating the wrong kinds of food.
High cholesterol causes blockages in the heart, which can result in a heart attack; blockages in the brain, which can result in a stroke; and blockages in the legs or arms. Basically, these are all the same thing, and they’re coming from the food that we’re eating.
What can people do on an everyday basis?
The question about health is this: Are we making—as a society—the right choices? Most of our chronic diseases are diseases of lifestyle. The first question we need to ask ourselves is what kind of fuel are we putting into our body. If we are putting poor-quality nutrition into our body, we can’t expect our body to do a lot. We need to reevaluate our food choices and move toward real, whole food, rather than processed food.
The second aspect is activity. We are a sedentary society. We sit a lot, so we need to move and be physically active. Sitting is the new smoking. It’s easier to prevent problems in our physical body than it is to fix them afterwards. If we choose the right way to eat and the right way to move, we are fending off about 90 percent of the physical problems we could be having.
What kind of medical outcomes inspire you?
For me, it’s watching the reunion of patients with their families, patients who have gone through a successful rehabilitation and are then able to return home. My patients may be going through rehabilitation from two weeks to two months so that they can get back to a level of independence and return home to live with their loved ones. When we see patients who come to us who can’t get out of bed to walk, etc., and to see them regain their independence, that joy is amazing.
We have so many patients who come back to see us after they’ve reunited with their families to thank our entire staff for the help they received. It’s so gratifying to watch someone get back to what they want to do. Those reunions are always very special moments.
What do you think is one of the most surprising aspects of medicine?
The body has an unbelievable ability to heal itself. God has created this miracle which sometimes we need to guide back on track. There are physical things we can do to our body to help it heal itself without needing an external medication.
During time of illness, people often become introspective about their choices around diet and exercise. Food can become medicine. What we’re seeing in the research, overwhelmingly, is that when people go on a plant-based diet—with whole grains and vegetables (not processed and packaged!)—many of these chronic illnesses begin to peel away. They begin to live disease-free and enjoy renewed health and vitality.
What do you like most about Veggie Fest Chicago?
It is, by far, my favorite festival, ever! It has the most diverse group of people who all have one common thing they are looking for, and that’s happiness. I’ve seen more smiles at Veggie Fest than anywhere else.
For some people, their happiness comes from the international food court or from the food demos. For others, they enjoy taking their kids to the Children’s Tent, watching them get their faces painted or having fun in a parade. Others love the fantastic live music or to go listen to a speaker from the health community give a talk on health or the environment.
By far, however, the biggest shining light, no doubt, is hearing Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj’s keynote address. He comes to the festival every year, blesses us with his spiritual presence, and helps us understand the benefits of the vegetarian diet beyond the physical.
It’s very easy to understand the physical and emotional benefits of a plant-based diet, but to really grasp the spiritual concepts, we are very lucky to have Sant Rajinder Singh Ji share his knowledge. He is the inspiration and guiding force behind the entire event.
Veggie Fest will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit VeggieFestChicago.com.
Kathryn Kruger, Ph.D., is the coordinator of the VeggieFestChicago.com website.