We created this blog - 'Real Life Stories' to make room for real discussion, create a safe place to share, reflect and inspire each other based on ‘Real experiences’ of recovery and healing using food.
Here is the story of Ambreen Ladha, a homemaker and a Volunteer in community service for the last 25 years who is based in Hyderabad.
Ambreen is really passionate about caring for her family and being in charge of their health. A self confessed shopaholic who loves watching movies and listening to music. She also assists in her family business and looks after administration.
Ambreen was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism in 2015. She recalls the struggle that life seemed like since then, “Everything changed. There was a dullness that had set in, my energy levels had crashed. I had decided to do something about my condition, so I consulted a doctor. He got me started on medication. Slowly after, I learnt calorie counting, new fad diets crept into my life because I devoured the internet looking up diets that promised to change things overnight. I got on a Keto Diet. I split my meals and ended up eating small tiny portions every few hours. Even though this was a drastic shift from my usual ways, I pushed and kept at it. I was hoping it would all be worth it in the end. On the day of the test, I was really expecting improved results. So needless to say that it was one hell of a major setback for me when I saw no improvement!”
But isn’t medication supposed to fix things, most of us would think. In Ambreen’s case, the pills were doing its job. On paper, the results were slowly getting better. However, was she ‘feeling’ better? Not at all!
Ambreen recollects those days when nothing seemed right, “I still remember the day I took medicines for my condition - after I took the pill for the first time, it left me with so much discomfort. I was almost in tears. The acidity was unbearable. However, I did not stop. I was doing it all. I purchased Olive Oil. I cooked only in Olive Oil because everyone seemed to be telling me that it was the best oil for our health. I cooked my meals as per the Keto guidelines, so I cooked separately for myself, and separately for the rest of the family. I started having salads. But, there was a feeling of uneasiness in my stomach. Acidity kept growing. I felt this was all happening because of the pills that I was taking. But stopping the medicines was not an option for me. I shared my anxieties with my doctor. He told me clearly, my condition cannot be reversed and I would have to continue the medicines forever!”
TSH normal values are 0.5 to 5.0 mlU/L for a non-pregnant adult female. Ambreen’s TSH had shot to 17.8 mlU/L in 2015 when she decided to consult her doctor.
In the picture: Ambreen with her daughter.
She felt the same even when she continued with her new diet and all the extra effort she was putting in to get her health back on track. The acidity had made a permanent address within her, there was no energy for daily chores. But Ambreen was determined to regain focus and somehow set things right.
She scoured the internet and discovered Luke Coutinhos’s videos where he spoke about using food to heal the body-mind. What caught her attention was the fact that he spoke of ‘reversing’ hormone related disorders using the healing power of food. Ambreen was elated and surprised; this was not what she was being told by her doctor. She was coming to accept that a life without these medicines will just have to remain a dream now!
I want this article to shape up as a very faithful narrative of Ambreen’s story and hence I'll try to reproduce facts in her own words, “It was through one of Luke’s videos that I got introduced to the Two Brothers brand. I noticed the price was higher compared to some other options in the market. Yet, I decided to give it a try. I remember liking whatever little I purchased for the first time. However, I couldn’t escape the lure of countless other food brands that I was exposed to on the internet. So I did not stick to one brand and tried out various other brands, many of which I got to discover through Luke’s community and his videos. I kept going back to Luke’s videos for guidance and tried my best to pick and apply some of these guidelines - Ghee was never a part of our daily meals; over the years most women of my time were conditioned to look at Ghee as harmful, something that makes you pile on weight. Can you imagine, I never gave Ghee even to my children…..?” There was a sudden sadness in her voice when she spoke those words!
Life went on for Ambreen. Her TSH was now at 6.39 with medication.
One day, she received a call from an unknown number - the person on the other side introduced himself as ‘Jayanand Wagh’, a lifestyle coach calling from the Two Brothers team. “It was the August of 2020, and Jayanand said that he was calling a selected list of customers who had purchased only once from TBOF to understand their concerns. He asked if I had liked the products or not since I had only placed a single order. I told him that I was trying other brands too, some of them were cheaper. Also, how would I know which brand to stick to, as a consumer I have huge amounts of information being hurled at me when I go online. Sometimes it's overwhelming and very very confusing. Jayanand heard me out and shared a weblink to a blog about his own experience of fighting Obesity at 40 and then running a Marathon; and how food played such a huge part in his journey. He also told me that he was a follower and admirer of Luke Coutinho and that seemed like an instant connection for me, and I checked out the TBOF blog on Jayanand’s story. Needless to say that I was blown away by what I read, it inspired me to really shake myself and take charge of my health.”
Jayanand works in a client relations role at TBOF. Being a lifestyle coach, he helps people with their concerns around food, daily eating habits, and a fitness regime. He helped Ambreen unlearn a lot of info she had been forcing upon herself - for example she thought the regular traditional food was never going to help and hence pursued a Keto diet. Jayanand explains, “I had to convince her to go back to our regular simple ghar ka khana and stop having the salads. She was consuming store-bought Atta for many years. We replaced that with the ancient wheat variety, Khapli from TBOF. Slowly and steadily we worked on her food, one step at a time; because that seemed to require attention.”
From August 2020 until date, Ambreen has been able to include many TBOF products as part of her everyday meals. She followed Jayanand’s advice and reworked her daily food. Today, Ambreen’s TSH levels are 4.49 ‘without medication’!! Yes, you read that absolutely right. :)
Isn't this such a huge victory? This could sound pompous to many of us because sadly, there are not enough grandly funded research studies on how food can work as medicine and help reverse and fight disease as there are studies on drugs and their role in fighting disease!! I was of the firm opinion that it couldn't have been the food alone, so I probed further and asked her, “what other changes did you introduce to your lifestyle?” Ambreen measured a pause before she spoke, it seemed to me like she was smiling on the other side… “No. It was mainly the food only.” “But there must be more to this, are you exercising now or following a different fitness regime?” I kept insisting. “I was always a fitness enthusiast. I walk 7-8 kms daily! I have been following this since 10-12 years now. That hasn't changed. What has changed in a big way is my food!” Ambreen replied.
Alright then, it was time to get into the details, “What were these major food changes that you took up? Which products do you use regularly, how do you use them? How has each one of them helped?” I clearly wanted to know more.
“Wheat is a big part of my daily meals. At home we have rotis/chapatis 3 times a day - for breakfast, lunch and dinner! We always used store bought atta. I replaced this with the TBOF Khapli. This one thing itself was a big change. You can see it clearly when you use the Khapli atta from TBOF; it's nothing like the store bought atta that I was used to. It has a beautiful texture, slightly nutty in taste and makes delicious rotis. In fact during the recent lockdown in my city, I had to buy Khapli atta from another brand at a local shop because I had no option. Again, this only helped me understand how much better the TBOF Khapli was. The difference was very clear and I waited anxiously for the lockdown to be lifted so I could source all my staples. Besides the atta, I switched to the TBOF wood pressed unrefined groundnut oil. Jayanand really convinced me to get off the oils that I was using and try the Woodpressed Groundnut Oil and Cultured Ghee. I was anxious. I was worried that my cholesterol levels would go up. But, I decided to give it a try. Now, I simply cannot do without the Groundnut Oil and the Ghee! I also started using your laddoos as a mid meal snack and purchased the TBOF Haldi. I also stopped refined sugar completely. Now I only use the TBOF jaggery and kaakvi!” Ambreenji broke into unstoppable laughter. It was so inspiring to hear her speak, her words were steeped in gratitude and love for our work.
Ambreen was very clear about what led to drastic improvements in her health; “This has happened only and only because of 3 main reasons - firstly, Luke Coutinho because his videos were always guiding me, secondly, Jayanand who helped me at a time when I felt stuck and thirdly but the most ‘important’ reason is TBOF and all the food I have been buying from you! Although I used to ardently follow Luke, I could not have afforded to sign into a program with him. But my calls with Jayanand gave me all the guidance I was looking for!”
She spoke of her husband’s struggle with acidity for many years. She had tried all sorts of home remedies - “Yoghurt and sugar, ajwain and all sorts of nuskhas as per my mother-in-law’s advice! But nothing worked for my husband. Then one day, he suggested that I should check with Jayanand for a solution.” Jayanand recommended trying the Mukhwaas after main meals. To the family’s sheer surprise within 2-3 days of using it after lunch and dinner, the acidity had vanished! “You won’t believe my husband’s reaction, he wanted me to buy 10 bottles to give to his siblings and other family members. He insisted, as he simply couldn't believe that he had recovered from this stubborn acidity that troubled him for so many years. We then purchased 8-9 bottles and gifted it to everyone in our extended family!” Ambreen narrated. I could feel her resounding joy as though we were sitting across a table!
As I spoke to Ambreen on the phone, I was left so amazed by how disconnected most people are from the ‘real power’ of good food. Looking back, it was a heavy realization for Ambreen on how much she forced her mind and body to endure foods that were unfamiliar, eating habits and fad diets that did not seem to work.
She also spoke about her Cholesterol levels having crossed the 300 mark when she went through her hypothyroid issues. Her doctor had advised to start medicines for Cholesterol. But she had decided to reverse this by making food and lifestyle changes. Today, her cholesterol has drastically reduced, something that she is so proud of!
All of us want good health for ourselves and our dear ones, obvious! We want to switch to organically, naturally grown food made in a conscious environment without nasty chemicals in them; but many a times this seems difficult. Sometimes we think such food is too expensive, sometimes we have very little access to directly buy from producers and have to go through middle men - there could be several reasons why people find it difficult to make the switch from commercially produced food in bulk that is available everywhere which works well in feeding the business owners and rarely the ones consuming the food!
"What is your message to everyone reading this who could be struggling with their health but feeling helpless", I asked. “I will begin by saying it is possible. Food can heal and bring us good health. For those who think it's way too expensive, I want to tell them to be wise when making their choices. Don't we spend Rs 2000 sometimes on just a single branded apparel? Why not spend that same money on 10 kgs of Atta? We should cut down on unnecessary expenses; that’s how I prioritize my expenses. And to all the women out there I want to say that its very important to take care of our own health! Many times, we find women prioritizing everything else above their own needs. I also feel that women should make decisions for their families; many times they are our “real influencers” at the household level! The entire family can be influenced and be inspired by them.”
Ambreen’s journey from the peak of hypothyroidism to where she is today hasn't been an easy one at all! But she never gave up and with gradual, consistent remedial action she pulled herself out of what seemed like a dark, dark phase of her life. She was inspired by her mentor, Jayanand’s story and this forayed a new friendship, helped her to seek continued nutrition-lifestyle education, and make a serious commitment to savoring the pleasures of food as well as its health benefits. She discarded all the non-stick utensils, replaced them with Iron kadhais. She stopped using plastic to store and serve food. All her plastic containers were replaced with glass and ceramics.
What I could also sense from my long discussion with Ambreen was how the sudden discovery of her health condition transformed her personality - She was always a fitness person. She walked for 7-8 kms every single day for 12 years! So when she found out about her health, she was really upset, almost devastated. She said, “I never thought I would have to deal with this. I lost all hope when the acidity took over my life! I never thought I could lead a normal life again. I also never believed that ‘food’ could help me with it! Memories from that time still scare me!” Ambreen’s account of her experiences is evidence of how profoundly hormonal disorders erode our true selves.
One of the real challenges that Ambreen faced was ‘uncertainty’, mostly from the abundance of choice and information overload she found on the Internet. In her personal experience she found this to be “very confusing”. During such a phase, she flipped her adversity on its head by seeking safety in human connection and guidance.
Within the realm of food, how often do we realize that eating is not just an act and that it does not work in isolation? When we sit down to a meal, we make choices that impact not just our health, but also the farmer, the soil, our water bodies, and governments! A seismic shift in how we approach food decisions, is the need of the hour.
We urge each one of you reading this to help spread awareness and lend support, whether that’s having a loving conversation with a friend who is dealing with a similar health condition or by just speaking up about your own experience. If you’re struggling right now, please know that you are NOT alone. Healing is possible, recovery can be your reality, do not lose hope and please know that everytime you eat, you have an opportunity to make things right!
Disclaimer: Ambreen Ladha has not received any gifts, rewards, discounts or benefits from TBOF for sharing this testimony and her experience. This is her 'real life story' and we present it to you for educational purposes, to inspire you to act and take charge of your health today. Ambreen can be directly contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org