East Meets West: Ayurveda & CBD

Episode 108

Dr. Harris is joined by Dr. Swathi Varanasi, a pharmacist and serial entrepreneur who was recently voted one of the top 50 most influential leaders in pharmacy in 2023. We discuss how she incorporates the principles of Ayurveda into her clinical practice, why continuing education is essential, and the innovative ways she mentors students about alternative careers. Finally, we discuss CBD and her company Element Apothec. It was a wonderful conversation full of take-home points to help you boost your health, EQ and IQ!

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Connect with Dr. Swathi


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Great Health and Wellness

Episode Transcript

Dr. Richard Harris MD  00:00

Today on the podcast, I am joined by Dr. Swathi. Varanasi, who is an East Meets West doctor. She grew up around aerobatic medicine if you don’t know what that is, that’s traditional Indian medicine. We’re going to talk about how she marries that with what she learned in allopathic or Western medicine. We’re also going to talk about CBD. She is someone who’s a big fan of CBD, you’re going to learn about the principles of Ayurveda. And you’re also going to learn about what she wants everyone to know about CBD. Are you ready to boost your health, EQ and IQ? Cue the music? Join me Dr. Richard Harris as we strive to unlock the secret to the human body. Strive for Wellness strive for great health. Follow the show on iTunes, Spotify, Google and Android. And now a word from our sponsors. Our sponsor is Nimbus healthcare, the company that I co founded personalized medicine personalized results, I’d Nimbus we don’t believe that there’s one size fits all when it comes to treatment. And the data is starting to show that there’s a large variety of how people respond to certain things. And we’re in the Age of Science where we can use things like genetic testing and biomarkers to truly customize a plan just for you. And that’s what we do at Nimbus healthcare. We are in the hair loss and the hormone space. And what we do is we use lifestyle medicine, supplements, and compounded prescription medication to tailor and individualize a plan just for you. If that sounds like something that you’re looking for, you can check out Nimbus healthcare.com. Or click the link in the show notes. One of the things I get asked all the time is Richard, how can I support the podcast and the best way that you can support what we do at the strive for great health podcast is to invest in your health, with our lifestyle medicine course. The course is essentially everything that I do for myself and my loved ones to keep us in optimal health. It covers nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, we also dive really heavily into mindset and do commitment into willpower, intentionality and habit change. This is something that has been life changing for me. And I really think if you want to support the podcast, the best way you can do so is invest in your health, or invest in the health of someone else around you. Through our lifestyle medicine course. It’s 4999. And as listeners of this podcast will give you 10% off using the code podcast before we dive in, in this episode of things I got wrong, I want to talk about nutrient depletion in foods. Now, I did some digging on this. And like before, I believed some people who I shouldn’t have just believed that didn’t do my own research. We talked about that and the things I got wrong episode. So doing my own research, I found that there is evidence that there is a slight depletion of certain nutrients and foods and not others. And when I looked at it, it was very slight to the fact that it’s not going to cause any kind of clinical or significant difference in fruits or vegetables. The main reason that we have significant nutrient deficiencies is one, only 14% of people in the US eat the recommended amount of fruit, only 10% Eat the recommended amount of vegetables. And then we have 65 or so percent of the total caloric intake for people are processed foods, which we know do not have the same nutrient density as Whole Foods. And then you throw in the fact that people are heavily medicated. There are several different medications which can deplete key nutrients. So added together, those three things are most likely the cause of the ramp and nutrient deficiencies that we see and not soil depletion and change of nutrient content in our food. Of course I’ll be on the lookout for more information in this area and I will bring it to you most likely through my Instagram channel. That’s where I talked about studies I read that’s also on YouTube shorts now. All right, let’s dive into this episode with Dr. Swathi. Welcome to strive for great health podcast with your host Dr. Richard Harris. And I have with me on the podcast a another integrative pharmacist like myself also an entrepreneur, like myself, I think she may be busier than I am which is saying something considering I’m all over the place. But I have Dr. SWATI Varanasi on the podcast with me or aka Dr. Swathi. If you have familiar with her work, she’s all over the place. It’s an honor to have you on the podcast today. How are you doing? Boy,

Dr. Swathi Varanasi  05:00

I’m great. Thank you so much for having me.

Dr. Richard Harris MD  05:04

Yeah, it’s a pleasure. And I think there are so many things that we could have talked about. But one of the things that I wanted to dive into was your journey, because you are traditional trained as a pharmacist, but you also incorporate the principles of aromatic or as some people may know it, Indian medicine. So how is it that you align that East Meets West philosophy? And is this something that was always there or just something that you kind of piecemeal together as you went along?

Dr. Swathi Varanasi  05:34

Yeah. So I grew up around herbs and Ayurveda. And it was just like the go to if something was going wrong, it’s like either, you know, do you want your Advil or this amazing alternative, but I kind of always saw them go hand in hand. And my dad was a supplement formulator and organic chemist by trade, so he was kind of on the pharma side, my mom was a nurse, so always around healthcare, and around this interplay of East Meets West, and all these different possibilities for healing health and wellness. So that’s initially how it started. And so I knew at a very young age that I wanted to do something in healthcare, to me, it was like one of the gold standard ways in my mind that I can help people and so I explored all the different possibilities and and landed on pharmacy because I loved the idea of seeing a pharmacist in the pharmacy setting, kind of straddling and, you know, standing between the supplements, which I viewed as like preventatives, and you know, way to optimize health, but also the curative side of the prescription. So, you know, went to pharmacy school, as we both know, there’s very much focus on the prescription side rather than the the supplement or preventative side. And so was striving to find my place in pharmacy the entire time I was there, I interned at startups did clinical research. And by the time I graduated, I was the only person who had never officially worked in a pharmacy because I was just trying on all these different things and started my colleges first volunteer program and did a lot of different things along the way to really try to see what I wanted to do full time. And I think through that, I realized that I never wanted to do just one thing. And I love so many different things. So but along that path I was on LinkedIn started networking early, which I tried to tell all my students that are all my mentees about the importance of networking. And that’s, of course, actually how we met was just through LinkedIn networking. And so I found an incredible mentor or someone who I was like, wow, she is doing exactly what I want to do, or what I thought I wanted to do at the time, which was being an integrative health pharmacist do one on one consultations with patients. And so I reached out to her and asked if there was a way that I could do an appy rotation with her. And she said, Yes, and so at the time, I was living in Charleston, South Carolina going to school and so I got on a plane and did a rotation with her in LA, and within a few days, had finally found where, you know, I felt like I fit within the pharmacy schema and so a few days in or it was almost a weekend, I asked you know, is there some way after graduation, I can come back and train with you and and what would that look like and, and just put myself out there and she was like, Well, I I love the idea of having a resident or an apprentice or something like that. But let’s continue the conversation. So we had the conversations evolve from there and and I after graduation decided to move to LA on a whim almost and a women of passion and a dream and was like okay, let’s let’s do this. And let’s figure out what it’s going to look like. So we decided to start the first ever and still only postdoctoral residency training program for pharmacists interested in pursuing this unconventional path. And so we built that together. So I got to help build that but also be the first resident and so I trained in an independent natural pharmacy as well as an integrative interdisciplinary clinic. And through that, I really learned that I love the macroscale education side, and I loved just finding voids or, or things that could be done better and finding solutions and being a problem solver. And a lot of that just led, like kind of led my way into entrepreneurship as well. Even from a young age anyone that any like teacher that would ask me, my go to answer was inventor, I don’t even know where I heard of that word. I don’t even know if it is a word. But that’s just something I always said because I was always trying to figure out, you know, what I could do to make an impact in the space of through, you know, through being a healthcare professional, I saw that as a way to make an impact and now their entrepreneurship. I also see that as another avenue and really the way that they can be a marriage, being a healthcare professional and an entrepreneur, which what do you know very well as well. So yeah, so that’s a little bit about my background and really my passion for education. and also the importance of being a healthcare professional in the field that, you know, integrative health can be so polarizing sometimes. And I find that very frustrating because as a conventionally trained pharmacist, I see the value and place in therapy for prescription medications and, and procedures and surgeries, and all of those things. And I think that for a lot of people, that’s the right path. But at the same time, I think that there are a lot of other things that we can do in our daily living, whether it’s optimizing our health and wellness through, you know, supplements, nutrition, movement, mindfulness, and all those things and how we can pare that whether it’s as a compliment, or, you know, as an adjunct, or instead of conventional medication, but I think at the end of the day, it comes down to the patient, and what the patient wants. So a term that I learned from my mentor, Dr. Pam Charlo, who I trained with who’s incredible, and just a wealth of information, she always said patient centered, shared decision making. And that’s everything, all the decisions I make, as a healthcare professional, as a pharmacist as an entrepreneur, I feel like come back to that. What is the patient want? Or I guess it’s an entrepreneur, you know, what does the consumer want? And at the end of the day, how can we help them reach their treatment goals, through strategies and through, you know, research through clinical expertise through all these things that we can bring to the table.

Dr. Richard Harris MD  11:26

Now, there’s so much synergy there with your story and my story, unfortunately, I didn’t grow up with very healthy parents, but it was their disease that made me think differently. And I said, Well, if I do what they do, I’m gonna end up like them, and I don’t want to end up like them. And that’s what brought me into the holistic side of medicine. Like you, I think that healthcare people get so pigeon holed into thinking that, Oh, I’m just supposed to do this. I’m supposed to go to residency, I’m supposed to get a job like that does this and I’m supposed to do this. And my philosophy was, well, why? Why does it have to be that way? I always question everything. And like you, I put myself out there, if I wanted to do something, and there was no path, I created the path. And I made a way and I found people that would help me along the way. And I think that’s very important for all healthcare professionals, especially in this day and age is that there is a path for all of us. And it doesn’t necessarily always have to be the traditional path. And like you mentioned, it, there is so much polarization with integrative health, and I think we’ve done part of that. And then people’s mentality is all or nothing, right? And like you mentioned, there’s a role for everything, right? If I’m in the hospital, and I’m septic, I’m not looking to take like garlic, or Berberine, or some other antimicrobial herbs, right? I want antibiotics to save my life. Right? If I have a ruptured appendix, I’m going to want surgery to get that out of there before becomes necrotic and septic inputs, my life in danger, right. So there is a role for each of it. And what you mentioned with the patient shared decision making is so important. I give people options. I feel like my job as a physician, is to give you all of your options, give you the risks, give you the benefits, and let you decide if you decide you’d rather take a statin than work on your diet, okay, like, I need to do something for you to help you. And that’s okay, here’s your statin. But at the same time, I’m still going to place the seeds. If you’d rather work on your diet and exercise first. Cool, let’s see what we can do there. And then if we need maybe a low dose of something, maybe it’s a supplement, maybe it’s a statin, two times a week, three times a week, maybe it doesn’t necessarily have to be every day, then we do that. And I think that’s the approach that we need to take. And we’re going to talk about what you’re doing on the macro side with your learning and your education, because that’s so important. But I want to go back to aerobatic medicine, because I believe in looking at different cultures and the way they think about things and the way they tackle problems and the mindset behind it. So what are three principles from Ayurveda that we can start doing today to improve our overall health?

Dr. Swathi Varanasi  14:22

Oh my gosh, there’s so many things. So I would say like one of the principles is and comes back to this idea of this Mind Body Soul spirit connection. And so you know, what you’re eating your movement whenever you’re doing throughout the day, and how it’s not just you know, eating as a separate thing from movement and how all these things are interwoven. And interlaced in a beautiful way that really helped create who you are and how you come up to the world. So I really love that and I think that’s one of the first things that really resonated with me about iron Veda is like also just, you know, whenever I would get sick at home, my mom would make this incredible like lentil forage with rice. But she always said that certain spices would help with immunity because that’s what she grew up saying, and you know that that’s what she was given as a child and now having it come full circle and you know, being so interested in sharing evidence based information, I was like, well, so what’s the actual research behind it and things like black pepper has incredible research behind them, supporting immunity, anti microbial health, all of these things. And so a lot of what I grew up with and heard over the years now, I actually know the research and 100% makes sense from like a science standpoint. So seeing those two come to come together is is really amazing. So that’s, that’s one of the things I’m also just there’s so many different elements within the IRB, they like lifestyle, or, you know, choices that are really important. So there’s something called dosha cons, and there are three different doshas, and you can see an Ayurvedic practitioner or there are some, you know, really kind of short and simple quizzes online, so you can get an idea of what your specific dosha is, but it’s your, your body composition. And so based on your body composition, you can figure out, you know, certain foods might suit you better, maybe if you tend to run cold or if you’re vodka for example, like your main elements are air in space, or you’re in space, the same thing, our our space that that’s like the most important thing is that you know, your your you tend to run cold is one of those parts. So maybe, you know, eating a salad for lunch every day maybe is not the right thing for you, maybe you eat a salad, but you top it with something warm, like a warm group vegetable, or something like that, to help you get more grounded and help balance out your initial or your you know, primordial body composition with, you know, something else that you can help through nutrition, through movement through mindfulness and bring that all together as well. So I really liked that idea of balance. And I think that that’s something that we lose out a lot on in what we do in our daily life with the standard American diet and our sedentary lifestyle with work. And I mean, I’m sitting right now, you know, such as life sometimes. And so being able to cultivate that balanced, but it’s also balanced in accordance with like, a new way of looking at personalized medicine they see new way, because it’s something that’s very trendy right now is personalized medicine. But it’s something that Irv that has been talking about forever and really cold and really creating this treatment plan for each person, and how for each person, it’s going to look very different based on a lot of different components, from lifestyle, to nutrition, and everything in between. So that’s really important. And then there are a lot of different strategies to within, you know, finding out your body composition, whether it’s working with an Ayurvedic practitioner, delving into some online learning, there’s a lot of really great YouTube videos from from experts in the field like Dr. Deepak Chopra, and people like him who are providing really incredible insight that’s all evidence based or evidence informed. And so one of the things that I really love to talk about with iron Veda is like the idea of drinking water and what that means and health and using water is like an element of flow. So I really love that. And also, the fact that, you know, there’s such, like, it’s such a mainstay that if you go to a restaurant or anything, or even if you ask for a cup of water anywhere you go, that they automatically put ice in it. And that ice really can be a shock to the system, if you think about it, because our bodies run at, you know, 98 degrees and fair, in fact, that is and so if we run, you know, that warm, then like shocking our system, every time we drink water maybe is not the right option. So let’s maybe pick a temperature of water that’s room temperature, maybe a little bit warm to that thing that can really harmonize with your current body temperature. So it’s a lot of like little like tips and tricks like that. There’s also different elements of like, you know, when you’re eating and nutrition, the idea of eating only up to 80% full, because that allows for your digestive tract to function in the right way. And again, provide that element of space and balance. So that there is space for your Yeah, there are a lot of fancy terms for it but for your you know, GI tract to function optimally and really helped push the push the food or anything that you ate and drinks through in an effective way.

Dr. Richard Harris MD  19:29

There is so much there. And I was taking notes the entire time. But the mind body soul connection is very important and realizing how things that you do affect each, right and you really need all three to be in alignment. Because if one of them is moving in a different direction than the other, you’re going to feel it and it may not be something that you feel like someone slapped you in the face. It may be a gentle disease. Something just doesn’t feel right. I don’t feel sick. Don’t feel balanced. And most of us just kind of continue along with that, where what I do is I have audits. Whenever I start to feel that way, I audit myself and say, Okay, what am I doing different? Did I stop doing something? Did I start doing something different that I stopped eating? Did I change my workouts? Like what am I doing? That’s different, because I have a plan. And so I know once I go back and think I know what that plan is, and I can quickly diagnose Oh, this is what I started doing. Maybe this and then change and then go from there. The grandma knowledge, so one of my favorite authors, Nassim Taleb, Nicolas Nassim Taleb, he talks about grandma knowledge and how grandma knowledge is robust, meaning that knowledge that we’ve passed down for human time, it stands the test of time, and it stands the ultimate test because it works. We don’t pass down knowledge from our ancestors, that didn’t work, because if it didn’t work, they died until they couldn’t pass down that knowledge. And so it’s really interesting to see some of these quote unquote, old wives tales that actually have scientific research now behind them that prove that grandma was right that people were right before they even knew that. Why before they knew the biochemical mechanisms, but it’s that grandma knowledge, it’s that robust knowledge, the eat until you’re 80% Full that mantra is in so many different societies, in the Japanese call it Hara. hachi, bu. And sorry, if I mispronounced that I’m not a pronunciation expert. But it’s one of those things, again, that’s robust. It’s been passed down through the societies for a long time. And then you look at rates of obesity and chronic disease in societies that follow this, and they’re much lower than they are here. And portion sizes are lower, and people consume less, but they still feel full and happy and vibrant. The whole water thing, I love water. And one of my favorite quotes around that is from Bruce Lee. Right, Bruce Lee said, be like water. You know, water is shapeless and formless. When you pour it into a cup, it becomes a cup, when you pour it into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. And I think that’s so profound, being able to adjust and adapt to what’s around you, but still being you. Right, having the strength to take whatever is thrown at you. Be in it, but not have it. Right. And I think that’s so important. And you know, one of the things that simple intervention is drink more water, most people don’t drink enough water. Right, I have my nice little cup right here. Shout out to my friend Brian, with his leverage community, I’ve got a nice little leverage cup here. But I always have water near me, I’m always making sure I intake enough water. And I tried to think about the nourishment that my body is providing and be grateful that I have access to good clean drinking water when I do it to kind of be a Zen and peaceful moment and not take for granted something that most people take for granted. Okay, we’ve talked about this all day. But let’s, let’s move on to something that you mentioned that when we talked offline, and that you mentioned here, and that is your student mentorship. I think this is incredible. Because it’s something that I’m passionate about talking to students about, I feel like people didn’t give me the real real when I was coming through pharmacy school in medical school when I was so angry, like, why didn’t you people tell me this stuff? But why is student mentorship necessary to plug the gaps in health care education? And that might be a shocker to people because most people don’t know that there are massive gaps in health care education.

Dr. Swathi Varanasi  23:51

Yeah, I mean, I think that education, to me is like one of the most important things and, and part of that is student education and mentorship. And I think also, sometimes we put education in a box, like education is only, you know, at a university or at a college and a post grad degree. And I think that a lot during COVID. And with this, you know, idea of online courses and things like that. It’s amazing now that this idea of education and the narrative around education has really changed. And that, you know, so many people can be experts, and some people can share their knowledge. That’s like a side note. But I do think that mentorship is like one of the the most important things for a lot of students to realize some opportunities that they might not have known about otherwise. And I think that like it’s something that I reflect on often is like, what if, when I was in pharmacy school, someone came who was in a very, you know, unconventional, different field and just gave a talk and I can think about some of the professionals that came to give a talk just like it was yesterday with, you know, people who came to share their experience and how impactful that was. So a lot of what I tried to do now is read realize like how fortunate I am and the mentors and people that I’ve sought out along the way, but understand that a lot of people are, you know, nervous or, or they’re, like, apprehensive about putting themselves out there. And so maybe I need to be one of those voices where I can go to them, and I can help them see that, you know, maybe you’re not happy right now in pharmacy school, because you feel like you the only options you have are, you know, working in a hospital and working in a pharmacy, and I want to show you that I know tons of people that are doing then absolutely love it. But that might not be for you. And that there are other things that you could potentially do to make an impact. And that’s something also I wish as a health care professional, they talked about more is this idea of transferable skills, and that so much of what we do on the daily as a healthcare professional comes back to you know, time management, organization skills, communication skills, all of these things that are so vital in nearly every single career path. And we just don’t talk about them enough. And so I think that we opened up this dialogue a little bit more and especially having, you know, platforms like this and you know, posting on social media about different things, it’s really important and and so, when I was, you know, off on my entrepreneurship journey, I knew that one of the things I wanted to do was provide this opportunity for students to learn even when they’re a student, not wait till residency, not wait till after and then realize that, Oh, I wish I had done XYZ things to prepare myself for the you know, the quote, unquote, real world. And so, as an entrepreneur, I started a CBD wellness brand, with two incredible co founders. And part of what I do at the company is like head all things products or products, you know, the tangible products, services, and part of the services really being around education. And so I’m focusing on consumer education, provider education, and also having an arm for student education. And so within the student education, you know, arm a lot of what I do is head up an internship program. So I have an internship program for doctors, pharmacy students, Doctor of Medicine students, nutritionist students, I’ve, I’ve since opened it up even to undergraduate students who have shown passion and interest and want to make a difference in the natural product space. And so I actually just yesterday sent an agreement to our first ever research and development intern. And I’m so excited about working with her and she’s a biology student. And so she’s really interested to see how she can get into product formulation and wants to see it from the inside and see if it’s something that she wants to do. So she’ll be attending our product development meetings, or medical advisory board meetings, helping me with primary literature reviews on you know, whether certain ingredients are the right choice, and she wouldn’t have had that opportunity otherwise, potentially at another company, especially not incorporating CBD, they’re really not that many internship programs in CBD. And so that was really important to me to be able to provide that, that insight, an opportunity for students. And then the other internship program now that I’ve had for almost two years, with various cohorts of students that started off with Doctor pharmacy students, because that was my initial network, and then it’s grown since then, we have a scientific communications internship program. And that’s really to help, again, provide this, you know, I into other opportunities within being a healthcare professional, but also really helped sharpen medical writing skills. And that’s something that I wish that I had done more in, in pharmacy school and start to figure out, you know, how to get by lines. And, you know, and and see these other ways of maybe it’s not something you do full time, maybe it’s something you do on the side, and this idea that we don’t have to only do one thing, and that maybe we can pursue these other things that we’re interested in. And I mean, that’s also something I would love to change the narrative around to is that pursuing things on the side, doesn’t mean you have to make like, oodles of money from it. It could just be something that you like love to do as a hobby you do on the side, you do to give back you do for you know, whatever reason that lights you up, but I think there’s maybe since COVID, I don’t know, but there’s this idea that your side hustle needs to become your full time hustle, or your side hustle needs to like be super lucrative. And I don’t really think that’s the case. I think that we can do things that make us happy and do things Forex, you know, a lot of different reasons, and they don’t have to be financial.

Dr. Richard Harris MD  29:25

Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree with that. I think, you know, here in America, we’re very money driven. And so people are like, Well, why are you doing that for doesn’t make any money? Well, money is one benefit. You have to zoom out and take a look at the other benefits that you get from it. Are you feeling better when you do it? Are you helping someone? are you contributing meaningfully to society? I mean, there’s so many other benefits and really, if you keep doing it, you will make money. If you do the right thing, if you work hard, if you enjoy If you add value, you will make money. It just happens right? Now, some other key principles here, I love working on medical writing skills. I think one of the big problems that most conventional schools have now is that they don’t realize that most of what you tell someone in the office, they forget. People don’t bring notes, they don’t bring recorders, you’re giving very complex information. And nobody’s going to remember it, they just don’t. And so we need to get to a point where we’re able to give people information on the spot related to what’s going on. And the information now that are is given is garbage. It’s just not relatable to people. It’s not specific, it’s not, this is not where it needs to be. So being able to translate all that information in a way that people can come back and read is very important. I think this is a really good area for AI to do some of this stuff, for to offload some of that the doctors just will say, kind of the specific information for the person, the AI will take it and then just spit it out for that person going into the portal, blah, blah, it’s a conversation for another day. The transferable skills is huge. There, you learn so much in school that you don’t realize that you learn you have so many more skills than you realize that you have. And I remember I was at an interview for something, I think it was a consulting job. And they asked, well, I don’t see any leadership experience on your resume. And I go, What do you mean, at the time I hadn’t done, you know, much in the way of post professional leadership, they go, What do you mean, don’t have any leadership? They don’t see it. So I said, Well, I was in residency, I lead teams. As I it’s leadership when you’re the head and you run to a code, and there’s 10 people there, waiting for your instructions. And I’m leading a team to literally save somebody’s life. It doesn’t get much more stressful than that. The stakes don’t get higher than that. So I don’t know what you mean that I don’t have any leadership experience. And the guy was like, blown away. Right? It’s just that, you know, a lot of us we don’t realize that that’s leadership experience. And that’s translatable. And those are the things that you should put on your resume. Now, let’s talk about CBD. I’m a huge advocate for CBD. I take CBD. It’s been game changing for me for sleep. I’m a chronic pain sufferer, I’ve been a chronic pain sufferer since I was a teenager. It has been game changing from my pain, nine out of 10 pain levels most days and before. Now with that and some other behaviors I’ve talked about in the podcast, I’m a one to two out of 10 most days. So you’re talking about dramatic improvements in life to being severe pain to almost completely pain free most days. You’re doing some really cool stuff in the area of CBD. There’s a lot of really bad things going on in the area of CBD as well. But what are three things that you want people to know about CBD?

Dr. Swathi Varanasi  33:16

Wow, I mean, there’s so many things I want people to know. So I guess the first thing is like, let’s talk about the mechanism of action and why CBD could be awesome for so many ailments. So CBD at the end of the day is an incredible antioxidant. And it really helps promote a healthy response to inflammation. And I’ve changed the way that I’ve sent that over the years because there’s this idea within like, you know, fads and media talking about it being an anti inflammatory and at the end of the day, we don’t want anything that’s an anti inflammatory because we want a healthy immune response and we want to help the inflammatory response but we don’t want no inflammation because that could just be you know, a problem in and of itself. So and then that’s, that’s something I’ve changed you know, over the years and saying, but um, yeah, so CBD is is all of those things. It’s incredible for so many different ailments, and that’s really because it works with the endocannabinoid system. And so your body, every single human body and like mammals, all the bodies, right, we all we have an endocannabinoid system. And so this endocannabinoid system has a vast array of receptors on the two receptors we know the most about are the CB one and CB two receptors. So the CB one receptor is found you know, most predominantly in the nervous system, spinal cord in the brain. And then the CB two receptors found a little more vastly throughout a lot of different organs. And, you know, that’s one of the reasons why the endocannabinoid system is so interwoven and has this indirect or direct effect on a lot of different organ systems and processes and neurotransmitters in the body is really because it has receptors in so many different parts of the body. It’s not just concentrated in one place, and the overarching goal of the endocannabinoid system is to promote this idea of that balance or homeostasis, kind of like what I was talking about with iron VEDA, this idea of balance and the importance of it. And so you know, incorporating cannabinoids is a way to help balance out your system, promote homeostasis in the body. So that’s a part of it and there’s something called endocannabinoid tone where endocannabinoid tone really means. What’s the overall functionality of your endocannabinoid system? Is it working for you? Is it working against you? And how can we not only target the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoids but one of my favorite topics ever is the idea of kinaba mimetics. And it’s all these other you know, substances movement, mindfulness, all these things that impact the endocannabinoid system and really help to bolster this endocannabinoid tone. So things like for example, like exercise, people talk about exercise all the time, and its relationship with endorphins, which, you know, has fully been, you know, researched and all of that, but if we actually look back at the research on endorphins, and we look at the biochemical cascade, very early on in the biochemical cascade, is actually anandamide And Ananda. Mine is an endocannabinoid. So that’s a cannabinoid that we create in our body. And it’s very similar enough we think of like an analogy to the way that THC works and it binds to that CB one receptor that provides you you know, those, you know, feelings of euphoria or feeling highs from the THC compound. And so CHC Of course, being very different from CBD, them being very different compounds both found naturally occurring in the cannabis plant, and anandamide also vice to binds to the CB one receptor after exercise or after movement after mindfulness. And that’s why you get this runner’s high and everyone talks about a runner’s high and its relationship with endorphins, which in all reality is true. But if you look earlier in the cascade, it’s actually more directly attributed to this increase in Ananda mine. So we should say like, oh my gosh, this release of endocannabinoids versus release of endorphins, so like, things like that, like I love busting myths about that, and, and how the root of so many diseases these days is inflammation. So much research is coming out about different disease states, whether we’re talking about chronic disease states like diabetes, or we’re talking about mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, and really having this direct relationship with so many inflammatory markers and this idea of chronic inflammation. If we help get the body into balance through this endocannabinoid tone, really optimizing our endocannabinoid system, then a lot of what we’re looking at with this chronic inflammation can be ameliorated or at least improved a little bit. So that’s why I think the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoids can be incredible for so many different possible disease states. And that’s why we see so much research coming out and research that has been published in the way that we can use the endocannabinoid system to our benefit. So that’s you know, like one thing but like many things also about the endocannabinoid system, and why think CBD is incredible. The other thing that I think is really important, you mentioned yesterday, you mentioned three but the other top thing to me is that I think CBD is great. However, I don’t think CBD is a panacea, and I don’t think CBD is safe for everyone. And I think that’s a big misconception and a really problematic one within the CBD space. And within, you know, just the natural product space in general is that, oh, it’s natural. So because it’s natural, it’s safe. And it’s like, I mean, there are a lot of mushrooms that are natural, that are poisonous, there’s, you know, cyanide, there’s a lot of things that are fully natural, that are not safe. And so I, that immediate relationship between Oh, it’s natural, and it’s safe, I think can put people in a lot of problematic scenarios, because what people don’t realize is that CBD is a compound, you know, it interacts with not only the endocannabinoid system, but other what are called non cannabinoid receptors. And so because of the way it’s metabolized, or you know, broken down in the body, it’s broken down by the SIP 450 system. And in particular, you know, 342, C 19, two C nine, and there are a lot of drugs and supplements that are also metabolized by the same exact enzyme. So inevitably, there could be potential drug interactions, and there are some, you know, red flag drugs for me, if I see them come across a patient’s profile automatically, I will say absolutely no, no, no cannabinoids in general for them, because it’s just the safety and then looking at the benefit of the risk. And as a pharmacist, so much of what I do comes down to looking at this ratio or, or the scale of benefit versus risk. And if the risk outweighs the benefit to me, it’s an automatic No. And for scenarios like that, where if people are on warfarin, for example, if someone comes to me and this happened many times when I worked in the pharmacy or in the clinic setting people would say, oh, you know, I’m on warfarin, but I’m really interested in CBD for sleep. I would say I can then more other herbs that would be awesome for sleep. But I’m not going to recommend cannabinoids for you. So it’s like this idea. And this like this myth that I think is so important to bas that just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. But at the same time cannabinoids can be beneficial for a lot of people, we just, it really comes down to the patient. And it comes down to their whole holistic view and their lifestyle and inclusive of their their drugs that they’re taking.

Dr. Richard Harris MD  40:28

There you sound like me on repeat here. So that’s awesome. I always tell people when they asked me what is CBD do I say it’s balance. And people understand that they understand that. Okay, there are agents that help us with whatever situations that we’re going through to try to bring us back to center. I love things like that, which is why CBD is one of my favorites. Adaptogens I really love adaptogens ashwagandha. I take ashwagandha every single day. Amazing. I also love the balance between homeostasis and hormesis. Right. So hormetic stressors we’ve talked about this before are things that help us become more resilient. And then they help improve basically where our homeostasis is me. So think about being able to balance on one leg versus balance on four legs, right? It’s a lot easier to balance on four legs, not much is gonna knock you over on one leg, everything can knock you over. So the homeostasis is how many legs you have the hormesis is adding more legs through work, it will be the carpenter putting more legs on the legs. So I think it’s important for people to understand that is that you can do things to improve your resilience and where your body’s balance is. And so agents that work on these are my favorites. So you know exercise you mentioned. Sauna use, right? Doing the hard thing doing challenging things, fasting, periodic cold and heat exposure. Because people are like, Well, how do these things do so many different things people are talking about for this and for that. And for this and that I’m like because these agents really help our overall systems align and work together. I think it’s really important what you mentioned about CBD and drug interactions, people have to be very careful with that. Because of the the mechanism that you talked about it, it can increase drug concentrations, and some drugs have what we call a very narrow therapeutic window. So they can get from safe to toxic very quickly, Warfarin being one of them that can go from safe to life threatening very quickly, depending on the dosage range and levels. So it is one thing that I think that people, if you have conditions, you need to work with someone who knows it. If you don’t have medical conditions, you’re young, you’re healthy, maybe you’re using it to help with recovery or performance, I used it initially to help with recovery, I was trying to pull a 600 pound deadlift. So I really wanted to make sure my body was resting. And my my sympathetic nervous system was calming down at night. And it definitely helped with that. And then I found these other benefits when I started taking it. But again, it’s like you mentioned, there’s risks. And there’s benefits to every single supplement. And we have to be careful not just think because it’s a supplement, it’s safe. And that we also have to be careful that the results that someone else got was some supplement is not the results that you’re gonna get. Yeah, because it might not be the right supplement for you, your biology, your genetics, your situation, all of that. So it’s really important to work with someone I think pharmacists should be the ones who lead this conversation in the future, because more people are asking about natural alternatives, right? And physicians are saying, Oh, well, it’s all garbage, most of them. And that’s not the case, there are randomized controlled trials with lots of the things that we we use that we’ve talked about. Even on the show there’s randomized controlled trials with Berberine has randomized controlled trials with CBD this randomized controlled, there’s tons of randomized controlled trials with ashwagandha. Right? So I really love what you’re doing and how you’re helping pharmacists be the leaders in this conversation, because it’s a conversation that people want, and it’s a conversation that’s necessary. So thank you for everything that you’re doing.

Dr. Swathi Varanasi  44:29

Absolutely. And I would say a lot of like when I do I’m, I’m lucky to do it because patients are asking, and, you know, the healthcare professionals that have been reaching out over the years, a lot of them are emailing me asking like, Oh, I found you on XYZ, you know, like podcasts or, or LinkedIn or something. But at the end of the day, the reason they’re reaching out is because they want to be able to answer these questions for patients. And so it’s been incredible for me to see this like evolution of you know, realizing that it It’s not being taught in healthcare professional curriculum, and people have to seek out this information but that there are so many healthcare professionals that are realizing you know, whether they’re pharmacists working in the pharmacy, or they’re, you know, physicians working in the hospital reaching out being like, my patients are asking questions, and I want to be a resource to them. And I also want to understand for my edification, why under some people are asking about it at this point. So, you know, I think that there is such a shift now and more people than ever are interested in, whether it’s on the patient side or the provider side, about these other options that can really help them help their loved ones and help their patients.

Dr. Richard Harris MD  45:41

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for your time, taking time out of your busy schedule today to be on our show that people want to find out more about you your mentorship, your CBD line, or just all of the million different interesting things that you do. Where did they go to find out that information?

Dr. Swathi Varanasi  45:58

Yeah, definitely. please connect with me on LinkedIn, let’s chat. I would love to, you know, learn more about who your listeners are and and how I can help anyone. Um, so that would be one great way. And also, please check out my brand. It’s element Apothic, I can leave the information for this.

Dr. Richard Harris MD  46:15

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining the show today. It was incredible. We could probably go on for hours talking about this kind of stuff. But I really appreciate you your time, your dedication, I always say I’m a pharmacist first. And I really love it when pharmacists are doing innovative things not only for themselves, but for patients and really pushing the profession of pharmacy forward to where it should be. So thank you to all my listeners. Thank you for listening to strive for great health podcast with your host Dr. Richard Harris. Have a blessed day. Thank you for listening to strive for great health podcast with your host Dr. Richard Harris. It’s our mission and goal at the podcast to impact as many lives as possible to empower individuals to take control of their health, and live a life full of joy and purpose. You may help us achieve this mission by leaving a five star rating and review on your preferred podcast platform. And by sharing this podcast with anyone you think it may help. If you want to support the podcast, the best way is to invest in your health or invest in someone else’s health through our five pillars of great health lifestyle medicine course. A link to that courses in the show notes. Thank you for listening, and God bless

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