By Rajan Narayan

I AM glad that Anant Ambani and his parents Nita and Mukesh Ambani have been so open about their younger son’s health problem with his overweight. All the 12,000 invitees at the Radhika-Anant Ambani pre-wedding celebrations in Jamnagar over three days have also been very understanding. It is clear to us that Anant Ambani has a weight problem. This is not because Anant has been dining on hamburgers like American kids do.
Anant himself confided that from childhood he has suffered from asthma attacks. Doctors naturally pumped him with steroids. Steroids are wonder drugs of our times. They give you instant relief. Many asthma patients have a steroid pump inhaler with them at all times. It hits the lungs directly. Doctors who pump steroids into patients think only about providing immediate relief. They don’t think about briefing you about the long-term consequences of what inhaling steroids will do you or its side-effects.
As a patient and a victim of steroids myself I consider myself an authority on what steroids do you. I have painfully experienced the effect of a long-term overdose of steroids. I was on 80 to 100 mg of Wysolone a popular steroid for almost five years from 1989 to 1994. I was put on a high dose of steroids after I was beaten up by iron rods by political goons while I was editor of the OHeraldo. At the GMC I was pumped with steroids by HOD of Medicine Dr MGK Sharma. Those days were my VIP days and perhaps Dr Sharma wanted to make his patient happy by overdosing me with steroids to ease the excruciating pain I was in.
I was suffering from very acute pain after I was beaten on the spine by hired goons in 1989. Even as I continued to work the side-effects of the steroids started manifesting. The first symptom was your face filling up and becoming a moon face, typical of patients overdosed on steroids. Steroids make the body retain water and this leads to a huge gain in weight.
When I started experiencing the side effects of steroids, the late Dr Wilfred D’Souza along with Dr Prato Barbosa have come to see me at the GMC in 1989. Dr Wilfred D’Douza insisted that I should move to Mumbai. Dr Willy understood what was happening to me. My friend Dattaraj Salgaocar who was present when they came made arrangements for me to be transferred to Mumbai by air to the Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai.

DR SHARMA panicked. He abruptly withdrew my steroids. Steroids should be taken off slowly and never withdrawn abruptly. I went into a coma. I was taken on a stretcher to the airport where I was accommodated on the floor of the airplane. The good Fr Oscar Quadros came with me. Once in Mumbai I was taken to the Jaslok Hospital where arrangements had been made for me. Alas, here I later learned that Dr Sharma’s discharge paper notes had thoroughly complicated my case. My discharge papers said that I was suffering from polymyositis.
This was differential diagnosis, when there’s no agreement amongst doctors. A patient does not require steroids if suffering from urethritis. Steroids are mandated if you have polymyositis. Which means the weakening of the muscles. Steroids damage the bones. Due to water retention, my weight steadily gained up to as much as 180 kilos when I was bulky and could barely walk.
It was a dead loss case for the next five years as I went from hospital to hospital trying to get a correct diagnosis for what was making a mess of my body. Over ten years I’ve been to the Bombay Hospital, the Christian Medical College Hospital in Vellore. I went to the All India Institute of Medical Science in New Delhi. I even went to London to the National Hospital. National Hospital is considered the top facility for neurological problems.
All medical advised me to cut my steroids. But when I tippled below 50 mg all my aches and pains came returned with vengeance. My eyesight got affected as glaucoma built up, I was virtually sightless and managed with a variety of magnifying glasses including a sheet magnifying glass for weeks and months, writing my edits for the paper. I went to the Shankar Hospital at Maduri where the doctor they could not operate on my eyes as long as I was on steroids.
Defeated and on my way back to Goa at the Bangalore airport I fell down and suffered some multiple fractures. A friend recognized me and took me to the Mallaya Hospital in Bengaluru. Here the young endocrinologist Dr S Srikanta had just come back from the United States and he happened to see me, though he was not involved in my treatment. Dr Srikanta insisted that I was suffering from Addison’s disease. It is a disease caused when drugs interfere and your adrenal glands do not produce hormones for you to be normal. Ironically, it’s said to be a disease caused by doctors. A health condition created by use and abuse of steroids.
Dr Srikanta told me that I had no option but to detox myself from the steroids on which I was very dependent. I protested as several doctors in Goa warned me that I would die within a month if I stopped taking steroids. Dr Srikanta told me if I continue taking steroids I will die faster. He said he would take four to six months to de-tox me off steroids.

IT was challenge for him and me to be rid of f steroids. I returned to Goa to take a decision, consulted my doctor friends. I had a grand party on my birthday in my servant’s quarters basement flat where I was living as the editor of the OHeraldo in Dona Paula. I then decided to go back to Mallaya hospital to take up Dr Srikanta’s offer to detox me of steroids. I did not think I would ever return. So I gave away most of my books, my collection of over 200 Ganesh statues of silver, gold, ivory and I do not even recollect who took them away.
I could spend only four months at Mallaya hospital in now what is Bengaluru. It was a real experience. Over the days as the doctor weaned me away from steroids with small and large doses my weight came down from 180 kg to 35kg in four months. I was detoxed from steroids at the end and when I returned to Goa my friend Ashraf who took care of me could carry me in his hands like a baby.
It took me some time to recover. I was detoxed from steroids and never ever wanted to touch them ever again. There was of course the collateral damage as it is called and that was my digestive system which collapsed. Dr Srikanta said for that I would have to find another doctor, a gastroenterologist in Goa.
Before all this during my steroids days I used to eat very little for I tried my best to lose weight. It is not possible to lose weight if you’re on steroids, you have to be detoxed by a good and experienced doctor. I come to the case of Anant Ambani, it is on record his weight had gone up to 160 kg and it got blown down to 105 kg due to strict dieting. This was like an earlier episode of being overweight in an extended family.
If I recall right the other brother of Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, too had a serious weight problem. The story goes that when Anil Ambani had gone abroad his foreign partners refused to do a deal with him. Anil asked them whether there is a problem with Reliance. They told him that they were very happy with the balance sheet of Reliance. They were not happy with his balance sheet. They pointed out that he had a major weight problem. So back home Anil consulted all the weight loss experts. He did not have much luck.
Then somebody introduced him to the late alternate medicine therapist Dr Vijaya Venkat. She had a fantastic record with diets she put her patients on to lose weight the right way. Vijaya also provided a tiffin service to her patients and clients. It worked very well to prove her theories were right, it is all about eating right. Reportedly, a hungry Anil would call her up in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning to complain he was dying of hunger. She would tell him to drink water and go to sleep.
But over a few months Anil Ambani lost over 30 kg and also he took to walking, running, jogging, participating in marathons. He would run from his residence in Cuffe Parade to the airport 40 km away every morning. Anil Ambani became the fittest Ambani and he is still the fittest, some say.

YOU have to beware or be wary of doctors if you are rich. To make a patient and his parents happy doctors would go to any extent to please. As perhaps it is in the case of Anant Ambani who has a thyroid problem. Weight gain is because of hyperthyroidism. The thyroid glands generate natural steroids. If they are overactive too much steroids are generated. This causes weight gain. Admittedly, asthma too is a health problem. Asthma is a respiratory disease. There are other options for treating asthma.
Asthma sufferers benefit with a change in climate, they do better in a drier climate, perhaps the kind to be found in Jamnagar in Gujarat. I am not surprise he loves Jamnagar where he has founded an elephant hospital, the first of its kind in the world perhaps. He is young and perhaps there will be better ways to treat his asthma and whatever else contributing to his weight gain. Is he still on steroids, I do not know. I would personally consult advise him to consult Dr Zarir Udwadia, the best expert for respiratory conditions in the country. You will find him at the Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai.
I believe that Anant Ambani can be free from steroids. That both his thyroid and asthma problems can be solved. It is very brave of him try to live a normal life despite the health issues bogging him down. His long-time fiancée Radhika Merchant is very supportive of him and so are his parents. Don’t be dependent on steroids for too long Anant, in the long run steroids will take a toll on your body – as I found out for myself too late in life.


And why we should be wary of them if prescribed for more than a few weeks ….

By Pankajbala R Narayan

MOST doctors of the mainstream Allopathy medical school think of steroids as the wonder drugs, miracle drugs! Doctors swear by their efficacy in bringing relief to patients in an emergency situation…but we know that Allopathy has been increasingly sustained by a plethora of natural first and now increasingly engineered in a laboratory synthetic drugs, new and newer and smart drugs; even drugs are being replaced by vaccines now.
Never mind that the vocabulary of drugs and they’re mostly synthetic, address or redress cellular functioning and molecular pathways of original body beautiful and they in short can dramatically alter your biological functioning for the better or for the worse over time. We must know that all drugs work on the principle of diminishing returns, remember that. If you carry on with them ad infinitum you will pay price for it one way or another. Yes, drugs do take a toll of the kidneys first, affect the cardiovascular system – damn it the body’s entire amazingly brilliantly networked body.
The drugs of Allopathy cut both ways like two sides of a sword, they treat you on one hand for a limited time, suppress symptoms and effect a peace of sorts…but give or take some time it will gift you with other problems perhaps more to deal with! These are the ironies of our so called modern medicines on which we depend on to stay alive and kicking, day to day, week to week, months, years. Stretching longevity in the best sense of the word or the worst – that is, we continue to live alive but unhappily; rarely happily if we have the discipline to swing the kind of lifestyle changes we are required to swing or so to speak.
TO stay with steroids, know your steroids. They are also called corticosteroids. They are powerful medicines with work as anti-inflammatories for painful conditions arising in the body through trauma incidents or in acute situations. They take the place of normal hormones produced in the body by the adrenal glands situated above the kidneys. The adrenal glands are endocrine glands producing a variety of hormones like adrenaline and natural steroids like aldosterone and cortisol.
The body produces its own steroids. Each adrenal gland has an outer cortex which produces steroid hormones. But the synthetic steroid medicines we’re talking about here are from the family of polycyclic compounds mimicking the hundreds of steroids to be found in fungi, plants and animals. Suffice it is to say steroids are so potent they not only contain inflammation (the cause of pretty much everything going wrong in the body), they are also have immune modulating properties. Can change the fluidity of the cellular system, natural molecular pathways…everything is backed by a volume of research, testifying to the miraculous “solutions” of steroids and there’re many Nobel prize winners in the research of this category of wonder drugs.
Steroids come in many forms including tablets, liquids, jells, injections, in inhalers and more.
We have to be very educated when on steroids and conscious of the side effects which may manifest themselves. Side effects may range from putting on weight, the quick formation of cataracts in the eyes, if you are on blood thinners for a cardiac problems you need medical advice…steroids also affect mood and we have seen patients getting high and violent, low with depression too.
Other side effects: inability to sleep, the skin becomes thin and easily bruised, the muscles become weak (Cushing’s syndrome is common in long term users of steroids, here with ungainly weight the face too becomes moon like)…there may be stomach pain, infections, heart burn, systemic sclerosis. As medical conditions improve for a short time one will become dependent on more and more steroids to carry on routine life!
That’s pretty much in a nutshell. Steroids are man-made chemicals designed to act like hormones to reduce health issues like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus disease, gout, arthritis, some autoimmune medical conditions like systemic sclerosis…generally speaking whenever it is necessary to reduce inflammation for limited periods of time.
A good doctor prescribing medical steroids will advise you on what food to add to your eating habits and also to exercise a little daily to help the steroids to help you!
The steroids or corticosteroids we talking about here are not anabolic steroids used by body builders and athletes to build up muscle and perform better. The steroids used to control inflammation and pain the body come with names like “prednisolone, betamethasone, dexamethasone, methylprednisole, triamcinolone, hydrocortisone, clobetasol, fluticasone, beclomasone, the strongest steroid is said to be dimethyltrienolone…do some homework on steroids if you’re on them!
ARE there natural steroids which may replace synthetic steroids? Yes! Reportedly celery improves testosterone production. There is also spinach, quinoa, eggs, fava beans, avocadoes, olive oil, coconut oil, vitamins C, A, D, zinc and magnesium. Also check out Ayurveda’s “ashwaganda” (Withania somnifera), said to have properties soothing pain, anxiety, lowers circulating cortisol…etc.

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