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--An Om Magazine Feature

“Just because you’re now eating an all-vegetable diet, it doesn’t mean that you’ll now be in perfect health.”

Ma. Victoria Romero-Salas, or simply Marv, is the Executive Director behind the LifeScience Center for Wellness and Preventive Medicine, a highly sophisticated wellness facility that is nestled high up at the Accralaw Tower in Bonifacio Global City. It features designer interiors and impressively curated medical equipment. It is also arguably one of the best-kept secrets in the metro when it comes to nutrition-based wellness programs that are remarkably effective.

Marv and her sister Cris came up with the idea of setting up a preventive wellness center in the country several years ago upon their return from the United States. “My sister and I wanted to invest in something that was truly worthwhile.” Recalls Marv. “And what we saw was that we did not have any facilities here in the country that specialized in truly integrative medicine. The more we traveled, the more we attended conferences and learned about functional medicine, the more we realized that this was what we wanted to set up here. Being the first, being the pioneer, and doing it as a family. This was what led to us setting up the LifeScience Center.”

Functional medicine is a more holistic approach to addressing ailments. “In functional medicine, a headache is not just a headache,” explains Marv. “It may be a sign of something deeper. Functional medicine is about identifying root causes.” So while the usual cure for a headache is to take headache medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen, functional medicine goes deeper by analyzing one’s behavior and habitats. Could the headache be triggered by an environmental irritant? Could it be the lifestyle? Could it be the diet? This way, the root cause of the headache is addressed, thereby leading to its cure rather that it simply being masked by painkillers.

As it turns out, in many cases, the root cause for many of our common ailments can be traced to the food that we eat. And this is where LifeScience comes especially equipped to address such root causes.

“Vegetable aren't always good for you.”
According to Marv, the center has become even more relevant now that more and more people are attempting to perform lifestyle changes, changing their diets and moving towards healthier lifestyles. There is a general, and partially flawed, perception that if you change your diet to focus on just “healthy” foods such as fruits and vegetables, then these can do no wrong and you will become healthier. This has been the basis for a number of groundbreaking dietary plans, including the Pale diet and Raw Veganism.

“There’s a lot of marketing that goes behind every different type of diet,” says Marv. “And often, you will indeed feel better once you take up one of these diets. But that’s because it’s a drastic change to the more unhealthy fare that you have always been eating. If you switch to diet that’s a little healthier then you will indeed feel better.
“But then it will tend to plateau,” she adds, “For instance, some people wonder why they cannot lose any further weight, even when they are strictly following their diet of choice. What’s going on?”

What’s going on is that there are foods that we assume to be universally healthy, simply because we have come to associate greens and natural foods with perfect health. In a sense, we have typecast certain foods to be nutritious items that can do no wrong. But this is an oversimplification. As it turns out, our bodies react to different foods in different ways. So while yeast, for instance, may be perfectly safe for some people, it may lead to all sorts of puzzling health problems for others.

Marv notes the case of a client who had ventured into an all-vegetable diet and, to her dismay, realized that her skin was becoming bad. Marv explains that in such situations, it is likely that the diet switch has led to the client no longer getting all of her nutrients from vegetables that she was eating.

“In such a case, we can give you a micronutrients test to determine what nutrients your body is being starved of,” explains Marv. “Once we get the results, we can then proceed to balance you.”

“A lot of times, when you omit so much food, you end up becoming nutrition-deficient without even knowing it,” adds Marv. “But we can give you the right supplementation to address what your diet lacks.” She also noted that, often enough, the first thing that reacts to nutritional deficiency is one’s skin.

“You’re supposed to be healthier because you’re now doing yoga and have changed your diet. Your skin is supposed to glow, but then you’re deficient now of certain nutrients. And your skin suffers for it,” she says. “So that’s the kind of balance that we’re after. And what makes LifeScience unique is that it uses an evidence-based approach to make this happen.”

Marv also stresses that the Center is pretty much agnostic regarding their clients’ particular health strategies. So whether a client is a firm believer in a raw foods diet, or is a strict vegetarian, or is a meat-eater, the Center works with the client’s beliefs and helps towards achieving perfect health given their chosen lifestyle parameters.

The Center’s evidence-based approach
Focusing on an evidence-based approach means that LifeScience will not recommend any course of action unless it has been thoroughly vetted through scientific evidence. The Center will not espouse any particular diet or program unless it has been scientifically proven to be effective.

On another level, however, being evidence-based also means that the Center relies on proven diagnostic tools in order to determine the root cause of their clients’ various concerns. One of these tools is the FIT, or Food Intolerance Test.

A Food Intolerance Test assesses the body’s antibody response to particular foods. For instance, something as apparently benign as parsley may end up generating a sever antibody response in your system. Such a reaction may lead to non-lethal yet highly discomforting side effects such as headaches, joint pains, and stomach cramps. But since these conditions are not instantaneous and typically come as a result of gradual buildups in antibody count, it is often nearly impossible to determine which foods are making your immune system react in that way. This is why the Food Intolerance Test has proven valuable in identifying foods that can trigger such immune responses in our systems.

“A lot of our clients tell us that, upon seeing their FIT results, they omitted those foods that were indicated to be triggers for intolerance, and they left feeling great,” says Marv. “And the, when they miss these foods and eat them again, their symptoms came back and it just validates the findings.”

The LifeScience proposition
If you’re ready to make the change towards a healthier lifestyle, then what LifeScience offers is a team of experts who can guide you towards your personal health goals. Marv likens membership in LifeScience to having a team of personal coaches, all ready to help you with your health issues at any time.

“It’s difficult to make a lifestyle change,” she acknowledges, “and if you’re changing then you will need coaching. At LifeScience, you will get access to all of our experts, from nutritionists to kinesiologists, and to our physicians who are highly trained in functional medicine. To be able to just email them, to casually speak to them, and to get a response. It’s a very different environment to what most people are probably used to, where you only get to speak to a specialist when you get sick.”

Originally published in the 2015 Special Issue of Om Magazine.