A naturopathy-based weight loss programme, popular across a cross-section of society these days, has gone horribly wrong for Gauri Atre, such that the 33-year-old Nanded woman is now left with a damaged neurological system — making her static with an inability to speak, move or even sit properly.
Besides this, Atre has also developed several abnormal movements and has severe tremors of the hand, trunk, neck and legs, according to doctors at Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, where she was admitted until recently. She had been put on tremor control medicines and discharged. Doctors at the Nanded naturopathy clinic who were treating Atre for the weight loss treatment claim it can happen in some cases and is “acceptable”.
In Nanded, Atre was admitted at a clinic that practises naturopathy for treatment of obesity, Nisarganjali Sanstha, run by Dr Sunil Kulkarni. She was on a 21-day weight-loss programme from August 26, 2017. During this treatment, Atre was given kadha (liquid formula food) and enemas. The latter is a procedure in which liquid or gas is injected into the rectum to expel its contents or to introduce drugs or permit X-ray imaging. After the 21-day course, Atre was put on a diet of plain water for 35 days along with enemas between September 16 and October 20, 2017.
Atre’s mother Maya Bhaskar said, “She was discharged from Nisarganjali Sanstha and was taking enemas at home along with only lime water and jaggery, as per the doctor’s suggestion.
In the first week of November, her health deteriorated. She complained of loss of vision, lack of strength, breathing problems and memory loss. She was admitted to Jijamata Hospital in Nanded, where she was unable to recover. We then took her to Apollo Hospital, Hyderabad, where she was treated for 20 days, beginning November 9. Doctors there ran some tests and stated that her neurological system had collapsed. She could not even hold the liquid diet that was given to her. Today, she cannot walk or speak; and only weeps.”
Atre was later admitted to Ruby Hall Clinic on February 23, 2018, that screened her for a series of tests and was diagnosed with post-encephalopathy status, which means that her brain has been damaged due to some incident in the past.
Dr Rajas Deshpande, director of neurology department at Ruby Hall Clinic, said, “Atre’s basal ganglia (centre of the brain that controls a person’s movement) has been damaged. There are multiple factors that can affect a person’s basal ganglia. Low oxygen supply or lack of blood supply to the brain, low blood sugar, viral infection like Japanese B virus can cause damage to the basal ganglia.”
Dr Kulkarni, the treating doctor and head of Nisarganjali Sanstha, said, “We treat patients usually along the naturopathy line of treatment and put them on a fasting spell; they can only consume water during the treatment. Normally, the fasting lasts 20-25 days and increases as per obesity. In many cases, patients come with depression and we treat them as per procedures. I cannot give you details of a specific case.”
Dr Deshpande of Ruby Hall Clinic explained, “In case of Atre, there are two possibilities of metabolic encephalopathy (which occurs due to low sodium and an increase in urea, bilirubin or ammonia level) that causes severe damage to the basal ganglia. Secondly, the kadha (concoction) that Atre has consumed might be toxic or poisonous, which might have led to damage of the basal ganglia. At present, she cannot speak, move or even sit. Atre has developed several abnormal movements and has severe tremor of hand, trunk, neck and legs. She has been put on tremor control medicines and was discharged on March 6.”
Dr Kulkarni however added, “Patients who don’t follow our line of treatment properly, after returning home, can develop complications. Such cases have been common and acceptable. There can be many other problems, which might have led to the complications and not due to naturopathy. Kadha is nothing but grass tea and neem juice and it cannot lead to complications to patients.”
Our correspondence to the Union Ayush ministry on the matter remained unanswered, despite constant follow-ups over a week.
Patients who don’t follow our line of treatment properly, after returning home, can develop complications. Such cases have been common and acceptable
— Dr Sunil Kulkarni, who runs Nisarganjali Sanstha, Nanded