Dr Ifeyinwa Nwakwesie: Committed to healing through integrated lifestyle change
Dr. Ifeyinwa Favour Nwakwesie a medical doctor turned Integrative-Lifestyle-Specialist, is also a serial entrepreneur, whose business interest began with clothes selling. After that, she moved on to the importation of fibre pharmaceuticals, then shipping, which made her the first Nigerian woman to own an indigenous offshore service vessel, and also a real estate business.
In this interview, this woman of many parts spoke on how coming down with illness led her to discover life’s purpose, which revolves around nurturing personal growth and guiding individuals towards achieving better versions of themselves.
By Temitope Ojo
What is the Integrative Lifestyle concept all about?
An integrated lifestyle is a comprehensive approach to enhancing various aspects of our lives, including health, relationships, marriages, and financial challenges. Conventional medicine holds part of the solution to illnesses, but it’s not the complete answer. For instance, during a heart attack, immediate medical intervention is necessary, but relying solely on medication throughout life isn’t ideal due to potential toxic effects. Integrating conventional medicine with nutritional supplements, a healthy diet, and a positive lifestyle is essential.
The integrated lifestyle isn’t just a passing phase. It is a habit that becomes ingrained due to the persistence of habits. Changing habits is challenging, and your behaviour stems from your mindset, beliefs, and emotions. Every action originates from your thoughts; even if you consider it a negative action, interrupting that thought process can prevent its execution. An integrated lifestyle fosters an awareness of your ability to make choices and decisions in life. It underscores your power to determine your path.
While we pray for guidance, it’s essential to remember that we must take action. God doesn’t intervene directly; instead, our thoughts and prayers set the tone. As the Bible says, “As a man thinketh, so is he.” We need to impart the understanding that we are primarily responsible for the outcomes we experience. You possess a conscious and a subconscious mind. Your conscious mind enables thought, while your subconscious mind controls your body functions, often operating beneath conscious awareness. What’s intriguing is that whatever the conscious mind communicates to the subconscious, the subconscious accepts without question.
For instance, if you repeatedly tell yourself that you’re “managing,” your subconscious internalises this and perpetuates that state. In contrast, declaring “I’m healthy, I’m vibrant” can breathe life into that affirmation. The key lies in understanding this power. Recognise that the spirit of God within you granted you a conscious and subconscious mind. Whatever you feed into your subconscious, it accepts as truth.
If you convince your subconscious that your spouse is unfaithful, it might manifest in your perception, even if it isn’t true. Similarly, labelling yourself negatively – “I’m stupid,” “No one will marry or talk to me” – perpetuates those notions in your mind. This reveals how easily we trap ourselves in negative mindsets.
Embracing the integrated lifestyle helps break these cycles. It involves consciously shifting your thoughts, beliefs, and affirmations towards positivity, health, and success. This is a potent realization – the realization that you can influence your thoughts and, subsequently, your life’s trajectory. The integrated lifestyle empowers you to shape your reality through the thoughts you choose to nurture.
The integrated lifestyle encourages intentional mindset cultivation – actively choosing your thoughts. Not every thought deserves acceptance. Ask yourself: Does this thought hold value? Is it constructive or destructive? If it’s destructive, why even entertain it? By doing so, you harm yourself. During my period of depression, negativity consumed me. Thankfully, I learned to reprogram my thinking.
How did you transition from being a medical doctor to adopting this lifestyle approach?
The journey began with a medical student at the University of Ibadan, who also went into marriage. Amidst pursuing my medical school certificate, I welcomed my first son. My second son also came in 1979, the year of my graduation. This period marked a phase of being a student, a wife, and a mother, all while grappling with the responsibilities of nurturing a young family. Then, my husband worked as a civil servant, which motivated me to contribute to our family’s financial needs. To supplement our income, I ventured into business endeavours as an alternate path to bolster our resources.
I started by purchasing clothes from a talented seamstress, who crafted exquisite garments. I would then sell these clothes, either by personally approaching friends or sometimes even creating wedding gowns. My husband was wonderfully supportive and would even accompany me on trips to display and sell these clothing pieces. Eventually, I secured a shop at 1004 and established “Exclusive Collections,” where I featured my own selection of ready-made clothes crafted from fine fabrics.
A relative of mine, Frank, was involved in importing goods from abroad. One day, I approached him and asked what I could import with his dealer to make some money. He suggested that we visit the market to explore opportunities. We found that Vim was scarce in the market. Frank took the initiative to import the Vim, and the outcome was remarkable. I earned ₦25,000, with a profit of ₦15,000. This marked the inception of my first-ever business transaction. This success propelled me forward.
Subsequently, my ventures expanded into the realm of pharmaceuticals, specifically fibre pharmaceuticals. I delved into importing essentials such as water for injection and paracetamol. Yet, amidst the gains, the challenges of navigating port procedures and customs clearance began to diminish the appeal of such importations.
During this period, a friend of mine, Obi Chikwe, approached me with an intriguing proposition. He informed me about the shipping business, sharing that his company, ExxonMobil, was actively seeking suppliers for their goods. This revelation sparked my interest, as it seemed to hold greater potential. It was an entirely new territory for me. Drawing on my connections, I entered the world of shipping through introductions from my brother and another individual with experience in the field.
I embarked on the journey to acquire a vessel for supplying ExxonMobil. However, obtaining the necessary funds proved challenging, as lenders consistently asked for collateral. At that juncture, my husband and I lacked collateral. A fortuitous turn of events connected us with the Managing Director of a bank through a family friend. With their support, we secured funding for our first vessel. Subsequently, a second contract for another vessel followed, and within the third year, we were entrusted with the construction of four new vessels. This period marked a turning point as my capacity began to expand.
My husband, though a civil servant, stood by me with unwavering support. His input, ideas, and decision-making played a crucial role in the growth of my business, which eventually encompassed seven vessels.
This endeavour led me to become the first Nigerian woman to own an indigenous offshore service vessel.
Meanwhile, I continued practising medicine alongside my business pursuits. In the midst of this success, a friend introduced me to a revolutionary technology for building houses – Ecoprint. Unlike traditional block construction, this method captivated me. We established a factory and ventured into this new avenue, further diversifying our business portfolio.
However, despite achieving financial success, a feeling of emptiness persisted within me. While money was being made, I sensed that I wasn’t fulfilling the purpose God had designed for me. Hence, even as I thrived in various business ventures, the call to align with my true purpose became increasingly potent.
During this period, I became negligent of my health, prioritising business and career pursuits over my well-being. It’s a common trend – people focusing on financial success while sidelining their health. The consequence was evident as I started experiencing stress-related illnesses. Over six years, I grappled with depression, panic attacks, severe indigestion, and persistent worries. Although I attended church regularly, my spiritual connection was superficial; I followed the motions of prayer without truly experiencing its power.
My perspective shifted when I encountered Nnenna Obisinge, who introduced me to the Holy Ghost School. This marked a transformative spiritual journey. Now, as a disciple of Christ, I’ve developed the ability to engage with my ailments on a spiritual level. When I experience physical discomfort, like a tummy ache, I can address it directly, acknowledging that God did not intend for me to suffer. This newfound spiritual strength was instrumental in my healing process.
Are you saying that it was because you came down with illness to discover this new path?
Yes, amidst my illness, worries overwhelmed me. Financial concerns, like ensuring sufficient funds for school fees, compounded my anxiety. This persistent stress led to a condition known as blood acidity, where digestion becomes compromised, resulting in symptoms like gas, flatulence, and constipation. These digestive issues are commonly misunderstood, with people resorting to antacids as a solution.
In my pursuit of healing, I travelled to Germany and then London for medical consultations. The diagnosis was revealing – my body was struggling to absorb nutrients due to toxic overload, stemming from environmental factors and poor dietary habits. My eating patterns were largely devoid of water, vegetables, or fruit juices. Consequently, my blood turned acidic, hindering nutrient absorption and causing weight loss.
As I reflect on those times, I realise that God was preparing me for the purpose I live today. My journey to health and spiritual connection taught me the importance of holistic well-being and the profound link between the physical and spiritual realms.
How did your background prepare you for this new you?
My father instilled in me the habit of prayer from a young age. I hail from the lineage of family that emphasised prayer and principle-centred values like contentment, peace of mind, happiness, kindness, compassion, empathy, humility, and gratitude. These values have played a pivotal role in shaping the woman I am today.
Growing up, my father, a self-made businessman, built a significant construction conglomerate in the eastern part of Nigeria. His journey taught me invaluable business skills, particularly the virtues of determination, commitment, and hard work.
Do you have any other form of training?
My expertise was acquired through my avid interest in reading. I didn’t undergo any formal training, but rather I learned by actively participating in programs such as seminars and workshops, and by consistently immersing myself in reading materials. As a result, I’ve accumulated a substantial amount of knowledge in this field.
How acceptable is it by Nigerians?
The Nigerian society remains predominantly oriented towards conventional medicine. However, I can confidently state that since my inception in this field, there has been a noticeable shift. Nigerians are increasingly embracing alternative approaches.
How long have you been on this journey?
I began my journey into healthy living in 1999. Nowadays, there’s a growing presence of organisations promoting natural medicine across various locations. Our current focus is on advocating for the government’s support in encouraging medical doctors to expand their knowledge beyond conventional methods. While this transition is ongoing, we are awaiting a conducive time, possibly after certain political matters settle. I’ve established a lobby group to work towards the government incentivizing medical doctors to learn about alternative modalities alongside conventional approaches.
As a woman change advocate, how do you think women can help change society?
I appreciate the presence of women who are both outwardly beautiful and possess inner virtues. I have little regard for envious individuals. It’s disheartening to see women who appear beautiful but lack qualities like peacefulness or the ability to promote harmony, choosing instead to remain silent in the face of conflict.
For societal change to occur, women must take the lead. Although men are expected to be spiritual leaders, many fall short. Nigerian men, in particular, often engage in infidelity, which distances them from God. Women have the opportunity to bridge this gap in spiritual leadership. When the headship in a household is lacking, it poses problems.
However, I emphasise that spirituality is not about mere church attendance. Personal character and interactions with others matter more. My approach to life is to consider everyone I meet as a friend. This is how I navigate my relationships and interactions. In essence, to see real change in our society, women need to step up, embrace their role, and model the values that will uplift and transform our communities.
The Japanese “Kaisen” principle of continuous improvement, where every day surpasses the previous one, is a powerful concept. In Nigeria, we need a re-education. Our current system places heavy emphasis on formal certificates and memorisation. We must teach our children common sense and wisdom, qualities often overlooked in traditional education. It’s time to move beyond rote learning and nurture well-rounded individuals who can make a meaningful impact on our society.
Our ultimate goal is to enable medical professionals to consider a holistic view of patients. This means assessing all contributing factors that contribute to a person’s ailment and determining the most suitable approach. It could involve conventional medicine, natural methods, or a combination of both, depending on the individual case. The aim is to create a more comprehensive and effective healthcare approach that serves the diverse needs of patients.
How do you create awareness for this?
Certainly, I am quite active on social media platforms, particularly Instagram. Moreover, I am currently engaged in endeavours to introduce the concept of integrated lifestyle to both students and teachers. In this regard, I am in discussions with various governors. The intention is to make my teachings accessible through my books, which I hope they will consider acquiring.
I am currently in the process of releasing a series of four E-books titled “Live Your Best Life.” The first E-book is “Be an Asset to Your World Through the Integrated Lifestyle.” The second is “Achieve Vibrant Health Through the Integrated Lifestyle.” The third focuses on “Root Causes of Relationship and Marital Challenges,” addressing the prevalent issue of short-lived marriages. Lastly, there’s “Acquire Straight Coping Skills.” These E-books are designed to offer practical insights in a concise format.
I also aim to conduct master classes for them. The plan involves creating a chat group that includes me and these individuals, facilitating the exchange of valuable information. I have a substantial amount of written material that can be shared for their perusal. This approach is intended to make my knowledge more accessible and impactful.
What are the challenges that you’ve faced in selling this idea to people?
A notable challenge we encounter is that many Nigerians are unable to access these products quickly, mainly due to their origin in America and the associated high costs. However, I often emphasise that the approach is not solely reliant on products. Exercises are an integral part of the lifestyle, and I don’t charge for sharing this knowledge. Whenever individuals express interest in learning, I willingly teach them without any fees. Nevertheless, nutritional products can be costly, limiting affordability for many. To address this, I’m collaborating with a partner who is exploring the possibility of local manufacturing to make the products more accessible by reducing their prices. Although this plan is in progress, its realisation is pending.
What is your advice to Nigerians on dietary choice knowing that it contributes to a person’s well-being?
Nigeria is indeed endowed with a rich abundance of fruits and vegetables and a vast variety of plants that can contribute to our well-being. However, we often lack the knowledge on how to harness their benefits. Our eating habits are often centred around familiar foods, and in many cases, we tend to overconsume, leading to various health issues. I would like to advise my fellow Nigerians to be mindful of their dietary choices. While our traditional foods are generally healthier than the American diet, it’s essential to incorporate water-rich fruits and vegetables into our meals.
There’s an array of fruits available around us. Consider blending them into smoothies as the body tends to digest liquids more efficiently than solid foods. For instance, vegetables like Bitter Leaf, Ewedu, and Ugwu are readily accessible options that can be blended into nutritious juices.
To further promote a healthy lifestyle, I encourage Nigerians to cultivate small gardens around their homes. Even if you have limited space, growing your vegetables can make a significant difference. This way, you won’t always need to rely on the market for your produce, which can be challenging for those living in smaller apartments. By taking such steps, we can improve our overall health and make the most of our local resources.
Talking about relating stress to breast cancer, which, unfortunately, more women seem to be coming down with. How can they combat it?
Certainly, the field of psychosomatic medicine underscores the profound connection between our mindset, spiritual well-being, and overall health. It’s well-established that stress, particularly stemming from toxic relationships like an unhealthy marriage, can have dire consequences on one’s well-being.
Stress has a debilitating impact on the immune system; consistent stress weakens its defences. Studies have even shown a correlation between women enduring stressful marriages, especially those marked by abuse, and an increased risk of breast cancer.
This insight underscores the importance of women taking charge of their lives and well-being.
We advocate for women to recognise that their lives are precious and not worth sacrificing for a marriage that’s causing harm. If a marriage is thriving, that’s wonderful. But if it’s causing prolonged stress and pain, it’s crucial to consider one’s health and future. Staying in such a marriage solely for the sake of children, for instance, can have dire repercussions on health and well-being that ripple out far beyond the relationship itself.
We also emphasise the value of self-reliance for women. Depending entirely on a man for one’s future and security can be risky, especially when not all men possess the qualities of a responsible and caring partner. While a husband can certainly contribute to one’s happiness, it’s a mistake to believe that they should be the sole determinant of it. We should realise that our own choices, attitudes, and decisions play a significant role in our overall happiness and well-being.
Absolutely, my perspective is grounded in personal experience, not just theories pulled from books. I share insights based on real-life encounters. Many women have reached out to me, revealing the challenges they face – some living with husbands who haven’t been intimate with them for years. This lack of emotional and sexual connection is a prevalent issue, often linked to various factors, including the reality that numerous men suffer from low libido. The underlying reasons for this can be complex, with many men relying on prescription drugs that impact their sexual performance.
A significant proportion of men grapple with issues like reduced libido and erectile dysfunction, often due to the narrowing of blood vessels. When these vessels are compromised, blood circulation to the penis is impaired, leading to difficulties in achieving and sustaining an erection. In such cases, the woman’s efforts might seem futile. Moreover, a considerable number of men are on medication, particularly for prostate-related problems. It’s crucial for women to understand that performance concerns might actually be indicative of serious cardiac issues. Instead of fixating on performance, focusing on holistic health should be the priority.
Respect and understanding play pivotal roles in maintaining a healthy relationship. Men, especially when stressed or preoccupied with financial matters, might struggle to fully comprehend the nuances of love. I often advise women that respect is an integral part of nurturing a healthy dynamic. It’s a two-way street – if you don’t respect your husband, his ability to reciprocate affection might also suffer. This is why the biblical principle of mutual respect and submission is emphasised.
Some women say they must be married to gain significance or recognition. However, this mindset is not accurate. Being married is wonderful if the relationship is fulfilling, but a woman’s identity and value extend beyond marital status. Women need to empower themselves, cultivate resilience, and foster confidence. Walking into a room with a sense of self-assuredness and independence is far more empowering than seeking validation solely through marital ties.
You recently clocked 70. How did you achieve this look?
It’s remarkable how my energy levels have changed knowing that in the past, I struggled with low energy and depression. Now, at this age, I am free of pain, arthritis, and headaches. All thanks to this integrated lifestyle. It’s why I’m so passionate about sharing it with others. Success isn’t determined solely by background or education. Making mindful decisions and focusing on the positives are key.
I engage in faith affirmations. I regularly recite phrases like “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” and “I am a healthy, calm, relaxed, happy woman.” Despite being labelled as “crazy” by my husband due to my joyful demeanour, these affirmations help maintain my well-being. My strong belief is that knowledge empowers. A significant aspect of my routine is dedicated to reading. I make it a point to read a few pages of a personal book every day, right after my Bible reading.
Incorporating these practices can prevent illness. We often neglect physical activity, even in simple ways. For instance, when at the office, standing up and sitting down repeatedly can serve as exercise. This routine benefits heart health by promoting circulation. I encourage anyone who tries this to share their experiences with me.
I am genuinely elated that I am fulfilling my purpose, which revolves around improving others’ lives and bringing smiles to the faces of the less privileged. My focus has shifted from materialism to making a positive impact. If I have resources, my aim is to assist those in need, especially the humble. Through initiatives like “Life for Good” and the Enugu Daughters group that I lead, we’re pursuing our passions. I serve as the president of the Enugu Daughters community, comprising around 250 women. We’re striving to impart integrated lifestyle knowledge and uplift lives within our community. The journey is challenging, but my life’s purpose continues to evolve. I haven’t reached the destination yet; I’m on an ongoing journey.
I am immensely grateful for every day that I wake up. We often forget the blessings we receive. Take the air we breathe, for instance. Oxygen is available to us without payment. Imagine if we had to pay for every breath we took. The simple act of breathing could become a luxury. Such thoughts emphasize the importance of gratitude. Let’s strive to minimize complaints and cultivate a heart filled with appreciation for the blessings bestowed upon us.
What lessons have you learnt about life?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is the importance of self-improvement. Enhancing your life is pivotal for your well-being and your sense of responsibility. Rather than seeking someone to blame, take charge of your life. Don’t dwell on factors like having had poor parents or facing difficulties with your spouse. Assume responsibility, work on self-improvement, and become a person of value. Make your presence known and leave a positive impact.
Additionally, prioritise having God as the center of your life, and strive to maintain happiness. The unpredictability of life and the uncertainty of when one might pass away underline the significance of staying joyful and fulfilled.
I am mindful of what I expose my body to, and I avoid forcing myself into situations of conflict. The conflict has a way of ageing you prematurely, so I consciously distance myself from it and from individuals who bring negativity into my life. This includes friends who may not be beneficial for my well-being and even some family members. I’m not severing ties, but I choose to keep a healthy distance.
The power of negative energy is substantial and harmful. Therefore, I do my best to surround myself with positivity, peace, and constructive interactions.