In my last but one column, I wrote about fear of germs and viruses, immunity and learning to keep well naturally. Looking at disease and wellness from an alternate point of view was promised.
From the time I first became aware that the medical fraternity doesnâ€™t have all the answers, I began experimenting wellness with myself and my baby son almost 25 years ago. Instead of asking a doctor what to do (i.e asking for medication), I decided to put my faith in natureâ€™s plan for perfection. Soon enough I realised that nature has its own prescription for healthy living. Way back then I decided to apply simple common sense rules to health and well-being issues instead of blindly following the quick but temporary relief offered by modern medicine.
I remember when my son was two years old, a dear aunt of mine begged me to get a doctor to treat his diarrhoea and dehydration. From my study of nutrition and understanding of the disease process, it had become clear that diarrhoea and vomiting were a result of the body rejecting food.
If the body is deprived of food for some time, it will heal naturally and get back to normal. But if stuffed with medicines and more food, the body rebels, which aggravates diarrhoea. The only thing to watch out for is dehydration. This can be prevented by ensuring that children sip nimbu-pani (lemon juice) with sugar and salt (raw sugar and rock salt preferably) at regular intervals. Later, the patient can be fed other liquids like fresh juices, coconut water and soups (without milk/cream/ butter). The mistake most people make is to panic if a child stops eating which is natural in the circumstances.
Needless to say, because I followed this logic my son recovered soon. However, those who want to follow natureâ€™s way must first understand their bodies, believe in natureâ€™s wisdom, and learn about natural healing processes. My son, having experienced natural healing first-hand, has so much faith in nature that he refuses even natural medicine including home remedies. He has immense faith that his body will heal itself if he allows it to without hindrance.
Certainly the tradition of fasting (cessation of food intake for a specified time and subsistence on water) is not new to Indians. When we fast the bodyâ€™s reserves are used as energy and the body is allowed to rest and heal without interruption â€” digestion, assimilation, etc. In naturopathy fasting is trusted to cure many ailments and to detoxify the body.
Although Iâ€™m not recommending fasting as a cure-all, its usefulness is well documented. Itâ€™s ideal when the body needs a break from food ingestion. Besides diarrhoea and vomiting, when we suffer from stomach aches or gas, instead of eating more, skipping a meal or two works wonders. One doesnâ€™t need a doctor to understand this simple logic.
Another circumstance in which a short fast of a day or so is essential is during pregnancy. Some pregnant women suffer terrible morning sickness, which simply is natureâ€™s plan for perfection. This time for a new life â€” in preparation for a healthy womb. During this phase if the mother-to-be drinks lots of liquids, especially nimbu-pani instead of forcing herself to eat, within days the sickness will give way to a feeling of well-being. During pregnancy nature ensures the body works impeccably, if only we let it.
Essentially what Iâ€™m advocating is to get to the cause of ill-health problems. When you address the root cause of a problem, youâ€™re certain of long term cure. During a fever, interferon â€” the natural virus fighting chemical â€” is produced. But what do people do? They try their best to abate the fever, even short-term low grade fever. This fight with fever exacerbates many a ill-health problem. Nevertheless it must be conceded that with the complications of malaria, typhoid, dengue, viral fever, etc, itâ€™s not that easy to repose faith in natural cure especially when one is confronted with a mixture of symptoms.
However as a general principle of maintaining good health and well-being, allowing the body to rest and de-stress, drinking lots of water and nimbu-pani, resorting to ayurvedic or homeopathic cures are very real solutions. For instance sudarshan ghanvati is an ayurvedic over-the-counter medicine that works well for fevers, indigestion and loss of appetite. Provided, of course, if taken as the first recourse, not after allopathy has failed. It continues to surprise me why people donâ€™t turn to the 5,000-year-old science of ayurveda for answers. We seem to have more faith in the less than 500-year-old allopathic system!
Quick relief pill-popping delivers suits most people better, irrespective of consequences. It suits allopaths too not to disclose acute problems which when suppressed will inevitably surface later as chronic disorders. Itâ€™s important to understand that an ill-health symptom is a signal to correct the cause, not effect. The body with all its intelligence warns of disease â€” be it diabetes, arthritis or heart trouble. It is upto us, how we decide to treat the symptoms long before the onset of diseases which beg for lifestyle changes.
The message is clear â€” listen to your body, follow natureâ€™s laws, embrace natural remedies â€” and you wonâ€™t go wrong in taking care of yourself and your family.
(Kavita Mukhi is a Mumbai-based eco-nutritionist and director of Conscious Food)