By Anand Holla
Modern medical science has spun miracles, shrinking the cure to a mountain of ailments down to a pill or two. Still, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the staggering range of miracles Mother Nature has in store for us, availing which could greatly lessen or even obliterate our need to turn to medicines.
When Dr P A Kareem puts forth such an argument, it would be easy for the modern man to be cynical — if only the veteran naturopath’s reasoning behind this holistic approach to wellness hadn’t been so compelling.
“I feel people must know how they can keep themselves free from medicines,” Kareem says, “Modern medical science treats diseases by administering medicine. Naturopathy, then, is the most modern medical science because you can prevent and cure diseases without medicine.”
Based on the principle that the body possesses an inherent ability to heal itself, naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a kind of alternative medicine that uses a wide range of natural treatments including hydrotherapy, yoga, herbalism, acupuncture and homeopathy.
Underlining naturopathy’s belief in the healing power of nature, Kareem simplifies it further: Food is medicine and nature is the doctor. After giving talks in Kuwait, Kareem was down in Doha recently to spread awareness on this lesser-known system of healthcare, and he offers a simple piece of advice, wherever he goes.
“Relieving ourselves from medicines is really the key,” he says, “The web of medicines is such that you keep taking them, dosage increases, replacements are prescribed, and you are stuck. The solution is in preventing the need to fall back on them by turning to nutrition, exercise and other methods of purifying the body.”
The Director and Chief Physician of Hygiene Health School of Naturopathy and Yoga in Calicut, Kerala, India, certainly knows his stuff. “First off, we must understand where diseases come from,” he says, “Most can be linked to our bad food habits. A lot of people don’t know what food they must eat, how much and at what time. For instance, we recommend cooked food only twice a day — for breakfast and lunch.”
Instead of gorging on heavy dinners, fruits and salads are all we need, and that too, around 7pm and not later, Kareem explains. “After sunset, we shouldn’t eat cooked food; only raw food such as fruits, raw vegetables, and fresh juices. That’s because our bodies can’t digest food too well after that time,” he points out, “Take a look at the plants and trees that go to rest after dark. We, too, are part of nature. Somehow, we seem to have forgotten that.”
Fasting is an integral aspect of naturopathy given how effective it is in helping the body detoxify and push it to great levels of physiological and mental well-being. “Naturopathy believes that there’s always a mechanism, a way for the body to repair and heal itself,” says Kareem, “So how can we get fast relief from diseases? By fasting, of course.”
Kareem gives a quick insight into a naturopathic diet chart that he puts his patients on. According to this plan, for the first three days of the week, one should have only fluids in the morning, lunch should comprise rice or wheat preparation with cooked and raw vegetables, and an early dinner should be only fruits and juices.
“Although I recommend mostly raw foods, it may be hard to keep up with such a diet. So I suggest my patients to maintain their cooked food-raw food ratio to 50-50,” says Kareem.
“If you are a non-vegetarian, then you can turn the first day of the week into Meat Day, where you can have some meat with rice or wheat for breakfast or lunch. The second day should be fish day with the same pattern, and the third would be egg day, the fourth would be milk day, and the fifth and the sixth would be vegetarian days. The seventh day is for fasting — either only water, or with juice, fruit and raw vegetables. Basically, your body hits reset that day.”
It is only with regular fasting that the body’s self-healing powers can be harnessed, believes Kareem. “Fasting is a powerful therapeutic process and it’s wonderful in how it allows our body to have dedicated physiological rest, helping it to repair, strengthen and heal the damaged organs,” he says.
For those undergoing treatment at the hospital back in Kerala, Kareem, in the second week, puts them on “juice fasting,” where the lunch menu is switched to fruit juices, and the third week involves “water fasting,” where only honey water or tender coconut water and natural water will be given instead of cooked food, fruits and fruit juices. The fourth week gradually returns to the first week’s menu.
In food lies most of the answers, feels Kareem. “People today easily fall into unhealthy diet patterns that include everything from eating too much fried or junk food to eating at the wrong times. It’s difficult for our bodies, for instance, to digest non-vegetarian food,” Kareem says, “Even carnivorous animals don’t eat meat every day — a lion will eat meat a couple of times a month. So it’s better for us to have it once a week.”
Back in his hospital, Kareem has a host of treatment procedures to rely on. “We use hydrotherapy (external and internal application of water in therapeutic ways), in which a spinal bath can alleviate back problems, a hip bath can improve functioning of kidney, sexual organs, uterus, and small and large intestines. Drinking rain water or bathing in it can work wonders, too.”
Baths don’t necessarily involve water at Kareem’s wellness institution. Sun bath uses the power of sunlight as a remedy for skin diseases and body pain. In one method, the patient’s whole body is wrapped in plantain leaves and rays from the noon sun is allowed to enter the body through those leaves — a time-tested cure for certain infertility and skin disorders.
“The sunlight is like a search light — it enters our body and searches for problems and heals them,” Kareem says, “Sadly, today, we are always inside our air-conditioned rooms, hiding from it.”
While mud therapy reaps benefits by having the whole patient wrapped in mud, yoga and meditation help in regaining the mind-body balance. “By simply managing diets, we have been able to treat around 90 per cent of diabetes patients. Since fasting allows our body’s insulin production to increase, it plays a role here, too. Eating only vegetables or fruits for dinner is a big factor in controlling diabetes,” says Kareem.
Among several pointers to returning to natural dietary habits, Kareem makes special mention of two — avoiding the use of iodised salt, which he says has been known to cause hypertension, depression, and insomnia; and drinking pure water.
“Rock salt or black salt is our best bet,” he points out, “And since regular drinking water has preservatives, the solution is to store your drinking water in earthen pots. This helps in cleansing it of its impurities.”
Throughout the conversation, it’s not hard to understand Kareem’s sense of bewilderment when it comes to our sustained mismanagement of food habits when all good foods are available to us.
“Nature has gifted us everything,” he says, “We must only open ourselves to them, to the goodness in them, and to the goodness within our bodies.”
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