Nature - Healing on the fast track
by Roozbeh Gazdar
Healing without pills, powders and hypodermic needles? Going off food as a means to support recovery during convalescence? The idea may sound suicidal to most of us. Such advice, however, would be divine music to the ears of believers of Natural Hygiene, a group of whom got together for the inaugural meeting of the newly formed Indian Natural Hygiene Society (INHS), in Mumbai recently. It has been founded by Peter Theobald.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Keiki Sidhwa, President of the British Natural Hygiene Society and now honorary member of INHS, talked about his own introduction to this holistic science of healing. Afflicted with typhoid, heart disease and double pneumonia as a boy of 14, doctors had pronounced him dead, but later diagnosed him to be in deep coma. Refusing any further medical intervention, his mother decided to put him on a fast. “For 16 days, my mother and aunt sat by my side giving me only sips of coconut water, till I regained consciousness. This incident changed my entire life,” recalled the sprightly septuagenarian, for whom Natural Hygiene is not just a profession but a way of life.
Dr Sidhwa’s mother was influenced by Dr Behramjee Madon, the first western qualified naturopath in India. But the principles of Natural Hygiene as they are followed today, were first formulated by Dr Isaac Jennings M.D. (1788–1874), in America. He stumbled upon the idea when, dissatisfied with conventional medical therapy, he experimented and found that he could cure patients by merely prescribing placebo potions with instructions for fasting and bed rest.
Later, Dr Herbert Shelton (1895-1985), a rebel medical pioneer, strongly advocated a natural healing system to support the body’s own curative power without the use of external interference or aid.
“That the body has the innate capacity to heal itself,” Dr Sidhwa reiterates, “is the core essence of Natural Hygiene. Though thousands of patients have passed through my care, I cannot claim to have cured even a single one. I have only educated them about Natural Hygiene practices. The living divine force is the only thing that heals,” he maintains.
“Disease is the body’s way of maintaining its coherent whole,” says Dr Sidhwa, explaining that good health depends on certain basic requirements of life. These factors, such as fresh air, water, good food, adequate rest and exercise, mental poise, emotional and spiritual well-being, ideally operate in perfect cohesion to ensure perfect health. However, under stress, exerted by our abusive and unhealthy lifestyles, this tandem of life is disrupted, hampering the body’s waste elimination function. Unable to cope with the accumulation of toxins, the body starts a process of emergency detoxification, which manifests in the form of acute diseases such as cold, fever, diarrhea.
Our normal response to the onset of disease is to seek relief through some form of medicine or therapy by suppressing the symptoms. But, as symptoms themselves are nothing more than visible expressions of a damage control exercise launched by the body itself, their suppression means that the original cause of the disease remains unchecked. Temporarily ‘cured’, symptoms soon resurface, often with greater vigour once treatment is discontinued. “By taking medicines you are only curing the cure,” Dr Sidhwa repeats endlessly.
Recurrence of this cycle ensures that the chronic forms of the diseases start taking over. Thus, common cold grows into pneumonia, and fevers metamorphose into kidney disease. Finally, welcome to the gallery of rogues — diabetes, heart disease and cancer. “Diseases are not manifested from outside,” asserts Dr Sidhwa. “The root cause of disease is the abuse, in one form or the other, that we subject our bodies to.” Well, so much for germs, virus or the goddess.
Instead of popping pills whenever faced with a health problem, Dr Sidhwa suggests that we listen to what the body is saying. “We are guilty of many sins of omission and commission when it comes to our health,” he laments. These include too much or too little of food, rest, sleep, exercise, etc. They disturb the fine rhythm of the body and cause sickness. Once the errant lifestyle is corrected, however, the disease cures by itself. “Remove the causes of disease and you cure the disease,” he says. Simple, no? For those still unconvinced, he drives home the point using the analogy
of a bruised thumb. “Suppose you accidentally smash your thumb by hitting it with a hammer. With time, the bleeding stops, swelling subsides and the thumb heals perfectly. But if you keep hurting your thumb everyday, it will never heal!”
Along with checking the abuse, fasting and rest play an important role in healing according to Natural Hygiene. Dr Sidhwa explains: “50 per cent of your body’s energy goes in digesting food. Complete fasting on water allows this energy to be available to the body for refurbishing, regenerating and renovating.” This is especially important in case of chronic diseases, where the body has been abused over a very long time and needs all the resources at its disposal to recover. “Animals naturally refuse food when they are sick,” he points out. “But we humans have lost touch with this instinct.”
Pages borrowed from Dr Sidhwa’s own life give credence to the miraculous therapeutic benefits of fasting. Once, after a serious road accident in 1996, he was told that he would never walk again. Thirty days of fasting, some yoga and pranayama, and he was soon back on his feet. Another time, operated upon for a detached retina, he refused antibiotics or any kind of medication. Fasting before and after the surgery, he recovered in record time and was promptly “kicked out of the hospital”. In fact, fasting is not prescribed only during recovery from illness.
Most Natural Hygienists swear by a periodic ‘maintenance’ fast in order to stay fit. For those who cannot be induced to go on a complete water fast, Dr Sidhwa suggests fasting on fruit and vegetable juices or on fruits like melons, to avail at least some benefit. Even generally, food, advises Dr Sidhwa, should be raw as far as possible—fruits, nuts, vegetables, salads, or lightly cooked, with very little oil. Junk food and oily or overcooked food is, of course, a complete no-no. To counter the garbage that we take in daily through mindless thinking, speech and action, he recommends ‘mental and emotional fasting’ and meditation “to listen to the voice of God”.
While conceding that conventional medical tools such as steroids and surgery are often indispensable in arresting serious conditions, he warns against discontinuing prescribed medication arbitrarily. Instead, it should be tapered down gradually, as the patient begins the process of healing more naturally.
Cheerful and buoyant, this 78-year-old is a living proof of what he preaches. “For the last 55 years, I have had no ailments. I jog two miles every day, exercise, do weight training and live a happy and healthy life,” he signs off with a boyish grin.
So next time you feel a bit under the weather, don’t immediately reach for your pills. Try fasting, let the body rest. Take the day off maybe and snuggle under the covers. And let nature do the trick. You owe it to yourself.
CONTACT: Indian Natural Hygiene Society
Ph: (022) 5690 2070, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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