Jul Sep 2011

Jul Sep 2011
Taking Charge of Health & Wellness

Editorial

I spoke to an endocrinologist-diabetologist once and told him that I had been able to stop taking anti-diabetic medicine by eating more fruits and vegetables, minimizing cereals and fats and by eating the right foods at the right time. He took it as an insult to modern medicine and fumed, “Modern medicine has increased the life span of people, especially in degenerative diseases like diabetes. Do you know that if you stopped taking medicines you would have to eat more than a quarter kg. of vegetables a day?

A recent MORI poll commissioned by Natural England found that 94% of the population thought it a good idea to refer people for outdoor exercise rather than medication. The FDA (the pharmaceutical regulator in the US) has been handed evidence that antidepressants may be no better than a placebo in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. And Britain’s Chief Medical Officer has stated that being active has the same anti-depressant effect as taking tablets.

Most newspapers regularly carry conflicting or confusing news items on food and health: one day, a snippet announces, ‘Green & Red Veggies great for your heart!” while the next day –“New Drug for Heart disease”. Sometimes, reports say coffee has antioxidants that will boost your cell growth, another time there is research that shows that caffeine promotes anxiety and sleeplessness.

Our extremely anthropocentric civilisation has alienated us from Nature in every way possible, including the way we look at our bodies, our food and health. But there have always been people, ashrams and various communitites who knew that an eco-centric way of life is essential to live sustainably on Earth – and their tribe is gradually increasing today. Several centres around the world offer opportunities to those interested to rejuvenate themselves and learn how Nature’s ways, if only we understand them, are the best for our wellness.

In India today, we have a situation where one third of the babies born are low birth-weight babies. 46% of children under five years old are under-nourished. In this scenario, does the economic growth rate of 8 or 10% that the country is pursuing really matter? How do we understand the distributive injustices and the government’s public health policies that do not recognize the rights of the poor who do not have purchasing power?

As urban Indians, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to the variety of food available to us in our neighbourhood supermarkets – be it fresh, processed, or packaged. The growing tendency to consume convenience foods or hire full-time cooks in our urban households is estranging us from our food.
Most of us do not consider the larger impact of our food choices, and urban food trends are such that the transport, processing, packaging and distribution of the food we eat consumes enormous amounts of energy and resources.

The human spirit goes beyond the violence and meaninglessness of a fight, when the way of fighting also becomes a beautiful expression and a search for self-realisation. Most people think that Martial Arts are only for wartime effort – but apart from helping its practitioners play a functional role in society, they help them stay fit, and can become a path of personal fulfilment.

What we call dirt, mud, soil or even earth is a wonderful ecosystem of microbial and insect life that sustains all plant life and is a fundamental part of the larger natural ecosystem of the planet. It is a crucial participant in the various cycles of nature such as the water and carbon cycles, plants and dirt too have a symbiotic relationship where one cannot exist without the other. Without the plants, the dirt would be washed away to sea leaving behind barren wastelands where hardly anything would grow.

We have come full circle. We are again in touch with an essential truth that our ancestors knew without a shadow of doubt: the life-giving and healing power of food to nourish and sustain us and the fact that food can truly be our medicine.

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