It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. –Mahatma Gandhi
Today is Gandhi Jayanti and is celebrated as International day of non-violence. When we think about lessons by Mahatma Gandhi, we commonly think about Non-Violence and Truth. Many people do not know that Gandhiji actually wrote a book called “Key to Health”. He not only preached but practiced the following health beliefs over his lifetime.
I will discuss some of the beliefs by Gandhiji that are close to my heart as a family physician and their relevance in modern era.
“Food should be taken as a matter of duty – even as a medicine- to sustain the body, never for the satisfaction of the palate.” –Mahatma Gandhi
One of famous quotes by Hippocrates also:“Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.”
Gandhiji believed in vegetarianism, portion control, eating leafy vegetables and avoiding condiments.
Modern day wisdom:
· Eat a balanced diet in appropriate portions.
· Eat fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Try to incorporate fruits and vegetables of all color categories in your diet.
· Avoid processed, fried and spicy foods and sweets.
· Many studies have proven the health benefits of vegetarianism. Vegetarianism has been linked to lower mortality as well as lower risk of cancers and heart disease.
REGULAR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Gandhiji used to walk a lot and considered walking as a very good exercise. He considered exercise equally important for good health along with healthy diet.
Modern day wisdom:
· Walking is considered a moderate intensity exercise and American Heart association recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise atleast 5 times a week to improve your heart health.
· Walking is probably the simplest form of exercise that you can start. Regular walking can not only help you lose weight but also reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
· Walking with your friends or family members can be very relaxing. Regular walking helps with lowering stress, improves sleep and can also improve energy levels.
· Walking improves bone health as well as balance and coordination. A physician guided walking regimen for elderly can help reduce the fall risk in elderly.
“I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Meditation has being practiced in India for centuries. Recently few studies have shown the effectiveness of meditation in reducing stress.
Modern Day Wisdom:
· Meditation is relatively easy to practice and can help in reducing stress and increase focus on present. There is some evidence on the benefit of meditation in anxiety disorders.
· Meditation can also help in lowering blood pressure over a long period of time.
· It is important to practice meditation after training by a skilled instructor.
AVOID TOBACCO AND ALCOHOL
Gandhiji preached complete abstinence from tobacco and alcohol.
Modern day wisdom:
· Need I say more!
· Tobacco use increases the risk of lung cancer, cancers of the mouth, larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), esophagus (swallowing tube), stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, uterus, cervix, colon/rectum, ovary etc.
· Smoking causes chronic obstructive lung disease, heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease as well as high blood pressure. Moreover, second-hand smoke is detrimental to people around you.
· Heavy alcohol use can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, depression, dementia and several cancers.
These are simple, yet, advices that have stood the test of time. Gandhiji believed in “Prevention is better than cure” and you can also take control of your health by making changes in your lifestyle. Discuss with your family doctor on how you can go about incorporating some of these changes in your lifestyle. By embracing a healthy lifestyle you not only take the step towards improving your health but may also become an inspiration to your loved ones.
1. Key to Health. M.K.Gandhi.