Cleansed by Nature
Almost all disease is a result of the body being too acidic. When we consume acidic foods there is a drop in the pH of the blood. To compensate for this drop is pH (even a slight change in blood pH leads to death) the body pulls out calcium for the bones making them weaker and leading to issues like osteoporosis.
One month after being the sickest that I had ever been in my life, I found myself driving up a dizzying mountain through darkness and mist so thick that I could not see the bonnet of my car. It was a scene straight out of a horror movie and I was meant to be driving to my salvation. A nail-biting ride later, at the stroke of what felt like midnight (in reality it was only 8 PM) I reached my destination– a naturopathy clinic that sat atop a mountain in Panchalimedu, Kerala named after “Panchali” or Draupadi as this is where the Pandavas were prophesied to have taken shelter during their one-year exile.
I had chosen to come to Prakriti Shakti after I had fallen prey to typhoid and been laid up in bed for weeks– first with a high fever, and then with a terrifying weakness. Now, sick of the effects of my body, I had my mind set on a full recovery. I had explored all sorts of recovery options– Ayurveda, hydrotherapy, spas, and after much research, arrived at naturopathy; typhoid wrecks havoc on the gut, and it is precisely the gut that naturopathy attempts to cure.
According to the principals of naturopathy, we are our own best doctors, and the body has the ability to cure itself. Naturopathy also purports that ALL disease begins with the inflammation of the gut, and that if we flood our gut with good microbes or PREBIOTICS (pre not pro) and maintain alkalinity of the body, we can prevent major diseases like cancer and heart disease amongst others.
I had chosen to stay at Prakriti Shakti, amongst the umpteen options available because Prakriti Shakti was a proper clinic. Even though it had all the trappings of luxury, I knew that I wanted something “serious.” I was also delighted that the clinic was in Kerala. For me, Kerala is truly God’s own country, and I knew that if I had to spend two weeks somewhere, there is nowhere else in the world where I would rather be. I had also heard really good things about Prakriti Shakti, especially about their food. They served only raw food– but the innovations were meant to be marvellous. For example, they could whip up “lasagna,” “pizza,” and even “mac n cheese,” with raw and vegan ingredients. While they DID NOT serve tea or coffee (a bit of a problem for me) they had a version of raw hot chocolate featuring coconut milk, dates and raw cacao powder. They weaned patients off caffeine addiction with magnesium tea (a delightful infusion of banana and cardamom.)
I woke up to thundering rain, swivelling mist and a wakeup call of a green juice, before I rushed off to yoga class which took place in a beautiful shala looking into the verdant forests of Panchalimedu. Right after a fulfilling yoga class, which was gentle enough for the morning, but rigorous enough for one to feel good, I was handed a schedule of my day, and I was surprised to see that it was jam-packed. My day was to begin with mud-pack application on the eyes and the abdomen, followed by a Doctor’s consultation, reflexology walking, brunch (10 AM), massage, Doctor’s talk, more treatments that included mud therapy and hydrotherapy, a raw cooking class and then dinner at 6 PM.
I went to see the spirited (and as I was soon to discover, very talented Dr Cjith, referred by me as “Doc”) who explained to me how and why I had been a victim of typhoid (wipe-out of gut bacteria because of antibiotics that I had taken for a tooth infection) and how over the course of the next two weeks I would be recovering my gut. He prescribed a “constructive” diet for me– a completely raw and rainbow coloured diet where I would consume foods of 7 different colours and thus nutritional value. To mitigate the shock of the raw food diet, he told me that I could eat as much as I wanted, there were no restrictions on quantity.
In the days that followed, I developed a raging appetite because my body seemed to demand more nutrition. I found myself devouring large quantities of raw food, which was not exactly a difficult task as Chef Gireesh and his team whipped up some tasty dishes– a pizza with a base of dehydrated oats and almond flour topped with cashew cheese, basil pesto and a delicious tomato sauce made from sun-dried tomatoes, an avocado smoothie bowl made with fresh avocados and coconut milk, topped with pistachios, almonds, pomegranate, kiwi and apple, a “spaghetti with meat balls” made with raw zucchini, mushrooms, and cashew cheese. The best part of this “diet” (though to me it felt less and less like a diet every day) was dessert. I was treated to all sorts of raw delights like coconut, jaggery ice cream (all vegan) apricot bites, raw chocolate mousse, date mithai and much more.
The more I ate, the hungrier I felt and interestingly enough the scale showed that I was dropping weight instead of gaining weight. Doc told me that this was natural, when our body starts getting nutrition in its most potent form( raw food) that it can easily absorb, it starts demanding more of the good stuff but it doesn’t hold the weight.
With my bounty of nutrition within just a few days of arriving at Prakriti Shakti, I started feeling better. I was adapting to a more natural state of life– I was waking up earlier, my eyes opening at 5:30 AM, though typically I wasn't much of a morning person. I didn't have the lulls in energy that I had post-typhoid. I stopped taking the afternoon naps that I had grown accustomed to because I was constantly tired, and I started doing my own yoga practice in the evenings in addition to the morning sessions, because I had so much more energy.
The treatments were helping me too. I began every morning with sun-gazing, followed by mud packs on the eyes and abdomen which increased circulation. I did hydrotherapy by sitting in tubs of Epsom salt to relieve aches and pains in the body and soothe the abdomen. I did long massages with coconut and olive oil to increase circulation. I did ultra-sound therapy to reduce pain in my knee joint– an old injury which had cropped up after typhoid. Perhaps my favourite was the banana leaf bath, in which after being scrubbed with coconut oil and sugar, you are wrapped up in banana leaves. It turns out that banana leaves are packed with healing properties which filter out toxins from the body
Perhaps more than anything else I was learning fundamentals about my body which I wished I had known a long time ago, and which every individual must know. Some of my major finding were as follows:
- Keep the body alkaline. Friends of mine in Delhi were installing expensive Japaneses machines in their homes which made water alkaline. This wasn't necessary. We could do this easily by infusing our water with lemon, mint, cinnamon, and basil seeds.
- Almost all disease is a result of the body being too acidic. When we consume acidic foods there is a drop in the pH of the blood. To compensate for this drop is pH (even a slight change in blood pH leads to death) the body pulls out calcium for the bones making them weaker and leading to issues like osteoporosis. The body also reacts to an increase in acidity in the following ways:
- by increasing ammonia and depositing calcium which leads to chronic kidney diseases.
- by creating an insulin resistance which leads to diabetes.
- by an increase in cortisol levels which leads to high blood pressure.
- Antibiotics can ruin your gut for months (or even years, like it was was in my case because of the intensity of antibiotics that I had consumed ) by wiping out “good bacteria” to come.
- Rather than taking antacids to reduce acidity in the body, something as simple as amla juice or tulsi/basil seeds soaked in water the morning can easily increase the alkalinity of our bodies.
- Overcooking food not only leads to loss of nutrition it also leads in a breakdown of dietary fibre which is REALLY important in feeding the good bacteria of our stomach.
- Think PREBIOTICS not PROBIOTICS. We douse our body with store-bought probiotics but we wouldn’t be needing this if we simply gave our body enough “prebiotics” by eating foods high in fibre.
-Maintaining a natural bio-rhythm helps the digestive system. Waking up before 7 AM is key, even if we decide to take an afternoon nap.
- Sun bathing even for 2 short minutes a day helps with natural development of the all-important Vitamin D in our body.
Before I knew it, my two weeks at Prakriti Shakti were over, ending as quickly as it had started. I was sad to be leaving because this had truly been a charmed and blessed two weeks.
That said, the trip had not been without its troubles. When there is little to disturb the mind, the mind FINDS things to nit-pick on and consume itself with. At times, I found myself in the strangest of soups with the most irrelevant of things troubling me– why had a certain friend of mine not invited me to a party (even though I couldn't have attended, but the monkey mind would say, I should have been invited anyways!) Why was the growth of my company so slow! Why was my CEO giving me so much trouble? Thoughts which would not have ordinarily bothered me, were doing so, and negative thoughts would flood my mind. That led to cravings, often sugar and caffeine and these were obviously not allowed here.
But, it had all been worth it, because I was feeling so much better. When the body is allowed to relax, the mind functions so much better, and I felt that while I had taken 2 weeks off from work, I could make it all up because I was more vibrant and energetic and I was achieving a lot more by working less. I was also rid of the social-media compulsions that so many of us have. I did not feel the need to reply to every single WhatsApp/Instagram message, I did not feel the need to check or post on Instagram. I was spending a lot less time on social media and on my phone in general and this had freed up SO much space in my mind.
I left Prakriti Shakti with a feeling of being rejuvenated and uplifted. I had also gathered a specific set of learnings that would immediately (and realistically) incorporate into my life.
A few of these included:
- Start the day with drinking soaked basil seeds
- End the day with amla water (1 amla blended in one class of water)
- The doctor had said I could have one cup of coffee a day, but that told me not to have it on an empty stomach. I would have a green juice before I had that tea/coffee
- I would aim to be up before 7 AM no matter what time I had slept the previous night. If need be, I would take a short afternoon nap.
My immersion into naturopathy had not only cured me of the after-math of typhoid, but unexpectedly given me learnings to carry along or a lifetime. All disease, major or minor (even a cough, cold, or inflamed muscle) begins from the gut, which controls digestion, immunity, brain, weight, and even happiness. As the wise Dr Cjith had told me, the road to good health was paved with healthy intestines.
Ira Trivedi is a leading writer and yoga teacher. You can follow her on @iratrivedi on Instagram and twitter
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