Mahatma Gandhi’s Approach to Health
Approach to Health
|By Prasad Gollanapalli|
Mahatma Gandhi’s approach to health is simple and natural. It is based on reason, understanding and practice. Health and wellbeing covers human body, mind and spirit. Gandhi’s approach to healthy life included disciplining the body and controlling mind. His experiments in dietetics began while he was in London. His understanding is: “Man eats not for enjoyment but to live. Man’s physical structure showed that he was not meant to be a cooking but a frugivorous animal, that he could take only his mother’s milk and, as soon as he had teeth, should begin to take solid foods.”
Many a health problem is our own making. We indulge more and invite illness. Self restraint is necessary. He would humorously ask, “would you like to become sick, because there is a Doctor?” He was a great walker and he attributed his health to his walking habit. He would focus on naturopathy and yoga to keep fit. Control of the palate and proper food were part of the prescription that were one of the eleven vows of Mahatma Gandhi. Mostly we eat not because we are hungry, but for the pleasure of eating. Gandhi declared:
“I stopped taking the sweets and condiments. The mind having taken a different turn, the fondness for condiments wore away.”
“I was convinced that one should eat only articles that sustained the body, I gave up tea and coffee as a rule.”
Food taking is a science and art. We have to cultivate proper food habits and tastes. For Gandhi, “Taste is acquired, not born with us. All the delicacies of the world cannot equal the relish that hunger gives to food. Food should be taken as a matter of duty – even as a medicine – to sustain the body, never for the satisfaction of the palate.”
In continuation to this approach, Gandhi would advise to go for natural, whole organic foods. Processed foods are harmful and do not contribute to the health of a person. We will eat rice, polished of its substance, and eat less nutritious sugar and pay more for it than more nutritious gur.
|Gandhi would turn his attention to agriculture from where we get our food and nourishment. According to Gandhi, use of chemicals and trading in soil fertility is a short sighted policy. “Organic manure ever enriches, never imporishes the soil. The daily waste, judiciously composted, returns to the soil in the form of golden manure causing a saving of millions of rupees and increasing manifold, the total yield of grains and pulses. In addition, the judicious use of waste keeps the surroundings clean. And cleanliness is not only next to godliness, it promotes health.”
He emphasized personal hygiene, village sanitation and good habits. Liquor for him was an invention of the devil. “We must not live in order to eat and drink and be merry, but eat and drink in order to make our bodies temples of God and use them for service of man.”
Gandhi’s thoughts on smoking: “I have a horror of smoking as of wines. Smoking I consider to be a vice. It deadens one’s conscience and is often worse than drink, in that it acts imperceptibly. It is a habit that is difficult to get rid of when once it seizes hold of a person. It is an expensive vice. It fouls the breath, discolours teeth and sometimes even causes cancer. It is an unclean habit.”
Thus, Mahatma Gandhi took a holistic approach to health encompassing food, physical exercise, cleanliness, sanitation, organic farming and keeping away from vices. It is also the least expensive health system most suited to India and the world.
About the Author
Mr. Prasad is a Gandhian Scholar and functionary in Gandhian Movement in India. He has taught courses on Gandhian Philosophy at Stanford University, University of Nebraska and other universities in the US and in India.