Last two years for me have been about studying, understanding and applying principles of health based on naturopathy to my daily life. Of the various things that I have tried so far the following 7 have become habits and in turn shown some great benefits. I feel happy sharing these with you today.
1. Drink water early morning
It was in May 2019 when someone who was giving me a health consult asked me to write him a mail on my daily habits. He specifically asked me to mention how much water I drink and when. I happily replied: “I drink more than a litre a day, spread across the day.” He told me to make sure I drink 3-4 glasses or a litre immediately on waking up! Determined to improve my health, I tried to put this into practice. As easy as it sounds, it took me almost 6 months to drink 4 glasses within the first hour of waking up. Some might find this easier than others but with time everyone can do it. So why does this matter?
- Our bodies do a lot of repair and maintenance work in sleep at night. All the debris of this collects mainly in the gastrointestinal tract and needs flushing out. According to the body’s natural rhythm, the body is most actively eliminating in the morning. Hence drinking upto a litre of water first thing in the morning, without brushing, aids this elimination.
- One good ‘side effect’ of this is that it will push your tea/coffee drinking time forward automatically.
- Walking or doing yoga makes the elimination even better.
2. Have a light breakfast
Elimination and digestion are two opposite activities and they both take a fair amount of your body’s energy, what we call vital force in naturopathy. So in the morning it’s best to eat things that need minimum digestion: raw juices or fruits. Ultra- runner Milind Soman only eats about a kilo of fruits for breakfast.
- I find it difficult to do both juice and fruit together, so I alternate between the two. For maximum benefit, have at least 300 ml of juice or a dinner plate full of fruit.
- I had managed to give up tea completely in the morning, sadly the habit came back in winter. So I still have half a cup at around 11 am. It is not something that I am proud of but I find the weaning off approach more sustainable, so I am taking my time with it.
3. Drink more water during the day
Drink water as you get thirsty during the rest of the day, but try and follow these principles:
- Don’t drink anything with your meals. The only exception is buttermilk.
- Drink water at room temperature 30 minutes before a meal, especially if you have digestion issues.
- Best to drink an hour after a meal. If you get thirsty and want to drink before that, then drink hot water.
- Make friends with lemon or lime and add it to your water whenever you can. Its nature’s best eliminator.
My mother often gets alarmed and tells me I am flushing out the good from my body with so much water. I do drink a lot of water these days and I do watch my energy levels. If you start feeling the energy dip, then add some lemon and honey to your water.
4. Eat a big lunch
In naturopathy we say that the digestive fire follows the sun. So it is the strongest when the sun is. Hence let the afternoon meal be your biggest meal. Sadly this is a tough ask for all office going people and I haven’t found a solution. The only thing I can say here is that this meal can be had anytime between 11 am and 3 pm.
5. Eat an early dinner
I have let my body guide me this last year and I have to say, I felt the lightest and most energised when my evening meals finished by 6 pm. Again, don’t force yourself into this but:
- It is best to eat dinner 3 hours before you sleep. Why? One reason is of course the dying of the digestive fire as the sun sets’ second, because sleep does not aid digestion. I know from experience that if I sleep immediately after a meal both in the afternoon and night, I have gotten up feeling heavy and a bit sluggish. Hence food and digestion is a function of our waking cycle and not our sleep or dream cycle.
- I have learned to watch urges or cravings that come up at night. I try to imagine food dishes that I would like to eat at that moment and surprisingly my mouth does not salivate. You know what they say about ‘real hunger’: it never goes away. Which means you should be equally hungry in the morning when you wake up, which is seldom the case. Alternatively, keep something raw handy if hunger if it is real hunger. Soaked peanuts or fresh coconut or carrots and cucumber sticks, even papaya, are easy to grab things. Basically if you must eat post evening dinner, keep it raw!
6. Say ‘No’ to tea and coffee
Neither tea nor coffee or any substance that artificially boosts our nervous system is prescribed by naturopathy. This includes all forms of tobacco and alcohol. A friend and I have been watching our tea and coffee habits over the last two years now and it is something we both haven’t yet gotten completely rid of.
- My friend used to have a big cup of potent coffee (with 2 heaped teaspoons) in the morning before work. She started drinking the 4 glasses of water religiously, gave up on breakfast, has raw juice 3-4 times a week. As a consequence she drinks her 1 cup of coffee only 2-3 times a week now, green tea on most days.
- I used to drink 3-4 big cups of tea until two years ago, my first cup on waking up, often on an empty stomach. Given the above 4-5 changes that I have made, I drink about 1 full cup now: half in the morning and another half before 5 pm. Having tea post 5 pm has become a nightmare for me; I know by the clock that it will keep me awake until 3 am. On those days that I still make the mistake, I toss and turn and generally curse my foolishness.
- If I ever have tea on an empty stomach, I notice that my tongue gets coated with this white layer almost immediately, a reflection of what it’s doing to my stomach inside. So having tea before eating anything is a complete NO!
- It makes me wonder how potent and addictive nicotine is to our nervous system and how for almost 25 years, I poured (and continue though to a lesser degree) cup after cup into my body. My endeavour is to get rid of the tea habit before the end of this year.
7. Eat only when hungry
As simple as it sounds, getting used to eating only when real hunger emerges is something that I found difficult to put into practice. I noticed that most of my eating is guided by: it is time to eat, others are eating, boredom or cravings. Naturopathy defines ‘real hunger’ as a persistent need for simple fresh (freshly cooked included) food. So always eat when your body is calling out for such food. Another way of letting real hunger emerge is by giving a 4-5 hr gap between meals and eating less than full capacity.
As Michael Pollan famously said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plant.”
I guess you want to know what the result has been of making these changes. What is the point otherwise, I can hear you say?
- Let me start with weight loss. I have lost 8 kg in the last one year. I attribute it mostly to the above changes along with some regular one day fasts that I have done. While I do yoga regularly now, it is not of any intense or rigorous kind; in fact just the opposite.
- I have managed to get a handle on my anemia and excessive menstrual bleeding, something that I struggled with for almost 15 years.
- I have managed to get rid of my constipation, whose two big contributors are a low fibre diet and dehydration.
- My palate is much cleaner, which means I crave less spicy, salty, or sugary foods.
- My overall energy level is at an all-time high. I don’t feel fatigued or tired through the day