NATUROPATHY? What is that?

I encountered naturopathy early in my childhood, so I took it for granted that people around me know what it is as well. But in my recent explorations, both of learning naturopathy formally and engaging with people on it, I am realising how little it’s known.

One of the reason it’s dismissed by even those who have heard of it is the belief that it’s an ancient system, right for some ancient way of life (a friend told me multiple times that perhaps it’s not right for our times, but I will come back to this point in another post). Another is the hierarchy that invades even traditional practices. Ayurveda is positioned as top of the ladder and hence receives a stronger push even from the government. Plus, it has a larger commercial value.

But to me one of the most significant reasons why people don’t understand naturopathy or have never heard about it, is because of the fad of ‘integration’.

A lot of facilities today offer combined treatments in Ayurveda and Naturopathy: Kayakalp in Palampur, Balaji Nirodham in Sonepat, and several more across the country. What do you think you are likely to remember more: the treatments that cost you more, needed more preparation and execution or the simpler & cheaper ones, which you can even do at home?

Integration doesn’t appeal to me. I believe it takes years of continuous learning and practice to fully comprehend the nuances and see the results of one healing system on a human being. Any attempt to mix another healing system, when the previous one has not been practiced enough produces mixed results. Integration to me is a tool reserved only for the very experienced. Thankfully, Jindal Nature cure in Bangalore and Nisargopchar in Urli Kanchan near Pune have maintained their purist zeal and are fully residential naturopathy facilities.

The five fundamentals of naturopathy

1. Theory of 5 elements

Naturopathy or nature cure or the science of hygiene (as it is sometimes called), is a drugless system of health based on the 5 element theory. Every living thing in nature (human beings, plants, animals) is formed through a combination of five elements: Space (also called ether), Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Naturopathy believe that since our body is made of these 5 elements, a dis-balance of these is what causes disease. To prevent or cure disease, we must restore balance and that can be done by using these very elements as treatment modalities.

Ether or space

Within the human body it is represented by all the empty space between cells, bodily organs, etc. It has one core property: sound. Ever noticed how musical instruments invariably have a hollowness that helps produces the sound? You need space to create a melody, for any kind of movement to take place. To increase space inside one’s body, fasting and sleeping under the open sky help, something that was common until my grandfather’s time. And no, it wasn’t because they were poor.


Most visible in our breathing. There are actually 5 different types of air in our body. A dis-balance of this element is what lies behind all the pains that have a moving nature.  Air’s essential quality is sensation or touch, which is why certain forms of massages are so soothing. An old system of Chinese breathing actually makes ‘the breath massage internal organs’. Early morning walks, pranayama, ventilation are the easiest way of increasing this element in your body.


‘Fire in your belly’ in not just a metaphor; it actually refers to the fire element in our body, which is most concentrated in the belly area. It is what makes all the chemical reaction possible: digestion, oxidation, and allows conversion of one form into another. Its essential property is form. Solid foods change into liquids and then gases because of this element. Basking in the morning sun and eating loads of fruits is the simplest way of increasing fire.


It’s present in all the fluids in your body: lymph, blood, saliva. Its essential property is fluidity. Hence you need it for maintaining the flow of everything and also for flushing things out. Drinking ‘enough’ water and raw juices is the simplest way of maintaining this element.


Most represented in the skeletal and musculature system of our body, including hair and nails. Its essential property is smell. In meditative eating you are asked to smell your food, it will tell you whether the food will be favourable to the soil (gut) inside you. Most animals do this. The food we eat determines the quality of this element in our body. All grains are full of this element.

Naturopathy rests on the belief that since our body is made of these 5 elements, the same 5 elements can be used for treatment. Sounds too simple? Yes and that’s the beauty of it! Haven’t we all realised by now that all the real or big things in life, really are simple. It’s our desire to follow the complicated that often lands us in trouble!

2. Toxic matter

Toxins or toxic matter is produced in our bodies constantly as natural by-product of metabolism, digestion and breathing. Think dead red blood cells, uric acid after proteins have been metabolised. Toxics are also produced when the air we breath is polluted, leading to more carbon dioxide in the body, then it needs. The body naturally tries to remove these toxins, as they have no utility for it, through the organs of elimination. Detoxification happens regularly when the 4 elimination organs: colon, kidneys, skin and lungs, are healthy and working optimially. If these get unhealthy, or if more than what can be regularly eliminated is accumulated in the body, the body starts getting ‘toxic’. This accumulation is the genesis of disease in naturopathy. Some key reasons for this accumulation of toxic matter is:  overeating or eating without hunger, lowered functioning of stomach, mal-absorption in the small intestines or poor elimination (from the 4 elimination organs).

Hence detoxsifying the body or cleaning the body is always the starting point in naturopathy. Mud pack, enemas and large quantities of fruits as food as examples of naturopathy detox.

3. Food thy Medicine

It was Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, who declared “let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

And no where does this hold more true than in naturopathy. Long before there were nutritionist or dieticians , there were naturopaths using food to heal the human body. I mentioned at the beginning that naturopathy is a complete drugless system of healing. This is also how it differs substantially from the other alternative systems like Ayurveda or homeopathy, all of which use some kind of medicine for treatment. Naturopathy uses food , everything that we put in our mouths, as a way of treating disease.

Naturopaty diets use a combination of juices, fruits, salads, lightly steamed or boiled vegetables and sprouts to detoxify, cleanse and nourish the human body. While food modification is a key tenent in naturopathy, there are times when fasting alongwith naturopathy treatments (spinal baths, steam paths, mud packs, to name a few) and lifestyle modifications, are used to root out disease and restore balance in the body.

4. Unity of disease

In naturopathy, there is very little focus on diagnosis or disease. That is because it believes that all disease arises from the accumulation of toxic matter in the body. First come the acute disease: runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, which is nothing but body’s attempt at throwing out the accumulated toxins. Unfortunately, we have all been taught to quickly suppress such diseases, so we take pills to do just that. Continuous suppression results in a hardening of this accumulation, which then settles on certain organs or close to them. It then starts affecting the functioning of that organ or it turns destructive where it starts eating or destroying parts of the body. This is what to us gets diagnosed and called out as disease: diabetes, cancer, hypo or hyper-thyroidism. But to a naturopath, it doesn’t matter what disease or symptom you show up with, S/he needs to get your body cleaned of toxic matter first.

5. Vital Energy

What the Chinese call ‘chi’, Yoga calls ‘prana’, Egyptian called ‘Ka’ , the naturopaths call vital energy. It’s the body’s innate energy or life force that is constantly at work. An allopath’s view of bodily energy is like a ‘coal engine’: you keep adding coal (food) and you will get heat and energy. The naturopath views the body more like an electric engine. The current or power that enables bodily functions ( especially the autonomic system) flows along the nerves like some kind of electricity. The more blocks this electricity will encounter in its path (toxic matter) the lower its output or lower the vitality. Hence, a naturopaths job is to remove the blocks in the way of this vital energy and increase the power of this energy. This vital energy acts like the ‘doctor within’. When adequately restored, it has the ability to heal the body from within.

Any guesses as to what is the fastest way of revitalising this energy: fasting! Which is why a seasoned naturopath will use fasting as a treatment modality.

Curing through naturopathy

How does a naturopath work? Through 3 key arms: food modification, lifestyle changes and naturopathy treatments. I have already mentioned that using food as medicine is a key tenent of naturopathy. So for anyone who undergoes naturopathy , what they eat will change substantially. There are a few seasoned naturopaths such as Dr. Goindi who specialise in the use of food for treatment, and Dr. Goel who treat primarily through raw foods. Most other naturopaths will use a combination of food , lifestyle modifications and treatments to elicit cures.

Treatments in naturopathy are based on the 5 elements of nature that I have already mentioned above. There are various kinds of sun baths( using green leaves, coloured glass); hydro baths (spinal, foot, hip); mud packs and baths; air baths.

Just so that you know, in India, its takes 5.5 years to get a bachelor’s degree in allopathy (MBBS), 5.5 years to get a bachelor’s degree in Ayurveda(BAMS) and 5.5 years to get a bachelor’s degree in Naturopathy (BNYS)! The other path is through Diplomas which can range from 1 to 3.5 years.

More about me and my journey into naturopathy here

3 responses to “NATUROPATHY? What is that?”

  1. divyadeora1505 Avatar

    So beautifully explained Rupinder. We should be incorporating Naturopathy everyday, almost every moment of our lives as it is so innately connected to us, but we are not aware about it. Love that your writing style is full of clarity n of explaining things scientifically in a simple manner. Thank you, it was very insightful.

  2. Rupinder Avatar

    Thanks Divi! So glad that you see the connection with everyday life.

  3. […] some time to learn about systems such as Naturopathy that make one self […]

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