Author: Dr Vikram Pattarkine
All living organisms, including human beings, always seek health and well-being. Health is a natural feeling of ease and equilibrium within an organism. Well-being is a state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy at three levels: physical, mental, and spiritual. Nature has programmed all organisms for health, which is essential for their survival and propagation. Health and well-being depend upon healthy food, healthy environment, and harmony among organisms and their environment. This article explores how natural plant-based diet affects our health, well-being, and the planet’s environment.
Importance of Food
All organisms other than human beings remain healthy by intuitively knowing what, when, and how much to eat. Human beings, on the other hand, have the freedom to either follow or disregard nature’s laws. Rather than enjoying good health by following these laws, human beings tend to misuse the freedom to go against nature’s laws and suffer ill health. Humans are natural beings and must respect nature’s laws to maintain health and well-being.
No living beings other than humans cook or process their food; they consume their food the way nature provides it. While enhancing flavor and improving digestibility of some food items, cooking also decreases the nutritional and energy value of food. Therefore, to satisfy our nutritional and energy needs, we need to eat larger quantities of cooked material.
Natural ready-to-eat food produced through photosynthesis includes fruits, vegetables, (soaked or sprouted) grains and lentils, nuts, and seeds. This is referred to as a “natural” or “raw vegan” diet. Natural diet has live biological cells containing enzymes and nutrients that help digest the food. This makes digestion easier and quicker.
Cooking destroys or denatures the natural enzymes and vitamins present in raw food. Therefore, our body must synthesize enzymes to digest cooked food. Consequently, cooked food takes longer than raw food to pass through our digestive system.
Cooked food exposed to 37-38 C and 100% humidity (environmental conditions inside the human gut) starts biodegrading, that is, microorganisms (microbes) start growing on it. Soaked raw grains, seeds, nuts, and lentils, on the other hand, start sprouting at 37-38 C. In the first case “dead” organic matter is biodegraded whereas in the second case “life” sprouts! Inside our gut, of course, seeds do not sprout; our bodies digest them.
Food and Gut Microbes
Cooked food is easier to swallow and is invariably overeaten. This excess food (organic material) in the body, if not fully metabolized and assimilated into our own body, generates a very large microbial population in our gut.
When we space our meals and completely digest everything we eat to be used for our own body, then only that microbial population survives which grows on our leftovers we cannot metabolize anyway. Most of us do not completely digest our previous meal before eating our next meal. This pushes undigested or partially digested material downward in our digestive system, which generates microbes that grow on the same food we should be using to maintain our body. Our body therefore sees these microbes as antagonistic because they compete for the same food we should be digesting.
Any organism or material considered antagonistic or harmful must be excreted to protect our body. As soon as our body sees an antagonistic microbe, it triggers our immune system (body’s defense mechanism). Constant presence of antagonistic microbes leads to perpetual inflammation of intestinal walls, which is the root cause of most of our lifestyle diseases.
The human body contains about 40 trillion cells. Estimated microbial cell count is anywhere from 40 to 100 trillion! When we harbor a large gut microbial population, a significant fraction of what we eat ends up getting consumed and processed by the gut microbes. Eating natural ready-to-eat food reduces the microbial population in our system considerably because we do not overeat in the first place. Natural food typically takes longer to eat because we must chew it thoroughly before it can be swallowed. Those microbes that live on our leftovers are symbiotic and create a protective environment within our gut. They help fight any pathogens we may ingest unknowingly.
Benefits of Natural Food
By reducing the quantity of cooked food, increasing the quantity of natural food, and eating only as much as our body truly needs, we can reach our ideal body weight within only a few weeks. When we eat only natural food, body fat is reduced, and our body maintains its natural shape. The body becomes more flexible. On a natural diet we rarely get sick and recover much more quickly even if we do.
Once the body gets used to natural food, cravings for cooked/processed food as well as hunger pangs go down. We need fewer meals in a day. During the first few months after converting to a fully raw diet, we may get hungry frequently, but over time hunger pangs subside as the gut microbial population is gradually reduced. Even one meal a day suffices once the body gets used to the new eating pattern. We should not eat less than our daily requirement nor should we deprive ourselves. We should eat based on our body’s needs and not make food a religion!
To process (oxidize) the food we eat, we must provide the necessary oxygen through breathing. Because we eat much less on a natural diet, less oxygen (hence less breathing) is needed. This results in a significant reduction in heart/pulse rate. Natural diet helps maintain healthy blood pressure, sugar, and cholesterol. Once the body starts functioning “at ease” then “disease” automatically disappears, and we start enjoying phenomenal health. This experience is much more pleasant and longer lasting than the short-lived pleasure we get from eating cooked or processed food.
The benefits of natural food were proven in my personal experience. In November 2017, at age 56 and a height of 5 ft 8 inches, my body weighed 80 kg (176 lb). Gradually decreasing the percentage of cooked food to 0% by 31 December 2017, the body weight was down to about 72 kg (158 lb). By early February 2018, the body weight was down to 68 kg (150 lb) and by March to 65 kg (143 lb). Since then the body weight has remained between 63 and 69 kg (139-152 lb). What started as an experiment has now become a lifestyle because the experience has been phenomenal!
On a natural diet, my heart/pulse rate decreased from 70-80 to under 60 beats. Blood pressure went down from 130/90 to 100/70 mm Hg; post-meal blood sugar went down from 150+ to under 100 mg/dL; fasting blood sugar was maintained around 70 mg/dL; and total blood cholesterol went down from 200+ to under 150 mg/dL.
Within a month of switching to natural diet, my sinus allergies and digestion challenges of almost 40 years disappeared. In another month or so, I was able to do yoga postures better and more easily than when I was a teenager, turning the clock back by 40 years!
After switching to a natural diet, in the past two years, I have had a couple of minor colds. These cured themselves without medication within a day or two. Before 2017 I would typically suffer for at least a week!
Along with a natural diet, a daily fast of 16-23 hours can reduce inflammation in our body significantly, cure almost every chronic/lifestyle disease, and slow down the aging process. Upon 12 hours of fasting, our body digests the previous meal completely. After that, the body processes and excretes toxins, including pesticide traces we might ingest with raw food. The longer the fast the more we excrete any accumulated toxins in the body. If we fast longer than 14-16 hours every night, we get a very pleasant experience of cleanliness from within.
Our ability to access our body’s natural intelligence improves significantly when we fast. Fasting is even more important than the type of diet we choose. The fundamental rule of diet is to eat only when we are truly hungry. If we eat a light meal, then we get hungry relatively quickly. If for any reason we eat a heavy meal, then we are naturally not hungry for a while. We must wait until we are hungry rather than eat because “it is time to eat” or because food is available.
Honor Thy Burp
Another important rule we must follow is about the quantity of food we consume at any meal. Our stomach has limited capacity to process a meal. We should fill only half of our stomach with food and leave the remaining space for digestive juices and air. The signal our body provides when the stomach is half full is – a small burp. We should pay close attention to the burp and eat only until the first burp. When we do this, then the food is churned properly and assimilated fully.
We need to eat much less natural food than cooked/processed food to fulfill our energy and nutritional needs. When we eat less, we excrete less. Thus, the process efficiency of our system improves significantly. Natural processes are always efficient. When we consciously maintain high efficiency levels, nature rewards us with vibrant health.
Environmental and Social Impact
Natural, plant-based diet has a beneficial impact on the environment and climate. Large fruit trees provide shade and habitat for birds. Trees also help conserve groundwater. The carbon footprint (harmful impact of carbon dioxide emissions related to the production and consumption) of a vegetarian diet is about half that of a meat-based diet. Natural diet has an even smaller footprint.
When demand for fresh fruits goes up farmers are incentivized to plant fruit trees, which typically provide long-term income for relatively low maintenance. Thus, the natural diet also helps the farmer.
Natural diet provides several health and environmental benefits. When our body is healthy and our environment conducive, our mind calms down. We feel a deeper connection with nature and life around us. We become aware we are a part of the life process on the planet, not apart from it. Conflict disappears from our mind and we become naturally peaceful. Only a peaceful individual can lead to a peaceful society, peaceful nation, and a peaceful world.
Dr Vikram Pattarkine, CEO, PEACE USA, may be reached at [email protected]