Author: Dada Dharmavedananda
A rich man is sleeping in his house. Suddenly he is awakened by the burglar alarm.
"Ach! These stupid systems never work properly!" he exclaims, rubbing his eyes and struggling to stand up. He goes downstairs and, still cursing the system, turns off the alarm. Going back to his bedroom he quickly falls asleep again.
The burglars can't believe their good luck, as they take their time to carefully find and steal every available expensive item in the house.
The health situation of most people in the meat-eating nations of the world is analogous to that rich man's condition. Usually when people experience uncomfortable symptoms and sickness, they turn to doctors and medicines to turn off the symptoms so that they can again be comfortable. Just like the rich man who believes he is safe falls back asleep, so most people, under the illusion of recovered health go back to eating the wrong food, and resume other bad habits. Meanwhile, the cause of the suppressed symptoms remains and gets worse. Over time the person becomes more and more sick.
The physical cause of more than 90% of human sickness is the same: too many toxins in the body. Most of these toxins are located in the stomach, intestinal system, organs and circulation system. As an example let's look at the common cold. Here the symptoms are a running nose, fever, sore throat, sneezing, and so on. The use of medicine turns off these "problems". Unfortunately they are alarms, not problems. They are also the means for the body to rid itself of the real problem -- excess toxins. The increased flow of mucous provides a channel for toxins to flow out. The fever causes sweat, which is also a medium for elimination. At the same time the message of the sore throat and the sneezing is: "Stop eating! Drink more and more!" Because they go on eating even though they are not hungry, most people who catch colds are compelled to continue suffering for many days or even weeks at a stretch. If they were simply to fast on water or lemon water (with a little salt, not sugar), the cold almost always fulfills its purpose and stops within one or two days.
In this case, what is the reason for the effectiveness of fasting? To answer this question we should understand a most fundamental principle of our digestion system. The digestive system has two functions: 1) abstract energy from the food and immediately pass the waste matter out of the body and 2) clean itself of old static waste matter that has clung to the walls of the intestines and other organs for days, years, or even decades. The first function is well known to everyone. The second function is also known, but essentially ignored, by most conventional doctors. They especially neglect the fact that when the digestive system becomes clean, the body next directs its cleaning efforts at any other organs or systems which contain toxins.
The two functions of the digestion system are basically non-simultaneous. That is, whenever the body is busy in digesting newly consumed food, then no energy remains for deep cleaning activity. It is only when the stomach and intestines are more or less empty of fresh food, then those organs will automatically start cleaning themselves. The toxins causing the cold are rapidly eliminated, the symptoms stop, and the person can resume eating. Hopefully s/he is wiser due to having been sick, and is more careful to avoid over-toxifying the body.
From which foods does toxification more likely occur? Here the principle is easy to understand: food which is more difficult to digest is more likely to not be fully digested. When any food enters one's mouth, digestive juices start secreting in the mouth, esophogaus, and stomach. When the food reaches the stomach, the digestive acids try to quickly break it down into small particles. Easy-to-digest food requires less acid secretion, difficult-to-digest food requires more acid. The process continues as the food solids and liquids are worked upon by the liver, the kidneys, the small intestine, the large intestine and other organs. Acids, fats and other toxic substances also pass into the blood stream, polluting the circulation system and adhering to the walls of the arteries and other blood-carrying channels. Thus, the difficult-to-digest foods are called acid-forming, while easy-to-digest foods are classified as alkaline. In the case of some extremely alkaline foods, such as juicy fruits, they contribute their own fruit acids which may help in the digestion of other foods. There are a few foods, like sugar, tea and onion which are not difficult to digest but are classified as acidic because they contain elements which greatly disturb the equilibrium of the body. These elements are mildy poisonous.
Here is a list of foods categorized from most alkaline to most acid-forming. (As one reads down the list, each succeeding item is somewhat more acid-forming.):
1) Lemon water
2) Herb tea
3) Honey (a little)
4) Citric fruit juice
5) Other fruit juices
6) Vegetable juice
7) Citric fruits
8) Juicy fruits
9) Other fruits (except banana)
10) Non-starchy vegetables *
(up to here all items are relevant for "graduated fasting")
13) Starchy vegetables and banana *
14) Fresh tofu
16) Raw sugar
17) Whole grains
19) Refined grains
20) Refined sugar
21) Tea, coffee
22) Fried foods
23)Milk varies according to personal situation **
Avoid extremely acidic food: 24)mushrooms, 25)onion, 26)garlic, 27)fish, 28)meat, 29)eggs
* Non-starchy vegetables may also be considered as salad-vegetables, i.e. they may be eaten raw. Starchy vegetables, like potato, are difficult to eat raw. Banana is much more starchy then most other fruits (unless it is extremely ripe, in which case its classification become more alkaline).
** Depending on the condition of one's liver, and also on the functioning of milk-digestion enzymes, people differ in their capacity to digest milk and milk products. For some people milk is a medicine, e.g. certain patients of ulcer. For many, milk causes gas formation, and may thus be recognized as being highly acid-forming. Non-homogenised milk is much easier to digest than homogenised milk because when fats are forcibly mixed with the rest of the milk such that separation does not occur, such globules of "whole milk" become strenuous for the liver.
Items numbered from 1 to 11 generally have a cleansing effect on the body. If a person thus restricts his diet for any length of time to those initial items, the body will undergo a gradual or radical cleansing process. The higher up on the list the restriction is made, so the faster the cleansing will occur. In this regard, the most extreme method of cleaning the body is to neither eat nor drink anything, not even water. But such a method, though appropriate for some people for a short time, is dangerous for most people.
In any case we may thus clearly understand that if an individual uses simple natural means to keep the body relatively clean from toxins, and if there is a regular intake of a reasonable amount of nutrition (not too much and not too little), then there is the greatest possibility that such a person will maintain a high degree of health.
Of course many factors enter into "keeping the body relatively clean from toxins". It is not only a matter of food and fasting. These factors include exercise, bathing, sleep, mental activity, purity of air and water, presence or absence of chemicals in the food, hormonal inbalances of the glands, and inborn genetic peculiarities. But of all these, food and fasting remain the foremost important for most people.
Thus we come to the main statement of this article: a vegetarian diet is better than a non-vegetarian diet for our all-round health. For the moment we are looking only at the physical aspect, and later will deal with the psychic and spiritual aspects. Vegetarianism is preferable for the bodily health because it consists of items which are easier to digest and thus much more alkaline than fish, meat and eggs.
The human body system has exactly the same food-eating and digesting characteristics as other vegetarian mammals (like cows, monkeys, deer and elephants), and totally different from the meat-eating mammals (like tigers, lions, wolves, dogs and cats). These characteristics include:
1) Vegetarian mammals including man have flat rear molar teeth for grinding their food. Meat-eaters do not have flat molars, and instead have sharp front teeth for tearing food.
2) Vegetarian mammals have an intestinal tract 10 to 12 times their body length. The intestines of meat-eaters is only 3 times their body length so that rapidly decaying meat can pass out quickly.
3) The stomach acid of vegetarians is 20 times less strong than that of meat-eaters.
4) Vegetarians have no claws, whereas meat-eaters have claws to catch and kill their prey.
5) Vegetarians perspire through their skin. Meat-eaters have no skin pores, and instead perspire through their tongues.
6) Vegetarian mammals require high-fiber diets (available in fruits, vegetables and whole grains) or else they eventually become constipated. Meat-eating mammals remain perfectly healthy even when their diets include very little fiber. Constipation is usually the first cause of digestion-related diseases in humans.
7) Meat-eaters can easily digest foods containing a high quantity of cholestorol and saturated fat. Vegetarians have a very limited capacity to deal with these same elements. For example laboratory experiements show that if dogs are gradually given more and more butter fat, even 250 grams every day, they show no increase in their serum cholesterol level. On the other hand, if vegetarian mammals eat much fat a great strain is first placed on the liver, fatty deposits develop on the inner walls of the arteries, and gradually the heart weakens through over-work, causing heart attacks and blood clots.
It is clear that human beings are bound to face difficulties in the digestion of meat, fish and eggs. Furthermore, humans who regularly eat such heavy foods gradually experience weakening of their digestive systems such that they are unable to rapidly eliminate waste matter, and thus their bodies get less and less time to perform self-cleaning.
Regarding heart disease, the cause of more than half of the deaths in the USA, the American Medical Association states that more than 90% of all heart disease could be prevented by vegetarian diet.
The editor-in-chief of the prestigious "American Journal of Cardiology" and a foremost expert on heart disease, DrWilliam Roberts, wrote: "When we kill animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh was never intended for human beings, who are naturally herbivores."
The reader may be interested in my own experience of low-protein diets. Not only have been a strict vegetarian for the last 25 years of my life, but numerous times for months at a stretch I have also eliminated from my diet milk products, grains, beans and starchy vegetables. During those periods, which continued for as long as 9 months at a time, I ate only fruit and salad. Without any major source of protein I felt stronger and better than during any other times of my life. Indeed I would maintain such a diet always, except that I prefer to be able to eat together with other people. Also, this sort of diet is awkward or even impossible in very poor societies where the climate is cold, such as in Mongolia and Russia (where I am presently working). Thus, only due to circumstances, not due to physical need, I eat a diet containing some high protein foods. Still, I prefer that my meals predominantly consist of fruits and salad-type vegetables.
Dada Dharmavedananda is the the director of the Ananda Marga Wellness Center in the Philippines. He has been teaching yoga and natural health for almost forty years. Visit his website http://www.amwellness.org for more information about natural health and diet.