In modern times, most children and teenagers have numerous health problems. Most have postural defects, mainly mild scohosis; besides most sit in a slouching, kyphotic posture, bent forward; such habit of slouching results in poor ventilation of lungs in the chest and inefficient functioning of the stomach, liver, pancreas, small and large intestines, etc., in the abdominal cavity. Our youngsters have to be taught to sit, stand and walk upright, erect, full-height for most of the waking hours.Short-sightedness or other eye defects are also quite prevalent these days, even in children under 1 0 years of age. These eye defects are also often due to faulty postures, lack of general exercise, and faulty eating habits. Young ones using glasses should be encouraged to get rid of these eye-crutches by learning eye exercise, Yogasanas, Tratak, palming and other relaxation techniques, besides correcting harmful eating habits. Instead, generally the eye specialists suggest contact lenses, which further weaken the eyes.
From the primary schools, through high schools, right up to graduating from college – all along our student life – true health education should be imparted, emphasizing Diet Reform along VEGETARIAN lines. Harmfulness of all flesh foods should be clearly taught without any merits ascribed to chicken being lean meat, or fish having Ome’ga-3 fatty acids, supposedly good for heart. Much more than grains and pulses, the importance of fresh fruits and raw-vegetable salads should be emphasized. School and college canteens should serve breads, sandwiches and biscuits – all made of whole wheat, replacing the maida (refined flour) in bakery products, mostly made with hydrogenated pseudo-ghee, which also should be avoided. Fried foodstuffs like Vada, Bhajiya and Samosa or other farsans, on one hand and the sugary mithais (sweet foods stuffs) on the other, have no nutritional virtues and are better eschewed. Tea and coffee are also harmful; they can be replaced by herbal tea made of mint leaves, lemon grass, tulsi (holy basil) leaves and ajwain (Bishop’s weed) leaves, with a little crushed ginger, sweetened with jaggery instead of the harmful refined sugar. Fresh fruits are better eaten as such, instead of juicing them and drinking their juice. In juicing the fruits or vegetables, micronutrients usually remain in the cellulose, which is thrown away. Sugared, colored, and artificially flavoured squashes do not have anything to make them worthy of recommendation. Especially, the cola drinks should be banned in college canteens; all their ingredients are harmful. Beer or other alcoholic drinks and tobacco for smoking or eating should of course be totally out of bounds of all educational institutes.
It is best to avoid competitive games and sports, because these often tempt the participating sportspersons to use PED, i.e. Performance-Enhancing Drugs, of which there are many. Beta blockers slow down the pulse and relax the blood vessels; therefore, they are used by competitors in Archery’ and ‘Shooting’ events, where unshaky steadiness of hands is called for. Caffeine, cocaine, and strychnine are stimulants that let the athlete stay alert at odd hours of competition, beating sleep. Dr. Arvind Pendse, a Senior Scientist at the National Chemical Laboratory , points out that these stimulants can have harmful side effects such as arrhythmic heartbeats, high blood pressure, and even convulsions and sudden death. Anabolic steroids, the favourite of weightlifters and wrestlers, are mostly testosterone-based. (Testosterone is a male sex hormone). Their side effects include hepatitis and mood swings between depression and aggressiveness. Dr. Pendse also points out – citing example of cricket, a game in which rewards of success are very disproportionately high – that fast bowlers may benefit by the use of steroids, whereas batsmen may benefit by the use of amphetamines, which may give extreme alertness. Relaxants such as alcohol and marijuana may relax a person to the extent of impairing judgment, coordination and balance. Our teenagers certainly have to be encouraged to take greater part in activities like exercise, physical games, swimming, weightlifting and wrestling; they should also regularly do vigorous exercises like DUND and BAITHAK. But they have to be warned against doping to enhance performance for the sake of name and fame or big money. Health, after all, is the first wealth. Health lost by addiction to alcohol or tobacco, to say nothing about the aforesaid PEDs, may not be regained at all. Liver cirrhosis, kidney failure, heart disease, or cancers are not at all easy to cure.
Key to health
In imparting true knowledge about health to our children from tender age, the role of Gandhian literature cannot be underestimated. The Mahatma wrote much on health matters, basing his writings on experiments on himself, as also his Ashram inmates. He evolved a simple, indigenous Bharatiya system of health and healing, based on the use of Pancha-Maha-Bhutas (Five Great Elements), which are Earth, Water, Light, Air and Space. Books on health-related subjects by Gandhiji, such as Key to Health, Nature Cure, Diet and Diet Reform, Self-Restraint vs Self-indulgence, and also books by other pioneers from India in the field of Naturopathy and Natural Hygiene, as well as literature on this subject by scores of pioneers from other countries – all such literature that disseminates true knowledge about health – should be made compulsory reading in schools and colleges. Such authors, besides Gandhiji, to name a few, are (1) K. Lakshmana Sarma, (2) SJ. Singh, (3) Kulranjan Mukherjee, (4) Ramanlal Engineer, and others – from India; and (i) Benedict Lust, (11) Henry Lindlahr (iii) Herbert Shelton, (iv) Father Kneipp, (v) Louis Kuhne, (vi) Adolph Just, (vii) Arnold Ehret, (viii) Bernarr Macfadden, (ix) James Thomson, and others – from U.S.A., U.K., Germany and other countries. Trignometry, Zoology, Algebra, Accountancy, Botany and many other subjects which are taught in schools and colleges are of little use to us in our lives, once we pass out from colleges and enter a profession, service, or career; but how to maintain good health, physically as well as mentally, is of paramount importance to all of us, men and women, in all stages and phases of life, childhood onwards, till we breathe our last. What type of regulated, disciplined eating habits we should form, right from childhood; what sort of exercises we should be doing all our lives to achieve total physical fitness; how we should maintain mental equanimity, especially in turbulent times of life; how we should relate to family members in our or their times of loss or grief or disease; and many other matters of life, living, and lifestyle are of profound and basic importance, which we all need to be well informed about but are generally not. Health is not only mere absence of disease, but it is a state of VIBRANT WELL-BEING AT THE PHYSICAL, PSYCHO- EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL LEVELS. Unless, we have this all-embracing holistic health – all through our childhood, youth, middle age, and up to advanced elderly and old age, without serious health problems of a physical, mental or emotional nature -external wealth, comforts and worldly achievements like acquisition of degrees and diplomas, name and fame, large bank accounts, gold and diamonds, huge mansions, and numerous servants at beck and call are incapable of giving us an ease within at the cerebral and emotional levels, or even outwardly, at the physical and physiological levels; and such lack of ease is disease.
(Note : This article is taken from the book “The Human Body : Nature’s Amazing Creation” by Dr. M. M. Bhamgara. We are thankful to him.)