There’s something about the turn of the season that makes us want to lighten up and shake off the long dark days of winter.
Some of us may be fighting lethargy, others illness. But the urge to just ‘feel better’ is particularly strong this time of year.
There are a lot of factors that can combine to cause disease. But equally there are numerous factors – biological, psychological and social – that combine to cause or produce good health.
Naturopathic practitioners, and practitioners of other types of traditional medicine such Ayurveda or Chinese medicine, have long believed that to there are several key factors that combine to produce optimal health.
If you want to feel better, these are the places to start:
These basic factors were established long ago by Vincent Priessnitz (1799-1852), a farmer from the Silesia region – located in a territory divided by the current boundaries of Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic.
Priessnitz is credited with establishing the foundations of naturopathy – then called “nature cure” – and was responsible for establishing a healing system that incorporated natural substances such as water (he was an enthusiastic advocate of hydrotherapy), and many other early pioneers in natural health, such as Sebastian Kneipp, Benedict Lust, Henry Lindlahr, built on his foundation.
Although there are things that influence our health – like genetics – which are beyond our control, most people can choose a path that produces health rather than one that causes disease.
One of these paths is diet. In fact, diet is one of these most important ways we can chose health for ourselves and a naturopathic or Nature Cure diet has been used as a foundation for addressing many of today’s modern ills including high cholesterol, and heart disease, arthritis, digestive complaints, allergies and skin problems and also just that general feeling of tiredness or sluggishness which seems to be epidemic these days.
In a traditional Nature Cure diet, you eat to live, rather than live to eat. Nutrition is taken into consideration, not only for the chemical composition of food, but also for the quality of that food, and the bioavailability of nutrients in foods, as well as the total composition and overall balance of the diet.
Give yourself a chance to heal
With the help of individual diet therapy, for instance, recovery from illness can be quickened by providing optimum nutrition which requires minimum energy to digest.
By changing your diet towards foods which are as close to their natural state as possible the body can both extract the maximum amount of nourishment from the foods without much wastage and can process them with much greater ease than foods which have been concentrated, processed or refined.
For example, by cutting out concentrated brews like coffee or tea one considerably lightens the body’s workload. The energy used by the liver and the kidneys to detoxify the body of substances like these – which stimulate but otherwise cannot be used by the body – will then be freed for any healing process.
Keep your carbohydrates complex
Complex carbohydrates are carbohydrates which have not been refined – in other words carbohydrates which have hardly been altered from their original natural state. This includes whole wheat bread, beans, honey instead of sugar, organic potatoes etc.
When you eat refined (simple) carbohydrates such as white bread and rice, sweets, sugar and beer they are immediately absorbed into your bloodstream, giving you a rush of blood sugar and quick high energy.
When the pancreas registers this it secretes large amounts of insulin into the blood to absorb the sugar into the cells. The result tends to be that all the blood sugar is withdrawn, and then some, so that you then later feel depleted and usually hungry.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are released slowly into the blood stream and ensure a steady supply of energy.
To maintain good health 60-75% of the calories you consume need to come from complex carbohydrates. Unlike crash diets, eating a diet high in these protects your body’s muscle stores and the body then tends to burn more fat for its energy.
Apart from blood sugar levels carbohydrates are responsible for keeping beta-endorphine levels steady. Beta endorphins are the feel good hormones that help lift our moods and maintain a feeling of well-being.
Proteins are built out of amino acids. Complete proteins, containing all the amino acids we require, are found in flesh foods and fermented soya products. If you are a vegetarian ensure that you eat at least two different proteins daily – visually you are aiming for a portion the size of a fist – at each meal.
There are a number of reasons to eat a complete set of amino acids in your protein daily. One reason is that the proteins supply the building blocks for the healthy cells.
Another reason is that a daily supply of amino acids plus complex carbohydrates will keep your serotonin levels steady. Serotonin is a major component of most modern anti-depressants. Keeping your body serotonin-levels steady can help you to maintain a steady feeling of happiness and positivity.
Don’t skip meals
The best diet is one of three meals a day consisting of a serving (about the size of your fist) of complex carbohydrate and protein. In between meals eat nothing at all; instead drink spring water, if desired.
Drink spring water between meals to help cleanse your body. There is no need to overdo this – listen to your body and just drink as much as you feel your body needs.
Avoid tea, coffee, milk and milk products and alcohol as well as sugar, refined and fried foods.
Allow yourself to experience hunger between meals, but don’t overdo this. During the day eat a meal every 4-6 hours. Snack only if you go beyond these times. If you generally stick to this kind of diet you’ll do your body the world of good, even if you occasionally deviate when you’re with friends or on the week-ends. it is also a very good plan to follow if you are looking to lose a little weight.
Stay on this diet five days a week. Relax at weekends and follow your inclinations more (Indeed this five on two off way of eating has become the basis of the popular 5:2 diet).
The Nature Cure diet
Here’s an example to get you started.
Begin each day with 1-2 teaspoons Brewer’s Yeast in a little water or fruit juice.
Breakfast: As much fruit as you feel like. 1-2 slices of wholewheat bread with a little butter or honey. You can have 2-4 eggs per week, soft boiled not fried. Have one cup of herb tea, no milk or sugar.
Lunch: A large salad. Use oil and lemon juice instead of vinegar. You can add some boiled potato with butter if you like
Fruit/Desert: Baked apple with dates, or a fruit salad.
Dinner: This should be a protein meal, so have grilled meat 1-2 times per week, otherwise have chicken or grilled or boiled fish. If you are vegetarian chose fermented soya foods like tofu, lentils , chick peas or other pulses. Add to this at least three different coloured, lightly cooked vegetables.
Use your imagination to expand on this diet, but stick to the basic Nature Cure theme. If you get hungry between meals eat fruit or nuts, and if you desire something sweet, try dates or dried fruit. You can if you like swap the lunch and dinner menus.
On a diet where almost everything is utilised by the body it’s not necessary to wash the body out with large quantities of fluid. Three glasses of spring water daily should be enough.
The colour/concentration of your urine – i.e. if it is very dark – will tell you whether you need more. Too much fluid increases the workload of the kidneys and can add to problems like high blood pressure.
You should also try to have one fruit day per week – that is 24 hours eating only fruit (but no bananas on this day).
The healing potential of this diet can be stepped up another notch and living even more healthily can be achieved by moving to organically grown food and free-range animal products.