Principles of Good Health and Longevity

Principles of Good Health and Longevity (Capt. M. H. Cheema) Life is a gift given to us by Allah, the Gracious. It is, therefore, our duty and responsibility to look after this gift in a befitting manner. It is important to keep an eye on what we eat and drink because as the saying goes “a man is what he eats”. God Almighty has guided us regarding this vital subject in the Holy Quran: “O ye men! eat of what is lawful and good in the earth; and follow not the footsteps of Satan; surely, he is to you an open enemy.” (2:169). “O ye who believe! eat of the lawful and wholesome things we have provided for you, and render thanks to Allah, if truly it is He Whom you worship.” (2:173). It is my belief that Allah, The Creator, The Fashioner does not want us to be ill physically or spiritually. “Surely, We have created man in the best make” (95:5). I further believe that when we become ill our Creator is more concerned than even our relatives and physicians. It is indeed He Who restores our health, when due to our negligence by not following the laws of nature, we inflict sickness on ourselves. I have come to this conclusion from the Quranic verses: “And Who gives me to eat and drink; and when I fall sick, it is He Who restores me to health.” (26:81). “And whatever misfortune befalls you, is due to what your own hands have wrought. And He forgives many of your sins.” (42:21). There are different kinds of health. (i) Physical health (ii) Mental health PRINCIPLES OF GOOD HEALTH AND LONGEVITY 17 (iii) Family health (iv) Occupational health (v) Spiritual health. In this article, however, I will confine myself to its physical aspects only. We know that events of this world are based on cause and effect which means that there cannot be an effect without a cause. If we ponder over the above verses we will come to the conclusion that the main cause of our illness is due to what we eat and drink. In the above verses Hazrat Ibraham (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) attributed illness and ailment to himself and remedy and cure to Allah, the Almighty. As a matter of fact, misfortunes which befall a man are mostly the result of his contravening some particular law of nature and, therefore, he is responsible for the consequences. God Almighty has endowed man with natural powers and faculties through the right use of which he can achieve success in life and through their misuse cause himself trouble. The Holy Quran says: “Whatever good comes to thee is from Allah; and whatever of ill befalls thee is from theyself.” (4:80). All good, therefore, is attributed to God and all evil to man’s own doing. No Man can be a Perfect Physician to Anyone but Himself Our bodies are made up of living cells. These cells are being used up constantly in such numbers that in a cycle of seven years the whole body is said to be completely changed. Many thousands of cells are lost just through taking a bath. In order to replace them we eat and drink. If the supply of food and drink is sufficient and contains enough nutrients then the body will continue to function normally. Any diminishment in this process would cause deterioration and illness. We can always have better health, prevent illness and live longer if we always use commonsense and take the right kind of nourishment at the right time. Physicians can help us enormously but you are not the only one for whom they care. They cannot know everything about you and cannot be with you always. You are, therefore, the only one who holds the key to your health. That key is common sense and my purpose is to show you how to use it in order to achieve a healthier, longer and happier life for yourself. As I have mentioned earlier, you are only fulfilling your duty as a trustee to your life by achieving this end with the result that God Almighty will be pleased with you providing you act in accordance with the laws of nature. There are a number of things that determine the condition of our body such as our constitution, our physical activities and our mental exercises. The most important matter, however, is what goes on inside our bodies and what we eat, drink and inhale. Again this is not only crucial but also when and how to 18 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS eat and drink. I believe that the best way to prevent and fight most human ailments is through proper diet and exercise. It would not be out of place to quote again from the Quran: “We have created man in the best mould: then, if he works iniquity We cast him down as the lowest of the low, except those who believe and work righteousness, for them is unending reward.” (95:5-7). Health and disease are not the result of chance but result from the operation of certain physical laws. There are natural laws which govern life and when these laws are applied properly health is maintained at a reasonable level. Natural hygiene and attempts to understand the influence of air, water, food, sunshine, exercise, rest, sleep, fasting, and other mental and emotional factors certainly affect the quality of our life on our planet earth in a big way. Health is our best treasure and we should keep constant watch over it. I have already mentioned the theory of cause and effect. I would like to mention two instances of personal experience. There was a rule in the Royal Indian Artillery, (now Pakistan Artillery), that if a soldier got malaria within seven days of his return from leave, he was punished with up to 14 days confinement in barracks. It was because catching malaria fever was due to an indiscipline that he was punished for not taking proper prevention to protect himself from mosquitoes. Again, while attending a Security Course in Humberge College, Toronto, (Canada) in 1977, on the topic of “Fire Control” it was explained that, there must be three elements present to cause a fire which are material, heat and oxygen. Remove one of these and you get the fire under control. Similarly when you are sick, remove or weaken the cause of the sickness and you start getting better. It is important, therefore, that one must know the cause of one’s illness. He who guards himself against the cause of a disease need not be afraid of its effects. A youth may assume that he has too much strength, not realising that it is easily undermined by an irregular life. Intemparate eating and drinking is extremely detrimental to health. Most people suffer from overeating. They also suffer from the harmful effects of haphazardly dumping in their stomachs an amazing variety of food in abominable combinations that would wreak havoc in the strongest digestive system. The habit of overeating leads them to premature old age, and burdens them with complicated and mortal infirmities so that some of them wither away in early manhood. What is required of them is to lead a simple life as taught by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He is reported as saying: “No one fills a vessel worse than his stomach. A few mouthfuls that would suffice to keep his back upright are enough for a man, but if he PRINCIPLES OF GOOD HEALTH AND LONGEVITY 19 must eat more, then he should fill one third with food, one third with drink and leave one third for easy breathing.” (Tirmdhi). According to another Tradition, on several occasions the Holy Prophet and his family went to bed hungry with no supper. Their bread was mostly of barley. Yet in another Tradition the Holy Prophet said: “A believer eats much less than a non-believer.” Eating less keeps the senses clear, body light, understanding cute, soul brisk, the memory tenacious, motions free and all other actions regular. By •eating less, the soul experiences a great deal of its natural liberty; the blood circulates gently through the arteries, the heat of the body’is kept mild and temperate with the result that our faculties are perfectly regulated, preserving a pleasing and an agreeable harmony. The benefits of eating less are well described by a Persian saint: “If you want to enjoy spiritual health, keep your stomach empty.” Once the Ruler of Yamen sent two of his physicians to Medina to look after the health of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the believers. After staying for a few months in Medina, they informed the Holy Prophet that not many people were visiting them and that they had been sitting idle most of the time. The Holy Prophet explained that he had advised his people to eat only when they felt hungry and stop eating while they still felt the need to eat more. That was the reason why there were few sick people among his followers. Whoever eats but little and leads a regular life cannot be sick, except occasionally for a short time. By living a simple life one exterminates the seeds of sickness. Allah says about the Holy Prophet: “You have in the Prophet of Allah an excellent exemplar, for him who hopes to meet with Allah and the Lasy Day, and who remembers Allah much.” (33:22). It is a fact that the Holy Prophet never ate to his full during his whole life time. Similarly Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, (peace be on him), once fasted continuously for six months without even letting his family know. When his meal was brought to his room and left there for him to consume, a beggar who had private instructions would appear outside the window and be given the meal. The Promised Messiah would then keep the empty meal-tray for the maid-servant to take away. Once he estimated his meal expenses and found that he could live on one anna* a day. * Equivalent to almost a penny. 20 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS There should be at least four hours interval between two meals and no snacks taken in between. Do not acquire the habit of a goat which must always be eating something or the other. Some people, especially the younger generation, crave for sweets and drinks like Coke, Pepsi, etc. They would sometimes fight to satisfy their cravings. This must be prevented if health is to be maintained. Selecting the best available food and preparing it by the best methods are both extremely important. The world over, scientists studying the longevity of life are finding more and more evidence that healthy food is the bedrock of a healthy and long life. Dr. G. Hauser in his book “Look Younger and Live Longer” says: “In a question put to the doctors ‘How young is a person’? some answers given were: You are as young as your colon. You are as young as your glands. You are as young as your blood. You are as young as your arteries. You are as young as your connecting tissues. I believe that you are as young as you look, feel, think, hope, believe and act. And I believe that the way you look, feel, think, hope, believe and act depends on three things: (i) Good food (ii) A strong vibrant body and (iii) an adventurous spirit.” There is no doubt that the human body requires good food for its daily nourishment. It should be balanced supplying the body cells with vital nutrients in proper quantities. Scientists are, however, unanimous in agreeing that over-nutrition, through an excess of calories, stored as fat, can contribute materially to physical deterioration and the ageing process. As a simplified, perhaps crude, illustration think of your body as a motor car. It is made up of proteins, inside and out. Arteries, glands, colon, connecting tissues, muscles, skin, bones, hair, teeth, eyes. All contain proteins and are maintained by proteins. Fats and carbohydrates are your body’s oils and gasoline; they are burnt together to produce energy. Vitamins and minerals are its spark plugs, essential to the utilisation of food and its assimilation into the blood stream. It is a marvellously sturdy motor car, this body of yours — marvellous in its ability to maintain and rebuild itself. Given care, consideration and respect, it will function smoothly, provided that none of its important organs have been allowed to break down. It must be fed and cared for faithfully. When it does not hit on all cylinders, it must be examined by an expert who can not only find out what is wrong but detect hidden weaknesses and forestall serious breakdowns. Even when it is functioning adequately it should have regular PRINCIPLES OF GOOD HEALTH AND LONGEVITY 21 check-ups, preferably at the same machine-shop where its history is known and its special characteristics and needs are understood. Dr. Adelle Davis writes in his book “Let us eat right to keep fit”: “To take too little protein is a mark of carelessness, or ignorance, to obtain too much is foolish and expensive. To obtain an adequate amount is to stay young for your years.” I consider this to be nothing but an explanatory note of the Quranic verse: “Eat and drink but be not immoderate; surely Allah loves not the immoderate.” (7:32). Proper Foods and Correct Eating Foods are of two types, i.e. (1) Natural and raw (2) Processed and cooked. We should eat our foods in a form as close as possible to their natural and raw states. This is better than eating cooked and processed foods. Meat, vegetables, etc. cooked in a Microwave or a Pressure Cooker are much better than cooked otherwise. Always Eat Wholesome Foods Be watchful and do not be misled and fooled by the word “enriched” written on the bread-wrappers of white bread. White bread is made from flour from which bran has been removed. A tiny percentage of certain substances is added and labelled as “enriched” just as one would be enriched by someone stealing twenty five pounds and returning ninety-nine pence. Read the labels and see the ingredients written on packaged foods. Again, do not be misled by just reading the word “brown bread” thinking that it is in its original form. Not at all —• far from it. It was the white bread or white sugar to which brown colouring was added. REMEMBER that food stores want to make money by such sharp methods. They are not interested in your health. They are only interested in profits. Seventy-five percent of the food items they keep on their shelves are not worth taking home, let alone paying for them. White Bread The bran and other useful ingredients which have been removed in the process of making white flour help the free movement of the bowels. Thus the use of white bread causes constipation. The constipation in itself is called the mother of diseases. Hereunder I quote some extracts from The Toronto Star, 3 April, 1975: 22 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS “Eat donkey food for breakfast and you can probably ward off a variety of diseases”, Dr. Denis Burkitt, British surgeon, said yesterday. Burkitt, speaking at Wallesley Hospital’s sixth annual clinical day at the Prince Hotel, defined donkey food as the outer coat of grain, which is separated during refining of grain and given to horses and donkeys to keep them fit. Burkitt says: “people who eat whole grain to add fibre to their diets may avoid heart disease, bowel cancer, gallstones, hiatus hernia, appendicitis, varicose veins, haemorrhoids and diverticulitis, a common bowel disease.” In his book Triumph over Disease by Fasting and Natural Diet Dr. Jack Goldstein writes: “When we view the living being down at cell level, we find two basic requirements of life as all-important: (i) adequate and complete nourishment, and (ii) prompt and thorough removal of all metabolic waste. Most of the diseases are the result of enervation, i.e. lowered nerve energy which in turn lowers functioning power. When enervation is present, elimination of metabolic waste is impaired. (Our billions and billions of cells are constantly giving off waste products.) This impairment results in our body tissues being poisoned by the retention and accumulation of its cell wastes.” (Pages 194-195). On page 196 of the same book, he writes: “Natural hygiene is a plan of living which briefly is comprised of such things as the use of pure water; breathing pure air; maintenance of emotional poise; getting plenty of sunshine and rest; the avoidance of anything harmful to the body, such as coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, chocolate, white sugar, white flour, salt, meat, drugs and medicines, chemical food additives, soda, canned and processed foods, etc. Also included is proper exercise, vegetarian diet, and of course the all- important fast.” The following quotations from the book Are You Confused by Paavoo Airola, N.D., Ph.D. are worth reading: “Vital points to remember: I. The bulk of your diet should consist of fresh fruits and vegetables preferably organically grown, most of them eaten raw. Eat as great a variety of fruits and vegetables as possible. Do not shun avacados and bananas because you may think they are fattening — they are not! If you PRINCIPLES OF GOOD HEALTH AND LONGEVITY 23 can get papaya melon — the miracle cleansing and beautifying food — include it in your diet. A certain amount of cooked vegetables is allowed, particularly those that are not very palatable in a raw state, such as potatoes, yams, squashes, dry beans, etc. However, cooked vegetables should be used only sparingly and do not replace the daily use of raw vegetables. Fresh, leafy green vegetables and fresh fruits are packed with sun energy, with chlorophyll, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. They are living and life-giving foods. They contain the greatest health potential of all foods. 2. Grains and seeds are also vitally important foods. They could be eaten raw, sprouted, or prepared as cereals and bread. Millet cereal and buckwheat cereal, kasha, are excellent cereals. Barley, largely neglected in the U.S., is extremely nutritious grain; it can be used in breads or as a cooked cereal. Eat lots of raw nuts and sunflower seeds. Sesame seeds are rich in excellent proteins and unsaturated fatty acids and could be enjoyed as homemade Halva or as peanut-butter-like spreads, available at health stores. 3. Honey is a nutritional wonder of nature, use it as a substitute for sugar whenever you need a sweetener. 4. Use cold-pressed vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil, olive oil, safflower oil, linseed oil, corn oil, soya oil, wheat germ oil, etc.” “Avoid the following health destroyers: 1. White sugar and white flower and everything made with them: ice cream, candies, sodas, pastries, cakes, cookies, pies, sugared desserts, etc. 2. Coffee, tea, chocolate. Health food stores carry a large assortment of delicious herb teas. Carob powder is an excellent and healthful substitute for chocolate — and tastes just like it. 3. Tobacco, alcohol. 4. Salt, white and black pepper, mustard. When you get accustomed to eating fresh, raw fruits and vegetables you will soon find that they taste delicious even without any seasoning. If seasoning for salads or cooked dishes is desired, onion, garlic, dill, sage, watercress, paprika, red chili, and many other herb flavouring will give a wide variety of choice. Kelp, powdered or granulated, is a good salt substitute. Possibly small amounts of sea salt can be used. 5. Packed breakfast cereals. 6. Canned, preserved, frozen and irradiated foods.” (pages 58, 59). 24 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS The following two questions and their answers appear in the book Are You Confused: Q. Some authorities warn against drinking with meals —• some others say that drinking with meals improves digestion. What is the real truth on this matter? A. I don’t know of any scientific studies made on drinking with meals, but all the authorities I know and respect agree that it is better not to drink with meals. Liquids with meals will dilute the digestive juices and secretions, resulting in poor digestion of foods. Juices, water or herb teas should be drunk between meals or at least 45 to 30 minutes before meals. Q. You speak of nutrition as if it were the only important factor in health and disease. Doesn’t man’s mind play the decisive role? A. I am a nutritionist and, consequently, my lectures and books deal with the nutritional aspects of health. This is what the listeners and the readers expect to learn from a nutritionist. This does not mean, however, that I minimize the importance of man’s mind as a decisive factor in health and disease. Indeed, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.” I believe that relaxation and peace of mind are very important health-promoting.factors, perhaps the most important. These are what modern man needs most of all in order to live a long and happy life in good health. It has been scientifically established that emotional stresses and disturbances can cause practically every disease in the medical dictionary, including arthritis, ulcers, constipation, asthma, strokes, diabetes, high or low blood pressure, angina, glandular disturbances, etc. Extensive research into medical literature made by J. I. Rodale indicates that “happy people rarely get cancer”. Unhappiness, deprivation of love, loneliness, constant fear, anxiety, depression, worries — all these emotional stresses and tensions can interfere with your normal body functions and may lead to serious illness. There are many factors that contribute to good health and longevity. Nutrition is one very important factor. Also one equally important factor is peace of mind. A person having peace of mind is living in heaven on earth. Allah says in the Holy Quran: “Thou, O soul at peace! Return to thy Lord well pleased with Him and He well pleased with thee. So enter thou among My chosen servants. And enter thou My Garden.” (89:28-31), PRINCIPLES OF GOOD HEALTH AND LONGEVITY 25 Again the Holy Quran says: “Those who believe, and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah. Aye! it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort.” (13:29). A positive outlook on life, cheerful disposition, love of mankind and faith in God—these are all powerful, health promoting factors without which optimum health cannot be achieved. Moods also play an important role towards health. We, therefore, must avoid the negative moods and adopt only positive ones. The following guidelines have been taken from Mr. B. A. Orchard’s book Life Supreme. Avoid These Negative Moods Worry Irritability Excitement Depression Despair Despondency Irreverence Obstinacy Revenge Pride Jealousy Resentment Mockery Envy Deceit Falsehood Rebellion Vulgarity Dishonesty Ridicule Lust Maliciousness Intolerance Slander Adopt These Positive Moods Kindness Love Optimism Sympathy Nobility Self-Control Tact Patience Earnestness Honesty Steadfastness Contentment Simplicity Charity Cheerfulness Cleanliness Justice Helpfulness Sincerity Dignity Courage Refinement Politeness Perseverance Forgiveness Hospitality Gratitude Gentleness Mercy Selflessness While discussing the subject of TAQWA (Righteousness) with the same author, he gave me a piece of paper on 12th April, 1985 on which were printed the following positive principles under the heading “Promise Yourself” which have had a beneficial effect on both my spiritual and physical health: 26 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Promise Yourself To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet. To make all your friends feel that there is something in them. To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best. To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile. To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticise others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear; and too happy to permit the presence of trouble. To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words but in great deeds. All the endeavours in attaining better physical health would be wasted unless the healthy body is used as a worthy temple for the noble spirit to dwell in and develop. The purpose of life is not just the building of a magnificent body, or living a long life, but in perfecting and refining our divine spirit and becoming more God-like; thus the real purpose of having good health and longevity is to prepare a way for our spiritual growth and perfection. I conclude with the following prayers: “O our Lord! be pleased with us and grant us wisdom; as You Yourself have said in the Holy Quran: ‘Allah grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and whosoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted abundant good.'” (2:270). “O my Lord! disclose to me the realities of the things.” (Promised Messiah). All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.