About 12 years ago, when I had just turned 50, I was diagnosed with prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate, a chronic condition about 10 percent of all adult men suffer from in America today. It’s a disease that often makes you feel like you have the flu. It’s also painful, and it drains you of energy. On top of that, most doctors will tell you there is no real cure; unless you are one of the lucky few (about 5-10%) who suffer from acute or chronic bacterial prostatitis, which can often be cured with antibiotics. I was not one of those lucky few. After trying antibiotics for several months, my immune system and my digestion was so bad, that I was ready to try just about anything else. And I did.
I was studying Ayurveda at the time, but the Ayurvedic herbs I had been prescribed did not give me any permanent relief either. After three years of chronic suffering, and after trying everything from antibiotics to homeopathy to Ayurvedic herbs to eating large amounts of garlic and drinking lots of cabbage juice, I gave up hope of ever finding a cure
In the middle of that health crisis, I was invited to be the co-founder of the Prama Institute, a retreat and seminar center outside Asheville, NC specializing in meditation and yoga retreats. One of the early retreats we organized was a weekend workshop on yoga detox by Dada Dharmavedananda, the founder of Naturopathic Yoga and Wellness Centers in the Philippines and India.
The Acidic-Alkaline Balance
What I learned from him during the three day workshop was as radical as it was simple: if your body is acidic due to poor digestion caused by a diet of too much refined flours, processed foods, sugar (including honey and agave), dairy and meat, combined with stress, your immune system will eventually break down and your digestive tract will become imbalanced and inflamed.
You will also be prone to candida, and generally be in a toxic state of health. Why? Because when the bacterial flora in the digestive system becomes imbalanced, we develop intestinal dysbiosis, and our gut is not able to crowd out harmful bacteria, parasites and yeast. When I learned that this could be the cause of my symptoms, which, according to him, had first resulted in a urinary tract infection (painful urination was indeed my first symptom), I gained new hope of finding relief from my pain
The cure? About 14 days of mostly green juices followed by a low glycemic fruit and vegetable diet to cleanse my digestive system and eliminate the toxins I had accumulated over the years. On day 22, I was finally pain free. The fresh, green juices, the low glycemic fruits and the vegetables, which are all very easy to digest, alkalinized my body, cleansed my liver, gall bladder, kidneys, pancreas, and intestines. After that cleanse, combined with some Ayurvedic herbs, my whole digestive system was back in balance. My internal inflammations also disappeared once my body regained its proper acidic-alkaline levels. But why didn’t the use of Ayurvedic herbs achieve the same result?
A Good Digestion is the Key to Health
My digestive system was so out of balance that simply taking herbs without changing the underlying cause was not effective enough. There is actually a saying in Ayurveda which underscores this point beautifully: “When lifestyle is wrong, medicine is of no use. When lifestyle is right, medicine is of no need.” In other words, when diet is wrong, herbs alone are often not effective in healing the digestive system, and therefore to improve the bacterial flora in the gut and thus improve the immune system.
The body’s digestive system has two main functions: to bring nutrients in and toxins out. When we digest food and liquids, the nutrients in the food and liquids are absorbed into the blood stream to be utilized by the cells in the body for fuel. What is not used by the blood to keep our cells, muscles, nerves and bones energized and healthy is excreted through the urine, the skin and the stool in the form of toxins.
If the body is naturally detoxing every day, even while we are fast asleep, why is it still important to detox with an occasional juice cleanse or with alkaline superfoods? Because the food we eat is not always healthy or alkaline; it may contain too much acid-producing processed flour, sugar, animal fat and dairy. Stress is another reason; too much work and too little sleep will create imbalances in the body’s digestive ecology. And that is the reason why simply taking herbs—even the best Ayurvedic herbs—may not alone be enough to heal a chronic condition.
Lifestyle as Medicine
Taking herbs without changing the underlying cause of the problem will most often not be enough to find a cure for a chronic condition such as mine. And even if you experience some relief, the problem is likely to come back because you have not changed the underlying cause of the problem. That is why whole food, or even better, lifestyle, is our best medicine.
One year after my body had cured itself with the aid of a juice cleanse, I became a certified yoga detox therapist, and today I am the director of the Prama Wellness Center where we specialize in yoga and juice cleanse retreats. Since we opened, I have assisted hundreds of people in healing themselves from stubborn chronic imbalances such as fibromyalgia, lupus, diabetes, arthritis, and many more by improving their diets and changing their lifestyles.
In my work now, I combine the subtle insights of Ayurveda to determine people’s body type and dietary needs and then I help them detox and get in balance using juices, superfoods, herbs and organic plant-based foods in addition to practicing yoga and meditation to reduce stress. This combination works wonders and is much more effective than just using herbal supplements to facilitate healing. The reason for this lies in the digestive system: by strengthening the digestive system by modifying your diet and your lifestyle, the healing is much more effective and much deeper than when just using medicines, even if they are natural and prescribed by the best holistic practitioner. In sum, healing is most effective and long lasting when we take charge of our own health by improving our lifestyle, when we combine juice cleansing, diet, herbs, yoga, exercise and meditation.
The Main Secret to Healing Lies in the Digestive System
Scientists today are calling our digestive system the “second brain.” This digestive brain is very sophisticated and is intimately related to our immune system. When we are under stress, or when we eat the wrong type of foods, our immune system is compromised. This “ecological crisis” in our digestive system is, according to many health experts, one of the leading causes of auto-immune diseases such as thyroid imbalances, lupus, fibromyalgia and arthritis, as well as other chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes II, cancer, and more.
How does this happen? Stress causes indigestion and acid reflux, and so does eating too much hard-to-digest foods, such as red meats, cookies, pizza, and ice cream. Overeating under stress—and especially if we overeat on foods that have a lot of animal fat (including cheese and milk) and sugar—will cause indigestion, constipation and eventually a reduced immune system. In fact, the combination of overeating and stress is one of the most common causes of illness in today’s fast-paced, fast-food world.
The Healing Power of Juice Fasting
Even if we do not indulge in eating too much fatty and sugary foods and our life is relatively stress free, it is very beneficial for health to detox the body on a regular basis with a juice fast. A juice cleanse gives the body time to rest and rejuvenate by flooding the blood stream with easy-to-digest super foods, so that the digestive organs can take a well-deserved vacation and relieve themselves of long-accumulated fats and toxins.
Studies with rats have found that fasting increases longevity and reduces the risk of the three most common lifestyle diseases in our culture: cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Regular fasting and a healthy lifestyle has also been found to increase our lifespan by changing our genetic makeup, by literally extending our telomeres, the genes responsible for regulating lifespan.
Juice fasting is a powerful, fun and very tasty way to improve our health and well-being. In short, juice fasting does what the body knows best: it helps us to easily ingest super-nutrients and to effectively expel the body’s long held toxins. Juice fasting is the most effective way to ingest and digest nutrients and to expel from the body what it does not need. When the body is allowed to do that on a regular basis, it will heal and rejuvenate—quickly and quite naturally.
Overcoming Juice Fasting’s Potential Challenges
Juice fasting can also be challenging. Some find it difficult to do a juice cleanse alone, as it requires discipline, knowledge and planning to do at home. An effective juice fast is also not suitable for everyone unless you know the best juices and herbs to choose for your body type and health condition. Various healing symptoms, such as headaches, constipation, skin rashes, etc. may also occur during a juice fast, and it is important to know what to do when experiencing such inconveniences.
That’s why it is recommended to join a juice cleansing retreat, or to consult with someone who can coach you through the various challenges that may come up. Generally, however, a juice cleanse is a very pleasant and rewarding experience, especially after a few days when the body begins on its journey of deep, inner cleansing. We start to feel energized, light, more flexible, focused and less stressed, and we may sleep better than we have in a long time. When the body is cleansed, the mind also feels refreshed, calm and composed.
Dr. Dean Ornish, The Spectrum, Ballantine Books, 2008
Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Eat To Live, Little, Brown and Company, 2011
Ibid. Fasting and Eating for Health, St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995
Dr. Gabriel Cousens, There is a Cure for Diabetes, North Atlantic Books, 2013
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ramesh is the Director of the Prama Wellness Center where lifestyle is considered our best medicine. Ramesh is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He studied yoga therapy in Nepal and India, Ayurveda at California College of Ayurveda and is a certified yoga detox theraphist from the AM Wellness Center in Cebu, Philippines. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of four books, including Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra:The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India).