Sunday, April 20, 2014

Way and Means to Avoid or Quit Dietary Salt

Eating food without salt? Impossible! It is highly impossible to ordinary human beings. Only the God knows how Dr. Mantena Satyanarayana Raju manages to eat food without salt. One or two days, we can manage but for the whole life? No way! What is the use of leading such a tasteless life? Why are we working so hard and earning this much money? Is it not to enjoy? This would exactly be the reaction of majority of people when they are asked to quit salt.

We prefer to pay lump sum of amounts to insurance companies for insuring hospital bills on falling sick but we never prefer to ensure health. We all know the risk of salt to our health and are still reluctant to quit salt because there are treatments in modern medical science for those risk factors. But we must remember that medical science can cure the disease but not guarantee the non-recurrence of the disease. Whereas, quitting salt and following natural way of living can prevent the disease and make sure that it never touches you in future. We must not forget that prevention is always better than cure.

Most people consider health as a condition of physical body but according to yogaacharya Sri. B.K.S. Iyengar, a complete health can be achieved at six levels viz. physical health, physiological health, psychological health, intellectual health, conscious health and spiritual health. Most of us are struck up in the first level and never move in to the higher levels of health as mentioned by Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar. I quoted this because most of us associate quitting salt to a physical action but it is rather a psychological and physiological action.

Honestly speaking, quitting salt is a very difficult task; especially to Indians. It is in fact, as difficult as quitting alcohol or even more. We get conditioned to alcohol after reaching a certain age but salt is conditioned from the very early child hood of 1 year of less. It is off course difficult but not impossible. Even the difficult problems have the solution but need to approach them with subtle understanding to reach the depth of it to uproot completely. Health never comes easy! You need to earn it. You need to purchase health by spending your sweat as said by Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar or you need to sacrifice your tasty luxuries as advocated by Dr. Raju. Doing both the things needs understanding and practice of the subject.

Most people believe that quitting salt completely is only possible to Dr. Raju. As they see many follow salt less food for few days, weeks or months and they again come back to normal food with salt. This is the story of many of the followers of Dr. Raju. This is because most of us don’t understand the problem with salt deep down as did by Dr. Raju. You need to break this puzzle to successfully implement it in practice.

I remember one parable from “Osho’s Alpha and Omega of Yoga vol.1” which goes like this:
Once Buddha came to his monks; he was going to deliver a sermon. He sat under his tree. He was having a handkerchief in his hand. He looked at the handkerchief. The whole congregation also looked at what he was doing. Then he binds five knots in the handkerchief and he asked two questions.

1. “Is the handkerchief the same when there were no knots on it or is it different?”

One Bikkhu, one monk, says that “In a sense it is the same because the quality of the handkerchief has not changed. Even with knots it is the same, the same handkerchief. The inherent nature remains the same. But in a sense it has changed because something new has appeared. Knots were not there, now knots are there.  So superficially, it has changed, but deep down it has remained the same.

Buddha says, “This is the situation of human mind. Deep down it remains unknotted. The quality remains the same. When you become a Buddha, an enlightened one, you will not have a consciousness. The quality will be the same. The difference is only that now you are a knotted handkerchief; your consciousness has a few knots.

2. Second thing Buddha asked: “What should I do to unknot the handkerchief?”

Another monk says, “Unless we know what you have done to knot it we cannot say anything, because the reverse process will have to be applied. The way you have knotted it has to be known first, because that will be the way again in the reverse order to unknot.”

So Buddha says, “This is the second thing. How you have come into this bondage, this has to be understood because; the same will be the process, in reverse order to uncondition you. If attachment is the conditioning factor, then non-attachment will become the un conditioning factor.”

The above story suits quite well in understanding and eating food without salt. First you need to understand whether the essence of food is same even if you exclude the salt from it. Let us now separate salt aside and see how the body reacts when it is consumed directly. Dr. Raju in his book ‘food for thought’ wrote that the body takes three basic actions at mouth, stomach and intestines to protect itself from salt which is discussed as below:

1. Action in the Mouth: Let’s mix handful of salt in water and drink a mouthful of it! As we pour it, into the mouth, the cells at the lips and the delicate layers in the mouth suffer severely. Some cells die and some cells weaken. Seeing the death of some cells, the resistance power in the mouth orders the tongue to spit it out as a first precaution before greater damage is done. That is possible only in the case of healthy people, whereas weak people, sickly people, slaves of salt and tastes, can’t obey the orders. They don’t mind swallowing it into the stomach. And they swallow it.

2. Action in the Stomach: So the enemy has crossed the first gate and is now at the second gate. The salt water reaches the stomach. The resistance power of healthy people in the stomach, tries to drive out the enemy. It creates a vomiting sensation and churns the stomach so much that the salt water comes out of it in the form of vomit. But this doesn’t work with unhealthy people and with those who are accustomed to the use of salt greatly. The salt water doesn’t cause much harm or uneasiness in the stomach. A part of it goes into the blood. The remaining part of salt water goes into the small intestines.

3. Action in the intestines: As soon as the salt water reaches the small intestines, the small way between the stomach and the small intestines closes down. So there is no let out for the salt-water that way. The resistance power there in the intestines has to make a final attempt to fight it out so that it won’t harm the intestines. It causes heavy movements in the intestines to drive out the harmful salt water through anus. The muscles of the intestines send water into the intestines through mucous layer to dilute the salt water. As a result, the movement in the intestines increases and the salt water comes out through anus in the form of loose motions. But if the body has no resistance power it digests the salt and sends it to blood through small intestines. The salt that is sent into the blood reaches the cells through blood vessels and poisons them.

In order to avoid salt from your food, you need to go deep down into the roots of the cause and try to understand where and how the problem is created to overcome it. Most people think quitting salt is impossible as many have tried and failed in this aspect. It is difficult though but not impossible. Let us try to understand the means and ways to overcome the dangerous salt.

Ways and means to avoid Dietary Salt:

1. When you try to unknot the problem in quitting salt, you will find that the foundations were laid in your early childhood by your parents. The Government of India chose a medium of fulfilling iodine deficiency in children through salt as it is the cheapest food that every citizen could afford to buy and the salt companies took full advantage of this Government Order to increase their sales. There is no doubt that adding iodine in salt helped in overcoming the serious issue of iodine deficiency in children but it also gave other serious diseases and disorders like high blood pressure, heart attack, paralysis and other dangerous health hazards mentioned in the previous blog. When the G.O. was introduced, India was going through poverty, starvation and malnutrition. The things are little better now. People can afford to buy healthy and nutritious food to overcome the iodine deficiency. But we have seriously fallen into the trap of salt. Most people think Iodine is available only in salt. If you don’t eat salt your brain is not going to work. It is so badly publicized that salt has become a synonym for Iodine. They have forgotten that Iodine is a micro-nutrient added to the salt and is not a natural nutritive product of the salt. When Dr. Raju is asked, doesn’t the quitting of salt completely result in iodine deficiency? He says, which animal takes salt and how many animals are getting iodine deficiency? Iodine is available in ample amounts in the greens and vegetables you eat. You might say, animals don’t cook food whereas humans do. Doesn’t the cooked food lose iodine through evaporation? Yes, it does to some extent but if you eat natural fruits, sprouts, raw vegetables and half boiled foods shown according his methods of cooking and eating; you get sufficient iodine required for the body. Instead of giving salt, sugar, oil, ghee, tamarind, red chili powder and masala studded food to your growing children you must teach good natural eating habits. From the very first day of ‘annaprasana – the food ceremony of children’, you must provide them food without these harmful tastes and make sure they eat healthy natural foods like fruits and vegetables etc.

For grownups that are now a slave to salt must think, analyze and understand the dangers associated with salt. As mentioned earlier quitting salt is a difficult process, may be difficult than quitting smoke and drink. Therefore you need to take it slowly, gradually and seriously. You must go one step back at a time. First step is understand how the problem started and by now you knew how exactly it started.  

2. You must not stop salt immediately as it creates more craving for salt. Like any other rehabilitation method, quitting salt should also be done slowly. Don’t stop salt immediately and suppress your desire inside as it is going to bounce back with more force. You might have seen people practicing certain religious customs or deekshas for certain period of time. They abide to strict satvik diet for certain number of days suppressing all their desires and when they finish their deeksha they fulfill all their suppression with double the force. Therefore gradually decrease the intake of salt every day. The taste buds in the tongue lasts for 10 days and they change after every 10 days. You need to train your taste buds and your senses gradually to accept less salted food for few days, weeks or even months. Observe whether your taste buds and senses can take little less salt than your usual intake every 10 days and see how good is your progress in this regards.

3. Most of the salt comes from processed and restaurant foods. Eating unprocessed natural food cooked at home is an easy and effective way to avoid excess sodium. Avoid eating restaurant food completely.  One must remember that no hotel or restaurant cooks food keeping your health in mind. Their one and only concern is to make the food tasty so they can retain their customers back. Educate and inform about the dangers of salt to your family members who are concerned about your health. There is every possibility of cooking healthy food at home.

4. One of the major problems with Indian cuisine is the vastness of recipes. They cook multiple varieties of vegetables, dal, sambar, rasam etc along with rice. When you cook so many items obviously the quantity of salt will be high as you add it separately in each of these items. So now on, make sure that you cook only one vegetable curry or dal to serve with rice. Nothing else!

5. Try to avoid salt in cooked food as far as possible. If you must salt your food, do so only after it is on the table and you are ready to eat it. It will taste saltier if the salt is right on the surface. That means, do not add any salt while cooking. When the food gets ready sprinkle half the amount of salt you usually add while cooking. Since the salt will be on top of the surface it looks saltier.

6. Use onions, green chili, raw mango or lemon to flavor the food. These ingredients help in supplementing the craving for salt pleasing the taste buds. Remember, salt deadens the taste buds, and by avoiding processed and highly salted foods, you regain your ability to detect and enjoy the subtle flavors in natural foods and actually experience heightened pleasure from unsalted foods.

7. Make sure to skip cooked food at least once a day either in the breakfast or at dinner. You can even skip both. Serve nutritious sprouts in breakfast and seasonal fruits in dinner. You can serve cooked food with less salt at Lunch in the afternoon. This practice might keep you away from the risk of diseases arising out of salt and the habit of eating sprouts and fruits keep you healthier.

8. Declare a complete holiday for salted food at least once a week. Usually eat sprouts in breakfast, fruits in dinner and cook recipes according to Dr. Mantena’s Kitchen without adding oil, ghee, salt, sugar, tamarind, red chili powder and masalas. You can find the process of these recipes in my blog Dr.Mantena’s Kitchen or you can browse youtube for Dr. Mantena’s recipes. You might find hundreds of videos on youtube.

9. This beautiful nature has given vast varieties of foods with different flavors, aroma and taste. Every vegetable has its own special quality, flavor, aroma and taste. Few months later you will find that your taste buds have regained their natural form and began to enjoy the natural flavor of food.

10. On practicing these things over a period of time you can eat salt free food without any difficulty. However the period of time might depend on how sincere and intensely you are practicing these steps.

I hope these simple suggestions would help you in freeing yourself from the clutches of salt and you lead a healthy and happy life. Keep watching the space for more updates.
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