Mahatma Gandhi's experiment with diet

Mahatma Gandhi. File photo

Mahatma Gandhi once thought to eat a dozen or two oranges a day was good enough to take care of his daily nutrition, but doctors told the Father of the Nation that he needed to have 50-75 oranges a day if such fruits are to be his sole source of nutrition.

But having so many oranges in a day would most certainly lead to diarrhoea, a diet expert cautioned Bapu, who at one point of his numerous experiments with diet decided to survive on oranges, according to an analysis of Gandhiji's health records, published recently by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

On the experts' advice, Gandhiji began to take rice and chapati but refused to take even a single drop of milk.

He had a conviction that apart from the mother's milk that one drinks as a child, there is no need to include milk in the daily diet. He gave up on cow and buffalo milk and several months later Kasturba on the advice of surgeon Mumbai-based A K Dalal was able to persuade Bapu to take goat's milk.

One of the reasons why he had decided after years, to drink some sort of milk again, was because he was leading an agitation against the Rowlatt Act (one of the black laws of the British era) and his desire to fight made him end the experiment with his life.

Fruits and nuts were among Mahatma's favourites. He said grapes and almonds were enough to provide nourishment both for the tissues and the nerves.

During a campaign at Kheda in Gujarat, he felt ill and tried mung water, mowhra oil and almond milk to find out a substitute of milk. All three failed.

The sundry experiments with food once brought Bapu very near to death's door. In those days his food consisted mainly of groundnut, butter and lemons. One day he had dysentery, but he ignored it and continued with his daily routine. He skipped the meal and felt better.

Next day he ate a sweet wheaten porridge that Ba prepared for him and some mung. Within an hour he had an acute attack on dysentery, which was so severe that he had 30-40 motions within 24 hours. The exhaustion brought delirious fever.

Several doctors were called in but they could do little as the patient flatly refused to take any medicine and injections.

When he was brought to the Sabarmati Ashram, Bapu thought the end was near and devoted all his time to listening to Bhagwad Gita. He was unable to read and talk. Finally, doctors treated him with enema for six successive days.

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