With the growing simplicity of my life, my dislike for medicines steadily increased. While practicing in Durban I suffered for some time from debility and rheumatic inflammation. Dr. P.J. Mehta, who had come to see me, gave me treatment, and I got well. After that, up to the time when I returned to India, I do not remember having suffered from any ailment to speak of.
But I used to be troubled with constipation and frequent headaches, while at Johannesburg. I kept myself fit with occasional laxatives and a well-regulated diet. But I could hardly call myself healthy, and always wondered when I should get free from the incubus of these laxative.
About this time I read of the formation of a ‘No Breakfast Association’ in Manchester. The argument of the promoters was that Englishmen ate too often and too much, that their doctors’ bills were heavy because they ate until midnight, and that they should at least give up breakfast, felt that the argument did partly apply in my case. I used to have three square meals daily in addition to afternoon tea.I was never a spare eater, and enjoyed as many delicacies as could be had with a vegetarian and spice less diet. I scarcely ever got up before six or seven. I therefore tried the experiment. For a few days it was rather hard, but the headaches entirely disappeared. This led me to conclude that I was eating more than I needed.
But the change was far from relieving me of constipation. I tried Kuhne’s hipbaths, which gave some relief but did not completely cure me. In the meantime a German friend of mine who had a vegetarian restaurant placed in my hands Just’s Return to Nature. In this book I read about earth treatment. The author also advocated fresh fruit and nuts as the natural diet of man. I did not at once take to the exclusive fruit diet, but immediately began experiments in earth treatments, with wonderful results. The treatment consisted in applying to the abdomen a bandage of clean earth moistened with cold water and spread like a poultice on fine linen. This I applied at bedtime, removing it during the night or in the morning, whenever I happened to wake up. It proved a radical cure. Since then I have tried the treatment on myself and my friends and never had reason to regret it. In India I have not been able to try this treatment with equal confidence. For one thing, I have never had time to settle down in one place to conduct the experiments. But my faith in the earth and water treatment remains practically the same as before. Even today I give myself the earth treatment to a certain extent, and recommend it to my co-workers, whenever the occasion arises.
Though I have had two serious illnesses in my life, I believe that man has little need to drug himself. Nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand can be brought round by means of a well-regulated diet, water and earth treatment, and similar household remedies. He who runs to the doctor, vaidya, or hakim for every little ailment, and swallows all kinds of vegetable and mineral drugs, not only curtails his life, but by becoming the slave of his body instead of remaining its master, loses self-control, and ceases to be a man.
So who is the master of your body, you or your doctor?
Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi
This excerpt was originally published in Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth