Mahatma Gandhi’s Experiments with Health

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”

– M.K. Gandhi

Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi was born on 2nd October 1869. He studied Law in London (1888–1891), and after two years of stay in India, he proceeded to South Africa to work, where he lived for 21 years. There, his experiments on Satyagraha took root, which later changed the face of the Indian freedom struggle. In 1915, he returned to India and spent the rest of his life here playing a crucial part in steering India towards independence.

M K Gandhi suffered from constipation during his long stay in South Africa, He was also hypertensive (BP). He weighed around 48 kg. He strongly advocated and practiced naturopathy. A peace lover, preacher & professor of non-violence, and a staunch supporter of vegetarianism. His simple belief was that nature has carried the disease and nature will cure it on its own.

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Photo by Kaique Lopes on

Gandhi’s concept of Health:

1. Gandhi & Walking

Gandhiji had a daily routine of walking around 18 km that he followed for 40 years. In the freedom struggle, he walked a total of 79,000 km in 35 years from 1913 to 1948, which is equivalent to encircling the earth twice.

2. Gandhi & Food: “Food should be taken as a matter of duty even as a medicine to sustain the body, never for the satisfaction of palate. He took plenty of vegetables, fruits, cereals, pulses, fats and the proportion in which they should be used. He opposed the consumption of meat as in order to get meat we have to kill. He avoided oily, deep-fried food and always took low-salt food.

3. Gandhi & Naturopathy: Bapu was never against the Allopathy system of medicine, Vaidyas or Hakims, he preferred naturopathy remedies. He often said that naturopathy was his way of life. He argued that if the disease was a result of breaking nature’s law, nature would be able to rectify it. He practiced naturopathy for more than fifty years.

4. Gandhi & Meditation:  Gandhiji strongly believed Meditation helps in reducing stress, anxiety and mental disorders and increases focus on the present.  To an extent, he controlled his blood pressure by meditating.

5. Gandhi & Fasting: Bapu advocated for Regular fasting which helps the body to utilize the unused fats, thereby keeping infections away and fasting ensures better bowel movements. It can decrease the levels of “bad,” cholesterol, and curb the risk of gaining weight. Fasting or desisting from eating has known benefits. It establishes a disciplined routine in our daily life, flushes out toxins, and cleanses the body system, helping it to detox. Later, in the freedom struggle, he used fasting as a powerful weapon against Britishers.

6. Gandhi & Personal Hygiene: Mahatma insisted on maintaining the highest levels of hygiene and sanitation. Hygiene will directly influence the eradication of communicable diseases like tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera, malaria, etc. He was strongly against open defecation and was involved in a cleanliness drive in ‘Sewagram’. He stressed the importance of maintaining personal hygiene and making surroundings clean.

7. Gandhi & no to addiction: He strongly opposed the use of alcohol, smoking, and eating tobacco products which will ruin families. Drugs, drinks and smoking cigarettes were among the other things he was strongly against. He said, “Drugs and drinks are the two arms of the devil with which he strikes his helpless slaves into stupefaction and intoxication.

Gandhiji said the human body is composed of five elements, such as Earth, Water, Light, Air, and Fire. He believed in nature’s ability to heal and the body’s power in regaining its composure. Breathing exercises for those who can’t breathe, cleaning nostrils, sleeping under the sky, hydrotherapy, sun baths and mud poultices are all Gandhiji’s advice on improving health.

GANDHI’s Love for Modern Medicine:

Gandhiji was successfully operated on by Dr. Dalal for piles in 1919 and by Dr. Maddock in Pune in 1924 for appendicitis. This enhanced his faith in modern medicine.

In an inaugural function of a medical college in Delhi in 1921 he said, “I would like to pay my tribute to the spirit of research that fires modern scientists.” He strongly advocated for the culmination of modern medicine with Ayurveda and Unani and echoed union of the three systems would result in a harmonious blend of all the disciplines. In his discourses in Madras & Kolkata, he emphasized that Ayurvedic physicians should learn about better diagnostics and treatment like the western systems as he was impressed with the inventions and discoveries made by western physicians and surgeons. Once skeptical of modern medicine, Gandhiji endorsed modern medicine later in his life.

Conclusion: World Health Organisation (WHO), Health policymakers & public health experts are now issuing advisories for walking, fasting, sanitation, cleanliness, meditation & stay away from addiction which Gandhi strongly advocated and practiced centuries ago.

Dr. Pramod N Sulikeri

Sr. Transplant Coordinator

KLES Dr. Prabhakar Kore Hospital & MRC


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