Thursday, August 01, 2013

Health, disease and life soup

Advice - Mind, Body and Family, Aug '13
By Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta

“Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent” – R. D. Laing

Once we are conceived as a single cell in our mother's womb (or elsewhere as in a test tube), we are destined to die. And it is the journey from conception to death that cooks up a ‘soup’ called life. We have no option other than to gulp it down, as long as we live. The only way to ease the gulping process is to customize the soup as far as possible to our liking. From this concept of customizing life comes the ‘effort’ of well-being. This is where the philosophy of health and disease germinates.

Photo credit: Vahista Dastoor
Trying to remain healthy is more a philosophy, than a state of being. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. This state is achieved by a harmony between body (physique), soul (mind) and environment (loosely, society).
Though conventionally treated separately, the mind is but a functional part of the body and represents a complicated yet fascinating set-up of the brain. This set-up, in turn, controls many functions of the body.

The environment sends signals to the body and helps the body to adapt to the changing environment. It is this state of balance that sustains life till we die and become a part of the environment once again.

We are mortals. Being healthy does not mean we will not get diseases or face situations that may cause death. Being healthy is more about making life pleasing and enjoying life as long as (and as far as) practical. People born with a congenital deformity in one leg can live a healthy life if they are given the proper opportunities to explore the maximum pleasure that life holds for them. They may never call themselves ‘sick’ till they catch a cold, fever or a bug in the tummy!

Reader queries

I am a 24 year old boy studying for my post-graduation. I have a tall and thin physique but I am not underweight. My recent health check-up has detected no abnormality. Some of my friends say that taking multi-vitamin capsules regularly can help me remain healthy and gain energy. Is it a right option? Please advice.
Anonymous, Kolkata

Dear Anonymous

If your body is free from any diagnosed vitamin deficiency, taking extra vitamins will not take you anywhere. Extra doses of water-soluble vitamins are expelled by the body through urine. Out-of-prescription vitamin intake can sometimes be harmful, and if not, often useless. You can focus on simple freehand exercises and some brisk jogging in the morning to keep yourself fit. Take a balanced meal with adequate dietary fibre and have three to four litres of water a day.

Confused? Disturbed? Just inquisitive? Write in any query on the mind, body and family to, and Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta, teaching faculty at a Kolkata-based medical college, will be happy to answer them – with due respect to confidentiality.

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