Tuberculosis is one of the most dreaded diseases. It is a major health problem in India and often rated the number one killer. It affects eight to nine million people at any one time and over five lakh people die of this disease every year in this country. This disease is also called consumption as it consumes the body and reduces the patient to a skeleton.
Tuberculosis has a very ancient origin. Traces of the existence of this disease have been found in Egyptian mummies as early as 5,000 B.C. It is described as Rajrog or the king of diseases in the Vedas. The noted ancient physicians, Charaka and Sushruta thought that it was difficult to cure. Aristotle expressed pity for the unfortunate " consumptives. "
Tuberculosis is caused by a tiny germ called tubercle bacillus which is so small that it can be detected only by a microscope. The germ enters the body through the nose, mouth and the windpipe and settles down in the lungs. It multiplies by millions and produces small raised spots called tubercles. Sometimes this germ is called Kock’s bacillus and the disease, Kock’s disease after the name of Prof. Kock ( 1843-1910) who discovered this germ in March 1882.
Tuberculosis is not hereditary but an infectious or communicable disease. Those suffering from the disease for a considerable time eject living germs while coughing or spitting and when then enter the nose or mouth of healthy persons, they contract the disease. The spread of the disease is helped considerably by overcrowded and dirty conditions. Mouth-breathing and kissing as well as contaminated food and water are also responsible for spreading this disease. Tuberculosis does not spread merely by touching the persons suffering from it.
Tuberculosis is of four types, namely of lungs, intestines, bones and glands. Pulmonary tuberculosis or tuberculosis of the lungs is by far the most common type of tuberculosis. It commences normally with a dry cough. The patient loses strength, colour and weight and is unable to carry on his normal work. Other symptoms are a rise in temperature especially in the evening, hoarseness, difficulty in breathing, pain in the shoulders, indigestion, chest pain, and blood in the sputum.
Lowered resistance or devitalisation of the system is the chief cause of this disease. Most people have the germs present at all times, but they do not have developed the disease unless their bodies are in a weakened condition. This condition is brought about mainly by mineral starvation of the tissues of the body due to an inadequate diet and the chief mineral concerned is calcium. In many ways, therefore, tuberculosis is the disease of calcium-deficiency. There can be no breakdown of the tissue and no tubercular growth when there is an adequate supply of organic calcium in the said tissue. Thus, an adequate supply of organic calcium in the system together with other organic mineral matter is a sure preventive of the development of tuberculosis.
Lowered resistance also results from a variety of other factors such as suppression of diseases by drugs and medication, use of stale, devitaminised and acid- forming foods, eating wrong combination of foods, such as taking fruits with starchy foods at one meal, causing fermentation inthe stomach ; wasting of energy through excessive loss of semen and living in ill-ventilated houses. Other causes include exposure to cold, loss of sleep, impure air, sedentary life , overwork, contaminated milk, use of tobacco in any form, liquor of all kinds, tea, coffee and all harmful drinks. These factors prepare the ground for the growth of germs of various kinds, including the tubercle bacillus. These germs, which may be present in the body, are quite harmless for those who are full of vitality and natural resistance.
Tuberculosis is no longer considered incurable if it is tackled in the early stages. An all round scheme of dietetic and vitality-building programme along natural lines is the only method to overcome the disease. As a first step, the patient should be put on an exclusive fresh fruit diet for three or four days. He should have three meals a day of fresh, juicy fruits, such as apples,grapes, pears, peaches, oranges, pineapples, melons, or any other juicy fruit in season. For drinks, unsweetened lemon water or plain water either hot or cold may be taken. If losing much weight on the all-fruit diet, those who are already underweight may add a glass of milk to each fruit meal.
After the all-fruit diet, the patient should adopt a fruit and milk diet. For this diet, the meals are exactly the same as the all-fruit diet, but with milk added to each fruit meal. The patient may begin with two pints of milk the first day and increase by half a pint daily upto four or five pints. The milk should be fresh and unboiled, but may be slightly warmed, if desired. It should be sipped very slowly. The fruit and milk diet should be continued for four to six weeks. Thereafter, the following diet may be adopted.
Breakfast : Fresh fruits as obtainable and milk. Prunes or other dried fruit may also be taken , if desired.
Lunch : Steamed vegetables as available, one or two whole wheat chappatis and a glass of butter milk.
Dinner : A bowl of raw salad of suitable vegetables with whole wheat bread and butter. Stewed fruit or cooked apple may be taken for dessert.
At bedtime : A glass of milk.
The chief therapeutic agent needed for the treatment of tuberculosis is calcium. Milk, being the richest food source for the supply of organic calcium to the body, should be taken liberally. In the diet outlined above at least two pints of milk should be taken daily. Further periods on the exclusive fruit diet followed by fruit and milk diet should be adopted at intervals of two or three months depending on the progress. During the first few days of the treatment, the bowels should be cleansed daily with a warm water enema and afterwards as necessary.
The patient should avoid all devitalised foods such as white bread, white sugar, refined cereals, puddings and pies, tinned, canned and preserved foods. He should also avoid strong tea, coffee, condiments, pickles and sauces. The patient should take complete rest - of both mind and body. Any type of stress will prevent healing. Fresh air is always important in curing the disease and the patient should spend most of the time in the open air and should sleep in a well-ventilated room. Sunshine is also essential as the tubercle bacilli are rapidly killed by exposure to sunrays. Other beneficial steps towards curing the disease are avoidance of strain, slow massage, deep breathing and light occupation to ensure mental diversion.