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A New Chapter in Our Unschooling Journey: Our Health and the Food We Eat

When we started unschooling Pari at 5 yrs and a few months, hardly ever did we fathom that questioning this one aspect – education – of the standard mainstream society would lead us into questioning another and then another and yet another as we would go on deschooling (slowly setting ourselves free from the school-ish way of thinking and acting), discovering and evolving ourselves, our core values, our way of being.

But, this is what has come to be. As we chose to opt out of the institutionalized learning system, we started pondering over the time we had, how we could get more of it so we could all be together, doing real things that felt meaningful to all of us. This led to Avie (hubby) quitting his job and taking up freelance work. It meant we had maximum control over our time without a school or a corporate telling us what we must do, how and why etc. The quitting of job enabled many beautiful things including the choice to travel whenever we wanted – traveling when the rest of the population was in school or at work – meaning less crowd, less expenses. More time at hand also enabled more discussions, reading, researching, spending time on cooking together, creating more art, more time for festivals and what not. You get the idea…

The unschooling life and mindset made us look at everything with a fresh set of eyes – inquire, introspect and question. The fears started taking a back seat, gradually receding and often vanishing after a point of time. An intentional life allowed dreaming new possibilities – like choosing to give birth to my second baby at a natural birth centre in Goa, instead of in a hospital. And, doing everything possible in our capacity to make it happen.

When we questioned the hospital way of giving birth – under glaring lights, strapped by machinery, drugged with pitocin and other medications, mind and body surrendered to the diktats and whims and fancies of the so-called experts – there were other related things that needed questioning and looking into. And, that was vaccinations. There was a world of research out there – both for and against it. We went with common sense and gut. Both told us that vaccinations are not right for our baby’s pristine body. She would do well with exclusive and extended breastfeeding, organic and wholesome food, green surroundings and plenty of sun. We just needed to let her blossom and strengthen her immune system. So, that was it. No vaccinations for Sufiana. None, whatsoever!

The questioning continued. We didn’t see any point living in Delhi when there were no shackles of school or job. Goa seemed like the best option, with nature galore, plenty of open spaces for children to play, the beaches, and even a vibrant culture of art, music, theatre, literature.

unschooling in goa

And, the questioning and introspection is still on…

As John Taylor Gatto in his pioneering book, ‘Dumbing Us Down’ (read the free ebook) says:

“What is gained from consulting a specialist and surrendering all judgement is often more than outweighed by a permanent loss of one’s own volition. This discovery accounts for the curious texture of real communication, where people argue with their doctors, lawyers, and ministers, tell craftsmen what they want instead of accepting what they get, frequently make their own food from scratch instead of buying it in a restaurant or defrosting it, and perform many similar acts of participation. A real community is, ofcourse, a collection of real families who themselves function in this participatory way.”

when the questions don't stop, answers start flowing

When questions don’t stop, answers start flowing. We now know that we want to have a small (or big) farm to grow naturally, to live more in harmony with nature, live a more sustainable life. So, we’re seeking right now for that piece of land. Or, as my unschooling friend, Hema Gopinath Shah once told me, “the land is there, waiting for you”. I agree. The land has not yet reached out to me possibly because I’m not fully ready. I’m ready alright, in my heart and mind and spirit. But, my body?! Is it ready to toil the land, to sweat it out? My unflinching response would be, “yes, ofcourse”! Afterall, when have I ever said no to a new project, a new exciting initiative. No matter how much my body said no, I dragged it along.

But, that had to change. I had to wake up.

2017 has come as a wake-up call for me. I could no longer ignore my health and vitality over my passions and projects and interests. I’m realizing that for my land to seek me out, I have to fix my health inside out. Slowly and surely I’m realizing if there’s anything that will support me (us) in this exciting journey of life and learning and being a mother of two small children (one of them is just 3.9 yrs) while also unschooling them, and nurturing my own passions and interests and dozens of ongoing projects, it has to be my own health. Health and only health. Besides of-course my partnership with my husband and kids, my attitude to handle the rough and tumble of life and the willingness to live life to its fullest. But then, again, the attitude, the willingness to live a full life, the partnerships – all these boil down to how I’m feeling within – in my body. If my body cannot match up to the pace my spirit is desiring for, it’s not going to work.

My fragile health….

I’ve been anemic nearly all my life and I’ve already experienced how lack of oxygen and iron-rich blood has taken a toll on my wellbeing. From laboured breathing to frequent headaches to hormonal dis-balance and heavy menstrual flow to hypothyrodism – the time was more than ripe for me to wake up and do something drastic about it – that is, get to the root of all this and do something, everything that the doctors never told me. Like, they didn’t tell me when I showed them my blood reports during pregnancy and asked won’t it affect my health, my ability to birth my baby, or the health of my baby for that matter? They put me in my place with a snarky comment to the effect that “you fret unnecessarily” “it’s all in your head”. “Women are anemic in general because they bleed every month”. 

But, O boy did I wake up! Thank god, I woke up.

It was as though the universe was conspiring left, right, center to make things happen. Just when I was getting concerned about the frequency of my ear-splitting migraine-like (but not migraine) headaches, I crossed paths with a number of incidents, information and my own awakenings and research that led to some life-transforming changes in the way we eat – the what, when, how of it all…

But hey, before I get into the story-telling of this exciting new chapter of my life, I realize that this could turn out to be a long story. So, in this first article on this subject, I’ll try to summarize while also breaking the story up into smaller pieces – for subsequent posts.

Are you with me so far? :-)

———-

sangeetha shankar

(Sangeetha and me – Oct. 2016. I was nearly 59 kgs then (at 5 feet 5 inches). And today, I’m nearly 52 kgs (top pic) – ever since we started a no-dairy, less grains, more fruits diet.)

Nearly 10 months back, a dear homeschooling friend – Sangeetha Shankar – visited us from the U.S. I’ve known her for as long as we’ve unschooled Pari – that is, more than 6 years now. So, when she was here for just couple of days, it felt like there was a world for both of us to catch up on. And, catch up we did. But, it was not without persistent headache bothering me the whole time that she was with us. She was concerned about this, I told her it’s primarily lack of sleep – I go to sleep late after putting Sufiana (now 3.9 yrs) into bed and even when I do, she wakes 2-3 times at night and early mornings for nursing. (at nearly 4, she’s still nursing); so I hardly feel like I’ve gotten a deep-sleep cycle.

So, we were talking about food and vaccinations and natural treatments etc. when she shared her and her family’s learnings and experiences – things they do (or don’t do) when they fall sick. She said, as a general rule, they all go off dairy and reduce grains drastically when hit by a cold, cough, fever kind of thing. She said she learned this from a respectable holistic health practitioner at a 5-days workshop in Mumbai.

Going off all dairy and grains when the body is not feeling right? Well, it struck a chord with me. I’ve always felt that dairy didn’t go down well with me. If I ever ate paneer (cottage cheese) in any form, I’d get cramps within a matter of 10 minutes – each time, every time. Wasn’t that evidence enough. And, my dairy consumption had gone down drastically in the past 4-5 years. Except for the milk-based ginger tea, which I just couldn’t seem to do without – mostly in the mornings –  a good 2-3 cups of it, and a cup or a half in the evenings too, I wasn’t too fond of curd, which my South Indian husband and my girls loved to bits.

Besides going off dairy and grains during the sick days, she said, they also took something else that worked like a charm. Lemon shots. Yes, squeeze out juice of 2-3 lemons and drink them like a shot, without diluting, she said.

Sangeetha left within couple of days but some of the things we talked about were playing on my mind, and Avie’s. A week after she left, I was down with a bad allergic cough. Like, pretty bad. Bad enough for me to sleep in another room, away from Sufiana so she won’t be disturbed. And, so bad that I was left with a constant ache in my chest and a throbbing head. First things first – I reduced my morning milk-based ginger tea as well as grains. Avie told me to try no other home remedy but only lemon shots. And, so I did. I would take these lemon shots 2-3 times a day. For the first two days, I didn’t see any difference. But, the third day onward, the intensity and the frequency of my cough was less threatening. And, within a week, it was gone. Without a trace. As if it was never there!

This was in sharp contrast to the cough I had in March of 2016. The cough I picked up from some allergens in the air (pollens etc) due to spring time lasted a month and drained me of all vital energy and life force. That was a terrible time. From tulsi (holy basil) to ginger to honey+ginger+cinnamon, and a dozen other natural solutions that I tried failed to work. I’d given up hope. It finally went off on its own when the effect of the allergens weakened but not without leaving me half dead….

So, you see, the lemon shots worked. And, it has worked each and every time since then for the common health issues we face in our family – cold, fever, cough, headache, stomach ache/upset, acidity.

In addition to lemon juice, we also add a few drops of ginger juice and a pinch of pink himalayan salt.

Now, the whole intention of sharing this lemon shot story/solution is something bigger, besides the fact that I wanted to let you know how this simple home remedy will save you all the time, effort and energy of trying out this and that or suffering for days on end.

The quest continues….

Avie and I couldn’t merely stop at the wonderful effect of lemon shots. We were curious to find out why and how it worked. What was it about undiluted lemon juice that fixes the environment of the bodily system and makes the ailment go away.

The answer was in – Acidic vs Alkaline body environment.

When you eat foods, meal after meal, that cause the stomach to secrete strong gastric juices (acids) – so as to digest the acidic food, your system is in a continuous state of acidity. Acidity means the PH of your stomach, your tissues and cells is lower than required. But, the PH of blood cannot waiver even a bit lower than the tight standard that the body needs. That standard is 7.4. If it fluctuates a wee bit, our bodies will enter a state of coma. So, its justified that to maintain an alkaline state of 7.4 of the blood, our system will go to extraordinary lengths – it will start leaching minerals – calcium, magnesium, potassium (these are all alkalizing minerals) from bones and muscles so as to counter the acidity (all minerals are alkaline). When this keeps happening for months and years on end, we face the consequences – migraine, bone problems like osteoporosis, muscle waste, and other bigger threats. Frequently consuming acid-causing foods causes the PH of the body to fluctuate causing acidosis (read this article to understand in-depth). “Acidosis occurs when your kidneys and lungs can’t keep your body’s pH in balance.”

That explanation about alkaline Vs acidic was in a real nut shell, in context of the lemon shot story I mentioned above. So, foods like lemon play a alkalizing role here. Although lemons are acidic in nature, when you have the juice, it goes into your body and becomes alkaline after metabolism helping to change the body environment from acidic to alkaline. This creates a positive chain reaction, ultimately alkalizing your cells and tissues and blood without leaching minerals from your bones and muscles.

But, hey, that does not mean we keep on consuming acidic foods and fixing that guilt/misbalance by gulping lemon shots through the day! Once a while is okay, but the answer is in reducing acid-causing foods and eating a 80% alkaline diet. 80% alkaline, 20% acidic. That will keep the body in balance including all its cells, tissues, lymphatic fluid, blood and urine. This state is health-promoting, growth-promoting. An acidic state of body is a breeding ground for all sorts of viruses, germs, yeast, bad bacteria causing diseases like ulcer, cancer, immune disfunction, sluggish liver and kidney, cardiovascular problems and it goes on….

So, how about an alakaline / alkalizing diet?

So, this theory rung a bell in our heads. If lemon is one such alkalizing food, what are the others that we could eat more of? We dived into a frantic and passionate research and figured that plant-based whole foods (which we were already eating) was all good.

cultured vegetables

Cultured vegetables

But, the more you eat raw and fresh, the better it is – fruits, vegetables, sprouted seeds and nuts. All things coconut – water, oil, milk is fantastic. Among cooked foods – soaked (a must) and fermented is better, less oily, less spicy is the way to go. Millets are way better than wheat (even whole) or rice.

hibiscus herbal tea

Herbal teas (hibiscus tea in the pic above) are all alkalizing and hence health promoting. Also, processed foods were high on the acidic index no matter plant-based or not. Himalayan pink salt is medicinal, fasting is a great approach to giving rest to your digestive system from toiling endlessly. All this and so much more…

If these are the alkalizing foods, what are the acidic or acid forming ones? Well, number one on the list (everywhere) was dairy (cow milk, curd, ghee, butter, cheese, paneer), meat, animal protein in general. Also, refined sugar and sugary foods in general, refined salt, spicy and oily and fried food, grains such as wheat and products made from wheat like pasta, noodles etc.

So, this was the first of a series of awakenings and encounters with life-transforming information, introspection and events. There were a few others that went on to seal this mantra in our heads – about alkaline and acidic foods, about food combinations and timings and some more fundamentals of eating – eating to nourish and not to degenerate. Even though we already knew a lot of such information, we hadn’t processed it to this detail, and certainly not implemented as we’re doing in the past six months.

It was when we met a couple of people who were living such a life that the bits and pieces of information all fell into place. The meeting (in close succession) with  two very inspiring guys who were living and teaching the solid foundations of living a healthy life – physically and spiritually, propelled us full steam onto a path from where there was no looking back. Those two guys we met were – Darryl D’Souza and Rob Phillips.

So, wait, where am I headed? What are you interpreting of all this? :-)

If you’re guessing that dairy is out of our food chart, you’re damn well right! What about other animal protein? Non-vegetarian, that is? Well, we were always vegetarians anyways – by birth, by choice. No meat, no fish, not even eggs. The only animal protein we consumed was dairy. And, now – for the past six months, we’re off it – completely. The health reasons combined with moral/ethical reasons were too compelling to turn a deaf ear on. So, we’re 100% vegans. And, now that I’ve announced it on my blog, dare I say its official? For, I announce it here only when I’ve gone through the experimentation, the trials, tribulations and finally embraced it as my truth.

gluten-free vegan homemade pizza

Gluten-free (barnyard millet) vegan pizza with cashew cheese

So, yes, Vegans we are and the benefits – for us – have been incredible. Almost magical! The fun quotient – in the kitchen and in eating has multiplied too. The number of new dishes I’ve cooked in the past six months qualify me to open up a vegan restaurant (my dream!) and the…

vegan choco cupcakes unschooling kid

Vegan chocolate cupcakes with cashew-vanilla frosting (made by Pari, my 11 years old unschooling daughter)

homemade coconut milk - a healthy diary substitute

Oh well…well….I could go on and on. But, I’ll sign off here, or this article will take on an epic form! Will get into the details of all this in my next article (recipes, dairy substitutes, acidic-alkaline food charts and more) and subsequent posts where I’ll introduce you to those two amazing guys – Darryl D’Souza and Rob Phillips that I mentioned earlier – the two guys who seemed like important aspects of the universe-conspiring-to-make-things-happen-theory for us. I’m sure you’ll take away something positive by knowing their life stories…

What’s your take on health? Are you fighting any health problem/s right now that you’d like to address? What are you doing currently to solve this? Is it helping?

Like I mentioned at the very beginning, our health is the most important asset that we must nurture. Rest all – passions, ambitions, hobbies, job, promotions, travels, vacations will all stem from it. Not necessarily the other way round. So, if you’re finding yourself neglecting your health, better wake up and take control of your health in your own hands. Don’t outsource it to a doctor or a so-called ‘expert’.

——————-

As promised, here’s the second article in this series to share with you some of the health hazards I’ve faced due to milk consumption.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Ramiya August 6, 2017, 8:19 am

    Let’s start the day with lemon shots… :) Thanks for sharing Rashmi. I experienced early dinner by 7 pm, also helps in many ways.

    • Rashmie August 10, 2017, 3:27 pm

      Ramiya, yes, absolutely – early dinner is best. We have around 7:30. But, I’m aiming for before sunset….

  • ranjeeta August 6, 2017, 1:38 pm

    really liked yr article ..

  • Surabhi August 6, 2017, 7:02 pm

    Rashmie- like always your article is very informative. This time around, I was particularly interested as I practice gluten-free, near vegan food for last three years and cant stop raving the benefits! Homemade Amaranth flour is one of major substitutes of my kitchen followed by homemade almond milk. Look forward to reading and learning more from you

    • Rashmie August 10, 2017, 3:25 pm

      Surabhi, nice to know you’re following a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. Amaranth has been a staple in our home too. There are such amazing substitutes for all things dairy. And yes, almond milk -I use for icecreams, cakes etc.
      I look forward to exchanging notes with you on this subject. So, do keep in touch here. All the best :-)

  • Smitha August 6, 2017, 8:46 pm

    I am a lemon shot fan too and I recommend a lot of shots for people I work with to heal too..Be blessed

  • Srishti August 7, 2017, 12:53 am

    I think, I am the closest eye witness to this journey and one of the most impacted ones other than the four of you. Loved to read this Rashmie, as there are bits and pieces where I could visualize my own quest and the quest as a family….. Hugs

    • Rashmie August 10, 2017, 3:12 pm

      Yes, Srishti, it’s been nice to walk this journey with you. I’m glad you saw parts of you in this story. Wishing you all the best to continue walking this path. It’s tough, alright; there’ll be naysayers to handle, but with conviction and will power, we can do it. The long-term benefits may not be visible right away, but they’re sure to come. So, hang in there :-)
      Hugs….

  • Priti August 8, 2017, 2:18 am

    Can you take these lemon shots everyday or only like medicine?

    • Rashmie August 10, 2017, 3:09 pm

      Priti, more like medicine than a daily practice.
      But, you can start your day (every morning) with half a lemon squeezed into two glasses of warm water. It kickstarts your digestion on such a positive note.

  • sweta August 9, 2017, 3:22 am
    • Rashmie August 9, 2017, 3:24 pm

      What’s the point of simply inserting a link with counter views, when you don’t have a single word to say?!!

      If you dig the internet, there will be views and counterviews for every single thing. But, here I am talking from my own experience and sharing views of people who have years of experience practicing it.

      To find your own truth, go head and practise something, figure out what works for you and what not and then take a stand.

  • Kelly Norman August 9, 2017, 8:34 pm

    Very inspiring! I’ve never done straight lemon juice shots, but sounds like a good idea! I usually like to add lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to my water to help heal a sore throat or belly ache. And my mission now for my family will be to decrease our rice consumption and to try to increase millet in our vegan and gluten free diet. I’ve found millet to be a very gritty texture and so not a favorite to eat in our house. But I look forward to trying new recipes and hoping you will post more of your family’s favorite recipes!

  • Rashmie August 11, 2017, 1:35 pm

    Kelly, it just takes a little while and some interesting recipes to take a liking to Millets. But, once you get used to it, I an tell you, you won’t miss rice. We eat millet rice with our Indian dal, sambhar, curries. And, I’ve found how you still feel light even after a sumptuous meal, compared to rice, which tends to make me heavy and lethargic. Millets are also easily digested.
    Yes, I plan to share millet recipes. So, do keep in touch :-)
    Thank you for being here and for sharing your thoughts…

    NB: Oh, and I’ve found that each millet has unique flavour and texture. For example, I prefer little millet for the Indian upma style dish. Kodo millet can be used for pulao. Proso millet as rice. And then, each has its own specific healing quality too.

  • Jaya Gupta August 14, 2017, 1:26 am

    Hi

    I like your article. I have heard that eating more of fruit based diet causes pancreatic cancer. I haven’t researched much on this. But as you are working on vegan diet, I would like you to look at that aspect too, and let us know.

    I have been following a vegetarian diet myself and limited dairy for the last 7 years.

    • Rashmie August 15, 2017, 10:57 pm

      Hi Jaya, I’m not recommending a fruitarian diet (all fruits) – the kind that Steve Jobs practiced and is said to be connected with his cancer of pancreas.
      I’m emphasizing a more fruits, more vegetables, less grains diet. Basically, food that’s live – with life-giving enzymes. That’s the key to a glowing health. You can read more about foods rich in enzymes. Cooked food is akin to dead food – all healthy bacteria, enzymes and antioxidants are dead. Most of the nutrients are dead as well. It only fills us up, but does not support a vibrant health.
      I’ll write more about this aspect in subsequent articles. Thanks for bringing this topic up.

      • Jaya August 16, 2017, 11:45 am

        Great. Look forward to your next article.

  • Rashmie August 15, 2017, 11:00 pm

    Hi all, my next article in this series is up! It’s titled:
    Why No Cow Milk for Us: Unraveling the Truth One Disease at a Time!
    You can read here: https://www.mommy-labs.com/creative-kids/nurture_culture/why-no-cow-milk-for-us-unraveling-the-truth-one-disease-at-a-time/

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