Nature Cure: Water and Light

Judith Boice, ND, LAc, FABNO – Nature Cure aims to engage the body’s native healing intelligence, working with natural processes to restore and augment health. Last month’s newsletter began a three-part series on Nature Cure, highlighting the contributions of naturopathic healer Father Emanuel Felke and the element Air. This month’s offering explores two more elements of Nature Cure: Water and Light.

Nature Cure: Water and Light

Water

The element water constitutes 70% of our planet, 60% of our total body weight and 72% of our brain. Water defines life on our blue-green planet gently spinning in space. Without this vital element, life as we know it cannot be sustained.

Water plays a vital role in Nature Cure, including water for drinking, water for external applications, steam applications, wet earth (mud or loam) applications, and bowel flushing. This article focuses on water as a nutrient as well as hydrotherapy, the external application of hot and cold water to restore and augment health.

Hydrotherapy as Restorative Medicine

Water has been utilized for thousands of years to treat disease and trauma, with various revivals punctuating its long history. Vincent Preissnitz (1799 - 1851), the “Father of Hydrotherapy,” championed the most recent European rediscovery of water’s healing properties in his Austrian mountain sanitarium. His hydrotherapy techniques, combined with dietary recommendations, air, exercise and rest, restored the health of many of the thousands of visitors who traveled to Preissnitz’s center. Hundreds of doctors also came to study his methods. By 1850, America had 28 water cure establishments based on Preissnitz’s hydrotherapy methods. In 1858 Dr. Trall, the author of several books on many aspects of nature cure, founded a hydrotherapy school attended by students from all over the world.

Father Kneipp, Dr. Benedict Lust, and a host of other “drugless doctors” continued to evolve Preissnitz’s therapies. In the early 20th century, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, MD (1852 – 1943) combined water treatments with sine wave, massage and dietary therapies. Kellogg kept meticulous records and conducted scientific research in his Battle Creek sanitarium. The data gathered became the foundation for Rational Hydrotherapy (1901), still one of the definitive textbooks on the subject. In the mid-twentieth century, Dr. Otis G. Carroll developed constitutional hydrotherapy, a treatment still widely used today.

Pastor Emmanuel Felke (1856 – 1926), widely recognized as the “Father of Homeopathy”, also became known as the “Clay (or Loam) Pastor” for his development of earth baths. He believed that “the more a person comes in contact with the earth, the more he will have a share of what we call ‘earth magnetism’. This is the sum of the earth forces which influence the organic products of nature. When a person comes into contact with the earth, interchanges take place between the body and the earth. The latter draws diseased matter from the body and gives healthy matter back in return.”

For Felke’s loam bath, a patient sits for 30 – 40 minutes in a low trench filled with loam stirred with water into a mash, covering the lower body to the lower ribs. The patient roughly wipes off the loam and allows the remaining mud to dry on the skin. Exercising with the dried mud on the skin causes a strong drawing action. The patient then rubs off the remaining powder-like dried mud, which further increases blood circulation to the skin, tissues and organs.

Drinking Water: How Much Water is Enough?

The medical world has developed a general recommendation of drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. This directive is a recommendation, with little or no research to support it.

The Institute of Medicine suggests men drink 3.7 liters and women 2.7 liters of water per day. This guideline is based on the concept of replacing the fluids lost in a day. On average, the body excretes 1.5 liters of fluid as urine and another liter through breath, sweat, and bowel movements, for a total of approximately 2.5 liters. Assuming some absorption of fluid from food, 64 ounces of water simply replaces the fluid lost in a day.

Signs of Dehydration

Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, author of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water 3rd Edition (Global Health Solutions, 2008), emphasizes that thirst is a very late stage signal of dehydration. Other later stage symptoms include

  • Headache
  • Xerostomia
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Mental fogginess
  • Dizziness/light-headedness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Tachycardia

Water Quality

The Nature Cure practitioners of a century ago generally did not have to worry about the quality of the drinking and bathing water provided for their patients. Today, however, most water supplies have been contaminated by chemicals and deviated from their natural water flow patterns.

The tsunami on March 11, 2011 that damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan is one recent catastrophic example. Tower No. 3 leaked over 100 tons of contaminated water into the ocean. According to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist Ken Buesseler, “trace amounts of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 were detected in samples collected on February 19, 2015 off the coast of Ucluelet, a small town on Vancouver Island in Canada's British Columbia.” Buesseler expects similar low cesium levels to gradually reach other North American shores, possibly extending along the U.S. West Coast from Washington State to California.

Water filters provide an important tool to remove chemical impurities, but they do little to restore the vitality of water. Early in the twentieth century, Austrian naturalist and forester Viktor Schauberger studied the way temperature and the curving, spiraling movements in streams and rivers influenced water. Based on his observations, he created long, winding canals that allowed him to transport huge timber logs in a small amount of water. Schauberger developed theories about the energetic properties of water based on years of observation. Schauberger’s studies have inspired several other researchers to develop innovative systems that both purify and revitalize water.

Rudolph Steiner also wrote about the effects of movement on water quality. He believed placing water in long, straight pipes destroyed some of the vitality of the water. John Wilkes (1930 – 2011) and a consortium of international researchers further developed Steiner’s theory with the creation of Flowforms® that mimic natural patterns of water movement to support its vitality.

Masaru Emoto (1943 – 2014), scientist and author of The Hidden Messages in Water, pioneered research on the effects of sound, thought and intention on water. He discovered that water’s plasticity allowed it to reflect these exposures in its molecular structure. He exposed the water to a variety of phenomena, froze the water and then viewed the resulting structures under the microscope. His work is a testament to the potency of even subtle influences on water.

All of these philosophers and researchers were pointing to an important principle: ideally, our water is not only clean, but also energetically vital. By its nature, water is “plastic”—meaning it is imprinted or influenced by things around it. This particular characteristic makes water the perfect medium for preparing homeopathic remedies. Homeopathic dilution and succussion rely on water’s ability to carry an imprint of whatever substance is in contact with it.

Light

Nature Cure recognizes the benefits of daily natural sunlight exposure. Research over the last five decades supports this health directive, affirming that sunlight exposure is crucial for Vitamin D production and pineal gland stimulation. Although elevated sun exposure also increases incidence of skin melanomas, current research suggests the benefits of sun exposure outweigh the risks.

Sunlight, Vitamin D and Nitric Oxide

Vitamin D occurs naturally in only a few foods, with cold-water fish being its primary dietary source. Farmed salmon has only 25% of the Vitamin D found in wild-caught salmon in Alaska. In addition, D2 was found in farmed salmon but not wild-caught salmon. Clearly, wild-caught fish are a superior dietary source of Vitamin D. As the quality and quantity of fish diminish in our oceans, sunlight exposure may become increasingly more important in maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels.

Stimulating Vitamin D production alone, however, does not account for all of the beneficial effects of sun exposure. Research in Norway reflects the importance of sunlight exposure (measured by calcidiol levels) on cancer prognoses for seven different types of cancer, including lung, prostate and breast cancers. Patients diagnosed in the summer and autumn had a 15 – 25% better long-term survival rate despite having increased Vitamin D intake during cod season (January – March). Thus Vitamin D intake alone did not account for patients’ improved prognoses.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) improved after sun exposure, exhibiting increased serum anti-inflammatory markers such as Vitamin D and nitric oxide. Vitamin D supplementation alone, however, did not reduce liver inflammation, and researchers theorize that other factors induced by sunlight exposure, such as nitric oxide, reduce the incidence of NAFLD.

Murine studies also demonstrate the importance of sunlight exposure for decreasing metabolic syndrome and obesity. Long-term exposure to UVR light in male mice fed a high-fat diet reduced serum levels of fasting insulin, glucose and cholesterol. The light-exposed mice also had significantly suppressed weight gain, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease measures. These improvements, however, were not reproduced with Vitamin D supplementation. The researchers suggest that the benefits of sunlight exposure for reducing obesity and metabolic syndrome do not rely on Vitamin D, but rather are dependent on other factors induced by sun exposure, such as nitric oxide.

Caution: Tanning Beds Significantly Increase the Risk of Skin Cancer

Indoor tanning beds cannot replace sunlight’s benefits. In fact, in 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) classified tanning beds as one of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation, placing them in the same category of carcinogens as asbestos and tobacco. A single indoor ultraviolet tanning session increases the risk of developing melanoma by 20 percent, and each additional tanning session within the same year augments the risk another two percent. Young people who begin using indoor sun beds before age 35 increase their risk of developing skin cancer by almost 90 percent. Clearly trying to mimic the sun’s life giving properties with tanning beds has been a lethal mistake.

Light, the Pineal Gland and Melatonin

Sunlight clearly benefits our health, but light exposure outside the natural rhythm of sunlight and darkness disrupts many processes in the body. Many of light’s effects in the body are mediated through the pineal gland, which is considered a vestigial eye. Instead of rods and cones, the pineal gland responds to light via a subgroup of photosensitive retinal ganglion cells that mediate light-dark cycles, thereby regulating melatonin secretion.

The pineal gland, and therefore melatonin production, is strongly influenced by nocturnal light exposure. Disrupting our natural circadian rhythm increases the risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome , increases risk of breast cancer in women , and speeds tumor growth in men and women .

Melatonin is produced in the ovary as well as the pineal gland. In the ovary melatonin acts as a powerful free radical scavenger that protects the oocyte from oxidative stress, particularly at the time of ovulation. Light exposure at night disturbs the circadian rhythm, suppresses the normally elevated melatonin levels, and disrupts fertility. Ideally expectant mothers would keep a regular sleep cycle and avoid bright light exposure at night, particularly during the third trimester of pregnancy. Light exposure and thus alterations in the mother’s circadian rhythm disrupt the fetus’s developing body clock cycles, potentially causing psychological and behavioral problems in the newborn.

Children are particularly vulnerable to light exposure at night, with one study demonstrating twice the melatonin suppression from nocturnal light exposure in children as in adults. In short, turn off the night light in a child’s room at night to support normal melatonin production.

Dinshah and the Effects of Colored Light

Darius Dinshah worked as an electrical engineer in India in the late 19th century and migrated to the United States in 1911. He was inspired by the works of Dr. Edwin D. Babbit (The Principles of Light and Color, 1878) and Dr. Seth Pancoast (Blue and Red Lights, or Light and its Rays as Medicine, 1877). These physicians used either sunlight or kerosene lantern light filtered through colored glass to bring about extraordinary cures in their patients. Dinshah studied and applied their work over three decades, eventually evolving his own system that he called Spectro-Chrome. One of his greatest medical proponents was Kate Baldwin, MD, FACS, Senior Surgeon at Woman’s Hospital, Philadelphia, PA. In 1926 she presented at a medical conference on the effects of using the Spectro-Chrome system in her surgical and private practice. She described colors as emanations of the elements:

Each element gives off a characteristic color wave. The prevailing color wave of hydrogen is red, and that of oxygen is blue, and each element in turn gives off its own special color wave. Sunlight, as it is received by the body, is split into the prismatic colors and their combinations as white light is split by passage through a prism. . . . If the body is sick it should be restored with the least possible effort. There is no more accurate or easier way than by giving the color representing the lacking elements, and the body will, through its radioactive forces [the aura], appropriate them and so restore the normal balance. Color is the simplest and most accurate therapeutic measure yet developed. . . . I can produce quicker and more accurate results than with any or all other methods combined – and with less strain on the patient.

Dinshah aimed to individualize light therapy, exposing patients to the most appropriate light frequency for their particular condition.

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