Tuberculosis is one of the most serious infectious diseases. It is a major health problem in India and often rated as the number one killer among the infectious diseases. The disease in children is known as primary tuberculosis and that in adults as postprimary.
Tuberculosis mainly affects lnungs, intestines, bones, glands and brain with its meninges. Pulmonary tuberculosis or tuberculosis of the lungs is by far the most common type of tuberculosis. In the adults, the disease is characterised by cough with sputum, haemoptysis (spitting up of blood from the respiratory system), weight loss and night sweats. Abnormal physical signs are present in the lungs and X-rays may show infiltratin, cavitation, calcification and fibrosis. None of these signs and symptoms applies to primary thuberculosis in children.
Most children who are infected with tuberculosis anywhere in the body apparently look well, with no symptoms or signs. A few have a milk fever for a few weeks, may become cheerless and loose a little weight or fail to gain weight. In most cases, the primary focus heals with no further trouble. In some cases, however, clinical disturbances do occur at different stages of the disease process.
Tuberculosis is caused by a tiny germ called tubercle bacillis. The germ enters into the body through the nose, mouth and windpipe and settles down in the lungs. It multiplies by millions and produces small raised spots called tubercles.
Lowered resistance or devitalisation of the system, however, is the real cause of this disease, brought about mainly by minieral starvation of the tissues of the body due to an inadequate diet. The chief mineral concerned is calcium. Thus an adequate supply of organic calcium in the system together with organic mineral matter is a sure preventive of the development of tuberculosis.
X-ray of chest showing early tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis is no longer considered incurable, if it is tackled in the early stages. An all round scheme or dieteric and vitality- building programme along natural lines is the only method to overcome the disease. As a first step, the child-patient should be put on the exclusive fresh fruit diet for two or three days. He should have three meals a day of fresh juicy fruits, such as apples, grapes, pears, peaches, oranges and pineapple or any other juicy fruit in season.
After the all-fruit diet, the patient should adopt a fruit and milk diet for eight to 10 days. For this diet, the meals are exactly the same as the all-fruit diet, but with milk added to each fruit meal. Thereafter, the child may be allowed to embark upon a well- balanced diet, according to his age. The diet should mainly consist of seeds,nuts and grains, vegetables and fruits.
The patient should avoid all devitalised foods such as white bread,white sugar, refined cereals, puddings, pies, tinned, canned and preserved foods. He should also avoid strong tea, coffee, condiments, pickles and sauces.
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 thebody, should be taken liberally. It should be sipped very slowly so as to be thoroughly mixed with saliva which dilutes it and to a great extent promotes its digestion.
The liberal use of custard apple (sitaphal) is one of the most valuable remedies for tuberculosis. It contains the qualities of rejuvenating drugs. The Ayurvedic practitioners prepare a fermented liquor called sitaphalasava from this fruit, in its season, for use as a medicine in the treatment of this disease. It is prepared by boiling custard apple pulp and seedless raisins in water on slow fire. It is filtered when about one third of water is left, and then mixed with powdered sugar candy and also the powder of cardamom, cinnamon and certain other condiments.
Indian gooseberry is another valuable remedy for tuberculosis. A teaspoon each of fresh amla juice and honey mixed together should be given to the child every morning in treating this disease. It sregular use will promote vigour and vitality in the body within a few days.
The juice of pineapple has proved beneficial in the treatment of tuberculosis. It has been found to be effective in dissolving mucus and aiding recovery. This juice was used regrlarly in the past in treating this disease when it was a more common disease.
The use of orange has proved useful in curing tuberculosis. The juice of this fruit should be mixed with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of honey and taken regularly by the patient. Due to its saline action in the lungs, it eases expectorations and protects from secondary infection.
The use of bottle gourd is considered an effective remedy for tuberculosis. According to Dr.C.D. Mehta of Bengal, T.B. Sanitorium, bottoe gourd is one ofthe best vegetable useful for tuberculosis patients. He has carried out extensive researches which confirm that regular use of cooked bottle gourd helps in developing immunity against tubercular germs.
The patient should tkae complete rest, both mentally and physically. Any type of stress will prevent healing. Fresh air is always important in curing the disease and the patient should spend most of his time in open air and should sleep in a well ventilated room. Sunshine is also essential as tubercle bacilli are rapidly killed by exposure to sunrays. Sunlight should be applied directly to the exposed body surface and the child-patient should remain in sunshine as much as possible. The best results can be obtained if the sunlight can be made to fall directly upon the affected tissues. This will not only kill the consumption germ but will also vitalize and energise the body and increase its power of resistance.
Other beneficial steps towards curing the disease are avoidance of stress, light massage and deep breathing exercises. Certain yogic asanas are also beneficial in the treatment of tuberculosis in its early stages, and the grown-up children should be encouraged to undertake them. These include asanas like viparitakarani, sarvangasana and shavasana and jalnetikriya and anulama-viloma pranayama.