Q: For some people, a single peanut can be life-threatening. And there are children who get allergies early in their lives. Why does the human system develop allergies, and can yoga help?

Sadhguru: This is basically because the way we are living today, the human system is being messed up in too many ways.

Unhealthy Food

The fundamental mistake is that food today is made in a factory. Food should come out of the earth, because this body is earth. As far as possible, your body should be in tune with the earth. Apart from that, food allergies are mostly found among meat-eaters. Particularly when you eat mass-produced meat products, you do not eat one animal’s meat – you eat all kinds of parts of all kinds of animals, mashed and made into a sausage. You cannot stay healthy eating such food. But people eat it, as long as someone lists out the amount of protein and whatever else it is supposed to have. Even in garbage, you may find proteins and other nutrients, but this is not the thing to eat.

The fundamental mistake is that food today is made in a factory. Food should come out of the earth, because this body is earth.

When I was a child, they gave us milk only from one particular cow. Today, the milk you buy in supermarkets is from thousands of cows – all mixed and processed. Particularly in the United States, people are consuming a huge amount of animal hormones through mass-produced dairy, poultry, and red meat. All kinds of additives are added to everything. Your body is an organism – it is made to absorb organic nature of the planet and make it a part of itself. You cannot just add synthetic supplements and expect them to become a part of the human being. We know that the body consists of a certain amount of amino acids, proteins, and so on, but if you take all these ingredients and put them in a test tube, you cannot make them into a human being. That is not how it works. There is another dimension of life that makes all this happen. If you have no regard for that, you are bound to suffer.

Don’t Mix Too Much

Above all, especially in the US, there is too much food everywhere. Because there is so much food, you do not look at it and treat it with the necessary respect and awareness. Even in India, this unfortunate habit is on the rise. If you go to affluent places, there will be lots of different items on the plate, which people will mix and eat. When we were children, if we mixed two things and ate them, our parents and grandparents would tell us, “You are eating like a beggar,” because a beggar had to mix and eat whatever he collected in his begging bowl.

You are supposed to eat each item separately, because the stomach treats each item in a particular way. If you mix everything and eat it, your system will get confused, and consequently, it will develop allergies over time. If I eat alone, I only eat one item. I do that because I am conscious about how food behaves in my body, and how my body, not just the tongue, welcomes and enjoys the food that I consume. This is not about being frugal or controlled – this is just being conscious. Without being conscious, you cannot live well.

Allergies on the Rise

Unfortunately, in another two generations, people will be allergic to half the things they eat. People even develop allergies against rainwater and sunlight. Where can you live in such a condition? And what if you become allergic to the air that you breathe? That may sound funny, but if people are allergic to water or sunlight, becoming allergic to air is not far away.

Going to the doctor and getting a diagnosis about what kind of allergy you have is not a solution. You need to look at it in a more fundamental way. It is not just about being allergic to a particular substance. Essentially, your body reacts to life itself.

Lifestyle Choices

The way you consume your food matters too. I have seen people who are successful professionals in many US cities stand on the roadside, stuffing their face with whatever food they get from vendors there. This is not the way to eat. I feel really sad for such people – you do not see an element of joy on their face. They may have less than half an hour to go, eat, and come back to work and make more money. If you live like this, how can you not suffer?

People have groundnut allergies. Even a small groundnut is telling you, you are not living properly. You must get the message.

Today, children are allergic to milk! It has never happened in earlier generations that a child living in a village or a tribe had lactose intolerance. People have groundnut allergies. Even a small groundnut is telling you, you are not living properly. You must get the message.

A groundnut allergy is a killer. Once, I was traveling on an American airline and they announced, “Today, we will not be serving peanuts because there is a person on this flight who is allergic to them.” I wondered, “If he is allergic, why can I not eat peanuts?” Apparently, if you even open the packet, just the smell could cause him to have a strong allergic reaction. Hopefully, this wide-spread allergy against groundnuts – which used to be one of the most nourishing food items for previous generations – will make people realize that it is time to stop and look into why these allergies occur, and what we can do about it.

The Body’s Warning Signal

Another factor is the atmosphere you live in. If you are constantly inhaling toxins and eating things that are bad for you, the body will react. An allergy is a reaction of the body, because you are not treating it as life but as a mechanical thing. This is not only about being allergic to a specific substance. It may happen that in the manufacturing process of the body, something went wrong and you cannot take one specific item. If that is the case, you can simply avoid that one thing. But now, allergies have assumed epidemic proportions. Fundamentally, our bodies are reacting to the way we live.

When the number of people with allergies is constantly increasing, it means we are doing something fundamentally wrong. Processed foods are ruining people’s health, but it is a big industry!

How Yoga Can Help

What can you do about allergies? Yoga can definitely reverse this process. There are thousands of people who, by doing Shakti Chalana Kriya or Shambhavi Mahamudra, have become allergy-free, particularly from pollen allergy. If there is someone around you with food allergies and they are willing to do something about it, one simple thing you could do is give them some vibhuti, ask them to add one pinch of it to a liter of water, and drink five liters of this vibhuti water every day. The body will cleanse itself in a few months and the allergies will go down. If you do some yogic practices along with that, definitely the allergies will disappear. That is what it takes – cleansing.

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A version of this article was originally published in Isha Forest Flower March 2016. Download as PDF on a “name your price, no minimum” basis or subscribe to the print version.