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Food is medicine. As the saying goes, you are what you eat, and to be fit and healthy, you need to eat good food. With that said, why is Black America so sick?
Awareness of what to eat to heal the body is of utmost importance as we fight invisible enemies such as the coronavirus and chronic illnesses that are conquering the minority community. Historically we prevailed through abuse, oppression, and dehumanization because we had a healthy sense of community, love, spirituality, and knowledge of how to put soul into food.
“You’re actually more susceptible to spreading the virus in the presymptomatic stages. Also known as the incubation period the time before the symptoms appear,” said health expert Michael H. Forde. “Asymptomatic individuals have a lower rate of spreading the virus.”
Forde has served both local and national communities as a health communications specialist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health, under the Institute’s leadership of Dr. Anthony Fauci, responding to the COVID-19 outbreak as a member of the NIAID Inquiry Response Team.
The stay-at-home orders across the nation has caused many people to decrease their movement and make some poor nutrition choices due to accessibility, availability, stress, depression, anxiety and isolation. All of our lives were abruptly halted, leaving the perfect setup for unhealthy weight gain. Some social media users jokingly refer to it as the “Quarantine 15.” With access to the fast-food industry at our fingertips via Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Postmates, it definitely feels like the ultimate setup.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, African-Americans (42.4%) and whites (37.6%) ate fast food most often.
“You can find success in treating your body right and to fight against future viruses and elongate your life,” Forde said. “You can invest in eating right and making sure your health is your wealth.”
The biggest concern on most hearts is that we do not know when or if this pandemic will end. When will America reopen? We were all forced to adapt to this new normal way of living, which includes distancing from loved ones and increasing our reliance on technology for emotional connections and nutrition, with no guidance.
Yet the silver lining to disease prevention is as bright as the dark clouds ahead of us. If you are unsure of the current state of your immunity and whether or not your body can effectively fight diseases there are steps that you can do that vastly improve your chances of survival. There is a connection between nutrition and immunity.
“Habitual intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is enough to differentiate between those who had 80% less and those who had 80% more lifetime burden of chronic disease,” said Dr. David Katz. “The power of lifestyle as medicine is such that it can refashion our fate at the very level of our genes. We can nurture nature. It’s what you do with your feet, forks, fingers, and adding more sleep, less stress, and more love that makes the difference.”
There is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies — zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, C and E, for example — alter immune responses.
Granted, being healthy is not just about the food on your plate; it’s about the water you drink, the air you breathe, the love in your life, the amount you exercise, whether you have a fulfilling career and spiritual practice, and environment.
There are 12 basic steps that most people do to improve health:
• Increase water intake.
• Practice home cooking.
• Consuming whole grains.
• Adding sweet vegetables such as sweet corn, sweet peppers, sweet onions, shallots and tomatoes.
• Adding leafy green vegetables like kale, herbs, collards, spinach, cabbage, beet greens, watercress, lettuce, Swiss chard, arugula, edive, bok choy and turnip greens.
• Consuming healthy portions of protein.
• Eliminating processed foods.
• Self-care, which includes baths, lighting candles, spa treatments, walks, and adequate rest.
• Cultivating healthy relationships.
• Increasing physical activity.
• Finding work that you love and having healthy work relationships.
• Developing a spiritual practice.
Choosing one of these steps to focus on and finding unique ways to translate and create new habits is the best way to guard your life and promote the boosting of the immunity system.
Much like nutrition, increasing body movement contributes to healthy levels of immunity. It promotes blood circulation, hormone levels are balanced, adrenal glands secrete toxins and the gut better absorbs nutrients. A hundred crunches here, a hundred sit-ups there, and hundred squats throughout the day can make a huge difference in the long run.
Dr. Benecia Williams, a board-certified sports medicine physician, stresses the importance of staying active during the pandemic.
”I recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five times a week, and suggest that you do it from home,” she said.
Stress is a major factor in racial and ethnic health disparities. Enduring stressful events such as police injustice, brutality, and wrongful incarceration are linked to mortality and chronic illness.
In particular, job strain, bereavement, and providing care for a chronically ill relative have been predictive of all-cause mortality and heart disease (Karasek et al., 1988; Martikainen and Valkonen, 1996; Schnall et al., 1994; Schulz and Beach, 1999).
Modern medicine has linked the mind and body to emotional stress. If stress continues for a long period of time, the body goes into a state of exhaustion. Individuals may begin to suffer depression, the suppression of their immune response, severe fatigue, or even a fatal heart attack.
We are bio individuals and have to figure out what best works for our bodies and our new Coronavirus way of life. Quarantine-safe ways to mitigate stress include, but are certainly not limited to, increasing hours of sleep, reading a novel, going for a leisurely walk getting some fresh air and vitamin D, and drinking one glass of red wine at no more than five days a week.
“Resveratrol may be an effective alternative to drugs for treating patients suffering from depression and anxiety disorders,” said Ying Xu, co-lead author and research associate professor at the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
The world may never operate the same which may leave you feeling defeated and possibly suicidal. Giving and receiving hugs is an extremely effective way to combat stress yet since the general public are socially distant you may want to turn to food for comfort. Trust your instincts. The body is a bio-computer maintaining a healthy temperature, a beating heart, and lungs that never forget to breathe. It’s imperative to find healthy and satisfying ways to conquer cravings.
“Any craving is a good starting point, because we have several biological mechanisms for correcting specific nutritional deficiencies,” said Dr. Ray Peat. “When something is interfering with your ability to use sugar, you crave it because if you don’t eat it you will waste protein to make it.”
The biggest defense system we have against any disease is found in the gut or what is also known as the second brain. The digestive system produces the same hormones as the brain. If you want to fight illness you must first treat digestion.
“Seventy percent of your immune system is in your digestive system,” said Dr. Frank Lipman. “You have 10 times more bacteria in your digestive system than you have cells in your body. The digestive system is an organ that should not be ignored.”
Dr. Jeffrey Blan developed the 4 “R” Program by the Institute of Functional Medicine in Gig Harbor, Washington. The first step is to remove the problem, usually unhealthy bacteria, yeasts and/or parasites. Reducing sugar, gluten, dairy ( with the exception of yogurt), soy, and junk are the most common problem foods to start with. Some individuals have effectively tried detox teas, grapefruit seed extract, olive leaf extract, and barberry extract.
Always consult your doctor before starting a new diet and exercise plan.
The next step in the program is repair. It involves providing the nutrients that the membranes need to regenerate. Foods rich in glutamine such as beef, chicken, lamb, salmon, sole, almonds, red cabbage, peas, kidney beans, and eggs are excellent sources to strengthen immunity.
It is vital to replace both digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid to improve the chances of full digestion and absorption of nutrients. You can introduce hydrochloric acid into your diet by drinking diluted apple cider vinegar, fermented vegetables like kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles. Digestive enzyme foods include ginger, pineapple, papaya, mango, honey, banana, avocado, and kefir.
“What we are finding is that most people have dysbiosis which is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria,” Lipman said.
Once the harmful bacteria or parasites or yeast are removed, healthy bacteria need to be reintroduced. Foods that aid in reinoculation include lentils, chickpeas, oats, artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions, and yogurt that is not laden with sugar.
Once the health of the digestive system is restored, maintenance involves eating adequate fiber and drinking adequate water to keep the digestive process moving. A goal is at least one bowel movement daily. For most people, this involves at least 20 grams of fiber and at least eight full glasses of water a day.
“Let us do all that is required so that we do not bequeath to our children and grandchildren a blighted future,” Katz said. “They deserve better.”
We deserve better. We must get creative in regaining a healthy sense of community, love, spirituality outside of church walls, and knowledge of how to put our souls back into what we eat.