Part 3: Lockdown and out – thoughts on Covid19, chronic disease and immunity.
I have mixed feelings writing todays blog. I planned a whole list of blog topics a few weeks ago and published my first one on May 25th - the day George Floyd was murdered. Part 9 of the blogs I titled “Yes, I am Privileged” and it is exactly the right blog to talk about this. I want to acknowledge the recent events, but I need more time to educate myself better. I’m glad I chose week 9 for that blog! For now, I will just copy here something I wrote yesterday on my social feeds…
As a white middle class man, I recognise I am the most privileged! I also recognise this puts me far away from those without this privilege, and therefore want to be honest and admit this “distance” makes it hard to understand and empathise at times. For this I am unreservedly sorry! I want to do better at understanding and empathising. My black relatives and friends can help me and I hereby undertake to engage in conversation with you more to help me better understand and be more empathetic.
Back to today’s topic…
As stated in my first blog 2 weeks ago, for years I have been categorised as Morbidly Obese on the BMI scale, and while not medicated yet, have teetered on the brink of various, what I now call, lifestyle diseases: hypertension, hyperlipidaemia and prediabetes. What I am writing here I am writing to myself for today and every tomorrow.
This is not about fat shaming myself or finger pointing, rather it is about understanding better the impact and consequences on my body of what I eat and drink – particularly in the context of Covid19! I am very serious about this and for the first time in my life I have absolute conviction that some of the stuff I have been eating and drinking over the last 30+ years is toxic to my body in a way I have naively not understood. (Opposite perspective on this is something I will discuss in a later blog I’ve already called “Life’s too short vs Life’s too short”)
Covid19, in my opinion, has been a game changer when it comes to chronic lifestyle diseases! For us middle aged, overweight, hypertensive, pre/diabetic, aching heavy breathers, C19 has changed these conditions from chronic (background) issues (that we may be able to pop pills to enable us to manage life and ignore as much as possible) to acute, potentially fatal diseases!
One of the most helpful things I have listened to during lock down is a podcast – Rich Roll (my favourite podcaster) with Dr David Katz – entitled “The Choreography of Contagion”. David Katz MD is a general practitioner with exceptional qualifications, first-hand experience treating Covid19 in the Bronx and a prominent voice in nutrition science and lifestyle medicine. He talks eloquently about a data-driven evidence-based approach to a strategy he calls “vertical interdiction”. It’s very much worth a listen – link in footnotes.
In essence Dr Katz highlights that Covid19 only infects 20% of those exposed to it – so 80% of us have natural immunity. Of the 20% of us that it infects 98-99% of that group will have only mild or maybe no symptoms. For those in the high-risk categories however it is very serious and even fatal. This is no way trivialises the seriousness and devastating affect it has had on those who have lost their lives or loved ones to Covid19, and my deepest sympathy and condolences go out to any of you affected and suffering.
The point for me, and what I want to share here, is that I HAVE PUT MYSELF IN A HIGHER RISK CATEGORY BY CHOICE AND INDULGENCE! That’s what lifestyle disease is! Furthermore, it is my power to prescribe myself a healthier lifestyle that will literally cure these chronic lifestyle diseases! I neither want nor need prescription drugs – save those for when I really need them.
Since looking into this I have found a plethora of studies showing that I can literally eat myself healthy. I can cure my myself! I just need to make good choices!
Of course, that is so much easier said than done – as the last 30 years attest! But why?
Apart from the fact that I am Mr Greedy – thought I’d get that in myself – the old elephant in the room! My view is that it all starts with what I feed my mind. Our minds are influenced by a multitude of messages, information, social norms, advertising, indulgence, privilege, addictive ingredients etc., etc. Slowly I am changing this. I am exposing my mind to that which feeds the healthier path, motivated by the frustrations I shared last week.
What I’m doing to help: (All links in footnotes)
· I follow positive influences on social media – shout out here to my niece-in-law Serena Lee – author of Vegan London guidebook and low waste, plant-based advocate.
· I’ve really got into podcasts. Here I’d highlight Rich Roll. Brilliant!
· Books: I’ve stopped trying to read books (my painfully slow dyslexic reading speed frustrates me too much) and subscribed to Audible. Recommended book Eat Yourself Healthy by Dr Megan Rossi. A detailed look at gut health and the microbiome. Fascinating! Do have the paper book as it’s good reference material and can scribble notes on it!
· I’ve been seeking out good TV on the subjects. As a kickstart I particularly enjoyed the documentary films Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy, What the Health and Game Changers. Exercise some common sense here as they are quite evangelical with the message, but still very eye opening – all US based. If anyone has recommendations of equivalent UK based documentaries, please let me know.
· I listen sporadically to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio – particularly if driving at that time. Chris and the team seem to be going through a similar journey and have loads of great guests which I then follow up with. A quick way to get this is the shows podcast that just has the key interviews each week.
One final reflection for this week, when thinking about Covid19, is the role of immunity. The most basic fact I learned in Eat Yourself Healthy is that the gut has 70% of the body’s immune cells! From our mouth to the large intestine the gut has enzymes, acid, hormones, chyme, bile etc, all of which are designed to break down food, facilitate the absorption into the blood stream of all the nutrients we need and also protect us from harmful microbes wanting to invade us. Of course, it’s way more complicated than this but our gut is the source of all the raw materials our body needs. This includes the amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals etc to make the antibodies needed to fight infections. Suffice to say, monitoring what we put in our gut helps us fight infections and improve our immunity.
As always, thoughts and comments welcome. This is what I have discovered so far and am learning all the time. I hope it is helpful and accurate! If you disagree, or feel something I said is wrong, I welcome your input! I’m easily found on social media or you can comment here on the blog.
Big love to all and stay safe!
Before I go, I wanted to share the topics I have lined up for subsequent blogs. These are not set in stone either in topic or order. But they are all things I’d like to share some thoughts on and invite comments and discussion.
Part 4 – Eating the planet healthy.
Part 5 – Exercise in perspective
Part 6 – Feeding the mind
Part 7 – The curse of perfectionism – good enough is ok! (Perfect is the enemy of good.)
Part 8 – Women know best! Or, Why Don’t men look after themselves better?
Part 9 – Yes, I’m privileged.
Part 10 – Life’s too short or Life’s too short!
Rich Roll Podcast with Dr David Katz: https://www.richroll.com/podcast/dr-david-katz-517/
Serena Lee: https://www.instagram.com/imserenalee/ & https://www.instagram.com/vegansofldn/
Dr Megan Rossi, The Gut Health Doctor: https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/book
The Chris Evans Breakfast Show podcast: https://virginradio.co.uk/highlights/listen-the-chris-evans-breakfast-show-podcast-190309559722