By Kathleen DiChiara
For months, health professionals have been scrambling to understand the new coronavirus (SARS-Cov2), which emerged in Wuhan, China, sparking a pandemic of acute respiratory syndrome in humans (COVID-19). During a time when a potential infection feels heightened, the idea of “boosting immunity” sounds enticing. But what is the magic formula for producing an ideal immune response to a novel virus? And should that even be the focus?
The immune system is a complex network including cells, tissues, bone marrow, antibodies, the spleen, the thymus and the lymphatic system. It is a “system” requiring balance and harmony to function well. Humans are constantly infected with multiple endogenous and exogenous viral agents, with an estimated generation of up to 1012 new virus particles per day. A healthy immune system functions around the clock to protect us from illness and even death.
By Jack Kittredge
The Covid-19 virus pandemic has brought many people’s consciousness around to focus on their personal health. Some are looking to technology to protect themselves and their families – masks, distances beyond which droplets can’t be projected by human lungs, various pharmaceuticals, cleaning agents and other products already available, and one or more vaccines yet to be released. This is perfectly natural and to be expected.
But there are many who are focusing on Nature as well. This issue of The Natural Farmer had been a vague idea for a while, but the pandemic brought it into reality. It is an attempt to discuss the role of natural systems in sustaining human health. Natural systems can both impair and repair an organism’s health, of course. Animals can sometimes avoid predation or accidental injury by fight or flight mechanisms and physical strength. But to manage infectious agents, like the current pandemic, living creatures have developed some amazing capacities and systems. In most cases the strength of those capacities and systems is largely dependent on the nutrients that we have ingested.
By M Jill Clapperton PhD
This paper is dedicated to the indelible spirit of my Grandmother Evelyn Clapperton.
Connecting vitamin D to respiratory health appears from all my research to be a no-brainer. Vitamin D deficiency is part of my family history. My grandfather and father were separately quarantined in a sanatorium in Ontario, Canada, in the late 1930s amid a continuing epidemic of tuberculosis (TB). Imagine a young boy separated from his family and not being able to see his father in the next building. There was no welfare, and with the sole provider for the family gone, and her only child locked away, my grandmother worked as many jobs as she could to make the mortgage payments. She was determined that her young son and husband would return to their home.
This was no small task for my 4 ft 10 in and 90 lb grandmother, who had suffered from rickets as a child (a severe deficiency of vitamin D). Her soft foot bones had been squashed into too-small hand-me-down shoes causing her toes to be permanently deformed. Her feet were always painful. Being hunched over a knitting machine, from the time she was eight years old until the family immigrated to Canada from England, gave her a hunched back. Happily, despite the naysayers, my tiny grandmother made all the mortgage payments, my father returned home after six months, and my grandfather about a year later.
By Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride
We live in a world of nutritional misinformation coming from commercial powers and funded by them as nutritional ‘science’. Using food as medicine requires real information, which the real science provides all the time. But the real science is too poor to spread their knowledge through the mainstream media, so the population only hears what somebody with a large wallet wants them to hear. So, what is the truth about food?
We eat at least three times a day, sometimes more often. Every morsel of food you eat changes your metabolism and your health. Western health systems are crumbling under the burden of chronic disease, physical and mental. The first and most important cause of these illnesses is consumption of processed foods.
When Mother Nature made our human bodies, she at the same time provided us with every food we need to stay healthy, active and full of energy. However, we have to eat these foods in the form that Nature made them. Industrial processing that we subject the food to changes its chemical and biological structure. Our bodies were not designed to have these changed foods! The more food is processed, the more nutrient depleted and chemically altered it becomes. Apart from losing its nutritional value, processed food loses most of its other properties: taste, flavour and colour. To compensate for that, various chemicals are added: flavour enhancers, colours, various E numbers (“European” numbers for food additives) and other additives, contributing to inflammation, cancer, memory loss, hyperactivity and learning disabilities, psychiatric disorders and other health problems.
By Fred Provenza
The health of livestock, humans, and landscapes is linked with plant diversity. Human and environmental health is enhanced when livestock forage on phytochemically rich landscapes, but it is reduced when livestock forage on pastures with few species or eat high-grain rations in feedlots, and health is greatly reduced when people eat ultra-processed diets. The global shift away from eating phytochemically and biochemically rich foods to ultra-processed diets encouraged 2.1 billion people to become overweight or obese and ballooned the incidence of type II diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. We can reverse these trends by learning to grow and eat wholesome foods that nourish human and environmental health. To do so, producers and consumers must become mindful that the health and wellbeing of the plants and animals we eat to nourish our bodies ultimately determines the health and the wellbeing of our families and our species. We are members of nature’s communities. What we do to them, we do to ourselves.
By Ellen Kittredge
This article is both a personal story of a chronic health situation that I’ve been able to heal through food and lifestyle choices, and a story of the mismatch between how our immune system has evolved to function over countless eons and the very real challenges it faces in today’s day and age.
Immune dysregulation is an epidemic that is only beginning to come to light. I believe it will get much more attention over the coming years, and deservedly so. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought many things to the forefront of our awareness, one of the most obvious being that it is past time to look more deeply into our immune function, especially as it relates to pathogens and environmental pollutants, stress, poor diets and the other ills of our modern society.
By Jeff Moyer, Scott Stoll, M.D., Zoe Schaffer, Andrew Smith, PhD, Meagan Grega, M.D., Ron Weiss, M.D. Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”
Hippocrates, 400 BC
“The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible.”
Sir Albert Howard, 1947
“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.”
If you have touched food, you have been touched by soil. Soil is amazingly complex, and yet it’s simple. Most soil biota are one-celled creatures—simple—but they are present by the billions in just one teaspoon of topsoil and create complex networks and interactions to support life on earth. Yet with all the power of modern science, we still don’t completely understand how soil functions or the depths of its importance to our health and wellbeing.
By Pierre Weill
Epidemiological studies and diet composition
The link between nutrition and health is supported by different kinds of studies:
Epidemiological studies provide so-called “ecological correlation” or a correlation between traditional food habits and health events at the population level. These “ecological correlation” studies describe a link between a geographical situation, a food tradition there, and the health of the population practicing that tradition.
For instance, the famous “seven countries study” in the sixties compared cardiovascular outcomes in comparable populations of 5 European countries, from Greece to Finland, plus Japan and the USA. Results emphasized the cardiovascular benefits of the “Mediterranean Diet” characterized by a high level of fruits, cheese, vegetables, fish, olive oil and wine.
Following these “ecological correlation” study results (a negative correlation between “all cause mortality” and vegetable consumption, or between fish and “cardiovascular mortality”, for instance), nutrition scientists raise hypotheses, try to demonstrate them with new trials, and describe more precisely the role of various nutrients.
By Cathryn Couch
A revolution is taking place in community health centers, hospitals and community benefit organizations across the country. It has the potential to create an integrated, equitable and regenerative food and health care system – but only if we pay attention, raise our voices, and make it so. The goal is the full integration of healthy, sustainably raised food into our approach to preventing and treating illness, and into our health care system. The motivation comes from the abysmal state of American’s health and the epidemic of diet-related chronic disease.
At Ceres Community Project we’re working to create a food as medicine solution that layers positive impact throughout the community and our food system. We provide medically tailored meals for primarily very low-income people who are struggling because of an acute or chronic health condition. Our meals are made with 100% organic ingredients, sourced as much as we can from local farmers and food producers. We integrate a Youth Development program where hundreds of young people each year volunteer as gardeners and chefs, learning how to grow, prepare and eat healthy and organic food. We work to educate all our stakeholders about the link between healthy whole foods, a healthy food system, and our own health and well-being. And we work to change policy so that all people have access to affordable, healthy, sustainably raised and culturally relevant foods to support a thriving life.