The Difference Between Individual Health Recommendations & Public Health Guidelines & Why The Wellness World & The Public Health Experts Couldn’t Seem To Agree On Hardly Anything This Year
As we hunker down for Pandemic Act Two, I want to address a nuance that seems to get lost in the fray of discussions about individual health versus public health with regard to Covid. A lot of people seem to have confused ideas about why public health officials are not doing more to try to implement natural health measures with regard to Covid. I put out an ebook full of Sacred Medicine tools- The Corona Cocoon– early in the pandemic to share some of the Sacred Medicine tools I’ve collected over the years that might have relevance for Covid and I linked to my colleague Cynthia Li’s ebook How To Strengthen Your Inner Shield about diet, supplements, and other functional medicine interventions that might optimize your outcome with regard to Covid. These tools are great- and they’re likely to help you have a better outcome if you do get Covid, even if you’re vaccinated. But these interventions are very hard to leverage at the public health level because of accessibility, cost, and scale. They’re good for the individual, but not necessarily affordable or scalable at the level of public health.
YOU ARE NOT IMMUNE TO COVID UNLESS YOU’RE VACCINATED OR HAD COVID
I hear so many distressed folks in the natural health and wellness world who have the mistaken (and wildly inaccurate, bordering on narcissistically arrogant) idea that if only you eat right, do yoga, and take your supplements, you won’t get Covid. That’s simply not true. Unless you’ve been vaccinated or you’ve already had Covid (and even then, you may not have mounted a robust enough immune response,) you do not have ANY antibodies to a novel virus, so you’re not immune, no matter how robust your immune system is. It’s true that those with generally good health, a normal weight, a regular exercise regimen, a regulated nervous system that allows the immune system and self-healing capacities of the body to function optimally, and a nutritious diet going into the pandemic are going to have a much better chance of having a mild or even asymptomatic infection if they get Covid.
But it’s not a guarantee. Even the extremely young and healthy are sometimes dying, as demonstrated by an Instagram wellness influencer who does everything “right” and just got his ass kicked with Covid. We’re not entirely sure why one person is entirely asymptomatic from a Covid infection while another young, seemingly healthy person gets very sick or dies. Science is still trying to solve a lot of mysteries with Covid, and there’s no magic bullet. Science is a slow, drawn out process of trial and error, asking questions and being willing to be wrong. But science did turn AIDS from a lethal virus into a mostly chronic disease. Science is imperfect and can be influenced by factors like financial interests and political ideology. I almost posted a long essay I wrote a year ago about why medical science is so flawed at this point in history, but I decided that publishing my essay would be irresponsible in the middle of a pandemic, given how much distrust there already is for medical science. Suffice it to say that while science is imperfect and should not be the only way we make decisions, it’s FAR MORE RELIABLE (scientifically) than your intuition alone. So for now, along with your Whole Health Intelligences (not just mental intelligence, but emotional intelligence, intuitive intelligence, and somatic intelligence), it’s the best we’ve got when it comes to solving global problems like climate crisis and a pandemic.
Just like with our climate disaster, the cat is out of the bag with Covid now, and we may very well all get Covid at this point, even if we’re vaccinated- because we didn’t cooperate quickly enough and the variants are now problematic. It’s still worth efforting to prevent the spread because medical treatments are improving, science is doing its long, slow thing, and your likelihood of dying of Covid if you get it now compared to if you got it at the beginning of the pandemic is FAR lower. Given that we’ll probably all get it, the question now is how much time can you buy the scientists before you get it, how bad will your individual case of Covid get, and will you get long Covid or not if you survive it.
PUBLIC HEALTH VS. INDIVIDUAL HEALTH
Just to be clear, public health experts have a very different goal than a self-help author in the wellness world like me, and it’s a job that I don’t envy. My job is to teach you what you can do- on your own or with a practitioner, individually- to get the best health outcome for your individual self when conventional medicine fails to cure you or prevent illness. I am aware that some of the interventions I have recommended over the years are a mark of privilege, and only those who can afford or access those interventions can benefit from them. I understand that the way I treated myself, for example, when I was mauled by a pit bull, or the way I got off seven drugs and saved my own life, is not something everybody could have done. I leveraged my privileged access to the best conventional and alternative and natural medicine I could pay for in order to avoid surgery-and it worked- and it’s not fair. I hate how inequitable good health care is, because I believe health care should be a right, not a privilege. But like it or not, good health in my country is often the result of unearned privileges- and that sucks.
Public health, on the other hand, is all about harm reduction at the mass scale- how to prevent the maximal amount of harm as cheaply as possible and in a way that can be applied equally to everyone- and in the case of the pandemic, quickly. For this reason, expensive, time-intensive, and long-term methods of prevention or treatment of any disease (like eating healthy or treating trauma) are not usually considered by public health experts- because they can’t be scaled for the public affordably and quickly.
THE IMPACT OF DIET ON COVID
For example, let’s talk about the difference between individual good health and good public health measures with regards to diet. In June, the British Medical Journal published (an admittedly imperfect) study “Plant-based diets, pescatarian diets and COVID-19 severity: a population-based case–control study in six countries.” The study found that people who ate a plant-based or pescatarian diet got much less sick than those who ate low carbohydrate, high protein diets when they got infected with Covid. The study concluded that plant- and fish-based diets are protective against moderate to severe Covid. No surprise here, but it’s good to have the data.
But how do you apply this as a public health measure for Covid when plant- and fish-based diets are often more expensive and harder to access than the standard American diet, when people live in food deserts and don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s or Costco where they might find these foods accessibly and affordably, when the oceans are being depleted from overfishing, and when taking advantage of the benefits of this kind of diet probably takes time and won’t reduce your risk of severe Covid if you switch your diet today and get Covid next week? Do I think public health experts should be educating the public about studies like this? By all means. Especially since Paris Agreement activist and author of The Future We Choose Christina Figueres says that to save our planet, we’ll have to all switch to a plant-based diet if we’re going to make any iota of impact on the climate catastrophe. So it’s kind of a moot point to discuss the pros and cons of a Paleo vs plant-based diet in the wellness world, since that dialogue is only looking at the INDIVIDUAL level of health, but not looking at the big picture of public health.
From my bird’s eye view of the scope of the threat to public health between climate crisis and the pandemic, switching to a plant-based diet seems like a wise move right now. Have I done so personally? Nope. I eat meat raised by a local farmer who is my friend because my daughter and I both didn’t do well on a plant-only diet. But choosing to do what I did for the sake of mine and my daughter’s individual health isn’t helping the health of the planet one bit. So again, we’re back to the big picture. We can’t just think about what’s good for my individual heath or hers. We have to think about the planet as a whole and public health in general, even if it means making some sacrifices to our individual health. Which is why the public is being asked to endure whatever side effects might arise from getting vaccinated by a vaccine that hasn’t been around very long and isn’t technically even approved by the FDA- because sometimes we have to take one for the team and participate in the long, slow dance of science, and resist being purely selfish in order to do what’s right for the largest number of people. So…it’s complicated.
Whether or not public health officials should be recommending plant-based diets is also complicated by the reality that our governments are unlikely to set limits or impose restrictions on processed food sales or offer the poor who live in food deserts supplemental money so they can buy vegetables and fish from a delivery service. And it tends to be cheaper to fill your kids’ bellies with processed foods than with a vegetarian diet unless you’ve been educated how to do so cheaply (which is possible, once you know how). Because of that, public health officials are often reticent to recommend interventions that might not be scalable and accessible to everyone equally. But would a plant-based diet impact public health from a big picture lens? Absolutely. It would help both climate change and the pandemic. So yes, public health needs some reform and it’s imperfect.
WHAT YOU CAN DO PERSONALLY TO OPTIMIZE YOUR OUTCOME IF YOU GET COVID
Now let’s talk about your health personally. Those of us in the mind-body medicine and natural health world who write books and have online platforms teach people about how to make an impact on your INDIVIDUAL health (individual being the operative word here). People like me and radical remission researchers Kelly Turner, PhD and Harvard doctor Jeffrey Rediger, MD all research and write books about radical remission survivors and health outliers, because we think it’s useful to learn what certain individuals did to experience a seemingly miraculous recovery. We study other kinds of outliers, like Olympic athletes and creative geniuses, so why not study the health outliers and see if we can have more influence on our personal health outcomes when the doctors have thrown up their hands and given up on us.
But can Jeff’s or Kelly’s or my recommendations in Cured, Radical Remission, or Mind Over Medicine be applied at the level of public health for Covid? Not really. Should you read our books and do what we recommend if you individually want to maximize your chances of having a good outcome if you do get Covid? By all means, please do! Our books are full of great health advice, but it’s not public health advice. It’s individual health advice.
When it comes to preventing severe Covid individually, I can now say to you- with imperfect science behind me- that if you eat a plant-based diet, you’ll likely have a better outcome if you get Covid and help prevent further climate damage. So if you want to optimize your health outcome, you’ve now been educated! Eat plants. Avoid meat.
I can also make an assumption here from my ten years of research for Sacred Medicine, which includes my findings, that if you have a trauma history (including developmental trauma, shock trauma, generational trauma like being the child of a Holocaust survivor, or the collective trauma of living a culture full of systemic racism or living on a planet full of people hell bent on making their species extinct)- and if you get cutting edge treatment for your trauma, you may be less likely to experience severe Covid or suffer from long Covid (though we don’t have science to prove that yet. It’s just my scientific hypothesis that would have to be tested with our long, slow scientific method.)
But here’s the rub. Treating your trauma is something you have to do WAY ahead of time. It may take years and it will cost tens of thousands of dollars your insurance won’t likely pay for, so it’s not the most useful public health advice if you might get Covid next week.
I could also say that many vaccinated doctors who know that the Delta variant is breaking through the vaccines are trying to protect themselves on the front lines by taking advantage of the very controversial and politicized (and questionably unscientific) I-MASK+ protocol for prevention and early treatment of Covid. This protocol includes the widely controversial ivermectin, Vitamin D3, Vitamin C, Quercitin, Zinc, Melatonin, and an antiseptic mouthwash. Rick Loftus is not advocating for the use of ivermectin, but other doctors I know who work on the front lines and are terrified of dying are using it prophylactically and treating patients who get Covid with the other protocol intended for treatment. I am not advocating for or against drugs like ivermectin, but people are using it, with or without good science- because they’re desperate.
HEALTH EQUITY & WHY OPTIMAL HEALTH IS OFTEN AN UNEARNED PRIVILEGE
Here’s another rub. Even if we knew for sure that this protocol worked (we don’t), this protocol, certain healthy diets, trauma therapy, and other wellness industry interventions like acupuncture or energy healing cost a LOT of money, are hard to access for some people, and cannot be easily scaled and distributed for the masses, which is why public health officials are focusing on masking, social distancing, vaccination, and now vaccine mandates, rather than telling people to be supplement-dosing yogi vegetarians on ivermectin who see a therapist once a week.
Does that make sense? I have been focusing a lot of my online work on platforming public health experts like Rick Loftus, MD, as a way to broadcast what people who look at the big picture of public health want us to know and because it would be an absolute violation of my scope of practice to suggest that I know anything personally about preventing Covid. I am not a public health doctor or a front line Covid ER or ICU doctor, and frankly, those are the only people we should be listening to. Everyone else should just shut up and let them teach us how to cooperate.
From what I understand from people in public health and on the front lines, there is great consensus that step one is to get everyone without a medical exemption vaccinated. Then once we accomplish that goal, we can start talking about what else you can do to avoid a bad Covid outcome- or how to get better if you get long Covid. Of course, we could and should be doing these things simultaneously- getting vaccinated and if you can afford it, green juicing and eating plants while taking Vitamin D and C (and I have been doing all those things). But I haven’t wanted to distract from the single most important thing any of us can do to avoid a bad Covid outcome- which is to accept the vaccine if you have access to it.
BOTH/AND, NOT EITHER/OR
WE DON’T NEED TO CHOOSE BETWEEN NATURAL HEALTH, SPIRITUAL HEALING OR CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE!
The word holistic means “to be whole.” In other words, ALL medicines used in harmony make holistic medicine. The false binary being touted in the wellness world and in the conventional medicine world is absolutely not good medicine! That’s why I call it Whole Health Medicine and train health care providers to practice it in the Whole Health Medicine Institute!
The problem is that many people have made the mistake of thinking this is binary- EITHER we apply natural health tools to improve our outcome with Covid (while promoting dangerous and misinformed anti-vax propaganda)- OR we blindly follow only the public health guidelines while we keep eating crap, living a sedentary life, spinning our dysregulated nervous system because we’re not treating our trauma, and doing nothing to bolster our immune systems. I am here to be an advocate for BOTH- if you can access it and afford it, which many of you can’t. BOTH/AND is the way to go here, not either/or. We need EVERY tool in the world’s medicine bag if we’re going to get through this pandemic and the climate crisis we collectively face, so let’s use them all!
I will apologize in advance for recommending interventions that you may not be able to afford and that our government is not likely to subsidize the way they’ve subsidized the vaccine, which is free. I recognize that, for example, letting you know that some front line doctors are using the I-MASK+ protocol is assuming you have the privilege of access and affordability. If you’re a doctor, you probably do. But if you’re a janitor in a hospital, you may not. And that’s not fair.
NATURAL HEALTH & SPIRITUAL HEALING ARE NOT AN ALTERNATIVE TO PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDELINES
The problem so many anti-vaxxers, yogis, and natural health folks have made is that they’re promoting the I-MASK+ protocol and others like it as an alternative to vaccination- and it’s not. It was a less than scientific, questionable way to try to keep people on the front lines from getting Covid before we had a vaccination, and now that there’s a safe vaccine, every expert I know agrees that vaccination is superior to this protocol and should not be used as a substitute for vaccination among those who can receive it. Anyone who suggests that it’s a good alternative to vaccination is probably trying to sell you something (most likely those supplements or a book about why you shouldn’t trust medical science). I have not even mentioned this protocol until now because I don’t even want to send you to the website where it’s listed- because much of that website is populated by paranoid, conspiritualist anti-vaxxer doctors appearing on podcasts like Joe Rogan, even though they post a disclaimer that states, “The FLCCC Alliance is not opposed to vaccination in general, and furthermore, supports policies such as mask wearing and social distancing to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The decision to get a vaccine should be made in consultation with your doctor or medical care provider. Our prevention protocols are designed for both those who have not received vaccines and for those that have been vaccinated, but have concerns regarding declining protection against emerging variants. Our treatment protocols are designed to serve those that have already contracted COVID-19. Our goal is to mitigate the effects of the pandemic until it is overcome, and to allow for an earlier return to daily life.” So read the protocol if you want- and try it yourself if you want (I’m not using it personally but I’m also not on the front lines)- but don’t get swept into their conspiracy theories.
Anyway, here we are in a pickle now, because those self-absorbed, traumatized, misinformed people promoting vaccine alternatives and Covid prevention routines without also saying “Follow public health guidelines first” have interfered with public health goals and made a mess for the rest of us. I’m not a paranoid person and I’ve never been inclined to buy into most conspiracy theories because I just don’t think anyone is that slick that they could secretly manipulate the whole world and not get busted. But I do think we need to just give up on most of the influencers in the wellness world because, if they haven’t seen the error of their ways by now, most of them are not going to cooperate any time soon. They’re doubling down and ramping up, and we need to just unfollow them, give them space, and not allow them in our houses or our businesses (and maybe not even our hospitals, because why put our front line workers at any risk than they are when people don’t care one bit about protecting them?) These misguided folks are either cultic in their abuse of power and ability to cast a spell on their vulnerable audiences or they are traumatized and vulnerable and under the cultic sway of toxic narcissists like Trump, who has hoodwinked them. Cult experts all know that you can’t talk someone out of a cult. You can set very good and clear boundaries and hold people to account with your actions (like I had to do with my former friend Charles Eisenstein). You can keep your heart open and let them know you’ll be here if they wake up one day and see how much harm they’ve endured and caused. You can stay adjacent (safely) and hope they hit rock bottom sooner rather than later so they might one day approach you, with a modicum of humility, and say, “I f’d up. Please help me.” And if they do, you can get them to a trauma therapist the minute they do, because when the reality of what they’ve done sinks in, they’re going to be at very high risk of harming themselves or someone else.
I’ve done everything I know how to do to educate you as best I can so you can exercise your free will choice to get vaccinated or not. If you’ve refused the vaccine (which to me is the ULTIMATE mark of privilege, to refuse a Covid vaccine when people all over the world would do anything to get one), then I honestly can’t help you and we should probably just part ways here. But if you’re still here and you need more support from someone who I hope you’ve come to trust, it’s my intention to do what I can. So now I’m going to switch gears a bit and start sharing some things that the privileged and vaccinated can do to impact your own individual health outcome, since it’s likely we’ll all get Covid at this point- because of the lack of cooperation with public health guidelines. I’ll still share cutting edge public health updates as I get them, but I’m also going to try to help those who have money and access understand what you can do to optimize your individual health and the health of those you love, like your unvaccinated kids.
I just wanted to explain this distinction, so you all aren’t confused or mistaking any natural health recommendations as alternatives to vaccination, which they’re not. And if you can’t find or afford the recommendations I might make, I’m very sorry it’s so unfair and I’m doing what I can in my non-profit work to do my part to make that health inequity more equitable.
As I’ve always said in my messaging, I am not in the pro-medicine or anti-medicine camp- and I never have been, so it makes me crazy when people say “But you wrote Mind Over Medicine!” Yes. And I revised it last year and still stand by it. But nowhere in that book does it say ignore medical science, avoid doctors, and defy public health guidelines.
I refuse to join a camp and am saddened by how both camps have behaved this past year. If anything, I hope to be the voice of no camps. I have criticized the health care system, Big Pharma, and medical science ad nauseum- and those institutions also save lives. I am a fan of trauma-informed medicine and natural health and immune-boosting measures- and that doesn’t mean I don’t follow good science, accept the vaccination, and see doctors if I need to. No medicine is perfect, and all medicines have side effects and risks, but right now, we need even the most flawed medicines.
This is a time when we need ALL the tools in our medical tool box, and that’s why I wrote Sacred Medicine for you all this year during the pandemic. It won’t be out until April 2022, but I’ll do what I can to help you from my safe, sheltered place in Northern California while we all hunker down for what is likely to be a brutal fall.
I’m previewing a lot of what I’ve learned in my ten years of research for Sacred Medicine in our online community Healing With The Muse. I invite you to join us there for non-bypassing spiritual healing, trauma healing, meditation, singing, dancing, creativity with your muse, and loving, open-hearted, empathic community. Join us here. If you appreciate my volunteer activism to try to keep you updated in a constantly changing world and if you can afford it, consider purchasing a membership (and maybe donating it to someone who can’t afford it) to support my volunteer efforts and help us keep our business running in trying times.
My heart is with you all. Be as well as you can in mind, body, heart, spirit, soul, and planetary body as we prepare for another round of Pandemic Act 2.
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