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Helen Nielsen, of the Sustainable Santa Foundation, left, holds one of the posters presenting the body building qualities in wild salmon with fisherman Justin Martin. Photo by Richard Eckfield
Community CommentaryOpinion

Commentary: Key to self-reliance, health and happiness post-COVID-19

“Believe in yourself, right from the start. Believe in the magic right there in your heart” sings Glinda the Good Witch in the contemporary Broadway version of The Wizard of Oz.

“Be your own lamp” counseled the Buddha.

“Know yourself and the world is yours.”

“Take care of your body – It’s the only place you have to live in!”

“It’s compassion, empathy and knowing who we truly are that makes us and the world better.”

That is the hopeful bottom line message of virtually all those telling us we are responsible for our own destiny.

What does this have to do with our current global situation whereas of this March 2021 there are more than 114 million who have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the shorthand for which is COVID-19, and more than 2.5 million deaths globally with well over 500,000 of those having died in the USA.

Won’t the magical vaccine solve this all?  Will not the technological imperative which holds that science and/or technology will intercede with a solution for virtually every issue we face be the answer?

As of early March, seven vaccines have already been approved somewhere as effective against the Covid-19 virus. They’re produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, the Russian Sputnik V, and China has two: Sinovac and Sinopharm developed and being injected elsewhere in the world. Novavax has posted positive results with still more than a dozen others in the pipeline.

While their reported effects look to differ slightly, the testing methodology and definitions of levels of “effectiveness” at different stages of infection are subjects of discussion. What they all have in common, however, is the “smuggling” of the SARS famous “spike protein” into the invasion response delivery system within our bodies in order to provoke an immune response in our anti-bodies and T-cells tasked with countering this specific version of this virus.

For the normal citizen it is less important to fully understand how the various vaccines “smuggle” the SARS-CoV-2 “spike protein” into our bodies: some inside an oil droplet, others hide it inside another harmless virus, others use a “weakened” version of the virus protein itself.

What is important to understand, however, is that they are all narrowly targeted specifically at this Covid-19 virus as it was first diagnosed, and may or may not be as effective in taking on the virus mutations and variants which occur naturally and are showing up around the globe.

And they definitely are NOT a vaccine intended to address the host of other viruses which exist on this planet or are likely to appear in the future. For many illnesses, we already have other “targeted” vaccines: measles, mumps, rubella and the seasonal flu. For AIDS, genital herpes and the common cold, a preventative vaccine has yet to be developed. Eventually, we will settle on one, two or three vaccines to deal with future outbreaks.

Does this mean you should not get injected with whichever of these vaccines is available to you? NO! At this time in this pandemic’s history, you definitely should get vaccinated with whichever vaccine is available to you!

But countering infections in general from viruses, bacteria and other pathogens (any bacterium, virus, or other microorganisms that can cause disease) is what our own body’s generalized immune system is designed to do.  And if our body is healthy, the generalized immune system response we contain within ourselves does pretty well in engaging and countering them all.

This brings us to the current campaign being conducted in San Diego County, in Southern California by the Sustainable Santa Foundation in collaboration with the farmers at the Farmers Market in Vista, CA intended to put in place the “missing piece” in the arsenal of efforts to curb the spread and defeat Covid-19 all the while creating a culture of general good health and boosting overall personal immune system strengths.

Using a combination of a cartoon character called “The Kale Rider” who ostensibly is intended to do battle with COVID-19’s Pale Rider – the horseman of death in the Apocalypse, and informational posters at the farmer’s stalls which explain exactly how the nutritious “real food” they sell serves to boost the market shopper’s immune system, the effort’s intent is to fight off not only the ravages of the current COVID-19 virus but also the host of other infectious and chronic illnesses that can afflict market patrons.

This latter group of chronic illnesses i.e. from diabetes through cardiovascular and intestinal problems has largely been created by the consistent consumption of the grossly unhealthy SAD (standard American diet) Americans have consumed over the past forty years consisting of fast, junk and processed “foods” stripped of their nutritional value and fiber.

This has created the host of “underlying health conditions” now associated with the overwhelming majority of Covid-19 deaths in the USA.

This directly feeds into the debate over the inherent conflict between the competing interest of the desires of business owners and politicians seeking to have a thriving economy vs. those promoting the realities associated with protecting and perpetuating overall public health.

In May of 2020, Jim Desmond, the San Diego County Commissioner from this Vista area, in his effort to advocate for an early opening of businesses following the area’s first “lockdown,” contended that all but six of this region’s then 190 deaths should be somewhat discounted because those patients all had “underlying health conditions.”

“We’ve unfortunately had six pure, solely coronavirus deaths – six out of 3.3 million people in this County,” Desmond said in a television interview as he argued for the early opening of all area businesses.

This led to a host of national commentaries about “pure” COVID-19 deaths by the likes of then-President Donald Trump as well as other politicians and Fox News pundits questioning the accuracy of the official coronavirus death toll.

In response, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the CDC’s National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease, countered that the death toll from COVID-19 at that time was likely larger than what had been officially reported, irrespective of whether they were “pure” COVID-19 death or deaths enhanced by the victims’ “underlying health conditions.”

Today the death toll in San Diego County, CA as of March 1, 2021, is 3,303 – up 3,297 in just 10 months, with the majority of those deaths occurring in persons with “underlying health conditions.”

California has now replaced New York State as the leading US State in Covid-19 created mortalities.

County Supervisor Desmond’s point, perhaps, deserves further examination.

At the Vista Farmers Market, the farmers with their informational posters continue their effort to advance the reality that having a strong overall immune system is something every person can and should do themselves to create their personal “offense” against the virus.

The farmers, of course, fully endorse also continuing all the “defensive” measures to curb Covid’s spread: Mask wearing, social distancing, avoiding crowds, particularly in enclosed places, and washing hands after touching any Fomite (a germ or virus transmitting) surface, etc.

But understanding the connection between combatting not only this specific virus and all other viruses and diseases by building your personal immune system is the key to the Vista effort being mounted by the Sustainable Santa Foundation and the farmers.

At the market, the health benefits in the rainbow of fresh produce from mushrooms, garlic and mangos, to microgreens are presented on posters displayed by the farmers, ranchers and fishermen.  Customers learn the benefits of lycopene to manganese and fiber; the vitamin and mineral contents, and anti-oxidant and healthy proteins and the immunes system building qualities in the cornucopia of products available.

At the market, Jessica Sensenbaugh, founder/owner of Sensible Homestead Microgreens in Vista, notes that beyond the high level of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants all of which help you build Covid resistance, microgreens pack a host of other benefits ranging from lowering bad cholesterol, contain anti-cancer properties, have anti-aging and brain-boosting properties and reduce the symptoms of autism.

“Your body is the only place you have to live in,” says Jessica. “Why would you not want to feed it the best foods capable of healing ailments, correcting deficiencies and promoting vitality?  Microgreens do all that.”

Recognition of the need to “Eat Real Food” instead of the fast, junk and processed “foods” which has been the hallmarks of the SAD diet as being the key to addressing the “underlying health conditions” component of the harm the current Covid is creating is growing.

Along with that has been the recognition that a lack of access to healthy real food has contributed to the disparity in COVID-19 morbidly rates in Black, brown and poor communities.

Dr. Fauci, who now is President Biden’s key adviser addressing the current pandemic, pointed this out in an interview on NPR’s Latino USA this past February.

Addressing the disproportionately heavy impact which COVID-19 has had on Black and brown communities he attributed the disparity not only to a lack of access to health care, but the nature of the jobs those in these communities have, which are essential to making the country run but do require physical interaction with people. Thus they are more likely to getting exposed and infected with this virus.

However, he also pointed out that Black and brown people in general, as a demographic group, have a higher incident and prevalence of the co-morbidity of other ailments so that once you do get infected it is more likely that you will have a serious outcome resulting in hospitalization, intensive care and death.

Those co-morbidities are diseases liked diabetes, hypertension, obesity, chronic lung disease; kidney disease and he went on to point out “if anything comes out of this that is good it will be that we shined a bright light on this disparity in health which is related to social determinants of health.

“It has nothing to do with race,” Fauci said. “It has only to do with the circumstance you find yourself in because you are a brown and black person in a poorer community that does not have access to health care, and that does not have easy access to a healthy diet.”

These are the things that years later determine whether you are going to be diabetic, or whether you are going to be obese, he added.

Those in the Vista Farmers Market have committed themselves to promote the corrections needed both to provide access to, and understanding of, the importance of consuming nutritious “real food” essential to the determinant of personal good health.

You are responsible for your own destiny and your own enlightenment, the Buddha said. Knowing that you cannot feed your body with bad SAD food is not the enlightened thing to do. At the Farmers Market, the farmers will help you understand what is.