Armani Kirsten uses her personal experiences with endometriosis and dietary changes to critique the consumption crisis. The piece was first published on her site.
The saying “you are what you eat” is the most understated axiom in our society. Upon first encounter with this statement, I did not fully grasp the severity of many Americans’ consumption habits. America’s core creed breeds an instantaneous society, where expeditious production endorses quantity over quality. It can safely be said that America’s economic paradigm is the sole perpetrator of this instant living. Living life in the fast lane has proved to be one of the top menaces to society as Americans actively induce their own calamity with blissful oblivion. During the mid-twentieth-century, following mass consumption that spearheaded the economy we see today, health issues surfaced en masse, displaying the permeating effect of not only capitalism, but white supremacy, existing and working simultaneously within the American body. The Cold War’s economic period of decadence, yet undeniable inequality and suffering, parallels the current climate of a superficial, inaccessible, and paradoxical American body politic, particularly for African-Americans, exemplified most potently in the capitalized food and health industry.
My health journey began when I was first diagnosed with endometriosis. For clarity, I’d like to add that arriving at this diagnosis was overwhelmingly dependent on the level of advocacy I executed in order to be heard. Before this diagnosis, I had been having extreme pain in the lower right side of my abdomen and was in and out of the emergency room for an entire year. I was repeatedly told that I had constipation and was suggested laxatives time and time again. However, my intuition, my body, was telling me otherwise. Thus, I continued my quest for answers for a second opinion. Well, that second opinion turned into a third, fifth, tenth, then finally thirteenth. During this entire process, no blood samples were taken nor any test run in an attempt to even pretend that my pain was a concern for these physicians. My pain was ignored, as typical for African-American women who make constant attempts to advocate for their body, but their voices fall upon deaf ears. This ever pervasive myth of Black women having a high pain tolerance dates back generations, when enslaved Black women’s bodies were inflicted with insurmountable pain, devoid of anesthesia, for the advancement of western medicine. These exploitative practices continued well throughout the twentieth-century with methods of contraception targeting African-American women through enforced sterilization, forging an insidiously covert rift between African-Americans and the American medical arena. Black women are notarized for our incomparable strength, resulting in the compartmentalization of our humanity into a necessary facilitator of a patriarchal and white supremacist-based society. This is a weapon of silencing and a declaration of a continued body ownership deeply-conditioned into the American collective unconscious. Imagine a physician, a white, male physician at that, showing flagrant oblivion to your health concerns by concluding that your pain is either imaginary or simply resolves to a diagnosis that you know is not applicable to the problem. It took for me to finally be placed with a Black, female physician who offered me options rather than asserted her authority over my pain. She denounced the claim of constipation as the root of the pain, and suggested the possibility of the pain source being rooted in my female reproductive organs. This news was bittersweet: sweet in that my voice was finally acknowledged, but bitter in that there was now this possibility of something taking place within my reproductive system. I immediately scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist, a white, female physician who’d been my gynecologist since I was fifteen. I trusted her, not merely because of her knowledge of my medical history, but because she was, like me, a woman. Yet again, my pain was ignored. She offered me birth control, as she so overwhelmingly does, to numb the pain rather than run a test to find the root of the pain. In that moment, I chose to advocate for myself at the top of my lungs because I was simply tired of the overt disregard to the words that were coming out of my mouth. She finally surrendered and conducted a pelvic exam with a followup ultrasound. When the results came back, she then suggested that I could possibly have endometriosis. Endometriosis is a female reproductive health condition in which tissue called the endometrium that normally grows along the lining of the uterus wall instead grows outside of the uterus, forming on surrounding reproductive organs. This suggestion was confirmed after I was scheduled for a laparoscopic surgery. Where the endometriosis had formed had been successfully cut out. The pain, however, persisted. To relieve this pain, my gynecologist, again, offered birth control pills. Now, I was already distrustful of birth control for the mere context in which it was being constantly offered to me. I do believe doctors have an ulterior motive for sending a patient home with a prescription; more often than not, prescriptions that “help with the pain” rather than eradicate the root of the pain. My distrust of her intentions grew as well, as clear indicators of her obliviousness to my concerns became apparent. There was no information offered about the possible consequences of utilizing birth control with endometriosis, which, if one has endometriosis, could result in the possibility of infertility. Additionally, she was basically suggesting that I instead numb the endometriosis pain when flare-ups occur. Although flare-ups are considered a normal side effect of endometriosis, numbing the pain with birth control, or any pharmaceutical drug at that, would lead to an overgrowth in the endometrial tissue, and ultimately the development of other female reproductive issues like infertility and the possibility of gradual removal of affected reproductive organs. Being that endometriosis is a chronic condition, ingesting any numbing pharmaceutical drug for a prolonged period of time could result in the furthering of the endometriosis into a more intense stage.
The treatment of individual patients as a collective is a form of malpractice. I have always been a skeptic of health authorities taking a general approach to evaluating and suggesting a basic health plan for individual, complex human bodies. I find it very ironic how a country that values individuality to the point of declaring meaningless wars, could generalize the most necessarily individualized aspect of human life. Rarely, from my own experience, is ethnic identity and sex taken into consideration. There is seemingly a broad protocol applied in which the white body is subconsciously assumed as the standard. African-American women experience higher rates in diseases of the female reproductive system like fibrosis, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and cancer, maternal complications and death, and other sexual and reproductive complications; Collectively, African-Americans experience higher rates of the leading diseases plaguing the American body: both figuratively and literally.
Eating to Live, not Living to Eat
Clear indicators of the disparities pervading the healthcare system stems not only from historically racial practices wreaked upon the Black body, but also consumption habits which are only intensified through exploitation and lack of access to unprocessed, chemically-free, fresh food sources. Fidelity to cultural and religious practices that date back generations, even centuries, are other influential factors in the continuation of certain cuisine consumption. In the case of African-Americans, this is soul food. Our enslaved African ancestors were basically thrown scraps and leftovers of lower-valued animal parts that white slave owners discarded. With these scraps, our ancestors created a distinct cuisine heralded as literal food for the soul amidst the overwhelming attacks being afflicted upon their physical and spiritual beings. The inhumane environment that enslaved Africans were displaced within was integral in the adaptation of behavioral genes through a concept called epigenetics. Behavior patterns were adapted out of necessity and gradually passed on through transgenerational epigenetics inheritance. We literally carry our enslaved ancestors within our bodies. Thus, we must be cognizant of behaviors we possess today that started with intents to ensure survival, but now have deteriorating effects, described most potently in Dr. Joy Degruy’s book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing. Our enslaved ancestors had to consume specific types of food because of their environment, to ensure the survival of generations. We now have the agency to break fidelity with these eating habits to ensure the survival of generations; to me, this is the most radical form of paying homage to our ancestors.
We must first recognize the forces that each serve as passive and active facilitators of the health crisis plaguing African-Americans. In grammar courses, we learn about the passive and active voice. The active voice occurs when the subject is committing the action, displaying active agency; whereas, the passive voice positions the subject as being acted upon, i.e. agency deprivation. The subject in this case is African-Americans. The passive forces are the capitalist and white supremacist-based social, political, and economic parameters that are carried out through systemic and institionalized laws and practices; the active forces are the direct actions that African-American commit under the conditions that they have been displaced within. These active forces can be the unconscious manifestation of the transgenerational epigenetics inheritance, in which behaviors adapted then are still practiced now but can be transformed through neuroplasticity. Through this recognition of certain behavior traits, in our case food consumption, can those patterns be reversed, leading to a drastic reconfiguration in the state of our health.
The link between the Pharmaceutical and Food industry
Western medicine is notorious for numbing pain as routine treatment, resulting in humans looking outside of themselves for help rather than within. Americans have developed a codependency on distractions: things that distract them from confronting underlying issues that could be resolved through the simple, yet radical, act of compassionate listening. I sat at my desk one day examining the Ibuprofen label. I noticed the label contains choice words like pain reliever and fever reducer rather than cause resolver. Pharmaceutical companies create synthetic versions of healing herbs to sell as over-the-counter drugs. Pain is your body speaking to you, letting you know that there is something off rhythm within. The ingestion of these chemical prescriptions, however, numbs the body’s signaling by instead keeping your body in a dependent state, which is how these pharmaceutical companies make a profit. This is telling in how depriving rather than encouraging sufficient sustainability is endorsed. I became more observant of the many convenience stores, liquor stores, and Family Dollar’s set up in Black communities, while fresh, open markets and retailers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are readily accessible throughout predominantly white or gentrified communities. These convenience stores are only convenient for the store owners who exploit the Black communities they are supposedly serving, offering much more of a deprivation than a service: the community is being more of a service to them than they are the community. Major Black communities are intentionally displaced into densely populated and economically barren, urban areas where the most basic human sustenance, fresh water, is merely impossible to obtain, specifically due to the government’s control of the water sources within these communities. Most often than not, the water sources are contaminated with chemicals and pollutants (Flint, Katrina). The processed foods offered in these stores are drugs because they have the same addictive effect that visible drugs have on the body. The human body is naturally self-sufficient, but when it is thrown off balance, the body shifts from an independent to dependent state. Many fear the occurrence of an apocalypse in the near future when it’s already taking place now, as we are walking zombies consuming waste products and dead matter into our bodies; artificial intelligence in that we are consuming artificial foods and medicine as means of comfort food and pain reducers: all coded language for reconfiguring an active, balanced body state to a numb, alienated body schema. The current state of Mother Nature is an externalized representation of human beings’ inner state. The rise in natural disasters is Mother Nature’s attempt at cleansing and restoring her poison-ridden body to its natural state. There are multiple climate change organizations with alleged objectives of curing the climatic conditions of Mother Earth, yet how and what we eat is a major contributor to the intensity of these climate issues. The human body is a microcosm of Mother Earth, displaying the butterfly effect we individual humans have on the entire Mother Earth. The smallest malnourishment of our body by way of what we consume has a ripple effect on the food and drug industries that profit off of our ill-consumerism. The seizing of these poor eating habits will counter the ripple effect by instead degrading these industries, paving way for a true restoration of Mother Nature.
Process of Food Elimination Journey
Before abruptly converting from your current meal plan to a drastically different energy consumption plan, the process of elimination or substitution is highly encouraged. Attempting to go cold turkey can result in a higher chance of relapsing to the previous consumption habits. Intentions and a disciplined mental state are essential factors in this conversion process as well. For me, this journey started out solely to replace pharmaceutical pain relievers with a more natural approach to resolving my endometriosis pain. I started with ridding my diet of white rice and bread, candy, chocolate, and fried foods. I didn’t begin to feel any real difference until I evaluated my meat intake. Growing up, my family would always say that a meal is incomplete without meat. I never once believed this myth, and never could develop the habit of consuming large amounts of meat, if any at all; I was quite content with my meatless meals. I was also told that a woman must learn how to cook, for all of the conventional reasons tethered to the concept of womanhood. I can say my resistance to these myths and misinformation worked to my advantage, for I never adapted any of their cooking habits. In all honesty though, I just never wanted to be called to the kitchen to meal prep. Red meat was the most common meat prepared in my home; thus, as previously mentioned, I never had any attachment to it. Therefore, ridding red meats from my diet was quite easy. Chicken and turkey, on the other hand, was a different story. This was my first extended process of elimination. After about a year and a half, I had completely rid turkey out of my diet. On the two year mark of this elimination process, I successfully removed chicken from my diet. That was when my endometriosis pain suddenly stopped; I can safely say the pain was nonexistent. I knew then that food was instrumental in the physical state of my body’s overall health.
Upon knowledge of this correlation, I began conducting independent research on diet plans. I came across Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo’s book Eat Right 4 Your Type in the latter months of 2020. At first sight, I skimmed through this book, for I wanted to get straight to the foods necessary for the sustenance of my body. So I read the Blood Type lists and headed to the grocery store to rack up on these products. Next, I removed dairy products from my diet. The most mentally transformative point of my elimination process, though, was the removal of seafood from my diet. I truly was enlightened by the statement “You are what you eat, and you are what what you eat, eats.” Shrimp, specifically, are bottom feeders of the ocean floor. Everything that shrimp composite into their bodies was being deposited into mine when I consumed them, making shrimp one of the quite literal filthiest seafoods to consume. Fish is regarded as a necessary food source because of the omega-3 fatty acids found in them. However, fish do not self produce omega-3 fatty acids; it is obtained through the algae and plankton that fish consume. The meats that we have been led to believe as the primary source of protein are actually more secondary, if not tertiary sources of protein. These herbivorous animals can not self-create protein; the source of their protein comes from what they consume: vegetation (that’s only if these animals are grass and/or grain fed.) By the time we consume the dead meat, the protein that these animals have consumed as a primary source is consumed by humans as toxin and chemically induced, leftovers of protein. We are quite literally dependent on unnecessary middle men who essentially do more harm than help. This is exactly how capitalism and white supremacy operate in Black communities: as middle men, interveners, disrupters, rather than facilitators, as it is so often passed off as. Just as meat and seafood eaters are consuming secondhand nutrients from their meat sources, so are Black communities made to consume their food sources, and many basic living sources, from toxic and seemingly chemically off-balanced organizations, facilities, and government operated programs. A bit of a side note: one can observe by the shape of humans’ teeth that we are not meant to consume meat. However, depending on your blood type, acidic levels in the digestive tract are able to break down the consumed meat particles and convert them into a source of energy. The condition of the meat is the key factor in this blood type’s meat consumption. While a strictly meatless diet is encouraged, for many, the rule of substitution can be the more realistic approach. But ultimately, every protein, nutrient, and vitamin we need are already in their unadulterated form, ready for energy consumption.
Everything that Glitters is not Gold
I was now a complete vegan. My standard meal prep routine consisted of a variety of vegan meals I’d found on Pinterest and a couple of articles I’d read. I kept to this consumption plan for about seven months until I regressed to old eating habits for a week; boy, did I feel the state of those foods…hard. When you elevate in food consciousness, regressing to low vibrational food conditions won’t resonate with the body, causing your body to reject it. You have already put your body through a process of unlearning, so to relearn old patterns would be a shock to your system. I experienced this rejection with my ability to solely taste the chemicals within these foods that previously illusioned me with their artificial taste. Everything that glitters isn’t gold, especially in regards to food appearances. I began to get hip to the false advertisement with many “organic” products that sell for higher prices, but the only difference in these products is the organic label placed on them. I watched a documentary in the early summer of 2021 by Ali Tabrizi called Seaspiracy. In his documentary, Tabrizi discusses the false realities of sustainable fishing and basically how all of these labels that state sustainably fished, wild-caught, grain-fed, etc. simply aren’t. It’s seemingly intended for consumers to read in doublethink. The fruits and vegetables that look appealing are the ones immersed in pesticides and pumped with preservatives and other harmful chemicals to give them this alluring appearance. I don’t even trust the cute mini carrots. In my mind, my first thought is how did they transform these carrots to this shape, all identical in length and width? It’s like spraying perfume on a trash can, a form of fatal attraction. Like the processed food being consumed, we focus incessantly on physical body image; meanwhile, there is warfare taking place within our bodies. The notorious expectations placed on a woman’s body for conformity to this superficial beauty standard is pervasive, even deadly in American society. I just recently read an article by Rebecca Jennings called “The $5,000 quest for the perfect butt” on notorious aftermaths of Brazilian butt lifts. Many women are reconfiguring their bodies in fidelity to an unrealistic expectation of an ideal body type, all stemming from patriarchy, and unsurprisingly, white supremacy. America has a long history of rendering the Black woman’s body genderless to project both sexual, exploitative perversions and same sex labor demands on her body to further distinguish her from her white, female counterpart. The natural body features of Black women have been repackaged into a modern day extension of a superficially adorned caricature. Many health regimens pervading the mainstream media focus incessantly on ideal body image results. So much so, that many women focus solely on losing body fat. While loss of body fat is an essential component, it should not be the only signifier of overall health. Many people who practice calorie based, keto, or vegan diets may not be eating in a way that is replenishing their cells and tissue. While body fat may be lost, muscle and tissue fat is not gaining the necessary nutrients it needs to metabolize; generalized gym regimens are instrumental in this obscured reality to optimal fitness. I digress. Nature, unscathed, comes in the wildest, purest form; yet, to boost consumerism, these natural fruits and vegetables are manipulated for unnatural or aesthetic intentions. Nature is beautiful in its most authentic, raw form; true beauty goes without enhancements. Beauty does hurt; that is, unnatural and societal-based beauty. We must be disillusioned. I got to a point where it bothered me nonstop that I did not know where or how the food products I was consuming were being processed. This concern for the well-being of my body increased my skepticism and led me to conduct further research into what I was consuming.
I came across a documentary about the late comedian and activist Dick Gregory who, amidst his fight for human rights, practiced and advocated for meatless, clean eating. This led me to his health book, Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin’ with Mother Nature. After reading his book, and ultimately returning back to D’Adamo’s Eat Right 4 Your Type, I became enlightened to the biological significance of consumption. Even while eating vegan meals, I was still ingesting dead matter: dead plants and dead fruits. Cooked foods, whether vegan, vegetarian, or pescetarian, were nutrientless. The foods we ingest are supposed to replenish our cells and organs; however, if we are cooking the necessary live enzymes, basically killing them, the replenishing nutrients within the foods become nonexistent. At that point, waste is entering the system. The food particles prove an insufficient energy source for the body, thus leading to buildup by storage of these particles and eventual blockages. Specific water consumption is also important, for drinking water that isn’t alkalized, such as tap water and other varieties of acidic water, does not aid in the replenishment of necessary metabolic activities. Similarly, consuming all fruits, nuts, and vegetables aren’t entirely beneficial to each individual body. There are lectins found in all fresh food sources that, depending on your blood type’s lectin sensitivity, could agglutinate your red blood cells, resulting in the hindrance of certain metabolic processes, organ dysfunction, and the culmination of other diseases. Our bodies are delicate, yet so very resilient. To replace the high levels of cooking done to foods, steaming vegetables, baking meats if you plan to continue meat consumption, is a healthier substitution.
The body knows when an intrusion is taking place and goes into combat mode. The cells fight to protect the body as antibodies do their damndest to destroy the foreign antigens entering the body. The body, when taken care of properly, is able to defend itself. However, when the moving vessel operates in opposition to the body, its performance level decreases. As I’m driving, I’m very observant of how others drive. Not solely for my safety, of course, but for mere amusement. People maneuver around speed bumps and speed up at yellow lights, seemingly ignoring precautions made to protect us. Many people are so set on arriving, ignoring how they get to the destination, just so long as they get there. In this instant, Americanized life, the vast majority of the population chooses instant indulgence rather than delayed gratification. Americans push things out of sight and out of mind until the object demands their attention. At that point, the failure to surrender to the previous warnings result in the fruition of the unconsciously manifested disease. Black communities are kept out of the sight and mind of America until America’s containment policy of Black communities runneth over, disturbing its capitalist pillars and breaching the racial equilibrium.
Radical self-care starts first by conscious food consumption. It’s the building block, the mudsill, on which everything else is dependent on. By adopting an individualized energy consumption plan can we then gradually shift back from a dependent to independent state. Black communities won’t need inconvenient stores because gardens and local farmers’ markets will be readily accessible, leading to less of a dependence on pharmaceutical drugs, resulting in fewer doctor visits. We will eventually become our own natural healers. It’s a lot of unlearning and relearning. I’ve been changing up my diet now for three years, and as I’m learning new information, I’m either incorporating or replacing it with old information. I am currently on a raw plant-based, Blood Type A, chemically and process-free diet. As I’m continuing my research, I’m also mapping out individualized energy consumption plans for my immediate family, according to their blood types. My body feels stronger, lighter, and healthier than ever. Best of all, I feel more spiritually and mentally cleansed and centered. Change truly does begin with one person, and it all starts within. Eating for energy is the most potent form of radical self-love. Most importantly, it’s a process. Don’t be so hung up on the destination; instead, enjoy the journey.
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D’Adamo, Dr. Peter J. Eat Right 4 your Type. New York: Penguin Random House, 1996.
DeGruy, Joy. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury & Healing. Oregon: Uptone Press, 2005.
Gregory, Dick. Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin’ with Mother Nature. New York: Amistad, 1974.
Jennings, Rebecca. “The $5,000 Quest for the Perfect Butt.” Vox, Vox, 2 Aug. 2021, http://www.vox.com/the-goods/22598377/bbl-brazilian-butt-lift-miami-cost-tiktok.
Prather, Cynthia, et al. “Racism, African American Women, and Their Sexual and Reproductive Health: A Review of Historical and Contemporary Evidence and Implications for Health Equity.” Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Publishers, 22 Sept. 2018, liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/heq.2017.0045. Seaspiracy. Dir. Ali Tabrizi. Per. Ali Tabrizi, A.U.M. Films, 202. Netflix.
Armani Kirsten, beapeaceofmind.wordpress.com, Aug 17, 2021