Food and faith therapy
Reverend Tony Akinyemi is the Senior Pastor and core visionary of The Shepherd’s Flock International Church with headquarters in Ikeja and branches in Nigeria and around the globe. He earned his B.Sc. degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and became a Certified Netware Engineer (CNE) in 1992. He obtained a B.Th. degree in Theology from the LIFE Bible College & Theological Seminary, Ikorodu, Lagos in 1998.
He had pioneered and pastored The Oregun Foursquare Gospel Church for eleven years before he was led by God to start The Shepherd’s Flock International Church in 2004 with a mandate to raise holy, healthy and highly successful believers. His radio and television broadcast on healthy living is viewed across Africa and parts of Europe. He has authored several books on holiness, health and high success. He spoke with Church Times Nigeria on the issues of health. Below are excerpts:
You have been at the vanguard of campaigning for using food for medicine. What has been your experience doing this over the years?
It was initially challenging in the sense that no Pastor or Christian ministry had towed this line in Nigeria or even West Africa openly before now. Of course, people like Dr. Mike Oye had been doing this at the background before I came on the scene, but for me to take it to the dimension I took it to was a little bit disturbing for some Pastors and even some church members in the Body of Christ. Teaching Healthy Living on Radio and Television weekly by a Pastor was unheard of. I was initially met with some resistance from the Body of Christ, especially Pastors. They wondered why a Pastor would be teaching on food, herbs, and healthy living. In fact, some of my close minister friends invited me for a chat and questioned my rationale for dabbling into an area I have not been schooled or certificated in.
By and large, however, the message began to make sense to many. The truth is that no one can argue against results. It was the legendary Billy Graham who once wrote in one of his books which I read over three decades ago that “YOU CAN ARGUE AGAINST A CREED, BUT YOU CANNOT ARGUE AGAINST A CHANGED LIFE.” My health and life have been changed positively following the very principles that I teach. I believe, like the late Evangelist Lester Rollof of Texas, that it would be a sin if I did not share what I now know with others who need it.
The resistance that I initially felt at the beginning is perfectly normal. According to Arthur Schopenhauer, all truth passes through THREE STAGES. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Today, my message on Healthy Living has become well accepted in the Body of Christ and outside of it. In fact, hundreds, if not thousands, of others have joined me in propagating this timeless and timely message. I’m honoured to have been called and used of God to blaze the trail in this all-important aspect of life.
I’d like, at this point, to share some fantastic experiences of miraculous health transformation and healings that I have witnessed first-hand in people who decided to give my teaching on healthy living a try. A number of kidney patients who were on dialysis and heading for kidney transplant are now perfectly healed and doing okay. In fact, one of them has been fine for over a decade now without his condition relapsing. I have seen diabetes and hypertension completely reversed and the victims taken off their medications permanently. I have seen arthritis reversed through this faith and food therapy. People have been able to normalize their body weights and cholesterol levels without dangerous STATIN (cholesterol-lowering) drugs. Many men have boosted and quadrupled their sperm count with food; a number of women have improved their fertility potential and have been able to easily get pregnant and carry their pregnancies to term simply by using appropriate foods to balance their hormones. I can go on and on. Honestly, I’m having fun doing this unique ministry of serving God and His precious people.
The only frustration that I still feel is that some people of God are still skeptical and are bent on sticking to their old belief system in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I am always sad when I see people who could have been helped if only they were willing to be disciplined enough to effect changes in their diet and lifestyles but refused to do so and ultimately died needlessly. I believe that every premature death is a great loss to the kingdom and to the world at large. Why would God invest so much in an individual only for that individual to die when he or she is supposed to be giving back to God and society? My ministry (and passion) is to see others live long enough to fulfill their ministries and finish their assignments on earth before they die.
Sometimes it’s difficult to believe one can live on a particular diet and be healed of appendicitis for instance. How in concrete terms does this work?
I believe it’s only difficult to believe for two reasons: First, it is because of the way we have been programmed to believe that some diseases are incurable or that the only way to address these diseases is to take pharmaceutical drugs. Second, it is because we probably have never seen someone who got cured simply by eating certain foods and avoiding other types of foods. It is not difficult for people like me to believe that food is our real medicine because, by the grace of God, I have seen people cured time and again that I have lost count. In particular, I have been able to help many people cancel their surgeries for both appendicitis (appendicectomy) and tonsillitis (tonsillectomy).
To answer your question on how these things work, I would like to start by saying that God created the human body to be able to self-heal if given the opportunity to do so. The only reason the human body degenerates and dies in an untimely manner is because we never provide it the opportunity to thrive and survive. We keep actively assaulting our body with toxic substances that are not meant to be in the body in the first place while, at the same time, passively neglecting to appropriately care for our body and depriving it of all that it needs to thrive. It has already been proven that if we will only STOP ABUSING our body and START NURTURING & NOURISHING our body, the body will thrive. The body can correct most of the problems and anomalies currently going on in it. The human body is its own mechanic. However, it needs tools to work with. Those tools come from an appropriate diet that is rich in all the ingredients (building blocks) needed to repair damages within the body – vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, etc. An appropriate diet provides all these tools to the body. The mechanic goes to work once it has all the tools and spare parts needed to fix the engine.
Also, when we follow an appropriate diet, it helps to reprogram the terrain of our body, thereby creating a conducive atmosphere for rejuvenation and healing to take place. For example, the body is able to heal if the pH of the body is in the ALKALINE range, but will find it difficult to heal if it is in the acidic range. Meanwhile, guess what dictates the pH of the body – OUR DIET! This is how a good diet helps the body to heal. A good diet does three things basically. One, it stops the ingestion of toxic substances into the body and helps the body to get rid of the toxins that have been lurking inside it for years. We call this DETOXFICATION. Second, it helps to bring into the body all the BUILDING BLOCKS (nutrients) and TOOLS needed by the ‘mechanic’ to do its job. We call this NOURISHMENT. Third, a good diet helps to transform the terrain of the body by modulating and strengthening the IMMUNE SYSTEM, balancing body pH, balancing hormones, and so on, thereby creating a hostile environment for diseases while, at the same time, creating a conducive environment for health to thrive.
Natural medicine and Orthodox Medicine ordinarily should complement. But some believe orthodox medicine comes with side effects and so are reluctant to go for it. On the other hand, some have found that natural medicine is not effective in the cure of certain ailments. How will you react to this?
You are right. One of the things that I advocate is what I call INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE. Mind my choice of words, please. I did not use the term COMPLEMENTARY or ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE for good reason. I believe that when we use the term COMPLEMENTARY, we make one system the senior partner and the other the subordinate. This naturally leads to contentions, competition, rivalry, superiority complex, inferiority complex, and the like, among the various practitioners of both orthodox and natural medicine. Without a doubt, each of the two medical systems has its own strengths and weaknesses. As you rightly observed, the two systems should actually come together to give patients the best of two worlds.
There are things Orthodox medicine is very good at addressing, but there are other things that Orthodox medicine is very weak at. For example, orthodox medicine is very good at diagnostics and emergency medicine but, so far, very weak in addressing chronic degenerative diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and what have you. Orthodox medicine only usually MANAGES these diseases without being able to CURE or REVERSE them. Orthodox medicine often relies on pharmaceuticals to manage these chronic diseases. These pharmaceuticals, as we all know, have their own uncomfortable side effects that are, in themselves, unwanted. Sometimes, more drugs are needed to address the side effects of previous drugs; the new drugs themselves also creating new side effects. The cycle goes on and on. Also, because drugs do not cure chronic diseases, the patient has to keep never-ending appointments with his or her doctor until they die. These are some of the reasons, I believe, making people to become tired of Orthodox medicine in some respects. On the other hand, Natural medicine too has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, natural medicine, so far, is very weak in emergency medicine and in diagnostics, but very good in addressing chronic degenerative diseases. Diet and lifestyle adjustments, as advocated strongly by natural medicine, have helped many to become ex-diabetics and ex-hypertensives, a feat that Orthodox medicine has not yet been able to perform. So, my take is that the two sides of the divide should humble themselves and collaborate for the ultimate benefit of all and sundry. When healthcare professionals bicker and fight among themselves, it is the patients that suffer at the end of the day.
You also advocate that certain foods are not good for our health. What are these foods?
The foods that are not good for our health are of different categories.
FIRST, there are those foods that I personally believe nobody should eat because they are confirmed disease promoters. In fact, even the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), through its International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has classified certain foods as CARCINOGENS (i.e. cancer-causing agents), among which are processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, sausage, ham, corned beef, etc. The foods that we are not supposed to be eating are hose foods that I like to describe as FOODLESS FOODS. In other words, so-called foods that do not supply high quality nutrients or building blocks to the body on the one hand and, on the other hand, also bring a lot of toxic substances into the body. These so-called foods have had their nutritional value diminished through processing that they are no longer worthy to be called food. For example, the last time I tasted any soft drink was in October 2000. Since then, I have STOPPED taking soft drinks entirely because it belongs to the category of FOODLESS FOODS and DISEASE PROMOTERS. I don’t eat sugar and I try to avoid all foods that they have added chemical preservatives, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavours, and other taste enhancers such as MSG (MonoSodium Glutamate) to. MSG is found in most of our chemical seasonings that we add to our cooking in Nigeria as well as in Noodles seasonings.
SECOND, each individual should also identify the foods that they are either allergic to or that are not agreeable to their body. This is where nutritional individuality comes in. One person’s food may be another person’s poison. I know someone who cannot tolerate coconut oil. She would react to it violently; yet I love coconut oil and add it to my smoothie and vegetable salad every now and then.
THIRD, there are those foods that are contraindicated for certain disease conditions. The food item may be good for others to eat, but bad for the person who has a disease for which this food item is contraindicated. For example, those with ARTHRITIS should avoid or reduce their consumption of the NIGHT SHADE VEGETABLES (e.g. garden egg, potatoes, etc.), while those with THYROID DISORDERS should avoid CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES because they are considered goitrogenic. Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc. By the way, cruciferous vegetables are very good for those who are addressing cancer.
So, as you can see, it is not a case of one size fits all. We can’t possibly make one rule for everybody to follow. This is why it is imperative for all of us to educate ourselves about food. Interestingly, the first lecture or tutorial that God gave to man in the Garden of Eden after He had given man his mandate on earth (Gen 1:28) was about food (Gen. 1:29). If only we can embrace this principle of ABSTINENCE from all foods that are worthless or even dangerous to our health, I believe that we can prevent so many diseases. Most diseases are cultivated at the dining table. Our youth will only be renewed IF we satisfy our mouths with GOOD THINGS, not junks! (Psalm 103:3).
By the way, I have documented most of these things about food in my books, newsletters, and numerous CDS, DVDs, and MP3s.
There are people who eat these bad foods and still remain healthy. How will you react to this sir?
As I have explained above, some people can eat certain foods and still be healthy while others will eat the same type of food and run into trouble with their health. I believe I have made the distinction already. There is nutritional individuality. On the other hand, there are those who eat the foods that I believe nobody should be eaten and these people still appear to be healthy. Permit me to clarify three things here.
FIRST, I have met a number of people who eat junk foods and claim to be healthy simply because they are not on admission in the hospital and they are still able to function as other human beings. Meanwhile, when you interrogate them further, you will be surprised to find out that they are actually sick. One woman told me the other day that she is perfectly healthy, except for diabetes and hypertension that she is taking medication for that she claims are perfectly under control. How can you claim to be healthy when you are diabetic and hypertensive? Some other folks claim to be healthy, yet they experience fatigue and tiredness, fall asleep on duty, are irritable and listless, come down with malaria and typhoid every now and then, suffer from insomnia or sleeplessness, experience constipation almost consistently, and so on and so forth. They don’t consider all these things as signs of poor health. A truly healthy person shouldn’t be experiencing these symptoms fairly regularly. If it occurs once in a long while, that is still understandable. After all, we are all human.
SECOND, we must understand that diseases don’t happen overnight. The fact that somebody is eating foods that he shouldn’t be eating does not mean that the person is going to fall sick the next day or the next month or even the next year. You see, God built the human body for survival. The body will still strive to be healthy and stay alive despite all the abuses we put it through. However, there is an elastic limit. A time will come when the body becomes overwhelmed and can no longer hold up. At that point, degeneration sets in. Those who develop diabetes at the age of 50 started laying the foundation for it many years before it manifested. The damaging effect of bad food is cumulative. This is the reason we see so many degenerative diseases showing up in old age. People think old age is the problem. Capital NO. Old age is never the problem. Old age is a great blessing; that’s why God promised to satisfy us with long life. If old age were a problem, then why would a good God want to put His children through it? It is not old age that results in diseases. Rather, it is the cumulative effects of bad eating and bad lifestyle that we begin to reap in old age because we have abused the body long enough and the body can no longer cope with the assault. For your information, studies have revealed that DIET & LIFESTYLE are responsible for up to 80% of heart disease, 90% of Type-2 Diabetes, and 70% of strokes and colon cancer.
THIRD, we also have different health potentials or thresholds at birth. This is fundamentally a genetic factor. For example, two people might be born the same day to two different families. One of them might be born into a family where they generally live to be 100 before they die, while the other one is born into a bloodline (family) where they die before they clock 60. Now, if the guy who was born into the family where they enjoy long life lives a careless and carefree life and dies at 80, people will still consider that he did not die prematurely. Nobody will likely take it to heart that the guy actually had the genetic potential to live up to age 100, but he cheated himself by dying 20 years earlier through careless living. On the other hand, if the guy who was born into the family where they usually die around age 60 decides to pay attention to his diet and lifestyle and manages, by so doing, to reach the age of 70 before dying, people are likely to say, “SEE, INSPITE OF HIS HEALTHY LIVING, HE COULDN’T EVEN REACH 80 LIKE THE OTHER GUY WHO WAS CARELESS WITH HIS DIET.” They will not realize that it was his attention to healthy living that pushed his genetic threshold from 60 to 70. He actually gained 10 more years, unlike the other fellow who lost 20 years out of his potential lifespan. Do you get the point?
Can we safely say the build-up of individual body informs the health of the person rather than following a particular food regimen or health advice?
From all that I have been saying, you will agree with me that the factors that determine a person’s health status are more than one. A person’s genetic potential at birth is one factor. A person’s diet and lifestyle are yet two other factors. The environment in which a person lives in is yet another factor. The stress in a person’s life and how the person deals with these stressors is one factor yet again. A person’s faith also counts very much. The social support that a person gets from family and friends matters as well. The resources available to an individual to take care of herself or himself as they should also contribute to a person’s overall health status. So, it’s not just one thing. I know of people who know that they should be eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain health, but they are too poor to afford these things. Instead, they will buy a loaf of white bread and a bottle of soft drink to wash it down. All they are consuming is almost 100 simple carbohydrates that offer nothing more than empty calories. No matter how strongly built such a person is, it is a matter of time before the person begins to fall apart if nothing changes for a long time.
There are sicknesses that have been dubbed terminal because there is no known cure. What has been your experience in this regard?
I will like to first of all make a distinction between the terms “terminal” and “incurable”. A disease is considered “incurable” when there is no known cure, medically speaking, while a disease is considered “terminal” if that disease has reached its end-stage, a point of no return, so to speak. A disease may be curable and yet, if not attended to on time and appropriately, it may progress to the point where it becomes terminal. For example, even though cancer is a deadly disease, yet it is curable. There are many cancer survivors out there. However, most cancers usually go through 5 stages (Stages 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4). At the early stages of cancer (say, stages 0, 1, and 2), the prognosis is much better; but at the late stages, it is much more difficult to address. In fact, once cancer has reached the final stage (i.e. STAGE 4), it is considered terminal, medically speaking. At that point, only a miracle can save the individual. Both orthodox medicine and natural medicine can’t do much for an individual whose disease has become terminal. At that stage, we can only pray for the person, give palliative treatment to alleviate and ameliorate the person’s pain and suffering, and then hope for the best.
As for diseases that are tagged “incurable” simply because orthodox medicine does not have a cure for them, I have a different opinion. I personally don’t consider most of these diseases as incurable. The fact that orthodox medicine can’t cure them (but only manage them) doesn’t make these diseases incurable. For example, as far as orthodox medicine is concerned, diabetes and hypertension are diseases that cannot be cured with pharmaceutical drugs. The patients would just have to remain on their medication for life. As far as I am concerned, judging by my experiences in working with people with these conditions, I believe and have actually seen many people who have been able to reverse their diabetes and hypertension. I have also seen people who have reversed arthritis and kidney diseases, all through dietary and lifestyle adjustments and the use of nutritional and herbal supplements. I have equally seen many people who have reversed GALUCOMA (an eye disease) in just 90 days with food and lifestyle change without medication. Glaucoma happens to be one of the most dreaded eye conditions that can lead to irreversible blindness if not appropriately addressed.
Some people preach divine healing. They don’t support the use of drugs whether Orthodox or natural. What do you think about this?
If it works for such people, I raise my thumbs for them. However, if a person is glaringly sick and dying and claims that he does not want to use orthodox or natural remedies to address his condition, I will consider that the person is taking it too far. There is a thin line between faith and presumption. By the way, let me say that I also believe in DIVINE HEALING. Divine healing is real and I have seen it many times. However, it is the same God that gave us the gifts of healings that also gave us herbs for our use (Psalm 104:14). Amazingly, even in heaven, John the Beloved wrote in Revelation 22:1-2 that there is a tree growing by the river that proceeds out of the throne of God, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations! Wow! This same vision was seen by the Prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 47:12). Looking through the entire Bible, we see where, in Bible days, God’s people used home remedies to address different conditions. For example, the Prophet Isaiah directed King Hezekiah to use fig leaves for his boils to heal (2 Kings 20:1-7, specially verse 7). Apostle Paul advised Timothy to use the juice of grapes for his stomach infirmity (1 Timothy 5:23). I believe that every gift of God to us, whether natural or supernatural, should be received with meekness and gratitude. There is absolutely nothing wrong for a believer to use natural remedies or medical interventions if these become necessary.
You had experienced health challenge in the past. You came out of it and that perhaps informed your devotion to health issues. What was the experience?
If I have to detail all that I went through here, this magazine will become a book. However, let me just give you a little bit of it. I had over 30 symptoms in this one body of mine. My energy level nose-dived. Fatigue was continual. I was obese. I had unceasing headache and lightheadedness. I had stomach ulcer. I stooled blood most times when I went to the toilet. Even my sputum was laden with blood. The whole left side of my body was numb. I experienced panic attacks and mild depression. I suffered from insomnia, sometimes not sleeping for 3 days. I was constipated. One doctor examined me and told me I could be having stomach cancer. He sent me for upper GI endoscopy and biopsy, which I declined to do. Another doctor suspected I might have a brain tumour. He also sent me for a brain scan, which I also declined to do. Yet a third doctor suspected I might be having cancer of the throat. He referred me to an ENT doctor. The ENT doctor examined me and did all his checks and ruled out cancer. I could go on and on and on. My health was in complete disarray. I prayed and fasted. I confessed the Word of God. I believed God for my healing. At the end of the day, God began to speak to me to direct me on what to do to get well. I started doing those things and I got well. The things I did that got me back on my feet are the very things that I am passionately sharing with those who care to listen through radio and television, newsletters, CDS, books, seminars, etc. We have even set up a HEALTHY LIVING INSTITUTE where we coach participants extensively on healthy living principles. Our website is www.tsfhli.com for those who might be interested in either our weeklong intensive training programme or our one-day Healthy Cooking Classes.
There are people who follow all medical advice, don’t eat this don’t eat that and still end up with deadly diseases. How will you explain this?
The truth of the matter is that not all so-called pieces of medical advice are accurate or relevant to the person given such an advice. If a person follows a wrong piece of advice, of course one cannot expect any positive outcome. For example, in my weekly counseling sessions in my office with people who are sick, some of them will tell me that they were given a particular dietary advice by their hospital dietician to follow and those pieces of advice they were given in the hospital are totally different from the one I am giving them. They will then start arguing with me that their hospital told them not to eat what I am asking them to eat or vice versa. I usually will ask them for how long they’ve been following their hospital dietician’s advice and they would say something like “for the past two years”; and I would usually say to them, “If that dietary advise had any merit, by now you should have improved.” Then they do, “Oh, that makes sense!”
Secondly, sometimes the only medical advice that some patients get from their doctors is that they should make sure they take their drugs faithfully. Meanwhile, staying on some of these drugs long-term can, in themselves, precipitate other health complications. For example, people on certain drugs risk liver failure after taking those drugs for a long time.
Thirdly, a person may actually be complying with a good medical advice in one area of life and yet be violating a healthy living principle in another area. For example, I get to the gym sometimes to exercise and I meet quite a number of people who have also come to exercise. Some of them were advised by their doctors to exercise regularly to either lose weight or improve their health in some other way. So, they commit to regular moderate exercise, which is a very good thing to do. However, as soon as they finish exercising, the next thing is that you see them gulping an oversized bottle of soft drinks or some kind of energy drink or ice-cream, etc, to reward themselves for exercising. Those kind of people will tell you that they are following medical advice, yet they are violating in some other area.
Like I said earlier in the course of this interview, healthy living must be holistic. We are TRIPARTITE beings – spirit, soul, and body. Disease can emanate from any one of the three aspects of our being. If you follow medical advice in regards to your physical body but refuse to address the spiritual realm or even the soul realm, there can still be trouble. After all, some diseases are actually spiritual. There are spirits of infirmities out there that can afflict those who let down their guards or those are not in Christ. These are called strange or mysterious diseases. Such diseases have their own characteristic features. They are usually difficult to diagnose, and even when they are diagnosable, they don’t usually respond to medical treatments that have helped others with similar diseases. Mysterious diseases are designed to drain a person financially and bring them down. They ultimately kill if not appropriately addressed. Thank God that, in Christ Jesus, there is victory and healing for all kinds of diseases by His stripes.