Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): Please share your background in the medical field. What inspired you to be a medical doctor?
How many years did you practice traditional medicine, and what was the turning point or event that challenged everything you were taught and trained on?
Akili Muhammad, M.D. (AM): I remember as far back as I can go and I wanted to be a doctor. My mother says that we were watching a show on television about a cardiovascular surgeon and I told her, ‘That’s what I want to be!’
My father is my greatest example. He was a Captain in the Nation Of Islam and a dentist. When I was in the 6th grade, he converted our garage into his office. I remember playing outside and watching people with swollen faces and in severe pain go in our house/office and within hours leave with smiles. My father’s mark on me was everlasting, because that is the motivation for my practicing medicine – I want to help people improve and leave me better than whence they came.
Prior to graduating high school, I was accepted into a 7 year program at University of California at Riverside and UCLA for undergrad and medical school. However, I wanted the Black college experience. I attended Prairie View A & M University for undergrad and finished at Meharry Medical College in Dec. 1996. Subsequently, I matriculated at University of Texas at Houston for my Family Medicine Residency, which I graduated in June of 1999.
I was co chief resident my last year and left with so much confidence that I accepted a Medical Director position at a Federal Funded Underserved clinic in Southpark called South Central Houston Community Health Center where I performed physician services to all ages and types of problems as well as minor surgeries until I left there in 2001. This was unheard of for a first year physician to take on such task as physician and Medical Director, yet my confidence in my abilities was great.
Although my training was traditional, I was always promoting nutrition and decreasing medicine as the path to improved health. With that mind set I was always researching and reading material that was not traditional, including How to Eat to Live by the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. In 2004 I met Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad. Between he and I exchanging many emails and my initial stages of understanding How to Eat to Live, I began questioning everything that I was taught in medical school and residency program. This was a daunting, destructive, demeaning, invigorating, inspiring and evolutionary experience all in one that culminated with a tumultuous year in 2009.
I had a close cousin enter her third battle with breast cancer who asked me to help her put together a wholistic approach in addition to 2 other deaths of friends (one murder and the other a heart attack) along with a divorce and closure of a six year private practice. I attended my cousin’s funeral in California, but the combination of the two day drive back to Houston and one day of practice when I returned cemented in my mind that traditional medicine was based in too many falsehoods and too much economics superseding true care. I vowed to never return to traditional medicine that day in April 2009! So from December of 1996 to April of 2009, whatever percentage of traditional medicine that I was practicing, I turned to a new chapter with How to Eat to Live as my foundation at that point.
EM: During your years practicing traditional medicine how many patients did you see who suffered with conditions resulting from their diet and eating habits?
AM: Prior to my closure of the six year practice, I concluded that eating habits and traditions was absolutely the underlying cause for 95% of the medical problems in which I was dealing with daily; physical, mental and spiritual. Ending 2008 and starting early 2009, I was averaging 17 patients per day. My frustrations began climbing, because although I was doing much counseling, most Black people have been trained to seek a quick ‘pill’ to fix whatever has gone wrong.
EM: Now as a wholistic physician, how are you addressing those conditions? For those who applied the healthier method of treatment what were the results? What were the results of those who did not?
AM: Those who did follow my advice, which was always founded in How to Eat to Live, were seeing great and ‘miraculous’ improvements; reversal of high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems, heart problems, multiple sclerosis as well as the cessation of medicine for even more problems.
I and those who followed my advice were absolutely convinced that How to Eat to Live was superior information. I didn’t need any more proof; I just needed more people to prove to themselves what I KNEW.
The challenge becomes maintenance. It is difficult for people to make lifestyle changes and maintain them. Fear motivates but fear will not maintain people’s actions. We were seeing vast improvements, but then complacency caused a lot to return to past habits, rituals and traditions.
There have been only few that continue the change. In comparison to the traditional ‘pop a pill’ mentality, How to Eat to Live would be like comparing a bathtub to the ocean. From the elation a person feels when their worrisome medical problem is improved and the mental relaxation that is produced, that comparison is fitting. EVERY patient who was not involved in making lifestyle changes and subjugated themselves to trusting medications worsened and eventually had a progressively poorer or terminal outcome in regards to chronic medical conditions.
EM: Let’s delve into a popular belief as it relates to our eating habits here in America. We are taught to eat 3-6 (small) meals a day with snacks in between. Where did this instruction come from, and what are the believed benefits?
AM: The idea of eating multiple meals a day came from the workout, muscle building community. As the population of America became larger and larger, the idea of using muscle bound thin people for marketing brought interest in and from that community.
EM: Was this an instruction you offered in traditional medicine and did you practice this as well?
AM: I always tried to live what I taught to my patients, so from approximately 1997 until 2003, I was eating 4 to 5 meals every day. This idea was supposedly in congruence with increasing metabolism and helping people lose weight, but obviously the demographics of America prove that it is not working. The metabolism of our bodies is based on activity, and it doesn’t matter how many meals it takes to get the amount of calories in.
EM: What’s the science behind eating one meal a day? How our bodies and digestive system designed in regards to eating? When we go against that what happens?
AM: Research over the years has proven that digestion time and frequency of digestion is directly related to aging. If a person does a search for calorie restriction or Methuselah mouse, there is plenty information that supports one meal a day as improving health and longevity.
I had an experience with a patient in 2003 when she fell asleep as I was talking to her and I became angry at her. When I realized I had just awakened from a nap myself, I was embarrassed at my anger at her. That evening, I began reading How to Eat to Live. No book in the previous 17 years of my ‘education’ made so much sense. I immediately jumped in to 1 meal per day to see what the effects were going to be. I was so convinced that this was superior, I began implementing it with every person who trusted in me and allowed me to put their plan together. The effect for those who attempted to follow, not even fully, saw amazing results.
Scientifically, one meal a day decreases the digestion time, therefore decreasing the work of the body, as well as improving the resolution of toxins and waste. The gastrointestinal system is made to empty itself in 24 hours. So eating 3 meals a day or more has proven to give the length of life that we have in this country, which is extremely short in comparison to scriptures.
EM: Why do doctors continue to misinform the masses (directly and indirectly) to take on and accept what is contrary to the way our bodies are designed to function?
AM: I believe the system of America begins teaching children at a young age to not ask questions and not to challenge the status quo. Doctors have spent many years in school, which ultimately is a training and breeding ground for people to fit in an industry. The first two years of school is learning theory and then the last two are learning application with patients. Well, I noticed while in the process that we literally throw away our theory in turn to follow the ‘example’ of practicing physicians. When in medical school, we had one week of nutrition. So, medical doctors don’t think independently. They think how they are taught to think.
I was labeled as a trouble maker for asking questions in medical school and in residency program. So an introspective critique and change of practice due to outcomes is not common in medicine. This is not a pass, because doctors should be able to conclude that medicines are not healing people and over time they become sicker on more medications. It is time for doctors to step up and conclude that the system is broken and the people need true help.
EM: Why do you think we have such a difficult time accepting a new life style that can ultimately save and extend our lives?
AM: As a people, Blacks have been shunned away from reading in this country. We say we are not still affected by slavery, but we as a people do not read, research and experiment scientifically to come to effective changes in what is broken in our community. My suggestion is that people in and out the mosque need to read How to Eat to Live and attempt to apply it as an initial solution to all disease.
Black people try many diets and many popular so-called healers, but we neither as a community nor as individuals have a body of knowledge that has proven any long term improvement of health or longevity. It’s time for us to remove our emotions and give a man who stated he met with GOD a chance.
EM: Thank you very much for sharing your story, experience and professional advice.