In the second of our new series on black vegans, we got a chance to sit down with Professor Spira, a proponent of a whole foods plant-based diet for African Americans. His story is one you may find quite familiar, as it includes a family history of diabetes, heart failure, and the incredible health issues and suffering eating a diet heavy in dead foods can bring about.
Let’s begin by telling the readers a bit about your background – who is the real man we know as Professor Spira on Facebook?
I grew up as an only child in a suburb of Cincinnati, OH named Springdale. My mother was in and out of the hospital dozens of times per year, so I was being raised mostly by my grandmother and aunt. At age 11, I lost my grandmother, who was really the person I’d developed the closest mother-son bond with up to that point. A week later my mother went to the hospital with congestive heart failure and ended up having double bypass surgery.
Following the surgery she lived in a nursing home where my aunt took me almost every other day to see her. In the nursing home I was exposed to a level of human suffering that most children, and even young adults, never see. Soon my mother’s feet turned gangrenous and they amputated both legs. Within the next year she died.
These experiences caused me to begin to think deeply about the purpose of human suffering in the world, and if there was a reason and a remedy. Soon, I started immersing myself into studying the history of human suffering. I remember being in sixth grade going through gruesome picture books about the Jewish Holocaust, the systematic and ritualized lynchings of black people in the United States, and the near genocide of Native peoples in the Americas at the hands of sociopathic European invaders. I made an effort to confront the worst of humanity, and I asked the Universe for answers about why humans suffer so much. I refused to accept that this was natural human behavior, and wanted to know the root cause of the world’s chaos. Ultimately, my life-long search for answers to this question led me to the Mucusless Diet Healing System.
Despite the challenges I faced growing up, in Junior High and High School I worked hard trying to earn straight A’s, I became an Eagle Scout by age 15 in the Boy Scouts of America, and I participated in many extracurricular activities including varsity football. But the thing I liked doing the most was making music. I’d improvised on keyboards since I was 4 years old, but started playing the trombone at age 11. While on stage or making music, I felt at peace.
Kids my own age did not want to talk about “human suffering” or deep spiritual and mere physical concepts, so I did not really have an outlet to express what I was feeling about the world we live in. I soon learned to channel my emotions into my music-making, and it became my saving grace.
I felt so good when I was making music, and became interested in knowing what it would feel like to play music at the highest levels possible.
Can you explain what it is you do in the field of health and nutrition on a professional level?
I am an author, musician, Ph. D. candidate in ethnomusicology, and expert consultant on the Mucusless Diet Healing System. Subsequent to my transformation to veganism, I have revived Arnold Ehret’s works and helped thousands of people learn how to transition toward a mucus-free lifestyle. In 2014, I started Mucus-free Life LLC, which currently publishes several books including Prof. Arnold Ehret’s Mucusless Diet Healing System: Annotated, Revised, and Edited by Prof. Spira, Spira Speaks: Dialogs and Essays on the Mucusless Diet, and Prof. Arnold Ehret’s Rational Fasting.
What was your lifestyle and diet like before you transitioned to veganism? What were some of your typical meals like?
I was addicted to pus and mucus-forming foods, and was a glutton of the highest order. A normal meal could consist of two chili cheese foot-long coneys, several root beers, popcorn, and a cheese burger at our neighborhood Root Beer Stand. Or, a large pizza with extra cheese, extra pepperoni, and bacon from any one of my favorite pizza joints. Or a Big Mac, fish sandwich, supersized fries, hot fudge sundae with extra hot fudge, nine piece chicken McNugget (with sweet and sour sauce of course) and an orange drink from McDonalds. Yes, I would eat all of this food in one sitting. And I also knew my way around a bottle of liquor, a blunt filled with weed, cigarettes, and ‘freaked’ Black and Milds.
Unfortunately, I lived in a social setting and cultural landscape that gave me status for being large and having indulgent appetites. I played American football and was a 250 pound varsity offensive lineman by junior year. Other kids watched me bench pressing 300 pounds with my 18 inch biceps in the weight room and wanted to be like me.
Although everything seemed like it was going great to the people around me, I suffered from a lot of health issues. Growing up, I suffered from yearly bouts of bronchitis, allergies for which I took medication since I was 7 years old, frequent hemorrhoids, daily migraine headaches, bad bowel constipation, etc. I was in bad shape. I’d tried various diets and home remedies to lose weight, but nothing worked until I found the Mucusless Diet Healing System.
How did you come to be vegan? Was there a trigger event, something you read or saw? What would you say was your motivating force to adopt a vegan diet?
During my freshman year of college as a jazz trombone performance major at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, I made it a point to plug into the local jazz scene to supplement my school activities. I figured that if I was going to learn how to play black music, I would need to immerse myself in the local black arts culture. Thus, I sought out as many opportunities to play black art music (jazz) in local bars and arts centers within black communities. On Sunday nights, I started going to a bar named Sonny’s that had a jazz jam session to sit in with my trombone. One Sunday I met an interesting African American jazz drummer named Willie Smart (aka Brother Air).
After seeing him around Cincinnati at other local jazz spots, he began to talk with me about health and diet. He dismissed the principles of Western dietetic theory and asserted that the only true road to health was through Prof. Arnold Ehret’s Mucusless Diet Healing System. Brother Air said that he was over 40 years old and had practiced the diet for more than 20 years. This was shocking, as he did not look anywhere near 40 years old (now he is in his 50s and still does not look as if he has aged).
One evening, after having known him for almost a year, he sat down with me and my friend and spoke very clearly about the Mucusless Diet Healing System with us. I was blown away by some of the things he said, and quickly obtained a copy of the book, read it, started applying the principles, and my life changed immediately.
There’s an ongoing argument in the vegan community that the only “right” way to choose veganism is because of animal cruelty. What do you think about that issue?
I disagree with asserting that animal cruelty is the “right” way to get to a plant-based lifestyle. For me, the most important thing is for humans to return to natural dietary laws. If and when this happens, there will be no need to even talk about animal cruelty because it won’t exist. There will also be no need to talk or worry about human illness, as the fundamental cause for human illness from my experience is pus and mucus-forming foods. Even genetic weaknesses are the result of internal organs or areas of tissue damaged by acids caused by uneliminated pus/mucus-forming foods.
The problem is, the same people that talk about saving the animals are addicted to mucus-forming foods, as we all are. Much of the processed vegan foods enjoyed by a lot of vegans would not fall into these natural mucus-free laws. When I purged my body of the poisonous residues of pus-forming foods (meat and dairy), I did not desire fake versions of meat or dairy. We only crave something that resembles meat as long as those poisons are in our system. Those items are fine for early stages of a transition away from mucus-forming foods, but it is advisable to get off of processed foods as well, even if they are technically ‘vegan’.
The true transformation and healing of one’s physiology occurs at the higher levels of a mucus-free diet and fasting. It is possible to feel much better going from a Standard American Diet to even a processed plant-based diet, but to heal chronic illness it is almost always necessary to be mucus-free for periods of time while learning how to engage in safe and effective fasting. Although I recommend a gradual and long-term transition toward a mucus-free lifestyle, it is also important to not go too slow.
With that said, I appreciate what the brothers and sisters in organizations like PETA and Mercy for Animals do to raise awareness and expose animal cruelty. But, I never would have gone down this path based on wanting to help animals.
First, I had to clean myself up a bit before I could even become sensitive and somewhat conscious of the issue. Once I had cleansed for a while, I watched the famous “Meet your Meat” slaughterhouse expose by PETA. I cried and reinforced my vow to not eat meat. Showing these videos to people that have practiced the diet for several months can really be powerful, as they are truly ready to see and understand what they were participating in. But, if I would have seen that video a year before, it would not have pulled my heart strings at all. And I can tell you, on the streets in the black community it is much more effective showing someone pictures of mucoid plaque (strings of slimy waste inside the intestines of everyone eating mucus-forming foods) and preventable disease than slaughterhouse pictures. I’ve seen pictures of mucoid plaque inspire brothers and sisters to start doing enemas and change their diets immediately, where slaughterhouse photos didn’t even get a reaction.
Do you think the issues faced by African Americans are different than those of other races when adopting a plant-based diet, or are they the same?
The challenge I see for many brothers and sisters getting into higher levels of plant-based living is with breaking free of the problematic and paradoxical nutritional concepts first developed largely by meat and dairy eating Europeans. In many cases, these scientists were people who assumed that their diets were supreme, and viewed the dietary practices of other cultures as bizarre or deficient.
We must stop trying to adapt problematic Western ‘scientific’ concepts to our understanding of diet without interrogating them deeper. Why must we try to prove that we can ‘get protein’ on a vegan diet? I have nothing to prove any meat eater, as if my diet is the exception. In my world, meat and dairy eating is the exception and they would have to prove to me that their lifestyle does not create chronic illness. When people ask me “how do you get your protein,” I think to myself “how do you survive with 32 feet of impacted intestines filled with pounds of uneliminated feces, decades old feces stones, and globs of brown and black mucus?”
The concept of “protein,” a term coined by Dutch chemist Gerhard Johan Mulder c. 1844, is at best one of the most problematic and destructive theories ever to emerge in dietetics. Why can fruitarian primates grow so big and strong without eating dead animal or plant-based “proteins?” What adult cow drinks the milk of another cow to get it’s “calcium?” The insanity of the protein theory is only rivaled by Olin Atwater’s nutritional concepts outlined in his Principles of Nutrition and Nutritive Value of Food (1904), the book on which many problematic nutritional approaches used to this day were based.
Is it possible to critically analyze and interrogate the very foundation of Western dietetic theory? Is it possible to “scrap it all” if after studying its history it is proven to be dangerously fallacious? Can we start from the beginning and develop a new understanding of human physiology from the ground up, free from medical errors and based on empirical wisdom? Is it possible to not get drawn into the allure of quick-fix concoctions and supplements that resemble Western medicine and the act of treating symptoms?
We must learn to critically and objectively interrogate the history of these theories that often go unquestioned and are assumed to be factual. If we were to apply the kind of attention put on nutritional concepts and shift them to a healthy obsession with eating foods that cleanse and eliminate waste from the body, our reality would transform. With this new liberated thinking in the area of health, we can learn to move forward into a new paradigm based on REAL natural healing and living.
Do you think that men benefit in particular ways from a plant-based diet that they might be unaware of?
It is hard to make a general statement that would apply to men more than women, as I’ve seen the plant-based lifestyle be equally transformative for all genders, races, and ages.
The plant-based path I chose, which is the Mucusless Diet Healing System, can give a person the ability to control their own reactivity to troubling circumstances much better. If you are a person that is easy to anger, you can become a much more relaxed and peaceful person. If you aspire to better control your sexual urges, you can achieve this as well. Brother Air chose to be celibate for 10 years before finding a vegan wife and having a child with her, which he raised on the mucusless diet.
This was a decision he made after having been a ladies man in his life prior to practicing the diet. Overall, this path can, and probably will, transform the person who follows it, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually. Yet, you must be open and ready for such changes, as it can be overwhelming if you are not prepared.
What would you say were the biggest obstacles you faced making the transition to vegan?
For me, it is my addiction to mucus-forming foods. It was relatively easy to overcome my addiction to pus-forming foods (meat, dairy, and eggs). I was off of these foods within six months. But I find that the greatest addiction for humankind is mucus-forming foods. If you don’t believe me, try going a couple weeks without eating any mucus-forming food items. Many people have trouble going one day without eating some kind of mucus.
I do not recognize mucus-forming foods as natural for my body, but I understand that I must gradually transition away from them over time. Given that my ancestors started to transition away from an optimal plant-based diet generations ago, my addiction to wrong foods is very profound.
And since I have found mucus-forming foods to be the foundation of human illness and the ultimate “gateway drug,” I am dedicated to overcoming my addiction to them and creating a new dietetic reality for me and my family. But, I know that this will not happen overnight, and I must be patient with myself as I continue to transform my physiology and heal my constitutional weaknesses (aka genetic weaknesses)
Have you noticed any specific benefits in your physique, health or well-being from changing your lifestyle?
Within six months of practicing the Mucusless Diet Healing System, I lost over 100 pounds. And the weight loss was so natural, that people whom I regularly saw did not even notice. My trombone teacher asked me out of the blue on day “have you lost weight?” I’d already lost 100 pounds and he’d seen me every week for the past six months!
Many of my chronic illnesses, including daily migraine headaches, lower back pain, joint pain in my right hand (thanks to six years of football and a bad diet), chronic pain in my right knee, bad allergies, and otolaryngological problems including yearly cases of bronchitis, etc., were over. I was emancipated from the numerous pharmaceutical medicines that I had been taking since I was seven years old and was able to do away with the CPAP unit I’d used to treat my ‘sleep apnea (a machine that pumps oxygen into constipated, sleeping noses).
To think I was 18 years old sleeping with an oxygen machine at night gives me chills to this day! Adhering to the Healing System also helped me overcome addictions to tobacco, alcohol, and chronic overeating of very damaging foods–which was by far my worst addiction.
My ability to think also increased dramatically. As I cleaned myself up, school work became very easy to wiz through, and I started to excel in my classes. At age 23 I became the youngest lecturer on campus at Northern Kentucky University, where I taught Survey of African American Music and Music of World Cultures for two years before going to the Ohio State University to pursue a M.A. in African American and African Studies and a Ph. D. in ethnomusicology. Without having changed my lifestyle, I know that I would not have been able to do as well in school as I have.
Do you prepare your own meals? What are some of your favorite vegan dishes?
Yes, I prepare all of my own meals. I actually quit eating in restaurants about 11 years ago. Restaurants were like crack houses for me, and I could not help but get wrong foods or splurge a little bit when I was there. So I knew I needed to cut them out completely. Plus, there were no vegan restaurants around, and I was not prepared to risk the cooks cross-contaminating my meal with meat and dairy products (knives or pans used to prepare meat-based meals). So, I just started making all of my own meals at home.
Within the next year, I hope to come out with mucusless diet menu book and recipe guide. But until then, here is a transitional recipe out of my book Spira Speaks:
Baked Banana Surprise
Baked Banana Surprise consists of bananas, chopped dates, and applesauce (brown sugar is optional). To bake: take bananas and cut the tips off of both sides, put them on a baking sheet (optional: wrap them unpeeled in aluminum foil so it never touches anything you eat), and place on a cookie sheet. Preheat oven to about 425 degrees, put in bananas, then bake for about 15-25 minutes. About ten to 15 minutes into baking, check the bananas and turn over to the other side with a spatula. Length of time for the bananas be fully cooked depends on how ripe they were before baking.
Sweet banana juice should begin to ooze from the sides, which lets you know it’s done. Carefully take the banana off the sheet with a spatula or oven mitt, place in empty bowl, remove the blackened peel by cutting a slit longways down the banana, and then dump the meat and juices into the bowl. Mix natural applesauce and chopped dates together and get ready to get “high” and satisfied. If you do not have an oven, one other option is to heat some olive or coconut oil in a skillet, peel the bananas, and slightly cook them, turning them over periodically. This method is not as good as baking, but has a similar effect.
I’m well aware that such a meal would be viewed with scorn among staunch raw foodists, yet stewed and baked fruit meals could help a lot of people transitioning off of sweets in the earlier days of their transition. Further, it is basically a mucusless meal that should eliminate really well.
And here is an easy juice to make:
Apple Lemonade became a staple of mine early on. Cases of apples can be inexpensive, although you can even find good prices by the pound in the stores. Arnold Ehret often talks of using a “lemonade” for juice fasting. Although sweeteners can be used, I much prefer lemonades sweetened with 100% fruit juices.
- Use a juicer to juice 5 to 7 apples
- Peel 2 lemons and put the flesh into the juicer.
What do you eat over the course of a typical day now? Has that changed much over the years as you’ve become more comfortable with a vegan menu?
This is always a hard question to answer, because it changes within the context the Mucusless Diet Healing System. Not only what I eat, but how I eat it is of great importance. Thus, the time of day I choose to eat and how I combine my foods is always considered. Periodic fasting is also a part of the lifestyle, which is like hitting the RESET button on my body.
With that said, one of my most common plateau points is drinking fresh juice in the morning a couple hours after rising, eating a fruit meal for lunch, some more juice a couple hours later, and then a vegetable meal in the evening. The vegetable meal always consists of a raw combination salad as the foundation. Then I may add some kind of steamed or baked vegetable, or what we call a “mucus lean” item, which is something that is mucus-forming, but is much less harmful than most mucus-forming foods. Such items are important for the transition diet.
For instance, years ago I ate a lot of 100% wheat spaghetti, which helped me get off of meat. Wheat products are mucus-forming, but it is far better eating them than meat. But, over time I started making vegetable sautés that I would combine with the spaghetti, and before I knew it I did not even want the spaghetti anymore, only the vegetables and tomato sauce. Thus, I’d transitioned away from spaghetti, not by force or will power, but by systematically applying the principles of the Healing System.
Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s very easy to find great prepared vegan cuisine and fresh fruits and vegetables. My biggest challenge has been with family members who struggle to adapt to my changes. What were the biggest obstacles or challenges you faced during or after the transition?
I recently posted a Youtube video to my channel discussing the #1 reason people do not stick with the Mucusless Diet, and my answer was because of social challenges. As your consciousness transforms, everything changes and it becomes harder for some people to be around you, and you around them. But, in my case I was not going to let the social issue be the reason I did not practice the diet to my highest potential. So there was a time when I became kind of icy while I was finding myself with my new lifestyle. I was not afraid of losing current friends or the support of family members (the latter of which did not happen) because of my new lifestyle choice. I knew that as the doors closed on old relationships, new ones would emerge that would be supportive of my new plant-based lifestyle. Thus, I stopped spending time with most of the friends I used to party and night clubs with, and found myself around more and more plant-based eaters and artists.
As mentioned above, my greatest challenge has simply been my addiction to mucus-forming foods. Although I am able to go long periods of time being 100% mucus-free, like an alcoholic who admits they have been working toward sobriety for 12 years, I respect the addiction and work to increase my periods of being 100% mucus-free.
What recommendation would you make to others who have senior parents or who are seniors themselves?
For seniors, if you have the courage to take your health into your own hands and follow the path of natural healing, then I strongly recommend investigating mucus-free healing. Although I’ve adopted the mucusless diet as a lifestyle, it was originally best known as a healing system used by “terminally ill” patients to get up out of their death beds and revitalize their lives.
It is a shame that people have to wait until they are at the end of their rope to get serious about healing themselves. But as long as there is life, there is a chance and opportunity to heal and regenerate. You have to be open-minded and commit yourself to follow the path, even if things become scary or uncomfortable. Healing chronic illness is not always fun, but the liberation that results is worth it. Of course, I highly recommend that people seek out an experienced Mucusless Diet coach to help guide folks with deeper physiological issues.
If you have senior parents, I suggest that you investigate the Mucusless Diet yourself. As you begin to practice the diet and heal some of your own ailments, you will gain the knowledge necessary to help others when they are ready. You cannot force someone to pursue the path of natural healing if they do not want to, so you cannot fixate on wanting them to get into a plant-based diet. But, as you change your life it will extend to your family members in ways that you may not even perceive.
And I have no problem not buying meat products if I go to the store for my elders. Early on in my transition I set up a rule that no meat ever enters my vehicle, and I will not buy it for someone. I’m not telling them to net eat it, but I will not participate in the process. Although it might not make you popular, people come to respect the conviction of your stance over time. But overall, if you have senior parents, or babies, the best thing you can do is learn about natural healing on your own body. Then you can transfer that wisdom to others when needed.
Can you tell our readers a bit about what your goals/plans are for your book and what they’ll find within its pages?
I’m currently working with several translators to translate my Annotated Mucusless Diet Healing System into Spanish, German, and Portuguese. Large progressive movements have already been mounting around mucus-free healing in the Italian and Spanish-speaking worlds (in addition to English). I work with people from around the world, and I’m always impressed with how passionate people from other countries get with the diet. Some of the inhibition, fears, and psychological conditioning that seem to hold many Americans back from getting as serious as they need to be about plant-based healing seem to not be as pronounced in some other countries. Thus, as I pointed out above, brothers and sisters here in the United States need to do what it takes to deprogram and be willing to start all over again regarding our understanding of health and nutrition.
With that said, I have been excited to see an increasing number of people embrace Arnold Ehret’s work over the past several years. The greatest healers and diet educators in the world, including Dr. Sebi, Dr. Llaila Afrika, Dr. Robert Morse, and many others, have all been greatly influenced by Arnold Ehret and his Mucusless Diet Healing System. So I say, let’s go back to the source material and really see what it’s all about.
My Annotated and Revised version of The Mucusless Diet Healing System brings Ehret’s work into the 21st century. For the most part, Ehret’s original words remain unchanged, but I add useful notes clarifying common misconceptions and answering frequently asked questions in the margins. In my opinion, this book should be a part of every person’s book collection, especially plant-based eaters and aspirants.
Even if you ultimately do not choose mucus-free as your final path, you will know what to do when you go through an ELIMINATION (cold and flu-like symptoms, skin problems, congestion in the lungs, inflammation, etc.). The principles of healing found within the book are applicable to all and are not based on any belief system.
I also want to reach a diverse number of people, including young people. I think that the plant-based, mucusless community I’ve been working to foster is the most diverse plant-based community on the internet. I am very proud of this. In general, I find the online plant-based communities to be very racially and culturally segregated, and this is causing some really strange interpersonal dynamics not yet being addressed.
Although it is important to have spaces where people of various cultural backgrounds come together, there also needs to be spaces where everyone’s realities are brought together and challenged. In our group we have brothers and sisters from the hood interacting with natural health practitioners from Asia, while Australians get to know folks from Mexico and Italy, etc.
Though my academic expertise is in music of the African diaspora, I taught a college course for a couple years entitled Music of World Cultures, in which we explored the major musical forms from around the world. Through music and art we can learn to feel and understand one another beyond socially constructed boundaries. This understanding is something that I bring to the plant-based movement. We must learn to come together, not superficially, but based on a real desire to heal, understand one another, and transform the world together.
On my Youtube channel, blog, and Facebook pages I am mindful to put out a diverse array of content with will appeal to a diversity of learning styles. I have material that range from the sophisticated philosophical and dietetic analysis of works such as Plato’s Cave allegory, to hip hop music videos with puppets talking about eliminating mucus-forming foods. For example, check out a recent upload I worked on with a rapper-puppeteer named Dr. Puppet:
THAT MUCUS – by Prof. Spira, performed by Dr. Puppet
Since you have so much experience at this, what are your top 3-5 tips on making the switch to vegan or plant-based eating for a young person who is currently eating the typical US diet and struggling with his/her weight or health?
- Read the Mucusless Diet Healing System. While doing so, keep an open mind, as its simplicity and unique point of view may challenge you. But pay close attention to its systematic transitional methodology. Anyone can use the transitional methods to permanently get off of meat and dairy products. But, to do so one’s physiology must be transformed gradually.
- Don’t be hard on yourself. Many people I know have tried to go too far too fast, or take short cuts with extreme cleanses or aggressive herbs. I’d avoid things like 21 day fasts or short-term detoxs where you go back to the way you used to eat once it is done. Be patient with yourself and allow your body to cleanse and transform. Short-term quick fixes rarely lead to good results.
- Invest in a good juicer, become acquainted with your local produce wholesalers, and develop a daily juicing habit. Once you get in the habit of buying fruits and vegetables in bulk at the same prices that supermarkets and restaurants pay for them, the concern of juicing large amounts of fruit and vegetables everyday goes away.
- Eat fresh raw fruits every day (unless you happen to be fasting).
- Consider the prospect of colon irrigation. I know that some may be a bit frightened of the idea, but doing them in the beginning to get the decades of old waste out of your intestines can in itself transform your life. One of the things that helped me cleanse my body and get the meat poisons (along with tapeworms, fungus, and other parasites), out of my system was the use of lemon juice and distilled water enemas. Herbal intestinal brooms can be good, but they do not compare in any way to lemon juice enemas. For detailed instruction on lemon juice enemas, see my book Spira Speaks: Dialogs and Essays on the Mucusless Diet.
Any closing comments or words of wisdom, especially for the fellas?
Years ago, I never thought I’d be talking with people about health and helping them to heal. I am first and foremost a musician. I chose the path of music because it fulfilled me spiritually, and it was this path that led me to the ORIGINAL Vegan Diet, which is the Mucusless Diet. Since music speaks louder than words, I will leave you with a bit of plant-based funk I just recorded and posted a few days ago. I hope you enjoy!
Peace, Love, and Breath!
Visit Professor Spira‘s blog to learn more about his mucus-free health coaching services and books.
Category: Veganism and African Americans