As more people are trying alternative or natural medicine in the form of diets, supplements and numerous treatments, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the hype from the honest truth.
The amount of biased facts or misinformation seems to grow as fast as the quantity of good information. In this column I will attempt to provide you with a distillation of my 35 years of education and 25 years of experience working with thousands of patients.
They call the work of a doctor a medical practice; because that is what we are always doing: practicing to better the art and science of healing.
In order to understand how to heal the body or to stay healthy and avoid disease, we first must look at why we get sick. We get sick because we have become imbalanced in one or more key areas: with stress, nutritional deficiencies, toxicity or infections. The overwhelming cause of these imbalances is poor lifestyle or environment. The media is now telling us how our genes are the root cause of most diseases. In actual fact, only 25 percent of our genes are constitutional and unresponsive to lifestyle modification (can’t be changed by your choices). A full 75 percent of our genes are inducible and therefore subject to lifestyle modification. For example, if you have a genetic predisposition to diabetes or heart disease, you can avoid turning these genes on just by modifying your diet away from excessive simple sugars and starches.
The other key point to keep in mind is that there is rarely, if ever, a single cause for a disease or an illness. All diseases are multi-factorial by nature and therefore require a multi-factorial cure or solution for true healing to occur. The biggest misconception is that one can “catch a cold” just by being exposed to someone with a cold bug. The truth is that a cold is an end-stage process of an opportunistic infection in a person who is stressed, sleep deprived, suffering from nutritional deficiencies due to poor dietary choices and is therefore toxic for all the preceding reasons. A cold is nature’s way of forcing you to slow down, get more rest, drink more healthy liquids such as water and herbal teas and to fast for a while to get rid of toxins. If you were to eat better, get adequate rest and exercise, drink water and herbal teas daily and to go on a detox cleanse twice a year in the spring and fall, you would notice yourself getting fewer colds, flu and any other illnesses.
The four main causes of disease – stress, nutritional deficiencies, toxicity and infections – are all interrelated and progressive. What I mean by this is that usually a strong and persistent stressor in your life will lead to a specific nutrient deficiency, even if you are eating an ideal, organic vegetarian diet. This is because your nutritional needs under a strong stress skyrocket. Your adrenal glands, which are the stress organ of the body, require massive amounts of vitamins B-5 and C under stress. So unless you were compensating by eating extra food sources of C and B-5, it is likely that you will be temporarily deficient in these specific nutrients. The lack of vitamin C will result in a decrease in your body’s ability to detoxify both internally and externally derived toxins. This will lead to an increased toxicity of your system and a decrease in your immune system effectiveness. Therefore, if you are exposed to a novel virus or bacteria under these conditions, you will come down with a cold or flu. We are exposed to viruses and bacteria every day and 99 percent of us never get sick unless we have one or more of these factors operating in our system: stress, deficiency or toxicity.
This multi-factorial theory of disease has come to be known as the “Loading Theory.” We only get sick when we have become over-loaded with these key factors. The more loaded we become with stress, deficiencies, toxins and infections, the more susceptible we become to disease. Modern medicine focuses on the last drop in the bucket as the “cause” of disease, when in actual fact it is the over-all loading of multiple causes created by excessive stress and poor lifestyle choices.
It is interesting to see science discovering a bacterial, viral or fungal infection behind many diseases. We now understand that chronic sinusitis is caused by a fungal infection and not bacterial as we once thought. Treating sinus infections with antibiotics only promotes more fungal growth. The plaque in arteriosclerosis is now thought to be partly caused by infection of the chlamydia bacteria. Certain arthritis conditions have been determined to be infections of mycobacterium. Stomach ulcers have now been found to be infections of H.pylori.
Are all of these conditions infections that have surreptitiously invaded the person’s tissues and “caused” the disease in question? No. The infections are the end-stage of a lengthy progression and over-loading on the body’s ability to seek equilibrium and health.
As an example, let’s take the case of a patient named Joe who goes to his doctor with a persistent stomachache and is diagnosed to have a stomach ulcer “caused” by an infection of H.pylori bacteria. Joe is given an antibiotic to take for six weeks and is told afterwards that he is “cured” of his ulcer. Is this really what has occurred? In my opinion, Joe has had his symptom removed by the eradication of the H.pylori, but he has been set up for further problems of an intestinal yeast infection, food allergies and eventually leaky gut syndrome and a progressive worsening of his overall health condition and the appearance of new and seemingly unrelated symptoms and health problems. In actual fact, his job stress as a salesman caused his stomach to secrete excess acid on a regular basis. In an attempt to deal with his stress, Joe began to drink more alcohol to calm him in the evening and more alcohol at lunchtime to relieve stress during the day. The increased intake caused him to be tired and hung-over in the mornings so Joe increased his two-cup-a-day coffee habit to five or six cups. The alcohol and coffee caused Joe’s stomach to release even more acid. This constant state of hyperacidity in his stomach caused a chronic state of stomach inflammation called gastritis. Since his eating habits weren’t the greatest, including skipping breakfast and eating fast foods at lunch and rich fatty foods at dinner, his body didn’t have the healing capacity to resolve the stomach inflammation. He slowly became more toxic from his drinking and eating habits, which led to an impaired immune system. This impaired immunity led to an overgrowth of the bacteria H.pylori in the lining of his inflamed stomach, which eventually led to the development of an ulcer. The H.pylori did not suddenly appear in Joe’s stomach, but was actually present all along, as it is in the majority of the population.
By coincidence, Joe’s sales partner Frank also developed an ulcer around the same time. However, Frank went to see a naturopathic doctor on the prodding of his wife. The naturopathic doctor correctly diagnosed a stomach ulcer, but instead of giving Frank an antibiotic, gave him some natural remedies such as mastic gum which is known to eliminate H.pylori, and deglycerized licorice extract to heal the ulcer and stomach lining. She also counseled Frank on how to reduce the negative effects of stress through meditation and deep breathing. She worked with Frank on his diet to reduce acid-releasing foods such as coffee and alcohol and to eat more nutritious wholesome foods. She also led Frank through a month-long detoxification program to reduce the overall toxic load on his system. Frank emerged from his treatments with more energy, less weight and the prospect of looking forward to more enjoyment and fulfillment with his work and family life. Frank became interested in his health for the first time in his life, started to become more proactive in his lifestyle, and began to go for walks with his wife instead of watching sports on TV every weekend. As Joe began to age more quickly, he looked at Frank’s youthful appearance and energy and blamed it on Frank’s superior genes compared to his own.
The first thing we learn in naturopathic college is to “treat the cause.” When you actually take the time to examine the true cause of disease, the cure is attainable and profound. It is my wish that medical and naturopathic doctors can work together as a team, in order to obtain the best that integrated medicine can offer to our patients.
Dr. Stefan Kuprowsky