Our contemporary society sees diseases as a variety of conditions that have each been given a name, often with a classical Latin signature. For example, Lupus erythematosus is simply a descriptive term meaning "red wolf." The name was derived from the facial appearance of a typical patient with a constellation of symptoms associated with physical factors observed by a physician. The diagnosis is supposedly clinched with an array of laboratory data that confirm the clinical impressions of the physician. The post-fix "itis" means "inflammation of" so that the diagnosis of cystitis means "inflammation of the urinary bladder."
It must be emphasized that back in the middle ages, little or nothing was known about the many different afflictions of the human body. They were often considered to be the work of evil spirits and other mysterious and nebulous phenomena. The first paradigm shift, defined as a major change in accepted thinking, came with the discovery of microorganisms, often referred to simply as "germs." We discovered that many diseases were caused by an invasion of the body by live organisms that we could see only with the aid of a microscope. Everyone is now completely conversant with the concept of infection
as it came to be called. The main result from this was the discovery of the first antibiotics, the sulfa drugs and, of course, penicillin. The antibiotic era had opened.
As everyone now knows, the microorganisms became resistant to each and every antibiotic as they were discovered and introduced for therapy. The drug companies have indulged in an exhaustive and frustrating search for new antibiotics and we are now in a precarious position where resistant hospital related infections are not infrequently lethal. It is very similar to the search by chemical producing companies to find a new insecticide to spray on crops. The insects have learned to become resistant. In each of these cases, the antibiotics and insecticides that have been synthesized are ever increasingly dangerous to our own cells.
We need a new paradigm shift in thinking about our approach to disease and I would like to outline the principles represented by Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM). This form of medical treatment is still in its infancy. It does represent a paradigm shift, but there are many predictable factors that prohibit its wide acceptance by mainstream medicine. Indeed, we must remind ourselves that Louis Pasteur spent only 20 percent of his career in making his great discoveries. The other 80 percent was spent in trying to persuade his contemporary colleagues to accept them. A paradigm shift treads on a lot of turf and creates widespread anger among people that are being told that they are on the wrong track, often when they have spent a lifetime in pursuing it.
THE PARADIGM SHIFT IS DEFENSE
On his death bed, Louis Pasteur said, "It is the terrain that is more important." He had realized that the body is attacked by the microorganisms and its defenses are the key to preventing a
successful attack. In order to understand the principles underlying CAM thinking, it is necessary to think of the human body as a fuel-burning machine. This idea is often offensive to people who loudly proclaim that "there is more to human life than just plain chemistry." We have invented words like soul and spirit without really knowing exactly what we are envisioning. Whether they exist as such is not the subject of this discussion. It is true that to call the body a fuel-burning machine is an over-simplification but we have to try to get back to first principles.
It is estimated that an adult human body consists of 70 to 100 trillion cells, each of which can be thought of as a unit of function that has to manufacture the energy that enables its functional program to work It is now known that the energy production is performed by organelles called mitochondria within each cell. They are so small that their structure can only be seen with an electron
microscope. We know also that our mitochondria have their own set of genes in addition to the cellular genes that are inherited from both our parents. Cellular genes govern our inherited characteristics like the color of eyes etc. Mitochondrial genes govern the mechanisms of energy production.
Another important discovery is that our mitochondrial genes are passed to all her children from the mother only.
Why is this important? Well, a person might inherit a near-perfect set of cellular genes, leading to near perfect structural formation of the body, while the mitochondrial action is defective because of imperfection in that set of genes. To use a simple analogy, it would be like buying a car that was as near perfect as possible but had been equipped with an underpowered engine. Such a car might behave very well on a level road but show symptoms of its difficulties when climbing a hill. Maternal inheritance also is able to suggest the nature of an illness in a child whose symptoms are similar to those of the mother. To continue the analogy, a hill that a car has to climb on its journey is the equivalent of the "stress" that each one of us encounters in the journey of life. Stress can be defined as anything that we encounter on a daily basis and includes both mental and physical forces. We have to sense and meet our environment in terms of changes of temperature, barometric pressure, humidity and all the changes of season and, to these, we have to make changes in the body that are adaptive in nature. Let us see what we mean by adaptation, the key to our survival as a species and as individuals in a hostile environment. How do we compute all the necessary actions that involve the brain/body functions that enable us to adjust to these constant changes?
Freud envisioned two brains, the conscious and the subconscious. He had not been introduced to computers since they had not yet been invented and although we do not yet understand the mechanism of consciousness, the activity of the subconscious, or limbic system, is certainly that of a very complex computer.
The cognitive and limbic systems are in constant communication and the cognitive, besides performing the action of thinking, modifies the more primitive actions of the limbic system. The lower part of the diagram represents the body and the mechanisms of communication with the brain. The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic represent an automatic (autonomic) nervous system that is controlled by the limbic system. The two arms work in opposition to each other. For example, the Sympathetic arm, when signaled by the brain, will accelerate the heart while the Parasympathetic will slow it down. When we are at rest, the heart will be beating at a speed that is intermediate between fast and slow, known as the resting pulse. The autonomic system is then in balance. None of this is a thought process and has nothing to do with psychology. It is automatically regulated by the (hardware programming within the) "computer" that senses the changes and, under normal healthy conditions, reacts accordingly.
The Endocrine System is a bunch of glands that release hormones. The release of these hormones is under the command of the limbic system and they must be thought of as messengers that carry their messages to the body cells. The brain "talks" to the body; the body, through a whole series of intracellular messengers, "talks" to itself and the body "talks" back to the brain. It is a three-way street. What we have to understand is that the "language of communication" is in the form of chemical substances. A major part of modern research is in trying to understand this language. It is mindful of the way that insects can communicate by passing a chemical substance from antenna to antenna. It is also true that electricity is part of the communication, although this part of the orchestration is far from
clear at the present time.
An extraordinarily important part of this is a daily rhythm of the body that is controlled by a biologic clock in the (hardware programming of the) "computer." This is known as circadian rhythm. The word circadian means "about 24 hours." At about 4 pm the computer (hardware programming) is beginning to shut down the endocrine system, perhaps to conserve energy during the night hours. At 4 am it is beginning to awaken the system for the day activities. Our biologic systems are geared to the daily rhythms of the sun and moon and the rotation and wobble of the earth on which we live. Our civilization has altered or modified our existence so much that we seldom give any consideration to these biologic mechanisms that worked so well when we lived by sunset and sunrise.
We can think of the brain/body as like an orchestra. The organs in the body are like the banks of instruments that make up an orchestra and the conductor is the limbic system that has to communicate with the instruments in order to play the "symphony of health." We can also think of it as like a fort that has to be defended against all kinds of environmental foes. The commander of the fort is again the limbic system and the cells in the body can be thought of as the defenders that have to get their orders from the commander in order to perform an efficient defense. There has to be a constant line of communication.
Notice that the input to the "computer" (software and hardware programming) is "environmental stresses." This means that absolutely everything that we encounter in our daily lives represents an input to the "computer" (external interface, i.e. our senses including internal input from emotional responses to the external stimuli) where it is constantly data processed for a "decision" as to how we must adapt to each and every input signal. The "computer" (programming) must be notified when we are attacked by a microorganism and it then organizes the defenses of the "fort" as we depicted the body. We tend to use the word "stress" in an inadequate way, thinking of it only as the input of mental images that upset us. Using the analogies and the simple diagram, we can see that physical and mental stresses have to be managed by the "computer" (programmed with the correct applications). We have to adapt to these constant environmental changes.
One of the complex reflexes that most people understand is known as the "fight-or-flight" and its mechanism has been understood for nearly a century. It is a very obvious survival reflex, designed for us to kill the enemy or flee from harm. Imagine a cave man that emerges from his cave and is confronted by a tiger. The image of the tiger is passed into his "programmed interface" and, with the aid of memory that tells him that the animal is dangerous, the reflex is initiated. It is designed for short term action and the man's brain becomes unusually alert. His pupils dilate to give him better vision. His heart starts to race to provide more oxygenated blood to the body and he begins to sweat in order to get rid of excess heat during the physical exertion that is required. It is easy to see that this is a beautifully designed mechanism that gives the man a better chance of survival. It is to be noted, however, that it consumes an enormous amount of energy.
We no longer are confronted by tigers, the stressors of the past. Our daily lives encounter different forms of stress that are essentially artificial as related to civilization. Money, marital discord, driving in traffic, night work, deadlines and aggressive bosses make up the kind of stress to which we are subjected and they are often prolonged and chronic so that our fight-or-flight mechanisms are over-taxed and energy consumption is high.
It is the limbic system that contains all the primitive reflexes for our individual survival. The thirst and hunger mechanisms are initiated here, for we cannot survive without water and food. Our primitive sex drive is controlled here since it governs the survival of the species. Our automatic breathing mechanism is controlled from the part of the brain known as the brainstem and the cough and sneeze reflexes are automated. When we go to sleep our automatic breathing control takes over the action or we would die and there are conditions where failure of this mechanism is lethal. Coughing and sneezing are reflexes that get rid of a foreign agent that alights on the mucous membrane.
These primitive reflexes can be taken over by more sophisticated parts of the brain when we are conscious. Love making modifies the primitive sex drive and we can sustain hunger and thirst under ordinary conditions of life. Under extraordinary conditions such as war these reflexes can cause us to exhibit extremely primitive behavior. Also, I have encountered many patients that have been studied repeatedly over many months on the assumption that the chronic cough is due to pulmonary disease that is diagnostically elusive. It can represent nothing more that an irritable "computer" (IRQ conflicts) that keeps firing off the cough reflex without there being any initiating cause in the lung. It can be kept going like this, sometimes for years, just because the patient is taking something as simple as coffee!
THE METABOLIC CLIFF
How does all of this help us to see disease in a different context? We must return to thinking of the brain/body as a fuel-burning machine. If the fuel consumption produces enough to meet the demands of activity, the machinery works very well, for it is beautifully designed. But we must turn to the way in which this energy is produced and the simple equation shown here is the key.
Fuel + Oxygen + Catalyst = Energy
Gasoline in a car is mixed with air and the oxygen combines with the fuel to create an explosion, ignited by a spark plug. The energy from the explosion is guided through a series of levers that enable to wheels to rotate and move the car. The human body has the same problem, but the details are widely different. Protein, fat and carbohydrate are the collective equivalent of gasoline.
The reason that we breath is to extract oxygen from the air and it is then transported by the blood to the tissues where it combines with the fuel in a complex series of carefully controlled biochemical reactions. The catalysts are vitamins and minerals, the equivalent of the spark plug. The energy derived from this is partly in the form of heat and that is why our bodies are warm. The energy that enables cells to function properly is stored in a high energy storage form known as ATP. As an example, it can be compared with coal, another naturally occurring form of energy storage, but it is far more sophisticated in its action. As ATP is produced, so is it used to carry out the various actions of the cells that use it. There must
always be a balance between its production and its use and if use is excessive and the demand cannot be met, a deficit must result.
Here we must note that the brain uses more energy than any other tissue in the body and this is particularly important in the lower, limbic system brain since it is the "computer" (CPU kernel) and works 24 hours a day. We may not be aware of this inordinate consumption of energy since there is no obvious physical evidence. We can envision the use of energy when we run a mile or dig a ditch and are not surprised by the fatigue that follows. But those that use their brains for their livelihood know that this is more fatiguing than digging ditches. Thus, we find that there are many conditions, particularly in growing children, where the process of oxidation (the combination of fuel with oxygen) is compromised and the result is various forms of mental abnormality. That is why Hyperbaric Oxygen (pure oxygen administered under pressure) can be so beneficial in many different conditions. On the other hand, the commonest deficiency in this equation is the catalysts, the vitamins and minerals, and that is why their administration is invariably beneficial to virtually every disease known.
Why do we have to use what is sometimes called megadoses of vitamins and minerals in the treatment of disease? Well, these catalysts are necessary for the efficient use of the enzymes that do all the actions of the body that enable us to orchestrate our total function. Over a period of time, a marginal deficiency of these nutrients results in loss of efficiency in the enzymes and they no longer
respond to the small amounts of vitamins and minerals that are referred to as the RDA (regular daily allowance).
I started this section under the title of the "metabolic cliff" and now I think that I can explain what I mean. Let us imagine that someone has inherited an excellent brain that dictates for great intelligence. He (the male sex for convenience) shows every sign of this in the early stages of his development. The food, however, is marginally deficient and his energy production is lagging behind the
tremendous growth and function that his cellular genes require. Or perhaps his mitochondrial genes, responsible for running the engines of his cells are compromised. At some point in time, he begins to
show evidence of regression and slowing down of his development. Or perhaps this is associated with some form of stress that is imposed on him. This could be an inoculation, a relatively simple infectious illness or even an injury, particularly to the head. I would suggest that this infant was born on the edge of a "metabolic cliff." The stress factor pushed him over the edge!
I know of many instances in my own experience where this has happened and the medical literature tells us that some marginal states of metabolic deficiency are compatible with reasonably normal life until there is a superimposed infection, injury or inoculation. The result is the expression of symptoms that do not afflict that individual prior to the imposition of the stress factor. One could say that such an individual lives on the edge of a "metabolic cliff." Diabetes is at least partly determined by genetic influence and it is known that it might not develop until the individual has an infection or other stress. It might even be precipitated by reading a telegram that delivers bad news.
There is a historical example of this. In China, many years ago, the factory workers, living mainly on rice, would take their lunch together in the early summer in the corridor between the factory buildings. As the sun came round it would shine into the corridor and the workers would begin to feel the warmth. A number of them would often develop neurological symptoms that were the very first signs of beriberi, the vitamin deficiency disease that raged in the East for thousands of years and still does. The sun has to be seen as the "stress factor" that caused them to slip off the metabolic cliff. It
is no wonder that the disease was thought to be due to infection before its real cause was discovered, since several people would develop symptoms at the same time.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE DIET IN AMERICA?
A common diagnosis that I make is "marginal malnutrition." So what do I mean by it? The nutritional diseases that were researched in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were beriberi, pellagra and scurvy. All were found to be due to various deficiencies of vitamins. After their discovery, it seemed easy to abolish them by making sure that
had sufficient vitamin content. Most physicians have the rooted idea that these diseases have indeed been abolished and when they encounter symptoms that are, in reality, those of nutritional deficiency, they constantly look for other causes that might be termed "more modern and in keeping with our science." It is a fact that the symptoms from classic nutritional diseases overlap each other and the common denominator is an effect on the nervous system, particularly the autonomic nervous system that is controlled by the "hardware programming" as we have already discussed. Furthermore, the classical forms of these diseases are rarely seen and one is faced with an assortment of disturbances of the autonomic and endocrine systems that are produced by a marginal state of malnutrition.
If we examine again the simple equation above, there are three components that have to come together to produce energy efficiently. Many of us will remember that we used to have a choke mechanism in our cars. This introduced a rich mixture to the cylinders when the engine was cold. If the choke mechanism became stuck as it sometimes did, the result would be a definite decline in the running
characteristics of the engine and black smoke, representing unburned hydrocarbons came out of the exhaust pipe. Thus, if we give the body too many calorie-bearing food substances it is very much like choking
the engine of a car. If we are deprived of vitamins and minerals, we die of malnutrition. If we are deprived of oxygen, we suffocate and if we are deprived of calories we die of starvation. All three are
necessary in a balanced relationship that was imposed on us by the genius of Mother Nature.
Marginal malnutrition is widespread in America. This is because our culture encourages the ingestion of high calorie substances that have no nutrient density. They are devoid of the vitamins and minerals that are normally contained in what I call 'God made food.' High calorie malnutrition of this nature is sometimes referred to as "empty calories." The dominant substances in this class are the sweets, the chocolate, the carbonated beverages: these are the simple carbohydrates that give us so much pleasure but choke our engines. Furthermore, we add caffeine in many different ways and that causes the consumption of energy that makes us "feel good." I have already stated that energy is made and used in a balanced relationship. If the cells in our bodies are having a hard time keeping up with the energy consumption, then caffeine will only make things worse in the long run. We are getting the illusion that we "have more energy," whereas in reality we are consuming it faster than ever and, if we are already malnourished, we can ill afford this kind of stimulation.
By far the commonest symptom that I hear is fatigue and it is always amazing to hear about the humongous rate at which coffee is consumed daily. We all know people that state that they are unable to go to work until they have consumed at least one cup of black coffee. They often conclude that "my body needs it" whereas they are really getting a "high" from a drug. Most of them never conclude that their headaches are due to coffee drinking because they are well aware that a headache will disappear when they consume yet another cup of this beverage. We all recognize that a cocaine user has to have another dose of the drug to reverse the withdrawal symptoms that are experienced when its effect wears off. All addictive drugs, of which group coffee is a member, have withdrawal symptoms of this nature.
Some are much more severe but the principle is the same.
The most important thing that I have learned in my medical career is the fact that the "hardware programming" in our brains becomes much more responsive to incoming stimuli when its energy producing mechanisms are made to be inefficient. The easiest and quickest way to do this is through high calorie marginal malnutrition. Remember that the limbic brain is our most primitive one and our behavior consequently becomes more primitive, releasing the reflex actions that it controls too easily. An example of this is the extremely common complaint of "I have panic attacks doctor!" These are simply fight-or-flight reflexes that are initiated without there being any environmental cause. There is a
good deal of evidence that this form of malnutrition is responsible for behavioral activity that is inexplicable if a person is in a normal state of brain chemistry. It can explain the senselessness of
vandalism and juvenile delinquency that is so common today. It might even explain President Clinton's behavior since he was pictured commonly as a "junk food junkie" and our most primitive sex drive
comes from the "computer" (that has visited one too many porn sites without parental settings or virus protection).
The point is this! Our "hardware" driven activities are just beneath the surface of our cognitively controlled behavior. The upper brain (activities, or thought processes) impose restrictions on the (lower) "computer" brain (functions, i.e. CPU kernel program) that explains what we are pleased to call civilized behavior. If the hardware "computer" programming becomes dominant and takes over the action, the cognitive may well be aware of what is happening, but powerless to stop the action. This explains why we go back to our particular form of addiction under stressful circumstances. A bereaved alcoholic who has recovered may start drinking again. A sugar addict may go again for the sugar after a confrontation with mother-in-law or the boss.
The conventional approach to disease is to make a diagnosis as already discussed. It is regarded as being confirmed as a disease entity if and when the laboratory tests prove that the diagnostic conclusions of the physician, after interviewing the patient, are correct. The laboratory is the true "acid test." The other unfortunate mistake in our concepts is that everything below the neck
is "physical or organic" and everything above it is "mental." If no laboratory evidence is forthcoming, the complaints of the patient are deemed to be "psychosomatic or functional." The word functional is,
in the minds of most physicians, synonymous with "neurotic" and it is not surprising that many people feel as though they are being accused of fraudulent or imaginary symptoms.
I believe that this is a totally wrong concept. Many of the patients that I see have absolutely no conventional laboratory tests positive and they have often been treated as people that should be referred to a psychiatrist. By seeing the "model" that I have discussed above, it should be obvious that nothing happens in the body without notification to the brain and vice versa. Thus, abnormal function or "functional disease" can be seen as abnormal chemistry in the way that the brain and body communicate with each other. If the "computer" (lower brain activity) has become too easily activated by input stimuli from inefficient chemistry in its cells, it sends out signals that may be "emotional" or "physical" or a combination of both.
Perhaps the best way to emphasize this is by describing a common condition that is believed to affect as many as 30 million women in the U.S. It is called Pre Menstrual Syndrome and it represents a good example of how sick people "fall between the cracks" in our present medical model of disease. This is a condition where function is indeed disturbed and it depends on activity in the limbic "computer" (CPU kernel) that, as we have reviewed, controls the endocrine/ autonomic axis. It relates to brain rhythms that are managed by a biologic clock in the "hardware application."
There may be many different rhythms in our "computer hardware." The ones that we know about are the daily one known as circadian, already described. The other one is the 28 day rhythm in women that governs the menstrual cycle. Is it a coincidence that the lunar cycle is also 28 days? We do not know if men have this rhythm because there is nothing to show for it, but I would think that it is very likely nevertheless. At the beginning of the menstrual cycle the "CPU" sends a signal to the endocrine gland that releases a hormone. Hormones are really messengers and as they travel around in the blood they deliver their messages to the cells that are capable of receiving their particular message. But their concentration in the blood on a daily basis is governed by the "ROM addressing" because the hormone comes back to the brain and thus forms a closed biofeedback loop system. Thus the estrogen will gradually rise to the 14th day of the cycle and ovulation takes place. This is followed by another hormone called progesterone and that is withdrawn at or around the 28th day and the period takes place as the lining of the uterus is shed.
The "CPU" is working very hard in this complex arrangement and this is particularly true of the week before the period takes place. That is why, if the "CPU" is unusually reactive as we have described above, the woman becomes much more emotional and may be tiresome to her family. She may develop a migraine at this time if she is prone to this kind of headache and she may have panic attacks
or other so-called psychosomatic symptoms. The cramps, bloating and water retention are also related to faulty metabolism and she may have painful ovulation on the right or left with alternating periods or it may occur only on one side with every other period, depending on whether only one ovary is inflamed or both of them. The inflammation is, however, an internal process that is initiated by signals from the "CPU." It is important to emphasize once more that these symptoms, particularly the emotional ones that are so often misjudged by others, are not "thought processes," they are automated and she cannot help herself at this time even if she wishes to.
In literally hundreds of cases, I have seen all the symptoms of this disappear within a month or so of doing two things. The first thing is to remove "the hair from the dog that has been biting." By that, I mean the so-called "goodies", the coffee, sugar, chocolate, ice cream, milk and milk products and sweets, and in some cases salt. The more these things are craved, the more important it is to remove them completely until the "system resources are reallocated" to settle down into a normally responsive mode. The second thing that is needed is nutritional supplements, not medications and, in most cases in my experience hormones are not required at all.
Because the uterus and ovaries are the organs that are affected, the patient often goes to a gynecologist. If she has diarrhea at this time, she may go to a gastroenterologist and if she has headaches she may see a neurologist. This is because medicine has evolved with the concept that the body is so complex that we have to have experts who treat the various organs or systems. The reality is that the body organs are doing the bidding of a "CPU" that is poorly nourished and is in an extremely reactive state due to metabolic inefficiency.
We have discussed the concept of infection and recognize that the body has to defend itself from such an attack. The current treatment is merely to "kill the enemy" and little thought is given to the energy required to meet the foe as the body is put into its complex defensive mode. I remember the case of a physician of my acquaintance who was treating a patient for a serious and potentially life threatening pneumonia. In addition to the antibiotic, he gave the patient a series of vitamin infusions and she recovered very well. In the next bed was another patient who had pneumonia, being treated by another physician. The first doctor went to the second doctor and suggested to him that he might give the vitamin infusions since they appeared to be instrumental in the recovery of his patient. The second doctor refused to do this because it was "outside the box of common medical experience" and told the first doctor to mind his own business. The patient died. It might have been a useful learning experience for the second doctor but unfortunately, doctors are people and people resist change no matter what kind of profession or work with which they are involved. Naturally, we have all come to recognize the danger of infections and how they attack particular organs. It is just another way of thinking about how such an infection should be addressed.
I firmly believe that some chronic diseases occur after years of "wear and tear" from the dysfunctional mechanisms described under the heading of "functional." Remember that I have emphasized the fact that the "fight-or-flight" reflex is designed for short term escape from extreme danger and is very energy consuming. If we are under a lot of business stress, or other relatively artificial result of
civilization, we are in a chronic state of useless energy consumption. Perhaps the organs (peripherals) that receive the constant barrage of signals from the "CPU" become fatigued or are so affected by overuse that their own mechanisms begin to deteriorate. We must also recognize that faulty nutrition will affect the whole body. The "CPU" may just be the first organ to appreciate the failure and initiate symptoms that give us warning that the terrain is at risk.
Even the diagnosis is often a source of stress and can be detrimental to the course of the disease. "Mrs Jones, I am sorry to tell you that you have cancer." It is now well known that the emotional climate of a patient makes a difference to its course and we must always think of the so-called placebo effect. To believe in the cure is to help the healing process. You can be sure that Mrs Jones goes to her "RAM and files stored on HDD" and reviews all the sad stories about her cancer and that feeds on itself to her detriment. We can fool ourselves with words that we do not truly accept and this has been called lip service. An optimistic belief in a world that has little room for faith in the true sense is hard to come by!
The art and craft of nutritional therapy may well have "discovered" the placebo effect. Perhaps it stimulates an upgrade in the energy required for the brain to direct the resources of the body to perform the healing process. A belief in their power will enhance their effectiveness. The point that I am making here is that a "belief system" in the brain represents a certainty by that person that the desired action will occur. It matters little what the agent is as long as it represents a force considered to be all powerful. A true belief in God is the commonest use of this. It takes energy, however, to perform the necessary task of self healing.
Perhaps an example of the power of the brain is apt. I had a child patient when I was a pediatric oncologist. She had been treated for a Wilm's tumor of the kidney. This is one of the most malignant cancers that affect children and it had metastasized throughout her abdominal cavity. She was in the late stages of cachexia, a state of metabolic decay and examination of her abdomen revealed a whole mass of hard lumps that were metastatic deposits. I told the mother, as kindly as I could, that I had no valid treatment for her at this late stage. She should be allowed to die in the peace of her family environment. The mother responded by saying: "If God will not work through you, I will find a doctor with whom He will work" I heard later that she took the child to Oral Roberts and the entire tumor disappeared. I had letters from the family physician for several years telling me that she was healthy and that no traces of tumor remained.
The trouble with this is that it is considered to be a miracle performed by an all powerful being and it is dismissed as an internal mechanism induced by pure faith in that Being. A miracle can be defined as something that happens that we have no current means for explaining. As soon as the mechanisms are revealed, it ceases to be called a miraculous event. There are many such stories of this nature and we still have no means of understanding what really happens. I like to tell the story of an African native who had crossed the local witch doctor. The witch doctor shook a bone in front of him and laid a curse that would cause him to die. He began a slow process of decay that would lead to his death. A Western clinic in the district tried to rescue him by using all the "powerful weapons of science" at their disposal. The unfortunate patient continued to die slowly. The Western clinic then went to the witch doctor and asked him to remove the curse. He agreed to do this "for a consideration." He then took the same bone, shook it in the face of his former victim and told him that the curse had been removed. The young man immediately began a process that led to full recovery. It was the primitive belief in the witch doctor that created the power for decline as well as recovery. It is very unfortunate that the modern physician has been robbed of this charisma that has always been such an important part of medical treatment. A white coated person with a stethoscope round the neck is usually regarded as "just another person who wields rather shaky scientific tools that may or may not work." It is hardly surprising that the faith factor has disappeared.
I will end with just two more stories to illustrate the brain/body relationship in disease. I have taken care of a charming lady for some years with a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, a true example of an organic disease affecting the bowel. She improved with nutrient treatment but kept relapsing. Her work was onerous and demanding and her ability to relax almost non existent. I referred her to a psychologist that performs biofeedback treatment. His technique is to seat the patient in front of a computer monitor (a real computer monitor, not the metaphor) with Pacman on the screen. Electrodes on the scalp feed the patient's brain waves into an electroencephalogram (EEG) that the psychologist views during treatment. The patient's task is to move Pacman through the electronic maze and consume the nuts as it proceeds. The machinery is set up so that Pacman moves only if the patient is relaxed. If he/she "tries hard to move it," it remains stationary. The process teaches the patient the art of relaxation. Her ulcerative colitis has cleared up and I rarely see her and only for a routine review.
Lastly, I want to tell of a 15 year old boy who came to my office one spring with a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. He was walking with the aid of crutches. I revised his diet and started him on some nutrient supplements. In the following fall he went out for football. The process of nutrient therapy is virtually guaranteed to produce improvement in almost any disease unless irreversible damage has been caused. It is relatively slow in its magic, but has the enormous advantage of being as safe as any therapy that has ever been tried in the history of medicine. It is a joy to be able to state that this kind of medicine has returned to the teaching of Hippocrates, the acknowledged Father of Modern Medicine. He said: "Let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food!