James Maskell: Dr. Larry Palevsky is speaking, and he’s speaking on the pediatrics day. He’s an awesome doctor. He was lecturing about the microbiome five years ago, before the human microbiome came out. And so I asked him, he spoke at my Functional Forum, and he brought up some concepts that were new, and I was sitting next to storied integrative medicine doctors who were just sort of blown away. And his thought is this: We all know now that 99% of our bacteria and fungus and viruses and so forth are mutually beneficial, and they help us, and they help with metabolism and digestion and immunity. That’s our sort of main understanding. So I asked him, “Dr. Palevsky, what are we going to learn next? What are we really going to understand next about the microbiome that we don’t understand now?” And he basically—you have to listen to it on the summit, but he basically says this—“We have trillions of non-redundant viruses in our chromosomes, in our DNA. So these are trillions of viruses that we’ve evolved with over time.” And so his question is, “When you get a viral illness, how many more viruses have to come into the body for you to get a viral illness? 10? 20? 100?” I mean, when you look at the numbers compared to what’s actually in our chromosomes and in our DNA, the numbers just don’t add up. His thought is, and his concept is, that these viruses, there’s different transmission mechanisms. His thought is that the next understanding that we’re going to have of the microbiome, the next level of understanding is going to be that the body and these viruses work together to be able to return the body to homeostasis. So when you get to a point where the body is just so stressed and there’s too many toxins and things for it to deal with, and it can’t get back to homeostasis by itself, it communes with viruses to be able to instigate what we think of as a viral illness, to be able to get the patient to just slow down, so that we can get back to homeostasis. And it made such an impression on me because I had a friend last year who got viral pneumonia. And what was happening before viral pneumonia? She was working for three months on a project about 15 hours a day. And suddenly, it finished and she did great with it, and then she was sick for a month with viral pneumonia. So what, pneumonia just came along and attacked at that moment? Obviously, not. So I’d love to get your thoughts on that. Because when he shared that, I was like, “This seems so obvious.” And I’m really excited to think what our understanding is going to be like when we start to appreciate that our evolution with viruses is a big part of our evolution, and that there may be a lot more to it than thinking a virus is just something that comes from outside all the time.
James Maskell is the host of our podcast and flagship show, the Functional Forum, the world’s largest integrative medicine community. He is on a mission to create structures necessary to evolve humanity beyond chronic disease. He lectures internationally and has been featured on TEDx, TEDMED and HuffPostLive and also founder of KNEW Health, a payer solution for chronic disease reversal.
Chris Kresser: I think that’s like the biggest change we’re going to see, is the nature of this device will change people’s awareness of health, and that’s incredible to think about. There are so many people who are interested in tech that aren’t necessarily that interested in health. But due to their interest in tech, they’re going to become interested in health, just because that’s going to be one of the main implementations of the iWatch. And as you said, there’s going to be such a big community of people developing software. And what we notice and pay attention to is what we can change. If we’re not aware of something, we can’t change it. And that, to me, is the most exciting factor of this new technology. It’s really going to dramatically increase people’s awareness of things—like how many steps they’re taking, and what kind of food they’re eating, and if they’re tracking that, and their heart rate, and how their heart rate variability might correlate to what type of exercise they should be doing that day. And it’s not just about those kind of specific things that they’re becoming aware of. It’s that focusing even on a few specific things like that is inevitably going to expand their awareness around all aspects of their health. So I think it can really be a revolutionary impact. And I know, as a clinician too, I’m really looking forward to having additional ways that I can both support my patients, by referring them to apps and things that can make implementing some of the recommendations that I give them easier and more practical. But if I need to collect data for something, some of these devices are going to make that a lot easier and they’re going to be able to send it back to me in a way that’s very actionable for me as a clinician. It’s a pretty exciting time to be involved in medicine and particularly the evolution of medicine.
Pasteur realized the germs that had been left exposed to the air had been weakened. When the chickens were injected with the weakened germs they had developed immunity to the disease. Pasteur and his team went on to create a vaccine for anthrax by keeping anthrax germs heated to 42-43 degrees centigrade for 8 days. In 1882 they created a vaccine for rabies. A co-worker dried the spines of rabbits that had contracted the disease in glass jars. Pasteur tried giving a series of injections made from the dried spines to animals to test the remedy. Then, in 1885, Pasteur successfully used the vaccine on a boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog. Pasteur also invented a way of sterilizing liquids by heating them (called pasteurization). It was first used for wine (in 1864) and later for milk.
As an alternative form of medicine in India, Unani medicine got deep roots and royal patronage during medieval times. It progressed during Indian sultanate and mughal periods. Unani medicine is very close to Ayurveda. Both are based on theory of the presence of the elements (in Unani, they are considered to be fire, water, earth and air) in the human body. According to followers of Unani medicine, these elements are present in different fluids and their balance leads to health and their imbalance leads to illness.
Throughout the years and across the globe, our understanding of medicine has grown by leaps and bounds. We’ve used plastic and stem cells to build new tracheas for cancer patients. We’ve performed double arm transplants. We’ve even helped a newborn survive a serious heart condition by controlling his internal body temperature and his heart rate with a cold gel and a defibrillator.
Although there is no record to establish when plants were first used for medicinal purposes (herbalism), the use of plants as healing agents, as well as clays and soils is ancient. Over time through emulation of the behavior of fauna a medicinal knowledge base developed and passed between generations. As tribal culture specialized specific castes, shamans and apothecaries fulfilled the role of healer. The first known dentistry dates to c. 7000 BC in Baluchistan where Neolithic dentists used flint-tipped drills and bowstrings. The first known trepanning operation was carried out c. 5000 BC in Ensisheim, France. A possible amputation was carried out c. 4,900 BC in Buthiers-Bulancourt, France.
This week on the Evolution of Medicine podcast we feature one of the world's leading authorities on science-based natural/integrative medicine, Dr. Joe Pizzorno, ND. Dr. Pizzorno is the founder of Bastyr University and he joins us to talk about environmental toxins. He's been on the cutting edge of this topic for several decades and we're excited to welcome to the podcast.
Humans evolved to live as simple hunter-gatherers in small tribal bands. Contemporary humans now have a very different environment and way of life. This change makes present humans vulnerable to a number of health problems, termed "diseases of civilization" and "diseases of affluence". Stone-age humans evolved to live off the land, taking advantage of the resources that were readily available to them. Evolution is slow, and the rapid change from stone-age environments and practices to the world of today is problematic because we are still adapted to stone-age circumstances that no longer apply. This misfit has serious implications for our health. "Modern environments may cause many diseases such as deficiency syndromes like scurvy and rickets".)
The snakeroot plant has traditionally been a tonic in the east to calm patients; it is now used in orthodox medical practice to reduce blood pressure. Doctors in ancient India gave an extract of foxglove to patients with legs swollen by dropsy, an excess of fluid resulting from a weak heart; digitalis, a constituent of foxglove, is now a standard stimulant for the heart. Curare, smeared on the tip of arrows in the Amazonian jungle to paralyze the prey, is an important muscle relaxant in modern surgery.
In the 1830s in Italy, Agostino Bassi traced the silkworm disease muscardine to microorganisms. Meanwhile, in Germany, Theodor Schwann led research on alcoholic fermentation by yeast, proposing that living microorganisms were responsible. Leading chemists, such as Justus von Liebig, seeking solely physicochemical explanations, derided this claim and alleged that Schwann was regressing to vitalism.
The ancient Mesopotamians had no distinction between "rational science" and magic. When a person became ill, doctors would prescribe both magical formulas to be recited as well as medicinal treatments. The earliest medical prescriptions appear in Sumerian during the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2112 BC – c. 2004 BC). The oldest Babylonian texts on medicine date back to the Old Babylonian period in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE. The most extensive Babylonian medical text, however, is the Diagnostic Handbook written by the ummânū, or chief scholar, Esagil-kin-apli of Borsippa, during the reign of the Babylonian king Adad-apla-iddina (1069–1046 BCE). Along with the Egyptians, the Babylonians introduced the practice of diagnosis, prognosis, physical examination, and remedies. In addition, the Diagnostic Handbook introduced the methods of therapy and cause. The text contains a list of medical symptoms and often detailed empirical observations along with logical rules used in combining observed symptoms on the body of a patient with its diagnosis and prognosis. The Diagnostic Handbook was based on a logical set of axioms and assumptions, including the modern view that through the examination and inspection of the symptoms of a patient, it is possible to determine the patient's disease, its cause and future development, and the chances of the patient's recovery. The symptoms and diseases of a patient were treated through therapeutic means such as bandages, herbs and creams.
James pieces together the last twenty five to forty years from the elders of which functional medicine was created. The basis of Functional Medicine is in history of Naturopathic, Chiropractic and Acupuncture along with the nutritional and medical research worlds. The new terminology fits within the paradigm of medicine and allows those in the medical field to grasp the root concepts that have been spoken for the last several hundred to four thousand years. Only now is the science finally catching up to what has been spoken by the elders in those professions.