Absence of Health
Majid Ali, M.D.
On Mount Washburn, Among Mountain Goats
In 1982, on two consecutive July weekends, I lectured at two postgraduate immunology and allergy courses held in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Rather than return home for the intervening days, I escaped to Yellowstone National Park. One day I went for a hike on a trail leading to the peak of Mount Washburn.
It was a warm clear day when I started. The trail meandered through lush meadows brimming with black-eyed susans and many other types of wildflowers. The flower fields blended with the blue-green hills at some distance, and the hills merged into the mountains on the horizon. Some bison herds were easy to spot in the distance. Sometimes I saw deer and large elk close by. These beings seemed at ease with hikers on the trail. Sometimes they seemed to acknowledge my presence among them with knowing looks, and sometimes with indifferent eyes. Chipmunks were everywhere, but their busy schedules didn’t seem to permit any freedom to acknowledge or ignore anyone else. Every now and then I stopped to look at the butterflies. I found myself completely consumed by their dazzling displays of color and flight patterns.
I paused often to look up close at the low shrubs and tall pine trees, and to admire the mosaic of mountains in the distance, with the peaks partly lost in the mist. The frequency of my stops increased as I moved on. Soon I realized that I climbed quite a distance. The high altitude now made me aware of my breathing and increased the need for more frequent stops. I also noticed that there were some clouds above me, and the chill of the high mountain had replaced the warm glow of the sun below in the valley. There were neither bison, elk nor deer around now. At some turns, clusters of mountain goats looked at me, bulging haughtily from steep ledges.
I saw only a few other hikers after taking sharp bends in the trail. I asked one returning hiker how much farther I had to climb to reach the peak. “A couple of miles,” he grinned, “but it’s worth it. There’s a watchtower at the peak, and you can warm up in the cabin for a while.” A couple of miles! My legs suddenly felt limp. I thanked the hiker and moved on. Mountains always pull at me.
The last several hundred yards of the trail were dauntingly steep. Fierce, cold winds and the sheer, raw, unbearable beauty of the place stung my watery eyes. The cabin on the mountaintop gave me the warm shelter I had hoped for. I leaned against the glass wall and simply stared out.
My next memory of those moments on the mountaintop is one I will never forget. The words came from nowhere: Diseases do not descend from mountains.
Where did the words come from? Did I actually hear them? Or did I just imagine them? I do not know, but they shook me hard. I do not recall thinking for one moment about any part of my work in medicine on that trail. There were no thoughts of nutrition, allergy, chemical sensitivity, immunology or pathology. Biopsies of diseased tissues and causes of disease were furthest from my mind. There were no thoughts of genes, environment, no interest in searching for the truth or spirituality, and no notions of mind-over-body healing. Where did the words come from? And why on Mount Washburn of all places? I do not know, but I do believe there is a time and a place for everything. If that is unscientific, I plead guilty.
On the way down the mountain, my thoughts kept drifting back to the words I heard on the mountaintop. Diseases do not descend from mountains. Then, where do they come from?
I had examined more than 50,000 biopsies and surgical pathology specimens in the hospital by that time. Nearly every time I examined a microscopic slide and rendered a pathologic diagnosis I wondered where the disease came from. Where did it begin? More often than not I was left wondering, relying on medical texts that claimed the origins were unknown. Although there was a section in pathology or medicine texts devoted to discussion of the cause of a particular lesion, a description of the initialenergetic-molecular event that triggered a given disease process was nearly always missing. With my microscope, I examined the tail end of the diseases, the ravages of a process that had clearly started much earlier.
WHAT CAUSES A HEART ATTACK?
What causes heart attacks? Of course, plaque formation in coronary arteries! What causes plaque formation? Of course, arteriosclerosis! What causes arteriosclerosis? Of course, cholesterol deposits in the blood vessel walls! Why do cholesterol deposits form there? There are risk factors: obesity, smoking, stress, hypertension and diabetes. How do these risk factors cause cholesterol deposits in the blood vessel walls? Well, they just do! The story of heart disease was related to me at medical school in this fashion.
The way back on a trail always appears to be shorter. It is interesting how perceptions of distance change between the way out and the way back in. Before I realized how much distance I had covered, I began spotting the deer and elk again. The chill of the high mountain air had lifted, leaving the warm glow of the sun. Diseases can only come from within us or from without. The thought amused me. Where else can they come from? I heard myself speak out loud.
Billions of words have been written to explain the cause of heart disease, the number one killer in the United States. Pathology and cardiology texts still say we really do not know what energetic-molecular events initiate the process that culminates in heart attacks. The books and journals literally contain millions of pages devoted to the many theories that have been proposed. There are chapters on multiple risk factors. But still there is no clear agreement among researchers and cardiologists about the cause.
SHAPES OF COLITIS
We excel in the classification of various types of chronic bowel disorders. We have spastic colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s colitis, ischemic colitis, pseudomembranous colitis, collagenous colitis and microscopic colitis. (I remembered wondering about what a “non
microscopic” colitis might be when I first heard the term microscopic colitis.) What energetic-molecular events trigger ulcerative colitis? Our gastroenterology texts are silent on this issue. What energetic-molecular events cause Crohn’s colitis? We do not know. What about collagenous colitis and microscopic colitis? The answers are the same.
Diseases must arise from within! But what is the internal environment of man? What goes into his body and how do his genes regulate their disposition? While the answer seems simple—genes, foods and metabolism—the mind also has to do something with all that. Bad thoughts that populate the mind must in some way affect the gene-food-metabolism interactions —adrenaline surges, neurotransmitter outbursts, anger and hostility must also be factored in. So the internal environment is an integrated energetic-molecular kaleidoscope of gene-food-metabolism-stress interrelationships. My thoughts returned to my microscope.
TYPES OF ARTHRITIS
When I was a young pathologist, I knew of 23 different types of arthritis. Now I know of only three: 1) the arthritis of oxidative injury caused by wear and tear, 2) arthritis of oxidative injury caused by food and environmental triggers, and 3) arthritis of oxidative injury caused by microbes.
The rheumatology texts include descriptions of many types of arthritis of the young. We have rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, migratory arthritis, arthritis of lupus, arthritis of Sjogrens’ disease, arthritis of immune complex disease and Reiter’s arthritis. What do I see with my microscope when I examine slides of joint tissues injured by arthritis? I see inflammatory cells and repair cells, and damaged synovium and cartilage that line the joint spaces. But what are the energetic-molecular events that cause rheumatoid arthritis? The answer is we do not know. What are such events in juvenile arthritis? The answer is we do not know. The answer is the same regarding the initial events in all other types of arthritis.
AUTOIMMUNITY IS IMMUNE BETRAYAL
What are autoimmune disorders? These are disorders in which the immune system of the injured person turns on his own tissues—a bit like an injured dog biting his master’s child in confusion.
How many different types of autoimmune diseases do we see? Many. Is there a body tissue that is exempt from immunologic injury? Hardly. We see immune disorders of the thyroid, adrenal and pancreas glands; of lungs, liver, heart, kidneys and bladder; of skin; and of muscle and nerve tissues. In the thyroid gland we call them hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease and lymphocytic thyroiditis) and hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease). There are, of course, many other variants with different names. What energetic-molecular events set the stage for these disorders? The answers are the same: We do not know. In the adrenal gland, we have hypoadrenalism (Addison’s disease) and hyperadrenalism. What causes these disorders? We do not know.
Down in the valley, black-eyed susans reclaimed the immediate environment of the trail. External environment! What makes up man’s external environment? Air, water, organic and inorganic matter. So, how do air and water cause diseases? Bugs and pollutants, that is the usual party line. What about organic and inorganic matter? Acid rain leaches mercury and aluminum from the soil and dumps them into our drinking water. Almost one-third of the adult patients I see with chronic immune disorders have an increased body burden of toxic metals that directly poison their energy and detoxification enzymes.
Chipmunks are voracious eaters, and those I saw on the trail were busy foraging. Chipmunks hibernate in winter, using the extra body fat they accumulated during their busy months of summer eating. Nature has its own designs for weight regulation and for nutritional balance. We humans also eat voraciously, but we do not hibernate and lose our unnecessary fat overload as chipmunks do. We add to the body burden of fat by ingesting oxidized, denatured fats that clog our molecular pathways. Hibernating periods for people? Not a bad idea! Losing weight while we slumber peacefully would also be an escape from the unrelenting clutter of the cortical monkey. But humans do not hibernate. Perhaps we can use periodic fasting to achieve the same results.
ANTIBIOTICS ARE DESIGNER KILLER MOLECULES
Why do we make antibiotics? To kill microbes! What are microbes? Living beings! Can antibiotics kill one form of life without affecting another? Not for long!
To keep insects from eating our food, we kill them with insecticides—our designer killer molecules. What happens to the insecticides after the insects have been killed? Insects do not metabolize insecticides. The killer molecules must stay in our external environment. How does our industry pollute our external environment? Well, they don’t think they do! Not many doctors believe there is any scientific evidence that pollutants cause diseases anyway. This is the principal reason why the mainstream doctors consider clinical ecologists quacks. How dare clinical ecologists look for the causes of disease in the environment and in nutrition? How dare they speak against drugs—the tools of our trade? Most insecticides are fat-soluble. Human brain tissue loves them, and loathes to give them up once it gets a grip on them. Detoxification of the body is easier said than done. Why do people not die from antibiotic and pesticide poisonings? They do—slowly, insidiously, from autoimmune and degenerative disorders, and without recognizing what has damaged their life-sustaining enzymes.
INJURED HORMONES: MESSED-UP MESSENGERS
What are hormones? Chemical messengers that help cells talk to each other.
Hormonal problems are forever increasing. Many people have cold hands and feet. Many suffer from sugar roller coasters—rapid hyperglycemic-hypoglycemic shifts that trigger adrenaline roller coasters. Many women suffer from PMS, irregular menstrual bleeding and endometriosis. So many have osteoporosis. What initial energetic-molecular events trigger the processes that cause these hormonal dysfunctions? We do not know. We use estrogens to treat osteoporosis—fully recognizing that bone loss is a far more complex process, and that estrogen carries several well recognized hazards. We use synthetic hormones to treat endometriosis. Yet we do not know the cause of it. Endometriosis is unheard of among tribal people living simple lives. When people from tribal cultures emigrate to Western countries, the incidence of endometriosis increases sharply. That observation may give some clues to the cause of endometriosis. But since those clues do not lead to any drug therapies, why bother?
NAME THE CANCER, PLEASE!
How many different types of malignant tumors do we have? Here we really excel. We are so clever at inventing new names for old cancers. In medical school I learned about 22 different types of malignant tumors of the breast. What are the initial energetic-molecular events that cause these tumors? Of course, our medical texts are silent on this critical question. Some cancers grow slowly while others spread quickly. Do we understand the biology of those tumors any better today than we did 30 years ago? No. Do we know why some cancers simply sit in their places for years, while others pulsate and strike at distant places with impunity? No. Do we wonder why lymphocytes (a type of immune cell) vigilantly guard against cancer spread in some instances and not in others? No. Do we know why some people who should die quickly fail to comply with the dogma of medical texts? Do we understand why others who should live for a long time with less aggressive malignant tumors die quickly? No. Does all this keep us from forever renaming old cancers in new ways? Of course not.
Now we have tumor markers—the joy of our cancer specialists. These are molecules produced by tumors that allow tumor specialists to name and re-name cancers in altogether new ways. Now our cancer specialists talk shop among themselves in ways that leave the general practitioners dumbfounded. Do these markers help us understand the tumor-host dynamics any better? I do not know many experienced pathologists who take such claims seriously. Cancer specialists are thrilled with this promise and talk animatedly as they stake out their new territories. These specialists have little tolerance for those who think there are viable alternatives to chemotherapy drugs. Tumor markers provide them with new tools with which to intimidate all those who may challenge them.
Some large elk bones by the trail ended my reverie. Where did the flesh go? Torn clean of the bones by predators—the food cycle! What will happen to the bones? Eventually, they will disintegrate into calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, boron and other minerals that will be recycled into other living beings. And so the food cycle will go on and on. Of all people, the Chinese have the clearest ideas of food cycles in nature. They bring up their children right, feeding them every part of the food, the meat, blood, skin, connective tissue of the joints and cartilage. It matters little whether the animal comes from the mountain or the sea. Everything is cycled completely. They eat their foods fresh, cooked quickly and served steaming hot. But the Chinese face new threats that I’m not sure they can cope with. (During a recent trip to China, we saw American fast-food outlets in all major Chinese cities. It saddened us to see Chinese toddlers digging their little white teeth into American-style deep-fried chicken, cheeseburgers and French fries. What was in that food? Oxidized fats, denatured proteins, starch soaked in a whirlpool of toxic fats, and large quantities of salt. If that does not ruin the taste buds of little Chinese children, I don’t know what will. Are the Chinese strong enough to withstand the American marketing genius? I wondered.)
|COOKED COLLAGEN: THE CHINESE PRESCRIPTION FOR HEALTHY SKIN INJECTED COLLAGEN: THE AMERICAN PRESCRIPTION FOR WRINKLES|
The Chinese are gracious hosts. Robert Bradford, an eminent cancer researcher from San Diego, his wife Carole Bradford, my wife Talat and I got a glimpse of their hospitality during one of our trips to Liu Hua Qiao General Hospital, Guanzhou. Generals Xie Xiang Ao, M.D., Bing Wu He, M.D., and Mei Gong, M.D.—all senior members of the hospital staff—introduced us to many aspects of traditional Chinese concepts of nutrition and of cooking methods. The Chinese also believe in the wisdom of the Talmud: “Only after the Holy One, Blessed is He, created a remedy for the affliction did He send the affliction.” General He told us that the animal feet and joints (with their rich content of collagen) are good for preserving the fair condition of the skin and for ailments of the joints.
I thought about my father, who increased the frequency of a collagen-rich dish made with well-cooked feet of sheep and goat whenever he felt out of sorts. Then I thought about the damaged tissues and scars I have seen in pathology specimens where plastic surgeons injected collagen for cosmetic enhancement. Some enhancement!
TO WHOM DO OUR CELLS BELONG?
When a child has strep throat and we kill the bugs with penicillin, where do the tiny carcasses of the bugs go? Who eats them up? What happens to the bits of their DNA and their enzymes? Injured bacteria are like rabid dogs. They ferociously attack human enzyme defense systems, such as the cytochrome P-450 system. Such bacteria—sometimes referred to as cell wall-deficient forms—are resistant to our antibiotics. They continue to damage a child’s immune system long after his pediatrician thinks the problem is over. And what happens to viruses after they camouflage themselves within human DNA molecules where enzymes cannot reach them? Do our cells belong to us or to the viruses? How many types of infectious diseases are there? Thousands? Maybe more. How do bugs cause diseases? What are the initial energetic-molecular events involved in that process? We talk about specific infectious diseases caused by specific microbes, but do we know why the same microbe kills some people, makes others very sick, barely touches others, and leaves others totally unaffected? What do microbes know that we do not?
In the prevailing model of drug medicine, biopsies are performed to diagnose a disease, then treatment with the drug of choice follows—Choua’s N2D2 medicine.
Where do diseases come from anyway? Do they actually come from Mount Olympus as in Choua’s story? Or from mythical Atlantis, sunk deep in the Atlantic ocean? How do diseases arrive? Do they arrive neatly packaged and clearly labeled—the same way that our disease doctors of drug medicine treasure them. Do healthy cells ever go to sleep one evening and wake up sick the next morning? Is that how diseases begin? Do healthy cells ever suddenly pronounce themselves dead?
There must be something in between—something that separates a state of disease from a state of absence of health—a state in which there is absence of disease and absence of health. A person in this state knows he is not well, but the physician is not convinced that his patient suffers from any disease—the old all-in-the-head standby.
If a state of absence of health separates a state of health from a state of disease, then that must be our focus in preventive medicine. Could it be that the key to understanding the beginning of disease is in understanding the state of absence of health? Could it be the reason we do not understand the beginning of any disease in mainstream medicine is because we reject that such a state can exist?
Are You Suffering From Absence of Health?
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