Brain Health with Dr. Steven Masley: Rational Wellness Podcast 039

Dr. Steven Masley explains how to improve your brain health with Dr. Ben Weitz. 

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1:30 I asked Dr. Masley how he came to write a book about the brain? Dr. Masley just published The Better Brain Solutionhttps://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-better-brain-solution-steven-masley-md/1126646685#/    Dr. Masley explained that in his clinic he looks at 100 markers of aging. He looks at arterial plaque growth, cholesterol, lipids, sugar, etc. He also looks at brain function, brain processing speed, memory, attention span, reactivity, and executive brain function. He also looks at food intake, nutrient intake, fitness, stress management, and toxic exposure. He has an easy to follow five step plan that improves brain processing speed by 25-30%.

2:45 I answered that that is great because cognitive problems, neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease, are really on the rise and are now the leading cause of death in women, exceeding even cardiac and breast cancer. Dr. Masley said that he agreed and the number one most expensive disease is memory loss at $215 million per year and that is supposed to double in the next 12-15 years. It’s because the number one cause of memory loss is elevated blood sugar. I mentioned that some practitioners are now calling Alzheimer’s Disease Type III Diabetes due to this relationship between blood sugar and insulin resistance.

3:58 I asked Dr. Masley to explain what does blood sugar have to do with the brain? Dr. Masley said that it has to do with insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that helps us to store energy. When we eat carbs, whether it’s a healthy carb like broccoli or blueberries or whether it’s a refined carb, which causes a much bigger blood sugar surge like sugar or flour, the insulin rises in order to push the sugar into the cell. That’s a normal function, just like muscle cells. We push glucose in, and we build glycogen. When we go for our next workout, that glycogen in that muscle cell is ready to burn as energy. The challenge is if we don’t have a healthy lifestyle …if we don’t work out enough; if we eat too many refined carbs … our cells become full. They no longer respond to insulin. In fact, they become insulin-resistant. Once they’re full of energy, they say, “No, we’re not listening any more. We can’t store any more energy.”

Dr. Masley continued to explain that when brain cells become full of glucose, they shut down and stop working. Insulin resistance makes brain cells unable to process and use energy, so if we do a PET scan on the brain of someone who’s super fit and healthy, it would likely light up like a Christmas tree. When we do a PET scan and we look at energy burn on brain cells in patients with insulin resistance, it’s pretty quiet.  The brain is unable to process glucose’s energy. It’s dysfunctional. They have brain fog. They’re forgetful. They walk into a room; they don’t know why they’re there. They read a passage in a book, and they have to keep rereading paragraphs and they can’t remember people’s names.  Their brain’s not functioning, and if that’s not just a day or so, but it’s ongoing, that insulin resistance state, the brain cells being unable to use energy, they become dysfunctional. Then they die, and if they die, then every time a brain cell dies, the brain shrinks a little bit. If you have millions of brain cells dying, your brain is shrinking a lot, so insulin resistance, this abnormal blood sugar regulation, literally makes us unable to use our brain, shuts our brain down, kills off our brain cells, and it’s shrinking our brain. Nobody should want a shrunken brain. That’s what’s happening with this whole process, and it’s just … Who would’ve thought, at a time when blood sugar levels are high, that our brain cells would be starving? That’s normal physiology. That’s how our body works.

6:41  I interjected that an easy answer is to just have 10 Diet Cokes a day. We see what that does to brain shrinkage. Dr. Masley answered, Yeah, just shrink your brain like a grape to a raisin as quickly as humanly possible. That would be an effective way to finish yourself off.

7:03 I asked what is the best way to test for cognitive decline in your office? Dr. Masley answered that while there are many labs we could look at, like thyroid and blood sugar and sodium and mercury and B12, but he does cognitive testing on the computer.  These tests measure how your brain functions, looking at memory, both word memory and visual memory, as well as at brain processing speed and the ability to focus.  By doing such computer cognitive testing on a computer he can detect that someone’s having gradual cognitive decline 20 years before they have real memory loss, which gives you plenty of time to try to prevent it.

8:04 I asked which test he likes the best? Dr. Masley said that he uses CNS Vital Signs, Central Nervous System Vital Signs.

8:19 I said that in your book, The Better Brain Solution, you mention you write about 12 foods that will promote brain health. Which are these brain-healthy foods?

Dr. Masley said that he organizes these foods into groups. One group would be those with plant pigments, things like green, leafy vegetables; blueberries and cherries, those anthocyanins; dark chocolate. Those pigments literally protect our brain from oxidation and inflammation. They block it. One cup of green leafies a day, and your brain is literally 11 years younger than someone who doesn’t eat green, leafy vegetables. These plant foods are really pretty powerful, and we need more of them. Even coffee is beneficial, whether it’s decaf or not. It’s the pigment in coffe that protects our brain, rather than the caffeine.  Now with coffee, one or two cups of coffee has a benefit, maybe three. Four or more is actually harmful.  We call that a J-shaped curve. A little bit is good; excess is not better. That also applies to alcohol. Red wine in moderation also improves brain function and decreases cognitive decline, one or two servings with dinner.  Hard liquor and beer had no benefit, and if you drink more than two, three servings a day, no! It’s not good. All these are plant pigments, so those are all plant pigments that are good.

Another category is smart fats.  Our brain is mostly fat by weight. It’s 40 percent fish oil by weight, and 60 percent fat. We need healthy fats in our diet, and the idea of a low-fat diet to me is crazy. It’s now a closed case. They did the largest study probably ever with the low-fat diet versus a Mediterranean diet where they added more extra virgin olive oil or they add extra nuts, and by adding nuts or olive oil, brain function improved and cognitive decline slowed down. Those on the low-fat diet, their brains just kept shrinking, and they had increased dementia. Yes, we need healthy fats, like cooking with avocado oil and eating avocados and wild salmon and all the seafood that’s so good for us. Extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, dark chocolate, those are all great fats for our brain that we want more of.

Dr. Masley continued, that we need spices and herbs, because they’re anti-inflammatory. His favorite spices are Italian herbs, especially rosemary, and curry spices like tumeric. Those are very anti-inflammatory and they block oxidation,  He would also include a probiotic in the foods that have been shown to protect their brain.

11:29 I said that in your book, when you were talking about the healthy fats, I noticed that there was one healthy fat that’s really embraced by the functional medicine community today, and that’s coconut oil. It’s frequently mentioned as a fat that you should purposely take to promote brain health, but I get the impression that you’re not entirely convinced that coconut oil is a healthy fat.  Dr. Masley explained that he thinks of MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides) from coconut oil as more of a supplement, which has been used in clinical studies and shown for people with mild cognitive impairment to improve their brain function.  But coconut oil only has 20 percent medium-chain triglycerides and it’s mostly other forms of fat.  Dr. Masley said that he uses coconut milk in his recipes in his Better Brain Solution book. But he doesn’t feel that we have the data for coconut that we do for MCT oil.

Also, there is one cardiac concern about coconut oil in people who have known cardiovascular disease, when we give them coconut oil versus olive oil, they showed endothelial dysfunction. Their arteries literally constricted, and they showed increased oxidation. Dr. Masley doesn’t recommend people with known heart disease or people who are being treated with cholesterol meds add coconut oil, because it can increase cholesterol 50 to 70 points.  For athletes, coconut oil is a great fuel source. If I’m on a two-, three-hour bike ride, I’m probably going to use coconut milk in my shake before I go to get those MCTs. I think of it as a healthy food source. I think it’s probably good for the brain but not proven. It’s great for athletes, but I’m still waiting to see. We don’t have the proof like for olive oil or for nuts or for seafood, which clearly have been shown to have brain help. We don’t have that yet for coconut oil, so I’m glad you asked.

14:01 I asked Dr. Masley if the worry is because of the saturated fat content, and what he thinks about the role of saturated fat in heart disease? Dr. Masley explained that he doesn’t think know that saturated fat is harmful and the bigger question: Is it clean? Does it have pesticides? If you’re eating meat and butter, is it organic? Is it from from a feed lot where they used Round-Up and all these chemicals? He’s much more concerned about, “Is it a clean fat?” than, “Is it saturated fat?”

There’s a caveat to that, which is that the 20% of people who have the APOE-4 genotype.  They tend to have more oxidation, more inflammation, have a higher risk for heart disease, for memory loss, and Alzheimer’s disease.  They tend to have very high cholesterol, so for them, saturated fat tends to increase their cholesterol even more, and there’s actually studies that show in the APOE-4 folks, that more saturated fat increases beta amyloid production.  Those with APOE-4 genotpye should keep saturated fat intake moderate, like no more than one or two servings per day.

16:12  I asked what is the best oil to use for cooking?  Depending upon which chart you look at, there’s a lot of controversy which temperature different oils burn at and which is the best oil to use depending upon what temperature you are cooking at.   Is it okay to use coconut oil at high heats? Dr. Masley said that if you use extra virgin olive oil, the smoke point’s 400, so he never goes above 375.  Coconut oil has an even lower smoke point–350, so it’s not a good oil for high heat cooking, but most people think that it is.  If the smoke point’s 350, he will only use low or medium-low heat. Rather than coconut oil, Dr. Masley prefers to use avocado oil, because it tolerates up to 520 degrees. If you use use coconut oil or coconut milk in a curry or a recipe like that, you should wait til you drop the heat to add it.  For high heat, the best oils are pecan or avocado.

18:07 I asked what constitutes high heat?  Dr. Masley answered that high heat is more than 475 degrees. Medium-high, like when we saute vegetables and protein is about 450-475, so you could use almond or macadamia nut oil. Or you could use pecan or avocado oil. Another alternative would be ghee, clarified butter, which tolerates up to 475 degrees. Regular butter only has a smoke point of 350 degrees and it starts to be damaged and turns brown as with medium to medium-high heat. When you purify it and you cook it at low heat and the foam comes up and you scoop off all those bubbles and you’re just getting it down to an oil that is very stable. Ghee is basically clarified butter and can be heated up to about 475. Also most people who are dairy intolerant can tolerate ghee because almost all of the proteins are gone. 

19:48 I then asked what are the most important supplements for brain health? Dr. Masley talked about the benefits of vitamin D, mixed folates, extra B12 in the methylcobalamin form rather than cyanacobalamin, chromium, and magnesium, which you could get in a two pill multivitamin/mineral. Dr. Masley also recommends fish oil, a probiotic, and curcumin, which comes from the spice turmeric. Rather than test patients for MTHFR, Dr. Masley prefers to just give all of his patients the active form of B vitamins, since it is so safe. 

24:55 I asked Dr. Masley to explain how exercise is important for brain health. Dr. Masley explained that his clinic data demonstrates that the number one factor that improves brain processing speed … literally to make your brain quicker, sharper, more productive … is fitness. It’s not about how many minutes spent per week.  All the relationship is with how aerobically fit you are and your muscle mass and strength. Independently, aerobic fitness clearly helps brain processing speed and even increases the size of your brain and helps improve insulin resistance, which is the number one cause for memory loss. Strength training does, too. Independent to aerobic activity, adding more strength training, adding more strength, muscle mass, improves insulin resistance. It helps enlarge the brain. You get brain derived neurotropic factor BDNF that goes up.  80-year olds have been shown to increase the size of their brain when they add strength training, so we really want both aerobic work and we want strength training on a regular basis. 

26:44 I asked about the dosage–How long do people need to exercise for? How much should be strength versus cardiovascular training, and how many times a week should they exercise?  Dr. Masley answered that he does  fitness testing in his office, so all his patients are required to come in and do push-ups and sit-ups and sit and reach and VO2 Max Stress testing. They show up in gym attire, and that’s what my patients expect. Other doctors’ offices, they get a blood pressure. With Dr. Masley, they’re doing push-ups and running up a hill. He goes through their nutrient intake and harasses them over their food.  Dr. Masley explained that when he measures fitness, he compares his patients to their age group and he’d like them to be in the top third for someone 10 years younger than their age. Dr. Masley feels that 20 minutes of intense interval training three days per week can give you the same benefit 30 minutes of moderate activity five days per week.  An ideal routine would be do intervals three times a week, strength training twice a week and then add yoga once a week and then do a moderate, long thing on the weekend, like a 23-mile bike ride or like a two-hour bike.

28:57 I asked Dr. Masley about the software program Heart Math, which he talks about in his book?  Dr. Masley explained that with Heart Math the patient is hooked up to a monitor to measure their heart rate variability and they are asked to do a meditation exercise and see how calm and relaxed they can get in two minutes. Most patients are so stressed out that they are not very good at relaxing. Heart Math tells patients whether they are calm, semi-calm, or agitated. Dr. Masley works with them with different verbal cues to get them to practice relaxing, such as “Think of going to the beach.” It’s a really fabulous feedback tool to help people get calm.

32:17 I asked Dr. Masley about the role of toxins such as tobacco, mercury, pesticides, etc. in affecting brain health.  Dr. Masley answered that the brain’s the most sensitive part of your whole body to toxins. If you have elevated pesticide levels, you’re 350 percent more likely to get Alzheimer’s, so we really do need to worry about pesticides. Tobacco drops brain processing speed and overall cognitive function. Alcohol at more than one or two glasses of wine is also a toxin. BPA lined cans are also a problem and two cans per week increases your risk of diabetes and insulin resistance by 20%. Dr. Masley also said that people should stop cooking with plastic and putting plastic containers in the microwave. He also talked about the danger of eating deli meats, hot dogs, and bacon with nitrosamines, which have been shown to be neurotoxic and to kill brain cells. We can actually kill off and make rodents have Alzheimer’s just from eating the amount of bacon people would get from going to the restaurant every day. 


Dr. Steven Masley can be contacted through his web site https://drmasley.com/ where you can get a free Better Brain Shopping Guide or by calling his office 844-300-2973.  I highly recommend his book, The Better Brain Solution, which is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-better-brain-solution-steven-masley-md/1126646685#/

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations specializing in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure by calling the office 310-395-3111.



Worm Therapy with Dr. William Parker: Rational Wellness Podcast 038

Dr. William Parker talks about Helminth Therapy, the therapeutic use of worms that are eaten and grow in your intestines to promote your health, with Dr. Ben Weitz. This may sound crazy, but recall when we found out that bacteria were the cause of disease in the 1800s and we figured out that we could kill bacteria with antibiotics and antibacterial soap and using modern sanitation methods like toilets, refrigerators, and water treatment centers. It wasn’t until the 1990s when we realized that there were beneficial bacteria growing within us in our intestines, our skin, our mouths, our mucous membranes, etc..  We learned that consuming live bacteria in the form of probiotics and fermented foods could improve our health.  And consider that for thousands of years, humans developed with bacteria, fungi, worms, and protozoa growing within us.  Today we know that we have a loss of diversity of our microbiome. We don’t have as many species of bacteria in our colons and this is partially because we live in such a clean, sterile environment compared to our ancestors.  This lack of exposure to pathogens has led our immune system to become dysregulated and this has increased autoimmune disease risk. This leaves our immune system with nothing to do and at times to attack our own tissue. This may occur through the mechanism of molecular mimicry whereby our immune system attacks protein found in our tissues that resemble proteins found in pathogens. Dr. Parker uses the analogy of leaving your teenager home alone with nothing to do–he or she is likely to do something stupid. Without bacteria, viruses, fungi, or worms to attack, our immune system attacks our self. 

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3:47 I introduced Dr. William Parker as a Duke University professor who is one of the world’s leading experts on Helminth therapy.  I asked how he got interested in Helminth Therapy?  Dr. Parker said that he was working on studying microbes and microbiotia before it was called the microbiotia. They were studying the gut bacteria and they figured out that the immune system was supporting the gut flora and they figured out that the purpose of the human appendix is a safe house for beneficial bacteria, which is what his lab is best known for. But they were also interested in figuring out about diseases, like inflammatory bowel disease, and one of the things that he thought about is that in rats, the appendix is normal, but in modern humans something has gone wrong since the appendix gets inflamed for no reason and a large percentage of people have to have it taken out. So the situation with the appendix is kind of like a form of mini inflammatory bowel disease.  Appendicitis was virtually unknown during early history since there would have been some discussion of it, since without having it removed there is a 50% rate of death with appendicitis. You can read about how in the late 1800s surgeons were very interested in why they were suddenly starting to have so much appendicitis. We have a good cure for appendicitis, which is just to remove it, but we have much less of a cure for inflammatory bowel disease.  And inflammatory bowel disease also appears to be a modern disease. Dr. Parker said that he was trying to figure out why this was happening and the hygiene hypothesis was evolving at this time. They thought about their rat models and noted that their laboratory animals have this disease but what about wild rats?  They should be more like our hunter gatherer ancestors and they went back and studied these wild rats and found out that nearly everything about the immune system was different, including how antibodies are made, to compliment, to all the different cells in the immune system. Then they took lab rats and put them out in the wild and the big difference was not so much in their microbiome, which is largely related to diet, but what has been completely washed out are the complex eukariotic symbionts like protozoans and intestinal worms.

9:16  Inflammatory bowel disorders, like Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, are very difficult conditions to treat and these patients often have inflamed and ulcerated intestinal mucosa and it looks like from some of the studies I’ve seen are conditions that worm therapy may benefit. Dr. Parker answered that he thinks so, but it’s not proven yet.  Joel Weinstock in 1999 was looking at the effects of helminths on inflammatory bowel diseases and he found that the patients who were not responding to pharmaceuticals were responding extremely well to the porcine whipworm (TSO). He published papers in 2005  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15825065 and in 2007  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17313951  looking at both Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis and found that this TSO worm to be effective and you can still buy that worm today–it is produced in Thailand. What happened next is that they spent tens of millions developing this and they did a phase 2 trial and it did not work very well. What went wrong is that they changed the formula of the worm. You can think of worms as exercise for the immune system. Secondly, since they are not a chemical, if you change the pH, the acidity, they don’t work as well.  They changed the formula for some complex reasons, which is why it didn’t work.

13:32 I pointed out that this Helminth therapy fits very well with the Functional Medicine model. The traditional medical model involves using immune suppressing drugs like Humira, which don’t do anything to affect the cause of the condition. In Functional Medicine we try to balance and regulate the immune system and these worms seem to have a similar effect and seem to affect T-regulatory cells. Dr. Parker said that there are a couple of things that are very interesting. Let’s talk about Vitamin D insufficiency, for example. When he goes to conferences he often hears that they’ll talk abut how patients who are low vitamin D and vitamin D supplementation helps those patients in so many ways–neuropsychiatric function, immune function, etc. Based on our studies, patients are getting the same benefits from getting their Helminths back. He refers to getting Helminths back because it’s something that we lost between 1850 and 1950 and there are epigenetic effects which builds generation after generation. But he feels you get a bigger bang for your buck with Helminths than with vitamin D.  Dr. Parker also explained that in his wild rat studies they did not see any effect on T regulatory cells, but they saw effects on macrophages, T cells, B cells, etc. Modern immunology has recently been focused on T reg cells but that is the flavor of the month. It might be T reg cells or toll like receptors or the fast ligand.  Despite learning more and more about the immune system, immune disease keeps getting worse and worse. Dr. Parker said that Helminth therapy fits well with Functional Medicine but you can’t prescribe or give worms to your patients, since it is not approved by the FDA. Getting these helminths can be a tricky thing.

16:47  I said that I guess it’s not illegal to order them online? The United States is the only country where you cannot legally ship a helminth for therapeutic purposes, so the companies that are shipping them to people in the US are violating some regulation, though it is not a federal crime. 

17:20 There are other autoimmune conditions that helminths are beneficial for, such as MS.  You wrote that autoimmune conditions that are relapsing and remitting tend to respond better to helminths, like MS. Dr. Parker explained that Dr. Joel Weinstein looked at inflammatory bowel disease and another group looked at asthma. Some folks have looked at autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, including a group in Argentina that published a landmark study on this showing that patients with MS who were accidentally infected with helminths had complete resolution of their condition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17230481  Here is a review paper discussing this and other studies on this:   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5666823/  If they lose their helminths, their MS will come back. Helminths help with the relapsing and remitting form of multiple sclerosis but don’t help as much with the progressive form of MS.  Similar effects are being seen with allergies. Someone who is allergic to mold in their house where they are just not getting a break, helminths don’t help as much as they do with seasonal allergies. The first report of humans having having a therapeutic effect was by a British parasitologist named John Turton, who treated himself with a bunch of hook worms and his seasonal allergies went away.  So helminths look like a cure for seasonal allergies.  Dr. Parker said that he views it as a cure rather than as a treatment for allergies, because he views it as exercise for the immune system. If your patient has cardiovascular disease and starts exercising, we don’t view that as a treatment even though their disease may have gone away. Helminths have been with vertebrates for approximately 300 million years ago, so they have always been with us and they are something our immune system needs to function normally. 

21:00 I said that I imagine that just like there are good and bad bacteria, that there are good and bad helminths.  I recall Parasitology class and learning about parasitic worms that travel through your body and eat at your liver and your brain and kill you. So when we are talking about using worms, we are talking about certain worms that have a therapeutic value but are benign. Dr. Parker explained that during the agricultural revolution and people started living in crowded conditions and the number of worms per person went way up. If we talk about the porcine tape worm, you have a worm that is bad and it can form a cyst in the brain that would have to be surgically removed. Whereas the rat tape worm is one of the best hopes for getting helminths approved by the FDA.

23:35  I asked is that the TSO worm you are talking about? Dr. Parker answered that the TSO is the porcine whipworm not to be confused with porcine tapeworm.  And then Dr. Parker is working on the rat tapeworm. I then asked about the HDC worm. Dr. Parker explained that the HDC is the therapeutic stage of the rat tapeworm. I then interjected that it is my understanding that these TSO and HDC worms will grow temporarily inside us but then they’ll die. There are are cases with someone who is immuno-compromised that they’ll reproduce in humans, but for most people, you have to keep re-exposing yourself to these worms to maintain a certain level of exercise for the immune system.

26:01 I commented that this is kind of like the next level of probiotic.  Dr. Parker answered that there is one physician who refers to them as premobiotics. He said he’d like to get them approved as a dietary supplement. Unfortunately, it is going to require legislation for that. But he believes that humans in general need worms.  First we will have to treat the desperately ill and prove efficacy and safety. Then we’ll move on to less debilitating patients, such as allergies.

27:57 I asked if IBS is a condition that can respond to worm therapy? Dr. Parker responded that there are some studies using worms successfully with IBS patients. Dr. Parker is concerned that patients will think of helminths as a drug, but helminths should be thought of as part of a healthy diet. Dr. Parker said that there are five deadly factors in our society that are killing us early, which include, 1. bioalteration–the loss of our helminths and protozoans, 2. diet, 3. sedentary lifestyle, 4. chronic stress, including sleep alterations, and 5. vitamin D deficiency. 

29:08 I said that it sounds like worms would be most effective for prevention. With IBS, I believe that most cases are not really stress related but caused by dysbiosis, specifically small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and perhaps the helminths are balancing our microbiota. Dr. Parker said that studies they have done show profound changes to the microbiota when we put in a helminth. There is a change of up to 20% of the microbes, including ones that are associated with less inflammation. When the immune system gets inflamed, that affects the microbiota. I suggested that perhaps these helminths have a similar effect to phages, which are viruses that crowd out certain non-beneficial bacteria. Dr. Parker said that we don’t really know if our bacterial phages have changed since hunter-gatherer times. We don’t view the microbiota as a primary causative agent in disease and we see it more like a victim of what is going on in the body. This has to do with our thinking back in the 80s that the immune system is supporting the microbiota, which was originally ridiculed but is now widely accepted. This is what led us to figure out what the appendix does.

34:01 I said that the next topic I would like to touch on is autism and you (Dr. Parker) have written and talked about how worms can potentially be beneficial for autism and you have also written a paper on how acetaminophen use is associated with increased risk of autism. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0300060517693423   Dr. Parker answered that the idea of looking at autism was something that came up because many patients with autism are trying helminths, since there are not a lot of effective treatments for it.  When you look at the epidemiology of autism what you see is that it doesn’t match other inflammatory conditions like allergies or appendicitis or MS but yet autism is associated with inflammation and there is some sort of trigger that accelerated the incidence of autism and it corresponds to the increased use of acetaminophen from birth till age 5 or 6 due to stopping the usage of aspirin due to Reye’s Syndrome. We switched over to a drug that had not been tested and shown safe for neural development.

36:32 I interjected that I recently did a podcast with Del Bigtree and he believes that childhood vaccines are a major factor in the rate of autism and he talked about the fact that in 1986 the Vaccine Safety Act was passed that shielded manufacturers of vaccines from all liability.  There is less of a concern from the company side in terms of proving that the vaccines are absolutely as safe as they can, because there are no market forces to hold these companies accountable. There have not been a lot of studies on whether vaccines are associated with an increase in autism, despite what the industry says,    Recently, there was a paper published in April and they looked at kids who were vaccinated versus kids who are unvaccinated. And the kids who were vaccinated had six times the rate of autism and seven times the rate of asthma and allergies. http://www.oatext.com/Pilot-comparative-study-on-the-health-of-vaccinated-and-unvaccinated-6-to-12-year-old-U-S-children.php  It looks like there is some sort of an overlap here between what’s happening with these kids and and some of the stuff that you’re talking about. And when I watched your YouTube video where you were talking about autism being possibly related to Tylenol you were talking about the fact that you have to have an oxidative stress on the body which then when you consume acetaminophen at the same time that is sort of a toxic brew that can lead to damage to the brain.  And one of the things that happens with vaccines is that they add these adjuvents, like aluminum, to get the body to react to the vaccine and I wonder if the combination of these kids being exposed to substances like aluminum, which create oxidative stress, in combination with Tylenol can be one of the underlying factors in this increase in autism.  Dr. Parker pointed out that that study was only done with home schooled kids and parents with kids with autism tend to home school their kids. He explained that any form of oxidative stress and inflammation can be a factor in autism, including obesity. Obesity is a highly inflammatory state and results in a 70% increased risk of autism.  I pointed out that since you can’t go to public school in the US , the only population of unvaccinated kids are in the home schooled population, which is why that study used home schooled kids. Dr. Parker pointed out that when older kids with autism use helminths, it can’t fix their social skills but it may help their digestive problems. Helminths may be helpful as preventative agents prior to the onset of autism to regulate their inflammation by providing exercise for their immune system.  Here is Dr. Parker’s YouTube video on acetominophen as a causative factor in autism:  https://youtu.be/oD_opnk4nxU 

48:30  I asked when he speculates that we’ll have the studies to prove efficacy and helminths will be approved so that they can be used in the US for therapy?  Dr. Parker explained that he believes that the market would be huge and nearly every person could benefit from them, but the financial incentives make it difficult. Studies cost tens of millions of dollars and since helminths are biological agents that cannot be patented so it would be difficult to make your money back. And there was already a porcine study that bombed out that we mentioned earlier. Dr. Parker compared it to the fecal transplant which has yet to be approved except recently only for C-Diff infections and yet it was nailed down in 1958 by a group in Denver. 

Dr. William Parker can be reached through the Duke University website, https://medschool.duke.edu/about-us/our-faculty/william-parker

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations and he specializes in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure by calling the office 310-395-3111.



Leaky Gut with Dr. Cheryl Burdette: Rational Wellness Podcast 037

Dr. Cheryl Burdette speaks to Dr. Ben Weitz about how to understand and test for leaky gut, histamine intolerance, and food sensitivities.

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1:45 I asked Dr. Burdette to explain what leaky gut is and why we should care about it?  Dr. Burdette answered that leaky gut is a key to treating chronic diseases. Inflammation is a key factor in chronic diseases and much inflammation starts in the gut. Dr. Burdette explained that if we stretch out our gut it would cover a tennis court, but it is shoved inside us and has good bacteria and bad bacteria and is our interface with food and the outside environment. When the gut is not interfacing correctly, it can create inflammation, and gut based inflammation creates systemic inflammation and be responsible for fatigue, weight gain, osteoarthritis. By understanding leaky gut, we can better understand how to control inflammation, which will enable us to decrease chronic diseases.

3:48 I pointed out that this gut lining is only one cell thick. Dr. Burdette explains that your gut is trying to do this enormous job and it is one cell thick and it turns over every three days. Your body has to reproduce those cells and if the nutrition is not right and if there is too much of an assault because of bad bacteria it is easy to get behind in your gut health and then you are on your way to inflammation and that inflammation can drive many conditions. We can have inflammation that starts in the gut that we can measure in the blood stream as CRP that tell us about inflammation in the rest of the body and this is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, etc. You often will not feel this inflammation, so just because you don’t feel gut pain, doesn’t mean that you don’t have gut based inflammation. Gut based inflammation can even contribute to depression, insomnia, as well as gas and bloating.

5:17 I said that our gut barrier is our protection from toxins that are present in our environment, such as heavy metals like mercury, pesticides, and BPA from plastics, etc. So if there is some damage or decreased efficiency of this gut barrier, then that can be a factor in chronic diseases. Dr. Burdette explained that our gut lining is our first interface with the outside world and it is where we absorb nutrients and have the right immune conversation with the outside world or where it becomes disrupted and we get inflammation. It is where we decide we are either tolerant or inflamed. Many people don’t realize that 85% of our immune system lines our gut and the immune system in our gut has to deal with more outside invasion in one day than the systemic immune system sees in our lifetime.

7:00 I mentioned that for years we used to measure gut permeability with the lactulose-mannitol test and after a while I think a lot of Functional Medicine practitioners like myself just came to assume that most patients in modern society seem to have some level of leaky gut. I see that your Dunwoody Labs offers a Intestinal Barrier Function Test that measures zonulin, which is a protein that is a marker for leaky gut, and it also measures histamine and diamine oxidase (DAO) and a couple of other markers. Can you tell us about that test? Dr. Burdette   


Dr. Cheryl Burdette can be reached at her clinic, Progressive Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia   https://www.progressivemedicalcenter.com/staff/burdette/ and you can access her lab testing at Dunwoody Labs   http://www.dunwoodylabs.com/ 

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations and he specializes in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure by calling the office 310-395-3111.


The Spanish Flu Pandemic with Ken Rosen: Rational Wellness Podcast 036

Ken Rosen, author of 1919 The Search For Mankind’s Greatest Killer, speaks to Dr. Ben Weitz about the Spanish Influenza pandemic, why it was so deadly, and what we can do to prevent it.  We discussed the Spanish Flu of 1918 and 1919 which affected approximately 500 million people worldwide and killed between 50 and 100 million people, the greatest pandemic in mankind’s history.

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1:45 I asked Ken what made him decide to write a book about the Spanish Influenza. He explained that he was working as an executive producer for the National Hockey League and wondered why the Stanley Cup trophy was not given out in 1919 and started to research it.

3:42 I asked why this flu affected so many young, healthy folks, as opposed to most flus that mostly affect the old and the young, who have the weakest immune systems? And why was this flu so severe and why did it kill so many people? Ken explained that they did not even know what was wrong with most of these people and they did not have the medical techniques that we have today. Now, looking back, we understand that it was an avian flu and if you look back at history every 100 years or so, this avian flu mutates and creates some kid of epidemic or pandemic. We think that medical science has now reached a level where we think we could control or stop it, but we don’t really know, and we are due for such an epidemic. 

5:20 I asked why bird flu is so unusual and I pointed out that birds are an incredible vector for spreading the flu across the globe. Ken explained how in his book, which is based on real characters and based on history, that Dr. Taubenberger worked with a Russian doctor and they figured out that this flu started in Siberia, which is one of the places that most of the major bird routes originate because of the food and the space. A bird flu is the perfect bioweapon because of how the birds can spread it across the globe by passing it to local birds wherever they migrate through.  The only spot where this flu never reached was New Zealand, because none of the major bird routes pass over or stop at that island. Initially experts thought it was a swine flu but after studying the remains frozen in permafrost 100 years later, Dr. Taubenberger figured out it was a bird flu rather than a swine flu.

9:40 I commented that it is interesting that you have such a devastating flu and then it just ends. Ken explained that it just burned itself out. He pointed out that once it became so destructive that people became sick so fast, that the virus was not really passed from person to person very effectively. People just got very sick and died fairly quickly. Also governments figured out that this virus was airborne so all social life was shut down. Churches, schools, ballgames, etc. were all closed, which stopped the spread. This flu helped to stop World War I since so many troops on both sides were being carted away due to being sick, which led to the discussions over the proposed Versailles treaty where they were trying to end the war. The Versailles treaty was the worst treaty ever put together, according to Ken, since it led to World War II since Germany couldn’t handle all the war reparations. So this virus that only really lasted a few short bursts in 1918 and 1919 had an impact on the world for the next century.

12:00 I asked again why this flu killed so many young healthy, since it is usually infants, the old, and those who are immuno-compromised who are tend to die from the flu?  Ken said that they didn’t really know why. 


You can get Ken Rosen’s book through his website, http://www.1919mankind.com/ or through Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/1919-Search-Mankind%C2%92s-Greatest-Killer/dp/1543449794  

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations and he specializes in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure by calling the office 310-395-3111.


Sleep Hacks with Dr. Ken Redcross: Rational Wellness Podcast 035

Dr. Ken Redcross talks with Dr. Ben Weitz about sleep hacks and the importance of getting the right type of sleep on a regular basis.

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1:41 I asked Dr. Redcross how much sleep should everyone get? Dr. Redcross answered that the CDC says that we should be getting 7 hours of sleep per day, but you know how elusive that can be. 


Dr. Ken Redcross has a few openings for new patients and he can be reached through his website  http://drredcross.com/ 

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations and he specializes in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure by calling the office 310-395-3111.



Maximizing Fitness with Nutrition with James LaValle: Rational Wellness Podcast 034

Pharmacist James LaValle discusses how to maximize your fitness levels by following the optimal nutrition program with Dr. Ben Weitz.

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I started the discussion by asking James LaValle to comment about high intensity forms of exercise, such as Tabatas, which might involve doing high intensity exercise, such as sprinting for 30 seconds to one minute, followed by a 1 minute or longer rest, and the whole workout may take 5 or 10 minutes.  I asked Jim if this is enough exercise to get someone into shape?  James said that while he likes high intensity exercise like Tabatas, it is not enough, esp. not for a type II diabetic or someone who is really overweight. They have to burn it off over a period of time to affect their blood sugar and their cortisol levels. One of the problems is that we need to be careful not to say that everyone should train one way. For people’s different metabolic demands, they will need different programs. James explained that the football player’s nutrition program should be different than the hockey player’s and may have different metabolic demands than the baseball player or the gymnast. But for the average person, you just have to get them moving. They are too sedentary.

3:59 I asked isn’t it the case that just getting them to get up and move around at work and not just sit all day is beneficial. James answered that it’s not ok to just go the gym for 30 minutes per day and be sedentary the other 23 1/2 hours.  We need to be active and move and keep our bodies in the shape that we need to be able to exercise and train.

4:40 I asked if he likes any of these wearable devices that help you track your steps? James said that anything that brings awareness is great, but people tend to burn out using them after a while. He said that the device he likes the most for sleep is the Oura Ring, but some of the other devices are less accurate for tracking sleep. Tracking can be helpful when you are trying to create a new habit.

5:35 I asked what he thinks about monitoring heart rate variability, such as for measuring overtraining in athletes? James explained that heart rate variability is incredibly important because when you lose heart rate variability, you lose vagal tone, which is the balance between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When you lose that balance, your blood vessels stay stiff and you don’t get compensatory relaxation when you need it and you get dizzy upon standing and in the worst case you get POTTS, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia. For monitoring heart rate variability, he recommends an app called Inner Balance for his patients. Also, if you are sympathetic dominance, then you are catabolic, and muscle is the currency for aging.

7:05 I pointed out that with respect to heart rate variability, you want more heart rate variability, which signals health. James explained that there is a rhythm between the brain and the heart and there is a built in variability in it. When the variability shrinks, that means that the nervous system is miscommunicating with the heart and the neurovascular network. There are strong correlations between performance and also with what you eat and your heart rate variability. 

8:21 I asked if any of the wearables are accurate for heart rate variability?  James explained that if you are going industrial, a lot of the sports teams are using the omega wave. If not, then Interbalance from HeartWave has a real simple device using an ear clip on that’s a medical device and can be helpful.

9:20 I said that I read that James was not a fan of sports drinks. Don’t they help with replenishing electrolytes? James responded that the typical sports drink has a lot of sugar with very little electrolytes. And 

James LaValle can be contacted through his website, http://jimlavalle.com/ where you can order his latest book, Cracking the Metabolic Code.       

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations. Dr. Weitz specializes in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and he also specializes in helping you to reduce Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure as well as chiropractic work by calling the office 310-395-3111.


Nutrition to Improve Athletic Performance with Dr. Tommy Wood: Rational Wellness Podcast 033

Dr. Tommy Wood discusses with Dr. Ben Weitz how to improve athletic performance through the proper use of nutrition. I asked when you see a professional cyclist or runner, what is the first thing that you will do. Tommy explained that the first thing they will do is have the patient take their subjective questionaire and this can get an idea if the athlete has any particular issues with their health, such as with their gut.  Then they will do a thorough consultation with the client and then they will have the client get some blood, urine, and stool testing, since many of the clients that come to see them have digestive issues. This may be because high intensity and endurance exercise may be very taxing on the gut. Or you may have been overtraining, under sleeping, under eating, etc. and may have made yourself susceptible to whatever came along to populate your gut. Then he and the other coaches at Nourish, Balance, Thrive will intervene with dietary recommendations, supplements, and other lifestyle recommendations.

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4:54 I then asked if he typically sees mostly endurance athletes?  Dr. Wood explained that that’s where the company started, since it was started by Chris Kelly and another doctor who are both pro mountain bike racers. But they have expanded out to all sorts of people after that.

5:55 I asked if he has an athlete who has gut issues, and he is complaining of symptoms of gas or bloating or abdominal discomfort or diarrhea or constipation, what are some of the things that you are looking for and how do you approach it?  Tommy explained that the testing is important. How do you know what’s in there unless you look?  He does a combination of urinary organic acid testing (through Great Plains) and he does both culture (through Doctor’s Data) and pcr stool testing (GI Map through Diagnostic Solutions).  I also asked what are some of the most common gut problems and how does he approach the treatment and does he handle the gut problems first and then go to the athletic performance program or incorporate it into it? Tommy explained that he likes to address the whole person and he will look at sleep, stress, diet quality, the person’s purpose in life, etc. Their performance may be the hook why they came to get help, such as “I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon” or they may be an Olympic athlete who wants to perform as well as they can at the next Olympics. Dr. Moore explained the types of gut problems they tend to see: H. pylori, yeast overgrowth, Claustridium difficile, parasites. They tend to treat using herbal protocols.

10:44 I mentioned that C diff is often a very difficult condition to treat and asked how he treats it? Dr. Wood answered that C diff can be very dangerous and cause toxic megacolon and sometimes you need to go straight to antibiotics. Other times he will use a ketogenic diet, black cumin seed oil, lauricidin, and saccharomyces boulardii.

12:25  I asked about how he manages the  carbohydrate intake in athletes and does he take care to restore depleted glycogen, does he use glycogen loading, the window for replenishing glycogen immediately after exercise? Tommy said that he often tells his clients that they should eat more carbs because his clients tend to be on a low carb/paleo approach already and carbohydrates have become something that we are not supposed to eat any more. And now we are even told that we are not supposed to eat protein because it will activate mTor and IgF1. Some of his clients are not eating enough of anything because they are intermittent fasting, they don’t want to eat too much fat, they are low protein, they don’t want to eat carbs and they are training 20 hours per week. They may be doing low FODMAP, low histamine foods, with autoimmune paleo and intermittent fasting and this just doesn’t work if you are trying to fuel for training. Then their thyroid function goes through the floor and sex hormones go down and they can’t sleep and are anxious all the time.  On the other hand, Dr. Wood does not believe in eating the type and volume of carbohydrate intake that has traditionally been recommended for endurance athletes, such as 2-4 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight or more of highly refined flours and sugars. He does believe in the targeted application of carbohydrates, such as after an intense training session. He likes to use carbohydrate cycling–something called “sleep low”. You do a high intensity workout in the evening and then you have a low carb/high protein/high fat dinner and the next morning you do a fasted workout of 1-2 hours of lower intensity and then after that you eat a high carbohydrate meal. You have depleted glycogen, you do an aerobic exercise session that activates those pathways like AMPk, mitochondrial genesis, etc. and then you load back up with carbohydrates and you get some of those anabolic pathways and glycogen restoration. This allows you to get those benefits without just overloading on carbs or completely restricting carbs.

16:33 I asked how much carbohydrates he is recommending for say a 170 lbs athlete and what form does he like?  Dr. Wood said he likes to start with a gram per pound of bodyweight or carbohydrates and it can go up 2,3,4 times that if you are doing high volumes of high intensity exercise. He focuses on real foods like sweet potatoes, bananas, rice, other potatoes. I then asked if uses high or low glycemic carbs? Tommy said that it depends. In some clients he will recommend a protein shake with maltodextrins, a high glycemic carb.

18:35 I asked what about using the ketogenic diet with athletes who are essentially fueling with fat. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of that? Tommy talked about Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek who wrote The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance http://www.artandscienceoflowcarb.com/the-art-and-science-of-low-carbohydrate-performance/  and they have done research on this topic. They did a study that looked at how keto adapted athletes use fuel compared to high carb athletesknown as the FASTER study (Fat Adapted Substrate use in Trained Elite Runners). http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0026049515003340   We know that fuel selection and usage changes on a ketogenic diet but we are not at a point where we can say that that improves performance.  Professor Louise Burke in Australia is running very short term and poorly controlled studies of a ketogenic diet and she shows that it makes the athletes worse. But this is just muddying the waters because such short term studies do not give the athletes time to adapt.  The most recent study that came out of New Zealand that was conducted for ten weeks by Caryn Zinn found that some athletes did well and some did not with a ketogenic diet. Overall performance was neither increased or decreased.   https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0180-0   If you look at some of the famous keto athletes, like Zach Bitter and Sammy Inkinen, when they are doing a long, hard exercise session, they will eat some carbs.  Sammy Inkinen published on his blog that he was doing a very tough mountain bike stage race and when he had a long, hard day on the bike he ate 200-400 grams of carbs afterwards.  The next morning he was still in ketosis, so a ketogenic athletes can still eat some carbs. There are certain things that go on in the gut where a keto diet seems to be beneficial, but other things, such as proteobacteria that secretes endotoxins and the fat seems to increase the translocation of the endotoxin across the gut wall into the circulation. If they have a Bulletproof coffee they will feel really foggy after.  But there are some potential benefits.  When you exercise, you divert blood away from the gut and it is not a great time to ask your gut to digest or absorb some food.  If you are doing very long exercise sessions, someone who is fat adapted, will better utilize stored fat for energy and will not need to fuel as often during exercise. This is easier on the gut. Right after the ride, the blood comes rushing back to the gut and this is also not a great time to shove some food into your system, as some riders will do who may grab some tacos and a beer.

24:33 I said that I spoke to one nutritionist who said that he likes to use a lipid profile to determine how well their body processes different types of fats to see if this is something is working for them.  Dr. Wood said that it depends upon what type of lipid profile you look at.  If you look at an advanced lipid profile, like the True Health Diagnostic lipid profile, and you look at cholesterol absorption and particle size, this might tell you that saturated fats are not good for you because you have an increase in LDL particle number that occurred when you went on a ketogenic diet. On the other hand, some individuals might find that when they go on a ketogenic diet, their LDL goes up, but they tend to get a shift in energy distribution and then the more fat they eat, their LDL goes down because you are transporting fat in chylomicrons rather than in LDL.  If we look at a standard lipid profile, your LDL can go up because you have a chronic infection or because you are hypothyroid.

26:53 I asked what he thinks about supporting the mitochondria for sports performance? I explained that I heard a discussion that Lebron James in the off-season two years ago went paleo/low carb and was training very hard and he got extremely lean and it was thought that this would create increased mitochondrial density. Then when he kicked carbs back in before the start of the season, he could benefit from both increased mitochondrial density and from carb loading. Tommy said he thought this made sense and that you do stimulate your body to produce more mitochondria with ketogenic diet or training fasted and you might reduce inflammation and set yourself up to use carbs better at a later date.  He said that there are some potential discussion points and some people would say that there are certain enzymes that are down-regulated when you are on a low carbohydrate diet which then may prevent your from being able to use carbohydrates later on, such as pyruvate dehydrogenase, which can be measured. Pyruvate dehydrogenase turns pyruvate from glycolysis into acetyl CoA to be used in the Kreb’s cycle in the mitochondria. Some of the discussion of whether ketogenic diets are good or bad for performance is centered on that enzyme. If you spend a long time doing low carbs and not doing any high intensity exercise, you may reduce pyruvate dehydrogenase and then if you eat some carbs, you won’t be able to process them. But if he did some high intensity exercise during that time period [which I’m sure Lebron did], then you may maintain your levels of this enzyme. Tommy said that he recalled seeing Lebron James doing this several years ago and by going low carb and losing excess bodyfat and gaining metabolic adaptations and then going back to eating and training in a more traditional way for basketball, that could be beneficial.

31:20 I asked if there is good data showing that training on low carbs will result in increased mitochondrial density? Tommy said that that had not been established in humans. I next asked if Dr. Wood uses nutritional supplements to support mitochondrial function? He answered that if someone is on a ketogenic diet, they will usually benefit from carnitine, CoQ10, D-ribose, riboflavin (to make FAD) and you can get them as a combined mitochondrial health supplement.

33:22 I asked Tommy about a blog post he wrote where he talked about how people with more muscle live longer and you quoted Mark Rippetoe, who said that more muscular people are harder to kill and more useful in general. I asked Dr. Wood to explain the importance of lifting weights for longevity. Tommy responded that there is a load of data looking at strength such as grip strength, and longevity and those with more strength live longer. And muscle mass also has some benefits as does strength. If you have a large set of quads from doing squats, that is a way to absorb glucose from your blood stream.  If you are stronger it means that you can walk up and down stairs, you can get up and down from the toilet, you can do everything you want to do in life much longer. Art Devaney and Doug McGuff  talk about physiological headroom, which means that there is a difference between what you are capable of doing and what you do every day in your normal life.  Tommy explained that walking up and down stairs and getting up and down from bed, etc. is a very small percentage of what he can do when he goes to the gym and lifts some weights. There is a big difference between what he is capable of doing and what he does in everyday life. So when he is asked to do something, such as stop himself from falling and prevent breaking a hip, he is able to do it.  This is very important for longevity because if someone in their 70s or 80s breaks a hip, there is a 50% risk of death within a year.

36:48 I commented on an article that Dr. Wood wrote entitled Practical Alternatives to Processed Protein Bars, which is a critique of relying on processed foods, but while I thought I would find all these great, healthy snack ideas, Tommy recommended eating a tin of mackerel in tomato sauce, which does not sound very appetizing.  Dr. Moore explained that so many people are taking and advocating taking fish oil, but eating a can of sardines or mackerel is a great alternative to get your omega 3s, along with some calcium and other nutrients. Tommy said, “You just don’t need to be buying Quest bars. You can eat real food.”


Dr. Tommy Wood is the Chief Medical Director at Nourish, Balance, Thrive and can be reached through their website for consultations: http://www.nourishbalancethrive.com/   Dr. Tommy also offers an email newsletter.

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations and he specializes in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure by calling the office 310-395-3111.



Vaccine Safety with Del Bigtree: Rational Wellness Podcast 032

Del Bigtree discusses the issues with Vaccine Safety in his interview with Dr. Ben Weitz and why vaccines are not being made as safe as they could. I introduced Del Bigtree as an Award winning producer for the TV show The Doctors and for the controversial documentary, Vaxxed.  I asked Del how he came to be so passionate about vaccine safety? Del explained that he is passionate guy and he cares about people. He also said that he is skeptical that when selling drugs that make billions of dollars that the companies will always have the public’s interest number one at the highest decision making level. Money always seems to come first. He investigates with that level of skepticism.  Vaccines are a product that are meant to make us healthier and his investigation into them has revealed that safety is really the last consideration rather than the first. And we are talking about a product that is injected into one day old babies. This should require the up most scrutiny into their safety but the opposite seems to be true.

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3:32 We have a product in vaccines that are being mandated across this country and forced, such as in California, where they eliminated the exemptions. This means that the state decides what gets injected into our children and we have no say in the matter, if we want our kids to go to public and most private schools.  That is a dangerous step for a democracy. We have to be careful about losing control over our rights. Some people don’t believe in vaccines, for a variety of reasons or just want to spread them out more. And for those who do believe in vaccines, we need to make them as safe as possible. We have to understand that every year kids are injured and some are killed by vaccines. There is a long list of problems and we should try to reduce this list.

5:38  I said that there is something appealing about the concept of vaccines, from a Functional Medicine perspective. We know that infectious diseases have been big killers of people throughout the ages. For bacterial infections, we have antibiotics, but for viruses, we don’t have any effective drugs. The concept of vaccines is appealing because it involves using your body’s own immune system to create antibodies to fight off viruses. It is more natural than using a foreign drug to kill off the infectious disease. Unfortunately, in our capitalist health care system, profit is a big factor. One of the things in our system that forces companies to make safer products is that they can get sued if they make a less safe product. Unfortunately, when it comes to vaccines, that market force has been eliminated by the 1986 National Vaccine Injury Act, that prevent the companies that make the vaccines from being sued. I asked Del to explain this law and why it plays a role in vaccine safety.  Del said that he also believes that it is a noble pursuit for science to figure out a way to protect us from infectious diseases and that vaccines are a great idea. But have we have to make them as safe as possible and it is really law suits that forces companies to make safer products. If 2 or 3 air bags fail in your car and you have Toyota is recalling every car on the continent. Two kids die getting their heads caught in cribs and they are recalling every crib. Thus the market incentivizes companies not to put out unsafe products, because it costs them millions of dollars to recall it. But the vaccine industry is one of the only companies that does not have that liability. That is because the vaccine manufacturers were getting so many law suits because of the DTP vaccine, which was a very problematic vaccine that was causing a lot of injury and deaths, and they went to congress and lobbied to get this National Vaccine Injury Act passed, saying that they were going to stop making vaccines without it. This law takes away the incentives for the companies that make the vaccines to do safety studies. In fact, the only exception written into the 1986 law is that the pharmaceutical industry cannot be sued unless they know about an adverse event related to vaccines that they fail to report. Thus, if the pharmaceutical companies don’t do any safety studies and don’t document any adverse events, then they have no liability. Thus they are disincetivized not to perform safety studies. In order to get a vaccine on the market, the criteria is all about its efficacy.  All the pharmaceutical company has to prove is does it provide protection against that infectious disease? Does it create antibody titers in your body?  Nobody is studying whether all the other ingredients in that vaccine cause cancer or SIDS or neurological disorders like autism, or autoimmune disease over time, nobody is looking at.

11:09 In 1986 we had 11 vaccines and now in 2017 we have 53 vaccines taken in 72 dosages by the time you are 18 years of age. Graph this increase in vaccines against the increase in autoimmune diseases in the US. In 1986 we had 12.8% autoimmune diseases and now we 54% of American children have an autoimmune disease or neurological disorder.  Del thinks that our vaccine program has something to do with this.  All the medical experts like Dr. Sanjay Gupta keep telling us that vaccines have been extensively studied and that they are perfectly safe and that they do not cause autism and Del says that, as a medical journalist who has read every study related to vaccines, that that is a lie. Vaccines have not been adequately studied for safety.

12:17 I asked what are the approximate number of injuries that have occurred from vaccines? 


Del Bigtree is an Emmy award winning TV producer, having produced some episodes of the Doctor’s Show, and produced Vaxxed, a documentary about vaccines. He has a podcast, Highwire, and runs the Informed Consent Action Network http://icandecide.org/ 

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations specializing in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and also specializing in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure as well as sports chiropractic work by calling his Santa Monica office 310-395-3111.


Breathing with Dr. Rosalba Courtney: Rational Wellness Podcast 031

Dr. Rosalba Courtney discusses how dysfunctional breathing can lead to health problems and how breathing assessment and training can improve this with Dr. Ben Weitz.  Dr. Courtney happened to be in the US to teach a course on breathing techniques to practitioners.


Podcast Details

2:15 I asked how Dr. Courtney came to be so involved with breathing therapy? Dr. Courtney explained that as an Osteopath and as a Naturapath in Australia she was always looking for natural treatment methods for patients who were not responding with her normal manual therapy methods, including patients with very rigid rib cages and asthma patients who were not responding. She learned a few breathing techniques, both of which came out of Russia–the Alexander technique and the Butyeko technique. The more she used these breathing techniques, esp. in those difficult to treat patients, the better results she got. In 2003 Dr. Courtney got a PhD in breathing and she developed a method and protocol for the assessment and training to improve breathing.  Dysfunctional breathing is common and has three main components: 1. Biomechanics of breathing, including whether you breathe through your nose or your mouth, how you use your breathing muscles, and the patterns and rhythms of your breathing whether they are functional or dysfunctional, 2. the Biochemistry of breathing–how breathing is affecting your pH, your body balance, your carbon dioxide and oxygen, 3. the Psychophysiological aspect of breathing–How you are perceiving your breathing?  Are you perceiving it accurately?  Are you aware of breathing, can you connect with it? Is breathing pleasant or unpleasant? How has fear, anxiety and stress conditioned your breathing?  You have to figure out how is this person’s breathing wrong, what’s caused it, and which breathing techniques to use to fix it.  There is the Butyeko breathing technique that uses reduced breathing and breath holding. There are other methods of breathing that work more with the nervous system and try to optimize the function of the vagus nerve and create sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system balance.  She also works with intermittent hypoxic training, which is acclimatizing the body to higher altitude conditions to improve the body chemistry.

5:42 I then asked for Dr. Courtney to clarify what dysfunctional breathing is and I mentioned that despite the importance of breathing, most of us don’t really ever think about our breathing.   Dr. Courtney explained that breathing functions like a pump to create pressure changes to pump air and fluid through the body. Breathing has biochemical functions, including to regulate oxygen and carbon dioxide and pH. There are secondary functions of breathing where breathing interacts with many systems of the body. Breathing affects speech and oscillations in the body. It is involved in self regulation of the brain and the nervous system. Breathing is also involved in posture and motor control. Functional breathing is breathing that fulfills its functions appropriately and dysfunctional breathing is breathing that does not. Dysfunctional breathing is often linked to symptoms, such as unexplained breathing discomfort.  You might be over breathing or using excessive tension.  You can end up with chronic neck, shoulder, or back pain.  And this pain will not be responsive to normal treatment.

8:07  The normal person breaths 21,000 times per day and if you are over breathing, then this can lead to chronic pain, On the other hand, sometimes manual treatments like chiropractic and massage can help reset breathing.

9:01  I mentioned that most of us think that the purpose of breathing is to bring oxygen to the tissues in the body, but it is equally important that we get the right amount of carbon dioxide as well. Most of us think, oxygen good, carbon dioxide bad, but it’s not that simple. Dr. Courtney explained that the right amount of carbon dioxide is needed to help regulate the body. If there is not enough carbon dixoide, it will make you at first too alkaline, and then too acidic.

10:18  I said that I work with some professional athletes and getting their acid/alkaline balance right seems to be very important and I asked if breathing training could be helpful for them?  Dr. Courtney explained that research indicates that 25% of professional athletes have dysfunctional breathing.  They tend to breathe through their mouth rather than their nose, which means that their breathing is higher and they will tend to use the wrong muscles than if they breathe through their nose.  If they overbreathe through their mouth, it will tend to dry out their airways and cause inflammation. They will have to use excessive respiratory effort, so athletes will tend to run out of puff and they will have a lowering of the anaerobic threshold.  They will have a greater tendency for their vocal folds to be stressed, so it is an advantage if you can get them breathing through their nose more of the time.  Studies have looked at elite cyclists who were mouth breathing and they went through breathing training and they showed a big improvement in their performance. Athletes will tend to fatigue either because of their muscles giving out or because they run out of breath. Those who learn proper breathing techniques will only fatigue because of their muscles.

13:30  I asked what are some of the health condition that are caused by dysfunctional breathing and can these be prevented or reversed through proper breathing techniques? Asthma is one condition and asthma patients who get breathing training from a Butyeko practitioner or a physical therapist with specialty training, many can reduce their medication. Another condition is those with anxiety and panic disorder that can really benefit from breathing retraining techniques.  Some of the research shows that if someone has anxiety/panic disorders and has shallow breathing and has a low CO2 or if they have a lot of anxiety around breathing, they will be much less responsive to psychotherapy.  If you work with their breathing, they will respond better to the psychotherapy.


Dr. Rosalba Courtney practices in Avalon and Neutral Bay in Australia and she can be contacted through her web site,  https://www.rosalbacourtney.com/       

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations and chiropractic care at 310-395-3111 


Gastroesophageal Reflux with Dr. Michael Ruscio: Rational Wellness Podcast 030

Dr. Michael Ruscio speaks with Dr. Ben Weitz about Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder.  Dr. Weitz gave an introduction to the topic, explaining that GERD occurs in up to 20% of Americans and is marked by the contents of the stomach coming up into the esophagus and creating a burning sensation.  There could be vomiting, a chronic cough, chronically bad breath, and possibly erosion of the teeth.  This can eventually lead to chronic inflammation of the esophagus, esophageal strictures (narrowing of the esophagus), Barrett’s esophagus, which is a pre-cancerous condition, and can even lead to esophageal cancer.   It is believed that the cause of GERD is a weakening or dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter that normally prevents bile acids, pancreatic enzymes, and stomach acid from travelling up from the stomach into the esophagus, where they can cause a burning and inflammation of the sensitive esophageal tissues.  This is why the primary surgical procedure for GERD is the Nissen fundoplication, in which the upper part of the stomach is wrapped around the lower esophageal sphincter to help strengthen it.  But from a Functional Medicine perspective, this definition of GERD does not help us very much, because we need to know what the underlying cause and what other factors it is related to.  This is why I have asked Dr. Michael Ruscio to help provide some clinically useful information. Dr. Ruscio is a doctor of chiropractic, a Functional Medicine practitioner, a researcher, and an educator, lecturing all around the world on the gut and thyroid.


Podcast Details

3:22  Dr. Ruscio, what are some of the main factors that lead to gastroesophageal reflux? Dr. Ruscio explained that he would like to walk us through a four part intervention hierarchy that will help to codify the different mechanisms and treatments for GERD. We should imagine a pyramid and start with the base and address the least invasive and most common items first, such as diet. At the apex of the pyramid are the most invasive interventions, such as surgical procedures. We’ll start with diet, then we’ll go to dysbiosis, the third will be stomach acid levels, and the fourth will be natural treatments that can help to alleviate some of the symptoms in a pharmaceutical manner, such as lowering stomach acid.

5:21 When we come back to the first level we first have to look at food allergies or sensitivities. This may be approached with a paleo or autoimmune paleo diet or an elimination diet and the foods typically eliminated are wheat, dairy, caffeine, night shades, spicy foods, alcohol, and night shades are some of the most common ones. Food sensitivities can provocate reflux and this is why histamine blocking agents, which are often recommended to treat GERD, may be working by blocking the effects these food sensitivities. Elevated histamine levels can raise hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach and this is why histamine blocking agents can lower stomach acid levels.   Dr. Ruscio talked about following either a paleo diet, an autoimmune paleo diet, or an elimination diet and then slowly reintroducing the foods you have eliminated and see what foods work for you and which foods don’t work for you.  There are also other dietary approaches that may work including a low FODMAP diet, which eliminates foods that may cause gas and bloating, which may push up against that lower esophageal sphincter and keep it open. At least one systematic review shows that IBS and GERD have quite a bit of overlap.

10:15  I commented that I know that Dr. Ruscio tries to avoid necessary testing, but I have sometimes found it helpful to do food sensitivity testing to find out which foods, esp. if they are not the obvious foods like gluten, dairy, and soy. Dr. Ruscio explained that he’s not against testing but he tries to use testing judiciously in order to avoid having his patients spend more money than necessary and he’s been able to sort out most cases of GERD and IBS without needing to do food sensitivity testing. Dr. Ruscio also mentioned that a low histamine diet should be considered after other dietary approaches have failed. He pointed out that there is not complete agreement about which foods should be excluded on a low histamine diet,

13:06  I said that Dr. Ruscio mentioned that reflux is associated with high stomach acid but many Functional Medicine doctors believe that reflux may be associated with low stomach acid, resulting in poor digestion/breakdown of the food.  I mentioned Dr. Jonathan Wright’s famous study that looked at patients who were believed to have elevated stomach acid but who actually had lower hydrochloric acid levels.  Dr. Ruscio explained that he fact checked Jonathan Wright’s references from his book and none of his references stood up. Dr. Ruscio pointed out that he has a lot of respect for Dr. Wright but his references were miss-cited and some of the references he cited actually showed the opposite of his position, which is that in studies looking at lower esophageal sphincter tone that gave patients acid lowering medications, they showed a tightening or an improved function of that sphincter.  But while this mechanism for reflux that Dr. Wright cited is not accurate. there may still be some efficacy in prescribing Betaine HCl, which facilitates stomach healing.  Dr. Ruscio pointed out that in the Functional/Natural Medicine community there is an overuse of hydrochloric acid supplements and this can become problematic, esp. for patients who have gastritis, and taking acid can make gastritis worse.  And some of these doctors cannot even conceive of the fact that giving this acid is not the right thing to do. 

17:04  I mentioned that a lot of these practitioners are using this regimen of increasing the HCL tablets, adding an additional tablet per day till the patient feels a burning in their stomach and then back off the dosage. Dr. Ruscio said that he also would recommend against this strategy, but he wanted to get back to his hierarchy and talk about the second level of the pyramid. This level would be dysbiosis. For practitioners who are treating patients with GERD who do not have resolution after diet, would be to look at dysbiosis and two of the most salient forms of dysbiosis would be Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and H. Pylori infection. He explained that he does not consider H. Pylori to be a pathogen because there is not universal data showing that H. Pylori is actually detrimental. Some data shows that early colonization with H. Pylori may actually be protective of the host, at least immunologically. Also, it does not appear that we can fully eradicate H. Pylori. It’s more a matter of creating a balance by trimming the levels back. But H. Pylori has been documented to cause stomach ulcers and it may cause an increase in HCL levels.

19:42  I interrupted and asked what is the best way to test for H. Pylori?  Dr. Ruscio said that if it is highly suspected, such as in a patient with GERD or a history of ulcers, he will run a stool antigen profile, a breath sample, and a blood antibody profile. With respect to SIBO, the connection is that SIBO is one of the causes of IBS and IBS is connected with GERD. Part of this may be because SIBO can cause increased gas pressure, which can push on the esophageal sphincter, esp. if SIBO occurs high up int he small intestine, closer to the stomach.  Or histamine may be the connection since a low FODMAP diet, which has been shown to help with SIBO, has been shown to cause an 8 fold decrease in histamine levels.  Between SIBO and H. Pylori you can get a lot of mileage with treating GERD. 

22:19  Then we come to the issue of stomach acid and this would include stomach acid being too high or too low.  If patients have high stomach acid, then their risk of gastritis or ulcers or GERD is increased.  Some of the symptoms of indigestion can also be caused by low stomach acid.  The symptoms of low and high stomach acid have a lot of overlap.  There are a few things you can do to try to sort this out and determine which way to go clinically.  The things that would make you more at risk of having higher stomach acid are younger age, a gnawing type of stomach pain, if someone reports a negative reaction to taking supplemental stomach acid, and a personal or family history of ulcers or gastritis.  Patients who are older or have anemia or autoimmune diseases are at higher risk of having low stomach acid and these patients would be good candidates for a trial of betaine hydrochloric acid.  Dr. Ruscio explained that he tells these patients that they will feel better or worse and if they feel worse than this is likely because they have gastritis or an ulcer. And this is sometimes missed and he has seen some patients who had seen other providers who were taking acid and it was making them worse. To put some numbers on this, the number of documented ulcers in the US is 6.5%, while the number of low stomach acid is 2%, though he admitted that we have more research on ulcers than we have on low stomach acid.  On the other hand, we see up to 30-40% low stomach acid in those with autoimmunity. Dr. Ruscio emphasized that the biggest take away is that not everyone will benefit from taking acid and sometimes the key to solving the case is to go the opposite direction.  He talked about a case of a patient who he helped relieve a lot of his symptoms, including gas, bloating, insomnia, and fatigue with treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. But he continued to have this gnawing stomach pain, anxiety, and he would get goosebumps and he thought that this was gastritis related, so he put this patient on a protocol to lower stomach acid, and that was the final missing piece that allowed him to heal.  Also, we need to recognize that blocking acid may have some benefits and patients who have ulcers who go on an acid blocking medication 80-90% will heal by using acid lowering medications for 4-8 weeks and natural agents can be as effective as prescription medications. Dr. Ruscio mentioned one study that showed that natural agents could be as effective as taking omeprazole, the leading pharmaceutical agent (Prilosec). 

27:57 I asked Dr. Ruscio what his favorite natural acid lowering medications are? Dr. Ruscio said that melatonin can be helpful.  He mentioned a study that used melatonin, B vitamins, methionine, and betaine. He said that there are two formulas that approximate that.  One is Protexid and the other is GI Guard PM from Protocol For Life Balance.

29:12 I asked that since SIBO is often associated with decreased small intestinal motility, and some evidence indicates that decreased esophageal motility may be a causative factor in reflux. Could it be that the decreased motility part of the SIBO be affecting the motility of the esophagus and could this be why treating the SIBO helps with reflux?  Dr. Ruscio said that he thought that this could be the case and this is one reason why SIBO may be associated with reflux. Certain pro-kinetic changes, like Iberogast, a natural prokinetic, in several clinical trials has been shown to be helpful with dyspepsia or indigestion, which often times includes GERD or symptoms of GERD.  Iberogast was used in one head to head trial against Cisapride, which is a pharmaceutical upper GI pro-kinetic. The Interstitial Cells of Cajal (ICC) run all the way through the entire GI tract. Dr. Ruscio summarized by saying that that gives you a pretty good rundown by starting with diet, then looking at dysbiosis, and if someone is still non-responsive, considering direct acid modulation. There are one or two other things one may want to add in, such as something that facilitates healing in the gastrointestinal tract, gut healing formulas that contain things like aloe, glutamine, zinc, slippery elm. Dr. Ruscio said he likes to use GI Revive but there are many similar formulas. For GERD and indigestion there’s a compound known as FDGard, which can help with dyspepsia or indigestion. It contains peppermint oil and caraway oil. I mentioned that I just read an article by Dr. Hyman who said that magnesium deficiency can be a problem since you need magnesium for the sphincter at the bottom of the stomach to relax to facilitate the movement of the food. Dr. Ruscio also said that if you have a bad case of gastritis or an ulcer, don’t be afraid to use an acid lowering medication for a limited period of time.  If you have SIBO and an ulcer, then you will be better off treating both the SIBO with herbs and also treating the ulcer with a PPI.  The real miss is when using such medications for the long term. But if you address these other foundational factors, then the need to use these in the long term is non-existent.  And patients appreciate you as their practitioner being open to both natural and conventional medicine.

Dr. Michael Ruscio can be reached through his website, https://drruscio.com/  where you can sign up for his newsletter, to see his weekly videos, his weekly podcast, blogs, and for his practitioner training program, the monthly Future of Functional Medicine Review clinical newsletter, which I highly recommend. He is also available for Functional Medicine consultations as well as for speaking events by calling his office 1-800-335-7009 .

Dr. Ben Weitz is also available for nutritional consultations and chiropractic care at 310-395-3111 or through www.drweitz.com.