What Your Doctor Isn’t Thinking About (Dragging Medical Professionals Into the Modern Era)

The other day I came across this alarming video of what it’s like to drive in Poland. My first thought after watching the clip was “What’s the Toxoplasmosis gondii infection rate in Poland?” T. gondii is a brain parasite easily acquired from eating undercooked meat, or contact with cats, and is associated with a six-fold increase in traffic accidents (this association has been replicated a number of times, in different countries). Well, I looked it up, and found that the latent infection rate in 2003 was around 41% (at least among pregnant women). That’s quite high — in the U.S. the infection rate is only about 11%.

Is there anything to my hypothesis that terrible driving in Poland is related to the relatively high T. gondii infection rate? Probably not. The accident fatality rate in Poland is relatively high for a modern industrialized country. But France has a very low accident fatality rate, and a much higher rate of T. gondii infection. So while T. gondii might be a contributing factor, it’s probably not the most important variable.

I’m fascinated by latent/chronic biological infections, and how they affect human health and behavior. T. gondii in particular is linked to changes in personality, and even schizophrenia.

What’s shocking to me, as shocking as the driving in Poland video above, is that so few medical professionals are considering latent infections as part of their diagnostic process. The research is here, and so are the diagnostic tests. So why aren’t medical professionals taking advantage of them?

The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed -William Gibson

The above quote definitely applies to the medical profession. How many general practitioners are doing the following?

  • a detailed dietary questionnaire (cost: $0, benefits: insights into common subclinical nutritional deficiencies, including vitamins C, D, B12, K2, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and chromium, as well as information re: macronutrients — is the patient eating enough protein and omega-3 fatty acids? or consuming too much fructose/sucrose/alcohol?)
  • a personal genetic profile (cost: $200, benefits: insights into disease risk for common health problems, and precise genotype information re: less common genetic conditions)
  •  antibody testing for a full range of common viral infections (HSV1, HSV2, CMV, HPV, etc.) (cost: a few hundred dollars, benefits: insight into diseases that are linked to multi-decade viral infections, including heart disease, dementia, many types of cancer, etc.)
  • an enterotype panel

I’m hoping that in ten years or so, the above practices will be commonplace. Spit in a tube, piss in a cup, prick your finger, and twenty minutes later get a full genome analysis, a full spectrum nutrient level analysis, a metal and chemical toxicity report (lead, mercury, bisophenol-A, etc.), an extremely wide antibody report (for hundreds or thousand of viruses), a complete bacterial panel (blood, gut, and mouth), testing for protozoan parasites like T. gondii, etc.

Why isn’t this happening already?

Gibson didn't anticipate cheap genome sequencing.

In some cases cost is prohibitive. While a genome SNP test has come down to $200, micronutrient testing like the kind Spectracell offers is still quite expensive. I suspect that we’re on the cusp of (or in the midst of) a rapid advance in portable diagnostic technology, so testing costs may change quickly. It remains to be seen how quickly HMO’s will take advantage of the new technologies as they come online.

Another reason is that your doctor isn’t necessarily thinking along these lines, because when she was in medical school, you couldn’t get an accurate micronutrient panel, or a genome analysis, or an enterotype panel. These tests just weren’t available.

Educate Yourself, Test Yourself, Take Preventative Measure

It’s irritating to me that the medical profession hasn’t caught up with medical research and diagnostic technology. For most people, it’s probably worth taking the following diagnostic and preventive measures:

  1. If you can afford it, get a full micronutrient profile from Spectracell or another reputable vendor. I’m putting this at the top of my list because I haven’t actually done it yet (but I’m going to). At the very least, get a vitamin D test. If your levels are suboptimal, you’ll probably need to supplement, and also consider vitamin A and K2 levels.
  2. Get your genome analyzed, from 23andMe or a similar service. Find out what your risks are. One way to think about it is that reading your genome is like reading your death sentence. Another way to think about it is that reading your genome will give you possible clues into improving your quality of life, and possibly extending your life for a decade or more if you take the appropriate preventative measures.

What about prevention? Some measures are common sense. Others, like implementing a general viral suppression protocol, perhaps less so.

  1. Diet – get most gluten, casein, fructose, and refined vegetable oil (canola, corn, soy) out of the diet to drastically reduce your risk of IBS, autoimmune diseases, heart problems, and diabetes. Eat nutrient dense whole foods, mostly those available during the paleolithic era (for which we are genetically best-adapted to). This would include seafood, grass-fed meat, eggs from free-roaming birds, vegetables, low-sugar fruits, and nuts/seeds. For the research, please see Mark Sisson’s site.
  2. Reduce your carcinogen/toxin load (lead, mercury, bisophenol-A, air pollution, tobacco, hard alcohol, narcotics) to reduce risk of cancer, reproductive, and neurological problems.
  3. Ramp-up autophagy (clean out cellular debris) with both intense exercise and intermittent fasting. This will help ward off cancer, dementia, and suppress chronic viral and parasitic infections (which we all have after age 2 or so, unless we live in a bubble).
  4. Consume chemicals that kill cancer cells and interfere with viral replication. A short list would include curcumin (turmeric/yellow curry), garlic, resveratrol/grapeseed extract/red wine, and coconut oil. The links all go to research or articles about research.
  5. Reduce artificial light in the evenings to encourage natural sleep patterns. My post about giving up artificial light for a month has seen a spike in traffic since this recent BBC article (I was also on The Doctors about a month ago discussing the experiment).

I think the clinical research is there to back up all these claims. But are you going to get any of this advice from your doctor? Probably not. Your doctor is going to tell you to eat a low fat diet, but won’t distinguish good fats (olive oil, coconut oil, fats from grass-fed meats and wild fish) from bad fats (refined vegetable oil, fats from grain-fed animals). He will probably not mention vitamin D, vitamin K2, or the beneficial effects of polyphenols and flavonols. Your doctor is going to ask about your family history, but he’s not going to recommend that you actually look at your genome. Sugar and carbohydrate consumption won’t be mentioned unless you already have diabetes. Viral infections won’t be identified unless they have very specific symptoms (like chicken pox or cold sores), and no recommendations will be made to suppress chronic viral infection to prevent cancer or dementia twenty or forty years later.

I’m not against going to the doctor, or taking medical advice from someone who is better educated and informed than myself. But we should push our medical professionals. We should drag them (even if they protest, kicking and screaming) into the modern era.

The future is here … please help spread it around.

8 responses to “What Your Doctor Isn’t Thinking About (Dragging Medical Professionals Into the Modern Era)

  1. Applying this post to local conditions, I can only conclude that most New Jersey drivers are eating undercooked cat meat.

  2. I was linked here from some response on Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint. But, I’m so happy I found you! Great advice and I’m getting all that testing done this year. I had been thinking the same for quite some time: why aren’t doctors taking advantage of these wonderful technologies? I work as a plant molecular biologist, so study gDNA daily…though from plants. I think even if you have to pay out-of-pocket (and really, if you are following the PB diet, activity levels and other advice, you are never sick so should have unused medical expense $ set aside,) this is the best preventative medical advice I have ever read.

    Thanks for the post and I can’t wait to explore your blog!!!!

    • Thanks Lisa — I hope we see a culture change in the medical profession within the next few years. I’m hopeful, because I’ve seen a few blogs from M.D.’s who are also paleo advocates and/or up to date with the latest diagnostic technologies, and are trying to integrate that knowledge into their practices.

      • Yes, I have seen a few M.D.’s out there (on the web) giving it either consideration or who have been following and are finally being open about their experiences and the research they’ve encountered. I do think the focus on the “caveman” diet idea is where it receives a lot of negative reactions. It’s very difficult to pinpoint for certain what we did eat at various times, I believe, but I find that the primal blueprint-style nutrition has worked really well for me.

        What I really want to do (or want someone to do): I wish we could have a real-life experiment of people put on various diets with baseline, and progress measurements, of health markers and expressed genes. Also, have them keep diaries about their general state of mind. Do the experiment for one year and see which group feels better, performs better, etc. compared to their initial state.

        Alternatively, a simpler, but less scientific method that I thought of while I was shopping at our local Co-op and seeing all these “health nuts” with processed (but “organic”) junk food in their baskets: Have individuals or families provide photos (faces could be blurred), their latest general health stats and blood work results along with their grocery and restaurant lists/receipts for a month and do a comparison. Although other factors would not be taken into account, I’m betting we find those that eat whole foods, clean meats and healthy fats fair far better than anyone else on all fronts (lean muscle mass, healthy skin tone, few health problems or complaints, good digestion, excellent blood work, healthy mental state, etc.). If it was a completely random and large sample I think it could be very illustrative. Maybe this has been done, but since I don’t have TV I’m not all that up on what some shows might be doing. I’m very late in joining this revolution due to the lack of TV and other media, but I enjoy my simple, frugal lifestyle too much to start down that path ever again. Do you or any other readers know of any studies like these posted on the Internet that I could check out?

  3. These are good studies and show some positive results. I, however, wish there were more individuals in each, and that not only “clinically diseased” patients were included. I think choosing already relatively “healthy” people and seeing those results would be even more persuasive. I was one of this latter group, but can’t believe what a difference diet alone can make!

    I just hope more people start doing their own research and experiments with natural and whole forms of sustenance/nutrition before the entire world becomes incapacited by the modern diet…and misinformation.

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