Once upon a time, strange and hard to diagnose conditions were rare. It was okay to have the general sense that if you got sick, your primary care physician would know what to do. Or, in the worst case scenario, you would be sent to a specialist and then, for sure, she/he would know what to do. This is no longer true.
Current estimates are that 60% of the adult population struggle with a chronic illness that traditional medicine seems unable to resolve. Even worse: 30% of our children are dealing with the same. This is a far cry different from the common assumption that “only a minority of people battle with odd, untreatable conditions”. The burning question for any patient afflicted by this problem, or their family members, is: how can I recover full health? Many are asking: “who out there can explain to me what happened – how I got sick, and how to get better?”
The bad news is that to answer these questions, we had to invent a new approach in medicine. Since the traditional way of responding to medical problems was not working, novel pathways had to be forged. Worse news is that trained, caring physicians seem mostly unprepared to find these novel pathways – in fact, their outstanding, rigorous training blocks those pathways. But there is good news: many dedicated, brilliant physicians and scientists work passionately, creatively, and tirelessly, to bring us closer to solutions. And the advances are tremendous.
This is why I was so excited to learn about the work of Robert Naviaux. This brilliant researcher who holds both M.D. and Ph.D degrees, a professor at University of California in San Diego, explains the problem thus:
Western medicine has by-and-large approached problems with an ‘acute medical emergency’ approach. Based upon the immense success of allopathic medicine in ridding the body of acutely threatening or offending objects, fixing mechanical problems (e.g. tumors, projectiles like bullets, knives, replacing or putting limbs back together), or of surgically correcting a structural problem, we’ve gone about applying the same response to most conditions about which humans complain. Or, we apply pharmaceutical answers, which often marvelously reduce symptoms, but rarely heal conditions, and almost always cause undesired side effects. As Naviaux explains, the ER approach does not work with chronic conditions.
Since our bodies are programmed to repair and heal within themselves, the question we should be asking ourselves is: what is blocking the healing process in this body? Dr Naviaux points out that even when the original causes of suffering might be long gone from the body, we can struggle to recover, thus recovery depends upon adequate support of the body’s spontaneous healing, rather than a “cut and stitch” approach.
He goes on to identify three different stages of recovery after injury or assault to the body’s health: CDR1, CDR2, and CDR3. “CDR” stands for Cell Danger Response, which is the cellular, built-in mechanism to isolate and neutralize the threat to our organism, and to support continued life around the invasion or assault. The problem can later become that the very protective state of CDR which defended us may become the block to recovery or to full function.
This is not the place to go into the deep and thorough science applied by Dr Naviaux to explain the problems. For the scientifically curious mind, I recommend the following article – his magnus opus statement - in which he provides brilliant analysis and much detail:
A word of warning, though: this is not light reading material.
What implications for treatment emerge from Dr. Naviaux’s work?
Firstly, the crucial role of the mitochondria. As many voices in neuroscience have asserted, repair of the body cannot ensue until damaged mitochondria are fixed. These very important organelles in the cells of the body, often called the ‘powerhouse’ of the cell, contain the DNA encoding and the program for repair.
Secondly, we have to find a way to boost ATP – adenosine triphosphate – in the mitochondria, for the body to start, and then even continue repairing itself.
For more on this subject, please read the transcript, or watch the next video, “The Special Case of Chronic Illness, Part II”. See you there.
Dr. Gabriel Newman