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Of Nutrients, Drugs, and Genes

Majid Ali, M.D.

Nutrients usher life in and sustain it. They are enabling substances. Injured tissues heal with nutrients, not drugs. Drugs, nearly I all cases, are blocking agents. Drugs save lives in acute illness by blocking deranged reactions in the body. They do not restore health to those pathways. However, drugs are synthetic chemicals and chemicals cannot reverse problems caused by chemicals.

Drugs block cell membrane channels that normally regulate the flow of essential minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium, i.e., calcium channel blocker drugs such as Calan and Cardizem. A partial list of the toxic effects of such drugs, given in the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR), includes heart block, palpitations, sexual difficulties, loss of consciousness, congestive heart failure, depression, loss of memory, insomnia, tinnitus, tremors, liver injury, loss of hair and abdominal symptoms. Magnesium is nature's calcium channel blocker. It works slowly but never creates the adverse reactions caused by calcium channel blocking drugs. Looseness of the bowel movements is the only change with oral magnesium therapy that may be seen in a negative light — not a bad effect from a life span perspective.

Drugs block cell membrane receptors, i.e., beta blocker drugs used for high blood pressure, such as Inderal and Lopressor. A partial list of the toxic effects of such drugs given in the PDR include congestive heart failure, a type of heart block called AV block, low blood pressure, Raynaud's type vascular insufficiency (cold hands and feet), depression, fatigue, lightheadedness, memory loss, constipation and/or diarrhea, colitis, loss of hair, lupus-like condition, impotence and bone marrow suppression. Taurine is nature's membrane receptor stabilizer. It is a potent antioxidant and occurs in large amounts in almost all cells. Its clinical benefits in preventing and controlling heart rhythm disturbances have been observed by all reporting clinicians. It, of course, has none of the adverse effects of beta blocker drugs.

Drugs block essential enzymes, i.e., ACE inhibitor drugs for high blood pressure such as Capoten and Vasotec. Toxic effects of such drugs listed in the PDR include chest pain, heart palpitations, Raynaud's reaction, cough, skin eruptions, bone marrow suppression, pancreatitis, glossitis (inflammation of the tongue) and many other reactions. Magnesium and calcium are nature's enzyme regulators. These minerals optimize the functions of enzymes that in turn regulate the contractility of muscle cells in the vessel walls and so normalize blood pressure.

Drugs block or inactivate mediators of inflammation — the essential response in injured tissues that precedes the repair and healing phenomena. Examples: histamine-inactivating drugs such as Benadryl and Seldane. Adverse effects of such drugs include drowsiness, fatigue and concentration difficulties. Bioflavonoids, pantothenic acid and histidine are nature's antihistaminics.

Drugs block the various arms of the immune system. Example: steroids that suppress the immune response. Toxic effects of such drugs are far-reaching and include vulnerability to infections, poor healing responses, osteoporosis, stomach ulcers, psychosis and other conditions. Essential amino acids and fatty acids, minerals and vitamins are nature's immune enhancers.

Drugs block the energy and detoxification enzymes of the body even when that is not their intended goal. Example: The commonly prescribed ulcer drug Tagamet suppresses the essential detoxification enzymes included in the cytochrome P-450 system. Vitamins are nature's energy and detoxification enzymes. Notable among them are pantothenic acid, thiamine, niacin, pyridoxin, vitamin B12 and other members of B complex.

Empirical Medicine Evolves Into An Energetic-Molecular Medicine

Since humankind began to search for ways to alleviate suffering caused by illness, medicine has been empirical—it sought to use therapies that worked and were safe. In empirical medicine, safe and effective therapies are not discarded just because it is not known how they work. This is the core principle of the philosophy of the great ancient healing arts of India, China and Greece.

The empirical medicine must now evolve into an "energetic-molecular (EM)" medicine—a medicine that holds the enduring principle of empiricism of the ancient healing arts and adds to it the science and technology of energetic-molecular (EM) dynamics of health—dis-ease—disease continuum. The medicine of future—I am certain—will be this EM medicine. I devote the chapter entitled A Changing Medicine for a Changing Time to my vision of what such a medicine will be—and how it will continue to evolve. This is a medicine based on EM events that occur in molecules (and cells and tissues) before they are injured and changed. It is not based on the study of how dead and decaying cells and tissues look under the microscope after they have been damaged by disease.

Physicians who practice drug medicine assume that the chemistry of disease is all they need to know. Sadly, most physicians practicing drug medicine do not know even the chemistry of drug medicine in any detail—otherwise they would quickly learn the reasons why drugs cannot reverse chronic disease, and why every attempt should be made to substitute nutrients for drugs in chronic disease as soon as possible.

The new EM medicine is based on the two well-known—and fundamentally essential—facts of biology: (1) The EM injury to cells, tissues and body organs is reversible; and (2) the EM healing response in injured cells, tissues and body organs occurs spontaneously and requires an ample supply of essential nutrients.

In acute illness, drugs are necessary to break the hold of EM derangements that feed upon each other and perpetuate disease. This is irrelevant to the care of patients with chronic nutritional, ecologic, degenerative, stress-related and physical disorders.

Genes, Vitamins, and Disease Thinking

We physician have a peculiar vulnerability: we cannot escape what may be designated as 'disease thinking.' In essence, disease thinking is a severe limitation we impose upon ourselves by our preoccupation with disease classifications. Major cardiology journals have recently published editorials warning their readers that antioxidants have not been proven to be effective for the prevention and reversal of cardiovascular disease. And that in the face of an enormous body of experimental and clinical data to the contrary. The position of the editors of those journals is easy to undersand. They reject all studies in which the use of single agents is not blinded and controlled. The disease thinking is so ingrained in the Western medical model, that even enlightened scientists from most prestigious academic institutions do not recognize the hollowness of the diagnostic labels they use. Consider the following quote from an article published from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the prestigious University of California at Berkeley:

"High levels of vitamins have been used to successfully treat many human genetic diseases. The molecular basis for as many as one-third of the mutations in the genes causing a particular disease is an increased Km (poorer affinity) of the enzyme for the vitamin-derived coenzyme or substrate, which in turn lowers the rate of the reaction. The therapeutic vitamin regimens work by increasing intercellular coenzyme concentration, stimulating a defective enzyme and thereby alleviating the primary defect and curing the disease. About 50 human genetic diseases involving dysfunctional enzymes can be remedied by high levels of the vitamin component of the enzyme."

The notions of genetics—such as expressed in the above quote—seem scientifically sound. They carry the prestige of universities like University of California. However,  they are create the misleading impression that only genetic disorders can be treated with nutrients. In reality, the effects of gene defects cannot be separated from those of their micro-environment. All forms of absence of health and diseases have genetic and environmental basis, and all can be favorably influenced in the long-term by empirically validated nutritional therapies. The aspects of gene-enzyme dynamics alluded to in the above quote are useful only in the sense that they add to the larger body of useful knowledge for the clinical nutritionist.

 

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