Years ago I received a phone call telling me that a recently drawn blood sample revealed signs of kidney failure. I remember thinking how strange this was since I had no prior indications of any problems with my kidneys. To make matters worse, my father was in the terminal stages of kidney failure. In a dramatic way, my father’s fight to survive his kidney issues showed me that our health care system of today was more about treating disease than it was about helping us get healthy. Our “disease-care” system functions best when a crisis arises or a disease is identified. This is not all bad. It saved my life a few times and for that I’ll be forever grateful. On the other hand, diseases don’t just show up all of a sudden but actually are the result of small changes over perhaps many decades. Generally, it is not until a diagnosis is made and a label is applied to a set of symptoms that action is taken. This was never more evident than in the case of my father, as we watched him “lose” his kidneys over a 10 year period.
For those contemplating making positive health changes, you may be surprised to learn that the most significant things you can do are often overlooked by the current health care system. Sure, you need to be concerned about proper nutrition and exercise, clogged arteries, getting adequate sleep, and similar traditional healthy lifestyle markers, but maybe not for the reasons you think. Understanding the difference between health and disease may make it a whole lot easier for you to accomplish your goals.
So what is health? Surely it is much more than the absence of disease. Just because we are not sick doesn’t mean we are healthy. The reference ranges seen in blood chemistries today are a reflection of the state of health of the general populace (they come from patients entering hospitals) and have little to do with what health is. It takes decades for many chronic illnesses to express themselves. As previously mentioned, we don’t typically all of a sudden get plaque in our arteries and have a heart attack. It takes a long time for this plaque to build up, and the evidence of its presence can be found in the blood chemistry long before the heart attack occurs. In dentistry, one doesn’t all of a sudden lose a tooth from gum disease. It takes a while for the gum to recede and the bone to dissolve with numerous early signs that tell us way in advance that a problem is developing.
What is truly missing in the practice of medicine today is a health model against which we can each compare our own state of health. The good news for dentistry is that we do have an established model of health against which we compare our patients at each visit. When patients begin to stray from this model, we can discuss with them the options available that will bring their oral health back in line with the model. Usually these options include doing nothing, stopping the disease process, and/or restoring the broken parts of the system to more closely resemble the model. As dentists, both our education and experience teach that most disease is preventable and/or manageable, and that one can have healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime. We routinely see our patients’ mouths become younger as they themselves age. We also know that wellness is a shared experienced, meaning that we can’t make patients healthy on our own and they often times can’t make themselves healthy without professional care.
With the help of H. L. “Sam” Queen, a researcher – biochemist – nutritionist from Orlando, FL, (designed2win.com) I was able to use natural methods to reverse the damage and restore my kidneys to normal function. Unfortunately, my father, who had been diagnosed with a similar kidney problem over 10 years earlier, was not as fortunate. When his kidneys finally failed, he underwent dialysis, which was followed by a transplant, and he ultimately died later of related complications. My father’s story brought home in a poignant and painful way how dysfunctional our health care system has become, and emphasized the need for all of us to assume full responsibility for our health. In defense of my medical colleagues, on 3 occasions they saved my life and for that I will always be grateful. The government and insurance companies have taken over their profession and I truly fear that many practitioners are losing their passion for what they do each day. The ultimate losers will be the people of America.
What is significant about Sam Queen’s work is that, bucking the standard medical “disease model” for measuring health, he established a “health model”—a reference of physiological ranges that is a reflection of wellness with much more narrow ranges than found in the “disease model”. Queen’s model operates from the premise that our physical systems are created by precise design, and that given the right nutrients and care, we can remain healthy and free of disease. In a very unique way, Sam can ask the body a series of questions through a unique blood profile, understand where a person’s chemistry has strayed from the health model, and determine what a particular body needs to return to health. Finally, he has identified 7 subclinical (not readily visible) defects that are present in all chronic illnesses, infections and toxicities.
Ironically, all 7 defects identified by Sam are seen by dentists everyday as we look into the mouths of our patients. These include pH Imbalance, free calcium excess, altered protein/amino acid balance, anaerobic tendency, chronic inflammation, connective tissue breakdown, and oxidative stress. One could easily describe health as the opposite of these 7 defects. A stable acid/alkaline ratio, a healthy proportion of free and bound calcium in the blood (free calcium no more than 0.48% of total calcium in the body), protein/amino acid balance, a robust aerobic metabolism, a sufficient acute inflammatory response, connective tissue integrity, and a good balance of oxidant/antioxidant activity within the body would be a good representation of a healthy individual.
Before examining these defects in further detail, it is important to remember that the body is much more complex than can be portrayed in a short article. There is no “one size fits all”/quick fix approach to these defects a mentality that can be very dangerous when it comes to our health. Only through careful analysis of each patient’s blood chemistry can one determine how best to eliminate these 7 defects in any given individual. In addition, the order in which these defects are treated is extremely important and should not be compromised. For example, to begin taking antioxidants without dealing with the other defects first is potentially dangerous.
The most tightly controlled parameter in the human body is the pH of arterial blood, with the range being between 7.35-7.45. Outside of this range human life ceases—there is no leeway so to speak. The body will preserve this pH range at all cost.
There is a much stronger tendency for our bodies to become acidic (where arterial pH falls below 7.4) than alkaline (where arterial pH rises above 7.4). Foods containing refined flour and sugar, excess alcohol consumption, coffee on an empty stomach, and exposure to environmental toxins such as plastics, solvents, pesticides, mercury and other heavy metals can all lower the pH. Any time insulin is stimulated by eating refined foods or foods such as carrots juice, white potatoes, beets, and orange juice, we will burn sugar, store fat, and make acid. When coffee, which is acidic in itself, hits an empty stomach, hydrochloric acid is released and both go into the gut and are absorbed by the blood, thus lowering the pH.
Changes in body pH are seen in the pH of the saliva. For years I’ve observed patients with rampant decay but little plaque—a seemingly inconsistent finding, only to learn since we started checking the pH of the saliva that these patients had a pH of 5.5, what has been termed the critical pH. At this level, minerals leave teeth and bone. Small changes in the pH of the blood have a tremendous effect on the pH of the saliva. Exercise and eating certain foods, (for example, proteins) can stimulate the thyroid which burns fat, makes oxygen, and makes us more alkaline. Finally, eating cultured dairy products and drinking lemon water will also help us to become more alkaline.
When acidic, one of the ways the body will raise the pH is by sending the blood into the bone and extracting phosphates. These phosphates help to neutralize the acids. Interestingly, attached to these phosphates are calcium ions, which are discarded in the process. Ever hear of kidney stones, hardening of the arteries, or the need for calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure? How about tartar on the teeth? Ever wonder what the hygienist is scraping off of our teeth? We’ve observed calcium deposits for so long on our patients’ teeth that we’ve come to believe it is normal, lending credence to the concept that what is common must be normal. When we are in good health, however, we will not get calcium deposits on our teeth.
Another indication of excessive free calcium is showing up with much more frequency in routine autopsies and on CAT scans of people 50 years old and older is the calcification of the pineal gland, the gland that makes melatonin, which is important in regulating sleep and the repair functions in the body. Do you know of anyone who has trouble sleeping? Also, until we correct the low pH/acidic condition, calcium will continue to be leached from the bones. No amount of supplementation alone will stop this. In light of this knowledge, an across the board prescription that every woman should take 1200 mg of calcium daily is ludicrous.
The protein/amino acid levels are extremely important markers when looking at one’s chemistry and in maintaining health. They act as acid sponges, helping us maintain a proper pH. When levels of total protein as well as that of albumin rise, it usually doesn’t mean that we are eating too much protein. More often than not, it indicates that the body is not able to utilize the available protein to build protein-rich structures. More specifically, when enzymes that help us use available protein are tied up by toxins, even though there is plenty of protein around, the body senses that there is a shortage of protein and may begin “taking” protein from some parts of the body. Many believe this is the beginning of an autoimmune disease, whereby the body begins making antibodies against the protein it is “stealing”. Fresh pineapple, kiwi, and papaya have these enzymes that when taken with a meal containing protein, will help us use that protein better. In addition, drinking water with lemon will stimulate the pancreas to produce these enzymes and help us also use the protein we are consuming.
The more acidic we become, the more our bodies move to anaerobic metabolism—meaning lacking in oxygen. The lower the pH, the less oxygen the blood can carry. The bugs that cause our most serious infections love an acidic, sweet, and oxygen free environment. Wouldn’t it make sense that in fighting an infection we would make it uncomfortable for those bacteria that are trying to hurt us by decreasing our sugar and refined foods intake, making ourselves more alkaline, and if possible, doing a little walking or some other form of mild exercise? That certainly makes more sense than a soft drink filled with phosphoric acid and at least 10 teaspoons of sugar.
In 1997, Dr. Alan Fogelman in his keynote address to the American Heart Association revealed that the underlying defect in heart disease was chronic inflammation. It always precedes the deposition of calcium and cholesterol. The risk of heart attack is dramatically increased when there is active gum disease present. We also know that all cancer metastasis begins in an acid, calcium-rich environment and in the presence of chronic inflammation. As a practicing dentist, this knowledge gave a whole new meaning to bleeding gums and “watching” failing root canals. In such patients, the prudent dentist of the future would want to obtain specific blood chemistries to determine whether gum disease and failing root canals are impacting more than just oral health. The routine prescription of anti inflammatory drugs without determining the source of the inflammation appears risky.
Connective tissue breakdown is evident in varicose veins, hernias, hemorrhoids, lower back pain (ligaments begin to unravel and discs begin to slip), popping jaw joints, and of course gum disease. It is as though the invisible wiring that holds us together begins to unwind. This is a huge factor in aging, and is physically manifested in “sagging” as we grow old.
Finally, so many of the chronic diseases we see today are due in great measure to the presence of oxidative stress caused by an abundance of free radicals. Some of the sources of free radicals are cigarette smoking, toxic wastes in the colon, chronic inflammation, U.V. light, excess alcohol consumption, exposure to mercury and other heavy metals, and excess stored iron (a good reason for men to regularly donate blood). Free radical production is greatly enhanced in an acid environment. Taking antioxidants in the presence of a low pH will greatly reduce the effectiveness of these supplements, and in some cases may produce deleterious affects.
So there you have it…the antithesis of the “one size fits all” mentality. This new “health model” will ultimately shift the focus in medicine from disease to wellness, or, stated another way, from cure to prevention. This state of the art information (which usually precedes standard of care by 10 to 15 years) will eventually result in patient lifestyles that reflect self-care and self-responsibility—a stark contrast to the current “quick fix pill” mentality of many people today. I believe the ultimate driving force for change will come from patients themselves, as our increasingly toxic lifestyles result in indefinable illnesses, with multiple symptoms that fail to respond to our standard treatment protocols, and more and more of our middle class find themselves without health insurance. This information and its subsequent implementation offer, in my opinion, the best defense against the spiraling costs within our health care system.