Sunday, March 14, 2021

Nutrition to Cure the Human Holobiont: the Right Path to Health?

 

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride explains her theory about nutrition as the origin of most maladies. It is a long video, but somehow I managed to hear it all.

 

In my life, I never was the kind of guy who looks for trouble. But, occasionally, I found myself in situations where I thought that a (very) rapid retreat was the best strategy (1). My genetic set-up seems to be geared on "run" rather than on "fight," and who am I to criticize my ancestors?  

But I can tell you that some members of a certain category of people seriously tried to kill me: medical doctors. I won't go into the  details, it is not the purpose of this post to smear medical doctors, even though I would have a few horror stories to tell you about myself and people I know. 

Apart from my personal case, if you want a truly blood-chilling example of medical malpractice, you can find it in Siddhartha Mukerjee's book "The Emperor of All Maladies." In it, you can read, for instance, how the standard treatment for breast cancer up to less than a century ago was to mutilate women in the most gruesome ways. And it was totally useless. There are other cases, for instance the idea of strict bedrest following a heart attack may have killed millions, worldwide, as reported by Dr. Bernard Lown (2). 

So, doctors can be very dangerous, at least some of them. But there is a category of medical doctors who stand apart from the rest because they are much less dangerous than the average: nutritionists.

The advantage of the nutritionist's approach to health is that it is difficult to kill someone by telling him or her to eat (or not to eat) some specific kind of food. True, some diets that have been proposed in the past are so terribly unbalanced that they can kill in the long run. You may wish to read Lierre Keith's book The Vegetarian Myth (2009) for an in-depth criticism of some extreme kinds of diets. But, overall, it is difficult to propose a diet, no matter how quixotic, that does worse than the current "standard" diet based on hamburgers and soft drinks. 

The nutritional approach stands in stark contrast with the standard medical approach. As I said, I am not here to smear medical doctors, but my experience with them is that their approach is to match your symptoms with a specific pill, and there you go. Next patient, please. Always busy, stressed, and overworked, that's about the most you can expect. 

The problem with this approach is that, as you get older, you tend to accumulate pills just like you accumulate fat in your love handles. And nobody can say to know exactly what's the cumulative effect of all those pills together. On this point I can tell you about my mother in law, Liliana, who turned 100 last year. At some moment, this winter, she seemed to be very sick and we were thinking she was going to leave us. When the doctor came, he agreed with us that the good thing to do was not to give Liliana more pills during what might have been the last days of her life, but to have her stop taking most of those she had been taking for years. 

The result was remarkable: in a few weeks, Liliana improved a lot and she returned alert and in reasonably good shape for a centenarian. That doesn't mean she will live to 110, but this little miracle was impressive. Liliana's case is not unique. I am told that it is a typical that when someone very old is taken off their usual medicines, they often dramatically improve. 

Now, please understand that I am no medical doctor, I am not recommending anything or anyone, and I am not telling you to take or not to take any medicine. I just wanted to propose that in the future medicine may well become something different than the current one. I started with the clip by Dr. Campbell-McBride not because I think she says something better than other nutritionists do. In fact, if you look at books written by nutritionists, you'll find a wide variety of approaches and I have the impression (just an impression!) that some nutritionists strongly disagree with each other. But this is typical of science in a phase of rapid progress. 

What impressed me in Dr Campbell-McBride is how deep and wide is the scientific basis of what she says. And her approach to try first to understand the natural mechanisms that lead to a sickness and the attempt to avoid approaches that may lead to worst side effects. Another good thing about her is that she was smeared in an article in the Daily Mail, where they even cast doubts on whether she was really a medical doctor. That is, of course, a badge of honor for her! Probably, she received this treatment because she is Russian, and Russians have to be evil by definition.

Dr Campbell-McBride never mentions holobionts in her book or in her book but, clearly what she is discussing about is the human holobiont taken as the unit to be cured: including the microbiota that makes the human organism function. Will that be the medicine of the future? I can't say that, but for sure the concept of holobiont is leading us to many new concepts and new ideas

 

(1). An occasion when I saw myself at the risk of physical violence was when I found myself surrounded by a group of screaming men in a Roma (Gypsy) camp, seemingly intending to beat the hell out of me. When I realized what was happening, the most angry one was too close to me to give me a chance to turn and run away safely -- the Roma are almost never armed, but you never know. So I could only stand and face him, as calmly as I could. But the situation quickly de-escalated. It turned out that he was angry at me just because I was the closest Gadjo he could find. His wife had left him and the social workers had taken his daughter away from him. Add to that a little alcohol, and he had gone bonkers for good and he was angry at all the Gadji, not without reasons, poor fellow. The other Roma were puzzled just like me, but it was soon clear that they had collected around me to protect me, not to harm me. Eventually, we even became friends. You may think I was lucky but, really, I knew what I was doing when I entered that Gypsy camp. I didn't expect troubles and I had none. In fact, a Gypsy camp is normally one of the safest places of the world. 

2.Dr. Bernard Lown died less than one month ago. A great man by all means: Physician, cardiologist, professor at Harvard University and a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He was the inventor of the defribrillator, proposer of many successful ways to help people suffering of heart failure. He was also the recipient of the Nobel prize for peace. You can read his thoughts at his blog that he kept until 2012. Lown died at 99 after a life full of activities and, I imagine, of great satisfactions. Gaia was gentle with this son of hers who did so much for his many brothers. May he rest in peace. 

 


 

 

 


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Who

Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)