Monday, February 28, 2011


A choked engine in a car is achieved by an excess of gasoline with insufficient oxygen and/or an inefficient spark plug to ignite the gasoline. The result is loss of engine efficiency and decreased performance. Although the details are different and more complex in our bodies, the result of eating empty calories (“junk food”) is confusion in the brain/body dialogue, resulting in diverse symptoms. Hence the “The Choked Engine Syndrome” is caused by an excess of calories without the vitamins and minerals that enable the calories to be used as cellular fuel to produce energy. I want to describe a typical case and any reader might easily recognize his/her own symptoms.

A 14-year old boy had the major complaint of abdominal pain. It is natural to think that abdominal pain is caused by changes in abdominal organs and we shall see that this can sometimes be misleading. Generally speaking, a physician might focus his attention on the major symptom, thus dictating the investigations that are initiated. This is insufficient and other symptoms are only revealed by direct questioning. He had constipation alternating with diarrhea and the pain occurred after ingesting anything that tasted sweet. He had had suicidal thoughts, suffered frequent headaches and “panic attacks”. He complained of frequent nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting. He had been admitted to a hospital for three weeks for depression and seven different drugs had been prescribed. He had noted occasional dizziness, was regarded as emotionally unstable, suffered unusual fatigue and insomnia. He ground his teeth, talked in his sleep and suffered periodic attacks of “pins and needles” in his hands and feet, as well as leg pain while walking. He had noticed an occasional brief pain in the chest and, on questioning he reported that nasal congestion affected his right nostril only. Studies elsewhere reported that he suffered from fructose intolerance and all forms of fresh fruit had been withdrawn from his diet.

His facial appearance was typical of the many children and adolescents that I have seen over the years with this syndrome. There was a zone of pallor around his mouth, together with unusual flushing of the cheeks, producing a “clown-like” imitation. His tongue was badly coated a dirty brown with little red spots on its surface. He had the signs of mitral valve (a heart valve) prolapse by listening to his heart with a stethoscope. His blood pressures in the two arms, when measured at the same time, were widely different. Knee jerks were excessively reactive and a white stripe could be elicited by gently stroking the leg with a finger tip, a phenomenon known as dermographia or “skin writing”. There was a family history of one relative with diabetes.

One of the posts in this blog describes a “two-brain model” that emphasizes that the lower brain, known as the limbic system and brainstem, make up a very obvious computer, organizing our daily adaptation to environmental factors, sensed and data processed by the computer. If this part of the brain is poorly nourished by the ingestion of empty calories, its energy is affected and its loss of efficiency causes it to behave in exactly the same way as it would with a mild to moderate deficiency of oxygen.

The brain computer has a heavy oxygen requirement and a curious thing happens when energy production is mildly to moderately limited. It becomes hyper-reactive in its adaptive response to environmental stimuli, conveyed to it by sensory input. It is not the stomach that causes nausea, it is the brainstem. Vomiting occurs as a result of a signal sent to the stomach from the computer. This boy’s headaches, abdominal cramping and all his abnormal emotional reactions were produced by faulty and unnecessary executive action within the computer and its subsequent messages to body organs. It is the limbic system of the brain where our emotions are initiated. Emotions are reflex and although we are conscious of their action they are not developed from a thought process. Modifying the response to anger, for example, requires dialogue between the upper and lower brains. Road rage is an example of lack of this modifying effect. It was not fructose intolerance that was the defining issue. It was sensitivity to sugar that is extracted from the plant where it is naturally produced. To deny him fresh fruit was unnecessary because that is the natural way that sugar should be ingested. When we extract the active principle from a plant we turn it into a drug. Our taste mechanisms in the brain are programmed to receive permutations and combinations of six stimuli that provide flavor. By tasting sugar as a solitary stimulus it stimulates pleasure perception and it is the root cause of its addictive nature. The fiber in the fruit modifies the way that its sugar content is absorbed and processed and should remain the source of our sugar ingestion.

. Another clue to his sugar sensitivity was a relative with diabetes, a condition that is well known to be related to sugar metabolism. As the “Three Circles of Health” describe in a former post, there is always a genetic influence in the outcome of health and disease. It is the lower, primitive brain that organizes our adaptive mechanisms and panic attacks are nothing more than fragmented fight-or-flight reflexes that were being fired much too easily and unnecessarily. The autonomic nervous system, that is the two channel “telephone line” to all body organs, controls the two halves of the body separately, so this asymmetry is normal. When the brain controls become excitable in the way that I have described here, its asymmetric reflex mechanisms, including the blood pressures, become exaggerated. The nasal congestion confined to the right nostril only was an abnormal representation of this asymmetry, for there is a phenomenon known as the nasal cycle (Yogis have known this for centuries) when the nostrils receive signals from the autonomic nervous system asymmetrically. The periodic chest pain is like “a warning bell ringing in a complex system” and is a common symptom in this syndrome Out of great complexity, it is possible, with our present knowledge of how the human body functions, to distil out a simple solution that does not require seven drugs. All it does require is knowledge of the diet that God intended us to consume. After all, we could not have survived as a species if our food had not been present. All that this boy had to do to get well was to remove all forms of sugar from his diet except in the form of fresh fruit. He also required a few vitamin/mineral supplements to catch up with his normal metabolism.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chronic Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms in patients that consult me. It is usually the presenting symptom but is invariably associated with many other symptoms, many of which are not volunteered by the patient. Modern clinical visits are usually quite short and focus on the presenting symptom without due consideration of the importance of the whole picture. Thus, it is mindful of the parable of the “blind men and the elephant”. A group of blind men were asked to describe an elephant. One found the ear, another the trunk and so on. Each described the elephant in terms of the small area examined and was certain that he had described the elephant. It led, of course, to accusations of inaccuracy of observation between them. Each was guilty of missing the “big picture”. Diagnosing disease is sometimes like that.
For this reason, when a person seeks an appointment with me through my office, a questionnaire is automatically sent to the ‘would be” patient, who is asked to fill it in and bring it for the office visit. The most important part of the consultation is the history and I begin by asking the patient the main reason for coming. Then, I ask “When were you last quite well”? It is often surprisingly difficult to pinpoint this and I frequently find that the very first symptom experienced goes back many years and even back to childhood.
So let me describe a typical hypothetical case of a person reporting with the major symptom of fatigue. The patient is a 35-year old married woman with two children. On questioning, she states that she cannot remember when her very first symptom appeared but she had a lot of colds and “flu-like” episodes in childhood and received many antibiotic treatments. She had some academic problems through school and missed a lot of school days because of illness. Her fatigue began in high school and became an added problem through college. As the years passed, she gradually accumulated other symptoms and her questionnaire reveals many more.
She has difficulty in getting to sleep and keeps awakening through the night and does not feel rested in the morning. She grinds her teeth, has some nightmares and her husband reports that she talks in her sleep and snores. Occasionally she stops breathing and starts again with a gasp. Her hands and feet are cold and she gets “pins and needles” in them. When getting out of bed or standing up from a chair she becomes “dizzy” and has even blacked out once or twice. She has sensitivity to changes in ambient temperature and barometric pressure and develops a headache with an approaching thunderstorm. She consumes two cups of coffee on awakening and takes one with her in the car on her way to work. She claims that she is so fatigued that she could not get to work without it. She has nasal congestion in the morning and, on questioning, notices nasal congestion in the left nostril when lying on her left side. When she turns over in bed the left nostril clears but the congestion shifts to the right nostril. She also claims that she is allergic to many things, each of which causes her to develop nasal congestion and asthmatic wheezing.
Her menstrual periods are irregular and are associated with emotional instability. She has severe cramps and develops a craving for chocolate and salty food snacks. She also notices abdominal pain on the left side at mid cycle that alternates with the same kind of pain on the right side with the next period. She has what is so often thought of as a disease for the gynecologist, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that is believed to affect as many as 30 million women in the U.S. alone. In fact, it is so common that many women accept it as normal. The causative factors are always multiple, involving genetic risk and the stresses and strains of contemporary lifestyles. By far the most important aspect is diet. Americans do not damage their physiology with breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is what they do between meals and at social gatherings where their intense desire for sweet tasting substances is assuaged. It goes without saying that smoking is the most dangerous of all. I have also noted that coffee comes into this, perhaps in genetically susceptible people, because of its caffeine content and in spite of its content of antioxidants that has been promoted widely. Previous posts on this blog have tried to outline the danger of sugar. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome, PMS, and Fibromyalgia Syndrome are related in their causative factors and the present medical approach to them is only symptomatically helpful but does not address the underlying cause. I have two sayings that I give to my patients. Eat only “God-made food” and get rid of “the hair from the dog that is biting you”. That refers to the popular things that give us a jolt of pleasure such as sweet and salty things. I once saw a woman that developed her symptoms from just two cups of coffee a day. She thought that I was crazy to suggest that she remove coffee and I told her that she would never know whether I was right unless she tried it. She suffered an agonizing headache that kept her in bed for 48 hours. Then the headache disappeared and her health rapidly improved.
This blog is called “Oxygen, the Spark of Life” and I must again emphasize that the oxygen is useless unless it is consumed in the complex process of oxidation. Yes, it is indeed complex but the human body/brain physiology has evolved and the species has survived as a result of food that was provided by Mother Nature. All we have to do is to obey the rules. Since we know those rules, we are each responsible for our own health unless there is an underlying genetically determined weakness. Even then, the new science of epigenetics tells us that we can indeed manipulate our genes, at least partially, by dietary means and the addition of vital nutritional supplements.