Monday, November 7, 2011


Many of my previous posts have dealt with the problems surrounding the efficient use of oxygen in brain/body function. I am going to tell the story of a highly intelligent lawyer to illustrate that medicine is simply on the wrong track in much of its therapy.
The lawyer in question was a 56-year old woman who had an onerous job as a law professor. She had the main complaint of “digestive problems”. She was taking a host of digestive agents that were gradually becoming less effective. The focus of treatment elsewhere had been on the problems associated with bowel dysfunction only.
Of extreme importance, she said that she had “always had some symptoms that might be classified as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and they were becoming more noticeable”. Conventionally this would be regarded as two different conditions, one under the care of a gastgroenterologist and the other under the care of a psychiatrist or neurologist. In my view they are actually symptoms arising from a cause that is common to both.
The fact that the bowel has an automatically governed nervous system has been known for a long time. We now have information that for every signal that goes from the brain control mechanisms to the bowel, there are nine signals that go from the bowel to the brain. This nervous system is so complex that it has been termed “the second brain”. It is therefore easy to see how our emotions, generated in the same part of the brain from which the signals to the bowel are sent, can affect the digestive system. Previous posts have discussed the lower part of the brain as a computer that oversees and controls all automatic organ functions in the body. Emotions are not thought processes; they are “computerized” brain reactions to appropriate stimuli. I have indicated previously that emotions represent the result of incoming messages from physical and mental stress.
The whole point of all this is that function depends on cellular energy and the ADD in this patient was evidence that the requireed energy was inadequate to meet the challenges of an active brain. The digestive or absorption problems could have been related to energy deficit in the cells that carry out this function or they could be a result of inadequate brain/bowel communication. Either way, the solution depended on solving where the biochemistry of energy metabolism had lost its efficiency. Cellular energy is generated by the consumption of oxygen in the process of oxidation, as discussed in a number of previous posts. Anyone reading this should review some of them or the explanation given here will not make sense.
I began this post by describing the patient as very intelligent and working in a stressful profession. That does not mean that she disliked her situation. On the contrary, she loved what she was doing and was very good at it. Just as a high powered car requires the appropriate fuel, oxygen for combustion and an efficient spark for ignition, so do our brain/body systems function on the same principles. It is the details that differ and the synthesis of cellular energy is extremely complex. The highly intelligent brain consumes oxygen at a greater rate than one of lesser functional capacity. The oxygen consumption is proportional to its activity, so an intelligent, brain using person is at greater risk for energy deficiency than a person of lesser intelligence who does not require as much mental work. The early death of Mozart has been argued and discussed over the years. We know that his music publication in the last years of his life was prodigious. I have hypothesized that his brain energy consumption exceeded his ability to generate it. It can never be proved but it is something to be kept in mind, particularly if abnormal fatigue is a leading symptom. Symptoms are really “alarm bells ringing” in a complex system and they have to be interpreted. What we need is the symptom equivalent of the Rosetta stone that enabled us to read the writings of ancient Egypt.
Perhaps we can begin to see that so much modern disease is induced by an inadequate diet that represents the consumption of excess fuel (food) containing an inadequate vitamin/mineral concentration (spark plugs), causing loss of efficiency in oxidative metabolism. I have referred to this as high calorie malnutrition. For those readers that need a little more information, look back at an older post that discusses the “choked engine”.
As I have repeatedly tried to emphasize, it is the brain that suffers most, since it is the organ that is most highly dependent on oxygen consumption. The lower brain, referred to as” the computer”, works 24/7 and it is hardly surprising that it is most at risk. The functional confusion in brain control mechanisms that results from this gives rise commonly to the symptoms that are usually designated as “psychosomatic”, a diagnostic category that is totally inadequate and insulting to the patient.
When vitamin B1 (thiamine) was first synthesized in 1936, nobody knew how it worked in the body. As I have previously discussed, we know now that its deficiency causes beriberi and in 1936 Sir Rudolph Peters did the research that led to our understanding of its vital actions. At the time, the animal model for studying beriberi was the pigeon. Without providing the details, Peters found something that is of great importance in our understanding of this vitamin. The study involved the biochemical activity of thiamine deficient pigeon brain cells compared with cells that had adequate thiamine. There was no difference in the activity of the thiamine adequate versus thiamine deficient cells until glucose was added in the experiment. It was immediately apparent that the thiamine deficient cells remained inactive whereas the thiamine sufficient cells became active. Modern research has shown very clearly that the processing of sugar in the body, and particularly in the brain is tied to the presence of an adequate thiamine ingestion.
I am not suggesting that thiamine is the only component that matters in our approach to a problem of this nature. It can, however, stand as a model for what happens to us when oxidative metabolism is compromised. It must be more than obvious that our food is the equivalent of gasoline in a car, but it also requires chemical components that are the equivalent of the spark plugs and other components of adequate “engine” function.This is the kind of approach required for thousands,if not millions,of people and it particularly applies to those who have been labeled "psychosomatic".

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