Common Questions & Answers

Q: What is Integrative Medicine?
A: It is a new specialty that deals with healing or restoring health by addressing root issues, not just symptoms. Although pharmaceutical drugs do only the latter, they are still part of an integrative approach which focuses more on social, economic, environmental, nutritional, emotional and spiritual issues impacting human health. To that end it also includes-only when supported by evidence-other modalities, such as chiropractic work, herbalism, homeopathy, massage, meditation, and any discipline that scientifically addresses the breakdown of health.

Integrative Health has been known in the past by other names. Alternative Medicine, Holistic Medicine, Preventive Medicine, etc., have been abandoned for several reasons, chief among them is the subtle pejorative meaning they have, an attitude often traced to pharmaceutically-oriented practitioners and marketers who ignore the fact that over 90% of pharmaceutical products have come from Mother Nature.


Q: How do I get my loved ones to adopt a healthier lifestyle (or even just start taking nutritional supplements)?
A: I am a non-interference kind of doctor. I try to listen to my family and friends without making unsolicited recommendations, even though I would love to share what I have learned in my three decades of practice and over-the-top perusing of the medical literature. Sadly, most people will not seek nor welcome help until they have suffered enough. Nagging and pushing leads to more resistance and delays true internal change in people.

The best way to help those we wish to influence is by example. If they come around it will be when they are good and ready to. There is little we can do otherwise.

The first step in change, of course, requires that we become aware that there is actually a problem. This may happen by your shining example and loving support, or through some process of education. The second step is to understand the addicting nature of processed food and that they are in for a fight equal to quitting tobacco. The most important ingredient, then, is, again, your support.

I encourage people with an activist bent to check out the 12 Steps, specifically Step 6, where any kind of addict (sugar addicts included) must have the willingness to let go of old behaviors and trust in something greater than their old sense of self.

When patients come to me hoping for a quick-fix prescription for issues that I see as metabolic in nature, thus requiring dietary and lifestyle changes, I ask them to reflect whether or not they have reached “rock-bottom,” yet. Only then they will switch to “conscious suffering,” or giving up immediate things they like in favor of future rewards.

I accept people’s lifestyle choices without making them feel bad. However, at every encounter I ask if they have thought about some small change, perhaps giving up soda. Seeds may be planted here and there, but never in a judgmental way. If no changes are forthcoming some patients may stop coming to see me, no doubt because they begin to view me as some kind of “Jiminy Cricket.”


Q: Why can’t I lose weight even though I am eating real well and exercising?
A: Remember the story of the caller with two cell phones? When adrenal glands are churning overtime, they produce more glucocorticoids. These adrenal hormones mess up our metabolism. In its most dramatic form we see weight gain in people who have been sexually abused and/or people with PTSD problems. It has even been reported that women who have been abused may be psychologically and subconsciously gaining weight to protect themselves from sexual predators.

Assuming people are indeed eating real well and working out one hour a day, there are two more concepts that need to be attended to: (1) calorie management in the gut and (2) obesogens. The former may be due to a toxic microbiome mishandling calories. Again, when two people eat the same amount of calories, only the one with bad gut flora will gain weight. The latter is related to the gut as well: a fatty liver compromises the detoxification of many chemicals and the body will stubbornly hold on to fat, which is stored in fat cells, until detoxification is assured. Otherwise, the body risks hurting sensitive tissues like the brain with toxic chemicals.

We have to heal the gut—the whole immune-detox-microbiome environment—to start losing weight that won’t come off otherwise. I can’t emphasize enough that it’s not just about calorie reduction and increasing exercise; it’s also how we are metabolizing calories.


Q: You specialize in chronic disease but cancer is a huge and growing problem around the world. What are your thoughts on healing from cancer in particular?
A: Cancer is a disruption of the immune-detoxification system. Consequently, patients may be supported through their ordeal with cancer with the same ideas outlined in this book: healing Cellular TOIL, and thereby boosting said system. This is done by the same diet and core program I use to heal chronic disease. I place special emphasis on mind/body issues by recommending mindfulness programs since they and other breathwork-oriented traditions like yoga help the nervous system’s fight/flight response to calm down.

I am enthusiastic about the following supplements and nutrients that have been proven efficacious in fighting capabilities:

  • Pomi-T – a four-ingredient combination with polyphenols from turmeric powder, an Ayurvedic spice that gives curry its golden color; pomegranate, a fruit high in antioxidants; broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable with cancer-fighting glucosinolates and sulphoraphanes; and green tea, rich in antioxidants well known to help in cancer. Pomi-T was designed by an oncologist in England to heal prostate cancer and after worldwide attention for good results was also noted for improving joint problems in his breast cancer patients.


Q: What are your favorite resources for the general public?

A: My books and my website, Ha-ha! I can also recommend Prescription for Nutritional Healing, which is a good A-Z primer on macro and micro nutrients and nutritional protocols for common conditions and diseases. It is available at your local bookstore or health food store if you want to browse it first before buying. It’s a resource akin to having a family dictionary. It never hurts to scan this book first before you buy new products that are pushed as miracle ingredients; they come and go because the better nutrients and products are based on science, not marketing pitches that dry out after a couple of years. Author Phyllis Balch, a nurse, has done an excellent job over the years in updating this valuable reference book on nutritional healing.

If you have an inner geek, you might want to subscribe to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, which covers safety, effectiveness, mechanism of action, drug interactions, and dosages. This resource was designed for pharmacists and professional practitioners. The publishers bill the database as “unbiased, scientific clinical information on complementary, alternative, and integrative therapies.” The best parts of the database, in my opinion, are the footnotes. The above book’s footnotes are linked to the actual studies cited in the online edition.

Still, I prefer to peruse on the internet, for free, about 100 medical journal issues once a month. I have kept a personal file of those up-to-date references since I graduated form Medical School. The best of those references are posted in the “References” section of this website


Q: How can I get off prescription drugs?
A: Not all at once. First, you must give up your “SAD” diet, avoid toxins, and start moving in any way that is pleasant. Also, improve your relationships and general attitude about life and its vicissitudes. Once you have started doing those things, we reduce medications one by one to make sure that the symptoms these drugs treat do not return. Slowly, Cellular TOIL decreases and we can start to consider changes to prescriptions. But, ultimately, it is your decision to stop medications and not mine or even that of the doctor who prescribed them in the first place. The more empowered you are with information and a sense of your own body’s feedback cues, the more in tune you will be with what you need naturally.


Q: How long will it take to feel better?
A: It depends how far down the tube your metabolism has deteriorated due to Cellular TOIL. Some people recover fairly quickly in a matter of days. Others take months. But everyone feels better by the first week if they keep to the diet and supplements recommended to reverse Cellular TOIL. Unfortunately, a few patients experience a detoxification reaction, which is a sure sign that we are barking up the right tree: elimination of toxins.


Q: Why am I so tired? (“I need you to prescribe thyroid.”)
A: Ninety five per cent of the time, fatigue is due to poor diets and poor gut function to manage said diet. Often the adrenal glands, the glands of stress, are overwhelmed and unable to recover without proper rest and proper nutrition. The latter is indispensable to refresh the adrenal glands; poor gut function aggravates adrenal function.
Thyroid abnormalities and other conditions are distant thirds. Unfortunately, patients and doctors alike check for fatigue only where they shine their “light of understanding.”

Consequently, thyroid tests are ordered first; other tests for rare disorders may be thrown in, in addition to titers for the mononucleosis, or Epstein Barr Virus (EBV.) The latter is almost always positive since it is a common childhood and teenager infection. This is ideal, for it is often blamed for the fatigue to conclude the search for its roots and justify the absence of treatment; how convenient.

Since the above tests are often negative, many doctors assume the patient is depressed and prescribe an antidepressant. Worse, some disreputable doctors prescribe sex hormones and thyroid based on their own questionable tests that only they order. Not surprisingly, those tests are always positive. You will never regain your strength until you fix your adrenal glands, metabolism, Cellular TOIL, and gut function.


Q: Why have I not heard more about integrative medicine before?
A: The literature or studies validating these simple concepts is overwhelming. My two previous books, Licking Sweet Death and Gut Health are weighed down by references. Thus, they are intended for those who need more “proof.”
In my opinion, our broken health care system is still based on treating symptoms. To refocus on the roots of diseases– metabolic issues and Cellular TOIL — we will need a radical reformation. Those who have been trained conventionally, and have not learned to assess and treat disease with a nutritional lens, are not too keen on changing the status quo. Alas, even physicians who are open to nutritional therapies are hesitant to look “new age” in front of their peers.


Q: Don’t integrative therapies cost a fortune?
A: No! I wish to be part of the solution, not the problem. We waste $750 billion a year in health care. Let us stop the bleeding, including from all of our wallets. My concern for your finances has shaped my practice. For starters, I don’t own the clinic where I practice. I merely get an hourly wage from the owners with whom I have no contract–only a gentleman’s agreement to work together in integrative medicine. I do not profit from supplement sales at the clinic, so I think like a consumer and not a vendor (and I’m cheap). My approach to laboratory work is minimalist, especially when patients don’t have insurance.

The only cost is supplements, which is why I recommend an average of only five products, depending on conditions. On occasion I may recommend up to ten products but not for long. Think about it, kilograms of food versus milligrams of food supplements. If you want to save on supplements, the best way to do so is to change your diet and not need so much extra help from supplements!


Q: Is it necessary to eat organic food?
A: Yes. No. Ideally it is. I don’t mention organic food until patients have done the most basic of work: eliminating soda pop and avoiding processed foods, especially sugar and most especially high fructose corn syrup. Everything else should be secondary and discussed once a patient has mastered these basic steps. However, if a patient comes ready for “graduate work” I do emphasize the importance of eating as organic as possible, avoid GMO products, pesticides and heavy metal residues.


Q: Should I become a vegetarian?
A: Yes. No. There is no question that a vegetarian diet is best. Read The China Study if you are interested – it’s been called the “Epidemiology Grand Prix” by some researchers. Regardless of what is “best,” I consider vegetarianism to be “graduate work.” Not too many patients would keep coming to me if I insisted that they give up meat altogether. Again, it is best to avoid refined foods. If we also eliminate meats at first, patients will starve and lose willpower. This is why I recommend chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs at the beginning, the so-called lean meats and proteins. However, I do not recommend dairy, or red meat. Once people have eliminated sugar and refined foods, they may be receptive to the “graduate work” of going vegetarian over time.

On a cautionary note: too many vegetarians feel it is okay to eat refined carbohydrates and processed foods, reasoning that they are not “animal based.” But, the latter are more harmful than lean meats—by far. If you are going to be vegetarian, see that you do not fall into the trap of relying on breads and pastas and other refined carbohydrates.
By the way, I eat mostly vegetarian, but I do eat fish or chicken when it makes sense to not make my food choices burdensome to others in social settings.


Q: What do you think about dairy?
A: Okay, you opened Pandora’s Box. Since dairy is like apple pie, the flag, and motherhood, I beg you to read the March 2005 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics. A review of 50+ studies showed milk to have no effect on bones. Recently, another article showed dairy to decrease longevity and fail to strengthen bones. How is it that the dairy industry claims otherwise? They assume that milk, being high in calcium, strengthens bones. While it’s true that calcium builds bones, it’s not true for milk. Milk’s acidity neutralizes its calcium-rich quotient thereby compromising calcium absorption in the gut. The key to bone health is a healthy gut that can absorb a plant-based diet that is rich in minerals and alkalinity.

So, my recommendation is to go easy on dairy or eliminate it altogether. After all, dairy has also been implicated with higher rates of breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. If you have skin problems (rosacea, peeling, and flakey skin), this may convince you: dairy unquestionably increases acne, dandruff, and other skin problems. Remember, when the liver is overloaded, the body will push whatever is toxic out through the skin, and this is why skin problems often resolve with the elimination of dairy.


Q: Is your program okay for children?
A: Absolutely. Immunity can go up and allergies can go down dramatically for children who are not eating wheat and dairy products. Many children stop having chronic ear infections and bronchitis after catching colds after eliminating dairy. And, it has been shown repeatedly that children can have strong bones without drinking milk or consuming dairy products.


Q: Why is soda so bad?
A: Regular soda is one of the single largest contributors of sugar; I have already made my case against sugar and artificial sweeteners as a toxin and an inflammatory agent, contributing to Cellular TOIL. Beyond the sweeteners, soda is also too acidic. The carbonic acid to make a drink bubbly is inherently acidic.

I recall an article in a dentistry journal warning patients to drink soda with a straw to prevent tooth enamel decay. Talk about punting! If soda hurts tough bones like your teeth, what do you think it does to more delicate cells down the hatch? I also recall a soda industry worker telling me he was instructed to hide the corrosion on the floor around the base of soda product holding tanks when the public would come through on tours! Perhaps this will convince you: soda intake, even diet soda, is highly correlated with weight gain, pre-diabetes, diabetes, neurologic problems (beyond headaches and memory issues), cardiovascular issues, and strokes. I cannot make the case against soda strong enough given how tempting it is for parents to promote soda habits that last a lifetime.


Q: Do you eat a good diet? (Do you ever eat sugar?)
A: I cannot practice the type of medicine I feel is best for you without being an example. I eat vegetables for breakfast, aiming, as recommended by the USDA, for 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. That is the best way to avoid Cellular TOIL and protect against chronic disease. I confess, I do eat coffee cheesecake for my birthday. On occasion, while travelling, I may eat more refined foods (the little kid in me likes Milk Duds!), and I do this without feeling bad or fearing relapsing to old ways. Since I do not have an addictive personality, I just enjoy myself when I travel. If you do, such flexibility may cause you to relapse on your sugar addiction. Hence, my best advice is to avoid refined foods at all times.

A study in the journal Lancet showing that people who eat candy twice a month proves the point above. It is not the candy, but the flexibility that allows a simple joy in moderation.


Q: Are there any other supplements one may take to lose weight?
A: Revisit my Weight Loss Protocol for managing blood sugar and satiation. Another cautionary note though: beware of fad items promoted by aggressive marketing with little if any scientific validation. I am not a big fan of Red Raspberry Leaf Extract or Garcinia Cambogia, or whatever new overhyped jungle juice is crashing the airwaves. You are probably wondering about some pushy spam about these products, or some new botanical that promises big results. One mouse study with marginally optimistic results, and suddenly a new weight loss product emerges with primetime coverage. I have a personal grudge against aggressive scam marketers who prey on people desperate to lose weight. One of them hacked my Facebook account to promote Raspberry Ketones to lose weight, all under my name. Just terrible what these unethical marketers do.

Meanwhile, I never mention obesity, or point out a high BMI to my patients. It is better to discuss Cellular TOIL and insulin resistance as early warnings that their health is in peril. I do not restrict patient’s caloric intake nor ask them to weigh themselves. The waist circumference, which I talked about in Chapter 7, is right there for all of us to see. Besides, they know they have a problem so it’s better to talk about health protocols than past problems.

The best way to lose weight is a gradual approach, one that emphasizes behavioral issues like addictions to sugar. People put on pounds gradually, after all. Daily weighing and calorie counting are counterproductive because they focus on what is not happening fast enough. Far better to help people be proud of, and focus on, what is happening: more energy, a gradually smaller waist, and the need for smaller clothing sizes. Ultimately, the focus should be on educating patients about insulin resistance and Cellular TOIL. I find that it is far better to motivate people by emphasizing overall health and dealing with addictions and other psychological issues. Vanity goals are okay but should not be the only motivator. With a focus on wellness, weight loss becomes an ecstatic byproduct of kicking chronic disease to the curb.


Q: How would you describe health challenges you have personally faced?
A: I have a genetic tendency to Ankylosing Spondylitis-a form of arthritis that is known for fusing of the spine to the hip bones, the SI joints. It results in “rigid spine” syndrome. This is where my genetic code takes a hit if I allow Cellular TOIL to go unchecked. Fortunately, this condition is in remission by my eating a plant-based diet.
I embrace my disease. Having experienced intense pain when it first reared its ugly head taught me compassion; it improved my understanding of my patients’ suffering. I see disease and suffering as powerful teachers to refine our character. Gratitude for our recovered or remaining health is accentuated when we have, or have had a chronic condition. We become more motivated to take care of ourselves and learn wholesome ways to prevent flare ups.


Q: What is the best advice you can give me?
A: “Food is the best medicine,” as first noted by Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, and then repeated emphatically by Sir William Osler, M.D., a Canadian and founding professor at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Osler was the first to bring medical students out of the hallowed lecture halls and into the real world of clinical practice using bedside training and reading from the humanities. I cannot state it any better than these titans of medicine.


Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception about aging?
A: That we have no control over how it goes. If you eat right, it goes better. If you exercise, it goes better. If you get sick, it goes better when you take control of your healing. We may be on a conveyor belt inching toward our final moments, but we don’t have to lose our sense of agency along the way. We may age with increasing numbers and intensities of our ailments. Or, we may take responsibility for a healthier form of aging. Quality and quantity of life are not mutually incompatible as the work of Dr. Fries published in the New England Journal of Medicine testifies.

Information on this blog is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this blog for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Please consult your health care practitioner with any questions or concerns you may have.