Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Curse of No Symptoms

A frequent misunderstanding in the world of health is that having no symptoms equals health. This is not so. Symptoms are often the last thing to happen when the is suffering from malfunction. Being symptom free can be a curse, because there are no warning signs until something dramatic happens. [Editor's note. I whipped this up quickly so I'm sorry for grammar/spelling errors.]

Signs of bone loss

Exhibit A (above):

At the dentist's office.
Dentist: "You look much younger than your age…"
Our Guy: "Well, yes, I take care of myself, and I probably have some good genes". [Delivered with a smirk - he's quite used to hearing this.]
Dentist: "Probably true, but do you see that dark space between the bone and the crowns?"
Guy: "Yes…"
Dentist: "That space is larger than it should be, indicating early bone loss."
Guy: "Oh..."

So why would a person, seemingly healthy for his age, have a problem with bone loss?

Well, on a broad health-philosophical level it boils down to this:

The curse of being relatively free of symptoms or external signs, but with underlying issues that doctors don't look for and that insurance companies will not pay anyone to look for.

Exhibit B:

Notice in his hair trace minerals test result below how all the minerals except copper are below the middle of the reference range. This indicates chronic and severe maldigestion. This guy is probably not absorbing enough nutrients to build and retain bone. (And if that's the case he might not be absorbing enough minerals for his body to fight diseases in the long run either...) Elevated copper also suggests chronic infection.

Chronic malnutrition 

Exhibit C:

Could an important source of this problem have been discovered years earlier? Yes, if doctors were trained to look at blood tests results over time and if they were trained in their interpretation for what we could call subclinical malfunction (= malfunction without telltale symptoms).

Case in point:

Research suggests that the more the standard blood work marker MCV ("Mean Cell Volume") becomes elevated above 90, B vitamin deficiency and/or H Pylori infection is likely.

H Pylori is a pathogen that primarily lives in the stomach where it  destroys the body's ability to produce stomach acid (HCL) which is needed for the breakdown of proteins and for the stimulation of the pancreas to release enzymes that digest foods and make their nutrients available to the body.

Elevated MCV = possible H Pylori infection

As you can see in the graph above showing data from several years' worth of blood tests, this 40-something's MCV values have been elevated for at least half a decade, and has also been creeping upwards, almost approaching 100 in 2011.

[Editor's digression: 100 is the point at which his lab results might raise his doctor's eyebrows. The doctor might then ask him to take B-vitamins, which as we will see would do nothing to address the actual underlying issue.]

Exhibit D:

Since our guy, apart from his exceptional youthful good looks, understood that these types of issues are never investigated or addressed by normal healthcare, he sought out a practitioner skilled in functional-nutrititional investigations.

[Editor's note: Excuse the didactic, self-serving tone here, but I'm very passionate about this. If you think that you will stay healthy through "regular medical checkups" alone, you are deluding yourself.]

Our handsome guy eventually got some testing done, including stool testing for GI pathogens.

Voila! H Pylori was found (and later killed):


I hope you can see how multiple pieces of evidence (dental x rays, hair samples, blood work) suggested and provided cumulative evidence for a problem, and ultimately led to the discovery of a key root cause? Cool isn't it?

Our guy is now on the following plan:
  • Digestive enzyme therapy and gut repair w. regular follow up testing.
  • Regular re-testing for recurrence of H Pylori. (Once reasonably sure that H Pylori is absolutely gone, he will also supplement with HCL.)
  • He will address the copper toxicity. (Copper accumulation leads to numerous problems in its own right.)
He knows that the process will take time, probably years. Repairing tissue and re-growing bone takes time, but he is also certain of a couple of big picture ideas about health and aging:

  1. What people call "aging" is often not aging at all. It is the resulting degeneration that comes from chronic exposure to things like food sensitivity, infections, and toxicity which gradually erode the health of the body.
  2. Being free of symptoms, whether it is because of symptom suppressing medications or because of one's body, for one reason or another, not producing noticeable symptoms (yet), is a dangerous proposition. (Who knows, if the H Pylori and digestive issues hadn't been discovered, our guy might suffer a "sudden" fracture a couple of decades in the future, or his teeth might begin to fall out of his mouth, or he might develop cancer because of a lack of proper nutrition.) [Editor's note: On the last point, read up on Bruce Ames' triage theory of aging.]

Bottom line: Disease prevention and functional investigation of one's body should ideally start long before one ever experiences symptoms.

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