My dad's illness last summer made me interested in developing a relationship with an integrative gastroenterologist.
Trouble is they are "rare as rocking horse shit" as my friend, Ian, likes to say. But I kept my tuning fork primed anyway.
I complained about attending the Natural Products show last month, but I did hear a very articulate integrative gastroenterologist, Dr. Stephen Holt, who was speaking about Syndrome X, otherwise known as metabolic syndrome.
Dr. Holt, a Brit who lives on the East Coast, who has a wry sense of humor, spoke again the next week at the American Naturopathic Medical Association's conference on the Aging Immune System.
He started his presentation on a provocative note: "It's diabolical to purvey false hope. It's an absolutely despicable act to offer unproven things for serious diseases without any scientific evidence."
Dr. Holt went on to talk about a lecture he had just attended, where injections of mistletoe were being promoted for cancer treatment. Dr. Holt calmly explained that mistletoe is not approved for oral administration (it's poisonous), and that if anyone were to die of such a treatment, it would be tantamount to "murder."
Dr. Holt had been chatting with a former judge-turned nutritional advocate at the back of the room and asked the (rather portly) ex-judge (with a beeper on his belt) whether such a death would be considered murder.
The response was rather lengthy (legal training does that to folks, it seems) and went something like this: "yes, that's true.....blah blah blah....and, it could be reduced to manslaughter...blah blah blah....but even that would carry 25 to life."
Okay, Dr. Stephen Holt is not one to mince his words nor a stranger to controversy (he often says things like: "managing weight control without managing inflammation may be malpractice" and "calculations of the glycemic index of food is probably a waste of time").
Re the glycemic index thing, Dr. Holt made a compelling case that it's more important to understand factors controlling gastric emptying rates, with efforts to slow gastric emptying in turn slowing glucose absorption.
I have to say, I like this integrative gastroenterologist/scientist/researcher/author character with a pleasing accent.
Anyway, included in Dr. Holt's Aging Immune System presentation was his discussion on the process of "immune senescence," whereby increased suceptibility to illness and reduced ability to differentiate between "self" and "not self" emerges in the elderly.
Dr. Holt cited research that shows 65% of individuals over 65 have antibodies that react to their own bodies' materials as if they were foreign antigens. Not good.
I was intrigued by a formula Dr. Holt developed that modulates the aging immune system. He cited some impressive research, with comparisons to other commercial products, so I am curious to learn more about "immune modulation" in contrast to simple "immune support."
What's particularly interesting is Dr. Holt's research into synergistic combinations of ingredients in smaller amounts than are typically studied when only one active agent is being evaluated in a clinical trial.
We've always had a bias toward "fewer ingredients in more significant amounts" but I appreciate a little challenge every so often! :-)