As of the start of 2017, I have worked with over 1900 individuals over the last 11 years. In this time I have learnt two main things; primarily that there is no perfect way to do things and that there is no one method to help everyone. However, there are certain biological systems that are relevant in all cases and certain principles that should always be followed.
Most individuals seeking me out do so after seeing changes in friends or family members and, naturally, they are more likely to have heard about the metabolic wand-waving than the more banal changes I suggested. The reality is that both are equally important and, while the prospect of remapping methylation or overhauling the adrenal function will always hold most allure, it is actually the basics that underpin all results. By this, I refer to making the right calls on whether an individual is in a ‘pre-healing’ state and needs help getting to the starting line, or whether the person in question is already on a healing journey that needs boosting….. It’s the exquisitely sophisticated details that take people from ‘decent’ to ‘excellent’, but it’s the plain-and-simple changes that determine when they start their healing journey (if at all). I have written more extensively about paradigms that people with chronic fatigue should consider here.
Guessing doesn’t work.
It is staggering how many practitioners in my industry base their work on guesswork. We are dealing with the most complex object currently known, a machine of 74 trillion cells, and there is no instruction manual. For every symptom, there are dozens of potential causes. When things go wrong, it is important to have an idea of the origin.
If you’re getting anxiety or poor sleep, how would you know if this was caused by low magnesium, excessive CBS activity or hypoxia in the central nervous system? These all manifest through disturbed function of the same receptor in the brain. If your post-exertional recovery was under par, how would you know if this was mediated by low Carnitine supply, an issue with protein folding or oxidative damage in the electron chain of your mitochondria? They all affect your energy (ATP) production in the same way, yet require totally different protocols.
There is no obscure reason as to why my results are so much better than others. I have no special powers. I am no oracle. But there is one simple thing I do well: I collect the data we need and then I act on it. We’ll never be able to measure every variable in the body, but we can build a reliable model with mathematically-validated outcomes. Doing anything else is akin to rolling a dice.
I currently ask that all incoming individuals complete a Genetic test and an Organic Acids test (more details here). While this does represent a cost, it always works out cheaper in the long run and typically saves clients many months sooner. I have no doubt that all practitioners will eventually adopt this logic.
Three basic stages
I have come to see many patterns in the last 12 years, with the complexity of the human conditions far too complex to ever summarise. However, one very fundamental pattern is of three stages of a healing journey:
- Dysregulated + Burdened, aka the ‘Crisis’ Stage. This is is the stage that most people are in when they first see me. They are a metabolic inferno of inflammation and agitation; they are being tossed around by the biggest of biochemical storms. Classical intervention here is normally useless. Throwing a bucket of water on a small fire helps; once the fire gets too big, it will have no noticeable impact. There are two things that define people is this stage: first, they feel awful and, second, ‘nothing works’. But there is always a cause of this inflammatory response and, when we identify the cause of this, we can finally move people out of the crisis stage.
- Burdened, aka the ‘Legacy’ Stage. After you have weathered the storm, it’s now time to check for problems that developed during dysregulation. Put another way: after we put the fire out, we then determine what structures were affected. To think that an individual could experience such sustained inflammatory responses for months (or years) and it not leave a legacy defies logic. Such imbalances tend to leave their imprint on many areas, notably the adrenal output, the functionality of the methylation cycle, the microbial balance throughout the body and an excess of inflammatory compounds (like histamine). Fortunately, individuals in this stage are now capable of tolerating interventions to support these key areas; in other words, they are now ready to heal if the right support is provided. Individuals in this stage are defined by feeling ‘better but flat’. Everything is ‘OK-ish’ but nothing is ‘great’. This is the most active stage, features the most complexity and where most of the metabolic overhaul occurs.
- Unrestricted, aka the ‘Finishing’ Stage. This is where we first get to see where your biochemistry is really at, unshackled, undistorted and unburdened by chronic problems. It’s all about what’s required to take you from feeling good to feeling great. This is a stage of small tweaks that result in big changes. This is where individuals now show great responses to the manipulation of the nutrient intake; in other words, they now respond the way they should! They now achieve their goals without fuss, whether it be fat loss of other physical pursuits. Our choice on interventions is no longer determined by your limited budget for stress. Equally, the likelihood of bad reactions to any changes finally becomes minimal during this stage.
A more specific example of this first stage comes in the way we go about the project of getting you well. I would always start by focusing on your basic metabolic function before dealing with dietary upgrades. To use an example, picture a mechanic’s workshop; if a car comes in with the exhaust pipe hanging off, the wheels wobbling and the engine smoking, would you suggest adding better quality petrol? Of course not. The human body is no different here; if your inner mechanics are messed up, then trying to load you up with superfoods and seasonal vegetables will be equally useless. We always want to focus on removing obstacles standing between you and using the food you eat. While it may take different changes for each person, our first aim in all cases is to feed you without inflaming you. Precisely 0% of incoming clients over 2016 were achieving this upon first meeting.
The body is self-healing, unless there are obstacles in play
My approach acknowledges that the body is self-healing, but only once obstacles have been removed. Expecting healing to occur before taking it out of an emergency state is naïve. Once the metabolism has been ‘sheltered from the storm’, it is then – and only then – that we can expect healing to occur. And this is when the clever stuff comes in.
This is when I measure your hormones, map out your genetic tendencies, gauge the conditions in your central nervous system, gauge the rate of genetic expression (epigenetics) and monitor dozens of key metabolic enzymes. This allows us to embrace the differences between each individual from a cellular level upwards, removing obstacles before they occur and providing the best support possible at each stage.
From start to finish, your treatment will be guided by a mathematically-based, obstacle-centred approach. I will acknowledge and respect your symptoms and provide palliative steps where appropriate. However, I will not be responding to these symptoms so much as the underlying causes of them. When we look for these underlying causes, we find the fundamental imbalances. It is these imbalances that are the obstacles and removing these obstacles central to the program. After all, it is not the headache that stops you from getting better, but the disturbances in your central nervous system.
Applying these ideas into a treatment plan
Because the protocols I put into play are determined by your biochemical needs, it can be difficult to describe what a program for any given individual would look like. Instead, it’s easier to say what I would avoid:
- I will avoid ‘double imbalances’. A perfect example of this is when an individual develops insomnia and low mood. There are a number of common causes for this, ranging from adrenal imbalance to disturbances in GABA levels, but the ‘standard of care’ is to prescribe an SSRI. This skyrockets your serotonin levels to around 20x the natural level, with the hope that this new imbalance will compensate for the first. Ironically, alternative practitioners are notorious for criticising this approach, but will then take a similar stance with natural alternatives. While the ‘double imbalance’ approach can sometimes help reduce symptoms, I will always strive to indentify and eliminate the primary issue.
- I will avoid dogma. This functions in two senses; first, I do not have a ‘preferred method’ for dealing with adrenal imbalance, there is no ‘best way’ to handle leaky gut and I do not have a ‘favourite supplement’ for boosting energy. Instead, I will look at your case history, build a picture of your internal biochemistry, and run the appropriate tests to fill in the blanks. I will then discuss the changes that are, mathematically, the most likely to help you. If a particular intervention helps 90% of people with your particular set-up, then I will be open to the fact that you may be in the 10% of people who do not respond and, if so, I will work out why this is the case so that we can prepare a successful Plan B.
Evidence-based medicine, based on actual evidence
Finally, I will always be guided by science but not limited by it. What I mean by this is that I will only recommend strategies that have a solid basis in science but I do not worship at the font of peer-reviewed research. It is estimated that 70% of scientific research is paid for by parties that stand to gain from the result, so these conclusions will be treated accordingly (especially if they disagree with truisms made evident by 40,000 years of human evolution… low-fat diets are by one of many examples here). Real science evaluates all evidence from all sources and seeks results, not consensus. The blind scientist considers the conclusion of double-blind research as gospel. A real scientist acknowledges these conclusions but considers that the average response of volunteers (normally young, relatively healthy university students) may well not apply to an older person with a deranged metabolism. A blind scientist places absolute faith in the results printed in a medical journal, a real scientist compares these expectations to the responses he is seeing in real humans. A real scientist remembers that, in every controlled trial with multiple subjects, none of these subjects had the exact biochemical balance that you have. I will try to be a real scientist in my work.
I hold the following qualifications:
- Diploma in Advanced Nutrition for Optimal Health (accredited by the BCMA)
- Diploma in Allergy and Environmental Therapy (BIAET)
- CertHE in Nutritional Medicine (Thames Valley University)