One of my early mentors in nutritional medicine is the brilliant Jeffrey Bland PhD. He could cite a hundred studies per hour in his riveting talks. His basic approach is to recommend nutrients instead of drugs for disease symptoms.
In my family practice, I used homeopathy, herbology, acupuncture, and just plain commonsense, so nutrients weren’t my only modality. Because I had so many other options, when it came to nutrients, I only focused on what worked. As a result, in the past decade I created a handful of dietary supplements that really work.
If a doctor’s only modality is nutrients, and they only work some of the time, he keeps using more nutrients in higher doses to try to get better results. In the past few years, Jeff Bland and his followers have found more ways to use more dietary supplements by analyzing genes and gene mutations.
I’m listening to some of the preview talks for a new online Summit called “Interpreting Your Genetics”, Jeff Bland talks about Genomics and Epigenetics as the brave new direction in medicine. He wants to position functional medicine practitioners to lead the way in interpreting patient’s genetic test results and implement strategies to overcome gene mutations. He actually says he wants to create a new financial and economic model that will be something practitioners will want to participate in so they will be able to make money in providing health care and not have to just disease care. It’s a great goal but it will be difficult. I’ve written about the control of insurance codes by the AMA so that doctors do not get paid for doing nutritional counseling. That’s why so many functional medicine practitioners depend on selling supplements to cover their costs.
The term “boys with toys” come to mind when I think of the energy being spent on this new technology to give practitioners more tools to talk their patients into eating better, exercising, getting more sleep, and taking more nutrients. Jeff’s personal example of how important it is to get genetic testing involved Vitamin D. Of course I immediately saw RED because Vit D requires magnesium for proper absorption and utilization and if you take Vit D without magnesium, you can cause magnesium deficiency symptoms. Jeff said some of his genes that program for vitamin D could cause less efficient transport and expression of Vit D and could affect immune system function. His Vit D, 25-OH was around 30, which I think is a good level, but he wanted a higher level and took Vit D and increased his level to 50-60. He said that after increasing his Vit D his immune system blood tests improved. Unfortunately everything Jeff said is speculation and doesn’t factor in his intake of magnesium or any other nutrients. Treating any lab value in isolation with drugs or nutrients just doesn’t make sense.
I find this whole movement toward genetic testing in functional medicine very disturbing, especially since they are just playing catch up with allopathic medicine. I’ve written about Dr. Allen Roses, worldwide vice-president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), who said at a 2003 conference that “less than half of the patients taking blockbuster drugs actually benefit from them.” Shocking words but it was just a strategy to promote Glaxo’s ‘brave new world’ of genetic engineering and genomics. Roses is on a mission to promote his field of ‘pharmacogenomics,’ which applies human genetics to drug development—identifying ‘responders,’ people who benefit from the drug—with a genetic test that can be used to eliminate those non responders who might benefit from a different drug.
Instead of drugs, functional medicine doctors will use supplements – just like they do now and with the same level of ineffectiveness. So, instead of scaring you with blood tests, hair mineral analysis, or results from energy machines, they will lay out your top one hundred gene mutations and pretend to tell you they know what you should do to control them. Another lecturer in the “Interpreting your Genetics” Summit spoke about epigenetics and admitted that among the 800 SNPs that could be identified the results they find or the suggestions they give for each SNP could be contradictory. Lord Sufferin Cats – that’s such an understatement. We know that 98% of genetic material in the body is considered “junk DNA” so how can anybody draw any practical conclusions from testing the remaining 2%.
Until there is more than speculation about the benefits of genetic testing I prefer to stick with the benefits of magnesium, which performs numerous functions that produce, repair, and stabilize DNA as well as RNA.
Carolyn Dean MD ND
The Doctor of the Future®
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