The Mitochondria in Complex Illness with Dr. Eric Gordon: Rational Wellness Podcast 105
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Dr. Eric Gordon discusses The Role of the Mitochondria in Complex, Chronic Illness with Dr. Ben Weitz.
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2:07 According to Dr. Gordon, understanding chronic illness requires a larger perspective than the traditional one of finding the triggering event, removing it and then the body heals and we’re back to health. Chronic illness is not often an isolated response to a toxic exposure or an infection. Chronic illness is more a stuck note in a complicated sonata of the interaction between the triggering event and the complexity that’s you. Dr. Gordon explained that complex chronic disease is indeed complex it is difficult to understand for doctors who are trained to find the simplest explanation for a given problem. In philosophy, this is known as Occam’s Razor. Interestingly, Dr. Lawrence Afrin, a former oncologist who’s practice is now focused on patients with Mast Cell Activation, wrote a book on Mast Cell disorders called Never Bet Against Occam. But when you deal with patients with complex chronic illnesses, there often is not a simple cause. In fact, there may be 10, 20 or even 50 causes.
8:08 Dr. Gordon explained that the way he got involved with treating patients with complex chronic illnesses is that he tends to believe his patients. Dr. Gordon often sees patients with chronic fatigue (myalgic encephalitis is a preferred term) and with chronic inflammatory response syndrome, which was termed by Dr. Shoemaker, or chronic Lyme Disease. The body ends up in a state of chronic inflammation.
11:58 A number of years ago patients with chronic disease were being diagnosed with hypoglycemia and then it was hypothyroid and then it was adrenal fatigue and then it was candida and then it was Lyme Disease, etc. Dr. Gordon explains that in these complex, chronic diseases the body is stuck in a pattern of response. This same kind of stuckness also exists at the mitochondria level.
16:37 We’ve always been taught that the mitochondria are the energy producers, but they are also the main modulators of the immune response, which Dr. Robert Naviaux has been writing about. Dr. Naviaux has written several landmark papers on the cell danger response, which is that cells will turn down the energy production for survival purposes when they sense danger. If the cells sense that there is a virus in the cell and the virus is starting to reproduce, the cell will turn down energy production and they will use less oxygen, which means that there will be more oxygen in the cytoplasm, which helps kill the virus. Dr. Gordon pointed out that many of the herbs that we consider antioxidants, like resveratrol and curcumin, are actually pro-oxidants which cause stress to the body and make it stronger. This is in a similar way to how exercise tears down your tissues and then your body rebuilds them to be stronger. There is a cycle of stress and response.
20:14 I pointed out with all this talk about how fasting creates autophagy, we have forgotten that one of the best ways to create autophagy is with exercise. Dr. Gordon pointed out that “when the body is in a fed state, it wants to build tissue and when its in a less fed state, like at night when you are sleeping with the fast, your body works at breaking down old tissue and using those parts to rebuild with. But as we get older, if all we keep getting is the signal of fedness and is that we keep old half dead cells alive and we wind up with a whole body burden of half, like people are talking about zombie cells. Basically, they are cells that are growing and living but they really are not communicating well with each other and they’re not doing the cellular function. Like the liver, they’re in your liver and they’re alive but they are not processing chemicals like they should be. They’re just busy trying to stay alive and so when you exercise, you stress them but if you want to stress your liver cell, you’re better off doing it by not feeding it for awhile.”
22:22 If you have a patient with adrenal fatigue or hypothyroidism and you support them with dietary changes like getting off gluten and nutrients and possibly hormones, they can get better. If their mitochondria are just not working well, then you can give them mitochondrial nutrients like CoQ10 and carnitine and they will get better. But in these cases of complex, chronic illness, like chronic fatigue, the mitochondria have turned themselves down and changed function and giving them more raw materials to make energy doesn’t work. The mitochondria have reprogrammed themselves to modulate your immune response. To stimulate change we can look at it from different perspectives, such as the structural component with chiropractic and bodywork, and the cranial mechanism and the vagus nerve. In the Functional Medicine world we are trained to figure out what some of the triggers are, like Lyme or HH6 [aka, Human Herpes virus 6, aka HHV-6] or EBV [Epstein Barr Virus] or other viral infections or heavy metals or toxic load, etc. and treat them, and this may help to some extent, but many of these chronic complex patients don’t respond as well as most other patients would. 80% of patients will respond to this type of care, but the chronic, complex cases will not as well, since in some of them the trigger is either gone or not as important anymore. We have to look at how to treat these patients from different perspectives. Because these chronically unwell patients don’t respond like other patients do to the same treatments, they are often labelled as having psychological disorders, as being depressed.
32:47 We do not understand these chronic patients and we need to focus on why particular individuals get such severe and long term reactions to some of these diseases like Lyme, which Dr. Gordon feels is ubiquitous, or herpes, which nearly everybody has. But most of us with exposure to Lyme or herpes don’t get sick. Everybody gets exposed to mold and heavy metals at some point, but depending upon your biochemical individuality, some people detoxify them, while others get sick. The challenge is how to analyse each person to see how their genes are being expressed. We are getting closer to being able to measure a person’s expression of their genes (transcriptomics) and which proteins they are making (metabolomics), so we can see which pathways are most stressed and need supporting. There is hope for many of these patients but there is no on easy answer.
Dr. Eric Gordon is a the Medical Director of Gordon Medical Associates, a medical practice focused on serving patients with complex chronic illness in Santa Rosa and San Rafael, California. According to Dr. Gordon, understanding chronic illness requires a larger perspective than the traditional one of finding the triggering event, removing it, and then the body heals and we are back to health. Chronic illness is not often an isolated response to a toxic exposure or an infection. Chronic illness is more a stuck note in a complicated sonata of the interaction between the triggering event(s) and the complexity that is you. His website is GordonMedical.com and he has started to see new patients again.
Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations specializing in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and also specializing in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure and also weight loss, as well as sports chiropractic work by calling his Santa Monica office 310-395-3111 or go to www.drweitz.com.
Dr. Weitz: This is Dr. Ben Weitz with the Rational Wellness podcast, bringing you the cutting edge information on health and nutrition. From the latest scientific research and by interviewing the top experts in the field. Please subscribe to Rational Wellness podcast on iTunes and YouTube and sign up for my free e-book on my website by going to drweitz.com. Let’s get started on your road to better health. Hello Rational Wellness podcasters! Thank you so much for joining me again today. For those of you who enjoy listening to the Rational Wellness podcast, please go to iTunes and gives us a ratings and review, that way more people can find out about the Rational Wellness podcast.
Our topic for today is a complicated one. We’re going to talk about the role of the mitochondria in complex chronic illness. The mitochondria is the organelle that’s most responsible for cellular energy and it plays a crucial role in chronic diseases. Every cell in our body contains several thousand mitochondria and mitochondria produce 90% of the energy our body needs to function. Mitochondrial dysfunction is understood as a decline in the ability of the electron transport train to generate high energy molecules like ATP and this is often seen with aging and virtually all chronic diseases. Including neurodegenerative diseases, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, autism, bipolar disorder, cancer, chronic infections, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia.
Dr. Eric Gordon is the founder and medical director of Gordon Medical Associates. A medical practice focused on serving patients with complex chronic illness in Santa Rosa and San Rafael, California. According to Dr. Gordon, understanding chronic illness requires a larger perspective than the traditional one of finding the triggering event, removing it and then the body heals and we’re back to health. Chronic illness is not often an isolated response to a toxic exposure or an infection. Chronic illness is more a stuck note in a complicated sonata of the interaction between the triggering event and the complexity that’s you. Dr. Gordon thank you so much for joining me today.
Dr. Gordon: A pleasure. A pleasure Ben. Yeah. It’s good to be here.
Dr. Weitz: So how did you get interested in treating-
Dr. Gordon: A stuck note sounds easier to me.
Dr. Weitz: You seem to have a musical orientation towards health.
Dr. Gordon: Well, it’s funny. I’m actually tone deaf but I love the complexity of the orchestra and the possibilities. And it’s always been clear to me once I started treating people that it is an orchestration because it’s not … in health and in disease, you rarely have one player that stands out. It really is an interactive whole, and that’s what makes … it makes medicine hard to understand and is why I think doctors fall back on the single cause for the illness routine because that’s how our minds tend to work. We tend to have engineering minds. That’s just the nature of people. The animal. We see a problem, we want to figure out what caused it and the idea that you can have 10, 20, 50 causes for an outcome is difficult for us to get our heads around.
Dr. Weitz: Absolutely. I was trained in philosophy and in philosophy there’s something called Occam’s Razor and you always prefer the simplest explanation for any problem that you are trying to solve.
Dr. Gordon: Absolutely. It’s funny because that’s the title of Dr. Afrin’s book on mast cell disorders.
Dr. Weitz: Oh really?
Dr. Gordon: Yes. Never Bet Against Occam. And I’ve had this discussion with him, Dr. Afrin, the whole thing … he’s one of the proponents … proponents? Yeah. He’s one of the people who helped introduced us to the concept of mast cell activation syndrome and he got there, just a little quick aside, by looking at being … he’s a very bright man who is an oncologist but he actually would listen to his patients. So when other doctors, other oncologists had patients that didn’t fit what they thought they should have, they knew that Dr. Afrin would actually listen and try to keep figuring it out rather than just go, “This isn’t in my box. Go somewhere else.” They did send them somewhere else, but they sent them to Larry to think about. And so he started to see these people who had multiple symptoms. They had irritable bowel syndrome. They had asthma. They had migraines. And they had rashes. And maybe they had interstitial cystitis. And he goes, “Why should somebody have five different diseases?” And being an oncologist, and being familiar with something called mastocytosis, which is a disease, a cancer of mast cells when you make too many of them. Mast cells make histamine and they cause allergy responses, but they also when they make … Histamine is a big part of each one of those things. Irritable bowel, migraines, asthma, interstitial cystitis, inflammation. He thought, “Huh. These people look like the mast cell people.” And he started treating them with anti-histamine medicines and many of them significantly improved. So his point is Occam’s Razor, look for the single … let’s make it simpler. So that being said, I thought that was a brilliant piece of medical detective work. But, that’s really not how the body works though. The body is a symphony where there are … very simple with genetic diseases. One of the reasons genetics has been kind of a lot of noise but not a lot of … hasn’t been as helpful in chronic diseases is because there are only a few hundred genetic diseases and they are very rare that involve one to five genes. Okay?
Most chronic illnesses, heart disease, Parkinson’s, we don’t even know about Parkinson’s but esp. heart disease, we know. There’s hundreds of genes interacting that you wind up there. So, Occam’s Razor doesn’t work so well there. Looking for the simple answer. It does in the things that kill us quickly. An infection that’s overwhelming. But if your body can deal with the infection and it just hangs around, then you’re no longer dealing with the bug, you’re dealing with your biochemical individuality’s response to the bug. And that’s what chronic illness is, is it’s about the individual. Rather than about the population. And that’s why it’s been so difficult to work with. My favorite subject.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. You know what? I would like to-
Dr. Gordon: Let’s go back to mitochondria a little bit.
Dr. Weitz: Sure. Yeah. Sure. How did you become interested in treating patients with chronic diseases?
Dr. Gordon: Well, I had that bad habit of, I believe people. Okay? And when you are a doctor, especially when you are in the hospital, you’re used to people who come in and they have a big … like a pneumonia. A gallbladder attack. A heart attack. But lots of them, even when you take care of that, they still feel terribly, and they felt terribly in ways that didn’t make sense to me. Because they didn’t make sense to medicine. They’re again, they’re the people kind of like Dr. Afrin was seeing. They had so many complaints and they had complaints that moved around. One day they had really bad shoulders. The next day they had bad knees. That doesn’t make sense.
Dr. Weitz: Right.
Dr. Gordon: We don’t have a … But I believe them. These were people who I didn’t think we’re coming to lie to me.
Dr. Weitz: Right. I’d like to clarify for those of us out there listening when they hear the term chronic disease, yes, it’s true that chronic disease is like heart disease and diabetes or the predominant diseases of today. But, what we’re talking about is these complex chronic diseases. What you might call the chronic-chronic diseases. There’s acute diseases, like you get an acute infection and you take an antibiotic, it’s over. And then there’s these chronic diseases like diabetes and you have these blood sugar problems and there are strategies that can fix some of these people by following diet, lifestyle, et cetera. And sometimes these strategies work and they’re totally under control. In other cases, maybe they have to be managed. But we’re talking about a third category of chronic patient who have these unexplained diseases.
Dr. Gordon: Chronic fatigue. I mean people don’t like … people prefer the term myalgic encephalitis or chronic … And I agree because chronic fatigue is insulting to many people because it sounds, “Oh, you’re just tired.” Which is far from it. It’s much … yeah. Much more life defeating than that and intrusive. But yeah, it’s when people are left with inability to function and we don’t know why. Often it’s precipitated by an infection but it doesn’t have to be. It can be a minor trauma, car accidents. I mean just things happen and the body winds up in a state of chronic inflammation and it doesn’t always have to have pain. Sometimes the inflammation is mostly in the brain and in that case, it just might be difficulty thinking and being able to organize your day. I mean, it’s amazing how debilitating these illnesses are. Now they are often lumped under this chronic fatigue, immune deficiency syndrome or chronic Lyme disease, or post-Lyme. I mean these are all names depends on which doctor you go to. Or, some people they are called CIRS, chronic inflammatory response syndrome. Dr. Shoemaker has put forward. But basically, these are illnesses that we do not understand. We have lots of theories about and thankfully in the last few years, we’re actually beginning to get research which has been quite amazing. So anyway, so those are the people that I work with-
Dr. Weitz: Isn’t it interesting how there’s almost this chronic disease de jour diagnosis? So, you get a lot of these patients at one time were all being diagnosed as having hypothyroid. And then they’re all being diagnosed as having adrenal fatigue. And then everybody’s being diagnosed as having Lyme disease. And then everybody’s being-
Dr. Gordon: Absolutely. When I started, everybody had this in these … like I said, in the 80s, it was everybody had candida. Actually, hypoglycemia was the first thing. But what it is is that this is the blind men and the elephant okay? Each thing, number one, there are some patients who that is their problem but this is what they look like. And otherwise, as doctors learn things, the problem with being a doctor is that it’s a, as you know, it’s a very difficult business because you get good at pieces of it. It gets too broad for most people to be good at everything. I mean nobody’s good at everything in this business. So, the tendency is to get better and better at one aspect of it. I happen to have a little ADD so I kind of go all over the place, but that’s why I have people who work with me who really go deep in certain aspects, because there’s just too much to know. So the problem is that many people who have “adrenal fatigue”, quote on quote, now some of them do. Some of them really are people who are fairly healthy who just overdid it. Okay? And those folks do great with rest. Graded exercise, proper nutrition. Fix their guts and kind of maybe address their hormone and support them with herbs or some hormones and they do phenomenally. But, they’re the kind of like the outskirts or the suburbs if you will of the people that I see. The people that … I used to see those folks. But the people that I see have failed that, okay? They kept staying sicker because their system is more stuck, okay? When you have adrenal fatigue, usually, if you remove the stressor, the body kind of comes back online. Generally. And with a little bit of support. Okay? But with these chronic … what I’m calling the chronic complex illnesses, you are now in a system that’s not allowing you to get better. And this goes back. We’re stuck. I hate to use psychological … actually I love to use psychological terms but I always wary of them because these are not psychological illnesses, you know?
Dr. Weitz: Right.
Dr. Gordon: I just find that the story that psychology weaves, it’s a little bit like Chinese medicine in the sense that it’s much more fluid and able to explain things that aren’t linear. I mean, because it’s the idea that the body is stuck in a pattern of response and so a great example of that is like behavior. I mean some people have trouble with time. No matter how often, they are always late. They are not doing it on purpose. It’s just how they’re wired. They don’t quite believe … they really think that they can get something done in a minute or five minutes, that’s going to take half an hour, and they just can’t get through their heads that every day they do the same thing. I’m going to be on time and they forget that they got five things to do. They’re not going to do them in five minutes. So that’s the kind of same stuckness that we have at the mitochondria level. At the biochemical level in the body, in these chronic complex illnesses. The body is stuck in a behavior, and even when we remove the inciting event, like the infection or the stressor, the body doesn’t turn back on and go back to the health. And go back to health. It is stuck in a lower level of functioning. But it’s doing that as a survival mechanism. It’s not doing that … it’s just that it’s a survival mechanism that is no longer probably useful as far as we can tell.
Dr. Weitz: Right.
Dr. Gordon: So, and that’s where the mitochondria come in because we’ve always been taught that the mitochondria were the energy producers and they are. But also serve as one of the … well, you never know but we believe main modulators of the immune response which is something people haven’t thought about or hadn’t quite put into the words. Dr. Naviaux, Robert Naviaux from the University of San Diego has been writing about this a lot and he’s well … well, well known or should be better known for … He developed a treatment that may work for autism that involves trying to restore how you say … mitochondrial communication with the rest of the cell, or cell to cell communication. But I don’t want to go too far afield. It’s like the mitochondria, when they sense danger, they are … I mean in single cell organisms, and in your body, as soon as they can tell like a virus is in the cell and the virus is starting to use your raw materials to make more virus, the mitochondria sense that and they begin to turn down energy production, okay? And when they turn down energy production, they use less oxygen and suddenly there’s more oxygen in the cytoplasm, in the material that’s in the rest of the cell, and that creates an oxidative stress that helps kill the virus. And it also gets the nucleus to make proteins that will help kill the virus and at the same time increase oxidative stress and then after a short period of time, begin to make more things like glutathione, and NfKB, which will begin to reduce the oxidative stress. You see, this cycle, there’s a cycle in health. It’s not linear. It’s a circle. Okay? You get … your body gets stressed and then you respond. Like a lot of the herbs that we use. That most of the herbs that we consider antioxidants are actually pro-oxidants, okay?
Dr. Weitz: We’re talking about things like vitamin C and vitamin E and folic acid and …
Dr. Gordon: I’m thinking more like some of the herbal things like-
Dr. Weitz: Resveratrol or carotenoids.
Dr. Gordon: Especially resveratrol is a good example and-
Dr. Weitz: Curcumin.
Dr. Gordon: Curcumin. These things actually cause stress but the body’s response to the stress is stronger, okay? And you make more of the antioxidants, but you need that little stress. I mean just like exercise. I mean, when you exercise, you actually are tearing down, you are disrupting tissues.
Dr. Weitz: Absolutely.
Dr. Gordon: And it’s the healing that makes you stronger. And that’s happening … that’s orchestrated by, or conducted by the mitochondria. And it’s a separate function but it’s a dance. The mitochondria are constantly moving between this stance of producing, of using oxygen up or sometimes just not increasing the oxygen content in the cytoplasm to kind of stress the system.
Dr. Weitz: Right. By the way, I just wanted to go astray a little bit. I wanted to point out that there’s all this talk these days about fasting creating autophagy. Well, guess what? Exercise creates autophagy. That’s how it works. We’ve known about this for a long time. This idea of that you have to do this special kind of fast to get rid of old, damaged cells to create autophagy, exercise.
Dr. Gordon: Yeah, no, exercise does it. But the problem we have, if it’s just exercise is that if you, for instance, if you take a lot of antioxidants before you exercise, you don’t get the training effect because you got to stress the system. It’s just nice because when the body is in a fed state, it wants to build tissue, and when it’s in a less fed state like at night, when you are sleeping and with the fast, your body works at breaking down old tissue and using those parts to rebuild things with. Because the problem we have is when you are young, and you’re healthy and you’re rebuilding tissue, it’s really great. Those signals for growth are perfect. But as we get older, if all we keep getting is the signal of fedness and is that we keep old half dead cells alive and we wind up with a whole body burden of half, like people are talking about zombie cells. Basically, they are cells that are growing and living but they really are not communicating well with each other and they’re not doing the cellular function. Like the liver, they’re in your liver and they’re alive but they are not processing chemicals like they should be. They’re just busy trying to stay alive and so when you exercise, you stress them but if you want to stress your liver cell, you’re better off doing it by not feeding it for awhile.
Dr. Weitz: Right. Okay. Well let’s get back to mitochondria. So how is mitochondrial issues related to this chronic disease cycle?
Dr. Gordon: Okay. Well I think the big thing is it was kind of like I was saying in the beginning, if you have somebody with quote on quote, “adrenal fatigue” or hypothyroidism or things of that nature, usually if you support them either with the hormones or even better, with lifestyle changes that will allow these things to happen, maybe getting rid of the gluten so you stop causing the inflammatory response in the thyroid, that’s great. But, if … one second. I’ve lost my train of thought there for a second. But when you are in complex disease, what I call the chronic complex diseases, it doesn’t work anymore because the problem isn’t that the mitochondria are low in let’s say CoQ10. I mean CoQ10 is very important in the electron transport train and if you give lots of people like with sometimes with adrenal fatigue, as they’re getting better, CoQ10, carnitine, which helps get the fatty acids into the mitochondria. Those things really help. But, that’s because their mitochondria are functioning normally and they just needed a little help. But in things like chronic fatigue, you are actually … your mitochondria have turned themselves down for a reason. So it doesn’t matter. It’s like they have locked the door. So it doesn’t matter how much you are giving them, okay? They’re not going to use it and they’ve turned themselves down because they’re trying to … instead of just working right now as a energy production machine, because when they are working as the energy production machine, you give them more CoQ10. They’re able to move more electrons along that chain more efficiently, okay? But when they are now working as to modulate your immune defense system, they’re not producing energy. They’ve changed what they’re doing. So, I guess it’s like if you have a factory that’s making cars and you’re delivering carburetors, that’s great. But if suddenly the factory decides now to start making artillery, the carburetor isn’t used anymore.
Dr. Weitz: Right.
Dr. Gordon: And that’s basically it. So the mitochondria have changed function, partially. Obviously it’s not 100%, but it’s a significant change. So giving them more raw materials to make energy doesn’t work because they’ve reprogrammed themselves to actually modulate your immune response.
Dr. Weitz: So how do we fix these people? How do we change their mitochondria? How do we-
Dr. Gordon: Well, that’s the million dollar question. That is what everybody is working on from different perspectives. Remember, this is one way of looking at the problem. I don’t want to tell you that this is the issue. This is one way of looking at it. But because the body is a system, we keep trying to get at it from a multitude of ways because ultimately, if you are stuck in one way, we start looking at others. So structure is one of the ways that I often begin to work with people who have been chronically ill because the vagus nerve has two components and one of the most basic component, the older component, is about self-defense. The newer component of the vagus nerve is about love and relaxing and feeling good. But the primitive part of the vagus nerve is there for self-defense and it also has a lot to do with controlling the gut. And if we can begin to get the cranial mechanism and the thoracic spine and all that working better, we take some of the stress off the vagus nerve and we change the information because remember, this is an information system. What we’re talking about, I think, in chronic complex illness, is often the trigger is either gone or not as important anymore. The thing that caused it. And I have spent my life trying to get rid of the triggers. Treating Lyme disease. Treating all the HH6 and the EBV and all the viral infections. The heavy metals and the toxic load. So, these are all triggers and perpetuating factors that we have to address but in many people, that doesn’t work so well because when you try to treat the infection, you make them sicker because they can’t detox. They can’t detox because their whole body is stuck in this self-defense mode and it’s like frozen.
Because it’s very simple. Like when you get scared normally you can jump and then you can run. But when you get really scared, you freeze. You don’t even move. That’s the ultimate defensive mode. Like ontologically, how organisms are wired. It’s not about personality. It’s just about, you scare anybody, anybody deep enough, they will just freeze. And that’s what your cells do. That’s what your whole system does. When it’s significantly stressed, it stops moving. So any way we can return movement to the system might signal the body that it’s safe and the mitochondria are sensing danger signals. And this is what gets confusing. People always, once we start talking about safety and danger, people think we’re talking, oh this is a psychological problem. But safety and danger signals also operate, yes in a psychological space but on the chemical space. Smells can trigger danger. Viruses trigger danger signals. There is no psychological body separation. Every immune cell has receptors for the neurotransmitters that deal with mood. Serotonin and dopamine. There’s no psychological, physical separation. I get so frustrated when people try to make things, oh this is a psychological illness. One of the things that I’ve been interested in is something called metabolomics, which is looking at a few hundred chemicals in the blood and we can see depressed people by the biochemical signature. This is a strict … so it doesn’t mean that … so yes, you can be depressed because you’ve been divorced. Your mother died. But ultimately, it’s a biochemical state. And that biochemical state is what controls the organism and because the mitochondria are just sensing those small chemicals that affect mood, that’s the same chemicals that your mitochondria are sensing. So when you get infected by a virus, you get sickness behavior. What happens? You get tired. And you don’t want to be around people. I mean not many people when they get sick want to go to a party. They want to go quiet … in a quiet room, by themselves. That’s a strictly physiologic response, but it’s driven by the same chemicals. This is driven … this is what we call a sickness behavior and it’s biochemical. It has psychological outcomes. And so I just … I might be killing this but I just always worry that people are going to hear me saying that these are psychological illnesses, when they’re the farthest thing from it. Most of my patients were successful, highly motivated, and not depressed human beings. The problem is is that when they go to the doctor, and the doctor, their blood tests are normal. Their regular blood test, like their blood count, and their kidneys and liver functions look good. And their EKGs normal, and their chest x-ray is normal and whatever else they test-
Dr. Weitz: But patients think those are very sensitive tests to how their body’s functioning but those are very insensitive tests and your liver enzymes are only going to be positive if there’s significant destruction of liver cells. It doesn’t tell you whether your liver is really functioning very well.
Dr. Gordon: At all. Absolutely. So the bottom line is, is that these people who I see are almost always labeled for the first five or 10 doctors that they see as being depressed, and that’s why I am so sensitive to the idea that I’m talking that this is a psychological illness. But it is not. But that is what medicine has always done. And multiple sclerosis. 40 years ago, half the time that people were diagnosed as depressed. Okay? And before we had … well, we had an MRI 50 years, but still, before the diagnosis was made conclusively by physical, by evidence, people were told that they were depressed.
Dr. Weitz: Right.
Dr. Gordon: And that’s what we do. So we do not understand these illnesses well. We’re developing more and more treatments, and they work. The problem is, we’re now dealing, like I said in the beginning, the disease of the individual. Because I think Lyme disease is ubiquitous. I think it’s all over. I think millions of people have Lyme disease. But they don’t have any symptoms. Just like how many people have the herpes infection? Everybody’s got herpes.
Dr. Weitz: Or get exposed to some mold or get exposed to some heavy metals. You start measuring trace amounts of mercury.
Dr. Gordon: Everybody. It’s just that … but some people because of their biochemical individuality, and the number of environmental stresses they’ve had, they wind up with illness, and that illness is just a reflection of their body and their life exposures. And that is why we don’t do well with them in a medicine that is looking for treatments that are going to work for 80% of the people. So it gets difficult and we start having to look much more at the individuality and we’re getting there, because finally in the last five years and maybe hopefully in the next two or three, we’re going to get enough ability to look at what’s called transcriptomics, what RNA … not just your genes, but what genes are you actually expressing, okay? So what proteins you’re actually making, plus what I call the metabolomics, what small molecules you’re making and maybe when we put these together, we’ll actually be able to see which pathways in you are most stressed and need supporting or addressing.
Because right now, the more information we get, we’re actually getting almost more … I think I’m getting more confused, anyway. I don’t know about the other people out there. It’s because individual chemicals … I mean, you can be very high in succinate, but succinate can be used all over the body for different processes. So we only think of it in terms of the Krebs cycle. But, it’s a building block. You used to make porphyrins, and just make hemoglobin and all these parts of your body. So when it’s high or low, assuming it has something to do with the Krebs cycle, is a huge assumption. And that’s the problem. We have to look at the body from multiple viewpoints. And we’re almost there. I think we’re almost there but-
Dr. Weitz: And by the way, for those listening who are not familiar, succinate is something that might show up in an organic acids profile, right?
Dr. Gordon: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Because it’s like … and these tests are … I mean, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be doing them because occasionally, they do give us insight but lots of times, the insight isn’t really useful for that person because it’s not like when we measure your blood count, and you’re anemic, we know that for most … I mean, that’s not always true, but for most people if they are anemic, their blood count is low. We measure their iron is low. We go, oh, give them iron and their blood count goes up and they feel better. That’s wonderful. Right. But if you have chronic disease, many times your iron can look low but giving you iron might even make you worse because your body has turned down production of the red blood cells for a reason and when you give more iron, you’re just increasing oxidative stress because iron really … excess iron might be one of the more toxic things we have.
There are some people in the longevity world that are actually busy donating blood a few times a year because they want to keep their iron stores low. It’s … that’s what I meant about the symphony. All these things play a role but if they don’t play a role at the right time, if they’re making discordant notes, then we get disease. And it’s just a … I guess my plea to patients, I should say actually the point of all this. I don’t want to sound overwhelming. Like oh my god, we know nothing. The beauty of all this mess is that we still know a lot of what to do for the individual but what happens is that people get very frustrated because as you said in the beginning is that when you start off with this complex disease, and if you go to one doctor, you’re going to be told you have hypothyroidism. You try that, it didn’t work. Then adrenal fatigue. And then you’ve got mold illness and then maybe you go to somebody else and you got Lyme. And it’s frustrating. The point is, there’s a lot of doctors out there right now who are getting the experience and beginning to be able to tell when you just have a positive test, or whether that test is being expressed. Whether the symptoms you have really fit the Lyme or the mold or more importantly, it’s often … many people … what really makes this tough is that in my experience, most people don’t develop significant mold illnesses. Mycotoxin sensitivity … Now I’m talking about allergy, but sensitivity to the toxins that molds can make. Most of us can be exposed to that and we can detox them and deal with them fine. Okay? It’s the people who’ve often had Lyme disease, and Lyme changes how your immune system responds and then they have difficulty with being able to metabolize the mold toxins. So it’s a house, not of cards, but it’s a house being built in your body of reactions to things because it’s a interactive dance between your immune system and these bugs. Because these are the bugs that want to live with us. They’re not trying to kill us. They want to be part of our community.
Dr. Weitz: And should we think of it in terms of cumulative overload? Some people refer to the, you have this giant bucket and when it’s close to the top and you get exposed to something that stresses your system, it overflows and you get all these symptoms and if you could empty out several pails of water from the bucket, now you’ve got a reserve so you can deal with things.
Dr. Gordon: Well, yes. I think that always has been a good analogy.
Dr. Weitz: Right. That’s kind of the model that we look at. So okay, we take the mold factor out. Maybe we get rid of the heavy metals, and now we’ve removed some of the triggers, so now you … yeah, rebuild some of your cellular reserves. So now if you do get exposed to something, it maybe is not problematic for you. Whereas if you are always close to the top, you’re going to react to everything.
Dr. Gordon: Well, yeah. I mean, and another lens on that is that when you remove, let’s say the heavy metals, then suddenly your immune system is now working better and then it can keep Lyme or the viruses in check.
Dr. Weitz: Exactly.
Dr. Gordon: And so if you remove them slowly, they’re not making you ill. Because you see, or more importantly, sometimes I think you actually can control your own immune response because many times, there are people who’s significant symptoms in Lyme and the tick borne illnesses are not the bugs, but their body’s response to the bugs are overwhelming. They create this … The cellular defense response is so heightened that it makes you sick because remember, most symptoms of inflammation, the swelling, the redness, that’s your own cellular response. That’s not the bug. Your body does that while it’s fighting. And like I said, the sickness behavior. Wanting to go lie down. Fatigued. Not losing your appetite. That’s not the bug. That’s the body’s own self-defense response that’s now stuck on. So when we remove some of the toxic exposure, your immune system can often come back and stop overreacting and stop acting like a three year old. I mean, that’s the problem. The immune system goes into a primitive place where everything is danger. Everything is no, or screaming at …
Dr. Weitz: And then the immune system starts tweeting in the middle of the night and declaring national disasters and where there aren’t any.
Dr. Gordon: Exactly. That’s it. But it goes back to a primitive pattern. Right, a fear. Very similar to yes, our midnight tweets. Yes. Fear. Instead of reacting like an adult which can grade and realize that life … You see, that’s it. It’s very interesting is that life, in the complexity of life in the organism only happens when there can be learned of cooperation and balanced responses because that’s how your body works. In fact, that’s how we interact well with viruses. Viruses will succeed if they learn how to have a balanced response, if they kill us, which is the … like not the win-win, but I win, you lose situation, they don’t do well in the long-run.
Dr. Weitz: Right. No, they want a host that they can reproduce and go into another host. Right.
Dr. Gordon: Exactly. That requires cooperation which is another … but that’s really what happens. So getting back to the idea is the toxicity of our world. One of the points that I’d like to make that I think is so important is I been doing this now since 19 … so close to 40 years. And I can tell you that … autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto’s for instance, thyroiditis, I mean when I started in medicine, we could test for it. It was not that common. Now it’s a dime a dozen. I mean, all the autoimmune … it’s called autoimmune diseases, the kind of Lyme symptoms we see. When I … Joe Verscano, like my partner, like Wayne Anderson, he started treating Lyme in like 1990, ’91. It was still often relatively easy. The people have gotten sicker, and sicker and sicker and sicker. I don’t think the bugs have gotten … maybe the bugs have changed. But I think it’s us. I mean, the toxic load in our environment has gone like not linearly but logarithmically up over the last 40 years. And I think that is why we’re seeing these illnesses and we’re seeing so much dysfunction at the mitochondrial level because when the mitochondria sense toxins, part of their job … They are smart but they are not that smart. If the toxin ties up the biochemical reaction that is going to produce the raw materials that the mitochondria need, the mitochondria can’t tell the difference between that and a virus using those same raw materials. All I knows is that it’s not getting the raw materials that it should get. The NADH and NADPH. It’s not coming in, into the mitochondria from the cell. And that triggers the, what we call the cell danger response. Where the mitochondria stop producing as much energy. They start using ATP, the energy molecule, as a messenger, okay? The ATP, they start sending ATP outside the cell. So normally, there’s a very tiny amount of ATP around the cell because actually, it’s a neurotransmitter in a way. There’s actually 17 receptors on the cell membrane and different cell membranes for what they call purinergic ATP, and AMP and all these energy molecules. They actually work to communicate. They’re part of the cell’s cell signaling function and when the mitochondria sense danger, they start sending more ATP outside the cell and this gives the signal that the cell’s in danger and they’re also making less energy so toxic load acts the same as a virus on your body.
Dr. Weitz: Cool. So I’m going to have to bring this discussion to a close in the next few minutes.
Dr. Gordon: We were definitely not linear.
Dr. Weitz: Definitely not. So how do we want to end it?
Dr. Gordon: Oh.
Dr. Weitz: What kind of final thoughts you want to have?
Dr. Gordon: Final thoughts. Is I think the most important thing is to if you’ve been ill for a long time, is to not give up hope. Okay? Is that it’s … the unfortunate part of this illness I think is many more people actually run out of money than of hope. Because, honestly, because we don’t have perfect treatment regiments. We don’t even have … I don’t even think we have decent treatment regiments. So much of the time, I said what that doctor knows how to do, that you wind up spending a lot of money and not getting very far. But the reason I say don’t give up hope is I’ve seen people who have been sick for 20, 30 years, get better. But, to be fair, I’m not going to tell you. I don’t get everybody better. Far from it. I mean, I wish I did. These are difficult illnesses. But so many people do get better because there are so many different reasons that you can wind up with chronic fatigue. And I think that’s the thing. Don’t give up because somebody you know didn’t get better. You are different, and it might turn out that with you, the pick-up sticks model that’s need is maybe just getting out of the moldy environment for you.
Maybe that’s going to be the big deal. Maybe getting the toxins out of your system. Maybe just getting the right structural work done. I mean, there’s so many pieces that can then allow the body to enter the healing cycle and really go back to normal. I mean, that is my message of hope. The frustration is picking the first step, is not always clear. But don’t give up because there is a step that will help you. We just have to find it for you.
Dr. Weitz: Great. So how can listeners get a hold of you or find out more information about you? Are you accepting new patients?
Dr. Gordon: Yeah. I started to again. For awhile I wasn’t and it was getting … but now I started seeing new patients because I like to send people on quicker. I find that what I’m really good at is evaluation and giving people pretty good idea of where they need to go. But I like to send people because I do so many things, I prefer to send people on to other doctors who kind of specialize in the area that they need the most support in. And then they can come back to me and we can go to the next level. So with that being said, I am concentrating my practice, as of May, in San Rafael. Our website, or what is it … I think it’s gordonmedical.com, I believe. I don’t know these things. Okay. Yeah, is the website and they can find the information there. But I just … what I’m hoping to do is more research. I’m trying to get, I said some of the right called leaders together because the more brilliant doctors are, often the harder it is to get them to work together.
Dr. Weitz: Yes. Absolutely.
Dr. Gordon: And that is my dream, because I don’t know everything. I need a lot of help.
Dr. Weitz: You sure know a lot and thanks for sharing with us today, Dr. Gordon.
Dr. Gordon: My pleasure. Really. It was fun, Ben, and next time we get to chat, we’ll talk more about … I would love to talk to you about the body.
Dr. Weitz: Absolutely. Yeah.
Dr. Gordon: That to me is what’s missed by so many physicians. The structural…
Dr. Weitz: The structural component. Yeah.
Dr. Gordon: How important structural component is.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. Great. Excellent. Thank you, Eric.
Dr. Gordon: Be well.
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