When Western Medicine Isn’t Working—Different Insights From A Leader In Health
Modern Western Medicine, many argue, is based on a narrow scientific system that overlooks and abruptly discards therapies and entire medical systems that don’t fit what they have been taught.
The biggest argument made by those who question Western Medicine, is that instead of treating underlying causes or imbalances, doctors only manage symptoms. Doctors are trained to view the human body as a machine consisting of separate parts that should be treated independently, and not as an integrated whole.
Western Medicine ALSO tends to treat the disease, not the patient. And it tends to ignore the importance of diet and lifestyle on health.
But the biggest problem in healthcare? The Pharmaceutical Industry has way too much power and influence over physicians to use their drugs, and over researchers to ensure “positive results” for their drugs. This is marketing.
Are you worried yet? Because we are.
We reached out to one of the biggest names in research, Dr. Raymond Peat (Ph.D.). He is the editor of a popular monthly newsletter on nutrition, health, aging, and hormonal imbalances, which he covers from a biochemical perspective.
He also has, what many describe to be a “cult following,” with dedicated fans who claim that his advice has changed their lives for the better, helped them understand the flaws in Western Medicine and pharmaceutical and supplement marketing. There are also several websites and Facebook forums dedicated to discussing wellness and health through the lens of his research. His followers are, not surprisingly, referred to as Peatarians.
Below is our interview with Dr. Raymond Peat.
Beyond The Interview: In what arenas, specifically, do you think our ever-popular Western Medicine is mistaken and why?
Raymond Peat: It would be much easier to name the things that they do right, and why. On average, they are competent at mechanical things, such as setting broken bones, suturing wounds, and even replacing severed appendages. They do that well, because they understand the simple mechanics of the body; they are taught to understand the body as a mechanism.
Unfortunately, that mechanical thinking is extended to other areas, such as the circulation of blood. A good plumber could identify with the standard medical approaches to treating circulatory problems. Beyond the mechanical properties of the body, everything is physiological, and most doctors learned physiology from an absurdly bad textbook by A.C. Guyton, that I discussed in one of my newsletters.
In 1944, Charles Burwell, Dean of the Harvard Medical School, told the new students "Half of what we are going to teach you is wrong, and half of it is right. Our problem is that we don't know which half is which.”
He is known for identifying the “obstructive sleep apnea syndrome,” and at the time he made that remark to his students, the great estrogen conspiracy had just begun. Tens of thousands of articles have been published about each of those subjects, and a random sampling of a few hundred of those articles probably gives a good idea of the validity of the things contemporary doctors have been taught.
Up until 2002, when of the results of the Women’s Health Initiative were published, almost all of the publications on estrogen had claimed that it protected against most diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, dementia, and breast cancer. Even after the WHI study showed clearly that estrogen treatment increased those, as well as deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms, many professors at the “best” medical schools continued to advocate the use of "Estrogen Replacement Therapy," and to blame the problems on the so-called “progestin” that was used along with the estrogen.
A very small percentage of the articles on sleep apnea (the periodic cessation of breathing while asleep) have considered the fact that a deficiency of progesterone is associated with that problem, and that supplemented progesterone has been used successfully to treat it. Coffee, tea, and the drug acetazolamide are also effective to treat it, but only a few doctors know about these treatments—nearly all doctors are aware of the use of surgery to treat it.
"It involves removing and repositioning excess tissue in the throat to make the airway wider. The surgeon can trim down your soft palate and uvula, remove your tonsils, and reposition some of the muscles of the soft palate. UPPP [uvulopalatopharyngoplasty] and other soft palate procedures are the most common type of surgery for sleep apnea.“
Besides a mechanistic philosophy, the medical culture has been massively influenced by economic interests, especially the drug industry, and their influence through advertising, subsidizing research and continuing medical education, and their influence on government.
The over-use of x-rays, especially CAT scans, is encouraged not only by corporations such as General Electric that support the maximum use of their devices, but by the attitude towards radiation that has been promoted by the nuclear industry, and their allies in the military, who teach doctors about the “harmlessness of small amounts” of radiation.
The medical industry is such a large part of our economy and our culture, that its practices are too frequently shaped by external interests.
BTI: Do you think there are ways to prevent cancer, and if so, what would be the top four ways you would recommend?
RP: John Gofman, who in the 1950s was the US Government’s leading propagandists for the safety of ionizing radiation, did a large study* in which he showed that medical radiation contributes to the majority of cancer and heart disease in the US. Several factors (including estrogen, unsaturated fats, and toxic metals) synergize with the carcinogenic effects of radiation, so besides avoiding medical radiation, it’s good to reduce the polyunsaturated fats in the diet, to reduce toxic chemicals and other stressors, and to eat a protective diet, emphasizing calcium, magnesium, the oily vitamins, and moderate amounts of the essential nutrients.
* o "Radiation from Medical Procedures in the Pathogenesis of Cancer and Ischemic Heart Disease" (Gofman 1999) is a massive dose-response study which began extensive circulation for peer-review among scientists in epidemiology, cancer etiology, IHD etiology, and health physics, immediately after its publication in November 1999.
o The study's two principal conclusions are 1) Medical radiation, introduced into medicine in 1896, became and remains a necessary causal co-actor in over half of the fatal cases of cancer in the USA, and 2) became and remains a necessary causal co-actor also in over half of the fatal cases of ischemic heart disease (coronary artery disease) in the USA.
o From these conclusions plus the fact that x-ray harm is approximately proportional to accumulated x-ray dose, it follows that a very great deal of future cancer and ischemic heart disease (IHD) could be prevented by reducing the dose-levels customarily administered during x-ray imaging procedures, especially CT and fluoroscopy. Indeed, it is very often feasible to get good images with half (or less) of the customary dose. Doing so could prevent about 250,000 premature deaths every year in the USA, by our estimate.
o The conclusions above are obviously so important for human health that they demand thoughtful, independent scrutiny, i.e., peer-review.
BTI: How can we improve digestion? Are there specific ways of eating or combinations of foods that can help us digest better and benefit from nutrients?
RP: Starting at birth, the body accumulates increasing amounts of the polyunsaturated fats, and that process accelerates when the body stops growing. They are especially antagonistic to the thyroid gland and its functions, leading to a slowing of the metabolic rate and formation of digestive enzymes. A young person’s digestion is intense, extracting nutrients quickly, and suppressing bacterial growth in the stomach and small intestine.
When digestion slows, bacteria can thrive in the upper part of the intestine, even in the stomach, producing many chronic symptoms. Undercooked or raw vegetables are poorly digested by human enzymes, and so, tend to support bacterial overgrowth. Some plant materials have an antiseptic action (raw carrots, cooked mushrooms, and bamboo shoots, for example), that can be helpful, but, if the tissues have a large amount of the fats that inhibit metabolism, it’s sometimes helpful to supplement thyroid hormone until the body composition can be changed.
BTI: Do seasons really affect us? Is exposure to sun necessary? Why?
RP: Seasons are more important, the farther a person is from the equator. In studies conducted in Leningrad, in the extreme north, the mitochondria (which use oxygen to produce most of our energy) of rabbits were examined at hourly intervals during a long winter night, and early in the night they showed changes in their shape indicating that they were being damaged by stress; with each hour of darkness they became increasingly swollen and distorted, and by dawn some of them had collapsed completely and stopped functioning. On following nights, the damage was cumulative, until at the end of winter, when the rabbits’ cells looked like those of old rabbits.
With the lengthening days of spring, their mitochondria became progressively better, and by the end of summer, with the extremely long daylight hours, their health had returned almost to their previous state. The majority of the degenerative changes of aging happen during the winter nights.
BTI: Is there a minimum amount of hours we should be sleeping? And does it really need to be consistent?
RP: Several things influence the amount of sleep we need. For example, the hours of exposure to sunlight that we get. A man who spent 6 months in Antarctica, with continuous daylight, said he needed very little sleep, and never felt better. During the winter, unless we have very good artificial light, it’s better to sleep longer than in the summer.
Before electric lights came into use at the beginning of the last century, many people would divide their nightly sleep into two parts, sometimes 4 or 5 hours in each phase, with a meal in between. The brain goes through cycles of about 90 minutes each, and during part of each cycle there is intense metabolism, in which cell components are renewed.
If a person’s metabolic rate is slow, as in hypothyroidism, the brain doesn’t spend enough time in the restorative metabolic state, and the person can still be very tired after sleeping for 10 hours. People with a higher metabolic rate usually have 5 or 6 of the metabolic cycles, for either 7 1/2 or 9 hours per night. When the metabolism isn’t working at high efficiency, a person is likely to wake up after just one or two cycles, with symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Having some easily digestible food at bedtime, or after waking, can improve sleep.
I have known people who woke up every hour or two during the night with nightmares. When they set an alarm clock to wake them a few minutes before the expected nightmare, to eat a small snack, after just a few days the nightmares stopped, and they were able to sleep through the night, apparently because they had replenished the glycogen stores of their liver, muscles, and brain, preventing hypoglycemia.
BTI: Is there anything that popular culture endorses as a healthy product, besides coconut oil, that you think we should be consuming more of?
RP: I can’t think of any. Advertising seems to have shaped both popular culture and professional medical and dietetics opinion to depreciate the most valuable foods.
BTI: What are the top 5 toxic foods and ingredients that most people should actually be avoiding and why?
RP: Some of the foods most often recommended are among the worst. For example: fish oil and other polyunsaturated fats, nuts and legumes, and raw salad vegetables. They contain substances that inhibit the metabolism, and that support bacterial overgrowth in the intestine. Although some sea food, once or twice a week, will assure that we get enough of the essential nutrient selenium, popular culture recommends fatty fish, such as salmon (rather than low fat fish, such as cod). These fats oxidize so fast that they don’t accumulate in the body as easily as the polyunsaturated seed oils do, but they begin to oxidize into toxins even before we eat them, especially with slow cooking.
BTI: Clearly, as the internet expands, people should be more and more aware of pharmaceutical influence on content/coverage about health and nutrition. How has your fanbase/following been influenced by this change?
RP: I’m sure there’s an increasing number of people who are aware of the pharmaceutical deceptions, but it’s still a very small part of the population. Advertising is the most powerful force in shaping the culture.
The authoritative voices in education and government have to be treated cautiously, and keeping a critical attitude requires a lot of energy and time.
BTI: What is your opinion on Psychiatry as a practice? What’s the biggest flaw? As drugs like Adderall, Lexapro, Xanax, and SSRIs are being prescribed by the millions, do you recommend any substitutes for these, or do you think they are necessary in some cases?
RP: “Psychiatry" used to lock people up when their behavior was disruptive without being criminal, but the development of many new psychoactive drugs to modify behavior in the last 50 years has made it possible for states to save money by closing the mental hospitals; at the same time, states began spending huge amounts on drugs for those who were released.
The drug companies began renaming antihistamine drugs as psychoactive/antipsychotic drugs to profit from this huge market, and their lobbyists were very likely the largest force behind deinstitutionalization.
As a profession, psychiatry has gone through several radically different theories of what “mental illness” is, with very little scientific basis, and their methods have changed, but the prescription of drugs has now become their main activity and livelihood.
Controlling annoying behavior has become the actual focus of their work, even when it’s achieved by using drugs that are harmful to the patients’ basic health.
Actually therapeutic approaches using talk, nutrition, and hormones have been disparaged by the drug companies and a large part of the psychiatric profession.
BTI: It says in your book that you dislike when people are diagnosed according to the DSM-V. Why?
RP: There have been studies in which the same (healthy) people were diagnosed by different therapists, and received very different psychiatric diagnoses, showing that the practice is, in fact, highly subjective.
Raymond Peat has a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Oregon, and specializes in physiology. He has taught at the University of Oregon, Urbana College, Montana State University, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Universidad Veracruzana, the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Mexico, and Blake College. He also conducts private nutritional counseling. For more information, visit www.raypeat.com