The Causes of Illness & Degenerative Diseases, Part 2: Some Basic Principles of Biological Regulation

By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

The term homeostasis was first defined in 1932 by Walter Bradford Cannon. He created it by bringing together two Greek terms: homoios, which means “the same,” “like,” or “resembling,” and stasis, which means “standing,” “position,” or “posture.” Homeostasis, then, literally means “to remain in the same condition,” as close as possible to a steady state of the system.

Cannon’s book The Wisdom of the Body describes how the human body maintains steady levels of temperature and other vital conditions such as the water, salt, sugar, protein, fat, calcium, and oxygen contents of the blood. Similar processes dynamically maintain steady-state conditions in the Earth’s environment.

Homeostasis is the condition your body constantly strives to maintain.

You Are, in Fact, a Cyborg: The Human Body as a Cybernetic System

The human body is an extremely complex, unified, dynamic, homeostatic – or goal-seeking – system.

“Homeostatic ideas,” writes Kelvin Rodolfo, Emeritus Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Chicago, “are shared by the science of cybernetics (from the Greek for ‘steersman’),”

defined in 1948 by the mathematician Norbert Wiener as “the entire field of control and communication theory, whether in the machine or in the animal.” Cybernetic systems can “remember” disturbances and thus are used in computer science to store and transmit information. Negative feedback is a central homeostatic and cybernetic concept, referring to how an organism or system automatically opposes any change imposed upon it.

So although these days we tend to think of cybernetics in terms of computers and technology, the human body is itself a cybernetic system. It receives input and responds to it. The response delivers more input, which in turn brings about different responses. It’s an endless feedback loop, all with one goal: maintain homeostasis.

feedback loopLet’s consider just one aspect of homeostasis: temperature regulation. On a very hot day, your body responds to that input – heat – by dilating your blood vessels so more blood flows near the skin’s surface where it can release heat. You also sweat to cool the skin. These processes help keep your internal body temperature at a steady level.

And as it begins to cool off, your body responds accordingly to that new input.

This is cybernetics in action. And it applies to all bodily regulation – not just temperature control, but blood sugar regulation, heart action, hormone release, and so on.

All this is coordinated through the brain, which can be viewed as a complex communication center, computer, and control system – a very complex system. In fact, it’s often been said that there are as many neurons in the human brain as stars in the Milky Way.

For a long time, neuroscientists would say that there are about 100 billion neurons in the human brain. Interestingly, no one has ever published a peer-reviewed scientific paper supporting that count. Rather it’s been informally interpolated from other measurements. A recent study from 2009 published by Azevedo and colleagues took a crack at a more precise estimate. Their answer?

Approximately 86 billion neurons in the human brain. The latest estimates for the number of stars in the Milky Way is somewhere between 200 and 400 billion. So close, but the human brain certainly doesn’t quite stack up!

Still, that’s a lot of neurons, and each is consistently interacting with millions of other cells in the body. That is the potential for 100 trillion interactions, a number 1000 times greater than all the stars in the Milky Way!

neural networkWhat’s really remarkable is the fact that your brain keeps all these bodily systems working together as a synchronized unit to create a smooth running system and maintain a steady homeostatic state. Properly maintained, this steady state can last for a human lifetime.

But life is dynamic, defined by continual change. Your body is sensitive to the smallest stimuli. To live is to be in constant interaction with your surrounding environment.

As Dr. Rodolfo suggests in his article on homeostasis, this dynamic is like driving a car, where we consider the “car and its driver as a unified…, ‘goal-seeking’ system – a cyborg or ‘cybernetic organism.’” It’s goal? Drive a road from point A to point B.

The driver does not steer by holding the wheel in a fixed position but keeps turning the wheel slightly to the left and right, seeking the wheel positions that will bring the naturally meandering car back on track. Disturbance, or departure from equilibrium, is every bit as important as negative feedback: Systems cannot correct themselves if they do not stray.

Oscillation is a common and necessary behavior of many systems. If the car skids, the driver automatically responds by quickly steering in the opposite direction. Such abrupt negative feedback, however, usually over-corrects, causing the car to move toward the other side of the road. A negative feedback, if it is as large as the disturbance that triggered it, may become an impressed change in the direction opposite to that of the original disturbance. The car and driver recovers from the skid by weaving from side to side, swerving a little less each time. In other words, each feedback is less than the last departure from the goal, so the oscillations ‘damp out.’ Negative feedback takes time and such a time lag is an essential feature of many natural systems. This may set the system to oscillating above and below the equilibrium level.

The human body and the environment form an extremely complex interacting unit that is always changing, influenced by any subtle stimuli in the environment. Even in nano concentrations, they have an immediate effect on the extracellular matrix (biological terrain), amplifying or inhibiting reactions through tiny dosages of cytokines and other steering mediators unleashed by the immune system.

The human body is continuously trying to correct these deviations to regain its steady and harmonious state. To do so, the bioregulatory system of the body directs, corrects, or manages most bodily processes using subtle quantities of mediators or oscillations which are directed by the extracellular matrix.

As we’ve noted before, this understanding originates in the work of Claude Bernard, who theorized that maintaining stability in the internal environment (milieu interieur) is a prerequisite for the development of a complex nervous system. His research on multiple dynamic equilibrium is the basic principle behind homeostasis.

Considered one of the fathers of physiology, Bernard was so famous into the early 20th century that be became identified in the public mind as the archetypal scientist, much like Einstein is considered today.

Challenges to the Steady State

Each of us is continuously being influenced by both the environment around us, as well as the microenvironment within. The goal is to remain in a steady state – the state of health.

chemicalsAnd these days, it faces more challenges than ever. According to the Environmental Working Group, there more more than 7 million chemicals in existence. About 80,000 of these are in common use around the world. They have brought enormous benefits – swelling harvests, beating back previously unconquerable diseases, producing a host of consumer goods we now think of as necessities – but at quite a cost.

Tests for a hundred particularly hazardous substances have revealed that – on average – we each harbour 27 of them in our blood, though the chemical cocktail varies from person to person. Children have been found to be more contaminated than their parents or grandparents, while mothers pass on the poisons to babies in the womb. Researchers have found potentially dangerous chemicals in every one of 14 basic foodstuffs they took from supermarket shelves, and in the air of every home they visited.

Findings like these spurred 200 eminent scientists from five continents some years ago to issue a joint warning that exposure to common chemicals skewed the development of critical organs in foetuses and newborns, increasing their chances of developing diabetes, cancer, attention deficit disorders, thyroid damage, diminished fertility, and other conditions in later life.

The Standing Committee of European Doctors – which brings together the continent’s top physicians’ bodies, including the BMA – has added: “Chemical pollution represents a serious threat to children, and to Man’s survival.” And the usually cautious US President’s Cancer Panel has reported that synthetic chemicals can cause “grievous harm” and that the number of cancers for which they are responsible had been “grossly underestimated”.

In yet another warning, researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the University of Southern Denmark predicted a “silent pandemic” of brain conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy and attention deficit disorders, identifying 202 substances known to poison the brain as “the tip of a very large iceberg”.

Your body responds to every exposure – not just to chemicals but toxins of all kinds, synthetic and organic – even miniscule amounts that public officials often say pose no risk to human health. But many accumulate over time, and they interact in ways we’re only just beginning to understand, as researchers look at the cumulative effects of the chemical cocktail we’re exposed to daily.

This can – and does – have profound implications on your body’s self-regulating abilities. And that is a matter we will pick up with next time in the final installment of this series.

Neural network image by Else If Then, via Wikimedia Commons

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A Tale of Two Surveys, or Dentistry’s Role in Healthcare

physicianOnce upon a time – earlier this year, to be exact – a Pew survey suggested that for all the problems with American healthcare these days, people just lurve their physicians.

According to the survey, almost 90% of those who saw a doctor in the past year felt their provider “really cared about their health and well-being.” Nearly all thought they received all the info they needed from them.

At the same time, about half of adults think kids today are less healthy than a generation ago, and roughly 42% think adults’ health is worse, too.

No, we’re not sure either how those two things jibe. (The latter, though, does jibe with previous findings.)

Meantime, a recent survey from a consulting firm found that people aren’t really all that fond of their dentists – at least if you measure that in terms of whether they would recommend doing business with their current dental provider.

The study found that overall, the typical dental provider earned an NPS of 1. To put this into perspective, other industry NPS averages are 36 for insurance, 39 for financial services, and 46 for retail.

That’s pretty bad.

Yet when you think about how dentistry is still often practiced today, it kind of makes sense. Despite the ever clearer relationships between oral and systemic health, dentists just aren’t seen as healthcare providers. Most of the time, they’re viewed more as mouth mechanics – someone you see when something goes wrong, hardly a player in your quest for good health.

Because of this, there can also be suspicion – sometimes with good cause – that the dentist is trying to upsell them treatments or recommending procedures they may not really need. After all, if a dentist is just there to fix problems, its profitable to find more problems to fix or more expensive ways of fixing them.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. And, happily, more dentists are beginning to see themselves as more than fixers but true partners in health. More are also beginning to really appreciate the relationships between oral and systemic health. They may not necessarily be practicing biological dental medicine, but it’s a start.

One of the things we pride ourselves on is the relationships we build with our clients. It’s important for us to get to know them as individuals – to be able to provide the customized care they need and deserve. We view them as partners in the process, as they are ultimately the authors of their own health and well-being. We give information; they learn; they choose which path to take to achieve their goals in a way that aligns with their needs, values, and beliefs.

Only then comes treatment. And just as much as we give information, we give time.

That’s why, apparently unlike the people who answered the second survey, our patients do refer friends and family to us consistently.

We’re proud to be an outlier.

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Stat!: “The Culture That We’re Steeped In”

prescription drugs

  • Percent of Americans who regularly take prescription drugs: 55
  • Average number of drugs each takes: 4
  • Fraction of age 55+ adults who take more than 5 drugs: 1/3
  • Percent of age 55+ adults taking more than 10: 9
  • Number of Americans who went to the ER for adverse drug effects: 1.3 million
  • Number of those who died: 124,000
  • Total prescriptions filled in the US in 1997: 2,416,064,220
  • Total prescriptions filled in 2016: 4,468,929,929
  • Percent increase in prescriptions over those two decades: 85
  • Percent increase in the US population during that time: 21
  • Amount spent each year on unnecessary drugs and related costs: $200 billion

Many Americans—and their physicians—have come to think that every symptom, every hint of disease requires a drug, says Vinay Prasad, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. “The question is, where did people get that idea? They didn’t invent it,” he says. “They were spoon-fed that notion by the culture that we’re steeped in.”

Source: Consumer Reports

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It’s the Environment, Not the “Germ”

heliobacterLong ago and far away…well, back in the mid-19th century, scientists like Claude Bernard and Antoine Bechamp first challenged Pasteur’s “germ theory” of disease. But while Pasteur may have been declared winner of that battle, science continues to vindicate Bernard, Bechamp, and the many other scientists who followed their research path.

For instance, consider the new study in Science Immunology, which looked into immune responses to Heliobacter – a familiar pathogen, strongly associated with ulcers, chronic gastritis, stomach cancer, and other gut issues. As MedicalXpress recently reported,

As part of their study, the researchers looked at what happened to mice when samples of the bacteria were introduced into their guts under differing conditions. They found that introducing it into healthy mice raised in a nearly germ-free environment resulted in an immune response generally associated with tolerance. Prior research has suggested that such a response is the body’s way of signaling the acceptance of a bacteria into the gut because it poses no threat. But when the same type of bacteria was introduced to the gut of a mouse that had colitis, it induced an immune threat response by causing already occurring gut inflammation to become worse. In the second scenario, the immune system clearly saw the bacteria as a harmful invader that needed to be stopped.

The results of these experiments, the researchers claim, suggests that at least one kind of bacteria may be seen as either harmless or harmful depending on the state of the environment it encounters. That suggests the likelihood that the same is true for other bacteria. [emphasis added]

As Bernard wrote more than a century ago: The microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything.

And for more on the history of the microbe vs. environment battle battle, see Dr. V’s article “True Healing Can ONLY Begin with Improving the State of the Terrain.”

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Candida‘s Role in Tooth Decay

When people talk about “bad bugs” in the mouth – the ones that lead to tooth decay and gum disease – they’re usually talking about bacteria. And why not? There are tons of them, even in the cleanest mouth – billions, representing roughly 700 species.

And just watch ’em proliferate!

To speed up the video, hit play, then click the cogwheel and set the speed to 2.

But bacteria aren’t the only microbes at work in your mouth.

Just last month came a new study of how a common yeast, Candida albicans, interacts with S. mutans – one of the major players in the decay process – to form strong especially strong biofilms (plaque). It’s a study that builds on earlier research by the same team. As Bite Magazine recently reported,

In their latest research, the team pinpointed the surface molecules on the fungus that interact with the bacterially-derived protein. Blocking that interaction impaired the ability of yeast to form a biofilm with S. mutans on the tooth surface, pointing to a novel therapeutic strategy.

Unsurprisingly, the team is “now working on novel therapeutic approaches for targeted interventions.” That’s nice. But instead of focusing on disrupting that process, why not start by merely controlling the oral Candida – something you can do naturally?

Candida albicansNumber one is to simply starve the yeast. Candida thrives on sugars, dairy, and yeast-containing foods. Cut or minimize consumption of those, and you go a long way toward keeping Candida under control.

Oil pulling with coconut oil can also do wonders. Not only does coconut oil have antibacterial qualities, but it’s also antifungal. One product we especially like for this is OBW Oil Based Wellness.

You can include more antifungal foods in your diet, as well. Think ginger, garlic, olive oil, cayenne. Think pungent spices and fermented foods.

Those fermented foods offer additional help by encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria.

Chronic stress is another thing that can make it easier for Candida to proliferate. Finding effective stress control strategies can only help.

And, of course, you want to keep your biological terrain and greater immune system robust and resilient. The terrain guides everything else.

As ever, the terrain is everything.

Image by GrahamColm, via Wikimedia Commons

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A Toothpaste Too Good to Be True?

dental gel on toothbrushMaybe you saw the recent CBS This Morning segment on a new toothpaste “that claims to be more than twice as effective [as] traditional toothpaste.”

Actually, the head of the company that makes it won’t call it toothpaste but a “dental gel.”

Whatever.

The Very Big Deal about it is that they claim it controls plaque better than other products. According to CBS,

After a three-week study comparing Livionex to top-rated Colgate Total, [dental researcher Petra Wilder-Smith] found that subjects who used Livionex had 2.5 times less plaque, and their gums were more than twice as healthy.

There have been at least a couple other studies, as well. Other One in the Journal of Oral Hygiene & Health found an 84% improvement in plaque control compared with a conventional paste. Another found that while both the Livionex and the control gel reduced oral biofilm, the Livionex showed “greater efficacy.”

What’s more, this new paste is free of a lot of the stuff you don’t want to see in your toothpaste: SLS, sugar, triclosan, fluoride, and harsh abrasives.

But what each $20 tube does contain is EDTA, a well=known chelator. The idea is that activated EDTA binds the calcium that allows bacteria to create stronger biofilms that hold the colony together.

But calcium isn’t the only element that EDTA chelates.

In fact, you may already be familiar with EDTA. It’s a common means of cleansing the body of toxic heavy metals. More than a few recommend it after amalgam removal to help the body rid itself of mercury that has been harbored in its tissues for years.

Now imagine using an EDTA toothpaste with mercury amalgam fillings in your mouth – as more than 100 million Americans do, according to numbers from the ADA.

EDTA will chelate those and other metals in the mouth, as well. And it will do so every single time you brush.

Pretty significant downside, if you ask us.

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Bad Ideas in Brand Extension: Oral Hygiene Edition

This was never real:

Ben and Jerry's orange juice and toothpaste ice cream

But once upon a time – in 1982, to be exact – this was:

Colgate beef lasagne

Yes, Colgate – maker of toothpaste, mouthwash, and other oral hygiene products; a brand that absolutely dominates the global market; the first company to put toothpaste in tubes – thought it was a good idea to roll out a line of frozen entrees Under. The. Colgate. Brand.

Colgate identified their target market as single or widowed people who were conscious about their food, who liked to read magazines and listened to the radio in the car. They imaged their shoppers choosing Colgate over Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice entrees.

The deep-pocketed company planned to spend as much as $16.00 per impression in media outlets like Glamour, Better Homes and Gardens, and Lifetime channel. They went heavily into cents-off coupons. They blanketed the airwaves with messages on radio and TV.

They failed completely.

No surprise there.

lasagne coming out of toothpaste tube

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