Dr. Joseph E. Pizzorno is the President of Salugenecists, Inc. and Chief Medical Director for Village Green Apothecary. Dr. Pizzorno is one of the world’s leading authorities on science-based natural medicine, a term he coined in 1978 when founding Bastyr University. He led Bastyr to became the first fully accredited, multidisciplinary university of natural medicine and the first school of its kind to receive research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He has been on the Advisory Panel on the Safety and Efficacy of Dietary Supplements for the U.S. Congress in 1993, an ad hoc advisory committee member for the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements in 1996, the first naturopathic doctor to receive an appointment to the Seattle/King County Board of Health from 1996-2002, on the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy (appointed by President Bill Clinton in 2000-2002), and on the Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 2003-2005). He is also the author of numerous publications, most recently of The Toxin Solution.
- How many years have you been in practice now? About half a century.
- Over that period of time, around when do you think, roughly, you started to see more cases due to toxicity than before? When he was first in practice, in the 1970s, chronic illness occurred as a result of the choices patients were making: smoking, lack of exercise, excess sugar, etc. But about 20 yrs ago, maybe further back, the passive determinants of health?things that happen independent of one’s decisions?are having a stronger effect. These include contaminated water, food, personal care products, etc. We’ve put a huge amount of chemicals and metals into the air, food, and water. The primary drivers of disease are now toxins.
- At this point, what percentage of chronic illness do you believe can trace their roots to toxic exposures? The research is evolving, but regarding Type 2 Diabetes especially: when he was in med school in the early 70s, this made up less than 1% of the population. The lifetime risk is now 39%, and 15% of the population already has it. Genetics didn’t change. It turns out sugar consumption hasn’t changed over the last 50 yrs either (sugar consumption peaked about 70 yrs ago). There’s a small correlation between diabetes and sugar, but it’s not very big. Obesity isn’t a cause; it’s the toxins.
- You’ve stated in The Toxin Solution that those in the top 10% of toxic body burden have a 12-fold increase in the risk of diabetes. What are some of the biggest toxic offenders that contribute to this risk? Organic pesticides are a big factor, and they’re in 25% of our food supply. Phthalates are also a big factor: these are used to solubilize and stabilize beauty aids. Phthalates bind to insulin receptor sites, leading to insulin resistance. If you look at people with highest levels of phthalates compared to those with the lowest, diabetes risk increases by a factor of 2. But people have so many phthalates: these account for about 1/4 of diabetes cases. Arsenic: 10% of the water supplies in the US have arsenic levels known to induce disease in humans. This poisons the pancreas, such that it cannot produce insulin. BPA also doubles the risk of diabetes, but everybody has these. In addition to cans and plastics, BPAs can also be found on receipt paper.
- You’ve pioneered a mountain of research into the effects of toxins on chronic disease. Can you explain what the data gathering process looked like, so we have some context? He’s looked at this data for almost 10 yrs, but he started to get really serious about it 3 yrs ago bc he was working his way through the research on diabetes and toxins first. Then he started putting together the research in PubMed. He found enough to get an advance for a book, and with the advance money, he hired two graduate students to mine through the data and help him answer this question: what percentage of chronic disease is associated with toxins?
- You describe how toxins oxidize LDL, damaging the endothelial lining and contributing to 24 percent of heart attacks. Which toxins specifically are associated with this? The PCBs are one of the worst by far. PCBs were banned in the US 40 yrs ago, but they are persistent organic pollutants. They’re very hard to get rid of, and persist in our bodies. The half life can be as little as 3 yrs, or as long as 25 yrs. The difference depends on how much halogenation they have (addition of chemical halogens: Chlorine, Fluorine, or Bromine). Our bodies aren’t good at de-halogenating compounds.
- Our non-organic soil is low in micronutrients?you discuss how this leads to increased absorption of heavy metals like cadmium. So this means not only are we getting fewer minerals, but in their absence, we’re getting toxins instead? I assume this is a great argument for why we should be eating organic? How much does that help? He can’t overstate the importance of eating organic. Our bodies are enzyme machines. Enzymes are composed of proteins that are made by our DNA, but the protein is inert until it has a cofactor: these are vitamins and minerals, and particularly the trace minerals. The problem is, in the last 50 yrs, the trace mineral content in our soil has decreased 50-75%. There aren’t enough of them to go around. Not only do we not have enough minerals to make our enzymes work properly, but now, the toxic replacements are so prevalent that they’re displacing the nutrients from enzymes and they don’t work anymore. Unforunately, the “powers that be” put a lot of loopholes into what can be called organic. So if at all possible, get organic from a local farm, so that you can see what they’re actually doing to grow the food. Or grow your own food.
- You also include endotoxins among the total body burden associated with diabetes, heart disease, mitochondrial damage, etc. Can you explain what endotoxins are and how we end up with them? Endotoxins (or LPS) come from bacteria in our gut. Some of them come from even our normal bacteria, and when gut permeability is in proper control, we’re fine. But if we have leaky gut, even the LPS from healthy bacteria will leak out into the bloodstream and add tot he body burden. Another even bigger problem are the toxic bacteria that are producing LPS.
- HDL is traditionally called ‘good’ cholesterol, because it shuttles fat back to the liver to get broken down as fuel. But you bring up the point that HDL has another job involving toxic elimination, too?can you expound on this a bit? Most detoxification is in the liver, so you have to get the toxins there. HDL is very good at this. HDL is associated with lower heart disease. We’d been thinking that was because it was harder to oxidize than LDL. But now we have another mechanism: the HDL cholesterol takes toxins back to the liver for elimination, which means fewer toxins available to trigger heart disease.
- You said you use the indican urine test to measure toxins from the gut. Where do you order this from, and what red flags signal to you that a patient needs this test? Do you just run this on everyone you suspect to be toxic? He used this a lot when seeing patients: indican tests measure indoles and skatoles, primarily from clostridia bacteria. These break down tryptophan and eat serotonin for their own purpose, and produce toxic chemicals. Indoles and skatoles are also called putrecin and cadavarine. Anytime a patient has any indication of a toxic gut, he’ll run this test. In the past, he used to run this test himself. You can also order it online, and monitor people over time to see if they’re detoxifying. A person with low levels of toxicity will get a clear solution. When there’s more toxicity, it turns more and more blue. As you treat, you can track improvement.
- Can you explain the connection between alcohol and leaky gut syndrome? The cells that line our guts play an important part in liver detoxification. The problem is, when they do the liver detoxification, they deplete glutathione in the cells. When this happens, they can’t protect themselves from all those toxic chemicals in the gut. Essentially glutathione depletion from excess alcohol consumption leads to leaky gut.
- You mention that fiber specifically absorbs toxin-saturated bile. Does this mean it’s as good as colonics for eliminating toxic bile, or is it just something you do in addition to, rather than instead of? Colonics have been an age-old naturopathic therapy. If a person has a toxic gut, this can help as long as you put good healthy bacteria back in. That’s theoretical, though ? there aren’t any studies to back it, whereas there are for using fiber.
- You mention that people can go to thetoxinsolution.com for daily nutritional recommendations based on their genetics. So they upload their 23 & Me txt file there and just give their email address, or how does that work? They’re developing tools people can license that will allow them to download it. It’s not quite ready yet though.
- Is there anything I have not asked you that you want to make sure you communicate to our audience? We have a huge problem with toxins. That was so clear when trying to determine the extent to which toxins were the cause of disease: they couldn’t even find a control group! Instead, they just compared those in the top 10% to the bottom 10%. The first recommendation is avoidance: don’t let toxins into your body in the first place, bc they’re coming from everywhere and they’re extremely persistent.
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