The other day I came across this alarming video of what it’s like to drive in Poland. My first thought after watching the clip was “What’s the Toxoplasmosis gondii infection rate in Poland?” T. gondii is a brain parasite easily acquired from eating undercooked meat, or contact with cats, and is associated with a six-fold increase in traffic accidents (this association has been replicated a number of times, in different countries). Well, I looked it up, and found that the latent infection rate in 2003 was around 41% (at least among pregnant women). That’s quite high — in the U.S. the infection rate is only about 11%.
Is there anything to my hypothesis that terrible driving in Poland is related to the relatively high T. gondii infection rate? Probably not. The accident fatality rate in Poland is relatively high for a modern industrialized country. But France has a very low accident fatality rate, and a much higher rate of T. gondii infection. So while T. gondii might be a contributing factor, it’s probably not the most important variable.
I’m fascinated by latent/chronic biological infections, and how they affect human health and behavior. T. gondii in particular is linked to changes in personality, and even schizophrenia.
What’s shocking to me, as shocking as the driving in Poland video above, is that so few medical professionals are considering latent infections as part of their diagnostic process. The research is here, and so are the associated clinical tests. So why aren’t medical professionals taking advantage of them?
Clinical Tests: Room for improvement
‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’ – William Gibson
The above quote definitely applies to the medical profession. How many general practitioners are doing the following clinical tests?
- A detailed dietary questionnaire (cost: $0, benefits: insights into common subclinical nutritional deficiencies, including vitamins C, D, B12, K2, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and chromium, as well as information re: macronutrients — is the patient eating enough protein and omega-3 fatty acids? or consuming too much fructose/sucrose/alcohol?)
- A personal genetic profile (cost: $200, benefits: insights into disease risk for common health problems, and precise genotype information re: less common genetic conditions)
- Antibody testing for a full range of common viral infections (HSV1, HSV2, CMV, HPV, etc.) (cost: a few hundred dollars, benefits: insight into diseases that are linked to multi-decade viral infections, including heart disease, dementia, many types of cancer, etc.)
- An enterotype panel
I’m hoping that in ten years or so, the above practices will be commonplace. Spit in a tube, piss in a cup, prick your finger, and twenty minutes later get a full genome analysis, a full spectrum nutrient level analysis, a metal and chemical toxicity report (lead, mercury, bisophenol-A, etc.), an extremely wide antibody report (for hundreds or thousand of viruses), a complete bacterial panel (blood, gut, and mouth), testing for protozoan parasites like T. gondii, etc.
Why isn’t this happening already?
Gibson didn’t anticipate cheap genome sequencing. In some cases cost is prohibitive. While a genome SNP test has come down to $200, micronutrient testing like the kind Spectracell offers is still quite expensive. I suspect that we’re on the cusp of (or in the midst of) a rapid advance in portable diagnostic technology, so testing costs may change quickly. It remains to be seen how quickly HMO’s will take advantage of the new technologies as they come online.
Another reason is that your doctor isn’t necessarily thinking along these lines. When she was in medical school, you couldn’t get some of the clinical tests you can now.
Educate yourself, test yourself, take preventative measures
It’s irritating to me that the medical profession hasn’t caught up with medical research and diagnostic technology. For most people, it’s probably worth taking the following diagnostic and preventive measures:
- If you can afford it, get a full micronutrient profile from Spectracell or another reputable vendor. I’m putting this at the top of my list because I haven’t actually done it yet (but I’m going to). At the very least, get a vitamin D test. If your levels are suboptimal, you’ll probably need to supplement, and also consider vitamin A and K2 levels.
- Get your genome analyzed, from 23andMe or a similar service. Find out what your risks are. One way to think about it is that reading your genome is like reading your death sentence. Another way to think about it is that reading your genome will give you possible clues into improving your quality of life, and possibly extending your life for a decade or more if you take the appropriate preventative measures.
What about prevention? Some measures are common sense. Others, like implementing a general viral suppression protocol, perhaps less so.
- Diet – get most gluten, casein, fructose, and refined vegetable oil (canola, corn, soy) out of the diet to drastically reduce your risk of IBS, autoimmune diseases, heart problems, and diabetes. Eat nutrient dense whole foods, mostly those available during the paleolithic era (for which we are genetically best-adapted to). This would include seafood, grass-fed meat, eggs from free-roaming birds, vegetables, low-sugar fruits, and nuts/seeds. For the research, please see Mark Sisson’s site.
- Reduce your carcinogen/toxin load (lead, mercury, bisophenol-A, air pollution, tobacco, hard alcohol, narcotics) to reduce risk of cancer, reproductive, and neurological problems.
- Ramp-up autophagy (clean out cellular debris) with both intense exercise and intermittent fasting. This will help ward off cancer, dementia, and suppress chronic viral and parasitic infections (which we all have after age 2 or so, unless we live in a bubble).
- Consume chemicals that kill cancer cells and interfere with viral replication. A short list would include curcumin (turmeric/yellow curry), garlic, resveratrol/grapeseed extract/red wine, and coconut oil. The links all go to research or articles about research.
- Reduce artificial light in the evenings to encourage natural sleep patterns. My post about giving up artificial light for a month has seen a spike in traffic since this recent BBC article (I was also on The Doctors about a month ago discussing the experiment).
I think the clinical research is there to back up all these claims. But are you going to get any of this advice from your doctor? Probably not. Your doctor is going to tell you to eat a low fat diet, but won’t distinguish good fats (olive oil, coconut oil, fats from grass-fed meats and wild fish) from bad fats (refined vegetable oil, fats from grain-fed animals). He will probably not mention vitamin D, vitamin K2, or the beneficial effects of polyphenols and flavonols. Your doctor is going to ask about your family history, but he’s not going to recommend that you actually look at your genome. Sugar and carbohydrate consumption won’t be mentioned unless you already have diabetes. Viral infections won’t be identified unless they have very specific symptoms (like chicken pox or cold sores), and no recommendations will be made to suppress chronic viral infection to prevent cancer or dementia twenty or forty years later.
I’m not against going to the doctor, or taking medical advice from someone who is better educated and informed than myself. But we should push our medical professionals. We should drag them (even if they protest, kicking and screaming) into the modern era.
The future is here … please help spread it around.