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By Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
Medinform Publishing, 2007
Reviewed by Kathy Kramer, CN
Dr. Campbell-McBride is a physician with post graduate degrees in neurology and human nutrition. She has practiced five years as a neurologist and three years as a neurosurgeon. When her eldest son was diagnosed with autism and doctors offered little hope for improvement, Campbell-McBride began an intense study of the condition. On the basis of her investigations and inspired by the assertion of Hippocrates that “all diseases begin in the gut,” Dr. Campbell-Mc- Bride pioneered the basis of an unorthodox cure for her son’s illness. She published her findings and dietary protocol in her 2004 book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, which is also the term she uses to describe the intimate relationship between digestive and mental health.
Put Your Heart in Your Mouth, Campbell- McBride’s new book, continues in the direct, straightforward manner readers will recognize from her earlier work. As the medical establishment presents us with new drugs and surgeries to handle heart disease, the western world’s number one killer, Campbell-McBride offers an uncomplicated two-pronged solution: stop eating processed foods and stop polluting your body with chemicals.
This solution appears surprisingly simple and may seem unbelievable. Yet, with the authority of a well-trained and experienced physician, but also with the lucidity of a teacher, she explains her solution. When she delineates the three steps of atherosclerosis and its cause, she offers convincing studies and references to support her ideas and uses descriptive analogies that permit the non-medically trained reader to easily grasp her ideas. The book offers a good tool for the medical professional not only because of its alternative perspective, but also because it offers clear explanations that can be useful in explaining atherosclerosis to patients. Those with heart problems would better understand their condition by reading this book—even if they never followed the proposed solution.
Put Your Heart in Your Mouth asks obvious questions: “Autopsy studies have found that, by age 60, 100 percent of people have some signs of atherosclerosis. The older we become the more atherosclerotic features we accumulate. So, the question is whether atherosclerosis is a disease, or simply a normal part of the aging process?” Campbell-McBride believes it is indeed a normal part of aging, but the problem is that it is affecting people at younger and younger ages. She states that conventional medicine offers neither causes nor cures. About 200 risk factors for the condition are known, but risk factors are not causes. Of these factors, we hear most often about two of them: serum cholesterol and dietary fat. Over time, these two risk factors have come to be unfairly redefined as defacto causes.
Campbell-McBride’s book represents an effort to find the real cause of heart disease. She includes a chapter on the diet-heart hypothesis and points out the fact that a hypothesis is disproved when even a single observation contradicts it. She then goes on to summarize 32 studies that soundly trounce this hypothesis. One example: “The MRFIT study, the Lipid Research Clinics Programme and many other studies have shown that you cannot reduce blood cholesterol by diet. The only way to reduce blood cholesterol is by using drugs.”
The chapter “Cholesterol: Friend or Foe?” begins by explaining clearly that nearly every cell in the body produces cholesterol during our entire lives because it is an essential structural material and healing agent. Campbell-McBride describes its roles in the brain and nervous system, fertility and sex glands, bile production and adrenal health. She states that there are many herbal preparations available to support adrenal health, but “the most important therapeutic measure is to provide your adrenal glands with plenty of dietary cholesterol.” She lists foods high in cholesterol with the surprising fact that many seafoods are richer in cholesterol than meat. The answer to the obvious question, “So, if it is not fat and cholesterol, what does cause heart disease?” appears in Part Two.
Campbell-Mc- Bride explains that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory condition. Therefore the best marker for heart disease, fast becoming accepted as such, is the presence of C-reactive proteins, plasma proteins produced by the liver in response to inflammatory conditions in the body. According to Campbell-McBride, microbes, free radicals, trans fats and other harmful substances damage the endothelium of the arteries. Inflammation is the body’s attempt to stop the damage so that the body can then repair it. This healing reaction is a normal body process. However, in atherosclerosis, the inflammation does not get rid of the offending substances, the repair does not occur and the lesions don’t heal. The lesions become like open ulcers in the vessels which the body fills with materials collectively called plaque. The plaque deposits can grow and eventually can burst, causing potential disasters such as stroke and 76 percent of all fatal heart attacks. What if we could stop the damage that the trouble-makers are causing?
The blame has been placed on the contents of the plaque: chemically-damaged cholesterol, oxidized lipoproteins and other oxidized lipids. “However recent advances in basic sciences have shown us that this blame is absolutely wrong.” The war that has been waged from this perspective for the last 40 to 50 years has failed as rates of heart disease and atherosclerosis steadily grow. Yet there is hope, she claims. “What a lot of people don’t understand is that an atherosclerotic plaque is not cast in stone. At any stage in its development the plaque can be reduced in size, even removed altogether, or keep progressing and growing.” It depends on what is happening in the body.
Why are the damaged arteries not being repaired? Campbell- McBride’s answer is that they don’t heal because of the pernicious effects of metabolic syndrome. This is when the blood is chronically high in sugar and insulin as a result of our modern diet. A high carbohydrate diet contributes to high insulin levels in the blood which is a “pro-inflammatory environment in the body.” In this situation inflammation is actually encouraged.
With this understanding of the cause of atherosclerosis, we come to the question of what to do about it. Again the answer is straightforward and within our control. We must improve our diet. Campbell-McBride explains what to avoid in the diet and what to include. The book also includes a section on how to stop polluting our body with toxic chemicals. The foods she recommends are traditional foods and the recipes are uncomplicated. Also included is a good summary of the importance of a healthy gut, as explained in greater detail in the GAPS book. Campbell-McBride explains the importance of healthy gut flora for the immune system because almost 85 percent of all our immunity is located in the gut wall and the bacteria that live there play a crucial role in the proper functioning of our immune system.
Her final chapter has an amusing title, “There is none so blind as the double blind!” In this chapter she suggests not putting too much credence in clinical studies about nutrition. She lists five points to keep in mind before looking at the scientific evidence. We too often wait for science to tell us what is right and we don’t listen to our instincts or experience. She is certainly not opposed to scientific inquiry, but sees it as one of the many tools we have. Millions of patients have given much time, effort and money seeking answers to their health problems and find they are helped when they turn to the traditional wisdom of treating disease naturally, with diet and other benign approaches. Science often has confirmed this wisdom. Campbell-McBride suggests we use science wisely and not allow it to eliminate our trust in the centuries-old ways.
Put Your Heart in Your Mouth is a good example of this philosophy. It reminds us that our health is not a matter of “fate” but that we can take concrete steps to help heal and, in so doing, live more like humans were meant to live: happy, as healthy as possible, and enjoying delicious and satisfying foods.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2008.