How to make diseases disappear | Rangan Chatterjee | TEDxLiverpool

Translator: Queenie Lee
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs I can make diseases disappear. To be more precise, I can make chronic diseases disappear. You see, chronic diseases
are the long-term conditions, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression or even dementia. There are 15 million people in England who have already been diagnosed
with a chronic condition. So that means looking out amongst you now, there are probably
about 250 people in here who have one of these
long-term conditions. Just one of these alone, type 2 diabetes, is costing the UK
20 billion pounds every single year, and I'm standing here before you saying I can make these diseases disappear.

See, I'm not a magician, I'm what the Americans call an MD. That's not a magical doctor, that's a medical doctor
or what I call a mere doctor. You see, the reason
I can make diseases disappear is because diseases are just an illusion; diseases are not real. In fact, diseases don't really exist, at least not in the way
that we think they do. So 15 years ago, I qualified for medical school,
and I was ready, I was full of enthusiasm,
full of passion, ready to go out and help people. But I always felt like
there was something missing. I started off as a specialist. I moved from being a specialist
to becoming a generalist, or a GP. And I always got this nagging sense that I was just managing disease
or simply suppressing people's symptoms.

And then, just five and a half years ago,
came the turning point for me. See, five and a half years ago,
my son nearly died. My wife and I,
we were on holiday in France with our little baby boy, and she called out to me,
said 'He's not moving', so I rushed there, and he was lifeless. I thought he was choking, so I picked him up,
I tried to clear his airway. Nothing happened, and I froze. She called out to me and said, 'Come on, we've got to get to hospital'. So we rushed there; we were worried because when we got there,
he still wasn't moving. The doctors were worried because they didn't know
what was happening. That night he had two lumbar punctures because they thought
he might have meningitis, and he stayed in
a foreign hospital for three days. What actually transpired was my son had a low level
of calcium in his blood that was caused
by a low level of vitamin D. My son nearly died
from a preventable vitamin deficiency and his father, a doctor,
knew nothing about it.

You see, as a parent that is a harrowing experience
that never leaves you. But I was a doctor, I was his dad; and the guilt that stayed with me,
and is still here today, that changes you. So I started reading, I started reading
about this vitamin deficiency. And as I started reading I started to learn a lot of science – a lot of science that I did not learn
in medical school, a lot of science that I thought: 'Hey, this makes lots of sense to me'. So I started applying this science. I started applying it,
first of all, with my son, and I saw the amazing benefits. So then I started applying it
with my patients, and do you know what happened? People started getting better, really better. You see, I learnt how to resolve
the root cause of their problems rather than simply
suppressing their symptoms. Just over a year ago, I had the opportunity to make
a series of documentaries for BBC One where I got to showcase
this style of medicine.

I'm going to tell you
about one of the patients – a 35-year-old, Dotti, lovely, lovely lady, but she was struggling with her health, weight problems,
joint problems, sleep problems. See, despite Dotti's best efforts, Dotti was unable to make
any sustainable changes. So I went into Dotti's house, and in the first week
I did some blood tests, and I diagnosed her with type 2 diabetes. Six weeks later when I left Dotti's house, she no longer had type 2 diabetes. You see, her disease had disappeared. So health exists on a continuum. Okay? At the top right we've got disease, and at the bottom left
we've got optimal health, and we are always moving
up and down that continuum. Take Christmas, New Year,
for example, right? We drink too much,
we eat too much, we stay up late; we probably start to move up that curve. But if we recalibrate
in January and February, we start to move back down it again. We get involved in medicine and give you a diagnosis
of a chronic disease … here, but things have been starting
to go wrong … back here. See, when I met Dotti,
she was up here, she had a disease.

You see, you can think of it
a little bit like a fire that's been burning
in Dotti's body for years; it's getting bigger till it's finally raging out of control. At that point, I can say,
'Hey Dotti, you have a disease'. And I told her that,
'You do have a disease.' But what caused it in the first place? The thing we have to understand is that acute disease and chronic disease
are two different things. Acute disease is something
we're pretty good at as doctors, we're good at this. It's quite simple. Okay? You have something like a pneumonia, that's a severe lung infection. So in your lung you have
the overgrowth of some bugs, typically a bacteria. We identify the bacteria,
we give you a treatment, typically an antibiotic,
and it kills the bacteria. The bacteria dies and hey, presto,
you no longer have your pneumonia. The problem is we apply
that same thinking to chronic disease and it simply doesn't work, because chronic disease
doesn't just happen.

You don't just wake up
with chronic disease one day and there are many different causes
of chronic disease. By the time we give you that diagnosis, things have been going wrong
for a long, long time. So when I met Dotti
and she had her 'diagnosis', her blood sugar was out of control, because that's what people say, many people say that type 2 diabetes
is a blood sugar problem, but they're missing the point. There is a problem
with blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, but type 2 diabetes
is not a blood sugar problem. The blood sugar is the symptom,
it's not the cause! If we only treat symptoms
we'll never get rid of the disease. So when I met Dotti, I said, 'Dotti, you've got a problem
with your blood sugar.

Dotti, for the last few years your body has become
more and more intolerant to certain foods. At the moment, Dotti, your body does not tolerate refined or processed carbs
or sugar at all. So you've got to cut them out'. So what does that do? Well, it stops putting fuel
on Dotti's raging fire. But then we've got to work out
what started the fire in the first place? And what was the fuel
that caused it to burn for so long? In most cases of type 2 diabetes, this is something
called insulin resistance. Now insulin is a very important hormone, and one of its key functions is to keep your blood sugar
tightly controlled in your body. So, let's say you're at the bottom left
in optimal health, like all of us in here, and you have a breakfast
of say, a sugary bowl of cereal. What happens is your blood sugar goes up, but your body releases
a little bit of insulin, and it comes back down to normal. As you move up that curve, you are becoming more
and more insulin resistant; that means you need
more and more insulin to do the same job.

And for all those years
before you get anywhere near a diagnosis, that raised level of insulin
is causing you a lot of problems. You could think of it
a little bit like alcohol. The very first time you have a drink, what happens? Say, you have a glass of wine,
one or two sips, maybe half a glass; you feel tipsy; you feel a little bit drunk. And as you become a more seasoned
and accustomed drinker, you need more and more alcohol
to have the same effect; so that's what's going on with insulin. You need more and more insulin
to have the same effect, but that insulin itself is problematic. And when the insulin can no longer
keep your sugar under control, at that point we say,
'Oh, you've got a disease'; at that point, you have type 2 diabetes.

So what causes this insulin resistance that then causes type 2 diabetes? Well, there are many different things. It could be your diet. It could be that your diet
for the last ten years has been full of processed junk food. That could be a cause. Or there's something else. What if it's the fact that you
are chronically stressed? Work stress, emotional stress, perceived stress. For me, just seeing
my email inbox sometimes, that's a stress. See, that raises
levels of cortisol in your body, and cortisol, when it's up,
raises your sugar which causes insulin resistance. What if it's something else? What if it's the fact
you have been sleep deprived because you are a shift worker? See, in some people,
one night's sleep deprivation can give you as much insulin resistance
as six months on a junk food diet. What if it's the fact that as you're
getting older, you're losing muscle mass? That causes insulin resistance.

Or what if it's something to do with
something we call your microbiome? See, inside our body,
we have trillions of bugs living there, and the balance of those bugs
is critical for our overall health. If you have a disruption to that balance, you can get the overgrowth
of certain bacteria, and on their jacket, these bacteria have something
called lipopolysaccharide, or LPS. And what that does
is when it gets in your blood, it causes insulin resistance. You see, the problem is there are many different causes
of insulin resistance, and if we don't address the causes
for that particular patient, we will never get rid of the disease.

That's what I did with Dotti, and that's why six weeks after I met her, she no longer had a disease. What about something else
completely unrelated? What about depression? You see, one in five people are going to get depression
at some point in their lives. So what is depression? There's no blood test for depression; there's no scan for depression. Depression is simply the name
that we give to a collection of symptoms. But what causes the depression? Well, we know that
many cases of depression are associated with something
called inflammation. Now this isn't the same inflammation
as if you trip up, you sprain your ankle, it gets red, it gets swollen,
it gets hot for a few days. But this is entirely different.
This is chronic inflammation. This happens when your body thinks
it is under constant attack. Now, King's College London three weeks ago
published a study on this. This is current up-to-date stuff. Patients with depression, if they had high levels
of inflammation in their body, they did not respond
to antidepressants. Take a step back,
it sort of makes sense, doesn't it? Because an antidepressant is designed to raise the level
of a chemical in your brain.

But what if the cause of your depression is actually coming from your body
and the inflammation that's in your body? Surely, it makes more sense
to address that. See, what causes this inflammation? Well, your diet plays a part in that, your stress levels play a part. Chronic sleep deprivation. Physical inactivity. A lack of exposure to the sun
which gives you vitamin D. Disruptions in the gut microbiome. There are many different things. If we do not address the cause,
we'll never get rid of diseases. Diseases are the symptom. What about something else? What about Alzheimer's disease? See? We're all living longer, aren't we? But we're scared. We're scared that as we live longer
and as we live older we may have to live with the devastating
consequences of things like Alzheimer's. I'm sure many of us in here
have experienced that ourselves, with our family. It's a heart-wrenching condition, and we, the doctors,
we're scrambling around, and we're trying to find the cure.

There's a professor in San Francisco,
Professor Bredesen, who was actually demonstrating
that you can cure dementia. He's shown that you can
reverse cognitive decline in his patients with dementia; and how is he doing that? Well, one thing he's not doing
is he is not saying, 'Well, all these patients
in my office have got dementia, Alzheimer's disease, what is the cure?' No, he's going the other way; he's saying, with all these patients,
let's say ten patients in my office, he's trying to work out what have been the triggers
for the last 20 years that have ended up with this patient
expressing themselves as dementia? And he identifies them, and he corrects every single one of them. And when he does that,
guess what's happening? They are reversing their symptoms, they are no longer being classified
as having dementia. It's a brand new way
of looking at disease. It's looking at what is causing
this disease in this individual patient. It's totally different. So what factors is he looking at? Well, he's looking at their diet; he's looking at their stress levels, their sleep quality, their physical activity levels, their exposure
to environmental toxins, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Is this starting to sound
a little bit familiar? See, what if all these seemingly
separate diseases actually at their core
share common root causes? See, we need to update our thinking: Our genetics are not our destiny. Our genes load the gun, but it's our environment
that pulls the trigger. All these factors here, these are the factors
that basically interact with your genes and determine how your genes
are expressed, whether you are in optimal health,
whether you have a disease, or whether you are somewhere in between. Collectively, as a society, I genuinely believe
we can do better and we have to do better. Type 2 diabetes alone
is costing us 20 billion pounds a year. Just a 1% saving there
would be 200 million pounds. I think we can do way better than 1%.

In the United States today, the new generation of kids that are born
have a lower life expectancy than the generation before them. Is this evolution or is this devolution? You see, we need to evolve
the way that we practice medicine. We need the medicine of aetiology,
not symptomatology – the medicine that asks why,
not only tells you what. This is personalized medicine,
this is precision medicine, this is progressive medicine. And actually, if you take a step back, this is preventative medicine
in its purest form. We have got to stop applying 20th century thinking
to 21st century problems. We need to take back control,
empower ourselves, and re-educate ourselves
away from our fear of disease and right back down the curve
to optimal health. Because if we do, together, I genuinely believe that we can
change not only our health, not only the health of our communities, but maybe, just maybe we could start to change the health
of the entire world.

Thank you. (Cheers) (Applause).

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