Dr. Daniel Kalish: Functional Medicine
Dr. Daniel Kalish
Jonathan: Hey everyone Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim Podcast. I really have a treat for you today. We have a gentleman with us who has been in this field of digging a little bit deeper, not just giving you some pills to deal with symptoms but to discover root causes into really fundamentally heal and cure people for decades like he was doing this before it was sexy. He continues to work to make it mainstream.
He’s changed the lives of thousands and thousands of people. He’s collaborating with Dr. Mercola, all kinds of wonderful people. He’s got the Kalish Institute that just opened up, he is just a good all around guy. Dr. Daniel Kalish welcome to the show brother.
Dr. Kalish: Thank you very much for having me.
Jonathan: Well Dr. Dan I wanted to start because we were talking before the podcast about you were making this cool before it was cool to make this cool. So how did you get started on this path of functional medicine and how do you define functional medicine?
Dr. Kalish: Yes so my dad died when I was 22 years old. His dad died in his fifties as well and so I pretty clearly at a young age was scared and realized that conventional medicine wasn’t necessary going to be where I can hang my head on if I was going to make it into old age. So I got really motivated at a young age, nothing like the theory of death to motivate you, to really understand what alternatives were there outside of commercial medicine that can get me healthy.
I discovered functional medicine in my early 30’s and really just never looked back. Now obviously I solve my own health problems through these techniques and now I’m able to apply that work to other folks. What functional medicine is really clear, we’re looking at organ dysfunction prior to the onset of actual disease process.
So we’re not treating medical conditions, we’re treating body systems that are starting to break down prior to the actual onset of a real diagnosable medical problem.
Jonathan: Dr. Dan this is so important because it seems that we as a culture have been programmed to, it’s a bit like waiting till your engine starts smoking before you take it into the mechanic whereas if you would just change your oil every three to five thousand miles you’re good. It seems you’re helping people to move more towards that, just change your oil every three to five thousand miles and your engine will never catch on fire.
Dr. Kalish: Absolutely and because in our culture what takes most of us out is either cancer or heart disease. That’s the joke the cardiologist always tell you at conferences, “What’s the first sign of heart disease – sudden death” because most people drop dead of a heart attack. It’s a little late to change your diet and distress yourself when in the ER where you mind your way out.
We definitely want to catch people with what I call the big five which are, fat, fatigue, depressed, female hormone problems and digestive complaints. We want to catch people who are suffering from those five issues prior to them actually and getting sick per say.
Jonathan: Dr. Dan give us some idea of how long you’ve been doing this and for those five issues what are some of the things you’ve found to be most effective in your treatment of them?
Dr. Kalish: So I’ve been in a practice for 20 years. But the protocols I do in my own practice, the protocols we teach to other practitioners in my training programs have literally been around for generations it’s nothing new here.
All we’re doing is applying these functional medicine principles which are all basically lab-based protocols. That’s sort of the unique blend of history that comes together right now is that we have access to these alternative medicine oriented lab tests but then we can apply natural health protocols to them using natural safe alternatives to conventional drugs and surgery.
Jonathan: So we get a bit about best of both worlds’ words. It’s not as if we’re luddites to use a dictionary word and we’re anti-technology and we’re anti-progress it’s not that at all. It’s that you take these wonderful scientific advances and you use them and apply them differently, correct?
Dr. Kalish: Exactly. Cutting edge technology with natural health treatments. I’ve trained at least six practitioners from the Mayo Clinic which is kind of astounding when you think about it. The reason why they sat through my six month training program is because they can see the science behind this. What’s missing in conventional medicine is just the application of natural treatments.
Jonathan: When you say the application of natural treatments, literally this is as basic as in many conventional medicine circles. The idea that what you eat matters is actually not part of a lot of conventional medicine, right?
Dr. Kalish: As a matter of fact this is sad but true and this is not a criticism it’s just an observation not a criticism. If you ask most any gastroenterologist in the United States, GI doctor, whether nutrition has any impact on human health that’s significant but basically say no.
That’s our first line treatment in functional medicine is a complete overhaul and revamping back towards a normal healthy diet and that changes so many health conditions overnight is that you couldn’t even list them all.
Jonathan: The reason I bring this up Dr. Dan I think it’s so important because sometimes I know our listeners are savvier than this. Sometimes anytime we hear something like, people hear some functional medicine or alternative this they get the sense of woo woo and then they may put up a little bit of a barrier right from the beginning.
But I want to inform our listeners and empower our listeners that if you believe that nutrition, that what you eat matters to your health then you’re a fan of functional medicine. Is that fair?
Dr. Kalish: Yeah, that is fair because that’s really the basis of all these protocols. We start people off figuring out what’s a healthy diet for an individual and then making sure that they can follow that. Now most people know what they should be eating but can’t do it because their lives are dictated by food cravings because their brain chemistry is off or their hormones are off.
So they are binge eating on ice cream or cookies or cakes or starving themselves and not eating breakfast and overeating after dinner or whatever the things we are that we do that really unintentionally sabotage us. One of the key components to starting a functional medicine protocol is that we eliminate all food cravings and make it so that broccoli, green beans and chicken look as attractive as a piece of pie with ice cream on it.
Jonathan: Dr. Dan I need your help here because I and my lovely podcast co-host Carrie Brown, we talked about how when you do start eating a cleaner more nutrient dense, when you follow that lifestyle literally the food you’ve mentioned chicken, broccoli, asparagus, lower fructose fruit, just whole natural foods. They literally were not just saying this, they literally look as delicious and/or as appetizing as the edible products were subjected to today. Can you speak to that?
Dr. Kalish: Yeah because in general as a culture we’re driven by our appetites in many different sense of the word right? The appetite for food is so powerful because we have to eat food every day. We’re distorted as we are in many ways of our unconscious and conscious minds in terms of our exposure to advertising and what’s a food is going to turn you on and make you feel good and what’s the food you should stay away from.
We’re all raised basically to focus on pleasure through food being really poor quality food that has little or no nutritional value and often foods that are destructive like sugar, excessive processed foods with food additives etcetera. What is amazing is that and what the body will tell you a 100% all the time with every human being is that when you start to provide the foods that we were actually designed to eat, real food not non-foods there is a sense of pleasure and well-being that happens which is way better than eating a pop tart with a cup of coffee.
Really a huge difference and you can’t explain it. It seems crazy because if your addicted to the unhealthy foods the conceptual framework that a really great healthy meal would make you feel good is hard to wrap your mind around.
Jonathan: I’m a bit of a philosophy geek, it’s one of the areas I studied in my formal education and I love this field of philosophy called, Utilitarianism. John Steward Mill, these folks and not to geek out too much but one of the things that is super that they bring to the table which was great is they actually talk about different types of pleasure.
How like the pleasure for example of taking a warm shower, that is pleasurable but it is very different than the pleasure of let’s say when you graduated from college and the sense of accomplishment that you felt or when you looked in the eyes of your first born child. Those were all pleasurable experiences but there’s definitely higher order pleasures and lower order pleasures.
Is what we’re talking about here, if you eat a Snickers bar, doesn’t get any pleasurable just if you snort a line of cocaine that’s a little pleasurable. But what we’re talking about here is a higher order and therefore so much more satisfying type of pleasure. Does that make any sense?
Dr. Kalish: Absolutely because one, the ice cream cookie cake craving thing is satisfying a very base unsophisticated animalistic need. That’s just like we’re driven to eat these foods that we know that are bad for us with no consciousness behind it at all.
This isn’t a matter of I’m better than another person or I have a bit higher character. It’s not a personality thing but it’s a physiological biochemical thing. When you’re driven to eat a really healthy meal the satisfaction that comes from how that food feeds you because it literally feeds you at the level of the soul because at the body and the soul and it’s sense of I don’t know how to say it of attainment or sense of peace and equanimity maybe like a sense of balance or something like that that happens just from eating a really good meal.
When you eat foods that are damaging they’re going to throw your blood sugar off and have basically no nutritional value. There may be a short term thrill but then there’s a pretty long downside to that which of course leads to cravings and addiction because you want to do it again.
Jonathan: Dr. Dan it seems so important to have that sense of almost nutritional tranquility because we live in a world which is got enough ups and downs and enough complexity where if we don’t have that base line level of homeostasis for lack of better terms it’s like running upstairs with a parachute strap to your back. It doesn’t set you up for success does it?
Dr. Kalish: No in fact what happens with most patients that I worked with is they are unconsciously controlling their moods and their feelings with food all throughout the day and not even really tracking it or being aware of that’s what’s happening. It’s a psychoactive substance. Food is a psychoactive substance. It changes how we feel.
Jonathan: Almost like an individual we sometimes we hear people, “Self medicating with alcohol.” It sounds like people can self-medicate with edible products.
Dr. Kalish: The majority of the Americans are self-medicating their hormones and their brains. Their neuro transmitters and their hormone systems are being basically controlled by their food.
We see this on the flip side because when we balance someone’s brain chemistry and bring serotonin dopamine back up based on lab work and when we balance the different hormones, adrenal and thyroid hormones the cravings disappear literally overnight they just go away.
Jonathan: So there is hope. It sounds like the hope is not a matter of just grit your teeth and have someone screaming in your ear, “Try harder.” It sounds like there is a much smarter approach.
Dr. Kalish: Anyone who has food cravings knows that will power is never going to work. You may be able to have will power for thirty days or something like that. But eventually if you have low brain chemicals and your hormone system is out of its normal balance you’re going to be drawn to eating the wrong foods. You’d be able to resist for a little while but eventually you’re going to break down.
That’s the first thing that we have to sort out. So it’s not enough just to tell a person what to eat, we want to balance the brain, balance the hormonal system at the same time at the beginning of the program so that the natural choice starts to be the healthy choice and the person can get some momentum.
Jonathan: Given away the farm here, you’re talking about getting a program started and certainly you have trained thousands and thousands of people. You have your Kalish Method. If we started living this lifestyle and adopting these, what are some of the things we would start to do?
Dr. Kalish: On the lifestyle side there’s four major changes which we are talking about now, changing your diet, getting the right amount of exercise, reducing your stress and one that’s incredibly important we don’t think about enough is getting enough sleep. Sleep is really one of the “major functional medicine treatments.” There’s no substitute for sleep, if you’re not getting a good quality sleep you’re not going to get better.
So those are in the lifestyle side and then on the lab side at the Kalish Institute we keep it very simple and just do hormone digestive and detox lab testing. The doctors that we trained then integrate these two concepts: lifestyle changes with short term supplement programs. We’re not talking about people taking things for the rest of their lives. We’re talking about six to twelve month programs using supplements based on the labs to get people balanced. What ends up being the final combination of all this the lab based supplement program stop when the systems are fixed and you continue on with the lifestyle changes that you were able to implement.
What we find is that it’s really hard for people to adjust to the lifestyle by itself. The lab work in the beginning can help propel the person forward and give them the momentum they need to incorporate the lifestyle changes which then end up becoming the on-going treatment really is just what you’re doing every day in your life.
Jonathan: I love the lifestyle based approach. I love layering in those numbers of the labs so that we can really bring this down to earth. Dr. Kalish, I want you to focus, tell me a little bit more about, you basically said there and tell me if I’m taking this too far. Sleep is medicine, is that fair?
Dr. Kalish: Yeah sleep is one of the major treatment options. You think about it because all the rest and repair for all the body systems happens at night when you’re sleeping. There’s no substitute for that, there’s no pill, there’s no drug, there’s no emotional release technique that can substitute for an hour of sleep. It’s just impossible to replace that anywhere.
Jonathan: It seems like that’s something that you and I and everyone else should work really hard to continue to spread that message because people will be coming to work and say, “I woke up two hours early and went to the gym to jog for an hour.”
People would be like, “That person is a hard worker. That’s a good person.” Someone comes into work and says, “I slept two hours longer this morning.” It was like, “You are lazy.” How do we fix that?
Dr. Kalish: Yeah that is so true. Its funny isn’t it? Anyone who has kids can appreciate this. I know this happen to me. The uh huh moment to me was when my son was about four years old and we took him to the 4th of July fireworks which of course don’t start until 9:30 and then you’ll get back to the car it’s 11:00.
If you keep a four or five year old child up until midnight or you’d do the really dumb parenting move of, oh New Year’s Eve, I’m going to get my kid up to New Year’s Eve so they can see the ball drop. What happens? Any parent know your kid stays up to midnight just one night you’re going to pay the price for at least a week right?
If your five year old kid wants to stay up to midnight every night so they can do a little more e-mail and catch up on Facebook or whatever you would say, no, you’re going to go to bed. Adults need sleep in the exact same way as a kindergarten kid needs sleep. There is no difference whatsoever in terms of sleep.
What happens when kids don’t get enough sleep? They get cranky. They get irritable. They get sick. It’s exact same thing in adults. We’re just under some illusion that it only applies to our children and not to ourselves.
Jonathan: Well that gets me really excited Dr. Dan because it seems like especially there’s a lot of research that’s been going on about how higher intensity but still very safe and shorter duration exercises are so helpful that almost we could take some of the hours we spent on these traditional longer running forms of exercise and spend them sleeping. That’s seems like a pretty nice trade.
Dr. Kalish: Absolutely. There’s a study I read the other day about sleep deprivation and waking. You only need to cut an hour of sleep off per night to get people to gain I think it’s a pound of body fat every week or two. It’s astounding how quickly our bodies respond in a very negative way.
There’s always a person and I’m sure some of us who’s listening to this call who’s thinking, I don’t need that much sleep. I’m a night person. We get so distorted from our sense of reality of sleep that again just go back to the childhood model and remember what do you do with your kids? They’re in bed by eight, right?
Maybe we should as adults get in bed by 10-10:30 at night. Really we’re designed to get sleep before 11 PM. 10-10:30 is ideal. We’re designed to wake up when the sun comes up that’s the basic fundamental hormonal rhythm that we’re supposed to be aligned with.
Jonathan: Dr. Dan certainly sounds we could all sign up for this. I like it. What’s next for you and the Kalish Institute?
Dr. Kalish: We just launched on Sunday a patient education lecture series which is on the Kalish Institute website. That’s a lecture series of twelve different talks about female hormones, adrenal hormones, digestive stuff all the different things that we do with patients.
We’re continuing to do the physician training programs as well for chiropractors, naturopaths, medical docs and what not. So this is kind of the two areas that we’re going for full guns in the fall here.
Jonathan: I love it and folks can learn more about that at KalishInstitute.com correct?
Dr. Kalish: Exactly, thanks.
Jonathan: Dr. Dan thank you so much for joining us today, this has been awesome.
Dr. Kalish: Appreciate you having me, thank you.
Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Please remember this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. Chat with you soon.