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Show 1386: Why Survival Depends on Natural Balance

In this episode, two of our favorite guests explain why we need to consider natural balance within the entire organism for good health.
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Why Survival Depends on Natural Balance

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The term “homeostasis” was coined about a hundred years ago. What does it mean? Essentially, it is a way of describing how various systems in the body work together to maintain internal equilibrium even in the face of a changing environment. This concept is crucial to good health, as healers have known intuitively for millennia.

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Why Survival Depends on Natural Balance:

Ancient Greek physicians recognized that natural balance within the body was essential. They worked out a complex explanation in which four “humors” determined a patient’s health. We don’t believe in their explanation any more, but we still recognize that disrupting one part of the system will likely lead to changes in other areas to try to compensate. To understand what is happening, we need to consider the entire organism.

One expert, Dr. George Billman, explained it like this:

“It is no more possible to appreciate the beauty of de Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” or Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” by removing and analyzing each individual dab of paint than we can understand how the various organ systems work together to maintain health by examining single genes or molecules.”

What Drugs Do to Homeostasis:

Appreciating the natural balance of our bodies may be harder when considering prescription drugs. Powerful pharmaceuticals are meant to correct pathways that are not functioning properly. However, they may also interfere with homeostasis. Sometimes they block appropriate absorption or utilization of nutrients. At other times, they may result in dysbiosis–an imbalance of the microbiome.

Another difficulty with potent drugs is that the body may adapt to the drug itself. Then, if the drug is discontinued abruptly, there is a rebound effect. This can be extremely uncomfortable, not to mention disconcerting. Many people may be aware that stopping an anti-anxiety drug suddenly can make them feel anxious and ill. But that is not the only example. Another common problem occurs when a person stops a powerful acid-suppressing drug such as omeprazole. Rebound hyperacidity resulting in heartburn symptoms is not unusual.

Maintaining the Natural Balance of the Microbiome:

Our bodies host a tremendous collection of microbes, including a wide range of bacteria, viruses and even fungi. We know the most about the microbiome of our digestive systems, although our skin, our lungs and pretty much every other body part also has its own unique microbiome.

When the microbiome goes out of balance, it becomes susceptible to even more extreme disruption. We think that’s what happens when Clostridium difficile (C. diff) becomes a problem. Although people talk about C. diff infections causing dreadful diarrhea, in most cases the C. diff was there at a low level all along, as part of the normal complement of microbes in the gut. However, when other bacteria are killed off, by a round or two of antibiotics, for example, C. diff seizes the opportunity and takes over. As a result, treating C. diff with more antibiotics isn’t always helpful and sometimes makes things worse. What is needed is a way to restore the natural balance of the microbiome.

Understanding Homeostasis:

This explanation of C. diff illuminates why understanding homeostasis is so important. Since gastroenterologists deal with the microbiome all the time, we trust that they are paying close attention to maintaining natural balance. But our guest, Dr. Robynne Chutkan, admits that her colleagues often prescribe drugs such as PPIs that upset the balance of the microbiome and result in dysbiosis.

Rebuilding Natural Balance as the Path to Health:

PPIs are certainly not the only medications that can cause trouble for the microbiome. Popular pain relievers known as NSAIDs have an impact on intestinal microbes and can also affect the gut lining. When it becomes more permeable, other illnesses arise. Restoring health requires us to consider the entire context of the individual.

This Week’s Guests:

Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is a founding member of the American Board of Physician Specialties, American Board of Integrative Medicine and the Academy of Women’s Health. She was elected Chair of the US Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplements/Botanicals Expert Committee and was appointed to the Scientific Advisory Council for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Her books include: Healthy at Home: Get Well and Stay Well Without Prescriptions, Life Is Your Best Medicine, and Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More. Her website is:

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog describes natural ways to treat heartburn

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog describes natural ways to treat heartburn

Robynne Chutkan, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist, is a faculty member at Georgetown University Hospital and is the founder of the Digestive Center for Wellness, an integrative gastroenterology practice located in Washington DC. Dr. Chutkan is the author of the digestive health books Gutbliss, The Microbiome Solution, The Bloat Cure and The Anti-Viral Gut: Tackling Pathogens from the Inside Out. An avid squash player, runner and yogi, Dr. Chutkan is passionate about introducing more dirt, sweat and vegetables into people’s lives. Her website is

Robynne Chutkan, MD, author of The Anti-Viral Gut: Tackling Pathogens from the Inside Out

Robynne Chutkan, MD, author of The Anti-Viral Gut: Tackling Pathogens from the Inside Out

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available Monday, May 27, 2024, after broadcast on May 25. You can stream the show from this site and download the podcast for free.

Download the mp3.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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