Meet Dr James Read, thought leader in nutritional medicine and medical educator about gut problems, fatigue and Lyme disease.
He talks openly to Dr Suzie about how our modern lifestyle + diets can cause but can also treat disease and what’s involved in a modern day detox.
Prefer to listen, click below:
Dr Suzie: What’s unique about your approach to health care, today?
Dr Read: I look at health care from a more holistic perspective. Modern medicine primarily treats patient’s symptoms through drugs rather than addressing the underlying cause of the illness. Most modern disease is caused by a combination of different factors, particularly those relating to lifestyle such as diet, exercise, quality of sleep, physical activity, social and emotional well-being as well as relationships.
Most conditions of modern society have many elements of these implicated in causing the illness. Just like peeling the layers of an onion you can examine the layers of a patient’s lifestyle; often we can find and modify these lifestyle causes without using drugs. There are obviously times when we have to use drugs, these can be necessary, but often if we find the underlying cause and modify it, we may not need it.
Dr Suzie: A lot of patients are interested in a modern day detox. What’s a detoxification program?
Dr Read: Firstly, before any nutritional supplementation you should look at the diet first. Some people are not ready to change their diet, or they may struggle to get enough nutrients even with a dietary change, so we offer supplements to bypass the need to only get it from food.
Sometimes we use Intravenous Vitamins like IV multi-B vitamins and suddenly they have a huge improvement in their energy. Many people who have a migraine, sleep disorders, tight muscles or cramps may not even realise that they are low in magnesium. They struggle to get enough magnesium from their diet and even supplements, but when you give them an intravenous infusion then suddenly they are sleeping better, their muscles relax and migraines settle.
At Taylor Clinic, yes we offer weekend IV vitamin C as well which can work fantastically for immune issues or for people with acute infections such as viral infections. They can help fight viral infections. Infusions can improve the immune system and may even have a role for some cancer patients.
We also offer detoxification support; lots of people want detox diets which are useful, but we can also support detox pathways intravenously. Even if someone comes in with a horrible hangover, we can make them feel better with Intravenous fluids, magnesium and B vitamins and nausea reducing medicines. We can offer liver protection as well as anti-ageing properties through IV support, for example with glutathione. Glutathione can be given intravenously and its a powerful antioxidant which has great skin properties as well.
Dr Suzie: Taylor Clinic signature treatments are related to improving the health of skin, how do you add a nutritional approach to improving skin?
Dr Read: The nutritional approach is about individualising a skin treatment plan. There are many things we know that will help skin across the board, for example, zinc. Zinc can improve acne, skin rashes, dermatitis, weak nails and hair loss etc. Many problems with dry skin can also relate to how much oils you have in your diet especially good oils. For example, people with dry skin often will improve by increasing fish oils and good oils in the diet such as evening primrose oil. Then it’s important we look at the individual. Some may have food intolerances for instance. Many patients with eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis have food intolerances such as gluten or dairy. A patient may have acne, you take them off dairy and then their skin improves.
Dr Suzie: How does your approach for Gut problems differ from the conventional family doctors?
Dr Read: Most GP’s default to drugs but the one dietary modification they tend to use (or which is recommended by a dietician) is a low FODMAP diet – which is really taking away foods which are fermentable and cause gas and bloating in the gut. While this will help many people with IBS it doesn’t address the underlying cause which is why they have a gut issue and are fermenting their sugars in the first place.
Is there a gut bacteria imbalance in the first place? Or an overgrowth of bacteria, yeast or candida in the gut which can be treated? Also, we know too much sugar will promote the wrong bacteria as well as feed the yeast. If we treat these imbalances then the condition is reversible.
For some people, it’s a food intolerance and we can test that by a trial of elimination diets as well as through blood tests to check which food may be causing the problem. These tests take away the guess work, otherwise, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Likewise, many people have poor digestive processes – much of which may be related to lifestyle and stress. We can support digestion by measuring digestive enzymes in the bowel and supporting digestion with enzymes or even dietary changes like adding apple cider vinegar or ginger – which can improve the quality of digestion and assist the disappearance of the food intolerances over time.
Dr Suzie: One of your special interest areas is fatigue, so many people complain of fatigue but what is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Dr Read: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a complex disorder often related to chronic low-grade inflammation – it may be from infections, gut bacteria imbalance, food intolerances, but CFS is really the end of a severe spectrum of fatigue.
As part of modern lifestyle, most people walk around with a degree of fatigue which they accept as normal. They drink energy drink or drink coffees to pick up their energy. When you peel back the layers of their lifestyle, you might find they have a gluten intolerance and when they are eating gluten it’s turning into a morphine-like substance and causing fatigue. They may have a B vitamin deficiency or even undiagnosed sleep apnoea.
As a holistic practitioner, I look at the individual and work out their individual contributing factors to fatigue. It may have a sugar addiction and we put them on a more sugar stable diet and they lose weight and their energy goes through the roof. It may be they are stressed needing more B vitamins, or have adrenal fatigue and need adrenal support supplementation and we can put them in touch with someone who can help them manage their stress like learning to meditate, pilates or yoga. We look for individual factors contributing to their fatigue. We look at it comprehensively and offer more than just the standard battery of tests that your (very competent) local GP would do.
Dr Suzie: Lyme Disease is very topical especially overseas, but in Australia what do we need to know?
Dr Read: Lyme-like-illness or tick-borne illness is the better name for it in Australia. We may not have the exact bacteria that people acquire overseas and hence we call it Lyme-like-illness in Australia.
People need to know that it is an incredibly debilitating illness that can certainly steal a young person’s life away from them.
It is such an important illness, we have even had a Senate enquiry into this matter investigating the issue because it’s not recognised by the infectious disease specialists to treat this disease in Australia. However, the state committee has unequivocally found that we have a disease which is a Lyme-like illness; a group of infections that are tick-borne that causes severe pain, brain fog, severe fatigue, sleep disturbance and it can even affect their heart, blood pressure and even cause the heart to be unstable. Poor cognitive function and nerve function occurs and a once previously high functioning person can be severely fatigued and debilitated.
It is a treatable condition though but with complex treatments. Like most cases of chronic fatigue, it’s not just about antibiotics – it really requires a holistic approach to fatigue management and supporting the person as a whole -especially nutrient and gut function and immune function. We can use drugs, herbs, antibiotics and even hyperthermia can be used. These treatments may seem radical but can be life transforming.
Dr Suzie: Whats your philosophy in medicine?
Dr Read: My philosophy to medicine is that every body counts. And those little things can make a big difference. For some people, sometimes we don’t know which piece of the puzzle, it might be simple, but when found can completely transform a persons life.
There is a condition that is poorly understood in health care, called pyrrole disorder; it’s a condition not widely accepted by the medical profession. It’s a condition that causes people’s zinc and B6 not to work properly. People can present with fatigue, poor mood, anxiety and attention deficit but after 6 weeks of supplements, you can see people’s mood dramatically transformed.
I have also seen children with severe anxiety and bed wetting, you take them off dairy alone and their anxiety goes away. When you see these transformations after such small changes; how a small pick-up or change to their diet, that is crippling for their behaviour – it’s really rewarding!
I work also as a GP anaesthetist rurally as well and performing something like an epidural where you remove the pain for a labouring mother so she can deliver her beautiful baby and you see how that transforms their experience.
You can see this transformation as well just by taking things out of the diet and by supporting things in their diet such as zinc with pyrrole disorder – which can improve the self-esteem of a child when they start reading again because their attention improves. It’s incredibly rewarding when you can improve a life especially with such small changes.
Dr Suzie: What made you choose the pathway of a nutritional and environmental medicine?
Dr Read: It was a gradual thing. After finishing university I took a year off and travelled to Latin America and South America where I got her interested in public health. That took me to the Northern Territory for 6 years where I worked with Aboriginal and Indigenous communities. Nutrition was such a major big thing up there – it became essential to look at diet, vitamins and nutrition. Paediatricians were giving zinc and vitamin A to Indigenous children who had severe diarrhoea or were underweight (because it had worked in Africa where they had worked) and this was making a difference.
That made me become aware that we needed to be holistic and look at the patient in the context of their community and their family and the importance of nutrition and lifestyle. And also how lifestyle disease was so prominent in impoverished communities.
Then after that, I returned to the East coast to work, it was more about being open-minded. Listening to people for instance with problems like hormone imbalance who were reading widely and telling me about a book that seemed to resonate with them. So I started reading a book about Natural Hormone Management and started my interest in bioidentical hormones and that’s when i realised that there was more to hormones than what they taught us at medical school.
But part of it was about learning to listen to patients. That sometimes you can learn a lot more about patients than you can from textbooks. I am always happy for patients to come in and suggest things. We do need to look at the science behind it of course, but there is so much science that is readily available from good scientific sources that support a much more nutritionally integrated approach.
My journey has been guided by the patients I have seen. I continue to learn on a daily basis.
To me, modern healthcare is now patient-focused health care. Rather than patients being dictated to, they should be the focus, we call this patient-centric health care; where the patient’s the captain and I am the navigator – they are making the decisions but I am guiding them with their decision making.
Dr James Read is working Taylor Clinic on Wednesdays and Sundays and collective.care Edgecliff Allergy/ENT/Skin Clinics on Mondays.
Taylor Clinic: www.taylorclinic.com.au , Ph: 1300 003 223
collective.care: www.collective.care , 1300 344 325
For more info, or to book, please visit: http://www.taylorclinic.com.au/contact-us/