(Audio transcript below)
Welcome to AIM For Health: Root-Cause Conversations with Dr. James Biddle. All content from the conversations in this podcast are created and published for informational purposes only. This is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on for personal medical decisions. Always seek the guidance of your doctor with any questions you have regarding a medical condition.
Hello, we are back with our podcast “Ask Dr. Jim Bob”. I am James Robert Biddle, MD, board certified internist, and here to help me is our new-patient coordinator, Joy Lambert.
Hello Dr. Biddle – Hello everyone!
So today is October 1st, 2020, and we are going to not talk directly about medical things today, but we are going to talk about why.
Why are you here?
Why are we going to talk about why?
We are going to talk about why because why is the core as to why people come to us and why we do what we do.
It’s the motivation, it’s the hope, it’s the reason.
A couple of years ago I wrote this little book called “Reclaim Your Health – an Integrative Medicine Pathway” and I spent quite a bit of time writing about “why”. Because I see patients who are very motivated to reclaim their health.
And they are the ones who have a very strong why. They are there doing it for their kids, for their wife, for their Lord, you know, whatever it is that is motivating them. You have got to figure out your why. And then we see people who are not so motivated. And then they have a hard time being part of the team.
And in this type of medicine we don’t get results unless the client is the biggest part of the team.
Right. There’s a lot we can do, but there is a lot we need each person to do as well.
Right. So we are very interested in clients finding their why and understanding their why, and using their why as a motivator.
And we are going to talk a little bit today about our whys in two levels, maybe more…
We will see where this goes.
When I woke up at 5:00 this morning I was laying in bed thinking about this talk and our whys, and I was thinking about my own whys. And I just did a little meditation retreat last weekend looking at some of that, and there is the level of why like “why do I get out of bed today?” Up close and personal why – right? Just why not stay in bed?
Some days that would be easier.
Right. And then there is kind of a level of “Why keep this practice running?” And we have talked – I could double or triple my income, go work in the system and be a regular Internal Medicine doctor and not work as hard, and make two or three times more money, but instead I choose to keep this practice running.
Yes you do – for 23 years now I might add.
And we will talk about that why. And then there is the bigger why. A lot of people are struggling, I meet people who are suicidal, and they are having a hard time finding their why to even stay in a body.
I meet a lot of people who are sick and suffering, and they have got to have kind of that bigger why.
Why is it worth it?
Why is it worth it – that’s right. And if you can’t find that, you have got to dig into your belief system which is part of what I was polishing up last weekend doing this meditation retreat, you know, finding that why again. I haven’t lost that why, I was just needing some reinforcement because times are hard.
They are very hard!
I’ve got to stay motivated. So my why for getting up in the morning is definitely my family – right? I’ve got a little girl Raina who just turned 5. She is a delight!
Yes, she is.
I am an older dad. I’ve also got a 22-year-old, and a 17 year-old stepdaughter, and a wonderful wife. And these are my why – I want to support them.
I want to be a good example for them. And I want to create some amount of financial security for them, and I want to help cocreate a world that is a better place for them to live in.
Absolutely. It’s all about passing that on to the next generation, hopefully something better.
Right. Tell me something about your whys.
Oh, goodness. Well which one do we start with? Why did I come here in the first place, or why do we do what we do every day for me?
Well, tell me why you were attracted to our practice. You have been working here for 5 years now.
Five years actually next week.
We hired you right after Raina was born.
Right – you interviewed me the day you delivered her.
That’s right! I didn’t plan on delivering my own child, but the midwife was 5 minutes late –
She was a little early!
My daughter was quick, and she was born at home in a birthing tub in our bedroom, and it was a delight to be able to – you know, it’s funny to be able to say I delivered her, because it sounds like I did some work. My wife delivered her. I just happened to put my hands in the water –
You caught her!
I caught her, right.
So why I wound up here goes back to when I was 20. Up until that point in my life I thought I was perfectly healthy, perfectly typical, no health problems, and I was just in college. And one month I started having pain in my lower abdomen, and thought “That’s funny”, but I was in college, I was studying, I was working hard and distracted. So I didn’t think much about it, but it persisted, and a couple of months later I was diagnosed with endometriosis, and they only diagnosed me through surgery. They said there was no test. All the imaging studies were negative, and with that diagnosis they told me then, and I had just turned 21 – they said “You’re never going to have kids.” And that was probably the most heartbreaking moment of my life, and the doctor I saw was an hour away from my college campus, and I don’t know how I made it home, because the entire car ride home I just was bawling uncontrollably. And I wanted to fight it, but I didn’t know what my options were. I went through the system, I went through all the typical care, the conventional care, what little they had to offer, because they said we don’t know much about this. And in 5 years I went through 5 surgeries, all kinds of hormone treatments, some even experimental, some made my situation worse. And it finally culminated with me having a full hysterectomy at 25.
And it took me years to even begin to come to grips with that. I still struggle with the ramifications of that.
Because I always wanted children, I still do. But I just know that I never wanted to suffer like that again. I mean 5 years of pain and pain killers, and more surgeries and procedures than I can remember. You know it’s not a good thing when you know each of the OR nursing staff by name, when you are going in there every few months, and after that last surgery it did seem to remedy my situation and I could finally at 25 remember what it felt like to live life without being in excruciating pain every moment of the day. And later when my husband and I moved to Asheville because of what this town has to offer, we started hearing about organic food, and it really piqued our curiosity and we quickly became almost obsessed. You know, we were researching what we were eating with every meal and it opened the door to us, and in time I knew that I wanted to do something to be a part of helping people actually be healthier, actually feel better, and have more options out there. Have hope out there. Because I felt betrayed.
You did everything inside the medical paradigm box.
And then some.
And then some. And that didn’t help, but nobody ever showed you what was outside that box.
Never. And I asked – I asked can I change what I eat, is there anything else I can do?
Right. But all those doctors are trapped in the box.
And they did the best they could.
They did the best they could. They want to help. But they have golden handcuffs on.
And they are not going to think outside the box.
No, and it took a while for me to learn, even hear the word Integrative Medicine, and I was like “What’s that?” and I just wanted to get into it, and I sought it out, I sought you out.
And I have been here for 5 years now and what really clenched it in my mind that this is the path for me, this is the place for me, is when I had a visit with you. The first time I saw you, I had been working with you for months – I knew you, I trusted you, I felt confident, but when it was time for my first appointment, I can’t tell you how much I cried coming in to work that day, because it was that old fear of “What am I about to start?” And it was such a different experience. You gave me information, you gave me hope again, and you gave me the sense that I can control to an extent my destiny with my health and my body. I’m not just the ping-pong ball bouncing between medical paddles; that I could do something for myself and I did not have to suffer like that again. And that is why I am here for me, and why I want to be here for our clients – I don’t want to suffer like that again. I wish I knew then what I know now and if there is anything I can do to help someone not have to go through something like that, then I have to. It feels like a duty.
Right. There is the grieving of your loss and part of dealing with that grieving is being able to help other people avoid that loss and realize that there are treatments for endometriosis. When I first started practice here, I saw a whole slew of women who were in exactly your same situation, who had had hysterectomies in their 20s for endometriosis and so I really went into learning what that was about, and then discovered that that is really about the toxicities.
Which that was another heartbreaking revelation, that it could have been caused from something that I was exposed to and I didn’t even know it.
Or I didn’t know how to deal with the toxins enough to maybe mitigate it or reverse it.
Right, you’re just living in a society where it’s ubiquitous.
Well, thanks for sharing that.
Thank you for asking. It’s a lot, but that really is what gets me up every day and makes me excited. When people call and I can hear the suffering in their voice, I am encouraged for them, because I know that there is hope and that there is usually something we can do.
Right. Some of my colleagues, they have some really profound single story to tell about how they got into alternative medicine. You know, they had a child that was sick with autism or something like that. For example John Wilson across town, he had a son who had issues and it was through looking for additional ways to treat his son that he ended up going outside of conventional family practice to learn how to do that.
And a chiropractor coach that I have worked with, even his mom had breast cancer and he helped her survive that without chemotherapy and then that got him into his why of being in metabolic alternative medicine, kind of. Mine is not so straight forward, mine was a bit slower and it’s really almost attributable to a personality disorder that I have called oppositional defiance disorder.
Tell me about that.
Well, in oppositional defiance disorder you basically question authority. For example in medical school, in my third year of medical school in my medicine rotation I questioned authority and my professor kind of appreciated that, like the questioning mind. Rather than just accepting what they said, I would go – why is that? Even to the point of the word tinnitus, or tinnitus, the ringing in your ears. I was on rounds and presented to him and said it one way and he corrected me and told me it was the other way. And I was like – OK? And then before he could look it up on-line, I went to the medical library and pulled out a medical dictionary and saw that it was appropriate to say it either way. And I photocopied that page, highlighted it and stuck it in my pocket, and the next day did the presentation and said it the same way and he corrected me again, and I pulled that piece of paper out and he laughed and said he really appreciated the fact that I had made my case –
You were ready!
And he liked that, and I ended up with an A in medicine. However, on my surgery rotation I tried something very similar and a resident pulled my nametag off, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it and said this is what I really think about your opinion.
He actually stomped on my nametag. And I got a C in surgery, even though I had gotten an A on every test, because they didn’t like people questioning them. It’s a very authoritarian, I don’t know what surgery residency is like now, but 30 something years ago you get through surgery by keeping your head down and saying yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am.
That has never quite been my personality, and so I have always kind of questioned – why, why is that? And when I was in residency I was exposed to alternative healers, naturopaths – I was in Portland, Oregon which is really a mecca of acupuncturists and chiropractors and naturopathics, and people like this. And my third year of residency I rotated with some of them, and just got my eyes opened to there are other things outside that paradigm box of what big pharma tells us.
So what was tickling your brain about that? Or what area of alternative healing was tickling your brain?
Well all of it really. But it just opened my mind that all my colleagues, all they would do is either surgery or something like that, or prescribe prescription medications, but they would never look at anything like heavy metals, like nutrient levels of magnesium or essential fatty acids, or B-12, or something like that.
Or, now I know even more about things like heavy metals and chronic infections and hormone levels. The example I used on introductory talks like in thyroid, the conversion of T4 to T3. My residency director was an endocrinologist and if you mentioned getting natural thyroid rather than Synthroid his head would explode.
Right – you just didn’t do it!
Right. So it really just kind of gradually dawned on me and then my first year out of residency I opened up a little practice in Portland, Oregon in a clinic run by a naturopathic doctor.
But, I was taking Medicare and after about 8 months I was actually in the red – I was losing money, and I was moonlighting every weekend in the emergency room and I was basically subsidizing my practice. So I was working my butt off to subsidize taking care of these people, and realized I didn’t really know much about Integrative Medicine, so I went and worked full-time in the ER for 3 years after that, because emergency room medicine I think is really the best of conventional medicine.
And why is that?
Well, if I put a chain saw on my leg or if I am in a car accident, I don’t want homeopathy.
I want a surgeon! I want somebody to put me back together –
Stop the bleeding, stitch it up…
Right. So I am a big fan of conventional medicine and what it has to offer. I don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. So that is why I really like that. And during that 3 years I started studying more and more. I had the luxury – I had the income and the free time – to actually study more about Alternative Medicine, and then that gave me the basis when I moved here to end up starting this practice. So it was kind of a gradual process for me, but I can answer the question better about why I keep doing it.
Well, why do you keep doing it?
Integrity. I can’t not do it now, because I can see how it helps people and I can see if I went back and took a job in regular medicine how I would be limited that the only thing I could do is prescribe conventional medicines. And if I tried to give somebody magnesium or zinc or look at their heavy metals or rebalance their hormones or look for chronic Lyme disease or reactivated mono, that they would throw me out.
You couldn’t do that.
And so for example – we have in front of us right here one testimonial that just came in this week. So this guy has given me permission to say this. His name is Craig, he is 64 years old, and he had a diagnosis of sarcoidosis, he still has a diagnosis of sarcoidosis. And he went to everybody for years, and he went to the leading specialist in the country who deals with sarcoidosis, and they basically said “Look, there is no good treatment for this, you’re going to die from it”.
You get a death sentence, you know? And he also had uncontrolled diabetes, he had non-healing diabetic wounds on his feet. He lost a toe or two. And they basically said you need to follow the diabetic diet, which is of course 60% carbs, 20% fat, and 20% protein, which will give you diabetes.
Right – we know better than that.
You can’t eat 60% carbs because that is what is causing the blood sugar to go up in the first place. And he came here and it has been I believe about 3 years now.
Yes, that sounds right.
And now he has lost 100 pounds, his last blood sugar level was in the normal range, not even prediabetes; he is in the nondiabetic range now. He no longer has problems with skin ulcers, and his sarcoidosis, which does have a cause, it’s just that conventional medicine won’t accept that sarcoid and all these other autoimmune diseases are caused by chronic infections and toxicities, but we did find those and we treated them, and his sarcoid is arrested. It is not cured, but it is no longer progressing, and it’s not going to kill him. And he is feeling better and better.
So he said “The leading specialist told us I would take this to the grave. Dr. Biddle didn’t even flinch. He handed me a protocol to start immediately. I am pleased to say that there are no signs or symptoms that the sarcoid has spread further, and my lungs feel great. My wife and I are so grateful that we found AIM, Dr. Biddle, and the empathic staff that has given us such a new lease on life looking forward to a healthy future.”
I can’t even imagine how rewarding that must feel for you, being able to impact people’s lives in that way.
It’s great. Right, and we could sit here all day long and tell stories.
My favorite is the one I give on the video that people watch before they become our client, about the 3 ½ year old boy who was severely autistic, a child with severe autism. For example he would not wear clothing, he had projectile vomiting, projectile diarrhea, he would thrash about banging his head. He would not make eye contact, his mother could not hold him. And that was after being perfectly normal at 18 months, and speaking, and of course went in for his vaccinations and had a fever for 5 days and was never the same again.
And we worked with him for 2 years, then they went on, they moved, and worked with other people. And then a couple of years ago I got a picture of him – captain of the soccer team, top of his class, most popular in school –
Thriving, a normal healthy kid. It took 10-12 years of working hard.
It’s a journey, it’s absolutely a journey.
But this is a kid that doctors had told his mother to institutionalize him and forget about him because he would never be normal.
And the courage it must have taken her to do this anyway – even with those recommendations.
That’s right. And here is how the system responds to that. I requested his medical records from his primary doctor and rather than send me the medical records the primary doctor complained to the medical board. And so I had a 3 ½ year investigation of the medical board coming after me for treating this child with autism, and that cost me like $50,000.00 of fees plus a lot of gray hair and lost sleep, and traveling to Raleigh for medical board interviews, things like that.
Oh, I bet!
And finally after 3 ½ years they dropped the case, mostly because we changed the state law on how they do this, but they could not find anything wrong except for the fact that I didn’t have the diagnosis of autism well-established in the chart because the primary doctor hadn’t sent me the records.
Really!? All that!
If you want to read that letter, it is still on the Medical Board website. Just go the North Carolina Medical Board website and look me up, and there is this letter of reprimand on there because the primary doctor had not sent me the records which is where the diagnosis was established. But did the Medical Board investigate him for not doing that? That was the illegal act.
I bet they didn’t.
They didn’t, that’s right. So there is an old saying – Do you know how you recognize the pioneer?
No, how do recognize the pioneer?
He’s got the arrows in his back.
But, would I change any of that? To have helped that boy to live a normal life? That’s well worth it.
Right. So that is why we love doing what we do, and that is a big part of our why, is why we keep doing this. It’s because we know that people have to go outside the system. Now the strangest thing and what’s making that harder for people is the Affordable Care Act about 10-11 years ago. Because when people were actually now forced to buy insurance they didn’t have enough money left over to go outside the system and pay for their own healthcare. Because insurance pays for what is inside that medical paradigm box. And to go outside that you have to pay cash, and so it seems very expensive to people and it does feel that way, because they are already paying $500, $1000, $1500, $2000 a month for their insurance, so now they feel obligated to use it and not do something else.
Before that people would just choose not to buy insurance and they would come spend that $500 a month on reclaiming their health. And they understood that. But that put the average people of middle class, or anything less than upper middle class income in a bind, really.
You stay within the system that you are kind of spinning your wheels in. A lot of people feel stuck in that, like they are not making the progress they want to make, but yet, where do you come up with providing your own medical care out-of-pocket.
Yes, but that’s the investment that one has to make in order to truly reclaim their health. If the medical system has not achieved it for them.
Which brings us back to – Why? Why are you willing to invest in this? Why does it matter to you?
What is it worth, I mean really – can you put a monetary value on thinking about your life in a year from now? Two years from now? Three years from now? If I could have seen you 20 years ago and have half a dozen kids in the room right now – I would have paid anything.
You know, there is just no question about that.
And for a child to still have their grandfather or grandmother around – right?
Or for a child to be able to grow up and have a typical life!
That’s right. And even just from a straight monetary point of view, if we can help you reclaim you life and that took, well let’s say it is a $3000-5000 investment the first year, and then another $1200 the next year to do that. But then you are able to get back to work and rather than making $30,000 a year now you are making $55,000 a year because you can work fulltime. Did that not pay for itself?
A lot, and then some.
If you stopped having to go the ER three to four times a year, and get hospitalized for this unknown abdominal pain, or a psychiatric breakdown, or whatever it is – would that not pay for itself pretty quickly?
And that’s even more of a short-term perspective. When you look at long-term as we age and especially things like the cost of private assisted living…
How long can you take care of yourself versus –
If you’re keeping off that dementia or physical frailty; you know, keeping away that hip fracture. Or even quality of life, let’s say, and again on our video, we have a woman in her 60s or 70s talking about basically reclaiming her sexual health postmenopausally when the doctor said “No, we don’t give hormones anymore”.
And then reclaiming that and part of that being meeting a new husband and now having years of a wonderful marriage, a second marriage that is thriving and nurturing.
What price would you put on that?
I don’t know if you could.
Those are turning your rusted years into your golden years.
So that’s what I’m looking forward to is my golden years. One thing about why is retirement – I hear over and over again from people who have retired, it is overrated. Because a lot of people lose their why, especially guys.
There’s a big phenomenon of guys suffering once they retire.
That’s right. So my advice to them is if you can, don’t fully retire; evolve your job into being something that you really love if you can. And if not, if you do retire, get yourself involved in something else, because you need a why to get up in the morning.
We all need purpose.
That’s right. Well what else should we say about this topic?
Well I just challenge everyone to think about what is your why. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why are you accepting things that you may not be satisfied with? What is stopping you from moving forward and claiming a better life for yourself?
That’s right. And if you are having a hard time with that my first concrete suggestion is a gratitude journal. Just writing it down, and you can formalize this like once a day you’re just going to write down 10 things you are grateful for, and then that will start to build.
It’s hard not to smile just thinking about one thing you are grateful for. It changes your perspective, your whole thought process.
It’s a wonderful meditation actually, to dwell on that and feel how that feels in the body and kind of follow that feeling and let it grow, and then feed it with other things you are grateful for. Because that changes hundreds of chemicals in your body. It really changes which genes are turned on and off, so be grateful, find your why, and I’ve got to tell you something – you’re why is rarely as simple as “I don’t want to suffer” or “I want to grow old”. It is almost always outside yourself and how you can be of service to somebody else. What’s you role as a husband or wife? a mother or father, a sister, a grandparent? a coworker, a neighbor, a church member? And how are you contributing to the love and health of your community?
All right – with that we’ll let you go, and any topics you want to hear about, send them to askdrjimbob@firstname.lastname@example.org and Joy will respond to you.
Absolutely, I look forward to hearing your questions.