As a physician, I also like to consider myself to be a scientist. The question then arises, what type of scientist? Science has two separate interwoven categories—empirical science and evidence-based science. Observations in the real world drive empirical science. Sir Isaac Newton developed the law of gravity after being hit on the head by an apple falling from a tree. He then realized that dropped objects always fall downwards rather than sideways or up. When one makes consistent empirical observations like this, the next step is to develop a theoretical model to explain what you are observing. Newton’s response was to propose the universal law of gravity.
Try to Prove Your Theory Wrong
Once you have a theoretical model on the table based on empirical observations, you can decide on the likelihood that the model is correct based on the consistency and strength of your observations. You don’t want to waste your time studying side-ways falling apples! The next step is to conduct various experiments attempting to prove the theory wrong. Failure to do so over time suggests that the idea might have merit. You can never prove that a theoretical model is 100 percent correct, but you can provide solid evidence that it is likely or unlikely to be valid.
I believe my strength is in the area of empirical science. An example from my personal life likely reflects this skill. For years I have been fascinated by speed bumps—those narrow, raised objects they place in roads and streets when they want people to slow down. I became obsessed with speed bumps because I have spent a great deal of time dealing with them over the past ten years. We live several miles from the Cummings Center in Beverly, MA. Years ago, it was known as “The Shoe”—the largest factory globally, and their only product was shoes. When shoe manufacturing moved overseas, this factory closed. It remained in disrepair for many decades. A local businessman restored it to glory in 1997. It was converted to high-end commercial space, and it has since remained the focal point of business for Beverly and surrounding communities. I am very familiar with the Cummings Center as I worked there for several years, and our family sees several healthcare providers at the center.
A Veritable Jungle of Speed Bumps
After my first few visits to the center, I noticed that speed bumps permeate massive parking lots surrounding the buildings. Based on my observations, they seemed to work quite well because everyone, including myself, seemed to slow down when they approached these intrusive bumps in the road. Most people hit their breaks just as they go over the speed bump to be sure they aren’t going too fast. Who wants to wreck the undercarriage of their car by going too fast over these suspension killers?
On several occasions when I was in a rush, I carelessly hit some these bumps at 30-40 MPH without hitting my breaks. I immediately noticed that my car jumped a lot less than when I slowed down to over them. Over time when there were no pedestrians or vehicles around, I experimented with increasing speeds going over the speed bumps. The faster I went, the less I felt the bump! I started to question my sanity until I came across this interesting experiment:
Sure enough, he provided very strong support for my “faster is better” approach to speed bumps! I followed that “observe then test” tenant that forms the core of science in the real world.
Empirical Skills in the World of Medicine
I use this example to show off my empirical skills and I have found these skills to be extremely useful in my chosen field of medicine. Years ago, at the beginning of the obesity epidemic, I decided that I needed to figure out why so many people were suddenly storing too much body fat. Because obesity is defined as “excessive body fat”, I decided that I needed to measure the body composition of my patients. The “experts” recommended using body mass index (BMI), which essentially a size measure that tells you nothing about how much fat is present. Over decades I took over 10,000 body composition measurements. Because of my interest in neuroscience, I also paid close attention to my patient’s brain dysfunction symptoms. These are the symptoms that occur with most common brain disorders.
When it Comes to Fat Storage, the Brain Calls the Shots
Over several decades my empirical instincts noticed a strong correlation between fat storage and common brain dysfunction symptoms. These symptoms always seemed to lead to changes in body composition. When the symptoms increased, after a lag of 4-6 weeks, the patient’s percent body fat slowly increased independent of caloric intake. When I learned to suppress these symptoms using combinations of low dose drugs and monoamine precursors like L-tyrosine and 5-hydroxytryptophan, within 4-6 weeks, their percent body fat would slowly drop. At some point, I had my “speed bump” moment when I realized that these changes fit the pattern of a distinct disease. In 2003 two psychiatrists from Harvard, James Hudson and Harrison Pope published a paper proposing that 14 common brain disorders are part of the same disease process that they termed Affective Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Because they never discovered the triggers or pathology of ASD, their concept never made it out of academic medicine. I believe I was seeing this same disease.
Highly Processed Food is Neurotoxic
It quickly became apparent that the primary trigger of this disease is long-term exposure to highly processed food. That’s food containing excessive fructose mainly from added sugars, excessive high glycemic carbohydrates mainly from grains, and omega six fatty acids mainly from vegetable oils. Thus, I decided to rename this ASD pattern, and I now refer to it as Carbohydrate Associated Reversible Brain syndrome or CARB syndrome. In an empiric attempt to support or refute this concept, I developed a very effective treatment protocol teased from the CARB syndrome concept. When I used this protocol, patients consistently improved. Their brain dysfunction symptoms gradually disappeared, and their body composition improved without counting calories or following a restrictive diet. It was a significant speed bump moment! The treatment protocol consists of the following elements:
- Patients are encouraged to eat a healthy, whole foods diet.
- Low-dose medications and supplements that support dopamine/norepinephrine and serotonin are used to suppress symptoms.
- Patients are encouraged to exercise, which is much easier to do when their energy levels naturally increase.
We would conduct controlled, “double-blind” studies attempting to refute or support the CARB syndrome concept in a perfect world. Unfortunately, doing so would face significant ethical and technical issues. Because the treatment elements for CARB syndrome are inexpensive, readily available, and safe, the risk of trying these treatments is extremely low, and the possible benefits are significant. Unfortunately, if you seek help from just about any health care provider, you won’t get a diagnosis of CARB syndrome even if it fits the above pattern to a T. You will likely end up with multiple traditional psychiatric diagnoses, and you will probably end up taking numerous psychiatric drugs that will make your CARB syndrome worse. That’s why I wrote the book “Brain Drain” where I teach people how to self-diagnose CARB syndrome and arrange for their own treatment.
Let’s Put Some Speed Bumps on the Drag Strip!
After reading this post, you will know two things that most people are unaware of. If it’s safe to do so, you will forget about slowing down for speed bumps, and there may be situations where you hit the gas! You will also understand the key to maintaining optimal brain function and a normal body composition. You might even try to use your empirical skills to come up with your own speed bump moment! Please let me know what you come up with.