163: Tripping Over the Truth
Transcript of Episode 163: Tripping Over the Truth
With Dr. Daniel Pompa, Meredith Dykstra and Travis Christofferson
Hello, everyone, and welcome to Cellular Healing TV. I’m your host, Meredith Dykstra, and this is Episode 163. Today we have, of course, Dr. Dan Pompa, our resident cellular healing specialist, on the line. We’re welcoming a very special guest today: Travis Christofferson.
We have a really exciting topic. We’ve delved into this a lot. Travis wrote an incredible book. It’s all about the truth about cancer. We’re going to really dig into this a little bit more, and the myths surrounding it, and what he discovered in this really incredible book that he wrote.
Before we jump in, let me tell you a little more about Travis. Travis Christofferson is a science writer and a graduate of the Montana State Honors Program in molecular biology. He received the Nelson Fellowship for outstanding undergraduate research and continued graduate research in bioremediation and cancer theory, culminating in an MS in material engineering and science from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
He’s the author of the best-selling book Tripping Over the Truth: The Metabolic Theory of Cancer. The book offers a historical perspective on the reemerging metabolic theory of cancer, a theory that contends cancer is precipitated and driven by damage to mitochondria.
Very exciting topic. Welcome to Cellular Healing TV, Travis. So excited to have you here.
Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.
Yeah, Travis, welcome. We’ve had a lot of your friends on the show, Thomas Seyfried. You are actually at the conference right now down in Tampa, correct?
That’s right, yep. Tom’s speaking in about an hour-and-a-half, so I’m excited about that. He’s going to present new data that everyone’s on the edge of their seat to hear.
Thomas is no doubt a friend of this show. We’ve interviewed him. I have to say, though, Thomas, I love you, but his book was over most people’s head. I enjoyed it. I dug in deep as you did, I’m sure. However, your book, Tripping Over the Truth, that I think brought the message I think more clearly for most people. It was a needed book, so thank you for that, honestly.
I love to get into this. How did you get it? What’s your story, man? How did you end up writing a book or a desire to write the book?
I was in the middle of graduate school in a cancer theory class and had learned all about the genetic theory, that cancer was through and through a genetic disease. That’s what everybody’s taught. I stumbled on Tom’s book Cancer as a Metabolic Disease and read through it, and was just blown away that there was this body of evidence as comprehensive as it was espousing this alternative theory of cancer. His book was really the trigger for me, and it kicked off this journey where I was so curious to find out more about it.
Tom had written the science book. That was there like you said, but inside that was this beautiful, rich story that goes all the way back to Otto Warburg, these -inaudible-. Throughout the century while this theory was one of the most dominant theories at the beginning of this century, it then just fell into complete void. It was almost ridiculed, and now it’s made this incredible comeback. I wanted to bridge that gap between the science and the narrative of this wonderful story.
You’re right. The history’s there. Warburg back in 1924, he said hey look, this is a damaged mitochondria. The cell’s not able to use normal oxygen for energy, just to keep it simple. Therefore, it’s relying on this primitive form of taking glucose and fermenting it for energy, right? We know it’s this defective mitochondria. To survive, the DNA changes. Then all the sudden, it starts this glucose fermentation process that we know leads to other problems.
I think if you go back to 2006—I know that this is something that you talked about somewhere in your book. It was the Cancer Genome Atlas Project, right? Is that right? Somewhere around that line where they set out—this reminds me of the Human Genome Project where they set out in the project to -inaudible- there must be hundreds of thousands of genes in the human species because of all this amazing function that we have. The scientists, the greatest in the world, walked away going holy cow, we have about the same as a mouse, about 24, 25,000 genes, right? It was devastating to the scientific community. The same thing happened. Tell our viewers about that.
The same number of genes as a 936-celled worm.
Exactly. It stunned, right? It led to epigenetics as we know it today. What happened in 2006 with the Cancer Project?
Beautiful explanation. In my mind, all of this research since Watson and Crick discovered DNA in 1953 focused on the genetic code, right? That was going to be—when they announced the Human Genome Project, this was going to the end-all of medicine. We were going to finally know the script of life, -inaudible-. We’d know every nook and cranny.
Low and behold, there’s another layer of information above the genome called epigenetics that turns out this may be very much more important. It turns out there’s very little variation from person to person in genes. There are a few devastating gene mutations, but those are pretty rare. Most of us operate with the same genomes. What makes us so different and unique typically is the different expression of genes, so epigenetics, this new layer of discovery.
That goes back to cancer. Cancer was always thought to be a disease of DNA, of fixed mutations. Throughout the 80s and 90s, clinicians who looked at cervical cancer and colon cancer, they noticed the cancer proceeded in these graded series of steps. The theory was that each one of these defined steps was underpinned by a specific genetic mutation. The idea was we thought each type of cancer would have its own unique signature that would define it.
This led to the Cancer Genome Atlas Project where sequencing technology had gotten so good on the heels of the Human Genome Project that it became feasible to actually sequence the genome of cancer cells. That’s what the project was.
Basically, in the project, they thought they were going to be able to find certain DNA mutations and then say that’s this cancer. Here’s a mutation. Here’s that cancer. That’s what they set out to do. What happened?
Right. According to the somatic mutation theory, the dogmatic theory, what cancer is is mutations to specific genes called oncogenes that rewire the cellular circuitry towards uncontrolled growth. They thought each type of cancer would have its own defined signature. The project began in 2006.
Right away in 2007, what they found was just strikingly random. The degree of heterogeneity from one type, from one patient’s tumor to the next, was huge. That tidy little signature was not there. There was even samples with one driving mutation or zero driving mutations.
This has caused this wholesale rethink about what cancer is, that it cannot just exclusively be a genetic disease. It has caused cancer researchers to look at this new level of epigenetics as a cause of cancer because, let’s face it, cancer does not appear as a chaotic disease. It appears as a deterministic, systemic disease that’s operating under certain rules.
We use that buzz word epigenetics a lot. What does that mean? I’ll just give you one example of that in a cancer cell.
This reversion to the Warburg effect—we’re all born with what’s called isozymes of certain genes. There’s one gene called hexokinase, and that catalyzes the first step of glycolysis, the utilization of sugar. There’s 11 steps, and that catalyzes the first step. We are all born with four types of this gene called isozymes 1 through 4. As adults, we express isozyme 1.
However, the cancer cell will revert to hexokinase 2. This is so important because hexokinase 2 does not subject to this phenomenon called product inhibition. It’s not under any regulation. It just shoves sugar down this pathway. This is responsible for the Warburg effect.
Also, that enzyme will bind to the mitochondria and close this channel that’s responsible for cell death. This is called apoptosis. This is another hallmarked feature of cancer, the immortalization of the cell.
This one genetic shift from an enzyme we have within our bodies—it’s expressed during embryonic development, and then shut off, and then reexpressed in cancer. This epigenetic shift is responsible for two hallmarked features of cancer. These turning on and turning off of genes now is the hot topic in everything.
Let me just for our viewers sake because billions of dollars has gone in to trying to find the gene and drugs to manipulate genes. Epigenetics, we’ve talked about this on the show before, is basically any environmental stressor can turn on a gene. We all have genes of cancer. Trust me, we do and other genes of susceptibility. Certain factors, toxins included, that we talk a lot about can trigger a gene. Now, the gene gets turned on. Now, this process in the mitochondria changes. Now, it’s relying on sugar as its primary fuel, fermenting glucose even in the presence of oxygen.
By the way, folks, you don’t have to understand that. Just know it’s not normal. It comes from a mitochondria that was changed by some stressor, turned on a gene, and now the cell is adapting to live longer and, matter of fact, becomes immortal, meaning that—guys, when you have bad cells, the body tends to get rid of them. It can change something in the mitochondria, believe or not, the little fat called cardiolipin. Bam, cell dies. That’s great. You lost a bad cell. These cells, that’s not happening. All this is from a stressor changing the genome, and now all these bad things happen. Is that a good summary for our viewers?
You look at the body, and that’s what we—this process you were talking about of cell death. If you do have mutations, your body’s extremely efficient of getting rid of those cells through a process. Every day, billions of cells die, and then billions of cells divide via stem cells to replace those cells in our bodies. We’re this dynamic equilibrium of death and renewal that happens all the time. It’s through the exposure of toxins, all these things that happen on a day-to-day level that cause damaged cells to slough off. Occasionally, one of these cells does not die, and then this predisposes us towards cancer.
My belief is—when I read Warburg’s stuff, he talked about the damaged mitochondria. He alluded to certain stressors starting the damage, right? Today, when we look at the amount of toxins that we’re exposed to, what we’re injecting in ourselves, for goodness sakes, what we’re using in our bodies, the food that’s sprayed with these chemicals—it’s unavoidable. I think that what people have to understand is that’s what’s turning on these genes. That’s what’s changing these genomes in the mitochondria.
Travis, nobody in the science is really looking upstream to those causes. Everyone’s just talking about trying to find that miracle drug to change genome. Really, we know the cause is this.
This goes back to the 80s and when—if you look at the history of our tenure with cancer and how we’ve chosen to treat it, in the late 70s, we really started pushing chemotherapy. We had a few successes with Hodgkin’s disease, testicular cancer. Then, Nixon declared the war on the cancer in 71. We had landed on the moon. There’s this hubris at the time that we can cure cancer with this handful of systemic toxins. We pushed, and pushed, and pushed. We did make a little progress, but then we hit a wall.
Then, the biostatisticians took over in the 80s and go okay, how successful has this war on cancer been? They started counting. What they realized is when you counted even all the preventative measures, pap smears, everything we do, all of our new treatments at that point, the cancer rate had increased 9%. Definitely, we’re losing the war on cancer. We still are.
Right. The reason was is this terrible focus on trying to treat somebody when they come in where the disease has progressed so far versus the prevention which is clearly the best protocol for treatment. The focus has been on, you’re right, exactly, it’s been on trying to come up with these drugs that will treat end-stage disease instead of prevention. For cervical cancer, the vaccine, I believe, is a complete preventative cure, but it gets incredibly little attention.
Interesting. Tell me, what’s going on at the conference? You have, I think Dominic D’ Agostino, who we’ve interviewed on the show, is down there. What’s going on? Bring us some of the latest.
There’s been a lot of fascinating talks. The ones that come to mind are treatment—tons of stuff about ketones and ketone bodies. It’s the Metabolic Therapeutics Conference. There’s been a lot of stuff on Alzheimer’s. There was a wonderful talk about the use of MCT oil in mitigating Alzheimer’s, and it looks like it’s efficacious. Anytime we can raise ketone bodies, it’s bypassing the pathology in many diseases, including Alzheimer’s. The miracle of these little compounds has continued to come in, and that’s what we see.
Another talk on beta-hydroxybutyrate that prevents the assembly of what they call the inflammasome.
By the way, that’s a ketone, beta-hydroxybutyrate, for our viewers.
Right. They’re probably familiar with the ketogenic diet?
Okay, good. Another astonishing thing with ketosis is the prevention of systemic inflammation.We need it for infection, but it can get out of control and precipitate many disease processes. Those two stuck in my mind.
Today, Tom’s going to present, Tom Seyfried, on cancer. There’s exogenous ketones are coming online. There’s a lot of talk about those. Lots of interesting stuff.
We train a growing group of practitioners around the country. We do a multi-therapeutic approach with my cellular detox. We utilize ketosis as a tool, intermittent fasting, and even block fasts, like Tom does. Tom and I have been able to share a lot of thoughts because we have a large group to work with. Tom is really doing some amazing work with fasting.
For our viewers, it’s just forcing—bad cells don’t adapt. I love to say that because it’s really simple. Autophagy, where the cells are—the body’s getting rid of the bad cells. That happens in fasting. It forces ketones really high, which, as you just pointed out, drives inflammation down and changes DNA. A lot of Dominic’s work is showing that. It’s changing these bad genes, turn off. We’ve talked about genes being turned on. Ketones have the ability to turn off some of these genes.
Putting all this together, I think we’re at an exciting time, Travis. What do you think about that?
Oh yeah. Just as you were talking about that, I was thinking Valter Longo gave a talk, too, about intermittent fasting. When you do that, your organs—when you fast for a long period of time, your organs actually will become smaller in size. Your immune system, the number of immune cells, decreases. Then you repopulate those tissues with fresh stem cells. It’s like you get this fresh, renewed organ almost or immune system at that point, incredible things. -inaudible- that he talked about was astonishing is the importance of IGF-1 which is -inaudible- are familiar with human growth hormone. Human growth hormone really doesn’t do anything, but it docks to the receptor which produces IGF-1, and that’s the anabolic hormone that promotes growth. It’s always been known that IGF-1 is a promoter of aging disease and cancer, but nobody really knew to what degree.
They found this group of people living in Ecuador that had a mutation for the receptor for growth hormones, so they were unable to manufacture IGF-1. As a consequence, they’re dwarves. They’re extremely short in stature. They do have some developmental problems, but they are virtually immune to cancer and diabetes. They have a terrible lifestyle. They eat a terrible diet, high rates of alcoholism and smoking. Despite that, they followed 300 of these people for 50 years and only found one case of cancer and almost zero diabetes.
The importance of IGF-1 and the ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting tamps down IGF-1 levels typically to almost imperceptible levels.
Listen for this when you hear Tom talk in an hour or so because I think there’s magic behind being in ketosis and intermittent fasting. Tom talks about you don’t get the benefit of the ketones until your glucose drops. One of the things we look at and we want to see in our patients when they’re intermittent fasting dropping glucose and rising ketones as a signal that this process that you just described is happening. Autophagy’s happening. Stem cells are being produced.
The dropping glucose, we often find that you need the restriction to create the glucose drop. I always say don’t eat less, eat less often because when people think of restriction they think of just eating less like I’m going to eat less, and we know that doesn’t work long term. Intermittent fasting, eating less often, creates that restriction, a drop in glucose, a rise in ketones. I think it puts the body in the perfect scenario for all that magic that you just described: increasing stem cells, everything, the decrease in inflammation, and the utilization of ketones for the brain, etc. That’s the magic is intermittent fasting with ketones. At least, that’s what we found in clinical.
Yeah. The next layer, even beyond the energy of ketone bodies, which that was the initial focus of the research was they were so energy dense. Per unit of oxygen, the ketones generate, I think, twice as much energy as sugar. -inaudible- initial focus. The biochemistry is just beautiful. The energetic gap and the electron-transfer chain pacts your cells with ATP, which is the energy molecule of the cell.
That was the initial focus, but now it’s going beyond that. Tom was really very simple to understand. It’s very intuitively pleasing for most people. They understand cancer loves sugar. You look at a PET scan, that’s what you see. When you switch to ketosis and drop blood sugar, you’re starving the cancer cell. That’s seductive in its line of reasoning.
Now, we know irrespective of the glucose concentration, ketones are doing something else. As you alluded to earlier, they’re operating on a genetic level. They’re histone deacetylase inhibitors.
For your listeners, if you pull all your chromosomes out of a single cell and put them end to end, they’re about three feet in length. You have a ton of DNA. You’re made up of about 50 trillion cells. That DNA is wrapped up incredibly tight, and it’s wrapped up in these proteins called histones. Beta-hydroxybutyrate, the ketone body, is affecting the modification of these histones, which is how epigenetics operates, how genes get turned on and turned off.
I have no idea how this evolved or how this happens, but it does it in a way that completely tamps down all the important transcription factors that are active in cancer -inaudible- the important healthiness of healthy cells. It’s the golden—it’s the holy grail of cancer therapies. It makes healthy cells more robust while at the same time weakened cancer cells. It creates this beautiful environment for other therapies to come in and work even better.
I think what you said is perfect because you just brought—we talked all about the science and what happens to the cell and the mitochondria. The bottom line is cancer loves sugar. That adaptation that’s made possibly the damage from toxins in the mitochondria, it’s relying on sugar. It’s fermenting sugar even in the presence of oxygen. We thought okay, that is huge with cancer.
However, we’ve learned now that by putting people in ketosis yes, it starves—we’re switching the energy of the cell to be majority of fat. If cancer cells love sugar, that’s a problem for a cancer cell. That’s one benefit of ketosis.
The other benefit is what you just said. Now, we’re realizing that these ketones are actually turning off these genes and switching them over. I think it’s amazing.
When we look at the history—I love studying history. I get so much from ancient cultures. Every ancient culture on the planet has always had to go into ketosis at least once or twice through a year’s time for multiple reasons, whether it’s lack of food, food shifts, who knows. Our DNA is set up to go into these ketotic states, which I believe, simply put, during these states, cleans up our DNA. It’s part of our genome. We’re meant to go into ketosis.
However, today because we have carbohydrates surrounding us in every fashion all the time 24/7, we aren’t going into ketotic states. Therefore, we’re building up a lot of bad genomes, triggering by the toxins that are—bad cell makes bad cell. By going into ketosis periodically, not even staying in it, we’re at least turning off a lot of these bad genes. This is missing in today. That’s my feeling.
I couldn’t agree more. I think you perfectly characterized that. I think our bodies are completely adapted to do that periodically as a cleaning-house mechanism, and we’ve lost that. When the agriculture -inaudible- came around 10,000 years ago, we became flushed with food, especially carbohydrates. Most people probably don’t enter ketosis in their lifetime in the Western world, anyway. That’s why we have this inexorable diabetes epidemic that’s just getting worse and worse. You can show this now on the epigenetic level why this is happening.
Going into ketosis reverses that. It reverses -inaudible-. All of these diseases of degeneration seem to funnel down to the same point of energy dysregulation that going into periodic ketosis concentrates its therapeutic effect.
You stated that beautifully. That’s the thrust of this whole conference. The questions are okay, this is incredibly beneficial. How do we get the most out of this? Do you need to be in ketosis all the time? I think the answer to that is probably not. Probably just entering it occasionally is good enough.
I’ve come up with a theory I call diet variation, a.k.a. feast/famine cycles. If you mention it to Joe, he’ll come out of his skin because I actually helped Joe. I put that in his book. I was one of the content editors for his new book Fat for Fuel. We talked about feast/famine cycling because—my love for looking at ancient cultures, they were always forced into feast and famine cycles. The change, the adaptation, there’s magic that happens in it. When you move from ketosis out of ketosis, magic happens.
We have found this clinically that with people -inaudible- move into ketosis are struggling for one reason or another, just not able to make the transition even though they’re getting ten grams of carbs a day, they’re just not getting into ketosis in months of trying. We move them out of ketosis, in a few months move them back in, and all of the sudden they’re successful. It’s just remarkable what happens in the change.
I’ve got to read you this study. I found this study right here in—I found it fascinating. I have to send it to you. It says, “A diet mimicking,”—no, that wasn’t it. I did this last time I tried to find the darn study. Here it is. Here it is right here.
This was actually on cancer prevention, diet individual responsiveness for cancer prevention. In the study in the abstract, it said, “…the last half century has brought stark changes in lifestyle that depart from normal diurnal cycling and periodic fluctuations in food availability.” It says, “Thus, modern times may be characterized by being constantly in a “feast” environment. The cellular consequences may be an increase in the risk for several diseases including cancer.”
The study is saying that look, we’re not getting these times of starvation. We’re not getting times of ketosis production. We’re not even varying our diet, and they’re realizing it led to disease.
I was up in Wyoming. I was researching the American Indians. They realized that it’s this not being in ketosis and then this other diet in the summer that is part of why they’re triggering this gene of diabetes and heart disease. Anyways, just stuff that no one else is talking about, Travis.
Yeah, absolutely. I’ll just tell you one thing, too, that was fascinating to me is—this is the second year of this conference. When I wrote the book, a lot of this stuff was clearly theoretical. There was preclinical data in support, especially with cancer research. What we always have needed are just clinical—we need to get the ball rolling on clinical trials.
I was in London at a talk a while back, and I met this young MD from Turkey. Turkey has a much more permissive environment for treating cancer patients, end-stage cancer patients. The doctors are basically given permission to just do what they think is in the best benefit of the patient. This young doctor got really enamored with Seyfried’s work. It made sense to him. He’s employed many of these therapies.
He puts his patients on a ketogenic diet. He has them fast before—he has to give them chemotherapy. It’s part of the standard of care. They’re given a dose range, and so he uses the lowest dose he can. Then, he does what’s called 2-deoxyglucose, which, if you read Tom’s book, that’s one of the drugs he looks at. It’s a glycolic inhibitor, so it stops glucose from being utilized in the cell. He uses DCA, which is another metabolically acting small molecule. Then, he gives extensive hyperbaric oxygen throughout this treatment and hyperthermia.
He showed me his results. They did 50 patients with lung cancer. The standard of care and the median survival with Stage III, IV lung cancer is 8.6 months. These guys are bringing their patients up to 41 months. Their patient population is brutal. It’s a Stage IV, so they get some of the worst cases coming in.
He was showing Tom and I these pictures of PET scans with these people just littered, just lit up with cancer. After this protocol—they call it metabolically supported chemotherapy. It’s just gone. In some of these patients, these remissions are just so incredibly dramatic.
To me, this is exactly what we need. We need these guys that can do this and can show this to the world because these therapies don’t have the backing of pharmaceutical companies, and they never will. It takes a billion dollars to get to the burden of proof for most oncologists, which is a double-blind, Phase III, placebo-controlled trial. There’s no money to take these through those. It’s going to take these selfless, bold oncologists to prove it in these trials on their own and then show the rest of the world.
I hate to say this. The need to pull the drug companies in is almost needed because the funding, the backing, even just in the marketplace, getting this message out there. If we can -inaudible- thinking different like you said, more glucose-blocking drugs, which there’s been some of these. They just haven’t gained traction.
What about gluconeogenesis because Tom talks a lot about the metastatic cancers utilizing glutamine acid for energy. They adapt to that. I know that he -inaudible- experimenting with certain drugs that can limit glutamine reactions. What are your thoughts on that?
Exactly. He was just bubbling last night. My foundation has supported research where he’s looking at a cocktail of therapies, right? The missing piece to him was always glutamine because, as much as cancer cells love sugar, they perhaps love glutamine even more. They can utilize glutamine as an energy substrate. Blocking glutamine is more problematic because our immune systems need glutamine.
He’s experimenting with this drug called DON, which is a very, very powerful glutamine inhibitor. If you cycle it, you can use way lower doses when these mice are on a ketogenic diet. It’s way more efficacious, like most drugs, when these mice are in a state of ketosis. He’s finding this is just devastating the cancer cells. He uses this brutally tough metastatic mouse model. It’s notorious. They’ve never been able to cure it. -inaudible- getting so close to being able to almost cure this extremely hard mouse model.
I’ve introduced him to this Turkish doctor, so I hope that his protocol can go from preclinical to translational. In his clinic in Turkey, we can show what this combination of stuff can do.
Travis, what are you working on right now? There’s a lot happening. That’s great that you connected Tom to him, and that’s going to take this to the next level. What are you working on?
These kind of things. This has just taken on a life of its own. This conference went from a hundred and some people last year to over 400 this year. It just exploded. Many MDs are here that are progressive in their thinking, and are using these therapies. They’re just blown away by how well they’re working. This is taking on a life of its own.
I’m working on a book now about epigenetics, which to me is—I didn’t realize how fascinating it was until I dug into it. I think that’s the next frontier of medicine, so that’s where my focus is right now.
Travis, even our thoughts can change that genome: toxic thoughts, toxins period.
-inaudible- that. If you just look at a book called Beyond something Telomeres. It just came out. It’s a wonderful book. Telomeres’ length at the end of chromosomes is related to cellular health. It’s like an aging clock. It’s a wonderful series of studies about just stress, and how we respond to stress, how positive we think circles back to telomere length. It’s incredible. Your mental state day to day affects your cellular health on a level I wasn’t even aware of.
Yeah. We get a lot of very challenged people, my doctors and myself. We know that physical, chemical, and emotional stress turns on these bad genes. It’s a problem.
I think you’ll appreciate this. I talk about why people are getting sick today, and the solution lies in this analogy, as well. Think of a three-legged stool. Every leg has to be there for it to stand up.
You have one leg that’s the DNA, the epigenetic. Genes are getting turned on because of these stressors, right? That’s the middle leg: the stressors that are turning on the genes. This is a problem today, from an emotional standpoint and a chemical standpoint. The last leg is the microbiome that’s just being decimated right now. We know now this microbiome plays a big role in epigenetics. We’re doing some new tests that show that, that we can literally measure the microbiome and realize then from that, from certain metabolites, what genes are actually being expressed.
What we’re doing in our multi-therapeutic approach is we’re doing everything that we know to turn off these bad genes. We’re removing the stressors, which is key: physical, chemical, and emotional. If you’re doing all of it, you have a chance to turn these genes off.
Lastly, we’re affecting the microbiome with a lot of these ancient healing strategies: the fasting, the ketosis. There’s going to be new research coming out on ketones effect on the microbiome. We end with these fasting states where you starve down all bacteria. We talked about stem cells coming back. Same thing is happening in the microbiome. When we starve down the microbiome, we’re seeing these genetic changes within the bacteria.
The point is is that when we put all of this together, we create disease, but when we put all these treatments together, we’re getting astounding results. The key is putting it all together. That might excite you, but that’s what we’re doing. We have a larger group of doctors.
I think the -inaudible- are catching up to what you really astute, observational clinicians have known for a long time. When you were saying that in these ancient cultures, like you say, that have been on to this for a long time, I was thinking of a story where somewhere in the desert where they get dysentery, a severe form of diarrhea, and the cure was to eat camel poop because it had—the basic scientists caught up to it like yeah, there’s some beneficial probiotics in this that they were clearly—that’s why it could cure this state. They knew this hundreds of years ago. We just figured out why they were doing it.
The art of medicine, what you guys notice in your patients, the basic science seems like sometimes it’s catching up to that.
Travis, think about this for a second. We know that the toxic exposures we’re getting is turning on these genes epigenetically, right? Then, the microbiome is being decimated. We’re just learning this connection of our microbiome and turning good genes on and bad genes off. You think about this complete assault to our microbiome, the chemicals, and the genes that are being triggered. This is what’s happening, honestly. This is why autoimmune conditions are just running rampant right now. It’s scary.
It’s scary. It’s scary now because the science is showing that this begins in utero, as you’re forming. -inaudible- exposed to certain toxins, we now know it affects methylation patterns in DNA which directly correlates to your propensity for obesity and all these problems later on. Even the vitamins your mom is exposed to, if she was vitamin deficient in her first trimester or last trimester. They follow these people later, and they have certain disease patterns. Everything along those lines as we’re now finding out is extraordinarily important.
In the -inaudible-, there’s another layer of complexity on top of that that is scary things. There’s some people that say we’ve probably wiped out or caused an extinction of important gut bugs that we’ll never get back. It’s far time we start paying more attention to that stuff.
No doubt. The only solution -inaudible- put all of it together. That’s my passion is just getting a growing group of doctors doing this that’s on the cutting edge.
Meredith, I was so interested in this conversation that I’ve left you out of it. I apologize. I’d better open it up to you for some questions.
Oh my gosh, this has been an amazing interview, too. Travis, what a wealth of knowledge. I’m so excited to learn more about your research on epigenetics. I’m wondering if you could maybe share or tease us with any of the specifics you’re working on with that book.
Oh man, I’m right in the middle of it. For me, the broadness of it is—what I would say is all these epigenetic changes that we see in DNA, there’s certain levels. There’s transcription factor levels. If you walk outside, you manufacture vitamin D. Vitamin D, then, is a transcription factor. It binds to a receptor in your nucleus and then binds to what’s called vitamin D response elements sprinkled throughout your genome. That flickers about 913 genes to life. Just walking outside changes your epigenome. These genes are involved in innate immunity.
It also flickers to life—it grossly upregulates a gene that turns tryptophan into serotonin. That’s why you feel good when you go out in the sun. Your thoughts soften. The edges of stress soften. It’s directly correlated to your mental state. That’s just walking outside. That’s one layer of the epigenome.
The next is the way your DNA gets wrapped up. As we talked about, beta-hydroxybutyrate can affect that, the packaging of DNA. Then, DNA itself gets tagged with little groups called methyl groups, and this affects genes. When you are conceived, all these methyl groups are wiped off. You’re a clean slate. Then, they get attached as you grow in utero. Then, you’re born tuned up. Your epigenome is tuned up to express the right genes.
As we age and as we’re exposed to certain environmental toxins and so forth, these tags get drifted. We start -inaudible- regulation of genetic expression.
Now to me, where this all goes is can you reverse that. That science is leading us to believe that it can be reversed. That to me is—this is where we could possibly intervene on aging. We parse diseases up into distinct processes when really these are all converge on aging itself. By far, the highest risk factor for cancer is aging. It’s not smoking. If we can intervene on this process, we could single-handedly wipe out the whole spectrum of degeneration from cancer to neuro degeneration and all these things.
That’s where our focus should be, not parsing up diseases and trying to understand the pathology of each one. It should be intervening on this epigenetic level. It’s so broad, this topic, and it’s so meaningful that it’s overwhelming.
I just had a thought when you said about just being in the sun and ultimately how that can turn off bad genes and upregulate good ones. That’s just amazing.
You’re friends with Joe, right? You’ll know him. He’s one -inaudible- conference. I think he was -inaudible-. He’s got these glasses on. He’s living the—he’s walking outside to get sun every five minutes.
Oh yeah. He drags me on those walks. All the sudden, I’m sweating. It’s like we’ve got to get the sun, right? He’s funny. He lives what he preaches, no doubt about it.
Think about this for a second. Part of my research with the American Indians was that thing of going into ketosis in the winter, but in the summer, just like the Hunza people, they thought they were vegetarians. They weren’t eating as much meat as people would have thought. They were relying on all these different root vegetables, which arguably would be a higher carbohydrate diet. The sun had a huge effect on why they were able to tolerate that higher carbohydrate diet.
Think about this. When we go into winter when there’s less sun, what’s protecting our genome? The ketones. The ketones, right? The sun can protect the genome more in the better times which could tolerate us being out of ketosis, but in the winter the ketones protect us. Just a thought of seasonal ketosis. Anyways, that will take us down a whole other route. Meredith, I’d better turn it back to you or him and I may go all day.
I know. We might have to do a part two. It’s such a fascinating conversation. Just in closing, Travis, thank you so much. I’m just wondering what would you say if someone is watching this or listening and got a recent cancer diagnosis or has a loved one who did, what would you tell them?
I think the most proactive people do the best. If you can empower yourself through just learning about treatments like this, about using this dietary therapy, and hopefully your oncologist is onboard. Valter Longo just gave a talk. If you can get into ketosis or fast before chemotherapy, potentially this is going to greatly increase the efficacy of it and mitigate side effects. He’s done a wonderful clinical where they’ve shown that even objective side effects like vomiting or hair loss are incredibly diminished when you’re in ketosis.
Empowered patients, I think, do the best. I’m sure you can attest to that. That’s where I’d say start is just get as much information you can and try to use it with your oncologist if it’s possible.
Great advice. Thank you, Travis.
Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much, Dr. Pompa. Thank you, Travis, for sharing your knowledge. This is just such exciting information. Hopefully maybe we can have you back and delve into epigenetics a little bit more once that book’s out.
Absolutely. Let’s jump into epigenetics. Tell our friends over there hello. I’m glad you’re there.
Alright, I sure will. Thank you. Take care.
Awesome. Thanks, Travis. Thanks, Dr. Pompa. Thanks, everybody, for watching. Have an awesome weekend and we’ll see you next time. Bye-bye.