Ancient wisdom and the future of healthcare

Luke Chesser/Unsplash

Genes are impacted by experiences of living, said Jeffrey Bland, PhD, FACN, FACB, CNS, president of the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute, at the 2020 Integrative Healthcare Symposium in New York City.

Historically, people have been able to live long and healthy lives without disease or disability. Age is the greatest independent risk factor for disease. Modern medicine has not been successful in improving quality of life and protecting from disability. Bland said practitioners should focus on health span, looking and being healthy for as long as possible, by adopting gene compatible lifestyles.

“Stress becomes distress because we have more signals in our environment and our organ reserve is compromised,” said Bland. “Resilience becomes an important part about how we perceive our environment.”  

Bland introduced the concept of organ reserve or biological age.

 “You don’t have to cheat on your biological age,” said Bland. “It’s a modifiable factor, something that can be changed at the biological level.”

Aging is the major common risk factor for chronic disease and disabling conditions. The cellular biology of the biological aging process is starting to be uncovered, Bland said. Targeting the biological aging process with personalized lifestyle medicine is emerging as a concept beyond disease prevention.

Precision, personalized lifestyle medicine can be a therapeutic tool to reduce biological aging. Modifiable factors connecting immune rejuvenation to aging include:

  • Calories, type and amount
  • Insulin resistance
  • Genomic and epigenomic stability
  • Mitochondrial bioenergetics
  • Oxidative injury

Nutrition, lifestyle, and prevention of environmental exposures can ensure genomic and epigenetic stability, Bland said. The immune system has its own dietary habits, he said. To treat age-related illness, practitioners might think about different dietary constructions that consider the type of cells its supporting. Lifestyle practices and environmental exposures should also be considered to promote genomic stability.

“We are part of a bigger system,” said Bland. “Our models of care have to be interconnected.”

We can learn a lot about the future of medicine applying ancient wisdom to immunorejuvenation. Bland used the example of Blue Zones, in particular Loma Linda, California. Despite being a modern city, they were able to apply health concepts that led the population to live healthier for longer. “We are remodeling our epigenome by our experiences in life,” said Bland.

Other pearls of wisdom Bland recommends exploring include:  

  • Himalayan tartary buckwheat
  • Cod liver oil, what Bland calls the original dietary supplement
  • Vitamin A and vitamin D
  • Pro-resolving mediators

There are tremendous lessons about health yet to be learned from ancient cultures. The function of the immune system is related to all age-related diseases. Immunorejuvenation and immunonutrition are emerging as areas of clinical importance. Specific phytonutrients are being discovered that positively influence autophagy of the immune system and immunorejuvenation, Bland said.

“Exploring these new ideas,” Bland said, “that will transform us from a disease care, disaster-oriented, fear-based system to a system that supports what we want to achieve.”