Biochemical Individuality

Over the last few years I have done a lot of studying in order to learn as much as I can about how we as human beings function best and can be at our healthiest, in mind, body and spirit.

I have looked in many diverse directions, taken several courses, and read a multitude of books and studies on all kinds of topics related to all aspects of human health and wellbeing. I have tried to resolve the conflicts in the research that I have found, and have come to conclusions that make the most sense to me.

I am not a doctor nor a scientist, and don’t pretend to be, but I think that conventional medicine’s paradigm of “treating disease” is problematic, because a great deal of the medical research and the evidence-based medicine resulting from that research relies on a premise that is I think might be flawed.

Once the premise is corrected, I feel certain that research will become much more conclusive. Currently it seems that all too frequently, for some people a particular medical treatment works well, for others there isn’t much change, and for a third group that same treatment makes them feel worse.

Usually the way research works is a specific hypothesis is tested on a group of subjects and compared to a control group in order to assess the validity of the hypothesis. The assumption is that the subjects in the study are homogenous in nature – that the anatomy, physiology and biochemical processes are identical mouse to mouse or person to person.

Nothing could be further from the truth! We clearly look very different from each other and we have different personalities as well. And if we study our insides, we vary enormously.

Anatomy books like Frank Netter’s have pages that show variations in organ shape and size, variations in renal arteries and veins, variations in the hepatic portal vein, variations in the arteries of the colon, variations in the pancreatic ducts etc. These variations may have an impact on function and on health.

For example, there are many variations as to where the bile and pancreatic ducts enter the duodenum – in some people the ducts converge into a single duct mixing their juices before entering the duodenum. Gallstones stuck in the common duct may be particularly problematic in this variation.

If someone, anatomically speaking, happens to have narrow arteries, they would be more susceptible to heart disease.

More important to the question of drug efficacy and optimal nutrition are the wide differences biochemically between study subjects even if they belong to the same race, and these are the differences that I think are not considered in most research, and the reason why frequently the results are unconvincing with respect to treating disease.

For example, in the average healthy male, the venous platelet count can apparently vary from 150,000 to 690,000 per cu mm. Some types of blood cells are very common in some individuals and are almost absent in others. Acetylcholine levels vary 16 fold in healthy individuals, histamine 4 fold, pyruvic acid 5 fold, urea 4 fold. Pepsin and hydrochloric acid are two extremely important gastric juices, and in a study that looked at 5000 apparently healthy individuals, the amount of pepsin varied from 0 to 4300 units after a test meal! Imagine if they had looked at people with gastrointestinal problems!

Minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium in the gastric juices of healthy individuals vary about 4 fold as well. There are large variations in enzymes, hormones, amino acids, vitamins between healthy people, and saliva and excretion patterns vary widely as well.

These biochemical variations result in different metabolic pathways being dominant in different people, meaning that a particular nutrient or drug may have opposite biochemical influences in two individuals with different dominances.

Taking it a step further, any adverse symptom or disease can then be the result of opposite biochemical imbalances depending on the metabolism of the individual. Does it not become obvious that with such extreme variation person to person, that basing research on the assumption that we are the same is going to lead to inconclusive or faulty results?

To confuse matters further, there are circadian and seasonal rhythms to many of the hormones and enzymes etc., so one-time tests are often of little value.

Understanding the normal rhythm of the hormone being tested, and then testing the individual frequently enough to see whether the rhythm is off may be the only way to surmise if there is a problem.

Does that mean that research to improve human health is futile? Not at all. We need to use and expand the body of research on biochemical differences, and do research on groups of people that are the most similar biochemically.

Thankfully this wheel does not need to be re-invented, as metabolic classifications involving the interaction between the autonomic nervous system, the oxidative system and the endocrine system have been used with great success in the field of nutrition.

I would bet that if heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other disease research were done on each homogenous metabolic type, far more conclusive answers would appear, and suddenly the medical paradigm would shift from treating the disease to treating the individual based upon the biochemistry of the individual.

Please read through the case studies in the middle of the document to see how this can work; how understanding which functional homeostatic controls were dominant in each individual formed the basis for treating the individual metabolic imbalances, and how different treatments were used resulting in the resolution of such diverse symptoms as high cholesterol, digestive problems, allergies, poor memory, low energy, fibromyalgia, and even cancer.  Note that the symptoms / disease were never treated specifically, as such an effort would be futile considering the wide variety of biochemical imbalances that may manifest them.

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Williams, Roger Biochemical Individuality Keats Publishing, New Canaan, Connecticut, 1956.

Stover PJ, Garza C. Bringing individuality to public health recommendations J Nutr. 2002 Aug;132(8 Suppl):2476S-2480S

Gonzalez C et al. Biological variability of thyroid autoantibodies (anti-TPO and anti-Tg) in clinically and biochemically stable patients with autoimmune thyroid disease J Clin Lab Anal. 2002;16(1):37-9

Fraser CG Inherent biological variation and reference values Clin Chem Lab Med. 2004;42(7):758-64

Eckhardt RB Genetic research and nutritional individuality J Nutr. 2001 Feb;131(2):336S-9S

V Betts J Ecological variability of hormonal concentrations in modern humans J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2005 Jul;24(4):451-7.

Sodeman, William A. Pathologic Physiology = Mechanisms of disease W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, Pa, p. 346.

Anson, Barry An Atlas of Human Anatomy W.B Saunders Co. Philadelphia, Pa.

Netter, Frank Atlas of Human Anatomy: With netteranatomy.com (Netter Basic Science) Novartis, East Hanover, New Jersey, 1997

Albritton, Erret C, Standard Values in Blood W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia Pa

Online at www.healthexcel.com

copyright 2007 Vreni Gurd

2 Comments »

  1. Liz said,

    July 23, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

    Yet another excellent and well-researched article, thank you.

    You’ve put into words what I’ve often thought, that we are not all the same so we each need to pay attention to what our individual bodies need, not what the latest trends say.

    It’s always driven me crazy when doctors say, “Your results are in the normal range.” Who’s normal range?! After all, who’s to say what’s normal for me? Or for women in my stage of life, ethnicity, and/or lifestyle compared to other stages of life, ethnic background and lifestyles very different from mine?

    It also makes me crazy knowing that drug research and results don’t factor in the difference that women’s hormones can make as they fluctuate day to day as part of the normal monthly cycle.

    All in all it means we need to listen and learn from our bodies, to understand what each of us needs to be optimally healthy.

  2. Liz said,

    July 23, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

    It also occurs to me that the system of treating individuals based on their biochemical “type” is not entirely new. The Ayurvedic system of medicine does just that with its treatments and diet recommendations based on body type. Might this be just another way of describing metabolic differences and adjusting for the variations between people?

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