Guest: Dr. Andrew Heyman
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Andrew Heyman, MD MHSA is an internationally recognized expert in Integrative Medicine. He is currently the Program Director of Integrative and Metabolic Medicine at The George Washington University. Prior to assuming this role, he spent 16 years at the University of Michigan, serving to build one of the largest and most successful academic-based Integrative Medicine programs in the United States.
Segment overview: Dr. Andrew Heyman, MD, who will be a speaker at the 4th BioCeuticals Research Symposium, Revolutionary Strategies for Complex Disease in Sydney in 2016, talks about the latest in integrative and metabolic medicine.
Health Professional Radio – Integrative Metabolic Medicine
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you for joining us today. Our guest in studio is going to be one of the key speakers at the 4th BioCeuticals Research Symposium entitled Revolutionary Strategies for Complex Diseases. It’s gonna highlight the latest advances in Nutritional and Integrative Medicine covering a wide range of fields and he’s here with us today, Dr. Andrew Heyman, internationally recognized expert in Integrative Medicine. He’s currently the Program Director of Integrative and Metabolic Medicine at the George Washington University. Now prior to assuming that role, he’s spent 16 years at the University of Michigan serving to build one of the largest and most successful academic based integrative medicine programs in the US. How are you doing today Dr. Heyman?
Dr. Andrew Heyman I’m doing great. Thanks for having me, I really appreciate being here.
N: Thank you. The 4th BioCeuticals Research Symposium, that’s being held in Australia this coming April, is that correct?
H: Yes, that’s correct, in Sydney.
N: And you’re one of the keynote speakers. You’re going to educating Australian Healthcare Professionals on as I said, the latest advances in Nutritional and Integrative Medicine. Talk a bit about your role in this conference, is this the first time you’ve been to the Symposium?
H: It is. The first time I’ve been invited to BioCeuticals and I’m excited to be there because they’ve accepted really only, I think leaders in the field with respect to key content areas that are important for health and they’re doing this from really a systems biology perspective. My particular area have to do with stress and I understand that in our field we often talk about this in terms of adrenal fatigue. But when you look at the stress response thru the systems biology lens, it becomes much more intricate, complicated, and elegant in the way that the body responds and organizes itself to stress and also how we physiologically and psychologically manage stress. So I’ll be talking about that in great detail.
N: Now we’re talking about the physical manifestations of stress where the cortisol, things of that nature, or are we talking about the mental aspects of stress or is it a combination of the two as you discussed Integrative Medicine?
H: It’s really the combination of the two. What’s interesting is that people have intrinsic resiliency to stress and some individuals can have a deep sense of psychological resiliency, strong coping skills and ability to emotionally and technically manage stress. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that their body can keep up with the stress that they’re under. So there’s a second component and that is the physiologic resiliency and as much as psychology is focused on the emotional component of the stress response, where medicine has really failed, it it’s full treatment of the physiologic side of the stress response and I would even argue within our field of Integrative and anti-aging, we still haven’t done a good job at articulating the depths of the physiology of the stress response.
N: Now when you say you haven’t done a good job at articulating, is it because it is so complex or because the technology is constantly adapting and you can’t keep up with, why is there a lack in communication of this information?
H: Well I think that on the one hand we’ve done a good job at raising the issue that we should measure the body’s response to stress and also it possible could damage that response. Where in the unfortunate reality lies is that we narrowed our discussion to a limited term which is called adrenal fatigue. And this is a term that has been used colloquially throughout, sort of alternative and integrative discipline for many, many years, but it really is a misnomer because we now know, we’ve actually known for a long time, that when you measure an individual’s cortisol level and if it happens to be low, almost never is it because of low adrenal output and instead it’s usually a result of a wide variety of changes that are going on in the brain, in immune system, and peripheral target receptors in the cardiovascular system that are all organizing to try and protect the body against further stress. And in particular, we know, that when someone has a low cortisol curve that’s usually an indication that, first and foremost, there’s likely been brain injury and then in fact we really should re-characterize abnormalities in the stress response as likely but not always brain injury related patterns.
N: Okay. You’ve mentioned there are those among us who have ability to handle stress psychologically, if not physically, the body can’t physically keep up with the changes that are taking place. Are you saying that once you’ve realized that someone has low cortisol count that it usually means some type of brain injury or can they just be really, really chilled out?
H: (laughs) I like that ‘chilled out.’ So the normal stress response curve is one that has variation in it, meaning high in the morning and low at the end of the day. Our bodies are meant to flux with the daily cycle, with the weekly cycle, with the life cycle and most hormones are considered normal when they’re able to create that variability. When hormones go flat in their response and cortisol’s no exception that usually indicates an injury to that particular system and so, the technical term that we use in the research literature on the stress response is called “flattening of the cortisol curve”. You can have all sorts of abnormal cortisol measurements but when you see flattening, it’s a very strong indication that there’s been damage or injury to some physiological component of the stress response. When flattening occurs, we know that if a person has a concurrent illness, heart disease, Diabetes, cancer, that illness is always worst. So if you look at the research on flattening of the cortisol curve in breast cancer, when women have injured their stress response and they’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, they have a much greater risk for spread of that cancer and dying from that cancer if they flattened the cortisol curve. The same is true for someone who may have heart disease, if they’ve injured their stress response, they have a much greater risk for heart attack as well as dying from this heart attack. So someone who’s really chilled, we still would expect they would have normal variability in their cortisol curve.
N: Wow, that’s amazing. Now, BioCeuticals is Australia’s leading provider of practitioner only nutritional and therapeutic supplements and is at the forefront of evidence based Integrative Medicine. Talk about what you will specifically educating Australia’s healthcare professionals on when it comes to adding supplements in the, I guess reversal of this lack of cortisol. Is that even possible?
H: It is possible and there’s a growing set of research on the chocolate. What’s interesting is that in every herbal tradition around the world – Chinese, Japanese, Eastern European, South East Asian – there’s always been considered one or two herbs that have risen to the top as being special or magical or unique in their ability to protect the vitality of the individual. These are all called the Adaptogens or Tonic Herbs. We know them as ginseng, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Maca, Cordyceps. And usually they’re used singly or in combination and we’ve observed for thousands of years how special these herbs are. Well it turns out that what they’re typically doing is they’re buffering the stress response and it’s not that they even work on adrenals, interestingly, they typically protect the brain, they protect the heart, they balance the immune system, they’re working much more generally and that’s why they’re so special because they have the sort of global effect at supporting and protecting the individual, and specifically along the lines of the stress response. So in the work that I’ve done and other colleagues have done, we’ve shown that there is an ability once you begin using strategies like that. That you can restore a normal stress curve. It takes time and it’s not easy to do but it’s possible.
N: Now where online can we get more information about your particular research?
H: You could google my name, you could go to PubMed or Medline. We published a series of articles on this, we’ve also shown in particular injury to the brain from exposures in addition to stress and the potential to repair those brain injury patterns. We have a number of articles in that regard.
N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio talking with Dr. Andrew Heyman, going to be a key speaker at the 4th BioCeuticals Research Symposium to be held in Sydney, Australia this coming April and he’s going to be in Australia educating Healthcare Professionals about the latest advances in Integrative and Metabolic Medicine. Now Dr. Andrew Heyman is an internationally recognized expert in Integrative Medicine, currently the Program Director of Integrative and Metabolic Medicine at the George Washington University and also, he’s held several leadership positions in the field of Integrative Medicine. And it’s been absolutely wonderful having you here with us today Dr. Heyman.
H: Thank you. I appreciate it, it’s been fun.
N: Transcripts and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm and you can subscribe through our podcast on iTunes.