Given my direct involvement with medical patients of Recomp Medical I have been privy to many interesting thoughts, statements, conversations and actions from a wide variety of doctors and therapists. As a result, I have grown ever more sceptical of the diagnosis and treatments being provided by the medical community. In fact, I am down right scared of ever needing their help. This blog is just a small selection of some interesting things I have heard and experienced.
Near Death Barbell Curls
Lets start with one of the more dramatic and hysterical stories. Several years ago one of my clients at Biologic Labs was warming up on a set of barbell curls with an empty bar. Somehow, she put her neck out. Over the next few days the headache pain became unbearable and, not knowing what else to do, she went to the hospital. The hospital ran some tests and sent her to wait in a bed. Suddenly a surgeon came running in. Apparently she was literally about to die and needed to be operated on immediately. While the theatre was being prepared she was instructed to say her goodbye’s to her family as the operation had a slim but significant chance of killing her!
Shocked, confused and hysterical she screamed refusals at the doctor. How could a warm up set of curls with an empty bar cause her to die 3 days later? How could surgery be necessary to fix a headache caused by curling an empty bar?
Fortunately, just before she went into the surgery, the surgeon sheepishly returned to explain an intern had mis-calibrated the machine for one of the tests. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her; it was just a migraine. She went home and was fine.
The lesson: in the real world there is almost zero chance of you dying from a workout; especially not several days later. Doctors frequently go hysterical about elevated CK levels and other markers that are quite normal in weight trainers, even when similar measures would indicate something serious in sedentary people and other athletes. If you are ever faced with this sort of disproportionate, irrational diagnosis, get a second and third opinion and try to find someone who is aware of what you do!
20 years of 10% kidney function
I have followed a high protein diet for decades so my blood urea level – a measure of protein metabolism – is always 20-30% higher than the average person who eats far less protein. The urea level of every client and patient on a high protein diet is also similarly elevated to mine. As a result of my diet I maintain far less bodyfat and far more muscle mass than the average person. And I regularly lift National record level weights during workouts. Nothing about my physical activity, diet or body composition (in terms of protein content) is remotely similar to the average person to whom I am compared in blood tests. But, given the single reading of my urea and no other supporting evidence whatsoever, several Doctors over the past 20 years have told me that I am about to suffer renal failure and that my kidneys are functioning at 10-25%. Clients of mine frequently report similar hysterical diagnosis from the exact same readings by their doctors.
The lesson: when you eat an abnormal diet, don’t expect to measure the same as ‘normal’ people. Just because people with kidney failure show elevated protein metabolism doesn’t mean elevated protein metabolism is always caused by kidney failure.
Protein Powder Liver Failure
ALT and AST – two enzymes measured in relation to liver function – are directly expressed by muscle tissue that has undergone normal weight training damage. The elevation from a hard weights workout is typically 50-200% above the top of the ‘normal’ range; probably because the normal range is made up of people who have not performed National record deadlifts in the past 24 hours. As a result of workout elevated ALT and AST I’ve had doctors tell me, and many of my clients and patients, that we are showing signs of severe liver disease. Often doctors then blame protein powder for the liver disease we don’t have. This is despite the fact that there is absolutely no scientific evidence, or logical biochemical pathway, for protein powder causing liver disease.
The lesson: the body of an athlete performing at the limits of human potential is highly unlikely to measure biochemically the same as a sedentary person’s unused body.
Creatine Kidney Failure
Creatine converts into Creatinine in solution. Anybody who undertakes creatine supplementation logically shows raised creatinine levels. Creatinine is used by doctors as a marker of kidney function. And, as you might imagine, most doctors see the elevated creatinine levels of a creatine user and declare impending renal failure. They don’t even consider that you could add creatine to the blood of a corpse and eventually you will measure elevated blood creatinine.
The lesson: nutrients, like creatine and amino-acids, found in substantial, multi-gram quantities in natural foods, and particularly those synthesised within the body in multi-gram quantities, are very, very unlikely to cause massive organ failure just because you supplement them.
I tore my bicep off the bone spotting a client. When I saw the surgeon his first question was: why do you want it put back on? I replied: “because that’s where it’s supposed to be”. He then tried to sell me on the fact that it didn’t need to be reattached because I’d still have 90% of the strength to flex my elbow; I just couldn’t supinate my wrist. He said it only made sense to operate if I thought I might compete in sports again. So I said “yes, sure. I’d certainly like the option”. Only then did he agree to do the operation.
After the operation he told me that I could not train the arm for 12 weeks. At week 3 I started doing 3kg dumbbell curls with it and had built up to 7.5kg by the time I saw him at week 6. He sternly warned “I told you no training the arm for 12 weeks”! So I asked, hypothetically, if a person did exactly what I was doing with training the arm, would they not improve the rate and quality of healing, and the strength and condition of the arm, permanently, for the rest of their life? His reply was: “Yes. Don’t do it!”.
The lesson: this was when I first became aware of just how distinctly separate athletes are from the public, in the eyes of the medical and legal systems. It was also a startling reminder that a doctors top, top, top priority, for any treatment they provide you with, is not getting sued!
Weights Are Not Cardio
Several years ago I had a discussion with a doctor who was about to present to the AMA about his research into the cardiac benefits of exercise. He told me that the problem with my weight training was that there was absolutely no impact on, or involvement of, the heart. Confused, I asked what was really happening to me then when my veins were visibly protruding over every portion of my body, my face was bright red and I could feel my heart pounding, during and after a maximum lift? His reply was “well, you must be doing it aerobically then”. Staggered, I told him: “No. It happens just the same on a 1 rep set lasting barely a few seconds”. He said I should probably get checked out because there might be something wrong with me. A doctor presenting to the Australian Medical Association on what exercise benefits heart health had absolutely no awareness of any cardiac involvement during strenuous anaerobic exercise!
The lesson: do not underestimate how staggeringly ignorant and unthinking some doctors, researchers and academics can be! For all of their supposed intellect, some of them are among the most shockingly ignorant people I have ever spoken to.
Fitness Can Kill You
I once met a doctor so obese that, sitting in his chair, his belly literally extended horizontally far enough to create a comfortable platform upon which he liked to rest his hands. He could have rested a new iPad Pro in portrait mode and it still would have been supported all the way to the end! The man was monstrously fat and it was primarily that hard visceral fat that doctors tend to warn about being the most dangerous. The huge barrel of his belly was so hard and rigid it pushed his chest into his neck fat and near suffocated him. As he talked and wheezed I wondered how he ever actually got out of that seat? Did he need to install the hydraulic lift of a cement mixer to raise and tip the seat so as to pour him out of it? Did George Lucas visit the doctor with Princess Lea, set up a green screen behind the doctor and use him to shoot all the Star Wars scenes with Jabba the Hut? This Doctor was truly in a disgraceful state of ill health.
Anyway, he was not so sick as to not feel compelled to warn me of the dangers of my devotion to training. Apparently being an elite athlete when young was virtually a death sentence to dying of a heart attack in middle age. This was, apparently, inarguable fact that had been scientifically proven.
He went on to relate a single study performed in the army. The study discovered that former elite squash players who returned to the court decades later were more likely to suffer a heart attack on the court than middle aged people who had never played squash before. The doctor insisted that it had nothing to do with the fact a former elite squash player would push far harder and more aggressively than a person who had never played. No! It was clearly evident that being fit and healthy when young is certain to kill you when you get older. The inferred message being to get fat and diseased like him as soon as possible so that it would be less surprising when I died in middle age.
The lesson: some people are hugely insecure and some people are plain delusional. Some of those people become doctors.
Reality is Not Real
I had a patient take copies of 2 blood tests to an endocrinologist who threw them in the bin and proclaimed that the hormone measured on the test (reverse-T3) “does not exist”! Apparently the lab must have made up an imaginary hormone just for our patient? Or Ayn Rand was just wrong about everything.
The lesson: when dealing with Doctors, do not expect reality or rational arguments to sway their decisions. Some are mightier than reality.
Despite how this blog sounds, the reality is that most Doctors I’ve met have been extremely intelligent, interesting, nice people. In fact, the people I look up to most in the World are my closest Doctor friends (you know who you are). I don’t believe doctors are, in general, idiots or incompetent at all. All of the problems, as always, are caused by the incompetent Government bureaucrats and lawyers who hold a gun to the head of every doctor and nurse in the system.
I believe that, in a cruel twist of fate, the tenet of the medical system that has become its most harmful is: do no harm. Like most warm, fuzzy platitudes, it’s a good idea and sounds wonderful right up until the lawyers and bureaucrats get hold of it and turn it into something monstrous. The application of ‘harm’ has come to mean doctors are not to condone anything with any possibility of resulting in any person measuring differently to the majority of the population; even if it would be massively beneficial and dramatically reduce nearly all possibility of serious disease. Hence, anti-depressants have become the darling of drugs to prescribe for every purpose. The brain chemistry they mess up cannot be measured as messed up. And the mental and physiological disorders they create can be blamed on the person and treated with more of the same.
So my only advice is to be very afraid of being sick. Do not assume the person treating you is competent or wants the solution you would want; assume the opposite. More than anything, know that your doctors priority and concerns are very different to yours; particularly if your version of living includes being strong, lean, muscular and active.