The Frontiers of Natural Medicine:
An Interview with Dr. Jonathan Wright
By David Jay Brown
Jonathan Wright, M.D. is one of world’s leading experts on natural medicine, nutritional supplements, and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. He is the medical director of the Tahoma Clinic in Kent, Washington, and he has treated over 2,000 patients with natural hormone replacement since 1982.
Dr. Wright graduated from Harvard University, and he received his medical education at the University of Michigan Medical School. He later specialized in family practice and nutritional medicine. Dr. Wright was a monthly medical columnist forPrevention magazine from 1976 to 1986 and for Let’s Live magazine from 1986 to 1996. Since 1994, he’s written Nutrition & Healing newsletter (1-800-851-7100, www.wrightnewsletter.com )
He is also the bestselling author or coauthor of numerous health books, including Natural Hormone Replacement For Women Over 45, Dr. Wright’s Guide to Healing With Nutrition, Maximize Your Vitality & Potency for Men Over 40, and Dr. Wright’s Book of Nutritional Therapy.
Since 1982 Dr. Wright and his colleague Dr. Alan Gaby having been teaching an annual seminar called “Nutritional Therapy in Medical Practice,” based on their experience in medical practice and personal research libraries, which contains over 45,000 medical journal articles dating from 1920 to the present. He also publishes an informative monthly newsletter. To find out more about Dr. Wright’s work visit: www.tahoma-clinic.com.
I spoke with Dr. Wright on July 14, 2005. He is a very enthusiastic and entertaining speaker. We spoke about preventing heart disease and osteoporosis, the basics of vitamin therapy, how people can improve their sexual performance, and the importance of treating hormonal decline with hormones that are identical to those found naturally in the human body.
David: What inspired your interest in medicine?
Dr. Wright: I’m not sure. I decided to go into medicine when I was eight years old. I recall a conversation with my parents about the whole thing, and the choices got narrowed down to law or medicine. For whatever reason, I decided that there are too damn many attorneys, and that they spend their time fighting, so I thought I’d go into medicine.
David: Can you talk a little about why you think that hormone replacement therapy is so important for both men and women as they age, and why do you think that taking natural hormones is better than taking synthetic hormones?
Dr. Wright: Hormone replacement therapy is especially important for men and women as they grow older at this particular time in the history of the planet and of the human race. Hormone replacement therapy is something that, in many areas of the world, simply wasn’t even possible until about the 12th Century in China. But even though that was many centuries ago, as far as we know, there have been people on the planet for hundreds of thousands of years, perhaps millions of years, and no one could do hormone replacement for most of that time.
Some people have pointed out that the average person’s life span was shorter in previous centuries, and perhaps people didn’t need hormone replacement because they didn’t live to the point where they needed it, and that may be true in some areas of the world. But we have not only Western Biblical references, but we have other writings that refer to some quite ancient people, in the past, who seem to have gotten by without hormone replacement, and lived to a good long age. The name Methusala, of course, always comes to mind. Then there are some names that–not being a being a Chinese speaker–I can’t pronounce. But in Chinese writing, folks who are said to have lived for two or three hundred years, and it doesn’t appear that they took hormone replacement.
But the differences that may necessitate more hormone replacement in our time than in prior times, include what has happened to the food supply, the water supply, and the 50,000 new chemicals that are introduced into the environment every year–without knowing whether they’re safe or not. There has been terrific demineralizations of the soil, chemical additives to the water, such as chlorine and fluoride, and then there’s all the electromagnetic radiations that folks are exposed to that just simply didn’t exist two hundred years ago. The list could go on and on, and we don’t want do a treatise here on all the enormous environmental changes that have happened. But while we were living in this vastly changing environment, human biochemical systems remained the same.
Therefore, we’re seeing a tremendous rise in such things as Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia, which was, of course, so rare in the past. A paper on Alzheimer’s disease from a century and a half ago said that people had less than a one percent chance of coming down with the disease, whereas today we’re now told that our chances of ending up with Alzheimer’s disease or senile dementia is fifteen percent. We also have seen the peak of a very large increase in cardiovascular disease, and thank goodness it’s gone down. I believe it was Paul Dudley White who was the first person to actually identify himself as a cardiologist and a specialist in heart matters in the early part of the twentieth century. Before him, we didn’t have cardiologists. We didn’t need them in the prior century, or the century before. And it’s not because people didn’t have heart disease back then, it’s because it was very unusual. Thank goodness–with no credit, I’m sorry to say, to American medicine, but a lot credit to just public awareness–that the large increase in cardiovascular disease seems to have reached its peak in the late 80s, maybe early 90s, and has subsided a bit again.
The other major thing for which people look to hormone replacement for turns out to be osteoporosis prevention, which again, was fairly uncommon until the last century–except for the inuit of northern Canada. Osteoporosis was fairly rare in this country until, again, the early Twentieth Century when the incidence started to rise, and went up and up and up.
So we have those three major problems–osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and senility and Alzheimer’s disease are (more or less) one problem. Cardiovascular disease has gone up enormously, and if one tracks it back, a lot of it has to do with the current mismatch between human biochemical systems and the enormously changed dietary and other environmental factors. What has been observed is that hormone replacement therapy is not only perhaps a longevity issue, but it can do a lot to reduce the probability of those three major problems. I think that is fairly definite and very defendable, but only if we use the same hormones that have been found in human biochemical systems for as long there have been human biochemical systems.
I suspect that I’m beating a dead horse, to make a deliberate pun, when I say that putting horse hormones into humans–when those horse hormones are roughly seventy percent different from human hormones, and have never been in human bodies before–was one of medicine’s many grievous errors in the last century. If we had been using bioidentical hormones we very likely would have never ever run into the disaster that the Women’s Health Initiative turned out to be. But we can significantly lower the risk of those three major risk problems that arose in the Twentieth Century, and continue into the Twenty-first Century, with bioidentical molecules.
We need to be extremely careful about not only the types of molecules, and duplicating exactly what goes on in the human body, but we also need to be concerned about quantities, the route of administration, and timing. It’s not very complicated. Actually, the whole thing can be summed up in two words–“copy nature.” If we’re going to replace the body’s hormones, let’s use the same molecules, the same quantities, the same timing, and the same route of administration that nature uses. That is the least likely to get use all into trouble.
David: What are some of the symptoms of low testosterone in men?
Dr. Wright: It’s debatable, but, for example, when testosterone starts to drop, ordinarily if an aging man is exercising regularly, and trying to keep up a certain muscle mass, he’ll notice that it’s more difficult to maintain that muscle mass. And we’ve all heard of ‘grumpy grampa.’ Well, for some men, particularly in their seventies and eighties, some of the just general grumpy mood can actually be attributed to testosterone being lower than it might be. I’ve talked with a number of families who say, oh yeah, Grampa’s a lot more cheerful, and he’s cracking more jokes, ever since he got his testosterone level back up. So that’s one of the mental symptoms, and there are physical ones, such as muscle mass problems. Certainly all men, or at least nearly all men, are concerned about their declining libido and sexual performance as they age, and they have problems that could have to do with low testosterone levels. That’s not always due to low testosterone, but if we combine several things–such as mental decline, a loss in muscle mass, and a loss in sexual desire and performance–and the more of those things we put together, the more