Metabolic Medicine for Monday Morning

“A lot of practitioners come away from a great functional or holistic medicine seminar going, ‘Wow, that was amazing. But what do I do on Monday morning?'” says Jim LaValle, RPh, co-founder of the Metabolic Medical Institute.

The emerging science on the microbiome, the genome, the HPA axis, and the interplay between organ systems is redefining how we understand the development of various chronic diseases, and opening new pathways for restoring health.

The challenge is in making all this new information actionable in day-to-day practice.

To bridge that gap, Dr. LaValle has been working closely with Andrew Heyman, MD, Director of Integrative Medicine at George LaValleWashington University, to develop The Metabolic Code, a clinical guidance toolset that helps clinicians implement functional medicine in routine patient care.

Based on more than 3 decades of clinical practice experience, the Metabolic Code is a system for reframing clinical lab information in a way that enables physicians to choose treatment approaches that will have the most impact for each patient. In a sense, its a prioritization tool that can help you make sense of the myriad data that come back from even the most routine blood panels.

The core principles underlying the system have been tested in more than 10,000 patients.

As a keynote speaker at Heal Thy Practice 2015, Dr. LaValle will outline the fundamentals of Metabolic Medicine as it is now being taught at the Metabolic Medical Institute at GWU.

Simple & Impactful

“What we want to do during my talk is to drill down and look at the nuts and bolts. We will look at physiological relationships and systems biology in ways that allow you to make decisions that will have the most impact for each individual patient, so that each patient will feel better. Because when people feel better, they come back and they’re willing to spend their time, money, and effort with you,” he told Holistic Primary Care.

“I want attendees to come away with a hands-on understanding of the basic shifts in chemistry that lead people down paths toward metabolic disruption, and then the strategies–elegant, simple and impactful–that can shift metabolism back toward healthier states.”

For example: “Everybody talks about healing the gut, how you have to heal the gut first. The problem is, that if all you do is give Cat’s Claw and Slippery Elm and Glutamine and probiotics, you’re overlooking the fact that there’s a tethering between the adrenal function, the brain, the immune system, and the gut.”

To be sure, some cases of GI dysfunction are simply due to antibiotic use, or exposure to an enteric pathogen. But for many people, especially those with longstanding chronic symptoms, the picture is more complex.

“If you have somebody that’s pumping out a lot of cortisol, they’re releasing a lot of histamine via the enteric nervous system,” LaValle says. “They’re creating a leaky gut via mast cell release. If you don’t counter-measure that while you’re working on the gut, they’ll be back six months later going, ‘Ugh, I’m yeasty again.’ or ‘My belly feels bloated again.'”

The “gut problem” is often a downstream manifestation of other imbalances, and a clinical focus on treating the gut–however holistic it may be–often falls short.

“If all you’re doing clinically is throwing water balloons on the fire, and you don’t look upstream to understand the nervous system and endocrine system imbalances driving that gut dysfunction, you don’t get good, lasting clinical outcomes.”

But this doesn’t mean hormone therapy should always be the default solution.

“What’s real popular now? Bioidentical hormones!” Dr. LaValle said. “But bioidentical hormones are totally downstream therapies most of the time. In many patients there are cortisol issues, there are mineral deficiencies so they’re not able to make hormones properly. The problems are often stress-related because stress inhibits testosterone, estrogen and growth hormone production. When cortisol’s really high, it shuts all that down. Yet what are many doctors doing? Lathering people up with bioidentical hormones and going, ‘Hey, doncha feel better?’ And the patient’s going, ‘Well, not really.'”

Five Triads

The Metabolic Code helps clinicians organize lab values and symptom descriptions around five distinct triads:

  • Thyroid-Pancreas-Adrenals
  • Gut-Immune-Brain
  • Cardiovascular-Pulmonary-Neurovascular
  • Liver-Kidney-Lymph
  • Testosterone-Estrogen-Progesterone

Skillfully melding the whole systems thinking of traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda with the precision and detail available from modern biochemistry, the system can help clinicians figure out what’s upstream and what’s downstream from a given set of symptoms and discern where they can have the most physiological “leverage.”

“Its systems biology cross-talk that we peer into via the eyes of conventional labs.

Metabolic medicine is about practical tools and practical ways to make clinical use of the tremendous insights coming out of systems biology,” says Dr. LaValle, author of, Your Blood Never Lies, a book that helps patients and physicians make better sense of clinical lab values.

“You can look at labs, and the system can show you where all the points are really stacking up: Is it Gut-Immune-Brain? Is it ThyroidPancreas-Adrenal? Is it Liver-Lymph-Kidney? Is it CardioPulmonary? Is it detox related? Where are all the different pressures of this individual’s chemistry starting to disrupt the networks? That’s what the triads are about, and that’s what systems biology is about. It’s just a way to organize the information, to give you a really solid signal about where to start.”

Join Dr. LaValle, along with a stellar line-up of leading holistic & functional medicine practitioners. Register for Heal Thy Practice today!


Subscribe to Holistic Primary Care