I was recently shaken by the movie ‘Concussion’ with Will Smith playing an unmoved in his resilience Nigerian pathologist, doctor Bennet Omalu, who changed the history of NFL.
I truly recommend it for a good night’s watching.
I was pondering how much absolute certainty on the necessity of touching the truth you need to have in order to stand strong on your position, no matter the cost.
I was also fascinated by the idea that careful examination of the body can show the cause of a disease. I also immediately remembered another pathologist – first a vet, then a doctor – whose discoveries and tenacity in publishing his findings changed my own life. And the life of my family.
And it all started like this – some 20 years ago I suddenly discovered I’d lost my sense of smell. I, notoriously oversensitive to odours, a police sniffing dog who’d move to a farther seat in the cinema from a man smelling of onions, suddenly discovered I’d eaten some rotten dinner, while my family exclaimed how foul it was and threw it in the trash. That was the moment I realized I had a problem and it was serious.
Life without the ability to smell might be nicer when you’re passing a dump, but when it comes to everyday joy of living there are people who get clinically depressed.
I could detect flavors only partly.
On the beach I felt like in the cinema.
With my newborn in my arms I felt literally robbed.
Maybe it’s not the darkest of dark dramas, but my life definitely lost a certain vibrance that I enjoyed.
A good allergologist took me under her wings. She dug for an allergological, laryngological or neurological reason for a year. There were inhaler experiments, sprays, drops, pills and what not. I made good money as a student, so I could spend it all at the drug store 🙂
The deal was, that if nothing else worked, the final resort would be Encortolon for a few weeks. All in all, with no improvement whatsoever, I ended up on the oral steroid.
It might sound strange, but taking hormones makes me insomniac. I happened to like the fact, though, that those nights were full of uninterrupted jigsaw puzzles on the floor.
The other fact of full-body swelling was less pleasant to me – for a long while afterwards l resembled something like a sturdy snowman.
But my smell was back, everybody was happy, applause, end of story!
Unfortunately, I soon discovered a serious side effect of the steroid taken, mainly a total annihilation of my immunity. And it took me a decade to crawl slowly, and not totally, from that pit. From a healthy girl who tried eating raw potatoes to get a fever for once and miss some school, I turned into a total wreck. I contracted every possible infection I could, I was sick all the time, and such benign infections as cold sore would turn into a real disaster and put me down for a week.
I heard that such lowering of the immune function was pretty unusual with Encortolon. Hurray for unusual.
I can’t rule out the possibly that this was exactly why I later gave birth to four children with virtually no immunity, since I had them after I lost mine.
After a few good, smelly years I discovered my sense of smell was gone again. But this time I knew I would not touch steroids no matter what.
And it all began all over again: allergologist, neurologist, laryngologist…
Finally, the laryngologist, supposedly the best in town, spread out his hands, said he had no idea how to help me and suggested a trip to Berlin, giving myself to the hands of neurosurgeons, letting them open my skull in hope they would see something. He felt slightly offended after my not-so-polite reply to this generous proposition – I was a happy mother of two little ones at this point with no intention to ruin that.
So I was left alone: no smell, partial taste, unknowingly eating stale food and convinced there was not a doctor in the world who could help me.
Thank God, however, we already had the internet and reading scientific papers in English was not a problem for me.
I started researching, digging, reading till dawn and I finally stumbled across the lectures of dr. Joel Wallach, a controversial American pathologist, who – having performed thousands of autopsies – concluded that the so-called ‘civilization diseases’ of today are mostly a sign of nutritional deficiencies in trace minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids (or a combination). In his famous lecture ‘Dead Doctors Don’t Lie’, where he expresses how unimpressed he is with cardiologists who die of heart failure at the age of 56, and oncologists who die of cancer, but should be the wisest specialists in the field, he lists diseases and deficiencies that cause them. So for example he says: ‘if you suffer from diabetes, you’re definitely deficient in chromium and vanadium, if you have cancer you’re surely lacking selenium, if you lost your taste and smell you’re deficient in zinc, and if you…’
Wait, WHAT????? Lack of smell is caused by zinc deficiency? Zinc? STUPID ZINC? Why did nobody tell me that????
I dug out research confirming Wallach’s claims on this and decided to give it a try. Slowly a new world of knowledge was opening right before my eyes.
But where should I start? How much zinc? What type?
Everybody around was appalled by the findings and kept warning me about the dangers of such recklessness – zinc is a metal in the end and I will overdose, poison myself and die. Obviously.
But in my head, hope was already dawning.
So I asked my informed and trusted OB how much zinc I should take. He didn’t know, but said he trusted me to not harm myself. So I decided to experiment. Cautiously.
Daily recommended dose of zinc was 15 mg back then.
Toxic dose – 100 mg.
Overdose symptoms: headache and vomiting.
I thought – fine. I can build on that. In the worst case, I’ll do some puking 🙂
I started with 30 mg and waited a few days – nothing.
I raised the dose to 45 mg and waited a few days – nothing.
I upped to 60 mg and suddenly… I smelled something!
It only took a quadruple dose to help me regain my sense of smell.
Stupid, cheap zinc and a few weeks, that was all it took.
Of course, zinc is antagonistic to copper and it would be wise to take them together, but that was an issue to discover and solve in the future.
In about two weeks, my sense of smell was back, while I became acutely aware of the fact there was a world of knowledge out there, that explained the functioning of the human body in ways I had never heard before. And that it was practically outside of the pharmaceutical realm and thus treated with hostility and contempt. Also by my family.
But I was hooked.
What would it be like if we started looking for the root cause of disease, instead of fighting its symptoms?
That new, fascinating chapter of my life was just opening.
And when it comes to the mineral wheel – we’ll get back to it 😉