Dr. Kevin Conners – Healing from Autoimmune Disease and Cancer | Is it Possible?

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Content By: Ari Whitten & Dr. Kevin Conners

In this episode, I am speaking with Dr. Kevin Conners about various aspects of healing from chronic disease. His main focus is based on his experience in working with patients with cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Table of Contents

In this podcast, Dr. Conners and I discuss:

  • The role of genetics in cancer susceptibility and progression
  • The profound connection between the mind, spirituality, and surviving a life-threatening disease
  • Is there truth to the idea that virtually everyone already has cancer and that cancer is kept under control by a healthy immune system?
  • The impact of toxins on cancer development and practical detox practices
  • The most common cause or trigger for autoimmune disease 

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Transcript

Ari: Dr. Conners. Welcome to the show. It’s great to connect with you again.

Dr. Conners: It’s always great to talk to you.

What makes people ill?

Ari: I want to start with the topic of paradigm. This is something that I have become enormously fascinated with because there are just so many fundamental differences in how different healthcare professionals conceptualize what makes people ill, and based on how they conceptualize how people get sick in the first place, what logically comes out of that sort of paradigm as far as the ideal approach to fix it. If we want to get expansive here, I’ve also gone through a PhD program in clinical psychology.

Even within that, we have everything from cognitive behavioral therapy to something like Rogerian therapy, where you’re just mirroring back to the patient what they’re saying to psychodynamic therapy and Jungian and Freudian psychotherapy, where you might spend years talking about a patient’s early life. Basically, the way that you conceptualize the problem massively influences what you think the correct way is to get that person well.

We could talk about to the extent where somebody says you have a Reiki practitioner or somebody who believes in psychic healing or energy healing, who’s doing muscle testing to determine your past life karma and thinks that you have energetic blockages in your chakras from past life karma that need to be healed. This issue of paradigm, I think, really doesn’t get the attention that it deserves in influencing how people think about wellness and how to get well. With that context in mind, I’m curious how you conceptualize how people get sick and what the right approach is based on that as far as what to do to get them well.

Dr. Conners: That’s a big question. When you talk about paradigm, the paradigm that I come from is just from who I am. I’m a born-again Christian, so I follow Christ. That is my paradigm. In Christian circles, we call it a Christian worldview. We could talk about worldview as a paradigm. I don’t believe in past lives causing issues. That’s not what I believe in. If we have patients that believe that, I don’t make them not believe that. It’s wherever they’re at.

From that worldview, I believe that, from a health issue, is that we are exposed to things in our environment, whether it be emotional things from an abusive past relationship, whether it be chemical things from abuse in our life chemically, that affect us. There’s things in our environment that affect us. It’s how we respond to those things in our environment that ultimately is going to play out in our health, emotional health, psychological health, spiritual health, and physical health.

That’s where you could say, from a psychological standpoint, two people, brother and sister, maybe twins, had the exact same set of parents. One of them turns out bitter and angry at their difficult childhood. Another one turns out happy and gleeful and joyful that they learned something from their difficult childhood. It isn’t just our exposure to these things. It’s what we do with that exposure, sometimes by choice, in the case of what I just mentioned.

Sometimes it’s not by choice. Sometimes it’s how our body can respond to it. From a chemistry makeup and dealing with toxins, let’s say I’m exposed to all these toxins. I didn’t choose to hold those toxins, necessarily, though there could be a psychological piece to that. There always is as well. My liver’s ability to detox those toxins affected how then I respond to that. An example would that be was, let’s say you grew up in the same household as your brother. You drank the same, let’s say, toxic water. You ate the same, let’s say, toxic food.

Let’s pretend you and your brother were exposed to the exact same degree of toxins, number of toxins. Your health, from an emotional standpoint, whether your sympathetic nervous system was in overdrive because of stressors, you weren’t able to get rid of those toxins as well as your brother. From a genetic standpoint, maybe you inherited a few more issues with your detox pathways from a genetic standpoint. You weren’t quite as able to detoxify as quickly at the same rate as your brother.

You did hold more toxins. Now you’re suffering the ill effects of that. Maybe 20 years later, you have a diagnosis of cancer and your brother doesn’t. It’s how we are able to deal with our environment. Really, the bottom line is, how well are we able to deal with our environment, whether it be from an emotional, psychological standpoint or a physical chemistry standpoint. Everybody has that different ability to detoxify those things.

Is cancer just a matter of bad luck?

Ari: I know cancer is one area that you specialize in. Just so happens yesterday I was reading up on a review of different research on the attribution of cancer they attributed either to some combination of genetics and bad luck in the process of cell replication that there are errors in DNA replication and that this results in uncontrolled cell growth in cancer versus environmental factors. This spans the range of one early review of the research said- the researchers concluded that something 60% of cancers were attributable to some combination of genes and bad luck.

A later review, other researchers argued it was only more like 10% was attributable to genes and bad luck, and that it was 90% attributable to environmental causes. Again, I think this points to an issue of paradigm. If you think cancer is purely the result of a person’s genetics and bad luck, then you might completely ignore all the lifestyle factors such as diet, sleep, circadian rhythm, exercise habits, and environmental toxins and things of that nature. On the other hand, if you think it’s actually only a small portion of cancers are attributable to genes and bad luck, then you might really emphasize the importance of environmental factors. Where do you fall on that spectrum?

Dr. Conners: I don’t believe in luck. There’s some because. Genes, are they a cause? I think they’re a contributing factor. I think we’re foolish to not say that they’re not a contributing factor. There’s very few cancers, statistically, that have a direct genetic because. There’s a few, but it’s a small percentage, but genes do play another part. Let’s say my cytochrome P450 and my PON1 pathways and my NAT1 and 2 pathways, those are my detox pathways, some of my detoxification pathways.

If I have a lot of defects on those pathways, I’m going to be a slow detoxer. My rate of detoxification is going to be slower than somebody who doesn’t have a lot of defects on those pathways. Therefore, my environment and my rate of toxicity is even more important to pay attention to, because I don’t get rid of things as fast as somebody else that doesn’t have those defects. When you talk about cancer, what’s the cause of cancer, it’s something that gets inside the cell and damage the DNA replication cycle, so that cell is going into rapid replication.

That’s period. That is the because of cancer. The next question is, well, what causes that? It’s toxins in our environment. It’s not just toxins in our environment, it’s toxins in our environment that we can’t get rid of. We are what we don’t get rid of. If our rate of toxification, you could say, exceeds my rate of detoxification, then those things are going to be stuck in me somewhere. If they go inside the cell, they have the ability, they’re not always going to happen this way, and that’s where you could say, I guess, bad luck, affect the nucleus and damage the nucleus and because rapid replication.

Ari: There’s an interesting nuance to this idea around what you just described around one person versus another’s genetic variance leading to differences in detoxification capacity. Everything you said is reasonable and logical, but there’s a frame that I want to present that I think is useful to consider things from. Let’s imagine, first of all, let me start with the context that there are always going to be genetic differences between people who are better or worse at certain things.

This relates to everything from physical characteristics, some people are taller versus shorter, some people have more fast twitch muscle fibers or slow twitch muscle fibers, better at endurance or speed and power and strength. There’s lots and lots of nuances. This also relates to our internal capacities. Now, one aspect of this with regards to, let’s say, body composition is you could say, hey, I do the same workout routine as that other guy, he builds muscle faster than I do, that’s unfair. Maybe I should take steroids because this other guy, relative to me, he has better genes for building muscle in response to weight training.

Another example would be in the context of us all eating a highly processed food diet and lots of fast food and McDonald’s, some people are able to remain skinny. It’s because they have genetic variants that are better than me, where they burn fat faster and they don’t store fat as easily and so on. In this environment, they can stay skinny. Therefore, I have bad genes that I really need to work on my genetic variants. What I’m getting at here is how much of–

One could in that same context frame it as a problem of my genes versus this other person’s genes, or you could frame it as a context, well, you could say in an environment where everybody is eating a healthy diet, nobody’s becoming obese. Is it the genes that are the issue or is it the environment that’s the issue there? You know what I mean there? I know you don’t do this, but I know that there are a lot of people who really get caught up in that kind of thing and they become convinced that their genes are the problem, the fundamental driver of their problem instead of that environment. You know what I mean?

Dr. Conners: Yes. I don’t think you can put full blame on either side. Yes, I do think that some people have a genetic predestination that they just are highly metabolic. They could eat a horse and they still can’t gain any weight. You see that in their family lineage, their mother is super skinny, all their sisters and brothers are super skinny. You could say, what’s the deal with that? I can eat half of what that person eats and I seem to gain four pounds.

There is some genetic variance that affects us in different ways. Greater than that, there are environmental things that affect our genes. I may not have any genetic variance that decrease my metabolic rate. A perfect example is, okay, personally, I could not put on two pounds when I was in high school and college and beyond that. It seems I hit this magic age of 30 years old and now I started putting on a little bit of weight. Now I hit an age of 55 years old and I put on a little bit more weight and I really have to start watching my diet.

Had my genes changed? My genes could have partly changed, but that drastically, no. Has to do with environment as well. We put more stress on, what do our genes do? Our genes don’t just magically make things happen. Our genes make enzymes, that’s what our genes do. They make proteins for different pathways to function. If I’m blocking those pathways through with a bad diet, then that’s going to be an issue. If I’m blocking those pathways because I’m not exercising, my lifestyle has changed over time, then that’s going to be an issue.

I agree, there are practitioners out there that want to put all this blame on the genes and if all we do is work on those and we’re going to solve the problems, that’s honestly, to me, nonsense. Just to ignore genetics and not look at pathway possibilities that we want to support, to me, that’s not taking a full picture either. We’d have to have a balanced approach there.

Should you focus on diet and lifestyle in healing?

Ari: Great. When you’re dealing with somebody with chronic illness, with cancer, with autoimmune conditions, how much emphasis do you put on diet and lifestyle? Let’s just start there. How much emphasis do you put on diet and lifestyle?

Dr. Conners: A great deal. Diet and lifestyle really is everything. That is where we got, I think there’s always a because to everything. That get back to paradigm, there’s a cause, there’s a reason why. Sometimes we can change that reason why, sometimes we can’t, sometimes even by changing the reason why, we may not completely change the outcome. Diet and lifestyle, of course, are super important. Now you can affect outcomes beyond just affecting using diet and lifestyle.

I’ll give you an example. We use frequency medicine in our office with Rife technology and things for cancer patients. I’ve had cancer patients come to me over the last 25 years, particularly men, that would say, “Listen, I’m not changing my diet, I’m not changing my lifestyle, and I ain’t taking any supplements. If this Rife thing doesn’t work, then I’m just okay with dying.” They were given three months to live by their oncologist, and they’re still alive 10 years later.

It’s like, what the heck? That person didn’t change anything, just started using that. You got to go be careful, there’s so many facets to this, to this complex thing we call our being. That person’s attitude may have had more effect on his healing than anything, that he was just okay with dying, and he was going to keep moving forward, and he was going to change a few things, and his hopefulness of living is what changed his body chemistry.

We think that if we change diet and lifestyle, that’s going to be our solution. If we don’t deal with the psychology of it, and the emotional piece, the spiritual piece, we’re missing that. There’s a lot of facets to healing. Diet and lifestyle is one of them, or two of them, we could say, that are important. To every single person, each of these facets may carry more weight than others. I can’t even say, if you ask the question, well, what weight would you put on diet and lifestyle? It’s really different for everyone.

Some people will change their diet and lifestyle, but won’t change other things. They still have anxiety through the roof, but they get better. Some people will be my picture-perfect patients of changing their diet and lifestyle, but their anxiety is through the roof, and they continue to slip downhill. They’re not doing well at all. Their disease continues to progress. When we have patients like that, we have to look at what other facets are we missing that maybe that facet is more important for that person than what that person is willing to confront to their lives.

How your emotional response to cancer diagnosis can influence your chance of recovery

Ari: What are some of the most interesting and surprising factors that you’ve found to be important in healing, or you found as important causes of diseases in the patients that you’ve worked with? You can cite specific, maybe rare examples. It doesn’t have to be universal, but I’m just curious what are some of the more unusual factors that you’ve discovered as key needle movers for people.

Dr. Conners: Some of the things over the years have been- probably the biggest thing for me has been that I learned something from people, that I think, when you’re a doctor and you’re studying all this stuff, you think you got it figured out and you’re just going to change a person’s diet and change a person’s lifestyle and their body’s going to turn around and their health is going to turn around, and on a lot of people it does, and on a number of people it doesn’t. You just start to scratch your head and you’ve got to dig to find those other facets that are more important to that person.

Sometimes I think that it’s the pieces that the person, and I’ll use me as the patient as an example. It’s the pieces in my life that I’m least willing to confront and deal with that just may be the most important to confront and deal with, meaning that if I just do not want to change my diet, maybe that’s the thing I absolutely need to change. We need to face that. Get back to your question, some of the most important facets that I see in healing with cancer are different than other diseases.

With cancer, one of the most important factor that I see in healing is the emotional piece, is the psychological piece. We could have a patient, I used this as an example a minute ago, that is just legalistic with their diet and their lifestyle. They don’t cheat on anything. They’re probably way too OCD about their diet and lifestyle. That feeds into their anxiety and they cannot get ahold of their anxiety and be able to deal with their anxiety and their cancer continues to progress. That’s the most common scenario we see. We try to address that anxiety with people because, to me, I’ve just seen it over the years. If people can’t get ahold of that physiological piece of calming down their sympathetic nervous system, their fight or flight nervous system, it makes it very difficult to heal.

That’s, I think, a piece that a lot of practitioners miss. We want to talk about physiology, and when we do, we talk about diet and lifestyle. That has a lot to do with chemistry. Changing that the molecular macronutrients and micronutrients that are going into that person’s body, that’s all chemistry. We forget neurology often. The neurology of that autonomic nervous system and balancing that parasympathetic and sympathetic, and a person hears the C word at their oncologist’s office, they’re in sympathetic overdrive probably already, which could have been a contributing factor that got them there in the first place. Now it’s like you cannot get them down off the cliff.

That is a difficult thing. Working on stimulating parasympathetic and calming sympathetic is a big and sometimes difficult piece to deal with with those people.

Ari: You just made me think of the Einstein quote where he said, “Not everything that can be measured matters, and not everything that matters can be measured.” I think about the typical approach to healthcare, to disease management, disease treatment where it really revolves around a biochemical paradigm where we’re looking at a person’s lab tests and seeing their different ranges of different biochemical markers and determining things from there.

Then you’re talking about this other piece of anxiety and sympathetic overdrive, and that’s something that doesn’t show up on a standard lab test, and it doesn’t even show up on really any of the tests you might get in a functional medicine doctor’s office. You can indirectly assess it via heart rate variability testing, which is not commonly done, but it’s really this idea of like, hey, there are some really important pieces of the story of health and getting well that you can’t see. I don’t care if you spend $10,000 on the most comprehensive functional medicine panel testing and genetic testing and microbiome testing and hormone and saliva testing and everything conceivable. There’s lots of pieces that really matter that won’t show up on any of those tests. I find a lot of people are really locked into this paradigm of we are products of our biochemistry. Do you know what I mean?

Dr. Conners: I totally agree with you. Functional medicine doctors are in the same way that they’re really measuring biochemistry, but what causes everything to happen is your neurology. If you don’t have a proper neurological intervention of a cell, that cell is going to dysfunction. Chiropractors are good at talking about taking pressure off the nerves and things, but that’s one thing. You can have a decreased neurological function due to just how we’re thinking. What’s often said what’s between your ears is more important than anything else. I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I’d say it’s another facet that has to be addressed.

Honestly, some people it doesn’t need to be addressed because those are my patients that are like, “Hey, I have this cancer. I’m okay with dying and going to heaven. I don’t want to right now. I want to see my grandkids. I want to do things, change my diet, my lifestyle, whatever I need to do to get better, but I’m okay with this,” and those are the people that tend to get better, ironically, that are willing to die.

Ari: What specifically do you attribute that to? My interpretation of that would be almost a Buddhist attitude of indifference, of non-attachment, and in the sense that that might lead to more of just a state of calmness and serenity where you’re not freaking out and panicking and having anxiety all the time. As you said, that leading to this chronic state of sympathetic overdrive which is itself very toxic to the system. Maybe it’s just bringing them into more of a state of serenity with the whole thing which helps facilitate healing. Is that how you would interpret that?

Dr. Conners: I do think it is a paradigm that that person has. I think the most common thing is from their spiritual connection, whatever their spiritual connection is. From a Christian worldview, it has to do with the belief that God is sovereign over all things. I am going to spend eternity with Him, and my life here on earth is temporal. I’m okay with when God calls me home, that He’s got a plan that’s bigger than me. There’s other religions that have different philosophies about that, but I do believe that is the neurological piece, but these things are intertwined. Whereas the practice of modern medicine separates everything. You have a neurological issue, you need to go to a neurologist. You got a bladder issue, you need to go to a urologist.

We need to understand that these things can’t be separated. Neurology and chemistry are intertwined as well. Sometimes it’s repairing the chemistry to calm the sympathetics. That can tie to genetics too. If I have genetic defects on my glutamine genes, anytime I eat a lot of glutamine, which is protein, I’m going to produce a lot of glutamate, which are an excitatory neurotransmitter. It is highly used by our sympathetic system. I will have a greater propensity to having OCD issues, anxiety issues, and being stuck in a sympathetic overdrive. That is working on chemistry to calm the neurology. There’s other neurological exercises that a person could do to stimulate the parasympathetics and the vagal nerve and calm the sympathetics and the excitatory neurotransmitter stone.

They are intertwined. Some people don’t have high glutamate issues but could be really cold. I would say for me personally, I think I have probably high glutamate issues. I probably fall on the more OCD spectrum, but from my spiritual perspective, I’m okay with whatever God has for me too. I think that’s all about having that balance. Sometimes it’s some talk therapy and spiritual therapy that we need to give a person and a patient. That’s why for our practice, it’s really important. We do weekly Zoom calls where I group Zoom calls, and a lot of times they’re just counseling with people. I think that’s just as important in healing than changing a person’s diet for some people. Remember, I think that there’s lots of facets and everybody has several facets that are most important for them to deal with. It’s different with everybody. You have to look at each patient uniquely in what they need.

Ari: When you’re dealing with cancer, what do you consider to be a success in that treatment? Granted, some cancers are easier to treat than others but is the goal complete curing of that cancer, so there’s no more tumor? Is the goal to extend life for that person as long as possible? How do you think about what the goal should be?

Dr. Conners: Just as a practitioner, of course, my goal, I think objectively, right? Objectively, I want the cancer gone and then they continue to live their life. Really, because we get that question not uncommonly where people will call and say, what’s your success rate? We can’t give a success rate as alternative practitioners because we legally aren’t treating a disease, we’re treating the patient. Quite honestly, that’s harder to find because really that’s more subjective than it is objective.

Honestly, in my mind, is that patient happy? Sometimes, when a patient is very ill and very uncomfortable and ready to go home, they’re okay from a spiritual perspective. Sometimes death is the best thing for them. I certainly don’t want to live to be 100 if I’m going to suffer the last 20 years of my life. It’s not necessarily the best thing for others around them that love them, but we all are going to die. It’s a matter of comfort, it’s a matter of peace, it’s a matter of– Those are subjective things for each individual.

Of course, me as an objective practitioner, I want to see this thing cured and to see them live a long life. I have to take a step back and say that I believe that’s also in God’s hands. I’m not the one who cures, I’m not the one who fixes people. I just try to lead them and let things happen the way God wants them to happen. I feel like that’s what my role is. Yes, that’s a difficult thing to answer. I think it’s different for every person.

Can you overcome stage 4 cancer?

Ari: Have you seen many cases that are highly responsive to your therapies where you do see complete remission or elimination of the cancer?

Dr. Conners: For sure. Lots of times it’s the most surprising ones. Sometimes I’ll have a person on the phone with a case review and they’ll say, “Do you think my cause, do you think it’s too late?” Because, quite honestly, it’s rare that we get a person that calls us and says, “Hey, I just got a diagnosis of cancer at stage one and I want to do as many things as I can alternatively and treat this as best I possibly can.” Most of the people that call us, “Hey, I’m in stage three or stage four, I’ve already done this chemo and this therapy and I’m a failed medical experiment and now I’m starting to look at alternative.”

Unfortunately, it’s just still the way it is. People will ask, “Do you think it’s too late?” Years ago, I would sometimes think, yes, that it’s too late. I think there are times now, but because I’ve been surprised over the years of some cases, where they came to us, we’re close to Mayo, they were given two weeks to live from Mayo and they come to us and that person got better. It’s like, okay, I’m not going to make that judgment call anymore. We’ve been surprised at turnarounds. Of course those are pleasant surprises to have and ones you take great joy in.

We’ve seen lots of cases where people have cancer, they feel they’re cured. What we try to caution people with cancer is don’t get lazy, don’t get– When you hear that I have no evidence of disease or I’m cured, often people go back to lifestyles that maybe got them there. We try to really caution them about doing that. Not that you want to have in your mind that you have cancer, but you have to keep it in your mind that- I think everybody should keep in their mind that they have cancer cells in them and you should treat yourselves appropriately, but I think the more people can do that, they can stay in a state of remission.

Can a healthy immune system overcome cancer cells?

Ari: Let’s expand on what you just said there. There are some ideas that I think most people have heard over the years that sort of everybody has some cancer cells in them all the time. It’s just a question of to what degree your immune system is doing proper surveillance and elimination of these cancer cells so that they don’t go uncontrolled and grow into large tumors or metastasize. To what degree is that a myth or is it true?

Dr. Conners: I think it’s 100% true. I don’t think there’s a person alive that- maybe some young people, infants, that don’t have cells that are in rapid replication. You can’t medically find cancer unless it’s over 3 million cells large. Your cells are damaged because of all sorts of reasons and they start to rapidly replicate. That turns on a whole genetic piece called your tumor suppressor genes that will stimulate apoptosis cell death and kill that growing mass.

Maybe when it’s 100 cells large, maybe when it’s 1,000 cells large. Your lymphocytes, your T cells and natural killer cells will hopefully attack that cancer and kill it. Then why doesn’t that happen with everybody? Why doesn’t anybody get cancer? That’s a more complex question, because our T cells, our lymphocytes aren’t supposed to kill cell tissue. Our tumor suppressor genes maybe aren’t kicking on as strong as they should or our chemistry is affected, that it’s our T cells, our lymphocytes are dealing with other viruses and bacteria because of a poor environment or because our parasympathetic system is down and that’s what actually stimulates our T cell, B cell production. There’s lots of complexity to that, why we get cancer, but ultimately our body is constantly trying to stay healthy, trying to kill cancer cells. For the most part, 99% of the time it’s doing its job.

Ari: For most cancers, the average age of diagnosis is in the 60s or 70s. I think there’s something there that’s of importance. You said earlier genes aren’t changing, which is correct. Our genes don’t change over a lifespan. What is changing? Why is it that if– For example, if those researchers I made reference to earlier are correct that this is mostly a function of bad luck or bad genes or some combination of the two, why does that seem to happen on average quite late in life? The average lifespan for a male in the United States right now is about 73 and for a female is 79. The average age of cancer diagnosis is fairly close to that. Why is it in the 60s and 70s as opposed to age 10 to 20, if it’s just a combination of bad luck and bad genes? Do you know what I mean? What’s the link between cancer and the aging process?

Dr. Conners: Because I think it has to do with our environment. We pick up toxins. Remember, any given point in time that your rate of toxicity exceeds your rate of detoxification, those toxins can’t stay in the blood. They’re going to be shunted to the extracellular spaces and then inside the cell. They’ll be stored there. I may have mercury, let’s say right now, I probably have mercury stored in different cells from when I got mercury fillings as a kid. You think that I got to go get my mercury fillings out and all my mercury is going to be gone? Mercury has a half-life of probably 15 million years. It’s not going anywhere.

Ari: Isn’t it great that they chose one of the most toxic substances on the planet to fill children’s cavities?

Dr. Conners: Yes. People are still doing it to this day. We’re exposed to so many poisons and those either are going to the toilet or they’re stayed inside your body in the extracellular spaces or inside of a cell. It’s only by the grace of God that that poison inside of a cell hasn’t damaged your DNA and caused rapid replication. In truth, it probably has and your immune system killed it and that growing cancer. Over time, we are more and more toxic. The idea that we could just do this box detox and now I don’t have any toxins in my body, and functional medicine doctors are equally responsible. It’s like, “We did a hair analysis and look, your mercury levels are way down and your arsenic levels are way down in your hair.” [chuckles] If it’s stuck inside of a cell in your thyroid gland cell, it’s still there, you just can’t measure it.

To think that we aren’t toxic, that’s why I wrote my book, The 7 Phases of Detox because we’re just missing understanding that we are either constantly detoxing or we’re constantly accumulating more toxins. That’s what can be to our demise down the road, and over time, it’s certainly going to be more of a risk.

The role of environmental toxins in cancer and autoimmune disease formation

Ari: You see environmental toxin as being central to both cancer and autoimmune disease formation, right?

Dr. Conners: I do, yes.

Ari: What’s your approach to getting rid of the toxins to detoxification?

Dr. Conners: I came up with this seven idea of seven phases of detoxification because I was actually doing a lecture on detoxification. Of course, when you talk about detoxification, you’re talking about the liver. From physiology class, you learn that there’s really three phases of detoxification in the liver. Then I said, “You really don’t have any business supporting those three phases of detoxification until you really support the gallbladder.” Because if you’re grabbing onto toxins in the liver that are going through the blood, changing them from in phase 1 to phase 2, I won’t get into the details, into a certain way. Then phase 2 to phase 3, binding it to bile, but then you have blockage in the gallbladder. It’s like a blockage in the river. You got a dam in the river, it’s going to affect your liver going backwards.

Then, “Okay, fixed my gallbladder. Now I don’t have a blockage in the gallbladder,” but if you are reabsorbing everything in the gut because you have a damaged gut wall and you’re just reabsorbing that stuff, then it’s going right back into the blood void, right back to the liver, and the liver’s going, “Oh my goodness, I just dealt with you two days ago, what in the world are you here for?” You have to deal with that.

I call the gallbladder phase 4, I call the gut issue phase 5, and then making sure that you’re eliminating properly. Some people I talk to say, “Oh yes, I have a bowel movement every three days, like clockwork.” That person’s seriously constipated. You are seriously reabsorbing poisons. I call that phase 6. There’s phase 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Then I said, “Then, when you deal with all of that, then you have the right to start pulling stuff out of the cells and out of the extracellular space.” I call that phase 0, just to keep it in the right order.

Everybody wants to support those ever. All right, but did you fix the gallbladder? Did you fix the gut? Are you eliminating properly? You could do these things all at the same time, but you have to address all those things, certainly before you start using chelators that are going to pull stuff out of the tissue and overwhelm your liver if you have the river blocked at your gallbladder or the gut or something like that. It’s about opening up all those pathways so the river can flow and ultimately, your rate of detoxification is all the way down to the toilet, so that you’re getting out what’s on the inside and you’re getting out what you’re currently exposed to.

Ari: As far as the chelators are concerned, understanding that you have to lay this foundation before you even get to there, as you said, to have the right to go to this phase. Do you have any thoughts on the different chelators that are available? I know that some are controversial, some of the EDTA and things of that nature. Alpha lipoic acid has been suggested by some people, but some people’s claim that things like that or chlorella are not efficient binders, or that they just temporarily pull them out and then put them back into circulation where they’re actually causing more harm. What are your thoughts on efficient ways to actually, really aggressively pull the toxins out? What about modified citrus pectin and charcoal and clay and zeolites and things like that?

Dr. Conners: I think zeolite, to me, the definition of a chelator is something that you absorb and it’s doing its work in the tissues and in the bloodstream. Zeolite does that. Most your charcoals and your clays are going to stay in the gut, so I’d call those binders. Modified citrus pectin will do that in the blood. I label chelators as strong, moderate, and mild chelators. I would say like the DMSA and the EDTA would be the strong ones, and you have to be careful using those at all.

If you still have metal fillings in your mouth, still have mercury fillings, I don’t think you should use any strong chelators. If you have even– Maybe you’re okay with a titanium plate, but if you have like a nickel plate because you had a surgery and a damaged jaw or bone and they put a nickel plate in, I don’t think you should use strong chelators at all, because I think you could just pull stuff from that and that could make you sicker.

I think you’re safer using moderate to mild chelators, like chlorella, I’d say, would be a mild chelator. You got to remember that if you get the river going, sometimes you don’t have to use chelators at all. Your body will start dumping that stuff. That’s the safer way to do it, I think. It’s not about, “Oh my gosh, I got to get these metals out of my body.” If you just get the river going and let your body deal with it and start dumping these things because your cells are going to replace themselves. By the simple act of apoptosis of a cell, the cell’s going to die and break down, it is going to give off what’s inside the cell. That stuff, if the river’s open downstream, it will go through the bloodstream again. If the river’s open, the liver could get rid of it. You don’t necessarily have to jump to the chelators ever. I think you’re better off doing a milder approach.

Can you overcome autoimmune disease?

Ari: Got it. When it comes to autoimmune disease, I have the same question that I had with cancer, which is, how do you conceptualize the goal of treatment? For a lot of autoimmune diseases, they’re considered by conventional medicine to essentially be incurable. That maybe at best, you can slow the progression of them so you have fewer symptoms, but for the most part, it’s thought that you have this for life. Do you conceptualize autoimmune diseases as fully curable or reversible?

Dr. Conners: I think anything could happen, but for the most part, no, I really don’t. I think it’s more about managing it. Though I don’t believe that the first step is to manage it through medications because it has so many other side effects, but managing it through diet and finding– Your biggest thing with autoimmune disease is finding what triggers, because autoimmune disease is when you have antibodies to self-tissue. You have antibodies circulating to self-tissue, so every time you stimulate an immune response, you’re going to kill that which you have antibodies against first, which is you’re going to have more destruction of that self-tissue.

If you have antibodies to your myelin sheath cells, and you’re going to be constantly stimulating immune response through, let’s say, a trigger of you have food antigens. Let’s keep it simple, let’s say you have antigens to gliadin or peptides of gliadin, which is gluten, and you’re still eating gluten. Every time you eat gluten, you’re creating this immune response. Because you have antibodies to gluten, you’re creating this huge immune response, which you’re going to kill that which you have antibodies against, which you’ll kill gliadin, you’ll kill gluten? Those aren’t even killable. They’re not living organisms.

You’re going to kill, if you have antibodies to myelin sheath cells, you’re going to destroy more myelin sheath cells. Your MS or ALS is going to progress the more you eat gluten. If people could just understand that basic immune concept, that if you have self-antibodies circulating in your bloodstream, or your thyroid, or myelin sheath cells, or rheumatoid antibodies to your joint capsules, and you stimulate an immune response, even by getting a cold, you’re going to stimulate an immune response and you are going to just– That’s why people can have a flare when they feel like they get a cold or something, that you can’t do much about.

You can do something about if you’re eating foods that you have antibodies against. Every time you eat that food, so you got to go find out if that is a trigger. If you’re taking a bunch of immune supplements because your practitioner said, “Boy, you need to be on all these immune supplements because of whatever reason,” every time you take that immune supplement, you’re stimulating an immune response, you’re going to kill that which you have antibodies against first, which is your self-tissue.

I think just understanding that simple concept, you could go a long way with calming an autoimmune disease. Like, “Okay, I got to go off my vitamin C and I got to go off my immune stimulants. Boy, I feel better already.” We hear that all the time with autoimmune patients. Doing some good labs that will test for environmental antigens, so environmental antibodies, testing for that. Wow, I have antibodies to mold. I got to go change my environment because I work at this school that’s very moldy. I can tell, the change on an environment, you’re going to decrease your immune flares, which will then decrease the destruction of self-tissue, that autoimmune disease that you have.

It’s finding those triggers, which are essentially finding what you have antibodies against, that you could change your diet or your environment. If you could decrease the triggers, you’re going to decrease the destruction. To answer your question, can you be healed of that? I guess the answer would be healing of an autoimmune disease is you no longer have antibodies to that tissue and the organ has healed itself. I think there has been evidence of that. People have had Hashimoto’s, they’ve had TPO or antibodies, and then they do another blood test and those are within normal range, so I guess there is healing of certain autoimmune diseases, but it is solely whether accidentally or purposefully finding what is the trigger and decreasing that so that the body could heal.

Does food trigger autoimmune disease?

Ari: How common do you think food triggers are in autoimmune conditions? Do you have sort of a go-to list of the specific foods you find as the most common culprits?

Dr. Conners: I think food triggers are almost 100%-

Ari: Wow.

Dr. Conners: -in autoimmune conditions. Maybe people have already dealt with them, so we’ll say that. We might have an autoimmune patient, we do a Cyrex Lab on them and everything’s clean. That’s because they’re already eating a clean diet. They’re gluten-free, they’re dairy-free already, but at one time, it was an issue for that person. They have gone through other practitioners, they’ve cleaned up different things, and now, they’re just trying to figure out some other triggers. Then you have to do some other panels to see if they have mycotoxins or other biotoxin triggers or other chemical antibodies that need to be dealt with.

The most common food triggers obviously, are gluten, dairy, corn. It can vary. It can be some weird things. A lot of those antibodies, once you stay away from that food for a while, will dissipate pretty quickly and you could go back to that food. It doesn’t mean you have to be off of it for the rest of your life. Some maybe with gluten, but many not.

Ari: Very interesting. Are there any other–? Actually, let me have a follow-up question to this issue of food triggers. How do you recommend people go about discovering their unique food triggers?

Dr. Conners: It’s all about antibodies, so you got to do an antibody testing.

Ari: For the antibody testing against-

Dr. Conners: For the foods, yes.

Ari: -foods? Okay. Is this IgE testing or IgG testing?

Dr. Conners: It’s IgG and IgA testing. We recommend Cyrex Labs. I think that’s the most complete lab because I think they’re the only one that tests for– There’s differences in antibodies for cooked versus raw in some of these foods. I think that’s important. We recommend Cyrex Labs for that. I think that’s the best lab. If a person is in a situation from a financial situation where they don’t have the ability to run labs from a financial situation, we recommend just going on an elimination diet. You can find a lot out about just your triggers by doing that.

If have symptoms from your autoimmune disease and you– Let’s use Hashimoto as an example. They have TPO antibodies, and they’re tired and their hair’s falling out, and they don’t have a lot of money to do labs. First of all, you should be gluten-free if you have thyroid issues, because that’s a whole other piece of molecular mimicry that we can’t really get into now. Let’s say they go off of gluten, they’re off of gluten and they still have these symptoms, let’s try dairy. Let’s say, they go off of dairy and their symptoms don’t change. They go off of maybe some of the gluten-free foods or other cross-reactants of gluten, and they find that, let’s pretend corn. “Oh my gosh, I feel so much better after I went off corn.”

You can do a food elimination diet by knowing some of the cross-reactants of different foods or some of the common things that maybe you substituted when you went off of gluten per se. You’re eating gluten-free food, that has a whole bunch of this, this, this in it. Maybe you’ve developed a sensitivity to that, let’s go off of that. Food elimination process, it can take maybe a little bit longer, but it’s free. If a person is motivated, they could do that.

How mindset can influence healing

Ari: Final question for you. How do you conceptualize the role of the mind, the power of the mind and spirituality, which you’ve alluded to a number of times in this conversation, in the context of healing from chronic disease?

Dr. Conners: I don’t think anybody could argue with the fact that it affects our autonomics. It affects our sympathetics versus parasympathetics and that balance. If we’re trusting fully in God and from a spiritual perspective, and that can give us a lot of calming parasympathetic increase in parasympathetic tone, which your parasympathetics control your detoxification pathways, they control your immune function, they control your relaxation, et cetera, so that’s important.

The other power of the mind in just your belief system, boy, there’s been study after study in that, that is huge. That is what you believe. Now, is it neurological functioning and autonomic? Is it neurological functioning and just how your body chemistry changes because of that belief? I think there’s multiple facets to what goes on in your mind, and what you think about, and what you’re focusing on. I think it affects us chemically and it affects us neurologically. I don’t think you can argue with your belief system and the power of your desire.

Ari: Dr. Conners, are there any final words that you want to leave people with before we go?

Dr. Conners: Just that there’s always hope. Never give up hope. Some of the saddest conversations that I’ve had over the years is where people have this level of hopelessness. I think that’s true from a– Worldwide, with everything that we’ve been through the last few years, there is a level of hopelessness that has crept in to people’s lives. We don’t see maybe the potentiality within our difficult circumstances as being positive as much as we used to in years gone by. If we could just stay focused on what is good and pure and holy and righteous, I think that is– That’s what I have to remind myself of every day. I think we need to remind each other of that.

Ari: Dr. Conners, thank you for coming on the show. I really enjoyed this. Let people know where they can follow you or get in touch with you to work with you.

Dr. Conners: You just go to our website, connersclinic.com. You can schedule a time to talk with me. We’ve got a ton of free resources and we have a number of courses on autoimmune disease and cancer and things like that, if people want to work through them themselves as well.

Ari: Wonderful. Thank you so much.

Dr. Conners: Thank you.

Show Notes

00:00 – Intro
01:52 – Guest intro – Dr. Kevin Conners
03:03 – What makes people ill?
09:09 – Is cancer just a matter of bad luck?
18:15 –  Should you focus on diet and lifestyle in healing?
22:00 – How your emotional response to cancer diagnosis can influence your chance of recovery
35:35 – Can you overcome stage 4 cancer?
38:32 – Can a healthy immune system overcome cancer cells?
44:15 – The role of environmental toxins in cancer and autoimmune disease formation
50:45 – Can you overcome autoimmune disease?
56:12 – Does food trigger autoimmune disease?
1:00:35 – How mindset can influence healing

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