Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rediscovery of the Gut Brain: the Role of Serotonin
One of the more interesting aspects of Dr. Gershon’s work is that his discovery of the enteric nervous system was actually a rediscovery. One hundred years ago researchers had classified the nervous system of the gut as distinctly different from the rest of the peripheral nervous system.
In 19th century England two researchers Bayliss and Sterling, working with dogs, identified what they called the “law of the intestine” now known as peristaltic reflex. They showed that this reflex continued even when all connection to the central nervous system was eliminated. They concluded that since all reflex is associated with nervous system response that the gut must function with what they called a “local nervous system” of the gut.
It was also known that there was a significant quantity of nervous tissue in the gut. A German scientist, Auerbach, had identified a complex network of nerve cells and fibers (the myenteric plexus) wedged between the two layers of muscle that encircle the gut. Later there was an additional discovery of a smaller plexus in the submucosa (submucosa plexus) of the gut. Both of these discoveries were prior to the work of Bayliss and Sterling, thus they had reason to attribute their findings to a “local nervous system”
The groundbreaking aspect of these early discoveries was that the gut worked independently of any direction from the head brain/central nervous system. All organs have connection to the central nervous system and all but the gut cease to function when that connection is cut.
So what happened? Why was it necessary for Gershon and others to rediscover the gut brain? This is actually discussed in Gershon’s book The Second Brain. Essentially the description of the enteric nervous system, the gut brain that was contained in early texts literally disappeared as the neurotransmitter for first the parasympathetic nervous system, acetylcholine, and later the neurotransmitter for the sympathetic nervous system, norepinephrine, were identified.
This orderly system of two aspects of the peripheral nervous system with two identified neurotransmitters led to the gradual assumption that the gut brain was simply part of the parasympathetic nervous system. This of course was completely dismissive of what earlier researchers had discovered, that compared to the number of nerve cells in the myenteric plexus and the submucosa plexus (the tissues of the gut brain), the number of motor nerve fibers connecting the brain or spinal cord to the gut is incredibly small. It appears that there are some two thousand nerve fibers heading from the vagus nerve to the gut and yet there are over one hundred million nerve cells in the human small intestine. This aspect of the enteric nervous system was completely out of sync with the conditions that allowed for the classifications sympathetic and parasympathetic.
The advancements in understanding how the nervous system communicates with itself and the rest of the body provided the foundations on which Gershon would later identify serotonin as the principal neurotransmitter of the gut brain. His work on serotonin and its role in the gut brain lead to the rediscovery of the enteric nervous system and his rightful place as the father of neurogastroenterology.
In my next post we will begin to understand that serotonin is likely the link that combines IBS and migraine. It is clear that serotonin is playing a role in migraine as the triptan drugs provide relief by altering serotonin levels. It is also clear that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac can have an impact on depression and mood. And yet the gut brain research shows that some 95% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut…95%! It is indeed the principal neurotransmitter of the gut brain and plays many roles.
Is there any evidence that other diseases that affect the head brain also have impact in the gut brain? The answer is a resounding yes and it is probably the part of Gershon’s book that literally had my mouth drop wide open. Doctors performing autopsies on Parkinson’s patients and Alzheimer’s patients find lesions in the brains of these patients indicative of each disease. Identical lesions are found in the tissues of the gut brain of these same patients. Nobody knows if these diseases are starting in the head brain and moving to the gut, starting in the gut and moving to the brain or starting both places at the same time.
This research is clearly showing that conditions previously considered to only affect the brain are also affecting the digestive system. It certainly opens the door of possibility that migraine and ibs both related to serotonin could be the same disease occurring in different locations. At the very least we have to be willing to recognize that if you have a problem in your head, you very well may have a problem in your gut.
Thanks for reading, I look forward to your comments and questions,


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stress, the Gut Brain and IBS and Migraine.

We all know stress is bad for us most of the time. Clearly the stress response can be beneficial when it prepares our bodies to respond to a stressful situation. The doctors tell us that chronic stress can be detrimental to heart health, lung function and neurological function just to name a few. But why? What is it about stress that is bad for us…if it is a natural biological response to stimuli, why and how is it detrimental? And more importantly how can it be playing a role, notice I said role not direct cause, in the formation of migraine and/or IBS?

From my last post you will remember that the autonomic nervous system, the part that controls the functions of our bodies outside our conscious control, like breathing, heart beat, digestion, etc. is divided into the sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system. The sympathetic system is the one that responds to stress and the related hormones adrenaline and cortisol. It diverts the body’s energy to the large muscle groups for fight or flight.

The parasympathetic system is in control when we are relaxed and it directs the body’s energy away from the fight and flight systems to the body’s normal functions like digestion. With that reminder lets talk about stress and how it plays a role in chronic illness like migraine and IBS.

When our ancestors had a stressful event it is because they walked around a boulder and found themselves face to face with a saber toothed tiger. Immediately, the sympathetic nervous system took complete charge and high levels of adrenaline and cortisol diverted all the body’s energy to the muscular system, legs for running like hell, or the arms for beating the tiger over the head with a club. The caveman did not have to take a break in the battle to go to the bathroom. This is because in the heat of battle and full sympathetic control there is no energy going to the digestive system and so its function is essentially shut down.

Once our ancestors escaped from or defeated the tiger, their stressful event was over and the parasympathetic system regained dominance over the body. Blood pressure was lowered, heart rate reduced, muscle tension relaxed and the body’s energy was available for the functions that dominate when the human organism is relaxed. Principal amongst those would be digestion. It is estimated that some 30-40% of the body’s energy on an ongoing basis is utilized by the digestive function.

When you stop to think about it this estimate would even seem low. Nothing is more critical to the health and survival of the human body than digestive function. One of the main realizations I gained from Gershon’s book was a very deep appreciation for the complexity and remarkable ability of the digestive system, both its structures and functions. This appreciation is not simply for its role in digestive function which is complex enough, but also from the realization that some 80% of the body’s immune function is located in the digestive system and now with Gershon’s work we understand that there is a huge neurological component to the gut.

So here is the point, obviously we don’t run into saber toothed tigers today. Few of us face true live or death, full bore, fight or flight situations. So we never have a situation where the parasympathetic response is so severe that 100% of the body’s energy is diverted to the fight or flight muscles. However, many of us live with chronic levels of stress. We don’t have the same level of adrenaline and cortisol coursing our veins that our ancestors did, when confronted by the saber toothed tiger, but we have some level. We are worried about the kids or our jobs, or getting dinner ready or getting to soccer practice. We stress about our relationships and whether people like us or if we are doing our job to the satisfaction of our bosses, the list goes on and on. This type of stress is very evident in most of our lives, a lot of the time.

It seems logical that with chronic stress we put our bodies in a situation where instead of having 30-40% of the body’s energy available to our digestive systems we are trying to accomplish the intricate role of digestion with 15% or 28% or 23% or who knows what the number is but with chronic stress putting the sympathetic and parasympathetic system in confusion there is no ability for the digestive system to operate at optimum levels.

What does this mean? On the most simplistic level it means the body is not able to function normally. Stress literally causes the breakdown of normal function. In one person…they may not have the energy to properly digest their protein resulting in an inadequate supply of key amino acid building blocks that allow for the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, by the way Gershon and his colleagues have shown that some 95% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut. Another person may not be absorbing nutrients essential in the formation of hormones thereby affecting a women’s cycle in a way that may lead to migraine. Still another may suffer the direct affect of stress on the tissues of the gut and manifest the symptoms we call IBS.

Am I making a definitive claim about the role of stress in the formation of specific diseases…no. However what I am saying is that the doctors who have inspired my work, those who believe that all chronic illness is related to the human organism not functioning well, they certainly believe that stress is playing a role in the breakdown of normal function and they see stress has having a direct impact on digestive function.

I would appreciate your help in one area. It has become apparent to me that modern medicine thinks that digestive function just takes care of itself. I can find very little research within the dominant paradigm about the role of the digestive system in human health. I am not referring to research on digestive illnesses like IBS or colitis or Crohn’s but rather research that discusses what happens within the organism when digestive function is compromised, so any guidance anyone could provide would be greatly appreciated.

I hope I have helped you to understand the role that stress plays in creating conditions that may be leading to both migraine and IBS and frankly other chronic illnesses as well. In my next post we will get back to the gut brain and the discussion of Gershon’s work and the role the gut brain may be playing in migraine and IBS. As always your comments and questions are welcomed.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Nervous System and the Gut Brain a/k/a the Enteric Nervous System

I want to start today by being clear as to who deserves the credit for the knowledge and function of the gut brain that I am sharing with you in this blog. His name is Michael D. Gershon, M.D., Professor and Chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Columbia University. His is the recognized father of the field of neurogastroenterology, the study of the gut brain, also known as the enteric nervous system. He is also the author of The Second Brain: Your Gut Has a Mind of Its Own, which was published in 1998 by HarperCollins.

I have found his work and book to be extremely inspirational in opening the doors of possibility in identifying potential root causes of neurological issues like migraine and digestive issues like IBS. I cannot encourage you enough to read his book. I must also warn you that the book is a difficult read, even some of my doctor friends have considered it challenging. Consequently, I have written an electronic “cliff notes” version of the book that I am happy to share with you. Simply send an email request to and I will send you a copy. By the way I met Dr. Gershon at Columbia and gave him a copy of my effort. He seemed pleased that someone was trying to get the word out.

Today we are going to discuss the body’s nervous system, as identifying its structures will provide the understanding of how the gut brain fits into the system and allow you to see some possibilities as we later discuss that IBS and migraine may very well have common root causes.

However, first I want to make a few comments on the study reported yesterday in the national news regarding the link between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and residual pesticides in those who suffer. If you spend any time on our ForeverWell website ( you understand that we believe that most all chronic illness is caused by the breakdown of normal function of the body. More specifically we argue that the breakdown is caused by two major, yet simplistic factors, either the body is not getting something that it needs, a combination of dietary choices and how well the digestive system is functioning, or the body is not eliminating something it cannot use, that is, the body to some degree or another is toxic.

I find this study interesting because it shows a direct link between a chronic illness/disorder and poor detoxification. Clearly it supports our arguments about the root causes of disease. Many in the ADHD community believe there is a genetic component or cause. We would argue that that genetic predisposition may very well be triggered by an unmanageable toxic load. This study, and if you did not see the report just put ADHD and pesticide into any search engine and you will find that all major news agencies filed stories on the subject yesterday, shows that our neurological systems are susceptible to the effects of toxicity.

It is important to realize that while it is easy to see pesticides as toxins; our bodies are bombarded by toxicity from a variety of sources. In addition to pesticide and herbicide residue in our foods there are also toxins in the air we breathe and the water we drink. Our bodies create toxins in the process of life. Our metabolism, the burning of our energy at a cellular level creates waste products that must be removed from the body. If our organs of detoxification are not functioning at an optimum level we can be toxic without the effects of external sources like pesticides.

Is it possible that a level of toxicity that seems to create ADHD in children could affect another person’s nervous system in a way that results in IBS or migraine?

Now on to our conversation about the structure and function of the body’s nervous system and how the gut brain fits into this system. Our nervous system is very complex and yet there is simplicity to the basic plan.

We can look at the entire system as being composed of a central nervous system (CNS) and a peripheral nervous system (PNS). In this view the head brain and the spinal cord make up the CNS and the PNS includes everything else. While there is a great deal of synergistic operation between the systems, the central nervous system is clearly in charge. Direction flows from the CNS to the peripheral system and information detected by the body’s sensory receptors travels back to the central nervous system for analysis.

The PNS can be further divided into the voluntary nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. The voluntary system allows for our conscious movement of our skeletal and muscular systems while the autonomic regulates bodily function outside our consciousness such as breathing, heartbeat, digestion and internal reaction to stimulus. The autonomic system is further divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic system responds to danger or stress. It raises the heart rate and blood pressure, stimulates the release of cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones, and essentially is that part of the nervous system that prepares us for fight or flight. The parasympathetic system on the other hand, is playing its role when someone is relaxed, lowering heart rate and blood pressure and in general down regulating our internal systems. Additionally, the parasympathetic system stimulates the process of digestion.

For most of the 20th century the gut brain, also known as the enteric nervous system was considered part of the parasympathetic nervous system. And that made a lot of sense because it was pretty obvious that when you are in a stressful situation, when the fight and flight mechanisms are in charge you are not thinking of digestive function. In the most severe cases of impending danger, your digestive system literally shuts down. This is because the sympathetic system is fully activated and in charge and directing internal mechanism that divert the body’s energy to large muscle groups…legs for escaping the danger and arms for defending oneself. In contrast when the body’s mechanisms are down regulated by the parasympathetic system the body has the energy available to operate the digestive processes.

It was Dr. Gershon and his colleagues whose discoveries began to force the scientific community to rethink their classification of the enteric nervous system as simply part of the parasympathetic system. The first and most obvious bit of information in their path to discovery was that compared to the number of nerve cells in the nerve complexes of the gut brain, the number of motor nerve fibers connecting the brain or spinal cord to the gut is incredibly small. It appears that there are some two thousand nerve fibers heading from the vagus nerve to the gut and yet there are over one hundred million nerve cells in the human small intestine. This aspect of the enteric nervous system was completely out of sync with the conditions that allowed for the classifications sympathetic and parasympathetic.

As Gershon states “The enteric nervous system differs from the sympathetic and parasympathetic in its anatomical and functional independence from the brain and spinal cord. It is this separate-but-equal classification of the enteric nervous system that still surprises audiences of doctors and even neuroscientists”.

Further research has revealed, as I mentioned in an earlier post, that the nerve structures of the gut brain have been shown to have decision making capacity. This requires the presence of interneurons.

Again to quote Gershon, “Interneurons are the cells that add the layers of complexity and sophistication that distinguish the central and enteric nervous systems from the banal peripheral ganglia found outside the bowel. The nerves of the gut do not just slavishly pass signals from sensory receptors to muscles, glands, or blood vessels. Because of its interneurons, the enteric nervous system can modulate and process the information it receives. Serotonin, I speculated, as the neurotransmitter of an interneuron, might be one of the molecules that enable the bowel to function as an independent information-processing center, i.e. a second brain.”

The research is absolutely definitive that our gut brain operates most of the digestive processes without any direction from the central nervous system. The gut brain is orchestrating the various aspects of digestion because it has the ability to make decisions and direct the organs of digestion on its own.

With this information in hand you might find it interesting, as I did, to do a search on IBS and the gut brain. While it might seem less obvious that there is a connection between the gut brain and migraine (we will get to that later) it would seem entirely obvious that the gut brain could be having a causative role in IBS. However when you read the various sites that come up when you do an IBS gut brain search they are still focused on the brain gut connection, trying to make the claim that the head brain is still in charge of the digestive processes. There seems to be an effort to downplay the research and insights that Dr. Gershon and others in the field of neurogastroenterology have provided.

Enough for now, more to come, I would appreciate your thoughts and comments.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

One of my first thoughts when I heard about the gut brain was where is it? I remember biology class and studying anatomy and we all have seen pictures of our insides. Many of us could identify the brain, heart, stomach, liver, small intestines and large intestines, maybe even the pancreas, kidneys, spleen and gall bladder, but where the heck is the gut brain?? I don’t remember seeing it identified in the pictures.

The answer is quite simple. The reason you have never seen a picture of the gut brain is that the nerve tissues and complexes that make up the gut brain lie in the lining of the tube that runs from our mouth to our anus. That tube, our digestive system, includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach and small and large intestines. Please understand that there are various subsections of many of the parts of the tube but we will keep things simple until later.

When we stop to understand the vast and complex responsibilities of this tube, our digestive system, we begin to appreciate why it requires a “brain of its own”. Digestion is no small task. Not only must the food we eat and the liquids we drink be broken down into the exact nutrients that our cells can utilize but waste products, infectious agents and foreign substances must be separated from the nutrients so that the body only absorbs that which it can actually use.

The digestive system must carefully control each step of the process and the gut brain orchestrates this amazingly complex activity like the conductor of an orchestra. It is the gut brain that instructs the stomach to release the appropriate amount of acid, the pancreas when to release various digestive enzymes and tells the gall bladder when more bile is required to name just a few of the steps it controls. Additionally, it decides when the nutrients are truly in the form that they should be allowed to be absorbed through the mucosal lining of the intestines and into the blood stream for distribution to all the cells of the body.

In my next post we will talk about the body’s nervous system and where and how the gut brain fits into the hierarchy. For now let me just comment that what makes the gut brain a brain is its ability to make decisions. Researchers discovered the existence and function of interneurons in the nerve complexes that make up the gut brain. Interneurons are the cells that allow the gut brain to process information and make decisions. Previously, only the cells of the central nervous system (the head brain) had shown this ability.

Next time we will talk about the body’s nervous system and then with the basic components explained we can start to see how the health of our gut brain can have a causative role in both IBS and migraine. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. Thanks, Tom

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Although I have attempted to be a dedicated blogger in the past, I have not been successful in that intention. Our Gut Brain Therapy for Migraine Prevention and our website ( has been primarily focused on the treatment of migraine. However our focus on the digestive system and the gut brain as a potential root cause of migraine has attacted many migraine sufferers who are also dealing with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive issues.

Therefore, I have decided that we need to focus on those who have some understanding of the comorbid conditions of migraine and irritable bowel. Many of you have commented to me, after reading our site, that you always felt a direct connection between your migraines and your gut. The gut brain research and the evolving field of neurogastroenterology, the study of the gut brain, will provide you with compelling evidence to support your "gut feelings".

Over the next 30-60 days you will learn a lot about our gut brain and the amazing links between your gut and your brain and why we believe there is solid scientific evidence to consider that both IBS and migraine have their root causes in the neurological tissues of the gut brain.

We hope you enjoy this blog and the evidence we present. While our discussion will be guided by the research and an in depth explanation of the enteric nervous system, also known as the gut brain, we will also do our best to respond to your comments and questions, so please do not be shy in sharing your thoughts.

The post below is a copy of my earlier explanation of how and why we developed Gut Brain Therapy for Migraine Prevention. It will give you a good idea of how and why we are presenting this new way of looking at migraine and IBS. You will find that we have done our best to combine the best of both worlds, both the philosophies of natural medicine and modern, university based, medical research. Thanks for taking the time to read our information. For more details on Gut Brain Therapy visit our website .


Welcome to our blog. ForeverWell is dedicated to introducing a new way of treating migraine disease. Our philosophy and approach have their roots in traditional healing philosophies and are supported by leading edge, university based, medical research in the growing field of neurogastroenterology. While focused on migraine we believe our approach also has application with any neurological (depression, ADHD, anxiety, etc.) or gastrointestinal (irritable bowel, gastric reflux, colitis, etc.) condition. To learn more about neurogastroenterology see Michael Gershon, MD’s book The Second Brain. You can also receive a free detailed description of his work by sending an email request to .

The purpose of this blog is to establish a place for an ongoing dialogue with our customers and those interested in our work. Your questions and comments will guide our discussions so please feel free to ask questions or challenge anything. You will find additional information and specifics about our treatment approach on our website .

I have been studying migraine for the last ten years and I speak daily with migraine sufferers. I can only say that I am shocked, appalled, and saddened by the level of suffering that most of you are forced to tolerate. Most often I am talking with people who have been suffering from migraine for 10-30 years. They have been on a wide variety of medications over the years and are frustrated, desperate and skeptical. I don’t understand how, as a society, we can have annual marches for diseases that affect 500,000 and largely ignore a disease that affects over 30 million.

My heart goes out to all of you and I am determined to play an important role in unmasking this devastating disease. I trust you will learn and understand that I am sincere in trying to introduce new ideas and new views in how to treat migraine disease. I also trust that your interest is sincere and my only request is that we keep the discussion open, honest and respectful.

In order to establish a starting point for understanding the philosophies and belief system that serve as the foundation of ForeverWell and our approach to treating migraine disease please consider the following:

1. The dominant medical community, the one that focuses on the use of drugs and surgery in their treatments, does an outstanding job in the treatment of infectious disease, trauma care and extension of life issues. Their success in the treatment of chronic disease on the other hand is relatively limited. No one knows this better than migraine sufferers who often feel like human guinea pigs. Most of you have tried a vast array of migraine and off label pharmaceutical drugs with limited success. This is not to devalue the attempts the pharmaceutical companies and doctors have made to eliminate the suffering of migraine patients. Indeed, there are successes and even dramatic examples of pharmaceutical interventions improving the quality of life of migraine sufferers. The triptan drugs come immediately to mind.

2. It is clear that one of the reasons for the lack of success in the pharmaceutical treatment of chronic disease in general and migraine in particular is that most all diseases are described in the medical literature as incurable and of unknown cause. This is certainly true of migraine. This leaves the treatment of symptoms as the only alternative. There is nothing wrong with this approach in that anything that can successfully deal with the pain of migraine is a welcome intervention. However, as long as treatments are focused on symptoms there is little hope of actually recovering from the disease. Please note that there is always new research providing deeper insight into the biochemistry and physiology of migraine. However these insights are again focused on the symptoms of migraine because the root cause is considered unknown.

3. At this point there is no reason to believe that the answer to migraine disease will come from the continued research into the physiology of symptoms. Improved pain medication or abortive treatments sure, but not resolution of migraine disease.

4. Most of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is also focused on the treatment of symptoms. Sometimes herbal, nutritional, homeopathic, or physical medicine modalities are more gentle and more effective than treating symptoms with drugs and sometimes they are less effective than pharmaceutical approaches.

5. There are a handful of doctors out there who consistently get sick people well. Their success rate with migraine and other chronic diseases is far superior to that of the colleagues. For a variety of reasons, which I will discuss in future posts, I became familiar with them and their work. Some are MDs, some are chiropractors, others are naturopaths or nutritionists. The common thread that connects them all is a philosophy as to the root cause of disease that guides their treatment efforts. They believe that disease including migraine is caused by the breakdown of normal function of the body and their job as doctors is to help return the body to normal function. Their experience shows them that as the body works better the various symptoms of disease dissipate and then disappear. They are also guided by a deep faith and reliance in #6 which follows.

6. The human body is an amazingly intelligent organism. Whether you believe in evolution, intelligent design, or creationism it is clear that by design the human organism is not only capable of healing itself, it is also constantly trying to do so. Therefore, if disease is present there must be some obstacle to the cure, something stopping the body from returning to balance. What I have learned from the best of the best doctors out there is that the principal obstacles to cure are either the body is not getting what it needs, the body is not eliminating something it cannot use or the vitality is low. To the extent that these areas can be successfully addressed most migraine sufferers will recover from migraine disease.

7. The balancing and counterbalancing mechanisms of the body have a tremendous capacity to compensate for insults and abuses that the body absorbs from our dietary choices, environmental toxins in the food we eat, the air we breathe and the various liquids we drink. Additionally, the emotional stress of daily life can have a detrimental effect on the human organism. Understanding how to help the body in its determination to be balanced and healthy is the primary purpose of this blog and of ForeverWell.


While my efforts for the last ten years have been focused on migraine, my career in medicine began about 20 years ago as the result of an entrepreneurial opportunity. I was intimately involved in starting a company that made a nutritional supplement that we marketed to the alternative doctor market. I was the only member of our company who had any sales or marketing experience so it was up to me to attend the various complementary and alternative medical (CAM) conferences all over the country. My lack of medical or scientific training was a hindrance in the beginning but in the long term proved to be a blessing as you will see.

Almost from day one I fell in love with my new career. I started attending a wide variety of CAM conferences including chiropractic, naturopathic, Chinese medicine, nutritional medicine, and even conferences for MDs and DOs that were doing alternative therapies. I started out thinking I was going to meet a bunch of quacks but I quickly realized that I was meeting a lot of individual health care practitioners who were dedicated to helping their patients get well. Sure there were some whackos and charlatans in the group but the overwhelming majority were good people searching for the best answers they could find.

I was introduced to homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, functional medicine, therapeutic massage, chelation, ozone therapy, cranial/sacral massage, energetic healing, electro dermal screening, a vast array of nutritional therapies, and on and on. You name it, I was exposed to it. I found it all fascinating and largely confusing. I could not figure out how the various components of CAM fit together.

You understand this from your own experience. We all have some sense that there is something good about alternative medicine but we are not sure what and so we turn to the Internet, the health food store and the book store to learn more. The result is that we get overwhelmed and confused. Too many products, too many stories and modalities, we simply do not know which way to turn or whom to believe.

I had the perfect learning opportunity as I was attending all the major conferences. I started sitting in the lecture hall and reading all the books and for awhile I just got more confused and overwhelmed. There was no apparent path to clarity, no guiding philosophy through the morass that is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Slowly but surely the uncertainly lifted and I found a path to clarity and a guiding philosophy. This will be the subject of my next post.


My clarity came from doctors, some of whom are the guiding lights of ForeverWell. The product I was marketing to the CAM doctors was a predigested, peptide based, protein concentrate (now the main ingredient in ForeverWell Foundation Formula) that was very good for digestive problems of all types. My customers would see me at various conventions and report that they were getting great results with irritable bowel, colitis, constipation, chronic diarrhea, etc. Naturally, I responded that I was pleased that they were happy with the product and asked that they continue to use it.

There were a small number of doctors, less than 1% of my customer base, who were also my best customers. They reported they were seeing great results with all the digestive problems but additionally, they were getting excellent results with migraine, diabetes, arthritis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, MS and other chronic conditions. My reaction was "whoa, slow down, I'm not a snake oil salesman, what is this all about?" First they explained that they believed that digestive dysfunction, whether it was diagnosed or not, played a role in almost all chronic disease and since the predigested, peptide based, protein powder was working on the obvious digestive problems they were adding it to their protocols for the other disease states and seeing better results. It is important to recognize that they were not using my product by itself but as an addition to their standard treatments for these other diseases and it was stimulating noticeably improved outcomes.

On a deeper level these doctors began to share with me their philosophy as to the root cause of chronic disease. They believe that disease is the result of the breakdown of normal function of the body and their job as doctors is to focus on the needs of the body rather than the treatment of symptoms. They deeply honor the wisdom of the human body. They believe the human organism is not only capable of healing itself, but it is also constantly trying to do so. If disease is present there must be some obstacle to the cure. The best way to cure disease is to honor the wisdom of the body and remove the obstacles to cure. The two principal obstacles are either the body is not getting something it needs, or it is not eliminating something it cannot use.

My first reaction to hearing their ideas and explanation was that it spoke to my intuitive knowledge as to how the body works. My second reaction was that it could not be that simple. My third reaction was to wonder that if these doctors were being guided day by day and patient by patient by a philosophy as to what causes disease, what is guiding everyone else. What is the basis for the other treatment protocols that were being used? What does everyone else think causes disease? These questions inspired me to do so research in the medical literature relative to the definition and cause of all the various chronic diseases including migraine.

I was shocked to learn that all the chronic diseases are essentially described as incurable diseases of unknown cause. Some are called auto immune which means the body attacks itself but when you ask why, the answer is we do not know. So the great majority of health care practitioners of all types are focused on the only thing they can do...treat our symptoms. This is not, by itself, a bad thing. When a migraine strikes and a triptan drug can cut it short and return the migraineur to an acceptable quality of life that is a very good thing. The sad part is that it does nothing to stop the next migraine from coming.

This realization that most all pharmaceutical treatments as well as most alternative treatments were focused on our symptoms left me with one burning question. What if the other doctors were correct? What if disease is simply the breakdown of normal function in an intelligent human organism that is striving to be healthy? What if many if not most people suffering from chronic disease would get better if the focus of treatment was helping the body work better?

I turned to my best customers, the doctors who deeply believed in this “heal the body don’t treat the symptoms” philosophy, and said "I think what you have taught me is that if we make a great digestive product (give the body what it needs) and a great liver/kidney product (make sure the body is able to eliminate what it cannot use) and use this combination to treat a particular disease we should see good results." They responded that yes they thought that was true. I said "okay, let's do migraine." When they asked why migraine I said "because there are over 30 million sufferers and there is not much helping them, if we can make a difference in migraine, then people will pay attention to your philosophy.”

This was the beginning of ForeverWell. We are determined to inspire you to consider a new way of looking at migraine and more importantly how to recover from the disease. I have come to realize that our guiding philosophy the whole idea of honoring the wisdom of the body is reflected in most of the traditional healing methods. You find this same philosophy reflected in naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, ayurveda from India, and most of the native culture healing traditions. They all honor the wisdom of the body.

I kept believing that somewhere in modern medical research there had to be someone who was providing evidence that supported this philosophy. I just believe that the more we learn about how the body works that the research will provide knowledge that honoring the wisdom of the body makes perfect sense. Perhaps the best example of that research is the field of neurogastroenterology which will be the subject of my next post. Thanks for reading; I welcome your comments and questions. Tom