Dr. Weiss was the first naturopathic physician to complete a residency program in the Columbia Hospital System, the Arizona Heart Hospital, and the prestigious Arizona Heart Institute. In his 13 years of practice as a naturopathic cardiologist, Dr. Weiss has helped thousands of patients avoid bypass and angioplasty surgeries by targeting the root cause of heart disease: oxidation and inflammation.
Many of Dr. Weiss’ patients are people in very advanced stages heart disease who have been let down by conventional medicine. Dr. Weiss was kind enough to chat about his work on both preventing and treating heart disease.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): In your opinion, where does the medical community fall short when it comes to treating heart disease?
Dr. Weiss: Many cardiologists start using natural healing methods only after they have performed bypass surgeries; whereas I start with natural medicine and go from there. I like to say I’m not an “integrative” doctor, but rather “outegrative” doctor. The people that see me want to avoid bypass surgery and move away from medications.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What sort of patients do you usually treat?
Dr. Weiss: Very seldom do I get healthy people. I get people who have failed in the conventional system. Very sick people.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What is the root cause of heart disease?
Dr. Weiss: I think there are four underlying causes:
1) Oxidation of cholesterol from diet and toxicity. There are people in extreme northern and southern regions with very high cholesterol but no heart attacks. Good healthy fats are OK, but when you introduce trans-fats and sugar, that’s when people get sick. It doesn’t matter how much cholesterol you have, if it doesn’t become oxidized there is no problem. This is why antioxidants are so important.
2) Inflammation. In the 1900’s we were dying from infectious diseases. In this day and age we are dying form inflammatory diseases like cancer and heart disease. It’s tricky – we think of inflammation like a thumb swelling after being shut in a car door. It’s really the chronic inflammation – GI tract inflammation, joint pain, skin conditions, bad gums – that set off the process of creating the blockages of the heart. By using natural products to treat inflammation, you decrease your risk of heart disease because of both the anti-inflammatory properties as well as the antioxidants. It is how you treat the inflammation that is as important as anything.
3) Nutrient Depletion. If our bodies aren’t absorbing the vitamins and minerals we are taking in, that can lead to deficiencies which in turn can wreak havoc on our hearts.
4) Mental/Emotional Component. Depression and heartache can tear your heart apart as much as any of the other factors.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): How would one know if oxidation is occurring in their bodies?
Dr. Weiss: Oxidation is difficult to test for. Labs can help, but we really need to look at a good clinical history of the patient. If they are coming in eating white flour, rice, sugar, fast food – they’re oxidized. If they have fatty livers, or are alcoholics – they’re oxidized. In those cases we will use a lot of antioxidants to treat them. Medical Doctors try to block production of cholesterol – this is not successful and there are a lot of side effects that come with it. Cholesterol is needed for every cell of the body. Stepping down production of it – let’s just say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. You trade off big parts for what’s going on in the liver.
In our clinic, we use antioxidants like Indian gooseberry (Amla), and vitamin E. I also use alpha-lipoic acid because it helps to recycle the antioxidants in the body throughout the day.
I have the lowest amount of heart attacks of any physician I have heard of and I see more late stage patients than anyone. I believe you can block oxidation.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): Isn’t there some controversy when it comes to using vitamin E?
Dr. Weiss: There is really no such thing as “vitamin E” – it’s really a group of compounds called ‘tocopherols’. They are all so different from each other and most supplements you can buy are made from acetone, which I don’t recommend. The thing is that the data is so overwhelmingly positive when it is NATURAL forms of tocopherols. High gamma mixed tocopherol is something that is, in my opinion, very protective for the heart.
Buying vitamin E from companies who conduct and stay above the research is key. Like they say – “friends don’t let friends go to Costco to buy their supplements.” Remember, disease is always more expensive than health.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): You mentioned another supplement, Indian gooseberry – can you tell us more about that?
Dr. Weiss: The science behind Indian gooseberry is phenomenal. This is literally the breakthrough we needed in the botanical world for cardiology. There are few downsides, and has a wonderful historical use in India, so the safety is well documented. It comes in capsules.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What’s your thought on taking aspirin for prevention for heart disease?
Dr. Weiss: Aspirin is not a miracle drug – it’s a drug. For every aspirin you take, you bleed about a teaspoon full of blood (internally). We are talking about heart disease as an inflammatory disease and adding aspirin to your daily routine only adds more inflammation to the body. As a naturopath, I am against interfering with digestion. I want the digestive tract to be healthy and non-inflamed.
Having said that, Aspirin does reduce the risk of heart attack – they have the right to make that claim – but so does ginger, curcumin, and vitamin C. Some of my patients take an aspirin a day and I support them in that choice but this illusion that it’s the only magic drug to protect against heart disease just isn’t true.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): Are there any tests (blood tests, markers, etc.) that we can use to catch heart disease before it progresses?
Dr. Weiss: Take all the surveys and throw them away – they aren’t accurate. Family history is maybe 3%. I will still argue all day that everyone who has had a heart attack has had warnings. Chest pain isn’t a warning. The stress test is a great tool but they only tell you if they have 60-100% blockage – they don’t diagnose 10-40% and these are the people who have heart attacks.
If someone is experiencing chronic inflammation, oxidation, estrogen dominance, chronic joint pain, diabetes, etc. these are all warning signs for potential heart disease.
Gums are a big source of inflammation, usually because of chronic bacteria and damage to the gum lining. I ask my patients to use a water pick with a solution of CoQ10, Myrrh and 3% Hydrogen Peroxide to clean out their gums every day.
What your readers can do is a personal inventory on inflammation: joint pain, diabetes, inflamed gums, digestive disorders, estrogen dominance – if you have any of these things, deal with the issue so it doesn’t lead to heart disease. These are all warning signs for heart disease.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What about once you deal with the inflammation? Are you still prone to heart disease? Can the damage from the inflammation be reversed?
Dr. Weiss: Yes. You can deal with the inflammation with some very effective nutrients. One is curcumin, the key compound from the herb turmeric. The big challenge with curcumin is to get it to absorb properly, so I recommend an extract called BCM-95® that has up to 10 times the absorption and blood retention time as standard 95% extracts because it has been micronized (made into a very small size) and blended with turmeric oils for excellent absorption. This curcumin is available as a stand-alone in 375 mg and 750 mg soft gel capsules, and is available as CuraMed®, under the Terry Naturally brand name.
You can also find BCM-95® curcumin combined with resveratrol and green tea extract, called Curacel™. Resveratrol is, of course, the compound most famously found in red wine, but the dried root of Polygonum cuspidatum – a botanical used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for centuries is also a very rich source.
Green tea hardly needs any introduction, and is known for its anti-inflammatory abilities, cellular defense, and strong cardiovascular support – all extremely important for anyone with a personal or family history of heart health concerns.
Sometimes my patients want to keep things simple when it comes to botanical medicines, so in those cases, I’ll just recommend the BCM-95® curcumin. It is very impressive all on its own. These are powerful ingredients, and can go a long way – along with keeping a healthy lifestyle with appropriate diet and exercise – to helping the body begin to heal the damage that has occurred.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): Upon recovery (after a bypass), what protocol should you follow for speedy recovery?
Dr. Weiss: It depends on if they had a heart attack or not. I treat a lot of heart failure — which is almost an inevitable outcome after bypass – people’s hearts can start to get weak. Heart failure is not inevitable, though. There are nutrients that inhibit inflammation and oxidation that can damage cells. One of them is the BCM-95 curcumin that I mentioned earlier.
Another “must-have” for natural health – whether you’ve had a heart condition or not – is making sure you’re getting your omega-3’s. One of the best supplemental forms uses whole food omega-3s from salmon that have been “vectorized”. This process simply uses enzymes and a cold-water wash – no harsh solvents. This way, the omega-3 retain their natural position and are bound to phospholipids, which bumps up their absorption rate to about 50 times that of fish oil. This supplement, available in tablet form under the name Vectomega® is very convenient, so it isn’t a pain for the patient. Just one tablet is equivalent to 4 to 6 grams of fish oil, which can be an acquired taste for many people as it is.
Again, this weakness of the heart doesn’t have to be inevitable. In fact, I call it a side effect of the system, but unfortunately, some conventional practitioners would say it’s inevitable as we get older, simply a fact of life. In some cases that may be true. Definitely, there is a lot that depends on the strength of the heart, a lot that depends on function – but it all comes down to a person’s individuality and the four root causes we discussed earlier.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What’s it like being an alternative practitioner in an allopathic world?
Dr. Weiss: I am not a big fan of the name “alternative.” I call myself a Naturopathic Cardiologist. Every conventional medical doctor is alternative. The new kid on the block is pharmaceuticals and procedures and to me they are the alternative. There are good days and bad days – my personality is good for it. I tend to be a ‘fixer’ – if the medical system were perfect I’d be out saving whales. There is so much room to improve in the field. There are days when you wish you could put your feet up, write 50 prescriptions, and go home with four times the money, but it’s just not what I believe in. I follow the system that the body is healthy unless you get in the way of it.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): Can you leave our readers with some tips for daily prevention of heart disease?
Dr. Weiss: Everyone should be on:
Green drinks – I prefer them over multivitamins
Highly absorbable curcumin
Omega-3’s from fish – look at absorption, and make sure it is good quality
High gamma vitamin E – 400 IU
Vitamin C – 1000-2000 IU
Naturally Savvy (Andrea): Thank you so much for your time, Dr. Weiss.