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Montana Integrative Medicine :: Bozeman, MT


Asthma is a respiratory condition characterized decreased ability to breathe and accompanied by wheezing, shortness of breath, and, in severe attacks, death. This is caused by bronchoconstriction, which means the airway (bronchi) are narrowing (constriction) so there is a decrease in oxygen flow. Asthma can occur in children and in adults. In children food allergies are frequently present. Identifying these allergies with an IgG Antibody test can be helpful, as well as recommending anti-inflammatory dietary supplements to decrease inflammation in the lungs. In contrast, adult onset asthma, also called mature-onset asthma, occurs in adults who have no history of asthma. In adults, this condition is frequently caused by decreased production of epinephrine, a compound the body normally creates that, among other things, causes the lungs to dilate so people can breathe. The nutrients required to produce epinephrine include the amino acid tyrosine, vitamin B6, copper and iron.

Case: Asthma, Mature-Onset

This is the case of Dr. Pieczenik, the founder of NBITC. When he was 62 years old he presented at Montana Integrative Medicine with a previous diagnosis of mature onset, exercise-induced asthma. This condition develops in adults and results in a decreased ability to breathe during exercise or cold weather. In his case, his lungs would constrict and his pulmonologist determined that he had a 22% deficit in oxygen. He was literally short of breath all the time. While his pulmonologist could not determine the cause of the dysfunction, he nonetheless wanted to treat it symptomatically with steroids. Steroids have been around for more than forty years, and Dr. Pieczenik could not believe that there had been no advances in medicine during that time. Steroids carry serious risk for side effects and do nothing to cure the patient; therefore, the gentleman decided to get a second opinion.

He heard of Dr. Neustadt’s work in nutritional biochemistry and received a complete evaluation. His results showed that he had elevated tyrosine, low copper, a low copper-to-zinc ratio, and low epinephrine. Tyrosine flows down its pathway to form epinephrine and requires several vitamins and minerals to do so, including copper.

Elevated tyrosine, indicating a block in the pathway converting tyrosine to dopamine and epinephrine
Low chromium and copper. Chromium is required for proper blood sugar regulation and copper is required to convert dopamine to epinephrine.
Decreased vanilmandelate, indicating low epinephrine.
Elevated insulin, indicating insulin resistance (pre-diabetes)
Elevated lactate, indicating difficulty burning sugars (carbohydrates) for energy
Elevated alpha-ketoisovalerate, indicating functional B-complex vitamin insufficiency
Elevated indican, indicating intestinal bacterial infection
Elevated D-Arabinitol, indicating intestinal fungal infection

Epineprhrine is a bronchodilator, and his deficiency in epinephrine was the immediate reason why he developed mature onset asthma. The block in the pathway was at the step where dopamine is converted to norepinephrine, which requires copper. In turn, his deficiency in copper resulted from his chronic consumption of an over the counter dietary supplement containing high amounts of zinc without any copper in it. He was taking 50 mg of zinc daily because he had read somewhere that zinc may be helpful for his prostate; however, high amounts of zinc can decrease copper absorption. In effect, this patient induced a copper deficiency and his medical condition.

By correcting his copper all his breathing symptoms disappeared, and upon retesting several months later, his tyrosine, copper and vanilmandelate levels had all normalized. What’s important here is that the evaluation identified the underlying cause of his condition, which was treatable. His medical doctors would never even have known or understood the basic underlying functional biochemistry that lead to this disorder. It was never part of their medical school education, and is still not taught in conventional medical programs. Instead of merely providing steroids that at best may have only relieved the symptoms, the treatment here was to correct the underlying copper deficiency. Within two weeks of initiating the treatment plan to rebalance his biochemistry, the patients mature onset asthma was completely resolved. He no longer requires any steroids.