The Cause of the Root Cause of Chronic Disease Part I

Dr. Aaron Hartman

June 7, 2022


In the future, the practice of medicine will focus on our cells – their function, metabolism, and senescence. So what are these things and why should you care? We have learned so much in the past few years about chronic disease and its cause – inflammation. And now we are learning the cause of the inflammation. Today I’d like to dig a little deeper into the latest science in root-cause medicine and how we can use this information for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.

Cellular Function and Metabolism: Your Cells Want Efficiency

Your body prioritizes efficiency. It tries to use nutrients, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to create energy with a minimal amount of residual byproducts. Energy production, also known as cell metabolism, happens within each cell in our body and is very much like a little flame. Whenever energy is produced, there is a little bit of residual metabolic “soot” – a byproduct of that process. These byproducts are referred to as oxidative products or advanced glycation end products (AGEs). As another example, consider the charring on grilled meat or the crispy, brown parts of toasted bread – these are also AGEs. Within the body, an example of AGEs is in the bloodstream of a person with diabetes whose sugars are high and has an elevated A1C.
These low levels of chronic inflammation are created simply by your cells doing what they normally do appropriately.
And so cell efficiency is the science of making this process happen as cleanly as possible. It’s clean, green energy for the cell, so to speak.
Clean energy is very important in your brain, your skeletal muscle, your liver, and your brown fat tissue. These are metabolic centers in your body that are using a lot of energy to function – whether it’s in your brain to think and remember, your liver to detoxify, or your muscles to move. This is happening all the time.

Cell Senescence: When Cells Get Stuck on One Energy Source

Metabolically flexible cells can switch from one energy source to another easily and not get “stuck”. When our cells get stuck on one energy source, we call this cell senescence. One of the results of cell senescence is that cells don’t die off when they should during the normal housekeeping processes in the body. When this natural process of cell turnover doesn’t happen, these older, lower-functioning cells can create low-grade inflammation.
This is what happens in people with chronic Lyme disease, mold exposure, and other chronic illnesses. We now think of cell senescence as one of the primary, if not the primary cause of chronic illnesses. It’s the root cause of inflammation. We used to say that inflammation was the root cause of chronic disease, and now we’re starting to understand that cell senescence actually causes this inflammation.

One Simple Thing You Can Do for Metabolic Flexibility

One simple lifestyle change can actually make your cells become more metabolically efficient. Cells that are metabolically flexible can switch between energy sources such as sugar (carbs), glycogen, protein turned to sugar, or fats. This ability to switch seamlessly is a sign of metabolic resilience.
So what is this simple intervention for better metabolic flexibility? Eating less often. This can include calorie-restricted diets, intermittent fasting, or even longer water-only fasts over 24 hours.
The idea is that by not eating food for a time, the body is forced to use up its energy stores and switch to another energy source. Likewise, when that source is exhausted, the body switches energy sources again. This is the core foundation for metabolic resilience. We see it commonly used by elite athletes these days and even by high-level executives who use it to achieve peak cognitive function. In medicine, we are also using various forms of fasting with Alzheimer’s patients, multiple sclerosis patients, and other chronic illness patients to improve the function of the cell.

Next Time

Next week in part two, I want to talk about how this powerful lifestyle intervention actually works and why you should make it a part of your life to maximize your wellness and health.
I hope this discussion of chronic disease has been helpful. If you’d like to learn more, please check out our website. Also, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. We’ve created an entire educational platform to help you on your self-education journey. These are designed to support you in your learning and give you resources to achieve greater health.
Take care and be well.
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.


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