Dr. Thomas Cowan, co-author with Sally Fallon Morell of Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Childcare, talks to me today about how to nourish your baby during pregnancy and after. Dr. Thomas Cowan is on the board of directors of the much respected Weston A Price Foundation and contributor to their quarterly magazine.
About the Author
Dr. Cowan has served as vice president of the Physicians Association for Anthroposophical Medicine and is a founding board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation. He is the principal author of the book, The Fourfold Path to Healing, which was published in 2004 by New Trends Publishing. He writes the “Ask the Doctor” column in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the Foundation’s™ quarterly magazine, and has lectured throughout the United States and Canada.
To read about how he approaches specific health challenges, see the articles page of his website. It contains both a compendium of articles published in the Weston A. Price Foundation journal “Wise Traditions” as well as articles on such topics as heart disease, cancer and gastrointestinal diseases.
He has three grown children and currently practices medicine in San Francisco where he resides with his wife, Lynda Smith Cowan. Dr. Cowan sees patients at his office in San Francisco, does long-distance consults by telephone, and is accepting new patients.
Books by Dr. Thomas Cowan
The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care makes the principles of traditional nutrition available to modern parents. The book provides holistic advice for pregnancy and newborn interventions, vaccinations, breastfeeding and child development, as well as a compendium of natural treatments for childhood illnesses, from autism to whooping cough.
The Fourfold Path to Healing merges the wisdom of traditional societies, the most modern findings of western medicine and the esoteric teaching of the ancients. The fourfold approach includes: Nutrition using nutrient-dense traditional foods; therapeutics through a wide range of nontoxic remedies; Movement to heal and strengthen the emotions; and medication to develop your powers of objective thought.
Find Dr. Cowan
Visit his website at FourFoldHealing.com.
If you’re enjoying the Live to 110 podcast, please leave Wendy a review in iTunes. Thanks!
- 21:21 Diets and recommendations for pregnancy
- 28:02 How does a vegetarian diet affects the developing fetus?
- 36:03 Importance of breastfeeding
- 41:21 How Vaccinations cause chronic immune dysregulation?
- 59:41 Natural remedies for sick children
- 65:57 The Fourfold Path of Healing
- 70:03 What do you think is the most pressing issue on our world today?
Wendy Myers: Hello everyone. Welcome to the Live to 110 podcast. My name is Wendy Myers and I’m a certified holistic health and nutrition coach and today we’re broadcasting live from Malibu California. And this afternoon I’m interviewing Dr. Thomas Cowan co-author with Sally Fallon Morell of the new book Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Childcare. And we’re going to be talking today about how to have a truly healthy pregnancy and care for your child from infancy throughout childhood and we’ll be catching on subjects like diet, vaccinations, and breastfeeding, natural remedies and much more.
But before I get started, I have to do a little disclaimer. Please keep in mind that this program is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or health condition. The Live to 110 podcast is solely informational in nature and is not intended to diagnose, cure or heal any disease. So please consult your healthcare practitioner before attempting any treatment I or our guest suggests on the show.
And if you like what you hear in today’s show, please give the podcast a nice review and rating on iTunes. This will help people around the world to find the show easier and get my word out on health and I’d appreciate it so much.
Dr. Thomas Cowan, our guest today, is a founding board member of the Weston A Price Foundation and co-author with Sally Fallon Morell of the new book The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care and he is the principal author of another book the Fourfold Path of Healing which will get into a little bit in the show. And he also writes the Ask the Doctor column of the Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and Healing Arts – the Weston Price Foundation’s quarterly magazine.
Wendy Myers: Good afternoon Dr. Cowan, how are you?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: I’m good. How are you?
Wendy Myers: I’m very good. Thank you. So first, why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: OK. I was born and raised in Detroit Michigan which gives me a certain kind of mystique these days. And went to college at Duke’s which I hated enough so that I got out after 3 years then I went into the Peace Corps and taught gardening in Swaziland in Africa. Then it was there that I found the work of Weston Price, interestingly enough, and then I went to medical school at Michigan State and did family practice training in pretty much of half my own sort of anthroposophical and then more holistic practice for about 30 years. First, in New Hampshire and then the last 10 years in San Francisco.
Wendy Myers: So, you are a founding member of the Weston A Price Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how you decided to co-found this amazing organization?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Well ‘I decided to co-found’ isn’t really right. Sally found it and then she asked me to be on the board.
Wendy Myers: OK. Sorry I know board member and founding member is a different thing.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Yeah. If you did a percentage of who did what, how much percentage of the work, Sally did 99 and generously speaking I did 1.
Wendy Myers: Haha. OK.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: I wouldn’t want to put us on equal footing there. Basically as I said, I think that the general theme of what Sally has done and is doing and the whole Weston Price direction is sort of crucial for everything, as far as how human beings and the rest of the beings on earth are going to survive. And I tell people that when one looks back on one’s life and thinks what did I do that really is any good? I’d say the thing that I’m most happy about is there’s a number of farmers and small food processors – meaning people who make things like sauerkraut and stuff who have told us and me that their business is only surviving because of the Weston Price Foundation and in fact even biodynamics, which was in a curious situation. Biodynamics, which is a sort of a precursor of the whole organic movement by Steiner and one of the principles of the biodynamic movement is that the manure of the cows particularly is the crucial thing for fertility. Crucial – there’s no other way around it.
The biodynamic farmers were in a kind of curious situation in that they had farms and gardens and cows but yet most of their clientele were vegetarian. So they we’re really losing a whole lot of money and opportunity because essentially their most valuable product was beef, but there are people who didn’t want to eat it. And when Sally came around on the whole sort of principles of Weston Price, which is in contradistinction to the whole vegetarian movement, they suddenly had a huge market for their most valuable products and it basically economically save them. So when I think about what they have done and what I’ve contributed to, I don’t know how much I contributed to that, but when people say without that organization my farm never would have made it – that to me is a valuable thing.
Wendy Myers: Yeah. I’m thrilled that grass fed farms and grass fed meats are becoming so popular. It is so important for our health.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Yeah and the health of the world, too. We don’t have grasslands, we don’t have anything.
Wendy Myers: Yeah, I was vegetarian for a couple a years after reading the China study and my health tanked within just 2 years of that diet. So I don’t know how people are doing it long term. I guess they just kind of deny their body and their health and their cravings and whatnot.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Right.
Wendy Myers: But let’s get into a little bit about your new book. It’s called the, The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care that you co-wrote it with Sally Fallon. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: So Sally wrote a book called Nourishing Traditions and then we co-wrote a book with a wonderful man named Jaimen McMillan called Fourfold Path to Healing which was sort of about adult medicine. And so some years ago Sally said, “Well we should do nourishing traditions or a sort of fourfold’ish type of book about children” except Nourishing Traditions sold a lot better than Fourfold so we should call it Nourishing Traditions instead of Fourfold for Children. That sounded like a good idea so that started 7 years ago or so. Frankly again, continuing my theme with Sally, I’d say 90 plus percent of the research and the really amazing information she has on diet and pregnancy care and ultrasounds and all that – all that is from Sally. My contribution was really health care for children and so not that I’m not taking responsibility for the whole book, but the things that I really know about have to do with healthcare for children, diet for children, treating sick children plus things to do with vaccinations and all that. And I would say the other reason I agreed to do this was I have very specific ideas on – because you could call it “Child Raising,” I don’t know if that’s the right word – but I got the opportunity, I think it’s page 206 or maybe 203, I don’t remember exactly. There’s a little sidebar called “The Serious Business of Play” and of all these things that I’ve ever said written in my life, that’s the most important 3 paragraphs right there. So I was really interested in writing this book to get that statement out there of what I call “Why Parent’s Shouldn’t Play with Their Children.”
Wendy Myers: Could you explain that a little bit?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Yeah. So I partly got this because I have been around Waldorf Schools for many years. I was schooled after age 3 or 4 in different Waldorf Schools. Waldorf Schools are like biodynamic schools. They we’re started by Steiner and they have a much different kind of curriculum, and to a certain extent my children went to a Waldorf School. So I’ve been around Waldorf Schools for years, but not anymore. And as a result of that I went to a woman’s workshop years ago, I think she’s Danish. I’m not sure about that. A woman who was presenting her ideas on childrearing based on her 30 plus years working at a kindergarten. Again I think it’s in Denmark but I’m not sure. And it’s just very much in alignment with what I had come to the conclusions of – which I think is so important because I see so many parents not doing this to their children’s detriment. So one of the best examples is – so they have this kindergarten which is ages 9 months to 7 years old and the first thing is they spend about 90% or more even no matter what the temperature or the seasons or the climate, the weather is basically outside play. The only time they come in is they come in for lunch and then they have a story which is told, read by one of the adults who work at the school and then they go back outside. They have a nap, they go back outside and they play till they go home.
One of the biggest hallmarks of the school is they have this huge tree in the middle of their yard. It’s basically at a pretty rural place, so there’s streams, and rocks, trees and animals and all kinds of stuff. They have this huge tree in the middle of the yard and the only rule they have, it seems in the school, is that nobody is allowed to help anybody else climb the tree. So apparently and she showed pictures of this, if you take a snapshot at any one time, you’ll see the 6 year old sort of 30, 40 feet high in the tree, they even go to a little tree swing and the 2 year olds and the 1 year olds are sort of sitting under the tree, walking around the tree, circling the tree, talking to the tree etcetera. And sometimes they go for years or a year or 6 months or whatever before they can actually climb the tree – the little ones – and nobody helps them, nobody says, “Here I’ll give you a hand,” nobody tries to teach them how to do it, they just wait. And then the only thing that happens is if someday they climb the tree which they apparently all do, and then basically everybody cheers. And that’s sort of… and when you think of that, children have their own rhythm and what they mean in saying is something totally different than adult means. So usually if somebody “plays with their children” what they really do is kind of teach them; they teach them to throw a ball, they teach them whatever it is because in adult consciousness, it’s so much different than a child that they just can’t understand the concept of play. In other words, adults don’t know how to play anymore and children do. So they take their time, whatever they’re thinking – I don’t know what it is, but that’s the kind of people that we want – people who can spend even a year just circling the tree, talking to the tree, being in their own child’s world, not being interfered with by adults, the adult’s role as in this kindergarten is to do things like make applesauce and make bread and weave clothes and activities that are needed to run people’s lives and then the children can come participate in that if they want. And again, you don’t teach them to make applesauce, you just make applesauce and children then participate if they want.
This whole teaching – playing with and instructing children that we seem to be doing earlier and earlier is just poisoning the children.
Wendy Myers: Really.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: And to me teaching a child basically anything, what you do with a child, is the child – they develop their own interest and if you present a rich world to the child, they will have a ton of interest and they’ll ask you, “How do I make applesauce?” “How do I dig in the garden?” “How do I plant a seed?” Maybe or they’ll figure out for them self and if they ask you, you tell them, “You plant a seed like this.” And it becomes such a richer interaction with your child. I see parents all the time in the space of the half an hour visit, they tell their child “No” about ten times, nine and a half of them the children don’t pay any attention to what the parents does. And another thing that goes along with this is I tell parents first of all, you should say no to your child 99% less than you do now.
Wendy Myers: Yeah. They just ignore you anyways.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: But, if you do say no or say like, “Don’t run in the street.” – You’d be damn sure they don’t run in the street. Because if you do it like that, first of all they always listen when you say no because they know that you are respecting their sense of dignity and privacy and even their ability to know what’s right for them. They respond to that respect by doing what you say and it’s just wonderful to be with a child and let a child find their own way – it’s the opposite of the ADD culture which is put a child in a walker before they can walk and teach them languages before they know anything and teach them to read when they’re 3 and this whole pre-school. You know the more we teach people, the stupider and less educated they get.
Wendy Myers: Yeah and I have read so many articles about how this playing just free play is so essential for a child’s brain development and growth.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Absolutely, but not with adults. If you play baseball with a child, you’re teaching the child to play baseball. That’s different than just throwing a ball. I’m not saying you can’t throw a ball with your child or if your child, like with my grandson, if he comes up and shows me a stick, it’s not like I ignore him. I say, “Thank you for showing me the stick.” I don’t teach them like how to make sticks or how to play with what. He knows that perfectly well. If he wants me to join in, I’ll do it because he’s a sweet guy and he asked me to do something and I’ll do it. And if we just did that with the whole school, which instead what we have is this forcing, coercing energy, we know what’s best. We’re going to teach these children to build blocks, build Legos whatever it is and the whole thing just doesn’t work and you end up with miserable children and miserable parents.
Wendy Myers: Yeah. Actually I had my daughter going to a Waldorf School. She was doing the infancy program and hopefully at some point when she’s old enough we’ll be getting her into the Waldorf School. Because it’s such a wonderful program and I loved that part of the program where they don’t say “No” to the children. They just redirect them to something else or they tell them what they can do like put your feet on the floor, you don’t put them on the table. The children are so well behaved, no one is screaming, no one is acting out and crying, it’s just such a different way of approaching discipline per se.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Yeah. Just to say, I mean I have a lot of respect for Waldorf Schools, but personally even they have too much of this teaching energy for me, I mean they’re all different, I think there should be even less. Because the children that I see who their parents really make a commitment to getting away from this – what I would call teaching energy or know energy, it’s just really different. This really happy children who play on their own for hours, everybody’s happy. The adults do what they need to do, they do the laundry or whatever, children even join in or not and everybody’s fine.
Wendy Myers: Why don’t we talk a little bit about your book? Why did you feel that it was important to write a book about infancy and child care?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Well because like this example and there’s many others. What I see now I think is… I don’t know if I would use the word an abomination, but there’s another side to a lot of these things. Including, I mean obviously a big one is vaccines and the whole concept of how do you treat a sick child. The conventional medical model is just so skewed and so one sided that I thought, “Well you know somebody has to tell a different side.”
Wendy Myers: Yeah and you detailed a diet for pregnant women in the book. What are some of the diet tips or recommendations that won’t find in other baby books?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: The whole premise of Nourishing Traditions is humans basically are biologically programmed to eat a certain way, which is a mixed diet of properly prepared food. And when I say mixed, combination of animal foods and plant foods and liberal amounts of good fat and that’s how we build nervous systems and have hormonal health which is different than some people say low-fat and vegetarian and vegan and all that stuff. The other hallmark of this is Nourishing Traditions is about the proper preparation of food. You know the food has anti-nutrients in it; grains have phytic acid and they have enzyme inhibitors and then when you soak the grains, you get rid of that, you make the food easier to digest and more nutrition.
So what we’re really talking about is the nature of food. Another thing that’s vital is – we now are just beginning to understand the importance of what some people are now calling the human microbiome which is the gut flora or the type of bacteria and microorganisms that live in the gut. This is basically our immune system, this is what the child swallows on the way to the birth canal to establish their immune system and establish their digestion. That’s why we have 2 days where we’re eating right after we’re born when we’re eating a non-nutritive food, meaning colostrum whose sole purpose is to establish the gut flora. That’s the only purpose of colostrum. So in Nourishing Traditions – one of the hallmarks is on the regular daily consumption of fermented, otherwise known as cultured foods, things like yogurt, kefir, kumis, sauerkraut, you name it. ‘Cause I often point out to patients and people, it’s no accident that the same word that we describe how humans organize them self into social group is the same word we use how to prepare food to establish a healthy gut flora and immune system and that’s where there’s culture. So we live in a culture and a proper culture has people who share a similar gut flora because they have similar techniques of processing their food and interestingly that the research is now showing us that we have 5 to 7 pounds of good bacteria in our gut and we have more microbial cells in our gut than we have human cells. So literally more of the DNA enclosed in your physical space is actually somebody else’s DNA. And that’s why people like the French or the Western people; they are literally a culture because they have similar DNA in them, literally because they have a similar gut flora and again, that’s your immune system, that’s the thing that protects you from having so called leaky gut or inflammation in your gut which allows foreign proteins to enter your blood which is why we get allergies. So in the United States and other Western cultures most people live their entire lives without ever eating a properly cultured food. Not only don’t they it eat it, they don’t even know what it is and they don’t say anything about that in baby books even though it’s arguably the most important aspect of eating is to maintain the care and feeding of your gut flora.
Wendy Myers: Yeah you’re right. I read 20 baby books when I was pregnant, not once did any of them mention strengthening your immune system or gut flora would probiotic foods.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Right and yet it’s the most important thing because you’re trying to establish your own gut flora which is your own immune system and that will directly impact the baby’s immune system and gut flora. And so to leave that out is, while it’s typically American because we don’t have a culture, we don’t live in a culture. Not in any affective sense of the word and that’s reflected in our total lack of understanding of even cultured food or if you want to say, we live in a culturally pretty dysfunctional one.
Wendy Myers: Yeah and it’s common that pregnant women are told not to eat fish. Do you agree with this?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: No. There’s obviously some fish that has mercury than others, but the whole mercury thing is also… to a certain extent you absorb toxic nutrients. It all goes back to the gut flora, if you don’t have a healthy gut, you can’t process literally anything and if you do have a healthy gut, even things like small amounts of mercury and there’s even if you go to Vital Choice website – they have a lot of information on the lack of accuracy of the mercury – fish connection. Fish is a good food, obviously all the food today is somewhat tainted because of our environmental agricultural practices, but I wouldn’t eliminate that source of food.
Wendy Myers: OK. On its face [that suggestion] it never seemed to make sense to me because you have to have omega 3s to build your child’s brain, but I get avoiding tuna and things like that, but I thought it important to bring that up.
Wendy Myers: So how do you a vegetarian diet affects the developing fetus?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Not positively. I mean it depends what you mean, if by vegetarian you mean with lots of eggs and raw cultured dairy products – that is fine. But if you mean a vegan diet, then vegan diets are too low in proteins and fats, usually too low in calories – that’s basically what you do when you’re trying to detoxify or fast. Vegan diet is basically a fasting diet which is why for temporary purposes if you’re basically overfed with toxic substances and you have a toxic body, if you do a fast, you’ll get better for a while. But you know the history of nutrition is we basically eat animals for building our bodies and plants for phytonutrients which detoxify and have these special chemicals which are antioxidants, etcetera, so the typical traditional ration is something like half – half of the food is body building, brain building, etcetera, the other half is vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, detoxifying agents, etcetera. Then it’s consistently across basically all the cultures that have been successful – that is the lesson of Weston Price – to confine yourself, especially when you’re literally trying to build a body, like a new body which is what pregnancy is; to only the non-body building part of the diet, I mean that’s crazy.
Wendy Myers: Yeah. It’s strange; the few baby books I’ve read that promoted a vegetarian and even vegan diet while pregnant, I just thought it was crazy. I have an interesting thought about Weston A Price. I found it really interesting that he didn’t find any vegetarian cultures and he actually tried to look for some traditional cultures that were vegetarian but just did not find any.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Right because they didn’t exist.
Wendy Myers: Yeah and it just makes sense is the vegan diet does not support life in the long term and doesn’t support reproduction. That must be why.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Exactly. Even more so, and this is one of the huge issues that isn’t so much talked about in normal medical or diet circles. And to me it’s sort of the ultimate irony and I would refer anybody who’s listening to a place called the Savory Institute and there’s even a talk on TED by Allan Savory, the founder. And basically what he’s saying and literally proving is that basically we have a problem of desertifying the earth – which is a fancy word for we’re turning the earth into a desert. This has happened over the history of agriculture to the point where there’s already – like Iraq, which used to be the fertile crescent. And now it’s happening in Kansas and all kinds of places. And the only thing that reverses that is large amount of herbivorous animals grazing on the land. So the other reason why you don’t find this in traditional cultures is that in order to have a truly sustainable land base, you have to have herbivorous animals grazing the land. There is simply no other choice. And so just for ecological purposes, the irony of this of course is all these people saying that because of global warming and because of environmental destruction and we should all be vegetarian. It’s of course exactly the opposite, and for people who don’t know about that, just think for example of the great plains in the United States which were basically from Minnesota to Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains – this expanse of grassland – when the early settlers got there, they all said the top soil was 10 feet deep and there was literally millions and millions of buffalo and other grazing animals. So then hundred years of converting this grassland into corn and soy beans and wheat which is exactly what the vegetarians tell us to eat; grains and beans, then it became a dust ball. There’s almost no top soil left and the whole thing is desertifying.
And the reason I say this in this context is the only way to maintain and now restore this is to put back the buffalo – there’s no other way, you can’t compost your way out of it. You cannot solve this problem by growing more grains and beans. That’s why we have this problem. And therefore humans, and here’s the sort of big lesson – humans are part of that system, the native people knew they were made of buffalo, the buffalo were made of grass, and this whole cycle continues. We are made of herbivorous animals – their fat and their proteins, that’s what builds our bodies. And if we do that, if we participate in the rejuvenation of the earth, and if we don’t do that, if we only do the wheat and the soybean part, we participate in the destruction of the earth. And the way that I look at the world is there’s no way, there’s no theory that makes any sense to me that we can destroy the world and yet at the same time that’s healthy for us. To me, that’s an insane way of looking at the world and because we’re part of a big biological process, what builds the soil builds us. Therefore even if it’s with rainforests which it can’t possibly be, that there is no ecological case for destroying the world’s soil by growing more annual grains and beans.
Wendy Myers: Yeah, there is no denying the cycle of life. It’s interesting, I interviewed Lierre Keith who wrote The Vegetarian Myth a few podcasts ago. She went extensively into that concept and it was just so enlightening to hear that – that not eating meat is not going to save the earth.
Wendy Myers: OK. So let’s talk a little bit about the aspects in your book about breastfeeding. Why do you think breastfeeding is so important? I think so many people are fooled into believing the marketing campaigns of companies that make formula that formula provides the very same nutrition as breast milk.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Yeah. I mean the principle here I talk about and think about what I call the “Biology of Complexity” which goes along with the most important thing I ever learned in medical school. The first day a guy came up there and he said, “Just remember that the dumbest kidney is smarter than the smartest nephrologist,” which is a kidney doctor. And if you think about that, to eat a carrot and then have it go through your process and then go into your kidneys and your kidney decides what nutrients from that carrot should be reabsorbed and what should be excreted in the urine is an incredibly complex thing which no human being has any clue. And the way that I know that they have no clue is the best that they could do is dialysis which make people crazy and they die anyway, so it doesn’t really work. That sick kidney removes a lot more stuff more than dialysis. That’s why even a nephrologist doesn’t want to put even a sick kidney on dialysis until basically there’s no kidney. So the point of it and why that’s the answer to the question of formula versus breast milk is, for me, we know so little about real biology, about the complexity and the interaction and what it has to do with the food you eat and the emotions that the mother and the father and everybody has and the emotional connection between the mother and the baby – there’s so many parts of this which are complex and to think that Nestle or some company, which by the way actually doesn’t even have your baby’s best interest at heart and if you don’t believe on that, read the history of Nestle as a company and I think you will absolutely be convinced that their number one priority is by no means the health of the children – by no means. But even if they did, let’s say that was a really good company, even then they still know 1:100 at best or 1:1000 of what that whole interaction is in how to make breast milk. So anybody who says they’re the same is just so ignorant because they’re obviously not the same.
Wendy Myers: Yeah it’s interesting enough, just read the label.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Whatever chemicals are the same are just coincidence or just because you pick the few chemicals and in your feeble way of looking at it, you think those are the most important chemicals, which you literally have no idea. Now I would admit they’ve got it good enough so you can kind of raise a somewhat normal child, but that’s about it.
Wendy Myers: Yeah I think it’s interesting that on a formula bottle label there’s 10 ingredients, wherein breast milk has 400 ingredients that we know of. We don’t know everything that’s in breast milk.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Exactly, you don’t even know what’s in a piece of grass and to say that they’ve got everything that’s in there, it’s just ludicrous. I mean the right proportions etcetera.
Wendy Myers: Yeah. I love that the book has recipes for formula, to make formula at home if by chance you’re not able to produce enough milk or none at all.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Right and even the formulas, which one of course is always reluctant but yet it happens and I’ve seen it and I’ve seen babies raised on those formulas. They still take advantage of complexity. I mean cow’s milk is a lot more complex especially if it’s raw grass fed cow’s milk. It’s as close to a complex system as you can get to breast milk. It’s totally the opposite of these hypoallergenic formulas like Nutramigen, etcetera, which are basically made in the minds of chemists, which I never trust ‘cause they don’t know, they can’t know. It’s too daunting and complex a task.
Wendy Myers: Yeah they’re basically just these milk compounds with sugar in them. It really is frightening.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Yes.
Wendy Myers: So, one of my personal areas of interest is vaccinations because my daughter is autistic and I think vaccinations played a part, a contributing factor in her getting that diagnosis of mild autism. What is your take on vaccinations in the book?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: So, here’s the story on vaccine, this is tons of everything you need to know about vaccines in hopefully 5 minutes or less.
Number one: We humans have at least 2 immune systems. One is called the cell-mediated response and the other is called humoral response or cell-mediated immunity and humoral immunity. Cell-mediated means that we have the system of white blood cells that if you get a new invader, like a new virus. And because we’ve never encountered this before, the virus will infect, meaning get inside different cells – like a viral respiratory tract. So you have infected cells which the white blood cells have to go after them, shoot them up and spit them out and in the process you get what we call being sick. Being sick means fever, flu-like symptoms, cough, runny nose, mucus, etcetera. And the important point to remember, and this is a really important point, is that what we call being sick – fever, flu, mucus, cough, rash, etcetera, that’s because of our cell-mediated immune system. I can’t emphasize that enough. The reason why I know that is because if you suppress somebody’s cell-mediated immune system like with Prednisone and then you infect them with a virus, they don’t get “sick” like fever, rash, cough, etcetera. They might even die from the infection which is not likely, but they could, but they won’t get what we normally call being sick. On the other hand, if you give somebody the chemicals of their cell-mediated system, which we know some of them now, so you can stimulate a cell-mediated immune response without any infection at all – no virus, no bacteria, no nothing, just stimulate their cell-mediated immune system and they get sick; they have a cough and fever and rash and mucus and all the rest. So that which we call being sick is a cell-mediated response. It’s triggered by a virus or a bacteria or other things, but it’s not because of them. We make our self sick.
Now after you get the cell-mediated immune system clear the virus and then your humoral, otherwise known as antibody system, remembers what happened. So next time you make antibodies. And that takes about 4 to 6 weeks. Then if you ever get that same virus again, you tag the components of that virus before it infects the cells. You clear it before it infects the cells. The cell-mediated immune system never needs to get involved and the person doesn’t get sick. And in fact every naturally occurring infection, for instance chickenpox, has both of those arms of the immune system involved. So you get infected with the virus then you make a cell-mediated reaction then you’re sick for 2 weeks then you make antibodies so that if you ever get that virus again, you will tag it before it infects your cells and you’ll never get sick again, generally speaking. So that’s how the immune system works – there’s always those both aspects, always.
There has never been until the 1940’s about a situation where you have the stimulation of one without the other. So that’s what happen with vaccines, the whole point of a vaccine is to stimulate the humoral immunity, the humoral antibodies without a prior cell-mediated response. Again, I can’t emphasize that enough if you want to understand what’s happening. This has never happened, as far as we know; this is unprecedented. So instead if you get the chickenpox virus, the whole point is to stimulate antibodies because if they stimulated a cell-mediated response, then the parents would say, “Hey you just make my child sick, I’m not doing this anymore.” So by definition, a vaccination program is the attempt to stimulate the antibodies without a cell-mediated response. The other thing about this is in order to do that, because the body doesn’t like to do that, you have to put irritants into the viral products to make the antibody system react. This is also crucial because if you just put in attenuated chickenpox virus proteins, the immune system wouldn’t react. So you have to put counter irritants such as aluminium and formaldehyde and mercury and something to irritate the immune system into reacting. There’s no way around that.
Wendy Myers: That’s interesting because I thought they were just used as preservatives.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Their use is as an adjuvant. Adjuvant means something that’s necessary for the body to recognize and make a reaction. So what about the people who call for companies to make better vaccines? So number one, the whole vaccine – it’s thing is to stimulate antibodies. Number two, because it’s not the usual way the body recognizes it, you’re going to have to do something irritating to make it happen. There’s no way around it. When they call for better and better vaccines, the vaccine people just laugh. They know that people don’t understand what this is about.
So then, the theory of this – and this goes back to people in the 40’s thing – that if you do this repeatedly to people, you will stimulate a situation of suppressed cell-mediated immunity and heightened antibody responses then with the prediction. Why? Because that’s the goal. So if you make a list of the diseases that are characterized by suppressed cell-mediated immunity and heightened humoral immunity, you’re talking things like asthma, allergies, eczema and autoimmune diseases including Crohn’s, colitis, MS [multiple sclerosis], Sjogren’s syndrome, Hashimoto’s, etcetera. All of these are characterized by increased antibody production – that is what we mean by an autoimmune disease.
So the question is how did we go from, and I often tell people ask your grandparents or parents – how many children do they know when they are in 1940 or ’50 who has food allergies, eczema and allergies, and the answer is basically none ‘cause I remember when I was in grade school there was one guy with asthma and we made fun of him because he was sick which probably wasn’t very nice, but it was so unusual like, how could you be sick? Now, it’s anywhere from 20 to 40% of the children have some sort of chronic disease. So how did we get there? Well all these chronic diseases are characterized by excessive antibody production. So how did we get that? Well that was the point of the vaccination program. I mean that’s the goal. So how would you expect or why would you expect anything else to happen? Now people would say to me, “Well this has never been proven.” But interestingly there’s a study out of Kobe University in Japan where they took I think rats, maybe mice and they put them on the standard American vaccination program and they wanted to see if they could develop antibodies unlike autoimmune disease. And they found that at a certain threshold they could consistently and reliably get animals to create an autoimmune disease by simply vaccinating. So this has been done in animals, so then the question is what, but it’s never been done in humans, but actually it has and that’s called the last 70 years. We did that.
Wendy Myers: Yeah there’s a reason, the biggest subset of diseases or rather the fastest growing subset of diseases are autoimmune diseases.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Exactly, that’s because we’re producing them. It’s a growth industry. So if people want to invest in something, they should invest in the growth of autoimmune. By the way, it’s also interesting that while vaccines have driven such a growth in the number of diseases which we can now vaccinate, particularly in the last 10 years. It’s been an explosion and there’s proposed to be at least 10 or 30 more diseases which we can vaccinate against. And you know part of the reason for that is the part of the US Patriot Act which I won’t say much more about, but the part that I’m concerned about it called the Vaccine Compensation Board where two things; people will probably remember that part of that whole 9/11 business was the Anthrax scare. As a result of the Anthrax, part of the Patriot Act made it so that companies that develop the vaccine, because they will say all of the companies aren’t developing new vaccines like Anthrax and then we’re all going to be dead from Anthrax even though that turned out to be from a US government lab. So part of Patriot Act was exempting vaccine manufacturers from any damages in perpetuity, meaning forever from injury caused by vaccine.
So if you’re Merck Pharmaceuticals and you make a vaccine and you kill a thousand people, you cannot be held liable for the damage. Instead the government set up a National Vaccine Compensation Board so that in return for your silence, because in order for you to get money to be compensated, you have to waive your right to disclose what happened forevermore. So if you do that, they will pay you a certain amount of money which they apparently, it’s not easy to notice, but they pay billions. So it’s a great business model for the development of new vaccines because the rest of the drugs, if they make Vioxx and people have heart attacks, they get sued and that’s not good for business – so they don’t want it.
Wendy Myers: And so, do you generally recommend against all vaccines, or do you think there are some that are OK?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: So here’s what I’ll say over and over again. So there’s basically 3 issues:
- One, is do they work and there’s… I can’t remember the website but I have it on my iPad. That’s actually a study from a JAMA journal, the AMA study in 1999 looking at the incidents of vaccines – actually the death rate from infectious disease since 1940 and what’s clear is that the death rate was going way down before vaccines were introduced. So there’s a question of whether they work.
- The second one is what about these excipients, these adjuvants; mercury, formaldehyde, aluminium, etcetera. So all those are neurotoxins.
- And the third one which is the one that I am mostly concerned about is the changing of your immune system. So what I tell people is, given those questions I can’t tell you whether or not to get a vaccine, but I can tell you the way to look at it is you have to think about the potential benefit also knowing that whenever there’s an outbreak or an epidemic of whatever it is; whooping cough or measles etcetera, at least half of the people who gets the disease were already vaccinated.
So number one, you have to think of the potential – of any efficacy of the vaccine versus the known risk of injecting your child with a known neurotoxin and an immune-shifting drug. But there’s not a question about whether that’s going to happen – that does happen. And it doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of other diseases, but you cannot repeatedly vaccinate somebody and not expect the change in their immune system. So given that, you just have to decide which makes more sense to you. I mean I think it’s a rational decision for somebody to say, “Yes I know that giving my child a chickenpox vaccine will shift them more towards allergies, autoimmune disease, even the cancer – those forms of disease. I know it will create some neurotoxicity, but I’m not willing to live with the chance of them getting chickenpox.” Fine. What I don’t like is “Do the vaccine, they work great, there’s no downside.” I mean that’s a fairytale. So as long as people have good information I think they can make their own decision.
Wendy Myers: Yeah ‘cause everyone – they just have a certain risk tolerance. Like I have a friend that she just could not live with herself if her child got one of these so-called preventable diseases like measles or mumps or rubella or whatnot. But in my case, there doesn’t seem to be that many outbreaks of these diseases. I mean you see some whooping cough and you see some measles here and there.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: I’ve never seen any measles, so I don’t know what you think. I have not seen one case of measles in 30 years of doing medicine.
Wendy Myers: That’s good. So I mean for me personally, I don’t want my child vaccinated because I know so many people with autoimmune diseases at such young ages that for me the risk of chronic immune dysregulation and autoimmune diseases and cancer – we have a 50% cancer rate almost – is a much, much higher risk. That’s my personal take.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Right. And you know the ultimate irony is that people who go on about heard immunity. They vaccinate children their children so they’re supposedly fine and then they say, “Well, you’re putting my child at risk.” Why? Because they’re vaccinated. Then they sometimes say, “Well someday if everybody has it and then we wipe out the disease, then we won’t need to vaccinate.” First of all if there’s no risk for vaccines, what difference does that make? And second of all that will never happened except maybe in small part and no other vaccine. Even if there’s 20 years of no polio in the Western world, there’s not even any suggestion that they should stop vaccinating. It’s not going to happen. So if they’re so confident in these vaccines and they give them to the children and they have no consequences, no downside, what difference does it make? They should be fine.
Wendy Myers: Yeah I agree. I agree.
Wendy Myers: So let’s talk about the natural remedies that you talk about in the book. It contains a large number of natural remedies for every imaginable ailment. So why did you feel it was important to include these natural remedies to care for your child when they’re sick?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Sally wanted me to. It was her idea and I agree obviously. We wanted… you know a parent has a child with an ear infection – we wanted to tell them exactly what to do because if we don’t, then they become at the mercy of whoever they’re going to and it may be going to somebody who has no options except conventional medicine. If you take an example like ear infection, there have been studies going back to the 60’s that show about 93% of ear infections resolve on their own without antibiotics and in fact most of Europe uses what’s called the “Timing Method” which is they see a child with an ear infection and they say, “Fine, give it about 7 to 10 days ‘cause that’s how long it takes for most to resolve.” And they only treat with antibiotics the ones that don’t resolve in 7 to 10 days and they treat about 5 to 7 % of cases. American paediatricians – they give antibiotics from the first day most of the time. Although there recently was a call from the American College of Pediatrics because of the overuse of antibiotics and the widespread antibiotic resistance. It turns out antibiotics are not needed for most ear infections.
So we wanted to give people an option. So, if you have an ear infection, you could do this. Mostly it will get better anyways, but this might help from 7% down to a few percent and it helps maybe with the pain and you’ll feel like you got some other reasonable approach to take to treat your children when they get sick. So that seems to be a good thing. It’s a hands-on manual. I mean our whole thing is empowering people to make decisions on their children’s behalf because neither of us have much faith in so-called experts.
Wendy Myers: Yeah. And do you think it was also necessary in part just because pediatricians – the only arsenal that they have at their disposal is medications. Do you feel like that in some way because medicine is in part controlled by the pharmaceutical companies?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: It’s partly that, it’s bigger than that. I mean it’s a philosophical thing. What I mean by that is medicine some 40, 50, maybe longer years ago actually decided to that they don’t believe in the concept of cure and what I mean by that is generally speaking, if you think about a cure – that means you go to a doctor or somebody and he says you have such and such, here do this and you do it for whatever period of time – a day, a week, a month, a year – and then you will be better and then you won’t need to take this stuff anymore. So that’s what I mean by a cure. So if you have asthma, you would think that you would go to the doctor, you’d say you’re not eating right, you’re not sleeping right, you’re not thinking right, whatever it is, you’re not moving, you’re not exercising, you have too much stress, who knows. And then if you do this for a certain period of time, you won’t have asthma anymore. But the amazing thing and actually the sad thing, the sad commentary about our medical system is if you go to the doctor, normal paediatricians and say, “Can you help me not have asthma anymore?” They literally think you’re crazy. Like that’s ridiculous, of course what you do if you have asthma is you take inhalers for the rest of your life, if you’re really lucky, you might outgrow it. We don’t know why that happens, it’s not because we’re going to do anything to you to help you outgrow it. But basically we give you medicines to manage this disease for the rest of your life, no matter what disease it is; asthma, eczema, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, etcetera. Cancer is a little bit different but you’re going to take drugs the rest of your life because we don’t know how to cure people of anything and we’re even averse to that concept. I mean just think about that, they literally laugh people out of their office, well don’t you know anything like can you help me overcome this? No, we don’t do that. So that’s actually kind of crazy, I mean that has been until the 20th century – people looking for and figuring out ways of curing people of sickness. I mean as I tell people, curing people of sickness is hard work. It’s tricky because it’s such a crazy world we live in, it’s sometimes even not possible, but to give up looking and to have that not as your goal, that’s the really tragic part, but that’s the situation. We don’t even think that is a reasonable way to look at medicine anymore.
Wendy Myers: Yeah that’s a really beautiful way of looking at it. I haven’t thought of it from that perspective before. But why don’t we talk about your other book the The Fourfold Path of Healing? Can you tell us a little bit about the fourfold healing laws? I just want to touch book a little bit because I think it’s really, really interesting.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: The Fourfold Path of Healing comes out of the idea that again, things are complex and it’s got to do with the way we live. And so we try to look at what are the components of how people live that affects their health, because it’s like Sally once said, we think that you get a disease and then you get sick. Like why are you sick? Because I have rheumatoid arthritis – that’s what people think. You go to a doctor, “Why do my joints hurt?” “Because you have rheumatoid arthritis.” The reality is you were sick and then you got rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is just a description for the kind of sickness that you already had that we then use the generic word rheumatoid arthritis to describe a particular constellation of events. So then the question is what is the sickness? What are we talking about? What was wrong with you before the rheumatoid arthritis? Well that was basically not moving right, not thinking right, not eating right and not doing the things that if you were starting to get off, would get you back on track. So then we look for who knows the most about food and that’s Sally. Who knows the most about movement and that’s Jaimen, who knows about the medicine and I don’t know who that is, so I got elected to write that part and then who knows the most about thinking and we really had no idea about that, so we just kind of all wrote it together.
So it’s just a way of again, we have a blueprint of people who have no disease. I mean it’s been well documented that native people that Christ talked about and Native Americans in the plains – they had no disease to speak of. They got injuries and some kind of infectious disease or bites and wounds and stuff, but otherwise they had no chronic disease like we have. No asthma, no allergies, no cancer, no heart disease. So based on that, you can answer certain questions like, “What about movement?” So question, “Did all these people who had this good health, did they just sit around and watch TV or did they go out and move their bodies in interesting and varied ways?” So if it turns out that all these people were healthy, all they did was sit all day, then I would tell people to sit all day because that’s what works. The truth of the matter is when you investigate, they all obviously has very active lives. Why? Because they had to catch fish and catch buffalo, so you got to be in pretty good shape to get on a horse and flag down a buffalo with a bow and arrow and a big stick. So I mean you better not be like fat and lazy to do that ‘cause you’ll not last long. So it became pretty clear that there are certain principles for right living to prevent disease and even to a certain extant treat disease which is what that book is about.
Wendy Myers: Well and I have just one more question that I love to ask all of my guests. What do you think is the most pressing health issue on our world today?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Desertification because our health comes from the soil and the ecology and like I tell people, there’s no way to have a system that’s bad for salmon and egrets and microorganisms that’s in the soil and good for us. That’s the Western model – that we can poison the salmon and the egrets and all that’s going to end up being good for a human and that’s insane, literally. I mean only a crazy person would think that way or that thought. The reality is, we have to have a way of life and the question and actually the person that I think writes the best about this is a guy named Derrick Jensen who I know a little bit. Every question should be asked, how does this play out for the soil and the salmon and the egrets and everything else. If what is my action here, builds more soil, builds a better ecology, builds a healthier ecosystem, it’s probably good. And if we don’t do that, if we degrade the ecosystem anymore, well it’s already too late probably. But if we don’t have that, it’s the only thing we think about, there’s no hope and even if we do, there may not be much hope. But that has to be the only dying question for everything. Not how much money, how many jobs, if we answer that question, it addresses climate change, political oppression, all the rest of this crap that’s going on. The only question is how does it play out for the ecology? More freedom etcetera and it’s all a sort under the rubric of – if you don’t get it right, the earth turns to desert and if you do get it right, the earth turns into a vibrant lush ecosystem. So the question is which way are we going here? The human health part is overblown; we spend too much time on that.
Wendy Myers: Yeah and I agree with you. We need our grasslands, we need our cows munching on that grass and then you eat those cows. I agree with you.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: A great quote, just to finish. One thing we have to remember is that if right now all the humans were wiped off the earth, the earth in a hundred years would be a lot better off. If right now we wiped all the insects off the earth, in a hundred years, we’d all be dead. So just remember that when we think of what’s important here.
Wendy Myers: That’s why I don’t kill bugs. So can you tell the listeners about your medical practice and where they can find you? What are you up to these days; what you’re doing?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: The way to find me is Fourfoldhealing.com. All my practice information is on the website and how to contact me and all that. So basically I spend my time talking to patients, eating good food and paying it out with my wife and sometimes grandchildren.
Wendy Myers: And your practice is in San Francisco, correct?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Yes. Right in San Francisco.
Wendy Myers: Yeah and I’ve heard you did a lot of speaking engagements. You travel around the country speaking in Canada?
Dr. Thomas Cowan: A little bit, I don’t like travelling that much, but I do it sometimes.
Wendy Myers: Well Dr. Cowan, thank you so much for being on the show and thank you again for bringing attention to the importance of good traditional nutrition so vital during pregnancy and childhood. Which now, basically, is sort of the foundation of our adult health. And I think so many mothers to be and mothers of young children are missing these vital key components of our health. So thank you for writing the The Nourishing Traditions Diet of Baby and Child Care to help inform mothers how to truly take care of their children.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Great. OK. Thanks for doing this.
Wendy Myers: All right. Thank you so much.
Dr. Thomas Cowan: Bye-bye.
Wendy Myers: And thank you all you listeners out there for tuning in to the Live to 110 podcast. And I have a little announcement to make; I’m at about the halfway finish point of my book. I haven’t announced it yet, but I wanted to tell you about it today. It’s a weight loss book that I’m writing and it’s called When Diet and Exercise are Not Enough: Roadblocks to Weight Loss. Because there’s so many of my clients and people e-mailing me and whatnot, they tell me they just have such a hard time losing weight. I absolutely identify with you as well because after I had my child I had about 60 pounds to lose and it was very daunting. This book details my own journey and all the pitfalls and the things I searched really hard to figure out about why I wasn’t losing the weight like I used to in my 20s. It was like, that wouldn’t have been a problem at all to lose 60 pounds, but I hit roadblock after roadblock after roadblock. So I wanted to write this book to help you identify your roadblocks to weight loss and the most common pitfalls that people face when they’re trying to lose weight so that you can develop your plan and finally lose the weight and be that healthy weight that you should be at.
Hopefully the book will be done in about 6 to 8 months. I want to do a really, really good job on it and it’ll be available for sale on my website, Liveto110.com™. Thank you so much for listening.