Alternative Medicine
Putting the Health Map to the Test

For the last three months, I've been writing about a 3-step Health Map I developed. Now you have all the pieces. In this last installment we're going to put the Health Map to the test, looking at a variety of illnesses to see how you can use the Map to explore the territory of any health challenge, and then begin working your way out of the maze of illness. This Health Map does not incorporate musculoskeletal issues that might be treated by a chiropractor or physical therapist. I leave it to those experts to develop that map.

For every illness, I'll be referring to the three steps in the Health Map:

Level I: Primary Causes

On the battlefield of illness, Primary Causes can be seen as the invaders. They include: toxicity (thousands of them in our environment, water, and air), infections (bacteria, parasites, mold, and viruses), digestive problems (difficulty breaking down and absorbing food), and protein deficiency. Stress-related Primary Causes include: acute overwhelming stress, chronic stress, unresolved conflict, long-term effects of child abuse, neglect, and/or sexual abuse. Trauma at any age (physical or emotional) is a Primary Cause. There are almost never fewer than 7 Primary Causes in chronic illness.

Level II: Internal Healing Environment (IHE)

How the Body Responds to Primary Causes

The IHE is a giant battlefield in which our entire being responds to Primary Causes, invaders of our Inner Territory . The body responds to Primary Causes in three ways:

a. Inflammation

b. Stress Response

c. Mind-Body Adaptation. This part of the Internal Healing Environment cannot be measured. It includes: hardiness, resilience, optimism, spiritual connection, Nature connection, sense of luck, and more.

Most illness is caused by Level II, the Body's Response to Primary Causes.

Level III: Metabolic Chaos

Chronic health problems are a cascade of events, like standing dominos in which, after the first one falls, thousands of other dominos collapse with it. Metabolic Chaos is a “disturbance in total body chemistry.” By dry weight, the body is more than 60% amino acids; so most of Metabolic Chaos is a disturbance in amino acid chemistry.

Now, we're going to use the Health Map to help you navigate and examine the terrain of a number of illnesses.

Degenerative Arthritis

Level I: Primary Causes can include genetics, diet, parasites, problems absorbing minerals, lack of exercise, and environmental toxins. Virtually every illness can have toxicity as one of the Primary Causes.

With every illness, it is important to test for as many Primary Causes as possible, removing heavy metals through chelation therapy, killing parasites and bacteria, restoring healthy digestion, etc. In addition, the Stress Factor accounts for about 40% of Level I, Primary Causes. The Stress Factor cannot be measured. This is a figure gleaned from 30 years of asking detailed questions of my patients and having them give me a subjective Stress Percentage. Stress, conflict, and trauma always contribute to health problems, even if Stress is only causing 10% of the total picture.

For all chronic health problems, putting significant time and energy into learning stress reduction techniques is essential. If you already know a lot of these Mental Fitness Techniques, but are not using them, start using them.

Level II: The Inflammatory Response gets turned on as a reaction to a variety of Primary Causes like infections and toxins. It is important to take a moment to explain inflammation. Free radicals, oxidative stress, and inflammation are essentially the same thing. The immune system sprays healthy tissue with free radicals, whose technical name is “Reactive Oxygen Species” (ROS). ROS kill everything in their path.

When you cut yourself, the immune system sprays large numbers of ROS into the cut to kill bacteria and viruses. When the inflammatory response turns against us, it is revved up and does not “rev down.” With arthritis, the immune system takes aim at joints, spraying bone and cartilage with ROS, stripping one electron at a time from healthy tissue. Free radicals are positively charged particles that are looking for one thing, namely a free electron. Once a free radical has stripped healthy tissue from your joints, the free radical is neutralized.

I will not review the mechanism of inflammation for every illness. The mechanism is nearly the same wherever it occurs. When inflammation is attacking your colon, your colon is being sprayed with ROS, stripping free electrons from the cells lining your colon.

Level II, Inflammation, explains most of what is going on with arthritis, so we need to reduce inflammation. Barefoot contact with the earth brings billions of free electrons into our body every second. Free electrons neutralize free radicals. Over the period of a week, a large percentage of free radicals are neutralized, and over the period of a couple of months, close to 100% of the free radicals in the body are neutralized, and inflammation is dramatically reduced.

Level III, Metabolic Chaos, is not the major issue in arthritis.

Comprehensive metabolic/nutritional testing will turn up imbalances, but treating Metabolic Chaos is less important than turning off inflammation.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) & Fibromyalgia (FM)

In the UK and Australia , CFS is called myalgic encephalopathy (ME). I am lumping CFS and FM together because they are closely related and have similar biochemical problems. In CFS, severe fatigue and cognitive problems are the dominant symptoms. In FM, pain is the main symptom.

Level I: along with the usual toxic Primary Causes, infections play a major role in CFS. Viruses like Epstein-Barr Virus, Cytomegalovirus, and Human Herpes Virus-6 (HHV-6) have been linked to CFS/FM. So has the infection called “mycoplasma.”

Level II: It is my belief, not yet proven, that inflammation, which plays a role in nearly all chronic illness, is playing a role with CFS and FM, but is not manifesting in the usual way. Obvious inflammation causes heat, redness, swelling, and pain. This may be more obvious in FM, but the nature of pain in FM is different than the raw inflammatory pain of arthritis. However, wherever we have infection or toxicity, the inflammatory response will be there, spraying every bit of virus or heavy metals with ROS (free radical). So, people with CFS/FM have significant inflammation.

Part of Level II is the Stress Response (fight-flight-freeze), which is mediated by the pituitary and adrenal glands, along with the central nervous system. Turning off adrenal exhaustion is a major issue in CFS/FM. As with inflammation, prolonged barefoot contact with the earth is enormously helpful for the adrenals. Various hormones and supplements also support adrenal function and they include: pregnenolone, DHEA, pantothenic acid (Vitamin B-5), adrenal extract, and deglycerized licorice. Some people require Corteff (hydrocortisone), which is one of the main adrenal hormones. The adrenal gland makes about 15 mg of hydrocortisone per day. If your doctor puts you on a dose higher than 15 mg, it will begin to interfere with your adrenal gland's ability to make its own hydrocortisone.

Level III: Metabolic Chaos

In CFS/FM, disturbances of total body chemistry are huge. These people can easily have up to 50 symptoms. Each deficient amino acid will produce a specific symptom.

Most of the “action” in these illnesses is at Level III. Comprehensive nutritional testing is required. The usual path of CFS/FM, after visiting dozens of doctors, is that sooner or later something helps for a while, and then it wears off. The failure is largely because there is no Map being used. It takes a lot of dedication to test for and treat all three levels, but when that happens, you are treating the whole person.

In CFS/FM Metabolic Chaos spins out of control, eventually leading to the collapse of the Kreb's Cycle, the reaction that produces ATP, the molecule of energy.

CFS/FM is a model for how everything can go wrong. Many chronic illnesses are caused by profound Metabolic Chaos.

Thorn Cut

Level I: Primary Cause. You get cut by a thorn and it hurts and bleeds for a while.

Treatment. Pull out the thorn.

Level II: Your body responds with inflammation, and the small thorn puncture will become hot, red, swollen, and painful. Assuming this is a simple situation, the inflammatory response heals the wound. End of story.

Cobra Bite

Level I: If a cobra bites you, you are likely to die within 10 minutes. The poison of the cobra bite, which is a Primary Cause, is so powerful that your body does not have time or power to respond adequately.

Rattlesnake Bite

Level I: the bite is going to cause pain and tissue damage quickly, but you are likely to survive. This is a time to go to your nearest emergency room.

Level II: The initial bite produces a severe inflammatory response, especially in the fascia, the tough, fibrous tissue involving muscle and bone. Fasciaitis requires Level II treatments that help turn off long-term inflammation that damages healthy tissue.

Level III, Metabolic Chaos, plays a minor role.

Brown Recluse Spider Bite

The brown recluse is going to cause Level I and Level II problems, just like a rattlesnake bite will. It will cause immediate pain, followed by a massive inflammatory response, which can go on for many months. The pain is excruciating.

Because the inflammatory response is so profound and drawn out, Level III gets involved. When you are running a fever up to 104 degrees for many months, eating poorly and getting dehydrated, total body metabolism becomes impaired. I have not treated anyone for brown recluse spider bite and can't give you specifics of Level III, but it would be important to support total body chemistry.

The point in discussing thorns, cobra, rattlesnake, and brown recluse spider bites is to help you think about the three levels of the Health Map. Most chronic illness will involve all three levels, but some very rare Primary Causes are so powerful that, as the invading enemy, they completely overwhelm our Internal Healing Environment. Some rare events, like a rattlesnake bite are mainly going to affect Levels I and II of the Health Map. Most illnesses are going to affect all three levels. With practice, with any health issue, you can run through the three steps very quickly, which I've tried to illustrate with this group of cuts and bites.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Level I: Primary Causes of IBS include antibiotics, parasites, candida overgrowth, dysbiosis (not enough friendly bacteria in the digestive tract), food intolerances, food allergies, and low levels of digestive enzymes. Emotional stress often plays a major role in triggering bouts of IBS.

I am going to treat all the bugs (parasites, candida, abnormal bacteria) aggressively. About half of us have at least one parasite, which only the best laboratories can detect.

With IBS I recommend probiotics (“friendly bacteria” like acidophilus and bifidus) to rebalance the intestinal bacteria, whose total weight is about two pounds. I may also suggest taking digestive enzymes.

Level II: The GI tract is loaded with Primary Causes and your body is going to react with the inflammatory response to each bit of toxicity, infection, food intolerance, food additives, and other irritants. So, inflammation needs to be turned off. Adrenal stress is also going to interfere with the gastrointestinal tract, so your two main Level II responders (inflammation and stress response) need to be dealt with.

Add rest, massage, and meditation to tone down the stress response and an over-active sympathetic nervous system.

Level III: There are a number of Metabolic Problems that arise as Level I leads to Level II, which leads to Level III.

One of the big metabolic problems involves damage to the cells lining the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The amino acid l-glutamine is very helpful in healing the gut wall. Eighty percent of the l-glutamine you ingest is taken up by the cells lining the GI tract. In addition, when you have chronic digestive problems, you will not be absorbing the food that you think is getting into your body. Amino acid testing will show a large number of abnormalities, which can be corrected after lab work spells out the problems.

A very common vitamin deficiency is pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P-5-P), the active form of Vitamin B-6. P-5-P is involved in making most of the neurotransmitters in your brain. In addition, P-5-P is needed for essential fatty acid chemistry. You may be taking flaxseed oil, thinking you are getting enough essential fatty acids, but if you are deficient in P-5-P, your body will have a hard time converting flaxseed into the 5 or 6 essential fatty acids made from flaxseed. These are examples of a few Level III problems (Metabolic Chaos) caused by Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Another big issue is protein deficiency. If your GI tract has the problems I've just discussed, you won't be able to break down your protein and absorb the amino acids that make up 100% of protein.

Digestive problems are epidemic in America , but if you diagnose and treat Levels I, II, and III, you will make huge improvement. It is simply not enough to have a label, like IBS, receive one or two drugs, and expect it to go away. It's not going to happen.


What I have been trying to do, in my small corner of the world of medicine, is help formulate a systematic way of looking at all illness, which would give doctors a powerful new tool. Just think how different a doctor's visit would be if the normal process required the doctor to:

1. Look for, diagnose, and treat as many Primary Causes as possible (body, mind, and spiritual Primary Causes).

2. Evaluate the Internal Healing Environment, your body's capacity to deal with Primary Causes . . . and determine the degree of inflammation and the amount of adrenal stress.

3. Diagnose and treat all aspects of Metabolic Chaos.

In the current medical model, doctors try to find the one most likely diagnosis, which should ideally be treated with one drug. Through this 3-step Health Map patients and doctors can understand and navigate health and illness scientifically. The current map that medicine uses can be compared to sailors only having access to a compass and the stars 400 years ago. Once you know how to use it, the Health Map is like having a global positioning device, guided by satellites, to get you where you need to be.

Some final words: I have used the metaphor of a battlefield to help people understand how the body's Internal Healing Environment responds to Primary Causes. In Chinese Medicine, the metaphors would be about balancing energy. I have not chosen to consider all metaphors. I'm trying to take something terribly complicated, namely chronic illness, and make it understandable.

David Gersten, M.D. practices Nutritional Medicine and Integrative Psychiatry out of his Encinitas office and can be reached at 760-633-3063. Please feel free to access 1,000 on-line pages about holistic health, amino acids, and nutritional therapy at, and information on earthing at


Dear Louise

Dear Louise,

I read in one of your books that our guides and angels can help us. My concern at the moment is the clutter in my home, particularly my closets. I cannot get everything in order! How do I ask my guides or angels for help? Thank you!

C.K., New Zealand

Dear C.K.,

I always think it's wonderful to acknowledge that we're not alone. I truly do believe in guardian angels. By the way, we can pray and meditate by ourselves. We do not need churches, gurus, or a religion to do that. They're nice if they are supportive of the individual. It's important that we know that we all have a direct pipeline to the source of all life. And when we consciously connect to this source, our life flows.

That said, it's also wise to take a practical approach to your life. In other words, asking for inner guidance (from angels or whomever) is great, but at some point you have to take an outer action to help bring about the change you are wishing for. Our closets can be considered symbols of our minds. A cluttered closet could mean a cluttered mind. This same theory can apply to our dresser drawers (or even our desk drawers)—most especially the top drawer, and often the bottom drawer as well.

A good exercise is to clean out a closet and while doing so, say to yourself, I am cleaning out the closets of my mind. Take everything out of the closet. Examine each item and ask, “Is this item still useful?” Or, “Have I used this item in the last six months or year?” “Do I have to keep this worn item because I'm afraid I won't be able to replace it?” Donate the items to a local charity.

In order to make room for the new (whether it's new clothes or new thoughts and ideas), we must release the old and the outworn. This is true for physical items as well as mental ideas. I go through my closets every six months or so, and anything I know I won't use again either gets sold, is sent to the thrift shops, or I give it away. It's no longer useful to me and is taking up precious room. The sweater I was in love with three years ago is now a color I don't care for. Do I want to keep it around on the off-chance I may need it one day? Not at all! I'm well aware that I'll always be able to buy a new sweater when I need to.

Did I always feel this way? No! I grew up during the depression of the 1930s in extreme poverty. So it took me many years to realize and accept that I was the only person responsible in my world for my lack of prosperity.

Watch how you're feeling while you're cleaning out those closets this week. Are you doing it with joy and anticipation of the space you're allowing in your life, or are you stuck in the mental system of “not having” and scoffing in disbelief that the abundance of the Universe is available to everyone, including you?

AFFIRM: Change comes freely and easily for me. I now move through any resistance and joyously express myself. Today is a new day!


Dear Louise,

It's been ten years since Princess Diana of Wales died. There's been a lot of media attention lately here in England about how she died. I don't focus on that so much, but I'm still very saddened when I think about such a vital and alive woman and her life having been taken from us. It really is such a tragedy. I really am still very emotional about her death, and that surprises me. Any thoughts on why this has hit me and millions of other people around the world so hard?

S.A., London, England

Dear S.A.,

Your letter speaks so strongly of the “tragedy” of the situation and that “her life was taken f om us.” Why are you choosing to view it in this way? It was her life! Only her soul, in all of its Divine wisdom, knows the truest and deepest meaning behind her life and death. How wonderful it is to leave the planet when you are dearly loved! It is the perfect time. Death is not a punishment unless we make it so Although the situation is sad because we miss her shining presence, her leaving the planet is in Divine Right Order, occurring in the perfect time/space sequence.

Princess Diana united a nation the way no one else had. The outpouring of love given to her by her own people will long be remembered in the hearts of everyone. She also contributed to the shaking up of the monarchy, which was long overdue. Her work is done. She is now off to bigger and better things.

Bring peace and release into your own heart, and cultivate gratitude for the grace and good her spirit has provided, and continues to provide, for us all.

Louise L. Hay is a metaphysical teacher and the bestselling author of numerous books, including You Can Heal Your Life , Empowering Women, and I Can Do It! . Subscribe to the Louise Hay Newsletter! Call for a Free Issue: (800) 654-5126. Questions for Louise? Write to: Dear Louise Column, c/o Hay House, Inc., P.O. Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100 (letters may be edited for length and clarity). Visit Louise and Hay House at: or