“The body knows how to heal and wants to be well.”
Dr. Michael Klaper says that while medicine is a complex, subtle and beautiful art, primary care medicine today needs to be, more than anything, about diet and lifestyle.
With a background in surgery, anesthesiology, obstetrics and orthopedics, Dr. Klaper focuses more on diet and lifestyle. For 10 years, he hosted the radio program Sounds of Healing, and was a contributor to two programs on PBS: Food for Thought and Diet for a New America.
In a series of interviews, we talked with him about how our own health is linked to our relationship to other animals and the natural world.
Part One: The One-Step Key to Good Health
Michael Mountain: You’ve said that the body wants to be well and knows how to heal itself. What does that mean?
Dr. Michael Klaper: That’s a very important question. Basically, the body wants to be healthy. The body knows how to heal. I work in urgent care clinics where people come in with bad skin lacerations, and I’ve studied plastic surgery. I do a very beautiful wound repair. But I know I’m just being a mechanic. I’m bringing the two edges of the skin edges as beautifully as I can. The real healing is happening by forces within the body that know how to spin protein strands across the wound, and how to bring in the new blood vessels and what’s required to heal the wound. The body knows that, and the body wants to be healthy. Those arteries don’t want to clog up. Blood pressure doesn’t want to be high.
M.M.: So why is there so much disease today? Heart attacks, cancer, diabetes – so much of it.
M.K.: The majority of diseases that every primary caregiver sees on a daily basis are a rather small, dismal group of degenerative diseases – obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure – inflammatory states that are largely dietary diseases. And these are the results of running a high fat, high protein, overly processed, animal-based food stream through our system, hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year.
Our body was never meant to run on such a high – the greasy, inhuman, literally, fuel.
M.M.: You make it sound like a car running on bad fuel!
M.K.: Exactly. It’s a good analogy: So you’re driving your car, and the needle on the gas gage reads empty, and you pull into the gas station. But instead of pulling up to the gasoline pump, you pull up to the diesel pump. Well diesel is an oily fuel that doesn’t burn clean in a V8 engine. So if you fill your gas tank up with diesel fuel, you’re going to see black smoke coming out of the exhaust, and the engine is going to sputter and cough and grind to a stop.
And you get pulled back into the garage, and you tell the mechanic, “My car has a disease! It has black smoke coming out and it’s not running.”
And the mechanic says, “What did you use for fuel?” And you say “Oh, diesel fuel.” And he says, “I have an idea. Try gasoline.”
So they drain the kerosene out, and they clean off the spark plugs, and they put high test octane gasoline inside the tank, and vroom, the car runs great.
Well, that mechanic’s smart! He cured my car’s disease. But the car didn’t have a disease. It was just the inevitable result of putting the wrong fuel in that’s going to clog up the system and the engine.
Well, it’s the same thing with our dietary patterns and the diseases they create. They’re simply the result of the overly oily, low-fiber food stream running through our systems. And so you get these “diseases.” But they’re just the body’s way of compensating for this abnormal fuel. And as soon as you put in a nice, lean, clean plant-based fuel, look what happens! The body gets leaner, those arteries open up, the blood pressures come down, the insulin receptors clear up so the diabetes goes away. And wow, that doctor’s so smart. But all he said was, “Put the fuel in that the body was meant to run on.”
M.M.: So what’s the fuel that we’re supposed to run on?
M.K.: We’re meant to run on a whole food, plant-based, unprocessed food stream.
So much of healing is just aligning the body, and the person, the lifestyle within, with the laws of nature that are within their very beings.
The French philosopher Voltaire said that the role of the physician is to entertain the patient while nature does the healing. And I often feel that’s what I’m doing. You know, I can do a few pharmaceutical tricks but basically, my most important healing modality is talking about what the person’s eating, how to shop, how to make good foods happen at home. And I know the body knows how to heal itself.
An early physician said that if you would like to know the healing secrets of the body, go walk in the green world and see nature at work and you will know how to heal. And those words are still true today. We are not carnivores. We don’t have claws or big fangs. We’re meant to be plant-eaters. And the body loves this type of food stream.
And when we turn ourselves into carnivores and sugar eaters and fat eaters, well then we turn into these monstrous beings who are grotesquely overweight and clogged up with all these diseases. And that’s because we’re not supposed to be eating animals.
Part of my counseling before healing comes down to adopting a plant-based diet. And take a walk everyday and get out in the sunshine and do meaningful work, have as much love and laughter in your life as you can, drink plenty of fresh water and get enough sleep.
These are all natural laws that if you apply them, work magic in the body, and healing happens.
Medicine is a very complex and subtle and beautiful art. But practicing medicine in America in the 21st century – primary care medicine – is really about becoming diet and lifestyle counselors and helping people stop this self abuse, and much of this disease will go away.
And you hope at that time that you’ll also help to waken some compassion in people about the animals and about the natural world. We can’t be polluting the water. We need clean air. And we need green spaces. And that’s all part of the healing as well.
MM: We’ll talk about that next time.
NEXT: Living by nature’s laws
For more information about Dr. Klaper, visit his website.