Healthy Aging

Glandular Therapies: An Age-Old Solution for Chronic Conditions

Dr. Linda Isaacs, MD, discusses her collaboration with Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, MD, and her use of glandular therapies in clinical practice

Biography: Dr. Linda L. Isaacs, MD, received her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Kentucky, graduating with High Distinction. She completed her medical training at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, doing her residency in internal medicine at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center at New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Isaacs is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

She first met her colleague Nicholas J. Gonzalez, MD, in 1983. For more than 20 years they worked in the same office, spoke daily about patient care, and collaborated on research projects. They co-authored scientific articles, as well as the book titled The Trophoblast and the Origins of Cancer. Following Dr. Gonzalez’s untimely death in July 2015, Dr. Isaacs has dedicated herself to continuing the work they shared. Her website can be found at www.drlindai.com.

Below is an interview with Dr. Isaacs, who spoke with us about her collaboration with Dr. Gonzalez and her use of glandular therapies in clinical practice.

NutritionInFocus:   To begin, please tell us about your background and how you became interested in healing chronic disease with integrative and nutritional medicine.

Dr. Isaacs: When I began my undergraduate training, I was a very conventional student. Like many students, I was eager to learn but I wasn’t really thinking outside the box. However, I was open-minded regarding the role that nutrition and nutritional supplements may play in healing, as my mother developed an interest in nutrition after her symptoms of arthritis were relieved with the use of certain mineral therapies.

As an undergraduate student, I worked in a biochemistry laboratory that was studying the protein alpha-1 antitrypsin. I learned the different theories and hypotheses at the time about how this protein might be involved in emphysema caused by smoking. A short time later, during my early years of medical school, we were told about the role alpha-1 antitrypsin played in lung damage from smoking as if it were a “fact.” However, I knew that this was far from an established fact, and this led me to question all the things I was being taught that were portrayed as black and white in nature.

NutritionInFocus:  How did you become involved with Dr. Gonzalez and the work he was doing with glandular therapies?

Dr. Isaacs:  I first met Dr. Gonzalez when I was a 3rd year medical student. He was simultaneously completing his medical internship and learning about glandular therapies as he trained under Dr. William Donald Kelley, DDS, MS. Dr. Kelley was another early pioneer of glandular therapies who focused much of his career around treating patients with these substances after experiencing his own profound healing.[1]

Around that time, I had become very ill with symptoms that resembled what we now call chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis. In that era, we were far less aware of the potential dangers associated with chemical exposures, which I had experienced while working in the biochemistry lab. I began taking glandular therapies under Dr. Gonzalez’s direction, and my symptoms gradually resolved. Seeing these therapies work in my own life, as well as with many patients, made me even more convinced of their healing potential.

NutritionInFocus: What types of glandulars are available, and are some preparations better than others?

Dr. Isaacs: Glandular substances are specially treated preparations of the different animal-sourced glands, such as the pancreas, thyroid, or adrenal gland. There are a variety of glandular products that one might find in an exhaustive search, and Dr. Gonzalez and I went through the process of seeking out the optimal glandular supplements. The glandulars that we found to be most successful are those prepared by a special freeze-drying technique that leaves everything that naturally occurs in the tissue, except for the water, still present. I have tried other glandular preparations and found that they really weren’t as effective or strong as these lyophilized glandulars.

The glandulars that we found to be most successful are those prepared by a special freeze-drying technique that leaves everything that naturally occurs in the tissue, except for the water, still present.

When glandular substances are prepared in this fashion, we know they contain a variety of substances including nutrients, proteins, growth factors, and other cofactors found in the gland. The active substances include enzymes that are normally found in pancreatic tissue, and vitamins and minerals that are found at high levels in the liver.

NutritionInFocus:   What are the mechanisms by which glandulars might work?

Dr. Isaacs:  Our understanding of how glandular therapies work is largely based on theory and clinical experience, but it boils down to four main concepts:

1) We are not eating the way our ancestors did, and most of us do not include organ meats in our diet. However, many people, including those who follow the work of Dr. Weston Price, feel that we should be eating these things because our bodies need them.

2) Correctly prepared glandular substances, as mentioned, provide the body with proteins, growth factors, and other cofactors that the gland needs for repair.

3) Substances like pancreas glandular are also rich in active enzymes and proenzymes that the organ normally provides. Although we think of pancreatic enzymes as only playing a role in digestion, research is shedding light on a variety of other functions they may have in the body, including the inhibition of cancerous processes.[2]

4) The consumption of the small amounts of proteins present in glandulars may promote immune tolerance, decreasing immune reactions to self-proteins. This is a concept many are familiar with, known as oral tolerance.[3] A common example of oral tolerance is how the consumption of local honey or bee pollen granules may help reduce the allergic response to the airborne pollen one inhales in the spring. Long ago, people didn’t have problems of autoimmunity like we do today, and this may be due in part to their regular consumption of glandular substances.

NutritionInFocus:  Can you tell us more about how you use glandulars in your practice?

Dr. Isaacs: Many of the patients I see have fatigue syndromes. For these patients, I find adrenal and hypothalamus glandular supplementation to be invaluable. Although many practitioners may think of adrenal glandular in the case of fatigue, hypothalamus is also needed for many patients. Supplementation of hypothalamus glandular can be particularly helpful if a patient presents with depression and/or anxiety in addition to fatigue. I dose hypothalamus glandular once or twice daily, at lunch and bedtime, and find that it also can be very helpful with sleep when taken later in the day. Dr. Gonzalez used to refer to the hypothalamus glandular as “God’s own antidepressant,” and I still use it much like that to this day.

Many of the patients I see have fatigue syndromes. For these patients, I find adrenal and hypothalamus glandular supplementation to be invaluable.

I use adrenal glandulars in different formats. Some preparations provide just the adrenal cortex, while others also provide the adrenal medulla. If a patient has fatigue along with salt cravings, I find they do better with the adrenal cortex. If they tend to be a “go-go-go” type of person that presents with fatigue, particularly fatigue that develops after a long period of high activity, I find that an adrenal product that includes the medulla can be more helpful.

The effect of adrenal glandulars is very gentle, and, much like we discussed, provides the building blocks for the body’s own adrenal gland to resume normal function. If someone is quite depleted, they may need the adrenal substances up to three times a day, but with time this amount usually decreases. That said, when patients present with overt adrenal insufficiency (or hypothyroidism) I still use medications that are indicated in these situations.

Some individuals voice concerns that taking adrenal glandular substances for a long period of time may lead to dependency, or to the development of Cushing’s syndrome [a condition associated with high levels of cortisol], but I have never seen this happen despite using them often for multiple years. Rather than seeing a dependency develop, I find that the body is slowly restored and needs less of the adrenal glandular with time. I had one patient who was on a protocol that included adrenal glandulars for many years. As her body healed, she became aware of when she needed to decrease her therapies. With too much of the adrenal glandular, she would have a bit of a headache, but with too little, her fatigue returned. She found that roughly one capsule a week was enough to keep her function optimal. A mild headache like she experienced is a common sign that the dose of an adrenal glandular should be decreased.

NutritionInFocus:  What has been your experience with pancreatic glandulars?

Dr. Isaacs:  I use pancreatic glandulars for a variety of things in my practice. Many of my patients have digestive issues due to pancreatic insufficiency, and supplementation with the pancreatic glandulars before meals can be life changing. This was actually how Dr. Kelley also became aware of the pancreatic glandulars—he had an abdominal mass, thought to be pancreatic cancer, which led to severe digestive symptoms, and he found he needed to ingest pancreatic enzymes around the clock to keep his digestive symptoms at bay. I prefer to use pork pancreatic glandulars because the enzymes needed for digestion in the pig, an omnivore, are closer to human enzymes than those of cattle or sheep, which are both ruminants. Lamb is my second choice if an individual cannot or will not use the pork product.

Many of my patients have digestive issues due to pancreatic insufficiency, and supplementation with the pancreatic glandulars before meals can be life changing.

I find the pancreatic glandular supplementation to be just as effective as the medications many of these patients take. I prefer it over supplementation with digestive enzyme combinations, as the glandulars are the most natural, not requiring any chemical processing.

Dr. Gonzalez and I both preferred the freeze-dried preparation of the pancreatic glandulars as opposed to a more purified extraction of single enzymes. In his survey of the hundreds of people Dr. Kelley worked with through the years, Dr. Gonzalez noted that those who experienced the greatest recovery were treated in an era in which Dr. Kelley was using a pancreatic glandular preparation that contained a high percentage of inactive precursors with a modest amount of activated enzymes—not in the later years, when he was using a product that only provided the activated, defatted, pancreatin.[4]

NutritionInFocus: In addition to using adrenal and hypothalamus glandulars for fatigue, and pancreatic glandulars for digestive insufficiency, what other glandulars might you use in your practice for some of the things we all struggle with, like reducing the risk of an infection?

Dr. Isaacs: I often use thymus glandular for this purpose, and I myself take it regularly in winter. For seasonal support I often take it twice daily, but if I feel like I may be on the verge of getting sick, I’ll up the dose to three capsules three times a day. For patients who are frequently getting sick, I’ll put them on thymus glandular at a dose somewhere between these. I also often use liver glandular in my practice, as it is very nutritional. In this day and age, with the busy, stressful nature of our lives, many people—not just those who are dealing with a chronic disease—benefit from adrenal and hypothalamus glandular support from time to time.

NutritionInFocus: Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us today, Dr. Isaacs. We really appreciate learning about the benefits of glandulars for various conditions!

Dr. Isaacs: You’re quite welcome! I’m pleased to be able to share my experience with glandulars, which have been helpful for so many patients in my practice.

For more reading on the topic of pancreatic glandular therapies, the reader is encouraged to seek out the texts referenced within this interview, as well as the text by Dr. Isaacs and Dr. Gonzalez, The Trophoblast and the Origins of Cancer.

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