Transcript EP 298 – Cellular Wellness with Dr. Bill Rawls
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Dr. Taz: Thinking about your cells as the ultimate key to prevention. Not a fad, not a supplement, not a trend, but really, “How are your cells doing?” Have you asked yourself that lately?
Dr. Taz: 90% of chronic illness, according to Dr. Rawls and some of the work he’s seen, is due to a lack of self-care. I told you this was all about keeping you guys super powered. Stay on the mission, stay on the journey. It’s going to make a difference in the long run.
Dr. Taz: Welcome back everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Super Woman Wellness where we are determined to keep you super powered. And joining me today is a very special guest talking about cellular health. That’s right. I said it without stuttering. But how important it is for our overall health and wellness and how it could be the block that’s getting in the way. So this is an interesting topic, one I’m definitely seeing in practice over and over again. We’re having to dive deep in here. But I want to introduce you to Dr. Rawls. Dr. Bill Rawls is a fourth-generation physician. He’s dedicated his life to medicine. He had a health crisis in his early forties which really forced him, as it’s done for many of us, to change his quality of life, come face to face with the limitations of modern medicine, and began to search through the vast possibilities of alternative treatments. Today he’s sharing revelations that helped himself and thousands of others reclaim their lives and find their own paths to wellness. He’s the best selling author of Unlocking Lyme, The Cellular Wellness Solution, and is the medical director and co-founder of Vital Plan, a holistic health company. Welcome to the show.
Dr. Bill Rawls: Well thank you for having me. It’s such a pleasure.
Dr. Taz: Yes. And it’s so funny with us as physicians. So many of us veer into a different direction because of our own health. Talk to us a little bit about your journey, your fourth generation position. I can imagine that everybody kind of did things a particular way. What made you veer off course and start to look at different ways of healing the body?
Dr. Bill Rawls: Well, it was following that pathway. I can remember going on house calls with my grandfather. My father was a physician. Initially I thought, “I need to get away from that.” Now I actually graduated with a degree in accounting and economics.
Dr. Taz: Oh wow.
Dr. Bill Rawls: But ended up going back, getting a chemistry degree, and going on to medical school. But just that journey and that past association with my grandfather, of the compassion that he showed, influenced even early on my pathway in medicine. And I went into obstetrics and gynecology because I wanted to deal with the wellness side of medicine as opposed to heavy use of medications to treat illness. And just delivering a baby, it was just the coolest thing.
Dr. Taz: Yes.
Dr. Bill Rawls: But I did that in a small town on the coast of North Carolina where I was on call every second to third night. And I was just not one of those people who, if someone was in labor or someone was in the hospital, I didn’t sleep.
Dr. Bill Rawls: So I went sleep deprived for 15 or 20 years. And then the late forties caught up with me and I crashed. But even giving up the call, changing my health habits, all of those things, I just wasn’t getting better. And at first I identified with fibromyalgia. Later found that I was carrying some of the microbes associated with Lyme disease. Started identifying with chronic Lyme disease, but just wasn’t getting better with antibiotics or anything the conventional system had to offer me. And ended up turning to herbs and really embraced them heavily. Got my life back over a three to five year period. And that actually was the beginning of a journey, the next phase in my career, of trying to figure out what is illness and why did the herbs work for me? And where do we go with this thing? And that’s been interesting. It’s been interesting.
Dr. Taz: Well, it’s been fascinating because even as we’ve worked with chronic Lyme or chronic EBV patients in practice, there are all these protocols for antibiotic therapy and IV therapy and antivirals. And I feel like they’re great in a very acute situation, like if something’s happened fairly recently. But the minute one of these things become chronic, it becomes more of an immune dysfunction. And we’re dealing more with, I feel like, the immune system, rather than this particular trigger. I don’t know what your experience is. Talk just a little bit. We don’t want the whole episode to be about Lyme. But just a little bit about that, because I know there’s so many frustrated folks. And even with COVID, quite honestly, we’re seeing it too where it’s playing tricks on the immune system and then you’re dealing with immune fallout rather than the primary infection. So just curious about what your experience was and what you think is going on there?
Dr. Bill Rawls: Yeah. Yeah. I think you hit the nail on the head. We do an exceptionally good job of acute intervention of illness. If you break your leg or have a heart attack or a stroke, in the early stages of illness we do an exceptionally good job of stabilizing the person. But as we move into chronic illness, we ignore the fact that people are chronically ill because the healing systems of their body have become dysfunctional. And instead of addressing that and addressing the underlying causes of the chronic illness that are driving that dysfunction, we continue to treat them with acute intervention every day with drugs. And because we’re not addressing the underlying causes, people don’t get well. 60%, six out of ten Americans, are living with a chronic illness, six out of ten.
Dr. Taz: Staggering. Staggering number.
Dr. Bill Rawls: It’s just crazy. Yeah.
Dr. Taz: Well, why do you think medications are not working in these scenarios and something like herbs are? I’m curious, the chemistry there, what’s happening there where herbs are able to step in and help and medications cannot?
Dr. Bill Rawls: Yeah. I think when you look at what physicians are doing out there, integrative and functional medicine physicians are much more on the right track. And that’s where I found myself even before those things existed. But it’s the way that you direct how you manage the patient. So typically what we want to do in a conventional medical setting is define the diagnosis. We want to find the diagnosis. We collect the patient’s symptom and do a diagnostic protocol to find what category, what little box to put that person in? Do they have chronic Lyme or do they have MS or do they have Parkinson’s? So we’re looking at fitting that diagnosis. And the purpose of a diagnosis is to define the drug protocol. And what drugs are designed to do is block the manifestations of illness. So we can artificially block pathways, enzymes, things in the body that affect cellular functions in a way that reduces symptoms or slows the process of illness. But it’s not getting to the fundamental reason why the patient is ill.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Dr. Bill Rawls: So in my journey, early on, I was asking that question, looking at that whole thing differently and going, “Okay, why is the patient ill?” Not, “What’s their diagnosis?” Why are they ill? How did their situation evolve when they became chronically ill? And I started looking at causative factors. So this was 15 years ago and we weren’t hearing much about it. But it was like, first, diet, that’s pretty obvious. People are eating the wrong foods. That’s a big deal. Next category is toxic substances. I know you’ve addressed detoxification and toxicity of all the different chemicals that we’re exposed to in our life. That, you can tie that into an effect of illness. Chronic stress, we all get that. You disrupt that hypothalamic pituitary adrenal access, and don’t sleep. That’s really bad. It’s going to disrupt all your hormone systems. Being sedentary, not moving. We have to move blood to keep things healthy. And if you’re not moving blood by exercise… And then that last factor that chronic Lyme disease tied me into was microbes.
Dr. Bill Rawls: So those are the main factors that cause the illness. It’s pretty finite. You can trace all this out. And what I’ve done over the past decade is look at how those things affect all the way down to a cellular level. So when we talk about symptoms, we tend to get this nebulous idea of what a symptom is, how it feels. We know it’s something wrong. Very specifically, what a symptom is, is cells in the body that have been stressed. Any symptom can be defined as cellular stress.
Dr. Taz: And for those of you who are trying to wrap your heads around this idea, I want you to think about your organs, your blood, your brain, your heart, your hormones, all of it, teeming with cells. The cells are the stuff that power it, make it move, make it do the job it’s supposed to do. And if our cells are dying for whatever reason, that’s when we’re going to feel a certain way. But we don’t think that way. At least most of us don’t think that way in practice. We’re trying to manage a symptom or manage a condition or manage a disease, not manage a cell. So I’m hearing from you that you’re shifting that conversation to say, let’s manage these cells. Is that correct?
Dr. Bill Rawls: That’s the root of health. The book I called Cellular Wellness, because that’s what it’s all about. If you have symptoms of any kind, if you step wrong and twist your ankle, you damage cells in your foot. If you block off a coronary artery and block blood flow going to the heart muscle, you are damaging, you are stressing cells in the heart. And you feel it as chest pain. So when cells are stressed, they release chemical substances that activate nerves that tell our brain something’s wrong. So we feel pain or discomfort. But the other thing is when you stress cells, and especially stress cells chronically, you lose that function. If you step wrong on that ankle, you can’t walk on it as well. If you put a brace on it and walk on crutches for a few weeks, it heals, right?
Dr. Taz: Right.
Dr. Bill Rawls: So what healing is… We hear that word all the time. I couldn’t answer that question. What is healing? What healing is is the ability of cells to recover from being stressed. So cells have the ability to repair internal damage and also regenerate new cells. So what healing is is the ability of cells to recover from stress. So when you look at illnesses and symptoms as being stressed cells and illness as being stressed cells, what chronic illness is is when cells continue to be stressed because the stresses are ongoing. So, that puts you on a whole different playing field. So the answer is not, “How do we block the manifestations of illness,” which is important in those early stages, to stabilize it. The answer is, “How do we de-stress our cells and allow them to heal? So it’s those five factors.
Dr. Bill Rawls: You eat a better diet. You work on your detoxification. You get your stress level down. And sleep, because sleep is so important for cells to recover. We need downtime. And then exercise, mobility is really important because it does things to our cells. But very importantly, when we talk about that first stage of detoxification, it starts at the cellular level. The toxins are in the cells. They’re damaging the cells. That’s what they’re doing. And the cells are trying to purge those things. And they need blood flow. They need that continual wash that we get from being physically active, to mobilize those things into the bloodstream and lymphatic system, and get it moving beyond. So those are the main factors that stress us. And then there’s the microbes.
Dr. Taz: Oh my goodness. I can’t wait to talk about microbes. But before we get there, how can we assess… because many of us are checked out. We’re a little bit checked out from our physical bodies. We don’t pay attention until a symptom or a disease shows up. Is there a way to ask for a test or to scan our bodies and to know we’re getting into this condition of cellular stress before it becomes something bigger that gets harder to manage?
Dr. Bill Rawls: Yeah. I think all of our routine testing and a lot of the things that you do as integrated physicians can give you some early clues as to what is going on. But there are literally thousands of different kinds of tests that you can do. So it’s kind of like which ones give you the best answer. It’s really hard to define. And I found in my practice over the years that I was at a point where I was doing a lot of testing. And I found that the more time that I spent talking to the patient, if I spent a good hour really starting early on, maybe sometimes at birth, and piecing together the person’s situation and why they became chronically ill and what kind of symptoms evolved, I can get a pretty good idea of what’s going on. And I found that that often is even severe relapse. The body will talk to you. I mean, my grandfather used to tell me, and this is a common saying, if you let them, the patient will tell you what’s wrong with them. And it’s just a matter of they’re doing that listening.
Dr. Bill Rawls: But also it’s helping the patient become very inwardly focused to really understand that these symptoms, it’s really an important signal. Symptoms are very, very accurate. Now there are things that occur early on that people don’t notice. We start developing arterial plaques, and sometimes inflammation, and we ignore these warning signs. So I think the labs are very valuable, but the more we can key people into being focused in and recognizing that the symptoms are there for a reason. They’re telling us something. We all get symptoms that come and go because the body is constantly trying to heal itself, but when symptoms don’t go away or when you have a symptom, you can focus it to say, “Okay, I’m having this symptom in this part of the body. How do I promote healing there? What can I do to help that process?” Like using a brace and crutches when you twist your ankle. You’re helping that process. Well, eating a good diet, cleaning up your lifestyle, getting more sleep, all of these things can create that environment of healing inside your body.
Dr. Taz: So even if you do have the recognition that something’s off, you’re not quite right, things are starting to develop. Where would somebody begin? What would you have them do first?
Dr. Bill Rawls: As far as modifications in their behaviors?
Dr. Taz: Correct. Yeah. Yep.
Dr. Bill Rawls: Diets are usually a good, pretty good place to start. I think you and I would probably be on the same page of diet. I’d try to keep it simple and say, “Eat more vegetables than anything else. And try to keep your carbs down below 150, 200 grams a day. Don’t eat so much red meat.” If you do basically those things that’ll carry a long way.
Dr. Taz: And look how food is such a powerful medicine. It’s like almost 75% of the journey, I feel like, for so many people.
Dr. Bill Rawls: Sure.
Dr. Taz: Well, let’s switch to microbes. And my concern here is whatever you believe about climate and the planet and all this other stuff, I feel like we’re going to continue to be presented with microbes we might not be used to, microbes that become opportunistic. What is your feeling about the whole microbial situation or the bacterial situation that ends viruses that we’ll be dealing with over the next 20, 30 years?
Dr. Bill Rawls: Yeah. When I was born, there were 3 billion people on the planet. Now we’ve got 7.8 billion. And I found a national geographic article last year that suggested that 40% of those people, 40% of those people do not have enough water to regularly wash their hands.
Dr. Taz: Yikes.
Dr. Bill Rawls: And they’re in contact with each other, in contact with animals. So I think we are going to see more of these kinds of things as our population gets more concentrated and also more mobile. As we deal with climate change and that sort of thing, people are going to be moving around the planet. So keeping your body healthy is really important. So we are going to have new things that come at us. But we have things that come at us all the time. And that’s where my study has carried me. That is really fascinating. And it really started with Lyme disease, recognizing that people that are struggling with this thing called Lyme disease don’t have a microbe, they have this whole spectrum of things. Whenever they test, they find stuff. And then the more I looked, I found that, well, there’s well over a hundred species of microbes that can be picked up, that could be potentially carried chronically, without even people knowing it, low grade pathogens. And that carried me even deeper to explore current research. That’s going on into something we’re calling the dormant blood and tissue microbiome.
Dr. Taz: What is that?
Dr. Bill Rawls: Yeah. All right. We all have microbes, right?
Dr. Taz: Right.
Dr. Bill Rawls: We have bacteria that live in our gut and on our skin, and body openings, and our mouths, our sinuses. We have bacteria. But technically they’re separate from our tissues. So we have to keep our microbes because what microbes want is food. And anything living is food, including our body and our cells. So we have to keep the microbes contained inside the gut with the gut lining. We keep them on the outer part of our skin. So we have barriers, but they get through the barriers. So we have the immune system when we get an infection. So what an infection is just my new microbe, trying to break through barriers.
Dr. Bill Rawls: But what we’re finding out though is that microbes from the gut, and the skin, and the oral cavity are constantly trickling across those barriers and getting past the immune system. And what they do when they do that is invade cells and live inside cells, inside your blood cells, your red blood cells, your white blood cells. But that gets them into the brain.
Dr. Bill Rawls: So we actually have a brain microbiome, heart microbiome. They found low grade microbes inside our cells. All these things are intra-cellular. And what this research is showing is that these microbes, if you have healthy cells, then these microbes can stay dormant. Not really alive but not dead either. And capable of being reactivated. That it’s something present so when the bacteria, the microbe, goes into the cell, it changes. And it can reach this dormant state. So not all of our cells, but some of our cells. A pretty significant number of our cells. And we may even have a symbiotic relationship with some of these bacteria. So yeah, it’s kind of crazy research. But it is also starting to make links to if you follow a bad diet, and don’t get sleep, and get bombarded with toxins and your cells get stressed, they get vulnerable. These microbes reactivate. And that is they’re making connections and defining… I was reading a study all morning defining the different mechanisms that these microbes can end up causing chronic illness.
Dr. Taz: Wow. So is that the reason behind why some people might get brain cancer, somebody else might get an autoimmune disease, somebody else might get a heart attack? Do we connect it all back to these microbial pieces?
Dr. Bill Rawls: It’s all connected. It’s all connected. And people get different illnesses because we all have different genes and we all pick up different microbes through our lifetime. So we have this relationship, this extended microbiome that goes into our blood and tissues, and it’s just there. And it’s almost kind of like a time bomb. And some of them are probably worse than others. So when you get something like COVID or another infection, not only are you dealing with that microbe coming in, you stress your body and stress your immune cells that it can allow reactivation of these other things that are there, like Epstein-Barr virus, and CME, and mycoplasma, and chlamydia, and all of these things that are there. And so we’re still early in the game of really understanding how it all works, but it’s pretty fascinating. And when you start putting it all together, it starts explaining chronic illness to the tee.
Dr. Taz: So let’s say we’ve lived rough or hard. We’re doctors. I also went through… What got me here was my whole journey from chaotic childhood, to college, to residency, and ER, and all that business. If we’ve lived really hard for a period of time or been through trauma or grief where we’re vulnerable, the body hasn’t been well taken care of, these microbes enter these cells. Are we just done? Is it all over? What-
Dr. Bill Rawls: No. There’s speculation that this is pretty much happening with everybody. And we all have this microbiome that becomes part of us. That’s the thing that I fight all the time with people trying to understand Lyme disease. It’s like, “No, I just take an antibiotic. It gets rid of the bacteria. They’re gone. And then I’m well again.” But then it’s pretty rare that people actually get well with prolonged antibiotics. And so I looked at my situation and in the beginning, I mean, I found herbs. The herbs were working and I was of that mindset. I just have to keep taking the herbs, I’ll get rid of the bacteria. And I finally figured out after several years of doing this back and forth that, “No. I’m probably not going to get rid of them. They are part of me. They are inside my cells.” And it’s not just the lime microbes. It’s other things that I’ve picked up.
Dr. Bill Rawls: And so the good news is I have been in peak health for a decade since that time. And yeah, I’m picky about my diet, my sleep and all of these kinds of things that we do. But I have been taking herbs, pretty significant doses of herbs for 15 years. I’m 65 now. And I’m still doing some pretty vigorous activities, like kite surfing, that I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to do again. So that’s the fascinating thing, the story of the herbs and how they work. And how they are counteracting all of these things, all of these factors.
Dr. Taz: So are there favorite herbs that… We don’t want people running out and taking a bunch of herbs without supervision. But are there favorite herbs that trigger cellular regeneration, repair healing, in addition to obviously diet, lifestyle, stress, sleep, all these other things. What are your favorites?
Dr. Bill Rawls: I do have some favorite herbs. And just to put that in perspective, I would say that the really wonderful thing about herbs is when you take an herb, you’re taking the plant’s system of protecting itself. A lot of people look at herbs like their drugs and we just need them to take care of symptoms. The herbs are doing so much more. So there are herbs that have chemicals in them that might mimic some of our neurotransmitters or hormones that we get a little bit of a drug-like effect like St. John’s wort, or maybe kava, or passion flower. But there are many herbs that don’t really work that way, that what they’re doing is they’re providing cellular protection. So when we take an herb, we’re getting the chemistry of the plant, which the plant is using to protect its cells. So it’s protecting its cells from free radicals, toxic substances, and radiation. Every type of stress that our cells undergo the plant is also protecting its cells.
Dr. Bill Rawls: But it’s also protecting its cells from microbes. And it’s not one chemical, it’s hundreds of different chemicals that affect bacteria, viruses, protozoa. But one of the really fascinating things about the herbs that I found, and I’ve actually found studies that support it now, is that the herbs don’t disrupt gut flora like antibiotics do. So you can take them and it’s more this effect of suppressing pathogens. But I found that actually herbs work better for balancing the gut than probiotics do. They’re outstanding.
Dr. Bill Rawls: So there are herbs that don’t have drug-like effects, that they’re just cell protectors. So they’re giving us this robust cell protection and antimicrobial protection. And what they’re doing, unlike drugs, is they’re promoting healing. So there are a lot of herbs that I love, but my list for people who are interested, Rhodiola, that’s top of my list. Rhodiola is an herb from Siberia that helps us and enhances our ability to deal with physical stress and mental stress. And it’s because it’s protecting our cells. Turmeric, I’m sure you’re very aware of. It’s a wonderful anti-inflammatory herb. Reishi is actually a medicinal mushroom. It has been studied in Japan for anti-cancer effects. All of these things have the effect of protecting ourselves, protecting ourselves from microbes of various kinds, but also balancing our stress hormones. So they’re doing a lot of things for us.
Dr. Taz: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Love that. Yeah.
Dr. Bill Rawls: That affects the brain and it has some wonderful antidiabetic effects also. That was fascinating. I found that there are hundreds of herbs that have antidiabetic effects. So as we’re trying to get off those carbohydrates it helps normalize insulin and other kinds of things. And milk thistle, you had mentioned that one. I gotta have that on the list because it’s very wonderful for protecting our liver function. So there are some other herbs that have stronger antimicrobial properties like Japanese knotweed, Andrographis, cat’s claw. But I tend to reserve those for a population of people who are struggling with some kind of chronic illness. And I don’t use the concept of diagnosis the same way I did. I see chronic Lyme disease as really a model for understanding all of chronic illness. So I think these same principles apply to anyone for any situation.
Dr. Taz: What is our current healthcare system going to do, because it doesn’t think this way. What do you think the future is? You’re a fourth generation physician. I’m sure you’ve watched medicine change, or the practice of medicine change, over the years. Where are we headed? If this is the future, if it’s cellular health, what do we all do from a practice? I mean, I have an amazing practice. I’m not worried about me and my patients. But for the global population, how are we going to shift the way we think about disease and healthcare?
Dr. Bill Rawls: Yeah. It’s going to be a grassroots effort. That’s what I’m trying to do. That’s why I spend so much time getting information out there. I gave up a long time ago to change the system. I just don’t think that’s going to happen. And the other thing is, it’s what we ask of the system. I mean, if we’re asking the system to take care of us when we become acutely ill, and stabilize us, then I think we’re going to get good use out of the system. But if we’re asking the system to heal us, that comes from us. That comes from God. So I think it is more changing the way people think about themselves and looking at it. And as I have been through time, the message sent by the medical system was “Go ahead. Eat whatever you want. Do whatever you want. Have a party. Just great. And we’re going to fix you when everything falls apart.” That was a hollow promise. We don’t have that capacity.
Dr. Bill Rawls: So I think it is motivating people to be proactive about their own health. And you do that every day. I do that every day. There are more and more people, more providers of various kinds every day. We need more health coaches. We need people educating the public to say, “Yeah. If you really want to feel well, you really have to take care of your body, your cells.” And if you’re doing that, you’re going to be fine. Life’s going to be good.
Dr. Taz: Love it. The book Cellular Health came out in the summer, right? So where can we find the book? How can folks connect to you?
Dr. Bill Rawls: The book is on Amazon, of course. All books are on Amazon, I guess.
Dr. Taz: Yes. Right.
Dr. Bill Rawls: But there’s also a website, it’s cellular wellness. And so look for the Cellular Wellness Solution on Amazon. It’s got a lot of great information. I mean, it’s just loaded. It’s truly a manual that could compliment anybody’s journey and help them understand some of these really interesting topics that I’ve just found fascinating over the years.
Dr. Taz: Well, I love this topic. And I hope everyone listening today got so much information from it and has a sense of how we need to be thinking about health and healing and how to prevent disease. And I just think I’m so appreciative of all the work you’ve been doing. I think it’s incredible. And I love connecting with like-minded practitioners as well.
Dr. Bill Rawls: Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Taz: I think it’s amazing.
Dr. Bill Rawls: Thank you for the opportunity. It’s really been fun.
Dr. Taz: Of course. And for everyone else listening and watching this episode of Super Woman Wellness, connect with Dr. Rawls, check out his book. And remember you can rate and review the show, share it with your friends, and spread the word about thinking about health and healing a little bit differently. I’ll see you guys next time.