Asthma and Sustainable Healthcare – Rodney Dietert PhD Interview

World Asthma FoundationDefeating Asthma Series uncovers New Hope for Asthma Managementant

Asthmatics: Our understanding of Asthma and the way we treat it may soon be radically different from what currently exists, due to new research on the human microbiome and how the microbiome affects asthma.

In this interview with Rodney Dietert, PhD Cornell University Professor Emeritus, Health Scientist Head of Translational Science + Education for SEED and the Author of the Human Super-Organism How the Microbiome is Revolutionizing the Pursuit of a Healthy Life we learn about the benefits of Sustainable Healthcare and what we should be thinking about to get there.


World Asthma Foundation: You write about the microbiome and sustainable health care. Can you explain why this matters?

Dr. Dietert: I think that recent estimates from CDC and WHO, that global death by these non-communicable diseases like asthma, inflammatory bowel, and the like, it’s not just developed countries but developing countries as well. Is 70-75% of all deaths are from these conditions. You might note that people live sometimes many decades with these conditions with polypharmacy. Furthermore, if you have one of those, you have a really good chance as you age of having more, requiring additional medications, each one with different side effects and potential drug interactions can occur.

We think we’re very healthy because of longevity, but we lead a lot of our life in illness and sometimes stressing our caregivers’ system because some of these (conditions) require caregivers as well. There’s a different path. That (the present path) is not, in my mind, a sustainable path. My family has a number of– We’re well represented in some of these diseases. We know the trajectory, we’ve lived the trajectory and there’s a different way to go. Once you recognize that it really starts with our interaction with the external world, and that is the interface: the microbiome. It’s what they see: the chemicals, drugs, food first.  And what we get is what they’ve dealt with and left behind or metabolized and reacted to.

We can control that and we should control that and it should be integrated so that we’re dealing, again, like the regenerative agriculture people. Dealing with the soil, the air, the water, the plants, the animals, and us as a continuum of microbial interactions, where we can really have everything be healthy and sustainable. If we do that, we’re going to reduce the prevalence of these diseases. The drug companies will find other ways to continue to be profitable in a sustainable way, but we don’t need to be chasing symptoms of some of these diseases without curing the disease.

Quite frankly, I think I’ve discussed in the book, we’ve cured very few of these diseases. We treat symptoms. In fact, we treat presenting symptoms. I’ve shown how these diseases are all very much connected as co-morbid factors of each other. A child diagnosed with asthma, we know what kind of diseases are likely to show up in those groups of children with asthma as they age. In my mind, physicians have yet to deal with that. They actually don’t do things that stop that from me happening in a 30, 40, 50-year old when they see a child with asthma. They treat the symptom of the day. That’s a change and a change that would allow us to be much more sustainable in our health and in our medicine that we practice.