A Bioenergetic View of Physiology

“Humans are just bipedal primates. All that we can do is to attempt to approximate reality. So, we create paradigms based on our observations and experiences, and we use these paradigms to predict the future.”

-Doug Wallace PhD

Paradigm: A framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a community. 


The western medical paradigm finds itself at a crossroads. A continually growing amount of resources are allocated to combat chronic illness and “age related” degeneration yet the causes for these conditions remain a mystery and their incidence is surging. The lack of clinical return on biomedical research investments is really striking. We are in desperate need of a paradigm shift if we are ever to uncover the truth behind this modern epidemic. Thomas Kuhn argued in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that when the scientific effort expended on a problem increases, yet productivity declines, then the difficulty may lie in the assumptions (paradigms) on which the research is based. I believe that the causes behind the disease epidemic exist outside the current realm of inquiry and understanding in conventional medicine. In order to meet these issues at the root, we’ll have to fundamentally reexamine our method of inquiry. 

Current biomedical science stands on two pillars: the anatomical and genetic paradigms. The anatomical model of the body is 450 years old and has at its foundation the work of Vesalius, who first described the organs of the body. Since then, physicians and medical scientists have specialized in individual organs and their associated disease manifestations. This has also led to the assumption that organ specific symptoms are the result of organ specific problems that are the result of tissue specific protein and gene defects that can be treated with chemicals (pharmaceuticals) that interact with specific proteins and tissues. The accepted anatomical model is closely tied to the mendelian paradigm of genetics, which argues that genetic traits are transmitted across generations according to the laws of Gregor Mendel. Huge investments in biomedical research of the anatomical and genetic models have failed to reveal the anticipated genetic causes for chronic conditions. For example, when asked about the genetic basis of autism spectrum disorder, mitochondrial researcher Robert Naviaux MD PhD of UC-San Diego said “no single gene is found in more than 2% of children with ASD, and all the genes combined do not allow a strong prediction of risk in more than about 10% of children. This means that after 10 years of exhaustive genetic analysis, ASD is mostly a disorder caused by complex gene-environment interactions. Like most complex chronic disorders, autism is an ‘ecogenetic’ disorder.” The shortcomings of the anatomical and genetic models of disease need to be seriously considered by allopathic medicine. Suffice to say that multi-system, multi-symptom diseases (which encompasses all of the chronic degenerative conditions) slip through the cracks of this disassociated view of the body.

The anatomical genetic paradigm isolates the organism from its environment. This is a framework in search of internal defects. When anatomical specialists and genomic researchers can’t find defects, patients get told that they aren’t sick. In reality, the body is a coherent whole that is constantly interfacing with its environment. From this perspective, any state of the body is a response to environmental influences. This isn’t to say that true genetic diseases don’t exist, because they do. I believe that true genetic disorders have been inherited because they presented an advantage at some point during our evolution and thus are evolutionarily conserved. Many ancestral europeans, for example, have inherited the true genetic disorder of cystic fibrosis because at one point it was protective against cholera and presented a survival advantage. This “epigenetic” or “ecogenetic” model has completely changed the way I conceptualize diseases. The body is simply trying to compensate for the world we’ve manufactured. The sea change in medicine will be to look outward instead of inward. 

A bioenergetic model of life not only views the organism as an inseparable manifestation of the energetic cycles in it’s environment, but also recognizes that energy, structure, and function are fundamentally interdependent at every level. In other words, an organism and it’s environment are an energetic continuum and the energy flowing from the environment into an organism build the structure and function of cells and tissues. Health is the state where an organism can utilize biological substrates to most efficiently and effectively transmute energetic inputs (Light, Food, Oxygen) into usable energy to maintain structure and function. The more available energy, the more robust structure and function will be. Ultimately the energy will be returned to the environment, and the cycle will continue. Energy is never created, destroyed, or WASTED and everything is interdependent. 


Bioenergetics marries eastern and western medical traditions. While the ancient Chinese traditions of acupuncture, herbalism, and Tai Chi have had a focus on energy flows throughout our organism for millennia, western medical science has revealed some of the biological underpinnings of this energy including mitochondrial function, connective tissue conductivity, biophoton emissions, and the physics of water. If we are to witness a shift of western biomedical science out of limbo, bioenergetics and mitochondrial medicine will have to be adopted and practiced in concert with the anatomical and genetic paradigms. Energy, structure, and function are the foundational components of health and disease. Energetic transfers are an effect of a coupled system between an organism and it’s environment. Until we view medical conditions in terms of their environmental context, we have no hope of solving them. 


Photo Credit: Mae Wan Ho

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