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Bone to Pick

Wellness Feature

Written by Lauren Hunsberger

Back in 1970, Dr. Joe Pizzorno Jr. had a revelation—he was in the wrong branch of medicine.

After attending medical school at Harvard and Cornell University, he was working with a medical research team at the University of Washington to find cures for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout.

“Then I met a friend’s mother. She had cured her rheumatoid arthritis, which was a disease largely thought of as incurable,” Joe says. “I asked her what she did to cure it, and she said she went to a naturopathic doctor. The doctor taught her how eat properly and detoxed her liver. I thought, what does her liver have to do with swollen knees and ankles?”

After that experience, Joe dug deep into the field of naturopathy and witnessed case after case of patients healing complicated diseases using natural modalities. He says he immediately understood that naturopathy healed the root causes of afflictions rather than masking the symptoms with pharmaceuticals.

For Joe, there was no going back to conventional medicine, but not everyone agreed this was a viable way of practicing medicine. At the time, naturopathy was only legal in six states. “In two states, it was considered a felony,” Joe says.

Luckily, the Pacific Northwest had one of the only functioning naturopathic schools in the country (the National College of Natural Medicine), and he received a degree. The school was struggling, though, and Joe knew he needed to do something to keep the practice alive. In 1978, he founded Bastyr University, which shortly afterward became the only accredited school for natural medicine in the country.

“I was so entranced with the opportunity to relieve suffering in the world with this whole body of information not being used,” Joe says. “I thought, this medicine has so much to offer, but it needed to be updated with modern standards of medical practices. The [original] textbook was written the year I was born.”

On top of establishing Bastyr, Joe wrote the textbook on naturopathy (he’s currently revising it for the fifth edition), as well as a handful of consumer books.

During these formative years, Joe also met Lara. She was hired to fund-raise for the school, and eventually the two got married. Lara says she saw Joe as “a practical visionary,” and whole-heartedly supported his mission and the school as it grew. “It was very challenging creating Bastyr, but we did it because we never accepted that it couldn’t be done. It wasn’t part of our reality,” Lara says.

Lara also had her own interests and history with medicine. All the women in her family experienced severe complications from osteoporosis, and she knew she didn’t want to go down the same road. Inspired by Joe’s work with naturopathy, she realized there were options outside of taking drugs or succumbing to genetic factors.

At the age of 70, despite having genes against her, Lara and her bones are healthy and strong. Throughout the decades, she compiled many different factors to offset the disease—including proper supplementation, a nutrient-rich diet, elimination of environmental toxins and more—for both men and women. To share what she learned, she wrote the book Your Bones, and just finished a second edition with updated information.

“Now we know so much about genetics and how people have such huge variation in nutrients and their ability to absorb them,” Lara says.

Which is where the couple’s focus remains today—the intersection of naturopathy and advanced technologies that can determine a patient’s individualized needs.

“It’s like my colleague Dr. Sid Baer says, ‘Get into each person what they uniquely need and out of each person what they uniquely don’t need.’”

The couple is currently working on an advanced artificial intelligence program that analyzes the genetics of patients, environmental factors, diet and more, and then gives them a plan and recommendations based on the results. The company is called SaluGenecists. Joe says it will be launched in the next few years.

He also recently wrote The Toxin Solution: How Hidden Poisons in the Air, Water, Food, and Products We Use Are Destroying Our Health—And What We Can Do to Fix It.

Lara and Joe Pizzorno Jr. will be speaking at the Bellevue Club on October 22. Please visit members.bellevueclub.com for more information.

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