This is the story of my father’s teeth, which led us, via a chain of events and the advice of several knowledgeable British functional doctors, to a small town in northern Spain, and a remarkable doctor called Dr Jose Mendonca.
Some months ago, my father begin to get seriously worried about his memory. He was forgetting things, struggling to remember names and familiar places. Just the side effects of ageing? Perhaps. But at the back of his mind was the fear that most of us probably share. Was it the onset of something more serious?
At any rate, it worried him to the extent that he went to the doctor. Not something he usually does, because he is extremely fit and very healthy even at the age of 83. His NHS doctor offered him some blood tests and various pills, agreeing that there was a problem. And that was that. It would be monitored at regular intervals and kept an eye on.
Not very reassuring as a long-term strategy.
And so he took it into his own hands. Getting up early in the morning to catch endless trains to London and travel the four hours each way there and back that it takes from the depths of Herefordshire in a day. Exhausting. But he was desperate, and prepared to do whatever it took to find the answers.
He believes, as I do, that illness of any kind must be looked at in the round. If your mind is foggy, you need to track down the causes of that fogginess, rather than swallow a pill or two to address the symptoms. So he searched out an experienced doctor of functional medicine to look at all his systems and establish what wasn’t working.
What is a doctor of functional medicine?
In a nutshell, they look at the whole of you. They treat you as an individual person, made up of mind, body and emotions, rather than addressing the symptoms of disease, which is the focus of a conventional doctor. They look for why you have the problem and work out what they can do to assist your body in resolving it. They consider nutritional and environmental factors; they look at mental and emotional issues. These are professionally qualified doctors, who believe in working with all the body’s systems to bring you back to a state of optimal wellbeing and vitality. What do they do that is different from your standard GP or consultant? The major difference is that they look at your whole picture, rather than a tiny part of it, basing all their decisions on clinical research and scientific evidence.
A full body MOT
My father found Dr John Moran from the Holistic Medical Clinic in London, who referred him on to the wonderful Dr Shideh Pouria, who works out of Grace Medical in South Halkin Street. He had nutritional analyses, kidney and liver function tests, nutritional check-ups and scans of various kinds. A full body MOT. And it was very re-assuring for him. He felt there would be an answer once the detective work was done. He had toxic metal tests and there they found the major problem. Sky-high levels of mercury and various other metals.
He has had problems with his teeth on and off for years, moving from one NHS dentist to another. He had numerous mercury fillings, alongside root canals and implants. The full works. And after some x-rays and further scans, clearly that was a large part of his problem. Part of his jaw was deteriorating, destroyed by infection and inflammation. The implants were breaking down, releasing further metal debris into his mouth and blood stream. The situation was serious.
For my father, though, it was a huge relief. Not the dreaded Alzheimer’s after all. Just serious toxic poisoning. The problem was that the optimal solution was a drastic one. It all had to come out. New non-metal implants had to be put back in and his jaw permitted to heal. But once it had, the chances were that much of his memory would return, and with the remedying of various nutritional deficiencies, his health would bounce back.
A Spanish Recommendation
He didn’t hesitate for a second. Where should he go? What should he do? He was referred once again. This time to Dr Jose Mendonca-Caridad in Lugo, Spain.
A bit far to go? What was wrong with a local doctor and dentist you might ask?
I have met many doctors in the course of the last three decades, many of them caring, all of them overworked. Sometimes, in the course of the stressful existence they live, and the human pain they witness, they lose some of the compassion with which they originally entered their profession. I have met hideous egotists in the consulting rooms and hospitals, and professors that have become immune to their patients fears and suffering. I have heard stories from patients of arrogance and bombast.
Once in a while, however, you come across an individual who restores your faith in care and compassion for their fellow men. You read about them sometimes, in articles in the press. Unassuming people, and focused on their patients, not their personal agendas. I have met two in my life. I went to University with one long ago, and another I found in the tiny city of Lugo.
Dr Jose Mendonca is probably about the same age as I am. He heads up the head and neck surgery unit and is head of adult stem cell therapy at the hospital of Polusa in Lugo. His speciality is reconstructive surgery, and he is the man you want if you are involved in a terrible car crash or develop a tumour in your head or jaw. He started his career in Los Angeles and worked with the oral and maxilla facial surgery team at UCLA for many years before returning to his home town, to be closer to his family and for a less stressful working environment.
Mercury: one of the most poisonous substances on the planet
Early on he became interested in the effects of dentistry on people’s health. So he also knows more than most people about the effects of mercury on the human body. Mercury is a neuro-toxin, which means it affects the brain. It is also one of the most poisonous non-radioactive substances on the planet. Once it is in your body it moves around, via your saliva, your lymph, your blood and nerves and wherever it settles it begins to destroy the surrounding tissue. There are over 100 illnesses associated with mercury, including tremors, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, memory loss, fibromyalgia, ME and Alzheimer’s.
Mercury strips off the myelin sheath that usually protects your nerves, causing pain. It forces your liver to work overtime trying to detox it. And even more worryingly, mercury destroys the tumour suppressor p53, which is the body’s major defender against cancer, causing cancer cells to go into apoptosis and effectively commit suicide (Pierre Hainaut). Take out the mercury and the body will start defending itself again.
The point is that mercury is a lethal substance. Studies have shown that the level of mercury in your brain is directly related to the amount of mercury in your teeth. And if it is not properly removed, you can end up sicker than you started. Never just go to your local dentist and ask him to remove your mercury fillings. If the surgeon or dentist does not have the right equipment and techniques, the mercury and metals that were in your teeth can escape, lodging in your organs and creating far more problems than you had before.
We have qualified non-mercury dentists in the UK but my father also needed a surgeon. And Dr Mendonca is a brilliant one with a remarkable dental team. And waiting times for surgery in Spain are not like they are here.
We talked to several of his other patients who had all been through a similar process. They spoke in glowing terms of his professionalism, his team and the painlessness of the whole experience. Earl from the USA had arrived in Spain literally at death’s doorstep. His tongue was black and swollen from the effects of mercury poisoning. His jaw was half destroyed and his energy levels were through the floor. He was basically dying. I met him on his last trip to Spain to be checked. Overflowing with energy and enthusiasm and pretty much prepared to follow Jose to the ends of the earth. He had basically given him back his life.
I spent a week in Lugo, and during that time a steady trickle of English patients arrived in the small guesthouse where we were staying. And from America, the Middle East - people from everywhere. All of them at various stages of their Jose journey.
Some were checking in for their treatment, others coming for a last assessment. Memory problems gone, physical health renewed. People whose jaws were black from the destruction of radiotherapy and were dying, restored. He works with stem cells to grow the bone back again. Your own stem cells, to encourage your body to reconstruct itself. And it works.
And everyone remarked on the man himself.
He is quiet and gentle and understated. But it is much more than that. I would say (and it’s so rare a trait that I can tell you that you recognise it when you see it) that compassion shines out from him. He works tirelessly. The hospital waiting room is full night and day. Yet he is never stressed, always gives his full attention and time and works into the small hours.
A lorry driver crashed his truck in a head on collision while I was there. Dr Mendonca worked on him all through the night, reconstructing his face, saving his jaw. He stayed with him for days till he was out of danger.
But back to my father’s teeth
My father had his operation. He had his teeth (or quite a few of them) taken out, his jaw restored and new implants put back. He lost quite a bit of weight in the process, because for weeks he had to eat sloppy or soft food while his jaw healed. But it’s all over now and he is a new man. Brain back. Teeth restored.
And all thanks to functional medicine, and a doctor I had never heard of with the hands of an angel - ReBoot Hero, Dr Jose Mendonca-Caridad.
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Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's largest breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health.
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