Life Extension Magazine May 2011
Harlan Bieley, MD
From Doctor to Patient and Back
By Robin Gettleman
If it helps for a doctor to have walked in his patients’ shoes, then Harlan Bieley, MD, has both the resume and the diplomas to make a well-rounded physician. That’s because Bieley was derailed by illness while he was on his way to becoming a dermatologist.
“I got sick during my dermatology residency,” Bieley says. “And the strategy that got me better is why I wanted to open an anti-aging and functional medicine practice.”
Bieley explains that he knew he needed help because he couldn’t focus, didn’t have any energy, and just plain didn’t feel good. He went to several doctors who told him that he needed to balance his hormones and get rid of the toxins that were slowing his body down. After modifying his lifestyle and choosing the right nutrients and supplements to include in his diet, he soon regained his mental acuity and former robust health.
“The success I had personally led me to go back to school to study this amazing field of regenerative medicine even further,” Bieley says. “I had an interest in it when it first came out, but the more I dove into it, the more fascinated I became. I was soon studying anti-aging and functional medicine as well.”
This fascination eventually led Bieley to become Board Certified and an Advanced Fellow in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine through the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.
“The fact is that for some diseases like diabetes, for every class of medicine out there, we have a nutritional supplement with less side effects and less costs,” he says. “People can take medication all day, but if they’re going to have lasting improvement in their health, they need to alter their lifestyle and diet accordingly.”
This triple philosophy of combining nutrigenomics, diet, and supplements into one powerful weapon against disease and poor health is at the heart of what Dr. Bieley preaches at his Healthy Living and Longevity Medical Center.
Opening a Practice, Opening Patients’ Eyes
Dr. Bieley’s office, which has been open for four years, is nestled just off of Federal Highway in North Palm Beach, Florida. The office has an inviting waiting area, replete with copies of the most cutting edge anti-aging reading materials available for patients to peruse. Of course, the current copy of Life Extension Magazine® is prominently displayed.
“The writing in Life Extension® is really informative and is on the cusp of the latest medical findings and technology. I always leave issues around for patients to look at,” Bieley says. “Plus, the features in Life Extension delve into many of the issues I see my patients battle every day.”
The conditions facing these patients vary by age and sex, but Bieley says that for men, low levels of energy, reduced sexual desire and/or function, and lack of mental focus are some of the most common complaints his patients have when they first step into his office. For women, he says that the most common issues often dealt with are sleeplessness, depression, chronic stress, and menopause anxiety.
“Quite often, my patients come in with a symptom that will really be the result of a cascade of symptoms,” Bieley says. “A man will come in and say that he’s feeling depressed, but when I ask why he’s depressed, he’ll explain that he’s not performing sexually or he has no sexual desire. When we delve further into why this is the case, he’ll say that he just doesn’t have the energy. So here we are with a man suffering from a whole slew of problems, but they all come back to a general lack of energy, which may lead to the simple problem of low testosterone levels. This is a very fixable problem, but many patients have no idea that having low testosterone is even something that can happen.”
A Comprehensive Introduction
One of the first orders of business upon entering Bieley’s office as a patient is to give him as much information as you can about the problem. He says the more he knows about a patient’s symptoms, the better chance he has of making them better. This is why he hands each patient a comprehensive survey that allows them to rank all of the symptoms that they may be experiencing. Men and women each have different surveys, and they serve the dual purpose of providing Dr. Bieley with an accurate picture of the problem his patient faces, as well as giving him a baseline for how the patient is feeling prior to treatment.
Each survey is over 15 pages and includes standard medical history, along with questions designed to either rule out certain complications or point toward them. In order, the survey runs through the gamut of potential problems, beginning with mental symptoms and moving on to sexual function, physical changes, metabolic disease or changes, urologic problems, testosterone deficiency, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) deficiency, cortisol deficiency, cortisol excess, thyroid hormone deficiency, growth hormone deficiency, melatonin deficiency, aldosterone deficiency, and dysbiosis (abnormal population of gut bacteria).
“By necessity, my approach is very comprehensive in its scope,” Bieley says. “When I’m attacking a problem, I will incorporate high-end nutritional evaluation testing as well as clinical nutrigenomics, which is the clinical practice of modifying genetic expression with nutrition in order to get improved patient outcomes without serious adverse effects. I also prescribe bioidentical hormone replacement therapy only after looking at the symphony of hormones. Once I take a look at this, I can create a hormonal harmony that can lead to higher functioning with improved quality of life.”
In addition, Dr. Bieley offers his patients red blood cell membrane fatty acid evaluation and treatment, organic acids testing and treatment, targeted amino acid therapy, and evaluation and treatment for chronic stress, toxic heavy metals, secondary risk factors for heart disease, and neurotransmitter deficiencies. He uses gene testing to evaluate a patient’s potential risk for disease and other customized treatments based upon their unique biochemical individuality.
Keep it Simple
Despite the overwhelming number of diseases and conditions Dr. Bieley tests for in order to pinpoint exactly what may be bothering someone, he begins all patient interviews with one simple question: “Are you ready to make changes in your life?”
“I ask this question because while we can diagnose a patient’s problem and come up with a solution to solve it, ultimately, making beneficial changes in your life will be the key to long-term success,” Bieley says.
On a personal level, Bieley had to reevaluate his life habits in order to, as he puts it, “nurture health rather than fight disease.”
The difference between the two, while seemingly small, is actually vast.
“The difference has to do with methodology and approach,” he says. “Nurturing health involves the dynamic approach of functional medicine that deals with evaluating the underlying triggers, pathophysiology, antecedents, and mediators for preempting, preventing, and treating chronic disease.”
A large part of this “nurturing” health process is maintaining a strong exercise program, which keeps the heart, mind, and body strong.
“The key to cardiovascular conditioning and increasing lean muscle and building muscle, in general, is to create a lactic acid burn that depletes glycogen ten to fifteen minutes into the workout program,” he says. “After this initial warm-up, the rest of the exercise program should focus on ATP production in skeletal muscle and increasing growth hormone and testosterone levels.”
Bieley recommends one hour of exercise at least three times a week, comprised of 40 minutes of resistance training and 20 minutes of interval training. He also tells his patients to work out in the morning prior to eating because if you have glycogen stores in muscle or in the liver when you start your exercise program you will not create the same lactic acid burn.
As is the case with the rest of Bieley’s advice to patients, there is an important nutritional component to the workout. The post-workout shake that he tells his patients they should have is made of 16 ounces of a healthy beverage, 10 grams of D-ribose powder, 2 grams of L-carnitine tartrate powder, 1 gram L-glutamine powder, 30 grams whey protein powder, and 3 grams of buffered vitamin C.
While many of the issues facing Dr. Bieley’s patients involve their bodies, quite a few also involve their minds. As such, he has created a Brain Fitness Program to help enhance the memory of his older clients.
“Different exercises stimulate different regions and neurological functions in the brain,” he explains. “Mental exercises can sharpen intelligence.”
Simple things like using your non-habitual hand for everyday tasks or picking a year from your past and trying to remember everything that happened in a specific month will activate certain parts of your brain and strengthen your mind. Even things like putting your watch on a different hand or practicing reading upside down can kickstart your brain into learning a new skill. An odd, but interesting suggestion to spark certain parts of your brain involves watching the television with the sound off and trying to figure out the personalities of the characters by watching their actions. This will help the brain improve its interpretation of visual stimuli, since the audio stimulus normally relied upon will not be there.
“Taking up a new language, a new instrument, or even beginning to listen to a new kind of music, all can have incredible effects on an aging brain,” Bieley says. “Your mind has the amazing ability to always be able to learn new things.”
In addition to mental exercises, Dr. Bieley offers something called The Brain Spa®, which he describes as an ultra-modern neurofeedback training system (EEG biofeedback with photostimulation) that has been used to improve anxiety, insomnia, ADD/ADHD, and your level of focused attention.
Putting it all Together
The slogan for Bieley’s Healthy Living and Longevity Medical Center is “Function Higher—Physically, Mentally, Sexually,” and the multi-modal, comprehensive care reflects an incredible attention to detail about how to care for a patient. His step-by-step diagnostic process and explanation of solutions no doubt comes from Bieley’s own experiences sitting on the other side of a doctor’s desk.
In his own words, he focuses on making sure patients don’t feel like they’re being “rushed through the mill” because as a patient, that’s not how he wanted to be treated.
“Being a doctor who overcame an illness offers different insight into the doctor-patient relationship,” he says. “I have empathy for anyone who is ill or just not functioning normally, and I am passionate about finding a customized, sustainable care plan designed just for them. My goal is to get every one of my patients back to robust health.”
For more information, please visit: www.hllmc.com
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