Interview by Dick Benson
Dr. Elroy Vojdani is the founder of Regenera Medical, a boutique Functional Medicine practice in Los Angeles, California.
Upon graduating medical school from the University of Southern California and completing his residency at USC Keck School of Medicine, Dr. V began his career as an Interventional Radiologist, diagnosing and treating complex, late-stage cancers and other extremely debilitating diseases. While this experience gave him unique insights into hospital based medicine, his desire to stop disease before it reached the point of becoming a chronic illness remained at the core of his desire to practice medicine. Today, he continues in his father’s footsteps–pioneering to find answers to medical conditions that go undiagnosed and untreated.
Dr. Vojdani has co-authored over 20 articles in the Scientific literature and continues an integral role in research related to Autoimmune, Neurodegenerative, and Autoinflammatory conditions. He is also the co-Author a medical textbook entitled Food Associated Autoimmunity.
Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal (IMCJ): I saw the recent press release from Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center that you have joined their Clinical Expert team. You will provide expertise and guidance on program and resource development, specifically focused on the Immune Foundations Program.
Dr. Vojdani: Yes, I’m excited.
IMCJ: To begin how does a radiologist get into immunity?
Dr. Vojdani: Dick, you know my dad, you’ve met him several times and interviewed him as well. In my humble opinion he’s a very smart and forward thinking immunologist. I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside him and do research next to him for more than 20 years. I started working with him when I was in high school and continued working with him throughout medical school. I decided to get trained in radiology after medical school because I really enjoyed all aspects of medicine. The part of radiology that really appealed to me was that you really had to know something about everything. It was in retrospect, the only kind of holistic view of medicine offered to me at the time.
As I was going through the training, I missed the patient interaction. I did a subspecialty in interventional radiology, which is a surgical field to get more hands on patient experience. Following training I was in private practice doing inpatient and outpatient procedures on patients. The nature of interventional radiology is that it puts you face to face with people at the end of very long chronic illness, whether it’s cancer or dementia or diabetes or renal failure. Those were the patient groups that I was working with. It was very difficult for me to put in so much energy and passion, knowing that there was very little to be done for these people in the long run that their destiny had already in many ways, been set by the time they came to me.
That experience encouraged me refocus my efforts to be on the early side of disease and hopefully have impacts for people that are life changing and do something about this epidemic of chronic illness in the country. I had the background of research that I had done with my dad for over 20 years before which was a strong foundational knowledge in autoimmunity, immunology and environmental illness. I decided to get re-certified and trained with the Institute for Functional Medicine. I completed their training program and became a certified Functional Medicine practitioner. And from there, I decided to open my own practice initially splitting time between radiology and functional medicine. And very shortly after that going to a hundred percent functional medicine. Here I am about seven years later.
IMCJ: Your dad has a unique perspective on how so many chronic health issues are impacted by gut health and it’s the foundation of many chronic health issues. Is that something you share with him?
Dr. Vojdani: Absolutely. Yes. I think that’s one of the things that he and I believe strongly. The mucosal immune system and the gut immune system are the coaches of our entire immune system as a whole, they’re calling the plays. Gut health is truly at the center of immunological health and in my everyday practice now, I see patients who come in with abnormal auto-immune markers, like a positive ANA or a positive cardiolipin. When we begin identifying intestinal abnormalities and treating them, their abnormal immunological markers are disappearing in some cases. I think what I learned from him in the lab, I have seen come through in my own clinical practice. To me, there’s no bigger buy-in that personalized medicine is the future.
IMCJ: And when you look at many practitioners in trying to build immunity, they’ll think, “Oh yeah, you just throw a zinc, vitamin C.” The basics at people and that it’s going to build their immune system. Well, a lot of those things will go right through you, if you don’t have a strong microbiome or gut health to be able to absorb those supplements.
Dr. Vojdani: Absolutely. The gut is the foundation of a building. If the foundation has cracks the building will eventually fall. So, gut health has to be paramount any chronic illnesses, but most importantly for immunological chronic illnesses.
IMCJ: When you see people who have a chronic health issue, do you often evaluate their gut health to start the treatment?
Dr. Vojdani: I do very often do investigations of the state of the intestinal system. Whether it’s intestinal permeability, blood testing, or stool testing. I do take a very close look at that for the majority of my patients. And I will usually create a personalized protocol for them based on what I see with their laboratory testing centered around the clinical objective. That may mean probiotics or something to help restore the intestinal, or immunoglobulins for an additional layer of immune support if necessary.
IMCJ: Do you also talk to them about just some lifestyle issues, whether it’s sleep stress, things like that, that impact their health system?
Dr. Vojdani: Absolutely. I always talk to my patients about lifestyle issues. We talk first about sleep, diet and exercise because those are very well shown in the literature to be the three most impactful things on any chronic illness. So, those foundations have to be there.
IMCJ: Now you have started a relationship with Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center lifestyle matrix, what interested you to jump in there and what do you hope to achieve in that group?
Dr. Vojdani: I really value that Lifestyle Matrix is working to give practitioners the information and skillset they need to be that next level, next generation of practitioner. The goal is to bring usable, cutting edge information to the clinician so that they can implement what they learn. It’s all about real world knowledge and real world skillset. I think it’s important that we share what we know to this point, because it takes every single one of us on the practitioner side, unified in the way that we’re doing things, if we’re going to have a chance at making a big dent in the way chronic illness is going in this country.
IMCJ: In your role, are you going to be helping educate practitioners? Or what is your involvement?
Dr. Vojdani: I’m going to be directing the immune foundations program. And the goal of that is to educate practitioners on the other end. And what I envision is giving everybody the understanding and skillset to be able to do deep, personalized investigations into someone’s immune system and how to treat what is discovered.
IMCJ: Something that I’ve seen about with COVID is that it’s almost created a reset somewhat in medicine, in that before anything you went to the doctor for, it would say, “Yup, take this pill and X, Y, Z is going to be taken care of.” Well, there wasn’t that with COVID. There wasn’t a single solution other than the vaccine, which is just coming out. But I think it really got doctors thinking that we’ve got to be able to use a variety of lifestyle issues to treat patients whether it’s supplements, lifestyle, diet, exercise, all of those things to get healthy and people who follow those seem to do better under COVID.
Dr. Vojdani: I completely agree with you Dick. To me, the biggest impact that COVID has had on the practitioner side is continuing to emphasize how important it is that we are proactive with the way that we live our lives, that there are some unpredictable things that can happen to us. And the only weapon that we really have against those unpredictable forces is to be as good about how we take care of and how we treat our bodies and put a lot of time and attention and effort into making sure that our system and particularly our immune system is functioning as always it can be.
IMCJ: And do you think that there’s going to be applications for other chronic health that might come out of this?
Dr. Vojdani: Absolutely. To me, COVID was a call to arms for everybody on the practitioner side, not just those who were involved in holistic, integrative, personalized medicine, everybody needs to get on board with the idea that if we’re going to be effective against all chronic illnesses, we need to embrace the idea of a personalized lifestyle centered approach. Clearly COVID, as we look back a year into it now the one thing that we know with certainty or that those who were metabolically healthy and immunologically healthy, it far better than those who weren’t. That can be said for all chronic illnesses. We can’t forget our COVID experience, even though it’s we’re not in the thick of it as much as we were in 2020. Well, we have to remember that experience and apply it to all of the other chronic illnesses that are going to pop up in front of us. And of course, there’s also the possibility that COVID will be another environmental triggering event for an additional rise in chronic autoimmune conditions going forward, which was prior to COVID already dramatically increasing day to day.
IMCJ: I think that it’s kind of a wake-up call. I read an article earlier that it said that two thirds of the people who were hospitalized due to COVID were impacted by either obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and heart failure.
Dr. Vojdani: It’s America in a nutshell, right? And that’s why there’s so much of a divergent experience depending on where you look at COVID and why we as a country did so poorly, it just we’re an unhealthy group of people.
IMCJ: Where do you think the next step of this is going to go for you?
Dr. Vojdani: Well, I’m getting ready to help everybody learn the skillset that’s necessary to do a personalized immune assessment. We’ve clearly seen with COVID that everybody reacts a bit differently. It’s unpredictable. And I think that by understanding the specific nature of someone’s immune system from their mucosal immune system to their systemic immune system and figuring out where there are imbalances there and correcting that is really a very important thing for all of us in the chronic immunological health world going forward. So my goal with the immune foundations program is to provide the educational experience and opportunity for everybody to learn how to do that.
IMCJ: And is there a standard set of tests that you can run on people to get a baseline? Or how do you do that?
Dr. Vojdani: There are a lot of very easily accessible, powerful tests in our arsenal if we just learn how to use them and interpret them. And I think one of them that I have at the top of my list is an immunotyping test. That’s a B and T-cell and natural killer cell subset tests. Essentially tells you how much of each do you have? What are the ratios between them? And it gives you a very good look at what immune balance or imbalance may be and where you can apply specific support to correct those imbalances if they’re present.
IMCJ: Thanks very much for your time, we would love to work with Ortho and you in educating practitioners regarding this topic.
Dr. Vojdani: Lovely. Sounds good Dick. And thank you for the opportunity. It was good talking with you.
For more information on the Immune Foundations program, tools and resources, visit www.lifestylematrix.com