Archives for January 2016

Jan
31
2016

The Gut and Brain Connection

At the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 11-13, 2015) in Las Vegas there were several lectures pointing out the importance of the gut flora for proper brain function. If you have the wrong gut flora, you can get a number of diseases like diabetes, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, some cancers and even obesity. Martin P. Gallagher, MD, DC talked about this in his talk “Gut on Fire, Brain on Fire!”

Function of the microbiome

The microbiome is the sum of all microbial organisms inhabiting the human body, which colonize mainly the colon, but also to a lesser degree the small intestine. Dr. Gallagher stated that the microbiome weighs only 7.1 oz., although in the past have some have estimated its weight to be as high as 3 pounds. The purpose of the microbiome is to help form a gut/blood barrier. It forms a 30-micron thick layer in the GI tract, protects the intestinal lining and metabolizes food remnants, especially from carbohydrates. It also communicates with the immune system. There is a cross talk between the lining of the gut and the and the body’s immune system. The gut bacteria help the body to create stability; they also decrease intestinal permeability.

When inflammation occurs in the gut, the thickness of the biofilm is less than 30 microns. Intestinal permeability increases, which is called “leaky gut syndrome”. This can be the cause of autoimmune diseases and possibly other diseases.

The enteric nervous system

The gut can produce as many neurotransmitters as the brain and spinal cord can synthetize. The enteric nervous system communicates with the brain through the vagal nerve. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that has been found to regulate motility of the gut. The control system of the gut can work on its own and override the concerns of the central nervous system.

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the enteric nervous system as well as the brain. With Alzheimer’s disease the characteristic lesions found in the brain are also found in the enteric nervous system!

In a mouse experiment a Lactobacillus strain known to be part of the microbiome was shown to heal anxiety and depression related changes in certain parts of the brains of these experimental animals. But when the vagal nerve of these animals was severed, none of these healing changes occurred. This suggests that the gut bacteria are able to communicate to the brain via the vagal nerve. Researchers have coined this connection the “gut-brain axis”. These protective gut bacteria have the ability to protect humans from gastric acidity, from bile acid toxicity, they adhere to the lining of the gut and they persist to reside within the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics help the immune system to maintain the immunologic memory and to secrete antibodies, called immunoglobulins.

Two strains with benefit to humans are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii. Probiotics often help against diarrhea. The natural food for gut bacteria in the colon comes from starches of chicory, asparagus, inulin and onions that are indigestible in the stomach and small intestine, but are fermented in the colon to provide food for the bacteria residing there.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

Overgrowth of the small intestine with bacteria that produce endotoxins appears to have significance in both animal models and human disease. Chlamydia species as well as Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme) can produce toxins that cause hypersensitive of pain in soft tissues in fibromyalgia and animal models of fibromyalgia. SIBO-small intestinal bacterial overgrowth- in experimental animals caused the same hypersensitivity of the soft tissues and also leaky gut syndrome.

Risk factors for SIBO

What causes SIBO is too little stomach acid production, treatment with proton pump inhibitors (powerful anti acid medications) and antibiotics. According to Dr.Gallagher SIBO also occurs in postsurgical patients, in patients with diabetes, and is brought on by alcohol, nicotine, drugs and GMO foods.

Neurogenic inflammation

Normally the blood brain barrier keeps immune cells from the body out of the brain. Only glucose, proteins and lipids are allowed into the brain, but not lipophilic neurotoxins. Neurogenic triggers, when admitted to the brain, will compromise the function of the immune cells of the CNS, called microglia. This can result in memory loss, Alzheimer’s, dementia, seizures, migraines, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, weakness, numbness, etc.

What triggers inflammation?

Here is a long list of different items that cause inflammation: aging, hormone deficiencies, obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, fungal infection, the Standard American diet (SAD), pain, trauma and mechanical stress, heavy metals, food allergies, toxins, gut dysbiosis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, mal-digestion/absorption, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, recreational drugs and alcohol, lack of exercise and lack of sleep.

Neurotoxic insults start the chain of reactions (heavy metals, nutritional deficiencies, viruses/fungus/bacteria, inflammatory diet, MSG, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, etc.): one or more of these factors destabilize the tight junctions of the blood brain barrier, which leads to neurogenic inflammation. The result is Parkinson’s disease, MS, dementia, chronic pain, behavioral and personality changes, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS and Lyme disease.

What seems to be happening a lot is that there is overgrowth of abnormal bacteria in the small bowel, which produce toxins. These in turn lead to leaky gut syndrome, which allows neurogenic triggers to attack the blood brain barrier. From here it is a short step to neurotoxic insults of the brain overstimulating the microglia, which will produce the diseases listed above.

Healing of brain inflammation

Treatment starts with the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. People who are gluten sensitive need to eliminate gluten entirely from their food; casein sensitive people need to eliminate dairy products. A triple strength, molecularly distilled fish oil product is taken as a supplement every day with 4 grams or more of DHA/EPA.

Glutathione: One of the most powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories is intravenous glutathione. This is given as intravenous chelation therapy, which removes heavy metals. Other chelation agents such as EDTA intravenously may be given alternatively. Dr.Gallagher said that glutathione serves as primary cellular defense against free radicals, is a powerful antioxidant and serves as detoxifying agent against xenobiotics. Xenobiotics are remnants of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and pollutants that are contained in crops we eat.

Dr. Gallagher gives 600mg of glutathione twice per day intravenously for 30 days. In Parkinson’s disease patients whose mid brain is often poisoned by mercury this leads to 42% decline of disabilities and the effect last for 2 to 4 months after this treatment has been stopped. This treatment also protects telomeres, the caps on the ends of cellular DNA as well as mitochondrial DNA. Glutathione is protective of neurons and nerves.

Curcumin: this common Indian spice, found in turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory. It is a safe natural agent and has also anti-viral and anti-tumor activities. It binds to the vitamin D receptor and works synergistically together with vitamin D3. Solid lipid curcumin particle technology makes curcumin 65-fold more bioavailable; free curcumin is allowed to pass the blood brain barrier. Lower doses achieve the same effect than regular curcumin.

According to a publication using lipidated curcumin the following observations were made: improved vascular function, inflammatory markers reduced by 14%, triglycerides lowered by 14%, oxidative stress reduced, catalase increased and total antioxidant status improved.

Omega-3 fatty acids: omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory by countering the arachidonic acid pathway that leads to inflammation. It is best administered as triple strength, molecularly distilled fish oil. DHA/EPA are the active ingredients. Chronic inflammation requires 2 to 12 grams daily; irritable bowel syndrome 6 to 12 grams daily; depression, anxiety and insomnia require 2 to 4 grams per day; autoimmune disease, back pain and degenerative joint disease 4 to 12 grams per day.

Gut/brain dysbiosis: For gut/brain dysbiosis Dr. Gallagher recommended to start with a 10-day fruit/vegetable detox program. Milk thistle, glutathione and pancreatic enzymes are used in combination. Lipidated curcumin. Glutamine, prebiotics and probiotics are given for gut support. Molecularly distilled fish oil (DHA/EPA) and vitamin D3 are given as anti-inflammatories. Oral and intravenous glutathione is given to detoxify. Antifungals are given as a combination of glutathione, oregano, olive leaf and silver salts.

The Gut and Brain Connection

The Gut and Brain Connection

Conclusion

Inflammation can start in the gut, lead to leaky gut syndrome and break down the blood/brain barrier. The end result is that the brain also gets inflamed and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can occur. The sooner treatment is begun, the faster the recovery will be. When the end stage is reached, it is difficult to turn the inflammatory process around. Fortunately there are effective ways to get the inflammation under control with intravenous glutathione in the beginning and subsequent treatment with lipidated curcumin, omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin D3. A permanent switch to a Mediterranean diet is important as well to keep inflammation under control.

A few years back this type of approach would have been considered as “quackery”; now it is the latest information from research into the brain/gut connection. A lot can be done on a preventative basis with lifestyle and nutrition choices. Treatment is possible, but once full-fledged disease is established, a full cure may not be possible.

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Jan
23
2016

Life Extended By Several Decades

Have you ever thought about the possibility to prolong your “Freshness Date”? At the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas the endocrinologist, Dr. Thierry Hertoghe from Belgium gave a talk about “How to extend the human lifespan by 40 years”. Dr. Hertoghe explained that it is possible to extend life by paying attention to the factors that prolong life and combining them as an anti-aging type lifestyle. He made a distinction between

  1. normal aging: up to age 82
  2. healthy aging: up to age 100
  3. anti-aging medicine: up to age 122
  4. reversing aging medicine: much more than 122, perhaps to age 150 or more.

Normal aging (up to age 82)

When you live without any interventions your life expectancy on average is about 82 years. From the age of 50 to 60 onwards you may encounter problems with increased cholesterol, high blood pressure leading to heart attacks and strokes. Coronary artery by-pass surgery may extend an individual’s life by 10 to 15 years. But hardening of the arteries in the general circulation will eventually cut down the blood supply to vital organs leading to premature death that could have been avoided.

Around the mid 60’s to mid 70’s 12.4% of African Americans or 2.9% Caucasians get Alzheimer’s disease. These figures worsen rapidly with further aging: in their mid 70’s to mid 80’s 32.5 % of African Americans and 9.8% of Caucasians suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. At the age of 85+ years 54% of African Americans and 27% of Caucasians have Alzheimer’s disease. Particularly with normal aging Alzheimer’s has already increased, and this trend is likely going to continue.

Memory loss also leads to a shortened survival curve; people with memory loss live two years less on average than compared to a group with no memory loss.

Add to this loss of life because of depression, which is common in older age. Compared to a non-depressed group of older people the depressed group lived 30% shorter over a period of two years.

Musculoskeletal pain is reported in younger age (18-44) to be 38%; the next demographic group aged 45-64 reported 61% of musculoskeletal pains; seniors between 65 and 74 had 68% of musculoskeletal pain, and in the demographic group of 75 and up 71% of persons suffered of musculoskeletal pain. As we will learn later there may be hormone deficiencies behind these neck and back pains that, if left alone. lead to falls, fractured hips and premature loss of life. Those who survive accidents will often become wheel chair bound and get admitted to nursing homes.

One specific subgroup of patients with musculoskeletal pain are rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. After 10 years of having rheumatoid arthritis patients will have a survival of only about 50%; if more than 30 joints are involved (more severe form of the disease) only about 40% will survive. In other words, rheumatoid arthritis is an important factor for lowering people’s life expectancy.

At an age of 65 to 74 men have 23% of disabilities, while woman have 27.5% disabilities. This increases between the ages of 75 or older to 40% for men and 44.5% for women. At the age of 65 disabled men have a 3.5% higher death rate than the average population; disabled women’s death rate is 2.5% higher than the normal population. In other words, disability kills.

Urinary urgency and incontinence leads to a 3.13-fold higher mortality rate than a control group of men who do not have these symptoms.

65% of men and 85% of women above the age of 50 have abdominal obesity. This is not just a harmless condition. It is associated with increased triglyceride levels and increased mortality due to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

By the age of 65-74 heart disease has a frequency of 32% in men and 23% in women. At the age of 75 years and older this jumps to 44% in men and 32% in women. Once heart disease is established, it causes a lot of premature deaths: on average persons with heart disease live 10 years shorter than those who do not have heart disease!

Healthy aging (up to age 100)

If we look at normal aging, we realize that all these diseases and disabilities we discussed are eventually killing us. In order to live longer we have to take steps that are known to interfere with some of these factors. For instance, quitting smoking will prevent heart disease, several cancers and chronic obstructive lung disease (emphysema). Positive thinking, social support and transcendental meditation will increase survival by preventing mental illness and depression, which in turn will prevent suicides. A healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet or the Pegan diet will avoid cardiovascular disease and cut down cancer rates. One dietary change called the “polymeal” would contain fish, fruit, vegetables, garlic, almonds, a moderate amount of wine and dark chocolate. Compared to the Standard American diet this type of diet would add 9 years for men and 8.1 years for women regarding their life expectancy. For instance, prostate cancer showed a 7-fold increase in a group of men who ate a lot of pickled vegetables, fermented soy products, salted fish and preserved meats, when compared to a control group who did not include these foods. In a group of women who had their meat well done and ate three servings of beef per week, breast cancer risk was 4.62-fold higher that the risk of women who had their meat done rare or medium rare.

Overall cancer and cardiovascular mortality dropped by 35% in a study where 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables were eaten per day.

A regular exercise program will strengthen the heart and lungs, keep your weight stable, reduce heart attacks and strokes and reduce the probability to develop cancer. A group of men between 61 and 81 were observed over 12 years and divided into those who did not exercise versus those who walked more than 2 miles per day. The exercising men had 19% less mortality compared to the sessile men. Vitamin C from fruit and vegetables or from taking supplements reduces global mortality from all causes by 46% compared to controls that did not. Similarly taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oil) daily reduced all cause mortality by 20%.

Dr. Hertoghe calls this “healthy aging” and this would allow you to be able to reach an age of about 100 years.

Anti-aging medicine (up to age 122)

Dr. Hertoghe told the audience that further attention to anti-aging factors could reduce mortality even further. In particular, he found over the years that paying attention to correcting hormonal weaknesses would have profound effects on how old a person becomes. Thyroid hormone replacement has been one of the steps that have helped people to experience more energy and less musculoskeletal problems (less muscle pain, less falls, less fractures and complications). This translates into more energy and longer lives.

One slide showed that a low free T3 level (low thyroid) was associated with a 3.6-fold higher death rate. A low free T3 level predicts of cumulative death rate in cardiac patients most accurately.

T3 is also important for the maintenance of the immune system, which shows in patients with tuberculosis: the one-year mortality rate in thyroid deficient patients with low T3 levels was 75%, while patients with a normal thyroid had a mortality from tuberculosis of only 7%.

Secondly, replacing missing sex hormones can add more life because cardiovascular disease is postponed (less heart attacks, less strokes), there is less cancer and better cancer survival, if a person comes down with cancer. Many statistics were quoted.

One interesting slide showed the longitudinal survival follow-up of congenital dwarfs in comparison with their normal brothers or sisters. Untreated male dwarfs turned only 56 years on average, while their unaffected normal brothers turned 75 years on average (19 years longer). With female dwarfs the difference is even more striking: untreated females dwarfs turned 46 years on average, while their normal sisters turned 80 years on average (a difference of 34 years).

Another publication showed that the heart attack risk was 3.8-fold higher in a group of patients with hypopituitarism (under function of the pituitary gland), but the treatment group (treated with GH) had a normal rate of heart attacks.

11606 men aged 40 to 79 years were followed for between 6 and 10 years. The group who had the top 25% range of testosterone had a 19% lower mortality rated from heart attacks or cancer.

Older women, particularly aged 100 in Okinawa had 2.3-fold higher testosterone levels than women in the US at age 70. On the other hand 70-year old Okinawan women had 2.7-fold higher estrogen levels than US women.

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) prior to developing breast cancer showed a 27% longer survival among 984 breast cancer patients in Sweden compared to those without prior hormone treatment.

In another group of breast cancer patients (2755 patients) aged 35 to 74 who were treated with bioidentical hormone replacement after their breast cancer diagnosis, 50% had a lower recurrence rate (compared to no-BHRT treatment) and there was a reduction of 66% of mortality from breast cancer compared to controls without BHRT treatment. Another study showed that breast cancer patients would have a mortality rate of 33.3% without hormone treatment, 12.5% mortality rate after non-estrogen hormone use and 6% after estrogen/progesterone use.

This shows the healing results of the various natural hormones.

A group of 280 men and women around the age of 50 were treated with anti-aging hormone replacement for 2 or more years. In the beginning there were 34% of women and 15% of men with coronary artery disease. There were also 36.4% of women and 34.1% of men with high blood pressure. After replacing all of the missing hormones with bioidentical hormones for more than 2 years, coronary artery disease had dropped to 1.6% of the women and 1.08% of the men; high blood pressure had dropped to 2% of the women and 3% of the men. No drugs, just hormones! Of course, initially there were drugs used to stabilize their condition, but they could gradually be dropped safely, because the underlying hormone deficiency, which was the cause of cardiovascular disease, had been treated (treating the cause rather than the symptoms).

Dr. Hertoghe presented data of 6.38-year follow-up of 286 consecutive patients using anti-aging medicine (replacement of missing hormones with bioidentical hormones). These patients had an overall cancer rate of 2.1%, which compared very favorably to the 3.2% cancer rate among US women, 3.1% French women and 3.1% Belgium women on no hormones. This is the type of information that is needed following the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) that scared women into the false belief that hormones would be “poisonous”. In the WHI synthetic hormones were used causing cancer and heart attacks; the reason for this was that synthetic hormones are not the identical shape as the natural hormones. But hormones and hormone receptors have to fit like a key into a lock; otherwise they are not effective or even block the natural life prolonging action of the natural hormone. This is why in the WHI study the outcomes were poor. Using bioidentical hormones heart attacks and strokes are prevented and they are also cancer-protective.

Reversing aging medicine (much more than 122, perhaps to age 150 or more)

General medicine has the goal to make patients as healthy as possible. With reversing aging medicine the goal is to make patients as young as possible so that they are at their healthiest and feel younger again.

With anti-aging medicine using a healthy diet, exercise and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy the patients can add 15 years of good life. Add to these organ transplants, if necessary, telomerase activators and stem cell therapy and you can add another 25 years of life expectancy to a total of 40 years.

Growth hormone deficiency is the one factor that has been underestimated. We have seen in the discussion of dwarfs in comparison to their healthy brothers and sisters that normal growth hormone production can add between 19 and 34 years (average 26.5 years) of life. Dr. Hertoghe has done blood tests (IGF-1) and lately also 24-hour urine metabolite tests of growth hormone on aging patients and found that many are deficient with regard to GH production. These were patients who already had their thyroid hormones replaced, if abnormal and had their sex hormones replaced when they were found to be low. But they lost hair, developed old looking faces with wrinkles, loss of subcutaneous fatty tissue giving the face a hollow appearance. They also had muscle and joint pains and thin skin, particularly over the back of their hands. He replaced their missing GH using daily GH self-injection with a tiny needle (similar to diabetes injections) and within 1.5 to 3 years the wrinkles disappeared, the faces started to look younger and patients did feel younger. Their muscle and joint pains had disappeared and their hair grew back. The dosage range is between 0.1mg and 0.3mg, a tiny amount of GH daily. This is not inexpensive, but some health care plans pay for this, as a lack of GH is a true hormone deficiency.

Often it is a single limiting organ that determines when we die, typically the heart, lungs, brain, liver, kidneys, small bowel, pancreas or bone marrow. Organ transplants can add years of life, but it can be cumbersome to find a suitable donor. Another limitation is, as one study showed, that only 40% to 60% of organ transplants are surviving 8 years after doing the transplant surgery.

Stem cell therapies are other ways to prolong life. More research is needed to perfect this, but essentially 220 different cell types could be derived from stem cells in the future to replace malfunctioning organs.

Life Extended By Several Decades

Life Extended By Several Decades

Conclusion

The dream of staying younger for longer can be a reality today, if you are willing to discipline yourself to watch what you are eating (Mediterranean type diet), exercise regularly and have a positive psychological attitude. If the outdoor air is poor where you live, you may want to consider moving to a place with good air quality. Sleep well for 7 ½ hours every night and retire not later than 10 to 11PM. You need to be asleep between midnight and 3AM as the growth hormone peak occurs at that time. Take supplements that contain longevity micronutrients (magnesium, vitamins A, C, D, E, B6, B12, Co-Q-10, selenium, zinc, iron in premenopausal women etc.). Replace all missing hormones with bioidentical ones, like thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), sex hormones, DHEA and GH. Stem cell therapy and telomerase activators for cell rejuvenation will also have more of a place in the future.

Even, if you do only part of this reversing aging program you will slow down aging.

Jan
16
2016

Low Thyroid (Hypothyroidism)

Dr. Pamela Smith gave a detailed talk regarding hypothyroidism at the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas. As a lack of thyroid hormones is one of the causes of premature aging, it is important to pay attention to your thyroid hormones. Here I am summarizing the highlights of this talk.

Thyroid disease, particularly low thyroid hormone levels, called hypothyroidism is very common in the population. Part of the problem is that in 72% of the world population dietary iodine is insufficient to provide adequate amounts of iodine to the body that is required for thyroid hormone production in the thyroid gland. The US Institute of Medicine has recommended 150 micrograms of iodine intake every day. Japan with its emphasis on seaweed intake is one of the few countries where thyroid deficiency is extremely low (Ref.1).

But apart from dietary factors there are many other factors that can lead to insufficient amounts of circulating thyroid hormones (see below).

The production of thyroid hormones

The thyroid gland produces the thyroid hormones by adding iodine atoms into the amino acid L-tyrosine to make thyroxin (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T3 is the main active hormone, which is about 5-times more powerful than T4. There is a feedback cycle between thyroid hormones, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. Both the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland have thyroid hormone receptors that sense the level of T3 and T4 and can modify the production of these hormones. The majority of T3, which is the main active thyroid hormone, is produced by conversion of T4 into T3 by a selenium-dependent enzyme.

Most of the thyroid hormones are bound in the blood by thyroid binding globulin. Only the free T3 and free T4 are metabolically active and will affect the metabolism of our body cells. The delicate balance can be easily disrupted. Oral contraceptives and sex hormone replacement therapy can increase the amount of circulating thyroid binding globulin, thus creating a thyroid hormone deficiency state, as the free T3 and free T4 are diminished.

Other factors influencing circulating thyroid hormones

  1. Low adrenal gland hormone activity can occur simultaneously with hypothyroidism. On the other hand, when thyroid hormones are low by themselves, the adrenal glands often compensate by producing more cortisol to offset some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
  2. An enzyme located in the liver, kidneys, pituitary gland, hypothalamus and brown fat is necessary for conversion of T4 to T3, the more active thyroid hormone. Anything that interferes with this conversion leads to hypothyroidism. Over the years medical research has identified many factors that interfere with this process. For instance, there are trace elements necessary for this enzymatic reaction, like selenium and zinc; if they are low in the diet, low T3 will be the result. But other nutrients, if missing, will also interfere with T4 to T3 conversion: iodine, iron as well as vitamins A, B2, B6 and B12.
  3. Several medications can also interfere with the conversion of T4 to T3: we already mentioned birth control pills; others are estrogen, lithium (patients with bipolar disorder are often on this), phenytoin, theophylline, beta blockers (such as propranolol), chemotherapy and clomipramine.
  4. But dietary factors can also lower T3 due to a lack of conversion from T4:too many cruciferous vegetables, a low carbohydrate diet, low fat diet, low protein diet, excessive alcohol use, walnuts and soy. In a study where the effects of soy were examined 37 adults on a high soy diet over three months 50% developed hypothyroidism. When the soy diet was stopped it took one month to normalize the thyroid function (Ref. 2).
  5. There is no end of factors that cause low T3 because of the inability to convert from T4: chronic inflammation due to cytokines, diabetes, aging, poisoning with heavy metals like mercury, lead and cadmium (cigarette smoking), fluoride, pesticides, exposure to radiation and stress. Other toxic substances that enter the body can interfere with the same T4 to T3 conversion process: dioxins, phthalates (chemicals added to plastics) and PCB. But excess calcium and copper (copper salts could come from spraying of organic fruit) can also lead to low T3.
  6. Other hormones can disbalance the equilibrium and cause low T3 because of a lack of conversion from T4: too much stress, which causes cortisol from the adrenal glands to rise. Surgeries associated with the same stress response (high cortisol levels) also have been shown to cause low T3.
  7. There is another conversion process that has been shown to lead to lowered T3: it is called “reverse T3 (rT3)”. rT3 is an inactive form of T3, which blocks thyroid receptors and renders T3 less active. rT3 is particularly important in stressful situations and in athletes who engage in extreme exercise. In these individuals T3 and T4 blood tests are normal, TSH is suppressed and rT3 is elevated. That’s how the doctor can diagnose this condition. Other conditions that lead to high reverse T3 are: aging, diabetes, exposure to free radicals (chemotherapy or radiation in cancer treatment), fasting, prolonged illness, toxic metal exposure, inflammatory cytokines, depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
  8. After all this negative news it is almost a wonder that the thyroid is still doing its work! Since we know the risk factors, it is important to be aware that certain supplements and dietary habits can help to increase the conversion from T4 to T3. Here is a list of those that help: iodine, iron, zinc, selenium, potassium, Ashwaganda, and a high protein diet. Other positive factors are vitamins A, B2 and E; growth hormone, testosterone, insulin, glucagon, melatonin and estrogen (high dose).

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

There was an overwhelming amount of information about signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism that was reviewed. I can only highlight some of the more common symptoms here. It is important to know that some of these signs and symptoms occur several years before the lab values become abnormal; this is particularly true of the “eye brow sign” and the thinning of eyebrows is a pointer to hypothyroidism!

Depression, weight gain, constipation and migraine type headaches can be early non-specific signs of hypothyroidism. Women often present with irregular periods. Other symptoms are: decreased memory and inability to concentrate, anxiety/panic attacks, muscle and joint pains, a puffy face, swollen eyelids, decreased sexual interest, and sleep disturbance. Sparse, coarse, dry hair; missing hair confined to the outside 1/3 of both eye brows (eye brow sign) and carpal tunnel syndrome are also associated with a lack of thyroid function. Often there is also a loss of eyelashes or eyelashes that are not as thick. When blood tests show high cholesterol, iron deficiency anemia or vitamin B12 deficiency this should prompt the physician to order thyroid tests.

Blood tests for hypothyroidism

TSH, free T3, free T4, reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies need to all be ordered to have a complete documentation of what is going on. Among the thyroid antibodies these three types need to be ordered: antithyroglobulin antibody, antimicrosomal antibody and antithyroperoxidase (anti-TPO) antibody. There are a number of more studies that an endocrinologist would order in difficult to diagnose cases. Thyroid antibodies are an important cause of hypothyroidism in the US and can be due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an inflammatory condition of the thyroid gland. Some people have autoimmune antibodies against adrenal gland tissue. There are also patients who have gluten sensitivity, and they may produce these autoantibodies to both the adrenal glands as well as the thyroid gland.

Treatment of hypothyroidism

Treatment for hypothyroidism consists of detoxification, proper nutrition and thyroid hormone replacement.

Detoxification can include intravenous chelation therapy, if heavy metals are involved. In some cases detoxification is all that is needed.

Proper nutrition with a Mediterranean diet and some iodine supplements or seaweed is important. But often the thyroid is damaged by the time hypothyroidism is diagnosed and thyroid hormones have to be replaced.

Replacement of thyroid hormones is best done by desiccated thyroid or compounded thyroid (both T3 and T4). The normalization of the TSH level is taken as the end point and should be below 2.0 (not the lab normal value of below 5); free T3 should be optimally between 3.5 and 4.3 and reverse T3 should be 50 to 150 pg/ml to be optimal.

If reverse T3 is high, the patient will have hypothyroid symptoms, even if T3 and T4 blood tests are normal. Because reverse T3 is derived from T4, the physician will have to lower T4 or take the patient off T4. Replacement with T3 will lead to lower TSH production by the pituitary gland and production of T4 and inappropriate conversion to reverse T3 will decrease.

Depending on what other conditions the patient presents with, it likely will help to eliminate stress, treat selenium and iodine deficiency, treat infections and treat growth hormone deficiency, if present.

There were many more pearls of wisdom in this very comprehensive talk on hypothyroidism, but there is not enough room in this blog to mention all of this. For more info read Dr. Pamela Smith’s book (Ref.3).

Low Thyroid (Hypothyroidism)

Low Thyroid (Hypothyroidism)

Conclusion

The thyroid is one of the main players involved in the maintenance of our health and well being. Hypothyroidism can develop for multiple reasons: inadequate iodine intake, toxins including heavy metals, autoantibodies from gluten or other sensitivity and certain medication usage. It is a fallacy to think that supplements, vitamins and lifestyle choices can “cure” thyroid deficiency. Once the levels are low, thyroid replacement is the only way to reestablish a hormonal balance! The treating physician must consider many factors when replacing thyroid hormones optimally. Desiccated thyroid hormone replacement (containing T3 and T4) is the best type of replacement of missing thyroid hormones. The needs can differ a great deal, as no patient is the same! For best results the treating physician needs to individualize treatment.

References

Ref. 1: Brownstein, D., “Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It”. Medical Alternatives Press, 2004.

Ref. 2: Kelly, G., “Peripheral metabolism of thyroid hormones: A review,” Alt Med Rev 2000; 5(4):306-33.

Ref. 3: Smith, P. “What You Must Know About Thyroid Disorders”. Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers, 2016.

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Jan
09
2016

Safety Of CT Scans And X-Rays

In the December 2015 issue of the LifeExtension Magazine Mr. William Faloon provided an interesting editorial that outlined the dangers of X-rays, particularly of CT scans. Physicians often order CT scans to decrease their medico-legal risks or because they own part of the CT scan equipment.

Various publications give estimates of unnecessary CT scans in the order of 30% to 50%.

Brief history of X-ray machine inventions         

Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, a German physicist was investigating electromagnetic wave lengths and detected electromagnetic waves in the range of X-rays. He won the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901 for his achievement.

  1. Marie Curie and her husband were experimenting with X-rays producing machines and developed the prototype of an X-ray machine that could be used for diagnostic purposes to visualize broken bones or the typical findings of pneumonia or tuberculosis on chest X-rays.
  2. Thomas Edison was fascinated by this type of work and invented the fluoroscopy X-ray machine where the doctor could get instant feedback by watching on a screen when a needle was inserted. A helper, Clarence Dally who worked in Edison’s lab developed radiation sickness from X-ray overdoses and died. This haunted Edison for the rest of his life and he quit experimenting with X-rays.
  3. The CT scan was invented in the 1980’s and was immediately used for difficult to diagnose clinical cases. It was not advertised that the dosage of one abdominal CT scan was about 400-times stronger than that of a simple lung X-ray. This means that the danger of developing cancer as a late complication due to a CT scan also had a 400-fold higher risk. High sensitivity CT scans using lower X-ray doses have been invented, but they are not always available. It is simpler for the technician to keep the X-ray dose at the higher dosage setting than adjust the CT scanner to the body mass index of patients. A child should not receive the dosage of an adult, but again it is simpler to keep the CT dosage dial in the same setting. This is an unnecessary X-ray overexposure for the patient.

History of cancer complications from radiation

When Mrs. Curie was experimenting with X-rays and radioactive elements she was not aware of the potentially deadly effects of radiation. She died in 1934 at the age of only 67 of aplastic leukemia from unprotected exposure to radiation.

Unfortunately there were many radiation disasters throughout history that made it clear that X-rays can cause cancer years after the original exposure.

The nuclear bombs of Nagasaki and Hiroshima are ugly reminders how ionizing radiation affects people in terms of getting cancer even years after the initial exposure.

The Chernobyl disaster exposed a lot of people not only in the Chernobyl area (the present state of the Ukraine), but also in Belorussia.

The latest experience comes from the Fukushima disaster in Japan, where authorities initially were slow to respond. Now they have a regular screening in place that identifies youngsters at risk for developing cancers and leukemia.

What all of these disasters have taught medical researchers is that cancerous transformation of tissues can occur even decades after prior exposure. At present there is no safe test that will predict with certainty when a cancer will develop.

Radiation exposure from various X-ray procedures

Because cases of cancer depend on the dosage used for diagnostic purposes, I am going to list dosages for common X-ray procedures, compared to a chest X-ray (modified according to article in the December 2015 LifeExtension Magazine):

Diagnostic             Effective dose (mSv)             Number of Chest               Time to reach dose from                                                          

procedure                                                               X-rays needed to                background radiation

                                                                               get equivalent dose

Chest X-ray                        0.02                                              1                                                 2.4 days

(PA film)

Skull X-ray                           0.1                                               5                                                 12 days

Lower back                          1.5                                             75                                                182 days

Kidney X-rays                      3                                               150                                                 1.0 year

Stomach and

intestine exam                      6                                               300                                                 2.0 years

Colon exam (Barium)           8                                               400                                                  2.7 years

CT scan head                       2                                               100                                                 243 days

CT scan abdomen                8                                               400                                                  2.7 years

You see from this overview that a CT scan generally has a higher X-ray dosage than a plain X-ray, but internal organ X-rays (stomach/intestine and colon X-rays) also use a high dosage of X-rays.

Balance the patient’s need for an X-ray with the risk from it

A CT scan has the ability to image soft tissues, bone and blood vessels, which makes it a useful tool to depict bone fractures, distinguish between hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke and visualize an abscess in the soft tissue. On the other hand there are real concerns about radiation exposure and possible cancer development years after the tests have been done. With any medical procedure physicians have no problems accepting a risk versus benefit analysis. However radiation history showed that physicians were totally oblivious to the possibility of radiation being able to cause cancers until only recently. In the aftermaths of Hiroshima and Nagasaki it became clear that even decades after exposure new cancer cases were found among exposed people. Most recently with children and adults exposed to radiation from Fukushima it is clear that thyroid cancers are much more frequent in exposed children and adults than in non-exposed controls.

Researches compared over 680,000 children and adults born in the 1980’s who had at least one CT scan done with a similar large, matched group who were never exposed to a CT scan (Ref.1). The ones who had their CT scan in childhood had a risk of 24% to develop any kind of cancer. If the same person had more than one CT scan the cancer risk was even higher: 35% higher in the first 4 years of exposure; 25% higher at 4 to 9 years and 14% higher still at 10 to 14 years. A group who had their first CT scan exposure 15 years or more ago still had a 24% risk of developing cancer compared to controls who never had a CT scan. What type of cancers did they get? It is a vary varied list: solid tumors in the digestive tract, urinary tract, brain, ovary/uterus, skin and thyroid; among blood cancers they got leukemia and lymphomas. There were also other cancers that were less frequently encountered.

If follows from this:

  1. If another study is available that can show an abscess, then an ultrasound that does not utilize ionizing radiation would be a superior test to use!
  2. An MRI scan of the brain is superior in stroke patients to distinguish between hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke than a CT scan.
  3. Plain X-rays with less radiation exposure than CT scans often show bone fractures well enough for the orthopedic surgeon to be able to say whether or not a surgical intervention is necessary or conventional management with casts is sufficient. As can be seen from the table above there is 20-fold less X-ray exposure than with a CT scan.

Protection from ionizing radiation

In the fall-out of Chernobyl and Fukushima researchers have gone back to some fundamental observations. Certain supplements have been shown to be cancer protective.

Four plant-derived remedies are useful in fighting radiation damage from CT scans or X-rays.

  1. Blueberries or blueberry extract has been shown to repair DNA damage from radiation.
  2. Ginkgo biloba, a well-known botanical is capable of scavenging free radicals (reactive oxygen species) produced by radiation. Ginkgo biloba has been shown to reduce abnormal chromosomes by 60% in previously radiation-exposed individuals compared to non-treated controls. During the Chernobyl disaster blood samples from Armenian workers who cleaned up the nuclear reactor had 17.9 abnormal chromosomes per 100 cells; after 120mg of ginkgo biloba for 2 months the cells with chromosome damage were reduced to 5.7 per 100 cells. These benefits persisted for 7 months, but after 1 year 33% of workers had abnormal chromosomes again.
  3. Lemon balm extract is used in the meat industry to keep meat from oxidizing. Lemon balm has three stabilizing functions regarding ionizing radiation: it boosts the levels of an enzyme called superoxide dismutase, which is an essential component of the body’s system to protect itself from ionizing radiation. The second effect of lemon balm is to stabilize lipid cell membranes, which prevents direct cell damage following radiation. The third effect of lemon balm is protection of DNA similar to blueberries. In one study radiation technologists were given 1.5 grams/100ml of lemon balm tea twice daily for 30 days. Judging by various cell markers these radiation technicians experienced between 10% and 61% of lower radiation damage on their cells.
  4. Spirulina extract stimulates white cell, monocyte and red cell production following exposure to radiation. Research has shown that 4 grams of Spirulina per day for 21 days following the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion given to youngsters normalized their blood values and they survived. Other research has shown that Spirulina stimulates the granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), which stimulates bone marrow precursor cells, the precursors of immune cells.
Safety Of CT Scans And X-Rays

Safety Of CT Scans And X-Rays

Conclusion

The medical profession has belittled radiation damage, until the landmark study of 2013 emerged and the consequences were described above. Now there is no question that the radiation dosage of CT scans has been linked to causation of cancer. The decision to order a CT scan should be done cautiously and needs to take into consideration the seriousness of the patient’s condition, the benefit of what CT scan findings would show and the risk that this CT scan will impose on the patient. Alternative non-ionizing tests such, as ultrasounds and MRI scans should be considered. If a CT scan cannot be avoided, blueberries, Ginkgo biloba, lemon balm and Spirulina should be given at least 5 days before and 5 days after the CT scan to minimize the ionizing radiation effect on the body’s tissues, which in turn will reduce the risk of developing cancer later. It is important for the patient to be informed. Anybody who is told that he or she needs a CT scan should not be afraid of asking questions about alternative investigation techniques.

References

Ref. 1: Mathews JD et al. “Cancer risk in 680,000 people exposed to computed tomography scans in childhood or adolescence: data linkage study of 11 million Australians.” BMJ. 2013; 346:f2360.

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Jan
02
2016

Fast Food Kicked Out Of Hospital

The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio has decided to kick out McDonald’s from its hospital. The doctors decided that McDonald’s food was not in the best interest of their patients or their staff. This was a gutsy thing to do. But the Cleveland Hospital is already the 7th hospital in the US to do that. There are over 5,600 hospitals with cafeterias and fast food outlets as well as many other emergency care and healthcare facilities with their own food outlets. Even, if only a certain percentage of them are no longer visible in their facilities, this must be considered progress.

Why did the Cleveland Clinic decide to throw out McDonald’s?

This is a reasonable question. The answer is also very straightforward: it is because McDonald’s food quality was unacceptable from a food quality point of view. The doctors did not think it was compatible with good health.

  • McDonald’s serves genetically modified organisms (GMO) in their food. There is controversy regarding GMO and it may take a lot longer before we really know whether or not GMO is safe to eat.
  • There is dimethylpolysiloxane in fish fillet as an anti-foaming agent. Why in the world do we need an antifoaming agent in our food?
  • Eggs consist of a strange non-egg combinations.
  • McRib is not a rib sandwich at all, it is rather a concoction of garbage meat containing 70 chemicals and food supplements.
  • Even the rib parts are not real, but the meal consists of animal parts that have been brought together to create a rib-like structure.

When you take all of these facts together, it is no wonder that the Cleveland Clinic Hospital doctors decided to show McDonald’s the door.

Contrast this with good quality food

It is tiring to roam around and find mediocre food in so many outlets. It pays to look over a healthy food list and perhaps start buying it and cooking your own food. The more people will do that, the less business should be left for the poor quality fast food places.

Unfortunately this does not happen easily. People want questionable “convenience”, they don’t want to plan their food needs ahead and bring a lunch along. They like to eat their lunch at a fast food take-out place. They also do not think about the lack of quality in food. As long as it tastes OK, they feel the quality should be OK. But this is exactly where cheap food merchants take advantage of us: they can make artificial foods that taste – let’s say- like ribs, but that in actuality do not contain ribs at all, just cheap leftover meats that you would normally not eat.

We need the “Un-Burger”

We have been overfed burgers. Burgers are made with wheat. Wheat is no longer what it was 70 to 100 years ago. Dr. William Davis, the author of the book “Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health” explained at the 2012 Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas that I attended how the BASF, a major chemical company from Germany was able to chemically modify the genes of wheat in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The farmers liked that the new wheat (called Clearfield wheat) grew with stronger roots, shorter final stems and much larger grains so the yield per acre was higher. This type of wheat was patented under the name of Clearfield wheat and sold all around the world. What was not publicized at the time was that the gliadin content increased manifold from the composition of wheat strains used for thousands of years before. Gliadin gets rid of the glue like substance between the gut cells and causes leaky gut syndrome, something that was mentioned at many other lectures throughout the conference. This leads to exposure of immune cells to foreign proteins from the gut, which causes the immune system to hyper react with autoimmune antibodies.

This is not what we want as burgers: but burgers are baked with the wheat that has been chemically force-hybridized into Clearfield wheat.

The alternative is the “Un-Burger”: a pure meat patty minus the bun, a chicken salad or a turkey salad. You take organic salad and top it with either organic chicken breast or organic turkey breast. In other words there is no messing around with artificial anything. Give consumers honest products that are edible and that taste good! Your salad dressing can for instance be balsamic vinegar with olive oil. This is straight forward, no nonsense; that’s what we need. Lemon juice and olive oil works as well, and so do dressings based on yoghurt, lemon and herbs.

Healthy food wherever we go

We need to learn from the Cleveland experience. You may want to go through your fridge and look what is inside. Are you aware whether there is MSG in your food?

Monosodium glutamate is not a harmless flavor enhancer. It belongs into the group of excitotoxins. The substance can destroy brain cells. It also has the potential to give you a nasty headache, especially if larger quantities are used. When we look for food, we do not want to get a headache or risk losing our memory. I threw out all MSG containing foods in 2001.

MSG comes under many disguised names: autolysed yeast, gelatin, monosodium glutamate, textured protein, yeast food, sodium caseinate and others. Read labels and exclude products with MSG in it. It is a good investment into your future without Alzheimer’s disease.

Next you want to make sure that sugar is excluded from your diet; with this I mean extra sugar as well as sugar from processed foods. If you read food labels you probably are aware of how much sugar manufacturers include in processed foods. It tastes pleasing, it is cheap and it makes people come back to buy more. But you as the consumer have a right to get rid of this as it causes your insulin level to increase and on the long term this paves the way to diseases such as diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease or others. As a result I do not buy anything with added sugar.

If I like to sweeten my coffee or yogurt, I can do it by adding a tiny bit of stevia, a natural plant sweetener. No calories, not insulin response, no worry about diabetes or Alzheimer’s, and no tooth decay either.

The more you can cook at home, the easier it is to take your lunch salad along in a BPA free container. It is better for you, better for your health, and by actively avoiding junk outlets, restaurants will get the message and offer healthier food choices. It is a process of years to change consumer habits. You as well as your children are the beneficiaries.

Here is an example how to order food in a restaurant, if you want to make healthy choices:

Eating out at a restaurant

The first thing the waiter will do is asking you what drinks you want to order. My answer is sparkling (or non-sparkling) mineral water. This establishes that I do not want to order alcoholic drinks. They are empty calories; they are also overpriced. But if you really want to have a glass of red or white wine, pick a good one and only one glass. Studies have shown that the resveratrol in it will prevent heart attacks, but too much of it undermines your liver and the healthy condition of your pancreas.

Next the waiter will come with bread and butter. It is best to skip these offerings. As a matter of fact I usually tell the waiter when I order the mineral water that I do not want any bread. Waiters nowadays understand: non-carbs! (The truth is that you do indeed eat carbs. Vegetables and fruit are carbs!) It goes like a red line through the rest of the order. It starts when I order my meal: a bowl of salad as a starter is great, and next I order meat or fish with a side of vegetables. The waiter understands, and often restaurants will offer to substitute the pasta or potatoes with extra vegetables. After the meal the waiter will temptingly produce the dessert menu: any dessert today? The answer is a simple “no”. After a filling meal nobody needs a dessert that is off the calorie Richter scale!

Usually this is the blueprint for me at a restaurant. With this approach you will not gain weight, but you will leave satisfied. Unfortunately these days in most restaurants we do not have any choices yet with regard to organic food.

Fast Food Kicked Out Of Hospital

Fast Food Kicked Out Of Hospital

Conclusion

We wade through a world of poisoned foods. Vegetable and fruit crops are often sprayed with pesticides unless you buy organic; but even with organic foods there are certain, more benign chemicals they have to use to keep the pests away. We need to avoid (at least I choose to do so) GMO foods until we know in decades to come whether they are really safe. Stay away from the modern wheat, unless you welcome gliadin in your diet that will cause leaky gut syndrome or worse disease. One good start is to avoid fast food outlets, which I have done since 2001. I also buy mostly organic food and ask my wife to cook it for us. When we travel, we take as much organic food along as we possibly can. On the road we can look for organic restaurants. They are far and few in between, but many health food stores have salad bars and hot food counters that serve organic foods. If we have a hotel room with a fridge, we can buy organic produce, organic cold cuts, boiled eggs, or cooked seafood, and it is easy to throw together a great tasting, colorful salad.

Healthy food consumption has become a routine. But many have not even begun to stop eating at fast food outlets! Don’t wait for New Year’s resolutions. Make a change for healthier food now! You’ll reap the benefits for life.