Oct
08
2016

Vitamin D3 Protects Your Brain

More and more studies are showing that vitamin D3 protects your brain. It protects against MS, but also against Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. In the following I will review what evidence there is to support each of these topics.

Vitamin D3 protects your brain from multiple sclerosis (MS)

It has been known for some time that in the northern hemisphere MS is more common because of the lack of sunshine, which in turn produces less vitamin D3 in the skin.

MS is an autoimmune disease where immune cells attack the lining of nerves. Both nerve cells and immune cells have vitamin D receptors. It appears that immune cells are calmed down by vitamin D3 and remission of an MS relapse is more likely.

There are two forms of MS, the relapsing-remitting MS and the progressive MS. The first one (relapsing-remitting) is more common. After a bout of active MS, the illness calms down and the condition of the patient is stable for some time until the next relapse occurs.

With progressive MS there are two forms, primary progressive MS and secondary progressive MS. The primary form is a case of MS where symptoms steadily worsen, without any remission. The secondary form of progressive MS occurs at the end of fairly stable relapsing-remitting MS. Symptoms become more pronounced and the condition deteriorates steadily from there.

Progression and disability in MS patients with various vitamin D3 levels

Dr. Fitzgerald and colleagues published a study in JAMA Neurology in 2015.

They took 1482 men and women who were on interferon beta-1b treatment. This treatment utilizes the immunomodulator interferon beta-1b and reduces the number of relapses in patients with MS. The study took place between November 2003 and June 2005. Results were analyzed between June 2013 and December 2014. The researchers measured vitamin D levels (as 25-hydroxy vitamin D). The vitamin D levels were obtained at baseline, at 6 months and 12 months.

The number of brain lesions were measured by MRI scans. All of the patients also underwent a functional test, called expanded disability status scale. This measured impairment of ambulation, ability to communicate and activity levels.

Results of this study showed marked differences between patients with high and low vitamin D levels. Those patients who had the highest vitamin D blood levels (more than 40 ng/mL) had the lowest rates of new MS lesions. Previous studies had found that a low blood level of vitamin D (less than 25 ng/mL) in patients was associated with a much higher risk of developing MS. Dr. Fitzgerald’s study showed that a 50.0-nmol/L increase in serum vitamin D levels associated with a 31% lower rate of new MS lesions. Patients with the highest vitamin D level of more than 100 nmol/L had the lowest amount of new MRI lesions (47% less than the patients with the lowest vitamin D levels).

Another study showed that a low-dose vitamin D level accelerated MS. There was a 5.9-fold risk converting the initial relapsing-remitting form of MS into the secondary progressive form of MS.

All these studies show that vitamin D3 can decrease the risk of getting MS. In addition vitamin D3 also delays progression in those who have MS.

Vitamin D3 protects your brain from Parkinson’s disease

Vitamin D3 plays a role in preventing Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that causes tremor in muscles, causes balancing problems and eventually can lead to dementia. A metaanalysis was done in 2014 and 7 studies where identified to be relevant. The authors were looking for correlation of vitamin D levels with Parkinson’s disease. 1008 patients were included in the metaanalysis with 4,536 controls.

  • Patients with a vitamin D level of less than 75 nmol/L had a 1.5-fold higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than the controls.
  • Patients with a vitamin D level of less than 50 nmol/L were at a 2.2-fold higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Another metaanalysis utilized 5,690 Parkinson’s disease patients and 21251 matched controls.

It found that vitamin D levels of less than 20 ng/ml were associated with a risk of 2.08-fold to develop Parkinson’s disease. Interestingly, vitamin D3 supplementation reduced the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 38%. Outdoor work reduced the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 28%.

Vitamin D3 protects your brain from Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease of old age. We know that it is much more common in patients with type 2 diabetes where insulin levels are high. Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease can be termed type 3 diabetes.

The resulting neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid-beta deposits damage nerve cells, which are responsible for the memory loss and the profound personality changes in these patients.

What does vitamin D3 have to do with this?

A 2014 study showed that a low vitamin D level was associated with a high risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Specifically the following observations were made.

  • Vitamin D level of less than 10 ng/ml: 122% increased risk of Alzheimer’s
  • Vitamin D level 10 to 20 ng/ml: 51% increased risk of Alzheimer’s

The same research group found in two trials that vitamin D deficiency leads to visual memory decline, but not to verbal memory decline.

Vitamin D3 combined with metformin suppresses cancer

The newest development with respect to vitamin D3 is the finding that it also has anti-cancer effects. Dr. Li demonstrated that vitamin D reduced prostate cancer cell line growth by 45% while metformin alone reduced it by 28%.

But when both vitamin D and metformin were present in the cell cultures there was growth inhibition of 86%. Dr. Li explained that vitamin D potentiated the growth inhibitory effect of metformin.

Vitamin D3 protects your brain: guidelines to proper vitamin D3 dosing

For years the medical profession stated that 400 IU of vitamin D3 would be enough supplementation. It may be enough to prevent rickets in children. But these low doses will be insufficient in many patients who are deficient for vitamin D to prevent MS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or cancer.

A study on medical staff in Northern India showed that 85% of the staff had very low vitamin D levels of less than 10 ng/ml.

It took high doses of vitamin D3 to increase the vitamin D level in the blood.

Generally supplements of vitamin D3 of 5000 IU to 8000 IU are the norm now. But some patients are poor absorbers and they may require 15,000 IU per day. What the patients need can be easily determined by doing repeat vitamin D blood levels (as 25-hydroxy vitamin D). The goal is to reach a level of 50-80 ng/ml. The optimal level with regard to nmol/L is 80 to 200 (according to Rocky Mountain Analytical, Calgary, AB, Canada).

Vitamin D3 Protects Your Brain

Vitamin D3 Protects Your Brain

Conclusion

Many people are deficient with regard to vitamin D, and they do not know it. The most important thing is to do a vitamin D blood test to assess your vitamin D status.

We know for a long time that vitamin D plays a role in bone metabolism and this is why women approaching menopause often need vitamin D3 supplementation. But it may come to you as news that vitamin D3 also protects from MS, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, as indicated above, we know that many cancers are suppressed by taking vitamin D3 regularly.

When you realize that all body cells have vitamin D receptors on their surface, it is no surprise that vitamin D3 is so important to take. The vitamin D3 receptors must be there for a reason. If your body is deprived of this valuable vitamin, the high risk of degenerative diseases will be the consequence.

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Jun
11
2016

Drugs Can Cause Dementia

An April 2016 study from Indiana University found that drugs can cause dementia. There were 451 people enrolled in the study with an average age of 73. 60 of them were taking at least one or more anticholinergic drugs. Anticholinergic drugs are drugs that inhibit the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in nerves or in the brain. The end result is that spasms in the stomach, bowel or bladder are relieved. Also the many over-the-counter sleep medications that may contain anticholinergic drugs help you to fall asleep easier. In the above-mentioned study researchers measured the effects that the drugs have, using different tests. They used memory and cognitive tests to check for memory loss, reasoning and judgment. PET scans were used for measuring brain metabolism. MRI scans were used to look for structural brain changes.

Results on how anticholinergic drugs can cause dementia

Memory tests and cognitive function tests showed that those taking anticholinergic drugs did worse on memory tests, verbal reasoning, problem solving and planning. The PET scan showed that glucose utilization by the brain was down in those who were taking anticholinergic drugs. The hippocampus was particularly affected with lower glucose utilization. This is the center where short-term memory is processed. It is also the area where Alzheimer’s patients have been found to have problems with early memory loss.

MRI scans showed that there were structural brain changes in the patients that were using anticholinergic drugs. Their brains had reduced brain volume (brain atrophy) and the brain cavities in the brain, called ventricles were enlarged. Overall this meant that their brains had much less brain cells when compared to controls that did not take anticholinergic drugs.

In a 2013 study from the Indiana University researchers had established that it took only 60 days of taking cholinergic drugs to cause cognitive problems. Using drugs with only weak anticholinergic side effects, it took up to 90 days before the same cognitive deterioration could be measured.

The researchers concluded that it would be wise for physicians to consider switching a patient to medication that does not include anticholinergic side effects to prevent development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Anticholinergic drugs can cause dementia

In the study above it was stated that it was the group of anticholinergic drugs that was particularly problematic. These are over-the-counter-drugs like sleep aids, antihistamines, and incontinence drugs etc. that were having anticholinergic side effects. The more of these types of drugs are taken, the more interaction can take place, leading to full-blown anticholinergic symptoms. As people age, they collect more and more symptoms and diseases. Physicians tend to treat the symptoms with various medications, so it is not unusual for an elderly person to be on 5 or 6 different drugs. If one or more of these drugs have anticholinergic side effects, this can add up and cause the kind of observations the above mentioned clinical study showed: dementia symptoms and proof that the brain metabolism has been slowed down. The brain also experiences the structural changes of dementia that I mentioned.

Possibility that herbs and drugs can cause dementia

The problem does not stop here. It is possible that over-the-counter herbs that you may innocently get in the health food store can participate in the overall metabolic interaction of anticholinergic substances. Many herbs have pharmacological substances in them that have specific helpful effects. But whenever a drug or herb has a positive effect, quite often there is an undesirable effect or side effect.

Historically Belladonna is a poisonous plant that has medicinal values. Unfortunately many Belladonna preparations are available in health food stores that are not regulated by the FDA. Belladonna has strong anticholinergic side effects that interfere with other anticholinergic side effects.

There are many other herbs that are available without prescription.

Kava-kava is an herb and a hallucinogenic that has anticholinergic properties. Keep in mind that the more you use Kava-Kava, the more your brain gets shut down. Why? The anticholinergic effect of Kava-Kava shuts down acetylcholine, the main stimulus in your brain cells to help you think.

Passionflower is an herb that sedates and is often used as a tincture to help you to fall asleep. What is perceived as a natural effect is merely the anticholinergic effect on the central nervous system.

Hops is the calming compound found in beer. It is also often used together with other sedating herbal sleeping remedies in teas.

St. John’s wort is also on the list. In smaller doses this herbal antidepressant may be useful and may have less side effects than commercial antidepressants. But there are possible side effects of dry mouth and constipation, which are the result of the anticholinergic side effect.

Skullcap is often used in tea to help a person to fall asleep. But keep in mind that the effect of helping you fall asleep comes from the anticholinergic effect of skullcap on brain cells.

All of these herbs are not any different from the medications discussed earlier, except that they are a bit weaker with regard to the anticholinergic effect.

Street drugs can cause dementia

Many street drugs are sedating and they have anticholinergic effects. It is therefore no surprise that with chronic use of street drugs drug users can come down with dementia, even at a relatively young age. Long-term use of anticholinergic drugs is associated with delirium and dementia.

Particularly benzodiazepines, meperidine (an opioid), antidepressants and many other drugs when taken together cause dementia, in part because of additive anticholinergic activity.

In an Edinburgh study from England 34 deceased patients, who were heavily using street drugs were autopsied. Their brains were compared to healthy 16-year-old non-drug users. There was nerve cell damage in the brain area involved with learning, memory and wellbeing. The pathologist found the same dementia findings that would be present in much older Alzheimer patients. We have to conclude from this that the damage was done by the anticholinergic effect of the drugs that were used as a mix in the years prior to their deaths. There can be added toxicity to nerve cells from interacting drugs and their side effects.

Drugs Can Cause Dementia

Drugs Can Cause Dementia

Conclusion

Whenever you have a substance that helps to get you drowsy so you can sleep better, be careful and check that it is not because of the anticholinergic effect of an herb or an over-the-counter drug. Melatonin is an exception, because this is your body’s own sleeping hormone that your body knows. Whenever anticholinergic drugs or herbs act on your brain they can over time cause an irreversible brain atrophy, which can been shown by MRI scans as in the study mentioned above. This leads to cognitive problems including memory problems. PET scans have also shown a permanent slowdown of glucose metabolism of the brain cells of the hippocampus, where short-term memory is located. Without that function you get permanent dementia. Instead of being treated symptomatically ask your physician for the cause of your symptoms and have the cause treated. You may not always get the answer you need from conventional medicine. As the next step you may want a second opinion from a naturopath to see whether there would be an alternative treatment available that does not involve anticholinergic medications. Go to the root of the problem, avoid drugs that cause damage, and keep your brain healthy and your mental capacities without cognitive deficits!

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Apr
23
2016

Healing Powers Of Green Tea

Powerful catechins that are a special form of bioflavonoids provide the healing powers of green tea. Research teams have proven that these catechins are only contained in green tea, not so much in black tea. The most effective of several catechins contained in green tea is EGCG, which stands for EpiGalloCatechin-3-Gallate. It crosses the blood/brain barrier and is very important for the protection of the brain from Alzheimer’s disease. But green tea or green tea extract has a diversified pharmacological action. It is said to protect you from cardiovascular disease, from obesity, from diabetes, from autoimmune disorders, from cancer and from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In the following I like to comment on how green tea or its extract can protect from all of these diseases.

Alzheimer’s disease

Although there are 5 or 6 approved anti-Alzheimer’s drugs, none of them work for very long. They may at best postpone the deteriorating memory for 6 months, but then the effect of the drug wears off. The reason is that the drugs do not stop the production of the deadly beta-amyloid. It is the beta-amyloid that damages nerve cells that you want to preserve so you can think and memorize. In contrast a simple phytochemical, the catechin EGCG has been shown in animal experiments and in human trials to stop beta-amyloid production and increase solubility of beta-amyloid fragments in the brain. The end result is better memory and no further deterioration.

In a study of 13,988 elderly Japanese observed over 3 years the group that consumed 3 to 4 cups of green tea daily had 33% less strokes, cognitive impairment and osteoporosis.

Researchers at the University of Basel, Switzerland enrolled 12 healthy volunteers aged 21 to 28 and fed them extracts of green tea or placebo fluid via feeding tubes. This was done to rule out taste as a factor. Functional MRI scans were applied as the subjects were given memory-stimulating tasks. Only the green tea extract was boosting activity in the frontal brain of the subjects. This was located in a specific area, called dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This area is known to be involved with language comprehension, reasoning and learning. It also switches short-term memory into long-term memory, called working memory processing.

Studies in animals have shown that nerve cells are protected from the toxic effect of beta-amyloid and at the same time the production of new brain nerve cells (neurons) is triggered by green tea extract. This is really good news for Alzheimer’s disease patients and their families: green tea extract delays further memory deterioration and stimulates the development of new nerve cells in the brain!

Cardiovascular disease

In a 2006 Japanese study 40,530 Japanese adults aged 40 to 79 years without history of stroke, coronary heart disease, or cancer at baseline were observed for 7 years. Diaries were kept about how many cups of green tea each person was drinking per day. The biggest effect was seen with regard to prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

Men had a mortality reduction of 12% for heart attacks when they drank 5 cups or more of green tea; in women the corresponding mortality reduction for heart attack was 31%, a bigger effect. Overall mortality from strokes was lower than from heart attacks making the effect of green tea consumption even more beneficial with respect to stroke prevention. In this study no cancer preventing effect was observed for green tea.

Obesity

It appears that green tea increases heat production and burns fat in the process. There was a small effect in terms of weight loss and a beneficial effect increasing the protective HDL cholesterol in this 2012 Polish study on obese patients. The authors compared either 379 mg of green tea extract, or a placebo, daily for 3 months. They concluded: “The results of this study confirm the beneficial effects of green tea extract supplementation on body mass index, lipid profile, and total antioxidant status in patients with obesity.”

Diabetes

Although there are claims in some studies that green tea would prevent diabetes, this question was thoroughly investigated in this Chinese 2014 study.

No effects were noted on fasting blood sugars or on hemoglobin A1C values, a very sensitive indicator for the presence or absence of diabetes. All these lab tests were unchanged following consumption of green tea or green tea extract. Forget using green tea for diabetes prevention; cut out sugar and starchy foods instead.

Autoimmune disorders

Sjogren’s syndrome and lupus are both autoimmune diseases. Green tea extract has shown in humans that symptom severity can improve; green tea polyphenols (GTPs) possess anti-inflammatory properties that benefit patients with autoimmune diseases.

In an animal model arthritis researchers determined that T helper cells are weakened and bone resorption is inhibited by EGCG from green tea extract.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA have noted that green tea extract is useful in calming down the immune response in autoimmune diseases. They concluded: “Altogether, these studies identify and support the use of EGCG as a potential therapeutic agent in preventing and ameliorating T cell-mediated autoimmune diseases.”

Cancer

Many research papers have found that EGCG from green tea extract has immune modulatory effects that are useful in combination with chemotherapy. A combination of cisplatin therapy with green tea extract has been found to have more effects on colorectal cancer and ovarian cancer than each one on its own. Similarly chemotherapy of breast cancer had better results in humans when EGCG from green tea extract was added as an immune modulation. More research, particularly in humans is needed to fully understand the mechanism of action of EGCG.

Toxicity of green tea extract

Animal experiments showed that higher doses of green tea extract could cause toxicity in the liver and in the nose of rats and mice. I was not able to find objective evidence for green tea toxicity in the PubMed system with respect to humans.

Healing Powers Of Green Tea

Healing Powers Of Green Tea

Conclusion

Perhaps the most important discovery regarding green tea extract is that it crosses easily through the blood/brain barrier into the brain. This can postpone Alzheimer’s disease and can even lead to new neuron formation. The beneficial cardiovascular effects are also useful and combine well with exercise and good nutrition for prevention. Particularly stroke prevention is a useful property of EGCG from green tea extract. The effect on obesity is marginal whereas there was no effect of green tea on prevention of diabetes. The immune modulatory effect of green tea extract is useful in the treatment of autoimmune diseases and of cancer. Existing treatments for these conditions are becoming more effective by adding green tea extract.

Mar
19
2016

Book Review: “Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right”, By Ray Schilling, MD

This book entitled “Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right” (Amazon, March 18, 2016) is dealing with the practice of medicine then and now. Medical errors, false diagnoses and wrong treatments are nothing new in the history of medicine. It happened in the past, and it is happening now. My first book dealt with anti-aging and was entitled “A Survivor’s Guide to Successful Aging” (Amazon 2014).

Book overview

Chapter 1 describes that famous people like President Kennedy, Elvis Presley, Churchill, Beethoven or more recently Michael Jackson have something in common: all of them suffered the consequences of blatant medical mistakes. In Beethoven’s time lead containing salves to plug the drainage holes from removing fluid from his abdomen caused lead poisoning. In this chapter I review also how the illnesses of the above-mentioned celebrities were treated, but then ask the question: “What could have been done better to prevent some of the disastrous treatment outcomes?”

Chapter 2 deals with how modern drugs seem to come and go. We learn that twenty-first century medications that are touted as the latest therapeutic agents are having their potentially deadly consequences too: COX-2 inhibitors, the second generation of “improved” arthritis drugs cause strokes and heart attacks! Your doctor may still prescribe some of these dangerous drugs for arthritis now.

Chapter 3 deals with the fact that medical treatments for people’s diseases may be inappropriate when the doctor treats only symptoms, but nothing is done about the causes of their illnesses. This is a scary thought.

Chapter 4 asks the question whether we could learn something from these poor health outcomes in the past, so that we will be able to prevent any disastrous outcomes pertaining to our own health care in the present and future. As we will see, the problem today is still the same as it was in the past, namely that many physicians still like to treat symptoms instead of the underlying cause of an illness. Even though Big Pharma has the seducing concept of a pill for every ill, it is not always in your best interest, when these medications have a slew of side effects. “Gastric reflux” means a mouthful of stomach acid. This is a fact the suffering patient knows already! Big Pharma simply offers the patient with the symptom of gastric reflux a multitude of medications to suppress this symptom. But it is more important to dig deeper to find the reason for the illness and treat the underlying cause.

Chapter 5 concentrates on the brain and how we can keep our brains functioning optimally until a ripe old age. This review spans from prevention of head concussions to avoiding type 3 diabetes (insulin sensitivity from overconsumption of sugar). It manifests itself in Alzheimer’s disease. It is a form of diabetes of the brain that leads to deposits of a gooey substance. Prevention of this condition is also reviewed .

Chapter 6 reviews what we now know about how to keep a healthy heart. Certain ingredients are necessary such as regular exercise, a healthy Mediterranean diet, supplements etc. The good part is that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. You are preventing two problems (brain and heart disease) at the same time.

Chapter 7 delves into the question why healthy food intake matters. Without the right ingredients of our body fuel, the body machinery will not work properly. The Mediterranean diet is an anti-inflammatory diet that is particularly useful.

Chapter 8 talks about healthy limbs, bones and joints. We are meant to stay active in our eighties and nineties and beyond. No osteoporosis, no joint replacements, no balance problems that result in falls! Learn about how to deal with problems like these in this chapter.

Chapter 9 deals with detoxification. What do we do as we are confronted with pollution, with radiation in the environment and poisons in our daily food? A combination of organic foods, intravenous chelation treatments and taking supplements can help us in that regard.

Chapter 10 deals with reducing the impact of cancer in our lives. A lot of facts have come out in the past 10 years telling us that reduction of sugar and starchy food intake reduces cancer. Curcumin, resveratrol and vitamin D3 supplements also reduce cancer rates as does exercise and stress management. All of this is reviewed here.

Chapter 11 checks out your hormone status. Women need to avoid estrogen dominance; both sexes need to replace the hormones that are missing. By paying attention to your hormonal status and replacing the missing natural hormones with bioidentical ones, most people can add 10 to 15 years of useful, active life!

Chapter 12 is refining some of the thoughts about anti-aging. You will learn about the importance to keep your mitochondrial DNA healthy. Apart from that there are ways how to keep your telomeres longer; certain supplements that are reviewed will help. Also your lifestyle does make a big difference in how old you can turn.

Chapter 13 investigates the limits of supplements. Many supplements are useful, but you do not want to overdo it and get into toxic levels. More is not necessarily better!

Chapter 14 reviews an alternative approach to treating ADHD. Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder has been over diagnosed, has been neglected and has been over treated with dangerous drugs. An alternative treatment plan is discussed, which includes a combination of therapeutic steps.

Chapter 15 gives you a brief summary of the book.

Kirkus Review

Kirkus Reviews reviewed the book on March 17, 2016: “A retired physician details how various preventative measures can fend off disease and disability in this consumer health guide. Schilling (A Survivor’s Guide to Successful Aging, 2014) had a family medicine practice in Canada for many years before retiring. Although Schilling ventures into some controversial territory in his latest book, it’s generally an engaging, helpful synthesis of ideas that draws on reputable research from the Mayo Clinic and other sources. Overall, it serves as an intensely detailed wake-up call to the importance of preventative health. He largely brings an accessible and even-tempered tone to his narrative, warning readers, for example, that preventative health measures can only aid in “a delay of aging, not ‘eternal living.’ ” A thought-provoking, impassioned plea to be proactive about one’s health.”

Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right

Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right

Conclusion

In this book it becomes evident that it is better to prevent an illness whenever possible rather than to wait for illness to set in and cause disabilities or death. You heard this before: “Prevention is better than a cure” or “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. I will give an explanation, based on scientific data that there is indeed evidence to support these notions on a cellular level. The mitochondria, the energy packages within our cells, are the driving force that keep people vibrantly healthy well into their nineties. All this can only happen when the mitochondria function properly. If the mitochondria are poisoned and as a result of toxins malfunction, we are not looking at a person with vibrant health. Instead sixty or seventy year-olds may be confined to a wheelchair. If you want a life without disabilities, a life without major illnesses and enjoy good health to a ripe old age, you are reading the right book.

The book is written in American English.

Available in the US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1523700904

In Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Healing-Gone-Wrong-Done-Right/dp/1523700904/  

In other countries the book is available through the local Amazon websites.

Feb
12
2016

Our Toxic Environment

Dr. Jill Carnahan gave a talk about environmental toxins at the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 11-13, 2015) in Las Vegas. Her talk was entitled: “Diagnosis and Treatment of Environmental Toxicity”. It was very interesting, but it cannot be summarized here in depth with all of the details. It would take 10 pages or more to do this. Here I am summarizing the key points that she made, as they are not likely general knowledge. Dr. Jill is a functional medicine expert consultant and treats environmental and mold-related illnesses as well.

Toxins around us

The world we live in is full of toxins like industrial toxic chemicals, car exhausts, and housing materials (carpet, drywall, lumber, flooring). The list goes on with clothing bedding and furniture. More chemicals lurk in the bathroom: they can be found in toothpaste, hair shampoo, conditioners, and personal beauty products that we apply to our face and bodies. Cleaning products and laundry chemicals are also on the list.

Why is it important to be aware of that? Because toxic chemicals that enter our bodies through the skin, the gut and the lungs will accumulate over the years in fatty tissue, in breast tissue and breast milk. Over the long term they contribute to the development of cancer, autoimmune disease like Crohn’s disease or thyroiditis and many other chronic diseases, particularly neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Environmental history and tests

Dr. Jill (as Dr. Carnahan calls herself) explained in great detail how important it is to take a thorough environmental history, which includes exposure to occupational poisons, home environmental and nutritional exposures, not only for the present time, but also back several decades. One tool Dr. Jill uses consists of several websites that list environmental toxins by zip code. When the physician is informed of of the places where the patient has lived and worked, based on the zip codes a complete exposure picture emerges.

Symptoms are the indicator whether or not toxins may play a role: fatigue, sleep disturbances, memory problems, headaches and the presence of more serious conditions like autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

In addition refined blood and urine tests are performed that check out toxic levels of common toxins.

There are exotoxins, coming from the outside: phthalates, parabens, heavy metals, solvents, organophosphates and pesticides to just name the more common ones. Toxic molds and heterocyclic amines are also exotoxins. These latter carcinogens (heterocyclic amines) are produced by overheating meat.

Then there are endotoxins, toxins that are produced inside the body: endotoxins in the form of toxic lipopolysaccharides from gram negative bacteria (causing toxic shock syndrome), yeast, chemical additives from food, stress and constant negative emotions leading to an overdose of glucocorticosteroids. All of this leads to the total toxic body burden.

Total toxic body burden

Here what leads to the total toxic body burden: Eating a Standard American Diet is one of the main reasons why people accumulate toxins. Add to that petrochemicals, residues, pesticides, and fertilizers, and exposure to heavy metals, like mercury and lead. Some medications like antifungals can also be toxins. Food allergies, environmental allergies and allergies to molds indicate that the body has accumulated toxins. There are also internal toxins from bacteria, fungi, viruses, and yeast that contribute to the total toxic burden. Hormonal and metabolic toxins that aren’t eliminated properly add to the problem, as do isolation, loneliness, anger, jealousy, and hostility. These negative emotions function like toxins on the immune system. Mental illness can contribute similarly in a negative manner, as the mind and the body work together.

When to expect environmental toxicity

A functional medicine expert like Dr. Jill will suspect environmental toxicity when one or more of the following symptoms are present:

Headaches, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, food cravings, gas/bloating, constipation, foul-smelling stools, diarrhea, postnasal drip, sinus congestion, canker sores, heartburn, insomnia, trouble losing weight, water retention, rashes, acne, skin problems, psoriasis, eczema, dark circles under the eyes, bad breath or premenstrual syndrome.

Diseases that are related to environmental toxicity

As already mentioned before Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are among the neurological diseases that have been identified to be linked to environmental toxicity. Some forms of dementia and MS also belong to these. In the very young child autism has been identified as filtering out those who are particularly sensitive to environmental toxicity. Attention deficit disorder also belongs here.

Among adult patients heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are red flags for possible underlying environmental toxicity. Food allergies, depression, anxiety and insomnia can also be indicators of environmental toxicity. Arthritis, menstrual disorders, autoimmune disease and any form of cancer are also flags for environmental toxicity.

Dr. Jill explained that the doctor who specializes in environmental issues would take a detailed history paying attention to chemicals the patient may have ingested or be in contact with. It also includes a dental history, including whether or not the patient has silver amalgam fillings or had them removed without subsequent chelation therapy.

She even showed several slides of known associations with specific toxins for the diseases just indicated. These are subsequently identified as closely as possible by doing toxicity tests.

Markers of reserves

There are several marker substances that get used up when the body starts detoxifying some of the environmental toxins.

  1. Glutathione levels in the blood can be measured and can serve as an indicator as to whether or not the body has been challenged by toxins. Glutathione is synthesized by the liver and is a powerful antioxidant and toxin remover. A low glutathione levels is associated with many chronic illnesses.
  2. A low total antioxidant capacity is an indicator that toxic metal exposure, infection, inflammation, xenobiotic exposures or environmental toxicity in general may be present. There are two metabolic pathways that are important for detoxification to occur: the methylation pathway and the trans-sulfuration pathway. It would be too technical to go into this further, but treatment concentrates on re-establishing these metabolic pathways.
  1. Co-Q-10 (=ubiquinone) can be measured in the plasma and is also a marker of reserve. It can also be given as a supplement at 400 mg per day, which will strengthen mitochondrial function. The mitochondria are the energy packages of each cell.

Organic acids

There are organic acids that are toxic. One of them is methyl-tert-butyl ether (MTBE), which is an additive used to increase octane ratings in gasoline. It has been found in ground water from leaks of gas from tanks in filling stations. Inhalation at the gas station can cause dizziness, headaches and mental confusion. In animals it has caused gastrointestinal irritation, liver and kidney damage. Another organic acid, styrene, is widely distributed in rubber, insulation, plastic, fiberglass, food containers and carpet backing. The US-EPA has labeled it as “potential human carcinogen”. Special tests, which the environmental doctor can order can measure the levels of these organic acids in the body.

Epigenetics

Autistic children have taught doctors a lot about epigenetics. After initial 2 or 3 years of normal functioning autistic children suddenly have a variety of severe symptoms like balancing problems, lack of social skills, problems concentrating, tiptoeing etc. What happened is that one or more of the enzymes involved in the methylation pathway are no longer working properly because of epigenetic effects, events that cause their DNA to have a different gene expression. However, with detoxification and nutritional rehabilitation it is possible to turn this around, as the underlying cause is not a fixed genetic defect, but rather an epigenetic malfunctioning. You fix the methylation pathway, and full function returns.

Other research has shown that a similar methylation defect occurs in PTSD and in schizophrenia. Orthomolecular physicians have developed treatment programs for schizophrenics that often work (but not in all cases).

Dr. Jill stated that with genetic disease there is a multitude of characteristic symptoms, which is due to abnormal methylation pathways that is often combined with a severe oxidative overload, caused by environmental insults. Most cancer and chronic diseases are epigenetic in nature, not caused by genetic causes. Dr. Jill explained that the molecular switches of the epigenetic switch that turns a gene on or off have been unmasked: Acetyl groups promote gene expression, while methyl groups inhibit gene expression. As long as there is a balance in the methyl/acetyl ratio, the patient is healthy; the moment environmental toxins disturb the balance and an epigenetic switch occurs, the patient is heading towards disease. What genes are switched on or off determines what disease will develop.

More toxins: alkylphenols, organochlorines and volatile solvents

Alkylphenols: Bisphenol (BPA) is contained in food and beverage containers, water bottles and plastic dinnerware. Many countries have outlawed BPA in baby bottles.

Triclosan is contained in deodorants, toothpaste and shaving creams.

Organochlorines: Many of these substances have been banned because they are persistent poisons. Because of this they are still in the environment today, particularly in non-organic produce. DDT was used agriculturally as an insecticide until 1972, but is still found now in meat, poultry, dairy products and fish. Hexachlorobenzene was used as a pesticide until 1965 and as fungicide in cereal grains. Mirex was used as a pesticide for fire ants until 1978.

When you buy non-organic butter, farmed Atlantic salmon, non-organic cheese and non-organic fatty meats (lamb, ground beef) they contain various pesticides.

Dr. Jill’s advice: don’t buy that, but buy organic food!

Sauna therapy and colonic irrigations will remove much of the chlorinated pesticides. Chlorophyll and all chlorophyll containing foods will also help in eliminating persistent organic pollutants. This could be a good reason to consume the occasional homemade green smoothie with leafy organic ingredients like spinach or kale!

Volatile solvents: Benzene (gasoline), styrene, toluene, xylenes are all solvents contained in car exhaust fumes and styrene in Styrofoam. Don’t microwave food contained in Styrofoam, as it releases the toxic styrene into the food. Avoid breathing the fumes of gasoline, glues and solvents; use non-toxic cleaners. Vitamin C, selenium and glycine help to detoxify volatile toxins.

After discussing mold and mold toxicity as well as glyphosate toxicity from GMO crops in detail, which would be too long to discuss here, Dr. Jill presented a quick

Clean diet 101”:

  1. Buy organic food. It should be sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO food.
  2. Buy only whole and un-processed foods, a variety of leafy greens and other chlorophyll-rich foods. Add to this a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, but avoid the dirty dozens; buy them organic.
  3. Limit processing of your food.
  4. Get local or homegrown food; avoid refined oils and trans fats.
  5. Limit alcohol and caffeine.
  6. Avoid food allergens; avoid the most toxic foods.
  7. Avoid farmed Atlantic salmon, high mercury fish like tuna, orange roughy, Chilean sea bass, shark and swordfish. Here is a detailed guide to low mercury fish. Stick to “very low” and “low mercury fish”.
  8. Avoid non-organic eggs & dairy. Avoid the dirty dozen fruits/veggies mentioned under point above.
Our Toxic Environment

Our Toxic Environment

Conclusion

Here is a quick whirlwind tour through toxins in our environment. The most important step I suggest you take is to review the toxins in your bathroom and around the house. The next important step is to buy and eat the right foods that are toxin free. If you follow Dr. Jill’s “clean diet 101” as described above, you will avoid exposure to toxic substances. Your healthy food intake becomes your maintenance treatment to detoxify at the same time. Only more seriously affected people need to see an expert like Dr. Jill. People with mercury or other heavy metal poisoning may need a series of intravenous chelation treatments as mentioned in this link. The entire process requires a lot of attention and vigilance. Ask questions about products and read labels. It is worth the effort, as this means preventing health problems in the future.

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Feb
06
2016

Effects Of Hormones On The Heart

Since February is heart month, I believe that this is a timely topic to understand how we can protect ourselves from heart disease. During the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 11-13, 2015 in Las Vegas Dr. Ron Rothenberg gave a talk entitled ”Hormones And The Heart”. He stated that he wanted to give an overview of the effects on the endocrine system and on the cardiovascular system, in particular the effect of testosterone and estrogen. Also discussed were the effects of thyroid hormones, growth hormone, vitamin D and melatonin. In the following I will summarize what he explained in detail.

Testosterone treatment in men

He stated that there has been some confusion about the protective effect of testosterone on the heart in men. But Dr. Sharma and colleagues who investigated 83,010 male veterans with documented low testosterone levels clarified this confusion with this large study.

One group was given testosterone replacement therapy, another was not given replacement therapy and one group was given replacement with testosterone, but normalization of testosterone levels was not achieved.

The various groups were followed for between 4.6 years and 6.2 years. The results were astounding: When results between testosterone treated men were compared to non-treated men there was a 56% reduction of all cause mortality, a reduction of heart attacks by 24% and a reduction of strokes by 36%. There was no difference between the non-treated control group and the partially treated testosterone group where the testosterone levels did not come up. It is clear from this that with proper testosterone replacement where testosterone levels are monitored and corrected, significant reductions in strokes and heart attacks can be achieved. The explanation for these findings is simple: both, brain cells and heart cells in males, have testosterone hormone receptors that need to be stimulated for full function.

Hormone replacement in women

This topic has been clouded for many years because of the insistence of the medical profession to use horse derived estrogen (Premarin) and synthetic Provera (instead of bioidentical progesterone). These artificial hormone-like substances were used in the much-discussed Women’s Health Initiative (WHI).

Dr. Rothenberg said about this study that investigators used the wrong estrogen, the wrong progesterone, the wrong route of administration of estrogen (oral estrogen causes inflammation), and the wrong women at age 63 who already had cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.

One important aspect that was learnt by re-interpreting the WHI was that when estrogen replacement was initiated right away when menopause started, the heart attack risk went down by 34%. Estrogen and Provera together reduced the risk only by 28% (Provera being the wrong hormone). Again, the explanation for this findings is simple: women have both estrogen and progesterone receptors in heart and brain cells, which want to be stimulated with the natural hormones. When estrogen is missing, women need bioidentical replacement of what is missing with estradiol transdermal creams. When progesterone is missing, replacement with bioidentical progesterone transdermal cream or with micronized progesterone orally is needed.

Estrogen

With regard to estrogen replacement the KEEPS study has shed a new light on what is going on with hormone replacement in women.

This study was done on 700 women in early menopause. They were treated with 0.45 mg of Premarin (still the wrong hormone) or 50 micrograms of transdermal estradiol (the right active human estrogen). Women also received 200 mg of micronized progesterone (Prometrium, the real human progesterone) for 12 days each month. After 4 years of observation there was no case of breast cancer, uterine cancer, heart attack, transient ischemic attack, stroke, or blood clots in veins between the three groups. Both Premarin and transdermal estrogen had slightly reduced coronary artery calcifications on CT scans compared to the placebo group without hormones. The Premarin group increased the triglyceride and the CRP (a measure of inflammation) levels while the transdermal human estrogen did not do that.

Another study showed that due to the WHI study with the wrong synthetic hormones many women were fearful of starting estrogen replacement. The lack of hormone replacement with nature-identical hormones is responsible for the death of many women, who did not have the beneficial effects. They died of cancer and heart disease.

Dr. Rothenberg explained that this study and others have shown the following:

  1. Bioidentical hormone replacement must be started immediately at or before menopause to have the best results in terms of cardiovascular and neuroprotective (Alzheimer’s) prevention.
  2. Oral estrogen induces inflammation, which causes heart attacks, strokes and venous thromboembolism (blood clots). To prevent this, estradiol must be given as a transdermal cream. This will avoid the first pass effect through the liver, which is the cause for inflammation. Transdermal estradiol does not have the first pass effect. Inflammatory cytokines are implicated in autoimmune processes, initiation of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
  3. If estrogen replacement is not done right away with the start of menopause, the estrogen receptor may get damaged, which means that when estrogen replacement is started at a later date, it is no longer effective.

Progesterone

Progesterone is the other female hormone that is often overlooked. It balances the effects of estrogens, but it can also be metabolized into estrogen or testosterone. Tiny amounts of testosterone are necessary for normal libido. Progesterone production from the ovaries is already reduced when the woman is premenopausal and should be replaced by transdermal bioidentical progesterone cream.

Estrogen dominance needs to be treated with transdermal progesterone (or micronized oral progesterone). Both estrogen and progesterone can be accurately determined using a saliva hormone test. Blood tests are accurate for estrogen levels, but not for progesterone levels.

Thyroid replacement

Not infrequently thyroid tests are low (hypothyroidism) and cholesterol levels rise. This can lead to heart attacks and strokes. For instance, a slightly elevated TSH of 5.5 is associated with a total cholesterol level of 209 mg/dL, and a TSH level of 7.0 is associated with a cholesterol level of 270 mg/dL (normal less than 180 mg/dL). It is very important to detect hypothyroidism early and to treat it effectively to prevent cardiovascular disease. The active thyroid hormone is T3. Thyroid replacement has a stabilizing effect on the heart rhythm. It works together with testosterone in men and estrogen in women to stabilize metabolism of all cells, but in particular the heart muscle cells and brain cells. Hypothyroid patients are often depressed, but thyroid replacement lifts the depression. Cognitive deficits in patients with hypothyroidism are also remedied with thyroid treatment.

Growth hormone replacement

Growth hormone (GH) is important in childhood for bone growth and growth of all the organs. But GH still has an important function later in life. GH improves cardiac performance; it does so by thickening the wall of the left heart chamber, the main pump of the heart muscle. GH improves the contractility of the heart muscle, reduces the stress on the heart muscle wall and decreases vascular resistance. In animal experiments it was found that GH plays an important role in remodeling the heart after a heart attack.

GH deficiency occurs with aging; it leads to high LDL (bad) cholesterol and high triglycerides in the blood and increased fibrinogen, which causes blood clots. All of this increases the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

When people age, they lose GH production, which puts them at a considerable risk to get heart attacks and strokes, but they are also at a higher risk of serious falls due to muscle weakness and balance problems. When the doctor detects low IGF-1 levels in the blood and confirms low GH metabolites in a 24-hour urine sample, the time has come to do daily GH injections with human GH. This can be done using a similar pen that is used for insulin injections. The dosage is only between 0.1 mg and 0.3 mg per day, given before bedtime. This is remarkably effective not only for heart attack and stroke prevention, but also to treat muscle weakness, lack of mental clarity and general well being. Patients report that their joint and muscle aches disappear and they can engage in physical activities again.

Melatonin replacement

Melatonin is a hormone that is mostly thought of as the “sleeping hormone”. It is released by the pineal gland and rules overnight giving you a refreshing sleep. In the morning and during the day the light that enters your eyes inactivates it.

Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, stabilizes the heart’s rhythm (anti-arrhythmic activity), is anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive and protects against heart attacks and strokes. People who have heart disease are usually found to have very low blood melatonin levels. Melatonin can be used intravenously in patients who have heart attacks to reduce the amount of damage to the tissue and stabilize the heart rhythm.

Like with GH, the production of melatonin deteriorates significantly beyond the age of 40. Blood levels of melatonin can be easily ordered, and replacement is easy to do. 3 mg of melatonin taken at bedtime will be a sufficient dose for most people. Another 3 mg can be taken, if you wake up in the middle of the night. It will wear off within 3 to 4 hours.

Vitamin D replacement

The history of vitamin D3 is interesting. Vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D has many actions: it stimulates the immune system and reduces the risk of infection, it reduces blood pressure, it reduces inflammation by reducing circulating cytokines, and it increases insulin sensitivity making insulin receptors more responsive.

Vitamin D3 binds to the vitamin D receptor, which is contained on all cells.

Many middfle-aged and older people are deficient for vitamin D.  A lack of it leads to higher mortality. Vitamin D helps to restore circulation in patients with ischemic heart disease. Vitamin D insufficiency causes high blood pressure, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, enlargement and thickening of the wall of your heart’s main pumping chamber, heart failure and chronic vascular inflammation.

A prospective 7.3-year study looked at the hazard ratios of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) and linked mortality files with lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels. There were 33,994 persons part of the survey, of whom 1,493 died.

Below 10 ng/ml of 25-hydroxyvitamin D level the mortality was 2.5 fold for all causes and 3.08-fold for cardiovascular causes compared to those with levels of 100 ng/ml or higher.

The recommendation presently is to maintain serum levels at 60-80 ng/ml of 25-hydroxyvitamin D to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Effects Of Hormones On The Heart

Effects Of Hormones On The Heart

Conclusion

The following is important to remember regarding prevention of heart disease.

  1. Never smoke or if you do, quit smoking.
  2. Have your thyroid hormones checked as thyroid hormones are important as an energy source for your heart muscle, and they lower LDL cholesterol levels.
  3. Your sex hormones matter: in men it is testosterone, in women estrogen and progesterone that support your heart.
  4. Vitamin D is not only important when we grow bones as youngsters, but it continues to be important when we are older. It supports our heart and other body functions. It is an essential team player, as it prevents premature deaths. Blood levels of vitamin D are easy to measure.
  5. Two hormones leave us rapidly as we age: melatonin and human growth hormone. However, levels of both hormones can be measured and if low, they can be replaced.
  6. There are only two more things you need to do: eat a Mediterranean type diet and exercise on a regular basis. This will ensure your heart is still healthy in years to come.

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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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Nov
28
2015

Diet And Brain Health

The fact that the type of diet you eat has a lot to do with your brain health keeps popping up in the medical literature, and this year has not been any exception.

The Mediterranean diet in particular has been shown to have very positive effects on postponing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 5 years.

A clinical study on 674 elderly patients (mean age 80.1 years) without dementia, was published in the journal “Neurology”. It examined the question whether adherence to the Mediterranean diet would affect the degree of brain atrophy, which in turn is known to correlate with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings were interesting: a high adherence to the Mediterranean diet led to a higher total brain volume, total grey matter volume and total white matter volume as measured with high-resolution structural MRI scans. Lower meat intake led to higher brain volume and more fish intake caused the mean cortical thickness of the brain to increase. Parts of the brain that are affected in Alzheimer’s patients with atrophy like the cingulate cortex, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, and hippocampus showed good volumes with the MRI scans when patients adhered to the Mediterranean diet. These volumes started to shrink when the diet was poor.

Those who adhered to the Mediterranean diet have brains that on MRI scan look 5 years younger and are much less likely to get affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Physicians have known for a long time that people, who eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, don’t smoke and who keep mentally stimulated will generally have healthier brains than people who don’t do these things.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

It involves eating meals that are made up of plants: vegetables, fruit, cereals, beans and nuts. You can eat fish and poultry twice per week. You cut down the amount of meat and dairy you eat, but you can have a glass of wine per day, if you like. Butter is not used for cooking, but olive oil is used instead. Here is more information of what is included in the Mediterranean diet.

Because there is less fat and less high glycemic index carbs in this diet, it is also a diet that lends itself for weight management. You shed a few pounds and reach your ideal body mass index without paying much attention to this.

Apart from the Mediterranean diet another diet, called the MIND diet has also been shown to prevent brain atrophy. This diet is a combination of the DASH diet that was developed for controlling high blood pressure and the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet makes you live longer

The Nurses’ Health Study that has been going on since 1976 showed that telomeres, the caps on chromosomes, were getting shorter in nurses who lived on junk foods, but surprisingly nurses on the Mediterranean diet preserved their telomeres. Longer telomeres are associated with slower aging. And people with longer telomeres reach an older age without diseases like heart attacks, liver disease or cancer.

Exercise on top of the Mediterranean diet

It is not a good idea to just rely on a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet to prevent heart attacks, strokes and other diseases. You need regular exercise as the other ingredient to keep you well. When you combine exercise with a healthy diet your abdominal girth shrinks as this study showed.

Another study showed that when a Mediterranean type diet is combined with regular exercise, adult onset diabetes occurrence could be reduced by 28-59%.

This is quite a significant effect of two simple interventions: a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Don’t smoke

It does not make sense to go on a healthy diet, exercise and then smoke! Interestingly an Iranian study showed that when people became health conscious, adopted a healthy diet and exercised, they also started to quit smoking. People who did all of this, quit smoking, eating healthy and exercising regularly, were also the happiest and most content.

Exercise your brain

The evidence shows that any stimulation of brain activity, particularly anything that requires active and abstract thinking will protect the brain from developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Another study showed that prevention of Alzheimer’s disease is achieved by quitting smoking, treating high blood pressure, stimulating the brain and treating diabetes.

Diet And Brain Health

Diet And Brain Health

Conclusion

Although the focus here was on diet and brain health, the most success is achieved by following a comprehensive program that involves a review of your lifestyle. This approach will be the most successful way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It starts with quitting smoking. It goes on to starting a Mediterranean diet and staying on it. Regular exercise will take care of preventing heart attacks and strokes, but exercise also ensures that all of your brain cells continue to get oxygen and nutrients, which in turn prevents brain shrinkage. Because the Mediterranean diet has a lower calorie content than the Standard American diet, there will be weight loss until you reach your ideal body mass index. Stimulating your brain by actively working with the computer, doing puzzles, playing a music instrument, phoning friends, reading books etc. will all contribute to preventing Alzheimer’s. Watching TV or movies is not an active mental activity, it is passive thinking, which means it is not as valuable as the other activities. Pick a hobby that enhances your life, and your brain will thank you for it too!

Nov
10
2015

Sugary Soda Drinks Make You Sick

Dr. Frank Hu and colleagues have recently re-examined the old question of what sugary soda drinks do to you. They usually contain high fructose corn syrup, a mixture of 55% fructose and 45% glucose. This sugar mix can be found in sugary soda drinks as well as in many processed foods like fruit spreads. Dr. Hu’s publication is listed in PubMed , but details can be found in this summary.

The study found that one or two cans of sugary soda drinks per day lead to

  • As high as a 26 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes,
  • A 35 percent greater risk of heart attack or fatal heart disease, and
  • A 16 percent increased risk of stroke.

The study also found that there is a difference of how glucose, the main sugar that the body uses for energy is metabolized versus fructose from high fructose corn syrup or the breakdown of table sugar, a disaccharide consisting of glucose and fructose combined as one molecule. Glucose gets directly absorbed from the gut into the blood circulation and with the help of insulin gets further absorbed directly into body cells. In contrast the liver metabolizes fructose into triglycerides, which can cause fatty liver disease and also insulin resistance. Fructose also raises the bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). This in turn is a risk factor for developing diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

It is fructose in sugary drinks and processed foods that are largely responsible for weight gain, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The newest finding: heart failure can also be caused by high fructose corn syrup

A study in Sweden has recently shown that sugary drinks can cause heart failure. 4200 Swedish men were followed for 12 years in regards to food habits. The study found that the men who drank at least two sweetened drinks per day had a 23% higher risk of developing heart failure. Dr. Susanna Larsson, a co-author of the study, said: “The takeaway message is that people who regularly consume sweetened beverages should consider limiting their consumption to reduce their risk of heart failure”. Heart failure affects nearly 6 million Americans. It develops either on its own in persons with inadequately treated high blood pressure or in people who had a previous heart attack. It is a condition, which disables the heart to effectively pump enough blood with nutrients and oxygen into the tissues. People who are affected by this condition feel the symptoms: they get short of breath with minimal activity. They also may wake up short of breath in the middle of the night. It is a miserable life, as people with heart failure are severely limited in their activities. Even walking a flight of stairs becomes a struggle or even an impossible task. Total disability is the next step.The key is prevention: do not use high fructose corn syrup, and stay away from sugar in any form; instead use stevia to sweeten your food when needed.

Be careful how you replace saturated fatty acids

Dr. Frank Hu has also participated in a study that spanned over 24 to 30 years and examined the replacement of saturated fat with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), monounsaturated fatty acids and whole grain carbohydrates. The study involved 84,628 women (Nurses’ Health Study, 1980 to 2010), and 42,908 men (Health Professionals Follow-up Study, 1986 to 2010). The diet was assessed with detailed questionnaires every 4 years. 7,667 cases of cardiovascular disease (CHD) occurred during the long observation times. Compared to controls that did not change their diet with respect to saturated fatty acid intake, those who replaced with PUFA had 25% less CHD, those who replaced with monounsaturated fatty acids had 15% less CHD and those who replaced saturated fatty intake with whole grains had 9% less CHD. In contrast, a subgroup that had replaced saturated fatty acid intake with carbohydrates from refined starches/added sugars ended up with a 10% increase of CHD.

Cutting fructose out of diet lowers cholesterol and weight

A new study by Dr. Robert Lustig and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco showed on 43 children that a change of diet reducing dietary sugar from 28% to 10% and replacing it with other complex carbohydrates led to a significant reduction in triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure.

The fructose stimulus was taken away, which stimulates a part in the brain, called nucleus accumbens, where the reward center is located. This is the reason why the more sugar you take in, the more addicted to sugar you become. Not surprisingly when the diet was changed, there were not only internal signs of improving with regard to blood tests, but physically the children showed weight loss just within 10 days as their total calorie intake had reduced. Another observation with regard to fructose metabolism is that ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which usually gets suppressed after a meal, will not get suppressed when you drink a sugary drink with fructose in it. The result is that you do not feel satisfied and you keep on consuming fructose containing drinks resulting in weight gain.

Sugary Soda Drinks Make You Sick

Sugary Soda Drinks Make You Sick

Conclusion

What we eat matters in terms of long-term consequences. This has been shown with refined sugar intake. Don’t lull yourself into the belief that honey is “healthy”. Even though it is a natural product, your body treats it according to its chemical composition: it is sugar, and unfortunately it will get you into health problems naturally. The currently fashionable agave syrup is largely composed of fructose: again, this is bad news for your health! No matter what type of sugar you choose, the long-term consequences have haunting qualities. Consequences of sugar intake are weight gain, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. When you look at this, you will agree that is not worth to take any of these risks just to satisfy a sweet tooth. Biting into a crisp, sweet apple is enjoyable and has never harmed anybody. Eating a small helping of fruit salad to top off a meal can be a delicious finale to dinner. If you need a sweetener, you are better served using the plant-derived stevia, which is available as a powder or a liquid. Smallest quantities are adequately sweetening foods. Stevia has no calories and none of the consequences of sugar: you’ll enjoy the sweetness without the bitter aftereffects of tooth decay or heart disease!

Oct
17
2015

Depression Needs Treatment

Depression is common: 10% of all men and 20% of all women have a period of depression in their lives. In people with medical illnesses depression is more common: 20% to 40% (Ref.1).

The peak age for depression is usually the age of 25 to 44. There are special groups where depression is also common. In adolescents 5% are affected with depression and 13% of women tend to get depressed after delivery, a condition called postpartum depression.

In any age group with depression there is a risk of suicide, but with adolescents this is particularly true.

About 10% to 15% of people with general medical illness are developing depression, such as patients with Parkinson’s disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiac disease, HIV infection, end-stage renal failure and cancer.

Causes of depression

Officially it is not known what causes depression. That is what medical textbooks say. However, other books like Datis Kharrazian’s book “Why isn’t my brain working?” offers several scenarios that can cause depression and he has examples of cases that were cured of depression (Ref.2). He points out that deficiencies in two major brain transmitters can cause depression: serotonin and dopamine.

  1. Serotonin is produced in the midbrain from the amino acid tryptophan in two biochemical steps. These biochemical conversions require iron, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin, folic acid and magnesium as co-factors. But you also need the “large neutral amino acid transporter” (LNAA) to transport tryptophan through the blood/brain barrier into the brain.
  2. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the frontal lobes of the brain. It is also necessary for learning. Dopamine is synthetized by the brain from tyrosine, which has to be manufactured in the liver from the amino acid phenylalanine. You need to have a healthy liver to produce tyrosine, which needs to be transported through the blood/brain barrier into the brain; similar to tryptophan this requires the “large neutral amino acid transporter” (LNAA). People with hepatitis, fatty liver, insulin resistance or diabetes may have problems with the LNAA transporter, which can cause dopamine deficiency (Ref.2). But as mentioned earlier they may also have low serotonin because tryptophan was not transported into the brain. This will happen with sugar overconsumption, as insulin resistance develops and affects the LNAA transporter resulting in both low serotonin and dopamine (Ref.2).
  3. Since the 1990’s it is known that inflammation is also a possible factor in the causation of neurological disease including depression. Ref. 2 points out that gut issues can become brain issues as inflammatory substances can leak trough a leaky gut into the blood stream and trough a leaky blood/brain barrier into the brain. Hypothyroidism can activate brain inflammation and lead to an imbalance of the neurotransmitters. Gluten sensitivity is also an important cause of depression through the inflammatory connection, but few physicians recognize the full impact of this.

Tests for depression

There are no laboratory tests that would define depression. However, every patient should be checked for hypothyroidism, a common cause of depression. If hypothyroidism is found, this can easily be treated by thyroid hormone replacement.

Otherwise the diagnosis of depression is made based on mental status examination, history and review of symptoms. A good start is to ask: “In the past 2 weeks how little interest or pleasure in doing things have you had?” and “Have you been feeling down, depressed, or hopeless in the past 2 weeks?” (Ref.3).

There are detailed psychometric questionnaires available such as the Beck Depression Inventory that can assist the physician to establish the diagnosis.

Myths of depression

One of the myths regarding depression is that it would be contagious. A study on 2000 high school students showed that depression was not infective. The contrary was true: human interaction with friends who had a “healthy mood” improved depression. By the same token, when you constantly compare yourself with your Facebook friends, and you are not in the best mood, your mood may worsen and you could become depressed.

Treatment of depression

Despite advances in the treatment of depression the response rate with antidepressant therapy is limited to 60% to 70%. According to Ref.4 inadequate dosing and misdiagnoses account for the fact that 30% to 40% of treated people with depression have treatment failures. Typically the first antidepressant involves a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), but newer trials have shown that the older monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) have a higher success rate when treating depression initially (Ref.4).

A good antidepressant for mild to moderate depression is St. John’s wort, which is recommended by Ref. 5 as having less side-effects as other antidepressants.

In treatment resistant depression the psychiatrist often employs other combinations of antidepressants. In addition cognitive/behavioral therapy is added, which makes the overall treatment more successful. It goes without saying that complicated cases of depression belong into the hands of an experienced psychiatrist.

Suicides

Unfortunately there is still a stigma attached to have a mental disease like depression and people are in deep denial. Friends who do not understand depression may inadvertently say things that make the symptoms of the depressed person more severe and distance themselves at a time when they would need support from friends. The end result is loneliness, feelings of being misunderstood and having suicidal thoughts. Often it is men who will resist seeking treatment for depression, women are better in getting treatment started.

This is where a psychiatrist needs to intervene. If this does not happen, people start attempting suicide and finally commit suicide. In the US committed suicides have a gender ratio of male to female of 3:1 to 10:1. These situations become very difficult. The family needs to step in and talk to the patient. It is best to accompany the patient to the hospital for an assessment. Going to the hospital may be done privately or by ambulance. Don’t be shy to call 911 for an ambulance. Better to be cautious than have a major crisis that ends in completed suicide.

Alternative depression treatments

There are alternative treatments for depression.

1. Magnetic therapy for depression: This therapy is also called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and was approved for Canada and in 2008 by the FDA.

But it is not as powerful according to Ref. 3 as unitemporal electroconvulsive therapy.

2. Bifrontal electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): Electroconvulsive therapy with two pedals applied to the front of the skull appears to have the best results in terms of treating depression.

3. Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, which will take care of the inflammatory component of depression. Both fish oil and krill oil in combination give the optimal response as outlined here.

4. Vitamin D3 is also anti-inflammatory and will contribute to an improvement with existing depression, but it also helps prevent the development of depression when taken in regularly as a supplement.

5. Light box therapy: The observation of seasonal affective disorder (SADS) can develop as a result of lack of light. This has led to the discovery that light boxes are helpful for treating depression and also for prevention of depression due to seasonal affective disorder.

A light box should be used for 30 minutes every morning during the fall and winter months. The box should emit at least 10,000 lux. Improvement can occur within 2 to 4 days of starting light therapy, but often it takes up to 4 weeks to reach its full benefit.

6. It is known for a long time that alcohol is a depressant; it can actually cause depression and in persons with bipolar disease it can trigger a flare-up of that disorder as well.

7. Finally it matters what you eat: sugar and too much starchy foods (high glycemic index carbs) lead to insulin overproduction and insulin resistance. This causes inflammation, and this will cause depression. As mentioned earlier it also lowers the two key brain transmitters, dopamine and serotonin.

The solution is an anti-inflammatory diet, the Mediterranean diet without sugar and high glycemic index carbs; only low glycemic index carbs are allowed. This will normalize insulin production and eliminates inflammation.

8. Vitamin supplements: Folate and vitamin B12: Up to 1/3 of depressed people have folate deficiency. Supplementation with 400 mcg to 1 mg of folic acid is recommended. Vitamin B12 should also be taken to not mask a B12 deficiency (Ref.5). Folate and vitamin B12 are methyl donors for several brain neuropeptides.

9. Electro acupuncture has been shown in many studies to be effective in ameliorating the symptoms of depression and seems to work through the release of neurotransmitters in the brain (Ref.6).

10. Exercise on a regular basis helps to equalize the mood and seems to exert a slight anti-depressant effect on the person who engages in regular physical activity.

Depression Needs Treatment

Depression Needs Treatment

Conclusion

I have attempted to show the complexity of depression and what is known about its causes and treatment. Very likely there are several causes for depression and further research will hopefully bring more clarity to this. Treatment modalities, both conventional and unconventional have been developed over the years by trial and error. The physician and patient need to use common sense: if a treatment is working, stick to it and use it. If it does not work, move on and try something else. More difficult cases should be referred to a psychiatrist who has the most experience with difficult to treat cases. Do not neglect life-style factors and alternative depression treatments as they can often help to stabilize depression significantly. We all must be vigilant about suicide risks in depressed patients and act by calling 911, if necessary to intervene.

More info on depression: http://nethealthbook.com/mental-illness-mental-disorders/mood-disorders/depression/

References

1. Depression, Major: Fred F. Ferri M.D., F.A.C.P., Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2016, by Elsevier, Inc.

2. Dr. Datis Kharrazian: “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” © 2013, Elephant Press, Carlsbad, CA 92011

3. Goldman-Cecil Medicine “Major depressive disorder” 2016, by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier Inc.

4. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry, Second Edition: Theodore A. Stern MD, Maurizio Fava MD, Timothy E. Wilens MD and Jerrold F. Rosenbaum MD © 2016, Elsevier Inc.

5. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2012 Saunders.

6. George A. Ulett, M.D., Ph.D. and SongPing Han, B.M., Ph.D.: “The Biology of Acupuncture”, copyright 2002, Warren H. Green Inc., Saint Louis, Missouri, 63132 USA