Oct
13
2018

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

The distribution of obesity in women and men is different, when they gain weight on a low fat/high carb diet. The distribution of fat follows a pear shape in women due to fat accumulated around the hips. In males excessive fat accumulates around the waist, which gives them an apple shape appearance.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have done experiments using a mouse model. They wanted to see what changes take place when obesity develops. Djurdjica Coss was the lead researcher of the study from the UCR School of Medicine.

The reason why this study was thought to be necessary

Many men and women have relatively normal weights until their mid 50’s. But when women approach menopause, they tend to accumulate fat in the thigh areas (pear-shape obesity). When their weight continues to rise, they also accumulate weight in the abdominal area. It is general knowledge that the fat in the abdominal region is metabolically more active producing inflammatory kinins.

Men above the age of 50 or 60 are also accumulating fat, but typically in the abdominal area right away. The name for this is apple-shape obesity. Unfortunately this is the fat we just discussed, metabolically active with inflammatory kinins. It is known to be the cause for heart attacks and strokes as it accelerates hardening of the arteries in the whole body. Dr. Coss found in doing experiments on mice that estrogen plays a major role in the development of obesity as discussed below.

The mouse experiments to study the development of obesity

The research team of Dr. Coss compared a group of mice that had their ovaries taken out. The ovaries in females are the main source of estrogens. They fed them a high-fat diet comparing their weight gain to that of male controls on the same diet. Obesity leads to a change in metabolism, called metabolic syndrome. This condition has an association with the production of inflammatory substances originating from the abdominal fat accumulation. Both male and female mice underwent a series of blood tests. They were also physically inspected. The female mice had the pear-type accumulation of fat, the males an apple-type fat accumulation.

More details about what obesity did to the experimental mice

In males there was a reduction of sperm count in the obese group as well as low muscle strength. In addition they were low in energy, had a lack of libido and their testosterone levels were low. The sperm number and the testosterone level had fallen to 50% of what they were when their weight was normal. This is what happens in human obese males as well. The inflammatory substances, that the abdominal fat creates, broke down the blood/brain barrier, and this affected the brain.

Among the female mice there was no neuroinflammation in the brain. There was no change in their hormones, which was quite a remarkable finding. This was a surprise and points out that beside estrogens there are other mechanisms to protect females from the effects of obesity.

Brain inflammation from obesity

Dr. Cross explained that in male mice the fat accumulation was of the apple-type. Female mice had the pear type fat accumulation. The fatty tissue in females did not release inflammatory kinins. On the other hand, the abdominal fat in the males released inflammatory kinins. These attracted macrophages, which is a cell type of the immune system. Activated macrophages now became aggressive and broke down the blood/brain barrier. This resulted in neuroinflammation of the brain. The brain normally is an immune protected site because of the blood/brain barrier. When this breaks down because of the action of inflammatory kinins from abdominal fat, the brain starts to develop memory loss like in Alzheimer’s disease.

Women before and after menopause

In females who still produce enough estrogen, fat from the pear type obesity distribution does not produce inflammatory kinins. This explains the relative protection of premenstrual women from heart attacks and neuroinflammation. But menopausal women start accumulating fat around the abdomen as well. At that point they can also develop inflammatory kinins and neuroinflammation. This is why the heart attack and stroke rate increases in postmenopausal women with apple-shape obesity.

Other studies supporting the effects of obesity in men and women 

Inflammatory substances in obese people affecting their brain

This publication shows that in a group of 141 neurologically healthy obese individuals the anti-inflammatory defense in the brain was weakened. Subsequently, various brain conditions developed because of the inflammatory substances affecting the brain.

How obesity affects your body functions

Obesity affects the body in various ways. It is particularly the apple type obesity that causes inflammatory substances circulating in the blood. A multitude of conditions can develop from this.

  • The cholesterol shows an increase of the bad LDL cholesterol and a reduction of the good HDL cholesterol.
  • The blood pressure rises. Without treatment high blood pressure can cause strokes.
  • Type-2 diabetes often develops because the insulin production cannot keep up with the demand. A second factor is a loss of insulin receptor sensitivity. As a result the insulin receptors of the body cells become resistant to insulin.
  • The gallbladder often develops stones, which may require gallbladder surgery.
  • Some cancers are increasing in frequency: endometrial cancer, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver cancer.
  • Anxiety, depression and other mental disorders are more common, in part because of the neuro-inflammatory processes that I mentioned before.
  • Body pain and problems with physical functioning: obese people have more back pains, hip and knee pains from the extra weight. Slim people are less likely to have these problems. Obese people require more hip and knee replacement surgeries for end-stage arthritis than slim people.

Difference of metabolism in pear-shape versus apple-shape obesity

Back to the pear versus apple distribution of fatty tissue in obesity. diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes as the apple type obesity. The difference in metabolism between the two is explained in detail here.

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

Conclusion

You may have heard that women tend to accumulate fat more around their hips, possibly because of hormonal factors. This is a pear-type fat distribution. In men who turn obese the fat accumulation follows an apple pattern. This type has a more aggressive metabolism in the fat tissue with inflammatory kinins accessing the blood circulation. It also affects the blood/brain barrier. Normally this barrier does not allow proteins to enter the brain. But when a person is obese, inflammatory kinins and proteins can enter the brain freely causing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Many obese people also develop type-2 diabetes leading to heart attacks and strokes.

Low fat diet from the 1980’s

The low fat diet of the 1980’s has caused a lot of obesity around the world. The problem is that merchants who provide low fat products have replaced fat with refined sugar. The liver converts refined sugar into fatty acids and triglycerides. These end up as fatty tissue. Given enough time this is causing obesity. Those who are obese need to cut out refined sugar in its many disguises. In addition they also need to cut down their starchy food intake. In the gut starchy foods break down into sugar.

When you cut out sugar and starchy foods, a person will typically lose 50 pounds in 3 months, at which point they have lost the label of “obesity”. They will also feel more energetic. The best advise for you is to maintain your weight loss with a Mediterranean diet. Research studies have shown that it is beneficial and anti-inflammatory.

Aug
25
2018

The Downside Of Living To 100

A review article has examined longevity and reviewed the downside of living to 100. In their 80’s about 10% of the population live in nursing homes, but among centenarians 55% are residing in nursing homes. They are often very lonely, as their social circles have shrunk as they aged.

Common diseases of older people

Osteoarthritis makes it difficult for people to get around, it causes chronic pain and it can also be the reason for falls. In 1990 there were 213.4 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000. 26 years later, in 2016 there were 232.1 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000 people.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been falling, because less people smoke cigarettes now. Statistics show 1667 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 1990, but only 945 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 2016.

Diarrhea and common infections have dropped sharply from 8951 per 100,000 in 1990 to 3276 per 100,000 in 2016.

What other common diseases do older people get?

There are a number of common diseases that affect the elderly.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the hips and the knees are common, but it can affect every joint in the body. In the end stage knee replacements or hip replacements may be necessary. But before a total knee replacement or total hip replacement can even come into consideration, the person’s heart needs a thorough checkup to ensure that it is safe for the patient to undergo surgery under a general anesthetic.

Heart disease

Older people often have heart disease.

When coronary arteries are narrowed, heart attacks occur. Cardiologists can place stents, so that previously narrowed coronary arteries receive normal blood flow. Following such a procedure the patient may live for another 10 to 15 years.

There are also heart valve calcifications. The aortic valve is particularly endangered. A heart surgeon may be able to replace a diseased aortic valve by a porcine valve.

The nervous system of the heart transmits electrical signals from the sinus node to the muscle fibers, which can get diseased. Heart rhythm problems may necessitate the insertion of a pacemaker.

Finally, the heart may enlarge, but pump less blood than before. This condition is congestive heart failure. The 5-year survival for this condition is only 50.4%. Unfortunately there is very little the doctor can do for patients like this.

Cancer

The older we get, the more DNA mutations we accumulate. At one point cancer develops. If the diagnosis happens at an early stage there is a good chance that surgery can remove a cancerous growth, and the patient survives. But there are cancers that are notoriously difficult to recognize in the early stages. These are: cancer of the pancreas, kidney cancer, stomach cancer and certain types of leukemias.

Respiratory diseases

Those who smoked earlier in life may develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a chronically disabling lung disorder. Often these individuals have to carry an oxygen tank with them wherever they go. The 5-year survival rate for people with COPD is 40 to 70%.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease where the bone is brittle. Spontaneous bone fractures can occur at the wrists, the upper thigh bone (femoral fractures) or in the vertebral bones. Women in menopause are hormone deficient and this contributes to calcium depletion of the bones. Lately research has shown that vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 are necessary for a normal calcium metabolism. Briefly, 200 micrograms of vitamin K2 and 5000 IU of vitamin D3 every day are the necessary dosage that the body can absorb calcium from the gut, eliminate it from the blood vessels and deposit it into the bone. Calcium is present in milk products and milk. If a person does not consume enough milk products a supplement of 1000 mg of calcium daily does make sense.

Alzheimer’s

The older we get, the more likely it is an onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Between the ages of 90 to 94 there is a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 12.7% per year. The group from age 95 to 99 years has a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 21.2% per year. Persons aged 100 years and older have an increase of Alzheimer’s by 40.7% per year. What this means is that essentially there is a doubling of Alzheimer’s every 5.5 years. We do not have all of the answers why this is happening and why Alzheimer’s develops. But we do know that diabetics are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. High blood sugar levels and high insulin levels seem to lead to the precipitation of the tau protein in the brain, which causes Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes

When diabetes is not well controlled, there is accelerated hardening of the arteries. This can cause heart attacks and strokes. Longstanding diabetes can affect the kidneys (diabetic nephropathy, kidney damage) and can lead to hardening of the leg arteries. Often the only treatment left is a below knee amputation. Blindness from uncontrolled diabetes is common and pain from diabetic neuropathy as well.

Diabetics have an average life expectancy of 77 to 81 years. However, if they pay attention to their blood sugars and manage their diabetes closely they can live past the age of 85.

Falls and balance problems

As people age, their balance organ is not functioning as well. Also, people with high blood pressure medication may have postural hypotensive episodes that can lead to falls.

There may be a lack of cognitive functioning and misjudging of steps, ledges and irregularities in the floor. When a person has brittle bones from osteoporosis and they fall, a hip fracture is very common. At a higher age surgery for a hip fracture is dangerous. It can have a mortality of 50%.

Obesity

A person with obesity has a life expectancy that is 10 years less than a person without obesity. The reason for this is that with obesity This is so, because the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, arthritis and diabetes is increased.

Depression

Older people often get depressed. It even has its own name: involutional depression. People can get into a state of mind, where they think negatively. Depressed people feel that they have nothing to live for. They lost friends; they are shut in because they can’t drive a car any more. This type of depression needs treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist. The danger of leaving depression untreated is that the person may get suicidal. In older people depression is often precipitated by physical health problems.

Oral health

When teeth are not looked after, gingivitis and periodontitis can develop. Infected gums can shed bacteria into the blood and this can affect the heart valves. Endocarditis, the infection of heart valves, is a cardiological emergency. Prolonged antibiotic therapy is necessary to overcome this condition.

Poverty

Poverty has real consequences. The aging person may not have access to the optimal medical care facility because of a lack of funds. But even at a younger age there is evidence that people are healthier when they are wealthier.

Shingles

Older people often get shingles, even if they had chickenpox or shingles as a child. This is evidence that the immune system is getting weaker. Shingles in an older person should alarm the treating physician that there could be an underlying cancer. Due to that knowledge a cancer-screening tests should be part of the medical exam. In addition, a varicella vaccine should be offered to the patient to build up immunity.

The Downside Of Living To 100

The Downside Of Living To 100

Conclusion

Living to 100 is often glorified in the press. Maybe you have seen a 90-year old jogger completing a marathon, or you saw an 85-year old couple ballroom dancing. But what they don’t show you is what I summarized here, the less glamorous things about living to 100. You may get a heart attack or a stroke. Osteoarthritis may affect you how you walk. Congestive heart failure may make you get short of breath when you walk upstairs. Then there are various cancer types that are difficult to diagnose early.

If you have smoked in the past, you may suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which leaves you breathless.

Other illnesses

Osteoporosis can lead to spontaneous fractures. Because the bone has a lack of calcium, this is difficult to treat and takes a long time to heal.

Alzheimer’s is ever so much more common when you approach the year 100. There are other medical conditions you can get: obesity, diabetes and depression. When you get shingles for the second time, it may mean that your immune system is getting weak and a cancer-screening test should be done.

There are some downsides when you approach the age of 100.

Know your risks and be vigilant

You may keep your physician busy checking out various age-related illnesses, but more importantly, get regular check-ups and tests. Any condition is easier to treat with an earlier diagnosis! The message for anybody reading this is very simple. Prevention through healthy living is something you can actively pursue. Keep your body and your mind busy. Enjoy time with friends and family instead of living a solitary existence. See the glass that is half full instead of viewing it as half empty. Stick to a healthy diet. Knowing all the risks is not a scare but a call to being vigilant. Knowledge is powerful and will help you to enjoy your golden years feeling well and happy.

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May
12
2018

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Sex usually causes positive feelings, but how is it that sex stimulates your brain? Recently this publication reviewed exactly what is going on. The reason both sexes seem to seek out sex is the fact that it is sex that stimulates the brain a certain way, which is pleasing to both partners. Due to the stimulation the brain will release hormones that make us feel good. Following sex there is post-coital afterglow for a period of time, which I have addressed under this link before. Here I am reviewing what physical stimulation of the brain takes place during sex. Next I will touch on the hormonal changes that happen during and after sex.

Diagnostic tests that show that sex stimulates your brain

Researchers performed  2005 positron emission tomography (PET scan) studies  during sex at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. They studied males males while they were having sex. The question was what part of the brain would be receiving stimulation. Another question was, what part of the brain was resting during intercourse? They found that the right hemisphere and particularly one area, the right posterior insula received stimulation, when the penis was stimulated. This area allows the man to feel relaxed and it reduces pain perception. The secondary somatosensory cortex also showed stimulation on PET scans. The stimulation of the secondary somatosensory cortex is what carries him to the height of his arousal during intercourse. The hypothalamus, which also received stimulatioh with the initiation of sex, was very quiet during the active part of lovemaking. The thalamus and right amygdala were also quiet during that phase on PET scans.

More on feelings and losing oneself during the height of sex

The same group from the Netherlands did a 2003 study using PET scans to find out what happens during his ejaculation. Male subjects had sexual stimulation (penile stimulation) by their female partners. At the time of his ejaculation the PET scan showed increased brain activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the cerebellum. The frontal brain was remarkably quiet. Other authors point out that there are profound hormone releases during lovemaking. The release of neurotransmitters like noradrenaline, oxytocin and prolactin is taking place during orgasm. Other hormones like dopamine, opioids and serotonin join the hormonal symphony of lovemaking. This leads to detachedness at the height of the orgasm, to emotional closeness and pair bonding toward the end of lovemaking. The authors of the 2003 Netherlands study concluded:

“Our results correspond with reports of cerebellar activation during heroin rush, sexual arousal, listening to pleasurable music, and monetary reward.”

Female orgasm and brain studies showing that sex stimulates your brain

It is only fair that research also studied females, similarly to the male studies. Functional MRI scans were part of a 2017 study from Newark, NJ.

It showed a much broader stimulation of brains in females than in males. Female orgasm includes stimulation of the prefrontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex, the insula, the cingulate gyrus, and the cerebellum. These areas take part in the processing of emotions and of pain. There is also some metabolic processing and decision-making. With the male ejaculation study discussed above we had seen that there was no activity in the frontal brain of the male. At this stage of his sexual arousal there is no place for decision-making for the man. Women, however, are still able to think while having an orgasm. Other studies have shown that the rhythmic sexual stimulation during sex can get women into an altered state of consciousness that feels like a trance.

Hormonal activity during and after sex documenting that sex stimulates your brain

We learned already about the profound hormone releases during the height of his ejaculation and her orgasm (noradrenaline, oxytocin and prolactin). But other hormones were also part of it: dopamine, opioids and serotonin. There are two hormones that are particularly important: endorphins and oxytocin. Endorphins are part of the natural endorphins that the brain makes. They help us to feel good and they minimize pain. Their production takes place in the hypothalamus, one of the main hormone producing glands of the brain. The hypothalamus also produces the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which releases ACTH in the pituitary gland. This and cortisol are the stress hormones that make us tense. With the release of endorphins during sex, the stress reaction becomes less. More sex means less stress.

Oxytocin, the cuddling hormone

Oxytocin from the posterior pituitary gland is the cuddling hormone. It is part of the symphony of hormones that show a release during sex. Oxytocin makes you feel close to your partner, but also very relaxed. It may be responsible for the afterglow that I mentioned  in the beginning of my review that can last for up to 2 days after sex.

When sex is painful

Sex can be a bad experience, particularly for women. Many women have experienced sexual abuse in the past, and when they grow up to mature women, the past bad memories often linger on. This is called postcoital dysphoria (PCD). A 2011 Australian/US study has studied this. 32.9% of the students of that study reported ever having experienced this. There were also cases of childhood sexual abuse that were more severe. The authors also found that sexual dysfunction was worse when co-existing anxiety or depression disorders were present.

Better sleep after sex

Prolactin, another brain hormone is released during sex as well. It is responsible for calming the frontal cortex down. This leads to better sleep, but in older men it also causes better cognitive functioning. Prolactin, released during sex is thought to improve memory and to improve cognitive impairment.

In women testosterone and oxytocin are released during sex. This can improve libido (testosterone) and makes you feel like cuddling.

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Conclusion

Sex leads to a battery of hormones that the brain releases after ejaculation and/or orgasm. Both partners experience their own detachedness, which is due to a trance-like mental state where the partners experience each other intensely. The cuddling hormone oxytocin encourages bonding and contributes to a feeling of an intense closeness to each other. Endorphins release stress and amplify the emotional high. Brain studies on copulating couples have shown different stimulation patterns of parts of the brain in women and in men.

Differences in how men and women are wired

Men cannot think at the height of lovemaking because their frontal brain is completely blocked. Women, however, are able to continue to experience all emotions and are able to think at the same time. Having said that, women can easily enter into a trance from the repetitive movements of lovemaking. Whatever it is that we experience during and after sex, it is due to the relationship we have with each other, the past experience, the present experience and the hormone symphony that occurs during all of this. Enjoy what’s going on!

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May
05
2018

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

Chances are you heard about the benefits of drinking green tea to reduce heart disease. But the polyphenols of green tea also prevent cancer, depression and cognitive decline.

Green tea lowers cardiovascular mortality

A study in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy consisted of 807 men and women aged 65 years and older. They had urine tests for metabolites of green tea in the beginning of the study. The study went on for 12 years. 274 participants died, which was 34% of the total study group. Tests measured the total urinary polyphenol (TUP) concentration in both groups, the survivors and the participants who died. Those participants whose TUP was in the highest tertile of the TUP values had the lowest all-cause mortality. And those participants whose TUP was in the lowest tertile had the highest all-cause mortality. 

High blood pressure and stroke

A Taiwanese study from 2004 examined the blood pressure of 1507 subjects. There were 711 men and 796 women with a recent diagnosis of  high blood pressure. The investigators looked at tea consumption (green tea and oolong tea) and blood pressure reduction. They found that those who drank 120 to 599 mL/day of green tea or oolong tea decreased their blood pressure by 46%. Those who drank more than 600 mL/day of green tea or oolong tea lowered their blood pressure by 65%.

Another meta-study involving 194,965 people and 4378 strokes found that there was a reduction of strokes with increasing tea consumption. Those who drank 3 or 4 cups of green tea or black tea per day were the experimental group. Researchers compared them  to the control group that drank less than one cup of tea per day. The experimental group had a 21% lower risk of getting a stroke than the control group.

Cancer prevention more with black tea than with green tea

A meta-analysis of 18 studies from China showed that green tea and black tea consumption was beneficial for prevention of cardiovascular disease and for cancer prevention. The highest consumption of green tea reduced cardiovascular mortality by 33%. The highest black tea consumption lowered mortality by 12%. Cancer mortality turned out to be different. Green tea did not produce a reduction in mortality, but black tea lowered it by 21%.

Another study, this one from Shanghai, China, points out that there are 15 polyphenols in green tea that likely work on different target areas of the body. They target 200 different genes in humans affecting diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, muscular disease and inflammation.

Other cancers like prostate and breast cancer benefit from green tea

This study shows evidence that habitual green tea drinkers do prevent prostate cancer and breast cancer to a certain extent.

Another study investigates the effect of tea on health. One of the studies from the same authors have shown that the oxidative damage to cells from cigarette smoking can come out in a urine test. Those smokers who drank 4 cups of tea per day had a 31% decrease in their urinary biomarkers to indicate DNA damage. As DNA damage is often the first step in cancer development, these findings are important to note.

Cognitive effects of green tea consumption in dementia patients

A 2017 review of dietary supplements to improve cognitive impairment pointed out several supplements that will improve cognition. Green tea is one of them, but omega-3 fatty acids (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are also useful supplements to restore neuronal functioning.

A 2017 study from Basel, Switzerland found that green tea improved memory, reduced anxiety and activated the working memory, which could be made visible on functional MRI scans. These researchers also pointed out that green tea has this effect as a whole, you cannot attribute it to a single constituent. Separate tests of  caffeine or L-Theanine  showed that the beneficial effect was smaller than when green tea as a whole was tested.

2016 study on severe Alzheimer’s patients

This 2016 Iranian study looked at 30 patients with severe Alzheimer’s disease. A baseline assessment was first, and 2 months after taking 4 green tea pills daily another assessment followed. A blood test measured the oxidative stress before and after, so was the antioxidant level from the green tea. The oxidative stress test showed an improvement during the study. The antioxidant level in the blood was higher than before the start of the study. The cognitive function test improved only slightly.

A 2018 study from Singapore looked at the effect of drinking tea (black tea or green tea) regarding symptoms of anxiety or depression. In a group of 614 subjects who were elderly individuals, aged 60 years and above; 59% consumed tea for longer than 15 years. These tea-drinking people were significantly less depressed and significantly less anxious when they underwent psychological tests, compared to non-tea drinkers.

Depression and green tea consumption

There is a 2018 study from South Korea that looked at the link of beverages from 15 studies with depression. 347,691 participants were part  of  these 15 studies, and 20,572 cases of depression developed. Comparing a high consumption of tea or coffee to low consumption, the following statistics were the result: coffee consumption reduced depression by 27%, green tea consumption by 29%.

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

Conclusion

Bioflavonoids are powerful antioxidants. But there are many more substances in green tea and coffee that are all beneficial for our health. One of the studies mentioned identified 15 polyphenols in green tea. But another study said that trying to identify one of the components as more active than the others would be a waste of time. They measured some of the factors by themselves and found that the overall effect was much smaller than green tea as a whole.

Other research has shown that the components of green tea activate several genes. This includes anti-inflammatory effects, prevention of heart attacks and strokes, lowering of blood pressure, anti-cancer effects, improvements of cognitive function, as well as improvement of depression and anxiety. As you can see the effect of green tea is diversified. Don’t hesitate to consume another cup of tea!

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Mar
31
2018

Self-Love Is Important

You need to appreciate that self-love is important, if you want stable mental health and well-being. Before you can take care of people around you, you need to practice self-love first. You cannot give love, if you don’t love yourself first. We get so busy in working hard, wanting to achieve goals and then surpass ourselves. We want to be perfect. But this is not possible without first looking after our own needs: again, self-love is important to be able to reach the goals you want to achieve.

Perfectionism can be harmful

Most of us were grew up  in the Western society thinking that perfectionism would be good for us. After all, we achieve things; we criticize ourselves and improve it even more; so finally we end up with our dream goal. What is the downside of perfectionism?

Perfectionism often comes with chronic stress, which can shorten our life span. Perfectionism leads to diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression and eating disorders. Depression can have a serious complication, namely suicide attempts and actual suicide. Perfectionists also often suffer from anxiety disorders that can make life miserable. Chronic stress together with perfectionism can weaken the immune system, which in turn can cause infections and even autoimmune diseases.

Moving away from perfectionism

The United Nations passed a resolution in 2012 saying, “pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.”

Psychologists also tell us that happiness is something we deserve to have; it is our right. A clinical psychologist in Vancouver, Canada, compares the inner critic of perfectionists to a “nasty adult beating the crap out of a tiny child”. We don’t have to beat ourselves up internally; it is not healthy for us. Don’t let the inner bully put yourself down for a minor thing that went wrong.

Start cultivating self-compassion. Self-compassion is not something that you have or do not have. According to psychologists self-compassion is something that you can learn.

The more you learn self-compassion, the less important perfectionism will be for you. You will still be productive and successful, but you will stop injuring yourself in the process.

Learning about self-compassion

Psychologists have researched how self-compassion can be developed. They even have invented an 8-week program that helps the client to build up self-compassion. These psychologists could measure a significant improvement of the level of self-compassion before taking the course and after completing it. According to Prof. Neff and associates there are three parts to self-compassion.

  • Self-kindness, which means treating yourself with understanding and forgiveness.
  • Recognition of one’s place in the shared humanity. This acknowledges that people are not perfect. It also means that personal experiences are part of the larger human experience.
  • Mindfulness, which means emotional balance and avoiding over identifying with painful emotions.

Listening to yourself

Dr. Kristin Neff has written a book that describes how to change your inner voice from a harsh voice to a softer, kinder internal voice. By becoming aware what your internal thoughts are, you can gradually change your internal talk. Profs. Neff and Germer have developed an 8-week course called “mindful self-compassion training”. In their own words “Self-compassion says, ‘Be kind to yourself in the midst of suffering and it will change.’ Mindfulness says, ‘Open to suffering with spacious awareness and it will change.'”

Part of the course is to learn how to deal with suffering when things go badly. In this case they recommend to their clients to repeat the following 3 phrases: “This is a moment of suffering,” “Suffering is a part of life,” and “May I be kind to myself.” This will take the sting away from the suffering and reduce the emotional pain.

Doubts about mindful self-compassion training?

You may have some doubts whether or not self-compassion training would work. But psychological tests regarding self-compassion ratings before and after the course have found a significant 43% difference. Similar compassion training can be found under this link.

These mindful exercises in self-compassion have been proven to down regulate the stress response. The hormones ACTH and cortisol in the blood were found to be much less in persons who had undergone self-compassion training. The training also was shown to increase heart rate variability, which is the body’s natural way to react to stress.

Not everybody is a good meditator. But apart from meditating there are other methods to recognize that self-love is important, as is self-compassion. You can write a letter to yourself, but pretend it comes from a close, loving friend. You could also write a letter that you pretend comes from you addressed to a person that you show compassion to.

Yoga to help you realize that self-love is important

Yoga is a great way to re-acquaint you with pleasures you experienced in childhood. Part of a yoga exercise can be “Mindful Eating”. You are simply refocusing your attention to the tastes that you may have taken for granted. Such a technique helps you to listen to yourself, become aware of your needs and train yourself in self-love and self-compassion. One of the top recommended Internet accessible yoga classes was this.

Self-love Is Important

Self-love Is Important

Conclusion

Perfectionism is widespread and is often taught in schools to be desirable. However, we become so good at this that it often turns into self-injurious behavior. We become harsh on ourselves and nothing is good enough to please us. And we expect perfection from people around us. We may even become abusive when they do not measure up to our expectations.

Dr. Kristin Neff has written a book that describes how to change your inner voice from a harsh voice to a softer, kinder internal voice. She also teaches an 8-week course at Harvard University how to develop self-compassion and self-love.

Mindful exercises in self-compassion

Mindful exercises in self-compassion have been proven to down regulate the stress response. It teaches you to deal with suffering when things go badly.

The bottom-line is to find your path away from perfectionism to a feeling of wholeness. And by achieving this we will free the negative energy of harsh and often unjustified criticism to give our best and succeed.

Jan
27
2018

Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Dr. Robert G. Silverman gave a talk about bacterial toxins threatening the brain. He spoke at the 25th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas on Dec. 15, 2017. First of all, he pointed out how changes in the gut flora can affect the integrity of the gut wall. In addition this can eventually this lead to a leaky gut syndrome. But it does not end here. As a result the toxins enter the blood stream and affect the blood/brain barrier. Consequently in the end various neurological diseases can develop from this.

Here I am giving a brief overview of the talk by Dr. Silverman. But he was not the only one speaking to this subject. Several other speakers also brought up this subject throughout the conference. They stressed the importance of rectifying any gut dysbiosis to stop leaky gut syndrome and a leaking blood/brain barrier.

Leaky gut syndrome

When the gut flora changes there are often enteropathogenic E. coli strains, Shigella and Salmonella that invade the lining of the gut causing leaky gut syndrome. When toxins enter the blood stream, the body is starting to form antibodies against various proteins. Antibodies are acting against various targets: bacterial cytotoxins, cytoskeletal proteins, tight junction proteins and food antigens. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from toxins of gram-negative gut bacteria can also leak into the blood. This affects key organs like the liver, the heart, lungs, the joints, the immune system and the thyroid. When this process has gone on for some time, the blood/brain barrier is breaking down next. The intestinal inflammation causes the release of inflammatory cytokines that circulate in the blood stream. The cytokines cross the blood/brain barrier and activate the support cells in the brain, called microglia. This in turn causes inflammatory degenerative changes in the brain.

Blood/brain barrier

LPS circulating in the blood from gut bacteria endotoxins increase the permeability of the blood/brain barrier. This is bad news for the brain as it becomes vulnerable to attacks from the antibodies mentioned and from food particles. Dr. Silverman cited papers showing that circulating antibodies that cause inflammation in the brain can be the starting point for early Parkinson’s disease. Autoimmune antibodies can cause even depression.

Intestinal permeability can be assessed by various antibody constellations. For instance IgA antibodies point to an ongoing issue/early leaky gut syndrome. IgM antibodies indicate early onset and IgG antibodies chronic issues of leaky gut syndrome. If you add various antigens like LPS, zonulin and actomyosin you can pinpoint which structure of the gut wall is affected by leaky gut syndrome, and the antibody type adds more information about the timing of the onset of leaky gut syndrome.

Bacterial toxins threatening the brain when BBB damaged

As I already mentioned the blood/brain barrier (BBB) is often simultaneously affected when there has been leaky gut syndrome. There may be a delay, but eventually the BBB breaks down also, and the brain will be in jeopardy. Dr. Silverman gave an example of how depression can develop as result of a breakdown of the BBB. Chronic intestinal inflammation can suppress the sensitive hippocampus cells from regenerating. Physicians call that impairment of hippocampal neurogenesis. Inflammatory cytokines damage the neuronal cell progenitors. As a result patients with inflammatory bowel disease can have mood disorders and cognitive impairment. Sophisticated BBB blood tests can pinpoint whether the BBB is intact or establish whether there is impairment. The important thing to remember: there is a gut brain connection.

Fixing the gut to stop bacterial toxins threatening the brain

In order to fix the BBB, you must first concentrate on fixing leaky gut syndrome.

  • Avoid gluten, as gluten is causing inflammation of the gut wall.
  • Start taking probiotics that contain more than 30 Billion lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis per daily dose.
  • Do a heavy metal detox involving phytonutrients, hops, turmeric, Andrographis, zinc, polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, and watercress plant extract. Andrographis, also known as the “King of Bitters”, is an Ayurvedic medicine used to promote digestion and stimulate appetite.

Nutrients to fix the blood/brain barrier

Dr. Silverman uses the following nutrients to repair the blood brain barrier.

  • Acetyl L-Carnitine: this helps to protect the mitochondria from oxidative damage
  • Berberine: reduces inflammation in brain injuries
  • Alpha-lipoic acid: preserves the integrity of the BBB by controlling oxidative stress
  • Curcumin: decreases brain swelling, preserves the BBB and increases tight junction protein in brain cells
  • Vitamin D3 (5000 IU or more): protects the BBB by various mechanisms
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: they increase cell membrane fluidity and protect the BBB
  • Resveratrol: reduces inflammation and restores the BBB

Neuroplasticity

In order for the brain to adapt to changes, it must be flexible, which means on a cellular level that nerve cells form new synapses, neurological pathways etc. This is what neuroplasticity means. Here are the factors that Dr. Silverman listed as facilitating neuroplasticity.

  • Regular exercise
  • DHA from fish oil capsule supplements
  • Turmeric
  • Whole coffee extract
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • Lactobacillus brevis and Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium animalis Lactis 420 (B420)
  • Probiotics: they feed the healthy gut bacteria (e.g. apple cider vinegar)
  • Elevate magnesium in the brain through L-threonate
Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Conclusion

In the last few years it has become abundantly clear that leaky gut syndrome is not an isolated matter. It is invariably connected to a breakdown of the blood/brain barrier (BBB). Leaky gut syndrome alone is bad enough as it can lead to a number of autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto thyroiditis and others. But when the BBB is affected, antibodies can now affect nerve cells, can cause Parkinson’s disease, depression, and even Alzheimer’s disease. There is no reliable database for what can happen to the brain when the BBB breaks down.

Because of these connections it is important to sanitize the gut, re-establish a healthy gut flora and overcome leaky gut syndrome. This will at the same time repair the broken down BBB. It will also prevent further possible damage to the brain in the future. Your gut health is your brain health. Take care of both your gut as well as your brain!

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Sep
30
2017

Parkinson’s Disease May Be Stopped

Parkinson’s disease is common in the US; new research shows that the use of an old anti-depression medication can stopParkinson’s disease The use of nortriptyline, a 50-year old antidepressant has shown to normalize a nerve cell protein. In rats nortriptyline dissolved toxic alpha-synuclein clusters in brain cells. These toxic protein clusters seem to be happening in the brain of Parkinson’s disease patients also. It is the protein by the name of alpha-synuclein that research first found in rats to cause the toxic protein clusters in nerve cells of the substantia nigra, a part of the brain stem.

But nortriptyline was able to normalize the concentration of the protein. In preliminary studies in humans the investigators found that there was a significant improvement of Parkinson’s disease with the use of nortriptyline.

Placebo controlled trial with nortriptyline

Now a research team from Michigan State University in Grand Rapids conducted a larger clinical placebo-controlled trial. The lead researcher Collier of the study group found that Parkinson’s patients who received treatment for depression with the tricyclic agent nortriptyline needed less dopamine, the main drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease. This indicated to the researchers that nortriptyline was preserving brain cells that were still making their own dopamine. In rat experiments they could show that it was the dissolving of toxic alpha-synuclein proteins by nortriptyline that was the key to therapeutic success.

Lisa Lapidus, a co-worker on the Michigan State University research team summed up their research: “What we’ve essentially shown is that we are dealing with a drug that the FDA approved already 50 years ago. Patients tolerate the medication relatively well. This could be a much simpler approach to treating the disease itself, not just the symptoms.”

Parkinson’s disease may be stopped also by old diabetes drug

Thomas Foltynie found that the diabetes drug exenatide helps patients with Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Foltynie is a professor of neurology at the University College London and co-author of the study.

Exenatide is an injection drug. When preliminary studies showed that this drug was effective in helping Parkinson’s disease patients lose their problems with walking and balance, a formal study followed.

Professor Foltynie designed a study where 60 people with Parkinson’s disease either got injections of exenatide or placebo injections. Patient exams followed regarding their musculoskeletal system and balance at baseline and every 12 weeks. A score system of 132 points assessed their Parkinson’s disease. After 48 weeks those who had been taking exenatide had a gain of 1 point on that scale while the placebo group dropped 3 points. After 48 weeks the drug administration (exenatide) finished. But after another 12 weeks another scoring and assessment of the Parkinson’s disease symptoms took place. The experimental group on exenatide scored 3.5 points higher than the placebo group. This suggests that exenatide is helping to treat the cause of Parkinson’s disease, not just the symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease may also stop through the use of caffeine

Parkinson’s disease was in the news again because of another study that involved breaking up misfolded alpha-synuclein through caffeine.

Misfolded alpha synuclein forms clumps inside dopamine producing cells in the substantia nigra of the brain stem. Misfolded alpha synuclein acts like a toxin to the dopamine producing cells and eventually these cells die off. This is the brain region that is responsible for making muscle movements smooth and stabilizes balance. The cells that have misfolded alpha synuclein clumps in them also go under the name of “Lewy bodies”.

Dr. Jeremy Lee from the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) has isolated two compounds from coffee. They are called C8-6-I and C8-6-N. They can bind to alpha-synuclein and prevent clumping, which stops the toxic effects on dopamine producing nerve cells. Like with nortriptyline the caffeine effect is a curative approach to Parkinson’s disease.

 

Parkinson’s Disease May Be Stopped

Parkinson’s Disease May Be Stopped

Conclusion

There is a new therapeutic approach to Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have detected a protein called alpha-synuclein to cause toxic protein clusters in nerve cells of the substantia nigra, a part of the brain stem. When these cells die from the accumulation of these misfolded proteins, patients come down with Parkinson’s disease. But three different methods of treatment can improve Parkinson’s disease by dissolving the protein alpha-synuclein.

  1. Nortriptyline was able to normalize the concentration of the protein. In preliminary studies in humans the investigators found that there was a significant improvement of Parkinson’s disease with the use of nortriptyline.
  2. Exenatide, an injection drug for diabetes, has been described to help Parkinson’s patients get better.
  3. Caffeine can also dissolve misfolded alpha synuclein (two compounds from coffee called C8-6-I and C8-6-N). This helps patients with Parkinson’s disease to stabilize.

This is only the beginning of a new approach to Parkinson’s disease and an attempt to cure the disease by dissolving the underlying mechanism. So far the drugs that are in use for Parkinson’s disease are only attempting to stimulate dopamine producing nerve cells to produce more dopamine. But the underlying pathology of accumulating misfolded alpha-synuclein clumps is not yet in the treatment protocol. The new research is different, as it takes this into account in an attempt to prevent the condition.

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Jul
22
2017

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

Relaxation can calm your mind, but new research has shown that relaxation reduces inflammation as well.

This article is based on a research paper in Frontiers in Immunology in June of 2017.

It concentrated on the calming effect of meditation on the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), which causes inflammation. We know that overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system activates the inflammatory pathway by expressing the genes responsible for NF-κB. These authors showed that the reverse is true also, namely that inflammation can be suppressed through meditation.

This metaanalysis of 18 research papers included 846 participants.

Here are brief summary findings of these 18 studies. Note that diverse relaxation methods had very similar results on the genes expressing inflammatory markers.

1. Qigong practitioners

A group of Qigong practitioners had 132 downregulated genes and 118 upregulated genes when compared to non-meditating controls. Meditation strengthens the immune system and delays cell death.

2. Sudarshan Kriya yoga

One form of yoga breathing is called Sudarshan Kriya yoga. When this form of breathing yoga was practiced for 1 hour per day the stress-related response on white blood cells was shielded compared to controls that did not meditate this way. Those practicing yoga had a strengthened immune system. Genes inhibiting cell death were also strengthened.

3. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Eight patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia were practicing the “seven yoga breathing patterns”; the popular Indian yoga teacher, Swami Ramdev, developed these. Those patients who practiced the breathing yoga technique had 4,428 genes that were activated compared to controls. They showed an up to twofold upregulation, which strengthened their immune system.

4. Loneliness in older people

Loneliness in older people causes inflammation, morbidity and mortality. 55-85 year old volunteers were taking a course of mindfulness-based stress reduction. The researchers wanted to find out whether it was due to increased inflammation that older people were more susceptible to disease. Blood mononuclear cells were tested for genome-wide transcriptional profiling. Those older persons who had reported loneliness had more transcription factors for nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) than controls without feelings of loneliness. After an 8-week course those who no longer felt loneliness had a reversal of proinflammatory gene expression. The genes that had changed expression were located on monocytes and B-lymphocytes; these are cells of the immune system.

5. Care workers for patients with mental health problems

Care workers who looked after patients with mental health problems or chronic physical problems have been known to have stress-induced chronic inflammation markers in their blood. A study involving 23 caregivers used a practice of Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM) assisted by an audio recording every day for 8 weeks. There were questionnaires filled in for depression and mental health before and after the 8-week trial. Blood samples for transcriptional profiling were also taken before and after the KKM trial. The KKM meditation group had significantly less depressive symptoms and showed improvements in mental health. 49 genes were downregulated and 19 were upregulated compared to the controls. The pro-inflammatory NF-κB expression was decreased; the anti-viral gene expression was increased. This was measured using the IRF-1 gene. This gene controls the expression of the interferon-regulatory factor 1 (IRF-1 gene), which controls the immune response to viral infections. The interesting observation here was that a time of only 8 weeks of meditation was able to reduce inflammatory substances in the blood and could activate the immune system to fight viruses better. Further tests showed that it was the B cells and the dendritic cells that had been stimulated by the meditation.

6. Younger breast cancer patients

Younger breast cancer patients taking a mindfulness meditation course: Another study involved younger stable breast cancer patients after treatment that also had insomnia. Both breast cancer and insomnia were known to be associated with a lot of inflammatory markers in the blood. A total of 80 patients were enrolled in the study, 40 were treated with Tai-Chi exercises, the other group of 40 with cognitive-behavioral therapy. Tai-Chi exercises reduced IL-6 marginally and TNF (tumor necrosis factor) significantly. There was a 9% reduction with regard to the expression of 19 genes that were pro-inflammatory; there was also a 3.4% increase with regard to 34 genes involved in regulating the antiviral and anti-tumor activity in the Tai-Chi group when compared to the cognitive-behavioral therapy group. While cognitive therapy has its benefits, the winner was the Tai-Chi group where 68 genes were downregulated and 19 genes were upregulated. As in the prior study the pro-inflammatory NF-κB expression was decreased, which reduced the inflammatory response.

7.  Study with fatigued breast cancer patients

Another breast cancer study, this time with fatigued breast cancer patients, was observed. The patients practiced 3 months of Iyengar yoga. After 3 months of yoga there were 282 genes that were upregulated and 153 genes that were downregulated. The expression of NF-κB was significantly lowered. This suggests a lowering of inflammation. At the same time questionnaires showed that the fatigue factors had been significantly reduced 3 months after initiating yoga exercises.

8. Mindful meditation used in younger breast cancer patients

A group of 39 breast cancer patients diagnosed before the age of 50 received six weekly 2-hour sessions of mindful awareness practices (MAP). This program is tailored to cancer survivors. In addition to the group sessions the patients also did daily exercises of between 5 minutes and 20 minutes by themselves. The control group consisted of patients on a wait list. The investigators used several psychological measure (depression and stress) and physical measures (fatigue, hot flashes and pain) to assess their progress. Gene expression in the genome and inflammatory proteins were measured at baseline and after the intervention. Mindful practices showed clear benefits: they reduced stress, and sleep disturbances, hot flashes and fatigue showed improvement. Depression was also marginally reduced. There were 19 proinflammatory genes that had been turned off, but not in the control group that did not do mindful practices. Tests for changed genes revealed that transcription factor NF-κB was significantly downregulated. Conversely the anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid receptor and the interferon regulatory factors were increased. Downregulated genes were shown to come from monocytes and dendritic cells while the upregulated genes came from B lymphocytes.

9. Telomerase gene expression

Lifestyle modification changes telomerase gene expression: 48 patients with high blood pressure were enrolled either in an extensive lifestyle program teaching them about losing weight, eating less sodium, exercising, adopting a healthy diet and drinking less alcohol; the other choice was to use transcendental meditation (TM) combined with health education with weekly sessions for 4 months. It turned out that both programs led to an increased expression of telomerase genes. Both groups did not show telomerase changes, but the authors stated that the observation time was too short for that to occur. The extensive health education program turned out to be better for patients with high blood pressure as it decreased the diastolic blood pressure more and resulted in healthier lifestyles.

10. Older patients with insomnia

Mind-body interventions for older patients with insomnia: A sample of 120 older adults with insomnia was divided into two groups. One group was treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the other group with Tai Chi. The control group consisted of a group of people participating in a sleep seminar. 4 months after the intervention the CBT group had a significantly reduced C-reactive protein (CRP). The proinflammatory markers were reduced in both groups after 2 months and in the Tai Chi group this remained low until 16 months. Gene expression profiling showed that CBT downregulated 347 genes and upregulated 191 genes; the Tai Chi group had downregulated 202 genes and upregulated 52 genes. The downregulated genes were mostly inflammatory genes while the upregulated genes controlled mostly interferon and antibody responses.

11. Patients with bowel disease

19 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and 29 patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) were treated with a relaxation response-based mind-body intervention. This consisted of 9 weekly meetings, each lasting 1.5 hours and practices a home for 15-20 minutes. The participants were taught breathing exercises and cognitive skills designed to help manage stress. At the end of the mind-body intervention and at a follow-up visit 3 weeks later participants of both the IBS and IBD groups scored higher in quality of life and lower in the level of anxiety they had before. They had reduced symptoms of their conditions. The IBS group showed an improvement in 1059 genes. These were mostly improvements in inflammatory responses, in cell growth, regarding proliferation, and also improvements in oxidative stress-related pathways. The IBD group showed improvements in 119 genes that were related to cell cycle regulation and DNA damages. Other genetic tests showed that NF-κB was a key molecule for both IBS and IBD. The main finding was that relaxation response-based mind-body intervention was able to down regulate inflammation in both IBD and IBS.

12. Caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients receiving a course of MBSR

A course of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) was given to a group of 25 caregivers. Using 194 differently expressed genes the investigators could predict who would be a poor, moderate or good responder to the MBSR intervention. These genes related to inflammation, depression and stress response. 91 genes could identify with an accuracy of 94.7% at baseline whether the person would receive psychological benefits from the MBSR program.

13. Higher state of consciousness in two experienced Buddha meditators

Genetic test showed, similar to the other cases described here that genes involved in the immune system, cell death and the stress response were stimulated. EEG studies in both individuals during deep meditation were almost identical with an increase of theta and alpha frequency ranges.

14. Rapid gene expression in immune cells (lymphocytes) in the blood

One study used gentle yoga postures, meditation and breathing exercises. 10 participants who were recruited at a yoga camp had yoga experience between 1.5 months and 5 years. Their response resulted in 3-fold more gene changes than that of controls. Otherwise the findings were very similar to the other studies.

15. Genomic changes with the relaxation response

The relaxation response (RR) is the opposite of the stress response.  One study examined how various modes of entering into the relaxation response like yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and repetitive prayer would lead to beneficial gene effects. As in other studies inflammation was reduced and the immune system was stimulated from the relaxation response. This was verified with detailed gene studies. The authors noted that different genes were activated in people who had done long-term RR practice versus people who practiced RR only for a shorter time. There were distinctly different gene expressions.

16.  Energy metabolism and inflammation control

Relaxation responses beneficial for energy metabolism and inflammation control: Experts with experience in RR were compared with a group of novice RR practitioners. Experts and short-term practitioners expressed their genes differently at baseline. But after relaxation both experts and novices had gene changes in the area of energy metabolism, electron transport within the mitochondria, insulin secretion and cell aging. The upregulated genes are responsible for ATP synthase and insulin production. ATP synthase is responsible for energy production in the mitochondria and down regulates NF-κB pathway genes. Inflammation was reduced by these changes. All these beneficial gene changes were more prominent in expert RR practitioners. Other beneficial changes noted were telomere maintenance and nitric oxide production in both expert and novice RR practitioners.

17. Relaxation changes stress recovery and silences two inflammatory genes

Mindfulness meditation changes stress recovery and silences two inflammatory genes: Experienced meditators were tested after an intensive 8-h mindfulness meditation retreat workshop. Two inflammatory genes were silenced by mindfulness meditation compared to controls. Other genes that are involved in gene regulation were found to be downregulated as well. These experienced meditators had a faster cortisol recovery to social stress compared to controls.

18. Vacation and meditation effect on healing from disease

This last study investigated the effect of a 6-day holiday retreat. One group was offered a 4-day meditation course, one group was the control group just holidaying and the third group was an experienced meditation group who also took the retreat meditation course. Depression, stress, vitality, and mindfulness were measured with questionnaires. All groups were positively changed after the holiday and remained this way at 1 month after the retreat. 10 months after the retreat novice meditators were less depressed than the vacation control group. At the center of the experiment was the gene expression study. 390 genes had changed in all of the groups. The authors assumed that this was due to the relaxation experience of the retreat. The genes involved related to the stress response, wound healing, and injury. Other genes measured inflammation (control of tumor necrosis factor alpha). Another set of genes measured the control of protein synthesis of amyloid beta (Aβ) metabolism, which causes Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. All groups had markers that indicated less risk of dementia, depression and mortality, which was likely due to the relaxation from the retreat.

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

Conclusion

This study is a meta-analysis of 18 research papers. The authors found that very different approaches to relax the mind have fairly consistent universal effects on reducing inflammation. Most of this work was done with genetic markers. No matter what type of relaxation method you use, you will have beneficial effects from it. But the beneficial effect is not only strengthening the immune system, it also improves sleep, depression, anxiety and blood pressure. In addition it is improving your stress response, wound healing, risk of dementia and it reduces mortality. We don’t quite understand all of the details yet.

What is definitely documented is the effect of the mind-body interaction. It also points clearly to the relaxation response from meditation and similar relaxation methods. This has been proven beyond any doubt through genetic tests.

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May
20
2017

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Dr. Mark Rosenberg gave a talk on prevention of telomere shortening. This was presented at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. The detailed title was: “The Clinical Value of Telomere Testing”.

What are telomeres?

Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes. They are very important in the aging process. Prematurely shortened telomeres are linked closely to all major diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and more. Telomeres are also a measure of the aging process. Aging occurs due to a decrease of the number of cells in organs and/or because of a lack of functioning of these organs. Telomeres get shortened every time a cell divides. But when the telomeres are used up, there comes a time when cells can no longer divide. These cells become senescent cells or they enter apoptosis (programmed cell death).

The senescent cells can become a problem when they get transformed into cancer cells and their telomeres lengthen again. These cancer cells divide rapidly and this can become the reason why cancer patients to die.

What is the significance of telomeres?

Telomere dysfunction is the first sign that the telomeres are getting shorter in a person compared to the average telomere length in a comparable age group. This is not only important for aging, but also has clinical implications. The shorter telomeres are, the higher the risk for cardiovascular disease. Telomere length also provides prognostic information about the mortality risk (risk of dying) with type 2 diabetes and for many cancers. Many physicians incorporate a telomere blood test into periodic health checks, if the patient can afford it.

Interventions that help telomere length

Here are a number of things we can do to lengthen our telomeres.

  1. Rosenberg mentioned that the strongest effect on telomere lengthening comes from caloric restriction and weight loss. 80 years ago they showed at the Cornell University that rats put on calorie restriction had a 30% increase in their mean and maximum lifespan. Many research papers have confirmed that the same is true in man and that the common denominator is telomere lengthening.
  2. Next are regular physical activity, meditation, reduction of alcohol consumption and stopping to smoke.
  3. Taking antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids regularly will also lengthen telomeres.
  4. Improving one’s dietary pattern by adopting a Mediterranean type diet that contains cold-pressed, virgin olive oil.
  5. Telomerase activators. Here is some background on the TA-65 telomerase activator, which is based on Chinese medicine. A one year trial was completed with 250 units and 1000 units of TA-65 per day. The lower dose (250 units) showed effective telomere lengthening, while the placebo dose did not. The 1000 unit dose did not show statistical significance.

Should you wish to take TA-65, only take 250 units per day, not more.

Cancer and telomeres

There is a strong correlation between cancer and telomere shortening. When cells are at the brink of dying toward the end of their life cycle the telomeres get shorter and shorter. This is the point where the cells can turn malignant. Certain genetic abnormalities help the malignant transformation, like 11q or 17q deletions or a p53-dependent apoptosis response. Once cancer cells have established themselves they activate telomerase in 85% of cases. In the remaining 15% of cancer cases telomeres are activated through telomerase-independent mechanisms. Here are a few examples.

CLL

CLL stands for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. It is a disease of the aging population. At age 90 people’s bone marrow cells have a telomere length of only 50% of the length at birth. This is the reason that in older age CLL is more common. Researchers observed a population segment and found that the shorter telomeres were, the poorer the overall prognosis and overall survival for CLL was.

Lung cancer

In patients with non-small cell lung cancer the telomerase activity was examined. When telomerase activity was present, the 5-year survival was only 55%. When telomerase activity was absent, the prognosis was 90% survival after 5 years.

Prostate cancer

  1. Telomere shortening in stromal cells was found to be associated with prostate cancer risk. Men with shorter telomere length in stromal cells had a 266% higher risk of death compared to men with normal telomere length.
  2. Another study took blood samples and determined the telomere length in lymphocytes (the immune cells). Those men who came down with prostate cancer within a year after the blood sample was taken had short telomeres. The risk for prostate cancer in these patients was 355% higher than in the prostate cancer negative controls.

Yet another study looked at surgical tissue samples from 596 men that

Underwent surgery for clinically localized prostate cancer. Patients whose samples showed variable telomere lengths in prostate cancer cells and shorter telomeres compared to prostate samples with less variable telomere length and longer telomeres had a much poorer prognosis. They had 8-times the risk to progress to lethal prostate cancer. And they had 14-times the risk of dying from their prostate cancer.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is diverse and consists of cases that are genetically inherited (BRCA1 and BRCA2), but there are also cases where the cancer is local or more advanced (staging). In families with mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 telomeres are significantly shorter than in spontaneous breast cancer. Increased telomerase activity in breast cancer cases is directly related to how invasive and aggressive the breast cancer is.

  1. One study was shown where blood leukocytes were analyzed for telomere length in 52 patients with breast cancer versus 47 control patients. Average telomere length was significantly shorter in patients with a more advanced stage of breast cancer than in early breast cancer. Mutated HER patients had the shortest telomeres. It follows from this that checking for the HER status and blood telomere testing adds to the knowledge of potential cancer development and prognosis.
  2. Short telomere length was associated with larger breast tumors, more lymph node metastases and more vascular invasion. More aggressive breast cancer cells have higher telomerase activity. More than 90% of triple negative breast cancers have short telomeres.

CNS disorders and telomeres

Dr. Rosenberg presented evidence that shorter telomeres are associated with dementia. But dementias with Lewy bodies and Alzheimer’s disease are also linked to short leukocyte telomeres. The length of blood telomeres predicts how well stroke patients will do and how people with depression will respond to antidepressants.

Cardiovascular disease and telomeres

Our blood pressure is kept constant through the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. When this system is not stable, our blood pressure shoots up and causes cardiovascular disease. This is tough for the heart, as it has to pump harder against a higher-pressure gradient. A study of 1203 individuals was examining the connection between leukocyte telomere length and renin, aldosterone and angiotensin II activity. It concluded that oxidative stress and inflammatory responses affect the telomere length of leukocytes and that the more stress there is in the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, the more cardiovascular disease develops. The conclusion of the study was that the overall cardiovascular stress leads to shortening of leukocyte telomeres.

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Conclusion

Telomere length testing from a simple blood test will become a more important test in the future as hopefully the cost comes down (currently about 300$). It can predict the general aging status by comparing a single case to the general telomere length of the public. But it can also predict the cancer risk, risk for mental disease and cognitive deficits (Alzheimer’s disease). In addition your cardiovascular status is also globally assessed with this test. What can be done, if the test comes back with short telomeres?

It allows you to change your lifestyle and adopt a healthy diet. You can exercise regularly, take antioxidants and meditate. There are even telomerase activators that are gradually becoming more known. They lengthen the telomeres. The cost of telomerase activators will likely still be a problem for some time. All in all telomere length tests are here to stay, but effective intervention at this point is largely limited to healthy lifestyle choices. This is good news: healthy lifestyle choices like non-smoking, exercise and avoiding non-processed foods are either free or have a reasonable price tag. Telomerase activators are big business and at this point not really affordable!

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Apr
01
2017

When Food Causes Inflammation

Dr. Hal Blatman gave a talk about when food causes inflammation. His talk was presented on Dec. 9 at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. The original title was “Food, Pain and Dietary Effects of Inflammation”.

Dr. Blatman is the medical director of Blatman Health and Wellness Center, Cincinnati and Batman Medical Services, Manhattan.

General remarks about nutrition

Dr. Blatman pointed out that mistakes of nutrition are often behind chronic diseases and illnesses. The physician’s task is to explain to patients how their food intake can be changed to improve inflammation in the body and how the body can heal itself.

Hippocrates said 400 BC “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.

In this context Dr. Blatman stated that nutrition could exacerbate symptoms or relieve symptoms and there must be rules for good nutrition. If we do not take care of our nutrition, the gut flora composition changes and causes leaky gut syndrome. But if we consume healthy foods all of this improves.

Mathematical formula for when food causes inflammation

To make it easier to understand the impact of food on our health the speaker offered this formula: G-B+R=P

G stands for good, beneficial things you can put into your body.

B = bad, toxic things that affect your body negatively.

R = reserves that your body has since birth (minus the amounts you have used up)

P = pain and problems you are going to experience

It is P (pain and other medical problems) what brings the patient to see the doctor. G and B is what the patient can change. When done right, the P value in the formula reduces and the pain or medical problems go away.

Nutritional rules

Dr. Blatman said there are three rules about nutrition.

Rule #1 is to not eat fake or toxic foods

He listed NutraSweet, Splenda, Saccharin, margarine and olestra.

  1. Aspartame experiments on rats showed that it can cause cancer: Dr. Blatman said that in man it has been shown to cause multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Aspartame worsens depression, 10% is metabolized in the liver into methanol, a nerve poison.
  2. Splenda (sucralose) is made from chlorinated sugar. It reduces beneficial microflora in the gut. It also interacts with liver enzymes that are known to interfere with the bioavailability of oral drugs.
  1. Saccharin alters gut bacteria and increases glucose tolerance.
  2. Hydrogenated fat and margarine. Insects don’t eat margarine, mold will not grow on it, and it will not support life. Merchants like it because food does not turn stale on shelves. Hydrogenated fats like margarine are considered to be poisons. They raise the bad LDL cholesterol levels and reduce beneficial HDL cholesterol levels. The prostaglandin balance changes so that inflammation occurs. There is increased evidence of diabetes and the cell membrane composition changes. Proinflammatory cytokines can cause pain in the dorsal root ganglions. It follows from all of this that it is best to cut out all hydrogenated fat and margarines.
  1. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. The cell membrane consists of two lipid layers at a specific ratio of omega-6 essential fatty acids and omega-3 essential fatty acids. It also contains triglycerides, phospholipids and protein. It is expected that the cell membrane absorb nutrients to move into the cell and eliminate waste out of it. The cell membrane needs to remain flexible and within neurons needs to transmit electrical information. The membrane composition is critical for the cell membranes to perform optimally. It is here that the physician has to explain this to the patient. All the fats we eat are the raw material, which will make up our cell membranes. So what fat we eat that day is built into the cell wall that is made that day or is repaired. If we eat hydrogenated fat that day, this is built into the cell wall.  A membrane with hydrogenated fat will:
  • Not transmit nutrients inside the cell
  • Will not transmit waste out
  • Causes the membrane to lose flexibility
  • In a nerve cell there will be abnormal neuron transmission

If we eat hydrogenated fat, we become like a “genuine GM truck fixed with inferior parts”, so Dr. Blatman. The interesting observation is that it takes 4 months after eliminating hydrogenated oil from the diet to get it out from red blood cells. Be aware that French fries increase pain for 4 months, so why eat them?

  1. Olestra, an artificial fat: Olestra has been developed as an artificial fat and is used in chips. It can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps and weight gain with long-term use. Olestra belongs into the group of fake/toxic foods. Don’t eat Pringles or chips that are made with this.
  1. Healthy oils

There are two types of essential fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Many processed foods contain only omega-6 fatty acids, because this is the cheapest way to produce them (they are based on vegetable oils). Instead you want to eat healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids contained in nuts and fish. You can also add molecularly distilled, high potency omega-3 fatty acids (purified fish oil) as a supplement to help restore the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 in your food intake. Avoid omega-6 fatty acids from corn oil, safflower oil, grape seed oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil and peanut oil.

Compare the metabolism of omega-6 fatty acids with that of omega-3 fatty acids.

The linoleic acid of omega-6 fatty acids gets metabolized into arachidonic acid, which causes pro-inflammatory mediators, PGE2 and LTB4. On the other hand with omega-3 fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is metabolized into EPA, DHA and the anti-inflammatory mediators PGE3 and LTB5.

It is easily understandable why a surplus of omega-6 fatty acids from processed foods will disbalance the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. This ratio should be 1:1 to 3:1, but many Americans’ omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 6:1 to 18:1. Omega-6-fatty acids cause arthritis, heart disease and strokes. Be particularly careful in avoiding soybean oil, which is the most popular oil in the last few decades to foul up the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio through processed foods.

When it comes to balancing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, be aware that nutritional balancing can help you restore the ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1 to 3:1. An easy way is to cut out processed foods as much as possible. Supplement with molecularly distilled fish oil capsules to add more omega-3 fatty acids into your food intake. Dr. Blatman gave the example of rheumatoid arthritis patients that were put on omega-3 supplements. After 24 weeks their joint swelling and tenderness went down.

Rebalancing the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio was able to treat depression as this research showed. This makes you wonder how much depression may be caused by overconsumption of processed food.

Dr. Blatman suggested the following doses of omega-3 supplementation for various purposes:

  • 1 gram/day as supplementation for healthy adults with a good diet
  • 1-3 grams/day for people with cardiovascular disease
  • 5-10 grams/day for patients with an autoimmune disease, with chronic pain or with neuropsychiatric conditions

He mentioned that these doses are empirical, but in his opinion definitely help. Due to quality differences he suggested that you buy fish oil capsules in a health food store where the quality is best. Stay away from discount stores (the quality is the worst) and drug stores.

Other healthy oils are olive oil and coconut oil. They are also useful for cooking.

Rule #2 is not to eat inflammatory foods

Our body functions like a luxury car; it needs pure food to function. Anything less leads to inflammation, particularly when you eat sugar and processed foods.

Inflammatory foods are sugar, white flour, fruit juice and white/red potatoes. A medium potato=1/2 cup of sugar! Other problematic foods are wheat grain contained in breads, pasta, cereal and thickeners in soups and sauces.

What is the problem with these foods? They break down the zonulin proteins that are a bridge between the lining cells of the gut.

This leads to an increase of intestinal permeability, and leaky gut syndrome can develop. Inflammatory cytokines from visceral fat add to the gut inflammation, and cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure can develop.

Fried potatoes, in particular the consumption of French fries, have been identified as the cause of inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD). Countries with the highest consumption of French fries have the highest incidence of IBD.

A Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are anti-inflammatory diets.

Rule #3 is to not disturb the bowel flora

A healthy bowel flora is symbiotic with the body. You achieve this by eating green leafy vegetables. A toxic flora from dysbiotic microbes comes from eating white flour, white sugar and red meat. Red meat leaves residues on which dysbiotic bacteria thrive.

Symbiotic gut bacteria produce vitamin K, cobalamin, pyridoxine, biotin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and short fatty acids. They also degrade metabolic toxins, prevent pathogens from colonization and they stimulate the immune system to mature.

Dysbiosis occurs when the wrong diet consisting of sodas, white flour, sugar and red meat is over consumed. There are toxins that are produced by the dysbiotic microbes. These injure the bowel wall and make the immune system work harder. Immune system dysfunction, fatigue and fibromyalgia can follow.

Dr. Blatman stated that gut dysbiosis that causes leaky gut syndrome could also cause ulcer disease, diabetes, heart disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain and even cancer.

When Food Causes Inflammation

When Food Causes Inflammation

Conclusion

This was a whirlwind tour through a talk given by Dr. Blatman during the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas. What food we eat determines what gut bacteria we harbor, symbiotic ones or toxic ones. This in turn determines which way our health develops. But the content of what we eat is also important. If we consume processed foods we end up consuming way too many omega-6 fatty acids, which cause inflammation, arthritis and heart disease. This is happening in front of our eyes, if we start seeing things the way they are. I was aware of this since the mid 1990’s. In a lecture I attended at a continuing education conference a cardiologist pointed out that inflammation was the determining factor of whether or not our patients would get a heart attack. The lecturer mentioned then that the older cholesterol concept would be replaced by the newer inflammation concept. He was right, but it goes even further! There is the important omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, and fish oil supplementation helps. At the same time it is necessary cutting out processed foods. But there is the newer insight that our bowel flora and red meat consumption can culture toxic bacteria in our own gut. It is in our power to start eating more vegetables and cut out sugar and starchy food. It is time to see chips and French fries not as a “convenience” but a hazard to your health. Food does not have to cause inflammation; right food choices will help us to stay well and live longer.