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.

May
27
2017

What Your Shopping Cart Reveals

What your shopping cart reveals is what I studied on several of our trips to the US. As I am retired, my wife and I travel quite a bit in the US and find it interesting to watch what people place into their shopping carts.

Typical shopping cart I have observed

The typical shopping cart in a US grocery store seems to consist of white bread, pizza, bacon, hamburger meat, potato chips, cookies, cornflakes, grapes, celery, peppers, strawberries and apples. In addition many people buy prepared breaded chicken strips, milk and an assortment of fruit yogurts.

I like to comment on each of these items, what I am thinking and what precautions you need to be aware of.

White bread and pizza

The problem with white bread and pizza is the wheat, which nowadays is Clearfield wheat. A chemical company from Germany was able to chemically modify the genes of wheat in the 1960’s and 1970’s; in addition they used radiation of the seeds. The farmers liked that the new wheat (called Clearfield wheat) grew with stronger roots, shorter final stems and much larger grains so the yield per acre was higher. This type of wheat was patented under the name of Clearfield wheat and sold all around the world. What was not publicized at the time was that the gliadin content increased manifold from the composition of wheat strains used for thousands of years before. Gliadin gets rid of the glue like substance between the gut cells and causes leaky gut syndrome, something that I heard mentioned at many lectures at several of the Anti-Aging conferences of A4M in Las Vegas. This leads to exposure of immune cells to foreign proteins from the gut, which causes the immune system to hyper react with autoimmune antibodies. As a result, many persons react to wheat with indigestion and digestive problems. They may believe that they react to gluten. It is true that Clearfield wheat also has a higher gluten contents. But any tests for celiac disease will come up empty.

We don’t want to eat this as bread, burgers or pizza: but all of them are baked with the wheat that has been chemically force-hybridized into Clearfield wheat.

Bacon and hamburger meat

A prospective study of 72,113 women over 18 years found a definitive relationship between dietary patterns and cancer and heart attacks. A prudent diet with a high intake of vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, poultry, and whole grains had a very low cancer and heart attack rate. Conversely a Western diet consisting of high intake of red meat, processed meat, refined grains, French fries, and sweets/desserts led to a higher cardiovascular mortality risk of 22% and a higher cancer mortality risk of 16%.

There is another question you should ask: is it grain-beef or is the beef grass-fed?

Meat from grass-fed beef contains 5-times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids compared to corn- or grain-fed beef. Another issue is corn, if that is fed to beef cattle. There is obviously a deliberate marketing drive claiming that corn-fed beef would have a superior taste.

This link shows that the producers only care about their profit and how much of corn-fed beef they can sell. They do not mention that corn is a GMO crop, so this feed is somehow incorporated into the meat. No one has done long-term experiments to ensure that this meat is safe to eat. Moreover, we do know from measurement that corn-fed meat contains much less omega-3 fatty acids and much more omega-6 fatty acids than grass-fed beef. Cows are meant to be grass-feeding animals. If you want to stay healthy, eat grass-fed beef, but do not consume too much or you put yourself at risk for gout from purine metabolites. Corn-fed and grain-fed beef cattle have a lot more infections including liver disease. To control this, the animals are receiving antibiotics. These antibiotics end up in the meat, which can produce superbugs. These superbgs can enter into humans through the food chain.

Bacon is another food that is not only full of saturated fat, but it contains additives, such as sodium nitrite. Give the matter some thought before you put hamburger meat and bacon into your shopping wagon!

What’s wrong about potato chips, cookies, and cornflakes?

1. Potato chips

Potatoes are rich in carbs, but they are empty carbs. Their glycemic index is in the 70 to 80 ranges. I avoid any carbs that exceed 55 (the upper limit of the low-glycemic index). Strangely enough by the time potatoes are processed into potato chips, the glycemic value is only 51, but this is deceiving. The potatoes have been processed in fat and with tons of salt. We now have a product that surely will be bad for your arteries and cause high blood pressure over the long haul. Another important fact is that potatoes belong to the 12 dirty dozens fruit and vegetables that are heavily sprayed with pesticides (see below).

2. Cookies

Cookies are a mix of various ingredients. Here is a recipe for cookies. This is even a better than average quality cookie recipe as they used unsalted butter as a fat source. In many recipes they use margarine, which is an inferior fat. It contains free radicals from the manufacturing process. It is derived from omega-6 fatty acid vegetable oils. But the worst ingredients of cookies are the nutritionally empty white flour and the sugar. Both together are digested, absorbed as sugar into your blood, and a huge insulin response occurs after you have eaten it. Even the cheap chocolate used for the chips is full of unhealthy table sugar causing your pancreas to overproduce insulin.

3. Cornflakes

As mentioned above corn is a GMO crop and we do not know the long-term effects of GMO food on humans. There are more and more reports about gut dysbiosis, leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases as a result of the breakdown of the gut barrier. Pro-GMO advocates deny these possibilities. I play it safe and stick to organic fruit and vegetables. But cornflakes are also high on the glycemic index (between 77 and 93). Usually there is sugar mixed in, and the starchy component consists of empty calories. It is simply not a sensible food choice!

The dirty dozen: grapes, celery, peppers, strawberries and apples

It is known for some time that certain foods are more contaminated with pesticides than others. Some of these fruit and vegetables contain between 13 and 15 different pesticides from spraying, as this link describes. Potatoes are one of the top contaminated crops among the dirty dozen.

Why is it important to know which crop is contaminated with pesticides? Pesticides are immune disruptors. Vegetables that are supposed to be healthy for us contain residues from insecticides and herbicides that have estrogen-like activities called xenoestrogens.They are known to cause breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

Breaded chicken strips, milk and fruit yogurt

1. Chicken strips

Chicken are fed arsenic type antibiotics for faster growth.

The only way how to protect yourself from this contamination is by buying organic chicken, which I have done since 2001. Also, don’t buy breaded “anything” This brings us back to the wheat story mentioned under “White bread and pizza” above.

2. Milk

Milk in the US often contains antibiotics and genetically modified bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which can cause various cancers in humans as this link shows. Recombinant BGH is banned in Europe and in Canada.

3. Yogurt

Most people like fruit yogurt, which is full of sugar and fruit syrup. Plain yogurt, sweetened with a bit of stevia is healthy. But the moment it is adulterated with minimal amounts of fruit, and high amounts of sugar,this “fruit yogurt” leads to weight gain and hardening of arteries. The best yogurt product is organic 1% or 2% plain yogurt. Use fruit of your choice to make a real fruit yoghurt!

What Your Shopping Cart Reveals

What Your Shopping Cart Reveals

Conclusion

Life is all about decisions. I like to make healthy food choices for myself. When I go grocery shopping, I notice that many people do not seem to give much thought to what they are purchasing. They likely also have never read the details about the type of facts I mentioned above. The ingredients that people buy at the grocery store are the ingredients of the Standard American Diet, a sad state of affairs indeed.

The key is to avoid wheat products because Clearfield wheat leads to leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases. Next avoid processed foods and added sugar. What I have not mentioned above is the importance of cutting down on omega-6 fatty acids and to increase omega-3 fatty acids (fish, fish oil supplements). Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. Omega-6 fatty acids stimulate the arachidonic acid pathway leading to hardening of arteries and arthritis. This leads to stents of the coronary arteries and joint replacements of the hips and knees.

Avoid the dirty dozen of crops and buy them organic instead. Avoid milk products in the US; instead buy them organic to avoid exposure to recombinant bovine growth hormone.

It takes a bit of homework and re-education to eat healthy foods. Start reading labels! If a ten year-old cannot read the name of an additive, it should most likely be a signal for you not to buy this product! The more processed food is, the less nourishing it is likely to be. It is not a huge effort to educate yourself about products, but it does take time to steer away from old habits that are not the best for your health. Ultimately your efforts will pay dividends in terms of good health for years to come!

Apr
08
2017

Breast Cancer Risks

Dr. David Zava, PhD gave a talk on breast cancer risks. 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 Role of Hormones, Essential Nutrients, Environmental Toxins, and Lifestyle Choices on Breast Cancer Risk”.

He pointed out that both estrogens and progesterone are safe hormones, as long as they are not overdosed and they are balanced. Unfortunately many women in menopause have too much estrogen on board as the ovaries are still producing them, but there is a lack of progesterone, the moderating hormone that makes estrogen safe.

In the following I am summarizing Dr. Zava’s talk with regard to the essential messages, but leaving away much of the highly technical detail that was presented as this would dilute the message of this blog. I will include a few links for those who are inclined to read more details about the topic.

Balance between estrogen and progesterone

Most of her life a woman is used to cyclical hormone changes between estrogen and progesterone. When a woman no longer ovulates in premenopause and menopause there is a surplus of estrogen and a lack of progesterone. Having no ovulation means that there is no corpus luteum developing, where in the past progesterone was made. This creates a disbalance where estrogen is dominating; it is called “estrogen dominance”.

This is a dangerous hormone disbalance, because the breast ducts are stimulated to grow and the modifying, calming effect of progesterone is missing. Mixed into this is that the stress hormone, cortisol also can make the effect of estrogen worse. On the other hand Dr. Zava showed slides from studies where progesterone was replaced through a skin progesterone cream (percutaneous bioidentical progesterone cream). Plasma and breast tissue concentration of progesterone were measured in 40 premenstrual women. They had been diagnosed with breast lumps and were scheduled for surgery. One group was treated with progesterone cream for 10 to 13 days; the other group was the placebo group. At the time of surgery the plasma (blood) values were unchanged, but progesterone levels in breast tissue were elevated more than 100-fold over the values from the placebo group who had been treated with a neutral skin cream. The same experiment also showed that progesterone reduced the number of proliferating epithelial cells (experimental progesterone group). Estrogen on the other hand was shown to increase the number of proliferating epithelial cells (placebo group).

Another example that Dr. Zava gave was a study where 25 mg of bioidentical progesterone cream applied directly to breasts of premenopausal women increased breast tissue progesterone 100-fold, while blood concentrations of progesterone remained the same. Again breast stimulation by estrogen of normal epithelium cells was decreased by progesterone.

How to measure progesterone levels

Dr. Zava who runs the ZRT laboratory spent some time to explain how to measure progesterone in a physiological way. He said that these experiments and others that he also projected tell a clear story. Blood (serum) progesterone levels do not adequately reflect what tissue levels in a woman’s breasts are. On the other hand saliva hormone levels do give an accurate account of what breast tissue levels are like. A woman received 30 mg of topical progesterone application. She then had hourly progesterone levels in the serum and in the saliva done. The serum progesterone levels remained at around 2 ng/ml, while the saliva progesterone levels peaked 3 to 5 hours after the application. It reached 16 ng/ml in saliva, which also represents the breast tissue progesterone level. Dr. Zava said that the important lesson to learn from this is not to trust blood progesterone levels. Too many physicians fall into this trap and order too much progesterone cream, which leads to overdosing progesterone. With salivary progesterone levels you see the physiological tissue levels, with blood tests you don’t. Dr. Zava said: avoid using venipuncture blood or urine in an attempt to interpret hormone test levels, as you will underestimate bio-potency and overdose the patient.

Historical failure of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT)

A review of breast cancer would not be complete without mentioning the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiated this trial in 1991.

  1. The WHI ended suddenly in July 2002. The authors stated: “The overall health risks exceeded benefits from use of combined estrogen plus progestin for an average 5.2 year follow-up among healthy postmenopausal US women.” The study found a 41% increase in strokes, 29% increase in heart attacks, 26% increase in breast cancer, 22% increase in total cardiovascular disease, a doubling of blood clots. The recommendation made by this study was to discontinue PremPro.
  2. Another study that was mentioned was “Breast cancer and hormone-replacement therapy in the Million Women Study”.  In this study postmenopausal women were given HRT with synthetic hormones, either estrogen alone or estrogen mixed with a progestin (in British English “progestagen”. After 5 years estrogen alone was associated with a 30% increased risk of developing breast cancer. HRT with an estrogen-progestagen mix was associated with a 100% increased risk of developing breast cancer.
  3. Unfortunately in both of these human experiments the wrong hormone substances were used, namely synthetic estrogens and synthetic progestins. They are NOT identical with natural estrogens and progesterone that a woman’s body makes. As long as the hormones used for hormone replacement therapy are chemically identical to the natural hormones, the body will accept them as they fit the natural hormone receptors in the body. It is the misfit of synthetic hormones that blocks the estrogen receptors or the progesterone receptors. You can readily see from the illustrations of this link that there is a fine balance between the workings of these receptors and there is absolutely no room for patented side chains that Big Pharma introduced into synthetic HRT hormones. The other problem of both these studies was that every woman was getting the same dose of hormones and that nobody measured their estrogen blood or estrogen saliva hormone levels. In retrospect the regulatory agencies should never have allowed these “hormones” to hit the market.

Breast cancer develops in three stages

Dr. Zava explained that it has been known for some time that there are 3 stages involved in the development of breast cancer.

  1. Initiation

Damage to the DNA of one of the cells types in the breast is what starts the process in the development of breast cancer. This can be done by catechol estrogen-3,4-quinones as was shown by these researchers.

Aromatase inhibitors can be used to reduce estrogen in overweight or obese women where aromatase is present in fatty tissue. The reason obese women have more breast cancer is likely from the extra estrogen production from androgens, male hormones produced in the adrenal glands that get converted by aromatase into estrogen.

Iodine/iodide has been shown to alter gene expression, which reduces breast cancer development, but also slows down cell division in existing breast cancer. The authors suggested to use iodine/iodide supplements as adjuvant therapy in breast cancer treatment.

  1. Promotion

The next step is that something has to promote the DNA mutation into becoming part of a cancer cell. Estrogen quinones are dangerous estrogen metabolites. They can form from catechol estrogens (other metabolites of estrogen) by reactive oxygen species. But selenium, a trace mineral can interrupt the formation of estrogen quinones, which stops the breasts cancer promotion process. A study from the Klang Valley, Malaysia showed that selenium showed a dose-response effect with respect to prevention of breast cancer; the more selenium in the food, the less breast cancer occurred.

  1. Progression (includes invasion and metastases)

Several factors can help the breast cancer cells to progress, grow bigger locally and eventually move into other areas of the body as metastases. Dr. Zava showed several slides where details of metabolic processes were shown and how changes in some of these would lead to progression of breast cancer. Estrogen excess is a common pathway to breast cancer. The key is to balance it with progesterone, supplements, remove anything that causes estrogen overproduction like obesity (via the aromatase pathway).

The fallacy of overdosing or underdosing

When estrogen is overdosed, it becomes aggressive as indicated before; it can initiate DNA mutations that can cause breast cancer. If it is under dosed, the lack of estrogen can cause heart attacks, strokes and osteoporosis. When estrogen is balanced with progesterone a postmenopausal woman feels best and she is protected from the negative effects of estrogen.

Measures that help prevent breast cancer

  1. When supplementing with bioidentical hormones, keep estrogen within physiological limits and don’t overdose. This can be measured through blood tests or saliva hormone tests. Your most important natural opponent of estrogen is progesterone, which is usually missing in menopause. Measure hormones using tests (progesterone only with saliva tests, estrogen either by blood tests or saliva tests). Don’t rely going by symptoms.
  2. Keep the progesterone to estrogen ratio (Pg/E2) at an optimal range, which is in the 100- to 500-fold range. Measure the saliva hormone level of both progesterone and estrogen and calculate. Remember that progesterone serum levels are meaningless. The much higher progesterone level protects the postmenopausal woman from estrogen side effects. Here is a statement worth noting: “Until evidence is found to the contrary, bioidentical hormones remain the preferred method of HRT.” This was the conclusion of a study using bioidentical hormones, where the protection from breast cancer and heart attacks and strokes was also noted.
  3. Increase fiber intake and reduce red meat consumption. This will eliminate conjugated steroid hormones in the stool. It also increases the sex hormone binding globulin in the blood, which limits the bioavailability of estrogens. Fiber absorbs bile toxins and removes them from the body.
  4. Calcium-D-glucarate is a supplement that will decrease beta-glucuronidase. The estrogens were conjugated with the purpose to be eliminated, but beta-glucuronidase causes the conjugated estrogens to be reabsorbed.
  5. Probiotics likely stimulate the immune system and help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  6. Avoid toxins like petrochemical pollutants and toxic chemicals. Avoid trans fats. If toxic, heavy metals are present (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury) remove these. Some naturopaths use EDTA chelation to do this.
  7. Supplements: sulforaphane (broccoli), EGCG (green tea), alpha-lipoic acid (antioxidant), cruciferous vegetables, resveratrol, selenium and iodide/iodine, N-acetyl cysteine-glutathione. All these supplements/nutrients will prevent estrogen to go to the “dark side”. The dark side is the formation of toxic 4-OH estrogen that could further be converted into catechol estrogen-3,4-quinones that can damage DNA and cause mutations.
  8. Increase methylation of catechol estrogens: vitamin B1, B6, B12 and folic acid. Methyl donors also are useful for this purpose: MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), SAMe, and Betaine.
  9. Improve your diet (Mediterranean type), exercise moderately, reduce stress, and replace hormones in physiological doses as discussed under point 1 and 2.
Breast Cancer Risks

Breast Cancer Risks

Conclusion

Dr. David Zava, PhD gave an interesting talk at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. It became clear that estrogens, when unopposed by enough progesterone, could cause mutations in breast tissue of women and cause breast cancer. He also reviewed two major clinical trials where hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was used. The problems with these were the synthetic estrogen hormones that caused breast cancer and the synthetic progestins that also behaved like estrogens (not like progesterone) and caused even more breast cancer. The lesson to be learnt from this is that only bioidentical estrogens and progesterone can be used in hormone replacement for menopause. Also, the hormones must be balanced as discussed under point 2 of measures that help to prevent breast cancer. In addition there was a list of other useful supplements given that can be taken to reduce the danger of breast cancer.

Incoming search terms:

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.

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Mar
25
2017

How Stress Affects Our Hormone System

Dr. Andrew Heyman gave a talk recently about how stress affects our hormone system. His talk was presented at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. It was entitled “Understanding the Stress, Thyroid, Hormone Connections & Prioritizing Systems”.

Dr. Heyman stressed that there is a triad of hormonal connections that is important to remember: the thyroid hormones, the stress hormones (adrenal glands) and the pancreas (insulin production). We need a balance of these hormones for optimal energy production and circulation. Under stress our sugar metabolism can derail, we develop obesity and fatigue. When balanced we experience vitality and wellbeing.

Metabolic activation pathways

Dr. Heyman projected a slide that showed the metabolic activation pathways. He stated that a number of different factors could influence the hormone system:

  • Diet: trans fats, sugar, too many carbs, food allergies.
  • Drugs: drug-induced nutrient depletion (over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs).
  • Physical exercise: frequency and type matters.
  • Environmental exposure: chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, plastics, molds, and pollens.
  • Stress: physical stress, psychogenic stress.
  • Genetics: methylene-tetra-hydro-folate reductase enzyme deficiency (MTHFR mutation), APOE genes, lack of vitamin D
  • Disease: past or present conditions, active disease or syndromes.

Target areas within your system

The target areas in your system are the

  • Pancreas, where blood sugar can rise because of insulin resistance. Too much insulin production causes inflammation, hormone disbalances, kidney damage, and hardening of the arteries through plaque formation.
  • Thyroid gland, which gets activated by TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), but can also be affected negatively by autoantibodies).
  • Brain: decrease in serotonin resulting in anxiety, depression and food cravings; decreased melatonin causing sleep disturbances; increased ghrelin and decreased leptin secretion leading to overeating and obesity.
  • Liver/kidneys: both of these organs are important for detoxification; the liver produces thyroid binding globulin, which when increased can lower the free thyroid hormones.
  • Immune system (gut, lymph glands): the Peyer’s patches in the gut mucosa produce a large portion of the immune cells; lymph glands, the bone marrow and the spleen supply the rest. A leaky gut syndrome can affect the whole body, causing inflammation and autoimmune reactions.
  • Hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal glands: this is the main axis of the stress reaction. If the brain is stressed, the hypothalamus sends a cascade of activating hormones via the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands. This leads to cortisol overproduction, and release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the center of the adrenal glands. High blood pressure, anxiety, heart palpitations, arrhythmias and more can develop from this.

Hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal glands activation and clinical effects

The main hormone axis of the stress reaction goes from the hypothalamus via the pituitary gland to the outside surface of the adrenal glands where cortisol is released. It is also called the HPA axis. Stressed people make too much cortisol, which weakens immune functions, reduces human growth hormone production, increases belly fat, increases blood pressure and reduces insulin action. Stress also reduces estrogen production in women and testosterone production in men.

The final clinical presentation is osteopenia, then osteoporosis with spontaneous fractures of bones. There is cardiovascular disease leading to heart attacks and strokes, and cognitive decline with memory loss. There are complications with infections. Also the metabolic syndrome can lead to obesity and type 2-diabetes.

Stress and the hippocampus

In the center of our brain there is a memory-processing unit, the hippocampus that converts short-term memory into long-term memory. Repeated stress interferes with normal hippocampus function. High cortisol levels interfere with the proper functioning of the hippocampus causing memory problems.

Chronically elevated cortisol levels from chronic stress have been shown to lead to hippocampus atrophy and can cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Effects of chronic stress

Chronic stress leads to cardiovascular disease, to diabetes, chronic inflammation, Alzheimer’s disease, thyroid disorders, cancer, neurological disorders and autoimmune diseases. Inflammation research has shown that with chronic inflammation tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is released, as key player of chronic inflammation. This however leads to the release of other inflammatory kinins like IL6 and others. The resulting chronic inflammation can cause Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, insulin resistance, dementia, metabolic syndrome, obesity and atherosclerosis with associated markers (decreased HDL, increased LDL, CRP and triglycerides).

Hormone imbalance causes disease

  1. Excess cortisol production from stress leads to Th2 type inflammatory kinins; usually associated with this is a reduction of DHEA (a male hormone in the adrenal glands), which leads to reduced Th1 type kinins. The end result is chronic inflammation. When chronic stress has tired out the adrenal glands, a four-point salivary cortisol level test shows a flat curve. This indicates adrenal gland fatigue or, if worse, even adrenal gland insufficiency. Such a pattern is found in patients with leukemia, breast cancer, uterine cancer, prostate cancer, pituitary gland cancer and lung cancer.
  2. The metabolic syndrome is associated with dysregulation of the HPA axis. People who have this syndrome have a high morning serum cortisol level. High cortisol increases the risk to develop metabolic syndrome.
  3. Metabolic connections: high cortisol leads to a partial blockage of thyroid hormones, which in turn leads to hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism will affect glucose tolerance, and if not treated leads to type 2 diabetes.

In a large study involving 46,578 members of Kaiser Permanente Northwest it was determined that for every 1 point above a fasting glucose level of 84 mg/dL there was an additional 6% risk to develop type 2 diabetes over the next 10 years.

Pathological hormone disturbances

The following hormone patterns were discussed in detail, an increased cortisol level, increased insulin level and decreased thyroid levels.

Elevated cortisol

Prolonged elevation of cortisol leads to atrophy of the hippocampus with brain atrophy and Alzheimer’s or dementia. The immune system gets altered, there is lower DHEA hormone leading to weaker muscles and weakened immunity. There is insulin resistance (decreased insulin sensitivity), decreased serotonin and increased depression. Carbohydrate cravings lead to weight gain (central obesity). Changes in the thyroid metabolism leads to hypothyroidism.

Increased insulin level

People who develop high insulin levels are usually sugar or carbohydrate addicts. As they gain weight they change their metabolism into the metabolic syndrome. The extra insulin that is floating around triggers the insulin receptors to become less sensitive (also called “resistant”). The people love to eat. They snack frequently on protein bars and candy bars. As they gain weight, their energy goes down and they often develop painful joints. This prevents them from being physically active. They notice episodes of foggy thinking. Women complain of frequent yeast infections.

The body tries to compensate by slightly decreasing thyroid hormones and slightly increasing cortisol levels.

Decreased thyroid levels

There is increased lactic acid production and decreased insulin sensitivity. Oxidative stress is increased. The patient is depressed and cognition and memory are reduced. The gut has slower motility. The mitochondria, the energy packages in each cell are reduced and functioning less productively. Cardiac function is reduced.

The body tries to compensate for the primary thyroid weakness by slightly elevating insulin and cortisol.

Treatment of stressed hormone system

Before the doctor can treat a disbalanced hormone system, blood tests have to be done that show what kind of hormone constellation is present. Dr. Heyman suggested the following support with supplements.

Treatment of thyroid disorders

Thyroid supplementation may involve any of these: Selenomethionine, iodine, chromium, thyroid glandular, tyrosine, ferritin, Ashwagandha, coleus forskohlii, 7-keto DHEA, ferritin and iron. Other possible supplements that were mentioned by Dr. Heyman were Rhodiola, schisandra, ginseng, Rg3, eurycoma longifolia, neuromedulla glandular, DHEA, tryptophan/5 HTP, licorice, Cordyceps.

This, however, is not all. Missing thyroid hormones have to be replaced with a balanced T3/T4 medication like Armour thyroid.

Adrenal support

The following supplements are used to support adrenals: Adrenal glandular, vitamin C, adrenal cortex extract, Holy Basil, Pharma GABA, Magnolia/Phellodendron, L-theanine, sterols & sterolins.

Pancreatic support

These supplements support the insulin production in the pancreas:

Chromium, vitamin D, magnesium, alpha-lipoic acid, fish oil, micro PQQ, bitter melon, cinnamon, arginine, vanadium, benfotiamine (synthetic derivative of B1 vitamin) and Bergamot.

Dr. Heyman completed his talk by giving a few patient examples, explaining what blood tests showed, what the hormone disbalance was, and which treatment options were helpful.

How Stress Affects Our Hormone System

How Stress Affects Our Hormone System

Conclusion

Dr. Andrew Heyman gave a talk at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. He talked about how stress affects our hormone system. Symptoms from stress can stem from different causes including hormone disbalances. Conventional medicine would simply treat the symptoms. However, this will not be successful with stress-induced hormone disbalances, because it does not treat the causes. Causal treatment of the hormone disbalance will restore the person’s wellbeing and the symptoms will disappear at the same time. Anti-aging medicine and integrative medicine are attempting to follow this approach.

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Jan
02
2017

Gut Bacteria Can Protect Your Brain

The neurologist, Dr. David Perlmutter gave a keynote address where he pointed out that gut bacteria can protect your brain. The topic of his actual talk was “Rewrite your brain’s destiny” and the venue was the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas. Many of the talks centered around the gut microbiome. In this talk Dr. Perlmutter stressed the fact that the right mix of gut bacteria will protect your brain, while the wrong mix can make you sick. There were many slides, but too much information to mention all of details of the talk here. I will summarize the broad outline of Dr. Perlmutter’s presentation and emphasize the practical implications this has for everyday life to prevent degenerative brain diseases.

A few facts

  1. Did you know that the brain uses 25% of the body’s energy, but has only a 3% of the body’s weight?
  2. The gut flora has trillions of gut bacteria with its own DNA material. 99% of the DNA material in our body comes from the gut bacteria and the bacteria on our skin surface; only 1% of the entire DNA in the body is your own DNA. We are eating for 100 trillion bacteria, but if they are good bacteria they provide us with important vitamins and they produce molecules that stimulate our immune system.
  3. This means we better have bacteria in our guts that are friendly, not the bad bacteria that can cause us problems. An Italian study determined the gut flora of children in central Africa (Burkina Faso) and compared the gut flora to children from developed countries in Europe. There was a significant difference with the African children having a healthy microbiome in the gut and the children from developed Europe having unhealthy gut bacteria. This is important new information. Many other research papers have established that leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases are linked to dysbiosis, which is the name for the unhealthy microbiome in the gut.

Chronic inflammation

Dr. Perlmutter showed several slides where literature was cited showing that chronic inflammation in the civilized world is increasing. He also showed that dysbiosis (unhealthy gut bacteria taking over) is also increasing. On several slides Dr. Perlmutter showed that in civilized countries like Iceland, Denmark, Germany, the US, Japan and others the bacterial diversity of the gut bacteria in people was vastly reduced compared to the diversity of gut bacteria of people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria or rural India. The same countries that have diminished gut bacterial diversity (dysbiosis) also have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand the same countries with diverse gut bacteria have a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. When infestation with parasites was examined there was also a parallel between increased parasitic stress and low Alzheimer’s disease rates, again in countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria or rural India. The same countries where gut dysbiosis was present the parasitic infestation was low.

Further research has established that gut dysbiosis leads to an inflammatory condition of the gut where lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from gut bacteria are absorbed causing inflammatory reactions within the body.

At the same time this leaky gut syndrome can cause obesity and leakage in the gut/brain barrier as indicated in this link. The result is neuroinflammation, cognitive impairment and vulnerability to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Our most dreaded brain diseases come from inflammation: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, autism, multiple sclerosis etc. These are degenerative brain disorders due to chronic inflammation. If you eat a lot of red meat, sausages and processed foods your gut microbiome will undergo negative changes. If you eat healthy food with lots of vegetables, fruit and you cut out sugar and too many starches, you have a healthy microbiome, which develops a robust immune system. We have to rethink the gut/brain connection and learn how to prevent these chronic illnesses.

Obesity and gut dysbiosis

In the link above it was shown that obesity is associated with inflammation. It was also shown with MRI scans that the part in the brain, called hippocampus was shriveled up (atrophied). This is a typical sign of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The investigators also confirmed with mental health functional tests that these patients had cognitive decline.

Another study also noticed that in a group of obese patients the hippocampus part of the brain was shriveled up the more obese people were. Obesity is associated with dysbiosis of the gut flora.

Practical application: the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet are both healthy, balanced diets, strikingly different from the Standard American diet. In a study the hypothesis was tested whether the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet would postpone dementia in a group of elderly patients. The answer was: yes, the hypothesis is true.

What does gut dysbiosis do?

It was shown in mice that chronic inflammation of the gut through ingestion of an irritant (dextran sodium sulfate) led to reduced new nerve growth in the hippocampus compared to control animals. It only took 29 days to show a marked difference between experimental and control animals in terms of reduced growth in the nerve cells of the hippocampus, the center of cognitive control.

The negative mediators were inflammatory kinins released from the gut wall and affecting the brain.

Antibiotic treatments and antibiotic residues in milk, milk products, meat, but also in all GMO foods are the irritants of the gut wall in humans. The antibiotics change the gut flora and lead to dysbiosis, which then causes gut wall inflammation and the cascade of events described above. The new finding is that GMO food contains RoundUp (they are “Roundup ready” crops). The herbicide Roundup was originally patented as an antibiotic and still leads to significant dysbiosis. Dr. Perlmutter urged the audience to buy organic food as the only method to reduce our exposure to Roundup. Roundup contributes to causing celiac disease and gluten intolerance in addition to exposure to the modern wheat (Clearfield wheat). The FDA is starting to do testing on foods for Roundup (glyphosate).

If things are sounding bad for Roundup, it only gets worse: Roundup has now been linked to causing cancer. In medicine it usually takes some time before definite action is taken. The agriculture industry is so deeply entrenched in the use of Roundup; I suspect that denial will be the first line of defense. My first line of defense in turn is to stick to organic food.

To sum up: Roundup and the Standard American diet lead to dysbiosis in the gut, which causes leaky gut syndrome. This causes inflammation with the release of cytokines and LPS from the gut wall to the blood. These substances cross the blood/brain barrier and lead to inflammation in the brain. This affects the hippocampus with the classical sign of shrinkage. But Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism in children and Alzheimer’s disease in older people are all caused by chronic inflammation. There are three more brain-related diseases that are related to gut inflammation: stroke, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dr. Perlmutter spent some time explaining that antibiotic overuse even leads to an increase of breast cancer as a Danish study has shown. Antibiotic use showed a linear increase of breast cancer as a result of increased antibiotic amounts used. The highest group had a twofold risk compared to a control group with no antibiotic use. Dr. Perlmutter interpreted this to indicate that chronic gut inflammation can even cause a disease like breast cancer.

What can we do to diversify our gut bacteria?

  1. Exercise: A recent study has shown that regular exercise is associated with a diversified gut flora. The reason seems to be the production of butyrate with exercise, which leads to a diversified gut flora. There are reduced LPS levels (lipopolysaccharides from gut bacteria) in people with a higher fitness score.
  2. Eat a DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet as indicated above.
  3. Avoid GMO foods because of the presence of Roundup, which functions like an antibiotic and leads to gut bacteria dysbiosis.
  4. Remember “Antibiotics are weapons of mass microbial destruction”. If you need to take them be careful that you rebuild your gut flora with probiotics. Use of antibiotics increases the risk of type-2 diabetes by 1.53-fold. It also causes a quadrupling of Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. A woman should consider natural childbirth whenever possible, as with a vaginal birth the child is “anointed with gut bacteria”. Vaginally delivered children remain healthier than children delivered by Cesarean section for several years.
  6. Acid-suppressing medications and NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory medication for arthritis) can also lead to dysbiosis. Proton pump inhibitors increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 44%.
  7. Prebiotic fiber can prevent Alzheimer’s. Probiotics do the same.
  8. Avoid sugar: even the Oompa Loompa knew that “If you eat sugar, you get fat” as this YouTube video shows. And obesity is associated with gut dysbiosis with the associated higher risk of degenerative brain diseases.
  9. Take magnesium supplements (250 mg twice per day) and DHA from fish oil capsules. It stabilizes your brain metabolism.
  10. In severe, persistent cases of gut dysbiosis a fecal transplant can be considered by your gastroenterologist. This procedure is done in more than 500 hospitals in the US.
Gut Bacteria Can Protect Your Brain

Gut Bacteria Can Protect Your Brain

Conclusion

The diversity of gut bacteria is immensely important. As discussed, in rural areas of the world there is gut bacteria diversity. In civilized parts of the world dysbiosis of the gut flora frequently occurs. This can lead to gut inflammation and the inflammation eventually gets internalized and can even reach the brain. These are the points to remember: exercise; avoid GMO foods, use prebiotics and probiotics. Avoid antibiotics; also avoid meat from animals that were fed antibiotics for faster growth. Don’t eat processed foods and avoid sugar. A healthy gut creates a healthy body, and this includes a healthy brain as well.

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Dec
17
2016

Magnesium Is Essential To Life

Magnesium is an important co-factor in many biochemical reactions, so magnesium is essential to life.

Many diverse diseases and cancers can develop from magnesium deficiency. The key is to supplement with magnesium regularly to get more than the government recommended daily allowance (RDA). The RDA for magnesium is 420 mg a day for males and 320 mg a day for females.

In the following I will review the diseases that occur without enough magnesium on board.

A lack of magnesium can cause heart disease

In this 2014 study 7216 men and women aged 55-80 with at high risk for heart attacks were followed for 4.8 years. The risk of death from a heart attack was found to be 34% lower in the high tertile magnesium group when compared to the lower magnesium tertile group.

The protective mechanism of magnesium was found to be as follows. Magnesium counteracts calcium and stabilizes heart rhythms. Magnesium helps to maintain regular heart beats and prevents irregular heart beats (arrhythmias). It also prevents the accumulation of calcium in the coronary artery walls. This in turn is known to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Another study, which was part of the Framingham Heart Study, examined calcification of the heart vessels and the aorta as a function of magnesium intake.

There were 2,695 participants in this study. For each increase of 50 mg of magnesium per day there was a 22% decrease in calcification of the coronary arteries. For the same increase of magnesium the calcification of the body’s main artery, the aorta, fell by 12%. Those with the highest magnesium intake were 58% less likely to have calcifications in their coronary arteries. At the same time they were 34% less likely to have calcifications of the aorta.

In a Korean study a group with low magnesium levels was at a 2.1-fold higher risk of developing coronary artery calcifications compared to a group with normal magnesium levels.

Low magnesium increases your stroke risk

In a 2015 study 4443 subjects, men and women aged 40-75 were followed along.

928 stroke cases developed. The group with the highest 30% of magnesium intake was compared with the lowest 10% of magnesium intake. They had significantly lower blood pressure (7 mm mercury) and lower total cholesterol levels. They also had 41% less strokes than those with low magnesium intake.

In a 2015 study that lasted 24 years the authors investigated 43,000 men.

Those with the highest magnesium supplement had a 26% lower stroke risk. They had been compared to those with the lowest magnesium intake.

Among women low magnesium levels were shown to cause 34% more ischemic strokes than in controls.

This study was from 32,826 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study who were followed for 11 years.

It is clear from all these studies that supplementation with magnesium can prevent strokes.

Magnesium protects kidney function

This study examined 13,000 adults for 20 years to see how kidney function was dependent on magnesium levels. Those with the lowest magnesium levels had a 58% higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease. It makes sense when you consider that magnesium is needed to keep arteries healthy, blood pressure low, and blood sugars stable. In diabetics where blood sugar is not controlled kidneys develop kidney disease. This is called diabetic nephropathy. In the presence of magnesium supplementation and a low sugar diet people are less likely to develop diabetes or kidney disease.

Magnesium helps blood sugar control

A metaanalysis showed that magnesium supplementation was able to improve blood sugar control. This occurred in both diabetics and borderline non-diabetics within 4 months of supplementing with magnesium.

Magnesium has been known in the popular press to be an important factor in helping control blood sugar. Here is an article as an example.

Magnesium good for bones and teeth

Magnesium is important for calcium metabolism and this is helping your bones and teeth to stay strong. About half of the body’s magnesium is stored in bone. Teeth are the other location where a lot of magnesium is found.

Low levels of magnesium lead to osteoporosis, because one of the two structural components of bone (calcium and magnesium) is missing. In addition low magnesium causes inflammatory cytokines to increase. These break down bones. The Women’s Health Initiative showed that when daily magnesium intake exceeded 422.5 mg their hip and whole-body bone mineral density was significantly greater than in those who consumed less than 206.6 mg daily.

With regard to healthy teeth magnesium is important as it prevents periodontal disease.

This study found that there was less tooth loss and there were healthier periodontal tissues in 4290 subjects between 20 and 80.

Those who took magnesium supplements had healthier teeth.

Migraine sufferers improve with magnesium

A double blind randomized study showed that magnesium supplementation can reduce migraines. In this trial 600 mg of magnesium supplementation was used for 4 weeks.

This reduced migraines by 41.6% in the magnesium group compared to the non-supplemented control group.

Another study showed that both intravenous and oral magnesium are effective in reducing migraine headaches.

Intravenous magnesium showed effects on improving migraines within 15 – 45 minutes. The authors concluded that both oral and intravenous magnesium could be added as a supplement to other migraine treatments.

Cancer can be caused from too little magnesium

You may be surprised to hear that magnesium can even prevent some cancers. Two cancers have been studied in detail. I will limit my discussion to these two.

Pancreatic cancer

One study found that pancreatic cancer was reduced. 142,203 men and 334,999 women, recruited between 1992 and 2000, were included. After 11.3 years on average 396 men and 469 women came down with pancreatic cancer. On the male side they found that when the body mass index (BMI) was greater than 25.0 there was a 21% reduction of pancreatic cancer for every 100 mg of added magnesium per day. There were a lot of smokers on the female side, which interfered with the study as confounding factors undermined statistical validity.

In another study, the US male Health Professionals Follow-up Study was examined after 20 years of follow-up. Those with a BMI of above 25.0 on magnesium supplementation had a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer. The pancreatic cancer rate in the higher magnesium group was 33% lower than in the lower magnesium group. The higher group consumed 423 mg of magnesium daily, the lower group 281 mg per day. It is significant that in both studies it was the heavier patients who came down with pancreatic cancer. It is known that obesity is a pancreatic risk factor.

Colorectal cancer

A study done on Japanese men showed that magnesium could protect them significantly from colon cancer.

Men who consumed the highest amount of magnesium developed 52% less colon cancer over 7.9 years. They were compared to the group with the lowest 20% intake of magnesium. The women in this study did not reach statistical significance.

A study from the Netherlands examined colon cancer in patients. They found that only in patients with a BMI of greater than 25.0 magnesium did have protective effects. For every 100 mg of magnesium per day increase there was a 19% reduction of colon polyps. And there was also a 12% reduction of colorectal cancer for every 100 mg increase of magnesium per day.

Magnesium plays an important role in genome stability, DNA maintenance and repair. It also prevents chronic inflammation and reduces insulin resistance, all factors contributing to cancer reduction.

Live longer with magnesium

Consider that magnesium is the fourth most common mineral in the body. Add to this that magnesium is a co-factor of more than 300 enzymes in the body. Magnesium is required as an important co-factor in the conversion of chemical energy from food that we ingest. Magnesium is regulating blood sugar, blood vessel health and our brain electrical activity. 50% of our stored magnesium can be found in our bones, which helps the strength and integrity of them.

Because of the distribution of the enzymes that are helped by magnesium to function properly, virtually every cell in the body depends on our regular intake of magnesium.

Since the 1950’s soils are depleted of magnesium where vegetables are grown and fruit trees are raised. We simply do not get enough magnesium from food.

But chelated magnesium is freely available in health food stores. Take 250 mg twice per day, and you will have enough.

Because our metabolism slows down, there is a critical age where magnesium deficiency becomes more obvious than when we are younger. By the age of 70 there are 80% of men and 70% of women who do not get the minimum of magnesium-required amount they should get (350 mg for men and 265 mg for women).

At this age many people are on multiple drugs. For many proton pump inhibitors (PPI) are used to suppress acid production in the stomach. PPI’s have been associated with low magnesium blood levels.

This link explains that PPI’s should not be used for longer than 1 year.

Low magnesium levels accelerate the aging process on a cellular level. Low magnesium levels increase senescent cells that can no longer multiply. Some of them could cause the development of cancer. These senescent cells also can no longer contribute to the immune system. This causes more infections with an adverse outcome.

Remember to take chelated magnesium capsules or tablets 250 mg twice per day and you will be protected from low magnesium levels in your body.

Here is why we live longer with magnesium supplementation

Our blood vessels will not calcify as early; they keep elastic for longer, preventing high blood pressure. Our kidneys will function longer with magnesium, preventing end-stage kidney disease. We need our kidneys to detoxify our system! The more than 300 enzymatic reactions all over our body help that we have more energy and that cancer is prevented. When there are fewer strokes and less heart attacks this helps reduce mortality. It also helps that there is less of a risk for Alzheimer’s disease with magnesium supplementation, because insulin resistance is reduced, which has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The bottom line is we live longer and healthier; that is what is meant with longevity.

Magnesium Is Essential To Life

Magnesium Is Essential To Life

Conclusion

Magnesium is a key essential mineral. It balances calcium in the body and participates in many enzymatic reactions in the body as a cofactor. As long as we have enough of this mineral we won’t notice anything. It is with magnesium deficiency that things go haywire. You could get heart disease or a stroke. You could get kidney disease. You even could get pancreatic cancer or colorectal cancer. If this is not enough, magnesium deficiency can cause diabetes, osteoporosis and bad teeth. You may suddenly die with no obvious cause. But, if your magnesium blood level is balanced from regular supplements, you will carry on living and eliminate a lot of health problems.

Nov
05
2016

Health Risks Of Night Shifts

One of the news stories in 2016 was about health risks of night shifts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2000 that 15 million workers (16.8 % of the working population) were doing alternative shifts (night shift work mixed with daytime shifts). In 2016 they reported 14.8% were working alternate shifts. Among blacks, Asians and Latino Americans the percentage of working alternative shifts was higher, namely 20.8%, 15.7% and 16%, respectively.

Shift work is more common in certain industries, such as protective services like the police force, food services, health services and transportation.

Evidence of health risks of night shifts

There are several publications that showed evidence of health risks of night shift workers. Here is a random selection to illustrate the health risks of night shifts.

  1. A study from 2015 examined the sleep patterns of 315 shift nurses and health care workers in Iranian teaching hospitals. They found that 83.2% suffered from poor sleep and half of them had moderate to excessive sleepiness when they were awake.
  2. This South Korean study examined 244 male workers, aged 20 to 39 in a manufacturing plant. Blood tests from daytime workers were compared to night shift workers. Inflammatory markers like the C-reactive protein and leukocyte counts were obtained. Night shift workers had significantly higher values. The investigators concluded that shift workers have increased inflammatory markers. This is a sign of a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.
  3. A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 2.6-fold higher mortality over a control group of daytime white-collar workers.
  4. Another study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 1.47-fold higher mortality rate in the night shift workers.
  5. In a study from China 25,377 participants were included in a study that investigated cancer risk in males with more than 20 years of night shift work. They had a 2.03-fold increased risk to develop cancer compared to males working day shifts. Women with night shift work were unaffected with regard to cancer.
  6. A Polish study examined hormones and the body mass index (BMI) among 263 women who worked night shifts and 269 women who worked day shifts. When night shift workers had worked more than 15 years at nights, their estrogen levels, particularly in postmenopausal women were elevated compared to the daytime workers who served as controls. The BMI was also increased in the nighttime workers.
  7. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): a study in Spain showed that working for more than 20 years in rotating night shifts was associated with a 1.77-fold higher risk of developing CLL. The authors noted that melatonin levels in that group were much lower than in controls that worked only day shifts. Working in straight night shifts did not show higher risks of CLL compared to daytime workers.
  8. In a Korean study from Seoul 100 female medical technologist who worked nighttime had their melatonin levels tested, which were compared to daytime workers.  They measured 1.84 pg/mL of melatonin for the nighttime workers compared to 4.04 pg/mL of melatonin in the daytime workers. The authors felt that this is proof that the diurnal hormone system has been disrupted. When the melatonin level is altered, the circadian hormone rhythm is also changed.
  9. A group of 168 female hospital employees doing rotating nightshift work in Southern Ontario hospitals were compared to 160 day workers. Cortisol production was assessed. Cortisol production in day workers and in shift workers on their day shift was similar. However, shift workers on their night shift had flatter cortisol curves and produced less cortisol. The authors felt that this disruption of cortisol production would explain why rotating night shift workers have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  10. A Danish study with female nurses followed 28,731 nurses between 1993 and 2015. Daytime nurses were compared to rotating nighttime nurses and the incidence of diabetes was measured. Night shift workers had a risk between 1.58-fold to 1.99-fold when compared to daytime workers to develop diabetes. The risk for evening shift workers was less (between 1.29-fold and 1.59-fold).

Diurnal hormone rhythm behind health risks of night shifts

Your body has its own rules. It rewards you, if you sleep 7 to 8 hours during the night, but it will penalize you severely, if you turn it upside down. The reason is our built-in diurnal hormone rhythm. A peak of melatonin regulates sleep during the night. Melatonin is released by the pineal gland (on the base of the skull) when it gets dark outside. Daytime wakefulness is regulated by the stress hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands. These two hormones inhibit each other, cortisol inhibits melatonin and melatonin inhibits cortisol. All the other hormones are also regulated according to the diurnal rhythm: testosterone is highest in the morning, human growth hormone is highest between midnight and 3 AM etc.

When you work daytime shifts, your diurnal hormone rhythm is unchanged. But if you work night time shifts, your hormones have to adapt. This is very similar to traveling east or west where you cross several time zones. Your internal diurnal hormone system has to adjust to these changes. Typically it takes 1 day to adjust to a 1-hour time zone difference.

In people who work permanent night shifts, the hormone changes stay adjusted and there is no further switching. But most employers want to be “fair” to everybody, so they introduced the rotating night shifts, which as all the publications cited above show is the worst thing you can do. It messes with your diurnal hormone rhythm, and some people never switch completely to the new hours worked. They don’t get enough daytime sleep because the kids are loud during the day etc. The rotating shift workers are running the highest risk of getting cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, cancer, leukemia, and they have low levels of melatonin.

Health Risks Of Night Shifts

Health Risks Of Night Shifts

Conclusion

When shift workers work constant night shifts, this is less stressful to our system than the more common rotating shift work. This is where you work night shifts for a period of time, then the schedule switches to day shift, and you keep on rotating. The least health risks are associated with regular daytime work. People exposed to rotating night shifts suffer from poor sleep. They have a higher risk of gaining weight, getting obese and acquiring diabetes in time. They are at a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes and cancer. All-cause mortality is about twofold higher than for workers who work day shifts.

The underlying problem seems to be a disturbance of the diurnal hormone rhythm. Normally this regulates our waking/sleeping rhythm and keeps us healthy. But with nighttime work melatonin production weakens, cortisol production is reduced and hormone rejuvenation during rest periods suffers greatly. This weakens the immune system, allows cancer to develop and leads to chronic inflammation causing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The remedy to prevent this from happening is to catch little naps whenever you can during the day and, if at all possible, work daytime shifts permanently.

Sep
24
2016

Cancer Stem Cells

If you want to cure cancer, you need to know about cancer stem cells. In my opinion the most important breakthrough in cancer research in the last decade has been the realization that standard cancer treatment protocols don’t work very well. They consisted of using surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Surgery is effective for early cancer. But radiotherapy and chemotherapy have been disappointing. Instead cancer immunotherapy has emerged as the missing link in the last 10 years. The full truth about cancer can only be understood, when we realize that most, if not all solid tumors are having their own cancer stem cells (CSC). In the past this was only recognized for leukemia, largely because of a lack of testing methods for solid tumors. We now have at least two methods of proving the existence of CSCs in solid tumors, as I will explain in more detail below. Using this new cancer stem cell concept, cancer can only be cured when the CSCs are eradicated.

New assays for cancer stem cells

Originally the concept of regular stem cells was proven in mice by radiating them and injecting bone marrow cells into them to rescue them. When the animals were sacrificed colonies were detected in their spleens that were of the same cell type as the injected stem cells. This new thinking revolutionized the treatment of leukemia. Bone marrow transplants were introduced that allowed in some cases a cure for leukemia. Presently there is a new wave of stem cell treatment applications for a variety of conditions.

With regard to developing an assay for cancer stem cells in solid tumors researchers took a strain of hairless mice that are known to be immune deficient (they lack thymus derived lymphocytes or T cells). They are officially called nude mice.

When human cancer stem cell samples are injected into them, they develop the original cancer of human origin, and they succumb to metastases. Histologically the tumors in these mice are the same as the original human cancer. Another mouse model was also shown to be equally effective in demonstrating CSC activity. The immune system of regular laboratory mice can be paralyzed with prior chemotherapy treatment. Using these chemotherapy pre-treated mice the CSC assay works very similar to the one using nude mice. If isolated cancer stem cells are injected into the nude mouse or immunosuppressed mouse model, cancer cells, such as prostate cancer cells will grow in a short time that look histologically the same as prostate cancer found in prostate biopsies from a man affected by prostate cancer.

Cancer stem cells in prostate cancer

Prostate cancer seems to originate from a cancer stem cell (CSC). The CSC has no androgenic receptors contrary to the majority of prostate cancer cells. This may be the reason why radiotherapy, hormone ablation and chemotherapy do not affect CSCs in prostate cancer. Ultimately this is the reason why the patient dies when the resistant CSCs multiply in the end stage.

One of the important new insights into cancer is that CSCs have the same surface antigen components as the cancer cells despite the difference in other receptors like hormone receptors. One of the techniques of killing prostate cancer is ablation cryotherapy using Argon applicators that freeze the cancer cells, followed by thawing them again. The interventional radiologist, Dr. Gary Onik was the inventor of this technique. Using temperature probes this can be controlled and is done at least twice. This will eliminate all prostate cancer including the prostate CSC. At the same time it will stimulate human T cells to recognize the cancer cell surface antigens as foreign and mount an immune reaction to eliminate any remaining cancer cells and all the CSCs. Prior to doing the cryotherapy the cancer cells were secreting substances that disabled the immune cells from recognizing prostate cancer as foreign cells. Now the cryosurgery does a double task: this therapy kills cancer cells and CSC and vaccinates patients against their specific tumors. This eradicates metastases and either cures the cancer or prolongs survival.

Irreversible electroporation and cancer stem cells

Another technique pioneered by Dr. Onik is the NanoKnife or irreversible electroporation (IRE). This is another tumor ablation method using high voltage electrical impulses that put nano-sized holes into cancer cells, but not into surrounding healthy tissue. Dr. Onik has been pioneering prostate cancer treatment, but he has also shown in liver cancer that this method can double the survival rate, compared to conventional treatment methods. Again, CSC and cancer cells are killed by this method and the released surface antigens of cancer cells stimulate the immune system to further the healing.

Other solid tumors and cancer stem cells

In the last 10 years new methods have been developed to demonstrate the existence of CSCs in many solid tumors. Both the cryotherapy ablation method as well as the IRE method that stimulate the immune system in the sense of a cancer vaccination is not only effective in prostate cancer. It works for most solid tumors such as pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, colon cancer and many more.

These new evolving cancer therapies are essentially avoiding the trap of chemotherapy and radiotherapy where only more resistant cancer cells are produced. By removing the original cancer with cryosurgery and/or IRE the immune system is specifically stimulated to recognize the surface antigens of the cancer cells and the CSCs at the same time. With this cancer vaccination process the CSCs are eliminated, and this prevents new cancer cell clones (metastases) from developing. Dr. Onik has recently treated incurable cancer patients and has a cure rate of about 30% (personal communication) in patients who previously would all have died. Others are partial cures, where patients live much longer than anticipated. Using these techniques it is possible in many cases to cure end stage cancer. This has been done with liver and pancreas cancer, cancers that are extremely difficult to treat otherwise.

Cancer Stem Cells

Cancer Stem Cells

Conclusion

Cancer seems to develop out of cancer stem cells that are abnormal cells with genetic mutations. They are resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but respond to surgery, to cryotherapy and to irreversible electroporation (IRE). The advantage of cryotherapy and IRE is that the tumor and the cancer stem cells are removed, but at the same time the killed cancer cells stimulate the immune system to produce cancer-fighting antibodies that kill metastases and any remaining cancer stem cells. Although initially shown to be effective in prostate cancer patients, this method has since been tested in terminal cancer patients with pancreatic cancer, melanoma, liver cancer, brain cancer and many more solid tumor types.

Cancer is a disease of the immune system, and it is only logical that immunotherapy will achieve successful treatment. Surgery can only be successful, if the entire tumor is removed, which in many cases is not possible. Radiotherapy leaves cancer cells behind that will become resistant to treatment. Chemotherapy has the dismal prospect of killing the immune system and ultimately the patient. It appears that cryotherapy (and/or IRE) and the associated immunotherapy are the way of future cancer treatments. This is the most important breakthrough in cancer research during the last ten years.

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Jul
02
2016

Zika Virus

Recently the question was asked on the news whether it was safe to go to the Olympics in Brazil; so here is some background information about the Zika virus. Zika virus was first isolated from mosquitoes in a forest named Zika forest in Uganda, which was in 1947.

Zika virus belongs into the virus family of Flaviviridae. Other members in that family are dengue fever, West Nile virus, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis. Since the 1950’s Zika virus has occupied a narrow equatorial belt around the globe (Africa and Asia). But between 2007 and 2016 it spread further to the Americas and to the Pacific. Specifically French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Easter Island and New Caledonia were included. Since May 2015 Brazil has joined the countries where mosquitoes are infected with Zika virus. This is an important point to know for the coming up Olympics in Rio on August 5 to 21, 2016.

Symptoms of Zika virus

For most people, particularly the young and middle aged Zika may not be that symptomatic. The most common symptoms are a fever, a skin rash, joint aches and red eyes (conjunctivitis). However, when a pregnant woman gets Zika virus, this will likely affect the fetus and will lead to a baby born with a small head (microcephalus), a severe complication from Zika virus. When a woman contracts Zika virus, the virus disappears after about one week. But in men the virus seems to stay longer, particularly in semen. This is why the CDC recommends for men using a condom or refraining from sex when returning from a holiday in a Zika endemic area. It may take up to 8 weeks for the semen to no longer be infective. The CDC recommends that a man who has come down with Zika to use a condom for 6 months.

Treatment of Zika virus

Make sure you get lots of rest. Take acetaminophen for fever or pain. Don’t take aspirin (ASA) or anti-inflammatory medication. Be aware that for between 1 and 3 weeks your blood likely is infectious. You want to avoid being bitten by a mosquito and it will be sensible to use insect repellant. The same insect could have bitten another person and spread the virus this way. A person who gets the Zika virus depends on the immune system to overcome the infection as there is no cure for this viral infection.

At this point no vaccine against Zika exists. There is research in an attempt to develop a Zika vaccine, which may become available in 2 to 3 years.

Zika virus risk with travel

If you travel to endemic areas, but visit mountainous areas above an elevation of 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) you are safe from Zika transmitting mosquitoes as they do not survive in these heights.

With regard to the Olympic Summer Games in Rio 2016 the CDC recommends to take a few precautions. Use insect repellents. Be aware as a woman that men infected with Zika virus can transmit the virus through sex. If you want to protect yourself from the risk of giving birth to a child with microcephaly, you may decide to use the birth control pill and ask your partner to use a condom. When you return back home, do not plan for a pregnancy for 6 months to avoid the risk.

The only recommendation for the Olympics by the CDC is that pregnant women should categorically not go to the games for fear of getting Zika infection resulting in a bad outcome of the pregnancy with microcephaly.

Microcephaly and other brain abnormalities from Zika virus

The CDC has stated that it is now established that Zika virus can cause microcephaly, but that it likely does not do so in all cases of Zika virus infection.

We know from German measles (rubella) that it can cause serious health risks for the fetus including death.

Zika is similarly neurotropic, meaning that it likes to multiply in nervous tissue including the brain. With rubella there is a vaccine available, which has made it much safer for pregnant women. But with Zika no vaccine is available. The only prevention is to stay away from endemic Zika areas and otherwise use reliable birth control methods.

Zika Virus

Zika Virus

Conclusion

I have briefly reviewed Zika virus in this blog. Unfortunately there are still many gaps in the knowledge of this disease. We need an effective Zika virus vaccine. It would also help to have antiviral antibiotics. All this needs to be researched. For now we need to use prevention and avoid endemic Zika regions by reading updates by the CDC.