Sep
09
2017

Young Heart Stem Cells Can Cure Old Hearts

Young heart stem cells can cure old hearts in rats. This is what research at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles found. You may not be that impressed, because this talks about rats and not humans. But this is a brand-new concept, so of course research of animal experiments is first.

The heart experiment

Dr. Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, is the research director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. His idea was to take cardiac stem cells (called cardiosphere-derived cells) from hearts of newborn rats. He injected them into 22 months old rats. The human equivalent for 22 months old rats are older people with older hearts. Within one months of the stem cells’ injections the older rats had normal functioning hearts. Their telomeres were also normal. Telomeres are the caps of the chromosomes of the heart cells. The researchers were astonished to find that the previously short telomeres had become longer. This happened within only one month of the stem cell injections. To Marbán’s surprise the older rats also grew hair faster and gained 20% of their previous exercise tolerance limit. In other words, the injection of heart stem cells had rejuvenated the old rats.

Dr. Marbán has previously shown that exosomes play an important role with stem cell regeneration of old heart cells. These particles from the stem cell donor contain RNA and other growth factors.

Overview of how stem cells can reverse heart failure

Cardiovascular disease includes high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stroke and congestive heart failure. About 2600 Americans die from cardiovascular disease each day in the US. This is roughly one death every 34 seconds. With old age, if a heart attack does not kill you, congestive heart failure will. With heart failure your heart ceases to pump enough blood through your system. Nutrients and oxygen need to reach all of our cells or it means death for the patient. With the knowledge of this serious background, stem cells have come into the focus in an attempt to combat congestive heart failure.

Animal experiments with stem cells in mice, rats and pigs have shown some progress in restoring better heart function. Researchers used different sources of stem cells, like cardiac stem cells that reside in the heart muscle itself. They also used other stem cell sources. Among these were myoblasts (from muscle), mesenchymal stem cells (from fat tissue) and bone marrow stem cells. Several smaller human trials showed that improvement of heart function was possible following a heart attack. In the procedure the surgeon opened coronary arteries and injected stem cells into the affected damaged heart muscle. How can we assess the result of a successful stem cell treatment? By measuring the left ventricular ejection fraction. This means that the heart can deliver a larger volume of blood every minute. The heart pumps more blood from the left ventricle with each heartbeat than before the treatment.

Other experiments that rejuvenate tissues of older animals

Another line of experiments in this paper shows that certain growth factors are necessary to activate stem cells.

  1. One experiment from the 1950’s describes the stitching together of the skin on their flanks joined an old and a young rat. After this procedure the blood vessels grew and joined the two animals circulatory systems. The older animals knee cartilage damage was no longer there, as the cells from the young animals’ blood had healed the damage.
  2. Research had no knowledge of this fact at that time. But another research group in the 2000’s repeated the experiment and could prove that the stem cells of the young animals activated the growth factors in the old animals.
  3. In 2004 Dr. Rando noted that muscle cells of aging mice were aging because of a lack of stimulation of the local skeletal muscle stem cells. These are satellite cells. Experiments similar to the rat experiment showed that there were factors in the blood of young mice that could re-activate stem cells in the muscles of old mice. Agility and movement of the older mice improved. The improvement in the older mice with knee arthritis disappearing and liver cells rejuvenating was astounding.

More evidence that rejuvenation of heart cells is possible

  1. Amy J. Wagers, a former colleague of Dr. Rando carried on experiments with respect to rejuvenation of hearts in mice. She and her colleagues found what stimulated the hearts of old mice. It was a protein called GDF11 (from young mice).  This 2016 publication describes the action of GDF11.
  2. A 2014 paper describes that GDF11 was able to restore aging muscles to a youthful state. But the researchers were also able to rejuvenate stem cell function in general with GDF11.
  3. Another paper describes that blood from young mice stimulates the brain of older animals to achieve rejuvenation. It is the protein of the young stem cells (called GDF11) and possibly other growth factors to bring about this rejuvenation. It works not only on heart cells, but also on hippocampus tissue in dementia models. This may be important in humans for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We can turn back the clock instead of slowing the clock down.” Dr. Toren Finkel said. He is the director of the Center for Molecular Medicine at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. He went on to say: “That’s a nice thought, if it pans out.” But others who caution that overstimulation of stem cells could cause cancers say: “It is quite possible that it will dramatically increase the incidence of cancer,” Dr. Irina M. Conboy said, a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley. “You have to be careful about overselling it.”

Degenerative changes in humans responding to stem cells

Many degenerative changes in humans respond to stem cell treatments. Are there stem cells present in degenerative tissue in humans similar to the animal experiments described above? Are the stem cells merely providing growth factors so the dormant stem cells jump into action and regenerate? Could it be that in future therapists could give a certain growth factor mix  intravenously to a patient, and the same effect as stem cell injections would be posssible? These are all unanswered questions, but research in the next decade should answer at least some of those questions.

Growth hormone improving heart function in heart failure patients

In 2008 a metaanalysis of human studies of congestive heart failure and treatment with human growth hormone (HGH) injections was a research topic. It showed an average increase of the ejection fraction by 4.3%. There were also increased cardiac output, decreased systemic vascular resistance and improved hemodynamic effects. The question is whether the effect is a direct effect on the heart muscle cells by HGH or whether HGH was recruiting dormant heart muscle stem cells. This is not clear at this point.

Young Heart Stem Cells Can Cure Old Hearts

Young Heart Stem Cells Can Cure Old Hearts

Conclusion

We have entered an exciting period of medical research. Although there is only a record of many animal experiments, there is overwhelming evidence that the same principles are true in humans. Many stem cell protocols for humans have already seen use for various applications. But stem cell treatments for heart disease are still in their early stages. As it becomes obvious from my review of this topic, some patients who were part of clinical trials have already experienced positive results. Congestive heart failure or poor pump performance following a heart attack have improved following various stem cell procedures. In the next few years there likely will be a proliferation of treatment options for patients. Although some critics have pointed out a possibility of cancer developing as a side effect of stem cell treatment, no evidence is noticeable at this point.

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Sep
02
2017

Resveratrol Effective In Humans

Resveratrol has been labeled a powerful antioxidant; but is resveratrol effective in humans?

  1. Quack watch says: don’t buy into the hype that resveratrol is effective in humans.
  2. WebMD claims that there would not be enough medical evidence to say that the average person should supplement with resveratrol to receive benefits.

Despite these recommendations the following evidence supports that resveratrol is indeed effective in humans.

Resveratrol effective in humans: high blood pressure patients

A 2017 study of high blood pressure patients examined resveratrol supplementation with two groups, 46 stage 1 hypertension patients and 51 stage 2 hypertension patients. Stage I hypertension had a systolic blood pressure of 140–159 mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure of 90–99 mmHg. Stage 2 hypertension was defined as a systolic blood pressure of 160–179 mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure of 100–109 mmHg. Each subgroup was divided into two groups, one receiving regular antihypertensive medication, and the other group receiving regular antihypertensive medication plus Evelor. Evelor is a micronized formulation of resveratrol. The trial lasted two years. The purpose of the trial was to determine the effect of resveratrol, which was added to the regular antihypertensive medication (or not) to see whether it had blood pressure lowering effects. The interesting result showed that the resveratrol addition was sufficient to bring the blood pressure down to normal levels with only one antihypertensive drug. The control group without resveratrol needed two or three drugs to get the blood pressure under control. In addition, liver function tests showed that resveratrol normalized negative side effects of the antihypertensive drug on the liver. Both liver enzymes, glutamate-pyruvate transaminase (SGPT) and gamma-glutamyl transferase (Gamma-GT) were normal in the group where resveratrol had been added.

Resveratrol effective in humans: diabetes patients

Resveratrol helps diabetes patients. Resveratrol, the bioflavonoid from red  wine is a powerful anti-inflammatory. This antioxidant has several other effects, which make it challenging to measure each effect by itself. This group of investigators managed to simultaneously measure these effects. They found that resveratrol lowered the C-reactive protein by 26% and tumor necrosis factor-alpha by 19.8%. Resveratrol also decreased fasting blood sugar and insulin; in addition it reduced hemoglobin A1C and insulin resistance. The recommended daily dose of resveratrol was 1000 to 5000 mg.

Resveratrol effective in humans: improves bone density

Resveratrol improves bone density in men: 66 middle-aged obese men with an average age of 49.3 years and a mean body mass index of 33.7 were recruited for this randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial. The purpose was to study whether there would be changes in bone turnover markers (LDH, an enzyme involved in bone turnover), but also whether bone mineral density (BMD) would increase. Resveratrol was given to a high group (1000 mg per day), a low group (150 mg) and a placebo (fake pills) were given to the third group. The end point was an elevation of the bone alkaline phosphatase (BAP). This was measured in the beginning of the study and at 4, 8 and 16 weeks. The high group of resveratrol had a 16% increase of the BAP throughout the study and a 2.6% in lumbar spine bone density (measured by a trabecular volumetric method). The low resveratrol group showed no bone restoring effect. MJ Ornstrup, MD, the lead investigator said that this was the first time that a clinical team has proven that resveratrol can potentially be used as an anti-osteoporosis drug in humans. She added that resveratrol appears to stimulate bone-forming cells within the body.

Resveratrol effective in humans: anti-aging effects

The Nurses’ Health Study showed that both a Mediterranean diet and resveratrol can elongate telomeres.

The fact that you can have a longer life with a Mediterranean diet is known for some time. But now a study has shown that the reason for a longer life is the fact that telomeres get elongated from the Mediterranean diet. Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes, and they get shorter with each cell division. This is the normal aging process.

The finding of elongated telomeres comes from the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study that started enrolling subjects in 1976. At that time 121 700 nurses from 11states enrolled in the study. In 1980 diet sheets were used to determine who was adhering to a Mediterranean diet. 4676 middle-aged participants were identified to qualify for this study. This diet consists of a combination of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, grains and olive oil. Fish and lean meats were also consumed. The control group followed a regular diet. Between 1989 and 1990 blood tests were obtained to measure telomere length in white blood cells. It is known that smoking, stress and inflammation shortens telomeres. The lead author Marta Crous-Bou stated that overall healthy eating was associated with longer telomeres compared to the control group. But the strongest association was found in women who adhered to the Mediterranean diet when compared to the controls. For the best diet adherence score there was a 4.5 year longer life expectancy due to slowed telomere shortening.

Longer telomeres have been found to be associated with the lowest risk to develop chronic diseases and the highest probability of an increased life span. I have reviewed the importance of lifestyle factors in this blog where I pointed out that Dr. Chang found a whole host of factors that can elongate telomeres by stimulating telomerase. It has been shown in humans that increased physical activity elongated telomeres. So did vitamin C, E and vitamin D3 supplementation, resveratrol, a Mediterranean diet and marine omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. In addition higher fiber intake, bioidentical estrogen and progesterone replacement in aging women and testosterone in aging men, as well as relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation are also elongating telomeres.

Aging is due to shortening of telomeres. Elongation of telomeres by resveratrol leads to prolonged life (or anti-aging).

Resveratrol effective in humans: resveratrol and cancer

As this overview shows, it seems that several mechanisms of action give resveratrol the power to be an anticancer agent. Resveratrol is anti-proliferative and has anti-angiogenesis mechanisms. In addition resveratrol stimulates apoptosis, which is programmed cell death. All these actions together help resveratrol to have anticancer properties. Resveratrol can also be used in combination with other cancer treatments, which improves survival figures. As the link above explains, more cancer clinical trials with a variety of cancers and larger patient numbers are required, but many smaller clinical trials have already been very successful showing efficacy of resveratrol as a chemotherapeutic agent.

In this 2015 publication about malignancies and resveratrol an overview is given about the use of resveratrol and cancer treatment. It summarizes that the development of cancer is a multifactorial process that involves the 3 stages of initiation, promotion and progression. One of the cancer promoting factors is chronic inflammation. Resveratrol has been shown to be anti-inflammatory. At this point it is not clear how the animal experiments will translate into the human situation. More clinical observations are necessary.

Resveratrol effective in humans: cardiovascular disease

Resveratrol has beneficial effects on preventing hardening of the arteries, diabetes, various cancers and inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease and arthritis. As this link explains resveratrol also stimulates the antiaging gene SIRT1 by 13-fold. This confirms the anti-aging effect of resveratrol. This 2012 study has also confirmed that resveratrol from red wine is what is responsible for the “French paradox” (longer life expectancy despite high saturated fat intake).

Resveratrol effective in humans: polycystic ovarian syndrome 

Polycystic ovarian syndrome could be significantly healed with resveratrol in a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial. It involved 30 subjects who completed the trial. 1500 mg of resveratrol or placebo were administered daily for 3 months. Serum total testosterone was decreased by 23.1% at the end of 3 months in the experimental group versus the placebo group. There was also a decrease of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate of 22.2%. Fasting insulin level was reduced by 31.8%. At the same time insulin sensitivity was increased by 66.3%. The authors concluded that resveratrol had significantly reduced ovarian and adrenal gland male hormones (androgens). This may be in part from the drop in insulin levels and the increase of insulin sensitivity.

Resveratrol effective in humans: anti-arteriosclerotic effects in diabetics

A double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study was done on 50 diabetics. The cardio-ankle vascular index (CAVI) was used to determine arterial stiffness. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of resveratrol on the stiffness of arteries in a group of diabetics and compare this to a placebo. Diabetics are known to have premature hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerotic changes). After 12 weeks of taking 100 mg of resveratrol per day there was a significant reduction in arterial stiffness in the experimental group, but not in the placebo group. Blood pressure also decreased by 5 mm mercury (systolic) in the experimental group.

Resveratrol effective in humans: ulcerative colitis patients

56 patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis received 500 mg of resveratrol or placebo and were observed for 6 weeks. This was a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Bowel disease questionnaires were used to assess the bowel disease activity before and after the treatment. The resveratrol group decreased the disease activity significantly, but it also increased their quality of life. Blood tests showed that this improvement occurred as a result of reducing oxidative stress by resveratrol.

Resveratrol effective in humans: Alzheimer’s disease prevention

Here is a study where 52 Alzheimer’s patients were divided into two groups; one group was given 200 mg of resveratrol for a number of weeks, the other group placebo pills. There was a significant improvement in memory tests in the resveratrol group and functional MRI scans showed better functional connectivity in the hippocampi of the subjects. It is known that the hippocampus is the seat for short-term memory, which is lost in Alzheimer’s patients.

Resveratrol Effective In Humans

Resveratrol Effective In Humans

Conclusion

Resveratrol has a long history of showing evidence of improving health. It does so by countering oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which lessens hardening of arteries. This prevents heart attacks and strokes. Resveratrol is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, which helps patients with diabetes, with Crohn’s disease and arthritis. There is even a cancer preventing effect of resveratrol because of anti-proliferative and anti-angiogenesis effects as well as stimulating apoptosis. Because of these combined anticancer properties resveratrol is a chemotherapeutic agent that can be combined with conventional anticancer drugs.

There are enough randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trials in humans to show that resveratrol is effective in preventing and treating several disease conditions. The medical establishment claims that there would not be enough medical evidence to say that the average person should supplement with resveratrol to receive health benefits. After my review outlined above I come to the opposite conclusion. It is quite clear that resveratrol has several important healing properties. It can improve diabetes; prevent hardening of arteries, lower blood pressure, attack osteoporosis and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. I have been taking 500 mg of resveratrol daily for years. It has not harmed me.

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Jul
22
2017

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

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

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

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

This metaanalysis of 18 research papers included 846 participants.

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

1. Qigong practitioners

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

2. Sudarshan Kriya yoga

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

3. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

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

4. Loneliness in older people

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

5. Care workers for patients with mental health problems

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

6. Younger breast cancer patients

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

7.  Study with fatigued breast cancer patients

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

8. Mindful meditation used in younger breast cancer patients

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

9.  Telomerase gene expression

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

10. Older patients with insomnia

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

11. Patients with bowel disease

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

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

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

13. Higher state of consciousness in two experienced Buddha meditators

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

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

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

15. Genomic changes with the relaxation response

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

16.  Energy metabolism and inflammation control

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

17. Relaxation changes stress recovery and silences two inflammatory genes

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

18. Vacation and meditation effect on healing from disease

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

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

Conclusion

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

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

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May
20
2017

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

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

What are telomeres?

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

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

What is the significance of telomeres?

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

Interventions that help telomere length

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

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

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

Cancer and telomeres

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

CLL

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

Lung cancer

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

Prostate cancer

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

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

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

Breast cancer

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

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

CNS disorders and telomeres

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

Cardiovascular disease and telomeres

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

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Conclusion

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

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

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May
13
2017

Results Of Insomnia Studies

Results of insomnia studies are focusing on all angles of insomnia. We know for some time that the circadian rhythm is linked to deep REM sleep, which we only reach about 2 hours into our nightly sleep. There are several reasons why our normal sleep pattern can get disrupted.

1. Night owls have a CRY1 mutation

A recent publication on March 27, 2017 has detected a mutation of the human circadian clock called CRY1. This is a dominant gene that is responsible for delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD). People with this genetic feature tend to go to sleep 2 hours later than the average person every day.

It occurs between 0.2% and 10% in the general population and is inherited by the autosomal dominant mode.

This gene is responsible for the phenomenon of persons being “night owls”.

2. Sleep deprivation in nursing homes

Another publication has zeroed in to what happens in the frail elderly who live in nursing homes.

Here is what sleep researchers have found out about nursing homes.

  • Older people also need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, not less as previously thought.
  • Let people sleep at night, and give them undisturbed sleep. The practice of waking them up every 2 hours is unnecessary and undermines a restful sleep with normal amounts of REM sleep.
  • The color of light matters: Blue/purple light coming from TVs, iPod’s, laptops or cell phones stimulates serotonin production that wakes you up. In contrast to this orange/red light stimulates melatonin production that facilitates sleep. A nursing home owner, Guildermann said: “We have made it darker at night, and what light they do have is orange/amber/red light, and we are having phenomenal results.”
  • Sleep, exercise and nutrition are the biggest components of health.

3. Night workers

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.

Your body rewards you, when you sleep 7 to 8 hours during the night, but it will penalize you severely, if you turn it upside down. The reason is the diurnal hormone rhythm that we all have built in. Sleep is regulated by melatonin during the night, which is released by the pineal gland (on the base of the skull). 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, for instance is highest in the morning, human growth hormone is highest between midnight and 3 AM.

There are examples of what happens when you do shift work for several years:

  1. A) A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 260% higher mortality compared to a control group of daytime white collar workers: Shift work and mortality.
  2. B) A study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 147% higher mortality rate in the night shift workers: Shift Workers’ Mortality Scrutinized. Shift workers work at night and sleep during the day. This can be done, but it is against the physiology of your body, as I explained above. Remember that melatonin does not only regulate your sleep, it also is one of the main stimulant hormones of the immune system. If you manipulate your diurnal hormone rhythm by staying awake during the night and sleeping during the day, you pay the price by an increased risk of mortality (increased risk of death). I think this is not worth it!

4. What to do when you cannot sleep?

The first step is to take 3mg to 5mg of melatonin at bedtime. It should be taken between 10PM and 11PM. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for melatonin to take effect. If you do not fall asleep within that time frame you are likely thinking too much! Relaxation before going to sleep should be part of your evening ritual. It can happen that we experience demanding, stressful days, and despite all better effort, it is difficult to be entirely relaxed. After demanding days like that I would recommend taking 1 or 2 capsules of valerian (500 mg strength) from the health food store. This combined with the melatonin should help in more than 80%-90% of insomnia cases. If you cannot sleep, see your physician. Sleep studies may be required or you may have problems of the thyroid (hypo- or hyperthyroidism), which may need to be checked. Other medical problems including depression have to be checked out as well. Melatonin and valerian are safe. Other sleeping pills have multiple side effects including memory problems the next day or the feeling of a mild hangover.

5. Telomeres and insomnia

Some people have no problem disciplining themselves to go to sleep between 10PM and 11 PM, which seems to be the window of opportunity to catch a good night’s sleep. Others are so used to do their late night activities (reading, watching TV, being online, going to the pub etc.) that they finally drop into bed at 1 or 2 AM. People need 7 to 8 hours of good sleep; even hard-core party goers need to get that much sleep. Nature does not make exceptions! When you go to bed only at 1AM or 2AM, it is difficult to get enough sleep.

It is true that you can suffer multiple health problems, as all of your hormones depend on the resetting during your deepest sleep between 2AM and 4AM triggered by the nighttime melatonin response. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep. Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span. The reason for this is that people with shortened telomeres develop heart attacks, strokes and cancer. This is what shortens the life span. How do we avoid this risk? Go back to healthy sleep habits. As mentioned above it is best to start going to sleep between 10 PM and 11 PM and sleep for 7 to 8 hours.

6. Electronics in the bedroom

There is new research showing that electronics in the bedroom can interfere with a normal sleep pattern. Dr. Ben Carter is the lead author and a senior lecturer in biostatistics at King’s College London. He completed a study involving 125,198 children with an average age of 14½ years. There were about equal amounts of males and females. Both sexes had the same problem. When they were allowed to use electronic media, this interfered with their sleep time. What electronic devices are we talking about? Watching TV, using the computer, the cell phone, tablets and computer games. The study was originally published at JAMA Pediatrics.

The blue/purple light of the TV screen or a computer screen stimulates the brain to produce serotonin. This undermines the melatonin production and as a result the person finds it extremely difficult to fall asleep.

Here is a list that contributes to better sleep habits and better sleep quality:

  • Ensure that the bedroom is dark, soundproof, and comfortable with the room temperature being not too warm. It is important to develop a “sleep hygiene”. This means going to sleep around the same time each night, to have some down time of 1 hour or so before going to bed and getting up after the average time of sleep (for most people between 7 to 9 hours). Sleeping in is not a solution, and an alarm clock will also help to develop a sleep routine.
  • Caffeine drinks, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs must be avoided. Smokers should butt out no later than 7PM, as nicotine is a stimulant.
  • Getting into a regular exercise program, either at home or at a gym is beneficial.
  • Avoid a heavy meal late at night. A light snack including some warm milk would be OK.
  • It is not a sensible idea to use the bedroom as an office, reading place or media center. It paves the way to the getting stimulated by cortisol, which keeps us awake. The bedroom is a place of rest and should be comfortable and relaxing.
  • Some sleepers wake up at night, and they are wide-awake! Leaving the bedroom and relaxing in the living room for a while can help. It goes without saying that playing video games will not help! An alternative is to take 3 mg of melatonin, which will helps to fall asleep faster, but melatonin will wear off after about 4 hours.
  • A self-hypnosis recording is a useful adjunct to a sleep routine. Listening to it before going to sleep helps to focus on relaxation and to stop ruminating about the day and its events. Keep the volume low.
Results Of Insomnia Studies

Results Of Insomnia Studies

Conclusion

Recent results of insomnia studies have reconfirmed that we need our regular sleep to maintain our health. We have seen that some nursing homes have a practice of waking the client up every 2 hours. This must be abandoned as it interferes with the restorative deep REM sleep. In turn this will interfere with hormone restoration overnight.

Children and adolescents must limit their time in front of the TV, iPhones and computer screens. The blue light has the frequency that over stimulates the brain and interferes with melatonin production. Some people work overnight as shift workers or party until the wee hours in the morning. This causes your telomeres in your body cells to shorten. When you restore your sleeping pattern to normal your telomere length will no longer be shortened.

Even people who are night owls due to an inborn CRY1 gene that is responsible for delayed sleep phase disorder can normalize their sleep pattern by following a strict sleep hygiene. As people get older they lose the ability to make melatonin, but this can be replaced by taking melatonin tablets at bedtime.

Remember what I said earlier: Sleep, regular exercise and good nutrition are the biggest components of health.

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Jan
21
2017

Effects Of Metformin On The Gut Microbiome

Matthew Andry, MD talked about the effects of metformin on the gut microbiome. This talk was delivered at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. The congress took place from Dec. 9 to Dec. 11, 2016 in Las Vegas. A lot of the sessions that I attended dealt with the gut flora and how it affects our health. This talk belongs to the theme of what a healthy gut microbiome can do for us.

History of metformin

Dr. Andry is a clinical associate professor of the Indiana School Of Medicine.

He pointed out that metformin has been used for a long time for type 2 diabetes, particularly, if fasting insulin levels are high. Metformin is a biguanide, which was isolated from French lilac (also known as Goats Rue). In the middle ages this herb was used to treat “thirst and urination”. In retrospect we recognize these as symptoms of diabetes. Chemists were able to synthesize the active ingredient in this herb in the 1920’s. Since then it is known as metformin. Dr. Jean Stern was able to show in the 1950’s in clinical studies that Glucophage, the brand name of metformin was able to reduce blood sugar without raising insulin levels. Between 1977 and 1997 metformin enjoyed wide spread acceptance for treating diabetics. Several clinical investigators demonstrated that diabetic patients on metformin lived longer and had less heart attacks than patients who were treated otherwise.

Metformin is the first-line drug in the treatment of type 2 diabetes in children and adults. It is one of the most widely prescribed drugs throughout the world with 120 million prescriptions per year.

Off-label use of metformin

There are many other clinical conditions for which metformin have been found to be beneficial. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), obesity, prediabetes, metabolic syndrome and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis are a few examples of off-label use of metformin. Metformin is also used as an anti-aging agent as it was found to elongate telomeres, which helps people to live longer. Metformin has been identified as a possible cancer prevention agent. In prostate cancer it was found to have an effect against prostate cancer stem cells. Without these cells prostate cancer does not recur after surgical removal.

Action of metformin

Metformin increases the action of an enzyme, AMPK, which leads to lipid oxidation and breakdown of fatty tissue (catabolism). In the liver the metabolic pathway of making sugar from fatty acids, called gluconeogenesis is inhibited. Metformin causes increased uptake of sugar into skeletal muscle tissue. This is the reason for the previously mentioned stabilization of blood sugar. Metformin has two beneficial effects on the liver. First it stabilizes insulin sensitivity. This means that a given amount of insulin has a larger effect on the liver. Secondly metformin decreases the toxic effect of fatty acids on the liver tissue. In other words metformin has a healing effect on non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a precursor to fatty liver and liver cirrhosis. Metformin also has an effect on the appetite center in the brain. It helps many obese and overweight people, but not all to lose weight. The mechanism for that effect is in the hypothalamus, where the appetite center is located. The neuropeptide Y gene expression in the hypothalamus is inhibited by metformin leading to reduced appetite.

Finally, metformin also normalizes the gut flora. This last point was the main focus of Dr. Andry’s talk.

Metformin and the gut

An animal experiment on mice showed in a study published in 2014 that metformin was stimulating the growth of a beneficial gut bacterium, Akkermansia. This is a mucin-degrading bacterium. But it also affects the metabolism of the host. The authors found that metformin increased the mucin-producing goblet cells.

Akkermansia muciniphila bacteria were fed to one group of mice. This group was on a high fat diet, but not on metformin. The mice showed control of their blood sugars, as did the metformin group. In other words manipulation of the gut flora composition could achieve control of the diabetic metabolism. The authors concluded that pharmacological manipulation of the gut microbiota using metformin in favor of Akkermansia might be a potential treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Effect of metformin on the gut flora

Akkermansia muciniphila bacteria comprise 3%-5% of the gut flora. It does not form spores and is strictly anaerobe, in other words oxygen destroys it. This is the reason why it is difficult to take it as a supplement. It is mostly growing in the mucous of the epithelium layer of the gut. The highest number of Akkermansia bacteria is found in the colon, lesser amounts in the small intestine of all mammalian species including the human race.

Here are the effects of metformin on Akkermansia:

  • Metformin increases the Akkermansia bacteria count both in a Petri dish as well as in the gut of experimental mice. This suggests that metformin acts like a growth factor for Akkermansia.
  • Metformin increased the count of Akkermansia bacteria by 18-fold up to a maximum of 12.44% (up from the normal 3-5%) of all of the gut bacteria.
  • Researchers observed that the mucin layer of the lining of the gut in metformin treated mice was thicker. This suggests that the thickness of the mucin layer plays a role in increasing the Akkermansia count.

Effect of the gut on the body’s metabolism

Other researchers have investigated how a high fat diet can change the composition of the gut bacteria, which in turn are altering the body’s metabolism. Essentially a shift in the bowel flora can increase the gut’s permeability. This is called leaky gut syndrome. It leads to absorption of lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from bad bacteria in the gut. The end result is endotoxemia in the blood. This causes systemic inflammation in the body. Insulin resistance and obesity develop and this can be followed by type 2 diabetes. It is interesting to note that the effects of a high fat diet that led to these changes can be reversed by increasing Akkermansia bacteria in the gut or by treating with metformin.

An interesting mouse experiment showed that the changes that take place in the gut bacteria with cold exposure could be transferred to germ-free mice with no gut flora. This changed their metabolism proving that gut bacteria have profound influences on the metabolism. The fact that the gut bacteria have a profound influence on the metabolism is not only true for animals, but also for humans.

Akkermansia Facts

Here are a few facts about the Akkermansia bacteria.

  • The amounts of Akkermansia bacteria in the gut are inversely related to how fat we are. This is measured by the body mass index (BMI). Fat people have less Akkermansia in their guts.
  • A high fat diet lowers the amount of Akkermansia in the gut
  • Systemic inflammation is present with low Akkermansia counts
  • A high fat diet causes gut permeability (leaky gut syndrome).
  • Low levels of Akkermansia causes worsened severity of appendicitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Low levels of Akkermansia causes fat storage (both in subcutaneous fat and visceral fat).
  • Low levels of Akkermansia cause insulin resistance (associated with diabetes) and high blood sugars.
  • Increased Akkermansia counts increase brown fat’s ability to burn calories, which leads to weight loss. Decreased Akkermansia counts lead to fat storage (weight gain).
  • Increased Akkermansia improves gut-barrier integrity
  • Increased Akkermansia reduces visceral and total body fat
  • Increased Akkermansia reduces synthesis of sugar in the liver (gluconeogenesis)

We have 10 times more bacteria in the gut than we have cells in our body. The Akkermansia percentage of the gut flora can be decreased from antibiotics or food that contains traces of antibiotics. If there is a lack of Akkermansia species, there is more gut permeability, causing LPS increase and causing increase of inflammation in the body. This translates into high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and degenerative neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or MS. But it can also cause inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune diseases.

What increases Akkermansia?

We can increase Akkermansia bacteria in the gut by eating Oligofructose-enriched prebiotics. Oligofructose belongs into the inulin type soluble fibers. It is found in a variety of vegetables and plants. This includes onions, garlic, chicory, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, navy beans and wheat. But wheat can be problematic. Clearfield wheat is the modern wheat variety which is now grown worldwide. It is much richer in gluten and can cause problems with gut permeability.

Eating lots of vegetables and fruit will give you enough of oligofructose to maintain a healthy percentage of Akkermansia in your gut bacteria.

Metformin as pointed out earlier can be used as pharmacotherapy. But it must be stressed that the use of metformin for dysmetabolic syndrome is off-label. There are real side effects of metformin. Lactic acidosis with an unusual tiredness, dizziness and severe drowsiness can develop. Also chills, muscle pain, blue/cold skin and fast/difficult breathing has been described. Slow/irregular heartbeat, vomiting, or diarrhea, stomach pains with nausea are also listed under side effects.

Effects Of Metformin On The Gut Microbiome

Effects Of Metformin On The Gut Microbiome

Conclusion

Our gut bacteria are important for us, more so than you may be aware of. An anaerobe bacterium, Akkermansia makes up 3%-5% of the gut flora. This bacterium lives in the mucous layer of the lining of the gut and ensures that the gut wall is tight. When these bacteria are lacking (due to consumption of junk foods) the gut wall becomes leaky, which is why this condition is called “leaky gut syndrome”. Irritating toxic substances can now leak into the blood stream and lipopolysaccharides are among them. This causes inflammation in the gut wall, but can go over into the blood vessels and the rest of the body including the brain. High blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and degenerative neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or MS can develop from the inflammation. But it may also cause inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune diseases.

Eating lots of vegetables and fruit will give you enough of oligofructose to maintain a healthy percentage of Akkermansia in your gut bacteria. In particular, onions, garlic, chicory, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes and navy beans provide lots of oligofructose to support Akkermansia in your gut bacteria.

As pointed out earlier metformin can be used as pharmacotherapy of dysmetabolic syndrome. But it must be stressed that the use of metformin is off-label. It is also important to remember, that with effects there are side effects of metformin.

It may be news to you, how close the health of the gut is connected to our overall health. With the knowledge that food can be your medicine, choose your foods wisely. Add some or all of the above named foods that help you support beneficial gut bacteria, and take care of your health!

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Apr
16
2016

Sleeping Habits

When you are a child or a youngster sleeping habits are rarely a problem. But as people age, they tend to have problems falling asleep and sleeping through the night. Older people may also have certain hormone deficiencies, which can contribute to a change in sleeping habits.

Some basics regarding sleeping habits

There are a couple of facts that everybody should know about sleep, so you work with nature, not against it.

  1. The way our bodies are hardwired, we need 7 to 8 hours of sleep and we need to fall asleep between 10PM and 11PM.
  2. The reason for the relative rigid sleeping schedule time wise is the diurnal hormone rhythm. This is also known as the circadian clock that is dictated by the light of the sun (24 hour cycle). Light going into our eyes in the morning inactivates melatonin. But in the evening the pineal gland releases melatonin after sunset. This is what keeps the internal clock on time. We all know how we derail when we fly east or west. There are differences. I find that I am more affected when I fly west than east. The readjustment for me often takes one or two weeks for a 9-hour time zone difference.
  3. Melatonin is gradually produced less as we age. The highest melatonin production occurs around 10 years of age. From then on melatonin production declines. This likely is the reason why older people more often have insomnia problems.
  4. There is interplay between melatonin and cortisol. These two hormones complement each other. When you sleep melatonin governs and resets the hormones to be ready in the morning. This involves an early testosterone peak for the male and cortisol, which has to be ready the moment you wake up. It is cortisol coming from the adrenal glands that rules during the day and is giving us energy. Thyroid hormones also give you energy during the day. As I will explain below, human growth hormone is an energy-giving hormone as well that also clears your mind.
  5. What is not as much known is that human growth hormone (GH) provides energy for us. Growth hormone is released as a spurt between midnight and 3 AM, when you’re deep asleep. The purpose of that is to get you ready with regard to energy for the next day. If you drink alcohol after 5PM the afternoon before, you will miss most of that GH spurt during the night and have a hangover (lack of energy the following day).  At the 23 rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas the endocrinologist, Dr. Thierry Hertoghe from Belgium gave a talk about GH and said that even one drink during the evening before you go to sleep will cancel 75% of the GH spurt causing a lack of energy the following day. When you have alcoholic drinks evening after evening as many people do, you interfere with your deepest sleep, creating a fitful sleep and you can develop GH deficiency, which can be measured with blood and urine tests. GH deficiency leads to premature signs of aging, such as wrinkles, musculoskeletal problems, muscle weakness and dementia. Many people in their 80’s look “old”. In fact they may be growth hormone deficient and could be treated with human GH, if GH deficiency were confirmed by tests. Part of the aged appearance is reversible in cases of growth hormone deficiency by treating with daily GH injections.
  6. As we age, we produce less melatonin and less growth hormone. All of these hormone levels can be determined. If they are low, they should be replaced with small amounts of whatever hormone is missing.
  7. There are other hormones that are important for energy: cortisol from the adrenal glands, thyroid hormones and DHEA from the adrenal glands. When people get older there is a problem with melatonin production and an evening dose of melatonin supplement of 3mg is advisable. People beyond the age of menopause (females) and andropause (males) need bioidentical sex hormone replacement. Once they have sufficient hormone levels, they will also have more energy. It is advisable to get all of these hormones tested using a saliva hormone test. Growth hormone is a bit more difficult to assess, but IGF-1 levels give a first indication what your growth hormone levels are doing. The newest test is a 24-hour urine collection or an overnight urine sample looking for growth hormone metabolites. If levels are found to be low, daily replacement of growth hormone using a pen similar to insulin injections in diabetics can be given, using pure human growth hormone. You would need to seek the advice of a knowledgeable naturopath.

What does insomnia do to you?

From a psychological point of view performance is slower, there is a slower reaction time and there is a risk of developing anxiety or depression. The immune system gets weakened, high blood pressure can develop and there is a risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It is common to gain weight becoming overweight or obese. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep. Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span.

How to improve sleeping habits

Set your alarm clock for 8 hours later when you go to sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark, but wake up to the alarm clock after 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Don’t sleep longer than 8 hours per night. Your internal diurnal hormone rhythm will thank you for regulating your sleep/wake rhythm by giving you the energy you want. I enjoy mine.

Sleeping habits include problems falling asleep or sleeping through

Falling asleep: As we mostly have a lack of melatonin, the first step is to take 3mg to 5mg of melatonin at bedtime. But it should be taken during the window of opportunity fitting into the diurnal hormone rhythm as mentioned above: between 10PM and 11PM. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for melatonin to take effect. If you do not fall asleep within that time frame, you are likely thinking too much. If that were the case, I would recommend taking 1 or 2 capsules of valerian (500 mg strength) from the health food store. This combined with melatonin should help in more than 80%-90% of insomnia cases.

Not sleeping through: Some of you, particularly if you are elderly, may wake up at 3 or 4 AM and have a hard time falling asleep again. At that time it would be safe to take another 3mg of melatonin and if this does not work within 20 minutes add another 500mg valerian capsule.

If you continue to have insomnia problems, see your physician. You may need sleep studies done or you may have problems with your thyroid gland (hypo- or hyperthyroidism), which needs to be checked. Other medical problems including depression have to be checked out as well. Melatonin and valerian are safe. Other sleeping pills have multiple side effects including memory problems.

Part of good sleeping habits is to provide a quiet, comfortable bedroom

The following points are good checklist for a comfortable sleep environment (Ref.1).

  • Ensure your bedroom is dark, soundproof, and comfortable with the room temperature being not too warm, and you develop a “sleep hygiene”. This means you get to sleep around the same time each night, have some down time 1 hour or so before going to bed and get up after your average time of sleep (for most people between 7 to 9 hours). Do not sleep in, but use an alarm clock to help you get into your sleep routine.
  • Avoid caffeine drinks, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs. If you must smoke, don’t smoke later than 7PM.
  • Get into a regular exercise program, either at home or at a gym.
  • Avoid a heavy meal late at night. A light snack including some warm milk would be OK.
  • Do not use your bedroom as an office, reading place or media center. This would condition you to be awake.  Reserve your bedroom use only for intimacy and sleeping.
  • If you wake up at night and you are wide awake, leave the bedroom and sit in the living room doing something until you feel tired and then return to bed.
  • A self-hypnosis recording is a useful adjunct to a sleep routine. Listen to it when you go to bed to give you something to focus on (low volume) and you will find it easier to stop thinking.
Sleeping Habits

Sleeping Habits

Conclusion

We need to be aware how important a proper hormone balance is when it comes to a healthy sleep pattern. Thyroid hormones and sex hormones are easy to measure. Bioidentical hormone replacement is needed, if one of the hormones is low. GH needs to be checked by an IGF-1 level and/or metabolites of GH in a 24-hour urine sample as explained above. Melatonin deficiency in older age is replaced the way I summarized above. With these measures sleeping habits improve, and you will get your 7 to 8 hours of restoring sleep. Forget the notion of the past that older people would not need as much sleep. Especially for an aging individual it is important to have a good night’s sleep in order to feel well and energized every day.

References

Ref.1: Jean Gray, editor: “Therapeutic choices”, 5th edition, Chapter 8 by Jonathan A.E. Fleming, MB, FRCPC: Insomnia, © 2008, Canadian Pharmacists Association.

Apr
02
2016

Women Win Turning Older

Supercentenarians may teach us something about the question “Why do women win turning older”? Supercentenarians are people who are 110 years or older. Presently there are 53 of them distributed over the world, 51 are females and two are males. According to Ben Dulken and Anne Brunet this is not by chance: in other mammal species females often live longer than their male counterparts. They theorize that stem cells live longer under the influence of estrogen and this may be the explanation for the difference. They wanted to answer the burning question: “Is life expectancy linked to gender and stem cells”?

Observations regarding why women win turning older

Ben Dulken and Anne Brunet describe that several pieces of evidence are important to note.

  1. Castrated males, called eunuchs, live on average 14 years longer than the average male.
  2. Experiments with male mice treated with estrogen increased their lifespan compared to untreated male controls.
  3. Neural stem cells (NSCs) and hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have estrogen receptors in females. This leads to extra stimuli during pregnancy, but also during the menstrual cycle in women or the estrus cycle in female mammals.
  4. It gets more complicated: There are non-estrogen regulated stem cell niches in the liver, skin and subcutaneous tissue (important for wound healing and resident muscle stem cells, called satellite cells (SCs). For some reason liver regeneration and wound healing, but also healing of muscle injuries in women and female mammals occurs at a faster pace. Scientists still do not have an answer for this. Theories are that perhaps women with their two X-chromosomes are at an advantage compared to males (only one X-chromosome) with respect to certain wound repair mechanisms.
  5. There is the question whether longevity and self-repair capacity would be related, either through stem cell populations (NSCs, HSCs, SCs), other repair mechanisms or tissue proliferation.
  6. There are gender differences in aging patterns of stem cells. For instance studies in dizygotic twins showed that telomere length of blood cells in the female twin was much longer than in the male twin. This is thought to be due to genetic factors other than hormones, but again favoring the female.
  7. A study in males showed that there is an accumulation of damaged DNA in SC’s of muscle tissue with older age that leads to muscle senescence. In older men there is a delayed response to a specific exercise stimulus with regard to the satellite cell division (SC) when compared to the response in young men.
  8. In females estrogen stimulates telomere growth of stem cells (NSCs and HSCs), which prevents premature stem cell exhaustion.

Effects of diet and exercise on life expectancy

The Potsdam study analyzed 4 healthy behaviors in 23,153 German participants aged 35 to 65 years over 7.8 years. They looked for the development of cancer, heart attacks, strokes and cancer as end points. The 4 healthy behaviors were: to be a lifelong non-smoker , having a body mass index lower than 30, performing 3.5 h/week or more of physical activity, and adhering to healthy dietary principles (high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread and low meat consumption).

Those who had adopted all 4 healthy lifestyles reduced the development of serious disease by up to 80%. Dr. David Katz delivered a keynote address at the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas Dec. 10-14, 2014 entitled “Integrative Medicine: A Bridge Over Healthcare’s Troubled Waters”. He mentioned the Potsdam study. And he mentioned what the new logic of a healthy lifestyle is: a healthy lifestyle causes healthy telomeres of somatic cells and of stem cells; this causes health until a ripe old age.

Life Expectancy Linked To Gender And Stem Cells

Life Expectancy Linked To Gender And Stem Cells

Conclusion why women win turning older

It seems that women and female mammals are more protected by nature than males. The previously called ”weak sex” is in fact a lot stronger! This may be the reason that among supercentenarians there are only a few males remaining. But we don’t know how many males take the lifestyle factors of the Potsdam study serious. Males who want to age gracefully have to pay more attention to healthy lifestyles. This leads to longer telomeres and this allows for stem cell and somatic cell renewal. There are still many unanswered questions, but life expectancy is definitely related to how well we preserve stem cells throughout our body. This in turn depends very much on our lifestyle patterns.

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Mar
19
2016

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

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

Book overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 15 gives you a brief summary of the book.

Kirkus Review

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

Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right

Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right

Conclusion

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

The book is written in American English.

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

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

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

Oct
03
2015

What Stress Does

We all are stressed out at times. Some people are stressed all the time and this is called chronic stress.

Acute stress

Let’s say you were involved in a minor rear-ender accident. It is annoying, but at least you were not injured. But you have to deal with the insurance company, get the repair done and maybe get a car rental during the time of repair. Yes, you may have a few days where you feel that your hands are shaky and your heart pounds, or your sleep may not be restful. But when everything is done things are back to normal. This is an example of acute stress with a shorter running time. It has a limited severity, is an inconvenience, but it does not really affect your body on the long-term.

Chronic stress

Let’s assume the car accident was more severe and you received a personal injury with a broken leg. You end up in hospital and the orthopedic surgeon fixes the fracture with a surgical plate. The leg has to be in a cast for several weeks, and you have to use crutches. Every day you feel reminded of the car accident, because it is awkward to walk with crutches. After weeks you notice that you have gained weight. Your doctor is also worried about you because your blood pressure showed higher readings. You do not sleep as well, waking up frequently and having nightmares about another fictitious accident. On top of that you came down with the flu. What happened here? The stress reaction released cortisol, which weakened your immune system and may be responsible for you catching the flu. On the long-term cortisol can also contribute to high blood pressure, but so can alcohol consumption. You may have increased your alcohol intake in the evening to relax more, but with the chronic stress and the cortisol increase this can cause high blood pressure. The weight gain that you noticed has to do with the fact that you cannot work out any more because of your healing leg fracture and you having to use crutches. Inadvertently you may also eat a bit more rich food; a lot of people do that as food can be used as comfort food. And why do you sleep less well? Chronic cortisol elevation leads to lower melatonin levels, as these two hormones are natural opponents. A high melatonin level leads to a low cortisol level and vice versa. With relaxation methods you can lower cortisol and the melatonin level increases normalizing your sleep. Chronically elevated cortisol can also lead to weight gain as sugar is converted into fatty acids that are stored as subcutaneous fat. Muscles can melt down when cortisol is high giving the appearance of spindly arms and legs.

Causes of chronic stress

Holmes and Rahe tested a stress scale in 1970, which has become the standard ever since. You get a certain amount of points for a stressful event, e.g. 100 for the death of a spouse; 45 point for retirement; 23 for trouble with the boss etc. Add up all of the points that are affect you right now; if the total score is less than 150 points there is only a minor risk of getting medical problems from the chronic stress; for 150 to 299 points the risk of illness is moderate and for 300 and more points you are at a significant risk for illness.

There is physical illness and mental illness that chronic stress can cause. Physical illness can be high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries. The long-term risks from this are possible heart attacks and strokes. But chronic adrenalin and noradrenalin elevation associated with chronic stress can burn part of your brain cells in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex. This can lead to memory loss, spatial memory loss and aggression. Mental illness caused by chronic stress can be anxiety, depression, social isolation, panic attacks and panic disorder. Psychosomatic symptoms can include headaches, back pain, abdominal pain and difficulties concentrating.

Job stress and cancer

Perhaps one of the best examples of job stress and cancer is a study where the amount of breast cancer was correlated to the amount of stress. I discussed this in another blog. Briefly, women with a less responsibility had the lowest rate of breast cancer, but they too had some stress as there was a higher breast cancer risk after 15 years on the job versus only 5 years on the job. The same study showed that women with high responsibility had the highest breast cancer rates. A hormone disbalance can explain this based on high cortisol levels associated with chronic stress. If cortisol is high, the cortisol binding globulin (CBG) increases; this in turn also binds more circulating progesterone, as progesterone attaches to CBG. CBG is a transport protein for both cortisol and progesterone. The end result is that estrogenic compounds get the upper hand, a condition called estrogen dominance. I have explained under the above link that this was the real reason for the increase in breast cancer in the stressed women. Similar mechanisms are causing other cancers to occur more frequently with chronic stress.

Chronic stress and cardiovascular disease

High stress jobs were found to cause a 2.2 to 2.4-fold increase of strokes and heart attacks due to cardiovascular disease when compared to low stress jobs. This was based on a British Medical Journal study in October 2002. As I discussed above under a brief description of chronic stress cardiovascular disease is often what develops as part of chronic stress. People who are under chronic stress feel that they do not have enough time to prepare good, healthy food at home. They tend to eat out more often. Even well educated people just swallow a quick hamburger and other processed foods. This increases the bad fats like trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids in their system causing inflammation of the blood vessels as explained in this blog. The LDL cholesterol and triglycerides get elevated, sugar from sugary snacks oxidizes the LDL cholesterol and your coronary arteries and brain arteries get clogged up. This sets anybody on the downward pathway, and it is now only a matter of time when the chronically stressed person will develop a heart attack or stroke.

Chronic stress extremes: PTSD and burnout in soldiers

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a lecture during the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas (Dec.10 to 14, 2014). The title was: “Burnout: A multiple hormone deficiency syndrome”. Burnout is the extreme of chronic stress. He said that burnout is a common condition where several hormones are affected, with the cortisol axis being the main one, but other hormone glands being stressed as well. As a result endocrine glands age prematurely. Symptoms are fatigue, exhaustion, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, depression and aggressiveness. The underlying hormone abnormalities are a lack of cortisol, thyroid deficiency, growth hormone deficiency, testosterone and estrogen deficiency and oxytocin deficiency. Burnout is common in teachers and there is a questionnaire that has been developed for teachers (teacher’s burnout scale) to monitor them whether they are heading this way. Soldiers who return from combative situations often suffer from burnout or from PTSD. Their burnout severity can be monitored using the teacher’s burnout scale already mentioned. In suspected cases laboratory tests that measure hormone levels give concrete answers about hormone deficiencies. Treatment protocols were discussed in detail. Multiple bioidentical hormone replacements are necessary, possibly for prolonged periods, if not life long. In addition supportive counseling sessions from a counselor or psychiatrist will help to tone down increased brain activity and help regain the internal balance. Why is this important? It is important, because hormones are necessary on a cellular level and regulate the energy metabolism of every cell in the body. Also, by recognizing what is going on and helping the affected individuals, a lot of pain and suffering can be prevented.

Accelerated aging from telomere shortening

Chronic stress has been shown to cause telomere shortening. So does a lack of sleep (insomnia), smoking and alcohol overconsumption, all conditions that can be associated with chronic stress. What can we do about this? Learn what shortens telomeres and ultimately your life. Cut out what you can and take supplements that lengthen your telomeres.

Positive thinking combats stress

Negative thoughts are draining you of energy. You want to stay optimistic within what’s reasonable. Be thankful for all the good things in your life. Minimize what’s negative, but think about positive solutions to get rid of energy draining parts in your days. Do this persistently until it becomes part of your life and you will have extra energy that you didn’t waste in negative thinking or by getting caught up in needless anxiety. Worrying does not get us anywhere, but it depletes our energy.

Self-hypnosis is a simple way to allow your whole body to relax. However, the various forms of yoga will do the same thing for you. Meditation is another way of finding peace and tranquility. Prayer is know to help people in sickness and in health. All of these methods will re-energize you. They calm your brain, help you to cope with stress and rebalance your hormones at the same time.

Building social ties and mutually supportive relationships will also build you up. It makes you feel that you belong, you have your place in society, you help others, and they support you.

We need some stress to get us going, but we do not need “distress”. Dr. Hans Selye, the father of the general adaptation syndrome due to stress, gave a lecture about this topic in Hamilton, Ont. in 1977, which I attended. I vividly remember how he projected a picture of his skeleton showing bilateral hip replacements. He said that chronic stress could lead to arthritis. He had developed end stage arthritis in his hips requiring total hip replacements on both sides. He wanted to illustrate that stress leads to physical consequences; it may be a heart attack in one person, a stroke in another, arthritis in a third. Constant overdrive has physical consequences.

What Stress Does

What Stress Does

Conclusion

Stress can be deadly, particularly if it lingers on and becomes chronic. But we can reorganize our lives to minimize stress. Some people may decide to seek a less stressful occupation. Others may elect to stay at that job, but develop hobbies and get involved in relaxation methods to combat job stress. The key is to start thinking about what stress you may be under and then develop a plan to counter it so you can allow yourself to rebalance your life.

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