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.

Jul
01
2017

Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) form when food is cooked at high temperatures. Sugar molecules react with proteins crosslinking them and changing how they function. It prevents proteins from doing their job. Glycation also causes inflammation, which damages mitochondria, the power packages inside cells that provide the body with energy. Overall AGEs lead to premature aging, which comes from the toxic protein reactions. Advanced glycation end products accumulate as glycated proteins in the tissues of the body. This leads to mitochondrial dysfunction.

Effect of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) on the body

The following tissues are frequently affected by the toxic effect of AGEs.

  • The accumulation of AGEs can cause kidney disease and kidney failure (renal failure). In this case the kidneys no longer filter the blood to excrete waste. Hemodialysis may be required.
  • Joint cartilage is damaged by AGEs so it can no longer handle stress and joint stiffness sets in. AGEs are now recognized as a major cause of osteoarthritis.
  • Cross-linked proteins from AGEs can cause Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Damaged proteins accumulate in brain cells that disable and kill them eventually.
  • Glycation of LDL particles has been well documented as an important cause of increasing the plaque formation in arteries by LDL. Glycated LDL is much more susceptible to oxidation than regular LDL. Oxidized LDL causes damage to the lining of the arteries and destroys endothelial nitric oxide synthase. This is a critical enzyme, which is involved in maintaining vasodilatation and blood flow. Once LDL has become glycated, it is deformed and LDL receptors can no longer recognize it. This means that glycated LDL continues to circulate in the bloodstream where it contributes to the atherosclerotic process. It forms a plaque which becomes a reason for heart attacks and strokes. Glycation of LDL is particularly common in patients with diabetes.
  • Glycation of the skin sensitizes the skin to UV light damage. It triggers oxidative stress that increases the risk of skin cancer.
  • Glycation damages our eyes. It causes clouding of the lens (cataracts) and it damages the retina. Macular degeneration can ultimately cause blindness.
  • When glycation affects the discs in the spinal cord, this can cause disc protrusions and disc herniations. Often the spinal nerves that are nearby get injured causing limping and leg or arm weakness.

Nutrients to counter AGEs

There are nutrients that can slow down the rate of glycation and as a result will halt the aging process.

Benfotiamine

Benfotiamine is a fat-soluble form of the water-soluble vitamin B1 (thiamine). It has been shown to reverse glycation in cell cultures and in humans.

As a result the damage to the cells that are lining arteries is reduced. Benfotiamine also counters diabetic neuropathy, retinopathy and nephropathy.

Pyridoxal 5’-phosphate

Pyridoxal 5’-phosphate is a metabolite of vitamin B6. It is similar to benfotiamine in that it counters glycation and dissolves deposited AGEs. It is particularly useful to stop fat and protein glycation. In diabetic patients lipid glycation is often a problem as these authors have shown. Pyridoxal 5’-phosphate traps glucose breakdown products before they become part of glycation reactions.

Carnosine

Carnosine is a dipeptide, made up of the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine. It is found in higher concentration in muscle and brain tissue. It scavenges for free radicals and prevents AGE formation. It is preventing both lipid glycation and protein glycation. This publication states that carnosine can play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. As protein crosslinking is prevented with carnosine, tangled protein clumps cannot accumulate and cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Carnosine also reduces blood lipid levels and stabilizes atherosclerotic plaques. This reduces the risk of plaque rupture, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Carnosine also has a mitochondria stabilizing function resisting the destructive effects of oxidative stresses.

Luteolin

Luteolin is a bioflavonoid, which can be found in many plants. It has anti-inflammatory effects and works by suppressing the master inflammatory complex, called NF-kB.  NF-kB triggers the production of multiple cytokines and is associated with many cancers, chronic diseases, autoimmune diseases and septic shock. Kotanidou et al. did an experiment where they injected mice with Salmonella enteritis toxin, either with or without luteolin protection. Without luteolin only 4.1% of the mice survived on day 7. With luteolin protection 48% were alive on day 7.

Luteolin has been shown to be effective as an anti-inflammatory in the brain, the blood vessel lining, intestines, skin, lungs, bone and gums.

All these four supplements are available in the health food store. They work together and would be recommendable in diabetic patients where glycation is most prominent. But these supplements are also useful for older people who want to slow down the aging process in general.

Nutrients to slow down mitochondrial aging

Glycation is linked to mitochondrial deterioration and dysfunction. It accelerates aging in every aspect. AGEs (advanced glycation end products) crosslink proteins, lipids, but also damage enzymes and DNA. Mitochondrial energy production is slowed down by glycation. The end result is a lack of energy and slower repair processes, which all depend on mitochondrial energy production. The following supplements have shown some merit in reversing this process.

Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)

PPQ is a supplement that is known to produce new mitochondria in cells. This helps the energy metabolism of aging cells to recover.

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid that is found abundantly in heart and skeletal muscles cells, brain cells and cells of the retina. These are areas in the body with high metabolic rates that can burn out mitochondria. Taurine regulates enzymes in mitochondria that harvest energy from food substances. In patients who experience accelerated aging, a lack of taurine can produce an energy crisis. But supplementation with taurine can rescue the cells by reducing oxidative stress and restoring the function of mitochondria in cells that are aging. Brain cells were putting out new shoots, called neurites when taurine was given as a supplement. This helps to improve brain connection, and preserves memory and cognition.

R-lipoic acid

R-lipoic acid helps with mitochondrial function by being involved with extracting energy from foods. When R-lipoic acid is given to aging animals, their metabolic function improves, the mitochondria become healthier and there are less oxidative stress-inducing byproducts. It protects their liver, heart and brain cells from oxidative stress in their mitochondria. It is becoming known as an energy-giving supplement.

Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)

Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)

Conclusion

Sugar overconsumption and overcooking food can cause advanced glycation end products (AGEs) where lipids and proteins get cross-linked. This leads to premature loss of organ function. The mitochondria are also slowed down. This creates prematurely aging. Fortunately there are a few supplements like

benfotiamine, pyridoxal 5’-phosphate, carnosine and luteolin. They protect against glycation. Mitochondria can also be protected by PPQ, taurine and R-lipoic acid. Although we cannot stop the aging process, avoiding sugar and stopping to consume overcooked food, such as barbecued meats and deep fried food is a sensible step in prevention.

With this approach and some supplements a lot can be done to slow down aging.

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Apr
01
2017

When Food Causes Inflammation

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

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

General remarks about nutrition

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

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

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

Mathematical formula for when food causes inflammation

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

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

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

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

P = pain and problems you are going to experience

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

Nutritional rules

Dr. Blatman said there are three rules about nutrition.

Rule #1 is to not eat fake or toxic foods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rule #2 is not to eat inflammatory foods

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rule #3 is to not disturb the bowel flora

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

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

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

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

When Food Causes Inflammation

When Food Causes Inflammation

Conclusion

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

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Jan
28
2017

Cardiovascular Disease And Inflammation

Dr. Mark Houston talked about cardiovascular disease and inflammation – “the evil twins”. He presented this lecture at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas. Dr. Houston is an associate clinical professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical School in Nashville, TN 37232.

New thinking about cardiovascular disease and inflammation

Dr. Houston pointed out that the old thinking about cardiovascular disease has to be replaced with the new thinking. Here are a number of points regarding the new thinking.

  1. Coronary heart disease and congestive heart failure are diseases of inflammation. They are also coupled with oxidative stress, vascular immune dysfunction and dysfunction of the mitochondria.
  2. In the past it was difficult to reduce these cardiovascular diseases. With the new thinking there are now new treatment approaches that help cure cardiovascular disease.
  3. The development of heart disease has a long history. Endothelial dysfunction predates coronary artery disease by many years. This is followed by vascular smooth muscle dysfunction. Inflammation develops and structural changes occur in the small and larger blood vessels with atheromatous deposits (plaques) and final occlusion, at which point you get a heart attack.

Canadian physician Sir William Osler has already stated more than 100 years ago “A man is as old as his blood vessels”.

The old thesis was that cholesterol would lead to deposits that close coronary blood vessels and cause heart attacks. Dr. Houston called this the “cholesterol-centric “ approach. The truth is that with conventional blood tests you are missing 50% of all the high-risk patients that are going to develop heart attacks. They are missing the ones that have chronic inflammation, but normal cholesterol levels.

What was not known in the past was that oxidative stress associated with normal aging can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation. This oxidative stress leads to mitochondrial DNA changes. Associated with it are biochemical changes that cause chronic inflammation, which in turn will affect the lining of the arteries. There is a metabolic change described in the literature as metabolic syndrome, which leads to high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and eventually heart attacks and strokes. The key today is to include in screening tests all parameters that will predict who is at risk to develop a heart attack or not.

Blood tests to screen for cardiovascular disease and inflammation

Blood tests and health history should be checked for dyslipidemia, high blood pressure (hypertension), hyperglycemia, smoking, diabetes, homocysteinemia, obesity etc. Also, patients with high GGTP (gamma-glutamyl transferase) levels in the blood are more at risk to develop diabetes. This in turn leads to inflammation of the arterial wall and heart attacks. There are 25 top risk factors that are associated with all causes for heart attacks.

Briefly, apart from the 7 factors already mentioned above the physician wants to check for high uric acid levels (hyperuricemia), kidney disease, high clotting factors (fibrinogen levels), elevated iron levels, trans fatty acid levels, omega-3 fatty acid levels and omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, low dietary potassium and magnesium intake with high sodium intake, increased high sensitivity C reactive protein level (hs CRP measuring inflammation). The list to test for cardiovascular disease risk continues with blood tests for vascular immune dysfunction and increased oxidative stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, subclinical low thyroid levels, hormonal imbalances for both genders, chronic infections, low vitamin D and K levels, high heavy metals and environmental pollutants.

The speaker stated that he includes a hormone profile and vitamin D levels. He does biochemical tests to check for mitochondrial defects. Micronutrients are also checked as cardiovascular patients often have many nutritional deficiencies. Inflammation is monitored through testing the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP).

In order to assess the risk of a patient Dr. Cohen, a cardiologist has developed the Rasmussen score, which is more accurate than the Framingham score.

The following tests are performed on the patient: computerized arterial pulse waveform analysis (medical imaging), blood pressure at rest and following exercise and left ventricular wall of the heart by echocardiography. Further tests include urine test for microalbuminuria, B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP, a measure of congestive heart failure), retinal score based on fundoscopy, intima-media thickness (IMT, measured by ultrasound on the carotid artery) and electrocardiogram recording (EKG).

Here is what the Rasmussen score means:

  • Disease score 0 to 2: likely no heart attack in the next 6 years
  • Disease score 3 to 5: 5% likely cardiovascular events in the next 6 years
  • Disease score > 6: 15% likely cardiovascular events in the next 6 years

Non-intervention tests to measure cardiovascular health

1. The ENDOPAT test

With this test the brachial artery is occluded with a blood pressure cuff for 5 minutes. Endothelial dysfunction is measured as increased signal amplitude. A pre- and post occlusion index is calculated based on flow-mediated dilatation. The values are interpreted as follows: an index of 1.67 has a sensitivity of 82% and specificity of 77% to predict coronary endothelial dysfunction correctly. It also correlates to a future risk for coronary heart disease, congestive heart disease and high blood pressure.

2. The VC Profile

This test measures the elasticity of the arteries. There is a C1 index that measures the elasticity of the medium and smaller vessels and the C1 index, which measures elasticity of the larger arteries and the aorta. The smaller the numbers are, the less elastic the arterial walls.

3.The Corus CAD score

This is a genetically based blood test. The score can be between 0 and 40. If the score is 40, there is a risk of 68% that there is a major blockage in one or more coronary arteries.

4. Coronary artery calcification

The CAC score correlates very well with major event like a heart attack. There is a risk of between 6- and 35-fold depending how high the CAC score is. The key is not to wait until you have calcification in your coronary arteries, but work on prevention.

Treatment of cardiovascular disease and inflammation

When heart disease is treated the doctor needs to address all of the underlying problems. It starts with good nutrition like a DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet.

Next anti-inflammatory and other supplements are added: curcumin 500 mg to 1000 mg twice a day, pomegranate juice ¼ cup twice per day, chelated magnesium 500 mg twice per day, aged garlic 1200 mg once daily, taurine 3 grams twice per day, CoQ-10 300 mg twice per day and D-ribose 5 grams three times per day. This type of supplementation helps for chest pain associated with angina. On top of this metabolic cardiology program the regular cardiac medicines are also used.

Additional supplements used in the metabolic cardiology program may be resveratrol 500 mg twice per day, quercetin 500 mg twice per day, omega-3 fatty acid 5 grams per day, vitamin K2 (MK 7) 100-500 micrograms per day and MK4 1000 micrograms per day. In addition he gives 1000 mg of vitamin C twice per day. This program helps in plaque stabilization and reversal and reduction of coronary artery calcification.

Case study showing the effect of metabolic cardiology program

Here is a case study of a heart patient that was treated by Dr. Houston. He was a white male, first treated for congestive heart failure as a result of a heart attack in June 2005. Initially his ejection fraction was 15-20%. His medications were: digoxin 0.25 mg once daily, metoprolol 50 mg twice per day, ramipril 10 mg twice per day, spironolactone 25 mg twice per day and torsemide 20 mg once daily. These medications were kept in place, but the metabolic cardiology program was applied in addition. Here are the results of his ejection fraction (EF) values after he was started on the metabolic program:

  • Initial measurement: EF15-20%. Marked shortness of breath on exertion.
  • 3 months: EF 20-25%. He reported improved symptoms.
  • 6 months: EF 25-30%. He said that he had now minimal symptoms.
  • 12 months: EF 40%. He had no more symptoms.
  • 24 months: EF 50%. He reported: “I feel normal and great”.
  • 5 years: EF 55%. He said” I feel the best in years”.

A normal value for an ejection fraction is 55% to 70%.

Cardiovascular Disease And Inflammation

Cardiovascular Disease And Inflammation

Conclusion

Testing for heart disease risk has become a lot more sophisticated than in the past, and the tests have opened up a window to early intervention. Metabolic cardiology is a new faculty of cardiology that assists in the reversal and stabilization of heart disease. It will help high blood pressure patients and stabilizes diabetes, which would otherwise have deleterious effects on heart disease. Metabolic cardiology improves angina patients. It also prevents restenosis of stented coronary arteries. As shown in one clinical example reduced ejection fractions with congestive heart failure will improve. This was achieved solely through the metabolic cardiology program.

As usual, prevention is more powerful than conventional treatment later. To give your cardiac health a good start, don’t forget to cut out sugar, exercise regularly and follow a sensible diet.

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Oct
17
2015

Depression Needs Treatment

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

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

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

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

Causes of depression

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

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

Tests for depression

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

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

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

Myths of depression

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

Treatment of depression

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

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

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

Suicides

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

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

Alternative depression treatments

There are alternative treatments for depression.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Depression Needs Treatment

Depression Needs Treatment

Conclusion

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan
22
2015

Life Expectancy Is Influenced By Lifestyle

The previous three blogs have dealt with telomeres, stem cells and lifestyle as a theme. In this blog you find summaries from three talks at the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine In Las Vegas (Dec. 10-14, 2014) that dealt with telomere length and how nutrition can positively influence what our genes express, which ultimately determines how long we live. This is at the center of anti-aging medicine and this is why I dealt with it in some detail.

1) Dr. Theodore Piliszek: “Personalized Genetics: Applying Genomics to General Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Modification”

The individual’s metabolism is different from one person to the next. As a result of this, one needs to match the diet one recommends for a patient to that person’s genetic make-up.

The Mediterranean diet has 20% protein, 35% fat, 45% carbs; here is the composition of other diets:

Low carb diet: 30% protein, 30% fat, 40% carbs

Low fat diet: 20-25% protein, 20-25% fat, 50-55% carbs

Balanced diet: 20% protein, 25% fat, 55% carbs

Snack only on low caloric foods; otherwise leptins react and make you hungry. A sweet tooth predisposes you to develop diabetes. Lactose intolerance is more common than previously thought. 30% of type II diabetics presently will develop dementia and Alzheimer’s is now often referred to as type III diabetes. With sugar being present in so many processed foods, this figure will likely jump to 60% in the future!

Methylation is very important for your well being. Here is a quick link to explain methylation in simple terms without getting too much into biochemical nomenclature. Having said this, vitamin B2, B6, B12 are needed for this biochemical process, SAMe is also a supplement that supports methylation.

If you do not have a longevity gene, you need to watch that you stick to organic food, stay active, may be add methylated folate and vitamin B12. Each patient should get a supplement list that is customized.

The health practitioner should ask the patient to keep a food diary for 1 week, which gives the doctor the nutritional profile including what the patient consumes in the way of drinks. Check vitamin D3 blood levels! Adequate levels of vitamin D3 are necessary for the musculoskeletal system and the immune system. Endurance training is important up to age 45. Beyond that age emphasis should be on isometric exercises (weight lifting).

Dr. Piliszek stated that the life expectancy in the US is falling behind many other countries. I did a quick Google check regarding life expectancy around the world as follows: US: 78.7 years; Canada: 81.2 years; France: 82.7, Italy: 82.9; Spain: 82.3; Portugal 80.37; Sweden: 81.7; Denmark: 80.05; Norway: 81.45; Germany: 80.89; Poland 76.8; Russia: 70.56. Seeing that the conference took place in the US, there is a lot of room for the US to improve habits with regard to food intake.

Dr. Piliszek stated that the normal range for hemoglobin A1C is skewed in the medical literature and the recommendations are too high; it should be: 3.8 to 4.9 %. This is very important to know for diabetics and any caregiver who looks after diabetes patients, because if you are satisfied with a hemoglobin A1C of 6.0 as still being “normal”, the diabetic patient dies prematurely of a heart attack or a stroke. Contrary to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) recommendation it is important to take note: the new normal range for hemoglobin A1C is 3.8 to 4.9%! A patient whose hemoglobin A1C is 5.5 has diabetes and needs to be treated aggressively to prevent complications associated with diabetes.

2) George Rozakis, MD: “Nutrigenomics”

This talk focused on how one could use nutrition to heal when genetic errors are present in the metabolism. This field is called “nutrigenomics”. It deals with using diet modifications and nutrients to change gene expression. Another way to express this is that with proper epigenetic changes by using the right nutrients for a person with an inherited weakness, using the right nutrients for a person with an inherited weakness can extend life. At the same time you need to avoid nutrients that would harm a person with a certain genetic weakness.

We all have inherited some minor or not so minor genetic errors in the genetic code. We are made up of 50 trillion cells with 30,000 genes and 23 pairs of chromosomes, so there are bound to be a few minor genetic code errors that make us more or less susceptible to develop disease, particularly when our telomeres are shortening with age making self-repair of many of our aging cells difficult, if not impossible.

Genes program our cells to run biochemical reactions within the cells. Correct methylation pathways are important for normal cell function. However, if there is a methylation defect, abnormalities set in and homocysteine accumulates.

With various enzyme defects you need to use appropriate supplements to normalize the metabolic defect. Vitamin B2, B6 and B12 supplementation will often stabilize methylation defects and homocysteine levels return to normal. This is important as severe, familial cardiovascular disease can be postponed this way by several years or more.

In a similar vein Dr. Rozakis mentioned that 92% of migraine sufferers have a defective methylation pathway involving histamine overproduction and they can be helped with a histamine-restricted diet.

Autism, ADHD (hyperactivity) and learning disabilities are other diseases where methylation pathway defects are present. Every patient with autism should be checked for methylation pathway defects, and appropriate supplements and diet restrictions can help in normalizing the child’s metabolic defects. DAN physicians (“defeat autism now”) are well versed in this and should be consulted.

S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) defects are another type of methylation defect, which is important in certain liver, colon and gastric cancers.

Dr. Rozakis went on to say that methylation defects lead to disbalances between T and B cells of the immune system and are important in autoimmune diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Methylation defects can also cause autoimmune thyroiditis and type 1 diabetes. They can also cause cardiac disease by raising homocysteine levels, which causes dysfunction of the lining of arteries and premature heart attacks.

Epigenetic factors through global methylation defects from vitamin B2, B6 and B12 deficiency cause many different cancers. Hypomethylation is the most common DNA defect of cancer cells.

Mental illness is another area where epigenetic factors play an important role. Depression that responds only partially or not at all to SSRI’s (antidepressants) often responds to L-methylfolate, a simple supplement from the health food store as a supplement. Similar epigenetic approaches can be used to treat psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.

With skin diseases it has come to light that atopic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, scleroderma and vitiligo are related to methylation.

When we age, certain hormones are gradually missing, which leads to menopause and andropause. This leads to impaired cell function, elevated cholesterol, arthritis, constipation, depression, low sex drive, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and fatigue. Replace the missing hormones with bioidentical ones and symptoms normalize.

Life Expectancy Is Influenced By Lifestyle

Life Expectancy Is Influenced By Lifestyle

3) Dr. Al Sears: “Telo-Nutritioneering: The latest generation of telomere modulators”.

Shortened telomeres are causing cells to behave like old cells. In the lab we can lengthen telomeres. Telomerase activated animals regrew their brains!! In the human situation the goal is to find ways to preserve the length of our telomeres in all our key organs. Alternatively this can also be reached by inhibiting the breakdown of the enzyme telomerase, which will lead to a lengthening of telomeres. In his research Dr. Sears found at least 123 nutrients, vitamins and natural compounds that will elongate telomeres, often by stimulating telomerase.

Testing for critically short telomeres (HT Q-FISH method) is clinically more important than using average telomere length tests. Dr. Sears said when a patient has been shown to have short telomeres and this patient is started on telomerase stimulating supplements, telomere lengthening can be documented within one month of starting the supplementation. Acetyl-L-carnitine and resveratrol are two substances that reliably elongate telomeres.

Vitamin C will significantly delay shortening of telomeres, which translates into delayed aging. In addition vitamin C has recently been shown to stimulate telomerase activity in certain stem cells. There is an herb, called Silymarin extract, which was found to increase telomerase activity threefold. N-acetyl cysteine is a building block for glutathione, a powerful ant-oxidant. In addition it has been shown to turn on the human telomerase gene. Other telomerase stimulators are green tea extract, ginkgo biloba, gamma tocotrienol (one of the components of the vitamin E group), vitamin D3 and folic acid.

Dr. Sears suggested that we should take the following supplements and vitamins for “telo-nutritioneering” (alphabetically arranged) with recommended dosages:

Acetyl L-carnitine: 1,000 mg daily; alpha tocopherol: 400 IU daily; folic acid: 2 mg to 5 mg daily; gamma tocotrienol: 20 mg minimum daily; ginkgo biloba: 40 mg to 80 mg daily (cycle every 4 to 6 weeks); green tea (EGCG): 50 mg daily; L-arginine: 500 mg to 1,000 mg daily; N-acetyl cysteine: 1,800 mg to 2,400 mg daily; resveratrol: 10 mg to 20 mg daily; silymarin: 200mg twice daily; vitamin C: 540 mg minimum daily; and vitamin D3: 2,000 IU daily.

Even if you are only taking 5 or 6 of these twelve telomerase boosters daily, you are doing well, particularly if you are also watching your lifestyle (regular exercise, not smoking, cutting out excessive alcohol intake and avoiding sugar).

Conclusion

This is only the beginning of rethinking epigenetic treatment approaches. For too long organized medicine has used a “cookie-cutter” approach of diagnosing and treating diseases. Now we are realizing that changes in hormones and shortening of telomeres with aging can cause inflammation and premature deaths. The future of medicine, which has already started, uses nutritional changes, vitamins and supplements, bioidentical hormone replacements and exercise to stabilize cell metabolism and postpone age-related diseases.

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Apr
19
2014

Measuring Your Heart Function

Recently I came across a book by Dr. Steven Masley, cardiologist (fellow of the American Heart Association, see Ref.1). The heart’s function is to pump your blood reliably all your life. It is a complicated organ, but it works well, if we treat it well. Western medicine has taught us that with complicated machinery and tests we can assess how the heart is doing. But until recently there was no reliable easier way to assess our cardiac health function. The purpose of this blog is to summarize a three-pronged approach to measure your heart and blood vessel health. It is described in detail in Ref.1, but I doubt that many people have yet read this important reference book. It is also important to FIRST see your doctor whether you are able to do the Bruce protocol (treadmill test, the third component below). If you neglect to be cleared by your doctor you run the risk of possibly getting angina pains or getting a heart attack.

1. Carotid IMT or carotid intimal-medial thickness test: You measure the degree to which there is hardening of the coronary arteries indirectly by measuring the thickness of the lining of the carotid arteries (carotid IMT or carotid intimal-medial thickness test). Dr. Masley has showed over a period of 10 years and more in many patients at his Health Center that there is a close correlation between the degree of coronary artery hardening and the degree of hardening of the carotid arteries. He stated that his research has shown that “90% of the time, the carotid arteries, the coronary arteries, and even the arteries of your legs all grow plaque at the same time”. The gold standard for checking the condition of your coronary arteries is a heart catheterization as Dr. Masley explains (page 58). But he adds: “IMT testing should be the new gold standard for cardiovascular plaque testing. However, this is not yet the case. Despite its usefulness, 95% of doctors are not ordering this screening test for their patients. You can rest assured that this is a situation I am to change“.

Measuring Your Heart Function

Measuring Your Heart Function

2. A detailed lipid analysis called the VAP test: A detailed laboratory test analyzing your lipid fractions (LDL, HDL, total cholesterol and VAP test). The buoyant HDL fraction, called HDL2 is the key to having a low risk for hardening of the arteries. HDL2 is large, fluffy and is designed to remove garbage from within the lining of the arteries. Also, the cholesterol ratio is another measurement for a low risk for hardening of the arteries when it is less than 3.0. The first two tests assess how much hardening of the arteries there is present and when they are normal, there is a relative reassurance that nothing drastic (like a heart attack or stroke) should happen within the next 10 years provided you keep up a regular exercise program and healthy food intake.

3. Bruce protocol (Treadmill test): The Bruce protocol (treadmill test) is often done by a cardiologists, but can also be done through many gyms, where a trainer with experience in exercise physiology will do it. This functional test measuring cardiac output has been developed many decades back and has withstood the test of time. Here is an overview what this is. As the slope of a treadmill and the speed of the belt are increased, the heart needs to do more work to maintain blood flow to your extremities and vital organs. The trainer or exercise physiologist measures the response of the heart activity in relation to the increase of the exercise load. A complicated formula allows calculating how much your maximal cardiac output is. This test has several variations and can be complicated to understand. Essentially, the higher the numbers you can create, the better. Here is a table with various results of the VaO2max from Bruce protocols and how they are interpreted.

4. Treating abnormalities found with the three basic tests: These are the necessary tools that tell you where you are in regard to your heart function. People with heart failure should not do this third test, because their heart muscle is too weak to sustain this and they would get heart failure meaning that blood gets backed up into the lungs and there could be severe breathing problems leading to a lack of oxygen (anoxia) in the heart tissue, which in turn can cause irregular heart beats (fibrillation of the heart muscle) and a heart attack. Assume that the first two tests were within the normal limit for your age, then the Bruce protocol would give you the maximum heart output at the peak level of your treadmill test. At this point you are measuring directly the cardiac output (in other words what your heart is capable of pumping for you in a certain time unit). This measurement is what physicians call the VaO2 max  or maximal oxygen consumption. This is the best index for maximal heart capacity. If your levels are higher than normal, you have extra reserves with respect to your heart as a pump for times when you need it. If this latter tolerance test shows poor results, it usually means that you were inactive and you would benefit from an exercise program. If the first test shows hardening of the arteries more than is appropriate for your age, you would need to look at your eating habits. At the same time often the VAT values and the cholesterol ratio is off meaning that you are eating the wrong foods and it shows in your blood test results.

5. Advise regarding diet, exercise and relaxation: Dr. Masley’s book has several sections that explain what needs to be done when things are not normal. For instance, the author does not mince words when it comes to eating the right fats and cutting out sugar and starchy foods. For instance on page 199 there is a neat table that lists the fiber content of different foods. We need more fiber to slow down the absorption of sugary substances, which will minimize the insulin response following a meal. Dr. Masley also mentions that omega-3-fatty acids from fish and good seafood choices will balance the omega-6-fatty acids that would lead towards the arachidonic acid pathway, which causes arthritis, inflammation and cancer. There are many more dietary recommendations, too numerous to repeat them all here. Suffice it to say that molecularly distilled omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D 1,500 to 3000 Units daily, and magnesium supplements are all good for you heart. Vitamin K2 gets calcium out of your blood vessels and into the bone (100 micrograms per day). Other worthwhile supplements mentioned in the book are CoQ-10 (50 to 200 mg twice per day), but it would be wise to have blood levels drawn, which should be above 2.5mcg/ml to which the CoQ-10 intake could be titrated. Curcumin and Resveratrol are also recommended. Most of all, it seems that regular physical exercise such as a balanced gym program is the single most effective way to reverse hardening of the arteries as measured by the carotid IMT testing.

Conclusion: Times have changed. It used to be thought that our lives were following a one-way street downwards. During periods of malnutrition, lack of exercise, being sessile and abusing alcohol and drugs this may well be the case. However, we now know that this is reversible. Change to healthier food, start smoothies with organic vegetables in a mixer, get going and walk. Jog or use a gym to get regular exercise. Physical exercise reverses the fat deposits inside the lining of the arteries. The HDL-2 fraction rises and helps counteract the elevated LDL cholesterol. Even the mood of the person who exercises regularly becomes more stabilized. Using these simpler three tests the physicians will not need the more complicated Thallium heart scans, heart catheterization etc. These three tests described above are well worth being done every two years, so that you can monitor what’s going on with your heart and blood vessels in general. What questions do you have? You could ask them below.

More information on heart disease: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/

References: 1. Dr. Steven Masley, MD: “The 30-day Heart Tune-Up – A Breakthrough Medical Plan to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”, Center Street, A Division of Hachette Book Group Inc. New York, Boston, Nashville, USA © 2014.

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

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Mar
22
2014

Protect Yourself From Radioactivity

Even though the Chernobyl catastrophe was bad enough, it appears now the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant catastrophe was 7 to 10 times worse in terms of worldwide radioactive pollution. Even as late as Feb. 20, 2014 there was a new report of further radioactive water spill into the Pacific Ocean.

It is important that you start thinking about preparing yourself to cope with radioactive pollution.

In this blog I will briefly review the history of several radiation disasters in various parts of the world and will mention how coping mechanisms with radiation were fortuitously developed. Finally, I will summarize what you can do to reduce any damage to your health that is caused by radiation leaks.

History of the first nuclear bombs with radioactive fallout in 1945

On Aug. 9, 1945 the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Dr. Akizuki  worked at the St. Francis Hospital (Uragami Daiichi Hospital), about one mile from the epicenter. He and a staff of 20 were serving at this hospital that looked after 70 tuberculosis patients.

Miraculously all of the staff and most of the patients survived because of a vegetarian diet, which consisted of uncontaminated brown rice, fermented foods, sea algae and vegetables. Dr. Akizuki did not allow sweets of any kind. Salt was allowed as the main condiment. Everybody was fed at least one helping of a soup with fermented soy and seaweed in it (wakame miso soup). Other investigators have confirmed that in a mouse model miso soup has radio protective effects.

The staff and the patients of another hospital also one mile form the epicenter were not so lucky. Almost 100% of them died. They were not on the strict miso/seaweed diet without sugar and sweets.

Protect Yourself From Radioactivity

Protect Yourself From Radioactivity

The experience with Chernobyl

Perhaps the best way to start reviewing the Chernobyl disaster of April 26,1986 is by looking at how children fared who had been directly exposed to the radiation spill from this disaster. As this link shows about 7 million people living in the nearby area were exposed to the highest radiation exposure ever since the atomic age. The children of this population have experienced a 2,400 % increase in thyroid cancers, a 100 % increase of cancers and leukemia and a 200% increase of breast cancer. There were about 800,000 men who risked their lives when working on containing the radiation spill. 25,000 of these men have died and 70,000 are disabled. 20% of the deaths (5000 men) were due to suicide. Here is a report for those who like more details about the health consequences as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. Here are more questions and answers regarding the Chernobyl disaster.

The question is whether a similar accident could happen with any of the other nuclear power reactors. This link explains that such an accident can “only happen in a reactor operating with a Positive Temperature Effect combined with a Positive Steam Effect, and built without a containment structure to mitigate the potential atmospheric effects of a worst-case reactor accident.” It goes on to say that only the reactor in Chernobyl was this type of a reactor, the RBMK series made by the former USSR. The link above goes on to say: “All other reactors for the production of electricity, including all those in America, operate on natural Negative Temperature and Negative Steam Effects, and are encased in air-tight multi-layered containments, the integrity of which rivals that of Egypt’s pyramids.” It ends with this rather strong statement: “This being understood, it is entirely correct to say that an accident like the one that occurred at Chernobyl in 1986, will never happen anywhere else.” The same website reports in another section about the Fukushima disaster, without mentioning that this should not have happened. Nobody could have predicted the forces of nature (a double whammy of an earth quake of the magnitude 9 on the Richter scale, followed by a horrendous tsunami), which destroyed part of the nuclear power plant. From the literature it is not clear whether the government went through any major efforts to provide chelating agents, Prussian Blue and iodine salts to the affected population either in Chernobyl or in Fukushima to minimize the radiation effects from the radioactive emissions.

Part of the problem in Chernobyl was at the time that this all happened behind the iron curtain and that there was a news blackout, which only gradually improved after 1989. In Japan the problem was severe denial and underreporting on behalf of the Japanese government.

Goiania accident involving radioactive cesium-137 in Brazil

On September 13, 1987 two fellows illegally entered an abandoned private radiation treatment hospital in Goiania where a radiation unit containing cesium-137 had been used for treating cancer patients. They stole the radiation head thinking that it might  be valuable scrap metal that they could sell. They managed to sell it to a junkyard owner, Devair Ferreira.

Having a lack of insight that the radiation head would contain radioactive cesium-137, which was emanating ionizing radiation, Devair proceeded to probe for a precious metal with a screwdriver. As the details in the Wikipedia link show, shortly after a total of 112,000 people were screened for potential radiation exposure. There were 4 deaths including the junkyard owner’s wife, and his 6-year old daughter. He himself survived the incident. 249 people were significantly contaminated with cesium-137 and 1000 people had received a dose twice the amount of the yearly background radiation. 20 patients developed radiation sickness and required treatment. As this link shows the Brazilian authorities arranged treatments for  patients who had proven contact with cesium-137 with 10 Grams of Prussian Blue daily, which reduced the effective radiation exposure by 70%. This was the reason for the relatively low mortality and disability rates from this serious accident.

The Fukushima experience

Fast-forward to the latest disaster that has made clear how an earthquake of the magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale followed by an enormous tsunami in combination could lead to the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Following the catastrophe on March 11, 2011 there have been several leaks of radioactive material into the ocean, which are described here.

Dr. John Apsley II also pointed out that with the explosions in Fukushima there were also significant releases of radioactive pollution into the stratosphere that subsequently traveled around the globe. He has made it his ambition to help people minimize radiation exposure from nuclear accidents such as Fukushima.

The initial denial of the Japanese authorities caused a problem of assessing the true significance of the Fukushima incident.

As mentioned in the introduction to this blog there are still ongoing releases of radioactive material, which will eventually work their way into the oceans and into the atmosphere. Dr. Apsley II describes in detail in his book that there were 29 radioactive elements that were released into the air and into water, the main ones being Cesium-137 (and 134) Iodine-131, Plutonium-238 and 239, Strontium-89 and 90 and Uranium-234 and 238. As the body takes up these radioactive elements, they have different organ preferences and they metabolize differently so that each of them causes a certain disease pattern. Radioactive Iodine for instance causes thyroid disease and thyroid cancer, while radioactive Plutonium is causing leukemia, heart disease, lung and breast cancer, several childhood cancers and infant mortality. There is a wave of radioactive cesium-137 coming across the Pacific Ocean that will start to show on the west coast of Alaska, Canada and the US mainland by 2015 and stay peaked until 2020 and beyond.

Ref. 1 points out that it is difficult to know the real concentration of the radioactivity in the water and in the radioactive rain over the US and Canada, as government agency measurements were kept hidden or were falsified. However the author comes to the conclusion in comparing various reference sources that the radiological leak and impact of the Fukushima crisis was and is about 7-fold to 10-fold bigger than that of Chernobyl.

Depending on what story you believe, the fear mongering or the more balanced reasoning arguing that there is enough water in the ocean to significantly dilute the amount of spilled radioactivity, you may or may not eat the sushi on the West coast.

With all this noise it is unclear whether the local population made use of the simple method of chelation at home using miso soup and uncontaminated seaweed. One would hope so. But did they know that it is only effective in combination with a strict diet without sugar and starchy foods?

Protection from radioactive fallout

This brings us to toxicity studies and simple ways of how to protect you from radiation in the environment. First, you need to know how radioactive materials can enter your body. Most nuclides (that is another name for radioactive compounds) enter the body through contaminated food via the gut where they are absorbed into your blood. You can inhale gases like gaseous radioactive Iodine or Radon. Cesium, which has now leaked into the Pacific Ocean can be absorbed through your skin when you walk on a beach that is contaminated with radioactive Cesium-137 containing ocean water. Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years meaning that after 30 years it still emits 50% of today’s gamma rays (these are strong X-rays). The biological half-life of Cesium-137 in the body is 110 days. But we do not want this stuff in our bodies causing free radicals to destroy our body cells. So we need effective methods to remove radionuclides.

By reviewing the history above, we already have learnt of two effective ways to remove such radionuclides: Miso soup with seaweed in Nagasaki; and Prussian Blue in Brazil. Prussian Blue works on eliminating the radioactive Cesium-137 before it is absorbed from the gut into the blood. It disappears from the body with bowel movements and also in the urine. However, it should only be taken, when there is proven food contamination with Cesium-137 as it can seriously affect your potassium levels, which could cause serious side effects to your heart. A physician knowledgeable in the use of Prussian Blue can monitor your potassium levels and follow you along.

In comparison to that it is easy to implement dietary habits as was done in Nagasaki:  miso soup and seaweed can be consumed without any side effects. So, why is it important to avoid sugar and starchy foods? The reason is that sugar oxidizes your cholesterol and any tissue it comes in contact with. It also causes the pancreas to overproduce insulin, which causes an inflammatory reaction. Cesium-137 also causes an extreme inflammation in your body, because of the free radicals that are caused from the gamma radiation of cells. Add to this a situation where there is a fire burning inside of your body (inflammation from sugar and starch consumption) and you have a recipe for disaster, comparing it to dumping gasoline into a fire. Inflammation is amplified ,and the radioactive Cesium-137 causes havoc in your system. You quench the fire when you do not eat sugar and starch and you give it an extra dousing by taking chelating agents (miso soup with seaweed), which removes the radioactive Cesium-137. The successful outcome of Dr. Akizuki’s treatments in his hospital in Nagasaki speaks volumes.

There are a number of other useful antioxidants like melatonin, vitamin C, and glutathione. Co-Q10 supports the mitochondria and protects cholesterol from being oxidized. But other substances are also useful. Cabbage contains isothiocyanates that will bind radionuclides before they are even absorbed from the gut. Edible clays, like calcium bentonite works similar to Prussian Blue, but it also supplies extra calcium for the body. For further details consult Ref. 1, which contains a lot more details.

Conclusion

The surprising twist for me when I researched this topic was the fact that what is good for your heart, what prevents Alzheimer’s disease and what helps you to live longer also helps you to cope with processing and eliminating radioactive pollutants. When we adopt a healthier lifestyle now, we are at the same time preparing ourselves for the worst nuclear pollution.

More information on vitamins, minerals and supplements: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/vitamins-minerals-supplements/

Reference

1. Dr. John W. Apsley II : “Fukushima Meltdown & Modern Radiation: Protecting Ourselves and Our Future Generations” © 2011. Temet Nosce Publications, Sammamish, WA 98075

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Feb
01
2014

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

Researchers found that heavy alcohol use in males during midlife paves the way to memory loss from dementia later in life.

I thought that this would be a good topic to review the effect of alcohol in general. Alcohol is a known cell poison, yet cardiologists keep on referring to the beneficial effects of that 1 glass of wine per day that will prolong your life. I will attempt to explain these diverse effects, where small amounts are supposed to be good for you while high amounts can be very damaging.

Review of the effects of alcohol

50% of the world population drinks alcohol, 10% to 20% have chronic alcoholism (Ref.1).  Just recently a Guardian news study was released showing that an astounding 25% of Russian men die before reaching the age of 55, compared to only 7% of men in the United kingdom and less than 1% of men in the US. The study looked at the effects of consuming large amounts of vodka.  There are about 10 million chronic alcoholics in the US. Chronic alcohol consumption leads to 100,000 deaths every year in the US. More than 50% of these deaths are from traffic accidents, the rest from medical problems caused by alcohol (Ref.1). Most of the alcohol gets detoxified through the liver cells and is metabolized into acetaldehyde. This involves the cytochrome P-450 system. That means that when a person also takes narcotics, sedatives or psychoactive drugs that are also metabolized through this liver enzyme system drugs and alcohol are taking much longer to be metabolized. This can lead to lethal overdoses that we hear about on TV all the time, hence the warning that you must not mix alcohol with drugs.

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

Alcohol is a cell and nerve poison. The most vulnerable organs in the body are the liver, brain, heart, pancreas, bone marrow and stomach. So, here are a number of conditions caused by drinking alcohol:

a)    Anemia: When a person drinks heavily and regularly anemia shows up in a blood test. Alcohol has a toxic effect on the bone marrow, which interferes with the production of red blood cells. But certain vitamins required by the bone marrow to manufacture red blood cells are often also missing in the diet of an alcoholic, which contributes to anemia as well.

b)    Cirrhosis of the liver develops in 10% to 20% of heavy drinkers. With cirrhosis part of the liver cells get replaced by fibrotic tissue and in advanced cases this can lead to a hepatic coma and death. Others are developing alcoholic hepatitis. This is an inflammation of the liver with fever and jaundice where the skin and eyeballs turn yellow. It is associated with severe abdominal pain.

c)    Gastritis: Alcoholic gastritis is common, but often undetected. The affected individual may just have stomach pains for a few days, or vomit food and/or blood in addition. With continued use of alcohol it may turn chronic. Alcoholic gastritis can turn into gastric ulcers with massive bleeding that often lead to death.

d)    Pancreatitis: The pancreas is a particularly vulnerable glandular tissue, which gets damaged by regular alcohol intake and with chronic alcohol intake gets partially replaced by fibrotic tissue causing the feared and painful chronic pancreatitis. This is a condition with vomiting and severe abdominal pains that can be unrelenting.

e)    High blood pressure, seizures, dementia, depression, heart irregularities and nerve damage:

You may ask yourself how all of these conditions would be reasonably under one heading. The heading for this is “nerve damage”. Let me explain: The sympathetic nerve is very sensitive to alcohol toxicity and when the sympathetic nerve fibers are damaged, you will develop high blood pressure. You see your physician, get blood pressure medication, but the pressure is difficult to control, if you continue to drink alcoholic beverages. It does not make sense to just add blood pressure pills and hope that this will cure your problem. Seizures are due to direct nerve damage in the more sensitive parts of the brain, which will cause these areas to produce extra electrical activities, which we call seizures. Again, just treating with anti-seizure medications is not the solution. Avoidance of alcohol is the other part of the treatment schedule. Dementia from heavy alcohol use is due to direct nerve atrophy in the brain. Our brain shrinks normally 1.9% to 2.8% per decade, depending on which research papers you read. But in the presence of heavy drinking the frontal lobe of the brain is particularly vulnerable to brain shrinkage.

As this publication shows, mild and moderate drinkers did not suffer more frontal lobe shrinkage than abstainers, but heavy drinkers had a 1.8-fold higher risk of frontal lobe shrinkage on average when compared to abstainers. It was calculated that alcohol had contributed 11.3% to that frontal lobe shrinkage.

The rest of the toxic effect on the nerve tissue explains why depression would develop. The frontal brain contains most of the serotonin producing nerve cells. When serotonin-producing nerve fibers get damaged, the body does not produce enough serotonin to prevent depression from setting in; GABA producing cells often also get damaged, which causes anxiety. It’s not good enough to just prescribe anxiolytic drugs to which the patient will get addicted. The whole person needs to be treated, and abstinence from alcohol has to be part of the program.

Heart irregularities (atrial fibrillation, ventricular fibrillation) can be life-threatening complications due to the toxic effect of alcohol on the nerve fibers within the heart muscle. Emergency physicians are aware of the connection of these conditions to alcohol consumption. Some people’s hearts are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than others. The most common cause of temporary atrial fibrillation is excessive alcohol intake (holiday heart) according to Ref. 2.

Finally there is the effect of alcohol on nerves in the body. This explains that heavy alcohol consumers can come down with painful pins-and-needles sensations in their hands and feet or with numbness or loss of muscle strength. When the parasympathetic nervous system is affected embarrassing incontinence or constipation can result. Erectile dysfunction in men is also very common. Viagra and continuing to drink is not the solution.

f)      Gout: This painful formation of uric acid crystals in joints can be precipitated in sensitive individuals by consuming alcohol in combination with eating large helpings of beef. There may be a history of gout in the family. Treatment for this is to refrain from alcohol and avoid foods that are leading to uric acid production when ingested.

g)    Cancer: When the body detoxifies alcohol in the liver, the breakdown product is acetaldehyde, which is a known cancer producing substance. A whole array of cancers are known, which come from heavy, chronic alcohol consumption: cancers in the mouth, larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver and colorectal cancer have all been linked to excessive alcohol intake.

h)    Cardiovascular disease: heart attacks and strokes can be caused particularly by binging; it is thought that binging makes platelets from the blood more sticky so they clump together and cause blood clots, which in turn leads to heart attacks and strokes.

i)      Infections: Alcohol weakens the immune system, which is another effect on the bone marrow similar to causing anemia, except that this is the toxic effect on the white blood cells and lymphocytes. Heavy alcohol consumers are more prone to pneumonia, to HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and tuberculosis.

Cardiology view of preventative alcohol

Despite all of these hair raising toxic effects cardiologists have painted the rosy picture that 1 glass of wine for women and 2 glasses of wine for men per day will prevent heart disease. What is the true story here?

Ref.2 points out that there are about 100 prospective studies that confirm that there is an inverse relationship between mild to moderate alcohol consumption and “heart attack, ischemic stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes”. It describes further that the reduction of risk in these various studies was persistent and consisted of a 20% to 45% risk reduction. Using blood tests investigators have found that this is because of an increase of HDL cholesterol, reducing blood clotting, making platelets less sticky and reducing inflammation as evidenced by a reduction of the C-reactive protein. Further research has pinpointed that it is the phenols and resveratrol that are contained in alcoholic beverages that are responsible for the beneficial effects. The bad news is that three glasses of wine or more do the opposite, so does binge drinking. Unless you are extremely disciplined and never increase your allowed limit (1 drink for women, 2 drinks for men) you will CAUSE heart disease rather than PREVENT it (Ref.2). Some people have a family history of breast cancer or colon cancer and they should avoid alcohol altogether; also people coming from alcoholic families should avoid alcohol.

Conclusion

Where does this leave us with regard to prevention of heart attacks, strokes and hardening of the arteries in the legs (peripheral vascular disease)? If you are disciplined and stick to the limits, you could prevent 20% to 45% of cardiovascular risk. The brain study mentioned in the beginning of the blog would also confirm that there was no difference between dementia or brain shrinkage when mild to moderate drinkers were compared to abstainers over 10 years. What is not told by the wine industry is that the same effects that prevent cardiovascular disease in mild to moderate drinkers can also be achieved by natural means: exercising regularly will raise your protective HDL cholesterol; taking ginkgo biloba, flax seed and omega-3 fatty acids thins your blood and the platelets are getting less sticky; omega-3 reduces inflammation and resveratrol elongates telomeres making you live longer. At the A4M conference in Las Vegas in December 2011 there were three speakers who pointed out that even small amounts of alcohol will poison mitochondria of your cells and interfere with normal hormone action. This was enough to make me join those who abstain alcohol completely. One thing has not yet been investigated in long-term studies, namely how small effects of alcohol may affect the body over several decades and over an entire lifetime. Despite all the promises of interest groups that red wine is a trendy drink for those interested in heart health, the fundamental long-term studies are missing. What does a guy do with a healthy heart and a brain that is not functioning too well? I just do not want to be the guinea pig in that worldwide study.

More information on alcoholism: http://nethealthbook.com/drug-addiction/alcoholism/

References:

  1. Kumar: Robbins and Cotran: Pathologic Basis of Disease, Professional Edition, 8th ed. © 2009 Saunders
  2. Bonow: Braunwald’s Heart Disease – A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed. © 2011 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Jan
11
2014

From Inflammation To Heart Attacks, Strokes And Arthritis

Have you ever wondered why people who limp from arthritis in their hip also often get heart attacks? And have you ever wondered why people with high blood pressure get strokes and/or heart attacks?

It is not that difficult to understand, although many people do not like to hear the truth.

After the holidays with lots of sweet presents and rich food it is a good time to reflect about the internal connections between our organs.

Let’s follow what foods can do to our system, then you will understand what to do to get out of a trap, where food is not friendly but damaging to your body.

1.    Sugar, omega-6 fatty acids and trans fats enter your system

When you opened the cheap chocolate bars, ate the pastas, the turkey gravy and the ice cream for dessert, your stomach faithfully digested all that food and broke it down into glucose (a simple sugar), omega-6 fatty acids and highly reactive trans fat with free radicals (from deep fried foods, margarine, shortening, pie crusts, cake mixes, frostings and non dairy coffee creamers just to mention a few).  Within ½ hour the sugar molecules from the digested meal will enter your blood stream.

2.    The metabolism sets in

We know from years and years of research that the glucose in the blood triggers the release of insulin from the pancreas, which facilitates absorption of sugar into your liver and muscles where it is stored as glycogen. This is meant to be a storage form of sugar, just in case you do not eat for a few hours, but need energy to burn for your physical activity. When you have saturated the glycogen storage in liver and muscles, your liver metabolizes sugar into fatty acids and triglycerides. There is the transport LDL cholesterol that is supposed to supply the brain and heart with healthy cholesterol for these organs to replace cell membranes. Instead, the LDL cholesterol that is supposed to be balanced by the protective HDL cholesterol gets oxidized from the extra sugar and from the free radicals of the TRANS fats that are now being outlawed by the FDA for exactly that reason. So, the oxidized LDL cholesterol turns into the vicious VDLDL particles, which can be measured as a special blood test by your doctor. The overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids start an internal fire by stimulating the arachidonic acid pathway, which causes inflammation in your arteries, your joints and your immune system.

From Inflammation To Heart Attacks, Strokes And Arthritis

From Inflammation To Heart Attacks, Strokes And Arthritis

3.    The consequences of eating foods which spike your blood sugar levels

The end result is hardening of your arteries and the beginning of arthritis in your joints. Mind you, this does not happen overnight, but when you eat this way decade after decade it takes its toll. Typically in your forties or fifties you will notice some swollen knuckles. Don’t just let this happen. Think that this is a sign that something is festering in you! If you don’t interfere, there could be one wrong move, when you play sports and a meniscal tear in your knee could put an end to the fun. Sure, you will find a reason that the angle of your jump was unfortunate and this was simply enough for your meniscus to tear. But could it be that there were inflammatory changes in your meniscus long before this incident, the meniscal material softened up, dried up because of a lack of proper nourishing synovial fluid? I found when I was in primary care practice that this was what caused the majority of meniscal tears. A normal meniscus does not tear easily, but decades of malnutrition will lead to these hidden changes, where a meniscus can be softened and is prone to damage without a warning.

Arthritis in your joints is similar to the process of what I described regarding meniscal degeneration. An imbalance of the omega-6/omega-3 ratio where people take in 12 to 16 times as much omega-6 fatty acids from processed food compared to omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or fish consumed, causes inflammation of the joints via the arachidonic acid metabolism.

What about the arteries? It is no secret that many people in their 60’s have suddenly an episode of chest pain that leads to a referral to a cardiologist who will do a heart catheterization. A stent or two may have to be placed because of hardening and narrowing of the coronary arteries. In many trials where people with coronary artery disease were followed laboratory tests showed that these individuals had low 25-hydroxy-vitamin D levels in their blood and the calcium that was meant to make their bones strong, ended up in the arteries. Vitamin K2 is often also missing because of malnutrition.

People with high blood pressure often do not have enough nitric oxide production from their arteries, because they do not eat enough vegetables, they are too sessile and they eat too many sweets and starchy foods. As a result  the liver overproduces triglycerides and fat, and oxidized LDL cholesterol damages the lining of the arteries. Just treating high blood pressure with blood pressure lowering medications will not correct the underlying metabolic disbalance. This is why people who had 2 or three stents for coronary artery hardening will come back 5 or 10 years later and need more stents until they die of a full-blown heart attack. You must stop the underlying metabolic derangement, if you want to prevent further deterioration.

4.    Inflammation takes its toll

But what do the lining of the arteries, the inflamed joints, a degenerative meniscus and heart attacks and strokes have in common? It is the INFLAMMATION that changes the body chemistry. It gets even more complicated, because the extra calories that we consume get stored as visceral fat. This is done automatically when you eat too much sugar and starchy foods as you may have done over the holidays. Remember, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, and our genetic make-up is still the same. So, when the glycogen stores are full, any surplus sugar gets metabolized by the liver into triglycerides, fatty acids and LDL cholesterol and gets stored as body fat. The most active fat is the visceral fat between our guts and around our body organs. This produces interleukins and other inflammatory cytokines that circulate in the blood causing inflammation in all our arteries.

This is the link between the various manifestations of inflammatory conditions in our bodies. We rarely think of all of these various conditions as being linked. We concentrate on each disaster as it strikes, but think that it is only a one-point-in-time event. We do not see the years of abuse of our bodies that have preceded any of these events.

5.    Disaster strikes in different ways

We usually hear about a person who just got a heart attack. Now it is an emergency!  Nobody thinks about the years of inappropriate food intake and the lack of exercise that led up to this heart attack event.

The same is true for a sudden stroke. The patient arrives at the hospital in an ambulance and cannot move one arm and one leg. Initially the patient may be unconscious. There is too much action required by the emergency personnel to ask the question why it had to come to this. The truth though is that the blood vessel deterioration in the brain vessels that led to the stroke have quietly happened years before the acute event.

And then there is the aging 75-year-old man with a stiffening hip and arthritis in the hands. The inflammation has been quietly developing in the synovial membranes of the joints for more than a decade. The patient probably swallowed anti-inflammatory medications for years for arthritis symptoms, which as you guessed has not changed the underlying biochemistry. But now it has come to the point where a total hip replacement is required, just to be able to continue to walk. I have experienced that scenario in the hospital setting many times. Many patients went through the total hip replacement surgery with no problems. But other patients had their total hip replacement done and they developed a heart attack under the general anesthetic, because unbeknown to the orthopedic surgeon the patient also had severe hardening of the arteries that had not shown up on the pre-surgical electrocardiogram. A stress test or a Thallium heart scan when the patient still could exercise would have shown this hidden cardiac condition before the surgery, so that a cardiologist could have addressed this condition before the surgery. After that the total hip replacement would most likely have been uneventful.

6.Prevention is the key

The lesson to be learned from all of this is: prevent these disasters from happening in the first place. Do the following:

1) Good, balanced nutrition

2) Regular exercise.

3) Take vitamins and mineral supplements for bone health.

4) As you age, have your hormones measured and replace what is missing.

5) Avoid toxins. Use detoxification.

6) Avoid junk foods.

I have covered these topics in many blogs before as indicated in the above links.

Conclusion

Health disasters are mostly not accidental, but are rather caused by not paying attention to the silent metabolic changes based on improper nutrition and a lack of exercise, which could also be termed as a lack of prevention. It takes some time, often even some suffering to understand the deeper meaning of what I discussed above (that prevention is much more powerful on the long-term than curative medicine). I speak from experience having worked in the medical field for more than 30 years. Curative medicine will take care of an emergency, but the underlying inflammation and metabolic derangement will persist, if this is not changed through the steps mentioned above. Treat inflammation and LDL oxidation by modifying your lifestyle. Think prevention!

More information on inflammation medicine: http://www.askdrray.com/chronic-inflammation-causes-cancer-heart-attacks-and-more/

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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