Mar
29
2014

Alternative Treatment Of Hyperactivity (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD or ADD, attention deficit disorder) has been in the spotlight on and off over the years. It affects 8% to 10% of school-aged children, and about 2% to 5% of adults who still have this condition.

Typically a parent receives a note from school that they must come to a teacher/parent meeting and it is discussed that the child is disruptive in class, not paying attention, interrupting the teacher inappropriately and forgetting to do their homework. The teacher suggests that this may be a sign of hyperactivity. The school nurse is also of this opinion and they suggest getting a prescription for Ritalin or Adderall (amphetamine type medications), drugs that have been shown in other kids to be fairly effective in treating the symptoms.

Next the child is seen by the doctor who confirms the diagnosis and Ritalin (methylphenidate) is prescribed.

In an attempt to quickly control the situation, the side effects of Ritalin are often not discussed in detail: agitation, insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite, palpitations, dizziness, headaches, an increase in the heart rate, blood pressure elevation, and even psychosis (Ref.1).

It is easy to just write a prescription for Ritalin and hope that all is well. Had the parents heard of all the possible side effects, they may have asked whether there were alternative treatments available.

The causes of hyperactivity (ADHD)

The exact cause of ADHD remains unknown, but there is a clustering of this condition in some families, so there seems to be a clear genetic component (Ref.2). It appears that several genes are involved, namely those associated with serotonin and glutamate transporters, but also those affecting dopamine metabolism. Males are affected with ADHD more often than females (in children 3:1, in adults 1:1).

Alternative Treatment Of Hyperactivity (ADHD)

Alternative Treatment Of Hyperactivity (ADHD)

Some remarks regarding brain development are in order: Dr. Kharrazian describes that the grey matter of the brain develops before the age of 9 and the development of the white matter is completed by the age of 19 (Ref. 3, p.3). In ADHD patients the frontal brain is underdeveloped resulting in an inability to suppress unacceptable behavior, immediate desires and impulses. Prescription drugs may alter the behavior on the surface, but the frontal brain development is still lagging behind. The only thing that can influence this is behavioral/cognitive therapy and extra tutoring while the symptoms are controlled. The window of opportunity is closed by the time the ADHD patient has reached the age of 19. After that a juvenile ADHD turns into a permanent adult ADHD. The cases that had only childhood ADHD and outgrew it were the ones where the frontal lobe abnormalities had corrected themselves before the age of 19.

This review article has noted that there is an association between a Western style diet (sugar and fat rich) and ADHD.

Interestingly both Ref. 1 and 2, which I would categorize as having originated from mainstream conventional medicine circles, deny such an association. But the link also noted that a healthy diet with fiber, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids as well as supplementation with iron and zinc when these minerals are found to be low in the blood, do make a significant difference in ADHD patients towards normalization of their symptoms.

One of the under diagnosed causes of ADHD is gluten sensitivity as Dr. Perlmutter described in his book (Ref. 4, pages 150-158). This can spare the child or teenager the toxic side effects of anxiolytics, antidepressants or antipsychotics that may be inappropriately prescribed by their physicians, and a gluten free diet would allow the brain to recover very quickly in such cases. A food sensitivity history and some simple gluten sensitivity blood screening tests will diagnose this condition or rule it out.

To complicate matters even more, Dr. Amen has mentioned in several books that there are at least 7 different subcategories of ADHD that he has found in ADHD patients when studying thousands of single-photon emission computed tomography brain scans (SPECT brain scans). Dr. Amen mentions that the 7 subcategories of ADHD are the combined type ADD, the primarily inattentive ADD subtype, overfocused ADD, temporal lobe ADD, limbic ADD, ring of fire ADD and trauma induced ADD. Dr. Amen explains that each of these types needs to be treated differently and some of the treatment failures are explained by the fact that the wrong type of ADD was treated (Ref.5).

Treatment of ADHD

In the following I mention 5 steps that are useful for treating ADHD patients.

  1. A first step toward normalization of the metabolic changes in the brain metabolism of the affected child or adult is to adopt a diet that has been linked with low risk for ADHD: avoid food additives, cut out refined sugar, avoid known food allergies like gluten sensitivity and others. You may need to test the patient for food allergies using an elimination diet. Add a good amount of molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acids (the pure form of omega-3 without mercury, lead or PCBs) as this has shown beneficial effects in ADHD patients.
  2. Involve a behavioral psychologist for behavioral/cognitive therapy treatments. This is particularly effective in the 9 to 19 year old category where the frontal region of the brain is still developing.
  3. Work together with the schoolteacher and get supplemental teaching in areas of academic weakness to reduce the frustrations in the classroom setting.
  4. In adolescent girls who just started their period, a relative lack of progesterone (estrogen dominance) may be a contributory factor. A small dose (20mg to 30 mg) of bioidentical progesterone from day 6 to 16 of the menstrual cycle may help significantly in alleviating the symptoms of ADHD. You may need to consult a naturopathic doctor or anti-aging physician to get a prescription for that.
  5. If all of this helps only marginally, then a smaller amount of Ritalin may be helpful; however, blood tests should be drawn from time to time to monitor for drug toxicity as the rate of absorption and elimination of the drug varies significantly from patient to patient.

It is interesting that studies have shown that a combination of Ritalin or Adderall with alternative treatment methods had a better outcome than either method alone.

Conclusion

It is important to think about the various possible causes of ADHD and not just get caught up in the knee-jerk reflex of treating ADHD with Ritalin (note that this was only step 5 above, if all the other things failed). In co-operation with the school system and using alternative ways at home first (change of diet, possible addition of low dose bioidentical progesterone cream in girls) and additional tutoring in weak school subjects the need for Ritalin may be avoided. If all else fails, the conservative approach is still available, but I suggest that drug monitoring (blood levels that should be done from time to time to avoid toxicity) is important.

More information about ADHD: http://nethealthbook.com/mental-illness-mental-disorders/developmental-disorders/attention-deficithyperactivity-disorder/

References

1. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2014, 1st ed., © 2013 Mosby.

2. Jacobson: Psychiatric Secrets, 2nd ed., © 2001 Hanley and Belfus

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

4. David Perlmutter, MD: “Grain Brain. The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers.” Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013.

5. Daniel G. Amen: “Use Your Brain To Change Your Age” © 2012, Harmony Books, An imprint of Crown Publishing.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Mar
15
2014

Mold Allergies Often Overlooked

In a recent news story extensive mold infestation was found in a house that had oriented strand boards (OSB) instead of plywood walls. The house also was tightly sealed trapping moisture, which contributed to the extensive mold problem.

Mold problems have been around for centuries, but only in the past few decades allergists  have pointed out to their patients how important it is to prevent this from happening.

In the following I will review a few typical scenarios that can lead to mold accumulation.

1. Mold from airtight house construction

The homeowner described in the link above is not the only case in the world that has a mold problem. Energy efficient homes are popular because they save energy costs; homeowners often also respond to gas companies, electric utility companies and government incentives to convert to airtight home construction.

In the 1980’s the construction industry introduced the cheaper OSB products to replace the more expensive plywood for wall construction. This is often the problem with newer house construction. However, older homes are not immune to mold development.

2. Roof leaks in older homes

Older homes that were built in the 1970’s may have plywood walls and have a bit of airflow from poorer wall construction, which would prevent mold formation. But roofs are older and do not always get replaced right away when a leak is detected. It may even take some time in areas where there is less precipitation before it is picked up during a particularly heavy rainstorm. Water that enters from a leaky roof can form a puddle on top of the ceiling where mold softens the drywall material until a leak in the ceiling causes water to drip down onto the floor. The mold spores multiply particularly well in wall-to-wall carpeting, but OSB material is also a good growth opportunity for molds due to the mini air spaces between the glued wood pieces. Plywood with its several tight layers is much more resistant to water penetration and mold growth.

Mold Allergies Often Overlooked

Mold Allergies Often Overlooked

3. Mold growth after hurricanes

After hurricane Sandy images of “black mold” were frequently shown in the media. The problem is that after 48 hours anything that was in contact with water produces mold. However, often with disasters like hurricanes there are evacuation orders and you cannot return to your home for several days. There may be further delay because there is a waiting period for insurers to assess the amount of damage, before you can clean all surfaces affected by mold.

The end is result often that expensive mold sanitation is needed or the person ends up moving away and the house is levelled before a new house can be built.

4. Effects of molds

People with preexisting allergies and asthma are more susceptible to the effects of molds. It leads to itchy eyes, wheezing, coughing, and exacerbation of asthma.

Here is a brief overview what the CDC is stating about mold. This site also explains that you can recognize a mold problem because of a musty smell or foul stench in the air and because of the appearance (discoloration of ceilings or walls, water damage).

You can clean hard surfaces with bleach water. Bleach kills molds, but it may have to be cleaned several times within a few days to get rid of the last spores. Whatever cannot be sanitized in this way must be removed or replaced.

5. Health concerns regarding molds

Ref. 1 reviewed the public concern about the toxic effects of molds. It noted that with the Internet and the popular press having exaggerated some of the connections of symptoms with mold allergies, the term “mold madness” has been coined (Ref.2). Despite the paranoia in the general public about toxins from molds, there is only a small percentage of the population that is sensitive to molds where IgE antibodies and IgG antibodies against molds can be determined through blood tests. These individuals often are also allergic to other environmental allergens like grass pollen and dust mites. The asthmatic reactions in sensitive people are not as severe as what peanut traces would do to peanut sensitive patients, but skin testing and blood test screening for specific IgE and IgG antibodies do often confirm that sensitive people indeed can have specific mold allergies. In the vast majority of people these tests are negative and correlations between mold infestations and allergic reactions could not be verified (Ref.1).

6. Fixing mold damage and dealing with allergies

It follows from this that you should remove any visible molds and fix whatever the cause was for its appearance. Carefully disinfect the areas with diluted bleach water (the CDC recommends 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water) several times. Make sure the areas are dry and not musty otherwise you  have  work on improving ventilation. If you are not one of these hypersensitive persons, there is nothing to worry further. However, if you are hypersensitive an allergist should examine you. Common indoor molds that cause the so-called “immediate type hyper reactivity” are due to the mold species Aspergillum and Penicillium. Most outdoor molds that can cause problems for sensitive people are due to Alternaria and Cladosporium species. The latter would be the ones found in carpets after a leaky roof has caused problems. When the allergist has found specific allergies to one or several of the mold species, allergy shots may be prescribed that would have to be given weekly to the sensitive person who was found to have environmentally induced asthma. Often it takes several years for these desensitization shots to stop the affected person from reacting  to molds. In some cases patients need to stay on these shots life-long.

Conclusion

The key with regard to mold allergies is to prevent mold growth by being vigilant about detecting early problems with leaky roofs, walls and cleaning up water damage right away. When there is a musty tell- tale smell, investigate right away and remedy the problem. For most people this is the end of the story. However, a small percentage of very sensitive people need to consult with an allergist who should investigate whether or not these people would benefit from allergy injections.

In some rare cases the affected person may have to relocate to another house that is free from molds.

More information about asthma: http://nethealthbook.com/lung-disease/asthma-introduction/

References

1.Shannon: Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed. Copyright 2007 Saunders

2. Zacharisen MC, Fink JN: “Is indoor “mold madness” upon us?” Ann. Allergy Asthma Immun. 2005; 94:12-13.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Mar
08
2014

Protecting Yourself From Environmental Toxins

These days you need to be aware of protecting yourself from environmental toxins. Environmental toxins are toxins that may be in your drinking water, in what you eat, in the air you breathe, or they enter your body through your skin when you swim in contaminated water or walk on a sandy, wet beach.

In the following blog I will address some of these issues and how we can defend ourselves against toxins.

The youngest and most vulnerable

Toxins are particularly bad for infants and premature babies. Notably, the reasons for this are the following ones: their kidney function (tubular secretion) is only 20% to 30% of that of an adult; the cytochrome P-450 enzyme system in the liver, one of the toxin eliminators is slowed down to only 25% to 50% of the adult activity and glucuronidation in the liver, another detoxification process, reaches adult levels only at the age of 3 years.

Function of liver and kidneys

It is important to realize that the kidneys and the liver are limiting the removal of toxins by way of urine and bile in the newborn. Stomach acidity in a premature has a pH of 4.7, in a full-term newborn 2.3–3.6 and in an adult 1.4–2.0. This is important to note as a lack of stomach acid increases susceptibility of newborns and infants to gastrointestinal infections and cause diarrhea. Percutaneous absorption in newborns is much higher than in adults, which makes them very susceptible to absorbing toxins through the skin (Ref.1).

Diabetes from environmental toxins

Environmental toxins can cause insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to make polycarbonate and epoxy resins and is found primarily in food and beverage containers. People all around the world had exposure to BPA  since 1957 and as a result 90% of US residents have detectable levels of BPA in their urine. Ref.2 explains that the higher the urine concentration of BPA, the higher the risk is for developing diabetes.

Persistent organic pollutants are another source of concern: pesticides and herbicides, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, hexachlorobenzene, and hexachlorocyclohexane have all been found in humans. Several investigators have shown that virtually all of the risk in obese patients to develop diabetes comes from the fat-soluble persistent organic pollutants (Ref.2).

Inorganic arsenic

Inorganic arsenic is another pollutant from soil and rock, which finds its way into the drinking water. About 8% of the public water system of the US exceeds 10 mcg/L for drinking water, which is the safe limit for drinking water by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s standard. Anything above those levels is considered toxic.Ref.2 describes that people who ingest inorganic arsenic will excrete it in the urine; the highest group with arsenic in their urine had a risk of 3.58-fold to develop diabetes when compared to the lowest group. Curiously enough organic arsenic that is found in fish and shellfish is excreted in the urine unchanged and does not cause diabetes. Overall this indicates to me that nobody should consume or cook with contaminated water that contains inorganic arsenic. Reverse osmosis filters will protect you from this risk.

Protecting Yourself From Environmental Toxins

Protecting Yourself From Environmental Toxins

Other toxins around the house

Volatile organic compounds are often contained in carpets, but also in laser and inkjet printers. They are part of everyone’s life as this link shows. Physicians reported varied symptoms like irritation of eyes, nose or throat, breathing problems, headaches, loss of coordination, damage to the liver, kidneys and the brain after exposure to volatile organic compounds. Researchers noted that long-term exposure can cause cancer in animals and there is suspicion  that it causes cancer in humans as well.

Air fresheners and cleaning solutions that contain ethylene-based glycol ethers and terpenes were the subject of a study that examined concentrations in the air and interaction with ozone that can also be released by some cleaners.

Fumes of chemicals can cause lung cancer

As this link shows the investigators concluded that with exposure to high enough concentrations and long enough exposures to these fumes lung cancer can be caused in cleaning personnel. They recommended to use cleaning solutions only in diluted form and to air out the premises well after cleaning. Another component of many air fresheners and cleaning chemicals is paradichlorobenzene, the same chemical that is contained in mothballs.

There have been problems with flame retardants: polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which are cancer producing; the US outlawed them in 2004, but older mattresses, upholstery, television, computer casings and circuit boards may still contain them.

Lead and mercury poisoning, and radioactive pollutants

Lead in paints was outlawed since 1978, so manufacturers have not used lead in paints anymore. Paint from buildings older than that still may contain lead. There have been serious lead poisonings in children who were gnawing on items painted with lead containing paint. Lead causes problems with your central nervous system, brain, blood cells and kidneys. Just last year a news story about lead found in fashion jewelry surfaced warning about cheap fashion jewelry from China. Lead from these items can lead to absorption through the skin and cause lead poisoning. Because of the apparent lack of regulations in China I do not put anything into my mouth or on my skin, if it originates from China.

Mercury contamination of the environment

Mercury from tuna and other predator fish: It is sad that there is pollution in oceans to the point where it has become unsafe to eat predator fish. In predator fish there is an accumulation of mercury through the food chain.

How did things develop this way? Back 100 years and more ago gold panning and the purification process of gold caused mercury to enter into rivers and allow mercury to end up in the oceans where it has since accumulated; it just sits there as it has nowhere to go.

Coal burning (yes, there is mercury in coal) also contributed to this by smoke emission from smoke stacks containing mercury vapors. Subsequently the pollution from the air returns to earth as rain pollution and drained through the river system into the oceans.

Monomethylmercury poisoning

It is monomethylmercury that accumulates in the tissue of humans. This affects many organs, such as the brain, kidneys, lungs, and skin. It causes various symptoms like red cheeks, fingers, and toes; there can be bleeding from the mouth and ears; it can cause rapid heartbeats, high blood pressure, intense sweating, loss of hair, teeth, and nails. It also can cause blindness, loss of hearing, impaired memory, and lack of coordination, disturbed speech and birth defects. You may think all mercury comes from the outside. However, silver amalgam fillings in your teeth could also be the source of mercury poisoning. It is a good idea to replace amalgam/mercury fillings with ceramic fillings.

Other marine pollution

There are many forms of other marine pollution as this link shows.

One particular concerning aspect is pollution with radioactive materials as the Fukushima disaster in Japan has shown. Following the catastrophe on March 11, 2011 radioactive material leaked into the ocean, which is described here. Dr. John Apsley II pointed out that with the explosions in Fukushima there were also several releases of radioactive pollution into the stratosphere. This pollution has subsequently traveled around the globe and has come down as radioactive rain. He has made it his ambition to help people minimize radiation exposure from nuclear accidents such as Fukushima.

Protecting yourself from toxins

Having said that pollution and toxins are problems that we are living with, how can we protect ourselves from all of that?

1. Avoid as many unsafe chemicals around you as you can. This includes checking ingredients in hair care and body care products, toothpaste, hair dyes, cosmetics, mouthwashes and underarm deodorants.  I have written a blog about toxins in the bathroom and what you should watch for.

2. I would recommend you switch from a standard food to organic food. It has become unsafe to eat non-organic meats, leafy vegetables, vegetables and fruit. There are too many residues of herbicides and pesticides contained also in meat, not only in vegetables and fruit. Washing will not remove these substances, even though some merchants may tell you otherwise. Buyer beware!

Detoxification

3. Detoxification methods are available and I have reviewed them in this blog. Briefly, to remove lead and mercury you need to follow a formal intravenous chelation protocol.  Depending on how many heavy metal toxins you have on board, you may need only a few treatments. At the most you may require up to 20. Here is a more conservative website stating that it would be safe to have silver amalgam fillings. I think that gold and ceramic fillings are much safer.

4. Genetically modified food is another danger as I have summarized in this blog. This is another reason why I like to stick to organic food. There is evidence that GMO food causes autoimmune diseases, infertility and chronic inflammation that can eventually lead to cancer. It may take decades to prove this, but I am not willing to be a human guinea pig.

Remove toxins from your home

5. I have mentioned in a prior blog that we live in a toxic world. You need to carefully look at your home and remove toxins. You need to assess your drinking water. A water analysis can tell you how good the water in your home is and whether there are concerns about inorganic arsenic. Usually places that sell filter systems can advise you in that regard. Your drinking water should either be pure water bottles or else reverse osmosis water from a filter system in your house.

6.Vitamins and supplements support your cell integrity and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that protect you from toxins. I discussed this in detail in my NetHealthBook under nutrition. For instance vitamin D3 in doses of 5000 IU or more and CoQ-10 are powerful anti-inflammatories and CoQ-10 is also an antioxidant and preserves mitochondrial function. High fish oil supplements (3 to 6 Grams per day) have anti-inflammatory effects and protect your cell membrane integrity. With these overlapping qualities of vitamins and supplements your body will be in a much stronger position to defend itself against the negative effects of toxins. When you take multivitamins, this translates into telomere lengthening of 5.1%. This converts into a survival advantage of 9.8 years over a lifetime). Ref. 4 explains this in more detail.

Exposure to radioactive substances

7. Exposure to radioactive substances is a scary thought, but this is becoming more and more a reality, at least for those who live close to disaster areas such as the Fukushima site in Japan or the Chernobyl site in the Ukraine. But according to Dr. Apsley II low dose radiation that we have already received in the US and in Canada following the Fukushima disaster is equally disastrous (Ref.3). Many of the vitamins and supplements I have mentioned are also cell and mitochondria protective and will help with DNA repair following radiation damage, but you must avoid sugar and other refined carbs and starches to reduce the oxidative effect on cells and on LDL cholesterol to prevent premature aging and cell death. Ref. 3 contains a lot more detail about this and explains what specific supplements you can take to detoxify your system. This will remove radioactive elements that function as free radicals in your body. There are specific antidotes for radioactive iodine-129 and iodine-131, radioactive cesium-137 and others.

Conclusion

Many people shrug their shoulders when they hear that pollution has an effect on their lives. They feel that they are powerless and cannot do anything about this. The truth is far from this! Above I mentioned seven points that you can follow to counter toxins. On top of that you can get politically active and urge your government representative to create a nuclear free zone in your area. Ref. 3 contains compelling evidence why this is so important not only for us now, but for future generations and the future of mankind.

Accountability of quality of food and beverages

We need to hold those who provide us with food and beverages accountable for the quality of these. Shrugging it off is not good enough. Get involved. Buy organic food. Avoid the section in the grocery store where they sell sugar and high carb foods. It’s good for your own health, but it will collectively change the mentality of the grocery store owners where you shop. Suddenly they notice that they are now left with the comfort foods that were big sellers in the past. This new trend will result in cheaper prices for healthy foods and more availability of organic food.

References

1. Shannon: Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed. © 2007 Saunders. Chapter 18:“Toxicologic Issues in the Neonate”.

2. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2012 Saunders. Chapter 31: “Insulin Resistance and the Metabolic Syndrome”.

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

4. Xu, Qun, Parks, C.G., DeRoo, L.A., Cawthon, R.M., Sandler, D.P. and Chen, H. Multivitamin use and telomere length in women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89 (April 2009):1857-63. Full text (PDF): http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/6/1857.full?sid=9aab0e13-b4d2-42ad-b44c-15cffc6771c3

Last edited March 8, 2014

Dec
14
2013

Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

In early 1900 lung cancer was unheard of. This was before the cigarette industry started to mass-produce and market cigarettes.

However, ever since the arrival of the industrial revolution air quality has suffered. In China poor air quality has now reached such enormous values that the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has labeled poor air quality as one of the causes of lung cancer.

When you rank countries by average air pollution measurements, one sees that Europe, the US and South America overall have good ratings, whereas the Middle Eastern countries, China and India have poorer ratings.

However, when the pollution index of cities where the population is much denser than in the countries at large, are tabulated a much different picture emerges: Cities in Iran, India and Pakistan stand out as particularly bad followed by cities in China, Eastern Europe, Paris, London, Berlin, cities in California (the populous State), Chicago and New York.

Pollution does not stay local, but travels through the stratosphere around the globe. The result is that now 10 to 15% of lung cancer in the US occurs in patients who never smoked. This translates into 16,000 to 24,000 deaths annually of never-smokers in the US.

In certain cities such as Beijing the lung cancer rates have doubled in 9 years between 2002 and 2011. As this article shows lung cancer in never smokers can be caused from exposure to radon, to second-hand tobacco smoke, and other indoor air pollutants can also cause such cancers. But the outdoor air quality has been a problem ever since the industrial revolution, which started around Europe in the 1800’s and first part of the1900’s. In the latter half of the 1900’s much of the industrial wave has migrated to the Middle East, to India and China. But the air quality of the whole world has suffered as the jet stream and other air currents carry pollution in the stratosphere all around the globe.

Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

History of pollution in various regions

1. In Germany’s  Ruhr district (“Ruhrgebiet”) in North Rhine-Westphalia, a highly populated industrial area, pollution reached a peak in the late 1950’s. From 1963 onward many of the coal mines, iron ore mines and other mineral mines closed down. 50 years ago the German Chancellor, Willy Brand was concerned about the environment and promised that blue skies would return to the Ruhr district again.  A special task force was initiated and maximally allowable limits were established for industries’ pollution emissions and enforced by the German government. Government and industry were co-operating in developing anti-pollution measures, which have cleared up a lot of the pollution since. With regard to car emissions lead free gasoline was introduced and carburetors ensured more complete burning of exhaust gases. This is now common and accepted anywhere except for diesel fume exhaust, which nobody wants to address despite proven carcinogenicity.

Now Germany is one of the leaders in green technology, which is also important for tourism.

2. England has its own legacy of pollution in soil and air from the industrial revolution. The soil of moorland, which soaked up acid rain for decades, is more acidy than lemon juice and it will take a long time despite industrial complexes having closed long time ago, before the soil quality will be returned to normal.

3. Hamilton in Ontario/Canada has had a longstanding pollution problem, which I witnessed from 1976 until my departure in 1978. It is well known that Stelco, the local steel plant downtown Hamilton is sending polluting emissions into the air. In 1976 a vising professor from Australia gave an interesting talk about a study that was done at that time regarding the risk of developing bronchogenic carcinoma (a synonym for lung cancer) in the immediate surroundings of the Stelco plant. He said that this was one of the first studies to show that the distance of people’s houses from the source of pollution mattered as that determined how concentrated the air pollution was (the closer the more polluted the air). This  affected cancer rates: they were much higher in the immediate surrounding of Stelco when compared to the average rate in the rest of Hamilton. This difference was very significant within a radius of 1 kilometer (= 0.62 miles) from the Stelco plant.

Just in May of 2013 the local cancer agency of Hamilton announced that the lung cancer rate in Hamilton was higher than elsewhere in Ontario because of a combination of poor air quality and of a higher percentage of people smoking. Then in August 2013 the city of Hamilton announced a new air pollution bylaw for stricter pollution measures to improve the air quality in the downtown area. It is just a pity that Hamiltonians had to wait until 2013 before the city approved an anti-pollution bylaw that could have been passed 50 years earlier like in Germany’s Ruhr district!

4. In 2008 Pittsburg, a former steel manufacturer town like Hamilton, Ont. outdid Los Angeles with regard to small particle air pollution.

Lung cancer prevention by the authorities

As mentioned before up o15% of lung cancer is caused by environmental exposure. So, we ourselves can only prevent 85% of lung cancer by not smoking and not exposing ourselves to industrial emissions or to smoke from incense. However, in many cities around the world you will get exposed to air pollutants that are well above the safe limits, so the risk of getting lung cancer from just breathing the air there can be much higher than in rural areas where there is no industry.

Technologies to control air pollution are widely available. We need to exert pressure on politicians to show leadership around the world. Government regulations to lower emission rates need to be put into place and inspectors need to ensure the rules and regulations are adhered to. Without reducing emissions of cancer producing gases and chemicals right at the source (open burning of cuttings in orchards or burning cut trees), cutting emissions of cars, planes, ships, diesel cars, locomotives, electric generator plants etc. the air quality will not improve. Despite some costs involved industry, governments and individuals have to work together to make clean air happen.

The residents of those countries that have low pollution values will not benefit, if pollution continues to occur in other parts of the world as it just travels in the stratosphere around the globe until it arrives right here at home! We need an international pollution police. Satellites can be used to monitor where pollution occurs and this can be followed up through the local regulatory bodies with penalties and remedial actions.

What can I do personally to prevent lung cancer?

1.The most obvious step is to quit smoking and ask smokers who come to your place to smoke outside (not in your home).

2.Consider moving away from the city, if the air quality is unacceptable to a place where there is low air pollution.

3.Vitamin D3 has been shown to prevent colorectal cancer, but as there are vitamin D receptors found on the surface of various cells in tissue around the body including the lungs, many researchers feel that this vitamin in higher doses (2000 IU to 5000 IU) has probably a wider applicability in preventing cancers, even lung cancer.

4.Cutting out sugar and adopting a Mediterranean type diet is a prudent thing to do; also cutting down your calories to the maintenance you need (mildly ketogenic diet). If you bought body composition scales, it would display what your daily calorie consumption is and you should not exceed this, or else you’ll gain weight. An aging man who is overweight will experience hormone changes as fat is being metabolized and the enzyme aromatase contained in fatty tissue will turn male hormones (testosterone, DHT, androstenedione) into estrogen. Estrogen (particularly estradiol) is a known carcinogen that has been proven to cause breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. However lung cancer is also being promoted in women by estrogen as discussed in this link. In men one needs to remember that lung cells have estrogen receptors and there is concern in aging men with higher estradiol levels that this can promote cell divisions in existing lung cancer. So, it is important to maintain a normal body mass index between 21 and 24 (well below 25.0 and well above 18.5, which are the official accepted limits). This way there is no problem with insulin resistance (too high an insulin level), and other metabolic substances (cytokines, growth hormone like factors and tumor necrosis factor-alpha from body fat) that are cancer promoting.

5. If testosterone deficiency is present, which is common in older men, testosterone will have to be replaced with bioidentical hormones. It is a myth that testosterone would cause prostate cancer. Testosterone in males is necessary to maintain a normal metabolism including the immune system, which then can fight lung cancer and any other cancers.

6. Exercise and reducing beef consumption are also often mentioned in terms of preventing lung cancer.

7. Here are several recommendations from the LifeExtension Foundation that I found very useful in terms of lung cancer prevention. This link shows that antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, alpha tocopherol, the minerals selenium and zinc are also helping to reduce the lung cancer rate. Drinking green tea has also been shown to be effective in a dose-response curve manner (more tea protecting more from lung cancer). Vitamin B12 and folate have been shown to reduce abnormal bronchial cell growth in smokers as shown by repeat bronchoscopy studies.

8. Those who have been smokers in the past and those who have been around heavy smokers for more than 10 years in the past should consider having a preventative bronchoscopy done by a lung specialist (also called respirologist or pulmonologists). This way any suspicious areas with precancerous lesions can be biopsied during the procedure and attended to.

Hopeful research for new lung cancer treatments

Lung cancer is a disease that is best prevented. Once a person gets lung cancer, the prognosis is still very poor. However, cancer researchers are getting close to newer treatments involving genetically modified T-cells (killer cells) as was recently achieved for leukemia. Similar research is going on regarding ovarian cancer, melanoma, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

More information about lung cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/lung-cancer/

Conclusion

It is not acceptable to let pollution take its course , the way politicians around the globe have handled this in the past 6 decades with a few notable exceptions mentioned. We all suffer a higher risk of getting lung cancer, even if we have been life-long non-smokers. Right now up to 15% of lung cancer in most populations are of this type. However, in Beijing this number is already much higher. The technology is available; Germany has led the way in the Ruhr district in the 1960’s and beyond. In my opinion the G8 meetings should have this high on their agendas and send technological aid to all the regions that have higher than the average world pollution index under the mandate of a special UN commission. This should be supported by the major industrial players with the knowledge that they will prevent the death of millions of potential consumers down the road, which will on the long-term pay off the relatively minor investment of installing pollution controls, before lung cancer levels rise even more.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Nov
02
2013

MS Is A Multifaceted Disease

A new study was recently released that showed that MS is a multifaceted disease. A significant number of people without multiple sclerosis have narrowing of their neck veins. There is a new theory that chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency due to narrowing of veins outside the skull may be responsible in causing MS in a significant percentage of patients. Using venograms in MS patients and in controls without MS a recent study from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC showed that normal controls also had narrowing of neck veins and the authors felt that this invalidated the vascular theory of MS. This story is based on this Lancet publication.

Brain oxygenation is what counts

What was not mentioned in this publication was that venous blood flow on the surface of the brain can get obstructed inside the skull. It’s all about brain tissue oxygenation; if the brain gets enough oxygen, all is well. If there were a lack of perfusion due to venous congestion inside or outside the skull, the patient would be in trouble.  I will discuss this further below.

In this blog I will discuss first how to diagnose MS, then mention some newer studies about neck vein circulation with SPECT scanning. I will then review various causes of MS and return to a discussion of the Vancouver study from above.

How MS is diagnosed

The physician can combine a number of tests to diagnose MS. This includes the patient’s symptoms such as balancing problems, double vision, memory problems, fatigue etc. Neurological examination, imaging studies like MRI scanning, lumbar puncture to examine the cerebrospinal fluid and evoked potential studies is what a neurologist orders. The physician requires all of these findings to decide whether the criteria for making a diagnosis are in keeping with all the symptoms of MS. In 2001 an international neurological panel developed the McDonald criteria for diagnosing MS, which were revised in 2010.

MS Is A Multifaceted Disease

MS Is A Multifaceted Disease

Newer ways diagnosing perfusion problems in MS patients (SPECT scan)

One of the newer functional scans is a SPECT scan. It shows areas where there is a lack of blood supply to the brain, but can also identify areas where too much blood circulates. Here is a site where the technique of the SPECT scan is reviewed in more detail.

SPECT scan results in MS patients

SPECT scans in MS patients showed a significant reduction in blood flow to the frontal lobes and to the left temporal lobe. Reduced activity of the left temporal lobe on SPECT scans correlated with MS patients having a deficit in verbal fluency and having a problem with verbal memory. This indicates that a reduction in blood flow to these areas of the brain associates with developing MS.

Perhaps a SPECT scan of the brain (which is where the action of MS is) may be a better indicator for MS than looking for veins in the neck by ultrasound or venograms, as SPECT scans look directly at brain perfusion. The question is whether these blood circulation problems in MS patients may cause deficiencies in the brain of oxygen, nutrients and possibly of other internal mediators.

Known causes of MS

There are a number of known causes of MS, which I will review below.

Autoimmune disease

As this link shows, MS is a disease due to inflammation of the brain. The area where there is inflammation leads to demyelination from loss of the myelin sheaths, which causes the white lesions visible on MRI scans of the brain. One such cause is an allergy to wheat and wheat products. Gliadin antibodies and anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies were positive in a significant number of MS patients, but not in controls. This suggests at least in part that immunological causes are at play. I agree with this blog that describes that there is significant evidence that gluten intolerance can lead to MS and the positive tests that were found by researchers are likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Overlap of celiac disease and MS

Dr. William Davis describes in Ref. 1 and 2 that you can have celiac disease with no gut symptoms, in other words a person can develop autoimmune symptoms from gliadin and gluten sensitivity without diarrhea or bowel cramps. Dietary lectins, particularly the ones found in wheat lead to leaky gut syndrome and subsequently to autoimmune diseases. One of these autoantibodies can cause MS by destroying the myelin sheath. In a mouse model Mayo Clinic researchers have shown that an antibody injection can be used to block autoantibodies against the myelin sheath. Investigations are ongoing with regard to whether this type of treatment would work in humans as well.

Genetic factors

It is known that a human leukocyte antigen (HLA -DRB1) shows an association with the risk for developing MS. Caucasians have a higher risk of developing MS and they also carry the HLA-DRB1 antigen more often. Another genetic factor is a variation of the IL7R gene. You can read about it under the HLA-DRB1 link. On average the risk of getting MS in the general population is about 10 to 20%.

Nutrition and dietary factors

It has been described that vitamin D3 levels when obtained from in MS patients are low. Vitamin D3 can prevent against MS to a certain degree, so does sun exposure. In countries where malnutrition is common, MS occurs more often.

According to Dr. Terry Wahls who is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, a diet of vegetables, fruit, meat, no grain, no dairy, no sugar, no corn and no potatoes can cure MS. Dr. Wahls herself had severe MS in the past and cured it with the help of this diet!

Infections

Certain infections can cause MS. Probably the best correlation was found between the mononucleosis virus (Epstein Barr virus) and the later development of MS.

Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency

According to Dr. Zamboni from Italy clogged veins in the neck can cause MS. Dr. Zamboni placed stents into neck veins that showed narrowing.  He found that about 50% of MS patients had improvement with the placement of stents. This allows the blood from veins around the brain to drain normally. This could improve brain circulation in the areas described above where SPECT scans detected a lack of blood supply to certain parts of the brain.

Discussion of the Vancouver publication

It is important to note that certain areas of the brain were not circulating blood as well as others. SPECT scans depicted the blood circulation of the brain. 50% of patients with chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency experienced a cure from MS with simple venous stent procedures. This is remarkable. Sure, the Vancouver researchers found that normal controls also have a significant amount of venous abnormalities in their necks. But this does not explain the successes in those MS patients who got better with a simple venous stunt procedure. We also need to be cognizant that Big Pharma sponsored the Vancouver study researchers.

Measuring brain circulation in MS patients

SPECT scans on both the control groups and the experimental MS groups before and after stent procedures need to be done. This way we know whether the brain circulation following stent procedures improved or not. However, this is what I would have expected to see. In other words more research is necessary by other investigators. The question they need to answer is whether or not the surgical stents provided help. Did the surgical procedure help to normalize their brain circulation or not?

Conclusion

Our knowledge regarding MS is getting more multifaceted as new research is emerging. Diet appears to be a major contributing factor, as vitamin D3 is essential for normal brain function and for a normal immune system. At the same time researchers identified grains and wheat as a cause of MS in a subgroup of patients. Leaky gut syndrome can cause autoimmune antibodies, which subsequently can bring on MS. Avoid the foods Dr. Wahls described as being causative in developing MS and you can improve MS remarkably or get cured. The same is true for avoidance of wheat and wheat products as Dr. Davis described.

Multifaceted causes of MS

In my opinion not every MS patient benefits from a stent, but vitamin D3 deficiency or a history of mononucleosis infection in the past does not explain the causation of every MS case. We simply do not have all of the answers yet. But we do have enough information to thoroughly investigate MS patients;  the treating physician will then use clinical judgment to decide which treatment would be the most suitable one for an individual MS patient.

More information on multiple sclerosis: http://nethealthbook.com/neurology-neurological-disease/multiple-sclerosis/

References

1. Stern: Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry, 1st ed. “DSM-IV SUBTYPES OF MDD”. Copyright © 2008 Mosby

2.  William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly. Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2011.

3.  William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Aug
31
2013

Peanut Allergies Are Deadly

Introduction

This article is about “peanut allergies are deadly”. In the US 1.5 million suffer from peanut allergies (Ref.1). People who have peanut allergies have to avoid peanuts and foods that contain even traces of peanuts lifelong. Here is a recent example of a 13-year old girl who died at a camp when she tried food contaminated with peanuts. Before we discuss peanut allergies in detail, we need to review first how the immune system is functioning.

How the immune system is primed to develop an allergy

Our immune system knows the difference between our own body components and substances that come from the outside. Scientists call this tolerance to our own surface proteins; and scientists call it an immune reaction that is mounting as a reaction to anything different from the surface antigens. There are different cells that make up the immune system. One of the main working cells of the immune system are the lymphocytes. A subtype are B cells that originate from the bone marrow producing antibodies when an immune reaction occurs. Antibodies fit like a lock and key to the surface of an antigen, in this case the peanut protein. T helper cells are T lymphocytes (thymus derived lymphocytes). They help the B cells to recognize the difference between the own protein components and the outside components.

IgE antibodies directed against peanut protein

There are also T killer cells, which when parasites or viruses enter the body activate them. With regard to peanut allergies, it is the B cells and T helper cells that interact. The B cells produce a powerful, very specific IgE antibody directed against peanut protein. There are memory B cells, which continue to produce these specific anti-peanut protein antibodies. They can cause severe allergic reactions when future exposure to peanuts (even traces) occurs. The more often a person allergic to peanuts encounters traces of peanuts, the more  the immune system gets boosted. This produces even more antibodies of the IgE type through reactivated B memory cells (Ref. 2). 98% of the population does not react to peanut exposure with allergies. But the other 2% who may have genetic susceptibility factors that predispose them to this often develop life-threatening reactions. These have the name “anaphylactic reaction”.

What is an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts?

The most extreme form of allergies involving IgE antibodies can cause anaphylaxis. In the beginning stages of a peanut allergy there may only mild symptoms such as hives on the skin, itching and tingling around the mouth, a runny nose, a scratchy throat, wheezing, stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea. However, with a more severe allergy an asthma attack can develop. In this case the blood pressure drops leading to fainting or shock. In addition, severe airway obstruction in the throat or lungs can cause suffocation.

I vividly remember an 11-year-old boy who arrived by ambulance in the emergency room of the hospital where I was working as the on-call physician. He had a hard time talking as his throat was swelling up as part of his anaphylactic reaction, within minutes he passed out completely (shock). Fortunately, an anesthetist was in the department and could intubate him very quickly.

Period of unconsciousness

However, despite adrenaline treatment, oxygen by artificial ventilation and high doses of corticosteroid drugs he did not wake up until 10 hours later. In retrospect it turned out that he had eaten some crackers of a familiar brand that he knew as being free of peanut flour. However, he saw an ad that the same brand of crackers was available as cheese crackers and he tried one of these. This prompted his admission to the hospital. The parents read the ingredients later: the label on the cheese crackers noted in small print that the flour of the cheese crackers contained peanut flour! Always read labels, even if it is a familiar brand! Fortunately for this boy he did not have brain damage from the time of his unconsciousness. He has been extremely careful since and is reading labels and avoiding unknown food items.

Peanut Allergies Are Deadly

Peanut Allergies Are Deadly

Cross-reactions between peanuts and other allergens

Allergies can be made worse when a person has inhalant allergies from pollens of trees or grasses that can share protein components from protein found in foods. The latest findings are that there are cross allergies between Fenugreek and lupine, which are both legumes, as are peanuts, so there are common antigens present in their proteins. A mouse-testing model has shed more light on this. Fenugreek has been shown to control mild diabetes by improving insulin resistance, but it cannot be consumed by persons who are highly allergic to peanuts because of the cross allergy mentioned.

There are other possible cross allergies to legumes like lentils, soy and chickpeas.

Other factors that can cause allergies to get worse

In the past the RAST test was often used.  This is a blood test for common food allergies that can cause severe allergic reactions like egg, milk, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, crustacean shellfish and soy. However, since about 2010 this has been replaced by the more sensitive ImmunoCAP Specific IgE test. Children who have food allergies to egg, milk, wheat, nuts, peanuts and soy often outgrow these allergies when they age, in other words their immune system can develop tolerance to many of these foods. Not so with peanut allergies! They tend to be very persistent.

Immune responses to food allergies are complicated

There are complications with immune responses to food allergies. They contained immediate type immune reactions and delayed type immune reactions. Allergists investigate the immediate immune responses with the above mentioned ImmunoCAP Specific IgE test. They can measure the delayed immune responses using the ELISA test. Positive IgE antibody tests for peanut protein are a marker that the person likely has more other allergies. An allergist should investigate them in that regard (Ref. 2).

New wheat varieties complicate the lives of people with allergies

What complicates the allergy sufferers’ lives even more is the fact that new wheat varieties were introduced. This happened in the 1970’s. The new wheat has the name Clearfield wheat. It has a much higher gliadin (gluten) and lectin content than the old wheat varieties. As a result of exposure to this new type of wheat gluten intolerance and leaky gut syndrome have increased substantially in the world population (Ref.3). In addition, genetically modified foods like soy, corn, sugar beets, canola and others have challenged the immune system of sensitive humans even more.

Autoimmune diseases from GMO food and modern wheat

We do know that some people can develop autoimmune diseases from GMO foods and modern wheat, and this may be the reason that a host of diseases that belong into this disease category (MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, ankylosing spondylitis etc.) are much more common now than in the past. The geneticists developing GMO foods were unaware how sensitive the immune system is.  The immune system detects a few different amino acid sequences in a protein mounting a strong immune response to it.

Treatment for peanut allergies

The key for sufferers from peanut allergies is to avoid exposure to it. Read labels and use common sense. If a food item has no label, do not attempt to eat it. Food manufacturers often mix peanut flour into the dough of crackers. But not every product has a label that identifies whether peanut flour is in it. Alternatively it says so only in fine print. With peanuts the antibodies usually circulate in the blood life long. The reason is that the B memory cells do not diminish and experience reactivation very quickly on repeat exposure. At this time they produce antibodies again. As exposure to peanuts can cause severe asthma or anaphylactic shock, it is important to carry an EpiPen with you and to know how to use it.

Oral immunotherapy

In Europe attempts have been made to develop an oral desensitization method for food allergies including peanut allergies, but it has not produced concrete results yet. Recently, however, research from Texas, USA showed that it is possible to desensitize patients with peanut allergy by oral desensitization. In Australia where food allergies are more prevalent than in the US, tolerance to peanut, nut and shellfish allergies is being pursued by oral immunotherapy. Another group in Australia has developed a vaccination method using peptides, which are a sequence of amino acids, but shorter than the full peanut protein. It appears that this is the future direction of treatment for peanut and other IgE allergies: a kind of vaccination treatment to induce competing antibodies, which will neutralize the allergic IgE antibodies.

Conclusion

Peanut allergies have become more troublesome as the food industry has mixed peanut flour into Thai sauces, drinks, cookies, crackers and such. The person allergic to peanuts must read food labels and eat as much single-ingredient natural food as possible. This goes against the tendency of food processors who produce foods with a long rat tale of ingredients. If you see a label “may contain nuts or peanuts”, stay away from this product, as it is safer. Always carry an EpiPen or Twinject with you, just in case you develop an anaphylactic reaction (you only have a few minutes to stop the allergic reaction with adrenaline). In the future vaccination with a peanut protein specific peptide vaccine as mentioned regarding the Australian research, will probably become the treatment of choice.

More information on status asthmaticus (an acute asthma attack).

References

1. Adkinson: Middleton’s Allergy: Principles and Practice, 7th ed. Chapter: Food Allergy. © 2008 Mosby.

2. Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed.© 2009 Churchill Livingstone.

3. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

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Aug
24
2013

Pimples And Acne Can Be Caused By Food

This article is about “pimples and acne can be caused by food”.For a long time nobody knew why teenagers get acne. But many assumed that it would come from hormonal changes as teenagers grow up. But why then are there some ethnic regions in the world where teenagers do not get acne? In this blog I will present the background that shows that wheat, sugar and dairy products are the culprits. People in regions of our planet where acne does not exist do not eat these foods.

Regions where acne does not exist

1. The Kitivan Islanders of Papua New Guinea have no cases of acne in teenagers. They adhere to the old hunter/gatherer diet of no sugar, no alcohol, no wheat and no grains. Instead they eat root vegetables such as sweet potato, yam, taro, tapioca; fruit like papaya, pineapple, banana, mango, watermelon, guava and pumpkin; and also vegetables, coconuts and fish.

2. African Bantus and Zulus: These original African warriors eat a low glycemic diet with no wheat, no milk and no refined sugar or starches. Their teenagers and young adult do not have acne, if they stick to the original tribal diet.

Further regions without acne

3. Aché hunter/gatherers of Paraguay: a study by researchers from the Colorado State University in 2002 showed that sugar, wheat and other high-glycemic foods were missing in the diet of these native tribes. As a result they have no acne when they consume this type of diet, which is very similar to the Kitivan Islanders of Papua New Guinea.

4. Japan’s Okinawans when sticking to their original diet before 1970 had clear complexion and no pimples (acne). But as this link shows the McDonald’s and other fast foods with too much salt, too much sugar, wheat, deep fried and convenience foods entered the scene after 1970 and the acne rate went up to the American level.

More regions without acne

5. The natives of the Purus Valley in Brazil: A dermatological examination of 9955 school children age 6 to 16 showed an acne incidence of only 2.7%. In contrast in Westernized countries the rate of acne is 60 to 80%. The diet in this region is again similar to the other groups already mentioned above.

6. Canadian Inuit before 1950 did not consume dairy products and were acne free. Since then, there has been a steady increase of dairy products, soda, beef, and processed foods.

How acne develops

The medical term for pimples or acne is “acne vulgaris”. For years it has been postulated that hormones and medication can cause acne. According to Ref.1 there are several steps that work together in causing acne. The hair follicle and sebaceous gland work as one unit. Male hormones, called androgens play an important role in the development of acne, both in males and females. Males produce testosterone not only in testicles, but also in the skin itself. An enzyme, 5-alpha-reductase, converts it into the much more active metabolite dihydrotestosterone. In individuals with hypersensitive receptors in the sebaceous gland this causes blockage in the sebaceous gland ducts. At the same time, it stimulates the sebaceous gland oil production leading to the formation of a keratotic plug. White heads and black heads are formed this way.

Factors leading to inflammatory substances

Factors that contribute to inflammatory substances are sugar, wheat and starch intake causing insulin release. This stimulates IGF-1 receptors in the skin, which causes growth of the subcutaneous skin layers, which is pushing up from the layer below the skin, kinking the sebaceous gland duct and causing acne pustules (pimples) to form. A skin bacterium, called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), is getting trapped in the pimple causing a local skin infection, which in turn can cause acne cysts and furuncles, particularly in males where there is a family history of acne. High cortisol levels from stress can also be a contributing factor in causing acne. Today’s teenagers are exposed to a lot of stresses from exams, competitive sports and peer pressures.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Females with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) have higher androgen production from ovarian cysts, which results in acne as well.

Both male and female teenagers experience an androgen surge when puberty sets in. If the teenager avoids the additional insulin response, which comes from eating sugar, starch, grain and particularly from consuming wheat and wheat products, the plugging up of skin pores will not occur, meaning these teenagers will be acne free.

Milk sensitivity

Some teenagers are also sensitive to milk protein from milk and milk products. In sensitive people whey protein allergy causes the same insulin/skin IGF-1 response described above. This leads to blocking of skin pores. If there is no blockage in the hair follicle, the P. acnes bacteria will stay on the surface of the skin (these bacteria are part of the normal skin flora) and the sebaceous gland secretions flow unimpededly to the surface of the skin keeping it naturally lubricated. These observations are further confirmed by a study from Malaysia in 2012 showing that a high glycemic load diet with milk and ice cream caused worsening of acne in teenagers of both sexes.

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Treating acne correctly

A)   Conventional acne treatment

Big Pharma has a firm hand in the treatment of acne;  they are supporting symptomatic treatment of acne rather than treating the cause. There are surface treatment modalities that open the skin pores: peeling agents such as benzoyl peroxide. General practitioners often treat the infection with antibiotic pills (tetracycline or erythromycin), but this is not treating the cause, only the super infection that comes from the plugged-up skin pores (stasis of sebaceous gland secretions). Another approach is topical application of antibiotic and peeling agent in combination (1% clindamycin and 5% benzoyl peroxide gel), which the patient applies twice daily (Ref.2). Resistant cases, usually the ones who have a family history of severe acne, have been treated by a skin specialist who has a special license to treat with isotretinoin (Accutane), a vitamin A derivative. It works in many cases, but it often has serious side effects.

Side effects of Accutane

These include skin dryness, eye dryness, muscle and bone pains, headaches and liver enzyme abnormalities. There can also be an instability of mood including depression and causing birth defects in the fetus of a pregnant woman (Ref. 3). In 2009 the manufacturer stopped distributing the drug in the US, because of too many lawsuits regarding damages from the drug.

I am not saying you should ever take this toxic medication. What I am saying is that treating symptoms, but not the cause has led to peculiar drug manufacturing. Physicians use this drug now to treat brain cancer and pancreatic cancer.

B)   Dietary approach to treat acne

There has been a renewed interest in the last 40 years to sort out the connection between dietary factors and acne. The most straightforward treatment in my opinion is to modify what you eat.

A clinical trial from the University of Melbourne in 2007 showed that a low-glycemic diet reduced the acne lesions by 22% compared to a control group.

Two factors are clear: a low-glycemic diet produces fewer pimples, the stricter the patient applies a low-glycemic diet, the more effective the treatment is. Up to 50% reduction in acne lesions were observed among patients with acne who adhered to a strict low-glycemic index diet in just 12 weeks. There is also evidence that milk and other dairy products can contribute to acne, which works through the same mechanism of IGF-1 stimulation mentioned above.

Milk and skim milk can cause acne

A US study from Boston showed a 22% increase in acne lesions with total milk consumption and increase of 44% after skim milk consumption.

Omega-3-fatty acid supplementation is useful for inflammatory acne in about 2/3 of the cases as this study showed. Here is an image of a patient from this study who benefitted from omega-3 supplementation. The baseline image is seen with inflammatory acne lesions on his cheek. Only 12 weeks after taking 3 Grams of omega-3 supplementation daily his face looked much improved.

Conclusion

There is a lesson we learn from the analysis of the regions in the world where acne does not exist. Cutting out wheat, wheat products, grains, sugar, milk and milk products leads to amazing results regarding acne prevention. This leads to improvements of patients who suffer from acne. We have been lulled into believing that medical science will give us a magic pill to solve our complexion problems. I mentioned that one of the “magic pills” (isotretinoin) is so toxic that physicians now use it for cancer treatments. All along we allowed the food industry to destroy our complexion. They did so by inducing an insulin and IGF-1 response that plugged up our skin pores. We can open them up by eliminating certain foods. They are wheat and wheat products, sugar, high-glycemic foods as well as dairy products.

More information on acne: http://nethealthbook.com/dermatology-skin-disease/acne-vulgaris/

References

  1. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed., Saunders 2012. Chapter 73 : Acne Vulgaris and Acne Rosacea, by Sean H. Zager, MD
  2. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed., © 2009 Churchill Livingstone.
  3. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine, 2nd ed., © 2010 Saunders.

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Jul
20
2013

Our Endangered Food

This is about our endangered food. Our grandparents ate foods that were healthier and more pure than today’s mass produced food. Beef came from grass-fed cattle; milk came from cows that grazed on pastures; bread was baked from the old Emmer wheat or Einkorn wheat. Geneticists were not around yet, so their food was safe from adulteration.

The adulterated modern wheat

Fast forward to the late 1990’s. Now farmers around the world are growing 19 different Clearfield wheat varieties. Researchers produced them by hybridization from exposure to toxic chemicals in the 1960’s and 1970’s. At that time  GMO (genetically modified organisms) regulations were not around yet.  Hybridization with grasses using exposure to a toxic substance like sodium azide produced modern wheat. Technically this forced chemical hybridization is different from genetic engineering although in both cases there are significant genetic changes of the chromosomes in the plant. The end result with regard to wheat hybridizations were wheat varieties that grow under adverse conditions and that have much faster growing rates, higher yields and are easier to harvest because they grow only to a about 2 feet height instead of 4 feet.

Chromosomal changes of the new wheat

When compared to the older Emmer and Einkorn types of wheat there have been significant chromosomal changes. Einkorn (Triticum monoccocum) has 14 chromosomes; Emmer (Triticum diccocum) has 28 chromosomes. Modern wheat, the Clearfield variety has 42 chromosomes, like spelt. The hybridization process for Clearfield wheat by BASF is summarized in this link. Here is a discussion with Dr. Davis, the author of the book “Wheat Belly” (Ref.1), which reviews the history of modern wheat

Modern wheat has much more gliadin content

The point of mentioning all this here is that modern wheat with many more chromosomes than the original Einkorn wheat has also much more gliadin content, which is the protein that makes celiac disease sufferers sick when they eat wheat. However, despite the significant chromosomal changes of modern wheat, which his grown in 99% of the world today no safety test were done to show that it is harmless to your health. There were no animal experiments and no human exposure trials with proper controls to show that exposure to the modern wheat varieties is safe on the long-term.

The manufacturer mixes wheat  into processed foods

It turns out now in hindsight that it is not only the person with celiac disease that has to fear modern wheat. The increased concentration of gliadin in modern wheat is the protein that splits the sealant between gut cells and sensitizes your body to produce autoantibodies. The food processing plants mix wheat into soups, baby food, lip stick, sauces and a host of other foods. This increases the gliadin concentration that your system has to cope with, if you do not read labels and eliminate it. You have to be a detective in the supermarket and constantly read labels to look for wheat and avoid it, at least I do.

Modern wheat can cause antibodies against gliadin

The reason is that even low doses of wheat over a long period of time cause leaky gut syndrome and cause antibodies against gliadin. Soon after the formation of autoimmune antibodies against your own tissues form that attack your gut cells (causing irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease and ulcerative colitis); joint cells (causing rheumatoid arthritis), thyroid cells (causing Hashimoto disease) and it can even cause colon cancer.

Remember, there have never been any clinical trials to show that modern wheat is safe.

Our Endangered Food

Our Endangered Food

Alternatives to wheat

Oats used to be thought safe to eat for celiac disease patients, provided they are not contaminated with rye, wheat or barley.

As this publication shows there can still be prolamins in oats, which are different from gliadin, but may be toxic for celiac patients. Another paper showed that there are different levels of gliadin- and glutenin-like avenins in different varieties of oats. These are subunits of prolamin. It depends on what type of avenins or prolamins are in the content of an oat variety. A label on an oat package may proclaim that it is entirely gluten free. But the question remains whether the manufacturer tested the oats before they reached the shelves of the grocery store.

Are “gluten free oats” safe to eat for celiac patients?

For a celiac patient it would not be safe to eat these types of oats as labeling requirements for avenins or prolamins do not yet exist. So, the label “gluten free oats” may be misleading as oats containing prolamins or avenins still could make celiac patients sick.

So, what are safe gluten substitutes? Rice, corn, soy, chickpeas, sweet potatoes and nuts. A helpful reference can be found through this link.

As we will discover below, unfortunately in the US most rice, corn and soy is now GMO food and celiac patients will likely react much more to these as they are more sensitive and will likely produce autoantibodies easier. So stick to organic rice, organic corn and organic soy (often the package will mention” free of GMO”).

GMO foods to avoid

It is interesting that the US and Canada did not pass a law that GMO foods should be labeled. This is changing rapidly as people realize that in Europe many countries have required all GMO foods to be labeled as such. Here is a publication that shows that the GMO labeling campaign is gaining momentum.

Genetically modified corn and soy contains the Bt toxin; it has been found in babies as mentioned in this article. Bt toxin damages the small bowel (the ileum) through Cry1Ab (the protein produced in genetically modified corn and soy), which disables the absorption of vitamin B12. This in turn will cause anemia (historically the cause of pernicious anemia was found to be due to a lack of vitamin B12 absorption).

Cytochrome P450 (CYP) detoxification enzymes

Drs. Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff  stated about the effects of Roundup in a publication dated April 2013  that glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, which is a crucial detoxification enzyme complex in the liver has been overlooked when studies were done regarding toxicity in mammals. The CYP enzymes in the liver is important to metabolize and eliminate estrogens and also helps to detoxify xenobiotics, which are estrogen-like substances as residues from insecticides and other chemicals. Thus, glyphosate (=”Roundup” produced by Monsanto) amplifies the damaging effect of environmental toxins and chemical residues from non-organic food that we eat. The build-up of estrogens and xenoestrogens has been shown to be responsible for many cancers (atypical Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer etc.).

The ten most common GMO foods in the US

Here is a summary of the 10 most common GM foods in the US : Sugar beets, cotton seed oil, corn, canola oil, milk, aspartame (from genetically modified bacteria), zucchini, yellow squash, soybeans, papaya. You see that genetic engineering invaded almost all of our food.

Why is that of any concern?

The problem is that it is extremely difficult to conduct safety studies for human consumption. It likely takes three generations of feeding GMO food before diseases develop. In the case of humans the reproductive cycle is 30 years. This would mean that it could take up to 90 years to obtain meaningful human safety study results. From a commercial point of view researchers perceived that 90 years was too long. Instead they opted for the standard rat or mouse model of 90 day testing. Researchers used this test model instead as a “test for toxicity for mammals”.  However, typically this does not show any change between GMO food compared to regular food as it is too short an observation time. I have described this earlier in this blog. In this recent publication pigs fed GM crops were found to have severe stomach inflammation and the female GMO fed pigs developed a 25% larger uterus than the non-GMO-fed controls.

The approval process for GMO foods is flawed

The 20-year approval process for GMO foods is flawed according to this review. Belgium researchers found virus particles in GMO foods that they did not expect to be there. Farmers feed this in feedlots to milk producing animals and beef cows. There is transmission of these particles into milk and beef. But the FDA, USDA and other official food safety agencies continue to state that GMO foods are safe. A significant proportion of the US public disagrees about the safety testing process regarding  GMO foods.  The public wants clear labeling of all GMO, so they have a choice of what they buy. We should have a choice whether we get organic food with no chemicals, no antibiotics and no GMO. Or whether we buy the cheaper regular food.

Remember, you are what you eat.

Conclusion

Originally researchers modified wheat by hybridization to “save” the world from hunger. The production worldwide has improved tremendously so that this objective has been reached. However, since then genetic engineers have worked on adulterating the rest of our foods. The purpose was mostly with the aim to make farming on a large scale easier. In both instances researchers never performed safety testing on animals and humans. It is only now that it is becoming apparent that there are flaws with regard to food safety testing. This is true for both wheat and GMO foods.

Leaky gut syndrome and autoimmunity

With wheat it is the higher concentration of gluten and gluten-like substances that are the problem. This causes a leaky gut, a breakdown of the gut/blood barrier. It also causes autoimmunity and colon cancer. GMO foods may transmit viral particles and Bt toxin. This can cause autoimmune diseases and fertility problems. But it also can interfere with the liver’s detoxification system. This in turn can cause cancers. The full health impact is not clear at this point. It may take another 70 years for wheat show the full ramifications. And it likely will take another 80 years for GMO foods to find out all the consequences. Some people have decided not to be part of this mass experiment and rather buy organic foods. I belong to this group.

More information on genetically modified food: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/genetically-engineered-foods/

Reference

1. William Davis, MD: “Wheat belly. Lose the wheat, lose the weight, and find your path back to health.” HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2011.

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Jun
01
2013

Toxins In The Bathroom

This article is about toxins in the bathroom. In the past I never looked at labels on shower gel, hair conditioner or liquid soap. But one day I read that the cosmetic industry uses parabens as a disinfectant in many body care products including cosmetics. That’s when I found out about my major supply of hair care products contained various parabens, like methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben or heptylparaben.

Toxins in the bathroom: Hair care and body care products

Officially, toxicity tests have shown that these substances are safe on the short term. What this means is that in short term experiments (usually up to 90 days) rats did not die from exposure to them. But long-term studies to see whether they would die from cancer have never been done. However, long-term exposure can lead to skin rashes in sensitive individuals (contact dermatitis, rosacea). This is still fairly harmless. Much more concerning are the effects of long-term exposure, which is what happens when we apply these chemicals to our skin every day. Researchers showed that breast cancer specimens (what the surgeon cuts out during surgery) contain parabens, which can be measured in the lab.

Parabens have estrogen-like hormone activity

Further experiments have shown that parabens have estrogen-like hormone activity in animals and humans. They belong into the group of “xenoestrogens”. What this means is that they act like weak estrogens, and this can be cancer causing. In women estrogens are in balance with progesterone, but when parabens or other xenoestrogens are introduced, the estrogens get the upper hand, which can cause breast cancer and uterine cancer. In men where traces of estrogen and progesterone are also present, balanced with the more dominant testosterone, this hormone balance gets disturbed by parabens, and prostate cancer can develop. Why don’t we hear about this more often? Because it is a slow process that may take 20 to 30 years. 

Prostate cancer can be due to long-term exposure to parabens

By that time nobody thinks that breast cancer or prostate cancer could be the result of long-term exposure to parabens. For years the cosmetic industry argued that parabens would be just applied to the skin, not taken internally and for this reason they should be safe. The problem in this sentence is the word “should”. Parabens are absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream directly exerting the xenoestrogenic effect. Some parabens occur naturally in very small amounts such as in barley, strawberries, currants, vanilla, carrots, and onions, but they are absorbed by the gut and get destroyed by the liver in the so-called “first pass effect”. I went to the health food store and studied labels. I was able to get clean products (shampoo, conditioner, body wash), which do not contain parabens.

Toxins In The Bathroom

Toxins In The Bathroom

Toxins in the bathroom: Toothpaste

This is a topic, which may get your dentist annoyed. Here are the ingredients to watch for:

Fluoride in toothpaste

1. What most people expect to be in a toothpaste is fluoride. The representative of the toothpaste company told the dentist that fluoride would make the enamel of teeth more resistant against tooth decay. Advertisements also pass this on to the consumer. What is not passed on to you is the fact of fluoride toxicity, which occurs when fluoride gets absorbed into the body. This has the name “skeletal fluorosis”.  Stomach and bowel irritation including irritable bowel syndrome and joint pains are part of this syndrome. In growing children, the enamel of teeth may show discoloration, the bone of adults can get brittle causing wrist fractures.

Displacement of magnesium by fluoride

Fluoride displaces magnesium on a cellular level and this causes metabolic problems in the kidneys and brain as many enzymatic reactions need magnesium as a co-factor. The thyroid can also become hypothyroid, particularly, if iodine was low to start with (fluoride can replace iodine in the body). If you feel you need to brush your teeth once per day with a fluoridated toothpaste, use regular, non-fluoridated toothpaste in between. You can also protect your body by taking iodine capsules once or twice per day to saturate your system with healthy iodine, which makes you more resistant to bromide, chlorine and fluoride toxicity.

Sodium lauryl sulfate

2. Another ingredient on the label is often Sodium lauryl sulfate: this chemical is used to improve the texture of the toothpaste and make it foam up when you brush your teeth. The side effects are irritation of the mucous membranes, may cause canker sores, redness and irritation of the skin around the mouth. It is interesting to note that it also causes fish to die when the wastewater enters the ocean or water streams.

Triclosan

3. This substance has antibacterial and antifungal properties and as such lends itself to prolong the shelf life of body care products (see this review). Manufacturers frequently use triclosan in deodorants, toothpaste and mouthwashes. The FDA did safety checks on triclosan because it is an endocrine disruptor in animals and in humans. It also can cause hay fever, antibiotic resistance and can combine with chlorine from chlorinated water. This causes release of chloroform, which is a known cancer causing substance. Many manufacturers have voluntarily abandoned the use of it.

Saccharin and aspartame

4. The manufacturers of toothpastes often use artificial sweeteners in toothpaste to add sweetness. Although originally thought to cause bladder cancer, saccharine has been cleared of this around 2000 when it was shown that although causing bladder cancer in rats, it was safe in humans. Diabetics have used saccharine safely for over 50 years. Aspartame, however, is more problematical:  there was an intensive investigation by the FDA whether or not aspartame would cause cancer in humans. As this review shows there were methodological flaws in some of the cancer studies so that the FDA finally decided to keep the previous recommendations the same that it was safe to use in diet drinks etc.

Aspartame belongs into the group of excitotoxins

Other researchers disagreed and came to the conclusion that there were interest groups that interfered with the science of investigating safety of aspartame. Aspartame belongs into the group of excitotoxins, substances that can excite the brain and can also cause an existing cancer to metastasize. At this point in time, it is much safer to cut out all aspartame from your diet including your toothpaste.

FD&C blue dye No. 2

5. This blue food coloring agent has been around as food additive since 1906. The FDA approved this coloring agent back then. However, because of renewed health concerns this food coloring was re-reviewed. According to this reference the time exposure in animal experiments was not long enough (page 13 to 19 of this link), but serious complications such as significant brain tumors in rats and borderline higher frequency of bladder tumors and breast cancer were noted. The FDA elected to keep it listed as a safe food coloring agent. Hyperactivity in children is another observation that is of concern to parents. It simply is not worth to use blue, number 2 in toothpaste. Read your labels and leave it out!

Toxins in the bathroom: Hair dyes

With the baby boomers turning grey as they get older, there is an interest in hair coloring. But of course people of any age group may like to change hair color and experiment!  Study labels of different products. You will notice in quite a few of them the familiar parabens as a disinfectant. Other toxins are ammonia, benzene, PPD (p-Phenylenediamine), toluene, coal tar. You find details of these ingredients and their side effects in this link (note a lot have been shown to be cancer producing). The bottom line is: avoid cancer-producing chemicals like the ones just listed. Instead buy your permanent herbal hair color in the health food store or health food section.

Toxins in the bathroom: Cosmetics

Phthalates

In 2010 this Mexican study showed malformations in rodents after exposure of the mother to phthalates. Asthmatic children were also found in another study to have absorbed higher levels of phthalates than children that had no asthma. As a result phthalates have been illegal in many European countries, but not yet in Canada and the US. What should you do about this?

Use a skin product with hyaluronic acid in it

For wrinkles use a product that consists of hyaluronic acid. (I found “Pure Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum” from Complementary Prescriptions (Carson City, NV) and Yu InfiniSerum, a cream manufactured by Nutrazyne Research LLC, Highland, UT). Between both of those non-toxic skin applications you likely will not need any other cosmetics on your skin. If you feel you do, insist on natural ingredients that do not irritate your skin. Do you really need a lipstick? If you do, do not take one that contains lead or other cancer producing metals as was discussed recently on the news.

Toxins in the bathroom: Mouthwash

Many people feel they have “bad breath” and they need a mouthwash. This is good marketing for companies that produce mouthwash. However, the truth is you need to have your gums looked at, brush your teeth regularly and floss your teeth. If you suffer from constipation, increase your fiber intake and consider colonics. If you still think you have bad breath, use a natural mint product (read the ingredients). Why do I not like mouthwashes? They kill your mouth bacteria that are naturally there; this can disbalance the rest of your gut bacteria as you swallow part of the mouth flora when you eat or drink fluids. If you still want to use a mouthwash, use one without alcohol and without any carcinogens or parabens. Also read this 2009 news item. It is as valid as it was then.

Toxins in the bathroom: Underarm deodorant

Here is an article that points out the danger of antiperspirants and breast cancer. The lesson to be learnt from this is that the propellants of sprays can be deadly when overused. So, use deodorants that are sticks to put or roll on. Next there is the aluminum content, which needs to be “0”. Aluminum is one of the substances responsible for Alzheimer’s disease when exposure to it occurs over longer periods of time. Manufacturers often smuggle parabens in as antifungals/antibacterials.

Hormone disruptors

They are hormone disruptors and xenoestrogens causing breast and prostate cancer. So, no propellants, not parabens, no aluminum! Triclosan is another substance that manufacturers like to add to the ingredients. I mentioned already before that triclosan releases chloroform, which is a carcinogenic substance. To choose the right deodorant it is important to read labels carefully, so you can make informed choices. Look for “aluminum free deodorant”. Next make sure that none of the bad chemicals described above are in the ingredient list. Read this info to educate yourself. Your best bet to find the right product is to go to the health food store or health food section of a store, as they usually carry a selection of natural, non-toxic products.

Conclusion

We owe it to our bodies to protect them from the chemicals that manufacturers produce. They have no concern about their customers’ health. You may ask yourself why cosmetics, toothpaste or other personal care products need to contain carcinogenic substances. It is up to the consumer to make the right choices. And we do have many health-oriented choices available to us now. My hope is that through education we will influence the market to become more health-oriented.

Apr
28
2013

April Is Autism Awareness Month

Notably, it is worth to mention that April is autism awareness month. Recently autism was in the news as the wife of deceased Bob Denver, who was the actor Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island and founder of The Denver Foundation to help children with disabilities, has written a book where their son Colin’s problem with autism is described. Indeed, autism is a relatively new disease entity. Another key point, we are now talking about the autism spectrum disorder.

What autism is

Autism is a certain behavior/symptom constellation expressed with different degrees of severity in children diagnosed with autism. It is important to realize that autism is much more common in males than in females. In the following I will discuss risk factors for autism, then review why it is so important to diagnose autism right away so that treatment for it can be started earlier than in the past. It is good that April is autism awareness month, as more people will watch out for this diagnosis.

Risk Factors For Autism

Autism has been found to be due to a combination of factors.

1. Compared to a few decades ago women are often older than 30 and men frequently older than 40 when they decide to have children. But studies have shown that when a man fathers a child at the age 40 or older the risk of the offspring to develop autism is higher than when the father is younger than 30.

2. A woman above 30 is already getting into the older age category from the viewpoint of reproduction.  Her natural progesterone production from her ovaries is declining. Progesterone production is paramount for keeping a pregnancy alive in the first 10 to 12 weeks. Also, the placenta of a pregnant woman above the age of 30 is not producing as much progesterone as a woman in her early or mid 20’s.  However, a high progesterone production of the placenta is necessary to prevent premature labor.

Premature, underweight children

The consequence of this can be that older women give birth to premature, underweight children (Ref. 1 and 2) who are at a higher risk to have neurological problems including autism. Children with a low birth weight have 5-times higher autism rates when compared to children with a normal birth weight. When a woman has gestational diabetes there can be overgrowth of the fetus and like for prematurely born, underweight children there is a definite risk for a baby born much later than the expected date to develop autism.

April Is Autism Awareness Month

April Is Autism Awareness Month

Genetic and epigenetic factors triggering autism

3. There are genetic and epigenetic factors that can trigger autism. Shank mutations are responsible for idiopathic autism spectrum disorders (ASD) both in humans and in mice. This confirms an earlier study from 2006 in France where Shank 3 gene mutations were found in human autism cases. Recently research from Stanford University identified another genetic mutation, namely neuroligin-3 amino acid substitution and a neuroligin-3 deletion, which can be responsible for autism in mice.

Epigenetic switches

Epigenetic switches play an important role in the placenta. Research from the University of British Columbia showed this as the key for understanding autism. Another publication also stresses the importance of epigenetic switches. Stress during pregnancy can lead to changes in placental biochemical pathways, which causes prenatal epigenetic programming in the direction of autism. However, it appears that the various research findings are converging to only a few key biological processes. April is autism awareness month; so every April these facts reach the public at large.

4. A lack of serotonin from the placenta may lead to autism in the fetus as this publication shows.

5. Certain toxins such as PCB can disrupt the development of normal neuronal pathways in autism. Even a frequently used anti-epileptic drug, valproate (Depacon), has recently been identified as causing a 5-fold increase in autism during pregnancy.

Low vitamin D levels in pregnancy causes autism

6. In April 2009 a study from the Karolinska Institute investigated a Somalia refugee subpopulation that were found to have high autism rates in Sweden and in the US, due to very low vitamin D levels during the pregnancy. One theory was that one cause for autism was vitamin D deficiency in the mother’s womb. A lack of Vitamin D may be the epigenetic trigger to change metabolic processes. This could cause the subtle metabolic changes that occur in autistic children.

7. In 2007 this study showed that the typical delay of the diagnosis for autism in the US was about 18 months and that the average rate at this point was 1 in 150 live births.

Accelerated brain growth followed by slow brain development

8. Apart from these factors there are other observations that are closely related to the diagnosis of autism. Children with autism show remarkable brain growth during the first year of life. However, subsequently they have a period of slowed brain development (Ref.4). There seems to be an inflammatory process associated with the neuropathological changes in the brain. This results in disconnections and a lack of communicative connections between various parts of the brain. This leads to a lack of higher brain functions like speech and social skills. MRI scans have shown specific changes in some severe cases of autism, but this is not uniform enough between cases to use as a diagnostic tool.

Biomedical approach

The author of Ref. 5 uses a “biomedical approach”, which assumes that autism is a syndrome that is genetically based, but triggered by certain factors as listed above (point 1 to 6 and possibly more) during the time of the pregnancy, in the neonatal period and in early infancy. This leads to the changes in the gut (leaky gut syndrome), in the central nervous system, to food allergies, autoimmune reactions and metabolic changes. According to Ref. 4 biomedical practitioners have remarkable treatment successes by identifying where the problems are and treating each one of them.

Autism spectrum disorder – Diagnose Autism Now

DAN (“diagnose autism now”) physicians who take a special interest in children with autism have shown that an early diagnosis of autism and early intervention with a well-orchestrated treatment protocol can lead to good outcomes, where the child is often losing the diagnosis of autism and developing normally. DAN physicians are changing into the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS), but the goal of helping autistic children early is the same. I have described the multi-step treatment protocol under Ref. 2 in the Net Health Book.

Hyperbaric oxygen (HBOT) and detoxification

Briefly, the physician orders a multitude tests initially to establish the diagnosis and the severity of the autism spectrum disorder. This gives the doctor the basis for a personalized treatment approach. A combination of hyperbaric oxygen (HBOT) and detoxification with intravenous chelation treatments removes toxins and heavy metals from the body. Stool samples determine whether Clostridium difficile or Candida albicans is present, which are appropriately treated. Dysbiosis, a term to describe an abnormal gut bacteria mix, is common. The doctor rectified this with probiotics. If leaky gut syndrome is present (in 43% to 76% it was shown to be present in three different well controlled studies, Ref. 4), this may also point to food allergies and autoimmune problems. The physician addresses these as well. Along the line of abnormal gut bacteria in autistic children, new research is considering the development of a vaccine to help normalize gut bacteria.

A metabolic weakness is at the center of autism

There appear to be a number of metabolic weaknesses that have to be diagnosed, as there are wide variations among children with autism spectrum disorder. Ref. 4 points out that methylation defects in the metabolism are common and the blood is lacking antioxidant enzyme systems. As a result, there are weaknesses in the immune system and detoxification of heavy metals (such as mercury) is often slow. There have been many studies, which were reviewed in Ref. 4. It was shown that multiple vaccinations have not been the main culprit to lead to autism. It is the metabolic weaknesses of an autistic fetus and/or child that led to slow detoxification. This reaches a point where exposure to polluted air and seafood, even consumption of seafood of the pregnant mother in the womb, could cause high levels of mercury in the infant (due to methylation, sulfation, and antioxidant deficiencies).

Inflammation from a lack of omega-3 fatty acids

Another observation that is important is that children with autism spectrum disorder have 23% lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood than controls and 20% lower levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (Ref.4). Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is therefore important. As omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects, it also helps to combat the inflammation mentioned above. Ref. 4 also points out that autistic children are often put on a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet as autistic children are more vulnerable to food sensitivities, particularly gluten and casein. This is a practice to prevent or improve a leaky gut syndrome. However, Ref. 4 points out also that testing methods (RAST test, IgE and IgG tests) for gluten and casein sensitivities are unreliable and not reproducible.

Food elimination to identify food allergies

To find out what foods children with autism spectrum disorder will tolerate the physician uses a painstaking food elimination program. Whatever food component he/she suspects to cause worsening of autism is no longer part of the menu for a period of time. Several months later the physician reintroduces it as a challenge test to see whether it is still causing problems. The child needs balanced nutrition, which can be very tricky with autistic children. They often are picky eaters.

The key is to pay attention to all of these pieces of the puzzle. The treating physician must use remedies to address the issues at hand regarding a particular autism patient. This can be quite costly. But autism patients who received early intervention at the age of 2 or 3 became normal children.  Early intervention with autism leads to more gifted children than the average child is in their age group.

Conclusion

Whether or not autism or the autism spectrum disorder exists is no longer the question. The question is how early the treating physician can diagnose it. Under point 7 above researchers found that the diagnosis of autism often occurs 18 months too late! With an early diagnosis and early intervention autistic children can grow up to be productive members of society. Often, they have no residual features of autism. If the physician misses the diagnosis of autism early on, it develops into a lifelong disability requiring constant care and supervision.

Epigenetic changes

I mentioned that epigenetic changes possibly from pollution and other factors can be responsible for autism.  This may switch genetic switches into the wrong direction towards autism, autoimmunity, leaky gut syndrome and brain dysfunction. Children are much more sensitive than adults. This explains the explosion of cases of autism in the last few decades. Old age at the other end of the life cycle shows effects on the central nervous system. There is an enormous increase of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the last few decades. Could there be similarities? Future research will tell.

References

Use of progesterone reduces chance of miscarriage: next 2 references (Ref. 1 and 2):

1.http://www.bio-hormone-health.com/2012/03/26/the-key-role-of-progesterone-in-fertility-conception-and-maintaining-a-pregnancy/

2. Autism chapter in Dr. Schilling’s Nethealthbook.com: http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/autism.php

3. More on DAN physicians: http://autism.about.com/od/alternativetreatmens/f/dandoc.htm

4. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed.Copyright © 2012 Saunders, An Imprint of Elsevier; Chapter 7 – Autism Spectrum Disorder: Sanford C. Newmark, MD

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