Jan
09
2021

Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Notably, the January 2021 issue of the Life Extension magazine informs you that melatonin is more than a sleeping aid. It contains an interview between Dr. Roman Rozencwaig and a Life Extension (LE) magazine reporter. It must be remembered that Dr. Rozencwaig dedicated much of his career to the healing effects of melatonin. Another keypoint is that in 1987 Dr. Rozencwaig published a paper together with two other researchers. Specifically, it showed that melatonin production by the pineal gland declines in older age. Markedly, they stated that this is the reason why people age and why diseases of aging develop. Another key point is that Dr. Rozencwaig also stated that taking oral melatonin can promote a healthier life.

Melatonin deficiency causing aging and various illnesses

With the aging process the pineal gland calcifies and melatonin production is steadily declining. Surely, along with this is a deterioration of the circadian hormone rhythm. Meanwhile, the neuroendocrine system in the brain gets disorganized. Accordingly, this causes various diseases to occur. To emphasize, Dr. Rozencwaig says that a proper balance between melatonin and neurotransmitters is what we need to maintain health and longevity. As a result, a daily intake of melatonin supports healthy aging and longevity.

The many clinical effects of melatonin

Oral melatonin tablets help you to fall asleep easier, particularly the population that is older than 60 years.

But besides that, melatonin has many other clinical effects.

  • Melatonin improves immunity, which improves resistance against infections. It helps also in cancer prevention
  • Melatonin maintains the circadian hormone rhythm by synchronizing pituitary and hypothalamic hormone production
  • It protects the brain and may prevent Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and others
  • Melatonin modulates anti-inflammatory cytokinins in different diseases

Dr. Rozencwaig mentioned that melatonin slows down the aging process. There are multiple intertwining reasons for this. 

Melatonin’s actions against the aging process 

  • Melatonin regulates gene expression. This means that some signs and symptoms of aging can be reversed through genetic switches
  • Because melatonin regulates the immune response, the body is more protected against viral, bacterial and parasitic infections
  • Melatonin helps to overcome chronic inflammation that produces cytokines
  • Melatonin is also liver-protective through stimulation of an enzyme (AMPK). This enzyme regulates cellular metabolism.
  • There are other processes that melatonin is involved in: energy metabolism by protection and restoration of mitochondria.
  • Melatonin protects against osteoporosis by balancing and regulating bone formation versus bone loss.

More actions of melatonin

  • An important function of melatonin is the stimulation of antioxidant enzymes like glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase (SOD)
  • Melatonin regulates sirtuins, which are proteins that maintain cellular health. They protect you from obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and strokes, dementia and more
  • As already mentioned, melatonin is a neuroprotective agent and may prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Melatonin stimulates apoptosis of cancer cells.
  • Oral health and melatonin are related. Melatonin suppresses herpes infections and periodontal disease. Melatonin prevents oral cancers to a certain degree. In addition, dental implants survive better when melatonin is present in saliva.

Prevention of cognitive decline

Dr. Rozencwaig mentioned that melatonin stops much of the cognitive decline of aging. To achieve this the following processes take place.

  1. Melatonin improves the sleeping pattern and increases the amount of REM sleep.
  2. During sleep melatonin removes toxic amyloid and tau proteins. We know that with Alzheimer’s disease these are the proteins that accumulate in the brain.
  3. Melatonin improves myelination of white matter in the brain. This prevents brain atrophy of old age.
  4. The brain is metabolically very active and produces toxic free radicals. But melatonin is a strong antioxidant dealing with free radicals. Melatonin can cross the blood brain barrier and stimulates enzyme production to eliminate toxic reactive oxygen species.
  5. Chronic inflammation also increases with age, but melatonin deals with this condition in the brain.
  6. Here are 3 subtypes of melatonin receptors. The body integrates the multitude of actions of melatonin with the help of these receptors.
Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Conclusion

Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that has many other useful protective qualities as explained. The body integrates various functions like anti-aging, anti-free radical activity, neuroprotection in the brain and more. Melatonin even synchronizes pituitary and hypothalamic hormone production. This helps to integrate the effect of melatonin, which benefits the body in many ways. Melatonin prevents Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, strokes and dementia. Melatonin production deteriorates from the age of about 60 onwards. It is important to supplement with melatonin at nighttime from that age on. Usually, you only need small amounts of melatonin, between 1mg and 3 mg at bedtime. This prevents most of the serious diseases of old age, stimulates your immune system and lets you age gracefully.

Feb
29
2020

Celiac Disease in Various Disguises

Dr. Tom O’Bryan gave a lecture in Las Vegas on Dec. 13, 2019 about celiac disease in various disguises. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. The title of his talk: “An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Protocols: Halting Our Brains Slow Deterioration”.

Case # 1: 44-year old male with an assumed diagnosis of ALS

In the first place a 44-year old male had a history of a right leg weakness that developed over the last 6 months. He had intermittent spasms in his right quadriceps muscle. In addition, over the last few months he noticed a weakness develop in his right arm with difficulties writing. Significantly, his family history revealed that a maternal aunt had celiac disease. Moreover, a sister had Crohn’s disease and his maternal grandmother had multiple sclerosis. Electromyographic studies showed widespread acute denervation. An MRI scan of the spine showed hyperintensity in the corticospinal tracts. A diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) followed as a result based on the MRI scan findings.

Further tests

At the same time blood tests revealed that his anti-endomysial antibodies were elevated.  Duodenal biopsy demonstrated villous atrophy, crypt-hyperplasia and increased intraepithelial lymphocytes consistent with gluten-sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease). An MRI scan of the brain also showed some hyperintense lesion in the left-brain hemisphere.

Gluten free diet instituted

It was clear with these test results that the initial diagnosis was a misdiagnosis. The real diagnosis was celiac disease. 7 months after the onset of his symptoms he started on a gluten free diet. He received no medications. Notably, his right arm function returned to normal after 9 month of the gluten free diet. Although there was some improvement in his right leg function, he still had some muscle wasting and spasticity in his right leg. However, he could now walk without any aid. His hand-writing was back to normal, and he could button his shirts again. Repeat MRI scans followed 2 months and 9 months after the start of the gluten free diet. At two months after initiation of the gluten free diet the brain lesion in the left brain was somewhat larger than before, but at 9 months it was half the original size.

Case #2: Autism in children, youth depression and Alzheimer’s patients

The autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has significantly increased from 1 in 166 in 2004 to 1 in 40 in 2018. In addition, Dr. O’Bryan also mentioned that in 2017 statistics showed that 13.3% among youth aged 12 to 17 in the US suffered major depressive episodes. 1 in every 12 youth suffer from severe behavioral and emotional problems. According to the CDC since 1994 the number of children on psycho-stimulants increased 5-fold. In the same time children under 18 with bipolar disorder have increased 40-fold. There has been a 6-fold increase of prescriptions for antipsychotic medications for children in the same time frame.

Other effects on adolescents

However, I like to point out that there are other powerful factors that can explain increased depression and emotional problems in adolescence. The Canadian Medical Association published an article about social media and smart phones and the effects they have on adolescence.

On the other end of the life cycle 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Between 2000 and 2015 death from Alzheimer’s disease has increased by 213%.

Breakdown of the blood brain barrier

According to Dr. O’Bryan autism in children, behavioral and emotional problems in teenagers and dementia from Alzheimer’s disease are all related to the same process, namely a breakdown of the gut barrier, often called leaky gut syndrome. It is important to realize that this leads to a secondary breakdown of the blood brain barrier. The end result is a compromise of the brain, where antibodies attack the brain protein. In young children this causes lower adaptive and cognitive function and behaviors typical for autism. Teenagers are more likely to present with depression or schizophrenia. In older people the breakdown of the blood brain barrier can result in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

25 to 30% of protein in wheat are non-gluten. Antibodies can be directed against gluten, but also against non-gluten protein.

IgG antibodies against gluten cross placenta

In the later stages of pregnancy IgG antibodies cross the placenta easily. They provide passive immunity from various viral infections. Unfortunately, antibodies against gluten also cross through the placenta, which can lead to a breakdown of the fetal gut lining, in the sense of leaky gut syndrome. In this study 211 children were found to have a risk of 1.7-fold to develop psychosis later in life. The mothers were positive for anti-gliadin IgG antibodies in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy. Anti-casein antibodies did not have this psychosis effect (risk only 0.8-fold). The investigators felt that an allergy to wheat in the mother set up general inflammation. Psychosis in the offspring only develops when inflammatory mediators reached the brain of the fetus. It was the brain inflammation, which caused the subsequent psychosis later in the child.

Blood brain barrier and healthy gut barrier

Another key point is that the barrier both in the gut and in the blood brain barrier consists of a single epithelial layer. The cells are held together by zonulin and occludin proteins. Autistic children were exposed already in the uterus to mother’s wheat induced anti-gliadin antibodies. This led to a break-down of the children’s blood brain barrier and the symptoms of the autism spectrum disorder. These children have a lot of brain inflammation and in addition often have impaired gut barrier integrity. It must be remembered that they require a comprehensive program to improve the gut flora, build up the gut barrier integrity and re-establish the blood brain barrier.

Effects of phthalates on young children

A 2014 study measured urinary metabolites of phthalates and related this to the children when they were 7 years old.

The investigators did several cognitive tests and measured the IQ (Wechsler Intelligence Scale). Children of mothers with the highest quartile of phthalates had an IQ, which was on average 7.0 points lower than the control group of the lowest quartile of phthalates. Dr. O’Bryan showed a slide taken from this study.

With this in mind, it points out that a pregnant woman has an intact blood brain barrier, which prevents antibodies from entering. However, the immature brain of the fetus has not developed an efficient blood brain barrier yet. This allows maternal gliadin antibodies from wheat intolerance to enter the fetal brain and cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

PCB’s disrupt the blood brain barrier

In mouse experiments the effects of PCB’s were investigated. By the same token, researchers found that the blood brain barrier was broken down by PCB’s that are known to have carcinogenic and neurotoxic properties on the brain. The researchers injected melanoma cells into the animals and found that the PCB pretreated mice sustained brain metastases. However, the control animals that did not have PCB pre-treatment did not develop brain metastases. They concluded from this that PCB’s are breaking down the blood brain barrier.

Maternal brain antibodies causing autism in children

This publication examined antibodies to two different brain proteins. The researchers found that 86% of the children from mothers with two different fetal brain antibodies were diagnosed with autistic regression. According to this publication there are at least 50 different epitopes of gluten peptides that exert cytotoxic, gut permeating and immunomodulatory activities.

DNA microarray technology can now detect many subtypes of food disorders and gluten sensitivities. The tests for celiac disease have a sensitivity of 97% for IgG and 99% for IgA. With regard to specificity the test is now 98% accurate for IgG and 100% for IgA.

Case #3: 34-year old female vegan patient with depression and mild cognitive decline

A 34-year old woman has followed a Vegan lifestyle for 10 years. She has been working long hours and had a lot of stress. In addition, her thyroid was borderline low with high TPO antibodies. A blood test for vitamin D showed vitamin D deficiency. For the past year her energy level was low and she had developed chronic depression. Her physician did a genetic test that found she carried the gene that converts GABA into glutamate. She thinks that she has small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). A review of her dietary habits revealed that she ate more cooked foods and less raw food. Her memory is slightly off, her speech not as fluid and she has some cognitive decline.

Her blood tests showed anti-immunity to RAGE peptides. To put it another way, RAGE stands for “receptor for advanced glycation end products”. When you eat too much overcooked foods you ingest advanced glycation end products. This can have adverse effects on your body, particularly the brain.

More tests regarding this woman

Another specific test revealed a blood brain barrier disruption with the presence of anti-brain antibodies. A stool sample was obtained. It showed low Akkermansia, low Faecali bacterium, low Bifido longum and low Bifido adolescentis bacteria. A chemical analysis revealed low butyrate, propionate and acetate. The treating physician concluded that she had a gut dysbiosis and a dysfunctional gut barrier. This has also affected her blood brain barrier. The constellation of symptoms and blood tests explain her clinical condition. She has developed autoantibodies that affect her thyroid gland and her brain because of the antibodies against her RAGE peptides. People can develop Alzheimer’s disease given enough time with exposure to these antibodies. The leaky gut has led to a break-down of her blood brain barrier and exposed her brain to autoimmune antibodies directed against brain cells.

Treatment of gut dysbiosis

This patient started a gluten free diet (GFD). But one of the problems of the GFD is that wheat is removed that normally provides 69% inulin and 71% oligofructose, both important prebiotics that are necessary for probiotics to work with. Inulin is contained in beets, leeks, asparagus, onions, garlic and bananas. Oligofructose is contained in chicory root, bananas, onion, and garlic.

When people consume a typical Western diet, they get between 1 and 4 grams of inulin daily. But others who eat balanced diets get up to 25 to 100 grams of inulin per day. Dr. O’Bryan explained that going on a GFD leads to an altered microbiome.

Experiment with volunteers to measure the effects of a gluten free diet

He discussed an experiment on 10 healthy volunteers who were fed a GFD for 1 month.

The researchers ordere stool samples in the beginning and at the end of the experiment. There was less of the good bacteria and more of the the bad bacteria. This led to a less protective and more inflammatory environment. The remedy for that is to eat 1 root vegetable and 2 other prebiotics per day. The patient on a GFD must supplement with prebiotic-rich foods to prevent this from happening.

Non-digestible oligosaccharide supplement

Inulin and oligosaccharides support the intestinal microbiota.  Dr. O’Brien suggested to add a supplement, called Precision Prebiotic™, non-digestible oligosaccharides that can increase microbial diversity. This supplement supports the growth of the healthy bacteria. These are keystone bacteria like Akkermansia muciniphila, Faecal bacterium prausnitzii, and Bifidobacteria.

Other supportive measures for the gut

  • 1 tablespoon of fermented vegetables like sauerkraut once per day
  • The ingestion of fermented foods increases the beneficial gut bacteria by a factor of 10,000-fold!
  • A 100% spore-based probiotic supplement increases diversity of the gut flora and helps to maintain the gut barrier
  • Sodium butyrate, which comes from fermented food is an important modulator of the central nervous system
  • In addition, sodium butyrate also inhibits pathological gut bacteria and maintains the gastrointestinal balance
  • In neurodegenerative disorders sodium butyrate provides anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects
  • Sodium butyrate restores the blood brain barrier
  • Following heart attacks or strokes sodium butyrate promotes tissue repair and recovery through cell survival
Celiac Disease in Various Disguises

Celiac Disease in Various Disguises

Conclusion

Dr. Tom O’Bryan delivered a lecture at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas on Dec.13, 2019. Wheat allergies have increased in the last decades. Researchers have found that in many people there is a deterioration of the gut flora and a breakdown of the gut barrier. This leads to antibody formation against gluten or gliadin (wheat proteins). This exposes the body to many proteins from the gut. The body reacts by producing antibodies to them. These are also affecting cells in the body as they cross react with body proteins. The inflammation from the autoantibodies cause the blood brain barrier to break down. Now the immune system can produce antibodies against brain tissue. In the past  with an intact blood brain barrier this was not possible.

Autoantibodies in various life epochs

At a young age autism can develop because of antibodies against gliadin from wheat. In our youth schizophrenia and depression can occur from gut dysbiosis and a subsequent break down of our blood brain barrier. In old age Alzheimer’s disease develops in 1 out of 3 people due to gut dysbiosis and a breakdown of the blood brain barrier with anti-brain antibodies. Dr. O’Bryan explained how a person can turn this negative spiral around and start a new life without these problems. You can avoid a lot of these diseases by eliminating wheat and processed food from your diet.

Jan
02
2017

Gut Bacteria Can Protect Your Brain

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

A few facts

Did you know that the brain uses 25% of the body’s energy, but has only a 3% of the body’s weight?

There are trillions of gut bacteria

The gut flora has trillions of gut bacteria with its own DNA material. 99% of the DNA material in our body comes from the gut bacteria and the bacteria on our skin surface; only 1% of the entire DNA in the body is your own DNA. We are eating for 100 trillion bacteria, but it is important to remember that if they are good bacteria they provide us with important vitamins and they produce molecules that stimulate our immune system.

We need healthy gut bacteria

This means we better have bacteria in our guts that are friendly, not the bad bacteria that can cause us problems. An Italian study determined the gut flora of children in central Africa (Burkina Faso) and compared the gut flora to children from developed countries in Europe. There was a significant difference with the African children having a healthy microbiome in the gut and the children from developed Europe having unhealthy gut bacteria. This is important new information. Many other research papers have established that leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases are linked to dysbiosis, which is the name for the unhealthy microbiome in the gut.

Chronic inflammation

Dr. Perlmutter showed several slides where literature was cited showing that chronic inflammation in the civilized world is increasing. He also showed that dysbiosis (unhealthy gut bacteria taking over) is also increasing. On several slides Dr. Perlmutter showed that in civilized countries like Iceland, Denmark, Germany, the US, Japan and others the bacterial diversity of the gut bacteria in people was vastly reduced compared to the diversity of gut bacteria of people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria or rural India.

Diminished gut bacterial diversity causes more Alzheimer’s disease

The same countries that have diminished gut bacterial diversity (dysbiosis) also have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand the same countries with diverse gut bacteria have a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. When infestation with parasites was examined there was also a parallel between increased parasitic stress and low Alzheimer’s disease rates, again in countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria or rural India. The same countries where gut dysbiosis was present the parasitic infestation was low.

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

Leaky gut syndrome causes neurological diseases

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

Obesity and gut dysbiosis

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

Another study also noticed that in a group of obese patients the hippocampus part of the brain was shriveled up the more obese people were. Obesity and dysbiosis of the gut flora are part of the same problem.

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

What does gut dysbiosis do?

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

The gut wall released inflammatory kinins, which were the negative mediators affecting the brain.

Antibiotic residue and Roundup in food causes gut dysbiosis

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

Roundup linked to cancer

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

To sum up: Roundup and the Standard American diet lead to dysbiosis in the gut, which causes leaky gut syndrome. This causes inflammation with the release of cytokines and LPS from the gut wall to the blood. These substances cross the blood/brain barrier and lead to inflammation in the brain. This affects the hippocampus with the classical sign of shrinkage.

Chronic inflammation and neurological disease

But Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism in children and Alzheimer’s disease in older people are all caused by chronic inflammation. There are three more brain-related diseases that are related to gut inflammation: stroke, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dr. Perlmutter spent some time explaining that antibiotic overuse even leads to an increase of breast cancer as a Danish study has shown. Antibiotic use showed a linear increase of breast cancer as a result of increased antibiotic amounts used. The highest group had a twofold risk compared to a control group with no antibiotic use. Dr. Perlmutter interpreted this to indicate that chronic gut inflammation can even cause a disease like breast cancer.

What can we do to diversify our gut bacteria?

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

Gut Bacteria Can Protect Your Brain

Conclusion

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

Jun
04
2016

Genetic Screening For Better Health

Dr. Matt Pratt-Hyatt gave an overview about genetic screening for better health at the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas. The title of the talk was: ”Genetic Screening: A Tool for Better Health with Age”. He showed that with more sensitive genetic screening techniques minor genetic changes can be detected. These are a lot more common than previously thought of. Matt Pratt-Hyatt, PhD is Associate Laboratory Director for the Great Plains Laboratory in Lenexa, KS.

Specifically, Dr. Pratt-Hyatt explained that single nucleotide polymorphisms, frequently called SNPs (pronounced “snips”) were the most common type of genetic variations among people. These genetic changes in the DNA often cause disease. Different types of genetic testing can identify the gene defects of SNPs. One of the questions is how aging can be better managed when genetic defects are known.

When it comes to our genetic material there are over 3 billion base pairs, all contained in 23 chromosomes. These are home to 20,000-25,000 genes, most of which are normal.

A gene has three regions all of which can have mutations. In the middle there is the coding region; one end is the regulatory region for transcription initiating; at the other end the transcription termination signals are located. Minor mutations in any of these regions can have major implications for the health of the individual or they can stay silent SNPs. SNPs are classified into missense mutation or nonsense mutation. This description just shows how intricate and complex the process of mutations can be!

There are three types of sequencing that are common:

Three types of genetic screening for better health

  1. Sanger sequencing
 utilizes certain dyes that correspond to specific nucleotides of the DNA. The benefits of Sanger sequencing is that it can cover one gene completely. It can find previously unknown mutations. But the disadvantage of Sanger sequencing is that you cannot process a large number of genes.
  2. The Florophore-base detection looks at multiple SNPs in a single run. This method is cheaper than whole genome sequencing. But one of the disadvantages of Florophore-base detection
is that only a limited number of SNPs can be processed per run. It also can miss new mutations.
  3. Benefits of next generation sequencing 
are that it can look at 1000s of SNPs per run. It is much more accurate than previous technologies. A drawback
though is that the equipment is much more expensive.

The physician does not have to order all of these tests, but can make the choice of the appropriate one for the patient. The following are some applications with regard to how genetic screening can be useful for better health.

Detoxification as part of genetic screening for better health

Since the 1970’s and 1980’s it has become clear that there are many steps in the detoxification process in the liver. It involves major enzyme systems that are controlled by the P450 genes. We know several genetic defects that run in different families. These effects are very important for drug detoxification and metabolism.

The P450 detoxification system in the liver

Any mutation in one of the P450 controlling genes will lead to accumulation of the drug that is normally detoxified by this enzyme system. Without discontinuing or lowering the drug there can be toxicity at higher levels. When people age, they often have spontaneous mutations of the P450 detoxification system. The physician who prescribes medications should take this into account. Common drugs that cause problems with the P450 controlled detoxification are antidepressants, the blood thinner Coumadin, the antibiotic erythromycin, the asthma medication Theophylline and many others.

Patient with atrial fibrillation

Here is an example of how important this knowledge is in an elderly patient who was sent to the hospital with an irregular heartbeat. The electrocardiogram allowed a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. The doctor treated the patient with a cautious loading dose of 0.5 mg of Coumadin in an attempt to thin the blood of the patient. This would prevent a blood clot or a stroke due to the arrhythmia. Normally a small dose like this would not do much in terms of blood thinning. It would take several days of small doses of Coumadin dose like this to achieve blood thinning.

Defect of gene controlling P450 system

Unbeknown to the physician, this patient was different as he had a defect in the Cyp2c9 gene, a subtype of the P450 system. Very quickly the patient developed bleeding gums and bruising of the skin in various locations. When blood tests were taken, the INR, a measure of the clotting system, was 3.7, a value that should not have exceeded a level of 2 to 3. Genetic testing confirmed a homogenous mutation of the Cyp2c9 gene that explained the toxicity of Coumadin in this case, one of the many drugs that is detoxified by the P450 system.

Mental health as part of genetic screening for better health

Many mental illnesses can be caused by defects in various parts of the brain metabolism. This is particularly so when it involves the synthesis of brain hormones. If there are genetic defects, this can lead to the particular brain metabolism that is associated with depression or schizophrenia. Even dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease can be caused by genetic defects. Methylation pathway defects are another source of possible genetic defects, which can affect multiple metabolic pathways. This is the cause of many diverse conditions like autism, diabetes and some hereditary cancers. The reason it is important to be aware of such genetic aberrations is that often vitamin B2, B6, niacin, vitamin B12 and the minerals magnesium and zinc can stabilize a person with methylation defects.

Cholesterol as part of genetic screening for better health

People with obesity have problems with their lipid metabolism, diabetes, high blood pressure and often heart disease and strokes. Changes in cholesterol metabolism are at the center of these problems. Cholesterol is one of the building blocks of cell membranes, and cholesterol is one of the normal components in the blood as long as the subfractions are properly balanced (LDL and the HDL cholesterol). Unfortunately many people have minor or major defects of the biosynthetic pathway of cholesterol. There are 5 genes that control the acetyl CoA biosynthesis. 21 genes involve the main cholesterol biosynthesis pathways. Over 10 genes control cholesterol metabolites. Historically these genes were detected because of various familiar gene defects that caused problems with the biochemical processes surrounding cholesterol. Familial high cholesterol levels (familial hypercholesterolemia) is one of these common conditions.

Patients who have this condition will often have high cholesterol and also often have a family history of gall bladder surgery for gallstones and a history of premature heart attacks or strokes. Early diagnosis and careful clinical intervention can improve the outlook for many patients.

Genetic Screening For Better Health

Genetic Screening For Better Health

Conclusion

Modern medicine cannot help all of the genetic conditions. But you can work around many minor genetic abnormalities. In addition, if the physician knows the genetic defect, it is possible to avoid drug interactions. It is encouraging that newer test methods have now shown success, as they are more affordable than in the past. As time progresses the price of these genetic tests will come down even further. Mental health, detoxification pathways and the metabolic syndrome of obesity are practical applications where genetic tests have significance.

Apr
04
2015

Stop Suffering From Arthritis

Arthritis is an illness of the joints, mostly in older people (osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis). However, a subgroup of younger patients can also develop a severe form of arthritis, called rheumatoid arthritis where autoimmune antibodies play more of a role.

In the 1950’s Dan Dale Alexander wrote a book called “Arthritis and common sense”. The medical establishment did not accept that simple remedy and Dan Dale Alexander was classified as a “quack”. However, Dr. Mirkin describes a study from Berlin that later confirmed that Dan Dale Alexander’s observation was correct: an emulsion made by shaking orange juice with cod liver oil and taken three times per day on an empty stomach would indeed improve osteoarthritis.

In 1964, still being a medical student I suggested to my future mother-in-law to give Dan Dale Alexander’s book about arthritis a try. Despite the well-established osteoarthritic condition in her left knee the arthritis vanished within 6 months and stayed controlled. I could not explain to her why this remedy worked, as higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids and higher doses of vitamin C were not yet known to be of value for arthritis.

This all changed with the advent of orthomolecular medicine (Ref.1). On page 76 of this book Dr. Frederick Klenner describes that ascorbic acid (vitamin C) at mega doses of at least 10,000 mg daily, but better even between 15,000 and 25,000 mg daily does have healing effects for arthritis. He stated further that repair of collagenous tissue (the joint surfaces) would require adequate ascorbic acid. On page 240 of Ref.1 Dr. Abram Hoffer, the founder of modern orthomolecular medicine reviewed the history of the use of vitamins in higher doses, particularly the use of vitamin B3 (niacin). He also mentioned that Dr. William Kaufman had used mega doses of vitamin B3 for arthritis as far back as 1950.

Overview of arthritis

Dr. Hoffer explains in Ref.2 that arthritis belongs into a group of diseases that are related to faulty nutrition, which in turn lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and a pandeficiency disease. Other diseases that belong to that group are cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes, schizophrenia, mood disorders, alcoholism and autism. Contributing factors can be poor diets with overemphasis on refined and processed foods and consumption of sugar, allergies, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and viral infections. Arthritis belongs into this group of illnesses as well. Niacin, vitamin B6 and zinc have been found useful to treat arthritis, but other vitamins and minerals are also needed. Here is a list of what Dr. Hoffer would suggest to use (Ref. 2):

1. Vitamin B3 from 100 mg to several thousand mg three times daily following meals. With niacin there can be skin flushing, which often goes away after the body gets used to the higher doses; but niacinamide could be used instead by those who are bothered by the flushing.

2. B complex: this contains each of the major B vitamins including vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). Take 100 mg once per day with a meal. Vitamin B6 may be needed up to 500 mg per day or more.

3. Vitamin C should be taken between 500 mg and several thousand mg three times per day after meals.

4. Vitamin D3: 4000 IU per day in the summer months. In the winter months particularly populations who live far north require 6000 IU per day.

5. Vitamin B1 (thiamine): alcoholics and very high sugar consumers need thiamine at 100 to 500 mg three times per day.

6. Folic acid at mega doses (prescription needed) works as an antidepressant, which requires 25 to 50 mg. To lower homocysteine levels lower doses of folic acid are sufficient.

7. Vitamin E: usually 400 IU to 800 daily. Muscle wasting diseases, Huntington’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) require much higher doses up to 4000 IU per day.

8. Essential fatty acids (omega-3): It is strongly recommended to use a molecularly distilled product, which is free of mercury and PBC’s at 1000 mg three times daily following meals.

9. Selenium: The required dosage is 200 to 600 micrograms once daily (with any meal). In areas where selenium is deficient, this is particularly important.

10. Zinc: 50 mg of zinc citrate or 220 mg of zinc sulfate once per day with a meal.

11. Calcium and magnesium: Dr. Hoffer suggests 1000 mg of calcium with 500 mg of magnesium, although many experts now say that 1000 mg of calcium with 1000 mg of magnesium may be better.

Dr. Hoffer pointed out that this program is compatible with any medication and is non-toxic.

Thoughts on treating arthritis

 1. Conventional methods

The conventional approach to treatment of arthritis consists of anti-inflammatory medications like ANSAIDs. Unfortunately they have side effects like causing kidney damage after several years of use. Also, NSAIDs can lead to gastric bleeding from gastric erosions, which may require blood transfusions. Physiotherapy with reactivation and swimming have been found to be useful. Electro acupuncture can help for pain control.

2. Diet changes, multivitamins and minerals

As arthritis is found mostly in civilized nations, dietary factors have long been suspected to be of importance. Dr. Hoffer pointed out that arthritis is a pandeficiency disease meaning that overconsumption of sugar and processed foods has lead to multiple vitamin and mineral deficits that interfere with the cartilage metabolism leading to premature breakdown of cartilage and causing inflammation. It is not good enough to just take the supplements listed above; this needs to be combined with a fundamental change in diet. Cut out sugar and starchy foods. Return to homemade foods. Keep it simple with lots of vegetables, salads and organic meats. Now that you are starting to turn around your metabolism by a sensible diet the supplements listed above have a chance to work.

You will notice that Dan Dale Alexander’s idea of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C (from the freshly pressed orange juice) is contained in the list of supplements above. Dr. Klenner’s mega doses of vitamin C are also listed and Dr. Kaufman’s mega doses of vitamin B3 is contained in this list as well.

This list may not have been formally researched with controlled clinical trials, because the food industry and the makers of NSAIDs (Big Pharma) have no interest in this. But thousands of patients have been empirically treated with this regimen and a network of orthomolecular physicians has established that this regimen works to control the inflammation of arthritis and at the same time has no toxic side-effects.

 3.Laser, platelet rich plasma (PRP) and stem cells

Blue and green lasers have anti-inflammatory properties and are suitable for interstitial and intra articular laser treatments of arthritis. Dr. Weber has extensive experience with this treatment modality in Germany. I have discussed this in another blog.

However, prolotherapy, PRP and stem cell treatments are also an option for more severe cases of arthritis, particularly in arthritis of the knees, which can avoid total knee replacement surgery.

Stop Suffering From Arthritis

Stop Suffering From Arthritis

Conclusion

I met Dr. Hoffer in the early 1980’s during a meeting in Vancouver, BC when he wanted to establish a local orthomolecular division for British Columbia. Although I found the ideas fascinating, I felt that the College of Physicians and Surgeons (the regulatory body for physicians in BC) would scrutinize the practice of any orthomolecular member. At that time I would risk losing my license to practice medicine, which I just had received in 1978. So I decided not to join. Interestingly enough later in the 1980’s a member of the orthomolecular society of BC lost his license because of the use of mega doses of intravenous vitamin C. At this time the College considered these infusions useless or hazardous. Nowadays, any naturopathic and orthomolecular physician uses these intravenous vitamin C treatments as standard therapies. It shows how times have changed.

What has not changed is the food industry that undermines our health every day with hidden sugar contained in processed foods. In social functions it is customary to have a drink or two, if not more, which uses up our thiamine faster than we can replace it. Pandeficiency disease is alive and well as it was many years ago. It is in front of our eyes, but can we see it? Depending on what your eating habits are, do you need to make changes in your diet and perhaps take some or all of the ingredients of the multivitamin and mineral list above? Start by adopting a Mediterranean type diet, then add some of the supplements listed above. It is time to take a thorough look at natural treatment modalities against arthritis in the interest of preserving your health!

References:

Ref. 1: Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D.: “The Orthomolecular Treatment of Chronic Disease. 65 Experts on Therapeutic and Preventative Nutrition”, Basic Health Publications, Laguna Beach, CA, 2014.

Ref. 2: Chapter in Ref. 1 by Dr. Hoffer: “Pandeficiency Disease”, pages 24-30 (2014).

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Jan
16
2015

Telomere Length A Telltale Sign Of Aging

Dr. Sandy Chang gave a talk at the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas Dec. 10-14, 2014 entitled “Telomere measurement as a diagnostic Test in cardiovascular and Age-related disease”, but a shorter title would be “telomere length a telltale sign of aging” (my choosing).

Dr. Chang pointed out that it is now well established that telomere length is directly related to health. The shorter the telomeres are the higher the probability to get the following: early menopause, infertility, diabetes, wrinkles, arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, cancer, stress and a lack of stem cells. In this BMJ study from 2014 it was shown on a large population basis that shorter white blood cell telomeres lead to a higher risk of coronary heart disease causing heart attacks. Decreased telomere length is also associated with the development of breast cancer, cancer of the ovary and uterus, cancer of the prostate and skin cancer.

Because of these connections it makes sense to determine a person’s telomere length. If it is short, do check-ups more often to detect any cancer early when it can still be treated.

Telomere length measurements are now done in many infertility clinics as short telomeres both in the male and female is associated with infertility.

The newest finding and perhaps the most important is that a healthy lifestyle, vitamins and supplements can elongate telomeres while a poor lifestyle leads to shortening of telomeres.

Here are the factors that lead to shortening of telomeres:

– Chronic stress

– Poor diet and nutritional habits

– Chronic inflammatory diseases

– Metabolic disorders

– Lack of consistent exercise/sedentary lifestyle

– Obesity, high BMI and body fat

– Smoking

– Over consumption of alcohol

– Lack of sleep / insomnia

When short telomeres are detected, it is important for the physician to look at lifestyle changes to protect telomeres from decreasing their length even further. This has the potential of preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s when it comes to brain health. It can prevent osteoporosis and metabolic diseases (diabetes, metabolic syndrome). Telomerase is the buzzword today, which is an enzyme that all of our cells have. The purpose why we have telomerase in our cells seems to be helping us build up and repair telomeres. Any substance that preserves telomerase or prevents the breakdown of telomerase will prevent shortening of telomeres and will also prevent the above-mentioned diseases.

These supplements lead to lengthening of telomeres:

-Vitamin C and E

-Omega-3 and polyphenols

-Vitamin A and D3

-All of these help controlling oxidative stress, reduce DNA damage, reduce inflammation and build up telomere length.

-A good diet and nutrition (Mediterranean type diet) will prevent telomere shortening as well and also lead to telomere lengthening.

-T-65, an extract from astragalus has been shown in vitro to lengthen telomeres, but there is no publication yet about in vivo effects in humans.

-Resveratrol is useful to prevent shortening of telomeres as well.

-Exercise also is a simple means to prevent telomere shortening.

Telomere Length A Telltale Sign Of Aging

Telomere Length A Telltale Sign Of Aging

Another talk on telomeres was given by Dr. Harvey Bartnof with the title “Telomere Shortening and Modulation: Case Studies From The Clinic”.

This talk was a comprehensive review of what is known about telomeres, about the fact that many diseases are due to telomere shortening, about animal experiments, ways of how to lengthen telomeres and finally some data on human studies with regard to telomere lengthening.

In the following I will briefly review all of these areas that were discussed. Some of this material overlaps with Dr. Chang’s lecture.

What produces telomere shortening? Dr. Bartnof showed 4 slides that listed all of the conditions and diseases that are associated with telomere shortening. Telomere shortening is associated with twice the risk to die from a heart attack when compared to people with normal telomeres.

a) Known genetic conditions in humans associated with telomere shortening

There are three known genetic conditions due to telomere shortening: A premature aging syndrome, called dyskeratosis congenitalis; patients with this condition die prematurely from cancer, or from bone marrow failure.

People with Werner syndrome who have a genetic telomere loss have a mean life expectancy of only 54 years.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is another genetic condition with shortened telomeres due to mutations.

b) Telomere shortening associated with these health conditions

Professor Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD who is one of the three researchers who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for their work on telomeres in 2009 stated the following: “Telomere shortness is associated with just about all the major diseases of aging… from cardiovascular disease, death from cardiovascular disease, risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, diabetes risks such as insulin resistance, vascular dementia, to osteoarthritis.”

An enormous amount of clinical investigations have been done since in cohort groups like people with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and cancer.

There is natural shortening of telomeres due to the aging process. When we compare telomere length of body cells of a 20-year old and call this 100%, the telomeres of a 100-year old person are on average only 40%. A study from the Karolinska Institute found in a group of matching twins where one twin had shortened telomeres, this twin had a 2.8 times greater risk of death than the twin with normal telomere length.

However, as already mentioned a number of other factors can lead to shorter telomeres like chronic stress in workers who look after Alzheimer patients, being of the Caucasian race (compared to African-American), having had less education, chronic unemployment, depression, pessimism, single people versus married people, phobic anxiety in women and hostility in men, poor sleep and too little sleep, migraine headaches in women, low physical activity, smoking cigarettes and alcohol consumption. The list does not stop here. Other conditions are associated with telomere shortening like heroin abuse, exposure to smog, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and lead, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, cirrhosis of the liver, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic obstructive lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, chronic kidney disease and disability in the elderly.

c) Effects of medications on telomere length

Antidepressants used against depression have a telomere lengthening effect, but NSAID’s, aspirin and interferon-alpha shorten telomeres. Other telomere shortening effects come from cancer chemotherapy.

d) Telomerase activation elongates telomeres

Successful experiments in various mouse strains showed that special strains that were telomerase deficient, could be reconstituted to normal by reinserting telomerase: atrophied organs regrew back to normal size and function. In humans it was shown that increased physical activity elongated telomeres, so did vitamin C, E and vitamin D3 supplementation, resveratrol, a Mediterranean diet, marine omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, higher fiber intake, bioidentical estrogen in women and testosterone in men, relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation. The Astragalus-derived telomerase activator TA-65 has been shown in animal experiments to elongate telomeres. The human data about TA-65 is still spotty or not available (it is also very expensive and may be unnecessary given the fact that so many other agents are known to lengthen telomeres).

e) Human data on telomere lengthening

Much can be achieved by changing one’s lifestyle: cut out toxins like cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse. Get involved in a regular exercise program, which has been shown to increase HDL cholesterol and to elongate telomeres. Adopt a Mediterranean type diet including olive oil; take vitamin E, D, C and supplements with resveratrol and murine omega-3 fatty acids, all of which elongate telomeres. Get enough sleep (7 to 8 hours per night) and do yoga and meditation. Avoid distress and tone down your stress level to eustress (normal stress level associated with every day living). An older person should use bioidentical hormones to replace missing hormones. All of this taken together will create a milieu in your body where telomeres get elongated and you live longer without disease. Several clinical conditions were mentioned where baseline telomere length was assessed initially and was found to be too short; simple lifestyle changes were then initiated, which were able to improve telomere length and treat these diseases successfully. In addition TA-65 (also termed T-65) was given in some of these cases, but in a subsequent discussion Dr. Bartnof admitted that he could not comment on how effective TA-65 by itself was as it was only one component of many other effective telomerase stimulators given. Till further research is out on this substance, it may be just very costly without spectacular benefits on its own.

Conclusion

I gave a summary of the talks by Dr. Chang and Dr. Bartnof regarding telomeres, but these were not the only talks about telomeres, although quite representative for the others. Both speakers pointed out how powerful lifestyle is for our body functions as this is what lengthens our telomeres and allows us to live longer, disease-free lives. Stem cells also have telomeres, but they are on average longer than the rest of the body cells (called somatic dells). An improved lifestyle will keep our stem cells in good shape, so they are there when needed to replace aging somatic cells.

The new logic of a healthy lifestyle is:

A healthy lifestyle causes healthy telomeres of somatic cells and of stem cells; this causes health until a ripe old age. In the next few weeks I will blog about more topics from the 22nd Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas. Stay tuned.

Jan
18
2014

The Superpowers Of Vitamin D

Introduction

This article deals with the superpowers of vitamin D. Originally, researchers found that vitamin D was the missing ingredient in preventing rickets in growing children. They established that 400 IU of vitamin D daily prevented rickets. Medical investigators determined that the active metabolite was vitamin D. The body has receptors on all vital organs for vitamin D. This includes the heart, brain, bones, kidneys and liver. In recent years new findings showed that the RDA of 400 IU of vitamin D3 daily was too low for many diseases. In other words, many diseases can develop when vitamin D intake is too low, particularly in the aging population. Researchers showed that higher doses of vitamin D3 in the range of 800 to 1000 IU per day prevent osteoporosis, falls and fractures in older adults and in nursing home populations.

The immune system requires higher doses of vitamin D3

But the immune system of everybody is dependent on higher doses of vitamin D3. Recently (Dec. 12 to 15, 2013) I attended a lecture at the A4M conference in Las Vegas where Dr. Eisenstein reviewed the latest on vitamin D3. It is now known that 2/3 of the US population is deficient for vitamin D as measured by blood tests (less than 25 ng/ml).  The standard test is the 25-hydroxy-vitamin D level (abbreviated as 25(OH)D level). It is now known that you require at least a level of more than 40 to 60 ng/ml of 25(OH)D as measured in the US, which translates to more than 100 to 150 nmol/L measured in metric units in other countries, to prevent cancer.

The Super Powers Of Vitamin D

The Super Powers Of Vitamin D

Metabolism of vitamin D3

90% of the vitamin D3 that we need comes from exposure to sunlight. This transforms a cholesterol metabolite (7-dehydrocholesterol) into the vitamin D precursor (vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol). We absorb this from naturally occurring fish oil and oily fish. Otherwise this does not naturally occur in foodstuffs (Ref. 1). Dr. Eisenstein pointed out that it is well known that people living north of the 37th degree latitude lack vitamin D3 because of a lack of sun exposure, particularly in the winter season. People south of the 37th degree latitude have enough sun exposure. But wherever you live, it is advisable to have your vitamin D3 level measured (as 25(OH)D level). If you do not eat enough fish or fish oil, the levels likely are too low as is the case for 2/3 of the US population.

Oral vitamin D3 supplements

Patients whose vitamin D levels are too low have to take vitamin D3 supplements. Vitamin D3 is further metabolized by the liver and then by the kidneys into the active vitamin D compound, called 1,25(OH)2D3 (which is called “calcitriol”). The main effect of calcitriol is to absorb calcium and phosphate from the intestine into the blood stream. Together with vitamin K2 as explained in a prior blog these minerals are then taken up by the bone to prevent osteoporosis or rickets in the growing child. What has not been known for a long time is that vitamin D3 is also necessary for normal cell metabolism by most of your body cells, but particularly by the vital organs like the brain, the heart, the kidneys, the liver, the immune system and the bone.

Some people require higher doses of vitamin D3

However, doses of 5000 IU to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 capsules per day are necessary for optimal vitamin D3 health. This leads to levels of below 150 ng/ml of 25(OH)D levels, which were shown by researchers to be safe. According to Dr. Eisenstein no toxicity has been found below 30,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, but based on other authors a dose of 10,000IU should be adequate for most people. Strangely enough colored people also have to take vitamin D3 supplements as the higher melanin pigment in the skin filters out UV light so effectively that their 25(OH)D level can be low. Always err on the cautious side and have your vitamin D3 blood level taken. Vitamin D3 has a characteristic stereotactic configuration (cis-triene structure), which allows it to bind free radicals and function as an antioxidant (Ref.2).

What are some of the clinical effects of vitamin D3?

  1. Vitamin D3 has diverse effects on organs systems as Dr. Eisenstein summarized: vitamin D3 lifts depression and is of particular value for drug resistant depression. Take 5000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day.
  2. Muscle power increases with vitamin D3, particularly in those who work out regularly.
  3. Many fertility clinics pay attention to vitamin D3 levels, as the higher the blood levels of vitamin D3 in a man, the faster this sperms move! And the more vitamin D3 she has on board, the better she ovulates. The end result is a higher pregnancy success rate when both partners take 5000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day

Vitamin D improves teeth in offspring, helps with chronic pain

  1. Also, if a woman takes vitamin D3 during her pregnancy, the first set of teeth in the offspring will have fewer cavities.
  2. Brain development in autistic children is much improved with vitamin D3 in higher doses. This needs to be combined with detoxification methods and supervised by one of the DAN physicians.

6.Chronic pain typically improves when physicians treat vitamin D3 deficiency, which almost always is present in patients with chronic pain.

Prevention of flus and Covid-19, asthmatics improve

  1. To prevent flus and colds and other infectious diseases, take higher doses of vitamin D3. When you come down with a flu, it is safe to increase your daily vitamin D3 intake to 30,000 IU of vitamin D3 for a few days until your symptoms improve, then resume your maintenance dose of 5000 IU to 10,000 IU per day.  This year’s dominant flu is the type A, subtype H1N1 – also known as the swine flu. Children should get 50% of the dose regimen detailed for adults when they develop a flu (for children: 15,000IU for three to five days , with tapering to a maintenance dose of 2500 to 5000 IU until blood levels of 25(OH)D are available). Here is a website about the pros and cons of vitamin D where dosages are also discussed.
  2. Asthmatic patients do better with vitamin D3 supplements requiring less maintenance anti-asthmatic medicine to keep them balanced with regard to their airways.

Partial prevention of Alzheimer’s disease with vitamin D

  1. Chronic low vitamin D3 levels cause brain damage including Alzheimer’s disease. In this context it is important to know that the enzymatic conversion in the liver and kidneys slow down as we age.  Older patients require higher doses of vitamin D3. This may have been the reason for the confusion about relatively low doses of 400 IU of vitamin D3 preventing rickets in children versus the need for much higher doses of vitamin D3 in middle aged and older patients.
  2. There is a link of high blood pressure to vitamin D3 deficiency and it is better manageable with medication when vitamin D3 levels are normal.

Vitamin D lengthens telomeres and increases longevity

  1. Live longer with vitamin D3. How is this possible, you might ask: the answer has been found in the telomeres, the shoelace like structures at the end of the DNA strand of each cell. Vitamin D3 lengthens the telomeres and promotes telomere repair; there is an association of vitamin D3 and a longer life span. Centenarians have longer telomeres. You can measure telomere length, but it is a pricey test, which is not for everyone, contrary to supplementation with vitamin D3 that should be taken by everyone!

Vitamin D fights inflammation

  1. As already indicated, vitamin D3 strengthens the immune system. But it also modulates the inflammatory response from muscle damage, so athletes can perform better. Patients with multiple sclerosis will improve as it slows down the inflammatory process. But other inflammatory diseases like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and even cancer respond favorably to higher doses of vitamin D3. In these cases physicians use 20,000 to 30,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. This information has not yet percolated into mainstream medicine.
  2. Higher percentages of cardiovascular disease occur in patients who have lower than 15 ng/ml  25-Hydroxy-vitamin D levels in their blood meaning that vitamin D3 supplementation prevents heart disease (Ref.3).

What are toxic vitamin D levels?

What is known about the safety of vitamin D3, particularly the higher vitamin D3 doses? First, it is wise to have your 25(OH)D blood levels taken from time to time. If vitamin D blood levels exceed 150 ng/mL reducing the vitamin D dose or stopping supplementation is prudent. Otherwise it has been difficult to establish a toxic range. Most publications about toxic levels of  vitamin D point out that anything above 150 ng/mL would be in the toxic range.

This website claims that 40,000 IU of vitamin D3 or more would lead to toxic levels where the blood calcium levels would be increased, which can be measured as hypercalcemia. However, another study done in 2007 showed in MS patients that took 40,000 IU per day and that led to a blood level of 400 ng/ml of 25(OH)D did not lead to increased calcium levels and did not lead to hypercalciuria (too much calcium in the urine).

Toxic vitamin D levels difficult to find

The papers that indicated that it would be unsafe or unnecessary to take vitamin D3 were untrue. It seems that they had other agendas than communicating the truth. There was no release of calcium from the bones and calcium absorption from the gut was not too high. This would have caused calcification of the bones, soft tissues, heart and kidneys. Also, kidney stones would have developed. However, a low calcium diet combined with corticosteroid drugs usually leads to a full recovery within a month. Interesting that all of the dire predictions regarding toxic vitamin D3 levels did not materialize. Here is another website discussing vitamin D3 dosing.

Patient taking unintentional high doses of vitamin D3 survived

I talked to a participant of the conference with a fellowship degree in anti-aging medicine what knowledge we have about vitamin D3 toxicity. He told me that there has been an unintentional overdose. In this case a compounding pharmacy made a mistake. A patient accidentally received a dosage of 500,000 Units of vitamin D3 per day for a full three months. The patient felt sluggish, but did not have any other symptoms. His physician told him to stop the vitamin D3 compound. He had an uneventful recovery with no detrimental effects. At this point no documented overdose of vitamin D3 exists.

Conclusion

Vitamin D3 is a vital supplement. Initially researchers showed that it prevents rickets in children. Subsequently physicians found that it also prevents depression, MS, infections and many cancers (Ref. 4). As usual there will be many critiques that doubt the validity of the above statements. But I have found that all of these effects described above were confirmed in several sources of various medical information. Keep in mind that negative rumours have a tendency to linger on for years.

More information on vitamin D3 for prevention of osteoporosis and hardening of arteries: https://www.askdrray.com/calcium-vitamin-d3-and-vitamin-k2-needed-for-bone-health/

Vitamin D3 deficiency can cause pancreatic cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/news/insufficient-vitamin-d3-linked-to-pancreatic-cancer/

References

1. McPherson: Henry’s Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods, 22nd ed.,  © 2011 Saunders

2. Rheumatic Diseases Clinics of North America – Volume 38, Issue 1 (February 2012) , © 2012 W. B. Saunders Company

3. Wang TJ, Pencina MJ, Booth SL, et al:  Vitamin D deficiency and risk of  cardiovascular disease.   Circulation 117. (4): 503-511.2008.

4. “Recognition and Management of Vitamin D Deficiency”: American Family Physician – Volume 80, Issue 8 (October 2009),  © 2009 American Academy of Family Physicians

Oct
12
2013

Music More Powerful Than Anti-Anxiety Drugs

When was the last time you saw your physicians for anxiety and you were given a prescription that said: “for anxiety listen to your favorite music!” instead of receiving a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug (anxiolytic). This is exactly what a recent study suggests that showed prior to surgery you can control your anxiety either with anti-anxiety drugs or by listening to your favorite music. Listening to your favorite music will do you no harm, while many drugs do have harmful side effects.

How singing can change the brain chemistry

Other studies have investigated how singing can change your brain functioning in terms of brain chemistry. The researchers found that singing will release dopamine in your brain, which is responsible for feeling pleasure; it will stimulate your immune system by elevating immunoglobulin A and decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone). This in turn will preserve your immune cells (lymphocytes). Oxytocin levels of your brain are increased, which promotes social affiliation. It also calms down the autonomic nervous system resulting in a better airway opening, calming of your heart rate and soothing the wave-like muscle contractions in your gut, medically called peristalsis. You would refer to that as “butterflies in your stomach”. Music therapy reduces pain and anxiety by 50% and is important for children and adults alike.

Pain and anxiety reduced

A study in Germany showed that pain and anxiety were significantly reduced with music therapy. A Taiwanese study of women in labor found that music therapy significantly reduced pain and anxiety of women during labor. Ref. 1 explains that music therapy is useful as an adjunct to treating cancer pain, and reducing anxiety associated with colposcopy procedures. It also can help when treating patients who had heart attacks in the setting of a cardiac care unit.

Music More Powerful Than Anti-Anxiety Drugs

Music More Powerful Than Anti-Anxiety Drugs

Hypnosis and guided imagery

Music has been successfully combined with clinical hypnosis and guided imagery where words are carefully chosen to help the patient experience pleasant feelings, which counteract the experience of pain, anxiety or fear of dying. A simple relaxation CD or tape with soothing background music will facilitate this type of therapy. This is useful for patients in a palliative care unit where they prepare themselves to accepting the inevitable death from an incurable disease. But chemotherapy patients undergoing these procedures for cancer treatments also have benefitted from a significant reduction in nausea, vomiting (side effects of chemotherapy) and pain.

Autism and music therapy

A Cochrane study showed that autistic children did better in terms of communication skills when music therapy was incorporated into the treatment protocol. One of the core deficits in autistic children is in the area of communication and social skills. This is where music therapy was most effective. Behavioral problems (stereotypic behavior) in autistic children did not respond to music therapy. A comprehensive treatment program for autistic children should therefore incorporate music therapy. Here is a blog that describes what difference music therapy can make in the lives of autistic children written by a member of the American Music Therapy Association.

Substance abuse and music therapy

An area where you may not expect music therapy to have a role is in the area of drug and substance abuse rehabilitation , which is discussed in more detail in this site. The beauty about music therapy is that it is not a drug, yet the natural endorphins that are released by the brain help the affected person getting through withdrawal easier. Music therapy helps building up self-esteem, participating in group activities, promoting self awareness and expressing feelings.

Mood disorders in adolescents

One important area where music therapy has been employed is with anxiety and depression in adolescents. Adolescents spend an average of 4 hours per day listening to music. So they are already programmed to listen to music. With the help of a music therapist they can be directed to listening to the type of music that will help them get motivated, relax more, make them feel accepted and be part of their peer groups. In this study the authors suggested to combine music therapy with dance and art therapy. In this way the whole person gets involved in the treatment and this can be integrated with conventional antidepressant treatments at reduced doses (with less side-effects) or with cognitive therapy.

General objectives of music therapy

Music therapy is best incorporated into a treatment protocol as an adjunct. It can help reduce the use of drugs for psychiatric patients, for people with anxiety and for patients with pain conditions. The Cleveland clinic has a useful summary about music therapy, which describes the uses of it for reducing anxiety, for helping with coping skills, mood improvement and distraction from pain. There are registered music therapists you can ask for help. The website of the American Music Therapy Association may have other useful links for you.

Conclusion

Music therapy is a treatment modality with no side effects, but providing effective treatment for quite an impressive range of clinical conditions as discussed. Music therapists are widely available in the US and many other countries. This treatment can be integrated with conventional or complementary treatments. It helps people to heal the body as a whole unit (mind and body).

More information on anxiety disorders: http://nethealthbook.com/mental-illness-mental-disorders/anxiety-disorders-panic-disorders-phobias-ocd-ptsd-anxiety-others/

References

1. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed.© 2012 Saunders. Chapter on Integrative Therapy; subchapter of Mind-Body Therapy.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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