Dec
19
2020

The Use of Biologics for Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases

Notably, the use of biologics for treatment of autoimmune diseases is one of the newer achievements of medicine. In particular, a recent review summarized the use of biologics. For instance, chronic inflammatory conditions like skin eczema and asthma are some of the diseases where physicians use biologics.

Dupilumab (Dupixent)

It is important to realize that biologics are newer medications. They are mostly monoclonal antibodies developed in the lab and directed against various receptors. In particular, one of these is an interleukin-4 receptor. Specifically, this blocks inflammatory mediators such as interleukin-4 and interleukin-13. Dupilumab (Dupixent) is a monoclonal antibody. It must be remembered that it is a useful tool to treat atopic dermatitis (eczema), asthma and nasal polyps from chronic allergic rhinitis. For one thing, the common denominator for all these conditions is chronic inflammation. Here is more background information about Dupilumab. Specifically, this drug blocks certain proteins from attacking your own body. Besides, side effects of the drug are pink eye like inflammation of the eyes. Another side effect were mild skin rashes at the injection site.

Omalizumab (Xolair)

This drug is a monoclonal antibody also. It is given by injection into the skin every 2 to 4 weeks by a doctor or nurse. Originally it was developed for control of moderate to severe asthma. However, subsequently physicians treated moderate to severe atopic dermatitis cases also. Biologics are very expensive. It depends on your insurance carrier whether or not it is affordable for you.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Another disease that is autoimmune is rheumatoid arthritis. This can lead to crippling deformities in the hands and feet. Two of the earlier biologics for RA were etanercept (Enbrel) and adalimumab (Humira). But there are a host of other biologics that are effective as well.  Generally speaking, the physician will start with conventional medicine, like Methotrexate. If Methotrexate does not sufficiently control the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, the physician usually adds biologics. Often patients need a combination of Methotrexate and biologics.

Different biologics affect different aspects of the autoimmune response. The first biologic for RA was a tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-antagonist, etanercept (Enbrel). Other TNF antagonists are infliximab (Remicade) and adalimumab (Humira). A different approach is an interleukin (IL)-1 inhibitor, called anakinra (Kineret). This biologic interrupts the inflammatory pathway of RA. Another biologic interrupts the T-cells or killer cells; it is called a T cell co-stimulation blocker, abatacept (Orencia). A different mechanism of action is the B-cell depleting agent, rituximab (Rituxan and Mabthera). This suppresses the formation of RA-autoantibodies from B cells.

The rheumatologist has a wide range of biologics from which to choose. The key is that the specialist individualizes the treatment protocol according to the response of each patient.

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis belong to the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). They are also autoimmune diseases where biologics can be useful.

There are three categories of treatment that are worth mentioning.

  • Anti-Tumor Necrosis Factor Agents

Adalimumab (Humira) was one of the first anti-tumor necrosis factor agents. The physician uses Humira in moderate to severe cases of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It will calm down the symptoms of Crohn’s/ulcerative colitis and will maintain the disease in this symptom-free state. There are 8 other anti-tumor necrosis factor agents on the market.

  • Integrin Receptor Antagonists

These medications block a protein that coats the inflammatory cells. This arrests the cells, so they don’t move out into blood vessels and to tissues where they could cause tissue destruction. Examples are vedolizumab (Entyvio) and natalizumab (Tysabri). Unfortunately, natalizumab can have a serious side effect, a brain condition called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), This is caused by John Cunningham (JC) virus, which is a virus that 60% of the population carry. Natalizumab suppresses the immune system, which allows the JC virus to flare up and cause PML in the brain. Vedolizumab (Entyvio) is an alternative drug among the integrin receptor antagonists. Contrary to natalizumab it does not enter the brain. In a large clinical trial, it did not cause PML. This drug is infused over 30 minutes initially, then after 2 weeks, 6 weeks and every 8 weeks for maintenance.

  • Interleukin-12 and -23 Antagonist

Two inflammatory kinins, interleukin-12 and interleukin-23 are involved in causing inflammation in Crohn’s disease. They are proteins and the interleukin-12 and -23 antagonist helps to suppress the inflammation. The FDA approved ustekinumab (Stelara) for moderately or severe Crohn’s disease cases where conventional treatment did not show adequate responses. The physician administers the first treatment intravenously. The follow-up treatment occurs subcutaneously every 8 weeks by a nurse. Alternatively, the patient trains to self-inject the drug subcutaneously and administers the drug every 8 weeks.

The Use of Biologics for Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases

The Use of Biologics for Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases

Conclusion

Biologics have entered the treatment world of autoimmune diseases. Biologics can be monoclonal antibodies that inactivate part of an inflammatory cause, such as interleukins. Others may counter certain hyperactive immune cells. One of the side effects can be that the immune system is weakened. This allows latent viruses such as the John Cunningham (JC) virus to suddenly flare up. This is the case with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) following natalizumab (Tysabri) treatment for Crohn’s disease. Due to the development of new medications, this treatment is no longer the best option. Vedolizumab (Entyvio) is an alternative drug among the integrin receptor antagonists where PML does not develop.

Such varied conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis respond to biologics. In addition, nasal polyps from chronic allergic rhinitis and asthma also respond to these drugs. The physician has to carefully match the treatment option to the condition of the patient. The more specific the targets of biologics are the less immunosuppressive side effects they have.

Feb
22
2020

Clinical Applications of the Fasting Mimicking Diet

Dr. Kurt Hong, professor of clinical medicine spoke about clinical applications of the fasting mimicking diet in Las Vegas. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 14, 2019. Although he spoke on various forms of fasting, he concluded that the fasting mimicking diet had the best results and was most consumer-friendly.

How we age

Dr. Hong reviewed the processes of aging. We age, because our cells experience oxidative damage and our telomeres (the end caps of our chromosomes) get shorter in time. We also age, because there are genetic mutations in our cells’ DNA and our mitochondria are aging as well. The mitochondria are the small energy packages inside the cells that give us energy. When people age, they have lost mitochondria, there is less energy that the body makes out of food and we feel chronically tired.

Above the age of 65 we are also likely to develop diseases of various organs:

  • Heart disease: 31%
  • Cancer: 24%
  • Chronic lung disease (lower respiratory disease): 21%
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 13%
  • Diabetes: 11%

Women are generally healthier than men and their life expectation is 4 to 5 years longer than that of men.

Cellular and molecular aging

Longevity researchers have done mouse experiments and human clinical trials for decades. Dr. Hong asked the question: how much longer could humans live, if we could cure cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes? The answer is: 13 years. But if we transfer the animal data to humans it should be 30 years of longer life. Why is there such a discrepancy? The answer is that it is easy to force good lifestyles onto animals, but humans are resistant to changes. Humans have their habits; they like to continue to smoke and eat fast food instead of switching to a healthier Mediterranean diet. Humans also resist a regular exercise program. And they do not want to hear that they should replace missing hormones with bioidentical ones. The result is that we humans will prolong our lives only by less than 50% of what we could achieve.

The concept of intermittent fasting

Dr. Hong stated, that ten thousand years ago, people did not always have enough food to eat. They were forced to intermittently fast. That did not mean that they had long life expectancies, as there was no cure for any disease. But one fact was true: the body learnt to rejuvenate itself during periods of fasting. And these longevity genes are still present in our genes. But they will only help us when we actually fast for some periods of time.

Dr. Hong reviewed what kind of fasting methods are available.

Prolonged fasting and juice fasting are not among the options. With prolonged fasting electrolyte disturbances become an issue. Juice fasting does not remove enough calories and nutrients. This, however is needed to allow the body to stimulate the longevity genes.

How fasting diets work

Dr. Hong explained that there are essentially 5 fasting diets that are effective in regulating the key nutrient sensitive pathways of IGF-1, TOR and PKA. This increases cellular protection and maintenance. It also increases activation of stress resistance pathways and removes and replaces damaged and dysfunctional cells. Finally, a fasting diet also reduces inflammation, which is often the start of disease.

A review of the 5 fasting diets

Time-restricted eating (TRE)

With TRE the person fasts for 12 to 16 hours every day. The person restricts the daily food consumption to a 4- to 12-hour window. The disadvantage is that this fast is done every day. The period of fasting may not be long enough to change the metabolism, where the above-mentioned effects take place.

Alternate-day fasting  

This is a 24-hour fast every other day with a 1:1 day eating-fasting cycle. This does not appear to be physiological and is disruptive with regard to social activities.

5:2 intermittent fasting

With this fast you fast for 2 days every week. With this 2:5 eating-fasting cycle the person fasts for 2 days every week; the other 5 days you eat as much as you desire.

Although this is effective, it can be quite disruptive to your lifestyle.

Periodic fasting

You fast for 48 to 72 hours every couple of months. This fast is socially more acceptable. It is not that often, just a couple of times in a year. The question remains whether it is effective in changing the metabolism to trigger the effects mentioned above.

Fasting-mimicking diet (FMD)

The original suggestion by Dr. Longo, the inventor of the FMD was that you should fast for 5 days once every month. Since then he has modified it and said that you can achieve similar metabolic changes, if you only fast for 3 days and do this a couple of times per year. I have done the FMD since December 2017 and I adhere to the original schedule of doing the FMD monthly for 5 days. This has provided me with more energy. It is easier to keep my body mass index in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. Dr. Hong explained that the FMD allows you to eat, but it tricks the body into acting like you are fasting. Because you are eating 500 to 600 calories per day, you are getting some fluid and nutrients, so the hunger pangs are tolerable.

More details about the FMD

Here is Dr. Hong’s summary about the FMD: “The stomach sees food, while the cells see fasting”. Dr. Hong said that the FMD is the most user-friendly method of fasting. It also has had the most scientific studies to validate that it is indeed working. Poorly functioning mitochondria and misfolded proteins are removed by a process of phagocytosis. The FMD reduces heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders. Stem cell production also gets a boost. This promotes cell regeneration and reduces risk factors of premature aging.

Publication on the effectiveness of the FMD

A publication came out in 2017 reporting about the findings of a clinical trial regarding the FMD.

Researchers followed markers of aging, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease in 100 volunteers. They underwent a FMD for 5 days on 3 consecutive months. The results were astounding. The body mass index, the fasting blood sugar level, triglycerides, total and LDL cholesterol and the CRP were all lower. CRP stands for C-reactive protein, which measures the degree of inflammation in the body. The blood pressure was also lower. Overall the 5-day FMD was a safe method with no side effects. The FMD reduced markers and risk factors of aging and age-related diseases. In doing so it prolongs life by reducing the likelihood of coming down with disease.

Who should abstain from fasting?

Dr. Hong mentioned that the FMD is not for everybody. Pregnant women should refrain from going on it, also type 1 and type 2 insulin dependent diabetics. Anybody who has a sign of an active infection (coughing, having a fever or diarrhea) should be excluded. Other exclusions are people who are underweight (BMI less than 18.5) or are malnourished (protein deficiency). Patients with heart failure and advanced kidney or liver disease should not take part in a fasting program.

Autoimmune diseases and FMD

The myelin sheath around the axon of nerve cells in the central nervous system are supported by oligodendrocytes. In multiple sclerosis (MS) patients T lymphocytes activate macrophages and B cells to produce autoantibodies. They destroy oligodendrocytes breaking down the insulating barrier of the myelin sheath. In MS patients the broken-down myelin sheath suppresses the electrical impulses transmitted through the nerve fibers. The FMD led to clinical improvements.

In a pilot study intermittent fasting changed the gut flora into a healthier flora.

This triggered the immune system in the gut to make less inflammatory T cells producing the IL-17 cytokines. There was also an increase in regulatory T helper cells.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBM) can be improved with several courses of FMD. As the authors showed, intestinal inflammation improved with FMD. The intestinal gut flora improved with the FMD and it promoted intestinal regeneration.

Reversal of physical and functional decline

The fasting mimicking diet (FMD) has a variety of effects on the human body. Dr. Hong showed a slide where we could see that ketone bodies, cortisol and ghrelin levels are increased in the blood. At the same time glucose, insulin, leptin and IGF-1 levels are reduced. In addition, triglycerides and LDL levels are getting lower. Inflammatory markers including the C-reactive protein (CRP) are reduced as well.

Effects of the FMD on various organs in the body

A look at all of the organs shows that in the liver the ketone body production and insulin sensitivity are up. Glycogen production in the liver as well as the liver size are down.

The intestines produce ketone bodies. In the skeletal muscles the insulin sensitivity is increased, while the muscle structure and function are improved. In the brain the hunger feeling increases the release of neurotropic factors including the neuropeptide Y. Cognitive function and stress resistance increase with the FMD. The FMD reduces inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. With respect to the cardiovascular system the heart rate drops down and blood pressure gets lower. The insulin production in the pancreas is reduced.

Fatty tissue

In fatty tissue lipolysis is up and also the production of adiponectin. This is a protein hormone involved in glucose and fatty acid metabolism. Insulin sensitivity with the FMD is also increased. On the other hand, the FMD reduces fat mass, leptin production and inflammation.

The FMD is the solution to preventing disease and prolonging your life

All of these effects lead to a reversal of physiologic and functional declines. Age-related metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes are postponed or eliminated. The FMD prevents neuro-cognitive decline like Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, the risk of developing cancer is getting lower. In summary, the FMD improves the health-span, quality of life and can prepare you for a long life.

Clinical Applications of the Fasting Mimicking Diet

Clinical Applications of the Fasting Mimicking Diet

Conclusion

Dr. Kurt Hong is a professor of clinical medicine at UCLA. He gave a talk at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas on Dec. 14, 2019. He discussed what we could do to help patients with various autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. It turns out that the fasting mimicking diet (FMD) is the best solution to reduce inflammation and modify  the autoimmune response from aggressive T lymphocytes. With the FMD you consume only 500 to 600 calories per day for 5 days every month. The rest of the days of the month you eat a healthy Mediterranean-type diet.

Fasting mimicking diet, the best way to treat autoimmune diseases

Dr. Hong explained in detail what cellular mechanisms are at work to achieve the modification of the immune system in autoimmune diseases. The FMD is also the solution to slow down aging in healthy people. Dr. Hong discussed clinical applications of the fasting mimicking diet fort autoimmune diseases. It is easier to prevent disease than it is to cure an illness. The FMD is an easier way, because you don’t fast completely, you only reduce your food intake to the bare minimum, but your body “thinks” that you are fasting.

Ultimately, this approach does take some effort, and it does take time to familiarize yourself with it. If patients do it for the first time, they will experience some hunger, the first and second day tend to be a hurdle! Once you make it part of a health routine on a regular basis, it is a lot easier.

Aug
10
2019

Fasting Mimicking Diet For 5 Days Every Month

In December 2017 I heard Dr. Longo speak at a medical conference in Las Vegas. He suggested the use of the fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month. I am getting into the age group where a little help from nature would not harm (I am 74 years old). I started immediately in December 2017 to do a fasting mimicking diet (FMD) for 5 days.

Effects of fasting mimicking diet

In the beginning you just notice that you are not as hungry as you thought you would be, because you do take in three mini meals of about 200 calories each, which curbs your appetite. It is also important to consume enough liquids. Please note: liquids! Not liquor! Wine, beer or any alcoholic drinks are not part of the diet. You can drink water, but, this may get boring, and you can take water with lemon, herbal teas, black tea and coffee, as long as you stay away from sugar-laced drinks.

How the FMD works

Your total calorie intake will amount to no more than 600 calories per day for the 5 days where you do the fasting mimicking diet. Your body mass index (BMI) decreases between 0.1 and 0.4 per day to a total of 0.5 to 0.9 for the 5 days. This does not seem much, but if it is accumulating every month, a person who is obese now could have a normal weight within one year. The first day of this fast may present some challenges. I found that in the afternoon I felt hungry. What helped was a hot drink( tea, coffee, clear broth). Day two was better, and from day three it has become a routine. There are  no ferocious hunger pangs, no headaches or feelings of weakness or tiredness. I am always surprised that my energy level is improving when I do the fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month.Dr. Longo suggests not to exercise during the fast. It is obvious that this time is not suitable for half- marathons or taxing hikes, but I found that thirty minutes of aerobics and thirty minutes of weight training felt good. Listen to your body! If you feel lightheaded at any time, stop! The emphasis is on “moderate”.

Dr. Longo noticed the following findings in a mouse model as well as on humans. I summarized this before in a previous blog:

Specific results when on the fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month

  • Obesity diminishes, because of the weight loss effect due to missing calories.
  • Diabetes: insulin resistance becomes lower and blood sugar levels drop.
  • High blood pressure reduced: many patients were able to reduce their medications or discontinue them
  • Pain conditions improve as all kinds of pain disappears, an effect for which there is no explanation at this point
  • Autoimmune diseases like MS and rheumatoid arthritis improve, likely because of the effect of increased stem cell circulation
  • Prevention of heart attacks and strokes because of reduction of LDL, triglycerides and CRP
  • Cancer cure rates improve by protecting normal cells, the bone marrow and stimulating the immune cells
  • Longevity improved in mice with a 3-fold increase of their life span. Telomere length in humans was increased. Increased stem cells will find defective areas that need repair. This effect leads to less disease in older age.

Meal samples of fasting mimicking diet

Dr. Longo developed a kit containing all pre-packaged foods for 5 days under the name “ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet”. The package is not larger than a shoebox, and the diet is plant-based, has some nutrition bars, drinks as well as freeze-dried soups. You can argue about the nutritional value, as it has an average rating of 3.5 out of 5. It also comes in at a hefty price of 300.00 USD. In reality it is a matter of calorie-math to consume very little food. There are plenty of tables available on the Internet that tell you the nutritional value of foods, and it does not take much effort to compose your own menu.

Here is a fairly typical list of foods

Breakfast: A typical breakfast consists of 2 slices of rye crisp bread (Wasa or Ryvita) with a bit of almond butter on it, a cup of coffee and either black or with stevia and milk.

Lunch: 8 oz. of tomato soup and coffee or tea.

Dinner: A tossed salad with organic bell peppers, ½ tomato, and two thin slices of avocado, vinegar and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Here is an alternative meal sample:

Breakfast: Eat a nutrition bar that is based on nuts. It should not be more than 250 calories. Alternatively make your own! Have tea or coffee.

Lunch: 8 oz. of homemade vegetable soup without the addition of pasta or beans.

Dinner: Miso soup and 4 rice crackers, alternatively a small tossed salad with olive oil and vinegar.

Results of fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month

Here are typical results that I found over several months. I am using body composition scales every day to measure my weight, body fat percentage, visceral fat percentage, muscle percentage, calories burnt and the BMI.

One month the BMI went from 21.9 to 21.1 during a 5-day FMD. Another month the BMI experienced a reduction from 21.7 to 21. 2. Here is a list of the some of the 5-day losses of my BMI on a couple of occasions: 0.8, 0.4, 0.9, 0.7, 0.6, 0.5, 0.7 and so on.

It is important that you are not going on an eating binge after those five days. The FMD conditioned your body to be content with very small amounts of food. Enjoy your food, but stick to moderate portions.

Discussion of fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month

An intermittent fasting mimicking diet was shown to have a diversified positive health effect in both animal models and humans. For instance, inflammatory bowel disease improves on FMD by improving the bowel microbiota and by promoting the intestinal regeneration.

Intermittent fasting, as this article shows, can prevent age-associated diseases.

This article suggests that T-killer cells that attack cancers are promoted by the intermittent fasting mimicking diet.

A FMD in type 1 diabetic patients has been shown to restore insulin generation in islets of the pancreas of these patients. The result was an improvement of their type 1 diabetes.

More research data on fasting mimicking diet

A clinical trial with 100 subjects was undertaken by Dr. Longo and his research team. He measured markers after 3 cycles of a fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month. They found that the FMD reduced aging markers, improved diabetes and reduced susceptibility for cancer and cardiovascular disease. In another publication Dr. Longo and co-authors describe how autoimmune diseases can be improved by the use the fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month.

Another publication by Dr. Longo describes that “age-related disorders including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke” can be prevented by fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month.

Even cancer prevention and cancer treatment can be helped by the fasting mimicking diet.  The FMD makes chemotherapy more tolerable.

Fasting Mimicking Diet For 5 Days Every Month

Fasting Mimicking Diet For 5 Days Every Month

Conclusion

I have shown that with the fasting mimicking diet (FMD) done for 5 days in every month you can lower your body mass index (BMI) by 0.4 to 0.9 units. On the long-term this helps you to keep your BMI stable and in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. Dr. Longo has researched the effect of the FMD in both mice and humans. He found that you age better with less age-related diseases. In addition, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune diseases like MS, rheumatoid arthritis and type-1 diabetes improve. Cancer patients who need chemotherapy tolerate it better. Their immune system also produces more killer T cells that destroy cancer cells. The FMD prevents heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Dr. Longo also has shown that there is stimulation of stem cell production and telomeres are increasing in length. Telomeres are important for longevity, which allows you to age healthier with less disease.

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Dec
29
2018

Fasting Mimicking Diet Is Very Relevant For Health And Longevity

Several speakers in Las Vegas said that the fasting mimicking diet is very relevant for health and longevity. This happened on day 1 of the 26th Annual A4M World Congress 2018 in Las Vegas.

What were the findings that are relevant?

Dr. Longo has done a lot of animal experiments with intermittent fasting and studying longevity. He repeated what he has learnt over the years from animal experiments and from research on humans. Here are the results that he shared already at last year’s Anti-aging Conference in Las Vegas.

Effects of fasting mimicking diet

  • Obesity diminishes, because of the weight loss effect due to missing calories.
  • Diabetes: insulin resistance becomes lower and blood sugar levels drop.
  • High blood pressure reduced: many patients were able to reduce their medications or discontinue them
  • Pain conditions improve as all kinds of pain disappears, an effect for which there is no explanation at this point
  • Autoimmune diseases like MS and rheumatoid arthritis improve, likely because of the effect of increased stem cell circulation
  • Prevention of heart attacks and strokes because of reduction of LDL, triglycerides and CRP
  • Cancer cure rates improve by protecting normal cells and the bone marrow
  • Longevity improved in mice with a 3-fold increase of their life span. Telomere length in humans was increased. Increased stem cells will find defective areas that need repair. This effect leads to less disease in older age.

Increased life span, less heart attack and cancer rates

We know from these animal experiments that mice have a threefold increase in life span. But when heart attack rates and stroke rates improve in humans, cancer cure rates improve and telomere length in humans increase, there is strong evidence that it increases human life expectancy as well. It may take another 10 to 20 years before we have better statistics about the real survival advantage on this diet versus the Standard American diet. But what we know now is a significant start.

Patients on chemotherapy and FMD have much better healing rates than controls

The lecture by Dr. Longo on Dec. 13, 2018 did provide more human data. Patients undergoing chemotherapy tolerate and survive chemotherapy much better when combined with the fasting mimicking diet (FMD). The human data is very similar to the previous mouse model data. This human research was done at the Charité Hospital in Berlin, Germany. Dr. Longo is starting to engage in clinical trials by partnering with physicians, but the publication of this will take several years. In the meantime the FMD is an effective way to rejuvenate on an ongoing basis. Since last year I underwent 12 courses of 5-day FMD every month. Dr. Longo says that even 3 to 4 courses of FMD per year would have a lasting rejuvenating effect.

About the right food intake and getting enough sleep

Dr. La Valle gave a talk in the afternoon of the first conference day where he pointed out several important things. He started his talk by saying that North Americans eat the wrong foods, they eat too much of it and they often eat it at the wrong time (in the middle of the night when the body wants to rest). This can interfere with our diurnal hormone rhythm, which in turn will eventually lead to inflammation in the body. Fasting overnight rests our hormone receptors so they are fully active the following day.

Preventing Alzheimer’s disease

Dr. La Valle praised the FMD as being able to elevate brain derived neurotropic factor. Newer research is pointing at the importance of this factor for preventing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. He pointed out that the FMD is a good start to change other things in a patient’s life. Such things like exercise, bioidentical hormone replacement and taking vitamins and supplements. All of these all in combination will build up a patient’s health.

More human data about anti-aging

The internist, Dr. Kurt Hong said that he is seeing 200 patients every week. He has done clinical studies on various forms of fasting. The FMD, he said he liked best as it is easy to do (5 days out of one month 500 calories on each of the FMD days). Dr. Hong has seen amazing improvements in patients with MS, Hashimoto’s disease and Crohn’s disease. His talk concentrated on how fasting improved the metabolic syndrome, improved inflammation in the body and improved immune diseases. The FOXO pathway involves transcription factors that are important to regulate cell death (apoptosis). A variant of FOXO3 is responsible for longevity in humans and has been found in centenarians.

Dr. Hong pointed out that self-cleaning (autophagy) is an important rejuvenation process in the body. The FMD stimulates this process. In a 2017 study Dr. Longo and Dr. Hong compared 100 regular patients with 100 patients on the FMD. Only the patients on the FMD showed that the body weight came down. In addition the blood pressure came down as well and the pluripotent stem cells in the blood were up. So, the FMD has a positive effect on various organ systems without any medication. The strongest effect of the FMD would be in the age group of 20 to 40 for anti-aging purposes as it stimulates stem cell production and elongates telomeres.

Fasting and women’s health

Dr. Felice Gersh gave a talk about the effects of fasting on women’s health. She pointed out how important estrogen is in a woman for every organ system. All of the major organ systems including the skin have estrogen receptors. Estrogen stimulates the metabolism. It stimulates the immune system by stimulating macrophages that also have estrogen receptors. In menopause less estrogen production leads to a lack of energy, because the mitochondria are no longer stimulated as they were before. Estrogen also stimulates sirtuins, which is important for anti-aging. Studies with the FMD have shown that estrogen production is re-stimulated in women.

Dr. Joel Kahn was another speaker in the afternoon. He talked about how important the FMD is for cardiovascular health. He does not think that coronary artery surgeries and stents will suddenly get abandoned, but he thinks that the FMD is a powerful tool to delay arteriosclerosis in the arteries. This will delay coronary artery lesions from developing and will add life. In his opinion 40 to 60 year old patients should start using the FMD to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Aging drives chronic disease

Sebastian Brandhorst, PhD pointed out that if we stay active and eat healthy, we will age well. The US is the only country on earth where the life expectancy goes down after there was an initial health gain in the past.

Yeast, worms, flies and mammals follow a nutrient-sensing pathway. That means when food is not around, starvation increases resistance to a variety of toxins. One important aspect of the FMD is the observation that it protects the body against the toxic effects from chemotherapy. FMD and chemotherapy combined almost completely blocked progression of breast cancer in mice. Further studies showed that cytotoxic T cells were responsible for stopping cancer growth. When antibodies against T cells were administered, the beneficial cytotoxic T cell effects against cancer were wiped out. In humans the same protective effect of the FMD was observed. The FMD combined with chemotherapy gave the best survival data in cancer patients.

Fasting Mimicking Diet Is Very Relevant For Health And Longevity

Fasting Mimicking Diet Is Very Relevant For Health And Longevity

Conclusion

The fasting mimicking diet (FMD) was ranking very prominently among last year’s anti-aging conference in Las Vegas. Several speakers of this year’s anti-aging conference pointed to the health supporting effect of the FMD. It is now evident that the previous findings in animal research are also true in humans. Missing at this time are prolonged clinical trials that analyze the mechanisms of why the FMD works so well. In the meantime everybody can safely use FMD 5 days out of every month, which will rejuvenate your system by gradually prolonging pluripotent stem cell activation and telomere lengthening. It is just a matter of time when the missing links will be filled in.

More info: intermittent fasting may benefit health.

Feb
12
2016

Our Toxic Environment

Dr. Jill Carnahan gave a talk about our toxic environment. Her concern were environmental toxins and that was what she presented at the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 11-13, 2015) in Las Vegas. Her talk was entitled: “Diagnosis and Treatment of Environmental Toxicity”. It was very interesting, but it cannot be summarized here in depth with all of the details. It would take 10 pages or more to do this. Here I am summarizing the key points that she made, as they are not likely general knowledge. Dr. Jill is a functional medicine expert consultant and treats environmental and mold-related illnesses as well.

Toxins around us

The world we live in is full of toxins like industrial toxic chemicals, car exhausts, and housing materials (carpet, drywall, lumber, flooring). The list goes on with clothing bedding and furniture. More chemicals lurk in the bathroom: they can be found in toothpaste, hair shampoo, conditioners, and personal beauty products that we apply to our face and bodies. Cleaning products and laundry chemicals are also on the list.

Why is it important to be aware of that? Because toxic chemicals that enter our bodies through the skin, the gut and the lungs will accumulate over the years in fatty tissue, in breast tissue and breast milk. Over the long term they contribute to the development of cancer, autoimmune disease like Crohn’s disease or thyroiditis and many other chronic diseases, particularly neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Environmental history and tests

Dr. Jill (as Dr. Carnahan calls herself) explained in great detail how important it is to take a thorough environmental history, which includes exposure to occupational poisons, home environmental and nutritional exposures, not only for the present time, but also back several decades. One tool Dr. Jill uses consists of several websites that list environmental toxins by zip code. When the physician is informed of of the places where the patient has lived and worked, based on the zip codes a complete exposure picture emerges.

Symptoms are the indicator whether or not toxins may play a role: fatigue, sleep disturbances, memory problems, headaches and the presence of more serious conditions like autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

In addition, the physician orders refined blood and urine tests that check out toxic levels of common toxins.

There are exotoxins, coming from the outside: phthalates, parabens, heavy metals, solvents, organophosphates and pesticides to just name the more common ones. Toxic molds and heterocyclic amines are also exotoxins. These latter carcinogens (heterocyclic amines) are produced by overheating meat.

Then there are endotoxins, toxins that are produced inside the body: endotoxins in the form of toxic lipopolysaccharides from gram negative bacteria (causing toxic shock syndrome), yeast, chemical additives from food, stress and constant negative emotions leading to an overdose of glucocorticosteroids. All of this leads to the total toxic body burden.

Total toxic body burden

Here what leads to the total toxic body burden: Eating a Standard American Diet is one of the main reasons why people accumulate toxins. Add to that petrochemicals, residues, pesticides, and fertilizers, and exposure to heavy metals, like mercury and lead. Some medications like antifungals can also be toxins. Food allergies, environmental allergies and allergies to molds indicate that the body has accumulated toxins. There are also internal toxins from bacteria, fungi, viruses, and yeast that contribute to the total toxic burden. Hormonal and metabolic toxins that aren’t eliminated properly add to the problem, as do isolation, loneliness, anger, jealousy, and hostility. These negative emotions function like toxins on the immune system. Mental illness can contribute similarly in a negative manner, as the mind and the body work together.

When to expect environmental toxicity

A functional medicine expert like Dr. Jill will suspect environmental toxicity when one or more of the following symptoms are present:

Headaches, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, food cravings, gas/bloating, constipation, foul-smelling stools, diarrhea, postnasal drip, sinus congestion, canker sores, heartburn, insomnia, trouble losing weight, water retention, rashes, acne, skin problems, psoriasis, eczema, dark circles under the eyes, bad breath or premenstrual syndrome.

Diseases that are related to environmental toxicity

As already mentioned before Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are among the neurological diseases that have been identified to be linked to environmental toxicity. Some forms of dementia and MS also belong to these. In the very young child autism has been identified as filtering out those who are particularly sensitive to environmental toxicity. Attention deficit disorder also belongs here.

Among adult patients heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are red flags for possible underlying environmental toxicity. Food allergies, depression, anxiety and insomnia can also be indicators of environmental toxicity. Arthritis, menstrual disorders, autoimmune disease and any form of cancer are also flags for environmental toxicity.

Dr. Jill explained that the doctor who specializes in environmental issues would take a detailed history paying attention to chemicals the patient may have ingested or be in contact with. It also includes a dental history, including whether or not the patient has silver amalgam fillings or had them removed without subsequent chelation therapy.

She even showed several slides of known associations with specific toxins for the diseases just indicated. These are subsequently identified as closely as possible by doing toxicity tests.

Markers of reserves

There are several marker substances that get used up when the body starts detoxifying some of the environmental toxins.

  1. Glutathione levels in the blood can be measured and can serve as an indicator as to whether or not the body has been challenged by toxins. Glutathione is synthesized by the liver and is a powerful antioxidant and toxin remover. A low glutathione levels is associated with many chronic illnesses.
  2. A low total antioxidant capacity is an indicator that toxic metal exposure, infection, inflammation, xenobiotic exposures or environmental toxicity in general may be present. There are two metabolic pathways that are important for detoxification to occur: the methylation pathway and the trans-sulfuration pathway. It would be too technical to go into this further, but treatment concentrates on re-establishing these metabolic pathways.
  1. Co-Q-10 (=ubiquinone) can be measured in the plasma and is also a marker of reserve. The patients can also be take it as a supplement at 400 mg per day, which will strengthen mitochondrial function. The mitochondria are the energy packages of each cell.

Organic acids

There are organic acids that are toxic. One of them is methyl-tert-butyl ether (MTBE), which is an additive in use to increase octane ratings in gasoline. Tests found that ground water contains MTBE from leaking gas tanks in filling stations. Inhalation at the gas station can cause dizziness, headaches and mental confusion. In animals it has caused gastrointestinal irritation, liver and kidney damage. Another organic acid, styrene, is widely distributed in rubber, insulation, plastic, fiberglass, food containers and carpet backing. The US-EPA has labeled it as “potential human carcinogen”. Special tests, which the environmental doctor can order can measure the levels of these organic acids in the body.

Epigenetics

Autistic children have taught doctors a lot about epigenetics. After initial 2 or 3 years of normal functioning autistic children suddenly have a variety of severe symptoms like balancing problems, lack of social skills, problems concentrating, tiptoeing etc. The methylation pathway involves one or more of the enzymes. They are are no longer working properly because of epigenetic effects, events that cause their DNA to have a different gene expression. However, with detoxification and nutritional rehabilitation it is possible to turn this around, as the underlying cause is not a fixed genetic defect, but rather an epigenetic malfunctioning. You fix the methylation pathway, and full function returns.

Other research has shown that a similar methylation defect occurs in PTSD and in schizophrenia. Orthomolecular physicians have developed treatment programs for schizophrenics that often work (but not in all cases).

Dr. Jill stated that with genetic disease there is a multitude of characteristic symptoms, which is due to abnormal methylation pathways that is often in combination with a severe oxidative overload, caused by environmental insults. Most cancer and chronic diseases are epigenetic in nature, not caused by genetic causes. Dr. Jill explained that the molecular switches of the epigenetic switch that turns a gene on or off have been unmasked: Acetyl groups promote gene expression, while methyl groups inhibit gene expression. As long as there is a balance in the methyl/acetyl ratio, the patient is healthy; the moment environmental toxins disturb the balance and an epigenetic switch occurs, the patient is heading towards disease. What genes switch on or off determines what disease will develop.

More toxins: alkylphenols, organochlorines and volatile solvents

Alkylphenols

Food and beverage containers, water bottles and plastic dinnerware contain bisphenol (BPA). Many countries have outlawed BPA in baby bottles.

Deodorants, toothpaste and shaving creams contain triclosan.

Organochlorines

Many of these substances have been banned because they are persistent poisons. Because of this they are still in the environment today, particularly in non-organic produce. DDT was in use agriculturally as an insecticide until 1972, but you find it still now in meat, poultry, dairy products and fish. Hexachlorobenzene was in use as a pesticide until 1965 and as fungicide in cereal grains. Mirex was in use as a pesticide for fire ants until 1978.

When you buy non-organic butter, farmed Atlantic salmon, non-organic cheese and non-organic fatty meats (lamb, ground beef) they contain various pesticides.

Dr. Jill’s advice: don’t buy that, but buy organic food!

Sauna therapy and colonic irrigations will remove much of the chlorinated pesticides. Chlorophyll and all chlorophyll containing foods will also help in eliminating persistent organic pollutants. This could be a good reason to consume the occasional homemade green smoothie with leafy organic ingredients like spinach or kale!

Volatile solvents

Car exhaust fumes contain benzene (gasoline), styrene, toluene and xylenes. Styrofoam contains the toxic compound styrene. Don’t microwave food contained in Styrofoam, as it releases the toxic styrene into the food. Avoid breathing the fumes of gasoline, glues and solvents; use non-toxic cleaners. Vitamin C, selenium and glycine help to detoxify volatile toxins.

After discussing mold and mold toxicity as well as glyphosate toxicity from GMO crops in detail, which would be too long to discuss here, Dr. Jill presented a quick

Clean diet 101

  1. Buy organic food. It should be sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO food.
  2. Buy only whole and un-processed foods, a variety of leafy greens and other chlorophyll-rich foods. Add to this a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, but avoid the dirty dozens; buy them organic.
  3. Limit processing of your food.
  4. Get local or homegrown food; avoid refined oils and trans fats.
  5. Limit alcohol and caffeine.
  6. Avoid food allergens; the same is true for the most toxic foods: simply avoid them!
  7. Don’t eat farmed Atlantic salmon, high mercury fish like tuna, orange roughy, Chilean sea bass, shark and swordfish. Here is a detailed guide to low mercury fish. Stick to “very low” and “low mercury fish”.
  8. Avoid non-organic eggs & dairy. Avoid the dirty dozen fruits/veggies mentioned under point above.
Our Toxic Environment

Our Toxic Environment

Conclusion

Here is a quick whirlwind tour through toxins in our environment. The most important step I suggest you take is to review the toxins in your bathroom and around the house. The next important step is to buy and eat the right foods that are toxin free. If you follow Dr. Jill’s “clean diet 101” as described above, you will avoid exposure to toxic substances. Your healthy food intake becomes your maintenance treatment to detoxify at the same time. Only more seriously affected people need to see an expert like Dr. Jill. People with mercury or other heavy metal poisoning may need a series of intravenous chelation treatments as mentioned in this link. The entire process requires a lot of attention and vigilance. Ask questions about products and read labels. It is worth the effort, as this means preventing health problems in the future.

Jan
31
2016

The Gut and Brain Connection

There is a lot of talk about the gut and brain connection. At the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 11-13, 2015) in Las Vegas there were several lectures pointing out the importance of the gut flora for proper brain function. As a matter of fact, if you have the wrong gut flora, you can get a number of diseases like diabetes, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, some cancers and even obesity. Martin P. Gallagher, MD, DC talked about this in his talk entitled “Gut on Fire, Brain on Fire!”

Function of the microbiome

The microbiome is the sum of all microbial organisms inhabiting the human body, which colonize mainly the colon, but also to a lesser degree the small intestine. Dr. Gallagher stated that the microbiome weighs only 7.1 oz., although in the past some have estimated its weight to be as high as 3 pounds. The purpose of the microbiome is to help form a gut/blood barrier. It forms a 30-micron thick layer in the GI tract, protects the intestinal lining and metabolizes food remnants, especially from carbohydrates. In addition, it also communicates with the immune system. There is a cross talk between the lining of the gut and the and the body’s immune system. The gut bacteria help the body to create stability; as a result the good bacteria also decrease intestinal permeability.

Leaky gut syndrome develops

When inflammation occurs in the gut, the thickness of the biofilm is less than 30 microns. Intestinal permeability increases and becomes “leaky gut syndrome”. This can be the cause of autoimmune diseases and possibly other diseases.

The enteric nervous system

The gut can produce as many neurotransmitters as the brain and spinal cord can synthesize. The enteric nervous system communicates with the brain through the vagal nerve. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that regulates motility of the gut. The control system of the gut can work on its own and override the concerns of the central nervous system.

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the enteric nervous system as well as the brain. With Alzheimer’s disease the characteristic brain lesions are also present in the enteric nervous system!

A mouse experiment showed the following. The Lactobacillus strain is  normally part of the microbiome of the gut.  Re-introduction of Lactobacillus into the gut flora resulted in healing certain parts of the brains of these animals, which researchers associate with anxiety and depression. But when the researchers severed the vagal nerve of these animals, none of these healing changes occurred.

The gut-brain-axis

For this reason the researchers suggested that the gut bacteria are able to communicate with the brain via the vagal nerve. Researchers have coined this connection the “gut-brain axis”. These protective gut bacteria have the ability to protect humans from gastric acidity, from bile acid toxicity, they adhere to the lining of the gut and they persist to reside within the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics help the immune system to maintain the immunologic memory and to secrete antibodies, called immunoglobulins.

Two strains with benefit to humans are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii. Probiotics often help against diarrhea. The natural food for gut bacteria in the colon comes from starches of chicory, asparagus, inulin and onions that are indigestible in the stomach and small intestine, but are fermented in the colon to provide food for the bacteria residing there.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

Overgrowth of the small intestine with bacteria that produce endotoxins appears to have significance in both animal models and human disease. Chlamydia species as well as Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme) can produce toxins that cause hypersensitivity to pain in soft tissues in fibromyalgia and animal models of fibromyalgia. Moreover, SIBO – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth – in experimental animals caused the same hypersensitivity of the soft tissues and also leaky gut syndrome.

Risk factors for SIBO

What causes SIBO is too little stomach acid production, treatment with proton pump inhibitors (powerful anti acid medications) and antibiotics. To summarize, Dr.Gallagher said that SIBO also occurs in post-surgical patients, in patients with diabetes, is brought on by alcohol, nicotine, drugs and GMO foods.

Neurogenic inflammation

Normally the blood brain barrier keeps immune cells from the body out of the brain. Only glucose, proteins and lipids are allowed into the brain, but not lipophilic neurotoxins. In contrast, neurogenic triggers, when admitted to the brain, will compromise the function of the immune cells of the CNS, called microglia. In essence, this can result in memory loss, Alzheimer’s, dementia, seizures, migraines, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, weakness, numbness, etc.

What triggers inflammation?

Here is a long list of different items that cause inflammation: aging, hormone deficiencies, obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, fungal infection, the Standard American diet (SAD), pain, trauma and mechanical stress, heavy metals, food allergies, toxins, gut dysbiosis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, mal-digestion/absorption, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, recreational drugs and alcohol, lack of exercise and lack of sleep.

Neurotoxic insults start the chain of reactions  like heavy metals, nutritional deficiencies, viruses/fungus/bacteria, inflammatory diet, MSG, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, etc.. One or more of these factors destabilize the tight junctions of the blood brain barrier, which leads to neurogenic inflammation.

Result of neurogenic inflammation

The result is Parkinson’s disease, MS, dementia, chronic pain, behavioral and personality changes, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS and Lyme disease. What seems to be happening a lot is that there is overgrowth of abnormal bacteria in the small bowel, which produce toxins. These in turn lead to leaky gut syndrome, which allows neurogenic triggers to attack the blood brain barrier. It seems like from here it is a short step to neurotoxic insults of the brain overstimulating the microglia, which will produce the diseases listed above.

Healing of brain inflammation

First of all, treatment starts with the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Second, people who are gluten sensitive need to eliminate gluten entirely from their food. Third, casein sensitive people need to eliminate dairy products. Furthermore, a triple strength, molecularly distilled fish oil product is taken as a supplement every day with 4 grams or more of DHA/EPA. This helps the anti-inflammatory response.

Glutathione

One of the most powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories is intravenous glutathione. This is given as intravenous chelation therapy, which removes heavy metals. Other chelation agents such as EDTA intravenously may be given alternatively. Dr.Gallagher said that glutathione serves as primary cellular defense against free radicals, is a powerful antioxidant and serves as detoxifying agent against xenobiotics. Xenobiotics are remnants of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and pollutants that are contained in crops we eat.

Dr. Gallagher gives 600mg of glutathione twice per day intravenously for 30 days. Uniquely, in Parkinson’s disease patients whose mid brain is often poisoned by mercury this leads to 42% decline of disabilities and the effect lasts for 2 to 4 months after this treatment has been stopped. Coupled with this the treatment also protects telomeres, the caps on the ends of cellular DNA as well as mitochondrial DNA. In addition, glutathione is protective of neurons and nerves.

Curcumin

This common Indian spice, found in turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory. It is a safe natural agent and has also anti-viral and anti-tumor activities. It binds to the vitamin D receptor and works synergistically together with vitamin D3. Solid lipid curcumin particle technology makes curcumin 65-fold more bioavailable; free curcumin is allowed to pass the blood brain barrier. Lower doses achieve the same effect than regular curcumin.

According to a publication using lipidated curcumin the following observations were made: improved vascular function; equally important, inflammatory markers reduced by 14%; in like manner, triglycerides lowered by 14%; by the same token, oxidative stress reduced; not to mention, catalase increased and finally total antioxidant status improved. Here is another paper about lipidated curcumin.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory by countering the arachidonic acid pathway that leads to inflammation. Physicians recommend it as triple strength, molecularly distilled fish oil. DHA/EPA are the active ingredients. Chronic inflammation requires 2 to 12 grams daily; irritable bowel syndrome 6 to 12 grams daily; depression, anxiety and insomnia require 2 to 4 grams per day; autoimmune disease, back pain and degenerative joint disease 4 to 12 grams per day.

Gut/brain dysbiosis

For gut/brain dysbiosis Dr. Gallagher recommended to start with a 10-day fruit/vegetable detox program. Milk thistle, glutathione and pancreatic enzymes in combination lead to improvement. Lipidated curcumin is also useful. The physician also gives glutamine, prebiotics and probiotics for gut support. He also tells the patient to take molecularly distilled fish oil (DHA/EPA) and vitamin D3 as anti-inflammatories. Doctors also administer oral and intravenous glutathione to detoxify. Many doctors use natural as a combination of glutathione, oregano, olive leaf and silver salts.

The Gut and Brain Connection

The Gut and Brain Connection

Conclusion

Inflammation can start in the gut, lead to leaky gut syndrome and break down the blood/brain barrier. The end result is that inflammation develops in the brain and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can occur. The sooner the physician starts with treatment, the faster the recovery is. When the patient has reached the end stage, it is difficult to turn the inflammatory process around. Fortunately there are effective ways to get the inflammation under control with intravenous glutathione in the beginning and subsequent treatment with lipidated curcumin, omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin D3. A permanent switch to a Mediterranean diet is important as well to keep inflammation under control.

Lifestyle and nutrition choices are important for prevention

A few years back this mainstream medicine considered this type of approach as “quackery”; now it is the latest information from research into the brain/gut connection. The right lifestyle and nutrition choices can do a lot on a preventative basis. Once disease has taken root, treatment may still be possible, but once it is at a later stage a full cure is unlikely.

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Mar
08
2014

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.

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. 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. The world population has been exposed to this 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 is another pollutant that is found in soil and rock naturally and 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 has been set as 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. Varied symptoms like irritation of eyes, nose or throat, breathing problems, headaches, loss of coordination, damage to the liver, kidneys and the brain have been reported after exposure to volatile organic compounds. Long-term exposure can even cause cancer in animals and has been suspected to cause cancer in humans as well.

Air fresheners and cleaning solutions that contain ethylene-based glycol ethers and terpenes have been the subject of a study that examined concentrations in the air and interaction with ozone that can also be released by some cleaners. 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; they have been outlawed in the US since 2004, but older mattresses, upholstery, television, computer casings and circuit boards may still contain them.

Lead and mercury poisoning, and radioactive pollutants

Manufacturers were not allowed to use lead in paints anymore since 1978. 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 form these items can be absorbed through the skin and cause lead poisoning. Because of the apparent lack of regulations in China it is my recommendation not to buy anything that goes into your mouth or on your skin, if it has been grown or produced in China.

Mercury from tuna and other predator fish: It is sad that the oceans are polluted to the point where it has become unsafe to eat predator fish as 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) has also contributed to this by smoke being emitted from smoke stacks containing mercury vapors, which ended up returning to earth as polluted rain and drained through the river system into the oceans.

It is monomethylmercury that accumulates in the tissue of humans. It 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.

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 there have been several leaks of radioactive material into the ocean, which are 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!

3. Detoxification methods are available and I have reviewed them in this blog. Briefly, to remove lead and mercury a formal intravenous chelation protocol should be followed.  Depending on how many heavy metal toxins you have on board, you may need only a few treatments or else 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.

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 bottled pure water or else reverse osmosis water that can be part of a filter system in your house.

6.Vitamins and supplements have been shown to 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% (or converted into a survival advantage of 9.8 years when it is accumulated over a life time). Ref. 4 explains this in more detail.

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 can be taken to detoxify your system from specific radioactive elements that function as free radicals. 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. 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 sugar and high carb foods are sold. It’s good for your own health, but it will collectively change the mentality of the grocery store owners who will notice that they are stuck with the comfort foods that sold well 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

Sep
28
2013

Sleepless Nights

Sleeping problems (insomnia) are very common. About 10% of the population suffers from chronic insomnia; 30% of the population suffers from occasional sleep problems. In a large outpatient population of a clinic consisting of 3500 patients who had at least one major clinical condition, 50% complained of insomnia, 16% had severe symptoms, 34% had mild symptoms (Ref.1). Insomnia is more common among women, and older people as well as in people with medical or psychiatric illnesses. Long-term studies have shown that the same insomnia problems persist throughout many years. It is not possible to offer a simple remedy for insomnia, because insomnia is a complex problem. Here I will discuss some of the causes of insomnia and also discuss some of the treatment options.

Symptoms of insomnia

The person who suffers from insomnia will usually state that they have problems falling asleep. Worries of the day suddenly circulate through their thoughts and they toss and turn nervously looking at the clock from time to time and getting more and more anxious that they cannot sleep. Others fall asleep OK, but in the middle of the night they wake up perhaps to visit the restroom, but then they cannot go back to sleep. Others wake up 2 hours before their normal alarm clock time and they feel their stomach rumbling making it impossible to fall back to sleep. Older people with chronic diseases and general poor health suffer more from insomnia. In this setting insomnia may be more related to the underlying disease rather than old age. Psychiatric disorders also are associated with more insomnia. Treat the underlying psychiatric illness, and the insomnia disappears.

Although insomnia is a sleep disturbance during the nighttime, people who are affected with this complain of daytime fatigue, of overstimulation, yet they catch themselves making frequent mistakes, and their inability to pay attention gets them involved in accidents and falls. Longitudinal studies have shown (Ref. 1) that people with chronic insomnia are more likely to develop psychiatric disease, such as major depression,  anxiety disorder and alcohol and substance abuse. Unfortunately these disorders can by themselves again cause insomnia, which reinforces chronic insomnia. Insomnia leads to poorer social and physical functioning, affects emotions, leads to a lack of vitality and physical endurance, contributes to worsening of pain and can affect general and mental health.

Research about insomnia

Much has been learnt from sleep studies using polysomnography monitoring during a full night’s sleep. These studies have been used mainly as a research tool. In such studies eye movements, brain wave activity, muscle activity, chest movements, airflow, heart beats, oxygen saturation and snoring (with a microphone) are all simultaneously recorded. This way restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, snoring, seizure disorders, deep depression etc. that can all lead to insomnia can be diagnosed and separated from insomnia. The stages of sleep (wakefulness, stage 1 to 3 sleep and the REM sleep stage) can also be readily measured using polysomnography (Ref.2). According to this reference the majority of insomnia cases do not need this complex procedure done.

Sleepless Nights

Sleepless Nights

Causes of insomnia

Traditionally insomnia cases are classified into primary insomnia and secondary insomnia. Secondary insomnia is caused by all of the factors discussed below. When they are dealt with, we are left with cases of primary insomnia.

The following medical conditions can cause insomnia: heart disease, pulmonary diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); gastrointestinal disease like liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, colitis, Crohn’s disease; chronic kidney disease; musculoskeletal disease like arthritis, fractures, osteoporosis; neurodegenerative disease like MS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease; endocrine disease like diabetes, hyper- or hypothyroidism, adrenal gland fatigue and insufficiency; and chronic pain conditions. Also, psychiatric conditions like major depression, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders can cause insomnia.

This list in not complete, but it gives you an idea of how complex the topic of insomnia is.
The physician who is seeing a patient with insomnia needs to rule out any of these other causes of insomnia to be certain that the only condition that is left to treat in the patient is insomnia itself. The other diagnoses have to be dealt with separately or else treatment of insomnia will fail.

Ref. 1 points to a useful model of how to think about causation of insomnia: there are three points to consider, namely predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors. Let’s briefly discuss some of these.

Predisposing factors

We are all different in our personal make-up. If you are well grounded, chances are you are not susceptible to insomnia. Anxious persons or persons who have been through a lot of negative experiences in life will have personality traits that make them more prone to insomnia. Lifestyle choices such as late nights out, drinking with the buddies in a bar (extreme circadian phase tendencies) will have an impact on whether or not you develop insomnia.

Precipitating factors

A situational crisis like a job change or the death of a loved one can initiate insomnia.  However, there could be a medical illness such as a heart attack, a stroke or the new diagnosis of a psychiatric illness that has become a precipitating factor. Sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome belong into this group as well as would the stimulating effect of coffee and caffeine containing drinks. Jet lag and nighttime shift work can also be precipitating factors.

Perpetuating factors

Daytime napping to make up for lost sleep the night before can undermine sleep initiation the following night, which can lead to a vicious cycle. Similarly, the use of bedtime alcoholic drinks leads to sleep disruption later that night and can become a perpetuating factor, if this habit is maintained. Even the psychological conditioning of being anxious about whether or not you will fall asleep easily or not the next night can become a perpetuating factor.

I will return to this classification and the factor model of causation of insomnia when we address treatment options.

Drugs that can cause insomnia

One major possible cause for insomnia  can be side effects from medications that patients are on (would belong to the ‘perpetuating factors’ among causes). Physicians call this “iatrogenic insomnia”. The antidepressants, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) like Prozac are particularly troublesome with regard to causing insomnia as a side effect. Other antidepressants like trazodone (Desyrel) are used in small doses to help patients with insomnia to fall asleep. Some asthmatics and people with autoimmune diseases may be on prednisone, a corticosteroid drug. This can cause insomnia, particularly in higher doses; so can decongestants you may use for allergies; beta-blockers used for heart disease and hypertension treatment; theophylline, an asthma medication and diuretics. Central nervous stimulants like caffeine or illicit drugs can also cause insomnia. Hormone disbalance in general and hyperthyroidism specifically as well as Cushing’s disease, where cortisol levels are high will cause insomnia.

Treatment of insomnia

So, how should the physician approach a patient with insomnia? First it has to be established whether there is secondary insomnia present due to one of the predisposing, precipitating or perpetuating factors. In other words, is there secondary insomnia due to other underlying illnesses? If so, these are being addressed first. Lifestyle choices (staying up late every night) would have to be changed; alcohol and drug abuse and overindulging in coffee or caffeine containing drinks needs to be dealt with. Cognitive therapy may be beneficial when mild depression or anxiety is a contributing factor to insomnia.

The remaining insomnia (also medically termed “primary insomnia”) is now being treated.

The following general points are useful to get into the sleeping mode (modified from Ref. 3):

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

Drugs and supplements for insomnia

1. In the past benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), fluorazepam (Dalmane), temazepam (Restoril), triazolam (Halcion) and others were and still are used as sleeping pills. However, it was noted that there are significant side effects with this group of drugs. Notably, there is amnesia (memory loss), which can be quite distressing to people such as not remembering that someone phoned while under the influence of the drug, you promised certain things, but you cannot remember the following morning what it was. Another problem is the development of addiction to the drugs with worse insomnia when the drugs are discontinued. Many physicians have stopped prescribing benzodiazepines.

2. There are non-benzodiazepines drugs that are used as sleeping pills (hypnotics), such as Zaleplon (Sonata), Zolpidem (Ambien) and Eszopiclone (Lunesta).  They seem to be better tolerated.

3. Ramelteon, a melatonin agonist, is available by prescription in the US. It probably is the best-tolerated mild sleeping pill and works similar to melatonin, but is more expensive. Chances are that your physician likely would prescribe one of the non-benzodiazepines drugs or Ramelteon for you as they do not seem to be addicting.

4. However, there is an alternative: Many patients with insomnia tolerate a low dose of trazodone (Desyrel), which is an antidepressant with sleep restoring properties. A low dose of 25 to 50 mg at bedtime is usually enough for insomnia. This allows the patient to fall asleep within about 30 minutes of taking it, and sleep lasts through most of the night without a hangover in the morning. Many specialists who run sleep laboratories recommend trazodone when primary insomnia is diagnosed. However, this is still a drug with potential side effects as mentioned in the trazodone link, but 50 mg is only ¼ of the full dose, so the side effects will also be less or negligible.

5. I prefer the use of melatonin, which is the natural brain hormone designed to put us to sleep. Between 1 mg and 6 mg are sufficient for most people. We know from other literature that up to 20 mg of melatonin has been used in humans as an immune stimulant in patients with metastatic melanoma with no untoward side effects other than nightmares and some tiredness in the morning. A review from the Vanderbilt University, Holland found melatonin to be very safe as a sleeping aid. There are several melatonin receptors in the body of vertebrates (including humans), which are stimulated by melatonin.

6. Other natural methods are the use of L-Tryptophan at a dose of 500 mg at bedtime, which can be combined with melatonin. It is the amino acid contained in turkey meat, which makes you tired after a Thanksgiving meal. GABA is another supplement, which is the relaxing hormone of your brain, but with this supplement tolerance develops after about 4 to 5 days, so it is only suitable for very short term use. Herbal sleep aids are hops, valerian extract and passionflower extract. They are available in health food stores.

Conclusion

A lack of sleep (insomnia) is almost a given in our fast paced lives.

When it comes to treatment, all of the other causes of secondary insomnia need to be treated or else treatment attempts would fail. What is left is primary insomnia. This is treated as follows:

We need to review our sleeping habits, lifestyles and substance abuse. Remove what is detrimental to your sleep. Start with the least invasive treatment modalities such as self-hypnosis tapes, melatonin, L-Tryptophan or herbal extracts. Should this not quite do the trick, asks your doctor for advice. The non-benzodiazepines drugs or Ramelteon would be the next level up. It may be that an alternative such as low dose trazodone would be of help. Only, if all this fails would I recommend to go to the more potent sleeping pills (keep in mind the potential for addiction to them).

References

1. David N. Neubauer, MD (John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD): Insomnia. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice – Volume 32, Issue 2 (June 2005)  © 2005, W. B. Saunders Company

2: Behrouz Jafari, MD and Vahid Mohsenin, MD (Yale Center for Sleep Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA): Polysomnography. Clinics in Chest Medicine – Volume 31, Issue 2 (June 2010), © 2010 W. B. Saunders Company

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

Last edited Sept. 28, 2014

Sep
14
2013

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Food processing is found everywhere: in pizzas, hamburgers, ready to eat deep frozen dinners, and in the myriad of packages that you see in the center of the grocery store. There are aisles and aisles of ready-made food packages including potato and corn chips, power bars, low fat yoghurt, and on and on it goes.

So, what are the problems with these foods?

Here are the major players that you will find (sometimes not) on the food ingredient lists.

Hidden sugar

With the recommendation for the past few decades that we should use low fat yoghurt a whole industry has sprung up surrounding low fat products. If you study the labels you will see that this has been done at the expenses of adding hidden sugar content. Don’t go for the berry or other fruit yoghurt, because it is over processed, sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. This is a fast track to becoming a diabetic. Stick to plain yoghurt with 2 to 3 % fat, which has only the original milk sugar in it, but no additives. Also, in the US you ought to avoid any milk and milk products containing bovine growth hormone, which is solely there for increasing the milk farmer’s profit, but will seriously undermine your health (it blocks your growth hormone receptors). Ref. 1 and 3 explain in detail how the metabolism is being changed through added sugar and an overdose of starchy foods, which is the reason for the pancreas over producing insulin. This in turn causes such varied diseases like heart attacks, diabetes, inflammatory conditions like arthritis, MS, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Cut out cookies, excessively starchy foods like potatoes, bread, pasta and rice. Within half an hour of ingesting these your system will be overrun with sugar, the breakdown product of starchy food.

Added salt

Added salt is often used to preserve foods, to lengthen their shelf life and to stimulate your appetite. In restaurants it is added to stimulate your appetite for more liquids. As a result more beverages (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) will be ordered, which is where the profit margin is highest. High amounts of salt will not be beneficial to you, as it will raise your blood pressure and on the long-term will cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. When you buy organic food, there is no added salt in it, although you get sodium chloride that is contained in the vegetables and fruit. Add very little salt, if any; instead add  herbs and spices, which contain valuable trace minerals.

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Hidden fat

Whenever you have a food that was deep fried such as potato chips, corn chips or French fries, there is the danger of exposing yourself to trans fats from polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is also true for deep fried chicken or any other ready to eat foods that have been prepared in the deep fryer.This type of oil is often reused after it is filtered and advanced glycosylation end products (AGE’s) are accumulated in it. This ages your cells including your skin much faster. AGE’s also worsen diabetes by causing more complications like heart attacks and kidney failure. For the same reason you should avoid burning meats on the BBQ or food that you cook on a stove.

Hamburgers also have a lot of hidden fat, sometimes as much as 50%. This fat enters your bloodstream and is eventually deposited as fat deposits in your arteries. After decades of eating too many hamburgers and sausages your coronary arteries clog and you require a stent or a bypass surgery. If you do not want to become a statistic prematurely, cut out sausages, hamburgers and other processed meats replacing them with lean turkey breast, organic chicken and lean pork,venison or grass fed lean cuts of beef or bison.

MSG and other food additives

Many foods have artificial sweeteners in them, which includes excitotoxins like MSG and aspartame. MSG is added to stimulate your appetite, but it has devastating effects on your brain cells on the long term. The name may be disguised as yeast extract, sodium caseinate, broth stock, malt extract, natural flavors and others. Soda drinks either have added sugar, in which case your insulin response makes you want to eat more calories in a day leading to obesity and to dementia. Aspartame, which is used by diet conscious people as a low calorie drink, causes insulin resistance making you gain weight. It also damages your brain. I recommend the plant extract stevia, which is a sweetener that does not have the deleterious effects of aspartame. Sucralose (Splenda) was developed through research on insecticides when a student found out that it tasted sweet. Although Big Pharma has succeeded to introduce sucralose into the diet of diabetics, it is a sweetener that in my opinion is not safe. First it kills ants: a few years ago I did an experiment where I took a package of Splenda from Starbucks and sprinkled it on Hawaiian ants. In the beginning they were reluctant to eat it, but after a few hours they came and took it in. One day later there were only shriveled up dead ants left in the area where Splenda had been sprinkled. I refuse to eat insecticide-laced soda! Second, when you read the link about the “sweet deception about Splenda” above you find that it has reduced the growth rate of rats, caused anemia in mice, enlarged the liver and the brain of rats, shrunk ovaries of rats and caused kidney damage with calcifications in rats. We have no official human data, although millions of Splenda doses have been consumed.  Nobody has done clinical safety studies in man.

One of the food additives you may not think much about is gliadin, which is used in baking to bind the ingredients together. It is derived from wheat, which is usually the Clearfield variety of wheat (a dwarf variety). Dr. William Davis (Ref.1) has examined the effects of wheat and wheat products on humans in detail. Suffice it to say that it is safest to avoid wheat and wheat products entirely; otherwise you could develop bowel disease like celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease; heart disease, obesity, autoimmune diseases, but also CNS disease like Parkinson’s disease, ataxia, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).

Other health problems associated with marketing and so-called “best practices” of agroindustry

Milk and milk products are not as innocent as in the past when no marketing boards were around. Animals are no longer freely roaming on green pastures, but are kept in high-density facilities and have to be put on antibiotics to prevent infectious illnesses. So we are told. In reality farmers have found out that antibiotics and bovine growth hormone will both increase milk production. The profit principle has been applied and as a result the consumers of milk and milk products have a change of their bowel flora from the antibiotics, which can cause heart attacks. The bovine growth hormone from milk and milk products causes breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Superbugs have emerged as a danger from treating beef animals with antibiotics in feeding lots leading to resistant bacterial strains that can cause human disease like flesh eating disease etc. These superbugs imported from the grocery store and meat market are what can make us sick! Eating only organic meat and organic foods are one way that we can use to protect ourselves. Organic milk or goat milk are alternatives to regular (unhealthy) milk.

Toxins in our foods

Roundup is so rampantly present in agroindustry to protect crops from weeds that traces of it are present in most regular crops. Despite claims that Roundup would be safe for the consumer, newer research has shown that it is not. Genetically modified crops are routinely sprayed with Roundup, as they are resistant to this herbicide, so I recommend to stay away from these crops as well.

Your best protection is to buy organic foods.

Heavy metals can be another source of food toxicity. Red wine was found to contain heavy metals, which could undermine that heart healthy effect of a glass of red wine per day.

Mercury is toxic to the central nervous system. It comes from the effluent of gold mines, the smog from coal burning and volcanic activity, which finds its way into the ocean. Fish is the main source of exposure to humans as explained in this link.

Conclusion

We need to be vigilant about the food we eat. The more it has gone through food processing, the more ingredients get mixed in. We need to ask questions about how the food that we eat was raised. Were food additives mixed in? Are they harmless or bad for our health? Beware of sugar as this causes insulin levels to raise causing obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Watch the addition of salt, which causes high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Avoid polyunsaturated fats, cook with olive oil instead. It’s the Mediterranean way of preventing heart attacks. No butter, no margarine, because this fat ends up in your arteries. Avoid wheat and wheat products that are often mixed into foods. Cook your own food whenever possible. Eat lots of vegetables and salads. Watch the glycemic index and avoid high glycemic index foods. Sweeten with stevia, but avoid all other sweeteners. This way you avoid the insulin response discussed above.

The dietitians of the US have summarized the problems the American public faces in Ref. 2. Essentially we need to take back the responsibility for our own food preparation and become less dependent on manufactured foods. A good collection of wheat-free recipes can be found under Ref. 3.

References

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

2. The Profession of Dietetics at a Critical Juncture: A Report on the 2006 Environmental Scan for the American Dietetic Association; Journal of the American Dietetic Association – Volume 107, Issue 7 (July 2007)

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 Oct. 4, 2014

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Aug
31
2013

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, with B cells originating 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) that help the B cells to recognize the difference between the own protein components and the outside components. There are also T killer cells, which get activated when parasites or viruses enter the body. With regard to peanut allergies it is the B cells and T helper cells that interact and 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 and cause severe allergic reactions when future exposure to peanuts (even traces) occurs. So, the more often a person who is allergic to peanuts encounters even traces of peanuts, the immune system will get boosted and produce 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 (an 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, blood pressure drops leading to fainting or shock and severe airway obstruction in the throat or lungs can cause suffocation.

I vividly remember an 11-year-old boy who was brought in by ambulance to 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. 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 had seen an ad that the same brand of crackers was available as cheese crackers and he tried one of these, which 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.

The immune responses to food allergies are complicated as there are immediate type immune reactions and delayed type immune reactions. The immediate immune responses are investigated with the above mentioned ImmunoCAP Specific IgE test. The delayed immune responses can be measured using the ELISA test. Positive IgE antibody tests for peanut protein are a marker that the person affected likely has more other allergies and they should be investigated by a knowledgeable allergist in that regard (Ref. 2).

What complicates the allergy sufferers’ lives even more is the fact that new wheat varieties since the 1970’s, called Clearfield wheat have 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. 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 who developed GMO foods seemed to be unaware how sensitive the immune system is, which will detect 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 something is not labeled, do not be tempted to eat it. Peanut flour is often mixed into the dough of crackers, not being labeled properly or only in fine print. With peanuts the antibodies usually circulate in the blood life long as the B memory cells do not diminish and get reactivated very quickly on repeat exposure producing 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.

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 mediated 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): http://nethealthbook.com/lung-disease/asthma-introduction/asthma-treatment/

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.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014