Caring for our selves and finding ways to handle our stresses are clearly important practices for assuring our long-term health. They are definitely key aspects of Preventive Medicine, Along With the right nutrition and exercise programs for our body, getting proper sleep, and maintaining a positive attitude toward our self, others, and the world. Learning the individual lifestyle path that generates health rather than disease is really the finest art of medicine and personal development, and an extremely important process in which to invest. Let's look at ways to protect our body and heart from the negative effects of stress and to create better health.
One of the first steps in stress reduction is an honest inventory of where we are. Ask yourself:
- What is my biggest life challenge now?
- Is anything very out of balance in my life? If so, what is upsetting me?
- Why don't I feel fully relaxed, happy, and able to sleep well?
- What do I need to do to restore balance?
- Is there anything I can do something about?
- Health–how we care for ourselves and the result we hu-manifest,
- Career–what we share with the world and the support that is returned, and
- Relationships–how we give and receive love.
If we can master these three primary areas of life, some might say we're near enlightenment.
One of the sources of stress is inner tension between what we expect of ourselves and what actually happens. Often these expectations are quite unconscious. It's important to identify unspoken expectations or attachments. Sometimes we need to work a little harder to bring reality in line with our expectations— and to really go for our dream.
At other times, we need to develop more detachment to let go of counter-productive thoughts or desires. In this effort, a meditation practice can be very valuable. All the major religions of the world include some type of meditation or prayer. Your practice can be aligned with your spiritual beliefs.
Types of Stress (adapted from the Anti-Stress Program of Staying Healthy with Nutrition textbook)
Stress comes in many forms. For example, many of us are surprised to learn that intense joy is a source of stress, but since it requires more of our body and mind, it genuinely qualifies as stress (with an increased heart rate and the manufacture of certain neurotransmitters, such as adrenaline). Exercise can also be a stressor even though it is great for us. This is because of the repetitive movement in certain areas of the body, and because we create and release more free radicals and toxins into the blood and tissues. This biochemical process can best be handled by being sure you drink enough water and take antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamins A and C. According to researchers on stress, the most optimal combination for vitamin C is to pair it with the bioflavonoid, quercetin.
The various types of stress and some of the factors that contribute to them include:
- Mental—high responsibility; financial or career pressures; working long hours at mental tasks, perfectionism, anxiety, and worry
- Emotional—attitude toward self; issues or imbalances in our relationships; anger, fear, frustration, sadness, betrayal, and bereavement
- Psycho-Spiritual—issues of life goals; spiritual alignment, imbalance, or lack of spiritual nurturing; general state of contentment
- Physical—exercise and physical labor; pregnancy and giving birth; developmental or life changes (adolescence, menopause, and aging)
- Traumatic—infection, injury, burns, surgery, and extreme weather and temperatures
- Biochemical—deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, specific amino acids, protein, or fats and fatty acids; food allergies; genetic errors in metabolism that can result in alcoholism, other addictions, or mental illness
- Toxic—environmental pollutants such as pesticides, cleaning solvents, and other toxins; non-organic foods with additives; and the use of chemicals such as prescription and OTC drugs, in cosmetic and hair products, and overuse/abuse of sugar, alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine
What is Stress?
Please realize that stress is not dictated by situations or incidents themselves; rather, real stress comes from the way we react to the issues of our lives. For stress to negatively influence our health, we must experience something as danger. If we experience a threat as stress, we may go into fight-or-flight mode, which shifts us into the sympathetic (adrenaline) side of our nervous system. That means our body actually prepares to battle or run, i.e. "fight or flight." Our circulation slows and there may be greater muscle tension; our digestion slows down, heart rate goes up, and we begin using up important nutrients. Often immune function is affected—our level of T-cells may even be depressed. And clearly then, we are more prone to become ill or "catch whatever's going around."
Sometimes there's no way around stress. For example, when a child falls on the playground, or we're putting out a fire, our body prepares us for the emergency so we can respond immediately. That's the way it should be as this level of response/reaction allows us to be more alert and ready for action.
But sometimes stress is subtler—and it may be more psychological or emotional. When there really is no physical danger, our body may still react as if there is. Then, if there's no physical activity to provide an outlet for the increased internal activity, the response may remain inward and play havoc with our physiology and organs, as well as with our emotions and our mind. At that point, we run the risk of exhausting the adrenal glands and flooding our body with metabolic toxins, such as damaging free radicals (associated with the aging process and diseases such as heart disease and cancer). This example also shows the reason why "a walk to cool down" really is a good idea.
When we're under emotional or mental stress, and still stay in a relaxed mode, we can respond more calmly and experience less emotional and biochemical wear-and-tear. Then our body doesn't shift into full battle mode and begin pouring out the chemical signals that we're in danger and must react. This relaxed approach usually leads to a better outcome as well.
Many anti-stress formulas are based on the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C because these important nutrients are all significantly depleted by stress. In addition, stress-related problems may be compounded by deficiencies resulting from generally poor nutrition. All of the B vitamins are important here—especially pantothenic acid (B5). B5, folic acid, and vitamin C are essential for the functioning of our adrenal glands. The adrenals carry perhaps the greatest load when our body is under stress.
The B-complex vitamins are ideally taken two or three times a day, particularly when we are under a lot of stress. This is especially important if the stress lasts over a period of months— for example from a big project at work or a challenging job, a chronically ill child or parent, unemployment, divorce—any of the life events that tend to deplete us over time. It's best to take the B-vitamins before dark so that we don't become over-stimulated when it's time to wind down and relax. I do suggest more minerals in the evening, as they tend to help with relaxation, especially a calcium and magnesium supplement. However, most vitamins and minerals are best assimilated if they're taken with a meal.
Note: Prolonged stress or lack of sleep can lead to a myriad of health problems. If these issues do not resolve with home treatment, you may need to see your doctor or other health professional.
Stress is a funny word. Loaded with the emotional bias of being a “bad” thing, the word stress can be quite deceiving, making it harder to handle than it needs to be. So we will offer a new way to look at it—and very effective ways to address it.
As the healing arts grows, it is important to remember that there are four key domains in healing:
- Biochemistry. This includes herbals, nutrition and medications.
- Structural. Including areas such as manipulation, surgery, breathing, exercise, and ergonomics.
- Biophysics. For example, Acupuncture, Chakra work, Yoga, and NAET.
- Mind-Body-Spirit. Understanding how the body is a metaphor for what is occurring at a deeper level. For most illnesses, including anxiety and even cancer, complete healing is unlikely to occur unless this is also attended to.
You will find that healing occurs best when all four of these areas are addressed. No individual healer is likely to have complete expertise in all of these areas. As our new healthcare system evolves, and the current one heads to extinction, it is good to see health practitioners from diverse backgrounds communicating and working together more.
So let's look at how a Comprehensive Medicine approach works when addressing anxiety and stress. I will focus predominantly on mind-body and biochemical aspects, as these are where my expertise is.
Treating Mind-Body Issues
Stress is not inherently good or bad. In fact, stress can be used to force flowers to bloom, and this analogy applies to people as well. The problem is when stress becomes chronic, and is no longer enjoyable. This then contributes to chronic elevation of the stress hormone cortisol, directly triggering anxiety. As the excessive stress becomes chronic, cortisol levels then go too low—ironically also triggering anxiety by causing recurrent bouts of low blood sugar.
A simple way to tell if stress is healthy? Simply check in to see how it feels. If it feels good, it is healthy. What is enjoyable can vary markedly from person to person. For example I enjoyed the stress of skydiving, while for my wife it would feel awful.
A Novel Treatment
The key stress antidote? Check in to see how things feel. This is so important, that I am being purposely redundant. Learn to say NO to things that feel bad. Leave your brain out of it. Our brain is the product of our societal and family training. It simply feeds back to us what we were taught that we should do to make others happy. Our feelings, on the other hand, tap into our own personal authenticity. So choose to focus on, and do, those things that feel good. Once you've determined what feels good, then your mind can figure out how to make it happen.
And yes, it is OK to simply choose to focus on what feels good in life, without being in constant battle mode against things you don't like. Like food choices at a buffet, we don't have to protest for the removal of those foods we don't choose to eat. Simply ignore them and pick those things you like. You will find that the rest will soon stop appearing in your life. This is part of how I suspect “free will” works. Our focus is like the remote control on our TV. What we focus on keeps showing up on our screen. This is why our constant “Wars on…” just seem to create more of what we are attacking.
Is it truly OK to do what feels good? Some will make the argument that “Heroin feels good, and perhaps also smacking that person who makes me angry over the head with a two-byfour.” This is why we add two caveats:
- Don't hurt others.
- Ask yourself “How is that working out for me?”
Doing this, people will find their anxiety is often coming from their choosing what they think they should do over what feels good (i.e. doing what others want, instead of what is authentic to them). Notice if you are constantly feeling, “I should do this, or I should do that.” This is euphemistically called “Shoulding on yourself.” I invite you to change that toxic behavior.
If hyperventilation is present, one will usually have buried feelings that are bubbling to the surface during periods of relative calm. Counseling to help them learn to feel their feelings helps over time. Also, as panic attacks often leave people feeling like they are going to die, understanding that the symptoms are not dangerous helps. Simply being told this may not be enough to reassure you though. You can confirm hyperventilation is the cause by breathing rapidly for up to 30–60 seconds and seeing how it amplifies your symptoms. Unfortunately, this can also precipitate a full-blown panic attack, so be forewarned, and pick a safe time and place to do this test!
My e-book, “Three Steps to Happiness—Healing through Joy,” can help guide you through the mind-body healing process.
Balance The Biochemistry
Begin with ruling out and treating overt issues, including:
- Overactive thyroid. Consider this if your Free T4 thyroid test is even in the upper 20th percentile of the normal range.
- Low progesterone (women). Progesterone is like our body's natural Valium. Consider this if anxiety is worse around menses and ovulation.
- Low testosterone (men). Consider if testosterone levels are in the lower quarter of the normal range.
- Adrenal fatigue—caused by drops in blood sugar. A key tip-off? Irritability and anxiety that triggers sugar cravings and improves after eating.
Also optimize nutrient status, especially magnesium and B vitamins. Instead of blood testing, which is of questionable value here, I simply recommend (for most people—whether or not they have anxiety) a high potency multi powder called the Energy Revitalization System (by Enzymatic Therapy). With this, one drink replaces well over 35 pills, optimizing levels of most nutrients. Also have the person decrease sugar and caffeine intake to see if this helps.
Herbals can also be very helpful. For example, there is a unique extract, which can be as effective as Xanax, but is very safe. This special extract stimulates one of the most abundant neuroreceptors in the body, the cannabinoid receptors. Many of you may recognize this as the marijuana receptor, and in fact many people use cannabis to self-medicate for their anxiety. But what if you could get the benefits without the sedation and side effects?
The good news is that now you can. Recent research showed that a special extract of the roots of the narrow leafed coneflower (Echinacea angustifoliae) was more effective than the tranquilizer Librium, with none of the side effects. It also worked quickly, with effects building with continued use. This is not the same component used for immune enhancement, and isn't found at needed levels in standard Echinacea. It is available though as AnxioCalm (by EuroPharma—20 mg per tablet).
Let's look at a few studies of this unique extract.
A study published in the March 2012 issue of Phytotherapy Research included 33 volunteers. All experienced anxiety, assessed using the validated State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). The extract decreased STAI scores within three days, an effect that remained stable for the duration of the treatment (seven days) and for the two weeks that followed treatment. There were no dropouts and no side effects.
Another study looked at higher dosages (40 mg 2 x day) in a multi-center, placebo-controlled, double-blind Phase II study involving 26 volunteers diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Over a three week period, the number of severely anxious patients (HADS-A scores larger than 11) decreased from 11 to zero!
So I begin with two tablets of AnxioCalm 2x day for severe anxiety. After three weeks, the dose can often be dropped to one 20 mg tablet twice a day. It can also simply be used as needed, and serves as an excellent sleep aid.
Other helpful herbals include valerian, passion flower, hops, theanine, and lemon balm. These can be found in a combination called the “Revitalizing Sleep Formula,” which helps anxiety during the day and sleep at night. I personally use both AnxioCalm and the Revitalizing Sleep Formula at night to ensure 8–9 hours of deep sleep.
The smell of lavender oil is also calming, and a small drop on the upper lip, or even having a lavender bouquet in one's room, can be helpful.
Structural And Biophysics
Simply going for regular walks in the sunshine, and doing yoga, tai chi, and meditation can be very helpful. A technique called centering can help people feel that they are in the calm “eye of the cyclone” when panic attacks hit. In addition, it is helpful to explore a technique called Butyko breathing, which can be very helpful for anxiety and hyperventilation.
For PTSD or old emotional traumas, a technique called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) can give near miraculous benefits in as little as 20 minutes (see EFT.Mercola.com). It may seem odd, but try it and you'll be amazed. Releasing old traumas through a simple “trembling” technique is also helpful, and the person can do it on their own. It is easy and simple instructions can be found in the book Waking the Tiger.By having the entire healing arts toolkit available, and not just using the “medical hammer,” anxiety can now be effectively treated!
Not a month goes by without headlines in the media proclaiming either that vitamins do amazing things or that they do nothing at all. Such concerns no longer are limited to those whose jobs are to raise such issues. Individuals purchasing health foods and related products increasingly are asking questions about the cost and effectiveness of supplements. Likewise, governmental watchdog agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), expect that the manufacturers and marketers of nutrients and herbs be able to back up claims with sound research. Total Health Magazine Online took an in-depth look at some of the issues back in 2011, for which see “Are Vitamin Supplements Safe?”
Unfortunately, responses to these demands for better backing for claims often are less than satisfactory. Marketing-driven science is as common as is science-driven marketing. Distinguishing between the two requires familiarity with the standards that universities and research institutions have adopted to evaluate medical evidence. This means knowing about the types of studies available and about the elements found in every properly designed study.
There are three basic types of clinical investigations: case-control studies, cohort studies and randomized controlled trials. For most nutritional supplements, the last of these is the primary form of investigation. However, for completeness, a few words should be spared to describe the other two. Case-control studies start with individuals who have already developed a disease or special condition and the controls are matched individuals who do not have the disease in question. An example is an analysis of heart disease rates in male smokers versus rates in otherwise similar males who have never smoked. This is an observational study because there is no intervention by the researchers. The strength of this study type is that it allows researchers to explore how variables influence the development of the condition being examined. The major drawback is that the study can easily be biased with regard to observations and other factors.
Cohort studies differ from case-control studies in that researchers start with individuals who have not yet developed the disease or condition being investigated. Hence, a cohort study on athletic supplements might start with two groups of similar athletes before one group begins supplement use. The analysis would consist of determining whether the group taking the supplement improved as measured by some marker for performance or perhaps had fewer injuries. This is an observational study because there is no intervention by the researchers. Cohort studies have the virtue of allowing investigators to more reliably establish whether a particular action (taking a supplement) leads to a particular outcome (fewer injuries). However, cohort studies may require years of following the subjects and also depend upon the subject populations being properly identified as identical with regard to the studied condition(s) at the start of the study rather than being weighted with some underlying predisposition. In other words, it is easy to introduce bias into cohort studies.
In many ways, the “gold standard” of investigational studies is the randomized placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial. Ideally, the trial population is relatively uniform to start. Subjects are then randomly assigned to active and placebo arms, further helping to reduce any bias or predisposition in the groups being tested. The test is double-blind, meaning that neither the participants nor the investigators know who is taking the compound being tested. Finally, inasmuch as there often is a large psychological effect (the placebo or “sugar pill” effect) during the first weeks of a study, there is an arm of the trial that receives an item that appears to be identical to the compound being tested, but which has no effect. Note that this is an intervention study— the research actively intervenes by giving the compound to be studied to one or more of the arms in the trial. The idea here is to clearly demonstrate whether there is a cause and effect relationship between the item being studied and the outcome with the subjects. When possible, there is also a “cross-over” phase in which, after a sufficient washout period, the group that was used as the placebo arm becomes the active group and the group that had been the active arm becomes the placebo group. Not all studies lend themselves to this, but cross-over studies insure that there are no unrecognized predispositions in the subject that might bias the test results. All of this sounds good in theory. Unfortunately, as shortly will be shown, this “gold standard” of clinical trials still can be biased in a variety of ways.
The design of trials involves at least one more component that is important for evaluating whether the results of a given study are weak or strong.
The first step in any clinical trial is the production of a study protocol. This protocol presents three very important elements. First is the hypothesis of the study: what question is the study intended to answer?
Second is the study population: how and why were subjects picked to be in the study; what are the criteria for inclusion and exclusion; are special conditions involved?
Third is the size of the study sample: how many subjects are needed to insure that the results represent true findings rather than mere chance? All studies contain these three elements and the validity of these components—was the study question correctly framed, was the proper study population chosen, was the study carried on for an appropriate period of time, were enough subjects included to yield statistical significance, etc.— are essential for evaluating the worth of the trial.
Before moving to examples of weak and strong of clinical trials, a few words need to be said regarding statistical significance. The usual cut-off level is given as “p< 0.05,” which means there is only a five percent chance that the study findings represent mere chance. Some statistical models are more strict than others for performing this calculation, but readers actually need to be worried about something else, which is the study sample size. If a study uses, say, only seven subjects per arm, the small size of the study means that the reported effect will need to be very large to achieve statistical significance. Conversely, and one sees this all the time in pharmaceutical studies, a trial monitoring 100,000 subjects may find significance for what, in practice, are effects that are so weak that they are clinically only marginally useful!
As noted above, randomized placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trials are considered to be the ggold standardh for research. Nevertheless, many such trials are quite weak and misleading. For one thing, it all to often turns out to be the case that the placebo is not actually inactive, for instance, the practice of using maltodextrin or other sugars as the so-called placebo in weight loss studies. Relatedly, especially in studies involving weight loss, the placebo effect can be very strong for many weeks. The placebo effect in diet studies commonly leads to the loss of two pounds in eight weeks, and much more if diet and exercise changes are included. A BBC News report on the Internet (March 10, 2004) on trials of the drug rimonabant noted that participants taking the placebo were five pounds lighter at the end of one year. In some large pharmaceutical diet trials in which subjects changed behavior, diet and exercise, the weight loss in two months using the placebo exceeded 11 pounds!
Similarly, if exercise is included in a weight loss trial with healthy subjects, then LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides and leptin levels normally will go down, whereas HDL cholesterol will go up. Moderately increasing the amount of protein in the diet, likewise, will produce such trends. Hence, if a weight loss trial includes exercise and a controlled diet with increased protein, yet reports results opposite of these or fails to find weight loss in participants using the placebo (as happened recently in a highly promoted trial), then the reader should seriously wonder whether there was a lapse somewhere in either design or implementation because of the divergence from independently established outcomes. Moreover, it is often the case that even the most rock-solid of results cannot be extrapolated from one group to another. To stay with diet trials, studies performed in Asia or Latin America usually cannot be applied to American experience because the study populations and eating habits are so different. One has the right to question the reproducibility and applicability of studies.
Of course, many studies are very strong, although this, too, can be misleading. A recent one measured the effects of short-term, oral L-arginine supplements (12 g/d for 3 weeks) in 16 hypercholesterolemic men with normal blood pressure (BP). In this randomized, double-blind, two-period crossover design study, L-arginine tablets (1 g each) and matched placebos (microcrystalline cellulose) were used. The researchers demonstrated that the L-arginine supplement increased blood plasma levels of L-arginine and significantly reduced systolic BP (p<.05) and diastolic BP (p<.001), both at rest and during acute laboratory stressors. BP reductions were associated with a significant decrease in heart output (p<.01); these changes were mediated by small reductions in the volume of blood pumped with each heart beat (p = 0.07). These results were reproduced when the placebo group crossed over, plus they make sense in terms of what is known of the role of L-arginine in the body. Note that this study examines only one intervention which is tested in several ways rather than examining several interventions (e.g., diet + exercise + compound). With only one intervention, it is relatively easy to establish a clear cause and effect relationship.
This arginine study is an excellent example of a good study with strong results that can be completely misleading. The study lasted only three weeks. Based on a large number of similarly successful studies lasting only one or two months at a time, the temptation is to conclude that supplementing with L-arginine is a great recourse for those who are hypercholesteremic, hypertensive, need a boost in exercise, and so forth. Unfortunately, such conclusions would be wrong. As uncovered by a researcher who had been a proponent of L-arginine supplementation, long-term supplementation with L-arginine—in this case, six months.may lead either to null results or to actual harm—1 The body consists of a vast number of interconnected metabolic processes that are taking place simultaneously. A beneficial effect in one area sometimes is followed by a not so good effect someplace else. Hence, even with well-designed trials, there can remain hidden or submarine issues of which we become aware only much later.
Judging a clinical trial first requires establishing what type of test is involved—case-control, cohort or randomized controlled trial—because the type of test is the first clue as to how impartial the observations might be. Next, one must look closely at the components of the trial—the hypothesis of the study, the study population and the size of the study sample. A lack of clarity or inappropriateness in any one of these will reduce the quality of the data and undermine the analyses, interpretations and extrapolations based on the trial. Finally, clinical trials seldom exist in a vacuum. A given trial needs to be evaluated in light of related trials, especially trials conducted by researchers whose concerns and orientations are different from those involved with the test being evaluated. Readers interested in pursuing this topic are urged to examine Richard K. Riegelman, Studying a Study and Testing a Test (6th edition, 2012).
1 Wilson AM, Harada R, Nair N, Balasubramanian N, Cooke JP. L-arginine supplementation in peripheral arterial disease: no benefit and possible harm. Circulation. 2007 Jul 10;116(2):188.95. Epub 2007 Jun 25.
Antioxidants, Our Natural Protectants: Metabolic Regulators, Antitoxins and Anti-inflammatories
Antioxidants protect us. They are the sub-stances that naturally regulate the fires within our bodies.
The fires are sparked by metabolic errors in our cells—errors that are unavoidable as our cells make and use energy for the business of life. The fires can be managed when we are young and very healthy but become harder to control as we get older. Aging is not so much bad genes as it is a slow, inexorable, cumulative consequence of tissue damage from internal fires, sparked by these unavoidable errors of metabolism.
The sparks of metabolism come from living with oxygen. Our life forms breathe in oxygen and use it to do controlled “burns” that extract energy from our foods. Oxygen-based energy allows us to become more sophisticated than amoebas, but comes with a big price. Oxygen is so reactive that it draws single electrons to it, generating oxygen-free radicals within our cells. These “oxyrads” are our unavoidable “sparks of metabolism.” Antioxidants keep them from destroying our cells.
Our tiny metabolic sparks are generated at a steady rate, the oxyrads having single electrons which cause them to attack biological molecules. Molecules with single electrons are aggressive oxidants: they steal single electrons to become paired up. Antioxidants block this process by donating their own electrons.
The antioxidant defenses dare not fail. When they do, important bio-molecules lose single electrons, themselves become unstable, and initiate spreading chain reactions. A chain reaction that escapes control becomes inflammation, with cell and tissue death and progressive loss of functional capacity. Inflammatory events are our internal fires, opposed by antioxidant enzymes backed up by our dietary antioxidant intakes. Our antioxidant defenses give us power to head off degenerative disease and achieve long life.
By quenching the metabolic sparks, antioxidants are also our natural antitoxins. But if the oxygen-free-radical toxins were the only problem, we'd likely all live 120 years or more. Think about cigarette smoke—100 trillion free radicals per puff. A total 4,000-plus synthetic chemicals in everyday use; even drugs we buy over the counter set small fires. Not to mention the illicit “recreational drugs.” Even emotional stress can overheat our metabolism. In this crazy world it's not good to leave home without your antioxidants.
Infectious agents are consistently linked to inflammation. In 1990 I documented inflammatory depletion of antioxidants by HIV-1. Then there's Hepatitis C virus in the livers of four million Americans. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori accounts for the majority of inflammatory stomach and intestinal ulcers. About half of the chronically ill American veterans of the Gulf War have mycoplasmal infections. We also can't forget Chlamydia pneumoniae, the fungus Candida albicans and Giardia and amebic protozoal parasites.
Our own host immune system may trigger inflammation from over-reaction to resistant pathogens. The immune cells produce huge quantities of free radicals when on the attack. When pathogens are not easily eliminated, the immune oxidant production can get out of control, resulting in local exhaustion of antioxidant defenses and another inflammatory focus.
Almost every toxic substance steals electrons and therefore can deplete the body's antioxidants. Thus, the body's own efforts to process some substances can actually make them worse toxins. The P450 detoxification system, located mostly in the liver, combines oxygen with water-insoluble substances such as cholesterol, estrogens, pollutants, pharmaceuticals, even herbal constituents. They are made into free radicals, to be later combined with antioxidants and made water-soluble for clearance with the urine or bile. But things don't always go as planned.
The P450 system wasn't designed to deal with the huge mass of toxins that enter the body. Let's talk about acetaminophen. This legal, over-the-counter drug (Tylenol®) is made highly reactive by the liver P450 enzymes. Then it burns away glutathione, the major liver antioxidant, and begins to kill liver cells. Liver failure can result. Organochlorine pollutants, indoor pesticides, mercury and other heavy metals (and let's not forget alcohol and cigarette smoke derivatives) all deplete glutathione and threaten all the tissues.
I recently did a series of in-depth reviews of degenerative diseases. The major pattern I see with atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, bowel diseases, liver diseases, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, cataract, arthritis, osteoporosis, macular degeneration, prostate diseases, many cancers—is inflammation. By combating inflammation, antioxidants are our essential natural defense against premature suffering and death.
The body relies on foods to replenish its internal antioxidant stores. From our whole, unprocessed foods come the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E; the antioxidant essential minerals, selenium and zinc and copper and manganese; the semi-essential antioxidants coenzyme Q10 (COQ) and alpha lipoic acid (ALA); lutein, lycopene and other carotenoids; the polyphenolic flavonoids and various substances from traditional herbs. These circulate in our blood and contribute integratively to the blocking of free radicals. But a growing body of research indicates we aren't getting enough from our foods for optimal protection against disease.
The healthy body tries to conserve the nutritional antioxidants through metabolic recycling. But still there is a “burn” on our reserves. Dr. Robert Cathcart, the foremost authority on vitamin C , speaks of a “hundred-gram cold,” an influenza so severe it can burn away 100 grams (not milligrams) of vitamin C in just a day or two. A flu attack can be held to just a few days instead of a few weeks by taking lots of C and other antioxidants.
Integrative medical practitioners report that just about all their patients benefit from supplemental antioxidants. Vitamin E has been known for decades to be lifesaving against heart disease.Most of the health food community thinks of vitamin E as tocopherols. But tocotrienols are legitimate members of the vitamin E family and are excellent antioxidants. They are under clinical investigation for benefit against atherosclerotic blood vessel disease and experimentally for the slowing of cancer cell growth and proliferation.
Stephen Sinatra, M.D., a cardiologist and leader in the practice of integrative medicine, has long been a booster for COQ. I can relate to this because I also see COQ's fantastic promise. As I read about health care costs soaring through the roof, I wonder why COQ is not being fortified in our foods to lower gum disease, to improve heart and blood vessel health, to boost immunity and fight cancer development, even (yes!) to lengthen everyone's productive lifespan.
Coenzyme Q10 is unique as a potent antioxidant and indispensable energy catalyst (only ALA has a similar double role). Many of Dr. Sinatra's patients are very deficient in COQ. People taking statin drugs, beta-blockers or certain of the anti-depressants may have their internal COQ synthesis blocked. For them and probably for many of the sick and elderly, COQ is practically a vitamin. Any insufficiency of COQ can endanger the heart through impairing its energetic capacity.
Dr. Sinatra has linked much of the heart disease he sees in women to COQ deficiency. More than 100 clinical studies document that COQ improves congestive heart failure, angina, high blood pressure. About 15 percent of Dr. Sinatra's patients do not improve satisfactorily on COQ alone; these he gives carnitine and then improvement usually occurs. He also sees in the clinical evidence a potential link between poor COQ status and cancers, especially in women.
Selenium is an essential trace mineral, required through the diet though only in small quantities. Selenium has importance for human health that belies its plain mineral status. It is specific for the active sites of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase (GP). GP is a central player in control over free radicals.
In 1996 a major paper appeared in the prestigious (and conservative) New England Journal of Medicine, making an almost unbelievable claim. It described a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial in which more than 1,300 subjects were followed for up to 10 years. Dietary supplementation with selenium produced a 50 percent reduction in total cancer mortality. The incidence of cancer was reduced by one-third. Lung, colorectal and prostate cancer incidence were markedly reduced. The material used was SelenoExcell™, an organic selenium concentrate that resembles the selenium found in food.
The carotenoids are, like vitamin E, fat-soluble antioxidants. One of them—lycopene—has been linked to exciting early results against prostate cancer. A small but controlled, clinical trial focused on male subjects undergoing surgery for prostate cancer. Half were offered a dietary supplement of LYC-O-MATO®, a standardized natural tomato extract with four times the typical lycopene content. PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) levels and prostate tumor size were significantly reduced, compared with the control subjects.
More recently, in a placebo-controlled, crossover trial, LYC-O-MATO® also showed good results in lowering high blood pressure. Its natural combination of lycopene with other plant nutrients may offer a unique synergy for the protection of our health against free radical and other toxic damage.
Lutein is the only carotenoid found in high concentrations in the retina, a thin cell layer at the back of the eye which constantly takes a high dose of light radiation. Macular degeneration destroys the retina and afflicts one out of four Americans over age 65. Lutein is being researched for its capacity to protect the retina and the lens of the eye and it also has anticancer potential.
Grape seed extracts are concentrates of flavonoid polymers. When the great scientist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi received the Nobel Prize for discovering vitamin C, he commented that he had expected to get it for discovering the flavonoids. The small polymers (oligomeric procyanidins) and polyphenols in grapes work synergistically with vitamin C to conserve the functions of the blood vessel linings and walls. Some of these flavonoids also have antiviral and possible anticancer actions.
As scientists continue with their dedicated investigations of food constituents, the latest phytonutrient star is rosmarinic acid (RA). This substance is extracted from a naturally high-yielding strain of oregano and also occurs in thyme and rosemary. All three of these plants have been revered for their medicinal properties literally for centuries. RA appears to have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties, while its high antioxidant potency has proved useful for stabilizing vegetable oils against frying. It has been prepared as a powder without solvents or other processing chemicals. Antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral effects are also being investigated.
Antioxidants are, together with phospholipids, nutrients with profound nutraceutical potential. Whether supplementation with these nutrients will extend the maximum lifespan remains to be proven. Certainly the clinical and experimental studies suggest that functional deficiencies of these nutrients result in cell-level dysfunctions with the potential to spark inflammation that progresses to life-shortening degenerative disease.
We need to keep the fires within us at a very low ebb lest they develop into the raging infernos of uncontrolled inflammation. Consumption of a variety of functional foods and supplements enriched with these nutrients will help keep that doctor away.
Phospholipids, Functional Partners of Antioxidants
by Parris M. Kidd, Ph.D.
Within the cells, circulating lipoproteins, digestive fluids and elsewhere in the body, phospholipids co-occur and co-function with antioxidants. The phospholipids (pronounced fos-fo-lip-ids) self-assemble into membranes and other multidimensional structures, together with antioxidants to protect them against oxidative destruction. This partnership between nutrient classes profoundly influences the health of the whole being.
The cell membranes are dynamic molecular assemblies that house life's plethora of biochemical processes. Our 100 trillion cells all rely on membranes to carry out their functions. Cell membrane organization is shown on the left of the illustration. Catalytic proteins are housed within a flexible bilayer (two molecular sheets), the phospholipid matrix. The matrix also houses antioxidants, including tocopherols and tocotrienols of the vitamin E family; lycopene, lutein and other carotenoids and ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10 or COQ). Also present is the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase, using selenium as its mineral co-factor.
Phospholipids (PL) are the most biochemically-suited building blocks for membranes. The right side of the illustration shows the molecular plan of a common membrane PL such as PS (PhosphatidylSerine)or PC (PhosphatidylCholine).
The fatty acid tails often are highly unsaturated and therefore susceptible to oxyradical or other oxidant attack. The more unsaturated the membrane, the more antioxidant protection is required. The PL head groups each bring special properties to the membrane. In PS the head group has serine, in PC it has choline. The “prophospholipid” GPC (GlyceroPhosphoCholine) has the choline head group but lacks fatty acid tails, and is absent from the membrane proper.
PS is most concentrated in nerve cell membranes. Its head group associates with membrane proteins particularly crucial to nerve cell functions. These include:
- The sodium-potassium AND calcium-magnesium transporters that use up to 70 percent of all the cell's energy;
- Enzymes for signal transduction—protein kinases and adenylyl cyclases;
- Receptors, sensors for chemical transmitters (acetylcholine, adrenaline, noradrenaline, serotonin, others), also for nerve growth factors;
- Proteins of the mitochondrial membranes, central to energetics. Here PS also is a backup for other phospholipids.
These membrane-level functions of PS translate to health for the whole being. Double-blind trials (20 of them) show PS a superior nutrient for memory support, for partial restoration of declining cognitive function, for coping with stress in the healthy young. Preliminary research suggests PS can improve attention, learning and behavior in children.
The energy for life is generated in cell membranes. In the process oxygen radicals (“oxyrads”) are generated which are highly reactive. However good the antioxidant defenses are, some oxyrads escape control and attack membranes. Thus the brain, with its intense energy generation (up to 60 percent of the body's total), must continually renew its cell membranes. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, the minerals selenium, zinc and manganese, the energizers COQ and alpha-lipoic acid, the carotenoids lutein and lycopene, standardized polyphenolic flavonoids and other food borne antioxidants, all synergize with PS to help optimize brain functions.
The liver is our workhorse organ; its cells contain a total eight football fields worth of membrane area, to perform 500 different functions. In its efforts to detoxify foreign substances it generates a further oxidative load on top of its usual oxyrad burden. Oxidants from foods, viruses, pollutants and drugs challenge the liver's antioxidant capacity. Though the healthy liver is well endowed with antioxidants, oxidant overload can kill cell membranes. Enter PC (PhosphatidylCholine), the most common phospholipid of membranes.
Dietary supplementation with PC has clinically important, sometimes lifesaving benefits for the liver. In eight double-blind clinical trials, PC protected the human liver against alcoholic inflammation, viral infection and toxic prescription rugs, markedly improving the speed and extent of patient recovery.
The liver also carries a substantial reserve of GPC, which is readily converted into PC to make membrane. It is the most bioavailable source of choline to help the liver cells regenerate and perhaps for similar reasons is highly concentrated in mother's milk.
Taken by mouth, GPC quickly clears the blood-brain barrier to reach the brain. Working through various mechanisms, it sharpens attention and immediate recall in young, healthy subjects. In the middle-aged it benefits information processing and general mental focus. In the elderly it improves declining cognitive functions linked to circulatory damage. GPC's support for nerve cell functions, including a protective role as osmotic buffer, make a convenient biochemical fit with the antioxidant defenses operative in the brain.
Functional partnership between phospholipids and the antioxidants is not limited to membranes. The circulating lipoproteins produced in the liver (HDL, LDL and others) are made mostly from PL building blocks. Dietary PL facilitate normal, pro-homeostatic lipoprotein status, probably through their support of the liver.
The LDL are the main vehicles for delivery of fat-soluble antioxidants—E, COQ, alpha-lipoic, carotenoids, others—to the tissues. In all of 12 double-blind trials, phospholipid mixtures lowered abnormally high total- and LDL- cholesterol without harming the HDL levels. In another double-blind trial, PL significantly improved blood flow to the brain and improved abnormal platelet aggregation. These marked circulatory benefits of the PL clearly complement antioxidants' benefits for the circulating lipoproteins and blood vessel walls.
Phospholipids combine with antioxidants in facilitating digestion. The bile fluid is essential for fat digestion and absorption. Bile has a large content of PL, functioning with the antioxidant taurine as micellizing agents to fully disperse the fat molecules. Fatty acids of the omega-3 or omega-6 class make up many of the phospholipid “tails.” These are held in position by their parent PL molecules while enzymes break away prostaglandins (PG) and other messenger molecules. Membrane antioxidants help regulate the PG formed, to support a favorable balance.
The natural co-functioning of phospholipids with antioxidants in our cells and tissues suggests combination supplements for synergistic benefits. In particular, a new technology (NutriVail™) employs custom phospholipids to make monomolecular dispersions of antioxidants, with the aim of substantially enhanced bio-availability and unique clinical benefit.
Peer-reviewed publications available on request. Dr. Kidd is scientific consultant to Lipoid USA.
Lutein For Eye Health
Recent scientific studies showing a clear association between lutein intake and a decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts are capturing the attention of both consumers and their eye doctors. The need is growing clearer:
- One out of four people aged 65 or older has early signs of AMD.
- One out of two people aged 65 or older has a cataract or cloudiness in the eye's lens.
- As the largest population group in the United States ages, many people are facing the likelihood of what some simply accept as part of aging, vision loss.
A Food and Nutrition Board report found that lutein is the nutrient most strongly associated with decreased risk of AMD and cataracts.
Lutein and Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Prevent Blindness America estimates that 13 million people in this country have evidence of AMD, a condition that gradually destroys central vision. While the exact cause of this debilitating condition is still unknown, family history and age are known factors.
Lutein is found in the macula's “yellow spot,” a tiny region at the center of the retina. This tiny yellow spot filters blue light for the color vision cells within the retina. The researchers found that lutein is deposited in the retina and macula, increasing its density and protecting the tissue from oxidation by filtering blue light and quenching free radicals.
Experts say that by the time a person exhibits symptoms of AMD the disease has been developing for decades. Baby Boomers are showing concern about their aging eyesight and stocking up on supplement products formulated with lutein to reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Lutein and Cataracts
While cataracts generally occur in people over the age of 65, they are occasionally found in younger people as well. A cataract is a clouding that develops in the normally clear lens of the eye. This process prevents the lens from properly focusing light on the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in a loss of vision.
Lutein's link to cataracts is recent but well documented. Studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women with the highest intake of lutein and its fellow carotenoid antioxidant, zeaxanthin, had a 22 percent reduced risk for cataracts; men had 19 percent reduced risk.
“Many people have been told that nothing can be done about cataracts—that they are a natural effect of the aging process,” says Robert Abel, Jr. M.D., author of The Eye Care Revolution and member of the Lutein Information Bureau Advisory Board. “But they're now finding out that dietary changes, including consumption of lutein, may have a significant impact on risk reduction.”
At the same time, consumers are taking charge of their eye health and seeking out possible solutions. A recent independent survey of consumers shows lutein awareness at 44 percent across all age groups and at more than 57 percent among consumers aged 65 years or older.
Mounting scientific evidence also has convinced eye doctors of the many benefits of lutein, with 84 percent currently recommending lutein to their patients, according to an independent survey of 300 U.S. ophthalmologists and optometrists.
These eye doctors also support use of lutein for long-term eye health (91 percent), believe consumers should supplement their diet with lutein daily (71 percent) and believe lutein is the nutrient that best supports long-term eye health (58 percent).
What is lutein?
Lutein (LOO-teen) is a nutrient found predominantly in vegetables, particularly in dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Lutein belongs to a class of natural, fat-soluble pigments called carotenoids. It promotes long-term eye health in two ways. First, acting as a light filter, lutein protects the eyes from some of the damaging effects of the sun. Second, as an antioxidant, it protects the eyes from the damaging effects of aging.
Foods considered good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include:
- Leafy greens like spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens, and romaine lettuce
- Garden peas and Brussels sprouts
Lutein is found naturally in the human body. In fact, it is the only carotenoid found in large quantities in the retina and at low levels in the lens of the eye. The human body is unable to manufacture lutein, however, so the body must rely on the consumption of lutein-rich foods or lutein supplements to replenish lutein levels and counteract oxidative damage from light as well as the effects of aging.
A 1994 Harvard University study by Dr. Johanna Seddon pointed first to lutein's important role in maintaining long-term eye health. Since then, more than a dozen scientific studies published by such peer-reviewed medical journals as the Journal of the American Medical Association, Archives of Ophthalmology and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have continued to show an association between lutein intake and various long-term eye health benefits.
Editor's Note: Look for a good quality supplement combination of Lutein and Zeaxanthin containing either FloraGLO® brand lutein or Lutemax 2020 and Zeaxanthin. Check our Products We Like section for more information on recommended products
Lyc-O-Mato® Standardized Natural Lycopene Complex
by James Balch, M.D.
The good news is that there is clinical proof you can build a powerful antioxidant defense system against prostate cancer. By incorporating LYC-O-MATO® (standardized natural tomato extract) into your daily nutrition program you can access remarkable fighting power against prostate cancer and a host of other degenerative diseases.
The standardized natural tomato extract contains several phytonutrients found in tomatoes including lycopene, tocopherols, vitamin E, phytofluene, phytoene, phytosterols, beta carotene and more. LYC-O-MATO is extracted from non-GMO tomatoes grown in Israel that contain four times the lycopene content of tomatoes grown elsewhere.
A six-year Harvard Medical School study of healthy males found that consuming tomatoes, tomato sauce or pizza more than twice a week, as opposed to never, was associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer of 21 to 34 percent, depending on the food.
As exciting as its cancer-prevention potential is the evidence that shows lycopene may help fight existing cancer. A recent paper published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention by Omer Kucuk, M.D., professor of medicine and oncology, and his colleagues at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Michigan, evaluated the effect encapsulated LYC-O-MATO had on patients with existing prostate cancer. In this study, Dr. Kucuk and colleagues followed 30 men with localized prostate cancer who were scheduled to undergo surgical removal of the prostate. For three weeks prior to surgery the study participants were randomly assigned to receive either 250 milligrams LYC-O-MATO from LycoRed Natural Products, Beer-Sheva, Israel (which contains 15 milligram of lycopene) twice daily or no intervention. Following removal of the prostates, the glands were analyzed to determine whether there were any differences between the two study groups.
The investigators found that the treated group had smaller tumors, which were more likely to be confined to the prostate. Levels of serum PSA were found to decline in the patients who received LYC-O-MATO tomato extract. In addition, the tumors in patients who consumed this natural lycopene showed signs of regression and decreased malignancy.
“This was the first published report from a randomized prospective clinical trial showing the efficacy of a tomato extract supplement against prostate cancer,” said Dr. Kucuk. “Previous reports were largely epidemiological studies showing an association between consumption of tomato products and decreased risk of prostate cancer. Furthermore, our findings suggest that a tomato extract in the form of LYC-O-MATO may not only help prevent prostate cancer but also may be useful in treating prostate cancer.”
Research using standardized LYC-O-MATO natural tomato extract is also good news for mild hypertensive patients reluctant to make lifestyle changes.
Findings published in the The American Journal of Hypertension provide evidence that LYC-O-MATO may help lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients. The study, presented at the Sixteenth Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension on May 18, 2001, may provide a new alternative for about 50 million Americans who have hypertension.
Americans interested in lowering their risk of high blood pressure are frequently encouraged to exercise and follow a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Typically, however, many are reluctant to make changes in their lifestyles. In fact, according to NOAH, an online health resource maintained by City University of New York, only 68 percent are aware of their high blood pressure condition and only 27 percent have it under control. High blood pressure contributes to 75 percent of all strokes and heart attacks.
Now there is a natural alternative to controlling hypertension that may prevent Americans from making difficult lifestyle changes and/or taking drugs with harmful side effects.
In a single-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial, Esther Paran, M.D., the study's principal investigator, evaluated the effect of LYC-O-MATO® on grade 1 hypertensive patients. In this study, 30 grade 1 hypertensive patients between the ages of 45–60 were administered a daily dose of identical placebos for the first four weeks of the study, followed by a 250 mg daily dose of LYC-O-MATO® for the final eight weeks of the study.
Preliminary results of this study indicate a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure in treated patients. “We are optimistic about LYC-O-MATO'S potential in managing hypertension,” Dr. Paran said. “The results of this study demonstrate the ability of LYC-O-MATO® to reduce systolic blood-pressure, warranting additional studies in the future.”
Other recent studies suggest that LYC-OMATO ® also provides a considerable level of defense against degenerative diseases including heart disease. Considering the results of these studies, combined with its positive effects on blood pressure, the importance of maintaining a normal level of natural phytonutrients like lycopene, phytoene, phytofluene and beta carotene in the human body is evident. It is recommended that individuals consume at least 80–250 mg of LYC-O-MATO® per day, which contains 15 mg of lycopene as well as other phytonutrients, to maintain good health.
www.lycomato.com, or visit the American Society of Hypertension Web site at www.ash-us.org
Grape Seed Extract and the French Paradox
What is the French paradox?
Several years ago, epidemiologists studying heart disease in Europe noticed something strange—high fat leads to heart disease, right? Not in France. The French eat a large amount of cream, rich sauces, delicious desserts and a wide variety of tasty cheeses. Yet heart disease is lower in France than the rest of Europe. This phenomenon is called the French paradox. Check this out—the French imbibe more wine than the rest of Europe.
The goodness of wine—flavonoids
What's in the wine? Water, alcohol and several other compounds (such as sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, tartaric acid) and more importantly flavonoids. Flavonoids are a large group of phenolic compounds that occur in fruits, cereals, legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, stems and flowers and also in beverages such as tea, cocoa, beer and wine. Flavonoids have several properties that could prevent heart diseases. They are antioxidants that help with the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL). They also have anti-inflammatory properties and a beneficial effect on blood vessels as well.
Grape seed—a vital source of flavonoids Grape seeds contain 5–8 weight percent of flavonoids. Commercially available grape seed extracts such as MegaNatural™ Gold (Polyphenolics, Madera, California) are a rich source of flavonoids. Benefits of flavonoids For several years scientists at the University of California-Davis have studied the effect of flavonoids from grape seeds on blood vessels and how it can reduce cardiovascular risk factors. Loss of endothelium-dependent relaxation (EDR) due to atherosclerosis is the primary cause for the formation of plaque in coronary arteries that leads to heart disease. EDR is caused by the release of nitric oxide (NO) from endothelial cells of the blood vessel. Experimental evidence led to the speculation that the release of NO could be mediated by a series of events that are initiated by a receptor, which is specific to flavonoids. EDR can be readily demonstrated by control experiments using established procedures. The effect of flavonoids on EDR was studied in detail over the past several years. Previous studies regarding the effect of flavonoids on EDR yielded conflicting results, possibly due to the variations in he quality of the extracts examined. However, recent studies using the commercially available grape seed extract MegaNatural Gold provided conclusive evidence that flavonoids have a protective effect against the development of endothelial dysfunction.
In the experiments, a group of rabbits fed only with cholesterol showed loss of EDR. But, a group of rabbits fed with both grape seed extract, MegaNatural Gold and cholesterol showed no loss of EDR, proving the protective effect of the grape seed extract, MegaNatural Gold.
Antioxidant activity of grape seed extracts Another study at the University of Scranton has demonstrated the superior antioxidant activity of grape seed extracts (GSEs) overwine, grape juice, vitamin C and vitamin E. Commercial products like MegaNatural Gold were used for both the in vitro and in vivo studies.
In one such study, a significant increase in the blood plasma antioxidant activity was observed within one or two hours after the consumption of grape seed extract. Nine human volunteers were given a 600 mg dosage of GSE and by using the RANDOX bio-assay study an increase up to 12 percent of blood plasma antioxidant activity was observed. This dosage could be correlated to drinking 300 ml of red wine or consuming 1250 mg of vitamin C.
In order to determine the GSE dosage that is required to have a higher bio-availability of polyphenols in blood plasma for improved antioxidant activity, nine subjects were given varied dosages of the flavonoid, epicatechin. Epicatechin is one of the flavonoids present in all grape seed extracts. The in vivo antioxidant study has shown that a dosage of 300 mg was more effective than 200 mg. In fact at 300 mg the antioxidant capacity in the blood was still increasing after four hours, indicating that at this dose the antioxidant effect will remain in the blood for six to eight hours.
A long-term study involving a dosage of 2 x 300 mg⁄day of GSE with 17 human volunteers was also conducted to understand the beneficial effect of GSE in reducing high cholesterol. Patients with high cholesterol experienced a decline in total cholesterol up to 12 percent and a corresponding decrease up to 16 percent in LDL, the so-called “bad cholesterol” as well.
These studies have once again confirmed the long-term effect of GSE s in controlling the level of cholesterol and triglycerides and reducing the risk of heart disease.
Implications for heart disease Endothelial dysfunction (loss of EDR) exists in hypertensives, diabetics, smokers, postmenopausal women and individuals with hyperlipidemia. All of these conditions are potential cardiovascular risk factors. Experimental evidence leads to the belief that polymeric flavonoids as a part of the diet may have a protective effect against the development of endothelial dysfunction. These findings, along with the established anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of flavonoids, could be a possible explanation for the French paradox.
A substitute for aspirin for heart health?
Many individuals take an aspirin a day to prevent their blood from becoming too “sticky.” Technically they are trying to prevent an increase in platelet aggregation. Blood platelets are like tiny band-aids in that they help to seal wounds by causing the blood to clot. Unfortunately, if the platelets clump (aggregate) too readily, they can cause a great deal of damage to the arteries. They can further the development of arterial plaques and they can reduce the flow of blood through the capillaries. Diabetics and smokers are two groups which commonly suffer from poor circulation and excessive platelet aggregation. Not surprisingly, both groups suffer from elevated rates of damage to the arteries.
Aspirin may provide some potential benefits for the heart, but it also has a number of side effects. The best known of these are damage to the stomach and the small intestine, but there are other dangers such as excessive bleeding (an increase in bleeding time—including inside the eye) and a reduced rate of repair to the tendons and the joints.
Do we really need these side effects? Of course not. Grape seed extract provides extended protection against platelet aggregation without causing any unwanted increase in bleeding time. A number of tests have confirmed this protection including human trials conducted by Serge Renaud of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. Dr. Renaud demonstrated that grape seed extract can protect against the rebound in platelet aggregation which follows the ingestion of alcohol. Moreover, the compounds found in grape seed extract have a special affinity for the surfaces of the vascular system, the “pipes” as it were, of the body. This special affinity appears to improve the elasticity and the permeability of the capillaries, veins and arteries—the entire vascular system. Grape seed extract protects the ground substance (the proteoglycan matrix) of the blood vessels directly while at the same time it reduces the unwanted adhesion of platelets and other blood components. The suggested intake for these benefits is 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) per day.
The Health Advantage of Food-form Selenium
by Bill Sardi
“The finding that selenium, an essential nutrient posing negligible risk at the 200 mcg intakes studies, can substantially cut the risk of death from cancer is really a revolutionary finding. I cannot think of any other agent, nutritional or pharmaceutical, that is proven to cut the deaths from cancer by half in any human population anywhere in the world. “These remarkable clinical outcomes with selenium for cancer prevention are not a deviation from other research with selenium conducted with animals, with selenium-antioxidant enzymes, with cells in culture. Yet the potential they represent for cutting the emotional, spiritual and financial costs that cancer imposes on human society is almost beyond belief. Just shut your eyes for a moment, take a deep breath and think of all the people you have known who suffered and died from cancer.”
SCIENTISTS FIRST CALLED SELENIUM TOXIC. THEN FOLLOWING ITS RECOGNITION FOR ANIMAL HEALTH, RESEARCHERS IDENTIFIED IT AS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT FOR HUMAN GROWTH.
Now investigators wonder where the health benefits of selenium stop. The first selenium function in animals wasn't discovered until 1973. Dr. John Rotruck and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin demonstrated that selenium was incorporated into molecules of an enzyme called glutathione peroxidase (GPX). This vital enzyme protects red blood cells, cell membranes and sub-cellular components against undesirable reactions with soluble peroxides. The discovery of GPX opened the door to our understanding of how selenium is protective against cancer, heart disease, arthritis and accelerated aging.
This much misunderstood trace mineral may not gain the status of a drug simply because its primary role is disease prevention. Wherever soil is rich in selenium, certain diseases of livestock are virtually non-existent.
But how could selenium, provided in dosages less than the weight of a paper clip, protect a 150-pound human from disease?
Selenium and Cancer
In what was called the most startling cancer prevention study ever published, University of Arizona and Cornell University researchers recently discovered that selenium food supplements significantly reduce the incidence of nearly all forms of cancer. In 1996 researchers Larry Clark, Gerald Combs and Bruce Turnbull of Cornell University reported on the 10-year use of a 200 microgram supplement of protein-bound selenium among 1312 patients with a history of basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer. While selenium had no effect upon skin cancer, it had a startling effect upon other types of tumors.
A Harvard researcher was quoted as saying: “If the effect of selenium is this large, it would be more important than anything else we know about in cancer prevention.” The results of the multi-center study were so surprising, many health researchers still want more proof.
Larry Clark, the senior researcher in this study, remarked that the type of selenium used in this study is not commonly found in all vitamin supplements. It's a special type of selenium that is grown organically in yeast. “Most of the selenium on the market is inorganic sodium selenite or sometimes they throw sodium selenite into yeast, but they are not bound together as the yeast grows, yet it is still called high-selenium yeast.”
Which type of selenium supplement?
In plant foods, selenium is bound to an array of amino acids (methionine, cysteine, others) and is thus a more stable form. In 1984, a MIT study determined that organically-bound forms of selenium are able to increase the body selenite exchangeable pool size about 70 percent more effectively than inorganic selenite or selenate. The superiority of protein-bound selenium is demonstrated in recent study where selenium-enriched broccoli was shown to inhibit colon tumors in rodents. Researchers observed that selenium-enriched broccoli is more effective than inorganic forms of selenium against colon tumor formation.
Another example of the superiority of protein-bound selenium over inorganic selenium has become apparent in studies of eye disease. One report suggests that “dietary supplementation with selenium should be explored as a means of preventing macular degeneration.” However, researchers have found that blood levels of selenium were lower among patients with macular degeneration even though seven of 10 patients studied took selenium supplements, mostly consisting of 80 micrograms of inorganic selenium (selenate). Lack of consumption of selenium does not appear to be the problem in these cases. Researchers surmise that the form of selenium is of importance. Some studies report that even 200 microgram doses of inorganic selenium fails to increase blood plasma levels of selenium in the eye, while amino acid-bound selenium increases plasma and whole blood levels.
Consumers should look for organically-bound selenium in supplements rather than the inorganic forms (selenite, selenate). The question is how to duplicate the same selenoproteins provided in plant foods in a food supplement?
Slow-growing Saccharomyces cerevisiae, baker's yeast, is employed to bind amino acids naturally with selenium. Some selenium food supplements only mix inorganic selenium with yeast but this is a shortcut that fails to do what nature does—slowly incorporate selenium into an array of about 20 amino acids. Yet the label on these food supplements may still read “selenium yeast.”
Numerous food supplements provide selenium bound only to one amino acid, selenomethionine. But the food supplement that dramatically reduced the cancer risk in 1996 employed a form of selenium bound to a full array of amino acids, like in foods. Only one brand of food supplement provides this complete food-form selenium, called SelenoExcell.
Due to years of misinformation the word “yeast” draws the attention of some consumers who believe they must avoid yeast products. Beneficial nutritional baker's yeast does not contribute to yeast infections such as Candida albicans. Selenium yeast is carefully pasteurized and dried after it is grown. This kills the yeast and it can no longer grow or multiply. Brewer's yeast has been a staple of the health food industry since its inception and is no cause for concern.
Only one company is going through all the trouble to manufacture a consistently reliable form of selenium organically bound to a full array of amino acids as found in foods. It goes by the trade name SelenoExcell.™. All forms of selenium have health benefits. But we have to go with the science. Until we know more, look for that branded ingredient.
Bill Sardi is president of Knowledge of Health, San Dimas, California.
by Rina Reznik, Ph.D.
To protect ourselves we invest in lifestyle changes, exercise, a healthy diet and supplementation. Antioxidants are only one element in the big picture, so products with multiple uses are particularly useful. After all, there's a limit to the number of supplements we can swallow in a day, let alone afford, so we need to supplement wisely. For example, consuming un-denatured whey protein raises intracellular glutathione levels and takes advantage of its three protective functions: T-cell synthesis, anti-oxidation and detoxification. Spirulina is an effective dietary antioxidant with dozens of well-known health benefits. Rosmarinic acid is another product that offers multiple advantages.
Rosemary and its cousins, oregano and thyme, have been known for their medicinal properties for centuries and rosemary oil has long been used in cooking, aromatherapy and in hair and skin tonics. It has been described traditionally as good for the skin, scalp, digestion and treatment of colds and is used as an antiseptic, stimulant and antispasmodic. Today medical scientists are particularly interested in rosmarinic acid for its anti-inflammatory, antiallergic and antioxidant properties.
Rosmarinic acid's multiple value also lies in its boxer's one-two approach: first, as a purely natural food additive it prevents or neutralizes the harmful oxidation that takes place while food is on the shelf, enhancing its quality and helping to prevent an additional tax on the body's over-burdened defense system. Then once the food is eaten, the same additive turns out to be a powerful dietary antioxidant. Of course it can also be used for direct supplementation. An added bonus is that rosmarinic acid does not interfere with intracellular oxidant-antioxidant balance and enables the immune system's phagocytes to use their free-radical weapons effectively against incoming disease organisms.
RA's antioxidant power
The most common free radicals attacking living tissue are reactive oxygen species (ROS)—or oxyradicals. They include the peroxyl, nitric oxide and superoxide-anion radicals plus singlet oxygen, peroxynitrite and hydrogen peroxide. Worst of all is the dangerous hydroxyl radical, formed by the combination of the weaker superoxide radical with hydrogen peroxide. Rosmarinic acid neutralizes the superoxide-anion and thus makes a major contribution to curbing oxidative damage in the body.
Rosmarinic acid also takes the heat of the more well-known antioxidants by getting into the fray and dealing with free radicals first, leaving vitamins C, E and others intact for later use. This extract is also one of the few antioxidants able to cross the blood-brain barrier and combat the superoxide radical in the brain, where researchers hope it may help prevent or combat such degenerative conditions as Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers at the Israeli biotechnology company, RAD Natural Technologies, discovered that certain natural species of the plant Origanum vulgare contained particularly high concentrations of rosmarinic acid. Without genetic modification the plant yields a highly purified extract that is effective in very low concentrations. With neither solvents nor processing chemicals, RAD Natural Technologies is able to preserve the integrity of the plant extract and produce a water-soluble powder that can alternatively be emulsified and thus dissolved in fats and oils. It is ideal for industrial applications. If you've always thought of antioxidants as pills and dietary supplements, think again.
The company's rosmarinic acid product is called Origanox and it is sold for food processing, cosmetic and dietary purposes. Its antioxidant properties preserve natural pigments, odors and flavors and also protect vitamins and other active ingredients from the degenerative effects of oxidation. It also possesses antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties and is easily absorbed into the skin, where it potentially supports to neutralize the harmful effect of ultraviolet radiation.
Rosmarinic acid maintains its electron-absorbing properties at sustained high temperatures. That means that when it is added to edible oils, the number of free radicals released by frying is diminished. It is stable for long periods and at temperatures as high as 180 C⁄356 F so it can be baked into foods without impairing its antioxidant properties.
Free radicals come at us from every conceivable direction and we need a good variety of antioxidants to protect ourselves. Some, like glutathione, are produced by the body, and are dependent upon a supply of raw materials from dietary sources. Others, like vitamins C and E, are built into the foods we eat or supplement in our diets. We may not be used to thinking of food preservatives as health aids but rosmarinic acid is a valuable aid that supports to preempt free radicals before they form in stored food and prevents the most harmful effects resulting from cooking with all sorts of oils. It also functions as a powerful antioxidant with the rare ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.
The essential oil of Origanum vulgare is a powerful, anti-microbial agent and natural, antiseptic product. It has many, very promising applications in certain feed and food products besides being a flavor enhancer and therapeutic component in health food supplements. This potent and adaptable product promises to become a valuable addition to our preventive medicine arsenal.
Tocotrienols—Their Role In Health
by Andreas M. Papas, Ph.D.
TOCOTRIENOLS ARE MEMBERS OF THE VITAMIN E FAMILY.
Mention vitamin E and most people, even scientists, think alphatocopherol. It is only recently that scientists and now the consumers have been reminded that vitamin E is a family of compounds.
Tocotrienols are members of the vitamin E family. Unlike some vitamins which consist of a single compound, vitamin E consists of eight different compounds, four tocopherols and four tocotrienols (designated as alpha, beta, gamma and delta). Our food contains all eight compounds. Most vitamin E supplements, however, contain only alphatocopherol because it was thought that only this one was important. Emerging research proved this understanding wrong. In order to get the full spectrum of the many benefits of vitamin E we must use products that contain the complete family of tocopherols plus tocotrienols.
Tocotrienols are most abundant in cereal grains and the fruit of palm and are extracted commercially from palm oil and rice bran oil.
Tocopherols and Tocotrienols: Similarities and Differences
Each tocotrienol has similarities to the corresponding tocopherols. For this reason tocotrienols, like tocopherols, are excellent antioxidants. Tocotrienols however, have three unsaturated sites on the tail of the molecule. Scientists are discovering important and unique benefits of tocotrienols.
Underscoring the importance of taking the whole vitamin E family is the evidence that not only tocotrienols but even the other tocopherols have unique functions different from those of alpha-tocopherol. For example:
- Gamma-tocopherol, not alpha, is the effective form for fighting nitrogen radicals which contribute to the development of arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS) and diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer's.
- Gamma-tocopherol and its major metabolite inhibit cyclooxygenase activity. This effect is very important because cyclooxygenase causes inflammation, which contributes to the progression of chronic diseases including heart disease and cancer.
- High blood levels of gammatocopherol in men are associated with lower risk of prostate cancer.
The Science Behind the Unique Functions of Tocotrienols
Research produced evidence of the biochemical basis of the important and unique effects of tocotrienols. Tocotrienols and in particular gamma-tocotrienol appear to act on a specific enzyme called 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutarylcoenzyme A reductase (HMG-COA) involved in cholesterol production in the liver. Tocotrienols suppress the production of this enzyme, which may result in less cholesterol being manufactured.
Tocotrienols slow down the growth of some types of human cancer cells, and particularly breast cancer cells, while alpha, beta and gamma tocopherols are ineffective. Gamma-tocotrienol suppresses the growth of rat melanoma and human leukemia cells, human breast adenocarcinoma and human leukemic cells.
Benefits for Cardiovascular Health—Clinical Evidence
The strongest evidence yet for tocotrienols comes from a clinical study in which 50 patients had stenosis of the carotid artery. These patients, ranging in age from 49 to 83 years, were divided in two groups. One group received approximately 650 milligrams of tocotrienols plus tocopherols. The other group received a placebo. All patients were examined with ultrasonography which measures the narrowing of the carotid artery.
- Placebo group: Fifteen patients showed worsening of the stenosis, eight remained stable and two showed some improvement.
- Tocotrienol (plus tocopherol) group: Three patients showed minor worsening and 12 remained stable. What is remarkable is that 10 patients showed regression of stenosis—their condition improved.
The tocotrienol group had also significant reduction in TBARS, a test that measures oxidation. A tocotrienol-rich extract from rice bran oil reduced triglycerides and LDL in these patients. We are studying further these effects of tocotrienol-rich products from rice bran oil.
Topical Use of Tocotrienols
Tocotrienols, like tocopherols, protect the skin against damage from ultraviolet radiation, pollution, cigarette smoke and other stress factors. Topically applied tocotrienols and tocopherols penetrate the entire skin to the subcutaneous fat layer within 30 minutes and significantly increase the concentration of these antioxidants in the deeper subcutaneous layers.
Safe and Effective Use Levels
Tocotrienols and vitamin E in general have an excellent safety record.
How much tocotrienols to take? Please remember that tocotrienols are available commercially as mixtures with tocopherols. If you are at high risk for heart disease, you may consider levels up to 300 mg per day of tocotrienols. For the great majority of consumers who want to get the benefit of the complete vitamin E family, much lower levels may still provide benefits.
It is extremely important to take products that contain natural tocopherols plus tocotrienols. While our individual needs differ, the following general guidelines might help choose the right level for you.
- The adequate level—the 100/100 system: Take 100 IU plus 100 mg of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols. For healthy young adults with no family history of chronic disease.
- The medium level—the 200/200 system: Take 200 IU plus 200 mg of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols. For young adults with some risk factors and healthy people without risk factors up to 50 years old.
- The high, yet very safe dose—the 400/400 system: Take 400 IU plus 400 mg of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols. This is the level for people who, because of their family history for chronic disease, age, level of stress, diet and other factors, want to take a higher level.
Andreas M. Papas, Ph.D., is the author of The Vitamin E Factor (paperback) and editor of the scientific book Antioxidant Status, Diet, Nutrition and Health, Dr. Papas is senior technical associate at Eastman Chemical Company and adjunct professor, at the College of Medicine of East Tennessee State University and senior scientific advisor, Cancer Prevention Institute, Harvard School of Epidemiology. —www.vitaminefactor.com
Ten Additional Important Antioxidants
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant compound similar to vitamin K and is naturally manufactured in the liver as well as every cell in the body. But even though COQ10 is produced in the body, many people have deficiencies, especially those suffering from cardiovascular disease and heart failure.
Every cell must have a way of obtaining energy. In cardiac cells, as well as throughout the body, oxygen-based production occurs within the cellular power plants called mitochondria. Here COQ10 provides essential energy in its most basic form—adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—the energy of life. Without adequate COQ10 as a cofactor, ATP synthesis slows down, eventually leaving the cell in a vulnerable state.
Dietary sources of COQ10 come mainly from beef heart, pork, chicken liver and fish (especially salmon, mackerel and sardines). Vegetarians typically will not get enough COQ10 unless they eat large quantities of peanuts and/or broccoli. The average person only gets five to 10 mg of COQ10 each day from diet alone. Most people would benefit from far more COQ10 than can be gleaned from the daily diet.
Although COQ10 can be synthesized by the body, many individuals are deficient in this vitamin. Illness depletes the body's stores even further. Taking cholesterol-lowering drugs such as HMG-COA reductase inhibitors can literally “kill” COQ10 synthesis. Other drugs, such as beta blockers and some of the older antidepressants, also interfere with COQ10-dependent enzymes, lowering its concentration in the body.
Any women taking a statin drug, especially those at high risk for breast cancer, should take at least 100 mg of COQ10 a day.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a very powerful nutrient and the premier water-soluble antioxidant. It participates in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and is important in maintaining homeostasis as well as building tissue.
Death is inevitable if vitamin C is not provided. It is truly essential to human life. New research into the actions of vitamin C has sparked a greater understanding of the remarkable health-promoting properties of this essential nutrient. The new evidence validates that vitamin C supports cardiovascular and respiratory function, cognition, bone development and mineralization, vision and may even lower the risk of stress-related diseases and certain types of cancer.
- Cardiovascular Health. High dietary vitamin C intake has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes in numerous population studies. Also, researchers have found that vitamin C offsets spasms of the coronary arteries.
- Immunity Booster. A recent study reported an 85 percent lower incidence in cold and flu symptoms with high vitamin C doses.
- Collagen Maintenance. Vitamin C is important for the formation and maintenance of collagen, the intercellular cement that binds tissues together. Collagen provides tensile strength to bones, cartilage, teeth, tendons and ligaments. There is a positive association between vitamin C and bone mineral density (BMD) in postmenopausal women.
- Cancer. Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant to protect cellular structures, including genetic mechanisms, an enhancer of the immune system and to protect against cancer-causing environmental irritants and pollutants. Many of the benefits of vitamin C supplementation stem from its antioxidant properties. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C become more important as aging occurs, especially if there is stress or disease.
Astaxanthin is a member of an elite class of carotenoids known as xanthophylls.
Astaxanthin is believed to be the most active of these carotenoids. Researchers have discovered that the most abundant and concentrated form of astaxanthin is found in the natural, renewable material extracted from microalgae.
Because of its unique molecular structure, astaxanthin is unlike any other antioxidant in that it can perform a wide variety of tasks including:
- increasing HDL (good cholesterol)
- increasing strength and endurance
- stimulating the immune system
- protecting and enhancing eye health.
Astaxanthin has been shown to perform effectively the three key tasks of an antioxidant: quenching, scavenging and trapping free radicals. Astaxanthin is more powerful than many other carotenoids because:
- its low molecular weight allows it to actually cross the blood-brain barrier, making it available to the eye, brain and central nervous system
- it is more resistant to damage, allowing it to scavenge longer and trap more types of free radicals
- it acts like a bridge, transporting free radicals along its long chain to water-soluble antioxidants like vitamin C inside and outside of the cell.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is a special form of carnitine that has the particular ability to optimize brain function. Acetyl-L-carnitine is able to cross into the brain more effectively than regular carnitine. It therefore enhances brain cell function much better than regular carnitine. As we age, acetyl-L-carnitine levels in our brains go down and for optimal brain function, supplements of acetyl-L-carnitine become mandatory.
Acetyl-L-carnitine acts in many ways to prevent the deterioration of brain cells that normally happens with age. It does this in many ways. It acts as a powerful antioxidant, provides the brain with healing energy and increases levels of a very important messenger molecule called acetylcholine. It is acetylcholine which becomes deficient in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and that is why these patients have such poor memory function. By increasing levels of acetylcholine, acetyl-L-carnitine helps the memory work better and may help prevent Alzheimer's disease as well.
Green tea is the antivirus, anticancer, super antioxidant. It is the most popular of Asian drinks and has been known for centuries to have a long list of health benefits. Interestingly, after water it is the most widely consumed beverage on the earth.
Dr. Earl Mindell states, “The antioxidants specific to green tea are polyphenols, bioflavonoids that act as super antioxidants by neutralizing harmful fats and oils, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, blocking cancer-triggering mechanisms, inhibiting bacteria and viruses, improving digestion and protecting against ulcers and strokes. The specific type of polyphenol found in green tea is called a “catechin.”
Other ingredients in green tea include the green chlorophyll molecules but also important are the proanthocyanadins similar to those found in grape seed extract, pine bark, bilberry and gingko. The specific tea is a variety called Camellia sinensis. Camellia sinensis in the West is known as black tea, such as Earl Grey tea, orange pekoe tea or English breakfast tea.
The antioxidant properties of green tea are responsible for its most important benefits. The Chinese always claimed that tea slows aging but it was not until we understood the role of oxidation in aging and the antioxidant function of flavonoids that we knew how this mechanism might work. Researchers at University of California- Berkeley found that green tea extract was the best at scavenging the deadly hydroxyl radicals. Three diseases that we focus on regarding green tea are heart disease, AIDS and cancer.
It is well known now through modern research that green foods are rich in vitamins, minerals and enzymes. They help protect against cancer, heart disease, digestive problems and many other modern disorders. Green vegetables are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene and chlorophyll. Possibly most important of all, they have potent antioxidant activity. Besides, they are low in fat and high in nutrients, an excellent combination.
The importance of green foods in the diet is now being validated scientifically worldwide. It is amazing how long it takes us to discover that foods were made correctly in the first place. They contain exactly what we need in their natural state. We have to find a way to take advantage of the whole foods naturally made and most of us are not doing that presently with our diets. In fact, it would be difficult for anyone to eat green plants to equal the amount of nutrition in concentrated green food supplements. So until you are ready to sidle up to a fivepound salad of spinach, watercress, alfalfa and kelp, the concentrated supplements mentioned here are probably your best source for the vital nutrients you need from green foods.
Alpha lipoic acid is a vitamin-like antioxidant that is produced naturally in the body and found in certain foods such as potatoes and red meat.
It is the only fat and water soluble free radical antioxidant, therefore, it is easily absorbed and transported across cell membranes, protecting us against free radicals both inside and outside our cells.
Alpha lipoic acid has been used for years throughout Europe to treat and prevent complications associated with diabetes, including neuropathy, macular degeneration and cataracts. Studies show that diabetics lower their insulin requirements; this also helps reduce complications.
An abundance of promising research has also shown the ability of alpha lipoic acid to inhibit replication of HIV and other viruses, to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation which is associated with cardiovascular disease, to protect the liver from damage from alcohol or other toxins and also to prevent damage from radiation.
We do not obtain enough alpha lipoic acid through the diet to obtain this protection, so supplementation is required—100 to 200 mg daily. Therapeutic doses are higher.
Essential for many cellular functions, glutathione is a tripeptide of connected molecules composed of three nonessential amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine.
Without glutathione people suffer from an inability to detoxify metabolic wastes and in eliminating toxic substances like heavy metals and other environmental poisons. This may lead to heart disease, joint disorders, cancer and problems with the endocrine, immune and nervous systems.
Even healthy people under stress can become subject to a disrupted balance. They could be sick or battling an inflammation or infection, or healing from an injury, while more free radicals are created and must be eliminated. Glutathione will do the job. It will also seek out the free radicals formed when people are exposed to cigarette smoke, alcohol, mercury, air pollution, food additives, pesticides and ultraviolet light.
Needed cofactors that properly assist glutathione function are the following: alpha lipoic acid, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and the minerals selenium and zinc, of which selenium is a vital component.
Extracted from the bark of Pinus maritima, the coastal pine tree found in abundance in southern France, pycnogenol is made up of a combination of flavoids that occur naturally in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables. However, antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables and nuts lose their potency when they are harvested, processed, frozen and cooked. A study in the British scientific journal, The Lancet, showed that risk of heart disease was 50 percent lower in populations that consumed high amounts of flavonoids (at least 30 mg a day) than groups that took in low amounts of these antioxidants.
Decades of laboratory research and clinical studies conducted by Dr. Jack Masquelier show that pycnogenol contains approximately 40 natural ingredients including proanthocyanadins, organic acids and related bioavailable components such as glucosides and glucose esters. It is a potent antioxidant that protects against free radicals, has been shown to be many times more powerful than vitamin C or vitamin E and has the added benefit of working synergistically with many nutrients that support health.
Millions of people in Europe and the United States, athletes in particular, rely on pycnogenol to maintain skin health and overall health during the aging process. It is one of the best tried-and-tested products in its category, non-toxic and non-carcinogenic.
Garlic is the most studied herb in history. It has more benefits than any other single food. Tradition has told us that garlic has beneficial effects on health and longevity. Science is beginning to validate many of these claims including garlic's ability to prevent heart disease, fungal overgrowth and infectious diseases, the ability to remove toxic metals from the body and its powerful antioxidant and anticancer effects.
A Summary of Garlic's Many Benefits Includes:
- having been shown to have powerful immune-boosting properties and may be valuable in fighting off viral infections such as the common cold.
- having been shown to help lower blood pressure in those with hypertension.
- working as a natural antibiotic and reducing the number of harmful bacteria in the body.
- reducing blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and has been shown to limit the deposition of plaque on artery walls.
- having been shown to help the body eliminate parasites.
- reducing the amount of the yeast, Candida albicans, in the human GI tract and has been shown to be beneficial in fighting systemic yeast infections.
- having been shown to lower blood sugar and be of significant benefit to diabetics.
- having been shown in population and laboratory studies to help prevent a wide variety of cancers.
- containing selenium, a cancerpreventing, immune-boosting and antiinflammatory nutrient.
Editor's Note: We highly recommend the most studied garlic supplement on the market. Kyolic AGED Garlic is Organically grown, and aged up to 20 months to enhance the nutritional value of the garlic, remove its pungent odor and make it gentle on the stomach. Kyolic is heavily researched with over 750 scientific studies.
BOOKS FOR FURTHER READING ON ANTIOXIDANTS:
Which Medications Are Robbing Your Body of Essential Nutrients—and Natural Ways to Restore Them
by Suzy Cohen, RPh
Rodale Books; 1 edition (February 15, 2011)
The Garlic Cure
by James F. Scheer, Lynn Allison and Charlie Fox
Alpha Omega Press, Fargo, ND (2002)
The Garlic Cookbook: For the Best and Most Unique Garlic Recipes You Will Ever Try!
by Martha Stephenson
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 19, 2017)
Healthy Healing—Avoid side effects, drug interactions and high medical costs with America's Original Guide to Natural Healing (14th Edition)
by Linda Page, N.D., Ph.D.
Healthy Healing Publications; 14th edition (November 15, 2011)
Prescription for Nutritional Healing
Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements
by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
Avery; 5 Rev Upd edition (October 5, 2010)
The Longevity Kitchen—Satisfying, Big-Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age-Busting Power Foods
by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson
M. Evans and Company, Inc., New York, NY (1998)
The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life
by David Perlmutter, MD
Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (April 28, 2015)
The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan:
Boost Brain Performance, Lose Weight, and Achieve Optimal Health
by David Perlmutter, MD, Kristin Loberg
Little, Brown and Company (November 15, 2016)
"The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan provides a step-by-step, proven approach that will help you reclaim and sustain health, vitality, and happiness for a lifetime." Melissa Hartwig, author of Food Freedom Forever and coauthor of The Whole30
"Dr. Perlmutter, an acclaimed neurologist, has for years been a pioneer of the gut-brain connection. In The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan, he combines his clinical expertise, insights into the latest scientific developments, and immense compassion into a powerful prescription for brain health." David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, professor, Harvard Medical School, and author of Always Hungry?
"Dr. Perlmutter's groundbreaking work has changed the way we think about inflammation—its causes and the damage it can do. I've gotten tremendous benefit from his books and The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan gives us simple and direct ways to prevent and treat diseases in easy and delicious ways." Bonnie Raitt
"Dr. David Perlmutter is one of the first people to not only suggest that modern degenerative diseases are likely caused by poor diet and alterations in gut health, but he has produced clinical research indicating these conditions may be avoided or reversed by altering one's diet and lifestyle. The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan is the culmination of more than 35 years of clinical practice and research that will help you look, feel and perform your best." Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution
"Dr. Perlmutter sifts through the emerging research on how to create brain and body health. And he created The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan, a manifesto for the new medicine, the roadmap for how to care for the one precious human life that you have. If you want to live strong, feel good, boost your brain function, and become more connected and engaged to your own life, then you need a plan. This book is that plan." Mark Hyman, MD, author of Eat Fat Get Thin and director of Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine
"If everyone were to follow The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan, there would be a dramatic reduction in obesity, diabetes, cancer, dementia, arthritis—in short, the world would be a better place." Dale Bredesen, MD, professor and director of Alzheimer's Disease Research, UCLA
"The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan presents a comprehensive, practical, step-by-step approach aimed at people suffering from a variety of chronic neurological, psychiatric, and medical conditions. Dr. Perlmutter not only gives specific dietary recommendations, including a diet rich in plant-based fiber, but also prescribes important lifestyle changes such as physical exercise, stress reduction, and improvement in sleeping habits." Emeran A. Mayer, MD, author of The Mind Gut Connection and director of the Oppenheimer Center for Stress and Resilience at UCLA
The Multivitamin-Mineral Cornerstone of a personal program
The first step in establishing your personal vitamin program is to ensure that every day you are receiving those vitamins and other nutrients that are truly essential to the human body. Since thousands of dietary supplement products are available, claiming to benefit every manner of body function, here are some guidelines to help separate the wheat from the chaff. Let’s start with the multivitamin- mineral (MVM) product.
To do what it is supposed to do, your MVM should provide just about ALL the vitamins and minerals truly proven essential to human health. The list of known vitamins hasn’t changed much in recent decades; it includes vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12, (the missing numbers were those which proved not to be truly essential) and vitamins C, D, E and K. Folate and biotin are also vitamins, as are the essential fatty acids, which are discussed below. Choline was recently established as essential. A number of minerals are also proven essential to survival.
Minerals are not organic since they do not contain carbon and thus cannot be called vitamins. However, certain minerals are as essential to survival as are the vitamins. For a number of minerals, deficiency states are established and recommended dietary allowances exist. Of these, sodium and phosphorus don’t need to be supplemented since they are more than adequately represented in the daily diet. Vanadium has never been proven essential and has some suspicious actions; microgram amounts may be acceptable in your MVM, but milligram amounts cannot be justified. Similarly, fluorine can be toxic and very likely is not essential.
Unequivocally, every person, whatever their age, gender or state of health can benefit from taking a multivitamin-mineral product on a daily basis. A good MVM will provide all the vitamins and essential minerals, minimally in amounts of at least 100 percent of the “daily values.” The daily values seen on the dietary supplement product labels are the RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances) recalculated on the basis of each 2000 “calorie” intake of food per day (kilocalories, really). A good multivitamin-mineral will also supply close to 100 percent of the daily values for the following minerals: magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, silicon, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, boron, and chromium. Potassium, unfortunately, is kept low (around 99 mg daily maximum) by regulation.
Don’t take “one-a-day” MVM formulas seriously: one tablet or capsule a day simply cannot pack in decent amounts of all the necessary nutrients. A good MVM cannot be packed into less than 2–4 or up to six capsules or tablets per day, divided between two or three meals.
As you shop for a good MVM, you must examine the label carefully or you’ll waste your money. By law, the manufacturer has to list the ingredients on the label. Also, some MVMs provide meaningful amounts of certain standardized herbal extracts, namely minimum tens of milligrams each of ginkgo biloba extract and/or milk thistle extract, grape seed extract, pine bark extract, bilberry standardized extract, and hawthorn berry extract. These add to the quality of the product, since they have proven health benefits.
There are two kinds of EFA, omega-6 and omega-3, the two kinds compete with each other for uptake and utilization and play a “yin-yang” role in the body by delicately balancing and complementing each other’s effects. It’s been found that supplementing the diet with certain omega-3s will protect against heart attacks and strokes, and generally help protect the body against inflammatory damage.
Take extra Vitamin C and Vitamin E
As the scientific research on vitamins and minerals has progressed, the recommended daily amounts of minerals necessary for good health have not changed much. Among the vitamins, the benefits of some extend to such large amounts that we cannot expect full intakes from our MVM product and are forced to take them as additional supplements. Two proven examples are vitamin C (ascorbate) and vitamin E (d-alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocopherols [ VERY IMPORTANT ]).
It used to be that so-called experts would scoff at the late Professor Linus Pauling when he talked about taking grams of vitamin C every day. They said we would just be making expensive urine if we tried to do what he did. yet there was good research even then to show that Pauling was right; those “experts” just didn’t want to work the data into their ideological agenda. Some went so far as to fudge existing data in order to deny that vitamin C helps prevent the common cold; others purposely miss-designed human studies to try to show that vitamin C could not help treat disease. But the majority of researchers stayed honest, as their own research led them to discover that, yes, Hoffer, Cathcart, Cheraskin, Pauling and the others were right: vitamin C could do marvelous things for human health.
The essential fatty acids are Vitamins
The essential fatty acids (EFA) are oily substances, which are really vitamins because deficiency states have been demonstrated for them. There are two kinds of EFA, omega-6 and omega-3, differing in their molecular details but sharing the same enzyme systems. The two kinds compete with each other for uptake and utilization and play a “yin-yang” role in the body by delicately balancing and complementing each other’s effects. unfortunately, in today’s world we are getting either too little of both kinds if we eat a lot of junk food, or too little of the omega-3s if we eat the typical Western diet. Now it’s been found that supplementing the diet with certain omega-3s will protect against heart attacks and strokes, and generally help protect the body against inflammatory damage.
The omega-3s that work best are DHA and EPA, some of which can be obtained by consuming cold water fish, though we do recommend supplementation. A certain amount of omega-6 intake is also important, and this is best obtained from GLA. In the future, you will see the EFA included in MVM products, but for now they are mostly available only as oils in softgel capsules.
Conditionally-essential nutrients sometimes May be Vitamins
A number of substances that have not been established as vitamins through deficiency assessment are nonetheless intricately involved in life processes. One that has been extensively researched is coenzyme Q10 (“CoQ”), otherwise called ubiquinone. CoQ is crucial for the generation of energy in all our cells and makes important contributions to our protective antioxidant defense system. Technically, our cells have the enzyme machinery to make their own CoQ. Why, then, do people with heart problems develop a functional deficiency of CoQ? Alpha-lipoic acid also is crucial for making energy and is also a potent antioxidant. Another example is taurine, which is an antioxidant, antitoxin and electro-osmotic buffer substance found in the heart tissue, the nerve tissues and in all our cells. yet another is carnitine, which is also important for the heart and is central to the body’s energetics. These nutrients all fit the category of conditionally-essential nutrients in that portions of the population are critically unable to make enough to keep up with body demand for them. Occasionally, a nutrient previously thought conditionally-essential is proven fully essential for humans, as recently occurred with choline.
Deficiencies in the conditionally-essential nutrients can be life-threatening. For CoQ, taurine, carnitine, and some other such nutrients, the bio-synthetic pathways are especially complex and energy intensive. Elderly or sick people, or people with chronic viral infections, may produce either none at all or quantities insufficient to keep up with demand. For such people, supplementing with these nutrients is likely to be a good idea. For individuals with heart failure, a condition in which deficiencies of all three of these nutrients can manifest, supplementing with all three daily may be a lot more than just a good idea.
The conditionally-essential nutrients are all orthomolecules. As conceived by Professor Pauling, orthomolecules are substances orthodox to our metabolism; that is, they are part and parcel of our normal enzyme pathways. Certain more sophisticated MVMs have included carnitine, taurine, NAC (N-acetyl cysteine), alpha-lipoic acid, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), and other orthosubstances. These are undeniably valuable for your health, but your MVM will not be able to provide all that you need, and for your special health needs you’ll need to consider additional supplement products.
Stress of any kind increases the body’s nutrient requirements Never underestimate the power of stress to make you sick. Emotional stress works through many mechanisms to damage our tissues. But stress is far more than just emotional.
Although the word “stress” is commonly taken to mean emotional stress, its meaning for the body is much broader. In a biological sense, stress means any challenge to the body’s life processes and survival skills. For example, exposure to too much cold or heat is stressful. Malnourishment or eating junk food is stressful. Too much noise is stressful. Fits of anger are stressful, and anxiety and depression exacerbate emotional stress. Chemicals foreign to the body cause stress, as they react with our biological molecules and so modify our body chemistry.
One of the most stressful chemical agents is cigarette smoke. Oxygen free radicals, tars, heavy metals, and radioactive substances in cigarette smoke, whether inhaled actively or passively, deplete virtually all the types of nutrients in the body, and as this happens, the risk of asthma, bronchitis, cancer, and heart disease skyrockets. Chlorinated hydrocarbon pollutants entering our bodies from the air, water and foods deplete our antioxidants and many other orthomolecules and thereby increase the risks of cancer, nerve damage, memory loss, and liver or kidney failure. Alcohol intake is stressful, whether or not a person is an alcoholic.
Other sources of stress include infectious agents (ALL viruses or bacteria, fungi such as yeasts and molds, protozoan or worm parasites, mycoplasmas such as the one that causes pneumonia). Infectious agents hijack our biochemical machinery to meet their needs. These intruders also siphon off vitamins and minerals that we need to make energy and otherwise conduct our life processes. As the immune system mounts assaults these unwanted guests, fever and other inflammation develop that literally burn away our antioxidant reserves and accelerate our losses of B vitamins and minerals. That’s why increasing your intake of the superb antioxidant vitamin C and minerals such as zinc and magnesium can make such a difference when you have a cold. Don’t underrate the importance of nutrients against the stress of infection. Increased nutrient intakes will even help slow AIDS progression.
OTC and other drugs Can deplete nutrients
Many over-the-counter drugs can deplete the body of essential nutrients. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) depletes glutathione, an antioxidant substance that is key to the functioning of the liver. Liver failure can be the result. Aspirin, one of Tylenol’s competitors, is no more innocent except that it targets the stomach rather than the liver. Aspirin can deplete folate and vitamin C, and it breaks up the phospholipid surfactant layer that normally protects the stomach lining, with ulcers often arising that then bleed and deplete the body of iron.
Antacid use also can be a problem, depleting the body of folate as well as copper. Certain laxatives and stool softeners can do tremendous damage by reducing the absorption of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients and depleting the body of water. Overuse of laxatives is common, especially among girls and women concerned about gaining weight, depressed people preoccupied with bowel function, and constipated elderly patients. Prescription drugs are worse than the OTCs, and more than 600 of these are known to be toxic to the liver.
Among prescription drugs, those classes most proven to deplete nutrients include oral contraceptives (vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate), antibiotics (vitamin B12, vitamin K, iron, magnesium, calcium; also the friendly gut bacteria), cholesterol-lowering agents (coenzyme CoQ), and diuretics (sodium, potassium, calcium). Tricyclic antidepressants can deplete vitamin B2 and CoQ. We could go on and on about drugs and the damage they do to our bodies, but the pattern is clear: persons taking pharmaceuticals of any kind need to increase their daily intakes of multivitamin-minerals and antioxidants.
Managing specific health problems and healing organ damage
The topic of therapeutic nutritional supplementation is a huge one. Hundreds of books have been written, and tens of thousands of scientific papers have been published on the uses of vitamins and other nutrients to treat clinical disease conditions in order to achieve healing. Drugs don’t heal, and government regulatory agencies, goaded on by the pharmaceutical drug interests, have done their best to shut down this entire field of nutritional application. They’ve spectacularly failed, though, because the records show that vitamins and minerals can be employed in combination with other orthomolecules and with herbal preparations to manage, heal or cure just about any disease or dysfunction. Not only this, but in so doing they outperform the drugs in all areas. Here nutrients become nutraceuticals, to be administered in doses sufficient to give maximum benefit against a disease. Sophisticated nutraceutical combinations are personalized to the needs of the individual. Some clinicians and scientists believe, as do we, that even aging can be slowed using this strategy.
Every one of us has an “Achilles Heel” in our body makeup, some weakness or weaknesses that will likely bring on ill health or premature aging and without intervention will likely shorten life. By learning to be aware of our body’s grunts, groans, squeaks, and quirks, and by working with trained professionals, we can target these weaknesses for special treatment in order to slow progressive functional loss (as the liver carrying a chronic virus, for example), to reverse existing loss (as memory function) or even to heal longstanding zones of trauma (as a damaged joint). At this level of a personal vitamin program, the potential benefit is lifesaving, and this is both the promise and challenge of 21st century health care.
For us to stay healthy and active our bodies need energy…lots of energy. The energy produced by each of the trillions of cells in our bodies keeps our hearts beating, our muscles contracting, our brains functioning to send signals to the far reaches of our bodies, and our nerves carrying those signals to each of our organs to sustain life. Each day, our bodies produce and consume extraordinary amounts of energy. Let’s take the heart for example.
At any given moment an average heart contains less than one gram of stored energy, about 0.7-grams to be exact. But every day our hearts consume almost 6,000-grams of energy in performing its ceaseless work of pumping blood and delivering life-giving oxygen to tissues throughout our bodies. Think about the magnitude of this feat! Six-thousand grams is more than 10 times the average weight of a heart and almost 10,000 times the amount of energy that is normally found in the heart at any one time. Ask yourself, “Where does this energy come from?” and “How can the heart produce such an extraordinary volume of energy?”
In large part, the answers to these questions are found with D-ribose, as you will see.
ATP —The Currency of Life
The energy that fuels our bodies is held in a small molecule with a large name. Adenosine triphosphate, or simply ATP, is the compound found in every cell in our bodies that gives us energy. In fact, virtually all the energy used by our bodies comes from ATP. Because of its universal importance in the body, ATP is commonly referred to as the “energy currency” of the cell. In each cell, ATP is made, consumed, and re-processed in a cycle that keeps a continual supply of energy flowing. And our bodies have developed very elaborate metabolic processes to make sure we don’t run out. These processes efficiently recycle energy as it is used, making fresh energy constantly available to sustain life.
As chemical compounds in the body go, ATP is simple. It is made of three basic parts. The first is D-ribose, commonly called Ribose. Ribose provides the structural foundation upon which ATP is built and starts the process of ATP synthesis in the body. Without ribose ATP could not be formed and our cells would be energy deprived.
Attached to Ribose is a compound called adenine. Combined, ribose plus adenine form adenosine, as in adenosine triphosphate. The adenine portion of ATP is not simply added to the Ribose molecule in the cell. Instead, the cell makes adenine by building it, adding one element at a time to Ribose. When this process is completed, adenosine is the result and we have now formed the basis for ATP. To this basic structure we add three phosphate molecules. The energy in the ATP molecule is found in the chemical bonds that hold these phosphate molecules together. When the chemical bond holding the last phosphate molecules in place breaks, it releases chemical energy that is transformed in the cell to mechanical energy to do work.
But that is not the end of the story. Our bodies need to use the basic structure of ATP over and over again to keep the energy supply flowing. To do this, our cells recycle the spent ATP molecule by re-attaching a fresh phosphate group to replace the energy that was used. The cycle works like this. ATP is consumed, leaving a free phosphate group and adenosine diphosphate, or ADP. Remember, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) has three phosphate groups and adenosine diphosphate (ADP) has two. The cell then takes a free phosphate group that is floating around in the cell and reattaches it to ADP, re-forming ATP and replacing the consumed energy. This process of energy consumption and supply must accelerate to accommodate increasing energy needs, such as in exercise.
As long as we stay reasonably physically fit, and our cells get the oxygen they need to fuel metabolism, this cycle of energy utilization and supply can keep turning unimpeded. The problem com
es when our cells are unable to get enough oxygen to keep the process flowing. Many conditions can affect how well oxygen flows to our cells, or how well our cells can use the oxygen that is supplied. Ischemic heart disease, of course, restricts blood flow to the heart muscle itself, and this can impact blood flow and oxygen delivery to the rest of the body. Other heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure or cardiomyopathy, can similarly affect how well the heart functions, and, therefore, how efficiently it can deliver blood and oxygen to our tissues. Many non-disease conditions can also affect blood flow or oxygen delivery. As we age, for example, our tissues lose their ability to use oxygen efficiently. Older tissue, then, has a harder time keeping up the continual demand for energy. Even strenuous exercise can impact the relationship between energy supply and demand. If we exercise beyond the point at which our cells are taking up their maximal amount of oxygen, we overtake the cycle of energy re-supply and begin to use energy more quickly than it can be restored. No matter the cause, when our cells and tissues are unable to get the oxygen they need to maintain the balance of energy supply and demand the results are similar…fatigue, muscle pain, stiffness and soreness, a reduced ability to exercise, and lower quality of life.
Putting Gas in Your Tank
Think of this process of supplying energy to your cells like keeping gasoline in your car. When your car is sitting in the garage with a full tank of gas it is fully fueled and ready for a long drive. When you start the car and head it down the road, you begin to consume the gas in the tank and the supply of energy gets progressively lower until you have to fill the tank with gas or you will run out of fuel and the engine will stop, leaving you stranded by the side of the road. The same thing is true in your body. When you have enough food and oxygen to supply energy your engine will keep running and you will never run out of gas. But if you can’t get enough oxygen to keep the cell’s energy tank fully fueled you will progressively lose energy until you run out of gas. Then, you have to refill your tank before you can start down the road of life once more.
If you are healthy, you can refill your tank simply by resting long enough for new energy fuel to fill your cells. In a normal, healthy person that has been strenuously exercising over a few days in a row, it takes more than three days of rest for cells to be fully recharge. This is a typical situation in young athletes who might exercise every day. Frequently, these athletes do not let their bodies rest long enough to restore lost energy and, in a short time, they become fatigued, sore, stiff, weak, and out of sorts. They simply try to do too much work with too little fuel, and run out of gas.
As we age, or if we suffer with heart or muscle disease, however, the situation can be much more complicated. In contrast to the athlete performing strenuous exercise, if we belong to this group the normal course of daily activities might be enough to fully consume the energy in our cells and tissues. As a result of running out of fuel we might become persistently, or chronically, fatigued, we could have leg soreness and muscle stiffness, we frequently can’t face the prospect of climbing stairs or even walking out to the mailbox, we may be too tired to go shopping or to play with the grandchildren, and our quality of life suffers as a result. To make matters worse, our bodies might never deliver enough oxygen to let our cells fully recover once the energy in our cells and tissues is fully consumed.
Whether it is an athlete that wants to recover more quickly so they can get back on the field, an aging grandparent who longs for the energy to take the grandchildren to the park, an active professional with too much work, too much stress, and too little sleep, or a heart patient who can’t face the prospect of climbing the stairs to bed, the issue is replacing fuel in the tank. Like the fuel pump at the gas station, Ribose is the metabolic fuel the body uses to recharge the energy batteries and put gas back in the tank.
The Recovery Power of Ribose
Replacing the energy that drains from our cellular gas tanks is fundamentally important to recovering cell and tissue function. This process of energy recovery begins with Ribose. Our cells use this simple, five-carbon carbohydrate to initiate ATP synthesis, allowing our bodies to rebuild lost energy and recharge the cellular batteries. If there is not enough ribose present in the cell to begin this vital process, we cannot restore this lost energy.
Every cell in our bodies makes ribose every day
The problem is that our cells lack the metabolic machinery they need to make very much ribose, or to make it quickly when our bodies need it. Our cells make Ribose from a very abundant and highly important carbohydrate called glucose, which is also known as dextrose. In the body, glucose is used as the primary metabolic fuel for many cellular reactions, and because of its importance it is rationed. This rationing prevents too much glucose from moving down the metabolic pathway to make ribose. And so, when our bodies are stressed by strenuous exercise, metabolic dysfunction, or disease our cells cannot recover until enough ribose is made to stimulate ATP synthesis and refill our energy fuel tank. Although this delay can last for several days, if we are healthy, have a good supply of oxygen to our tissues, and take enough time to rest, we can fully recover. If, on the other hand, our cells are aging or not functioning normally, we are not able to supply enough oxygen to our tissues, or we don’t allow ourselves sufficient rest, there might never be enough time to make an adequate amount of Ribose for our energy batteries to recharge.
This is exactly what happens in people with ischemic heart disease. When the arteries supplying blood to the heart become clogged they cannot deliver enough oxygen to fully supply the metabolic demand of the heart. The condition by which blood flow to a tissue is restricted is called ischemia. In the case of ischemic heart disease, this lack of blood flow is to the heart itself. Because the heart does not get enough blood flow, it is also deprived of oxygen and this oxygen deprivation slows the normal process of energy recycling. As the heart keeps beating, energy demand outstrips energy supply, resulting in a continual drain on energy reserves. The heart’s energy tank is always running low.
Because the heart beats continually, it cannot rest while its energy tank is refilled. Instead, the heart slows down certain energy consuming functions, conserving the energy left in its tank for contraction. The energy-starved heart tries its best to push blood and oxygen to the body, but because it does not have enough energy its efforts are inefficient and inadequate. As time goes on, this inefficient blood flow to the rest of the body begins to take a toll. As heart disease progresses, for example, patients may complain of overwhelming fatigue, shortness of breath, sore legs, or an inability to perform even simple exercise, such as walking up stairs or around the block.
The same is true of people with fibromyalgia or other neuromuscular disease affecting muscle metabolism. In fibromyalgia, for example, research shows that the muscle can become oxygen deprived. Certain studies have concluded that a combination of poor muscle energy metabolism and changes to the capillaries delivering blood to the muscle affect the level of oxygen available to the tissue and its ability to recycle its energy supply efficiently. As in ischemic heart disease, this metabolic insufficiency drains the energy fuel tank leaving the muscle energy starved.
This chronic and persistent energy drain forces a series of cellular reactions ending in muscle pain, soreness, stiffness, and fatigue. In many cases, the pain and fatigue can be severe and highly debilitating. Patients with fibromyalgia, for example, often face the prospect of major changes in their daily quality of life. They are often too fatigued to maintain normal interaction with their friends or family, and may have too much pain to stay active or even keep their jobs. In many cases, these patients must be treated with anti-depressants because of the psychological stress inflicted by their illness, and in virtually every case doctors treat patients only with pain pills that do not treat the underlying cause of the disease.
In both ischemic heart disease and muscle disease, such as fibromyalgia, a major root cause of concern is energy starvation in the affected tissue. These conditions force the affected hearts and muscles to consume energy more quickly than it can be restored, creating a continual energy imbalance. Unfortunately, the metabolic imbalance caused by these conditions cannot be corrected with rest alone. Neither ischemic hearts nor fibromyalgic muscle have the metabolic capacity to recover. That is where ribose comes in. Supplying affected tissues with Ribose stimulates the process of energy recovery and helps hearts and muscles refill their energy tanks. Supplemental ribose allows cells to bypass the slow process of natural Ribose synthesis and accelerates ATP recovery.
While the biochemistry of energy metabolism is complex, it is consistent. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about hearts or muscles, if we are healthy or sick, or if we are old or young, certain consistencies remain. Cells need energy, and that energy is supplied by a continual recycling of the cellular energy reserve. If tissues become oxygen deprived, or if the normal metabolic processes of energy recycling are disrupted, energy demand will outstrip supply and the tissue will become energy starved. Ribose is fundamentally required to restore this lost energy and put the energy demand and supply ratio back in balance. In healthy, normal tissue, several days of rest can rebuild these lost energy pools, but in stressed, diseased, or aging tissue, rest is often not enough. Supplemental ribose will accelerate energy recovery, rebuild cellular energy pools, and restore cell and tissue function. For you this can mean less fatigue, less muscle pain, soreness, or stiffness, greater exercise tolerance, and a higher quality of life.
Clinical Implications of Ribose
Although research revealing the clinical implications of Ribose therapy has been going on for decades, it is a fairly new entrant in clinical medicine. The widespread use of ribose in cardiology began in about 2003 following publication of an important clinical study by the noted cardiologist, Dr. Heyder Omran, at the University of Bonn, Germany.
Over the past decade there have been numerous clinical and laboratory studies that prove the beneficial impact of ribose on stressed tissue. In fact, the number of studies published in the scientific and medical literature now exceeds 100. And research continues, with studies now being conducted at major universities in the U.S. and abroad focusing on heart disease, muscle disease, athletic performance, and improving the supply of blood available. But despite this overwhelming scientific evidence, very few doctors have even heard of ribose. All of them studied ribose in their first year medical school biochemistry class, but few have any idea how it works and even fewer recommend it to patients. Most doctors have been taught to rely on pharmaceutical drugs and consider nutritional support products to be “unscientific” or unsafe, and others simply don’t understand the science. Others, regrettably, are just disinterested, feeling they are too busy seeing patients to stay current in the considerable body of nutrition research reported monthly in major scientific journals. But the number of doctors who are seeing for themselves how ribose can improve the lives of their patients is growing daily. These doctors have proven to themselves that ribose supplementation can, and does, give their patients a new lease on life.
How Do I Know I Need Ribose?
At some point in his or her life, everyone needs supplemental Ribose. We all face situations where ribose supplementation could help us overcome the pain and stiffness of muscle overexertion, the fatigue of chronic disease, the weakness after strenuous exercise, or the inability to do the things we want to do. We all want to be as active and healthy as we can, and we need a full supply of energy in all our cells and tissues to reach that goal.
In each of our lives, we will face times when we need ribose to help our bodies make the energy we need. But our cells and tissues cannot store ribose for future use. Instead, our bodies can only make ribose when it is needed, and that is where the trouble comes in. Remember, although ribose is made naturally in all our cells and tissues, it is a slow process. And it is this delay that limits the speed with which our bodies can restore lost energy. Ribose is the limiting factor in ATP synthesis, and our bodies have an absolute and fundamental need for ATP to fuel the multitude of biochemical reactions that keep us alive and vital. ATP is the fuel of life, and ribose is the foundation upon which ATP is built. Therefore, when our bodies need energy it makes sense to supplement our natural metabolism with ribose. Let’s look at an example to help make this point.
A very important series of animal studies was conducted at the University of Minnesota beginning in the mid-1980s. In these studies, researchers used elaborate surgical techniques to place balloons around the main artery supplying blood to the heart so they could control the blood flow going to the heart tissue, and used delicate measuring devices to record the result. They found when they blew up the balloons and restricted the blood flow to the heart the energy level in the heart tissue would drop quickly, finally leveling at about 50 percent of normal. As might be expected, this energy drain severely impacted heart function. Primarily, the heart would become stiff and would not fill with blood properly. In turn, this reduced the amount of blood that could be pumped to the rest of the body.
When the air was let out of the balloons normal blood flow would return to the heart. But even after blood flow was restored it took these hearts more than 10 days for the energy level to normalize. Interestingly, the function of the heart closely paralleled energy restoration. As with the energy supply, normalization of heart function took more than 10 days. When the animals were given ribose during and following the test, however, the hearts recovered both their energy level and function in an average of 1.2 days! To further prove the ribose effect, in some studies researchers took away the ribose after 24 hours and found that energy and functional recovery reversed. When ribose supplementation was restored, recovery followed suit.
Metabolically what happened was simply this. When the hearts were not given ribose they were forced to make it before they could begin the process of energy restoration. This delayed energy recovery. But giving ribose to these hearts allowed them to bypass the much slower process of making ribose naturally, and the process of energy synthesis was accelerated. Once ribose is present in the cell, either through natural ribose synthesis or supplementation, energy recovery can proceed very quickly. The delay in restoring energy to stressed tissue rests in the rate at which our bodies make ribose naturally.
So, when we consider whether or not we need supplemental Ribose, we should remember some of the simple basics of metabolism. Cells and tissues become stressed when they don’t get enough oxygen or if the normal processes of energy recycling are disrupted. In either case, this stress causes the cells to use energy faster than it can be supplied. This energy supply and demand mismatch causes us to lose energy from our cells and tissues, draining cellular energy reserves and depleting energy stores. To maintain normal cell and tissue function this energy must be restored, and ribose is fundamental to this process. If we are young and healthy and our cells are functioning normally, we can rest and, after several days, we will make enough ribose for our energy levels to be restored. On the other hand, if we are chronically oxygen deprived, or if our cells are not functioning normally, we may never be able to fully recover.
Who Should Take Ribose and When
With these basics in mind it is easy to determine who should take Ribose, and when. Anyone with a highly active lifestyle, for example, can certainly benefit from ribose. High-intensity exercising three or more times per week puts a substantial strain on hearts and muscles. Repeated bouts of strenuous exercise drains energy from hearts and muscles, leaving them weakened for the next exercise session. When athletes take ribose before, during, and after exercise, however, they can better maintain the energy in their muscles and quickly restore any energy that may have been lost. In this way, athletes can keep their hearts and muscles in top physiological condition for their next exercise session.
But what defines an athlete or a strenuous bout of exercise? The answer to that question depends on the individual. For top athletes, high-intensity exercise may be defined as a long distance run or several miles on their bike over hilly terrain. For most, however, strenuous exercise may be much less intense. Some one who is normally sedentary, for example, might face several days of muscle soreness, stiffness, and weakness following a day of hard work in the garden or a weekend softball game. Others who might be a little older or perhaps have problems with their circulation may complain of sore legs after only a short walk or a day of shopping. No matter where you fall along this spectrum, however, what is happening in your muscle is the same. Your muscle is fully consuming the available energy, and that energy drain translates to weak, spongy, and sore muscles. This muscle soreness does not go away until the muscle has recovered its energy balance. Ribose supplementation helps maintain the muscle’s energy balance and can be the answer to relieving this post-exertional muscle soreness and stiffness
Age is another factor to consider when deciding if ribose supplementation is right for you. Research has shown as we age our muscles lose energy recycling efficiency. Aging muscle generally has fewer of the energy recycling powerhouses, called mitochondria, than younger muscle. The continual loss of mitochondria as we age makes it more likely our muscles will run out of energy with exertion. This is a primary reason when we become older we become stiff and sore after only mild exercise, and explains why we run out of gas so quickly. Also, as we age our hearts begin to show more and more signs of dysfunction. A recent research report from the Mayo Clinic, showed almost 25 percent of the population, both male and female, showed signs of heart failure, and the percentage increased as people grew older. While this effect was more pronounced in people with high blood pressure or in those with heart valve problems, it was found across the aging population. Taking ribose regularly may help relieve the chronic muscle soreness and stiffness that comes from even mild exercise and, as has been shown in many clinical studies, could help maintain healthy energy levels in the heart.
We also need to include patients with heart disease when considering who should take Ribose. Research has proven, heart disease drains the heart of much needed energy. This is especially true in patients who are taking drugs to make their hearts beat more strongly. These drugs, called inotropes, force the heart to beat, causing it to consume even more energy. As such, over time these hearts can become severely energy starved. It is important that people with heart disease take ribose regularly to offset the effects of energy drain in their hearts. This is particularly true of patients on inotropic drugs. These patients face a continual energy drain that cannot be overcome with rest alone, and they should discuss this issue with their doctors. Research has shown ribose can be taken effectively with drugs, without losing any of the therapeutic benefit of either the drug or the ribose.
When we think about heart and circulatory diseases in the broader sense the benefit of Ribose supplementation on maintaining energy levels cannot be overstated. Hearts and muscles rely heavily on oxygen to fuel the process of energy recycling. When they are deprived of oxygen our hearts and muscles become energy starved. This energy drain can have a severe impact on heart and muscle function, and this impact becomes progressively more severe as oxygen deprivation and energy loss continues over a prolonged period of time. This effect is well-known in a wide range of cardiovascular diseases including congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, certain types of cardiomyopathy, certain diseases affecting heart valves, and peripheral vascular disease, a condition that restricts blood flow to the limbs, especially the legs.
Patients with diseases that impact muscle metabolism should also seriously consider ribose supplementation. Diseases such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, myoadenylate deaminase disease, and McArdle’s disease, for example, drain energy from muscles, and this energy drain shows itself in the form of fatigue, muscle pain, soreness, and stiffness. Patients are also frequently weak and have a great deal of trouble performing the simple tasks of daily living. Ribose has been shown in clinical studies to help offset all these symptoms. By supplementing with ribose, patients give their muscles the chance to overcome the energy drain and refill their energy fuel tanks.
All of us need energy—lots of energy. Whether we are healthy or sick, top-level athletes or couch potatoes, stressed out professionals or grandparents wanting to spend an active day with their grandchildren, our bodies must rely on energy to keep them alive and vital. Most of us don’t know we have a problem with the energy in our hearts and muscles until we get sore legs, worn out, or chronically fatigued. But even after these symptoms hit us, it is not too late. Ribose supplementation can quickly help replace energy in stressed hearts and muscles, and help maintain the normal energy balance in our tissue.
How Much Ribose Should I Take?
Studies have shown that virtually any amount of Ribose you can give to stressed hearts and muscles will help. A very important study investigating this question was conducted at the University of Missouri in the laboratory of the noted muscle physiologist, Dr. Ronald Terjung. This study proved even very small amounts of ribose, an amount that approximately equaled 500 milligrams (one-half of one gram) if taken orally, increased the energy recovery in stressed leg muscle by 100 percent. Raising the dose to a level that would approximately equal 2.5 grams if taken orally increased recovery by about 250 percent, and the equivalent of a five-gram dose increased the recovery rate by a whopping 350 percent. At the maximum dose tested, the recovery increased by as much as 650 percent.
The amount of Ribose you should take is really dependent on what you want it to do. For example, if you simply want to give your heart and muscles a little boost so you can be sure they are maintaining a healthy energy pool, you can get by with less. If you want to increase your athletic performance, reduce soreness and stiffness following exercise, or give your muscles a recovery boost after some strenuous work or exercise, you might need a little more. If you need help overcoming the effects of persistent fatigue or chronic muscle pain, still more may be needed. And, if you have heart disease, peripheral vascular disease or other chronic conditions that impact energy metabolism in your heart or muscles, more aggressive supplementation may be required.
To get to the point of how much ribose should be taken, I offer the following suggestions on dosage:
- 2 to 5 grams (about one-half to one slightly rounded teaspoonful of powder) daily to help hearts and muscles maintain a healthy energy pool.
- 5 to 7 grams (about one level to slightly rounded tablespoonful of powder) every day as a preventative in cardiovascular disease, for athletes who want to recover faster from high-intensity exercise, and for healthy people doing strenuous work or activities that are outside their normal level of daily exercise.
- 7 to 10 grams daily for most patients with heart disease or peripheral vascular disease, for patients recovering from heart surgery or heart attack, and for athletes who work out frequently in high-intensity activities.
- 0 to 15 grams daily for patients with more advanced heart disease, patients awaiting heart transplant, and patients with fibromyalgia or neuromuscular disease.
I suggest that patients with heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, fibromyalgia or other muscle diseases begin taking ribose in the upper level of the range. Once they see for themselves that ribose supplementation is helping, they can reduce the daily dose until they find the level that is exactly right for them. It is also recommended that daily doses not be taken all at once. Actually, smaller more frequent doses are better than larger less frequent doses. Therefore, if you want to take daily doses of 10-grams or less, I suggest you take ribose two times per day. For most of us, the best time to take ribose is with morning and evening meals, but if we want to take ribose for exercise it should be taken just before and just after the exercise or activity. If you think you should take 15-grams of ribose per day, I suggest you take it in three equal doses, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Although there are no safety concerns with taking ribose (it is, after all, a simple carbohydrate), I do not recommend taking more than 20-grams per day. If you do not feel the benefit of ribose supplementation at that level, you don’t need it. Once they have given their hearts and muscles a chance to regain their energy balance, most people stabilize at about 10-grams per day.
It generally takes no more than a few days to feel the effect of ribose supplementation. Some people report an improvement in symptoms much more quickly, often in just a day or two. If you don’t begin to feel an effect after two or three days, try increasing the dose. Remember, your heart and muscles continually burn energy, and it is possible that the smaller Ribose dose is simply not enough to overcome the persistent energy drain. The sickest patients usually feel the greatest benefit, but almost everyone taking ribose regularly reports a significant benefit. You should also remember that your energy drain is chronic and ribose cannot be stored in your cells and tissues. Therefore, if you stop taking ribose you will lose all the benefit you’ve gained and your heart or muscles will again become energy starved. As a result, you must take ribose every day, and you must keep on taking it. While this sounds like a commercial for the ribose companies, it is not. Instead, it is hard-learned advice from the reports of hundreds of people who now take ribose religiously.
Where is Ribose Found?
Ribose is found in many product forms, such as powders, beverages, nutrition bars, and tablets. As a practical matter, therapeutic levels are found only in powders. An effective dose of ribose, two or more grams, is simply too much to put in tablets or capsules, so I recommend staying away from those dose forms. Beverages and nutrition bars tend to contain about one-half to one gram of ribose, so in normal healthy people looking to maintain the energy level in their tissue these products may be adequate. For disease patients, however, the amount that is given in beverages and nutrition bars is simply not high enough to give a therapeutic benefit. Hopefully, this will change in the future as food and nutrition companies increase the dose level per serving of their products. For now, though, I suggest powders or chewable tablets (wafers) as the best product forms to supply consistently adequate dose levels.
Although I usually don’t recommend one supplier of a product over another, I feel I should do so here. One company, Bioenergy Life Science (Minneapolis, Minnesota) has exhaustively studied both the benefits and possible adverse reactions of ribose supplementation. To the best of my knowledge, they are the only ribose company to have done so. Therefore, all the safety data that has been supplied to regulatory agencies has come from this company. These safety assessments have shown that ribose is 100 percent safe if it is taken as directed and manufactured according to the strict specifications of Bioenergy Life Science.
To confirm the safety of Ribose an expert panel of food and nutrition scientists has concluded that it is Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) according to the guidelines established by the U.S. Food and Drug 14 D-Ribose
Administration. This is the highest level of safety affirmation available and with this GRAS affirmation ribose can be safely used in both foods and clinical nutrition products. It is important to note, however, that only ribose manufactured according to the specific process Bioenergy Life Science carries this GRAS affirmation. Like all other nutrition and drug products, the quality of manufacturing is paramount in assuring both safety and effectiveness.
Although there are no known side effects, Bioenergy Life Science recommends that pregnant women ask their doctor before taking ribose. Insulin dependent diabetics should also carefully monitor their blood glucose levels after taking their first several doses. Ribose is a carbohydrate and, as a result, you would expect that it would increase your blood glucose level. In fact, ribose slightly decreases blood glucose level, and that is what should be monitored.
There are very few reports of side effects while taking ribose. Some people have reported being light headed if they take doses greater than 10-grams on an empty stomach. That is why label instructions suggest that ribose be taken with juice or another beverage that contains some additional carbohydrate. Sprinkling ribose on fruit or cereal is also a good way to take it, or, if it is taken with a meal, it can be mixed with water, tea, or coffee. Another reported side effect reported by people taking large doses is loose stools or mild diarrhea. This is common with any carbohydrate that absorbs water, as does ribose. Neither side effect is significant, and neither is found when ribose is taken as directed. Ribose is also safe to take with your usual medicine and with other nutritional therapies. There have not been any reported drug or nutritional interactions with ribose supplementation.
Tens of thousands of people now take Ribose every day. They are feeling for themselves how this energy-giving nutrient can change their lives. Ribose stands alone as a nutrient that can increase the energy level in hearts and muscles, and restore energy that is depleted by over-exertion or disease that robs cells and tissues of the energy they need to survive and thrive. No other compound, whether it is a drug or other nutrient, can do what ribose does in the body. Only ribose can accelerate the complex metabolism that restores energy in our bodies, making it one of the most profound nutrients to ever be introduced.
This article is excerpted from “The Top 20 Life-Changing Nutrients You Shouldn’t Live Without” by Dr. Ward Bond. Dr. Bond graduated Clayton College of Natural Health, Birmingham, Alabama with a doctor of philosophy degree in holistic nutrition and has a chartered herbalist degree from Dominion Herbal College. He is the author of several additional books including “Dr. Ward Bond’s Vitamin, Mineral & Antioxidant Guide” and “The Healing Fields.” Visit his website at www.drwardbond.com.
OURS IS A POLLUTED WORLD. At home, at work, at school we are likely to be exposed to substances that can sicken and even kill us. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat—all can be contaminated with toxins that threaten our health. Other things we use in our daily lives—prescription drugs, lawn and garden chemicals, and household cleaners—often can have toxic effects that their labels do not disclose. Of the 50–60 thousand chemicals available to industry, only a few hundred have been tested for safety. Yet thousands of others have chemical structures that virtually guarantee they are toxic to humans. Consequently, we all carry a “total toxic load” from all the toxins to which we are exposed.
Many of us are not aware we are carrying a toxic load. While some toxic substances can be immediately harmful others can be insidious, doing their damage over months and years. Toxins can drain our life energy and make us fatigued, impair our workplace productivity, promote cancer and dementia, and other killer diseases over the long term. Up to 90 percent of all cancers are linked to the environmental carcinogens coming from cigarette smoke, water, food and air. Unless we become vigilant and learn how to protect ourselves against toxins, odds are we won’t live to a ripe old age. To be healthy and enjoy optimal wellness, we must be free of toxins.
To know what you’re really up against, it’s important to grasp the realities:
- Our modern environment is widely penetrated by toxins, not just in areas close to industry but virtually everywhere humans live and work.
- Toxins cannot be thought of in isolation from each other. Each toxin adds to other toxins’ negative effects (“cumulative damage”). Sometimes toxins multiply each other’s negative effects (“synergistic damage”).
- Toxins don’t respect neighborhood or national borders, or even continental separations.
- While a high exposure to one toxin can be harmful, low exposures to many toxins also can do serious damage.
Let’s now consider these realities as they apply to daily living.
Multiple Low Toxic Exposures Build Total Toxic Load
A toxin is any substance that can damage the body. As a rule, the damage from any toxin is dose related: the greater the exposure, the greater the damage. Toxicology experts developed the idea of a “threshold dose”—the dose above which an “average” person will experience harmful effects that can be measured. But under certain circumstances, low doses—doses below the threshold dose—also can damage our health. One individual may be more sensitive to toxins than the “average” person? Another individual may suffer a toxic exposure while suffering from a viral infection or some other situation that has lowered his resistance to toxic attack. Someone else may become exposed to multiple toxins at the same time. Toxicology is not very good at predicting how such special circumstances will worsen toxins’ effects on health.
The damaging effects from relatively low exposures to more than one toxin could likely be just as harmful, perhaps more harmful, than exposure to relatively high levels of just one toxin. For example, large-scale surveys have found that Americans carry more than 100 potentially toxic chemicals in their blood. Each of these could have cumulative or synergistic effects with the others.
There is considerable scientific and medical evidence that total toxic load is a valid concept. This concept mandates that we do everything we can to avoid being exposed to toxins—to ANY toxin in ANY amount at ANY time. With the planet so permeated with toxins, many of them implicated in cancers, cardiovascular diseases, allergies, brain diseases, fatigue, and many other conditions of poor health, it’s important to recognize this threat and pursue a lifestyle of toxin awareness and avoidance. Let’s be real: two of the most damaging toxins are the lifestyle toxins alcohol and cigarette smoke.
The Obvious Toxins: Lethal But Avoidable
You can begin to win freedom from toxins by making a detailed listing of the toxins in your everyday environment. Begin with a self-assessment: do you smoke? If you do, be aware that smoking is responsible for more than 80 percent of all cases of lung cancer and increases the risk of heart and other circulatory diseases by at least 400 percent. One puff of cigarette smoke contains 100,000,000,000,000 (10 to the power of 14) free radicals. Almost as bad, do you live with someone who smokes? If you do, be aware that the smoke coming off the end of the cigarette is likely to be more toxic than what the smoker inhales because the carcinogens coming off the end are less thoroughly burned away.
How much alcohol do you drink? If your answer is more than one glass of wine or one beer each day, you’re probably drinking too much. Don’t be influenced by the studies industry lobbies cite about alcohol being good for health. For the highly touted French Red Wine Paradox independent scientific support is shaky. In any case, lots of other drinks (teas, for example, and fruit juices) carry more protective antioxidants and no potentially toxic alcohol. Cigarette smoke and alcohol are the greatest obvious toxic threats to human health, yet they are the easiest for committed individuals to control.
Among the drugs, whether legal or illegal, none is fully and unconditionally safe to take. Whether the legal drug Tylenol®, the semi-legal marijuana, or the illegal MDMA (“Ecstasy”), drugs drain the body’s energy and deplete its nutrients. Many of them burn away our protective antioxidants.
Watch out for the household cleaners. Bleach, ammonia, other constituents of high-strength cleaners all can irritate the lungs and initiate tissue breakdown, contributing to hypersensitivity and asthma. Bug sprays typically are toxic to the human nervous system just as they are to the bug’s nervous system. Learn to read every single label of every single chemical product you use in your everyday life; check ingredients you don’t know against online lists of known toxins. If you can’t pronounce the name of the chemical, it’s probably synthetic and more than likely to be toxic. This brings up the topic of the not so obvious, hidden toxins.
The Hidden Toxins: Hard to Eliminate
Some toxins are insidious: though known to be toxic by specialists they can be obscured from public knowledge due to political pressures by corporations that profit from their use. Heavy metals, solvents, pesticides and other synthetic chemicals fall into this category. The hundreds—no, thousands—of substances in these categories are negatively impacting the health of all of us.
According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, authored by Drs. M. T. Murray and J. T. Pizzorno, up to 25 percent of the U.S. population suffers from some degree of heavy metal poisoning. They have stated that probably at least 600,000 tons of lead are released into the U.S. atmosphere each year. Numerous human studies have shown a strong relationship between learning disabilities or criminal behavior and the toxic load of lead and other heavy metals.
Mercury, cadmium and aluminum are toxic metals also common in the human experience. Cadmium comes mainly from cigarette smoke; aluminum comes from cookware and deodorants and is even used as flow agents in table salt. Cadmium has been linked to neurological diseases and aluminum to degeneration of the kidneys, bones, and possibly also the brain. Mercury is still being used in dental fillings (inaccurately known as silver fillings), even though it is known to vaporize from the fillings during chewing and enter the general circulation to threaten the brain and other organs. It’s so weird that the regulators now require the dental technicians who handle and dispose of the dental filling materials to wear protective clothing while they do so, yet the very same material is allowed to stay in people’s mouths for decades.
Among the most toxic and carcinogenic substances are the organic solvents. These are widely used industrially and find their way into the air, the water, the soils, and our foods. In a now-classic scientific review, Dr. Walter Crinnion documented that every single person in the U.S. carries deposits of xylene, dichlorobenzene, ethylphenol and styrene in their fatty tissues (Alternative Medicine Review, 2000, Vol. 5, pages 133–43). These are so-called VOCs (volatile organic compounds), all toxic and linked to life-threatening diseases. The story gets worse: a 1985 study by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency established that breath samples consistently contained not just these four VOCs but also seven others (see sidebar). And where do these toxins come from? Most often, the home and the workplace.
The indoor home and workplace environment carries a hodgepodge of VOCs, organic by-products of combustion, breathable particles of molds, cigarette smoke, and infectious agents, along with allergenic animal dander, bio-aerosols and countless other contaminants generated by human (and pet) activity. Building materials are known to emit many VOCs, and new carpeting is often a vehicle for toxins.
Talk about total toxic load! The EPA itself was once picketed by its own workers and forced to replace 27,000 square yards of toxin-filled carpet. Dr. Crinnion published a list of 40 toxic chemicals present in new carpet. Toddlers can be playing in carpet dust that frequently carries 11 pesticides: DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, chlordane, atrazine, carbaryl, heptachlor, chlorpyrifos, o-phenylphenol, proxopur and diazinon. All these are immune system toxins and some are known carcinogens as well. What to do about these toxins? Ask lots of questions about your building and the materials in it.
Sometimes a building is so contaminated that the carpets and/or other materials will have to be ripped out and replaced. This is called SBS (sick building syndrome). Buildings ought to always be well ventilated and not draw their air from garages or through contaminated HEPA air filters (which can harbor infectious organisms such as the lethal Legionella). Air cleaners can be set up to help remove VOCs, pesticides, cigarette smoke and other chemicals outgassing from the walls and carpets. Indoor houseplants may help—some are particularly adept at removing organic pollutants from indoor air. It may be necessary to set up precautions against tracking in outdoor soil from chemically sprayed fields or lawns. Golf courses should be checked out—some of their groundskeepers believe in better grass through chemicals.
Food Toxicities: Highly Underrated
Among the most insidious sources of toxins are in the foods we eat. It’s no secret that today’s food supplies are adulterated, impotent and contaminated beyond reasonable expectation, but most of us don’t know just how badly we’re being hurt by foods that we trust. Most egregious is that slaughtered cows are often found to be contaminated with a disease causing strain of Escherichia coli bacterium. We tend to think of food toxicity on this level, but just as much toxicity is occurring on the more subtle level of allergies and intolerances to foods.
Food allergy reactions (more accurately, food intolerances) are difficult to manage because they involve complex biochemical cascades that trigger wide-ranging symptoms. Often these set in motion inflammatory cascades that can lead to more serious illness. Also once begun, the food intolerance reactions can develop and continue over a period of days to weeks, making it harder to identify the foods that are the actual reaction triggers. As a rule, the foods to which we are most drawn are those to which we are most likely intolerant.
Elson M. Haas, MD has written a number of books on eliminating allergenic and otherwise toxic foods from the daily diet. Most people, sometimes even trained health professionals, fail to recognize their own food intolerances, allergies and addictions. Decades of experience have taught Dr. Haas that negative reactions to foods can cause tissue swelling, bloating, weight gain, low energy, depressed mood and numerous other metabolic disturbances, including the dangerous leaky gut syndrome. Food toxicities can intensify virtually any coexisting health problem, including asthma, chronic pain, memory impairment, hyperactivity disorders in children. Antioxidants and antioxidant cofactor nutrients are central to food detoxication.
Our children are perhaps the most victimized by the deterioration of modern foods. Many of the middle ear infections seen in children are linked to inflammatory reactions initiated by allergies to dairy and other common foods. Artificial colorings, MSG (monosodium glutamate) and preservatives in processed foods can cause headaches, abdominal pain, even fits, in sensitive children. Aspartame is still underrated for its potential toxic effects. Sugar can be toxic for many children: among hyperactive kids as many as three-quarters have abnormal blood sugar responses to a sugary meal. Hyperactive kids also commonly have allergies to foods containing soybean and chocolate. Children not diagnosed hyperactive also can have food intolerances that affect their learning and mental vigilance and their susceptibility to infections.
“Overactive” children have been estimated to number 10 percent or more of the U.S. school age population. It may not be a coincidence that the incidence of hyperactive “ADD” kids has been steadily increasing as the food supply becomes more processed and chemicalized. So has the incidence of children with learning disorders and autism. Children who are raised to consciously avoid toxic foods are likely to develop better, learn better and be less susceptible to asthma and allergy in adulthood.
Supporting the Liver for Everyday Cleansing
The liver is our main resource for detoxication—clearing the body of toxins. The liver detoxifies potential toxins produced by our own metabolism, as well as the xenobiotics—substances foreign to the body. Although all the other organs take part in detoxication, the buck really stops with the liver. To be proactive in reducing your toxic load, you have to help your liver through taking the relevant dietary supplements.
The liver is the body’s metabolic workhorse, being the main organ responsible for more than 500 metabolic processes. One of its top priorities is the processing of newly-absorbed food molecules, which come to the liver directly from the intestine. These must be further processed and then stored as necessary, or repackaged for transport to the tissues. As newly digested proteins, carbohydrates and fats reach the liver, together with vitamins and minerals, it further modifies them into biochemically active nutrient units suitable to support crucial metabolic pathways.
Hormones regulate and coordinate the body’s integrated activities. The recycling or excretion of the many human hormones is handled mainly by the liver, as is the recycling of cholesterol. Pharmaceutical drugs can deplete the body of essential nutrients and liver failure can be the result (here acetaminophen/Tylenol® is the classic example). Illegal drugs can be just as tough on the liver—witness cocaine’s toxicity. Chronic viral infections also contribute to total toxic load, and for millions of people carrying viruses in their livers, nutritional support for the liver is crucial.
Synthetic substances—substances made by man—by their very nature are difficult for the liver to clear. Thousands of different synthetics can enter the body on a daily basis. As if this weren’t bad enough, even the most organically grown foods can naturally carry potentially-toxic constituents. When we think in terms of total toxic load, we can understand why optimal functioning of the liver’s detoxication systems is fundamental to our health and wellness.
Detoxication capacity varies widely between individuals, and a toxic exposure that one person can effectively detoxify may cause liver damage or cancer in another. Fortunately the liver is tough, maintaining itself well and working hard to recover from injury. But to function at its best the liver must have generous nutritional support.
The physical foundation for the thousands of liver enzymes is provided by the cell membrane systems of the liver cells. PC (phosphatidylcholine) is a critical nutrient building block for this intricate molecular system. The liver relies heavily on antioxidants and antioxidant cofactors for its crucial detoxication work, so supplementation with vitamins B, C, E and glutathione precursors has top priority. The herbal milk thistle extract help conserve the liver’s antioxidant supplies, but is poorly absorbed unless in the phytosome form. S-adenosyl methionine is important for methylation reactions that facilitate healthy gene-level metabolic regulation.
For effective liver detoxication support these supplements should be part of your personal nutritional program:
- B complex vitamins, 100 mg/day
- Vitamins C (2–4 grams/day) and E (800 IU/day)
- Glutathione precursors: R alpha-lipoic acid (minimum 100mg/day), N-acetylcysteine (NAC, minimum 600 mg/day)
- Taurine, minimum 500 mg/day
- PhosphatidylCholine (PC), minimum 800 mg/day
- Milk thistle extract, standardized, phytosome form, 200 - 400 mg/day
- SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine), minimum 100 mg/day.
Liver support always should be in concert with intestinal support, including good choices of water-soluble fiber and especially the repletion of probiotic (“friendly”) bacteria. The importance of probiotics for intestinal health and detoxication cannot be overemphasized. Exercise helps improve circulation to the liver and intestines to speed detoxication, and sweating helps move fat-soluble toxins such as organochlorines and some heavy metals out via the skin. Make sure that any plan for fasting you develop is discussed in advance with your physician, because extreme fasting can exacerbate toxic damage.
Freedom From Toxins: Individual and Community
As you learn how to go about freeing yourself from toxins, remember that any level of exposure to a toxin can be harmful. Just as cigarette smoke can be avoided, so can bug sprays, artificial scents applied to the body and used around the home, pesticides and household cleaners with solvents, typing correction fluids, artificial fingernails glued on with acrylics, solvent-based paints. Any one of these categories of toxins can pose a major challenge to health and none can be too minor to ignore because they all contribute to the total toxic load.
Working on your own, you can do a lot to minimize your exposures to lifestyle toxins or toxins coming from your home or workplace. But you also must be aware of what’s going on in your community. After all, you can work hard to be toxin-free in your tidy little home but then what happens when it is invaded by toxic influences from somewhere else? The clothes you pick up at the dry cleaner may be carrying highly toxic tetrachloroethylene. The water supplies from your community utility may be contaminated. Your friendly neighbor with his immaculate lawn may not know that those unpronounceable words on the label of his lawn and garden killer stand for chemicals that are highly toxic to all living things.
Toxins Don’t Have Borders
No community (or country) is an island. Unscrupulous chemical companies often pick on poor communities to dump their wastes, but those same wastes can migrate into rich communities. The same can happen between countries. DDT was banned in the U.S. in the 1970s but is still sprayed on crops in certain other countries. It poisons their people first, then it travels on fruits and vegetables to poison us in our homes. As this article goes to press, there is high drama attached to the huge earthquake and tsunami that severely damaged nuclear reactors and caused radiation releases in Japan. Higher radiation has been found in California and Massachusetts. But did you know that much more dangerous toxic releases are already coming into the U.S. via the atmosphere?
The April 2011 issue of Discover magazine carried an article titled “Ill Wind Blowing.” This article described intensive scientific investigations that led to the discovery that hundreds of tons of mercury, toxic sulfates, ozone, carbon soot, even dust carrying avian flu virus, are carried into U.S. communities from Asia each year. Mercury alone has been linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and it’s very likely that more mercury enters the U.S. from other countries than is emitted by American industry (though American emissions are still a significant problem).
Mercury and other highly toxic pollutants, along with the radiation from Japan, actually seem to have a global circulation, which means that we’re all sharing the toxins made anywhere on the planet. Total toxic load for sure! We really need a strong international body to enforce zero tolerance of toxic emissions, because industry and government still don’t understand or care about total toxic load. In my community, nearby oil refineries release toxic gases then report to local government that the release was “below the levels recognized as toxic.”
To achieve true freedom from toxins, we have to be conscious of the threat they pose, be educated about this threat, and actively work to eliminate them. To effectively protect ourselves and our families we have to protect the earth as a whole. As the debates proceed on oil dependency, alternative fuels, and nuclear power versus other power sources, we need to band together against the local and planetary total toxic load. Humanity around the world must band together to rid the planet of toxins.
The present health care crisis is not just related to health care it is a crisis related to what is happening in our society. We have become depersonalized as a society, invested in technology and not the experience people are having. Studies verify what happens to children who grow up unloved and experiencing indifference, rejection and abuse. By midlife if they haven’t killed themselves and others while seeking revenge and experiencing guilt related to their actions, almost one hundred percent of them have experienced a major illness, while loved children have one-fourth the serious illness rate.
Information does not resolve unhealthy behavior. People who smoke or are two hundred pounds overweight are not acting out of stupidity or a lack of knowledge. What everyone needs is inspiration. When parents, teachers, clergy, doctors, politicians and other authority figures display their love for individuals they are related to or caring for, the health of the planet and its residents will improve. This is not about liking what people are doing but it is about loving them and maintaining a relationship with them until they realize they are worthy and loved. At that point they begin to follow instructions and behave in a manner that is life enhancing and not self-destructive. I know this from my experience as a surgeon who did not reject his patients.
When you grow up without love what you seek are rewards and feelings that you never experienced in a healthy way. So the individual turns to addictions of drugs, food alcohol and more as a way of rewarding themselves and numbing their pain. We need to listen to each other and treat the wounds of the individuals we are caring for and about. Studies reveal that when a patient states their doctor listened to them during their office visit they are far more likely to take their medication and follow the doctor’s advice.
Society needs to see parenting as a public health issue and help parents to bring their children up feeling loved. We have birthing classes but no parenting classes. The latter is desperately needed if we are to avoid self destruction. All authority figures in a person’s life become either destructive or constructive parents for the individual. This includes everything from global warming to obesity. If you grow up with a sense of self-worth and esteem you do not behave in a destructive and unhealthy manner towards yourself and others. As the father of five children I know the importance of letting the children know that parental discipline comes from a sense of love for them. Then they follow directions because it gives a new sense of meaning to the message. I was called a CD by a suicidal teenager, who is alive today because I became her Chosen Dad, who loved her. We all have the potential to reparent ourselves and others.
Doctors also need to understand what people need is treatment of not just their diagnosis but their experience. When you ask patients what they want from their doctors they do not ask that every disease be cured but they do ask that doctors, “Knock on my door, look me in the eye when they talk to me, say hello and goodbye and call me by my name.”
Having a disease is an experience which varies with every individual. If you ask one hundred people with the same illness to describe their experience you will get a different answer from almost every one of them. I know from experience as a physician who has counseled cancer patients and others for decades. The words they come up with relate to their life and help me to treat them and understand their woundedness.
When a major medical journal publishes a pharmaceutical ad which reads, “I was depressed, unable to cope. I went to see my physician. I said you’ve got to help me. He prescribed an antidepressant and I feel wonderful now.” I wrote in criticizing them for ignoring the patient’s needs and responding so impersonally and asked them to insert a sentence which asked what was happening in the patient’s life. They cancelled the ad.
I know doctors whose salaries were capped because they talked to patients four minutes longer than the department average. That is sick also. The American College of Surgeons pledge ends with, “I will deal with my patients as I would wish to be dealt with if I were in the patient’s position.” I gave up trying to get them to change it to care for my patients as I would wish to be cared for. The only way to avoid a health care crisis is to care for and about the people who need our care. We also should reward those who remain healthy. If I do not require a doctor’s service, except for an annual physical exam, or any medications why not reward me at the end of the year with a refund or lower premium on my health insurance. If I am a safe driver I am rewarded. So why not reward me for safe and healthy living and let those who are self-destructive pay the price and maybe rethink their actions if it becomes costly for them.
We also ought to be sure that all future doctors and health care executives spend a week in a hospital bed so they no longer are tourists but have the native’s experience. The former CEO of the Ritz Carleton Hotels, Horst Schulze, changed the way the hotels were run after he spent time in a hospital being treated for cancer. He humanized them so employees took on the problems of their hotel residents and greeted them by name. Every employee gets a list of twenty behavior patterns they are to adopt. Some hospitals have used this list when I gave them a copy.
We also need to understand that we have something to learn from patients who do better than expected. There are cases of self-induced healing and we can learn about survival behavior from these people and teach it to others. Relationships, connections, meaning all are survival behavior qualities. It is no accident that women live longer than men with the same cancers and that married men live longer than single men and have less lung cancer than single men if they are both smokers.
We could also cancel Monday and reduce the rate of heart attacks, strokes, suicides and other illnesses. Truth is that wouldn’t work because Tuesday would now be the problem. Again we need to teach people how to cope with stress and how to control their depression, fears and other self-destructive emotions. Your body loves you but if you do not love your life it will end it far sooner thinking it is doing you a favor.
Mind-body medicine should not be an alternative nor should complementary and integrative medicine be something doctors are not exposed to during their training. Medical journals which are supported by pharmaceutical advertising do not print articles which would expose doctors to alternative therapies. When patients are diagnosed with an illness they should be given instructions, not just a pill to swallow, about how to enhance their immune function and act like someone with an immune competent personality. Psychiatrist George Solomon saw the benefits of such behavior early on when working with HIV+ patients and I see it in cancer patients and others. Doctors need to be teachers. Doctors also aren’t trained in mind-body medicine. They are not told about Carl Jung interpreting a dream and diagnosing a brain tumor. Yes, mind and body communicate and the inner wisdom is also vital to survival. The patient’s beliefs affect the outcome of therapy. When chemotherapy is portrayed as the devil giving you poison you are in big trouble. So doctors need to be taught how to communicate and enhance our healing potential. Scalpels can kill or cure and so can words; words become swords.
Survival behavior means people should not be submissive, suffering patients but respants, or responsible participants.
One hundred thousand people a year die from medical errors. Patients need to be known as people and not by their disease or room number. We need to humanize the system for both the doctor and the patient. Then doctors will know how to deal with their feelings and loss and not just think and separate themselves from their patients so they will feel less pain if their patient dies. There are many famous paintings showing the doctor sitting next to the patient’s bed, chin in hand, thinking while their patient is dying. We need to reach out and touch each other and to quote a young man who died of AIDS. “What is evil is not the disease but to not treat the person with the disease with compassion.”
My life as a physician was changed when my patient with breast cancer said to me, “You’re a nice guy. I feel better when I am in the office with you but I can’t take you home with me. So I need to know how to live between office visits.” I started support groups to help them to learn. I was amazed at how few patients came to the groups when I offered them a longer better life if they attended. I learned that if you grew up with guilt, shame and blame, due to parents, teachers and religions, you were afraid to participate in your own well-being. That is why the group became ECaP or Exceptional Cancer Patients. What I learned was when you helped people to live they derived physical benefits from their new joyful life and didn’t die when they were supposed to. The best hospices have graduations and drop outs too.
If I were in charge of health care I would also reward those people and companies who show the benefits of treatments that they can’t patent. A tax deduction or some other financial reward would help lead them to investigate more natural therapies and treatments rather than reject them as unproven or unknown.
I have continued to run support groups for over thirty years. I have also benefited from the therapy. I have learned that people are not statistics and that we have to help them to achieve their potential and not see death as a failure or lost battle. When we see disease as the enemy and only focus on killing the disease we empower our enemy. As Mother Teresa said, “I will not attend an anti-war rally but if you ever have a peace rally call me.”
We need to help people to heal their lives and bodies and benefit from the healing and the internal environment it creates. We give messages and instructions to our genes and so our lifestyle and personality all affect our vulnerability. Just as bacteria, viruses and plant life alter their genes to survive antibiotics, vaccines and the environment so can we.
Medicine needs to focus on the people with the illness and not just the disease.
I have many articles on my Web site, www.berniesiegelmd.com, relating to my experience with patients and their survival behavior. I also have written many books and made many audios available to empower patients and to share what I have learned about life, living, healing, loss and more. My best known book is Love, Medicine & Miracles and the latest Faith, Hope & Healing. Again this is not about becoming immortal but about living an authentic life and not one imposed upon you by others and realizing the only thing of permanence is love.
Everything that lives requires enzymes; humans, plants and animals.
Enzymes are protein-based substance found in every living cell. Enzymes can be likened to the starter in your automobile; they ignite the process into action and the speed is dependent on the amount of power under the hood (a full-spectrum of enzymes for specific jobs, working in powerful synchronicity to enhance performance).
In today’s diet of over processed and overcooked food, we can expect to be enzyme deficient. High temperature food preparations can lead to lessened activity or the destruction of many innate food related enzymes. As well, a poor intestinal tract environment which affects most Americans can lead to reduced production of our own enzymes. Therefore, digestive disorders may get their start because of the body’s inability to produce enzymes sufficiently for optimal digestion, absorption, and elimination leading to chronic disorders or discomfort.
Trivialized, untreated, over self-medicated and misunderstood, weak gastrointestinal conditions chronically plague more than 95 million Americans. Avoiding or overcoming digestive enzyme deficiencies is imperative to overall health and longevity.
We suggest establishing a health reserve is dependent upon supplementation with full spectrum enzymes that act as the engines to carry the load for our digestive well-being.
by Karen DeFelice, M.S.
My experience in tracking results with typical families using quality enzyme supplements in daily life and following the guidelines developed for enzymes since 2001, show around 93 percent of all individuals across all age groups see success of some kind.
This means most people can see improvements by the time they get to the end of one bottle of a quality enzyme product.
You do not have to change any diet, supplement, medication, or therapy to try enzymes. One bottle, one month, and typically under $40—that is your investment in trying enzymes.
The following are typically reported improvements, often dramatic in degree, seen in both children and adults, when following the relatively new guidelines.
- Improvement in foods tolerated, eating patterns, and weight regulation
- Improvement in digestive function and bowel regularity
- Improvement in energy levels, stamina, and overall health
- Improvement in quality of sleep and moods
- Improvement in cognitive awareness, problem solving, and memory
- Improvement in language, socialization, and general behavior
- Improvement in transitioning, sensory processing, and attention
- Decrease in general anxiety, obsessive compulsions, and hyperactivity
- Decrease in acid reflux problems
- Decrease in autoimmune problems
- Decrease in chronic pain and joint stiffness
- Decrease in chronic viral-related problems
- Decrease in harmful bacteria and yeast problems
Another general improvement is that enzymes enhance the effectiveness of other supplements, diets, and therapies. You may see your overall program become much more effective when you start enzymes. Given how relatively inexpensive, easy to take, and fast acting enzymes are, it is generally worth at least a trial especially considering the wide range of potential improvements.
Many people find the longer they take enzymes, the fewer enzymes are needed to maintain the same level of health. Taking higher doses of enzymes for the first few months may improve health substantially so lower amounts of enzymes are necessary later. In addition, as the gut heals and the intestinal cells return to proper function, your own natural enzyme production improves. Various therapeutic enzyme programs have been extremely successful recommending high-doses of particular enzyme blends for designated periods of time, especially in the cases of persistent health problems. As with most measures, always consult with your health care professional whenever you have major health concerns.
Karen DeFelice, M.S. is the author of Enzymes: Go With Your Gut. DeFelice works in education and the sciences and is available for speaking, workshops, or teaching. www.enzymestuff.com.
Enzymes are substances that occur naturally in all living things, including the human body. If it’s an animal or a plant, it has enzymes. Enzymes are critical for life. At present, researchers have identified more than 3,000 different enzymes in the human body. Every millisecond of our lives these enzymes are constantly changing and renewing at an unbelievably fast speed.
Every life process depends on the action of enzymes, protein “go-betweens” that control the fueling and energy output of each cell in the body. Bodies rich in enzymes function at their best, with high energy levels, and full powers of disease resistance.
Each activity that occurs within the body involves enzymes. Examples include: 1) the beating of the heart, 2) the building and repairing of tissue, 3) the digestion and absorption of food. Nothing can take place without energy and energy cannot be used or produced without enzymes. Enzymes are involved in all bodily functions. In fact, the very existence of each living cell depends on complicated chemical reactions that require a constant supply of energy and enzymes. Without energy, cells become disorganized, resulting in illness and death. It is for this reason that the body’s energy needs to take precedence over all other body requirements.
Enzymes are very specific. Each enzyme promotes one type of chemical reaction and one type only. Some enzymes break down large nutrient molecules (the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in our foods) into smaller molecules for digestion and aids the human body incorporating the raw material from food or supplements.
Without enzymes, our bodies cannot process and use the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients present in our food and supplements. It is also important to remember enzymes are not nutrients themselves but rather work with the nutrition that is in the food or supplements you are consuming. Taking enzyme supplements does not replace a good healthy diet of quality food. Additional enzymes are responsible for different functions, such as the storage and release of energy or the processes of respiration, reproduction, vision, and others.
Without enzymes, none of the body’s chemical reactions would take place. Without enzymes, there would be no breathing, no digestion, no growth, no blood coagulation, no perception of the senses, and no reproduction. Our bodies contain trillions of enzymes, which continually renew, maintain, and protect us. No person, plant or animal could exist without them.
The body’s ability to function, to repair when injured, and to ward off disease is directly related to the strength and numbers of our enzymes. That’s why an enzyme deficiency can be so devastating.
It is the energizing, staying power of enzymes that helps start the day and keeps you going. Enzymes may be the way to recover faster from injuries, relieve back pain and circulation problems, and combat viruses.
Each process consists of a complex series of chemical reactions. These reactions are referred to as metabolism.
Metabolism includes all the physical and chemical processes involved in the activities of life. Enzymes are the catalysts that make metabolism possible. Consequently, enzymes are involved in every metabolic activity in the body—from digesting and assimilating food to catalyzing the thousands of reactions that are necessary for the body to function in the activities of life. Enzymes are the means within the cells by which the building-up and breaking-down processes of metabolism take place. Nature has devised a brilliant procedure to supply the constant demand for energy, called biologic oxidation.
Enzymes are involved in the synthesis and repair of DNA; in the production of proteins, and connective tissue necessary to grow and regenerate cells; and in the breakdown and detoxification of cellular wastes that are a by-product of normal metabolism.
This process allows us to obtain energy from food without burning up body tissue at the same time. Because of the catalytic activity of enzymes, food can be burned at low temperatures which are compatible with the life of the cell.
Because enzymes are catalysts, their effectiveness can be greatly influenced by their environment. An acid or alkaline environment will affect their activity, as will temperature, concentration of substrate (the substance upon which they work), coenzymes or cofactors, and inhibitors.
Cells obtain energy from the protein, carbohydrates, and fats we eat. They do this only with the assistance of enzymes. Before they reach the cell, all proteins are converted into amino acids, fats are converted into fatty acids, and carbohydrates are changed to sugars, such as glucose. The cells oxidize these nutrients, releasing large quantities of energy in the process. We need this energy to enable mechanical muscle movement and other body functions to occur. To produce this energy, chemical reactions must be “coupled” with the systems responsible for these physiological functions. This coupling is achieved through special energy transfer systems and cellular enzymes.
Enzymes are also important for your nervous system. Nervous system function is regulated by various neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, the catecholamines (dopamine and norepinephrine), and acetycholine. These neurotransmitters are manufactured by the action of enzymes in the brain on the precursor amino acids, tryptophan, tyrosine, and choline, respectively. Because the brain cannot make adequate quantities of the various precursors, it must obtain these precursors from the bloodstream.
However what if your digestive system hasn’t properly broken down the protein you eat into its component amino acids, thus leading to a deficiency state in your bloodstream?
Enzymes and Aging
As we grow older our bodies are faced with an array of age-related disorders. If you study societies as they age and their corresponding disease rates, you can see a clear parallel between increase in age and the occurrence of diseases.
Enzymes are the most powerful weapon we have against these diseases of age, and possibly a significant factor in avoiding age-related diseases.
The benefits of enzymes can be verified by solid scientific data, including clinical studies. We also know that systemic enzyme therapy is helpful in supporting the immune system and the immune system is affected by every disease.
Enzymes are active throughout and benefit the entire body, not just the immune system. Generally speaking, aging is a dehydration of the body’s protein supply–sometimes referred to as protein polymerization.
This is actually why we wrinkle as we age. These dehydrated proteins lose their flexibility, specifically under the skin. Proteases, such as those in systemic enzymes, hydrate the proteins by depolarizing them. This is a very important anti-aging mechanism and may actually prevent or repair the skin’s wrinkled look.
Taking protease enzymes orally may help reduce the pain, swelling and overall discomfort of varicose veins, phlebitis and post-thrombotic syndrome. Enzymes improve blood circulation and therefore reduce the risk of thrombosis.
With regular use of enzymes people can enjoy a better quality of life. As more of our aging population realizes the benefit of enzymes, more 90-year-olds will enjoy life in good health.
Life is aging and aging is a process. Aging is relative. Compared to the drosophila fly, the human life span is long; compared to the redwood tree, the human life span is short.
Aging is a variable parameter. The rate at which you age is determined by three factors: your genetic background, your life style and your nutritional habits. We can only influence aging by changing our life style and our nutrition.
Sources of Enzymes
Traditionally, foods have been the primary source. Uncooked foods (such as fruits and vegetables) are usually high in enzyme activity and, fortunately, taste good, too.
In theory, it works—absorbing enzymes from the food we eat. However, in practice, with the magnitude of food additives, preservatives, radiation, long-term storage, canning, freezing and drying, the actual enzymatic activity level of foods can be grossly reduced. Because of this there is an energy drain. As we age, the quantity of our body’s enzymes decreases and so does the quality. The speed with which this happens is greatly influenced by our life style and diet. An enzyme-poor diet can overtax an already deficient system.
What’s the solution to an energy drain? Daily supplementation in addition to foods may ensure an adequate supply of enzymes.
We can’t produce energy without catalysts, and enzymes are those catalysts. You can’t jump start your day and feel young, with energy and vitality, if your body has lost its enzyme punch.
Life is similar to walking on a tightrope. Like everything else, there is a beginning and an end on the tightrope called life. As we move along on our journey, we must balance our bodies (this is known as homeostasis) or we can fall off the tightrope before our time, before reaching our scheduled end. This balancing act involves the total body (mind and spirit), yin and yang, temperature, pH, vitamins, minerals, anabolic-catabolic ratio, the oxidation of body cells, and importantly enzymes. All must be in harmony and enzymes help us maintain that balance.
Jump Start Digestion
Some people can eat nutritious foods and yet be continually tired, develop chronic diseases, and/or age prematurely.
Quite possibly it could be poor digestion and/or absorption of foods. In other words, an individual could be eating a healthy diet, but the nutrients aren’t getting to the cells. Literally, one can eat the best and yet the body is starving.
One way to support an overworked digestive system is to take natural digestive enzymes. Pepsin is probably the best known and is essential for protein digestion. Enzyme preparations contain many enzymes capable of breaking down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Some sources of digestive enzymes include papain, amylase, protease, and lactase.
Today’s scientific research indicates large enzyme molecules can be absorbed from the intestines, passing into the circulatory and lymphatic systems and, ultimately, to every cell of the body. For a long time people didn’t think we could absorb supplemental enzymes. We now know that we can absorb enzymes in a number of ways, primarily through a mechanism known as pinocytosis. Pinocytosis is actually a system whereby enzymes, after connection to a receptor in the mucosa of the intestinal wall, are absorbed into that wall, guided through the intestinal cells, and finally released into the blood, much like an elevator going from one floor to the next.
Researchers are now able to produce enzymes to treat specific acute and chronic disorders. This technique is called systemic enzyme therapy. Since many chronic disorders involve disturbed enzyme function, it seems logical to take supplemental enzymes.
It is also important to be apprised of the potency details of every individual enzyme so you know exactly what you’re getting. Enzyme strength is measured in terms of activity (not weight).
Enzymes may be present, but unless they are functional, they will not do any good. Instead of weight (such as milligrams) the important measurement with enzymes is the activity and potency of the enzyme. A product label should list enzyme strength in standard activity units rather than by weight.
Digestive enzymes provide optimal support for healthy digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Benefits of Microbial Enzyme Supplementation
Enzyme supplementation promotes enhanced digestion and delivery of vital nutrients to the body. This benefits good health in many ways, including better elimination, support for healthy energy levels and maintenance of healthy body weight. Enzymes also help prevent accumulation of undigested foods in the large intestine, which may disrupt the normal healthy bacterial balance in the bowel.
Overeating can lead to incomplete digestion. Occasional heartburn, bloating, belching, discomfort, and a “sour stomach” is often a result of this.
The nature of the digestive process in the human body is such that it is highly energy-intensive. The pancreas is the organ that produces most of the digestive enzymes required for food breakdown and secretes them into the small intestine. The lower the efficiency of digestion in the stomach, the higher the requirement of newly produced pancreatic digestive enzymes. This process can place a burden on the pancreas, which may, in turn, place a large burden on other parts of the body. If the pancreas is working overtime to support our body’s digestive process, it is diverting crucial resources from normal repair functions the body may need to perform in diverse organs and systems.
However, the body has developed a compensation method for dealing with this undue burden. The body smartly recycles enzymes that it produces as the unused portions enter the bloodstream into systemic circulation. Research has shown this recycling is facilitated by pancreatic secretory cells themselves. These cells, which normally secrete enzymes produced by the pancreas into the small intestine, serve as collectors of unused enzymes that are circulating in the bloodstream and can then re-secrete these enzymes into the intestines when needed for digestion. This reduces the burden on the pancreas to produce new enzymes in increasingly large amounts. What is most interesting, however, is research shows this mechanism is used by the body not only for the endogenous (produced by the pancreas) enzymes that are in circulation, but also for exogenous (i.e., supplemental) enzymes taken in from an outside source.
Supplementing with enzyme formulations containing a full-spectrum of digestive capacity, can reduce the need for the pancreas to manufacture enzymes and reduce the need for the body to devote large amount of resources for this purpose. This frees up the body to devote its energies to the daily maintenance of other critical bodily organs and systems, potentially maintaining and enhancing overall health.
Choosing a Digestive Enzyme Supplement
Microbial-derived enzymes have distinct advantages over animal-sourced enzymes such as pancreatin and have been shown to be more effective at supporting the digestive physiology of the human body when supplemented. Animal-derived standard enzyme preparations are active only in a narrow pH range and the activity of these enzymes is destroyed by acidic conditions in the stomach. By contrast, microbial-derived enzymes have higher activity levels (less enzyme has to be used for the same purpose) and are active over a wide pH range, with some reports showing activity from pH two to ten. This means while over 90 percent of animal-derived enzymes may be inactivated in the stomach and thus useless for digestive purposes, microbial-derived enzymes would begin digesting food in the acidic conditions of the stomach and continue this process well into the small intestine, increasing the efficiency of the digestive process.
Profile of Digestive Enzymes, which Provide Support or Carbohydrate and Fiber Digestion
Alpha-galactosidase—An enzyme that facilitates the breakdown of carbohydrates such as raffinose and stachyose. This enzyme is especially helpful in supporting the digestion of vegetables and beans. A study published in 1994 showed alpha-galactosidase supplementation was effective at reducing indigestion and flatulence in healthy individuals consuming a high-fiber diet consisting of grains, beans and other vegetables.
Amylase—This enzyme functions to break down carbohydrates such as starch and glycogen (rice and potatoes), a storage form of glucose.
Beta-glucanase—An important enzyme that facilitates the digestion of beta-linked glucose bonds associated with whole grains such as barley, oats and wheat.
Cellulase—This enzyme helps free the nutrients found in both fruits and vegetables by breaking down cellulose, a plant fiber.
Glucoamylase—This enzyme complements the function of amylase for the complete digestion of carbohydrate rich foods by further breaking down starches and dextrins into glucose.
Hemicellulase—This enzyme assists in the breakdown of carbohydrates (fruits) and is most useful for enhancing the efficiency of polysaccharide digestion from plant foods.
Invertase—This enzyme facilitates the breakdown of carbohydrates and is especially effective at helping to digest sucrose, common table sugar.
Lactase—This enzyme is necessary for the proper utilization and digestion of lactose, the predominant sugar found in milk and other dairy products.
Phytase— This enzyme (found in flax seed) breaks down plant carbohydrates and is especially helpful at breaking down phytic acid found in leafy vegetables. Because it breaks down phytic acid it frees the minerals in plants and aids in their absorption.
Xylanase—This enzyme is a sub-type of hemicellulase and functions to break down soluble fiber from food sources.
Support for Protein Digestion Bromelain—An enzyme that is derived from pineapple, this nutrient also facilitates the digestion of proteins. Bromelain has also been associated with the wide range of diverse health benefits on its own.
Papain—This enzyme is derived from papaya and serves to enhance the digestion of proteins, facilitating nutrient absorption.
Proteases—This grouping of enzymes support the digestion of protein and protein-containing foods, breaking them into absorbable units of amino acids, the building blocks for the body’s regenerative purposes.
Support for Fat Digestion
Lipase—The main enzyme that functions to break down lipids and improve fat utilization. In this capacity, it supports the function of the gall bladder. The microbial-derived lipase used in this formulation has been shown to have much higher activity levels than animal-derived lipase enzyme, enhancing the efficiency of fat digestion. Microbial lipase is resistant to inactivation by stomach acid and can digest dietary fat beginning in the stomach and continuing into the small intestine. A study in animals showed that microbial-derived lipase was as effective at digesting fat as a 25 times larger dose of conventional pancreatin.
Proteolytic enzymes function throughout the body to digest and break down proteins into their amino acid components. When taken as supplements, studies show that various proteolytic enzymes, including bromelain (from pineapple), papain (from papaya), serratiopeptidase (from bacteria), and fungal protease (from a non-pathogenic fungus medium), are absorbed through the lining of the digestive tract and into the circulation. These enzymes, once in the bloodstream, are available to facilitate chemical reaction throughout the body and have a wide range of applications.
A potent, high-quality proteolytic enzyme formula should include a broad spectrum of proteolytic enzymes from a variety of plant, bacterial, and fungal proteases. The goal is to create a blend that works at a variety of pH levels to support the body’s native enzymatic needs. Maintaining optimal enzymatic function is a key factor in supporting the foundation for health and wellness of numerous individuals. For example:
Papain—A proteolytic enzyme derived from the sap (also called latex or milk) of unripe papaya, traditionally used with bromelain.
Fungal amylase—An enzyme derived from the fungus Aspergillus oryzae it breaks down carbohydrates, such as starch, and glycogen.
Lipase—The main enzyme responsible for breaking down fats, lipases hydrolyze triglycerides (fats) into their component fatty acid and glycerol molecules.
Protease (bacteria, fungal, neutral)—A group of enzymes whose catalytic function is to hydrolyze (breakdown) peptide bonds of proteins. Proteases differ in their ability to hydrolyze various peptide bonds. Bacteria proteases are optimally active in alkaline conditions, fungal proteases in more acidic conditions, and neutral proteases (from bacteria) are optimally active at a neutral pH.
Serratiopeptidase (aka Serrapeptase)—The “Miracle Enzyme” according to Dr. Hans Nieper, a legendary medical doctor known for his extensive use of proteolytic enzymes. This proteolytic enzyme has been shown to be more powerful than the pancreatic proteolytic enzymes chymotrypsin and trypsin. Serrapeptase appears to thin mucus and modulate molecules involved in both the immune and blood clotting systems. Studies thus far suggest Serrapeptase is a promising, safe and useful supplement to help support the immune system and thin mucus. Other double-blind studies have shown Serrapeptase supports the body’s immune response to infections and that it modulates the body’s immune response after surgery.
Bromelain—A general name for a family of proteolytic enzymes derived from the pineapple plant. Bromelain effects various systems in the body through a variety of physiological mechanisms, including inhibiting the formation of bradykinin, limiting the generation of fibrin, increasing the breakdown of fibrin, modulating prostaglandins, and decreasing platelet aggregation.
Nattokinase—This proteolytic enzyme is extracted from a Japanese food called Natto. Is has been identified to be a potent fibrinolytic enzyme, showing as ability to break down fibrin, a blood clotting protein. Supported by strong research and historical anecdotal use, Nattokinase shows promise in supporting areas such as cardiovascular well-being, stroke, angina, thrombosis, atherosclerosis, fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue, varicose veins, and other conditions of chronic inflammation.
totalhealth magazine is committed to keeping our readers up-to-date as more information is released on the benefits to human health of these and other existing or newly introduced enzymes. In the interim we suggest you seriously consider including digestive and proteolytic enzymes as an integral inclusion in your personal natural health regimen.
If you have a chronic disease, where do you start looking for answers?
First you seek medical care to get a diagnosis. You try to understand what is the cause of the ailment, whether you have heart disease, arthritis, candida overgrowth or fibromyalgia. It may surprise you to learn that there is a common thread behind many of these diseases: a lack of energy in the body.
We think of fatigue as a sign of illness but it is also a cause. A lack of energy on the cellular level is the number one cause of all disease.
Why? Energy builds health. So no matter what the diagnosis of the person that walks into my office, I find that my underlying approach is always similar. I always use a functional approach I call “energy therapy.”