The High Enzyme Diet

02 Nov 2016 no comments HAB Extract

We have seen how enzymes control all human life. Everything we do, whether it is moving our hands, or using the brain, depends on enzymes. Also, the body is equipped to maintain homeostasis (balance). A cut healing is just an example of the body returning to homeostasis. In this sense, the body always works to respond sensitively to any abnormality and tries to return to its original health and normal conditions. What helps the body regulate homeostasis? Enzymes. If abnormalities occur once in a while, the body will be able to adjust to them. However, if the abnormalities are repeated or became chronic, source enzymes get exhausted, collapsing the internal balance of the body’s enzymes. This is why leading a well-regulated diet means preventing the excess consumption of source enzymes.

In this blog we will look at the High Enzyme Diet. We will see how many diseases deemed as caused by old age are actually caused by lifestyle choices, specifically by a diet that exhausts our source enzymes. We will also see how the products from the ‘Healthy Heart Club’, rich in enzymes, minerals and amino acids are the perfect addition to a high enzyme diet.

Not only there is a correlation between diet and adult illnesses like Crohn’s disease, connective tissue disease, and cancer, but also heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol, liver disease, diabetes, and the list goes on. Dr. Hiromi believes we can strengthen our gastrointestinal system, and thereby our overall health, by following a diet high in enzymes that avoids exhausting our source enzymes and thus prevents many of these diseases.

The diet

The diet that Dr. Hiromi recommends and the one he practices is a very simple diet of fresh foods. His day starts every morning with 2-3 cups of good water at 70 degrees F, 20 minutes after drinking the water he eats fresh fruit rich in enzymes. Fruits prepare the way for breakfast 30 minutes later and help the functions of the gastrointestinal system, raising the blood sugar level, thus preventing overeating. For breakfast he has brown rice mixed with 5-7 types of grains, with a side dish of steamed vegetables, natto, dried seaweed and a handful of reconstituted wakame seaweed.

After 11:00 a.m. he drinks two more cups of water, followed by some fresh fruit 30 minutes later. For lunch he recommends eating something that has not been cooked like a salad. A main course consists of animal proteins like fish or meat and some vegetables that have been blanched or steamed for no more than two minutes.

Around 4:30 he drinks two more cups of water, then after 30 minutes he eats some more fresh fruit before eating dinner. Supper should not be finished after 6:00 or 6:30 and he recommends going to sleep on an empty stomach.

In general, he recommends a diet consisting of fresh foods. The fresher the foods are, the more enzymes they contain: Fresh vegetables, sea vegetables, fruits and fish, whole grains and beans. Sea vegetables are a great source of fiber. Insoluble dietary fibers that are indigestible absorb water in the intestines, adding bulk to the intestinal walls and accelerating peristaltic movement. In this way, they prevent the accumulation of toxins in the colon.

The enzymes present in this high enzyme diet can later be transformed into the 3,000 enzymes the body needs to function. Processed foods, on the contrary, are mainly dead foods that contain no enzymes and cannot be digested, therefore should be avoided.

The foods we chose have to be as fresh as possible because, apart from containing many enzymes, they are not oxidized. Oxidation occurs when oxygen bonds to matter and rusts, free radicals are then created when these oxidized foods enter the body. While free radicals in small amounts have important roles like killing viruses, bacteria, molds and suppress infections, when the numbers increase above a certain level, the cell membranes and DNA of normal cells start to be destroyed. When the number of free radicals is too high our body is equipped to neutralize them with antioxidant enzymes, like SOD (superoxide dismutase). However, after the age of 40 the levels of this enzyme decreases. When this happens, it is the source enzymes that battle free radicals, if they are available. If they are scarce, they cannot prevent the health damage caused by free radicals. Eating fresh food rich in enzymes, will limit the number of free radicals and will limit the depletion of source enzymes in the body. Foods to avoid in the high enzyme diet will be detailed next.

Processed milk is oxidized fat

Before being processed, milk contains many good elements. Enzymes like lactase which breaks down own lactose, lipase, which breaks down fats and protease which breaks down protein. Milk in its natural state also contains lactoferrin, known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and immune regulatory effects. When milk is homogenized, the fat bonds with oxygen, changing it into hydrogenated fat (oxidized fat). Dr, Hiromi has observed that oxidized fat damages the intestinal environment, increasing the amount of bad bacteria and destroying the balance of the intestinal bacterial flora. As a result, toxins such as free radicals, hydrogen sulfides, and ammonia are produced in the intestine.

Apart from this process of homogenization, milk is pasteurized and this heats the milk at a temperature that destroys the enzymes. Enzymes begin to breakdown at 118.4 degrees F and are completely destroyed at 239 F. This heating also increases the amount of oxidized fat, changes the quality of proteins and destroys lactoferrin.

Dr. Hiromi does not recommend drinking milk even if its raw fresh milk in excess for the following reasons:

  • It can deteriorate the intestines, causing constipation and stagnant stools, diverticulitis (pocket-like cavities) on the intestinal walls where toxins and stagnant stools can accumulate causing polyps and cancer.
  • One of the biggest misconceptions about milk is that it helps prevent osteoporosis. It is believed that the calcium in milk is better absorbed than the calcium in other foods like small fish. However, he explains that when we drink milk the calcium concentration in our blood suddenly rises (it is normally fixed at 9-10 mg). The body then tries to return this abnormal level back to normal by excreting calcium from the kidneys through urine, ironically decreasing the overall level of calcium in the body. Dr. Hiromi has observed that the countries with the highest milk consumption, have the highest rates of hip fractures and osteoporosis. For these reasons, he recommends small fish, shrimp and seaweed instead because in these foods the calcium is not so quickly absorbed that causes a rapid increase in blood calcium.

What kind of meats?

Dr. Hiromi recommends eating only meats of animals with a body temperature lower than our own. Meats like beef and chicken whose body temperature is higher than ours will cause their fat to solidify in the human bloodstream. Fish, on the contrary, is better because fish oil liquefies in our body and even flushes out the arteries instead of clogging them. He also recommends plants oils like olive, animal fats like butter, lard, fat from meat and fish oil. Fish oil in particular he recommends because it is good for the brain. High blood levels of DHA found in fish oil has been linked to mathematical and other mental abilities. It also has been postulated that DHA lessens the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, lowers triglycerides and the incidence of blood clots.

Create an enzyme surplus in the body

Apart from eating the right kind of foods, Dr. Hiromi explains there are many things we can do to conserve our body’s enzymes. Some of these things are:

  • Chewing food properly. Chewing is one of the simplest things one can do for health. The human body is built in such a way that the salivary glands secrete more saliva the more one chews. Saliva has digestive enzymes that when mixed with food, improve digestion and absorption, and as the contents of the mouth get mixed with stomach acid and bile the digestive process proceeds smoothly. Hiromi recommends chewing each mouthful at least 30-50 times. Food that is so soft that doesn’t require much chewing can encourage overeating and maldigestion, because it does not stay in the mouth long enough to allow enzymes to be mixed in. This is the case of cooked oatmeal or soft breads that almost melt in your mouth. By chewing well you get the feeling of fullness more quickly, your appetite is naturally suppressed, which will also helps conserve enzymes. Another benefit of chewing well is that it kills parasites. Fish can be a source of parasites especially bonito, squid and freshwater fish. These parasites can be killed inside our mouth if we chew properly. In addition, the intestinal wall of a person can absorb up to 15 microns in size, anything larger than that will be excreted without being absorbed. Decomposition and abnormal fermentation occur inside the intestine when foods are not digested and absorbed, just as in the case of excess consumption. Decomposition gives rise to various toxins, which exhaust large amounts of enzymes.
  • Creating an intestinal environment conducive for good bacteria. About 300 different types of microorganisms and a total of about 1,000 trillion intestinal bacteria live inside each human intestine. One very important function these bacteria fulfill is to create source enzymes. Intestinal bacteria are believed to create approximately 3,000 types of enzymes. These additional enzymes supplement the ones we are born with. For this to be possible, we need to eat foods rich in enzymes that allow good bacteria to propagate. A bad diet will impact our ability to digest and absorb nutrients, damaging our intestinal tract, which will make our intestinal bacteria disappear over time. Dr. Hiromi believes that when the right kind of bacteria are missing , it causes the free radicals to not be able to be neutralized causing inflammation of the extremely delicate villi, destroying them and causing ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Also, the undigested food will start to rot in our intestines, becoming food for the bad bacteria which will begin to produce a lot of toxic gases. Intestinal walls that have been destroyed by free radicals give rise to polyps and cancer.
  • Minimize stress, air pollution, bacterial and viral infections, drinking, smoking, food additives, oxidized foods, etc.
  • David Jockers, in this article ‘Your body’s battle for enzymes’ asserts: ‘To create an enzyme surplus in your body you will want to incorporate a diet high in raw and living foods…at least 75-80% raw and living foods with 20-25% high quality cooked foods. Healthy cooked foods would include brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes and cruciferous vegetables.  Cruciferous veggies are great to steam as boiling will steal valuable water-soluble nutrients.  Steaming these veggies breaks down the outer cellulose wall that is challenging for the digestive system to metabolize.  This actually makes the food more bioavailable. Organic and grass fed animal products are to be cooked in a medium-rare fashion.  This will break down the thicker proteins but keep much of the powerful nutrition still intact.  Fresh squeezed lemon and apple cider vinegar should be added to any cooked food and especially to meat in either a pre/post cooked marinate or just before serving. Lemon and apple cider vinegar provide organic acids, enzymes, probiotics and anti-oxidants that help to pre-digest the cooked meal and neutralize any free radical formation.’ In addition, he explains ‘To boost enzymatic potential it is essential to soak and sprout all grains, seeds, nuts & legumes.  The practice of soaking, fermenting and sprouting breaks down challenging proteins and activates key enzymes that improve the bioavailability of the nutrients.  Sprouted legumes, seeds, cruciferous veggies and nuts are basically a pre-digested food that has unlocked its full potential of enzymes and nutrients. Broccoli sprouts may be the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. The fermentation process unlocks huge nutrient potential within the seed. Sprouted foods have five to ten times higher B vitamins, double the vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, calcium and iron content of its pre-soaked and sprouted counterpart . The enzymes will also make the protein much more bioavailable for consumption.’ (1)

Minerals

Because enzymes need vitamins and minerals to work properly, Dr. Hiromi recommends we make sure they are part of our high enzyme diet both from foods and as supplements (enzymes supplements, multivitamin and mineral supplements).

Minerals include: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, copper, zinc, iron, selenium and iodine. Minerals play as important a role as that of vitamins in preventing diseases, hypertension, osteoporosis and cancer. They work synergistically with vitamins and enzymes as well as antioxidants in eliminating free radicals. Minerals strengthen immunity and healing and support your own body’s enzyme factor.

Minerals come from the soil where plants are grown, while vitamins come from these plants and animals. The mineral content of foods depends on where the foods are grown as well as the quality of the soil. Minerals are usually lost with the use of pesticides, fertilizers and food processing. This makes our diet deficient in these vital nutrients and translates into loss of vitality, attention deficit, irritability, overweight, and other unhealthy states.

The importance of calcium

Animal protein and sugar demand increased calcium and magnesium leading to calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency irritates the nervous system, contributing to nervousness and irritability. Calcium prevents cancers, resists stress, reduces fatigue, lowers cholesterol and prevents osteoporosis. Dr. Hiromi recommends to take calcium with vitamin D, as this helps calcium absorption from the small intestine and stimulates bone formation. It should be taken with food, because on an empty stomach calcium thins gastric acid promoting an imbalance of intestinal bacteria and poor absorption of iron, zinc and magnesium. He recommends to take from 800-1500 mg taken in divided doses with meals. Calcium has to be balanced with other minerals and vitamins.

Please check the ‘Calcium Extract’ from the ‘Healthy Hearts Club’ store.

Magnesium

Magnesium activates hundred of different enzymes and it is a treatment for migraines and diabetes. Magnesium is an important mineral and it is needed in high amounts. Its deficiency is manifested in irritability, anxiety, depression, dizziness, weakened muscles, muscle spasm, heart disease and hypertension. A recent study indicated that patients who had a heart attack had low magnesium levels. Low magnesium impairs glucose tolerance, hence diabetics are recommended to keep their magnesium levels up.

Sodium and potassium

A balance of sodium and potassium is a prerequisite of life. Sodium is known as salt, and despise the bad press it receives, unprocessed salt keeps the correct alkaline/acid pH in the blood and is indispensable for the correct functioning of gastric acid, muscles and nerves. Deficiencies can occur from excessive use of laxatives, diarrhea and profuse sweating. The right balance between sodium and potassium is necessary to keep the balance between the inside and the outside the cells. In this sense, sodium is normally found outside the cell and potassium outside. When potassium inside the cell’s fluid is low, sodium with fluid rushes inside the cell, causing it to swell. This increase in cell size places pressure on the veins, narrowing the vessel’s diameter and causing hypertension.

The ratio between sodium and potassium is one to one. High intake of processed foods can affect this balance and affect our health. For this reason Dr. Hiromi recommends plenty of fresh homemade raw vegetables juices to balance the amount of sodium present in the body.

Trace minerals

Small quantities of trace minerals work synergistically with vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Trace minerals are essential for the balance and harmony of our body functions. After they have been absorbed through the intestines, these minerals are ferried through the circulatory system to cells entering through the cell membrane.

This is the case of:

  • Boron, which is important for the absorption of calcium and maintenance of teeth and bones
  • Copper, which generates bone, hemoglobin and red blood cells, elastin and collagen, and lowers cholesterol.
  • Zinc, which helps in the production of insulin, metabolizes carbohydrates, creates protein and absorbs vitamins, especially B from the digestive tract. Zinc also maintains prostate function and male reproductive health.
  • Iron, which is a key component of hemoglobin, plays a key role in the function of enzymes, the B complex vitamins and resistance to disease.
  • Selenium, which prevents free radical formation when combined with vitamin E. Studies show that low levels of selenium increase the incidence of prostate, pancreatic, breast, ovarian, skin, lung, rectal colon and bladder cancers as well as leukemia.
  • Chromium, which facilitates the metabolism of carbohydrates and protein, and glucose metabolism, helping maintain the levels of blood glucose without the need of excess insulin.
  • Iodine, which is critical for the functioning of the thyroid and the prevention of goiter.

Enzymes are present in herbs

The ingredients in our herbal formulations contain enzymes that can support our ‘source enzymes’. For example, ginger contains enzymes that can help turn cholesterol into bile acids, help tone the heart, stimulate the liver and strengthen the intestines. Cayenne enzymes trigger stomach secretions that help digestion. (2) Cayenne also contains a high amount of vitamin A, vitamin C, sulphur, iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. (3)

To sum up, eating a diet that is high in fresh raw foods and supplementing with enzymes, vitamins and minerals can help us live a long and healthy life.

References:

The gut-heart diet

02 Oct 2016 no comments HAB Extract

An anti-inflammatory diet is essential for the health of our heart. Not only will it help our heart, but as we have seen  it will feed our microbiome, the universe of bacteria that live in our gut, thus strengthening our immune system. With so many different diets and food trends, it can be very challenging to choose what to eat. What most diets fail to consider, in my opinion, is the health of each individual’s digestive system. Since it is the enterocytes in our gut lining that digest and break down foods, it is of key importance that for a diet to work it considers the health of these enterocytes.  In this blog, we will look at how the proper diet can improve digestion and absorption, minimize inflammation and heal our gut. For this purpose, we will continue to focus on the work of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and her research on human nutrition. According to her research, problem foods are a constant source of toxicity for the body and the very important enterocytes, damaging them and compromising digestion and absorption of nutrients. All of which will make healing impossible, turning into a vicious cycle of malnutrition and toxicity. In the case of the heart, toxicity from the gut will start an inflammatory process that will thicken and clot the blood which will put a heavy load on the heart.

We will also see how the products from “Healthy Hearts Club” are the perfect complement for an anti-inflammatory diet. They are all easy to digest and many of the ingredients support the microbiome because they are antibacterial.

Finally, we will look into detail at the key aspect for the success of a healthy diet: the unhealthy gut ruled by abnormal microbes. These pathogens that populate the gut have to be removed first. Once this is accomplished, the gut can heal, many food intolerances will disappear and digestion can become normal. If you have tried different diets and have seen no results, I want to invite you to keep reading.

It is all about digestion and absorption

A successful diet should take into account proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. Before we look at the different diets, we need to understand how the enterocytes perform their job of breaking down food. For this we will divide foods into carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Absorption of digested foods happens in the small intestine, mainly the first two parts: duodenum and jejunum. The walls of these two have finger-like protrusions called villi that increase absorption. These villi are lined with enterocytes, which are the cells that absorb food and pass it into the bloodstream to nourish our bodies. The importance of these cells is tremendous, without them digestion and absorption cannot be possible.

These cells are constantly dying and being renewed, which is accomplished by the beneficial bacteria that live on these enterocytes. When we lack beneficial bacteria the part of our intestine that absorbs foods is populated instead by pathogens. This means that these enterocytes cannot do their job of digesting and absorbing food, their shape changes and they become cancerous. In other words, lack of good bacteria means unhealthy enterocytes, which translates into compromised digestion and therefore lack of absorption.

The job of these enterocytes is so important that there are specific types of enterocytes according to the food they break down. This is the case of:

1. Carbohydrates. All carbohydrates are made of tiny molecules called monosaccharides. There are many of them, most common are glucose, fructose and galactose. They do not need digestion and they can easily penetrate the gut lining. Glucose and fructose are found in fruit and vegetables. Honey is made of both fructose and glucose. Galactose is found in soured milk products like yogurt.

The next size carbohydrates are disaccharides, made out of two molecules of monosaccharides. Most common are:

sucrose (table sugar)

lactose (milk sugar) 

maltose (starch)

All of these require some digestion. The microvilli on the surface of the enterocytes produce enzymes called disaccharidases that digest these double sugars. People with digestive problems do not have these enzymes, so these double sugars cannot be digested. Instead, they stay in the gut where the pathogenic bacteria ‘feast’ on them: bacteria, viruses, candida, fungi, etc. As these release toxins they damage the gut wall and poison the whole body. This results in all sorts of digestive disorders.

People who cannot digest these double sugars have to remove these foods to give the gut time to heal. Starch is the main source of carbohydrates we consume, they are in the grains and some root vegetables (potato, yams, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke). Starch is made up of huge molecules with hundreds of monosugars connected as many long strands. Digestion of starches requires a lot of work even for healthy people. Due to its complex structure, a lot of starch goes undigested making it the perfect food for pathogenic bacteria and allowing them to thrive and release toxins in our body. When starch gets digested, it is broken down into maltose, which is a double sugar that cannot be absorbed until it is split into monosugars by the enterocytes. In a person with unhealthy gut flora, enterocytes cannot split this double sugar so it goes undigested and feeds pathogens. To allow enterocytes to heal starches have to be removed from the diet, this means no grains or starchy vegetables are allowed until the gut has healed. Research shows that when given enough time to heal, these foods can be reintroduced again with no side effects.

Unripe fruit contains some sucrose which is a double sugar, this is why it is important to eat ripe fruit. Most vegetables and some fruit contain a little bit of starch, however the amounts are small compared to grains, starchy vegetables and table sugar, so even people with digestive problems can eat these tiny amounts of fruit and non-starchy vegetables.

2. Proteins. Pepsin in the stomach and pancreatic protein-digesting enzymes in the duodenum break down protein so it reaches the enterocytes in the form of peptides, which are small chains of protein, and which should not be absorbed until they are broken down into single aminoacids. This process is done by enterocytes, which have peptide digesting enzymes called peptidases. Each peptidase is specific to a certain peptide chain and even to a certain chemical bond in this chain. These enzymes break the peptides into single aminoacids, so they can be absorbed. Patients with digestive problems are unable to produce many different peptidases to accomplish this last step in protein breakdown and absorption of aminoacids. At the same time, the pathogenic bacteria, fungi and viruses damage the gut wall, allowing undigested peptides to leak through. This is the case of gluten from grains and casein from milk, but there are many others that haven’t been studied and which may not be digested properly and absorbed as peptides. Hopefully research will show more about these issues.

In the meantime, proteins are very important part of our diet. The best easy to digest sources of protein are eggs, meat and fish, boiled, stewed and poached are much easier to digest than fried, roasted or grilled. Eggs are a perfect food with protein, B vitamins, zinc, etc. Unless the patient shows a clear allergy to eat, they should be part of their diet.

3. Fats. To be absorbed, they require bile. The enterocytes don’t have to do much work to digest fats. However, in people with abnormal gut flora, because the gut lining is a mucous membrane, when it is under attack by pathogens, it produces a lot of mucus to protect itself. This is problematic because excess mucus can interfere with digestion of food including fats. Mucus coats food particles and does not allow bile and digestive enzymes to get to them. As a result fats pass undigested and come out as pale greasy stools. This also causes fatty vitamins to be undigested: vitamin A, E and K. Research shows that when starch and double sugars are removed from the diet, mucus production goes back to normal and fat absorption improves.

The diets

The most well known diets and the ones you have probably heard of are the gluten free and casein free diet. These two are important but very limited according to Dr. Natasha because many other problem foods have to be eliminated too: processed foods full of sugar, processed carbohydrates, denatured and altered fats and proteins, etc. This is essential because, as long as the source of toxicity and the pathogens are present in the gut, the person will not make any progress, inflammation will persist and the gut will stay leaky, allowing hundreds of undigested and toxic substances into the body. Which foods should be avoided? These are, among others, gluten, processed foods and sugar.

No gluten please

Gluten, once absorbed turns into a glue-like mass, it can literally stick to the walls of your stomach or if you have leaky gut, to any other part of the body, including joints and brain. ‘Gluten free’ products are no better, they usually contain many other problematic substances in them.

No processed foods 

According to Dr. Natasha, any processed food has undergone a major change in its chemical structure and is no longer the same food, therefore they should not be part of our diet. What is more, to compensate for lack of nutrition these foods have added chemicals that have been proven to cause hyperactivity, learning and psychological disorders, not to mention rapid heartbeat and arrhythmias.

The supermarket shelves are filled with high carbohydrate foods that get digested as glucose very quickly producing an unnatural rise in blood glucose. In their natural form carbohydrates get absorbed slowly, producing a slow increase in blood sugar, which our body can handle. Blood glucose is one of those key markers for health that our body goes to great length to keep within certain limits. This means that both high and low levels are harmful. A rapid increase in blood sugar levels leads to hyperglycemia, which puts the body in state of shock, making it ‘pump’ lots of insulin to help with the excess glucose levels. This leads to hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This high-sugar-low-sugar roller coaster is extremely stressful for the heart.

Also, all these processed foods are detrimental for the beneficial gut flora, they feed the pathogenic bacteria in the gut and encourage their proliferation, as well as worms and parasites. Some of the most popular processed foods are soft drinks and cereals. Cereals are advertised as high in fiber. But according to Dr. Natasha but this fiber is the wrong kind of fiber because it is full of phytates which bind essential minerals and take them out of our system, contributing to the person’s mineral deficiencies. Analysis of these breakfast cereals has shown that the box, made out of wood pulp, has more nutrition than the cereal itself. Even when they are fortified with vitamins and minerals these are synthetic which have very low absorption rate. Processed foods are also high in trans fats which we have seen are detrimental for the heart.

Another harmful ingredient found in most processed foods is soy. It is a natural goitrogen, which means it impairs iodine absorption and reduces thyroid function. It is also high in phytates, which bind minerals and prevent them from being absorbed. Since soy is found in many processed foods like margarines, salad dressings and sauces, bread, biscuits, etc the best way to avoid it is to avoid processed foods all together.

Sugar

Sugar was once called the ‘white death’ and according to Dr Natasha it deserves this name. Not only it harms the immune system, refined sugar, once consumed robs the body’s stores of vitamins, minerals and enzymes at an alarming rate. To metabolize 1 molecule of sugar, the body requires around 56 molecules of magnesium. Magnesium is one of the key minerals for the heart. Low magnesium can lead to high blood pressure, neurological, immune and other problems.

Interestingly enough, according to a recently published article in the New York Times some newly released historical documents show that “The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960’s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead.” (1)

What about dairy? 

When it comes to digestion, two of the most problematic foods are milk and wheat. Around 25-90% of the planet’s population cannot digest lactose due to their lack of the lactose digesting enzyme lactase. Lactose is a milk sugar with a double molecule, therefore, it needs proper digestion.  GAPS people and those with gut problems cannot digest it. Well-fermented milk products are not problematic  because the fermenting bacteria consume lactose as their food.  Another problematic protein found in milk is casein, which is also hard to digest if the person has unhealthy flora. When casein is not digested properly it gets through the damaged gut lining and crosses the blood brain barrier (BBB) affecting the brain just like an opiate would do.  The good news is that when milk is properly fermented at home casein is also digested by fermenting bacteria and produce lactic acid (soothing and healing for the gut lining), enzymes and many vitamins as a result of their digestion.

Store bought fermented milk is not fermented long enough to remove the problematic substances and they are pausteurized which destroys the probiotics and vitamins. This is why only home fermented milk is allowed. If you are still not sure you can have fermented food, you can do a sensitivity test. Take a drop of this homemade milk product and put it on the inside of the wrist, let the drop dry. Do this at bedtime, in the morning check the spot, if there is a red spot then that is a sign of an allergic reaction. In this case, it is recommended to follow the introduction diet without dairy. This test can be used again at every step of the diet. It is also recommended to follow the ‘dairy introduction structure’, which we will explain shortly.

Digestion of dairy and gluten happen the same way: first digestive juices in the stomach have to break milk and wheat into peptides (some have morphine like substances called gluteomorphines). These peptides then move to the small intestine where pancreatic juices act on them and when they reach the intestinal wall they are broken down by enzymes called peptidases. This is the step that is missing in people with abnormal gut bacteria, GAPS patients, people with food intolerances, allergies, celiacs and lactose intolerant. These gluteomorphines then get absorbed into the blood stream unchanged and cause problems with brain function and immunity. When the gut flora is restored, however, many patients can digest casein and gluten without their symptoms returning.

Having the right kind of bacteria in the gut will allow the patient to digest lactose too. E. coli is the lactose digesting enzyme in the human gut. This comes as a surprise to many, but E. coli appears in the gut of a healthy baby right after birth, and stays high in numbers provided they are not destroyed with antibiotics. E. coli also makes vitamin K 2, B 1, B 2, B 6, B 12, produces antibiotic substances (colicins) and controls other members of their family that could cause disease. Having E. coli in the gut is the best protection against pathogenic species of E. coli.

Also, milk can create allergies and intolerances due to the wide range of antigens it contains. Breastfed babies can develop colic if the mother is consuming milk that she is not digesting properly, however, this disappears when the mother gives up milk.

These antigens or immunoglobulins are considered the main cause of children’s colic. The mother can pass these antigens through her breast milk. When breastfeeding stops the colic goes away.

In the case of antigens, fermenting bacteria will also consume immunoglobulins, so the milk ceases to be a problem.

A note on raw milk

Raw milk comes directly from the animal without any pasteurization, homogenization or tampering. Raw milk is alive and full of enzymes so it doesn’t require much digestion. Many people with milk allergies can drink raw milk without problems. When milk is  pasteurized its chemical structure is altered and this makes it hard to digest causing allergies. For thousands of years people drank raw milk and gave it to their babies with no problems. The logic behind pasteurizing milk is that it kills pathogens, however, these only come from sick animals. A healthy animal will not produce bad milk. In fact E.coli, salmonella etc cannot live in raw milk because of the enzymes, beneficial bacteria and immune complexes present in raw milk. However, if a pathogen gets in processed milk it will thrive. A good farmer will make sure the animal is healthy, the problem nowadays is that since milk is pasteurized farmers are not pressed to check the health of their animals as much. For a list of farmers that offer raw milk visit www.westonprice.org and www.realmilk.com

According to this last website ‘Raw milk contains many components that kill pathogens and strengthen the immune system. These include lacto-peroxidase, lacto-ferrin, anti-microbial components of blood (leukocytes, B-macrophages, neutrophils, T-lymphocytes, immunoglobulins and antibodies), special carbohydrates (polysaccharides and oligosaccharides), special fats (medium chain fatty acids, phospholipids and spingolipids), complement enzymes, lysozyme, hormones, growth factors, mucins, fibronectin, glycomacropeptide, beneficial bacteria, bifidus factor and B 12-binding protein. These components are largely inactivated by the heat of pasteurization and ultrapasteurization.’ (2)

GAPS patients need to go through the introductory stage (explained shortly) before trying raw organic milk, no other milk should be tried and it should be started slowly too. If raw milk cannot be obtained, organic pasteurized milk can be fermented at home.

The GAPS diet

The GAPS diet is based on the SCD (specific carbohydrate diet). The SCD was created by American pediatrician Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas, and has a 60 year record of helping people with all sorts of digestive disorders. He found that people with digestive problems could tolerate fats and proteins well but not grains, starchy vegetables, sugar, lactose and double sugars. His diet was accepted by the medical community and was considered the official cure for celiac disease. Back then celiac included all sorts of inflammatory digestive disorders. However, the diet was changed to refer only to ‘gluten’ intolerance, leaving all the people with other conditions without a proper diet. The gluten free diet gained popularity even though it is not very effective. Dr Natasha explains that it is very rare to find just gluten intolerance in a person with digestive disorders and even when this is the case, the GF diet is not effective.

The SCD was almost forgotten, but one day a mom desperate to help her little daughter who had severe UC (ulcerative colitis ) and neurological problems went to see Dr Haas.  After 2 years on the SCD her daughter completely recovered. This mom was  Elaine Gottschall ( author of the classic book “Breaking the vicious cycle”).  Since then she has helped thousands of people with all sorts of digestive ailments but specially children with behavioral problems. Dr Natasha adopted this diet for her patients, (mainly autistic children, but also ADHD, ADD, dyslexic, depression, schizophrenia, etc.)  and with time her patients called it GAPS diet, which stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome.

Implementing the diet

The purpose of the GAPS diet is what Dr. Natasha calls to ‘heal and seal the gut lining’. It achieves this in three ways:

  1. The gut lining renews itself every few weeks by shedding off old and worn out enterocytes and giving birth to new ones. In order to produce new enterocytes the gut lining needs a special nourishment. This is why the GAPS diet consists of large amounts of nutrition for the gut lining: amino acids, gelatine, glucosamine, fats, vitamins, minerals, etc, all the substances the gut lining is made from.
  2. Many people have ulcerations and inflammation in the gut lining that might or not show symptoms or they may be sore and sensitive. The GAPS diet removes fiber and other foods that may irritate the gut lining and interfere with the healing process.
  3. The cell regeneration process of the gut lining is accomplished by the beneficial bacteria that live on the surface of this gut lining. Without gut bacteria there cannot be healing.

Why do the diet?

Even if you don’t have major digestive problems, the GAPS diet is so gentle and soothing to the digestive system that it is a great way to give your digestive system a break, detoxify the body and heal the gut. If you are one of those people with obvious digestive problems, food allergies or intolerances, then you should seriously consider following the whole GAPS protocol, which is outlined with detail in her book. For the sake of brevity, we will only look at the first stage of the introduction diet here. This can be used for anybody, even kids that come down with a stomach virus or a cold. So let’s get cooking!

Homemade meat or fish stock

According to Dr. Natasha ‘Meat and fish stocks provide building blocks for the rapidly growing cells of the gut lining and they have a soothing effect on any areas of inflammation in the gut’. They aid digestion and have been known for centuries as healing folk remedies for the digestive tract. A note needs to be made that these are homemade foods. Any commercial soup stock granules or bullion cubes are highly processed with detrimental ingredients that will hinder healing, therefore they should be avoided entirely.

Chicken stock is specifically gentle on the stomach and is very good to start with. To make good stock you will need joints, bones and a piece of meat on the bone. This can include a whole chicken, giblets from chicken, goose or duck, whole pigeons, pheasants or any other inexpensive meats. It is essential to use bones and joints as they provide the healing substances, not to much the muscle meats. If you buy at a local butcher, ask him to cut the large tubular bones in half so you can get the bone marrow out of them after cooking.

Put the bones, joints and meats into a large pan and fill it up with water (Filtered water, not tap water), add natural unprocessed salt to your taste at the beginning of cooking and about  a teaspoon of black peppercorns, roughly crushed. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on a low heat for 2 1/2- 3 1/2 hours or over night if using a slow cooker. You can make fish stock the same way using a whole fish or fish fins, bones and heads and cooking them for 1-1 1/2 hours.

After cooking them take the meats out and sieve the stock to remove small bones and peppercorns. Strip off the soft tissues from the bones to add later to soups. It is important to eat all of the soft tissues on the bones. The gelatinous soft tissues around the bones and the bone marrow provide some of the best healing remedies for the gut lining and the immune system. They need to be consumed with every meal.

Extract the bone marrow out of large tubular bones while they are still warm, to do that bang the bone on a chopping board.

The stock will keep well in the refrigerator for a week and can be frozen. It should be drunk all day long with meals and in between meals. Microwaves should not be used because they destroy the foods. It is very important to consume all the fat in the stock and off the bones as these fats are essential for the healing process.

With this meat stock you can make homemade soup, bring it to boil, add chopped or sliced vegetables like onions, carrots, broccoli, leeks, cauliflower, etc avoiding the very fibrous ones like celery and cabbage. Simmer for 25-35 minutes until the vegetables are very soft, then add 1-2 tablespoons of chopped garlic, bring to boil and turn off the heat. This soup should be eaten with the bone marrow and soft tissues from the bones you separated before and boiled meat.

Also, adding some probiotic foods from homemade sauerkraut or fermented vegetables  is essential. In the first stages of the diet only the juice without the vegetables should be drunk so as to avoid any reaction. They should be added to the meat stock and soups without the vegetables yet as they are too fibrous. Also making sure that when added the food is not too hot which will kill the probiotic bacteria. They should be introduced slowly, 1 tsp the first five days, then 2 teaspoons until the patient can take a whole 1/2 cup. These fermented foods will introduce probiotic bacteria and help restore stomach acid production. In the case of severe diarrhea, well-fermented homemade whey, yogurt or sour cream are good options to add to the fermented vegetables as the lactic acid in these foods slows down food transit through the intestines and bowel, firm up the stools and soothe and strengthen the gut lining. In the case of constipation, dairy should be used with caution, in general, patients with constipation tolerate high fat dairy products like ghee, butter and sour cream, but high protein dairy can aggravate constipation ( yogurt, whey and kefir).

Ginger tea, mint or chamomile tea with a little honey between meals is also very helpful. To make ginger tea, grate some fresh ginger root (about a teaspoonful) into your teapot and pour some boiling water over it, cover and leave for 3 – 5 min. Pour through a small sieve.

The GAPS diet has several stages that follow this first stage, you can read about all of them in this website http://www.siboinfo.com/diet.html or in Dr. Natasha’s book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome’ revised and expanded edition.

The anti-candida diet

This diet could be said to be an extension of the GAPS diet. Many patients with an abundance of pathogenic bacteria often also have an overgrowth of candida, which also has to be addressed.

Candida could be said to be a modern day phenomenon caused by the overuse of antibiotics. The candida diet is a very thorough diet that takes care of some very dangerous pathogens that poison the whole body. It is important to understand what candida is.

In a healthy person candida lives in the body under the control of the good bacteria. In the last few decades, the widespread use of antibiotics has killed the good bacteria in many people, allowing candida to grow out of control. When this happens candida grows long stringy hyphae and puts roots through the tissues of the body: digestive system and other organs, producing a lot of toxins, alcohol and acetaldehyde. Every chronic degenerative disorder has been connected to candida overgrowth, from arthritis to MS (multiple sclerosis), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, neurological disorders and cancer.

Because candida feeds on sugar, the candida diet aims at removing every source of sugar: fructose, maltose, lactose, maple syrup and honey. Also, because candida can cause an allergy to other fungi and moulds, all fungi and fermented foods are also eliminated: yeast and baked foods made with yeast (bread, pastries, etc) soured milk products, all cheeses, all fermented beverages, vinegar, malt, mushrooms, tea and coffee, dried fruit and fruit juices. Grains are also excluded: corn, barley, wheat, rye, millet, oats, rice, as well as starchy vegetables: potato, yams, sweet potato and Jerusalem artichoke. The reason for this restrictive diet is that candida is never alone in the digestive system, it lives with over 500 or more different microbes which can also cause disease.

One of these is the clostridia family. These pathogens and their toxins damage the gut lining, making the enterocytes (the cells in the gut that digest foods) unable to do their job of splitting carbohydrates into smaller molecules that can be absorbed. The result is that complex carbohydrates (grains and starchy vegetables) do not get digested and become food for the pathogens in the gut. They ferment and putrefy in the gut, instead of being digested and thus become a source of toxins, which furthers damage the gut wall and undermine the immune system. Most pathogens, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and worms feed on these undigested carbohydrates.

Dairy introduction structure

The dairy introduction structure is for those that have allergy to dairy and for those that don’t want to start with the introduction diet but want to do the full GAPS diet (without severe digestive problems).

The dairy introduction diet allows the gut to heal and recover more quickly. The stages for introducing dairy follow a very specific pattern in which dairy is introduced very slowly to minimize reactions:

  1. Ghee: Ghee, also called clarified butter, is pure milk fat. Milk fat has virtually no milk proteins or lactose so is generally well tolerated by most people, even those with allergy to other dairy products. It is easy to make at home (recipe will follow). Store bought ghee has preservatives so it is not recommended. Ghee has a lot of nutrients and can be used for cooking/baking. Some people with severe dairy allergy cannot tolerate it so they have to avoid it.  These people might be able to introduce it in the second stage of the diet, after doing a sensitivity test.
  2. Butter: After ghee, the first dairy to introduce is butter. It should be organic as non-organic has pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Sensitive individuals should introduce it after 6 weeks in the diet. A sensitivity test will indicate if the person is ready for it. The butter should also be unsalted, many salted products have flow agents and additives.
  3. Yogurt and sour cream:  After ghee and butter, approximately 6-12 weeks,  protein containing lactose-free milk products like yoghurt and sour cream can be introduced. The yogurt Dr. Natasha is referring to is homemade yogurt and sour cream (cream fermented with yogurt culture). Both should be started slowly, one teaspoon a day, and build up from there until you can have 1-2 cups. Never rush through it . Each person is different so it should be introduced very slowly, one at a time and just a tiny amount, watching for reactions. Any kind of reaction will mean the person is not ready. The reactions are also very personal, each of us will react a particular way.
  4. Kefir: Once you can tolerate both yogurt and sour cream, you can start on kefir, doing a sensitivity test first. Kefir is similar to yoghurt but has a different combination of yeasts and bacteria. The only difference is that kefir might cause more die off reactions than yogurt. You should continue with the yogurt and sour cream.
  5. Cheese: Once all these, yogurt, sour cream and kefir are well introduced, natural organic cheese can be introduced (cheddar and parmesan, etc). The cheeses can be more problematic than the other foods because they contain very concentrated milk protein. This means they also should be introduced slowly, one cheese at a time and only one mouthful per day, watching for reactions.
  6. Live yogurt: After all these foods have been introduced, commercial live natural yogurt, sour cream and creme fraiche can be introduced.

Ghee recipe

To make homemade ghee, preheat oven to 140-250 F (60-120 C), put a big block of organic salt-free butter on a pan and keep it in oven for 45-60 minutes. Take it out and carefully pour the golden fat from the top (ghee) in a glass jar and discard the white liquid, refrigerate. In some varieties of butter the white liquid accumulates on the top, so it can be refrigerated and the ghee will solidify so the liquid can be poured out and the ghee wiped out with a paper towel.

This ghee can also be done with goose or duck fat, just cook the birds as usual and collect the fact. This fat can be used for all cooking, baking and frying. The same for beef, pork or lamb, specially the internal fat layer of the animals. In all cases the animals should be antibiotic free.

So, what’s for dinner?

The only carbohydrates allowed are mono-sugars: fruit and non-starch vegetables. All complex carbs: grains and starchy vegetables have to be excluded, no exceptions!

Pathogens will make the person crave processed carbohydrates. Instead of wheat flour, nut flours can be ground up and used.

For recipes Dr. Natasha recommends these websites: www.gaps.me, www.scdiet.org, www.breakingtheviciouscycle.com, www.geocities.com, www.pecanbread.com and www.uclbs.org

The recommended foods in the GAPS diet are:

1. Meats and fish: Meats, game, organ meats, poultry, fish and shellfish. They all have the highest concentration of vitamins, aminoacids, fats, minerals, etc. Many vitamin charts show grains providing all the vitamins, but this is misleading according to Dr. Natasha because grains are hard to digest. Meats, on the contrary, have more vitamins than grains: B 1, B 2, B 3, B 5, B 6, B 12, biotin, folic acid and vitamin A are all found in liver, heart, kidneys, eggs, milk, poultry and butter. Real vitamin A can only be found in animal products, carotenoids, found in carrots have to be converted to the activated form of vitamin A. The problem is that many of us are unable to make this conversion because of disease or toxicity. If you don’t consume animal foods you can develop impaired immunity, eye problems, and impaired learning and development.

Folic acid is specially important for pregnant women, this is why traditional cultures made sure women age enough liver. It is easy for the human digestive system to extract nutrients from animal foods. The best sources of vitamin K 2 are organ meats, butter and cream, full fat cheese, animal fats and egg yolks. K 2 is essential for calcium metabolism, its deficiency leads to calcium deposition in soft tissue and inflammation while bones and teeth don’t get enough. Our own gut flora make vitamin K 2. Also, fermented foods provide K 2, natto being the highest plant source of K 2.

When it comes to the combination of foods, fruit should not be eaten with meat of fish, except for avocado, as it interferes with the digestion of meats. Vegetables are the perfect companion for meats and/or fish. After digesting meat and fish our body accumulates acids, and alkaline after digesting vegetables, so these two balance each other well. Dr. Natasha recommends to buy meats that are fresh or frozen, not preserved, these have lots of additives (E numbers, preservatives, starches, sugar, too much salt, lactose, etc) which will not allow the digestive system to heal. She does not recommend any commercial seasoning or sausage mix either or MSG.

Meat, bone and fish stock are a wonderful nutritional and digestive remedy. As you cook these in water a lot of nutrients get extracted into the water. Meats cooked in water are easier to digest for a person with sensitive digestive system. Avoid lean meats, the human digestive system is built to eat meat with fat, collagen, skin. Fish should be descaled before cooking. Dr. Natasha also stresses that all stock granules and cubes have to be avoided.

Eggs

Eggs are one of the most nourishing and easy to digest foods there is. Raw egg yolk has been compared to human breast milk because it can be absorbed almost 100% without needing digestion. It also provides most essential aminoacids, vitamins (B 1, B 2, B 6, B 12, A, D, biotin, essential fatty acids, zinc, magnesium, B 12 , choline, specially when uncooked, etc. Choline is present mostly in the yolk, particularly, it is an essential amino acid essential for the nervous system and the liver. It is a building block for the neuro-transmitter acethylcholine used by the brain for cognitive, memory as well as other functions. Choline is prescribed for people with liver problems.

Despite all this wonderful nutritional value, eggs have received very bad press because of their cholesterol content. However, there has been a number of studies proving that people who consume eggs show a lower percentage of heart disease and arteriosclerosis.

We have talked extensively about cholesterol but it would be prudent to remember that 85% of cholesterol in our body doesn’t come from food but it is produced in the liver in response to a diet high in processed carbs and sugar. The best way to lower cholesterol would be to reduce the consumption of these two, not cholesterol.

Another concern regarding eggs is salmonella, however, according to Dr Natasha salmonella is only a concern when eggs come from infected hens. Free-range  organically reared hens are less likely to have salmonella because they have a healthier immune system, they are not fed antibiotics or chemicals and are exposed to fresh air and sun. According to the ‘National Egg Marketing Board’ around one in every 7,000 eggs may have Salmonella. This number corresponds to battery eggs laid by hens in cages.

What is more, raw eggs have more nutrition than cooked eggs, but if you are concerned about a possible contamination you can cook them cooking to destroy the salmonella.

When it comes to allergies, the part of the egg we are potentially allergic to is the egg white because they contain very complex proteins and antigens. Egg yolks contain single amino acids that virtually need no digestion. If you suspect an egg allergy you can do a sensitivity test, testing egg yolks and whites separately. For this, take a drop of egg yolk and place it on the inside of the wrist at bedtime, let the drop dry on your skin and go to sleep. In the morning, check the spot, if there is an itchy red reaction that means there is an allergy to eggs. If this is the case Dr. Natasha recommends to avoid egg whites for weeks and then retest until you see no reaction. Do the same for egg yolks on a different night .

Dr Natasha recommends eggs as part of a healthy diet, from 4-8 a day raw or lightly cooked with or without whites.

Non-starch fresh vegetables

In this category we can find the following: Artichoke, beets, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, cucumber, celery, green beans, eggplant, garlic, onions, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, parsley, green peas, peppers (all colors), pumpkin, runner beans, squash, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, watercress. They can be frozen or fresh as long as they do not have any sugar or anything else added. If diarrhea is present all vegetables should be peeled, deseeded and cooked until it clears, then raw vegetables can be slowly be introduced with meals or as snacks. Organic vegetables are better since a sensitive digestive system will react to pesticides and other chemicals present in non-organic vegetables. Some people are sensitive to the nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant and peppers). Dr. Natasha recommends to avoid these until the introduction diet has been introduced, then they can be consumed slowly and one at a time.

Fruit including berries

Fruit can be consumed in moderation, but always away from meats because it interferes with the digestion of meats, except for lemons, avocado and sour apples. All fruit should be ripe, as unripe fruit has too much starch. All berries are wonderful powerhouses of nutrition, but need to be avoided if diarrhea is present.

Nuts and seeds

Both are very nourishing, rich in minerals, amino acids and fats: magnesium, selenium, zinc, omega 3 and 6 all of which are important for the heart. Research shows that people who regularly consume nuts and seeds have lower rates of heart disease, cancer, etc.

Nuts and seeds should be bought in their shells or freshly shelled, never roasted, salted, coated or processed in any way. Peanut allergies are an issue but Dr. Natasha asserts they are caused by contamination with molds and their toxins. To avoid this they should be of good quality.

If diarrhea is present nuts and seeds are quite fibrous so they should be avoided until it clears. Both can be ground up and turned into a flour. They can also be sprouted by soaking them in water for 12 hours. Sprouting increases their nutritional value and are easier to digest because of the high content of enzymes sprouting produces. Sprouting also takes care of the enzyme inhibitors known as phytic acid that all seeds naturally contain and which could be a problem for some people.

Beans and pulses

White navy beans, lima beans, string beans, lentils and split peas are all allowed for people with digestive problems. All other beans are too starchy. Before cooking, dry beans should be soaked at least 12 hours, then drained and rinsed  under running water to remove lectins and starches. Beans, lentils and other legumes are generally very hard to digest as they contain many anti-nutrients such as phytic acid, lectins, enzyme inhibitors and starches. This is why they should be introduced slowly and fermented at first. For this, they need to be soaked for 12 hours minimum, rinsed then cover them with water and whey (2 cups of water with 1/2 cup of whey) and leave them to ferment for 4-5 days at room temperature.

Honey  

Cold pressed natural honey is allowed with moderation. However, in the case of candida, all sweets including honey should be excluded. Many honey producers heat up the honey to speed up the process of extraction but this damages the microelements in the honey. Honey is sweeter than table sugar and contains two monosaccharides: fructose and glucose, which are easy to digest.

Honey used to be the only sweetener used before the introduction of sugar in the 17th century, with it came all the health related problems of our modern era. Honey is far more natural for our bodies than sugar and has a lot of health benefits: it works as an antiseptic, it has vitamins, minerals and aminoacids as well as other bio-active substances depending on the flower it came from. Traditionally honey has been used to treat digestive disorders, chest and throat, arthritis, anemia, insomnia, headaches, etc. It can be applied topically to wounds , eczema, skin rashes as well.

Beverages

Best drinks are water, freshly pressed juices and meat/fish stock. Herbal teas are allowed as long as they are made from fresh single herbs not commercial tea bags. Freshly made ginger tea is a good digestive.

Water should not be chlorinated, tap water is usually always so. Chlorine damages the gut flora so it is best to drink mineral or filtered water. It is a very good habit to start the day with a glass of water on an empty stomach. Some freshly squeezed lemon juice or apple cider vinegar added will improve the benefits of the water. Water can be drunk during the day, around 1 or 1/2 a gallon but not during meals as it could interfere with digestion. With meals it is best to drink homemade meat stock as it stimulates the production of digestive juices in the stomach.

Freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juices are highly recommended, specially vegetable juices as too much fruit can upset our blood sugar. Homemade fresh organic vegetable juices will help detoxification and the liver.

Commercially produced vegetable juices are pasteurized so they are not recommended. Soft drinks should be avoided completely.

Fats and oils

We have looked in depth at fats in previous blog, but let us just remember some basics about fats.

All the fats present in meats contain great nutrition to heal the gut, the nervous and the immune system. They are the best to cook with because cooking doesn’t change their chemical structure when heated as opposed to cooking oils that turn into dangerous trans fatty acids.  Dr. Natasha doesn’t recommend any of the commercial oils for cooking, except ghee and butter, which are also good for cooking as well as non-hydrogenated coconut oil. Cooking with virgin cold pressed olive oil destroys the nutrients and turns unsaturated into trans fats.

Other cold pressed oils like flax seed, evening primrose oil and avocado should not be used for cooking. All margarines and butter replacements and all other artificial fats should be avoided entirely.

Salt

Whole sea salt contains all the minerals and trace elements the body is made out of, so in its natural state salt is not only good for us, it is essential. Table salt is far from this natural salt. Dr. Natasha describes it as a ‘villain’ because it upsets the balance of minerals in our body. Our body, she explains, is made to receive sodium chloride together with all the other minerals and trace elements present in natural salt. Pure sodium chloride alone pulls water to itself causing water retention, edema, high blood pressure and poor circulation. As the body tries to get rid of excess sodium chloride harmful acids and gallbladder and kidney stones are formed. Excess sodium chloride also causes the other minerals  and trace elements to get out of balance: potassium , calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese, etc affecting the heart. Natural salt is just as fundamental to our body as water is. Himalayan crystal salt or unprocessed sea salt (celtic sea salt) are great options.

Summing up, diet should take into account digestion and absorption as well as support the healing of our digestive system. This is accomplished by introducing foods that build up our stomach lining and minimize inflammation. In our next blog, we will study how supplementation is critical for an anti-inflammatory diet.

Thank you for reading.

References:

(1) http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.html?_r=0&referer

(2) www.realmilk.com

Supplementation

02 Oct 2016 no comments HAB Extract

In our previous blog we looked at how the anti-inflammatory diet can help us. Of great importance as well is how supplementation can support the healing benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet. According to Dr. Natasha when it comes to digestive disorders we have to be very careful what we introduce into the gut of the patient, because a lot of supplements may irritate an already inflamed gut lining and interfere with the healing process. However, some supplements can be very beneficial and some are essential. The supplementation protocol she recommends consists of:

  1. An effective therapeutic strength probiotic
  2. Essential fatty acids
  3. Cod liver oil
  4. Digestive enzymes
  5. Vitamin and mineral supplements

In this blog we will look at how to choose the right probiotic. We will also see how the ‘Healthy Heart Club’ products are the perfect companion for the diet outlined by Dr. Natasha, as they all support digestion, and have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Probiotics

Probiotics are an important part of getting our gut health back in order. The problem is that there are so many products in the market, it can be confusing. Many probiotics in the market are not strong enough. In other cases, the labels can even be misleading, so how do we choose the right probiotic? Dr. Natasha explains that a good probiotic has to include all of the following:
1. It has a mixture of strains from different groups of probiotic bacteria rather than just one group.  A good product should contain some of the following:

a. Lactobacilli: members of this family are L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. rhamnosus, L. plantarum, L. salivarus, L. reuteri, L. johnsonii, L. casei and L. delbrueskii. They are the most numerous inhabitants of the stomach and intestines, they allow cell renewal process in the gut, keeping the gut lining healthy and intact.

b. Bifidobacteria. The most common belonging to this family are B. bifidum, B. breve, B. longum and binfantis, although there are around 30 different species identified. In the human gut these are seven times more numerous than lactobacilli. They are important because they synthesize amino acids, proteins, organic acids, vitamin K, B 5, B 1, B 2, B 3, folic acid, B 6, B 12, assist in calcium, iron and vitamin D absorption. They are the second most numerous family of bacteria found in probiotic supplements, after lactobacilli.

c. Saccharomyces boulardii. This yeast is effective in treating diarrhea in children and adults. Recently there has been a lot of interest in this yeast to treat candida.

d. Escheridia coli or E. coli. This is a large family, the pathogenic members of this family can cause serious infections, however, physiological strains of E. coli are normal and numerous in the healthy human gut. They are found in the bowel and lower parts of the intestines, but if they are found in the mouth, stomach and duodenum that indicates an abnormality of gut ecology (gut dysbiosis). E. coli digests lactose, makes K and B vitamins and amino acids, produces antibiotic-like substances called colicins and improves immunity. E. coli is very active against pathogenic microbes including pathogenic e. coli. A product called ‘Mutaflor’ contains this bacteria.

e. Enterococcus faecium or Streptococcus faecalis. They live in the bowel where they control pathogens by producing hydrogen peroxide and reducing pH to 5.5. They break down proteins and ferment carbohydrates. There are studies showing they are effective against diarrhea, they are quite common in supplements.

f. Bacillus Subtilis or soil bacteria. This bacteria is resistant to stomach acid, most antibiotics, temperature changes, etc. It is specially effective for allergies and immune disorders. It produces a whole host of digestive enzymes, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, etc. This bacteria doesn’t stay in the gut but passes through it doing a lot of work. Humans used to get these ‘transitional’ bacteria when we drank from wells and streams. In Dr. Natasha’s opinion, probiotics that contain soil bacteria are the most effective probiotics in the market.

2. One that has at least 8 billion units of bacterial cells per gram.

3. One that the manufacturer has tested for strength and bacterial composition and even  published the results of testing.

Once you find it, you need to know how to use it. A good one will always produce a ‘die-off reaction’. What is that? As you introduce probiotic bacteria they start destroying pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi. When these pathogens die, they release toxins, the very toxins that made us sick. Consequently, symptoms may get worse temporarily. You may also feel more tired, ‘off-color’, or develop a skin rash. This is all temporary and can last a few days or weeks. To make this as mild as possible, she recommends to build the intake of probiotics as slowly as possible. If in the first dose no reaction is seen, the dose can be increased until reactions appear, when this happens, she recommends to stay on this dose until die-off symptoms disappear. Then increase the dose again until a therapeutic level is reached. This process of building up the dose can take from weeks to months depending on the patient. It is very individual and depends on how much overgrowth of pathogenic microbes the person has in the gut.

A healthcare professional can be consulted about this. There is an increasing number of GAPS practitioners who can be found in her website www.gaps.me

Some guidelines for dosing are:

Adults should have around 15-20 billion of bacterial cells per day.

Infants up to 12 months: 1-2 billion/day.

A toddler (1-2 years old): 2-4 billion/day.

Child (2-4 years old): 4-8 billion/day.

Child (4-10 years old): 8-12 billion/day.

For ages 12-16 the dosage should be 12-15 billion/day.

Once the patient has reached this therapeutic dose, he should keep it for 6 months average. This is how long it takes to remove the pathogenic flora and how long it takes to start re-establishing normal gut flora. Adhering to the GAPS diet is absolutely necessary in this period. Feeding the pathogens in the gut with sugar and processed carbohydrates will prevent the probiotic from having any effect.

After the therapeutic dose period is over, the probiotic dose can be reduced to maintenance dose level, and be kept there for years. It is important to reduce the dose as gradually as you have been increasing it and observe any reactions in this period. Maintenance dose is very individual, usually it is half of the therapeutic dose. But in some cases the maintenance dose is the same as the therapeutic.

Some people are concerned about stomach acid destroying the probiotic. Dr. Natasha recommends to take them with food or after eating, because then stomach acid is bound to food particles. She doesn’t recommend enteric coating probiotic products because the stomach also needs these probiotics. In cases of low stomach acid, there are lots of pathogens growing so the probiotics are needed there. Also, some patients have problems breaking up these enteric coating and these probiotic pass through the entire digestive system without being absorbed at all. Dr. Natasha asserts that even if some probiotic strains are killed by stomach acid, even dead they will do a lot of good in our gut: the cell walls of our digestive system can stimulate immune responses and absorb toxins, removing them from the body.

In conclusion, probiotics are absolutely vital for treating any digestive condition. In conjunction with diet, probiotics provide a great deal of improvement. A great amount of new research points to their role in improved immune function. They are said to “ ‘chat’ with the immune system part of the gut (epithelial cells, Peyer’s patches M cells, and immune cells) encouraging them to have a response to pathogens and to contribute to the mucosal barrier, among other beneficial activities.” (1)

The immune boosting power of garlic 

Nobody can deny the healing properties of garlic, it has been used for millennia for its many benefits. According to Dr. David Jockers garlic is ‘one of nature’s natural anti-biotics. Due to the powerful sulfur containing nutrients and immune stimulators within garlic it is classified as a superfood herb. Consumption of garlic daily may be one of the best defense’s against infection and inflammatory based disease’.

Garlic has several healthy benefits:

  1. Antimicrobial: antiprotozoal, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral.
  2. Antioxidant.
  3. Anticarcinogenic and antimutagenic properties.
  4. In the cardiovascular system garlic is works well for high cholesterol, thrombosis, high homocysteine and high blood pressure.
  5. Other healthy benefits are as a prebiotic and immuno-modulatory.

Because of all these properties, garlic is a great addition to an anti-inflammatory diet. Dr. Natasha recommends cooking with it, as we have seen. For the purpose of today’s topic we will say garlic’s most notable benefit is in strengthening the immune system. In this sense, ” Garlic is one of nature’s most powerful immune boosting secrets. Garlic contains over 100 biologically active components including alliin, allicin, alliinase and unique sulfur compounds.” More specifically, “Researchers have found garlic to be more powerful at destroying pathogenic bacteria than the popular anti-biotics penicillin and tetracycline. It is also very effective against viruses and yeasts like candida” (2)

The role of ginger

Of equal importance is ginger. Ginger is ‘rich in anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties…(it) boosts immunity, improves digestion, relieves pain, and treats asthma and cardiovascular disease. Ginger is also known as a powerful remedy for infections and liver cleansing.” (3). Because of all these properties, ginger is also a great addition to our anti-inflammatory, immune boosting and digestive enhancing protocol.

The “Heart and Body Extract” contains both ginger and garlic synergistically blended to increase its other’s health benefits. Ginger is also an active ingredient in the “Kidney/Bladder extract” and the “Gland Extract” from contains papaya, which also aids in digestion.

Summing up, we have seen the importance of an anti-inflammatory diet for improved immunity and absorption of nutrients. Supplements like probiotics and the products from the “Healthy Hearts Club” are the perfect addition.

Thank you for reading.

References:

(1) http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/probiotic-strains-matched-by-health-problem/

(2) http://drjockers.com/the-immune-boosting-power-of-garlic/

(3) http://mrhealthguide.com/2016/09/25/ginger-tea-dissolves-kidney-stones-cleanses-liver-kills-cancer-cells-recipe/

The gut-brain-heart connection

30 Aug 2016 no comments HAB Extract

We have seen how the health of the microbiome is essential for digestion, absorption and immunity. Of great importance also is how the health of our good bacteria works to help us handle stress. Because stress can affect our heart directly, I would like to call it the ‘gut-brain-heart connection’. Here we will look at how this universe of bacteria living in our gut can affect how neurotransmitters are manufactured in the body. We will also look at how we can improve this connection using herbs, like the ones in the ‘Healthy Hearts Club’ products.

The microbiome and GABA

According to Dr. Jockers, our gut microbiome plays an important role in the production of the inhibitory and brain relaxing neurotransmitter GABA (Gamma-AminoButyric Acid): “There is a growing body of research linking the gut microbiome to neurological health. Research has shown that breakdown of the intestinal lining along with low levels of good microbial inhabitants such as lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are linked with lower GABA levels, increased brain excitability and neurological inflammation. These microbes are essential for B 6 absorption and activation, which is the critical cofactor in the conversion from the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate into GABA. Without adequate activated B 6, we end up with glutamate excitotoxicity and increased risk of anxiety, seizures, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s.”

According to his research, the way this chained-conversion process happens is as follows:

The amino acid L-glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in the body, is first converted to glutamic acid or glutamate. Glutamate is then converted to GABA by means of the activated form of vitamin B 6 (pyridoxal-5-phosphate, or P5P). It is the good bacteria that activate B 6.

Additionally, other amino acids and minerals help in the GABA conversion process. The amino acid taurine increases the communication and productivity of P5P and promotes the production of GABA. There are studies that have shown that a deficiency of taurine can result in anxiety. Zinc also enhances the release of GABA by working to help activate P5P. Both B 6 and zinc are also essential to the production and utilization of other neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine and histamine. In addition, magnesium is important for binding and activating GABA receptors. Without adequate magnesium, we are unable to effectively activate GABA receptors and utilize GABA effectively. Magnesium deficiency is extremely common with over 80% of women and 70% of men suffering with this and thus supplementation for most will dramatically impact GABA activity.

GABA also converts serotonin into N-Acetylserotonin which is then turned into the sleep hormone melatonin, which also plays a huge role in the body’s immune function.

Because of the relaxing effects of GABA, it makes sense, in my opinion, to improve our gut-brain connection for better heart health, specially as there are many factors that compromise our GABA production.

Factors that lower GABA

According to Dr. Jockers, there are many factors that lower GABA production in the body. Among some of the most significant we can find:

Stress: “Chronic stress will increase the levels of cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain and body. This also shunts the body into producing more excitatory glutamate and reduces GABA production. Too much glutamate in the brain causes over-excitation of the brain cells. In addition, the increase in stress hormones ramps up cellular activity and causes excessive production of free radicals which damage brain cells and further reduce normal GABA production. Overtime, when an individual is in a long-term, highly stressful condition, they rewire their brain cells and have a functional deficit in GABA production.”

Lack of sleep: “Lack of quality sleep is a chronic stressor on the body and increases stress hormone production…several poor nights of sleep in a row can lead to… a deficit in GABA production.”

Poor blood sugar control: It is not only a stressor for the heart as we have seen, but it is also according to Dr. Jockers “a significant stressor in the brain and disrupts the Blood Brain Barrier, which is designed to protect the brain from oxidative stress, infectious microbes, toxic debris and chronic inflammation. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, causes a partial starvation of the brain tissue, which increases stress hormones and opens up the BBB for more nutrients to cross over. This also allows more toxins and free radicals to effect brain tissue causing elevated stress hormones and glutamate release. Additionally, high blood sugar causes insulin resistance in the brain and a functional starvation where there is enough glucose but we cannot get it into the brain to be used. In this case, it leads to opening the BBB and excessive oxidative damage to the brain with elevated stress hormones and glutamate release.” (1)

Making enough GABA 

Dr. Jockers recommends several ways to improve the production of GABA. First of all, he recommends to improve the Microbiome by consuming fermented foods, anti-microbial and carminative herbs such as garlic, onions, cayenne, oregano, basil, thyme, peppermint, ginger, etc. to help improve the overall constitution of the gut microbes.

He explains that carminative herbs can act as a bowel cleanser in different ways:

By stimulating bile flow and thereby improving fat digestion: Compounds within the oils are broken down which promote the movement of bile substances such as bile salts to move from the liver, into the bile duct, and then into the intestines. What material is not excreted as feces will be recycled.

By reducing surface tension within the intestines: Oxygenated compounds in the herbs, like terpenes, increase in activity and small water bubbles are combined to form larger water droplets. Naturally, this also decreases abdominal pain.

Exhibiting an anti-foaming action: Compounds in these herbs lower the content of CO 2 bubbles created by gut bacteria by binding smaller bubbles together into larger bubbles. These gas pockets are then expelled more readily from the intestines reducing gas discomfort.

Therapeutic Uses of Carminatives

According to Dr. Jockers carminative herbs display various chemical profiles that are used to treat an array of digestive discomfort:

Antimicrobial: Many of the herbs are characterized by antimicrobial properties can heal the gut microflora and destroy harmful bacteria.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: “Clinical studies have shown that oils extracted from these herbs can treat symptoms of IBS. Peppermint oil in particular releases a strong menthol odor which significantly can increase gastric flow and prevent against stagnation associated with constipation.”

Relieves Symptoms of Nausea: Carminative herbs have been shown to treat nausea resulting from both motion and morning sickness. Some of these types of herbs are anise seed, ginger, cardamom and peppermint.

Reduce Need for Medication: “Extraction methods using a steam distillation process allows some of these carminative herbs to have very strong volatile oils. One study showed that essential oil blends of ginger, peppermint, and cardamom have the potential to treat conditions aromatically. Patients in this study who inhaled the oil blends felt less need to consume medicine prescribed to treat symptoms of nausea following an operation.”

Treat pain from cramping and gas: Spices like cardamom and peppermint can effective numb the stomach and intestinal nerves which lead to pain from cramping and gas.

Diuretic: Sweet fennel is a great source of trace elements and a source for calcium and magnesium essential for overall health and development. This herb functions as a diuretic and is effective and safe in children and pregnant women. (2)

Ginger Enhances Digestion

According to Dr. Jockers, apart from all these benefits, ginger in particular has special digestive properties that are worth taking into account. Ginger is considered a superfood because it has “a unique concentration of nutrients that synergize together to boost potential.”, including “critical fatty acids, anti-oxidant phytonutrients and essential amino acids.” Almost every culture has historically used it for its powerful ability to enhance immunity, improve digestion and reduce inflammation.

Ginger “is 13th on the anti-oxidant list boasting an impressive ORAC score of 28,811. Ginger is composed of several volatile oils that give it it’s characteristic flavor and odor; zingerone, shogaols, & gingerols. These oils are powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic agents. In addition, it inhibits cancer cell formation while firing up our body’s own inborn ability to destroy the cancer cells formerly present.”

In addition, Dr. Jockers asserts that ginger “has classically been used to improve the digestive process. Nine different substances have been found that stimulate serotonin receptors in the gut which provides benefits to the gastrointestinal system. This reduces gut related inflammation and enhances nutrient absorption. Ginger is classified as a carminative (reducing intestinal gas) and an intestinal spasmolytic (soothes intestinal tract) while inducing gut motility. Ginger is known to reduce fever related nausea, motion sickness… Additionally, it helps aid in the production of bile, making it particularly helpful in digesting fats.”

Ginger helps stimulate digestive juices such as hydrochloric acid from the stomach and bile from the liver and gall bladder. This is why it is good to have ginger on or with your largest meals of the day.

Ginger Provides Pain Relief

According to Dr. Jockers “Ginger is also an important part of a de-inflaming, natural pain-relief program. One compound called 6-gingerol has been shown to significantly inhibit the production of a highly reactive nitrogen molecule, nitric oxide, that quickly forms a dangerous free radical peroxynitrite”. Additionally, ginger helps to protect the bodies stores of glutathione (the super anti-oxidant and free radical destroyer). Due to its effect on glutathione and nitric oxide, ginger has been shown to protect the brain and nervous system from degenerative stress. Ginger is also very high in potassium which aids in electrical energy production and detoxification. It is a great source of manganese which protects the lining of the heart blood vessels and urinary tract. Ginger contains silicon which enhances skin, hair, teeth & nails. It helps assimilate calcium and reduces inflammation in the bone tissue aiding the development of strong bones and teeth.”

Dr. Jockers recommends to use ginger on a regular basis in teas, fresh or in detox products that have ginger as part of a liver detoxification, a digestive program and other excellent health benefits. (3)

Similarly, microbiologist and scientist Karina Pokusaeva, Ph D, in her article ‘Probiotics vs antibiotics or prevention vs treatment’ suggests to use garlic as a pre-biotic to ‘promote growth of good bacteria in (y)our gut’ (4)

How our products can help

The products from ‘Healthy Hearts Club’ are a wonderful combination of herbs that work together to help with digestion, detoxification and the immune system. The ‘Gland Extract’ , for example, contains papaya that helps digestion and cayenne. Cayenne has been found to “increase metabolism, peristalsis and digestion while helping with the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats. Cayenne may be beneficial where there is a lack of function in the stomach or the intestines with poor appetite and weak digestion. As a carminative, Cayenne may be beneficial in helping to relieve gas and bloating or cramping of the stomach and bowels.” (5)

It also contains red clover, which is a great blood purifier. The ‘Female Balance Extract’ contains B vitamins which provide nutrition and build the immune system. The ‘Gentleman Extract’ also contains cayenne. The “Ginseng Extract’ contains echinacia to strengthen the immune system, red clover, Oregon grape and burdock root that purify the blood. The ‘Heart and Body Extract’ contains garlic, ginger and cayenne, making it a great product not only for the heart but for digestion as well as we have seen.

In conclusion, our digestive system is the cradle of our immunity. Not only it allows us to obtain nutrients from our food, but it also hosts the microbiome, the workers that protect us from disease.

Thank you for reading.

References:

(1) http://drjockers.com/is-your-brain-making-enough-gaba/

(2) http://drjockers.com/7-reasons-to-use-carminative-herbs/

(3) http://drjockers.com/10-ways-ginger-enhances-digestion/

(4) https://mygutmatters.com/2016/08/06/probiotics-vs-antibiotics-or-prevention-vs-treatment/

(5) https://thefamilyherbalist.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/the-power-of-cayenne/

Our immune system: the body’s healing and defense mechanism

30 Aug 2016 no comments HAB Extract

Good digestion is an essential part of heart health, it helps us absorb nutrients that are important for our heart. If you are using the products from the ‘Healthy Hearts Club’, you may have noticed that they go right to work without requiring much digestion. This is important since digestive disorders and compromised immunity are becoming an increasing health challenge. In particular, it is the health of the universe of bacteria that live in our gut, known as microbiome, that is essential for digestion, absorption of nutrients and immunity. Healthy gut flora digests protein, ferments carbs, breaks down lipids and fiber. On the other hand, unhealthy gut flora compromises digestion, immunity and determines our food choices. If you think you are in control when it comes to food, it may surprise you to learn that the bacteria that live in your gut is choosing your menu for you.

In a recent article from the New York Times titled ‘Educate your immune system’ the author, Moises Velasquez-Manoff, asserts: “In the last half-century, the prevalence of autoimmune diseases — disorders in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the body — has increased sharply in the developed world. An estimated one in 13 Americans has one of these often debilitating, generally lifelong conditions….Many researchers are interested in how the human microbiome — the community of microbes that live mostly in the gut and are thought to calibrate our immune systems — may have contributed to the rise of these disorders.” The author quotes a study done by a team of scientists who began following 33 newborns genetically at risk of developing Type 1 diabetes, a condition in which the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. “After three years, four of the children developed the condition. The scientists had periodically sampled the children’s microbes, and when they looked back at this record, they discovered that the microbiome of children who developed the disease changed in predictable ways nearly a year before the disease appeared. Diversity had declined and inflammatory microbes bloomed.” (1)

This very interesting research points the role the microbiome has in our health, and confirms what Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride concludes with her research: “We carry most of our future health problems right in our gut from birth”. Her work as a neurologist and nutritionist proves that it is the universe of bacteria that live in our gut that comprises our immune system almost in its entirety. According to her, the microbiome makes up 90% of who we are and it is the health of these bacteria that determine our immunity.

Do you experience uncontrollable cravings for some not so healthy foods? Or do you feel rapid heartbeat after eating certain foods? It might be that your gut bacteria is out of balance. How would you like to supercharge your heart health by improving your immunity? In what follows we will focus on the latest research on gut health as explained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, MMedSci (neurology), MMedSci (nutrition). In the revised and expanded edition of her classic book ‘Gut and Psychology Syndrome’ she shares her knowledge about what we could consider the foundation of our health, the gut. After her son was diagnosed with autism, and not being able to find answers in her field of expertise, neurology, she decided to continue her education in human nutrition. This is when she learned how several factors have contributed to the decline of immune health in the general population.

Where does our immune system start?

According to Dr. Natasha it all starts at the moment of birth. As a baby passes through the birth canal, his skin, eyes, mucous membranes in the mouth and nose acquire their first micro-flora from the mother’s gut (mainly the lactobacillus, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus casei and lactobacillus fermentum). Since a baby is born with an immature immune system, this is crucial for the child’s immunity. This, together with breast milk provides the child with the immunity needed for the rest of his life. As the baby is breast fed, his digestive tract is populated with healthy bacterial flora from the mother. This plays a crucial role in the maturation of their immune system to such extent that if this doesn’t happen in the first twenty days after being born, the baby will be left immune-compromised for life according to Dr. Natasha.

This is how our immune system is supposed to become strong from birth. However, in her research she has found that in just the last few generations the health of our gut bacteria has been dramatically affected, causing an alarming increase in the cases of autism, learning and behavioral disorders in children and adults as well as psychiatric conditions, due to what she calls ‘the gut-brain connection’. In particular, the last few generations of women have experienced a greatly altered microbiome due to several factors. This change in the mothers’ gut bacteria has had a cumulative effect resulting in the current generation of women with a high percentage of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Children born to these women have acquired the pathogenic bacteria present in the mother. This is in her opinion what explains the alarming increase in the cases of autism in the last decades that have gone from 1 in every 10,000 kids a few years ago to 1 in every 150 kids, both in the UK and the USA. In her clinic, where she treats these children she often finds other symptoms overlap with autism: ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, behavioral and learning problems, allergies, asthma, eczema. All of these are also reaching epidemic proportions. What do all these conditions have in common? According to her research, the health of the gut. It is possible, according to her, to turn each of these conditions around by detoxifying the child’s gut and allowing it to heal. In her clinic she has seen autistic kids start talking for the first time after a course of colonics. She coined the term ‘GAPS’ to refer to her patients, which stands for ‘Gut And Psychology Syndrome’ and which we will use here often.

What factors have contributed to the decline in our beneficial bacteria?

In the world we live in, it is almost impossible to keep our gut flora healthy. We all face attacks on our gut flora on a daily basis:

1. Antibiotics: Probably one of the most commonly prescribed medications in our modern world. We are exposed to them not only through medication but also through foods. Farm animals and poultry, farmed fish and shellfish  are routinely given antibiotics so we get them when we eat these animals, plus the antibiotic resistant bacteria these animals produce in their bodies and the toxins these bacteria produce.

Research on antibiotics shows evidence that:

They have a devastating effect on human gut flora, as well as other organs.

Antibiotics change bacteria, viruses and fungi, from beneficial to pathogenic giving them the opportunity to invade organs and cause disease.

They make bacteria resistant to antibiotics. This translates into stronger antibiotics being needed and a new resistance to the these antibiotics.

Antibiotics have a direct damaging effect on the immune system, making us more vulnerable to infections, all of which leads to a vicious cycle.

What antibiotics do to the gut

When antibiotics are used on a high dose, they leave the gut with a lot of empty nitches to be populated by whatever bacteria, viruses or fungi get there first. This is a crucial time to administer a good probiotic to make sure that these niches get populated by friendly bacteria instead of pathogenic ones. Even when antibiotics are used for a short time and at a low dose it takes beneficial bacteria in the gut a long time to recover. E.coli takes 1-2 weeks, bifidobacteria and veillonelli 2-3 weeks, bacteroids and peptostreptococci 1 month. If in this period gut flora is subjected to another damaging factor gut dysbiosis may well start in earnest. Antibiotics have a deeper negative impact in children, breast feeding babies can get them through the breast milk if the mother is taking them. Combinations of antibiotic have stronger damaging effects on the gut flora than single drugs. Damage is worse when administered orally and for a long time on a low dose like the ones for acne or chronic conditions.

Among the most problematic we can find:

Penicillins: and all the ones that end with ‘cillin”. These damage two strains of good bacteria, the lactobacilli and bifidobacteria and allow the growth of the pathogenic proteus family, streptococci and staphylococci. These antibiotics allow bacteria only found in the bowel to move up the intestines, which predisposes the person for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and other digestive problems.

Tetracyclines: and all the ones ending in ‘cyclines’, usually prescribed for acne. They have a toxic effect on the gut wall by altering protein structure in many membranes. This does two things: makes the gut vulnerable to invasion by pathogenic microbes and alerts the immune system to attack these changed proteins, starting an auto-immune reaction in the body against its own gut. The cyclines stimulate the growth of the candida fungus, staphylococci and clostridia in the digestive tract.

Amino glycosides: Gentamycin, Kanamycin, Erythromycin and other ‘mycins’. These drugs have a devastating effect on colonies of beneficial bacteria in the gut such as physiological E. coli and Enterococci. A prolonged course of treatment can completely eliminate these bacteria from the digestive system, leaving it open to invasion by pathogenic species of E. coli and other microbes.

Antifungal antibiotics: Nystatin, Amphotericin, etc. These drugs cause a growth of the Proteus family and lactose-negative E. coli species, capable of causing serious disease.

Other drugs 

Most drugs when prescribed for long periods of time have a detrimental effect on gut flora:

Pain killers stimulate the growth of haemolytic forms of bacteria and campylobacter in the gut, capable of causing disease. Steroid drugs damage gut flora and shut down the immune system. Steroids in particular are linked with fungal overgrowth, specially candida.

Contraceptive pills have a devastating effect on the gut bacteria. Women on these medications will see a dramatic increase in pathogenic bacteria which will then be passed on to their children.

Many other drugs like sleeping pills, acid reducers, neuroleptics, etc also have a negative impact on gut bacteria.

Drug induced gut dysbiosis is the most severe and the most resistant to treatment.

What other factors can have an effect on gut flora?

2. Diet: processed food have a detrimental effect on gut flora. Sugar and processed carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, pastries, cake , biscuits, etc) increase the number of fungi, candida, bacteroids, worms and parasites. A diet high in fiber from grains (breakfast cereals specially) has a profound negative effect on gut flora, predisposing us for IBS, bowel cancer, nutritional deficiencies and many other problems. Fruit and vegetables are a better source of fiber and are not so harsh on the digestive system.

Starvation and overeating can critically change the composition of the gut flora and start a chain of health problems.

3. Serious infectious diseases like typhoid, cholera, dysentery, salmonella can cause lasting damage to the gut flora.

4. Surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and radiotherapy can also affect our gut flora.

5. Stress: Long term physical or psychological stress can damage our gut flora too.

6. Other factors: physical exertion, old age, alcoholism, pollution, toxic substances, radiation and extreme climates all have a profound effect on our friendly bacteria.

In all of these cases supplementing with a probiotic is a good treatment. Each of us has a unique mixture of bacteria, so under the influence of the factors listed above each of us will be predisposed to different health problems, completely unpredictable. Science has not developed reliable methods to test the full range of bacteria in the gut, much less treating any abnormalities. This damage is passed from generation to generation and as it does it gets deeper showing up in the severity of the health problems related to abnormal gut flora: digestive problems, immune problems, asthma, etc.

Where is our immune system?

A very important part of our immune system is located in the ileum, which is the last three fifths of the small intestine. The walls of the ileum are full of lymph nodes called Peyer’s patches. They have two major functions:

They filter the lymph removing bacteria, viruses, fungi, dead cells, toxins and even cancer cells. If the lymph nodes cannot destroy these bacteria they trap them.

These lymph nodes make lymphocytes, the most important group of immune cells that fight infections. When there is an infection they produce a lot of lymphocytes to fight infection, which makes lymph nodes large and inflamed sometimes painful–this is called lymphoid nodular hyperplasia.

What is more, the epithelial surface of the digestive system is the cradle of the immune system. This is where the beneficial bacteria live and where they play a major role in our immune system in a number of ways:

Bifidobacteria is the good bacteria mostly found in the human colon. It has a substance called ‘muramil dipeptide’ which activates lymphocytes. A healthy gut wall is literally packed with lymphocytes that protect the body from any offender. Scientific research shows that in people with poor gut flora there are few lymphocytes in the gut wall.

Lymphocytes in the gut produce immunoglobulins, the most important of which is ‘secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA)’. This one is secreted in body fluids so it can be found in the nose, throat, bladder, urethra, vagina, saliva, tears, sweat, colostrum, breast milk and the mucous membranes of the digestive system. Its job is to protect mucous membranes by killing bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that would come in from food and/or drink. Beneficial bacteria also slows down the degradation of IgA so it has more time to do its job. Due to abnormal gut flora, IgA is deficient in GAPS individuals and people with deficiency of good bacteria, making them defenseless against fungi, viruses, bacteria and parasites.

Apart from lymphocytes, other immune cells called neutrophils and macrophages are lacking when there is a deficiency of gut bacteria. These two literally swallow viruses, toxins, bacteria and cellular debris. Around 126 billion neutrophils pass through the wall of the gastrointestinal tract. In people with abnormal gut flora this destruction of pathogens doesn’t happen as effectively, allowing these viruses to survive inside the neutrophills and macrophages, the very cells that are supposed to destroy them.

Healthy gut flora also produce interferons, cytokines and many other regulators of immune system response, especially important in fighting viral infections. On GAPS people, these viruses have a good chance of surviving.

Another fascinating way in which the beneficial bacteria work with the immune system is called ‘mimicking phenomenon’. The bacteria on the surface of the gut epithelium swap antigens, improving efficiency of a large number of various immune responses.

Gut flora’s influence of the immune system reaches far beyond the gut itself. When gut flora is damaged the levels of IgA, lymphocytes, macrophages, interferons, cytokines, etc drop in the digestive system, but also in the whole body, getting out of balance. The result is a person that is immune compromised.

The two armies of the immune system 

Our immune system comprises two types of ‘armies’. On the one hand we have the Th1 (T-cell helper type 1). It promotes a so called cell-mediated immunity which is located everywhere in the body that is in contact with the outside world. Its role is to fight infection in the mucous membranes, skin and inside cells. It is the first and most effective barrier to any invasion into the body. Secretory immuno globulin A, interleukin-2 (IL-2), interleukin 12 (IL-12) , gamma interferon, etc belong to this system. Healthy gut flora has a very important role in keeping this part of the immune system healthy. When the flora is damaged it starts allowing microbes and toxins which activates the other part of the immune system, the less effective one, the Th2 immunity (T-cell helper type 2). This other part of our immune system is responsible for immunity in the liquids of the body. To this belongs interleukins 4, 5, 6 and 10. Alpha interferon and IgE (Immunoglobulin E)are activated in allergic reactions in the body. They are very active in people with asthma, eczema, hay fever and other allergies. In someone with abnormal gut, Th1 becomes low and Th2 becomes overactive, meaning the person is prone to allergies, chronic inflammation, auto-immunity, chronic viral infections, chronic fatigue syndrome, candidiasis, asthma, eczema, autism, etc. We need both Th1 and Th2 in the right balance. The reason behind this is that all these conditions share dysbiosis.

All of this points to an important fact: around 80% of our immune system is located in our gut wall with its bacterial layer. GAPS people and people with dysbiosis in general, because of abnormal digestion and absorption have unbalanced immune system. On top of that, someone with abnormal bacterial flora is exposed to extremely toxic substances, which damage immunity even more. Because of the absence of beneficial flora all the opportunistic microbes grow out of control. When this happens, the gut wall gets damaged and leaky, which causes a constant stream of invaders and undigested food to come through those holes compromising immunity further. People with GAPS have a compromised immune system, they lack some immunoglobulins, while others are out of proportion. Deficiencies in enzymes are also common. The most scary thing is that their immune system starts making antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues, including the brain and the nervous system, all because of the poorly functioning digestive system.

Many patients with compromised immune system have typical symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome): abdominal pain, bloating, stool abnormalities and flatulence. A small percentage have normal stools but have malnutrition, reflux, heartburn and abdominal pain.

The roots of a tree

We could compare our body to a tree, with the roots being our digestive system and gut bacteria. A tree without healthy roots cannot be strong. Similarly our body cannot be strong without a healthy digestive system and good bacteria.

Of extreme importance is the kind of bacteria we have living in our gut. Our body lives in coexistence with trillions of highly organized invisible micro-organisms, with some predominating over others. The largest colonies of microbes live in our digestive system, where a healthy adult carries around 3-4 pounds of them. Their functions are so important that without them we would not survive. We can divide them as follows:

Essential/beneficial flora. The most important and numerous in a healthy person. To this belong bifidobacteria, lactobacteria, propionobacteria, e. coli, peptostreptococci and enterococci.

Opportunistic flora. There are around 500 various species of microbes that have been found so far in the human gut. In a healthy person their numbers are limited and controlled tightly by the beneficial flora. Each of these microbes are capable of causing various health problems when they get out of control. Among them we can find: yeasts, bacteroids, peptococci, staphylococci, streptococci, bacilli, clostridia, enterobacteria, fuzobacteria, eubacteria, catenobacteria, etc.

Transitional flora. These are microbes from the environment swallowed daily with food and drink. When the gut is well protected these microbes go through the digestive tract and do no harm, but if we have damaged flora they can cause disease.

Health and the integrity of the gut. The ‘sacred’ gut wall

The human digestive system is a long tube open at both ends. Harmful organisms from the outside world can enter it. We actually eat and drink micro-organisms, chemicals and toxins everyday. How do we survive? In healthy people there is a thick layer of indigenous bacteria that coats the whole digestive tract providing a natural barrier against invaders, undigested food, toxins and parasites. In inflammatory bowel disease, on the contrary, different pathogenic bacteria are found which allow the pathogens to reach the gut wall.

Apart from being a physical barrier, these protective bacteria produce antibiotic-like, anti-fungal, anti-viral substances, including interferon, lizocym and surfactins that dissolve the membranes of viruses and bacteria. The beneficial bacteria also reduce the pH near the wall of the gut to 4.0-5.0 making it acidic, which makes it almost impossible for bad microbes to survive because they require an alkaline environment to survive.

This is all important because pathogenic microbes produce a lot of very potent toxins, plus the toxins from the food we ingest. Healthy gut flora can neutralize nitrates, indoles, phenols, etc as well as inactivate histamine and chelate heavy metals. They also absorb carcinogenic substances making them inactive. However, if the beneficial gut bacteria are not present, all these invasions will cause disease. A pathogen like candida, and other viruses, bacteria, parasites, can then cause chronic inflammation in the gut. To this we need to add the opportunistic flora which live in the gut, they are always ready to cause trouble if their guardians, the good bacteria, get weak.

The gut lining is also coated with finger-like protusions called villi with deep crypts between them. These villi are coated by cells called enterocytes, they are of key importance because they digest and absorb the food we eat and convert it into food for the gut lining. The good bacteria in our gut work very hard to keep these enterocytes young. The enterocytes are constantly dying and being replaced by new ones, which means that the epithelium of the intestines is constantly being renewed. The problem comes when there is no good bacteria. Without good flora, the gut wall also becomes malnourished. This is because good flora are a source of energy for the enterocytes. When good bacteria are not present, this process of renewal gets out of order and can cause these enterocytes to become cancerous so fewer cells are born. When they are malnourished, degenerative changes start in the digestive wall, which further impairs its ability to absorb nutrients. All this is so important to understand, without good bacteria the cells that digest our food start dying, compromising absorption of nutrients, causing nutritional deficiencies and food intolerances.  What is more, holes start forming in the gut, which allow food particles to make it into the blood stream, causing auto-immune diseases and thickening the blood. This is all to say that the gut flora is the ‘housekeeper’ of the digestive system.

To make matters worse, the absence of good bacteria always coincides with bad bacteria getting out of control, which now are going to create havoc, release toxins and compound health problems even more.

Nourishment of the body

Healthy gut flora is essential for good digestion, it digests protein, ferments carbs, breaks down lipids and fiber. Byproducts of bacterial activity in the gut transport minerals, vitamins, water, gases, and other nutrients through the gut wall into the bloodstream. If the gut flora is damaged, the best foods and supplements in the world may not have a chance of being broken down and absorbed.

Apart from E. coli, other beneficial bacteria in the healthy gut flora will not only ensure appropriate absorption of nutrients from foods but will also synthesize nutrients like vitamin K 2, B 5, folic acid, B 1, B 2, B 3, B 6 and B 12. Healthy gut flora are our own factory for these vitamins. When healthy flora is damaged, despite adequate nutrition, we develop vitamin deficiencies. This is because many vitamins have a short life in the body, so a person without good gut flora is unable to provide a constant steady stream of vitamins and other active substances for the body to use. Every GAPS patient and person with dysbiosis is deficient in these vitamins that their gut flora is supposed to produce. Restoring the beneficial bacteria in their gut is the best way to deal with those deficiencies.

People with abnormal gut flora have multiple nutritional deficiencies, the very minerals, vitamins, essential fats, amino acids that are necessary for the brain, immune system and rest of the body: magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, calcium, manganese, sulphur, phosphorus, iron, potassium, sodium, vitamins B 1, B 2, B 3, B 6, B 12, C, A, D, folic acid, pantothenic acid, omega 3, 6, 9 fatty acids, taurine, alpha keto glutaric acid, glutathione, etc.

Fiber for your heart

Certain foods like fiber are impossible to digest without beneficial bacteria. In a healthy gut, fiber gets broken down into oligosaccharides, amino-acids, minerals, etc that feed the gut wall and the rest of the body. The beneficial bacteria feed on fiber, producing a whole host of good nutrition for the gut wall and the whole body. Good bacteria also engage fiber in:

Absorbing toxins.

Water and electrolytes metabolism.

Recycling of bile acids and cholesterol, etc.

It is the bacteria acting on fiber that allows it to perform all of these good functions in the body. When gut bacteria is damaged, they are not able to work on the fiber, so fiber can become dangerous for the digestive system, providing a good habitat for the pathogenic bacteria to grow and aggravating the inflammation in the gut wall.

The opportunistic flora

The opportunistic flora is a large group of around 500 various microbes living in our gut in a unique number and combination. The most common are: bacteroids, peptococci, staphylococci, streptococci, bacilli, clostridia, yeasts, enterobacteria (proteus, clebsielli, citrobacteria, etc), fuzobacteria, eubacteria, spirochaetaceae, spirillaceae, catenobacteria, different viruses and many others. In a healthy gut their number is limited and tightly controlled by the beneficial flora with which they live in balance. When this is the case, these opportunistic bacteria fulfill some beneficial functions in the gut like digesting foods, breaking down lipids and bile acids.

However, when the good bacteria get weak, the opportunistic bacteria get out of control. Each of these microbes is capable of causing various health problems. Because each of us have a unique microbiome, the character of our individual opportunistic flora will determine what disease we succumb to. According to Dr. Natasha “We carry most of our future health problems right in our gut from birth”. The best known of these pathogens is candida albicans. The problem with candida is that it never acts alone in the human body. What many times is described as candida is actually dysbiosis, which includes lots of other opportunistic and pathogenic microbes. Candida’s ability to survive and cause disease depends on the state of trillions of its neighbors: bacteria, viruses, protozoa, other yeasts, etc. In a healthy body, candida is well controlled by beneficial bacteria. However, the usually prescribed broad spectrum antibiotics kill the different microbes in the body but have no effect on candida. What this means is that after a course of antibiotics, candida is left alone to thrive. In her years of experience, Dr. Natasha has observed that when antibiotics started being used doctors would prescribe Nystatin (an anti-candida antibiotic) as part of the antibiotic treatment, but that practice has been abandoned, which has caused an epidemic of candida infections in the general population. Apart for antibiotics, she has observed that our diet high in sugar and processed carbs has also contributed to the increase in candida overgrowth.

How do these pathogenic bacteria affect us?

The pathogenic bacteria listed above, when they get out of control can make it through the gut wall barrier into the bloodstream affecting different organs of the body, but first and foremost the digestive system. The most common result of dysbiosis is IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) caused by these opportunistic bacteria populating the intestines. More and more research is coming out linking Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis with these opportunistic bacteria getting out of control.

Some of these opportunists, when not controlled by good bacteria, can reach the gut wall and damage it, making it ‘leaky’. The spirochaetaceae and spirillaceae for example, because of their spiral shape can push apart intestinal cells, breaking down the integrity of the intestinal wall and allowing through substances which would normally not get through. Candida albicans has this ability as well, its cells attach themselves to the gut lining, literally putting ‘roots’ through it and making it leaky. Partially digested foods then make it into the blood stream, where the immune system attacks these ‘foreign’ substances. This is how food allergies or intolerances develop. In many cases when the gut wall is healed food allergies disappear.

Another way in which opportunistic flora affect us is that they are constantly releasing toxic substances. An example are the proteus family, E. coli family, staphylococci and other bacteria. All of these pathogens in the gut make histamine. Histamine is an important neurotransmitter in the body and many cells in the body naturally produce histamine, the problem is when these bacteria get out of control and there is no good bacteria to stop them. If this is the case, they produce too much histamine. Since histamine has many different functions in the body, when these bacteria start producing too much histamine it travels through the blood and affects all these functions in the body. This can manifest as: allergies, low blood pressure, excessive body fluids like saliva, dysfunction of the hypothalamus with hormonal changes like PMS, emotional instability, sleep abnormalities, addictions, etc. According to Dr. Jockers, histamines can effect the gut, lungs, skin, brain and the entire cardiovascular system. He asserts: “This is why there are such a wide array of health problems associated with histamine and it is quite challenging to pinpoint and diagnose if you are not aware of the condition.”. (2) Signs of histamine intolerance are:

Headaches/Migraines

Difficulty falling asleep, easily arousal

Hypertension

Vertigo or Dizziness

Arrhythmia, or accelerated heart rate 

Difficulty regulating body temperature

Anxiety

Nausea, Vomiting

Abdominal cramps

Flushing

Nasal Congestion, Sneezing, Difficulty Breathing

Abnormal menstrual cycle

Hives

Fatigue

Tissue swelling

Unexplained cravings?

A group of opportunistic gut bacteria, the bacteroids, is found in abundance in adult population in the western world. This bacteria like to eat sugar, starch and lactose. So far 22 different members of this family have been identified in the human gut. The most common are ‘bacteroides fragilis’ and ‘bacteroides melaninogenicus’. These bacteria are almost always found in infected tissues of the digestive tract, abscesses, ulcers, lung infections, peritonitis, infected heart valves, blood infections, urinary infections, mouth infections, teeth and gum disease, gangrene and post-operative infections. These bacteria are opportunists which means they are always present in every mucous membrane of the body waiting for their opportunity to cause trouble. However, they never act alone and always need other bacteria to really cause damage, like clostridia, which is even more dangerous than bacteroids.

There are around 100 different clostridia known so far. Many clostridia members are normal inhabitants in the human gut. For example, ‘clostridium tetani’ is found in the gut of healthy animals and humans. Spores of these bacteria are passed from the stools to the soils, where they can survive for years. Most soils in the world have spores of this bacteria. ‘Clostridium tetani’ normally lives in the gut where it causes no harm, even though it can produce a very powerful neurotoxin. What keeps it from being harmful? The health of our gut wall, which is always maintained by good flora. When this gut wall becomes vulnerable, it allows clostridia to make it through the gut wall. Dr. Natasha has observed that her GAPS patients, because they do not have a healthy gut wall, have this toxin in their blood. In her patients these neurotoxins produced by clostridia can cause nervous system and brain problems. Just like candida, clostridia has been allowed to grow out of control with every single course of broad spectrum antibiotics. Different species of clostridia cause severe inflammation of the digestive system, for example ‘Clostridium difficile’ can cause fatal colitis, others cause crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Anti-clostridia drugs like ‘Metronidazole’ (Flagyl) and ‘Vancomycin’ have been shown to reduce autistic symptoms and improve digestion in autistic kids, but as soon as the drug is stopped the symptoms come back. What is more, anti-clostridia drugs are toxic and have serious side effects so they cannot be prescribed for long. Clostridia are spore forming bacteria, because of this they are impossible to eradicate, we can only keep them under control with good bacteria.

Other opportunistic bacteria are the ‘sulphate reducing bacteria’. They break down sulphate from food into sulphites, many of which are toxic. Sulphates are needed by the body for the detoxification of brain neurotransmitters. An abundance of these bacteria make sulphate unavailable to the body. It will also make sulphur unavailable and will turn it into toxic substances like hydrogen sulphide (rotten egg gas). For this reason GAPS people’s feces have a characteristic smell.

Other viruses active in GAPS people are the ‘measles virus’ and the ‘herpes virus’. There are many others that haven’t been studied yet. In the meantime, the only way to protect ourselves from candida, clostridia, and bacteroids is with good bacteria.

The gut-brain connection

Because every organ in the body exists and works in contact with the rest, one should not look at, let alone treat any organ, without taking the rest of the body into account. The usual treatment with antidepressants, sleeping pills, etc end up affecting the brain too. According to Dr. Natasha, psychiatry likes to look at the brain alone separated from the rest of the body and never looks at the gut for a solution, but research is showing how severe psychiatric conditions can be cured by simply “cleaning out’ the patient’s gut. Most psychiatric patients she has seen suffer from digestive problems. In these patients, the gut is a constant source of neurotoxins coming from abnormal flora which are absorbed through the gut wall into the blood and then the brain. The mixture of toxins is very individual and this is why GAPS patients are all different. The number of toxins is unknown, but research has accumulated a lot of information on what kind of neurotoxins are found in GAPS patients:

1. Ethanol and acetaldehyde:

Yeasts including candida eat sugar and glucose. These two come from the digestion of carbohydrates from our diet. In a healthy person glucose is converted into lactic acid, water and energy through a process called glycolisis. In people with candida, this fungus highjacks glucose and digests it in a different way. This is what is called alcoholic fermentation. By this process candida converts glucose into alcohol (ethanol) and its byproduct acetaldehyde. This makes the person ‘drunk’ after consumption of carbohydrates even when they didn’t drink any alcohol. Alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream very quickly. In the case of pregnant women, this alcohol can make it into the placenta and affect the fetus and its development directly. When the baby is born, breastfeeding will affect the baby too because the alcohol is in the blood and can make it into the breast milk. Then because the baby inherits the mother’s flora, overrun by yeast, the child will start producing its own alcohol and other toxins. Chronic presence of alcohol in the body have these effects:

Reduced ability of the stomach to make acid.

Pancreatic degeneration which reduces the ability of this organ to make enzymes, impairing digestion.

Direct damage to gut lining, causing malabsorption.

Vitamin, mineral and aminoacids deficiencies due to malabsorption, specially vitamin A and D.

Damage to immune system.

Liver damage with decreased ability to detoxify toxins, drugs, pollutants and poisons.

Inability for the liver to dispose of old neurotransmitters, hormones and other by-products of normal metabolism. All these accumulate in the body causing behavioral and other problems.

Brain damage with loss of self-control, impaired coordination, speech development, mental retardation, loss of memory,etc.

Peripheral nerve damage with altered senses and muscle weakness.

Direct muscle tissue damage with altered ability to contract and relax and muscle weakness.

Alcohol has an ability to enhance toxicity of most common drugs , pollutants and toxins.

Alteration of metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids in the body.

Acetaldehyde is one of the most toxic of alcohol by-products, it can alter the structure of proteins in the body. This is significant because we are mostly protein (from hormones to enzymes). When these proteins in our body are changed by acetaldehyde, they cannot do their job. This is when many auto-immune diseases start. One of the parts of our body that can be attacked is the ‘myelin’ that coats nerve and brain cells, resulting in multiple esclerosis in adults. In children this will show up as neurological problems like autism.

Acetaldehyde also makes many essential nutrients useless in the body, like is the case of B 6, which is a cofactor in the production of neurotransmitters, fatty acid metabolism, etc. Even if the person is consuming B 6 rich foods, acetaldehyde keeps this vitamin from being where it can be used, so B 6 floats around in the body and eventually gets excreted. This also happens to other vitamins in the body that usually bind to proteins to do their job.

Another organ that acetaldehyde affects is the thyroid. The thyroid gland may be producing plenty of hormones but their working sites are occupied by acetaldehyde and other toxins, causing thyroid dysfunction: depression, lethargy, fatigue, weight gain, poor body temperature control, poor immunity, etc.

2. Opiates from gluten and casein

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, oats and barley. Casein is a milk protein in cow’s, goat’s, sheep’s, human’s and all other milk products. In GAPS people these proteins don’t get digested properly and turn into substances similar to opiates, such as morphine and heroin. These substances called gluteomorphins and casomorphins have been detected in the urine of patients with schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, post-partum psychosis, epilepsy, down’s syndrome, depression, and some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. These opiates from wheat and milk are thought to cross the blood brain barrier and block certain parts of the brain, just like morphine and heroin would do. Why does this happen? It all starts with digestion, the digestion of proteins starts in the stomach with the action of pepsin, a protein digesting enzyme produced in the stomach. Stomach acid is essential for the digestion of protein, as it produces the right conditions for pepsin to do its work of breaking down proteins. GAPS people commonly have low stomach acid due to abnormal gut flora and pathogen overgrowth. For example, candida alone can make toxins that have a strong suppressing ability on stomach acid production. A pregnant woman can have these toxins from candida in her breast milk and it is possible that children that are being breastfed can get these toxins and have their stomach acid reduced early in life. While being breastfed, since breast milk doesn’t require much digestion, symptoms may not show up, but they will when other foods are introduced. By the time breastfeeding stops, the child’s body will have produced enough on his own candida and other toxins to keep reducing his stomach acid. Usually the first weaning foods after breastfeeding are milk and wheat. If the child is not making enough stomach acid, the first steps in digestion will already be compromised, so proteins will not be able to be broken down. These undigested proteins will go into the intestines where the pancreas is supposed to release enzymes to break down food further, however, without stomach acid, the pancreas is not going to release enzymes, so the next step in digestion is also compromised. Next, these undigested proteins reach the final stage, the intestinal wall, which is lined up with highly sophisticated cells, the enterocytes, which on their surface have a whole host of different digestive enzymes to complete the breakdown of food. Because in GAPS people these cells are in poor shape due to abnormal gut flora, they are not able to digest gluten, casein etc. Some research done on one of the enzymes found on the enterocytes, known as dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP IV), has shown that GAPS children, alcoholics, schizophrenics, depression sufferers and people with auto-immune diseases are deficient in this enzyme. Some enzyme products in the market incorporate this enzyme. The problem is that there are so many more enzymes we haven’t researched that digestive problems continue to be an health problem.

With the lack of beneficial bacteria the enterocyte cells fall sick, the result is indigestion and malabsorption. What is more, pathogenic bacteria, fungi and viruses damage the gut wall and allow undigested food to end up in the bloodstream where they can reach the brain. While some GAPS patients do well on a gluten and milk restricted diet (GFCF DIET), others do not, this is because there are many other aspects in these patients to take into consideration.

Research has shown a direct link between the consumption of grains and milk and the increase in the cases of schizophrenia and mental diseases. Mainstream medicine never considers the root cause to be the gut, instead they prescribe drugs that cause dependency and in the long term shrink the brain. Dr. Natasha recommends to slowly wean the patient off those drugs, while healing the gut and repopulating the good bacteria.

Treatment

Dr. Natasha’s treatment for digestive disorders consists on detoxifying the person and lifting the toxic fog off their brain to allow it to fully function. To achieve this first the gut has to be cleaned up and the digestive system healed, so it stops being the first source of toxicity and becomes a source of nourishment as it is intended to be. Second, to remove toxicity that is already stored in the tissues of the body. This is what she called the GAPS program, which she developed from her personal experience with her own son, and the many children and adults she has personally treated in her clinic. Her program has three parts: diet, supplementation and detoxification. In our next blogs, we will look with detail at the diet.

Thanks for reading.

References:

(1) http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/05/opinion/sunday/educate-your-immune-system.html

(2) http://drjockers.com/suffering-histamine-intolerance/

(3) http://drjockers.com/is-your-brain-making-enough-gaba/

(4) http://drjockers.com/7-reasons-to-use-carminative-herbs/
(5) http://drjockers.com/10-ways-ginger-enhances-digestion/

Could it be B 12? (Pt. 2)

05 Aug 2016 no comments HAB Extract

B 12 deficiency not only affects heart health, in their book Sally Pacholok, R.N., B.S.N. and her husband Jeffrey J. Stuart, D.O. go into detail about how it can influence other aspects of health, namely, neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, mental illness, developmental and learning disabilities in children, autism, cancer, immune function and autoimmune diseases. Similarly, B 12 deficiency can affect the health or our kidneys, a key organ when it comes to heart health. In what follows we will list the effects of low B 12 levels when it comes to learning disabilities, brain health, aging, etc  and focus with more detail on kidney function.

Homocysteine and kidney disease

Individuals in end-stage renal disease are nearly always dangerously high in homocysteine levels. These people’s kidneys no longer function and they are significantly debilitated. Their homocysteine levels puts them at vastly increased risk for strokes, heart attacks and other vascular problems. Doctors trying to lower homocysteine levels of patients on dialysis resort to high doses of folic acid, but folic acid cannot lower homocysteine alone in the absence of sufficient vitamin B 12. In a prospective trial doctors found that the injected form of B 12 reduced plasma homocysteine by an average 32%, even though the patient initially appeared to have adequate B 12 stores.

What is more, there is evidence that homocysteine, in addition to damaging blood vessels, acts as a potent uremic toxin that disrupts normal cellular function. This finding should urge doctors to treat patients with kidney problems, monitor homocysteine, provide oral folic acid and high dose B 12 at the sign of any problem. All dialysis patients should receive high dose methyl B 12 lozenges or injections according to the authors.

Similarly, Alessandra Perna, M.D. and colleagues point out that chronic renal failure patients ‘have a high mortality rate, due to mainly cardiovascular disease, 30 times the risk in the general population. Cardiovascular disease mortality remains 10-20 times higher’. The authors strongly suggest that the role B 12 plays in the astronomical incidence of heart and blood vessel disease needs to be studied, specially taking into account that elevated homocysteine damages the lining of veins and arteries throughout the body, including those in the kidneys. What percentage of patients genetically prone to high homocysteine levels end up with renal failure because excess homocysteine has been scarring and injuring their kidneys for years? Doctors have assumed that high homocysteine is a side effect of kidney failure but they have never contemplated it could be a culprit.

If you have been diagnosed with kidney problems, being properly tested for B 12 deficiency together with the ‘Kidney/Bladder Extract’ can help protect the health of these important organs.

Diet. Rethinking fortified cereals

Fortifying foods like cereals implemented in the United States and Canada has changed the way in which homocysteine levels has affected the population. In one study researchers recently conducted, 53 healthy adults received increasing doses of folic acid over a six moth period. At the beginning of this study the levels of homocysteine in these patients dropped in response to this nutrient. But as the folic acid decreased, homocysteine levels dropped less in response to this vitamin and more in response to B 12. This finding, researchers say, indicates that the ‘fortification policy based on folic acid and B 12, rather than folic acid alone is likely to be much more effective at lowering …homocysteine concentrations with the potential benefits for reduction of risk of vascular disease’.

Only recently have scientists studied the potential ill effects of adding excess folic acid to grains and cereals without B 12. On one hand, the prevalence of B 12 deficiency has since increased , “neural tube defects attributable to B 12 deficiency has tripled in the same period” The ‘National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey’ in the USA presented data showing that with B 12 deficiency, high folic acid is directly related to anemia and cognitive impairment in older adults. In the same way, a study on children born to mothers with the combination high folic acid, low B 12 ‘had higher truncal adiposity and insulin resistance‘ and they cite research where they show that B 12 deficiencies is increasing in countries with mandatory folic acid fortification and affecting all ages.

Studies are urgently needed, the researchers said. Fortifying foods with B 12 sounds good but it is not as easy as it sounds because it is hard to absorb and would require very large doses in the grain to correct the deficiency. There is also the problem with the current daily recommended intake (DRI) or RDA for B 12, which in the author’s opinion is much too low for health and prevention of disease.

Lastly, the U.S. uses cyano-cobalamin rather than the active form of B 12 methycobalamin. Until all of these issues are worked out, the authors believe fortification would be a great waste of economic resources and it would offer a sense of false protection for many people.

B 12 and developmental disabilities or learning problems in children

The authors mention that the most common cause of B 12 deficiency in infants and young children is maternal dietary deficiency. Women with B 12 deficiency are at higher risk of giving birth to children with potentially disabling or fatal birth defects. Any infant with an unexplained developmental disability should be screened for B 12 deficiency. B 12 deficiency in infants and young children frequently causes symptoms similar to those seen in autism. There is a critical window of opportunity for treating B 12 deficiency before permanent cognitive changes or injury results. The same effects have been reported in people in their twenties even toddlers.

B 12 deficiency can destroy your nerves at any age. In young children, these symptoms often baffle doctors, specially when the blood count is normal and symptoms are subtle, the result can be a dangerous delay in receiving treatment.

B 12 deficiency and aging 

In “Postgraduate Medicine” T.S. Dharmarajan, M.D. and Edward P. Norkus, Ph.D. assert that “Vitamin B 12 deficiency affects about one quarter of the U.S. population and is more common in the elderly and in adults with several predisposing conditions…Health care professionals need to recognize that vitamin B 12 deficiency is often undetected and can lead to devastating and irreversible complications. Early treatment is effective and prevents disability”

Seniors are a high risk group for severe B 12 deficiency. Between 15% and 40% of people over sixty have low serum B 12 levels and there is also critical window of opportunity for treating B 12 deficiency before permanent cognitive changes or injury result. The most striking piece of information is that there is mounting evidence of the link between B 12 deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to neurologist Sydney Walker III, M.D., many patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are actually suffering from problems that can be corrected”.  Up to 60% of patients labeled as having dementias actually have treatable and reversible disorders, and in many cases that disorder its B 12. The symptoms of B 12 deficiency include confusion, memory loss, personality changes, paranoia, depression, and other behaviors that look like dementia. In one reported case, a patient with dementia recovered completely when doctors discovered and treated his B 12 deficiency.

The degree of recovery may depend on how long the person had B 12 deficiency and other conditions. Studies have shown that people with low levels of B 12 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and patients with the disease and low levels of B 12 showed more behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia than patients with normal levels.

More research has shown that low B 12 causes the brain to atrophy, probably disturbing the integrity of brain myelin or by causing inflammation. The authors recommend even in the last stages of dementia, to test the individual, then supplement with a high dose of 2,000 mcg-5,000 mcg lozenges daily and/or have the doctor perform a trial of injectable B 12. There is a possibility it could slow down or halt the progression of the dementia or even reverse some symptoms. This information can be used to treat other members of the family as B 12 deficiency runs in the family.

Other B 12 ills that mascarade as aging are nervous system impairment that can cause tremors, handwriting difficulties and other symptoms serious enough to resemble the early stages of Parkinson’s. Vitamin B 12 needs to be ruled out in Parkinson’s type symptoms and in patients already diagnosed with the disease. Because Parkinson’s and B 12 deficiency share some of the same signs and symptoms and there is no diagnostic test that can confirm Parkinson’s, it only makes sense to investigate and rule out B 12 deficiency.

Since B 12 deficiency affects all the nerves, it can affect the nerves of the eyes too. Diabetics can have failing eyesight also caused by B 12 deficiency but may be wrongly attributed to age or macular degeneration or diabetic eye damage.

B 12 deficiency a cause of frequent falls and fall related trauma

Frequent falls is the most common cause of fatal injuries among people over 65 causing 10,000 deaths a year. B 12 deficiency attacks the nervous system, especially the nerves in the lower part of the body, it damages the myelin of the nerves making it harder to carry messages. Sufferers feel a weakness, balance problems, leg and back pains and numbness in hands and feet. B 12 deficiency can also cause visual problems, vision loss, dizziness, vertigo, postural hypotension, all of which increase the chance for falls.

Doctors often mistake this for strokes. The authors report that so many cases of elderly people who had developed tingling, pain and weakness to the point they couldn’t walk, when the doctor identified it as a B 12 deficiency and they were treated within a month, they could walk again. Similarly, caught in the early stages of near paralysis treatment with B 12 can reverse the symptoms within a few months.

The authors argue that it is unconceivable that hospitals don’t routinely provide B 12 screening for patients suffering from weakness or repeated falls, specially taking into account that it is a mere $100 rather than the costs of CT scans, etc which are more expensive and don’t solve the problem. Falls can also cause hip fractures. Not all falls stem from B 12 deficiency but a big percentage do. Pain, numbness, weakness, dizziness, difficulty walking and falls are all signs that B 12 could be the case.

B 12 and osteoporosis

There is a strong link between B 12 deficiency and osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is the thining of the bones mineral density. Studies have shown that those people low in B 12 and high homocysteine levels therefore, had four times more likelihood of having osteoporosis. This, together with the high risk for falls in people deficient in B 12 makes it more crucial to make screenings for B 12.

Is it multiple sclerosis or is it B 12 deficiency? 

The symptoms of B 12 deficiency mimic those of multiple sclerosis, they both damage the myelin on the nerves causing lesions or disease in the brain and spinal cord. Scientists report intriguing evidence tentatively implicating low B 12 levels in the development or exacerbation of MS, meaning B 12 deficiency could possibly be contributing to the disease.

35,000 Americans have MS, which indicates that a significant number are likely to have B 12 deficiency. Both diseases have the same symptoms: numbness, gait problems, pins and needles, depression, memory loss, dementia, weight loss, tremors, fatigue, pain, incontinence and vision loss. Both MS and B 12 deficiency damage the myelin causing short circuiting of nerve impulses. The only difference is that with B 12 it can be reversed. Accurate diagnosis requires ordering a battery of tests that can conclusively prove and rule out B 12 deficiency. Even is MS if the diagnosis, B 12 should be tested too.

Many physicians lack even the most basic knowledge about B 12 deficiency. What is alarming about MS according to the authors is that the steroids commonly used to treat MS can normalize the anemia and enlarged cells characteristic of B 12, while allowing the neurological damage to continue unchecked. Thus, they think doctors should rule out B 12 deficiency in all patients suspected of having MS or diagnosed with it. Failing to do so is negligence. Leading scientists are exploring the possibility that even classic MS may involve a defect in B 12 metabolism.

Other conditions 

B 12 deficiency suppresses the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses and bacteria.

Also, B 12 plays a crucial role in myelin formation. B 12 deficiency attacks the nerves stripping them of their protective myelin coating and disrupting the communication between cells in the brain and other parts of the nervous system. This damage can make you lose your balance, develop multiple sclerosis-like symptoms or suffer shooting pains or numbness in your feet, arms and legs like we  have seen but this damage can affect nervous system in other ways. Because nerve cells in your brain control how you feel, think and behave, B 12 deficiency can cause severe mental illness including depression, paranoia and even symptoms resembling schizophrenia.  Studies have shown that B 12 deficiency doubles the risk of severe depression. B 12 deficiency is not the cause of most mental problems but it clearly plays a role in a number of cases. Because physicians don’t screen for B 12 deficiency we don’t really know the incidence of B 12 deficiency in mental illness. In bipolar disorder, B 12 levels are so low that the brain cannot function correctly.

Over a century ago, in the 1900’s doctors discovered that pernicious anemia (one form of B 12 deficiency) caused mental illnesses of all kinds like dementia, delirium, depression, hallucinations, hysteria, paranoia, mania, etc. All of these conditions were termed ‘megaloblastic madness”. In the late 1920’s doctors first learned to treat pernicious anemia with success by giving patients large amounts of raw liver. How come at the turn of the new century with the benefit of more than one hundred years of research and documentation proving that B 12 deficiency causes psychiatric illness, very few mentally ill patients are being evaluated for underlying B 12 deficiency? The authors show their concern that serum B 12 is not being universally screened for in psychiatric facilities.

Mental disorders can make you more vulnerable to B 12 deficiency, because they increase the odds you are eating poorly or taking drugs that compromise B 12 metabolism. It is not part of the most standard psychiatric evaluations or admissions and it is not required for medical clearance.

Lastly,  B 12 deficiency has a role to play in cancer, where deficiency appears to promote its development. In the case of surgeries, being deficient in B 12 makes the simplest of surgical or dental procedures dangerous, even deadly. Nitrous oxide, a common anesthetic agent inactivates B 12 in the body. In the case of infertility, B 12 deficiency contributes to male and female infertility, even impotence in men.

Conclusion

In June 2009, the CDC reported B 12 deficiency is present in 1 in every 31 people over the age of 50. What is most alarming is that this number under-reports the true incidence of B 12 deficiency. There is much work left to do to bring awareness about B 12 deficiency. Change can start with you, if you learn you are deficient in B 12, you can get the proper tests and start treatment. B 12 together with the products from ‘Healthy Hearts Club‘ can ensure that you keep many terrible diseases at bay. Even if you find out you are not deficient in B 12, there is still a lot you can do to help bring awareness about this disease.

Thanks for reading.

Could it be B 12? (Pt. 1)

05 Aug 2016 no comments HAB Extract

What do Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, depression, schizophrenia, diabetic neuropathy, infertility, developmental disabilities in children, strokes, heart attacks and cancer all have in common? It is vitamin B 12 deficiency, although we could add, it is vitamin B 12 deficiency misdiagnosis. Because B 12 deficiency affects all body systems, it can masquerade as many other diseases. In addition to neuropathy and psychiatric problems it can manifest as shortness of breath, fatigue, generalized weakness, anemia, poor digestion, GERD-like symptoms, constipation, diarrhea, weight loss, recurrent miscarriages, infertility, osteoporosis, poor wound healing and poor immune response. Patients with B 12 deficiency may have a few or many of these symptoms and most times they are easy to blame on other disorders or pre-existing conditions.

Despite this, B 12 deficiency is very rarely taken into account when diagnosing any of these disorders. According to the authors of the book “Could it be B 12? An epidemic of misdiagnoses” Sally M. Pacholok R.N., B.S.N. and her husband Jeffrey J. Stuart, D. O., doctors are not educated in it, so they fail to test for it. The authors assert that 40% of seniors with severe mental and physical problems are suffering from B 12 deficiency. ‘Millions of people labeled as having many severe and uncurable disorders could actually be victims of the easily diagnosable, treatable and, in its early stages, completely curable B 12 deficiency.’ In their book they explain their alarm at how B 12 deficiency is very common, not only in seniors and middle-aged people but in teens, children and infants.

In what follows we will look in depth at vitamin B 12, what it is, how it is absorbed, sources of B 12 as well as best supplemental forms. We will also look at how B 12 deficiency could affect your heart as well as other systems in the body. We will also look at how the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ and other products from ‘Healthy Hearts Club’ are a perfect supplement to take with vitamin B 12.

We will start with the story of how Sally Pacholok, R. N. became aware of what she calls ‘an epidemic of misdiagnoses’.

A nurse’s intuition

Sally shares her personal story with B 12 deficiency to show how getting a diagnosis is not always easy. How many times was she misdiagnosed? Not just one, but three times and by three different doctors.

It all started when she was only 19. She was the picture of health, or so she thought, she had no idea that an invisible disease was attacking her body. The first clue came when she went for a pre-employment physical examination. When the examining physician reviewed her blood tests, he commented on her abnormally large red blood cells and sent her on her way. Looking back, she realizes that the fact that this test came back positive is what saved her life. She asserts many people are not so lucky and ‘suffer neurological damage decades before their blood tests become abnormal, and by then it’s too late’. In her case, the doctor simply dismissed this blood abnormality as low folic acid. One month later, another doctor commented on how large her red blood cells were but concluded the lab results were ‘insignificant’.

Two years later, in nursing school she bought a manual describing laboratory tests and their meanings. The manual outlined two major problems associated with large red blood cells, folic acid deficiency and B 12 deficiency. Since her diet was rich in B 12-rich meat but low on folate-rich vegetables, she understood why the doctor had commented on the folate, but he had never considered B 12 deficiency as well. She also learned that most cases of B 12 deficiencies stem from malabsorption, not diet. Because of this, she persuaded a doctor to order tests for folate and B 12. That night, as she mentioned the tests to her parents she learned her grandfather had been diagnosed with pernicious anemia, the most well-known, although not the only symptom of B 12 deficiency. His grandfather was misdiagnosed as having leukemia, but upon insistence he received a second opinion and this time he was diagnosed correctly. He was treated for it and his condition was reversed. Learning this, when her results came back she was prepared to learn her B 12 would be low. She started being treated with shots. Her insistence to have this rechecked is what saved her life.

However, that wasn’t the end of her story. Two years later, even after being diagnosed with B 12 deficiency, she visited a doctor who questioned her diagnosis. The doctor could not believe pernicious anemia could be found in such a young patient. Upon her insistence, he ran some tests and was surprised to find out that was the case. If it had not been for her nursing training, and her insistence, her B 12 shots would have stopped, damaging her for life.

It was her own experience with the disease that caused her to want to know more. She started doing research and became an expert on the topic. She found out that studies from the 1980’s revealed that more than a third of people with B 12 deficiency show no evidence in routine blood tests. Her husband, an emergency medicine physician also got involved and did studies on the percentage of patients in his department who were deficient in B 12. What they found was the alarming number of undiagnosed cases. They learned how B 12 deficiency plays a role in so many seemingly hopeless problems and how unexpensive the treatment is. All of this was very exciting but their excitement didn’t last very long when they found out doctors simply didn’t care about it, despite the tests available for its diagnosis. She was forced to drop the subject or lose her job.

She continued to see so many patients with obvious B 12 deficiency being labeled as ‘nuts’ and being written off as ‘hopeless cases’. As soon as she had to write the discharge papers for another patient, her anger hit a critical high. She knew these patients would end up some day back in the hospital with strokes, dementia, depression, fall related trauma, etc due to B 12 deficiency. She couldn’t live with herself knowing that a couple of tests could prevent serious cases of disabilities even death and nothing was being done about it. They wrote the book to bring awareness about this disease, hoping things can change.

In the book they share their concern for what they consider a lack of awareness about B 12. They explain that despite the fact that B 12 deficiency is considered an ‘old man’s disease’, it can strike any person at any age.

Why is it so hard to diagnose B 12 deficiency? 

During her career as a nurse she sees many cases of misdiagnosed diseases. In many cases she sees patients getting worse to the point of getting into a vegetative state from which they never recover.

There are several reasons she has observed that lead to this:

  1. Doctors are trained to recognize only the blood abnormality, a classic sign of B 12 deficiency known as ‘macrocytosis’, which is characterized by the presence of large, immature red bloods cells. However, it has been well documented that B 12 deficiency damages the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves and the nerves of the eye, often before blood abnormalities appear. Doctors who think of B 12 deficiency in terms of anemia only will miss the majority of cases and will fail to recognize the neuro-psychiatric signs and symptoms.  In their opinion, physicians must be aware that macrocytic anemia is a late sign of vitamin B 12 deficiency, frequently occurring long after potentially irreversible neurological damage has been done. The common and striking neuropsychiatric manifestations of B 12 deficiencies like depression, altered mental state, dementia, psychosis, vertigo, tremor, neuropathy, visual problems, extremity weakness, dizziness, balance problems, and gait disorders have long been forgotten by physicians. This is tragic according to the authors because their research shows that in the 18th century B 12 deficiency was a known and accepted fact among doctors. There are reports of autopsies done on patients with pernicious anemia where there was great degree of damage to the spinal cord. Similarly, there are many medical articles describing neurological symptomatology preceding the classic blood signs. In their opinion, clinicians either ignore this or have forgotten.
  2. The name ‘pernicious anemia’ is misleading. ‘Pernicious anemia’ was coined in 1872, 50 years before B 12 deficiency was discovered. The medical community kept the name for historical purposes, adding to the confusion. Due to this, physicians believe that to have B 12 deficiency a patient must have anemia, which is not completely accurate.
  3. Practice mistakes of the past. Many physicians remember the days when thousands of patients got B 12 shots whether they needed them or not. Their justified scorn for this practice leads them to overreact now by making the opposite mistake, failing to realize B 12 deficiency is a serious medical disorder. In this respect, the authors mention that when diagnosis-related groups started in the 1980’s, physicians billing for B 12 shots had to prove there was a disease that justified the need for the shots. Because doctors were not testing to see if patients needed the shots or not, many stopped the injections for fear of legal consequences. Many doctors also administered the shots to get insurance money from their patients. All of this has given B 12 a bad name in the medical community.
  4. The serum B 12 test ‘normal’ low limit that physicians consider is 200 pg/ml, or below 180 pg/ml. However, the fact that symptoms of neurological damage start showing even with this ‘normal’ low is a cause of concern . This practice even increases costs because in these cases doctors have to order more expensive tests to ‘prove’ the deficiency. These additional tests have limitations (MMA, Homocysteine, holo-TC), can actually confuse the misdiagnoses, delay treatment and possibly cause physicians to stop what was already started.
  5. The proper definition of ‘subclinical’ and ‘clinical’ are not being followed, causing confusion, late diagnoses and misdiagnosis of B 12 deficiency. The authors assert that the CDC statement ‘Most health providers are far less likely to screen and diagnose the majority of patients with subclinical or midly symptomatic  B 12 deficiency’ is confusing. ‘Subclinical’ means without symptoms, so it cannot be compared to ‘mildly symptomatic’ which refers to those patients with a clinical disease. In doing so they are trying to minimize symptoms. The authors have observed that many physicians fail to recognize the signs and label the patients as subclinical, withholding treatment. Some other statements made by the CDC are misleading and can misguide physicians. For example, the statement that ‘unexplained signs should be evaluated’ can lead doctors to believe that diagnosed diseases like neuropathy, anemia, dementia, etc do not to be tested for B 12 deficiency. The authors have found that in many cases B 12 deficiency is the cause of these diseases, in other cases both B 12 deficiency and the disease co-exist. They also feel the CDC statement that the ‘MMA and homocysteine tests can be used to confirm deficiency in case of ambiguous initial results’, causes doctors to not treat patients that show normal levels in both, even when they still have symptoms. Lastly, the statement that ‘Clinical B 12 deficiencies are relatively rare’ is particularly troubling because in their experience that is not the case.
  6. Lack of universally accepted screening protocol for vitamin B 12 deficiency. In the authors’ opinion, physicians and other health professionals are failing to address B 12 deficiency, ignoring patients’ symptoms and discharging them without diagnosing the cause of their symptoms. They also claim orthopedic surgeons should be involved, because not only B 12 deficiency will cause falls, but B 12 is needed for proper healing of bone fractures. Many doctors may assume the lack of healing is due to age or debility, when it could be just B 12 deficiency.
  7. Outdated treatment protocols. Treatment protocols were developed more than fifty years ago, when researchers were more focused on resolving the blood disorder rather than the neuropsychiatric symptoms. This is the reason why treatment with injections is performed monthly. But many patients assert these are not enough, therefore the dose is very individual, some patients might need injections every weak, others every month. The irony of all this is that many physicians prescribe narcotics much more liberally than they do B 12 for patients that are highly symptomatic. Unlike narcotics, B 12 is not addictive and doesn’t have any side effects.
  8. Doctors order blood transfusions before they perform the tests to check for B 12 deficiencies. Doing so they mask abnormalities and can misdiagnose the neurological symptoms related to B 12 deficiency: tingling, and burning in hands and feet, memory loss, depression, personality changes, dizziness, loss of balance, even dementia.
  9. High levels of folic acid can hide B 12 deficiencies. With the government mandate in 1998 to introduce folate to foods, this made B 12 deficiencies harder to recognize even though it helped in lowering spina bifida and related birth defects. Because of all these reasons, the authors feel physicians need to be educated on the neurological presentation of B 12 deficiency. By learning to identify risks and obtaining a real diagnosis and treatment before it is too late and making B 12 screening, not just inaccurate blood counts, a part of our health protocol, many people can be spared unnecessary suffering.

What is B 12 and why is it so important?

Vitamins are tiny molecules that participate in thousands of chemical reactions, build your tissues and organs, provide you with energy from the food you eat, clean the toxins from your body, protect you against infections, repair damage and allow your cells to communicate with one another. Some vitamins are fat soluble and can be stored, others are water soluble and need to be provided on a daily basis through foods. From all the 13 different vitamins the body needs to stay alive and be healthy, B 12 is unique. What makes B 12 unique is also what makes it harder to absorb. One of the unique things about B 12 is that is has a trace element of cobalt, therefore the name cobalamin. Vitamin B 12 is the only vitamin made in the gut of animals, not found in plants or sunlight. Therefore it is obtained through meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, fortified foods or supplements. However, for many people this is not enough. Despite the tiny amount needed (2-4 mcg) it is very easy to become deficient in it, even people ingesting plenty amounts of this vitamin.

Why is B 12 difficult to absorb?

This has to do with the complex pathway vitamin B 12 follows. Any block in this pathway can cause B 12 levels to plummet. This pathway is as follows:

  1. B 12 from animal foods is bound to proteins and needs to be freed. To split B 12, the protein pepsin is required, which is produced in enough amounts only if there is enough stomach acid.
  2. Intrinsic factor, a protein made in the stomach is also needed for later use in the intestine.
  3. Other proteins called R-binders take the B 12 into the small intestine.
  4. With the help of enzymes called pancreatic proteases, intrinsic factor latches onto the B 12 and carries it to the last section of the small intestine, the ileum. Cells lining the ileum have receptors that grab onto the B 12 Intrinsic factor complex pulling it to the bloodstream.
  5. In the blood, another protein, transcobalamin II, carries B 12 to the different cells of the body and the excess to the liver for storage. Any breakdown in this process will affect B 12 absorption, one of these is pernicious anemia an autoimmune disease that used to cause death. This disease occurs when the body stops producing intrinsic factor which makes the B 12 consumed useless.

A far more common source of B 12 deficiency is atrophic gastritis, inflammation and deterioration of stomach lining which reduces the production of stomach acid needed to separate B 12 from protein, a problem made worse by antiacids or PPI’s (proton pump inhibitors). Elderly people have smaller number of cells that produce intrinsic factor.

Other risk factors are gastric bypass surgery and stomach surgery which cause loss of the cells that produce intrinsic factor. Intestinal surgery removes the ileum where receptors that absorb B 12 are located. Crohns’s disease, celiac disease, alcohol, medications, GERD drugs, ulcer drugs, diabetes medications. Also, mercury can keep B 12 from reaching the cells where it is needed. This is all despite supplementing with B 12.

The National Institute of Health asserts that only 100 mcg out of 500 mcg is absorbed by healthy people. People with neurological symptoms need B 12 shots at least initially, until problem is controlled then they need monitored by their physicians on a regular basis.

Who is at greatest risk for B 12 deficiency?

Vegetarians, vegans, people over 60, gastric or intestinal surgery patients, people who use antiacids or PPI’s (proton-pump inhibitors), H 2 blockers, metformin and other diabetes drugs or any medication that interferes with B 12 absorption. Also, anorexics or bulimics, alcoholics. Patients with pernicious anemia in the family or iron deficiency anemia, sickle cell anemia. Other reasons for deficiency are any digestive disorder that causes malabsorption, any auto-immune disorder, women with a history of infertility or miscarriages, infants born to B 12 deficient women.

All the symptoms listed here have many other causes, so these need to be considered but because B 12 deficiency is one of them, it needs to be addressed too.

According to the authors, it is alarming to see many of us consider things like forgetfulness or falling a ‘normal’ part of aging, when in many occasions it is a sign of B 12 deficiency. Over the age of 60 vitamin B 12 deficiency is very common.

Additionally, in 30 % of cases B 12 deficiency is due to atrophic gastritis, inflammation or wasting away of the stomach lining which decreases the ability to make stomach. Doctors normally treat stomach upsets in elderly people with antiacids, which drop their acid levels even lower or they consider their symptoms part of a pre-existing condition. Neuropathy due to B 12 deficiency if left untreated will become a major disability and even cause death.

How B 12 deficiency attacks the body

B 12 deficiency takes many guises depending on age, genetics and the length and severity. Because it is progressive, signs and symptoms may take years to develop. Signs and symptoms include:

  1. Mental changes: Depression, memory loss, dementia, intellectual deterioration, irritability, apathy, sleepiness, paranoia, personality changes. In children, developmental delay or autistic behavior.
  2. Neurological:
    • Pain, tingling and or numbness in legs, arms, trunk or other area, etc. Diminished sense of touch, pain and /or temperature.
    • Loss of position sense (awareness of body position)
    • Weakness in legs, arms, etc.
    • Tremor, symptoms mimicking Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, incontinence, paralysis, vision changes, damage to optic nerve.
  3. Heart health: Ischemic attacks, strokes, coronary artery disease, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, palpitations, orthostatic hypertension (low blood pressure when standing up which can cause fainting and falls), deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism.
  4. Immunologic: poor wound healing, increased susceptibility to infections, increased risk of cancer, poor antibody production after vaccines.
  5. Gastrointestinal: Indigestion (feeling full after small meals), abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastric stasis, weight loss (in some people).
  6. Musculoskeletal: Fractures, osteoporosis, suppressed activity of osteoblasts (cells that build bone).
  7. Genitourinary: Abnormal PAP smears, urinary incontinence, impotence, infertility.
  8. Additional signs: shortness of breath, weakness, chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss or anorexia, tinnitus, premature gray hair.

The reason for all these symptoms is B 12 plays roles in the health of nerves, brain, blood, immune system and DNA formation. Specially, B 12 deficiency strikes the nervous system, damaging the myelin, which is linked to mental problems like memory loss, depression and dementia. As B 12 deficiency progresses, the immune system also follows because it can no longer produce enough disease fighting white blood cells making the sufferer a target for viral and bacterial infections. The gastrointestinal system suffers as well because the body cannot make enough cells to replace your intestinal lining. Also anemia will make the sufferer fatigued. B 12 deficiency also causes a breakdown in detoxification pathways that keep homocysteine levels from raising up, increasing risks of coronary artery disease, stroke and blood clots. The good news is that if caught in time it can be prevented. If you have any of these signs you can get tested to make sure.

Protecting yourself: are you at risk for B 12 deficiency? 

C. Everett Koop, M.D. former surgeon general of the United States asserts “an informed patient is the best patient. My advice to people has always been ‘Take charge of your health’. Now it’s more important than ever because with managed care, no one else is’.

According to the authors, since so many people suffer from B 12 deficiency and it’s so hard to get an accurate diagnosis, each of us should take matters in you own hands. In what follows we will explain how to determine if one is a candidate for B 12 deficiency and what to do if that is the case.

The good news is that treatment can cost under $50 a year and if caught in time it can save lives. If you receive a late diagnosis, it is even more critical that you receive aggressive methyl-B 12 injectable therapy. Some patients with late diagnoses see great improvements within weeks or months, some even a complete reversal of neurological damage. The sooner the better. Sometimes the diagnosis is made too late. In case of doubt, they insist “don’t hesitate, find out!”

Calculating your odds

B 12 deficiency doesn’t have any visible signs like having a rash does, instead there are symptoms and risk factors of deficiency that make B 12 deficiency more likely. Everybody should be familiar with them and if spotted, the next step would be to call the doctor.

The following is a checklist of risk factors and a point score to assign to each:

  1. Neurological symptoms. If you have any of the symptoms listed here give yourself 2 points, for any additional you have add another point.
    1. Do you experience ‘pins and needles’ feeling or numbness/burning feet, hands, legs and/or arms?
    2. Have you been diagnosed with diabetic or peripheral neuropathy
    3. Do you suffer from weakness in your arms/legs?
    4. Do you experience light-headedness or dizziness?
    5. Are you prone to falling or fall frequently?
    6. Have you noticed unusual changes in your ability to move? for example, do you walk clumsily or with feet wide apart, or have difficulty writing legibly?
    7. Have you noticed problems with your memory or thinking?
    8. Do you have trouble knowing where various parts of the body are if you are not looking? like trouble walking in the dark if you cannot see your feet?
    9. Does your sense of touch or perception of pain appear distorted
    10. Has your doctor ever told you that you have muscular spasticity? (lack of coordination and excessive muscle contraction)
    11. Do you have a tremor?
    12. Do you suffer from incontinence (urinary or fecal)?
    13. Do you suffer from impotence?
    14. Do you have visual impairment, visual loss?
  2. Psychiatric symptoms. If you have any of the symptoms listed below, give yourself two points. For each additional symptom you have give yourself an additional point.
    1. Have you noticed any personality changes? For example more irritability or not ‘being yourself’
    2. Are you unusually apathetic or depressed or have suicidal thoughts?
    3. Do you suffer from hallucinations or delusions?
    4. Do you exhibit violent behavior?
    5. Have you been diagnosed with psychosis, mental illness, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder?
    6. Do you find yourself becoming more paranoid about other people’s actions or intentions?
  3. Hematological signs (abnormalities of the blood cells). If you have any of the symptoms listed below, give yourself two points. For each additional symptom you have give yourself an additional point.
    1. Has your doctor ever told you that your red blood cells are abnormally large (macrocytosis)?
    2. Has your doctor ever told you that you have abnormally small red blood cells, an iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia?
    3. Has your doctor ever told you that you are anemic? Do you have low platelets or low white blood cell counts?
  4. Gastrointestinal risk factor. If you have any of the symptoms listed below, give yourself two points. For each additional symptom you have give yourself an additional point.
    1. Have you been diagnosed with inflammation and/or wasting of the stomach lining (gastric atrophy)?
    2. Have you been diagnosed as having low stomach acid?
    3. Do you suffer from gastritis?
    4. Do you suffer from ulcers?
    5. Have you been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?
    6. Do you have diverticulosis?
    7. Have you been diagnosed with precancerous gastrointestinal growths or gastrointestinal cancer?
    8. Have you undergone a gastrointestinal resection (partial or complete gastrectomy), undergone a gastric bypass surgery for weight loss, or had either partial or complete removal of your ileum (last part of the small intestine)?
    9. Have you been diagnosed with a malabsorption syndrome (Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or celiac disease?
    10. Do you have a family history of pernicious anemia?
    11. Have you been diagnosed with small bowel overgrowth?
    12. Have you been diagnosed with a tapeworm or other gastrointestinal parasite?
  5. General risk factors. If you have any of the following factors , give yourself a point.
    1. Are you 60 or over?
    2. Do you have a thyroid disorder, or any auto-immune disease?
    3. Have you ever had cancer? Have you undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy?
    4. Have you undergone surgery, including dental, in which nitrous oxide was used?
    5. Do you abuse nitrous oxide as a recreational drug?
    6. Are you a vegan or follow a macrobiotic or raw food diet?
    7. Are you an alcoholic?
    8. Are you taking acid reducers, H 2 blockers, anticonvulsants, Phenobarbital, potassium supplements, birth control pills, colchicine, neomycin, methotrexate, cholestyramine, colestipol or aminosalicylic acid?
  6. Other signs often associated with B 12 deficiency. If you have any of the signs below give yourself one point.
    1. Do you suffer from fatigue, lack of energy, or weakness?
    2. Do you suffer from generalized weakness?
    3. Have you experienced a loss of weight or loss of appetite?
    4. Do you suffer from chest pain, shortness of breath with small exertion?
    5. Are you unusually pale, grayish, or yellow skin color?
    6. Do you have a sore, inflamed or ‘beefy red’ tongue?
    7. Do you suffer from tinnitus (ringing in the ears)?
    8. If you are a female, has your doctor told you that your Pap Smear showed abnormal cells (cervical Dysplasia)?
    9. Do you suffer from infertility?

Add all the points. If your score is less than 3 points your risk is low. If this is your case it means your B 12 levels are probably fine, but this doesn’t guarantee that as you age they will stay that way. Keep checking your levels every year and be aware of the symptoms. If you scored 3-6 points your risk is moderate, in this case you need B 12 screening. Make an appointment with your doctor and get tested. If greater than 7 your risk is high, there is no time to waste, call your doctor as soon as possible and get tested. If your doctor is skeptical be assertive. Your doctor must rule out other diseases that mimic B 12 deficiency.

Regardless of your scores, you also need to be tested if you suffer from any neurological disorder, have chronic pain, have an occlusive vascular disorder, have a history of stroke, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, coronary artery disease or deep vein thrombosis. People with anemia, history of alcoholism, kidney problems, liver problems, people on dialysis need to have urinary MMA test along with the serum B 12 because these disorders give falsely elevated serum B 12 results.

Avoid self-testing

Self-treating possible symptoms of B 12 deficiency before undergoing tests will make it difficult to diagnose the disease by affecting the lab results. If you have any symptoms get tested before you start supplementing with B 12 supplements. After testing, your doctor can determine if you have B 12 deficiency and start treatment. Once tested you can begin with over the counter high dose lozenges while waiting for test results, but not before. Depending on the results your doctor will prescribe OTC lozenges or injections. If you have been taking B 12 and still have symptoms you still need to be tested. Make sure you tell your doctor and interrupt your supplementation before the test. If you have been supplementing and you feel improvement, you may still have tests done, your doctor may want to tweak your treatment depending on the physical exam.

Testing 

The tests the authors recommend are, in order of effectiveness, as follows:

  1. The serum B 12 test with the updated range > 450 pg/ml or 332 pmol/L. There is much controversy as to what is a normal result for this test. Because of this, this test is used together with the rest mentioned below. The problem with this test is that the ‘normal’ low (200 pg/ml) is actually low and needs to be raised to at least 450 pg/ml according to them ‘because deficiencies begin to appear in the cerebral spinal fluid below 550 pg/ml”. Normal serum B 12 should be greater than 550 pg/ml. In the case of brain and nervous system disorders and in older patients, serum B 12 levels should be maintained near of above 1,000 pg/ml.
  2. MMA: The Methylmalonic acid test also has limitations and can result in false readings, so this test needs to be done in conjunction with serum B 12.
  3. HoloTC: Holotranscobalamin test. Raising the levels of the serum test would make this test unnecessary. This is true for all the other tests.
  4. Homocysteine test: Elevated homocysteine levels can indicate deficiencies in B 12, B 6 and folic acid. This test is not necessary to test for B 12 deficiency but it is a valuable adjunct to the B 12 serum test.

The authors feel the many different OTC B 12 products (lozenges, pills, drops, nasal gels, skin patches, gums, drinks, etc) do not come with a guarantee they will be effective for each individual case. Therefore, they recommend shots. Something else in favor of injections is the fact that they are cheaper than the oral doses if you get the self injectable form hydroxocobalamin. If a loved one uses injections, the caregiver can inject the doses and thus avoid forgetting them. In her own experience, shots take minutes to prepare and they are simple to administer.

How to interpret tests results

Reference ranges for diagnostic tests are as follows:

Deficient: <200pg/ml

Borderline: 200-270 pg/ml

Normal: 271-870 pg/ml

Clinical laboratories express values in ‘picograms per milliliter’ (Pg/ml). (Sometimes they also use ‘nanograms per liter’, ng/L).

In some research studies B12 values are measured in ‘picomoles per liter’ (pmol/L). To convert from one to another, you can follow this formulas:

pgmol/L = pg/ml x 0.738

pg/ml = pmol/L divided by 0.738

ng/L = pg/ml

What does all this mean for your heart?

Sally Pacholok also recognizes the important contribution that Dr. McCully’s research provided when he discovered homocysteine in young children. She asserts ‘More than thirty years after Dr. McCully’s research, researchers around the world are proving the link between elevated homocysteine and heart disease’. According to her research, there is a tremendous avalanche of publications, about twenty to thirty per month totaling over 1,500 publications on homocysteine and vascular heart disease. According to the ‘Journal of Longevity’ Dr. McCully’s research has been a turning point in health science. Sally Pacholok believes that if he had not been so persistent in the face of criticism by his peers, ‘this entire facet of cardiovascular health might have remained hidden and many instances of circulatory problems might have remained mysteries’.

In our last article, we went into detail about how homocysteine can wreak havoc on our cardiovascular system, putting us at risk for coronary artery disease, heart attacks, strokes and deep vein thrombosis. Sally Pacholok also explains the importance that properly diagnosing B 12 deficiency can have for cardiovascular diseases. During her career as a nurse, she has seen many cases of cardiovascular patients who were misdiagnosed. 

During her research, she found many instances of misdiagnosed heart disease. In an article from the ‘Thrombosis Journal’, doctors describe a 27 year old man who went to the hospital complaining of ongoing and progressive lower extremity weakness, numbness and abnormal sensations in both legs. On the second day of admission, still with no diagnosis, the man started complaining of crushing chest pain and shortness of breath and started sweating profusely. His EKG showed he was having a heart attack, so he underwent emergency angioplasty. The surgeon found a large blood clot in his left coronary artery and inserted a stent. Doctors started the man on aspirin, a blood thinner and other cardiac medications. The next day, his echocardiogram showed reduced left ventricular function at 45%. Despite the successful cardiac stent placement he continued to complain of difficulty breathing and shortness of breath. A CT of the man’s chest revealed multiple small blood clots in this left lower lung. His blood work revealed macrocytic anemia and elevated LDH which are classic signs of B 12 deficiency. His serum B 12 was very low at 158 pg/ml and he had normal serum folate. His homocysteine was severely elevated. At this point the man’s doctors tested him for pernicious anemia. They found that he was positive for anti-intrinsic factor antibodies and started him on B 12 therapy. Seven days after his heart attack, a repeat echocardiogram showed normal left ventricular function. After ten days of B 12 therapy his homocysteine decreased dramatically from 105 to 12.9 umol/L. His neurological signs and symptoms gradually improved and after his hospital stay he was transferred to a physical therapy rehabilitation center not only to address his cardiovascular event, but to address the original neurological problems caused by chronic severe B 12 deficiency.

Cases like this are not rare, they have been reported world wide, yet few doctors consider the B 12-homocysteine connection when treating cardiac or occlusive vascular disorders. In cases like these, it boils down to the patient and family being assertive and insisting on B 12-homocysteine testing. If you are reading this and have observed signs of what could be B 12 deficiency, you would be wise to be tested for B 12 and add B 12 to your ‘Heart and Body Extract’ health protocol.

As we saw in our previous blog, excess homocysteine causes your blood vessels to lose elasticity, making it harder for them to dilate and damaging their inner lining. This damage allows cholesterol, collagen and calcium to attach to the inner walls of your blood vessels, where they can form sticky deposits called arteriosclerosis plaques. These plaques narrow your arteries and drastically increase your risk of suffering deadly disorders such as heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, carotid and renal artery stenosis or aneurysms. Homocysteine is also an oxidant that decreases the production of nitric oxide, a substance crucial to healthy blood vessels function which decreases the incidence of arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure. It is the B vitamins B 12, B6 and folic acid that convert the toxic homocysteine into a non-toxic aminoacid with the help of the liver. Being deficient in these vitamins allows homocysteine to build up and wreak havoc. According to B 12 expert Ralph Green, M.D. “For each 5 umol/L increment in total plasma homocysteine there is a corresponding increase of about 40% in the relative risk of developing coronary artery disease”. Again, supplement with these B vitamins and the products at ‘Healthy Hearts Club’ are a perfect winning combination for your heart. The ‘Female Balance Extract’ contains two important B vitamins, B 5 and B 3 and the ‘Ginseng Extract’ is a general tonic that works well with the B complex. The ‘Gland Extract’ is equally a great product that complements great with the B vitamins. It has nutrient and digestive properties, increases absorption and utilization of nutrients and stimulates the glandular system of the body. All of these products can assist your heart in lowering homocysteine levels because B 12 works best when taken with the whole B complex.

Increasing numbers of doctors are aware of the dangers of high homocysteine and the benefits of folic acid therapy. Unfortunately, few do fully understand the critical role vitamin B 12 plays in detoxifying homocysteine. According to the authors, people with high homocysteine levels often respond fully only when they are given large amounts of B 12 as well. The reason for this is that people deficient in B 12 cannot assimilate folic acid properly and as a result much of the folic acid is trapped in an inaccessible form. Many cardiologists prescribe only folic acid to patients with high homocysteine levels or give a multivitamin containing small amounts of B 12 . This is often ineffective because a few micrograms of B 12 cannot correct a significant deficiency. If you have high homocysteine levels your doctor needs to test you to determine if a B 12 deficiency exists. Proper treatment of homocysteine may include high doses of folic acid, vitamin  B 12 and B 6.

A considerable amount of research is being done on the topic. Some of this research has shown that high levels of homocysteine are associated with a subsequent risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) independent of other coronary risk factors. Just a 5% increase in homocysteine makes it three times more likely for a person to suffer heart attacks. Vitamin supplementation, according to research, can be used to treat high levels of homocysteine. Similarly, in the ‘New England Journal of Medicine’ Norwegian researchers followed 587 patients and found a strong relation between plasma homocysteine levels and overall mortality. Another study of more than 400 patients who had suffered a heart attack or unstable angina showed that the death rate from cardiac disease was more than twice as high for patients with higher homocysteine. Finally, another study performed by physician David Wald and his colleagues studied the effects of a common gene variant that raises homocysteine levels concluding that the association of homocysteine and cardiovascular disease is causal.

Similarly, in women, even young women, high homocysteine levels has been shown to nearly double the risk of stroke. The magnitude of the increase in stroke risk was similar to that of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Dozens of additional studies corroborate these findings, implicating high homocysteine is one of the most powerful cardiovascular risk factors ever identified. Luckily this is easy to treat. One recent study tested the effects of supplementation with folic acid alone, B 12 alone and folic acid B 12 together. Research showed that all three approaches worked but the combination approach yielded the most remarkable results with plasma total homocysteine reduced by 38.5 %. Evidence shows that the same impressive results can be achieved by the majority of people who stick with the vitamin regiment. In my opinion, it is important to stress that B 12 should be taken with the whole B complex because all the B vitamins work together.

Additional studies on the effectiveness of the homocysteine therapy show lowering homocysteine can dramatically lower the risk of death or debility. We can list the following:

In a study of patients that had undergone angioplasty to correct coronary artery stenosis (narrowing of the arteries). After one year, the researchers reported the incidence of major adverse events was one third in the treatment group.

In a separate six month double blind study a Swiss research group administered folic acid, B 6 and B 12 to a group of patients who had undergone successful coronary artery angioplasty. The rate of restenosis (re-narrowing of the arteries) was significantly lower and the group had less than half the need for a repeated procedure on the targeted lesion. The researchers concluded the vitamin treatment, with minimal side effects, should be considered as adjunctive therapy for patients undergoing coronary angioplasty. 

In another study, Australian researchers reported 90% reduction in cardiovascular events in people with homocystinuria who received homocysteine lowering therapy.

Similarly, researchers in the United Kingdom and Norway evaluated 89 men, ranging in age from 39 to 67 with existing coronary artery disease to determine if oral B vitamins would have an effect on the health of the arteries. After eight weeks of treatment with folic acid and vitamin B 12, the subjects’ plasma homocysteine levels dropped significantly compared to levels in similar men taking a placebo. In addition, the arteries of men taking the vitamins dilated more efficiently in response to blood flow demands. These findings, the researchers concluded, ‘support the view that lowering homocysteine through B vitamin supplementation may reduce cardiovascular risk‘.

Physician Tedd Mitchell shares his testimony of how his grandfather died at the age of 50 of a massive heart attack and his father had a quadruple bypass in his 50’s, even though they were non-smokers, had no high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or obesity. After learning about homocysteine he decided to get checked and lo and behold…, his homocysteine was significantly elevated. As a result of this he changed his life style, started taking supplements of folic acid, B 12 and B 6 after which his homocysteine levels became normal. All this evidence shows how simple, non-toxic preventive measures like this may be one of the most powerful and simple preventive measures we can implement for people at risk for cardiovascular disease. While many patients are told to stop smoking, exercise, lose weight and lower their cholesterol, many patients with heart attacks do not have these risk factors. Similarly, many people who seemingly are in good health are suffering from strokes, blood clots, etc at earlier ages. Many of these people carry very common gene variants that can cause their homocysteine levels to rise to dangerous levels. For these people, early and accurate testing for high homocysteine and low B 12 levels might mean the difference between dying young and leading a long healthy life.

These reports are exciting because they indicate that homocysteine-reducing vitamin therapy, an inexpensive, simple, and safe treatment may significantly reduce the rate of cardiovascular disease. What is more, these studies used low dose oral B 12 which is less effective than high dose B 12 in patients with existing deficiencies. They also used oral tablets, which are less effective than B 12 lozenges or injections, and used cyanocobalamin, which does not stay in the body as effectively as the bioactive form methylcobalamin.

The authors assert that in order for researchers to fully understand B 12, studies need to include serum B 12 levels in the ‘normal’ low or perform urinary MMA testing of subjects. People who discover their homocysteine levels to be high should not take any chances.

Despite all this evidence, the medical community shows mixed feelings toward the effectiveness of lowering high homocysteine. However, the authors believe that if early testing for high homocysteine became common place, it would be possible for such life threatening vascular events in young people to become far more rare. “We might be able to help hundreds of thousands of people who can be treated with vitamins at a very early age, before they ever begin to develop blood vessel lesions that can cause premature heart attacks, blood clots or strokes. Identifying B 12 deficiencies that can lead to high homocysteine levels would also have huge health benefits.” the authors assert.

As a practicing physician and nurse, Sally Pacholok does not see cardiologists including B 12 in their cardiac work-ups. The few cardiologists that order homocysteine tests typically treat high levels only with folic acid. She does not see internists or general practitioners testing for B 12 deficiency either or ordering homocysteine levels although they have no problem ordering numerous lipid profiles for cholesterol. She sees hundreds of cardiac patients coming through the emergency department who have been prescribed high doses of folic acid but no B 12. She shares the real story of a 56 year old man who complained of chest pain. He had a history of a previous heart attack, non-insulin dependent diabetes, GERD, depression and five stents. He was borderline anemic, he complained of numbness and tingling in his feet but his doctors had told him it was due to diabetes. He had been taking a PPI for five years, an antidepressant for three years, a cholesterol lowering agent and a multivitamin prescribed by his doctor for he last five years. He had all the symptoms of B 12 deficiency. The doctor ordered tests including  B 12 and homocysteine. The results indicated normal renal function and his lipid profile was picture perfect. He was found deficient in B 12 and his homocysteine levels were very elevated, all the evidence showed that this is what caused his significant coronary artery disease and poor health. Had the doctors tested his B 12 levels, all of this could have been avoided.

If you are at risk, get tested

Given the evidence that high homocysteine is a risk factor for vascular disease in both young and old people, screening for B 12 should be commonplace for people at risk. Homocysteine should also be routine for senior citizens, pregnant women and people with diabetes, patients with renal disease, auto-immune disease, thyroid disease. Also people that use of medications that raise homocysteine levels like lipid lowering drugs, metformin, anticonvulsants etc, people who already have a diagnosis for cardiovascular disease should be tested for homocysteine and B 12. Patients with high homocysteine levels should be evaluated for underlying B 12 deficiency and should be treated with standard doses of folic acid, B 6 and B 12. “Even people in the upper range of what’s considered normal should be started on homocysteine-lowering therapy, because levels only 12% above the highest normal level are linked to a threefold increase in the risk of heart attack.”

Equally important when the patient undergoes homocysteine lowering therapy is the need to insist that you doctor first obtains a baseline B 12 and urinary MMA. As the authors have noted, folic acid corrects the anemia and enlarged red blood cells that doctors generally look for when checking for B 12 deficiency, but does nothing to stop the neurological damage caused by depleted B 12 stores. B 12 testing will allow doctors to tailor the homocysteine lowering program to the patient’s individual needs. In some cases, high-dose oral B 12 will be sufficient. In others, injected B 12 will be necessary. This is all to say doctors cannot merely guess how much B 12 is enough for each patient, therefore the need for adequate testing.

Treatment

In the authors’ opinion, B 12 injections are preferable to oral B 12 because of the difficulty with absorption. In the case of neurological symptoms, injections are absolutely necessary. The authors have personally seen that in these cases high doses of oral B 12 do not work.

There are three forms of supplemental vitamin B 12: cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin and methylcobalamin. Current evidence shows that the retention of hydroxocobalamin is three times superior to that of cyanocobalamin 28 days after injection. Also, methycobalamin is superior to hydroxocobalamin for neurological disease but it is not widely used in the United States. Japanese studies show methylcobalamin bypasses several potentially problematic steps in B 12 metabolism. In addition, methylcobalamin provides the body with essential methyl groups that reduce oxidation. Oral methylcobalamin is retained better than cyanocobalamin in the liver and other tissues.

In addition, there are concerns about the use of cyanide based vitamin B 12 derivative, which has to be detoxified and cleared by the liver. Some people with certain conditions like ‘Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), hepatitis sufferers, smokers  and children with inborn errors of B 12 metabolism should not take the cyanide form of B 12. In all these cases, hydroxocobalamin has an antagonistic effect on cyanide.

Whether it is the methylcobalamin or the hydroxocobalamin form, what it is important to know is that in severe cases (auto immune pernicious anemia, gastric or ileal surgery patients) the treatment needs to be continued for life.

B 12 deficiency is a publich health crisis, particularly in the Baby Boomers generation.

The oral versus the injected forms

While there is a need for more research on the topic, there are small studies showing that daily high-dose oral B 12 (2,000 mcg) was effective in producing hematologic and neurologic responses as a standard injectable regimen with patients with B 12 deficiency. Proving that, in some cases oral B 12 can replace injections. For patients with a variety of symptoms, more research is needed comparing oral and injectable forms of B 12.

Regarding the dose, most B 100 supplements may contain 6 mcg of B 12 versus the 2,000 mcg the authors consider to be a normal dose. To this, we need to add we don’t know how much of it is absorbed, all of which might prove fatal for many patients. Adding the fact that the efficacy of injections has been well studied, which cannot be said of many over the counter B 12 products, the authors lean toward the injectable form as the best form.

Treatment for B 12 deficiency is very inexpensive. One year costs $36 when patients administer the injections themselves. High-dose methyl-B 12 lozenges (2,000mcg) can cost between $48-72 a year depending on the brand. This is far cheaper than having to treat a demented patient with undiagnosed B 12 which could be over 1,000 a year, or 60,000 a year for a Alzheimer’s patient, multiple sclerosis or developmental disability.

Don’t quit

Taking B 12 for a few weeks only will not solve the problem, not in the case of severe cases. In these cases, the patient will have to take them for the rest of their life. Once they have been regular taking their B 12 shots, your levels will stay normal for several months even years. This is because B 12 is stored in the liver, however, this is not a reason to stop treatment. Eventually, the symptoms will come back if treatment is stopped. The authors also advise to always keep medical records, specially when switching doctors. They recommend to be assertive with doctors that are not knowledgeable about B 12.

Spread the word

It’s not unusual for B 12 deficiency to run in families, so if someone is diagnosed with this disorder, they should let their relatives know. In most cases, several other cases of deficiency are usually discovered.

According to the ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’, June 29, 2009 “Vitamin B 12 deficiency should be on our radar screen …Prevention, early detection and treatment of B 12 deficiency are important public healthy issues, because they are essential to prevent development of irreversible neurological damage which can impact quality of life”

Homocysteine, a revolutionary look at arteriosclerosis (Pt. 2)

05 Jul 2016 no comments HAB Extract

No disease has been investigated more thoroughly and painstakingly than arteriosclerosis, not even cancer. For the longest time, the cholesterol/fat interpretation was the only explanation available. With the work of Dr. McCully, new evidence showed a different view of the disease that revolutionized this field of medicine. One of his major contributions can be summarized as follows:

“The idea that plaques are filled with only greasy fat deposits is incorrect for the vast majority of plaques. Many arteriosclerotic plaques even in advanced disease are of the fibrous and fibrocalcific type that are found in subjects with homocystinuria. Typically, arteriosclerotic plaques are tough, inelastic, thickened and heavily encrusted with calcium deposits, making them difficult to dissect with scalpel or scissors. In advanced plaques, their complex structure also includes cholesterol crystals, fatty deposits, areas of degeneration or death of tissue, blood clots, protein deposits, the growth of small blood vessels into the artery wall and areas of bleeding that predispose the sufferer to a complete blockage by formation of blood clots“.

Dr. McCully did not seek to dispose of the cholesterol theory. He felt that the many years of research on the theory could be integrated into his new discoveries. For this reason, he honored the work of other researchers in the cholesterol field by asserting:

“Experts in the development of plaques agree that lipoproteins do participate in the early stages of plaque formation by forming foam cells. Adherents of the cholesterol/fat hypothesis correctly point out that elevated cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of arteriosclerosis.”

But association is not cause, therefore he saw many shortcomings in the traditional view of the disease and he sought to find answers. In his autopsy study of almost 200 veterans, for instance, the group with the most severe disease had a mean cholesterol of 16 and 2/3 had no evidence of diabetes, high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol. The defenders of the cholesterol theory claim that even if cholesterol is low, it must cause the disease because of the correlation of risk with elevated levels. The homocysteine theory can explain arteriosclerosis even with low levels of cholesterol.

Dr. McCully recognized the challenge that treating the disease had become and this prompted him to assert:

“When treating manifestations of arteriosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure or gangrene of feet and legs, the medical profession frequently encounters the disease in its late stages, when decades of gradual narrowing of coronary, carotid renal or iliac arteries by arteriosclerosis have occurred silently before symptoms occur. In attempting to treat serious disease late in its course, difficult problems are encountered by physicians and surgeons. Drug therapy to lower cholesterol may be ineffective and complicated by toxic side effects and by failure to respond, mainly because the disease is so far advanced. Efforts to stop the progress of arteriosclerosis by controlling blood cholesterol and lipoproteins through dietary modification and drug therapy are difficult. And changing lifetime habits of poor diet and nutritional abuse are usually ineffective in the elderly. Some practitioners in the arteriosclerosis field because of their training have neglected nutritional and preventive measures to treat advanced disease and have been reluctant to accept the new approach. Nutritional scientists, on the contrary, have just recently began to concentrate on the role of partial vitamin deficiencies and imbalances in degenerative diseases.”

A new era in cardiovascular testing

When Dr. McCully did his research, the homocysteine theory had not been widely accepted and it was just beginning to be re-examined by increasing numbers of medical investigators worldwide. A reliable test for blood homocysteine levels had just began to be applied to human studies. Dr. McCully saw the need to plan and conclude long-term prospective trials to test the homocysteine theory of arteriosclerosis. He also called for the need to have some funding which for decades, he said, had been “lavished on the cholesterol/fat hypothesis”. He saw the need for clinical tests to document changes in blood homocysteine, levels of vitamins B 6, folic acid, B 12, LDL, HDL and tests of major organ function. He also saw the need to document the clinical complications of arteriosclerosis such as heart attack, stroke, gangrene and embolism to be established by reliable criteria. Several decades later, his desire might have come true.

Today a test for homocysteine can be obtained from independent laboratories and most alternative medicine doctors are on board with it. Dr. David Jockers, asserts that “lipid panels are archaic and scientists have demonstrated that these tests have many limitations and only identify 40% of those at risk for coronary heart disease.” He asserts “People drop dead everyday with “normal” cholesterol levels, “normal” blood pressure and “normal” EKG findings. Scientists have found much more advanced blood tests that can far more accurately assess your risk of heart disease.” These kinds of tests have opened “a new era of cardiovascular testing” (1)

In his article titled ‘What are your homocysteine levels?’ Dr. Jockers explains that “The best way to test homocysteine levels is through a combination lab that looks at other factors involved in cardiovascular health.” One of these tests is C-Reactive Protein, which looks at inflammation levels in the body and is a much better way of assessing cardiovascular risk than total cholesterol. Also the Lp(a) and the VAP test. The Vertical Auto Profile Test (VAP) test “identifies twice as many people at risk than routine cholesterol tests, including those with inherited risk factors who often develop premature heart disease. It measures total cholesterol, HDL (“good” cholesterol), LDL (“bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides. The VAP Test also measures cholesterol subclasses that play important roles in the development of heart disease.” (2)

Similarly, Dr. Whitaker, in his article ‘Nutrient spotlight: Benefits of B vitamins’ mentions how deficiencies of the B vitamins can elevate homocysteine levels, among other things. (3) Dr. Stephen Sinatra, in his article ‘Heart risk factor: homocysteine’ explains how homocysteine can be a risk factor for heart disease. (4)

How can you protect yourself from the damaging effects of homocysteine?

According to the author, arteriosclerosis is a disease which begins in childhood and adolescence, develops gradually without symptoms during the early adult years and affects men often suddenly in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.  Because of the silent, gradual, and prolonged onset of arteriosclerosis, the most successful strategy for prevention must start in childhood and continue in adolescence and adulthood, providing the elder years with little risk of developing heart attack, angina pectoris, stroke, kidney failure or peripheral vascular disease. This lifelong strategy requires control of known modifiable risk factors, especially consumption of an optimal diet, moderate physical activity and avoidance of tobacco, drugs and alcohol.

Dr. McCully’s research yielded enough information to make prevention of the disease within our reach. The best way to carry out this preventive strategy is outlined in the rest of this article. In this sense, one of the most appealing features of the homocysteine theory is its simplicity and ease of application in its prevention, even though from a scientific point of view the theory is complex in many ways. Anybody can understand the basic principles of the theory and do something about it. He suggests prevention should emphasize limitation of methionine consumption and augmentation of natural sources of B 6, B 12 and folic acid. Prevention and treatment with supplemental vitamins must be at sufficient doses to ensure control of blood homocysteine. Other factors affecting homocysteine levels, such as age, gender, family history, thyroid function, kidney function, blood pressure, diabetes, drugs, hormones and toxins must also be taken into consideration.

A person at risk has to understand this: homocysteine is derived from methionine, a normal amino acid building block of all proteins in the diet. This amino acid can damage the artery walls if allowed to accumulate excessively in the body’s blood and tissues. The other important aspect to understand is that the level of homocysteine in the blood is controlled by the action of three B vitamins- B 6, B 12 and folic acid- within the body. Consumption of these vitamins on a daily basis can protect against the development of homocysteine for a lifetime. In a disease of aging like arteriosclerosis some risk factors can be modified, others cannot (age, gender, genetics). Attention to all of the contributing factors will guarantee protection from the disease. The blood homocysteine level ideally should be kept on the 8 to 10 micromole per liter range to be protected from the progression of the disease. Dietary and lifestyle changes can accomplish this. Even in the case of genetic predisposition to the disease, increasing the consumption of B 6, B 12 and folic acid can keep homocysteine levels from building up in the blood. Despite the known fact that individuals require different amounts of vitamins and minerals for optimal health according to their genetic makeup, gender, etc. These measures are best coordinated with physicians and surgeons who specialize in the treatment of established vascular disease.

Dietary prevention of arteriosclerosis

In its simplest form, an optimal diet to prevent arteriosclerosis consists of abundant fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and legumes, limited quantities of fresh meat and dairy products, a minimum of highly processed and packaged foods and strictly limited consumption of fats and sugars. Unfortunately, the typical American diet of fast convenient foods is the major cause for the high risk of arteriosclerosis and its complications of coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and generalized vascular disease in the U.S.

Because of persuasive evidence that dietary deficiency of folic acid in pregnant women leads to birth defects in newborn infants, especially neural tube defects such as spina bifida, the FDA ruled back in 1998 that sufficient folic acid be added to enriched foods to ensure that a minimum intake of 400 mcg of folic acid per day for pregnant women. The amounts of dietary folic acid and vitamin B 6 that are required to prevent abnormal elevation of blood homocysteine are 350 to 400 mcg per day of folic acid and 3 to 3.5 mg per day of vitamin B 6.

Vitamin B 12

Unlike B 6 and folic acid which are found in foods of animal and plant origin, B 12 is formed only by bacteria, fungi and algae. Yeast, plants and animals cannot make it and they depend on microorganisms to obtain B 12. When we consume these animal foods we can obtain B 12. When it comes to absorption, a protein made in the stomach called ‘intrinsic factor’ helps B 12 be absorbed. Additional protein factors in the blood are required for transport of vitamin B 12 to the liver and other organs. Eating a diet of animal products will provide 5 mcg per day of B 12, vs the 3 mcg established by the RDA.

Absorption of B 12 is impaired by inflammation of the stomach, ulcer disease typical of the elderly, etc. In conditions like pernicious anemia, because of lack of intrinsic factor required for absorption, there is no absorption of B 12. In this case injections of B 12 are necessary to avoid pernicious anemia and neurological damage to the spinal cord. Strict vegetarians can develop pernicious anemia after 20-30 years. In subjects with low levels of vitamin B 12 in the blood homocysteine becomes elevated (13-15 micromoles per liter) Elevations of homocysteine and B 12 are so related that hematologists use this as an indicator of inadequate B 12 absorption or inadequate dietary folic acid intake.

Protein

Of all the 20 amino acids, homocysteine is derived only from methionine. All proteins contain methionine, but animal foods like meat, eggs, milk and cheese contain more methionine than plant foods, 2 to 3 times more. Plant foods on the contrary contain larger amounts of B 6 and folic acid. The key to understanding homocysteine for animal food eaters is that the more these foods are consumed, the higher the intake of B 6 and folic acid has to be. Processing, cooking and storing foods causes loses of these vitamins, which can lead to elevations of homocysteine.

Fresh meats, liver and eggs, if not excessively processed, heated or preserved, contain abundant amounts of vitamin B 12, B 6 and folic acid. On the contrary, cooked or baked foods that contain cane or beet sugar, corn syrup or fruit sugars are highly processed carbohydrates that contain no vitamins or minerals. A diet that is 25-30 % sugar and contains 40-50% calories from fats, forces the body to obtain its dietary requirement for B vitamins from the remaining 25-30% of food calories. Consequently, this diet can lead to deficiencies of the B vitamins.

Processed foods

Food processing, milling, heating, chemical additives, radiation and storage can lead to up to 85-90%  loss of B vitamins. Raw ingredients that are frozen will only lose 10-15%. A highly processed diet, together with high consumption of fats and sugars will lead to elevation of homocysteine, arterial damage and arteriosclerosis over a period of months and years. The brain has appetite control centers capable of producing eating behavior sufficient to supply the body with vitamins and minerals adequate with survival. This means that a diet that is high in fats and sugars and therefore deficient in crucial vitamins and minerals will force the body to eat more in order to obtain these vital nutrients. This will lead to obesity and diabetes, which will accelerate the development of arteriosclerosis.

Fiber

Fiber is the indigestible starch-like roughage of plants. It can be soluble (fruit pectins) or insoluble (vegetable lignins and celluloses). In either case,  fiber is not digested or absorbed into the bloodstream, but stays in the stomach, intestine and colon during digestion of food. Therefore, it fills the stomach, producing satiety and increases the intestinal contents promoting regular elimination. It has no calories or nutritional value but the fiber of plants is rich in vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown an inverse relation between consumption of dietary fiber and many major diseases like arteriosclerosis.

Vitamin E and other antioxidants

Numerous studies have shown that vitamin E can reduce arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease up to 50%.

Minerals

Magnesium is essential for the action of enzymes that process proteins and the amino acids methionine and homocysteine. Zinc is also important for numerous functions of the body, including expressions of DNA and the aging process. These and other minerals are seriously depleted when whole grains are refined (up to 50-90%). Chromium, copper, manganese, selenium and molybdenum are required for optimal health. Fresh meats, seafood, and fresh vegetables will ensure adequate intake of these elements. Iodine is also important to make thyroid hormone, deficiencies in this vital mineral will cause goiter, elevation of blood homocysteine, increased blood cholesterol and lipoproteins and therefore susceptibility to coronary heart disease. The ‘Heart and Body Extract’ is formulated with kelp as one of its ingredients. Kelp is a rich source of iodine as well as other nutrients and is renown for its powerful nutritional benefits.

According to the research of Dr. Jockers, “Kelp is extraordinarily rich in alkaline buffering nutrients such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. It is also a phenomenal source of chlorophyll that boosts blood cell formation and purifies the body”. According to him, “kelp is considered the world’s most potent source of naturally occurring iodine”, it assists in blood sugar control because of its vanadium content, helps with poor digestion, supports the prostate, rebuilds and maintains all glands in the body, detoxifies the body of heavy metals and radiation and heals the liver, among other things. Kelp is also a wonderful source of a “unique group of polysaccharides called fucoidans” which have been shown to reduce pain, fight viruses and prevent arteriosclerosis. These sulfated polysaccharides “are also revered for their powerful ability to reduce blood clots” (5)

Vitamins

Dr. McCully emphasized how the B vitamins are key to the prevention of arteriosclerosis. He singled out three key B vitamins, namely B 6, B 12 and folic acid. Since the B vitamins work together as a complex, it would be a good idea in my opinion to take the whole B complex together. The ‘Female Balance Extract‘ contains other key B vitamins therefore it is a good complement to the homocysteine protocol. The ‘Ginseng Extract‘ is also a perfect complement to the B complex.

Other dietary factors

Other trace compounds in the diet are known to lower homocysteine levels. These compounds are found in foods like beets, garlic and onion. The sulfur compounds in these foods are also beneficial in lowering homocysteine levels in the blood. The ‘Heart an Body Extract’ contains garlic, which in combination with other herbs, makes a wonderful complement to the homocysteine diet proposed by Dr. McCully. Like kelp, garlic is considered a superfood herb, it is anti-inflammatory and one of nature’s powerful antibiotics. According to the research of Dr. Jockers “garlic is also used to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and help prevent/reverse cancer” (6)

Other foods like omega 3 unsaturated fish oil and plant oils are also helpful in lowering homocysteine levels. Apart from this, fish oil is a good source of B 6.

Oxycholesterols, the products of reaction of highly purified cholesterol with oxygen rapidly cause arteriosclerotic plaques as shown in animal experiments. The highly damaging oxycholesterols are found in foods in which cholesterol is subjected to heating and exposure to the oxygen of air during food processing, cooking and preservation. Examples are dried egg yolk, milk powder and fried foods. The oxycholesterols of these foods are absorbed into the blood stream during digestion where they become concentrated in the LDL fraction of the plasma causing damage to arterial wall cells and tissues promoting arteriosclerosis.

Optimal diet for health

The most important prerequisites for health are quality, freshness, variety and balance. Fresh means the food has been minimally processed and consumed quickly after harvesting if possible. B 6 is available abundantly in fresh vegetables, meats and fish. Folic acid is abundant in dark leafy vegetables and in liver. Vitamin B 12 is needed in extremely low amounts and is available only in foods of animal origin such as meat, eggs, fish and dairy products. Vegetables should be eaten with the peel and cooked with minimum heat as the B vitamins are sensitive to loss through heating, 6-10 servings a day is optimal. 2 to 4 oz of meat, poultry, fish or eggs provide more than adequate animal protein in a single day. Flavor can be provided by herbs, spices and oils like olive oil.

Animal foods need not be consumed everyday. For those who want to avoid meat, a serving of several ounces of eggs, milk or cheese several times per week will provide adequate B 12 to prevent anemia and a buildup of homocysteine in the blood. Vegans who do not consume animal products of any kind need to supplement their diets with 0.1 mg vitamin B 12 per day or 1 mg intramuscular injection per month to prevent deficiency of this important vitamin. Avoidance of pastries, cakes, heavy fried foods, sugary foods of all kinds will constitute a major improvement in overall health.

Selecting the best processed foods

The main purpose of processed foods is to increase storage potential, however major losses of vitamins occur. Examples are flour from whole grains, sugar from sugar beets, cane or corn, oils from olives or grains, etc. In the case of flour, almost 90% of the vitamins are lost. With beets, cane or corn, the final product is pure sucrose with none of the vitamins present in the original product. Separation of olive oil from olives removes virtually all of the water soluble vitamins, minerals and fiber with the exception of cold pressed olive oil which keeps the antioxidants.

Cholesterol is protected in the body against the oxygen of air by an elaborate combination of antioxidant vitamins, minerals and enzymes. When cholesterol of animal foods is exposed to the oxygen of air by food processing highly damaging cholesterol oxides are formed This is the case of powdered egg yolks, highly used in processed foods.

Canning foods require heating food and cans are sealed hot to exclude as much air as possible, this affects two important vitamins B 6 and folic acid as much as 35%.

Lifestyle factors and homocysteine levels

Smoking

Non smokers have lower levels of homocysteine than smokers. Cigarette smoke contains over 60 different toxic substances besides carbon monoxide.

Drugs and toxins

Some chemotherapy drugs, antiepileptic and antihypertensive drugs have been found to increase blood homocysteine levels because they antagonize the action of folic acid or B 6 in the body.

Exercise

There are no doubts of the benefits of moderate exercise for overall health and to lower the levels of homocysteine. Vigorous exercise, however, may cause heart attack in an individual with arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease because of nutritional, genetic or lifestyle history.

Stress

The fully oxidized form of homocysteine has been demonstrated to be a very potent exciter of brain function. Some children with high levels of homocysteine have been observed to have increased risk of convulsions and patients with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome have highly elevated levels of homocysteine in cerebrospinal fluid. This may suggest that elevated homocysteine may modify behavior to produce stressful personality traits or neuropsychiatric disorders.

Alcohol use

People who abuse alcohol have been shown to have elevated blood homocysteine levels. Alcohol intake leads to serious depletion of body stores of folic acid. There are numerous examples of severe arteriosclerosis with stroke, coronary heart disease, kidney failure and peripheral vascular disease in alcoholics. Moderate consumption of alcohol however, 12 drinks per day, depending on body weight has long been known to increase longevity.

Heavy consumption of coffee, more than 9 cups a day, was associated with some elevation of homocysteine. While tea had the opposite effect.

Genetic background, sex hormones and aging

Genetics accounts for 1/3 of the cases of coronary heart disease. One important cause of this predisposition is an abnormal inherited form of methylene-tetra-hydrofolate reductase  which affects around 5% of the population in the homozygous form (when both parents are carriers of the gene) and 38% of  the French Canadian population in the heterozygous form. An individual from a family that carries this mutation requires more folic acid in the diet or from supplements than somebody without this defect. Dr. McCully recommends 1,000 mcg per day in this case. 50 % of cases of homozygous homocystinuria respond to large doses of B 6. Any individual with a family history either in ancestors or descendants would be advised to consume a lifelong supplement of 125 mg per day of B 6. A family history of arteriosclerosis and heart disease implies a major contribution of genetic factors in causation.

Several medical conditions that may be determined genetically to some degree have a major effect on the risk of arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease. These are diabetes, hypertension, high levels of blood cholesterol or lipoprotein(a) and decreased thyroid function. Excessive, intensive medical therapy is usually required to control these medical conditions, favorably decreasing the risk of heart disease.

High cholesterol

Individuals with a significant elevated level of total blood cholesterol and LDL have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The treatment of this condition with diet, drugs, hormones and exercise has proven unsuccessful and dangerous when you consider the unpleasant side effects on muscle optic lens and carcinogenic effects. The effects of supplementation with B 6, folic acid and B 12 in lowering homocysteine, cholesterol and LDL was demonstrated in a small number of patients with elevated cholesterol levels, although the effect on vascular disease risk has not been determined. Theoretically, a significant decrease in the homocysteine content of LDL by this strategy should be beneficial because the strategy also decreases the formation of LDL aggregates containing homocysteine.

Aging

Elevation of homocysteine and arteriosclerosis is correlated with aging in both men and women. Because of decreased intake of nutrients and poorer absorption  and mastication by the elderly, it is recommended that B vitamins be given as a supplement in this amount: 10 mg of vitamin B 6, 1.0 mg of folic acid, and 0.1 mg of vitamin B 12 per day may help minimize the risk in homocysteine levels.

Prevention of arteriosclerosis

Many clinical studies have shown the effectiveness that dietary improvements and supplemental B 6, folic acid and vitamin B 12 have in lowering homocysteine. A diet  with fewer processed foods that contained adequate levels of B vitamins was effective in lowering blood homocysteine levels. A multicenter European study with 75 vascular cases and 800 controls showed that consumption of B 6, folic acid or B 12 reduced the risk of vascular disease by approximately two thirds.

The homocysteine revolution: medicine for the new millennium

What began as a chance observation in children with rare inherited diseases of homocysteine metabolism started a promising new field of medical research with the potential to unlock mysteries that had long puzzled medical scientists.

Since the discovery of homocysteine in the 70’s by Dr. McCully, a lot of new information has shed light in the understanding of the role that this seemingly unimportant byproduct of protein breakdown, homocysteine, could have in living cells and tissues, degenerative diseases of cancer and arteriosclerosis. This new field of research also opened up new understanding of how vital nutrients like vitamins A, C, B 12, B 2, folic acid, E and B 6 function within cells and tissues to control the basic processes of life itself: cellular respiration, cell and tissue growth, cell removal and replacement, maintenance of connective tissues, expression of genetic information, reproduction and embryonic development.

A large number of human studies  have confirmed the validity of the homocysteine approach to arteriosclerosis, which has caused the causes to be rewritten. The simplicity of the homocysteine theory has led to new proposals for the control of the disease with promising strategies for the successful treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Anybody can assure adequate dietary intake of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients to prevent or delay the onset of homocysteine. The different studies on the disease explain the supreme importance of lifelong consumption  of an optimal diet combined with cessation of smoking, adequate exercise and other simple measures. This strategy for prevention of arteriosclerosis is revolutionary because  it shifts the emphasis toward consumption of beneficial nutrients and places the consumption of fats and sugars in a new context, emphasizing that depletion of essential nutrients is the key factor in understanding the origin of disease. Rather than seeing the disease as caused by excess consumption of cholesterol and fats, homocysteine sees arteriosclerosis as a deficiency disease. Several discoveries by medical scientists in biochemistry, physiology and oncology are showing how the homocysteine theory is helping us understand cancer and the aging process as well as arteriosclerosis.

In conclusion, the research of Dr. McCully provided a powerful breakthrough in the understanding of degenerative diseases like arteriosclerosis. Thanks to his work, we have a great tool to take our health in our own hands. All the products at ‘Healthy Heart Club’ are a great addition to your health protocol.

Thanks for reading.

References:

(1) http://drjockers.com/cardiopower-testing/

(2) http://drjockers.com/homocysteine-levels/

(3) http://www.drwhitaker.com/nutrient-spotlight-benefits-of-b-vitamins/

(4) http://www.drsinatra.com/heart-risk-factor-homocysteine/

(5) http://drjockers.com/6-major-health-benefits-of-sea-kelp/

(6) http://drjockers.com/the-immune-boosting-power-of-garlic/

Homocysteine, a revolutionary look at arteriosclerosis (Pt. 1)

05 Jul 2016 no comments HAB Extract

Dr. Kilmer S. McCully is credited with one of the major medical and scientific breakthroughs of this century. A graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Medical school, in 1968 he opened a new field of medicine when he discovered homocysteine, a breakdown of dietary protein with many potential health risk factors.  His research opened a new pathway of medical research that relates homocysteine to arteriosclerosis, cancer, aging, normal growth and development and the degenerative diseases of aging.

His accomplishments are many and worth noting: at Harvard University, he studied cholesterol biosynthesis and pregnenolone metabolism. He was appointed Research Associate in Biochemistry at National Institutes of Health, where he studied tRNA structure. In 1963 he won an American Cancer Society Faculty Research. He studied amino acid metabolism in the laboratory of James Watson, the discoverer of the DNA structure. During 1965-1968, he served as Clinical and Research Fellow in Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital. During which, he studied protein synthesis in organ cultures of human tumors.

Following his residency in pathology, Dr. McCully began his study of homocysteine and vascular disease in 1968 in the Pathology Department at Massachusetts General Hospital. He won a Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health from. He was appointed Associate Pathologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Program in Health Sciences and Technology. After leaving Harvard in 1979, he was appointed Visiting Professor of Laboratory Medicine at the University of Connecticut. In 1981 he was appointed Pathologist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Providence and Associate Professor of Pathology at Brown University. He is currently Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Director of the Boston Area Consolidated Laboratories at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, and Medical Director of the Network Consolidated Laboratories for Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in New England. He also serves as Associate Clinical Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School.

During his tenure at the Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Providence and Boston, Dr. McCully continued his studies of homocysteine metabolism in arteriosclerosis, cancer and degenerative diseases. He has published over 80 research articles in peer-reviewed journals in his field of investigation from 1961 until 2012. He has also published two monographs, several book chapters, and several reviews in medical journals, two books for the general reader and a book of his scientific memoirs. He currently holds seven U.S. Patents for anti-neoplastic and anti-atherogenic derivatives of homocysteine thiolactone.

In 1998 Dr. McCully was given the Linus Pauling Functional Medicine Award by the Institute for Functional Medicine and the Norman E. Clarke, Sr. Award by the American College for Advancement in Medicine. In 1999 he was given the Burton Kallman Scientific Achievement Award by the National Nutritional Foods Association and the Kynett Foundation Cardiology Award of Excellence by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. In 2000 he received the International Integrative Medicine Award by the International Journal of Integrative Medicine, the Dinsdale Award by the Society for Scientific Exploration, the Benjamin Franklin Literary and Medical Society Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award in Clinical Nutrition by the International and American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists. In 2000 Dr. McCully was honored by citation to the Twentieth Century Hall of Fame by Prevention Magazine. In 2001 he was given the Gallery of Heroes Award by Men’s Journal Magazine. Also in 2001 he was given a Commendation by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Providence. In 2003 he was awarded the Integrity in Science Award of the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Edward Rhodes Stitt Award in Laboratory Medicine by the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. His biography is currently listed in Marquis Who’s Who in America. (1)

In his first book, ‘The homocysteine revolution’, Dr. McCully details his research on homocysteine, opening a new understanding to the underlying cause and prevention of heart disease. Based on his findings, he proposes dietary and lifetime changes the reader can easily implement. In what follows we will look at his homocysteine theory and how it applies to heart disease and arteriosclerosis.

We will also see how all the products from the ‘Healthy Hearts Club’ are the perfect complement to the homocysteine diet.

The mysterious case of stroke in childhood

It all started in 1968. After finishing his many years of education in chemistry, medicine, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics and pathology, Dr. McCully was given a research laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. While working with the human genetics unit at the hospital, and after examining many patients with genetic diseases, he was presented with the case of a 8-year-old who, 35 years earlier, had died of a disease of old age. The official cause of death was ‘arteriosclerosis of the carotid artery with cerebral infarct (hardening of the artery leading to the brain with death of brain tissue)’. The boy’s obscure case had been published in the November 23 issue of the ‘New England Journal of Medicine’ in 1933 and forgotten. Thirty-two years later, the boy’s nine-year-old niece, presented the same symptoms as her uncle. Studying the chemical composition of her urine, doctors found it contained homocysteine, an amino acid derived from the normal breakdown of proteins in the body. She was diagnosed with homocystinuria and the doctors concluded her uncle must have died of the same disease.

Dr. McCully had never heard of this disease, it had been discovered 6 years earlier by medical investigators in Belfast, Ireland. By that time, two more cases had been discovered in the U.S. A physician named Dr. Harvey Mudd had studied several more cases and he had discovered that in this disease the liver is unable to dispose of homocysteine normally because of a genetic error in a liver enzyme called cystathionine synthase. Another doctor, George Spaeth and his associates, found that vitamin B 6 lowered the amount of homocysteine found in the urine. The liver enzyme that Dr. Mudd had discovered to be abnormal in homocystinuria needs B 6 for normal activity. This enzyme converts homocysteine into cystathionine, which is further processed in the liver to cysteine and finally excreted in the urine.

Dr. McCully recovered the tissues from the original slides and re-studied the case from 1933. He found the walls of the carotid arteries leading to the brain were severely thickened and damaged by arteriosclerosis. Blood clots prevented blood from reaching the brain of the child causing death of the right half of the brain. He also found scattered, widespread changes in all the small arteries of the body similar to those he found in many elderly patients. There was no cholesterol deposited in the walls of the child’s arteries, which prompted many questions. Was this hardening of the arteries caused by homocysteine? Was there an effect on cholesterol and fat? Why was there no cholesterol in the walls of the child’s arteries? Was this disease in children the same arteriosclerosis found in the elderly?

Other doctors in Belfast and London had studied ten cases of children affected by this disease. Many of these children had died from blood clots in the brain, heart and kidneys, hardening of the arteries resulting from fibrous plaques and loss of elasticity. All these cases were identical to the 8-year-old-boy case in 1933. It was not clear yet how homocysteine could produce changes in the arteries resembling arteriosclerosis without affecting cholesterol, lipoproteins or fats in the blood and artery walls.

Some time later, Dr. McCully found another case of homocysteine, this time in a 2-month-old baby. In addition to homocysteine, this baby had another substance related to the disease called cystathionine and a different liver enzyme being affected. This enzyme was found to be unable to transform homocysteine into methionine using B 12, which in a normal liver is performed quickly and easily. The enzyme that was found to be abnormal in the other cases was normal in the 2 month-old baby, but this baby had the same arteriosclerosis as the other children. Dr. McCully studied the organs of the diseased baby and comparing all the cases, he found that in all these rare genetic cases, the amino acid homocysteine had caused damage and hardening of the arteries by a direct effect on the cells and tissues lining the arteries.

He was so excited about his discovery, he could hardly sleep for two weeks. If homocysteine causes damage to the arteries, what could this mean for the general population with heart disease? When Dr. McCully was studying these cases (1950-60’s), heart disease was already an epidemic in America and the prevailing theory was that high cholesterol depositing in the walls of the arteries causes heart disease. He wanted to know how homocysteine could be related to high cholesterol and heart disease.

By reviewing research, he found two key discoveries that helped him understand homocysteine better. One was the work of Dr. James Rinehart, who had published a paper 20 years earlier where he discussed how a diet deficient in vitamin B 6 fed to monkeys led to arteriosclerotic changes in the arteries. The other was the findings of biochemists in Russia who discovered that the liver enzyme that converts homocysteine to cystathionine needs B 6 for its action. Could Rinehart’s monkeys with a B 6 deficiency have had a buildup of homocysteine that damaged their arteries? On the other hand, Dr. Harvey Mudd had found the enzyme cystathionine to be abnormal in children with homocystinuria. Another researcher, George Spaeth, had found that some children with this disease respond dramatically to large doses of B 6, preventing a buildup of homocysteine in their blood and urine. Dr. McCully was unable to explain how homocysteine related to cholesterol in causing damage to arteries because, in all cases, children with the disease had normal levels of cholesterol. The monkeys in Rinehart’s experiment also had normal levels of cholesterol.

While preparing his paper for publication, Dr. McCully read the work of some doctors from Toronto who had been working with choline, a component of lecithin. They found that a deficiency of choline in the diet of rats caused arteriosclerotic changes in the rats’ arteries and fat build up in the liver. This raised the possibility that arteriosclerosis was caused by a buildup of homocysteine in the rats’ blood.

With all these new findings, Dr. McCully published his paper stating that homocysteine damages the arteries by a direct effect on the arterial cells and tissues in homocystinuria caused by two different genetic defects. He also hypothesized that arteriosclerosis was caused by elevated blood homocysteine levels probably caused by vitamin B and choline deficiencies. His paper received hundreds of requests for reprints from scientists from all over the world.

Three different types of homocysteine

So far, Dr. McCully had found out that regardless of the cause, elevations of homocysteine causes arteriosclerosis by damaging the cells and tissues of the arteries. In this sense, a third type of homocystinuria confirmed his observations because they all had this element of damage regardless of the liver enzyme that was abnormal.

In type one, the most frequent case of the disease, B 6 was effective in preventing high levels of homocysteine. In type two, the next most frequent case, folic acid corrected the abnormality and lowered homocysteine. In type three, the rarest form of homocysteine, B 12 had little effect because of the difficulty of the liver to absorb this B vitamin.

The cholesterol theory vs. the homocysteine theory

As he continued with his publications and lectures, Dr. McCully encountered different reactions to his theories, but mostly skepticism. He believes due to the failure to find cholesterol in the patients. The explanation that an amino acid, not cholesterol, caused these cases of arteriosclerosis made it harder to accept.

But Dr. McCully was still trying to bring together the new research with the established knowledge. In the traditional view, excess fats and cholesterol are believed to damage the arteries. In the homocysteine theory, arteries are damaged by the effects of homocysteine on cells and tissues of arteries, leading to loss of elasticity, hardening, calcification, narrowing of the lumen and formation of blood clots inside arteries. It is an intoxification from proteins vs. an intoxification from fats. The homocysteine theory considers arteriosclerosis a result of an dietary imbalance due to the ingestion of protein and low levels of B vitamins, while the cholesterol theory considers the cause to be the ingestion of dietary fats.

Cholesterol in the body

Dr. McCully explains that cholesterol is “carefully controlled and adjusted according to the needs of the different organs of the body. If the amount of cholesterol is increased in the diet, a healthy well functioning liver makes less cholesterol for the needs of the body. If the amount of cholesterol in the diet is decreased, the liver makes more cholesterol.” In this way, the body regulates very precisely how much cholesterol is produced for its needs. Since it is so tightly regulated, Dr. McCully’s argument is, how could an excess of cholesterol induce arteriosclerosis?

He further explains that cholesterol is needed in the body for the production of sex hormones (estrogen and androgen), the production of stress and mineral hormones of the adrenal gland, it is a major constituent of the membranes of all cells of the body and it is excreted in the bile in the form of bile salts. According to Dr. McCully, there also needs to be an explanation on how cholesterol, a normal chemical constituent in the body, could, when overeaten in the diet, cause arteriosclerosis.

Cholesterol and oxidation

Early attempts to identify which components of LDL are injurious to artery walls led to the testing of many chemical relatives of cholesterol. A group of cholesterol compounds that contain extra oxygen atoms was found to be highly toxic when tested in cell cultures and in fragments of aorta maintained in culture. Several of these oxidized cholesterol compounds, called oxycholesterols, produced injury to artery walls, deposition of fat and arteriosclerotic plaques when fed to rabbits. One of the most toxic of these oxycholesterols is ‘cholestane triol’, which has three added oxygen atoms per cholesterol.

In a series of studies of oxycholesterols, medical scientists at Albany Medical College showed that purified cholesterol, freed from all traces of oxycholesterols and protected from the oxygen of air, does not produce arteriosclerosis when administered on animals.  These oxycholesterols have been discovered in arteriosclerotic plaques of human arteries and in the LDL fraction of human blood plasma coming from dietary fats of animal sources, specially those that have been heated in the presence of air.

Shortcomings of the cholesterol/fat approach

During the 80 years of its existence, the cholesterol/fat approach to arteriosclerosis became the favorite of the medical community. Because of his deep research on arteriosclerosis, Dr. McCully thinks the cholesterol/fat approach to arteriosclerosis has many shortcomings. One of the biggest ones according to him is that it fails to explain a correlation between fat and cholesterol and the major changes produced by arteriosclerosis. Especially taking into account that the fat and cholesterol content of the American diet has changed very little in the recent decades.

He also feels that it fails to consider the potent effects of the oxycholesterol contaminants found in feeding experiments with animals.

Furthermore, the author sees a major flaw with the cholesterol approach because a majority of people with severe or fatal arteriosclerosis, myocardial infarction, kidney failure or gangrene of the toes have normal cholesterol and lipoprotein levels. He even asserts: “At a practical level, physicians know that the majority of their patients with coronary heart disease have no incidence of elevated cholesterol or LDL levels”. He considers that in all of the very intensive clinical investigations done through the decades on cholesterol lowering drugs, there has not been a noticeable reduction in heart disease mortality and arteriosclerosis remains the leading cause of death in America.

What is more, he asserts that no comprehensive theory has been developed which satisfactorily explains how arteriosclerosis risk factors affect cholesterol levels or how elevated LDL and decreased HDL initiate formation of arteriosclerotic plaques.

To support his arguments, Dr. McCully did a research of 194 autopsy studies of male veterans with severe arteriosclerosis and found only 8% of them had high cholesterol, diabetes or hypertension. According to him, the cholesterol/fat approach has yet to provide a coherent scientific theory which explains how cholesterol, a normal constituent of the body, or excess dietary fat produces arteriosclerosis.

He also found that a diet abundant in vitamin E, a potent fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin, keeps LDL from being oxidized by oxygen, therefore it is of benefit in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease in both men and women.

Beyond cholesterol

Dr. McCully sees the need for a new, comprehensive and effective approach for prevention and treatment of arteriosclerosis, since it is still the leading cause of deaths in the US. He considers the discovery of homocystinuria in young children is a great opportunity to understand arteriosclerosis better.

The homocysteine theory of arteriosclerosis

The homocysteine theory is based on the results of animal experiments and the study of human subjects at risk of arteriosclerosis. In essence, it relates the underlying cause to a buildup of homocysteine in the blood caused by dietary, genetic, toxic, hormonal and aging factors. Specifically,  an imbalance between the methionine of dietary protein and the dietary intake of vitamins B 6, B 12 and folic acid needed to prevent accumulation in the cells and tissues of the body. The importance of this theory is that it explains many aspects of the disease that cannot be explained by the cholesterol/fat hypothesis. It also explains why the diet of developed countries accelerate its progression.

The dietary factors that determine high blood homocysteine levels are the total methionine content of dietary protein and the content of vitamins B 6, B 12 and folic acid in the diet. The only source of homocysteine in the body is from the methionine of dietary proteins: meats, seafood, dairy products, eggs, etc.

Methionine is an amino acid containing sulfur that is present in all proteins. It is an essential amino acid because all animals including man require it for proper growth and maintenance of all cells and tissues of the body. B 12 and folic acid help convert homocysteine to methionine. B 6 converts homocysteine to cystathionine, which in turn is converted into cysteine and excreted through urine. In this way, these vitamins protect arteries from homocysteine.  

Dietary proteins vary in the amounts of methionine they provide. Animal sources like meat, eggs, milk are abundant in it. Proteins from plant sources are more limited in it (1/3 to 1/2 less of that found in animal sources). Fruits and vegetables contain much less, which means that eating a vegetarian diet vs. a meat/dairy diet might protect from homocysteine because there is less need by the body to convert homocysteine to methionine. From this we can also infer that diets high in meat and dairy will need more of the B vitamins to make this conversion and keep homocysteine to safe levels.

Because these vitamins are so sensitive to destruction by food processing, refining and conservation, the less processed the food is, the more it will keep its vitamins. In milling wheat into white flour, for example, 50-90% of the B 6 is lost. B 12 is only obtained from foods of animal origin. The small amount required (3 micrograms) is easily supplied in most diets. This means that strict vegetarians can suffer from B 12 deficiencies. Elderly people because of inflammation of the stomach can have problems absorbing it.

The process by which homocysteine causes arteriosclerosis is as follows: In the liver, methionine, obtained from the breakdown of proteins is continually converted to homocysteine and back to methionine. This process is known as remethylation and it is dependent on vitamin B 12 and folic acid. Deficiencies of these vitamins will lead to the build up of homocysteine.

A second process, transulfuration, converts homocysteine to cystathionine, cysteine, etc for excretion in the urine. It requires B 6. Deficiency of B 6 leads to buildup of homocysteine because the body has no other way to eliminate excess homocysteine by excretion in the urine. Vitamins B 6, B 12 and folic acid need to be obtained from the diet because they are not made in the body. The homocysteine theory attributes the origin of the disease to the inadequate dietary intake of vitamin B 6 and folic acid and the subsequent failure to prevent the damage to arteries caused by elevated blood levels of homocysteine.

Consequently, populations that consume food of animal origin abundant in methionine and highly processed foods depleted of key vitamins are at higher risk for arteriosclerosis.

Other factors such as advanced age, elevated blood cholesterol, male gender, menopause, diabetes, kidney failure, thyroid deficiency, hypertension, etc – play a role too:

Homocysteine and aging

One of the strongest risk factors for arteriosclerosis is aging, especially the 7th, 8th and 9th decades. The aging process affects the ability of the body to dispose of excess homocysteine, therefore it causes an increase in homocysteine in this age range. There is also a parallel increase in cholesterol at this age, peaking at 70-80 and declining after that.

What is more, as one ages, the ability to consume food and burn calories gradually declines, and the decrease in levels of vitamin B 6 is significant. Supplementation with this vitamin is partially effective, suggesting that absorption of the B vitamins is also affected by the aging process. This is the reason why many health professionals recommend B 12 shots.

Dr. Edward Group, in his article ‘Does the vitamin B 12 shot have side effects?’ asserts: “Those who cannot digest or absorb B 12 as a result of inherited genetics or damage to the stomach and small intestine require more than can be absorbed from sublingual supplementation. In situations where a high dose is needed, or where injection is the only option, the B 12 shot is used. In some cases, B 12 shots are used as an energy booster, since B 12 plays a critical role in cellular energy production…the doctor or healthcare professional delivers the shot directly into muscle, usually into the thigh or upper arm, for easy absorption into the bloodstream.” (2)

Homocysteine and elevated blood cholesterol

Limiting the intake of animal foods high in methionine and increasing the intake of B vitamins can help lower homocysteine and cholesterol, how is this so? Experiments with animals have shown that homocysteine in its reactive tiolactone form, is capable of increasing the formation of fats in the form of triglycerides and cholesterol as low density lipoprotein (LDL) in the liver. 

Processed fats and sugars are examples of highly processed foods with no vitamins, minerals or proteins. A diet high in both will lead to a deficiency in the B vitamins that keep homocysteine low and exacerbate the tendency of blood cholesterol and lipoprotein. On the other hand, a diet high on protein of plant origin, high in B vitamins and raw foods will lower it.

The male gender, menopause and hormones

The difference between men and women when it comes to coronary heart disease is men typically are affected in the 5th and 6th decade while women are affected on the 6th decade, after menopause. Studies have consistently shown that women have slightly lower levels of homocysteine in the blood than men. After menopause, however, these levels are similar to those of men of the same age. In the eighth and ninth decades of life, the levels of homocysteine increase in both sexes.

The author believes the higher levels of estrogen in women protect them from heart disease, while the administration of synthetic estrogens and contraceptives has been shown to increase homocysteine and have a subsequent increase in blood clots and arteriosclerotic plaques. This risk in even greater in smokers who take  hormones. The reason for this is that these hormones oppose the functions of B 6 in the body, requiring higher levels of this vitamin to correct the imbalance. Cigarette smoke also antagonizes B 6 in its vital functions in the body.

Diabetes and kidney failure

Diabetes mellitus is a very common condition that predisposes affected people to rapidly advancing arteriosclerosis. Sufferers are frequently affected by heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and gangrene of the toes and feet. Diabetes is marked by the insufficient production of insulin by the pancreas or the inability of insulin to transport blood sugar into cells for production of energy. As a result, all cells in the body become starved for sugar and switch into starvation mode of cellular activity. The excess blood sugar in diabetics reacts chemically with the hemoglobin of red blood cells and with the membranes around small blood vessels and capillaries, narrowing the lumen and interfering with the passage of red blood cells. In the kidney, the clogging of small arteries gradually leads to failure of kidney function. A very striking effect of kidney failure is a remarkable buildup of homocysteine in the blood. This subjects all arteries of the body to damage and rapidly progressive arteriosclerosis.

Dialysis causes a temporary drop in homocysteine levels, but after 1-2 days the blood homocysteine returns to its elevated level. Large doses of vitamin folic acid therapy (5 milligrams per day) partially decreases the levels of homocysteine. Supplementation with B 12 or B 6 does not reduce it any further.

Homocysteine and thyroid hormone

Deficiency of thyroid hormone secretion has been known to predispose to arteriosclerosis and heart disease. In a serious deficiency case, the ability of the cells to use oxygen is impaired, the basal metabolic rate is slowed and the liver begins to make increased amounts of cholesterol and triglycerides, which increases the risk for heart disease. Administration of potent thyroid hormone like thyroxine increases this risk. Insufficient dietary iodine can increase the levels of homocysteine. In cases of hyperthyroidism, on the contrary, the levels of homocysteine are lower than in normal values.

The scientific evidence for the homocysteine theory

Dr. McCully performed his own experiments on animals to simulate what he found in children with the disease. The results showed that just after three weeks of injecting homocysteine in the animals, early arteriosclerotic plaques were found in the coronary arteries. If the animals were fed cholesterol and injected homocysteine, the arteriosclerotic plaques were found to contain fat deposits too. If the animals were given a diet deficient in B 6 and injected with homocysteine, the plaques became more prominent and widespread.

With these experiments, he successfully reproduced the cases of homocysteine he found in children with the disease. When the results were presented in a national meeting, he was met with total silence. The response to what he thought was an extraordinary finding confirming his theory about the arteriosclerotic effect of an amino acid, was very disappointing. Investigators interested in the traditional approach, went back to studying cholesterol and lipoproteins and ignored his findings and some that offered to replicate his experiment, published contradictory findings, even changing the slides they sent Dr. McCully and putting pictures of a normal artery. He performed the experiment again, this time with five times more homocysteine.

In this second experiment, blood clots had formed in the veins of the legs and abdomen and went to the lungs. In the animals that were given B 6 as well as homocysteine, no blood clots had formed and the animals survived. He repeated the experiment, this time feeding the animals a high homocysteine diet rather than injecting it. When the arteries of the animals were examined, arteriosclerotic plaques were found that closely resembled those found in the children that died from the disease. Not only had he reproduced the vascular disease, he had also reproduced the complication of blood clot formation and embolism to the lungs. He also suppressed the formation of blood clots with the administration of vitamin B 6.

After publication of these findings, scientists in Japan repeated his experiments, finding the same blood clots and arteriosclerosis, also being able to reverse it with B 6. His experiments were repeated several times by different scientists around the world and the same results were found: homocysteine caused arteriosclerosis and blood clots, proving that experimental homocysteine reproduces the essential features of homocysteine observed in children with hereditary homocysteine.

Studies of cells and tissues

By growing cells in culture from the skin of children with homocystinuria, Dr. McCully  was able to answer many questions about the disease. One of the early changes in arteriosclerotic plaques is an accumulation of mucoid matrix substance of decreased solubility in areas of damage to arterial tissues. Something else he observed is that the pattern of growth in arteriosclerosis resembles the pattern of growth of cancer cells in culture. Also, he observed that homocysteine induces cells to lose control of growth processes, causing growth of muscle cells in arteriosclerotic plaques. This fact explains why children with the disease grow rapidly in childhood and have long arms, legs, fingers, toes and great stature. The liver of children with homocystinuria was found to accumulate droplets of fat within the cytoplasm. Their mitochondria became enlarged, had bizarre shapes and become aggregated with one another, affecting how cells produced energy. All these facts were found to be key to how the cells became damaged and increased the formation of fats and cholesterol in arteriosclerosis.

In addition, homocysteine was found to activate multiple blood clotting proteins and to increase formation of thromboxane (the hormone-like fatty acid derivative causing blood clots). Homocysteine was also found to increase the binding of lipoprotein (a) to fibrin, increasing blood clots.

In his research, Dr. McCully found that components of lipoprotein homocysteine aggregates are taken up by cells of the artery wall, forming foam cells. These cells degrade and store fats and cholesterol from the LDL component, releasing them gradually to form the cholesterol crystals and fatty deposits of advanced arteriosclerotic plaques. The homocysteine component is released from foam cells and affects the oxygen utilization process of adjacent arterial cells causing increased formation of damaging free radicals. This in turn causes increased growth of muscle cells, formation of mucoid matrix from the sulfur atom of homocysteine, destruction of elastin fibers, production of fibrous collagen fibers, calcium deposits and activation of blood clotting. All of these experiments and observations explain how homocysteine causes arteriosclerotic plaques.

Human studies

Many studies followed Dr. McCully’s experiments, all of which showed that elevation of blood homocysteine is a strong independent risk factor for the development of arteriosclerotic disease. The experiments revealed a three-fold increase in the risk of heart attack in a 5-year prospective study. Elevated blood homocysteine is estimated to account for at least 10% of the risk of coronary heart disease in the US population, and is estimated to be a greater risk factor than elevated blood cholesterol (22-40 fold vs. 1.2-3.1 respectively), high blood pressure (8-18 fold) and cigarette smoking (3.5 fold) in a selected group of patients with early-onset arteriosclerosis.

Another cross-sectional study showed the risk factors to be, in order of severity, male gender, age, cigarette smoking, lack of exercise, blood pressure, heart rate, blood cholesterol and triglycerides. A total of 209 published studies of the epidemiological relation between homocysteine and arteriosclerosis have been reviewed. The consensus of these studies is that elevated blood homocysteine is a strong independent risk factor for arteriosclerosis.

A detailed study of patients with angina pectoris showed the narrowing of the coronary artery by arteriosclerotic plaques correlates better with blood homocysteine than with levels of cholesterol. The same for pulmonary embolism and people with deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs).

In the case of genetic transmission of homocysteine, these results have also been documented. Thankfully, since the FDA started supplementing foods with folic acid the number of babies with birth defects (neural tube defects of the brain and spine) have greatly been reduced. Recent studies have shown that these mothers have high levels of homocysteine, predisposing their babies to birth defects.

How homocysteine causes plaques. Arteriosclerosis in progress

According to Dr. McCully, “The idea that arteries in human arteriosclerosis are narrowed only by greasy deposits is simply not true for most arteries.” Only in the aorta and some large arteries, he asserts, can you find arteriosclerosis caused by deposits of fats and proteins.

According to his research, the way homocysteine causes plaques in the arteries is through  a buildup of homocysteine in the body that leads to overproduction of a highly reactive form of homocysteine known as homocysteine thiolactone. This form of homocysteine causes LDL to become aggregated.  These aggregates are released into the blood from the liver first and then taken up by macrophages of the artery wall to form foam cells of early arteriosclerotic plaques. These foam cells degrade the LDL homocysteine thiolactone aggregates and release fat and cholesterol into developing plaques. The foam cells also release homocysteine thiolactone into surrounding cells of the artery wall affecting the way cells handle oxygen. As a result, highly reactive oxygen radicals and deposits of calcium salts accumulate within cells damaging the lining cells of arteries, promoting blood clot formation and stimulating growth of arterial muscle cells, which form fibrous tissue, mucoid matrix and degenerative elastic tissue.

In later stages, the calcified plaques of fibrous tissue give the walls of the most affected arteries a tough, brittle, hardened consistency that is very difficult to cut either with scissors or a scalpel blade. This translates into loss of elasticity and hardening of the arteries.

Arteriosclerosis and blood clotting

The main changes in arteriosclerosis then are increased fibrous tissue and calcium deposits. But this is not all that happens. Dr. McCully further describes the arteriosclerotic process as the formation of blood clots accumulating in the damaged artery:

Human arteriosclerosis, he explains, is characterized by the formation of blood clots inside arteries (thrombosis). The injury to arterial cells and tissues in the early stages of arteriosclerosis triggers complex cellular and molecular interactions and a reaction by blood clotting factors and platelets that leads to the formation of fibrin, the principal components of blood clots. This reaction causes the platelets and arterial cells to release protein growth factors that stimulate growth of the muscle cells in artery walls. This injury also causes white blood cells to adhere to the site of injury forming more foam cells and releasing more growth factors and other cell-signaling molecules called cytokines. The result of these complex interactions is increased growth of the muscle cells of the artery wall, production of fibrous tissue and ground substance, including cholesterol, inside the place of injury in the artery.

During the progression of plaques, these clots that form in damaged areas of the arterial lining contribute to the narrowing of the artery lumen. Small blood clots that stick to the surface of the plaques gradually become incorporated into the plaque increasing its thickness. In advanced arteriosclerosis, blood clots, cholesterol and fats, fibrosis and calcium salts form complicated arteriosclerotic plaques. If this process is gradual and progressive other organs and vital functions will be affected over long periods of time. Amount of blood flow to the extremities can be compromised causing gangrene.

A similar progression of advanced arteriosclerosis commonly affects the arteries leading to the brain, heart and kidneys causing them to slowly fail. A more dramatic scenario is when a blood clot occurs in an artery that is already narrowed by plaques. In the coronary artery, this will deprive a part of the heart muscle of blood flow, causing death of that part of the heart and causing a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction). When the carotid artery to the brain is affected a stroke is the end result.

Nutritional deficiencies and arteriosclerosis

Dr. McCully further stated that over consumption of fats and cholesterol has not been proven to cause arteriosclerosis. Only oxycholesterols (a trace or contaminant associated with fat), he says is actually capable of initiating arteriosclerotic plaques. The medical community has never considered the vitamin deficiency theory (B 6, B 12 and folic acid) he proposes as possible cause for arteriosclerosis. But he thinks the overconsumption of fats, sugars and highly processed foods depleted of these vitamins, could be the single cause behind the nutritional deficiencies of these water-soluble easily destroyed vitamins.

Prevention of arteriosclerotic heart disease and the homocysteine theory

Is there proof that lowering homocysteine decreases the risk of heart disease? When Dr. McCully was doing his research, there was no information regarding this in the medical literature nor funding for trial of this kind. Government funding agencies repeatedly ignored proposals for a large scale trial of the homocysteine theory. The first piece of evidence came from the study of children with homocystinuria, who after being treated with B vitamins, showed a significant decrease in the risk of blood clots. Similarly, in 1962 Dr. John Ellis proved that high doses of B 6 given to patients with carpal tunnel syndrome reduced their risk of heart attack or chest pain by 75%.

Arteriosclerosis and the homocysteine theory

The homocysteine theory proves arteriosclerosis is caused by a toxic effect of a by-product of protein breakdown. Fats and sugars are understood to contribute because of the loss of B 6 and folic acid through processing, refining and preservation of foods, creating an imbalance between the abundant methionine from foods of animal origin and the amount of these vitamins needed to keep homocysteine from building up. In homocysteine there is a deposition of fats and cholesterol that damage the artery walls by interfering in normal oxygen processing and accumulation of free radicals. Unsaturated fish oils, together with B 6, B 12, folic acid, riboflavin, choline and troxerutin (an antioxidant of plant origin) decrease both homocysteine and LDL levels.

The homocysteine theory offers explanations for arteriosclerosis that are hard to answer with the cholesterol theory. The low incidence of arteriosclerosis in Eskimos despite the high intake of fat and cholesterol is explained by the high intake of unsaturated fatty acids and B6 from fish oil.

Concluding, Dr. McCully proved that homocysteine has a direct effect on arteriosclerosis by damaging the cells of the artery walls. High dietary intake of protein, specifically methionine, and low intake of the B vitamins cause an accumulation of homocysteine leading to arteriosclerosis.

References:

(1) http://www.stress.org/about/whos-who/fellows/m-fellows/kilmer-s-mccully-md/

(2)  http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/vitamin-b12-shot-side-effects/

The liver and gallbladder

01 Jun 2016 no comments HAB Extract

As we have seen, digestive health is key to health. Stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes and baking soda are essential for healthy digestion and heart health. But the health of the entire digestive system also comprises two organs that have to be working pristinely for the whole digestive process to be effective. These are the liver and the gallbladder. They both assist in detoxification and digestion, especially the digestion of fats, which as we have seen are essential for heart health. They also can get overloaded because of the very important functions they have in the body.  Let us focus on the liver and gallbladder as we continue our journey through the digestive system.

The liver

Next to the heart and the brain, the liver is the most important and multifunctional structure in the body. It is the largest organ inside the body and it has a role to play in every single thing the body does. Any long term health challenge in the body will ultimately affect the liver and vice versa, an overloaded liver will affect the rest of the body. Because the liver is a key digestive organ, it is the jumping point between digestive health and other systems in the body (heart, brain, bones, muscles, etc). But the liver does a lot more than digest food. The liver:

  • Is a great detoxifier
  • Makes cholesterol
  • Makes bile

Because of this, the liver can get overworked very easily.

The liver and digestion

The liver is a digestive organ. After food is broken down in the stomach, it goes to the intestine where it is absorbed into the blood, from there it goes to the liver. Everything we eat has to be processed by the liver: fats, proteins, amino acids, glucose, fructose, etc. This means that the more we eat, and/or the more toxicity that comes to our body through food, the more work the liver has to do. Food additives, pesticides, insecticides, preservatives, antibiotics in food, alcohol, etc all of them have to be broken down by the liver. Which also means that the best way to give the liver a break is to change the way we eat: less refined carbohydrates, less processed food and caloric restriction will give the liver a break. Fasting regularly will also take a load off the liver so it has more resources to do its work. Other things like an imbalance in gut bacteria (Disbiosis) will also put a load on the body’s detoxification system. Taking care of the digestive system like we saw in our previous blog, will also take a load off the liver.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

Something that is specially burdensome for the liver is sugar. Of the two major kinds of dietary sugars, glucose and fructose, fructose, is exclusively processed in the liver. White sugar is a combination of glucose and fructose, so it does not have processed by the liver completely. High fructose corn syrup is only fructose, which means it has more fructose than regular sugar, making high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and fruits very problematic for the liver.

Since HFCS came out in the market in the late 70’s, there has been a rapid increase in the incidence of fatty liver disease. The average American is getting an around 80-90 pounds of HFCS every year, which has translated into 30 % of Americans suffering from fatty liver disease. According to a News Max Health article from January 2015 titled “Fatty liver disease: America’s silent epidemic””A major health crisis is emerging in our nation that is flying under the radar of even health-conscious Americans.” (1)

The problem with this is that human body is not equipped to process so much fructose. When it is overloaded this way, the liver starts forming fatty deposits that are known as ‘fatty liver disease’ or NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, now also called non-alcoholic cyato-hepatitis, NACH). The term ‘non-alcoholic’ points to the toxicity profile of fructose being similar to that of alcohol.

Fatty liver disease is hard to diagnose,  but because it has a blood sugar component to it, we can assume that any problem with diabetes or sugar metabolism, will predispose us to it. To diagnose it, doctors will first perform is a palpation test, then they will perform a biopsy. In my opinion, there is a lot we can do to take care of our liver before anything as serious as fatty liver occurs. By changing our diet and taking supplements like the ‘Liver Compound’ from Healthy Hearts Club, we can take care of many other health problems including heart disease. In addition, garlic, a key ingredient in the Heart and Body extract can have tremendous detoxifying properties for the liver. Being high in sulfur, garlic acts like a magnet to attract and ‘pull’ poisons out of cells so it makes it a great liver and body detoxifier.

The liver’s detoxification system

Apart from being a digestive organ, the liver is also a great detoxification organ. It is so effective at detoxifying that it can adjust and up regulate itself to the level of toxicity we subject it to. It accomplishes this by producing more enzymes when needed.  These enzymes break up all sorts of poisons the body produces like old hormones, (which is why menopausal women should pay close attention to the health of their liver), drugs, environmental poisons like chemicals, tobacco, etc.

Hepatitis

According to Web Md, in their article ‘Hep C now leading U.S. infectious disease killer’, “The number of hepatitis C-linked deaths in the United States reached a record high in 2014, and the virus now kills more Americans than any other infectious disease, health officials report.” (2)

There is hepatitis A, B, C and D, of which C is acute hepatitis. In all cases, liver enzymes are elevated, which is a manifestation of liver cells exploding, dying and releasing their enzymes into the blood stream. Hepatitis can be considered as liver inflammation caused by various sources like viruses, alcohol, drugs, toxins. In any case, they all point to an overtaxed liver that cannot do its job.  In practical terms, it doesn’t even matter where the virus comes from, what matters is that the liver can be strengthened so it can take care of viruses. This is where we have control. Liver inflammation increases with age, but this doesn’t mean we cannot do something about it. We can start changing our diet and use supplements like the ‘Liver Compound Extract’ and the ‘Heart and Body Extract’

A major role of the liver is to make cholesterol. According to Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride in her book “Put your heart in your mouth”, cholesterol has such a key role to play in the body that it doesn’t need to come from food, the liver can manufacture it by itself. When organs like the brain or the adrenals need cholesterol to perform their functions, they signal the liver to produce more cholesterol. This is so important to understand, in my opinion. First of all, the brain is mainly cholesterol, therefore it is, to put it in Dr. Natasha’s words ‘like a sponge for cholesterol’. She mentions studies where patients on a low cholesterol diet displayed increased aggressive behavior. Similarly, people on cholesterol lowering drugs show to have a similar change in personality, as well as increased anxiety. Secondly, the adrenals, which are our stress management organ, need cholesterol to produce hormones that help us handle stress and repair the body in times of stress. What this means is that in stressful situations, our body will be in more need of cholesterol. In the case of surgery, for example, it is normal to find higher levels of blood cholesterol, she explains, which the body uses for healing and repair. Cholesterol is so tightly regulated by the body that there is no need to artificially manage it. A balanced diet high in healthy fats and low in refined carbohydrates will naturally lower cholesterol levels. This points to another factor, sugar is perceived by the body as a stress, which means a diet high sugar diet increases cholesterol.

Liver problems will also affect bile production because the liver makes bile, although it is the gallbladder that makes most of the bile in the body.

Bile

Bile is our biological soap, it frees up fatty acids from foods: fatty vitamins, phytonutrients like lutein, beta carotene, zeathantin, flavonoids and all the 100 different carotenes found in vegetables. Bile is held in the gallbladder, and it is important to remember that it is made out of cholesterol. A cholesterol lowering drug will shut down bile production, which is why the most common side effects of cholesterol lowering drugs are digestive disorders like nausea, diarrhea, constipation, loose stools, etc.

Bile in digestion

After food leaves the stomach, a little valve connecting the stomach to the intestine opens up and releases bile from the gallbladder into the intestine. This bile helps remove all the fatty substances out of the food.  Bile also prepares the way for digestive enzymes in the pancreas to do their work. So bile passes through the pancreas, where the digestive juices released by the pancreas are mixed with bile, and this works on food further. Without the gallbladder releasing bile the pancreas is not going to be able to release pancreatic enzymes either and food is going to sit there, enzymes then will back up, causing pancreatic problems like pancreatitis.

Like an engine cleaner

When bile works properly, after it has been used in digestion, it goes back into the intestine and gets absorbed by the liver. It does a big circle and goes back into the intestine, then the liver again. It does this big circular movement several times until it has cleaned itself, cleaning out the intestine and the liver as well. In this fashion, the bile that is cleaned can be recycled for further use. A little of this bile, together with waste is not recycled but goes to the large intestine to be eliminated in the stool by the action of fiber. This is how toxins that are fatty or tend to accumulate in the fatty part of the body (heavy metals, old hormones, excess estrogen, etc) get eliminated out of the body. This two-way system makes sure bile is used not only to digest fats but also to remove toxins.

Garlic and bile

The element that accounts for bile amazing detoxification properties is sulfur. Sulfur is a highly electrical compound that makes fats more soluble, it magnetically attracts (chelates) toxins, heavy metals, viruses and microbes. Sulfur is needed to make bile. This makes the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ a great product for detoxifying the bile system. Garlic is also a great source of cysteine, which is part of the powerful tri peptide antioxidant molecule known as glutathione. (3)

In addition, insulin chemistry depends on sulfur, the more insulin the body is using, the more sulfur it needs. Diabetics would be wise to use it.

Gallstones

An overloaded, toxic body will put a load on the bile system, making bile sticky and unable to flow properly. This will cause the little stones known as ‘gallstones’ to clog up the tiny tubes in the gallbladder and keep bile from flowing when it is needed to digest fats. It will also cause the pancreas to not have access to bile, which will cause pancreatic insufficiency. An average of 20 million Americans have gallstones. They are not a reason to have your gallbladder taken out, even though they can be very painful. We can prevent this from happening by taking care of our bile system: Avoiding the wrong kinds of foods, food toxins, heavy metals, drugs, etc and supplementing with the ‘Heart and body Extract’, lecithin, enzymes, bile salts, and bile stimulating foods like stomach bitters at the beginning of a meal. Fasting can give your whole digestive system a break, and allow the body to save energy to keep the digestive system working better.

Gallstones and cholesterol

Under ordinary circumstances cholesterol is dissolved in bile, but if our cells are making too much cholesterol because of a diet high in processed carbohydrates, or you have sticky bile because of too many toxins accumulating, then cholesterol can precipitate out as crystals by coming out of the bile solution causing gallstones.

Cholesterol and lecithin

Lecithin is a fundamental structure found throughout nature, it is in all plants and animal cells. Lecithin is also found in the human body as a active ingredient of bile. If you have digestive problems associated with the gallbladder, if you have had your gallbladder removed or are menopausal, or have any of the other digestive problems we have discussed before, you can benefit by supplementing with lecithin. A sign that fats are not being absorbed is a skin condition known as ‘millia’ or ‘keratosis’ which are little ‘bumps’ on the face or arms. Even adult acne can be a sign of fat mal-absorption. These little bumps are telling you your heart is at risk.

Lecithin has a cholesterol dissolving effect that can be used to prevent heart disease by keeping blood fats and cholesterol dissolved. It can dissolve fatty deposits in atherosclerotic plaques, as well as detoxifying the body by assisting the gallbladder and help us absorb fats.

Lecithin is also a very important component of the cell membrane, so it can keep all the cells in our body healthy.

Bile and good bacteria

As important as we have seen the digestive system is, gut bacteria could be called the core of the digestive system, where everything starts. According to the research done by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, the whole universe of bacteria living in our gut accounts for 90% of the human body, with the remaining 10% being us, just a host to these bacteria. The bacteria in our gut is where the entire digestive process comes full circle. In this sense, there is an important relation between bile and gut bacteria. First, gut bacteria cleans the bile, processes it and turns it into hormones. Second, gut bacteria activates bile and turns it into active chemicals. This modified bile protects the intestine from inflammatory bowel diseases, like ulcerative colitis, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. and helps support the health of the micro biome in return. In other words, the gut bacteria activates the bile and the bile, in return makes the bacteria healthy. This inter-dependency and inter-connectedness shows once more how everything in the body works together. Everything has a purpose and everything is affected by everything else. This is why it the idea that we can remove organs without health implications, goes against the wisdom of the body.

This means that our beneficial gut bacteria also take part in the digestive process by activating the bile as it does its big circle: from the liver to the gallbladder, to the intestine, to the food, then through the intestine and up into the liver again.

Bile, cholesterol and fiber

The old bile that didn’t get recycled, together with toxins and excess cholesterol are excreted out of the body by the action of fiber. Fiber has a magnetic effect on bile and cholesterol, it sticks to them and as the fiber is leaving the body it pulls the bile and cholesterol. It is the way the body lowers cholesterol without the need of manipulating it artificially. The more fiber you take, the more efficient this clearing process is going to be. Fiber then becomes a very important part of our health as well.

The intestine, bile, probiotics and fiber are responsible for clearing out estrogen. Women produce more estrogen than men, which makes them more prone to auto-immune diseases. If they are on the birth control pill or Hormone Replacement Therapy, they are loading their body with extra estrogen. In this case, it is more critical to take care of the whole digestive system. Fiber can be obtained by making your own vegetable juices at home or by grinding flax or chia seeds.

Lastly, bile is also important for the digestion of calcium and other minerals and vitamin D. In an article from US pharmacist, it is stated that “overuse of PPIs in hospitalized patients makes bile more toxic”. (4)

How the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ can help. Kelp and the digestive system

Kelp is a wonderful food that can support the digestive system, the immune system and help with pain and inflammation. It is one of the most well researched substances in all of biology. It is technically known as a ‘sulfated polysacharide’, which means that it is made out of little chunks of simple sugars (not the same as refined white sugar) with a sulfur molecule added. What makes these polysaccharides so special is their ability to trap electrical energy. Because sulfur acts as an electrical igniter, the added sulfur, activates these polysacharides even more.  You can find kelp as an ingredient in the ‘Heart and Body Extract’

All this journey through the digestive system has hopefully taught us that the whole process of digestion requires hard work from our body and a lot of energy is spent making sure all the different steps work efficiently. Next time we eat a meal, we can be more appreciative and understanding of our hard working digestive system.

Thanks for reading.

References:

(1) http://www.newsmax.com/health/Headline/fatty-liver-disease-nonalcoholic-steatohepatitis-epidemic/2015/01/04/id/616329/

(2)  http://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/news/20160504/hepatitis-c-now-leading-infectious-disease-killer-in-us

(3)   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cysteine

(4) https://www.uspharmacist.com/search/?q=PPI%20users