The Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving I woke up with severe vertigo whenever I moved my head even a fraction of an inch and wondered how I’d be able to start cooking the feast promised for the next day. Symptoms included the sensation the room was spinning around, nausea, lightheadedness, feeling I was about to fall over and exhaustion. The only thing that had ever resolved vertigo attacks in the past had been acupuncture – and relief had only come the day following the treatments.
WHAT CAUSES VERTIGO?
“Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is caused by a problem in the inner ear. Tiny calcium “stones” inside your inner ear canals help you keep your balance. Normally, when you move a certain way, such as when you stand up or turn your head, these stones move around. Sometimes these stones move into an area of your inner ear called the semicircular canal. When you move your head in certain ways, the stones in the semicircular canal move. Sensors in the semicircular canal are triggered by the stones, which causes a feeling of dizziness.” (Michigan Medicine, 2019)
I mentioned the vertigo problem to a friend who told me about something called the Epley Maneuver that involves a series of head movements to shift crystals that have moved into the inner ear canal and cause the vertigo.
THE EPLEY MANEUVER
This short video explains the Epley Maneuver:
Now that I knew what had caused the vertigo, I figured this maneuver would probably work but the idea of going through it sounded horrific. I started to think what I could do that would be gentler and similar to acupuncture to move the crystal(s) that were causing the problem and recalled that sound vibrations have been used for centuries to heal various physical problems.
So I enlisted the aid of my chef friend, Curtis LaPrise, who’d come up from New Orleans to help me cook the Thanksgiving feast, and this is what we did.
I sat on the couch, put a red cushion ring on top of my head and had him place my largest Tibetan singing bowl upside down on top of the cushion so the bowl was balanced there.
Then, while I kept a pointer finger firmly on top of the center of the bowl to keep it from falling off, he used the mallet to sound the bowl, working slowly around the rim of the upside down bowl for about ten minutes.
And my vertigo was gone! I got up, felt quite fine and proceeded to do all the things required to get the feast ready.
USING A SINGING BOWL ON TOP OF YOUR HEAD
Here’s why this wonderful, enjoyable treatment worked – and also gave me a whole body tune up to boot:
You can see in the video example (not of me) that the sound waves produced by the singing bowl enters both ears.
HOW SINGING BOWLS WORK
When choosing a singing bowl, go to a Tibetan store or some other reputable place that sells them and try a few out. Then choose one whose vibrations feel most suited to your body. Also get a cushion ring and mallet that match the size of your bowl. This may be a substantial investment but one that will greatly improve all aspects of your health and over all well being for the rest of your life.
HOW SINGING BOWLS HEAL
Tibetan singing bowls have been used for centuries for sound therapy, a form of energy medicine. When gonged, the bowls create harmonic sound waves that restore healthy vibratory frequencies to diseased and out-of-harmony parts of the body, mind and soul.
“Healing processes are initiated through entraining our brainwaves to synchronise with the perfect resonance of the bowls. Unique tones create the perfect state for deep meditation, creative thinking and intuitive messages.
“The pure sonic waves that ring from Tibetan Singing Bowls wake up our ability to hear with more than our ears. We feel the sound (from) Tibetan Singing Bowls as much as we take it in with our ears.
“Sound Healing expert, Diáne Mandle states that Tibetan Singing Bowls don’t only effect a great deal of physical healing but also have far-reaching implications that occur on emotional and spiritual levels. It is a regenerative process married to a spiritual awakening that can have profound consequences on illness, disease, and all aspects of our lives.” (Dangeli, 2019)
AN 11 MINUTE TOTAL BODY TUNE UP WITH SINGING BOWLS
Keep your singing bowl out of harm’s way and bear in mind that dropping a singing bowl on a hard surface may crack it and mean the end of its ability to produce harmonic sounds.
For another post on healing with Tibetan Singing Bowls and one on the value of Traditional Tibetan Medicine, see also:
Blood thinning medications are designed to prevent dangerous clot formation inside the body, not to actually make the blood thinner or break up existing clots.
Doctors tell you to avoid blood thinners for some time before surgery (two weeks to one day) to reduce your risk of prolonged bleeding during the operation but the list they give you usually includes only OTC and prescription blood thinners – and perhaps vitamin E. Here’s a typical list:
When I was getting ready for wrist surgery scheduled for August 30th a year ago, my orthopod required the results of several tests, including some blood work, by August 23rd in order to clear me for the surgery. It was early August and most internists I contacted were either going on vacation, didn’t do pre-op testing or wouldn’t take a new patient.
I finally found a young MD internist with a large, hip practice in my neighborhood who was willing to do all the required pre-op testing and could see me on August 14.
His office said it could take a week for them to receive the blood results. Not hearing anything from either the internist ‘s or surgeon’s office, I assumed all was well. Then, when I called the internist on August 24th, six days before the surgery, to get a copy of the blood results for my records, I was told told my clotting factors were quite elevated so he hadn’t sent a Medical Clearance letter to my surgeon. He also hadn’t let me know about this problem.
The internist asked if I was taking Warfarin, bruised easily, had bleeding gums. No, no & no. He was alarmed by my clotting factor results and wanted me to see a hematologist immediately to find out what was going on.
I suggested the results were probably from the nutritional supplements I was taking and told him I’d been off them since the 21st (10 days pre-op). Fortunately, he recognized he’d made a mistake and had me come in that same day to get my blood retested. And mercifully, he was also willing to order the lab to process the new blood STAT so the results would come back later that day or Saturday morning. Saturday morning his nurse practitioner called to say my clotting factors were now normal and they’d faxed a Medical Clearance letter to my surgeon.
I’d given the internist a list of all my supplements and their doses when I’d seen him on the 14th. His reaction on the 24th was :’Yes, but we don’t know what those things are”.
On the positive side, I learned that those supplements are highly successful in promoting circulation and it’s unlikely I’ll ever get a dangerous blood clot. Also, they apparently clear the system in a day or so, unlike pharmaceuticals.
SOME NATURAL BLOOD THINNERS
“Many people assume that just because a product is labeled as “natural”, it is harmless. The truth is that many powerful drugs (and poisons) are based on natural substances, so it’s clear that many natural substances can have a potent effect on the body. If this seems surprising, hemlock is “natural” and “plant-based” and can even be grown organically, but it didn’t do much for Romeo and Juliet’s relationship.” (Kita, 2019)
Turns out there are many other natural blood thinning/ anti-clotting substances that you’d do well to avoid before surgeries.
Below is a partial list of herbal supplements that belong on that list because they either:
are known to have blood thinning properties and may also interact with other blood thinners
are known to interact with blood thinners and therefore should be avoided
These are associated with increased bleeding:
St. John’s Wort
Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oils)
– (Kita, 2019), (Blitz, 2012) & (Francis, 2019)
Supplements can have cardiovascular effects:
Ephedra (causes hypertension, palpitations, and tachycardia)
Garlic (can cause hypotension)
Supplements That Can Cause Drug Interaction:
St John’s Wort
– (Kita, 2019), (Cox, 2017), (Penn State Hershey Medical Center, 2017) & (CBD School, 2019)
Supplements That Can Have Anesthetic Effects
St John’s Wort
– (Kita, 2019)
Supplements Known to Cause Other Types of Adverse Events:
St John’s Wort (can cause photosensitivity, especially after laser or chemical peels)
Ginseng (can cause hypoglycemia)
– (Kita, 2019)
SOME NATURALLY BLOOD THINNING FOODS
Oily fish (eg, albacore tuna, anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon & lake trout)
My lists above aren’t comprehensive so please take some time to google the specific supplements you take to check if they also have blood thinning properties. – and also include those supplements on the Pre-surgery Checklist you give your doc.
Blitz, N. (2012). What Vitamins Should You Take Before Surgery? While several vitamins, minerals and amino acids are used during healing, there are specific ones that are known to specifically to support the normal response to healing, and to support the normal immune system response to infection. See: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/surgery-vitamins_b_1159251
If you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), you know its difficult to get a definitive diagnosis. Confusingly, its symptoms resemble many other health conditions and there’s no single test for identifying it. You also know its symptoms seriously interfere with living your life as you’d like.
The principal characteristic of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is extreme fatigue. The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity but doesn’t lessen with rest. CFS is also sometimes referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID).
People with CFS – and other energy-sapping chronic conditions as well – often use Spoon Theory to describe their experience of being chronically exhausted and the limitations that imposes on their lives. Spoon Theory is a clever metaphor created by Christine Miserandino, a woman with both lupus and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, to explain to friends and family what it’s like to have limited and unreliable energy. (MEpedia, 2017).
Lupus, by the way, is a chronic autoimmune disease “in which the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. Symptoms include inflammation, swelling, and damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, blood, heart, and lungs.” (Brazier, 2018)
There’s still ongoing discussion about whether CFS is also an inflammatory, autoimmune condition. Considerable research indicates that chronic low level inflammation in the body leads to the constellation of symptoms described as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. (Dellwo, 2018 A)
This is my shorthand description of how autoimmune conditions and diseases develop:
Chronic imbalance in the contents of the gut microbiome (gut dysbiosis) -–> leaky gut -–> chronic low level inflammation in the body, which eventually -–> one or more autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune diseases develop when the body’s immune system produces an inappropriate immune response against its own tissues. Because the vast majority of our immune system (70-80%) is located in the composition of our gut microbiome, this is where we need to focus to understand how we come to develop an autoimmune disease (probably more than one) and also how to reverse these types of diseases.
When the immune system stops recognizing as “self” something that’s a normal constituent of the body, it starts producing autoimmune antibodies that attack the body’s own cells, tissues and/or organs. This produces chronic inflammation that damages these body parts and leads to full blown autoimmune diseases.
A MORE THOROUGH EXPLANATION OF CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME
Michael B. VanElzakker, PhD
Researcher Michael B. VanElzakker, now a neuroscientist affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Tufts University, has proposed a more specific explanation for how Chronic Fatigue Syndrome develops.
In the 2013 paper he pointed out that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome researchers mostly agree that CFS symptoms seem to reflect an intense, ongoing immune response, possibly due to a viral infection. They therefore were focusing their research on trying to uncover the specific pathogenic agent in plasma and blood cells responsible for the syndrome – without success. (HHV-6 Foundation, 2018)
Instead, VanElzakker proposed that CFS develops from an infection of the vagus nerve.
Herpesvirus infections of the trigeminal nerve cause shingles. Do human herpesvirus infections of the vagus nerve cause chronic fatigue syndrome?
“When immune cells of otherwise healthy individuals detect any peripheral infection, they release proinflammatory cytokines. Chemoreceptors of the sensory vagus nerve detect these localized proinflammatory cytokines, and send a signal to the brain to initiate sickness behavior. Sickness behavior is an involuntary response that includes fatigue, fever, myalgia, depression, and other symptoms that overlap with CFS.”
His Vagus Nerve Infection hypothesis of CFS contends that the syndrome’s cluster of symptoms are “a pathologically exaggerated version of normal sickness behavior that can occur when sensory vagal ganglia or paraganglia are themselves infected with any virus or bacteria.
“Drawing upon relevant findings from the neuropathic pain literature, I explain how pathogen-activated glial cells can bombard the sensory vagus nerve with proinflammatory cytokines and other neuroexcitatory substances, initiating an exaggerated and intractable sickness behavior signal.”
Following this new hypothesis, it’s possible any pathogenic infection of the vagus nerve could cause CFS, resolving the ongoing controversy about identifying a single pathogen.
VanElzakker’s hypothesis integrates two of the most important actors in CFS, the autonomic nervous system and the immune system, offering an explanation of what causes the brain to receive a non-stop stream of messages instructing it essentially to shut down the body by producing fatigue, pain and other disabling symptoms. It proposes that “nerve loving viruses trigger a difficult to detect immune response which produces the fatigue and other symptoms present in chronic fatigue syndrome.” (Cohen, 2019)
The VNIH focuses on sensory nerves, “an increasingly hot topic in ME/CFS/FM” and coincides with an established model of fibromyalgia. If this hypothesis is correct, it will change how Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is viewed, researched and treated. (Johnson, 2013)
VanElzakker’s work on CFS has zeroed in on the human herpes viruses – with the human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6) at the top of his list of suspects. (HHV-6 Foundation, 2018)
Histological slide of the human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6)showing infected cells
The following two paragraphs from the HHV-6 Foundation’s article CFS: a herpesvirus infection of the vagus nerve? discuss, in fairly technical terms, VanElzakker’s theory of how a human herpesvirus-6 infection of the sensory vagal ganglia or paraganglia could produce the intense symptoms found in people with Chronic Fatigue:
“During infection, the sensory vagus nerve sends a signal to the brain to initiate “sickness behavior,” an involuntary response characterized by fatigue, fever, myalgia, depression, and other symptoms that are often observed in patients with CFS. However, VanElzakker proposes that when sensory vagal ganglia or paraganglia are themselves infected with any virus or bacteria, these symptoms would be exaggerated. He notes that many of the symptoms of sickness behavior (such as fatigue, sleep changes, myalgia, cognitive impairment, depression and zinc depletion) are also mediated by proinflammatory cytokines and observed in CFS.
“Herpesviruses and certain intracellular bacteria establish latency in the vagus nerve and reactivate during periods of stress or illness, causing the release of proinflammatory cytokines. HHV-6 is a highly neurotropic virus and potent inducer of cytokines such as IL-6 and NFkB, which many groups have proposed as an etiological theory for the role of HHV-6 in neurological conditions such as seizures and epilepsy. If this low-level “chronic” infection is localized to the vagus nerve it would be undetectable in the plasma, but could be demonstrated through analyzing tissue biopsies of the vagus nerve, VanElzakker suggests. HHV-6 is well-known for invading the hippocampus and other parts of the limbic system, and also establishes residence in the human sensory ganglia along with other neurotropic herpesviruses including HSV-1 and VZV.” (HHV-6 Foundation, 2018)
THE VAGUS NERVE
The vagus nerve, historically called the pneumogastric nerve, is the 10th cranial nerve and interfaces with the parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. The vagus nerves are paired but are normally referred to in the singular. It’s the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system in the human body. (Wikipedia, 2019)
As the two branches of the vagus nerve make their way between the brain and the gut, they connect to every organ they pass along the way.
THE VAGUS NERVE & THE GUT MICROBIOME CONNECTION
I’ve been intrigued by the vagus nerve since discovering it’s a key player in the Gut/Brain Axis – the constant, two-way communication taking place between our brains and our guts.
“Maybe you’re used to thinking of the brain in your head as your only brain – but your body actually has TWO BRAINS: In fact, the ‘brain’ in your gut does a lot more than digest your food. While this brain doesn’t produce thoughts, it contains its own independent nervous system along with more neurotransmitters and serotonin than the brain in your head.
“Sheaths of neurons are embedded in the walls of the entire alimentary canal. Technically known as the enteric nervous system, this gut brain measures about 9 meters (29.5 feet) from esophagus to anus and contains about 100 million neurons, more neurons than exist in either the spinal cord or the entire peripheral nervous system. Equipped with its own reflexes and senses, this second brain can control gut behavior independently of the brain. Here’s a single example to give you an idea of the importance of the gut brain for the entire body: About 90% of the fibers in the vagus nerve, the largest of the visceral nerves, carry information FROM the gut TO the brain – but not the other way around.” (Hardin 2015)
“During vertebrate embryonic development a single clump of fetal tissue divides to grow into the gut and the brain. One section becomes the central nervous system (the brain and spinal nerves) while another migrates lower in the body to create the enteric nervous systemembedded in the sheaths of tissue lining the espohagus, stomach, small intestine and colon.
“The two separate nervous systems connect via the vagus nerve running from the brain stem into the abdomen. This major trunk line is one of the longest nerves in the body. The gut and the brain are constantly signaling each other, back and forth, along the vagus nerve and also via chemicals released by the gut and transported to the brain. When one brain gets upset, the other becomes upset too. They work in conjunction with each other along the Gut-Brain Axis, each heavily influencing the other.” (Hardin, 2015)
HEALING VAGUS NERVE INFECTION WITH ESSENTIAL OILS
Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils, an author, speaker, nutritional therapist and a leading international authority on essential oils. These are her strategies for how to heal vagus nerve infections with essential oils:
Vagus nerve stimulation – Parasympathetic essential oil blend was designed to activate the vagus nerve to trigger the parasympathetic response. Parasympathetic is formulated with the highly stimulatory clove oil and works much like more invasive techniques such as Transcutaneous Vagal Nerve Stimulation by stimulating the Vagus Nerve near the outer ear and allowing action potentials to be sent down the nerve to stimulate the normal anti-inflammatory reflex of the Vagus Nerve along with helping to regulate exaggerated signaling that contributes to sickness behavior and excessive fatigue and pain related symptoms…. To stimulate the vagus nerve, apply 1 drop of Parasympathetic™ to the vagal nerve (behind ear lobe, on mastoid bone on the neck).
Glial cell inhibitors can be used to calm the immune activation of glial cells in your brain. Natural plants remedies, like essential oils, have been proven to suppress microglial activation and neuronal damage in research such as “Inhibitors of microglial neurotoxicity: focus on natural products” and “Development of a neuroprotective potential algorithm for medicinal plants”.
Essential oils are especially powerful as glial cell inhibitors as they unique chemistry (super small, fat soluble molecules), allows them to easily cross the blood brain barrier and suppress glial cell activation. Research has found that Cinnamon Bark is highly effective at inhibiting microglial activation. According to the research, Cinnamon Bark “may recede neuroinflammation by suppressing microglial activation and play a key role in neuroprotection”. Immune Support™ oil is high in levels of cinnamon and can be topically applied to the bottom of the feet or around the neck (dilute before applying to the neck) to help inhibit glial cells from over-activating the vagus nerve. Anti Inflammatory™ also helps to turn off the inflammatory response in the brain and inhibit an over-active glial cell response. To apply, place one drop one the base of the skull or place a drop of Anti Inflammatory™ oil on your fingertip, and rub fingers together to disperse oil. Take your fingers once over the entire scalp.
Antiviral treatments: Essential oils are known for their anti-viral properties.
More specifically, research studies have found that essential oils ‘inactivate’ viruses in one of two ways: by inhibiting their ability to replicate and/or inhibiting viruses’ ability to fuse to cell walls and infect a host cell.
Essential oils have also been shown to positively support our own immune system, enhancing its ability to ward off pathogens and help modulate your immune system.
Anti viral blends like Immune Support™ can be applied 2- 3 times daily on the throat (diluted) or the bottom of the feet, or Thymus™ can be used stimulate immune function against infections, viruses and bacteria by apply 2-3 drops on the thymus (on breastbone at third rib) in a clockwise motion for 30 seconds and then stimulate the thymus by gently tapping. Finally, supporting your lymphatic system with Lymph™ can help supports your immune response by both bringing nutrients to and helping to clear toxins and waste from every cell in the body.
– (Cohen, 2019)
My take away from all this:
Since it’s known that –
Chronic imbalance in the contents of the gut microbiome (gut dysbiosis) -–> leaky gut -–> chronic low level inflammation in the body, which eventually -–> one or more autoimmune diseases
– avoiding a vagal nerve infection and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is yet another good reason to get and keep your gut microbiome in good balance.
This is about a part of the body most of us know we have but probably rarely think about: Our appendix.
Do you remember being told that we don’t need our appendixes, that they’re vestiges left over from when early humans needed them to digest fibrous materials like tree bark? Well, not surprisingly, it turns out ALL our organs are useful – if not necessary – to the well-being of the body. Nothing is superfluous.
The appendix is a small, finger-shaped pouch branching off the cecum, where the small and large intestines join. The cecum is the start of the large intestine. It’s generally located in the lower right portion of the abdomen.
MONETARY COST OF AN APPENDECTOMY
Appendectomies are the most common emergency surgeries performed in the US. Many doctors even suggest prophylactic removal of a perfectly good appendix when you’re scheduled for some other type of abdominal surgery to prevent any future possible risk of getting appendicitis plus having to cover the cost of an appendectomy later on. (Mercola, 2018)
The median network cost of an appendectomy in the US was $13,199 as of September 2017. This is an estimate of the amount an insurance company might pay plus your additional co-pay. (Vanvuren, 2017)
Note that $13,199 was the median cost. These surgeries cost a lot more in some states (eg, California) and less in some other states. (Won et al, 2017)
“COST-EFFECTIVENESS” OF PROPHYLACTIC APPENDECTOMY
A 2017 article published in Surgical Endoscopy attempted to calculate whether it’s “cost-effective” to undergo a prophylactic appendectomy. The researchers’ findings:
“With our base-case assumptions, including added cost of prophylactic appendectomy of $660, we find that prophylactic removal of the appendix is cost saving for males aged 18-27 and females aged 18-28 undergoing elective surgery. The margin of cost savings depends on remaining life-years and increases exponentially with age: a 20-year-old female undergoing elective surgery could save $130 over a lifetime by undergoing prophylactic appendectomy, while a 40-year-old female would lose $130 over a lifetime. When the risk of the prophylactic appendectomy exceeds the risk of laparoscopic appendectomy for appendicitis or the cost exceeds $1080, it becomes more cost saving to forego the prophylactic procedure….
“Prophylactic appendectomy can be cost saving for patients younger than age thirty undergoing elective laparoscopic abdominal and pelvic procedures.” (Newhall et al, 2017)
That the researchers chose to consider only FINANCIAL savings, and hypothetical ones at that, seems significant – and rather horrifying.
IS THE APPENDIX A USELESS ORGAN?
OLD IDEA: THE APPENDIX IS VESTIGIAL & UNNECESSARY
Contrary to the outmoded belief that the human appendix is vestigial and no longer performs any useful function, here’s what it actually does for us:
“With the help of white blood cells known as innate lymphoid cells, the appendix acts as a reservoir for beneficial bacteria… Once your body has successfully fought and rid itself of a gut infection, the bacteria emerge from the biofilm of the appendix to recolonize your intestines.” (Mercola, 2018)
Since we now know the health of our gut microbiome is intimately associated with our health overall, that seems pretty important to me!
NEW UNDERSTANDING OF THE APPENDIX’S IMPORTANT FUNCTION
PHYSICAL COST OF AN APPENDECTOMY: ANTIBIOTICS, C. DIFFICILE & THE APPENDIX
The job of the appendix, is to provide the good guys with a safe haven – a place to ride out, decimating events, like diarrhea and antibiotics.
Okay, okay………….. it’s not designed for them to survive antibiotics.
Antibiotics are a modern phenomenon, Mother Nature never saw this one coming, but good design has utility.
And the appendix is DESIGNED.
The appendix is not vestigial
Phylogenetic studies, that is studies comparing different animals, find it is a common feature of animal lineages. It occurs in one form or another, in over 30 different animal lineages.
And animals with an appendix in their history, never get rid of it – it’s too useful !
The long narrow pipe, packed full of lymphoid tissue, right at the bottom of your colon, is an important part of your immune system.
Keeping your bacteria safe
It is positioned in such a way, that it can miss a lot of the drama associated with a bad case of diarrhea. As torrents of liquid , rapidly exit the gut, carrying ALL gut residents, good, bad and ugly, OUT, the bacteria holed up inside, barely experience a ripple.
Huddled inside, wrapped under a special sticky cover, known as a biofilm, they “ride” the storm out.
When things calm down………..they venture forth and multiply – reseeding your gut.
And things return to normal.
The appendix is needed
It’s an ancient protective system, designed to help organisms survive a serious case of the runs.
Something that was not so unusual in times gone by.
Being exposed to “dirty” water and/or “dirty” food, was a common hazard. In fact, it still is a relatively common occurrence in many parts of the world.
Diarrhea can be deadly.
Especially when the diarrhea is accompanied by malnutrition and dehydration. Medical and nutritional interventions have transformed it from a killer, to an inconvenience.
Safe haven from antibiotics
Good design……….has utility.
The shape, position and composition (biofilm) of the appendix, give C.difficile sufferers an advantage. Instead of just C.difficile emerging, following the antibiotic decimation, other gut residents survive too.
And a little competition, puts C.difficile back in his place.
People with an intact appendix are 2.5 fold less likely to end up with an overgrowth of C.difficile.
Cultivate the “right” microflora
Maybe you’ve been told, your appendix does “NOTHING”.
That’s not TRUE. It helps maintain the “right” microflora.
You can get by without one, and maybe in the modern world, where diarrhea is not a big health threat, having one is not quite as important for your survival, as it used to be.
But, your appendix can help you “survive” ANTIBIOTIC exposure.
And here’s Dr Evans’ excellent video on the same topic: The function of the appendix, what antibiotics do to our gut microbiomes, and surviving Clostridium difficile. She’s from South Africa … in case you don’t recognize the accent:
MOST APPENDECTOMIES MAY BE UNNECESSARY
“Doctors have known for years, and CT scans have proved, that appendicitis often doesn’t lead to a burst appendix. Some physicians have used antibiotics as an alternative to immediate surgery when appendicitis is uncomplicated, meaning the appendix is swollen but hasn’t burst.
“To test this alternative treatment, researchers at Nottingham University Hospitals in England compiled the results of four randomized clinical trials that compared antibiotics and surgery for uncomplicated appendicitis. Here’s what they found:
Antibiotics alone successfully treated appendicitis 63% of the time
People who received antibiotics instead of surgery were 39% less likely than those who underwent surgery to have developed complications such as a perforated appendix, peritonitis, or infection around the appendectomy incision.
About 20% of those treated with antibiotics had a return of pain or other symptoms and needed to go back the hospital; some of these had serious infections brewing.” (Skerrett, 2012)
The study results were published in the British Medical Journal.
In a 2018 Finnish study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the research team concluded that “nearly two-thirds of patients with appendicitis can be successfully treated with antibiotics alone.” All 250 patients included in the study had uncomplicated appendicitis – ie, their appendixes were inflamed but had not burst. (Salminen et al, 2018)
In an editorial accompanying the JAMA article, Dr Edward Livingston, deputy editor of the journal, observed that these findings “dispel the notion that uncomplicated acute appendicitis is a surgical emergency.” (Livingston, 2018)
“In the U.S., an estimated 300,000 appendectomies are performed each year, which means some 199,800 people undergo surgery unnecessarily…. Not that antibiotics are without their side effects in damaging the microbiome, but it appears to be the lesser of two evils in this setting.” (Mercola, 2018)
Perhaps you think of honey in general as a healthy food. But with industrialization, genetic modification of so many plants, and the widespread use of pesticides, most of the honey available in supermarkets now is not very healthy.
Beautiful and tasty Golden Milk is an ancient remedy with roots in Ayurvedic medicine. Turmeric, its active ingredient, has been used for centuries for its anti- inflammatory effects to treat arthritis, menstrual pain, digestive issues and to improve liver functioning. It’s also used for weight loss and cancer prevention.
Golden Milk is the English name for haldi doodh, “turmeric milk” in Hindi. It is made by heating whole milk (or some other fat-containing milk) and mixing in turmeric, various sweeteners and other spices. Turmeric spice comes from the plant’s ground up rhizomes* and has a solid 4,000 year history of medicinal use in India and Southeast Asia. (Wikipedia, 6/13/2018)
Mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs and other structural imaging tools favored by modern medicine are used to DETECT physical tumors the body has already produced. Doctors often refer to these tools as ‘prevention’ methods but they certainly are not that.
Thermography (digital infrared imaging) takes a different approach: It measures the HEAT PATTERNS CREATED BY INFLAMMATION in pre-cancerous tissues and in areas surrounding a developing cancerous tumor and other abnormalities. Thermography is done with sensitive medical infrared cameras connected to sophisticated computers to produce high-resolution images of temperature variations in the body. And, unlike most of the more commonly used structural imaging tools, it does this without exposing us to any radiation. (Pacific Chiropractic and Research Center. 2005)
If you’ve suffered with chronically stuffed up sinuses or post nasal drip, you know how much they can detract from the joy of being alive. Here’s information about a medicinal herb that may bring you relief: Yerba Santa.
Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum) has been used medicinally for centuries by the Chumash Indians and other Native Americans in California to treat a variety of conditions: pulmonary problems, saliva production, and to stop bleeding from minor cuts and scrapes. “In the United States and Britain, Yerba Santa was formally used for conditions including influenza, bacterial pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, and tuberculosis starting in the late 1800s until the 1960s (when drug regulations became more stringent around proof of efficacy).” (Vitagene, 2017)
Those of you who have been following this blog know I’m interested – for personal reasons and also just because it’s fascinating – in how the state of the probiotics in our gut microbiomes affects our health in general.
A recently published study led by Dr Katherine C. Hughes at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health provides evidence of a positive correlation between consumption of low-fat dairy products and risk of developing Parkinson’s, a serious autoimmune disease. Subjects who consumed three or more servings of low-fat dairy a day were found to have a 34% greater risk of developing Parkinson’s compared to those who consumed less than one serving a day. Dr Hughes study is the largest analysis of dairy and Parkinson’s to date. (Hughes, 2017) & (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 2017)
Spring has arrived. Maybe you’ve been hit hard with seasonal allergies this year and are suffering with clogged sinuses and the other symptoms that often go along with that misery: sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat, fatigue or weakness.
Have you noticed that the numerous ads for allergy medicines, both OTC and prescription, tout their ability to alleviate your SYMPTOMS but don’t say they’ll address the inflammatory response that’s CAUSING the allergies themselves?
Symptom relief is Western Medicine’s standard approach to allergies, as represented by this statement on WebMD:
AN APOLOGY TO THOSE OF YOU WHO TRIED ACCESSING MY BLOG BETWEEN 11/4/2016 AND 11/6/2016 AND WONDERED WHY IT HAD NO CONTENT:
Bluehost updated its server during the night of 11/4/2016 and, in the process, put AllergiesAndYourGut out of commission. When they finally got it back up again the following afternoon, I discovered that ALL the posts and pages on the site had somehow disappeared. Needless to say, this was quite distressing. Fortunately, my very competent tech guy was able to locate all the missing content and, after many hours of labor yesterday afternoon and evening, got everything restored.
Thousands of studies have linked oral disease to systemic disease. Meaning, the health of your mouth, teeth and gums has a direct connection to health in the rest of your body. (Mercola, 8/27/2016)
Most of the billions of bacteria living in the mouth are harmless – even necessary for good health. Maintaining good oral health supports those good bacteria and enables the body’s natural defenses to keep bad bacteria under control. But, without proper oral hygiene, pathogenic bacteria can reach levels that lead to tooth decay and gum disease – and also create disease elsewhere in the body.
Additionally, medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants reduce saliva flow. Saliva helps wash away food particles and neutralize acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping protect against microbial invasion or overgrowth that could lead to disease. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016)
Pathogenic bacteria living in our oral cavities enter the blood stream through a variety of daily activities, such as chewing, eating, brushing and flossing. Invasive dental treatments greatly increase the risk of pathogenic bacteria’s spreading elsewhere in the body via the blood stream. (Whiteman, 2013)
DISEASES LINKED TO ORAL HEALTH
Poor conditions in the mouth contribute to many problems elsewhere in the body, including:
Endocarditis. Endocarditis is a dangerous infection of the inner lining of the heart (the endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other pathogenic microbes from the mouth or elsewhere in the body spread through the bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in the heart.
Cardiovascular disease. Research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke are linked to infections and the inflammation pathogenic oral bacteria can cause.
Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis (a set of inflammatory diseases affecting the tissues that surround and support the teeth) is linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s is an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth.
Diabetes. Diabetics have a reduced resistance to infection and have more frequent and more severe gum disease. Research has found that people with gum disease have a harder time controlling blood sugar levels and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
HIV/AIDS. HIV and AIDS are immunodeficiency conditions caused by the HIV virus. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis may be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the UK, discovered the presence of a bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brains of patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when they were alive. This bacterium is usually associated with chronic gum disease. Worsening oral health is generally seen as Alzheimer’s progresses.
Rheumatoid arthritis. A strong link between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was found in a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. 70% of the RA patients had gum disease. In 30% the gum disease was severe. The population norm for gum disease is 35% with 5% having severe gum disease. Severe gum disease is often found in the early stages of RA. RA patients should get complete oral health exams regularly.
Head and neck cancers. A link between head and neck cancers and poor oral health at the time of oncology diagnosis has often been observed. A British group studied the oral health state of 100 people with head and neck cancers before beginning cancer treatment and found periodontal disease in 71% of the subjects who still had their teeth. The periodontal disease was severe in 51% of them. 61% of them had cavities in one or more teeth.
Eating disorders. Anorexia, bulimia and binge eating take their toll on oral health. Without proper nutrition, gums and other soft tissues in the mouth may bleed easily. Saliva glands may swell and cause chronic dry mouth. Repeated vomiting exposes teeth to strong stomach acid, causing lost tooth enamel and tooth edges to become thin and break off easily.
Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Since the mouth is the “gateway to total body wellness” (Mercola, 8/27/2016), maintaining oral health – or restoring it if it has been compromised – is of utmost importance. Here are some suggestions for accomplishing that:
BRUSH YOUR TEETH PROPERLY AT LEAST TWICE A DAY
CONSUME A DIET CONSISTING OF REAL FOODS
A nutritious, balanced diet promotes healthy gums as well as a healthy body. In many cases, gum disease is directly connected to poor nutrition habits. Eat a well-balanced diet packed with plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Vitamins C and B are both essential to healthy gums.
SCHEDULE REGULAR DENTAL CHECKUPS AND CLEANINGS
– preferably with a biologic/holistic dentist who understands the connection between oral health and health in the rest of the body. And be sure to see your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises.
AVOID ANTIBACTERIAL MOUTHWASHES
“Your mouth is teeming with bacteria. It’s true. And it’s a good thing. There are more bacteria in your mouth than there are people on Earth. And a huge number of them actually benefit you by protecting against the more dangerous bacteria.
“When you used an antibacterial mouthwash, it kills all kinds of bacteria, even the good ones! This can be the opportunity that the hazardous bacteria need to take over and start an infection. This is known as a “rebound effect.”
“Another side effect of bacteria loss is reduced production of nitrites (which help your blood vessels to expand and contract efficiently). A Swedish study linked lower nitrite production from antibacterial mouthwash to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.” (Blodgett, 2015)
“KILLS GERMS by up to 99.9%” for up to 12 hours – THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING
USE AN IONIC TOOTHBRUSH
A manual or electric toothbrush mechanically removes plaque bacteria from the teeth but new studies have shown that ionic toothbrushes do a better job. Plaque biofilm is hard to brush off because it has a positive polarity while teeth have a negative polarity. Opposite charges attract and like charges repel. Much like dust is attracted to objects in our homes, plaque is attracted to our teeth.
An ionic toothbrush temporarily reverses the polarity of the tooth surfaces from negative to positive. This draws plaque towards the ionic toothbrush head, allowing the toothbrush to clear away more of it. As you use an ionic toothbrush, plaque is actively repelled by your now positively charged teeth and attracted to the negatively charged bristles – even in hard to reach areas that haven’t been touched by the brush – and acids in the mouth are neutralized. Research has found that ionic toothbrushes reduce hypersensitivity, plaque, and bleeding. (Parker, 2016)
AVOID TOOTHPASTES CONTAINING TOXINS
Most toothpastes contain toxic ingredients – such as fluoride, parabens, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, triclosan, sodium hydroxide, bleaches and other harsh chemicals These chemicals damage the body as a whole and can impair the good probiotic bacteria in the mouth.
Switch instead to an herbal toothpaste that’s free of metals and carcinogens. Look for ingredients such as eucalyptus, licorice, neem, clove and peppermint – natural antibacterial agents and breath fresheners.
Here’s an example of an effective, healthier toothpaste:
Auromére ‘s highly effective line of Ayurvedic toothpaste combines the natural fibre PEELU with the astringent and invigorating properties of NEEM and 24 other barks, roots, plants and flowers which have been esteemed for centuries by Ayurvedic specialists for maintaining optimum dental hygiene. The all-natural botanical extracts and essential oils in Auromére Toothpaste are prized for their astringent, cleansing properties that help freshen breath and leave teeth feeling squeaky clean. In addition, Auromére Toothpaste contains no fluoride, gluten, artificial sweeteners, dyes or harsh chemicals commonly found in many toothpastes.
Free of fluoride, gluten, bleaches, artificial sweeteners, dyes, and animal ingredients.
Concentrated formula: Each tube lasts 3 times longer than other brands!
Available in 5 varieties: Licorice, Freshmint, Mint-Free, Foam-Free Cardamom-Fennel, and Foam-Free Freshmint.
USE AN ORAL IRRIGATOR
Oral irrigation removes plaque that tooth brushing doesn’t reach – from below the gum line. My favorite oral irrigator, and the one recommended by holistic/biologic dentist Reid Winick, DDS, is made by Hydrofloss. I use it at night before bedtime and can feel the difference when I’m away from it while traveling.
USE AN ORAL PROBIOTIC
Keeping an adequate supply of good probiotic bacteria living in your mouth defends against over growths of bad pathogenic bacteria. Using an oral probiotic lozenge after you’ve cleaned your mouth before bedtime aids in maintaining dental and periodental health, reducing the incidence of inflammation and infections.
Here are two examples of high quality oral probiotic lozenges:
EvoraPro® Oral Probiotics for Dental Professionals
A product of more than 30 years of probiotic research by industry leader ProBiora Health
Features a patented, proprietary, extra-strength blend of beneficial bacteria, ProBiora3®
The blend of beneficial bacteria in EvoraPro are ones naturally found in healthy mouths
Life Extension Florassist Oral Hygiene
An oral probiotic that provides the beneficial bacteria that can help block harmful bacteria that first develop in the mouth
Allows the healthy and naturally occurring organisms found in the body to out-compete the harmful bacteria
Contains BLIS K12 and Bacillus coagulans, a unique blend of two oral probiotics
USE A TONGUE SCRAPER
A fast way to get bad bacteria out of your mouth is with a tongue scraper. This is a traditional Ayurvedic technique for removing bacterial build-up, food debris, fungi, and dead cells from the surface of the tongue. The technique cleans the mouth, freshens the breath, and also stimulates the metabolism.
DRINK GREEN TEA
Green tea not only protects against radiation, boosts mineralization of bones, and helps with weight loss, it also promotes healthy teeth and gums. High levels of catechin, an antioxidant, seem to be responsible for green tea’s ability to reduce inflammation in the body, including the mouth.
TRY CAMU CAMU FOR ITS HIGH VITAMIN C CONTENT
Vitamin C’s positive impact on oral health is well known. “In fact, the use of vitamin C in dental disease is one of the earliest recorded uses of nutrient therapy in Western medicine. In 1747, a British Naval physician named James Lind noticed that lime juice, which is rich in vitamin C, helped prevent scurvy, which causes tooth loss. As a result, British sailors bottled lime juice for gum disease prevention. Incidentally, this practice later gave rise to the term ‘Limey’.” (Life Extension, 2016)
An interesting source of vitamin C is a fruit called camu camu that’s native to the Peruvian and Brazilian rain forests. It has an exceptionally high vitamin C content. Vitamin C boosts the immune system and reduces the incidence of bleeding gums, gingivitis, and periodontitis. Other benefits are repairing and maintaining cartilage and bones throughout the body and improving the texture of the skin.
Raw, Organic Camu Camu Powder
EXPERIMENT WITH OIL PULLING
Oil pulling is a highly effective method of detoxifying the oral cavity. Swishing a tablespoon of oil (preferably organic coconut oil, but olive or sesame can also be used) around in the mouth for 10-20 minutes removes the toxins, leaving an oral environment where healthy saliva flows properly to prevent cavities and disease. Research has shown that oil pulling reduces plaque-induced gingivitis and the bacterium Streptococcus mutans, a known cause of cavities.
The first synthetic bristled toothbrush so familiar to us now first went on sale on February 24, 1938, but oil pulling has been used for centuries in India as a traditional remedy to:
“Pathogens are now being recognized as resident microbes that are out of balance … (T)he same bacteria that keep us alive can have a pathogenic expression when disturbed.
“I have been tooting the horn about getting out of the ‘pesticide business.’ I’m also speaking about natural pesticides. Not just triclosan, clorhexidin and those synthetic types, but also tea tree oil, tulsi oil, oregano oil and other antimicrobial oils that … have a potent disturbing effect on the oral microbiome.
“In the mouth, you don’t want to have a ‘scorched earth policy,’ nuking all bacteria and hoping the good bugs come back … (G)ood bugs basically have a harder chance of setting up a healthy-balanced microbiome when you disturb them, denature then, or dehydrate them with alcohol-based products.”
– Biologic dentist Gerry Curatola, DDS (quoted in Mercola, 8/27/2016)
“(T)housands of studies have linked oral disease to systemic disease.
‘Inflammation is known to be a disease-causing force leading to most chronic illness, and gum disease and other oral diseases produce chronic low-grade inflammation that can have a deleterious effect on every major organ system in your body.
‘Oral disease can therefore contribute to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few. Advanced gum disease can raise your risk of a fatal heart attack up to 10 times. And, according to Curatola, if you get a heart attack related to gum disease, 9 times out of 10 it will be fatal.
‘There’s also a 700 percent higher incidence of type 2 diabetes among those with gum disease, courtesy of the inflammatory effects of unbalanced microflora in your mouth.” (Mercola, 8/27/2016
For more information on oral health, see these earlier posts:
I’d been under a heavy load of emotional stress for some days and noticed that I was developing pain around an upper molar – not awful enough to keep me up at night but certainly unwelcome and inconvenient.
I mentioned it to David Miller, MD (the nutritional supplements guru at LifeThyme Market in Greenwich Village) just to see if he had a trick up his sleeve for this that didn’t involve an emergency dental appointment. And he did! He recommended taking vitamin C. Knowing I had some Emergen-C at home, he suggested taking one packet of it every two hours until mildly loose stool began.
So that evening I drank a packet of Emergen-C Immune Plus (Blueberry-Acai) mixed into a cup of filtered water – and my tooth pain was gone a few hours later!
SO WHY DID IT WORK?
I’ve since learned it was the high amount of Vitamin C in Emergen-C that stopped the pain.
Emergen-C Immune Plus® System Support (Blueberry Acai) contains:
1000 mg Vitamin C
1000 IU Vitamin D
7 B Vitamins, antioxidants and Electrolytes
Other Natural Flavors
Vitamin C destroys bacteria and also enlivens blood circulation so more blood began going to the tooth and gum area that had become tender. I wouldn’t be surprised if I had been clenching my jaw during that time of great stress. Vitamin C also supports the immune system and is critical to the formation of collagen.
VITAMIN C IS A NATURAL ANTIBIOTIC
Vitamin C is a powerful, natural broad-spectrum antibiotic, antihistamine, antitoxic, and antiviral. The astute, early 20th century dentist Weston Price, best known for his theories on the relationship between nutrition, dental health, and physical health, labeled Vitamin C an “invisible toothbrush”. (Cheraskin, 2001).
“Several years ago the author, cardiologist Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD was asked to assist Hal Huggins, DDS, with a number of Dr. Huggins’ dental patients. Each of the patients was quite ill and obviously suffering with one or more very serious medical conditions. Prior to sedating each patient Dr. Huggins asked Dr. Levy to administer a specific protocol of vitamin C.
“Dr. Levy had never performed or even heard of such a practice, but was greatly impressed as each patient left the dental office markedly improved — many were asymptomatic. As a result, his interest in vitamin C was greatly aroused and he began a search through all the medical literature for any studies concerning this vitamin therapy and the miraculous results he had witnessed time and time again.
“He quickly found the medical journals were filled with thousands of studies and articles about vitamin C. Many of them reported similarly dramatic results with a myriad of diseases and other difficult medical conditions. Dr. Levy knew that this was information that all his colleagues needed. Consequently, he was compelled to spend the next four years researching and writing Curing the Incurable. Because this book was written especially for his medical colleagues, Dr. Levy has taken great care to research, document, and report the vital truths about vitamin C — he cites over 1,200 scientific references.
“Curing the Incurable provides the information you need to most effectively use vitamin C to:
Prevent, cure, reverse and/or greatly improve a massive list of health conditions.
Cut your mortality risk (from all causes) by as much as 50%.
Boost your immune system and energy levels to optimum levels.
Optimize blood and intracellular levels of vitamin C.
Dramatically increase bio-availability (up to 800% or more) without increasing your dose size.
Avoid gastric discomfort, the diarrhea, and increased urination that prove most of your large doses of vitamin C are headed for the sewer.
And much, much more
I also came across another person’s report of his experience using Vitamin C for a painful toothache:
“I got a terrible toothache from an impacted dental implant. My face swelled. My vision blurred as the swelling put pressure on my optic nerve. The pain was extreme.
“I decided to take 15 of the 500 mg. vitamin C three times a day with a lot of water. It was now almost impossible to eat due to pain and swelling. The day after I began taking the large amount of vitamin C there was improvement: I no longer felt like screaming from the pain. By the third day the swelling was down and the pain was mostly a memory. I was, to say the least, impressed.” (Health Boundaries, 2016)
I don’t know for sure, but my assumption is that the 1,000 mg of Vitamin C in the packet of Emergen-C brought more blood to the afflicted area and attacked whatever infection was beginning in that tooth and/or the gum surrounding it.
And now I’ve just ordered Dr Levy’s book and am eager to read it.
VITAMIN C INCREASES BLOOD CIRCULATION
Vitamin C both tones blood vessels and prevents free radicals from damaging the circulatory system, ensuring that blood flows freely throughout the body. (Poor Circulation, 2016)
“One of the most intensely studied areas of vitamin C benefits is in the area of cardiovascular health. Researchers are finding that vitamin C impacts several aspects of cardiac health, ranging from blood pressure to endothelial health. Perhaps it’s not surprising that as the relationship between oxidative damage, inflammation, and atherosclerosis becomes increasingly investigated by science, vitamin C is seen as a key protective element against many aspects of cardiovascular disease.
“For years, scientists have warned us against the dangerous buildup of plaque that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Researchers are investigating the possibilities that vitamin C may play a role in reducing our risk of plaque buildup.
“In the early stages of atherosclerosis, white blood cells called monocytes migrate and stick to the walls of the endothelium. Once this process begins, our vessel walls begin to thicken and lose their elasticity, which paves the way for atherosclerosis.
“Interestingly, British researchers studied the effects of vitamin C supplementation (250 mg/day) on this adhesion process in 40 healthy adults. Before the study, subjects with low pre-supplementation levels of vitamin C had 30% greater monocyte adhesion than normal, putting them at higher risk for atherosclerosis. Impressively, after six weeks of supplementation, the rate of this dangerous monocyte adhesion actually fell by 37%.
“The researchers went on to demonstrate that the same small dose of vitamin C was able to normalize a molecule that white blood cells use to adhere to the endothelium. The findings indicated that through supplementation with vitamin C scientists were able to regulate how specific genes produce vital proteins, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease at the molecular level.
“Building on this important work, scientific researchers in 2005 studied the impact of antioxidant supplementation on degenerative aortic stenosis, an age-associated heart valve disorder that has an inflammatory component.9 The scientists studied 100 patients with mild-to-moderate aortic stenosis, randomly assigning 41 of them to receive vitamins C (1,000 mg/day) and E (400 IU/day), 39 to receive vitamin C only (1,000 mg/day), and 20 to serve as untreated controls. Both supplemented groups experienced significant reductions in levels of several important adhesion molecules, potentially reducing further inflammatory damage to the heart valves.
“And just as vitamin C helps preserve vascular integrity, it is also proving beneficial in combating other risk factors for endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular disease.” (Goepp, 2008)
HEALTHY MOUTH, HEALTHY HEART
“Not getting enough ascorbic acid — more commonly known as vitamin C — in your diet can lead to atherosclerosis and the build up of plaque in the blood vessels that impedes blood flow. Vitamin C may also assist in keeping arteries flexible, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Foods that contain ascorbic acid include fruits such as watermelon, oranges, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, grapefruit, tomatoes and mango. Vegetables are good sources of vitamin C as well, including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, winter squash and leafy green.” (Miller, 2015)
VITAMIN C SUPPORTS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
“One of the most important functions of vitamin C is to support and energize the body’s immune system. Immune cells have active vitamin C transporter molecules embedded in their membranes that actively pump the vitamin into the cells when more vitamin C is required.” (Robertson, 2015)
People with many common diseases have severely reduced Vitamin C blood levels compared to healthy individuals. And, in part because of an increasingly oxidative environment that eats up Vitamin C, the elderly tend to have lower levels of Vitamin C circulating in their blood stream and immune cells, leading to impaired immune function. (Robertson, 2015)
The table below shows lower plasma vitamin C levels in people with serious diseases (especially cancer and sepsis) than in healthy individuals. Note that a healthy Vitamin C blood level range is considered to be 61-80 micromolecules/L. (Robertson, 2015)
TABLE: VITAMIN C LEVELS FALL IN MULTIPLE DISEASE STATES Healthy Vitamin C Range is 61-80 mmol/L
Vitamin C In Disease States Mean Plasma Vitamin C Level (micromol/L)
Diabetes 42 mmol/L
Gastritis 46 mmol/L
Pancreatitis 33 mmol/L
Pneumonia 31 mmol/L
Cancer < 24 mmol/L
Trauma or sepsis (overwhelming infection) 10 mmol/L
Arthritis 27 mmol/L
A healthy vitamin C level is considered to be between 61 and 80 micromol/L. Those afflicted with serious diseases have much lower vitamin C levels. It is likely that the inflammation and oxidative stress caused by some of these diseases contributes to this reduced vitamin C since it will rapidly be used up quenching free radicals. It’s also possible that lower levels of vitamin C contributed to the development or progression of some of these disorders.
VITAMIN C IS NECESSARY FOR COLLAGEN PRODUCTION
The body requires Vitamin C for collagen production. Collagen is a protein that performs many important functions in the body (English & Cass, 2013):
Collagen forms connective fibers in tissues such as skin, ligaments, cartilage, bones and teeth.
Collagen acts as a kind of intracellular “glue” that gives support, shape and bulk to blood vessels, bones, and organs such as the heart, kidneys and liver.
Collagen fibers keep bones and blood vessels strong and help anchor our teeth to our gums.
Collagen is required for the repair of blood vessels, bruises, and broken bones.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, accounting for more mass than all the other body’s proteins put together.
Dr Emily Kane, ND, LAc, recommends 4-9 grams/day of Vitamin C, to promote collagen healing and retard plaque growth. She says gums that bleed easily may be a sign of Vitamin C deficiency. “Vitamin C is a large, complex molecule that can ‘absorb’ a free-radical and stop the chain of destruction. Vitamin C is inexpensive (manufacturers never cheat in its production, unlike with Vitamin E), widely available in a variety of forms and generally well tolerated. Some people with very sensitive stomachs need to take a buffered form, rendered a neutral pH with the addition of minerals such as calcium or magnesium.” (Kane, 2001)
WHY HUMANS NEED TO GET VITAMIN C FROM OUR DIET OR NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS
Most animals and plants are able to synthesize Vitamin C to meet their nutritional needs. 4,000 species of mammals produce it in their livers from glucose, but a few – including humans, guinea pigs, bats, and dry-nosed primates – have lost this ability due to a mutation in the GULO (gulonolactone oxidase) gene. We – and they – must obtain our Vitamin C from outside sources. (Biology, 2012), (Cell Press, 2008) & (Misner, 2016)
“Normal GULO is an enzyme that catalyses the reaction of D-glucuronolactone with oxygen to L-xylo-hex-3-gulonolactone. This then spontaneously forms Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C). However without the GULO enzyme, no vitamin C is produced.” (Biology, 2012)
Because humans are unable to produce vitamin C and must obtain it from other sources and because most of us don’t consume enough foods containing ascorbic acid, it makes sense to supplement daily with vitamin C. (Robertson, 2015)
A footnote to my recent experience taking Emergen-C for dental pain:
It took only that single dose of Emergen-C to produce the loosened stool effect Dr Miller said to look for. I’ve always been sensitive to big doses of Vitamin C and generally take a buffered version when I can.
Irwin Stone (an American biochemist, chemical engineer, and author) and my father (an enzyme chemist) became good friends during their time working together at the Wallerstein Company (a processor of malts and hops for beer making) in the late 1930’s-early 1940’s. Stone was the first to use ascorbic acid in the food processing industry as a preservative. He also originated and published the hypothesis that humans require much larger amounts of Vitamin C for optimal health than is necessary to prevent scurvy.
Stone’s book, The Healing Factor: Vitamin C Against Disease was first published in 1955.
He piqued Linus Pauling’s interest in the health benefits of Vitamin C and is recognized as one of the founders of Orthomolecular Medicine. Stone’s research provided additional scientific background for the clinical results of megadose ascorbate treatments claimed by Dr Frederick Robert Klenner, his contemporary.
Irwin Stone and his wife Barbara were living in the San Francisco Bay Area when my husband and I moved to Palo Alto for a year. My dad wrote to his friend, who invited us and our infant son to come for dinner at their house. Barbara made a beautiful looking, tart, refreshing soup to start the meal. I couldn’t quite place the source of its tartness but shortly after dinner found myself desperately needing to know the location of their bathroom.
When I returned to the table and said I couldn’t figure out what had caused this reaction, Irwin confessed that my father had told him I was nursing a baby and not getting much sleep so he’d asked Barbara to put 1,000 mg of ascorbic acid into my soup to boost our immune systems.
Irwin Stone (1907-1984), a founder of Orthomolecular Medicine
Comments made by people I’d thought understood why growing and eating genetically modified and other non-organic foods are dangerous to humans, other animals and the planet spurred me to write this post.
“Why should I pay more for organic carrots? They’re not any bigger than the other kind.” – heard at a farmers’ market
“Organic is just a label for getting us to pay more for our food.” – said by an MD
“Genetically modified foods have been tested and are safe to eat.”
“The US government protects the safety of our food supply.”
“GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, or GE. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.” (Non-GMO Project, 2016)
Although at least 90% of Americans want labeling, genetically engineered foods generally are not labeled in the US – thanks to powerful efforts by Monsanto and other big agribusiness companies.
Conventionally grown foods are grown using synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, chemicals which get absorbed into the soil and cannot be removed. The purpose of conventional farming is mass production, out of season growing, and creating a longer shelf life. This type of farming uses monoculture. This means crops are often planted over and over in the same place which leads to more insect infestation and disease, and depletes the soil of nutrients which then leads to more fertilizer use. This endless cycle often leads to massive topsoil erosion. It is also argued that conventionally grown foods are tasteless due to all the chemical treating. (Raj, 2012)
Conventionally grown foods are also not labeled in the US and often contain GMOs along with synthetic chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
Organic foods are grown in nutrient rich soil and are free of synthetic chemicals. They are not treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Organically raised farm animals are free of antibiotics and added hormones. They are not fed GMO’s or other drugs. Organic animals are not allowed to have their genes modified. They are raised in healthier environments, are organically fed, and generally eat a wider range of nutrients than animals in factory farms. Organically raised animals are not bred from a test tube. (Raj, 2012)
GMO Free means not genetically modified or fed feed containing GMOs.
A SUMMARY OF THE ISSUES
SAFETY FOR HUMANS
The only way to avoid consuming the cocktail of toxic chemicals in genetically modified and otherwise commercially grown foods is to eat organic. “More than 600 active chemicals are registered for agricultural use in America, to the tune of billions of pounds annually. The average application equates to about 16 pounds of chemical pesticides per person every year. Many of these chemicals were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before adequate safety testing.
“The National Academy of Sciences reports that 90% of the chemicals applied to foods have not been tested for long-term health effects before being deemed “safe.” Further, the FDA tests only 1% of foods for pesticide residue. The most dangerous and toxic pesticides require special testing methods, which are rarely if ever employed by the FDA. ” (Loux, 2011)
Contrary to Monsanto’s and other GMO manufacturers and supporters’ claims, the pesticides associated with GMO crops are unsafe for humans, other organisms, and the environment.
A primary example is glyphosate, a broad-spectrum, non-selective systemic herbicide, that is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and Dow AgroSciences’ Rodeo and is found in many other herbicides as well.
Exposure to glyphosate has been linked to a host of serious health effects: (Robinson, Antoniou & Fagan, 2015)
Severe liver and kidney damage
Chronic kidney disease
Disruption of hormonal systems, potentially leading to multiple organ damage and hormone-dependent cancer
Developmental and reproductive toxicity, including sperm damage, miscarriage, and premature birth
High Glyphosate levels are now turning up everywhere:
In our blood
In breast milk
In water supplies
“Glyphosate levels have been found to be significantly higher in the urine of humans who ate non-organic food, compared with those who ate mostly organic food. Chronically ill people showed significantly higher glyphosate residues in their urine than healthy people.” (Robinson, Antoniou & Fagan, 2015)
SAFETY OF THE PLANET
Those more than 600 agricultural chemicals the US government has approved for agricultural use are contaminating our environment and destroying the ecosystem:
Polluting the soil and water with toxins
Depleting nutrients from the soil, destroying its fertility
Destroying organisms in the soil necessary for growing healthy crops and animals
Killing and mutating insects, frogs, birds and other wildlife
Organic farming, while avoiding use of these chemicals, supports the tapestry of ecology, achieving eco-sustenance.
“Certified organic standards do not permit the use of toxic chemicals in farming and require responsible management of healthy soil and biodiversity.
“According to Cornell entomologist David Pimentel, it is estimated that only 0.1% of applied pesticides reach the target pests. The bulk of pesticides (99.9%) is left to impact the environment.” (Loux, 2011)
Organically grown foods are more nutritious than non-organic foods. They contain more vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrients than commercially grown foods because the soil they’re grown in is managed and nourished with sustainable practices by responsible standards. “The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine conducted a review of 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains and concluded that there are significantly more of several nutrients in organic foods crops.
“Further, the study verifies that five servings of organically grown vegetables (such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage) provide an adequate allowance of vitamin C, whereas the same number of servings of conventionally grown vegetables do not.
“On average, organically grown foods provide: 21.1% more iron (than their conventional counterparts); 27% more vitamin C; 29.3% more magnesium; 13.6% more phosphorus.” (Loux, 2011)
ORGANIC VS FACTORY FARMED ANIMALS
Even aside from the huge issue of the heart breaking, inhumane treatment of factory farmed animals, the meat and dairy products they provide are the foods at highest risk for contamination by harmful substances. For example, over 90% of the pesticides Americans consume comes from the fat and tissue of meat and dairy products. (Loux, 2011)
(I’ll also point out that the corn fed to the factory farmed cow on the right above is almost certainly genetically modified. )
The EPA reports that a majority of human pesticide intake comes from meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products because these foods are all high on the food chain. “For instance, a large fish that eats a smaller fish that eats even smaller fish accumulates all of the toxins of the chain, especially in fatty tissue. Cows, chickens, and pigs are fed animal parts, by-products, fish meal, and grains that are heavily and collectively laden with toxins and chemicals.” (Loux, 2011)
The antibiotics, drugs, and growth hormones fed to factory farmed animals are passed directly into their meat and dairy products. “Tens of millions of pounds of antibiotics are used in animal feed every year…. The hormones fed to cows cannot be broken down, even at high temperatures. Therefore they remain in complete form and pass directly into the consumer’s diet when meat is eaten.” (Loux, 2011)
“Between 1985 and 2001, the use of antibiotics in feed for industrial livestock production rose a startling 50%. Today, antibiotics are routinely fed to livestock, poultry, and fish on industrial farms to promote faster growth and to compensate for the unsanitary conditions in which they are raised.
“According to a new report by the FDA, approximately 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to farm animals. This means that in the United States only 20 percent of antibiotics, which were originally developed to protect human health, are actually used to treat infections in people.” (Grace, 2016)
ORGANIC TASTES BETTER
Organically grown foods are generally more flavorful and easier to digest than foods treated with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. They’re more environment-friendly too. (Quinn, 2000)
ORGANIC IS ACTUALLY COST-EFFECTIVE
To decide whether it’s worth it to pay more money for organic foods, you have to factor in the additional costs of eating non-organic:
Widespread and ever increasing suffering with acute and chronic illnesses
The financial cost of treating these illnesses
Treatment of bacterial-resistant infections
Subsidies paid to farmers
Egregious treatment of animals on factory farms
Cost of pesticide clean ups
Destruction of the environment
Loss of export markets for US-produced GM products
Organic farming produces nutritious foods that keep us and other animals well instead of making us sick as most of our food supply is currently doing. Organic practices also preserve the environment for the future.
And then there are these additional, hidden costs in figuring how much you’re actually spending for non-organic foods:
“Buying organic food is an investment in a cost-effective future. Commercial and conventional farming is heavily subsidized with tax dollars in America. A study at Cornell University determined the cost of a head of commercial iceberg lettuce, typically purchased at 49 cents a head, to be more than $3.00 a head when hidden costs were revealed. The study factored in the hidden costs of federal subsidies, pesticide regulation and testing, and hazardous waste and cleanup.
“Every year, American tax dollars subsidize billions of dollars for a farm bill that heavily favors commercial agribusiness. Peeling back another layer of the modern farming onion reveals a price tag that cannot be accurately measured but certainly includes other detrimental associated costs such as health problems, environmental damage, and the loss and extinction of wildlife and ecology.” (Loux, 2011)
WHAT IS FOOD?
Having apparently lost the ability to understand the function of food – to provide nourishment that keeps us well, we’ve reached the point of calling everything we put in our stomachs ‘food’.
READ MORE ABOUT GMO MYTHS AND TRUTHS
If you’re interested in learning more about GMOs and the research on them, I recommend this clear, easy to read source of information:
GMO Myths and Truths – A Citizen’s Guide to the Evidence on the Safety and Efficacy of Genetically Modified Crops and Foods, 3rd Edition. Its authors are Claire Robinson (an editor at GMWatch), John Fagan (PhD in biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology, pioneer of genetic testing methods for GMOs, researcher on biosafety and sustainable agriculture, and Director of Open Earth Resource), and Michael Antoniou (PhD in Molecular Genetics and Head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London School of Medicine).
This short interview with Dr Stephanie Seneff is quite interesting. She explains how supplementation with folic acid during pregnancy can interact with the glyphosate in genetically modified foods to produce an autistic brain in the fetus. Dr Seneff work is a good source of research information on the various health dangers created by glyphosate.
Folates, a group of water soluble B-vitamins (also known as Vitamin B9) and naturally found in food, are vital for health. Folic acid is an oxidized synthetic compound used in dietary supplements and food fortification.
“Despite the risks associated with high levels of folic acid intake, it is well established that adequate folate intake from the consumption of folate-rich foods is essential for health. Folate aids the complete development of red blood cells, reduces levels of homocysteine in the blood, and supports nervous system function. It is well known for its role in preventing neural tube defects in newborns, so women of childbearing age must be sure to have an adequate intake prior to and during pregnancy.” (Kresser, 2012)
If you’re interested in reading more about how GMOs and glyphosate are harmful, see the “So What’s the Problem with GMOs?” section in my earlier post Genetically Modified Organisms – Our Food (Hardin, 2014)
A major conclusion from the findings Dr Seneff describes in this video is that glyphosate has profound negative effects on the probiotic bacteria making up the gut microbiome, home to most of our immune system. Glyphosate destroys the beneficial bacteria in our guts, triggering an enormous range of health problems.
A recent article called The Surprising Way to Beat Spring Allergies by Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, ROHP, one of my favorite writers on probiotics and the gut microbiome, caught my eye and I want to share its information with those of you who suffer from allergies, seasonal or otherwise.
Her article starts out this way:
“Before you grab that decongestant to subdue your sinus congestion or antihistamine to stop the sneezing linked to spring allergies, you might want to give your gut some attention. More and more research shows that probiotics can reduce allergy symptoms and may even prevent allergic conditions altogether if they are started early in life. But not just any probiotic will do; with thousands of probiotic strains available, it’s important to choose the ones that have an anti-allergy effect. The right probiotic strains can heal the intestinal walls and reduce low-grade inflammation in the gut, but also prevent or reduce allergies.” (Cook, 3/17/2016)
The most common symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis are inflammation in the nose, sinuses and eyes. You inhale some pollen or other allergen and your nose and sinuses become congested or blocked. Maybe your eyes itch, burn, tear up or become red. Maybe your eyes become hypersensitive to light. Your nose may itch and discharge watery mucus. Your ear canals may get irritated. You sneeze a lot, feel physically depressed and generally miserable.
ALLERGIES & ME
In my case, decades of year round chronic allergies resulted in the growth of nasal polyps in my sinuses that dropped down into my nose every time I inhaled, causing me to have to breathe only through my mouth. I was exhausted all the time, had frequent sinus infections, a tenderness in the bridge of my nose that made wearing glasses painful, and such swollen nasal and sinus tissue that I could never blow my noise. And I had to wear tinted glasses even indoors to deal with light sensitivity.
The chronic inflammation and difficulty breathing made me physically depressed and, as a result, I also believed I was emotionally depressed. Basically, I was and felt like an inflamed mess – and the number of things I was allergic to kept growing: cat dander, dust, cigarette smoke, foods, scents.
I went to allergy doctors who prescribed decongestants (they made my heart race) and antihistamines (most of them severally sapped the little energy I had). I remember lying on our living room couch once after taking a prescription pill containing both a decongestant and antihistamine, my sinuses so dried up I could hardly breathe and my heart beating so rapidly I thought I was going to die, unable to lift my head or get up to call for help … long before cell phones.
I told my ENT doc, after the second surgery to remove nasal polyps (the chronic inflammation caused them to grow back), that I was going to find a non-pharmaceutical/ non-surgical way to fix both my allergies and sinuses. He was a good guy and asked me to please let him know when I’d found the information I was seeking.
Thankfully, I’ve been tenacious over several decades in seeking that information and choosing helpful health care providers to work with, never grew another nasal polyp, and am no longer done in by upper respiratory allergies.
This website, Allergies And your Gut, is a by product of that determined quest to feel well.
BACK TO MICHELLE SCHOFFRO COOK’S ARTICLE
“The ideal time to be introduced to beneficial allergy-preventing strains of bacteria is actually before birth. Research in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology shows that when a pregnant woman consumes probiotic-rich milk or yogurt during pregnancy, an infant or child is less likely to suffer from allergic conditions such as eczema or rhinoconjunctivitis.” (Cook, 3/17/2016)
Of course, we’re not able to go back and make sure we got sufficient beneficial microbes during our fetal development but we can provide ourselves now with pertinent probiotics to prevent or reverse our allergy symptoms and conditions.
The milk and yogurt products used in this study contained three types of probiotic bacteria:
Cook reports on work done by scientists at the Osaka University School of Medicine that found ingestion of another probiotic, Lactobacillus casei (L. casei), delayed the occurrence of allergy symptoms and reduced allergic nasal and sinus congestion. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study results were published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology.
And finally, Cook cites 2009 research results from a 12-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial published in the medical journal Advanced Therapeutics demonstrating the benefits of consuming a dried, fermented probiotic yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Study participants consisted of 96 healthy people with a recent, clinically documented history of seasonal allergies. The researchers were testing the efficacy of 500 mg of a fermented, dried Saccharomyces cerevisiae product during the highest recorded concentrations of total pollen counts for the Midwest area where the study was conducted and found it reduced allergy symptoms, especially nasal congestion. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is also known as ‘brewer’s yeast’.
Following up on Scott Moshen’s helpful COMMENT below, I found Bragg Nutritional Yeast Seasoning for a reasonable price at my local health food store. It’s also available from Amazon.com. Bragg is also the long time maker of other raw, organic products that many health conscious people swear by, including an Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar that’s unfiltered and contains the ‘mother’.
PROBIOTICS VS DRUGS FOR ALLERGIES
If you’re like me, you prefer consuming foods and natural substances to taking pharmaceutical drugs whenever possible to prevent inflammatory, autoimmune problems – or to treat them if they have already developed.
The authors of the 2009 Advanced Therapeutics article described above noted:
“Allergic rhinitis (AR) impacts around 25% of the worldwide population. However, cost, safety, and a high dissatisfaction rate with numerous conventional medications continues to be an issue in the largest patient surveys, due primarily to a lack of efficacy on nasal congestion.” (Moyad et al, 2009)
And Cook has this to say on the subject:
“Unlike drug products, antihistamines and decongestants you take when symptoms are severe, the probiotic-based approach works differently. Probiotics are best taken on a daily basis (follow package instructions of the specific product(s) you select) before and during allergy season. Select products that contain the specific probiotic strains mentioned in this article, as others have not been tested for effectiveness against seasonal allergies.” (Cook, 3/17/2016)
I want to add to all the above what Professor of Geomorphology David R. Montgomery and Biologist and Environmental Planner Anne Biklé have to say about why allergies have become so prevalent. They are husband and wife – and the authors of an engaging and timely new book called The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health.
Their book began with a desire to create a garden in the yard of their house in Seattle. They soon discovered the soil had become barren, depleted of nutrients, dead – so they started feeding it a steady diet of organic matter (coffee grounds, wood chips, leaves, home-brewed compost – lots and lots of it). Soon the soil was teeming with microbial life and supporting a lush garden supplying them with nutrient-rich organic plants.
As scientists, they were fascinated by this experiment. Then Anne was diagnosed with cancer and they turned their attention to the question of what supports health in the body. They began to move away from the view of microbes as mostly pathogenic and toward understanding that the vast arrays of invisible micro-organisms (pounds of them) that live in and on us are actually what maintain our health – or make us ill if they’re not well nurtured.
They’d seen this interaction at work in the relationship between the soil in their miraculous garden and the plants that grew in it. Now they were able to start understanding that the same relationship exists between the health of the micro-organisms in the various human microbiomes and the health of the host’s body.
Here’s part of what they have to say about gut micro-organisms and allergies:
“Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, neither of us can recall classmates or friends with severe enough allergies and asthma that it required hypervigilant parents and teachers to help them avoid near-death experiences. We also don’t recall today’s prevalence of common gut dysfunctions like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
“In the past fifty years researchers have seen not just an uptick in the incidence of gut dysfunctions, but a fortyfold increase…. While our genes may make us more or less susceptible to such ailments, changes in our gut microbiome are increasingly implicated as well.
“Gut dysfunctions and autoimmune diseases like asthma and allergies are turning out to be, at least in part, consequences of an immune system gone alarmingly awry. The hallmark symptom of all these diseases is an over-the-top immune response that damages our own cells and tissues.
“How does our own immune system turn against us? Increasingly, it seems that a major contributing factor is a severe case of atrophy for our efficient and evolutionarily honed immune system. Without a challenging workout and the help of beneficial microbes, our specialized immune cells and tissue grow lazy, or one might say, hazy. It is the day in, day out saturation of the inside and outside of our bodies with microbes that tones and sharpens the various feedback loops that drive our immune system to learn and recognize microbial friends from foes. A too-clean environment, ultrasanitized food and water, repeated doses of antibiotics, and minimal contact with soil and nature all work against us. These factors interfere with communication between microbes and our immune system. And this throws off the balancing act of meting out inflammation that our immune system evolved to do.” (Montgomery & Biklé, 2016, 189-190)
I highly recommend this book to you. Some comments from reviewers:
“I love this book! It’s genial, erudite, and wise. Using their personal story, historical fact, and cutting-edge science, Montgomery and Biklé have given us a great gift – a deep understanding and appreciation of our relationship with the microbial world.”
“The Hidden Half of Nature reads like a fast-paced novel but tells the true story of the workings of soils, and even our own bodies.”
“I wish I had learned this in medical school.”
” The Hidden Half of Nature draws a straight line from the microbes that live in healthy soil to those that live in healthy guts, skillfully blending the personal and the scientific. This is a must-read for anyone concerned with their own health.”
Bertelsen, R.J. et al. (2014). Probiotic milk consumption in pregnancy and infancy and subsequent childhood allergic diseases. Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, 133:1, 165-71. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24034345
Moyad, M.A. et al. (2009). Immunogenic yeast-based fermentation product reduces allergic rhinitis-induced nasal congestion: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Advanced Therapeutics, 26:8, 795-804. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19672568
Tamura, M. et al. (2007). Effects of probiotics on allergic rhinitis induced by Japanese cedar pollen: randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, 143:1, 75-82. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17199093
That’s not so easy to answer for two reasons: First, the whole field of gut bacteria is quite new. And second, many if not most doctors don’t know a whole lot about the gut microbiome and its role in keeping us healthy or making us sick.
That doctors often don’t know much about the gut microbiome is clearly related to it’s being a new field – but the situation is also made worse by the enormous pressures the pharmaceutical industry and what is sometimes referred to as the “medical–industrial complex” exert on doctors to continue along the current path of treating symptoms with drugs and/or surgeries while ignoring the symptoms’ underlying causes.
Let’s hope the paradigm will shift.
MY MEDICAL JOURNEY – AND PERSONAL BIAS
It took me many decades to identify the underlying source of my own gut microbiome imbalance and autoimmune conditions and figure out how to correct them. On this journey, the types of professionals who were the most helpful have been Chiropractors who do Applied Kinesiology and know how to support health with nutrition (foods and nutritional supplements), Functional Medicine docs, Integrative Medicine docs, Naturopaths, Energy Medicine practitioners, and Nutritionists.
I’ve pretty much stopped relying on mainstream MD specialists – except for the rare ones who understand that pharmaceuticals only suppress symptoms but don’t correct any underlying problem.
When I have blood work done by my Internist (who’s a devoted doctor and a lovely man whom I enjoy seeing), I know I’m probably not going to take any pharmaceutical he might prescribe so ask to be emailed the results and take them to the Chiropractor who’s my main health care provider. She reads the report, discusses the meaning of the results with me, and recommends what I can do about any problematic findings. For example, I have an under active thyroid (hypothyroidism) and sometimes Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune thyroid problem). She has successfully regulated my thyroid functioning with nutritional supplements for many years.
Before asking my Internist for blood work, I also get my Chiropractor’s recommendations for exactly what blood work will be helpful. The Internists and Endocrinologists I’d seen in the past were likely to order only the basic thyroid tests. My Chiropractor orders those to see if my thyroid is under functioning, tests to measure whether my pituitary and adrenals are involved, and thyroid antibody tests to see if my thyroid is also having an autoimmune problem again.
So that’s where I’m coming from as I try to answer the question about what tests to request from a traditional medical doctor.
INCREASED GUT PERMEABILITY – AKA LEAKY GUT
When your intestinal mucosal lining (the place that’s home to your gut’s good bacteria and other probiotic micro-organisms) becomes abnormally permeable (a condition known as intestinal hyperpermeability), tiny leaks develop from your intestines into your bloodstream. These openings allow things (bad bacteria and their toxins, incompletely digested proteins and fats, and other substances) to pass through the intestinal walls directly into your bloodstream instead of being propelled further along your GI tract to where they can be neutralized and/or excreted.
Your immune system reads these substances leaked into your bloodstream as dangerous invaders, triggering an autoimmune reaction. As the leaks continue to allow more and more substances through the gut lining directly into the bloodstream, your body becomes chronically inflamed … and chronic inflammation is a precursor to autoimmune diseases and a long list of other serious health problems. (Axe, 2016) & (Weil, 2005)
DR JOSH AXE’S RECOMMENDATIONS
Dr Josh Axe’s article What Kind of Leaky Gut Test Should You Take? may help you figure out what tests to ask for if you suspect you have a leaky gut that’s causing various chronic autoimmune conditions and diseases – including dark circles under your eyes. Dr. Axe is a Doctor of Natural Medicine, a Clinical Nutritionist, and a Chiropractor.
The tests he recommends are:
See Dr Axe’s article for more information on these tests.
TESTS FOR ADRENAL FATIGUE
In an article called Testing For Adrenal Fatigue, Wellness Coach and author Fawne Hansen discusses the types of tests needed to measure adrenal functioning. Among them are:
A series of cortisol measures
An ACTH Challenge
A variety of thyroid tests
Hansen says, “Diagnosing Adrenal Fatigue from a single test or symptom is impossible. To make an accurate diagnosis, doctors and naturopaths need to look at a range of tests, sometimes conducted multiple times, and take note of every symptom. This requires experience and a thorough knowledge of the various systems in our bodies, as well as some patience too. It may require two or three visits to the doctor before you can be sure that you have Adrenal Fatigue.” (Hansen, 2016)
Chronic inflammation in the body is a precursor to most kinds of diseases. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance produced in the liver that increases when there’s inflammation in the body.
There are two blood tests for elevated CRP: One test can detect a general elevation of CRP, associated with general inflammatory changes in the body and considered a non-specific marker for disease. The other test, called hs-CRP (highly sensitive CRP), is a measure of inflammation in blood vessels and is used to help establish heart disease risk.
Integrative Medicine doc Andrew Weil, MD’s article Elevated C-reactive Protein (CRP) explains the meaning of elevated CRP, its symptoms and causes, how it’s diagnosed, how conventional medicine treats it, and how he treats it with an anti-inflammatory diet. (Weil, 2016)
Gut dysbiosis (sometimes called gut dysbacteriosis) is the technical term for a microbial imbalance in the digestive tract. MaryAnn Copson, who has worked in the Alternative, Functional, Holistic, and Energy Medicine fields for over 35 years, offers a DYSBIOSIS METABOLIC MARKERS KIT for comprehensive testing of gut dysbiosis.
Her extensive training includes:
Neuro-Reproductive Endocrine Certification
Certified Licensed Nutritionist
Robertson Research Institute Level II Verified Biochemical Profile Clinician for the Brain Chemistry Optimization Program
Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner
Practitioner Byronomics Energy Management and Diagnosis
Nutritional Treatment for Mood Disorders
Metabolic Typing and Nutritional Planning
Supplements and other Natural Remedies
Vitamin D Deficiency Assessment and Nutritional Treatment
Genetics of Mood Disorders
See Testing for Dysbiosis to read more about the causes and effects of gut dysbiosis and to purchase a test kit. You collect the specimens in the privacy of your home and mail them in the kit directly to the independent medical lab she uses. She’ll forward a copy of your results to you when she’s received them and you then schedule a time for the two of you to talk. She’ll interpret your results for you and discuss their implications along with possible nutritional and lifestyle treatment programs for re-balancing your gut flora.
From Copson’s site (Copson, 2014):
“Why test for Dysbiosis?
“Dybiosis can be a significant factor in many health problems. The Dysbiosis Metabolic Marker Test, because it measures the by-products of microbial metabolism which are excreted in the urine, is particularly useful in detecting the presence of pathogenic microbial overgrowth and in guiding and monitoring therapy.
“Treatments for dysbiosis may involve removal of the offending organisms with anti-microbials. Dietary changes and food supplements are used for replacement of beneficial bacteria, restoration of digestive function, and mucosal repair.
“A repeat test should show improvement within 90 days.”
The Dysbiosis Metabolic Marker Test measures the following:
“All of the above compounds reported are produced by bacteria, yeast, fungi and protozoa that may colonize or grow in the small intestines. Dysbiosis involves overgrowth of one or more species leading to increased production of these compounds that are absorbed and excreted in the urine.” (Copson, 2014)
I don’t know if the kit, the lab work, and working with her (via phone or in person – she’s in Shipman, Virginia) on what to do about your results would be covered by your health insurance (if you’re lucky enough to have any).
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON TOPICS MENTIONED IN THIS POST
In autoimmune diseases and conditions, the immune system misreads healthy cells as if they were dangerous invaders and attempts to destroy them. An autoimmune process can affect one or more types of body tissues and organs.
If you wish to learn more, here are two lists of autoimmune diseases and conditions:
There are autoimmune conditions and diseases that don’t appear on these two lists.
I was searching for a helpful article on autoimmunity to include here and was only finding ones claiming that autoimmune diseases are incurable but their symptoms could perhaps be reduced by pharmaceuticals. Then it occurred to me to google “autoimmune diseases alternative” and found this article by Functional Medicine doc Mark Hyman, MD: How to Stop Attacking Yourself: 9 Steps to Heal Autoimmune Disease. (Hyman, 2015)
Dr Hyman is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine.
From Dr Hyman’s article:
“INFLAMMATION IS A “HOT” TOPIC IN MEDICINE. It appears connected to almost every known chronic disease — from heart disease to cancer, diabetes to obesity, autism to dementia, and even depression.
“Other inflammatory diseases such as allergies, asthma, arthritis, and autoimmune disease are increasing at dramatic rates. As physicians we are trained to shut off inflammation with aspirin, anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil or Motrin, steroids, and increasingly more powerful immune suppressing medication with serious side effects.
“But we are not trained to find and treat the underlying causes of inflammation in chronic disease. Hidden allergens, infections, environmental toxins, an inflammatory diet, and stress are the real causes of these inflammatory conditions.
“Autoimmune diseases, specifically, now affect 24 million people and include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.
“These are often addressed by powerful immune suppressing medication and not by addressing the cause. That’s like taking a lot of aspirin while you are standing on a tack. The treatment is not more aspirin or a strong immune suppressant, but removing the tack.
“It you want to cool off inflammation in the body, you must find the source. Treat the fire, not the smoke. In medicine we are mostly taught to diagnose disease by symptoms, NOT by their underlying cause.”
Autoimmune conditions are connected by one central biochemical process: A runaway immune response also known as systemic inflammation that results in your body attacking its own tissues.
– Functional Medicine doc Mark Hyman, MD
INFORMATION ON THYROID FUNCTION TESTS
See Thyroid Function Tests for what the American Thyroid Association says about commonly ordered thyroid tests. (American Thyroid Association, 2014)
Chiropractor and Nutritionist Dr David Dahlman’s article Thyroid Tests discusses how the thyroid works, which tests are needed to assess its function, and how to interpret those tests. (Dahlman, 2015)
See MEDICAL-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX for more information on how and why the US’s health care industry remains wedded to its focus on using pharmaceuticals and surgeries to treat symptoms rather than helping us stay healthy.
From the article:
“The concept of the medical-industrial complex was first introduced in the 1971 book, The American Health Empire (Ehrenreich and Ehrenreich 1971) by Health-PAC. The medical-industrial complex (MIC) refers to the health industry, which is composed of the multibillion-dollar congeries of enterprises including doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, insurance companies, drug manufacturers, hospital supply and equipment companies, real estate and construction businesses, health systems consulting and accounting firms, and banks. As employed by the Ehrenreichs, the concept conveys the idea that an important (if not the primary) function of the health care system in the United States is business (that is, to make profits) with two other secondary functions, research and education.”
It turns out the very same meal can affect people’s blood glucose levels in very different ways. So the universal dietary recommendations we’re bombarded with – eat these foods and avoid those – may be sound advice for some people but maybe not for you.
Research conducted by a group of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel suggests that individualized diets may be needed to modify blood glucose and its metabolic consequences.
The researchers note that “Elevated postprandial blood glucose levels constitute a global epidemic and a major risk factor for prediabetes and type II diabetes, but existing dietary methods for controlling them have limited efficacy. ” (Zeevi et al, 2015-A)
They found that short-term, personalized dietary interventions succeeded in reconfiguring the composition of their study subjects’ gut microbiomes and lowering post-meal glucose levels.
From the description of the video:
Doctors and nutrition specialists keep telling us what foods are good and bad for our metabolism and health. But does it work for everyone? Scientists led by Eran Segal and Eran Elinav at the Weizmann Institute of Science find that, surprisingly, everyone responds to the same foods quite different because of their unique gut bacteria makeup. Good news for some people: ice cream could be healthier than sushi!
(Zeevi et al, 2015-B)
How the study worked, in graphical form
PRE-DIABETES & POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME (PCOS) – AND INDIVIDUALIZED DIET
Here’s an interesting and easy to read article by Dr Saleyha Ahsan, an ER doc in England who’s working with the Israeli researchers to figure out how to personalize her diet to address her health situation: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and a family history of Type 2 diabetes that makes her high risk for developing diabetes herself.
Among the fascinating information Dr Ahsan imparts about what she learned while being studied by the research group at the Weizmann Institute:
“Most importantly, though, because their initial data had suggested that different individuals responded differently to foods, I teamed up with another volunteer of the same gender and age – Leila.
“For the next week, Leila and I did and ate exactly the same things together – eating in the same restaurants and carefully weighing our food to ensure that it was as identical as possible. Textbooks said that our bodies should respond to them in a similar way. The Israeli researchers suspected that we wouldn’t.
“A fortnight later when our results came through I could not have been more flabbergasted. Virtually all my “healthy snacks” such as grapes and sushi caused me big blood sugar spikes, as did a chicken sandwich, and cereal. On the “good” menu, though, was chocolate, ice cream and regular cola.
“For Leila, the results were very different. Whereas pasta was “bad” for me, it was fine for her. Yoghurt was good for me, but bad for her, and our responses to bread and butter were also complete opposites. (Ashan, 2016)”
Many thanks to Kelley O’Donnell for sending me the interesting article by Dr Saleyha Ahsan.
Our gut microbiomes, the several pounds of micro-organisms living inside our intestines and often referred to as OurFriends with Benefits, affect pretty much every aspect of our health – keeping us well or making us sick.
I wrote about INCREASED GUT PERMEABILITY – CAUSES & CONSEQUENCES in a 10 May 2015 post. Here’s part of that article as background for appreciating the value of a supplement called IntestiNEW that strengthens the intestine’s mucosal lining, where our gut microbiomes reside:
DIGESTION – FROM MOUTH TO ANUS
The human digestive tract runs from the mouth at the top to the anus at the other end. Foreign matter (food) is taken in and partially broken down by chewing in the mouth. It then travels down through the esophagus to the stomach and from there into the small and large intestines, where it is selectively digested. During this trip, various phases of digestion take place and nutrients are extracted and absorbed. The liver, gall bladder and pancreas, organs that aid in the digestive process, are located along the length of the GI tract.
The total length of the GI tract varies from person to person. In an adult male the range is 20 to 40 feet. On average, the small intestine in adults is 22 feet long and the large intestine is 5 feet.
As you can intuit, a lot could go wrong during that long trip – and much of that depends on the quality of what you deliver to your mouth as ‘food’.
You can see the location of the mucosal layer (called ‘mucous coat’ in the diagram below) and the intestinal villi in this cross section of the human small intestine. The empty space in the center, just below the villi (the spikes you see in the image of a healthy mucosal membrane in the image to the left above), is called the lumen, the tube in which food travels through the intestines.
INCREASED GUT PERMEABILITY – AKA LEAKY GUT
Increased gut permeability – also known as hyper-permeable intestines or “leaky gut” – describes the intestinal lining’s having become more porous than it should be so the process of what is allowed out into the body no longer functions properly. Larger, undigested food molecules and other bad things (such as yeasts, toxins, and other forms of waste that normally would continue on and get excreted through the anus) flow freely through these too-large holes in the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream, where they don’t belong and are treated as dangerous invaders.
The gut’s mucosal layer is thin, delicate – and very important. This is where our probiotic bacteria live, so degrading it also degrades the strength of our immune systems. The probiotics residing in the gut mucosal layer make up 70-90% of the human immune system.
Damage to the gut’s mucosal layer leads to a whole range of serious problems as the body tries to cope with the invaders being released into the bloodstream. Once this lining has become disturbed, allowing problematic things to flow through it into the blood stream, a cycle of chronic irritation begins, leading to chronic inflammation in the body and a whole series of autoimmune conditions.
It is well-known that the composition of the gut lining and its microbiota changes during animal development and can be influenced by environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle, and habitat. (Barker, 2013), (Conlon, 2014) & (Renew Life, undated)
So you can see the importance of keeping your gut lining, where those critters live, in good shape.
REGENERATION OF THE GUT LINING
The thin lining of our intestines is semi-permeable: a healthy lining membrane allows nutrients to pass from the intestines into the bloodstream and prevents toxins, pathogens, and undigested food from exiting the digestive tract too early. When the lining becomes chronically damaged, allowing toxins, pathogens, and undigested food to enter the bloodstream, chronic inflammation occurs in the body and many negative, autoimmune health conditions may ensue. (Renew Life, undated)
A healthy intestinal lining serves many functions, most critical among them:
Continuing the digestive processing of food after it leaves the stomach
Absorbing nutrients from this partially digested food
Preventing harmful bacteria and undigested food particles from entering the bloodstream
Like our skin, the delicate mucosal lining of our small and large intestines sloughs off a layer of cells every 3-5 days and produces new cells to maintain its semi-permeable state. This process requires the amino acid L-Glutamine. (Renew Life, undated).
“Small populations of adult stem cells are responsible for the remarkable ability of the epithelial lining of the intestine to be efficiently renewed and repaired throughout life.” (Barker, 2013)
The human body’s GI tract is lined with mucosal tissues primarily comprised of epithelial cells attached to the underlying membrane. Tiny, finger-like projections called villi protrude from the intestinal walls and greatly increase their absorptive and surface areas.
“Digested nutrients (including sugars and amino acids) pass into the villi through diffusion. Circulating blood then carries these nutrients away. Unlike the mucosal tissue of the inner surface of the eyelids or the mouth, the epithelial cells which line the inside of the stomach are exposed to much harsher conditions, e.g., acid (i.e., hydrochloric acid), sometimes alcohol, enzymes (e.g., pepsin) for digesting food and waste generated therefrom. Mucous secretion essentially protects the cells on the inside of the stomach and duodenum from damage by acid or enzymes, for example by presenting bicarbonate to neutralize some of the effects of acid on the stomach’s inner lining, as well as inhibitors to block the enzymatic activity. Once the mucous secretions of the epithelial cells stop, the inner lining of the stomach or duodenum would eventually be eroded by the combined action of acid and enzymes, leading to ulcer.” (MEBO, 2009)
IntestiNew is a dietary supplement designed and produced by Renew Life to soothe the digestive system and benefit the health of the mucosal lining of the intestines. It is available as a powder or in capsules.
The capsule form contains L-glutamine, N-acetyl D-glucosamine, gamma oryzanol, cranesbill root, ginger root, marigold flower, marshmallow root, vegetable fiber, and water.
The powder form contains the same ingredients with the exception of the vegetable fiber and water.
The glucosamine, L-glutamine, and the herbs in IntestiNew soothe and support the integrity of the intestinal lining. The gamma oryzanol, a natural extract of rice oat bran, delivers essential antioxidant benefits to the digestive system. (Holt, 2016)
Both forms of the supplement are gluten free and contain no artificial ingredients.
Women who are pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive are advised to consult their physicians before taking IntestiNEW, as are people taking pharmaceutical medications or having a medical condition. The supplements contain an ingredient derived from crustacean shells (shrimp, lobster, and/or crab) so aren’t suitable for people with a shellfish allergy.
Although I couldn’t find any scientific papers on IntestiNEW, it has been well reviewed by customers on Amazon, iHerb, The Vitamin Shoppe, Vitacost, and National Nutrition. I second those reviews: Since I’ve been taking IntestiNEW, I’ve seen a big improvement in my digestive health. I started with a scoop (5.4 grams) stirred into an eight ounce glass of filtered water before breakfast and now take two capsules before each meal, with water)
Some of the many ways our gut bacteria affect our health:
My thanks to David Miller, MD, Supplements Specialist at Life Thyme Market in New York City, for recommending IntestiNew to me.