Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More on Glutamine, Immunity & Health

I hope you read my last posting on glutamine, glutathione, and immunity (and posted your "yes" to my question about adding glutamine as a new product).

Meanwhile, I decided to write a bit more about glutamine, for those of you who may be on the fence. First, a few notes about glutamine:

  1. Glutamine is concentrated most heavily in skeletal muscle (about 60% of your body's glutamine) and also in the lungs, liver, brain, and stomach tissues.
  2. Glutamine enhances the function of immune system cells and helps the body recover from inflammatory diseases.
  3. Glutamine protects against bacteria and infection by protecting the intestinal mucosa (remember, most of the immune system resides in the gut).
  4. Glutamine is used to help patients recover from surgery. Oral glutamine has, in fact, been shown to reduce hospital stays and also to improve survival rates after infections.
  5. Glutamine also protects the gut from radiation and chemotherapy. Many people with cancer have abnormally low glutamine levels, which leads to poor nutrient absorption from a damaged gut. Glutamine is slso considered to increase the effectiveness and reduce the side effects of some cancer drugs.
  6. Glutamine can aid in healing stomach ulcers and prevent inflammation of the stomach that is caused by chronic use of over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, including ibuprofen.
  7. Glutamine is depleted by stress and stress hormones like cortisol.
  8. Glutamine is considered safe, with no adverse reports for supplemental glutamine, even at high doses (therapeutic levels of glutamine can range from 5-15 grams a day in divided doses).
  9. Glutamine should be taken at room temperature or with cold foods or liquids as heat destroys glutamine.
  10. Glutamine should be stored in a dry environment, as moisture destroys
Okay, so how could we not want a separate glutamine product for our little Co-op?

If you're now convinced, please vote "yes" so I can convince the conservative element on our team that we really do need to add a glutamine product to our catalog!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Glutamine, Glutathione & Immunity

We did one of our member surveys this summer and I was hoping our members would vote for a glutamine product.

Dr. Rodier recommends glutamine all the time. My naturopath, Dr. Burnett, recommends glutamine all the time. While glutamine was not on our members' top wish list items, I keep hoping to get enough support from my readers to introduce a glutamine product, as I would like to stop buying glutamine in bulk from other providers when I run a supplement company! So here's my first lob into the game of bringing glutamine onboard at the Co-op.

First, glutamine is better known by body builders, who recognize glutamine as an important nutrient in muscle repair. However, did you know that glutamine is also involved in more metabolic processes than any other amino acid and is used by almost every cell in the body, including enterocytes, lymphocytes, and macrophages? Glutamine also contributes directly to production of glutathione, which is a critical antioxidant produced within your body.

Here's a sample from a review of glutamine research out of the Netherlands (emphasis added in boldface):

"Glutamine has a major impact on the functionality of the immune system. It has recently been established that glutamine not only has a protective effect on cells of the immune system, but also on other cells of the body, for instance cardiomyocytes. Evidence is accumulating for an effect of glutamine via glutathione, heat shock proteins as well as taurine. Another area of interest is the way glutamine enhances gut barrier function. More and more research is concentrating on the positive effect of glutamine on the gut-associated lymphoid tissue."

Incidentally, you should forget about oral supplementation of glutathione, as the research shows that large doses of oral glutathione do not raise the body's circulating levels of glutathione, but I digress.

While many supplement enthusiasts know that glutathione is important, many do not know that low glutathione levels are highly associated with cancers, cataracts, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, asthma, sub-optimal immune system response, and other disease states.

Higher serum levels of glutamine, especially in the elderly, are conversely associated with better health.

In addition to supporting glutathione production, glutamine protects against bacteria, fungi, and other toxins migrating across any breaks in the mucosal lining of your gut and into your bloodstream. These toxins stimulate cytokine and cortisol production, which further deplete your body of glutamine (and, thus, glutathione). A vicious cycle, indeed.

If you are worried about swine flu, then in addition to getting more sleep, consider adding supplemental glutamine to your routine--to enhance your immune system and also the integrity of your gut (keeping foreign invaders out of your bloodstream).

When I was working through my food allergies and (temporary!) autoimmune system diagnosis, my naturopath wanted me to take at least 2.5 grams of glutamine a day. A year later, my digestion and absorption of nutrients is much improved and my food allergies are way down.

Dr. Rodier co-authored a white paper on our Constant Health product, which has: 2 grams of glutamine in every scoop, along with a powerful combination of other glutathione boosters including glycine (2 grams), n-acetyl-cysteine (300mg), milk thistle (300mg), curcumin (500mg), and selenium (70mcg) per scoop.

While Constant Health delivers a powerful combination of ingredients, I believe that, because many of our members mix and match their supplements, having a separate glutamine product would be incredibly valuable--if only enough people could know about the healing benefits of supplemental glutamine! Liver protector, cellular hydrator, intestinal protector, immune system booster, and glutathione builder, glutamine is an incredible little amino acid.

Please weigh in with your comments on glutamine. Say "yes" if you want the Co-op to carry glutamine as a new product! If we get enough interest, we could have a new product out before the end of the year.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sleep Deprivation & Alzheimer's Plaques

Okay, I didn't plan to be doing a series on sleep deprivation and health but that's the theme that I keep landing on of late. Could it be that I'm in Europe for my a birthday week getaway with friends and am 8 hours ahead of my normal schedule? Maybe.

Regardless, here's another reason to get enough sleep: chronic sleep deprivation is correlated with earlier and more frequent Alzheimer's plaques in a mouse study!

My dad's mother died of Alzheimer's and it was unbelievably sad to watch her watching her own mind disappear. So Alzheimer's in the news tends to get my attention, as much as I don't really want to think about this disease having descended on someone so close to me.

The Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis (a big genetics research powerhouse) reported that while Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are often linked to sleep disruptions, the new research is the first to show that chronic sleep loss can lead to these diseases.

Depriving mice of sleep generated a 25% increase in brain amyloid beta levels, and it only took 3 weeks for amyloid plaque deposits to accelerate.

Okay, anyone starting to believe you just might need more sleep than you thought to maintain your brain as well as your immune system? I hope so.

If you're having trouble falling asleep, then our Melatonin may be a good thing to add to your supplements cabinet. Inexpensive and valuable as an antioxidant, melatonin helps with sleep (melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, is produced by tryptophan).

Another product our older customers swear by is our Amino Enhancer, which includes GABA, another ingredient that supports rest (it inhibits "excitability" in the nervous system) and also "slow wave" sleep.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sleep As Protection Against Colds & Illness

In case you missed it (buried) in my last blog post, sleep is one of the most valuable preventive strategies for protecting yourself against catching a cold.

A recent study on sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that, "Poorer sleep efficiency and shorter sleep duration in the weeks preceding exposure to a rhinovirus were associated with lower resistance to illness."

The actual data might be startling to those of us who cram things into our lives and consider good sleep a luxury for weekends and vacations:
  1. Less than 7 hours of sleep makes us almost 3 times more likely to come down with a cold compared with people getting 8 hours of sleep
  2. If we are only 6% less efficient in our sleep patterns, we are 5.5 times as likely to come down with a cold compared with people who are 98% efficient.
That last little fact reminds me of the cliche comment about getting sick after the exam or the big stressor and "now my body can afford to be sick." Wrong. The stress and associated sleep disruption makes the body many times less resistant to bugs that are ever-present.

I think the article in the New York Times on September 21st said it well:

"Sleep and immunity, it seems, are tightly linked. Studies have found that mammals that require the most sleep also produce greater levels of disease-fighting white blood cells — but not red blood cells, even though both are produced in bone marrow and stem from the same precursor. And researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have shown that species that sleep more have greater resistance against pathogens."

So, if we are serious about avoiding illness this season, sleep is a most vital ally for immune system health.

Here's to setting and achieving the goal of getting a little more sleep. Our favorite "kat" would heartily approve. :-)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Beware of Flu Vaccines + Immune Boosters

Many people swear by their annual flu vaccines. This fall, swine flu concerns continue to make news and people will continue to line up for their flu vaccines. However, I'll confess, I'm not a big fan of flu vaccines.

My Zen teacher spent years fighting Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder affecting the peripheral nervous system, usually triggered by an acute infectious process (he recovered fully but at a huge cost and with enormous personal effort). Although rare, the effects of Guillan-Barre are devastating, as a spreading paralysis sets in to the legs and arms and face and cause death if not treated.

Did you know that Guillain-Barre can be triggered by a flu vaccine? It's true. And, plenty of physicians believe that the current swine flu virus is no more worrisome than the typical flu virus. To me, that means that if you are generally healthy, then the risks of the vaccine could very well be greater than coming down with the flu.

Likely that it's better to rev up your immune system with lots of hand-washing (perhaps a little boycott on hand-shaking, but what fun would that be?), a nourishing diet (more raw veggies and alkalinizing foods), immune-boosting supplements (see my notes below), and plenty of sleep (did you know that plenty of sleep protects against parasites as well as colds and flu?). I think sleep is one of the most undervalued of preventive measures for immune system health.

As someone who pays attention to supplements, I like to first boost my daily dose of Vitamin C, which is an especially essential ally and becomes incredibly valuable in high doses when you are under stress or exposed to viruses. Most people are chronically low on vitamin C, and so I recommend that all of you consider high-dose vitamin C as as an inexpensive and entirely non-toxic cold and flu prevention aid.

By the way, attempting a "cure" with vitamin C after you have come down with a bad bug leads to the faulty conclusion that vitamin C doesn't help. That's like saying that "adding oil to a burned-out engine that had its oil light on for many miles doesn't help."

A good antioxidant formula that includes zinc and selenium is another important ally.

Did you know that selenium has been found to protect against viruses mutating into more virulent forms? Regions of selenium-depleted soils in Asia, incidentally, are correlated with avian flu virus outbreaks.

Our Sam's Advanced Antioxidant has selenium, zinc (another powerhouse mineral that boosts immune system response), along with basic antioxidants; vitamins A, C, and E; along with vitamin D3, which has been in the press endlessly and also supports immune system health.

B vitamins are known for reducing stress loads on your cells and immune system, thus I cannot emphasize supplemental B vitamins enough, especially whenever caffeine or alcohol is a regular part of your social routine! Our B-100 Plus has a synergistic blend of B vitamins, which work in concert with one another to provide optimum benefits.

Finally, based on customer requests for a cold and flu season support product, we formulated Immune Health with the help of naturopathic experts to include:

  1. N-acetyl-cysteine - a powerful cellular detoxifier, free radical fighter, and also a mucous buster in the lungs.
  2. Green tea extract - a botanical known for its epigallocatechin gallate, the polyphenol that has been studied for its value in fighting bacteria as well as carcinogens
  3. Quercetin - studied for reducing bronchial infections in athletes as well as helping the body handle allergens.
  4. Elderberry extract - packed with anthocyanins and long used in naturopathic and European folk medicine to fight colds.
  5. Beta glucan - considered a powerful immune-modulator, it is also gaining in its reputation as an anti-cancer botanical.
  6. Resveratrol - this is one of the hottest botanicals on the market and is known for fighting bacteria and fungi attacks as well as providing anti-aging benefits.
Drop a line to me or post a comment below with your favorite cold and flu season preventives (I will talk about remedies in another post!).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Strange Neurological Issues

A dear friend of mine lives in Paris. I spent my birthday weekend with her and her little girl, who is now 5 years old and is just learning to speak English this month. My friend speaks English in this exhilarating and very-feminine Parisian accent. She is beautiful, wears oh-so-feminine skirts ad dresses, and has a lovely svelte figure. Her daughter is incredibly bright, friendly, lively, and curious about the world, a mother's joy. Her job is secure, and she can walk to work and allow her daughter to independently dance ahead on short walks to and from her school.

Life could not be better, except...my friend is having strange neurological problems that her neurologist cannot explain. At one point, the right side of her face felt like it was a bit frozen and on fire, yet my friend could still move her facial muscles and talk just fine. At another point, shooting pains came up from her legs. And, while my friend tolerates pain with acceptance, is strong, and overcame a dramatic childhood illness that she was not expected to survive, what terrifies her is how she is noticing her memory not being as sharp as normal.

My friend is one of the most organized people I know and prides herself on tracking a person's conversation, no matter how winding. Now she notices that she "knows" things and yet forgets and has to ask about them, only realizing with the answers she gets that she already "knew" the answer. Telling the story is enough to create stress in her voice and bring waves of empathetic emotions to my body as a listener.

The neurologists keep saying that there's nothing wrong physically and have given my friend supplements, which have helped over the past few months. I hope she is getting exactly the treatment she needs, however, I wonder if there are pathways not yet explored or understood by her local physicians.

I hope to set up a call with my friend and Dr. Rodier, as he has such a broad as well as deep perspective on the root cause of disease and non-toxic, wholesome ways to heal. He says that none of the cognitive decline problems appear without what he calls "cellular TOIL" or some kind of cellular toxicity, oxidation, inflammation and/or lack of nutrients for mitochondrial energy.

When you're in this line of business, you can't help but want to give everyone you love all the possible resources that may help when they find frightening health problems emerging in their lives.

Right now, I am holding my friend in my heart and am grateful for the generous hospitality she showed me and for meeting the radiant little being she has brought to the world in her daughter.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Autoimmune Disease, Emotions & Beliefs

A recent news story highlighted how men who are seemingly healthy can still have an autoimmune disease:

"The recent report out of the Annals of Internal Medicine profiling President John F. Kennedy’s autoimmune disease surprised many Americans due to his appearance throughout his presidency of health and vitality."

Although women are much more likely to be diagnosed with autoimmune diseases (as was I last fall with Sjogren's), men also have autoimmune disorders, which are often not diagnosed properly due to seeming vitality and external indicators of health.

I've become increasingly interested in autoimmune diseases, learning about dietary and physiological starting points (i.e., how are difficult-to-digest food molecules, like wheat and soy proteins, interacting with a person's genes to create syndromes like "leaky gut" and related immune-system overdrive behavior?).

I'm equally interested in the cognitive and emotional components of autoimmune diseases. I have talked to too many people who had significant emotional events that preceded an autoimmune diagnosis and who; with mindfulness, emotional release techniques, and/or belief system revision; found themselves healed.

One friend was stressed out about leaving one job for another very different kind of opportunity, one that called for her to step up into her real calling. She did a 30-day meditation retreat and the professional issue she was "fighting herself" over cleared up. Her Lupus diagnosis also disappeared, like a morning fog subjected to warm afternoon sunshine.

Another friend was on thyroid medicine for five years. After going through a difficult separation from her husband, who had been cheating on her for years, she discovered Louise Hay's work on healing the body by understanding the emotional connection to the dis-ease in the body. My friend found that disorders of the thyroid are related to "humiliation" and decided to journal and journal and reflect on all the ways she had been ignoring the signs of her marriage being in trouble.

After a deep dive into her own subconscious and bringing her deepest emotions to the surface and into language, my friend "miraculously" healed and no longer needed any thyroid medicine. Her physician was astonished, believing that my friend's thyroid had become so dependent on medicine that it would not be able to function on its own again.

I spent years fighting myself over whether to stay or to leave my marriage. I finally left my marriage and a huge amount of my energy returned, almost overnight. My body became less reactive to certain foods that I had eliminated for over 8 months.

Still, I have a lot of beliefs about the "dangers" of wheat, dairy, and eggs, which are hidden in so many foods. I am suspicious when I feel sinus pressure or puffy eyes, wondering if it's food or environmental allergens. It's a kind of constant scanning for problems that will make my immune system overreact and go into the self-fighting-self mode of autoimmune disease.

Instead of living permanently on a highly-restrictive diet, I am eager to work on the vigilant emotions and beliefs around "allergens," all of which are basically unconscious at this point, and see if this kind of work can help me live a little more freely.

I have scheduled a Body Talk session tomorrow to explore ways to help tone up my immune system and also work with the emotions and beliefs that predispose my body toward reactivity against food molecules. I will perhaps schedule a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) session after that (NLP is known for having effective allergy-elimination processes).

If you have a favorite process for allergy elimination, please drop a line to me or comment here on my blog (below). Many of my readers will be extremely grateful for any extra support or pointers!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gum Disease Linked to Neck & Head Squamous Cell Cancer

I'm big on flossing and gum health and usually get good check-ups, except for a little scolding about not wearing my mouth guard at night (okay, I confess, I can grind my teeth if I've been drinking any kind of caffeine).

However, many seniors could afford to take better care of their gums. Bad breath is one sign of gum disease. Inflamed red gums are another (if your gums bleed during routine dental cleanings, you need to take more care of your gums). Periodontitis is the second most common disease in the world, leading to bone loss and ultimately teeth that get loose if untreated long-term.

Those of you with less-than-stellar dental hygiene know who you are--and may have resigned yourself to scoldings from your own dentist when you get your teeth cleaned--but now there's more at stake than just friendly breath and pretty gums.

Here's another good reason to take better care of your teeth and gums: preventing periodontitis can also help your prevent squamous cell carcinoma to your head and neck (yep, the body is all inter-related after all, so taking care in one place helps all sorts of other places stay healthy).

After having a basal cell skin cancer on my nose, I learned about the difference between basal, squamous, and melanoma cancers, with the former being slow-growing, not-so-mobile and the latter being the lethal kind that can move from the tip of one's nose from overexposure to the sun and end up migrating to the lungs, liver, pancreas, literally anywhere in the body.

Squamous cell carcinoma can also occur in multiple places on the body, usually those most exposed to sunlight, and while it doesn't have the same mobility or lethality of melanoma, it is one of the bad guys that can cause horrible disfiguration if unattended and surgery is required.

Word to the wise: take care of your teeth and gums and you'll be taking good care of your face and neck.

Kudzu Moves from Nuisance to Nutrient?!

My dad lived in South Carolina two times, once when I was just heading into my freshman year of college and at the end of his life. When I spent a semester at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, I became familiar with this fascinating vine that grew everywhere: kudzu, a plant native to China and Japan and introduced to the U.S. in the 1930s for "erosion control."

While kudzu chokes trees and causes problems with power lines with its astonishing growth--up to 4 feet a day in the summer--it's also an amazing plant, great for returning nitrogen to depleted soils (it's a member of the legume family), nutritious and appealing to livestock (although difficult to package up), and, now, also taking its turn as a promising superstar on the nutritional supplements red carpet.

Kudzu extract is being studied at Harvard to reduce alcohol cravings--perhaps through better metabolism of alcohol and changes to the rewards circuits in the brain. According to the Wikipedia entry on kudzu:

Kudzu also contains a number of useful isoflavones, including daidzein (an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent). Daidzin is a cancer preventive and genistein (an antileukemic agent). Kudzu is a unique source of the isoflavone puerarin. Kudzu root compounds can affect neurotransmitters (including serotonin, GABA, and glutamate.) It has shown value in treating migraine and cluster headache.[7] It is recommended for allergies and diarrhea.[8]

Research in mice models suggests that kudzu is beneficial in women for control of some post-menopausal symptoms, such as hypertension and diabetes type II.[9]

In traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as gé gēn, kudzu is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs. It is used to treat tinnitus, vertigo, and Wei syndrome.

I saw a news release this morning that links puerarin from kudzu to reduced blood pressure, reduced blood cholesterol, and also to improved blood sugar regulation, a hugely interesting finding with all the diabetes and metabolic syndrome that modern diets bring. According to the researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, puerarin from kudzu steers blood sugar away from fat cells and blood vessels and toward muscles, where sugar can be used instead of stored.

Even better news is that the kudzu extract had no side effects on the rats that were tested over a 2 month period. And, if puerarin ends up being a genuine superstar, physicians could drop the dosages of insulin management pharmaceuticals by adding a natural supplement that appears to come without the side effects of pharmaceuticals.

Those of y'all living in the South just may have a gold mine in your backyard instead of a nuisance. Kudzu may be your newest best friend!