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Oxytocin

Oxytocin

Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc

Masters Candidate (USYD).

Academic level paper: 5 minute read.

For clinicians and academics alike, research into oxytocin proves incredibly thought provoking, often presenting new questions and revealing new facts about this familiar yet evolving molecule. The physiological actions of Oxytocin extend over three medical science specialties: endocrinology, neurology and pharmacology. Novel research and findings regarding oxytocin are increasingly being published, with many of these discoveries reaching the general public. For clinicians, having a thorough and up to date understanding of oxytocin is important for clinical decision making, particularly in cases of pregnancy, postnatal health and emotional wellbeing of all individuals. Current research, basic chemistry, synthesis of oxytocin, conditions associated with reduced oxytocin levels and oxytocin in pregnancy are all important and relevant areas for the clinician to understand.

Basic chemistry 

Oxytocin is a nonapeptide hormone, consisting of a sequence of only nine amino acids (1). The name is derived from Greek terms meaning “swift birth”. It is very similar in amino acid sequence to the hormone, vasopressin (anti-diuretic hormone), differing only at residues 3 and 8 (1). The structural similarity between these two hormones is not surprising, as both are synthesised in the same region of the brain, the supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei of the hypothalamus (1).

Oxytocin is often colloquially referred to as the ‘love hormone’, due to its role in the establishment of complex social and bonding behaviors related to the reproduction and care of offspring. Oxytocin is produced in both males and females and facilitates reproduction in all vertebrates at several levels, though it does display physiological actions beyond reproduction (2).

Oxytocin-receptor binding requires both Mg2+ ions and cholesterol as regulators (2). Regulation of oxytocin release is also highly dependant on the correct flow of Ca2+ ions in to and out of oxytocin producing cells (2). Oxytocin receptors are located in areas of the brain associated with maternal behaviours, learning, memory and reinforcement (2).

Oxytocin and vasopressin have similar functions, and the genes responsible for the regulation of both are found on the same chromosome (1). Vasopressin appears to be associated with self-defence, vigilance, physical and emotional mobilisation (1). In contrast, oxytocin is related to “immobility without fear” (), inducing physiological states that are more relaxed, despite the presence of a stressor (childbirth being an example).

Oxytocin has been studied extensively in females. Many studies are in non-human animal models, though their mammalian physiology shares some similarities to human physiology. At the biochemical level, three major facts have been elucidated for Oxytocin:

  1. Stimulation of the Milk Ejection Reflex (MER). Smooth muscle cells containing oxytocin receptors surround alveoli within mammary tissue. Once stimulated by oxytocin, these smooth muscle cells contract, allowing the ejection of breast milk (3). The essential role of oxytocin in milk ejection has been confirmed in studies with oxytocin deficient mice.
  2. Stimulation of uterine smooth muscle during labour. Oxytocin receptors located on uterine smooth muscle tissue increase in number during later stages of gestation (3). Oxytocin facilitates the strong and prolonged uterine contractions required for parturition. The role for oxytocin here is far more complex. Evidence for the up regulation of oxytocin receptors in myometrial uterine tissue does exist. This usually occurs just prior to the onset of labour (2).
  3. Maternal behavioural traits. Successful reproduction in mammals requires mothers to become attached to, bond with and nourish their offspring, immediately following birth. Maternal oxytocin levels in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) increase during parturition (1). Within neural brain tissue, oxytocin plays a major role in in establishing maternal behaviours and many oxytocinergic neurons are located throughout the central nervous system (2).

Oxytocin and males

In males, Oxytocin is also synthesised in the hypothalamus, but also the testes. Oxytocin is released in pulsatile form during male ejaculation (3, 4). Oxytocin is present in seminal fluid, and may facilitate the transport of sperm in both the male and female reproductive system (4). When examined in rats, Oxytocin is also a potent stimulator of spontaneous erections (4). In other animal studies, oxytocin appears to play a role in sexual satiety, as some male rodents display cessation of sexual activity for many days after oxytocin administration (3, 4). Thus, the complex role of oxytocin could not be more obvious, due to its potential role in both the soliciting and cessation of sexual behaviours in other animal studies. Oxytocin also modulates testosterone production, facilitating the conversion of testosterone to the more potent dihydrotestosterone (DHT) form (4).

How the body produces oxytocin

Oxytocin is synthesised in the hypothalamus, then transported to the posterior pituitary gland. The release of oxytocin into the body occurs either directly into the blood stream (via the posterior pituitary) or to other regions of the brain and spinal cord (1,2). There is also evidence that oxytocin is produced in peripheral tissues, including the uterus, placenta, amnion, corpus luteum, testis and heart (2). In cardiac tissue, oxytocin reduces the force of cardiac contractions, reduces heart rate and increases vasodilation (3).

The production and release of oxytocin is controlled by positive physiological feedback loops. Peripheral stimuli such as uterine contraction and infant suckling both stimulate further oxytocin release (5).

Ovarian tissue is a rather rich source of oxytocin, namely from the corpus luteum (5). The oxytocin gene is initially expressed during the preovulatory follicular phase (5). Some theories suggest that surging levels of Follicle Stimulating hormone (FSH) and Luteinising Hormone (LH) may directly or indirectly stimulate the biosynthesis of luteal oxytocin.

The epigenetic factors controlling expression of the oxytocin gene need to be studies and identified, in order to completely appreciate exactly how and why oxytocin is produced. Studies in non-human mammals have shown surging LH levels to be involved. Other bovine studies reveal that progesterone stimulates luteal oxytocin production (5). Some studies show the oxytocin gene can be stimulated by oestrogen, but this is not the case in all mammals (). An interesting piece of research from a nutritional biochemistry perspective is the ability of the human oxytocin gene to bind retinoic acid (5). This does suggest and support the already well-established role of retinoic acid in mammalian reproduction, but the exact relationship between retinoic acid and Oxytocin gene expression remains unknown. 

Current research

Oxytocin receptors have been identified in incredibly varied peripheral tissues, including renal, cardiac, thymic, adipose and pancreatic tissue (2, 6). While the precise reasons for these receptor locations are still being elucidated, other details reveal oxytocin to be far more than a pregnancy, love, or bonding hormone. One example in rats is the role of oxytocin as a cardiovascular hormone. In this situation, it acts in conjunction with vasopressin to facilitate both natriuresis and kaliuresis (6).

Other research on oxytocin examines its physiological role in social behaviours. While parental care and nursing are already linked to oxytocin, it appears social interaction, pair bonding, mate guarding, territorial aggression and mutual defence may also be attributable to the effects of oxytocin. All serve together to facilitate reproduction and are hallmark traits of all mammals (6, 7). The complexity of oxytocin action on social behaviour is highlighted by recent studies in monkeys, where the effect of exogenous oxytocin was dependant upon the social standing of each animal in the group. Already dominant males displayed increased aggression and sexual behaviours. Subservient males exhibited more associative and socially connected behaviours (6). Research since the 1990’s continues to show that breast feeding mothers remain more calm during stressful events than bottle feeding mothers, while other studies report oxytocin levels to be high in times of social isolation (6). The question remains if oxytocin operates differently depending upon its release after socially connective encounters, versus stressful experiences (7). Other feelings such as trust and behaviours such as generosity are possibly linked to oxytocin, however much of this research involves the administration of exogenous oxytocin, not the hormone in its natural state (7).

Intriguing research in human studies reveals oxytocin levels in early life may mediate certain social behaviours in adulthood. Urine levels of oxytocin in children raised with their biological parents were compared with children adopted from orphanages in Russia and Romania after contact with their mothers. Despite all the children living in caring homes, oxytocin levels only increased in children from biological families (7).

Other current areas of research include the ability of oxytocin to stimulate ghrelin secretion (8), thus suggesting Oxytocin may be involved in the physiology of hunger. Some studies have linked Oxytocin with the inhibition of tolerance to addictive drugs and a reduction in symptoms of withdrawal (9). As a novel form of oxytocin administration, inhaled oxytocin improved social interaction in people with autism (6, 7, 10). When released under stress free conditions, oxytocin appears to promote sleep. Researchers believe this may be due to a countering effect of oxytocin on cortisol (10). Some studies have actually shown sublingual Oxytocin administration can reduce cortisol levels (10).

Conditions associated with reduced Oxytocin levels

  • Diminished lactation. A lack of oxytocin in nursing mothers can diminish the MER and prevent lactation (5).
  • Post-partum depression (PPD) may be linked to reduced Oxytocin, though the mechanisms of PPD would involve multiple hormone cascades (5, 10).
  • Depressive and Anxiety disorders. Due to the clear role for Oxytocin in reducing maternal PPD and anxiety, it may be involved in affective disorders in males, children and non-pregnant females (7, 10). This is also the case for problematic socialisation in both children and adults.
  • Oxytocin may support thyroid function, as some experiments have shown Oxytocin can facilitate the incorporation of Iodine into thyroid tissue (11).
  • Fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes. Recent evidence suggests healthy Oxytocin levels modulate nociception (12).
  • Oxytocin is being trialled in many forms of hormone replacement therapy, beyond standard oestrogen replacement (7).
  • Opioid drug abuse. A link between deficient Oxytocin production and opioid tolerance appears plausible, in both pharmaceutical and recreational drug use settings (9).
  • Breast cancer. Oxytocin is known to inhibit proliferation of certain breast cancer cell lines (11).

Oxytocin in pregnancy

Mammalian offspring are dependent on lactation from their mother’s for an extensive period after birth. The bonding that occurs after birth between mothers and new-borns is essential for the infants’ survival. Even if women do not do in to labour, give birth via caesarean section or cannot/choose not to breastfeed, strong bonding with babies can still occur. Fathers, adoptive parents and grandparents potentially form firm attachments with babies. All of these features suggest that simply the presence of an infant can initiate the release of oxytocin (3, 10). Oxytocin is not essential for parenting; however, healthy and sustained levels of oxytocin associated with childbirth may relieve anxiety (13). 

While all the physiological roles of oxytocin certainly remain unclear, it does appear to have dual purposes. In times of low-stress and eustress, oxytocin is certainly the ‘tend and befriend’ hormone, facilitating the formation of social bonds to maintain psychological well-being. Evidence of high oxytocin levels in times of stress may encourage people to seek social interactions, and is possibly involved in preventing decline of essential functions of the nervous system during times of immense fear and stress.

In a clinical setting, the administration of oxytocin as a medication only takes place in obstetrics, either during or very soon after childbirth. However, understanding the origins of Oxytocin synthesis and working with patients to prevent conditions/situations associated with reduced levels can only serve to promote wellness in both female, male and even infants and children in our clinical care. Both prenatal and postnatal support for mothers and fathers in a safe environment is essential for mental health. With respect to oxytocin, it certainly appears that emotional health has a huge impact on its physiological function, which in turn influences many physical health responses during life’s trying times.

(Originally written for and published by BioMedica Nutraceuticals).

References

  1. Open Chemistry Database. Oxytocin. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine. Available at: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/oxytocin#section=Information-Sources.
  2. Gimpl, G and Fahrenholz, F. (2001). The Oxytocin Receptor System: Structure, Function and Regulation. Physiological Reviews. 81 (2). 629-683.
  3. Evans J. (1997). Oxytocin in the Human– Regulation of Derivations and Destinations. European Journal of Endocrinology. 137 (6): 559-571.
  4. Sharma, D. et al. (2012). The ERβ ligand 5α-androstane, 3β,17β-diol (3β-diol) regulates hypothalamic oxytocin (Oxt) gene expression. Endocrinology. May; 153(5):2353-61.
  5. Stormshak, F. (2003). Biochemical and Endocrine Aspects of Oxytocin Production by the Mammalian Corpus Luteum. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. 1: 92.
  6. Carter, S. and Porges. S. (2013). The Biochemistry of Love: An Oxytocin Hypothesis. EMBO Reports. Jan; 14 (1): 12-16.
  7. Viero, C. et al. (2010). Oxytocin: Crossing the Bridge between Basic Science and Pharmacotherapy. CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics. Oct; 16(5) e138-e156.
  8. Iwakura, H. et al. (2010). Oxytocin and Dopamine Stimulate Ghrelin Secretion by the Ghrelin-Producing Cell Line, MGN3-1 in Vitro. Endocrinology. 152 (7).
  9. McGregor, I. and Bowen, M. (2012). Breaking the Loop: Oxytocin as a Potential for Drug Addiction. Hormones and Behaviour. 61 (3). 331-339.
  10. Heinrichs, M. et al. (2003). Social Support and Oxytocin Interact to Supress Cortisol and Subjective Responses to Psychosocial Stress. Biological Psychiatry. Dec. 15; 54(12): 1389-98.
  11. Arturi, F. et al. (2005). Regulation of Iodide Uptake and sodium/iodide Symporter Expression in the mcf-7 Human Breast Cancer Cell Line. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 90 (4): 2321-2326.
  12. Goodin, B. et al. (2015). Oxytocin: A Multifunctional Analgesic for Chronic Deep Tissue Pain. Current Pharmaceutical Design. 21 (7): 906-913.
  13. Kirsch, P. et al. (2005). Oxytocin Modulates Neural Circuitry for Social Cognition and Fear in Humans. Journal of Neuroscience, 25 (49): 11489-11493.

Pregnancy: The Best Detox You Should Never Have.

 

In day-to-day conversation, announcing a pregnancy for a woman or couple can be met with happiness, congratulations, apprehension at times, and the simple acceptance that a baby is happily growing, awaiting a healthy arrival into the world. Difficulty conceiving, miscarriage, infertility and fertility treatments are topics that can remain unspoken for many during the time of announcing a pregnancy. For most women and men, their reproductive stories are rarely straight forward, interspersed with loss, contraception, relationship changes, careers, possibly illness and of course, absolute joy.
The journey of potential parenthood is often not straightforward. Practitioners of Complementary Medicine and those integrating this into their life are already aware just how important preconception care is for mothers and fathers to be. Preconception care should ideally take at least 6 months for both men and women, longer if specific health issues are of concern.

We already know that preconception care is essential to establish the following facets of health, ideally before conception takes place:

  • To identify and correct any maternal or paternal nutritional deficiencies
  • To identify and treat any unresolved illness in parents, as much as possible
  • To minimise or even eliminate exposure to environmental toxins, especially those affecting spermatogenesis (sperm production), oogenesis (egg production) and embryogenesis (development of the early embryo; first 12 weeks of gestation).
  • To eliminate exposure to environmental toxins known to accumulate in various human body tissue, for example, heavy metals.
  • Preconception care is essential to the health of all growing families, no matter the level of health experienced by parents. Preconception care maximises the nutritional status of both parents and stabilises the genome. Both allow for the transfer and inheritance of healthy genes. Though not a cure for profound heritable genetic disorders, preconception care can help to minimise some signs/symptoms in families for whom this is a problem.
  • Detoxification is a significantly important topic in preconception, prenatal and antenatal health. However, did you know just being pregnant induces a state of physiological detoxification in the mother? This topic is rarely discussed, even in complementary and orthodox medicine. This is a concern for a number of reasons:

1) Detoxification can actually be initiated very simply and effectively in the preconception phase; harsh methods are not required for its efficacy. It is an excellent form of preventive medicine. Detoxification should take place in the preconception phase, and ideally, well before conception.

2) Pregnancy (due to the action of the placenta) induces a state of physiological detoxification for the mother. Many health practitioners are unaware of the full extent of placental physiology, and the role of the placenta in maternal detoxification. A potential gap may exist in the education of practitioners with regards to this topic.

3) The health of a growing embryo and baby relies on lack of exposure to harmful environmental substances, PLUS those released from maternal tissue storage. They may inadvertently be exposed to such substances in utero, simply via healthy placental function.

The unknown process of pregnancy detoxification
The concept of pregnancy being a physiological process of detoxification remains relatively unknown. This is especially the case regarding general health information aimed at pregnant women. An internet or Google search looking for pregnancy as a form of detoxification will yield no results. The only information gleaned from such a search advises women not to undergo detoxification whilst pregnant or nursing. This advice is absolutely correct; detoxification can release substances stored in tissues that can be harmful to unborn babies, and infants or toddlers who are being breastfed. A closer examination of placental structure and function can explain the physiology behind this process.

The placenta is an exchange organ that requires sufficient and continual access to the maternal circulation. The establishment of such access is a critical process of the first trimester. Maternal erythrocytes (red blood cells, RBC’s) are present in the foetal circulation, though significant maternal RBC’s are not observed until 10-12 weeks gestation. Studies show conversions of blood vessel architecture in both the uterus and placenta toward the end of the first trimester. Additionally, glandular secretions from the uterus supply most nutrients (maternal proteins, carbohydrates and glycogen (from which glucose is derived) and lipids), plus non-nutrient growth factors of early pregnancy. This then progresses toward a more haemotrophic (blood derived) contribution as maternal arteries begin to supply nutrition. This process in essential in establishing a continual nutrient and energy supply for the growing foetus.

For a maternally derived molecule to access the foetal circulation, it must cross several layers of materno-placental tissues, which are selective and tend to regulate the passage of various substances to the foetus.

Placental anatomy and paternal genes
The formation of the placenta is truly remarkable; there is no other time in life when a human acquires a completely new organ, only to be expelled at the end of a pregnancy. The paternal genome of the baby’s father has a major influence on placental development; these genes preside over the building of the placenta. Thus, fathers are not exempt from preconception care practices. They provide half of their baby’s genetic material, and the majority of the genes required for building this vitally important organ.

Placental Physiology: metabolism, transfer and endocrine secretion
Put simply, the human placenta has three main roles during pregnancy:

1) To transfer nutrients (water, simple sugars, fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes) from mother to baby, via blood circulation. It is known as an exchange organ.

2) The synthesis of hormones, peptides (very small proteins) and steroids required to sustain growth. It functions as an endocrine organ.

3) Metabolism. Metabolic waste products from the baby are transferred in the same way to the mother for removal. It performs the waste removal functions of the lungs, the kidneys and the liver, all of which are immature in the developing foetus.

Pregnant women and babies in utero are exposed to a large variety of xenobiotic substances. The concept of the placenta acting as a complete physical barrier, protecting the foetus from all harm is false. It is known that most pharmaceutical drugs administered during a pregnancy cross the placenta to some extent. Specific chemical properties determine just how easily a substance can cross the placenta:

Chemical Properties

Lipid solubility: Highly lipid soluble molecules cross the placenta more easily. Some pharmaceutical drugs including aminoglycosides and some environmental toxins.

Protein binding: Non-protein bound substances cross the placenta more easily. They are biologically active and retain pharmacologic/toxic effect

Molecular weight: Low molecular weight substances cross the placenta more easily. Examples include many pharmacological agents. Any molecule < 900 daltons in size, Methylmercury, lead DDT and nicotine.

 

Physiological exchange from maternal to foetal circulation occurs via the following processes:

Passive diffusion: gases (O2, CO2, CO), H2O, H2O soluble vitamins cross faster than lipid soluble vitamins, glucose, small amounts of free fatty acids, electrolytes (Na+, K+, Cl-, Ca2+ and Mg2+). Diffusion occurs in both directions from mother to baby and the reverse.
Transport-protein mediated passage: solutes are transferred at a rate much greater than that of diffusion. Many amino acids are transported in this way.
Endocytosis and exocytosis: Endocytosis occurs when a maternally derived molecule is ‘trapped’ within a small pouch formed by specific placental cell membranes, forming a vesicle. The contents of these vesicles may then be released or ejected into the foetal environment via exocytosis. Antibodies, unconjugated steroid hormones and infectious agents (particularly viruses) readily cross the placenta via this transport mechanism.
Solvent drag/bulk flow: this drives water transfer, with water-soluble solutes being dragged along.
The placenta is a selective barrier and does prevent the passage of maternal hormones and other substances from crossing the placenta. Additionally, a cache of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes (the same detoxification enzymes present in liver tissue) are active in placental tissue. These are more restricted than those observed in liver tissue, though several drugs and foreign substances are detoxified here.

“This combination of efflux transporters and defensive enzymes provides a degree of protection to the fetus against exposure to potentially noxious xenobiotics, although many drugs and chemicals can still cross and act as teratogens”.

– Burton, G. et al. Placental anatomy and physiology. In: Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies, 7th ed. Elsevier.

Conclusion

Molecules that are without chemical charge, lipophilic (lipid-soluble), minimally protein bound and of a low molecular weight are known to cross the placenta to the foetal circulation. Some pharmaceutical drugs and environmental toxins belong to this chemical category. Many environmental toxins may have been stored in maternal adipose tissue before well before pregnancy, hence the importance of detoxification prior to conception and pregnancy. Some substances are known teratogens, harmful to growing babies and may also be linked to growth restriction. The enhanced elimination physiology of pregnancy is possibly beneficial for mothers, but undesirable for growing babies. The ideal situation is that any man and women of reproductive age where a pregnancy is possible should consider following:

1. Completely avoid nicotine and recreational drugs. Some substances are linked to foetal growth restriction and can be stored in adipose tissue long-term.

2. Assess exposure to environmental toxins via your occupation, residence, beauty/grooming practices or hobbies. Limit this exposure as best as you can.

3. Limiting environmental exposure is not practical 100% of the time. Nutritional, dietary and detoxification interventions with a professional health practitioner early in the preconception phase is an ideal way to minimise risk.

References

1. Syme M, Paxton J and Keelan J (2204). Clinical Pharmacokinetics.43: 487.
2. Myllynen P, Pasanen M and Vahakangas K (2007). The fate and effects of xenobiotics in human placenta. Expert Opinion in Drug Metabolism and Toxicology. 3(3):331-46.
3. Kozlowska R, Czekaj P. Ginekol Pol . Barrier Role of ABC facility of proteins in human placenta (2011). 82(1): 56-63.
4. Burton G, Sibley C and Jauniaux E. Placental anatomy and physiology. In: Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies, 7th ed. Philadelphia: 2017; Elsevier, 2-25.
5. Castillo J and Rizack T. Special issues in pregnancy. In: Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014, 914-25.

– See more at: https://kidshealth.com.au/pregnancy-best-detox-never/#sthash.wmbpsaeu.dpuf

Seven Strategies for a Vital Winter

Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc, Masters Candidate (USYD).

It is already that time of year again; the dreaded cold and flu season. And I have a strange confession to make: I sometimes look forward to it! I say with some sarcasm that I look for which new ‘super virus’ will be identified by the media, with facts regarding its severity skewed. It’s often difficult for those in health care viewing medical matters in the general media. A calm and considered approach to health and infection outbreaks is what happens in our profession, not mass hysteria!

Humor aside, the reason I look forward to flu season is the food and lifestyle changes. Winter woes provide the perfect excuse to look after ourselves after months of over-indulgence and pushing ourselves.

As scientists, we learn that certain microorganisms are definitely stronger than others. In medical speak, we call this ‘virulence’. It is a fact that certain infectious microbes are more virulent than others. This is why even the healthiest individuals can still contract a severe case of influenza. Additionally, most signs and symptoms of winter infections simply represent your immune response; pain, swelling and erythema (redness) of affected tissues all signify an attempt by those cells and tissues to remove the problem.

What scientists really don’t communicate well is that our body and the condition of our cells play a major part in who will get sick,  who will not and who will recover quickly and more completely. We have plenty of time to build our immunity before the flu season hits, but for those of us in Australia, we are already here. Some of you may not be ready, or may have already been quite unwell.

Here are seven of the strongest anti-infection practices that will have you feeling energised and strong while others sneeze and cough their way to the pharmacy.

  1. Eat protein every day. Excellent sources are eggs, lean red and white meats, seafood, dairy and tree nuts. Vegetarians and vegans must be vigilant with protein combining, rather than simply scraping animal based foods off their plates. Protein is essential for haematopoiesis in bone marrow, which builds both red and white blood cells (all are involved in immunity) . Protein is required to build lean body tissue. Those of us with good lean body tissue composition are more resilient against infections. Structurally, antibodies are proteins; we must eat protein to build protein.
  1. Eat fats every day. Fats receive much attention that is based on poor science, and not at all on their biochemistry. Natural fats are composed of nutrients called fatty acids. Some fatty acids are saturated fatty acids (SFA’s)  which have strong, natural antibiotic chemical properties. Coconut oil is one of the best, as it is high in SFA’s. Olive, macadamia and avocado oils are also fantastic, they contain some SFA’s. Speak to a qualified Naturopath/Nutritionist about supplementing with a good quality Cod Liver Oil over the winter months. Cod Liver Oil is not used for it’s fatty acid content, but rather its content of the fat soluble vitamins A and D. Vitamin D is essential for a healthy immune system (if your immune system was an orchestra, think of vitamin D as a ‘conductor’). Vitamin A is essential for the formation of healthy mucous membranes; most people simply do not consume enough in their diet. Mucous membranes are located in your eyes, respiratory, gastrointestinal and urogenital tracts. Their entire purpose it to help prevent and manage debris and infection.
  1. Eat serve of green vegetables every day. Think spinach, bok choy, brussels sprouts, celery leaves, peas, all forms of cress, fresh green herbs, asparagus and broccoli. You can sauté greens lightly in coconut oil, butter or olive oil, adding fresh herbs. Eating them is potentially better than juicing, as the chewing action will maximise the digestion and absorption of nutrients (especially for those who are a little frail, elderly, or have poor digestion).
  1. Excess Sugar is a chemical insult to your immunity. Some experiments show that excess sugar consumption (as glucose) suppresses immune functions for 30 minutes to 6 hours after ingestion. Many of us continually eat sugar laden foods while fighting an infection, thus it’s no surprise people don’t recover and require more time away from work, school and activities they want or need to do. Additionally, glucose (a simple sugar) competes with vitamin C; they have extremely similar molecular structures. For strong immunity and  an abundance of energy, cut the junk and sugary foods. A little sugar is OK and essential to provide some substrate to help make ATP (energy) to fight infection, but obtain your sugars from fruits, vegetables or good quality dairy if you tolerate this.
  1. Colds, flu’s and infections are notorious for emerging during a stressful time or immediately after the stressful time has subsided. Most people are not aware that stress is not just psychological: it may be physical (e.g., over-exercising or highly physical occupations with little time for breaks) or nutritional (under-eating, overeating and broad spectrum micronutrient deficiencies). Learning what triggers stress for you will contribute to improving your immunity and vitality for the short and long term. The body’s physical response to stress also consumes precious cached vitamin C to try and keep us going- at the expense of our immune system.
  1. Adequate sleep. Many of us don’t respect how important this is, only taking advantage of sleep’s health restoring properties when we are forced into bed with symptoms. Address and rectify anything preventing you from having regular, sound sleep. Parents of babies and young children; I empathise with you completely. If you can, take turns with a partner, friend or family member to allow you a full night in bed every so often.
  1. Hydration. Water, broths and un-caffeinated herbal teas are wonderful for re-hydrating a crenated (shrivelled), water depleted cellular microstructure. Dehydrated cells, tissues and membranes are magnets for infectious micro-organisms. We must keep our cells moist with water if we want them to be resilient to infections.

I will also add as a footnote: efficiently washing your hands is still the single best way to prevent the spread of infection. I am dumbfounded as to why this is not practiced by people more often. Wash your hands!

No matter what flu or infections emerge this winter, they key is to build your immune system early, but you can still start today. A vital winter is yours and entirely possible with the right care and attention.

© 2016. Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc, ND. Lecturer | Medical Scientist | Naturopath. May be reproduced with the authors permission and author credit. info@annaliescorse.com.au

 

The Benefits of Deep Breathing

Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc, Masters Candidate (USYD)

Breathing for health would already come as no surprise to you. Failure to breathe is incompatible with sustaining life. It’s one of the major vital signs monitored in emergency rooms and examined by paramedics to ascertain ones level of consciousness and determine imminent danger to life. In not so life-threatening circumstances, we recognize breathing as one of the quickest and simplest ways to quell excess stress, guide us through anxiety and stem the physical and emotional discomfort of a panic attack. Taking a deep breath helps millions of people everyday, whether they are addressing the world at a press conference, quarrelling with a friend, birthing a baby or attending an important meeting.

The benefits of deep breathing don’t have to be set-aside for times in life where a good deep breath helps you rise to a stressful challenge. Deep breathing has far reaching benefits on many organ systems. Lets consider which aspects of your health will benefit most from deep breathing and how to easily incorporate this practice into daily life.

Respiration (breathing) does not simply mean filling your lungs with air. The main goal of respiration is to deliver oxygen (O2) to every cell and tissue of your body, whilst also removing carbon dioxide (CO2). In order to achieve this, respiration takes place over four key phases:

  1. Pulmonary ventilation. This is simply the inhalation and exhalation of air from the outside environment to inside our body. Air must reach the smallest structures of our lungs, tiny sac-like structures known as alveoli.

Deep breathing facilitates the delivery of sufficient air and O2 to the alveoli, whilst also expelling sufficient amounts of CO2 upon exhalation.

  1. Diffusion of O2 and CO2 between the alveoli and blood, which are in direct contact with each other in the lungs.

Deep breathing helps to deliver sufficient O2 to blood, where it combines with haemoglobin, a protein in our red blood cells. Deep breathing during exhalation helps rid the body of CO2 (a waste product of cellular respiration) via the alveoli.

  1. Transport of O2 and CO2 in blood and body fluids into and out of cells.

Delivery of sufficient O2 to cells via deep breathing is essential for thousands of chemical reactions, most notably metabolism and the production of energy as ATP.

  1. Other facets of respiration, including the regulation of pH (acidity/alkalinity) in your body.

The oxygenation of haemoglobin via deep breathing is one of the most vital buffering systems of the human body. Sufficient oxygenation of haemoglobin is required to prevent dangerous shifts in blood pH (acidity/alkalinity) levels.

Deep breathing is necessary during intense physical activity in order to deliver oxygen to hard working muscles. It is also a renowned stress reliever. The practice of deep breathing is so inextricably linked to health that it forms the foundation of many health and healing modalities including yoga, meditation, and pilates. It is known by many names in these practices, including diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing and paced respiration. The ability of deep respiration to focus the mind and stem anxiety makes it an important practice in the martial arts, from gentle tai chi and qi gong through to combative tae kwon do and jujitsu.

Systems that will benefit most

  • Nervous system. A good, deep breath will help to stimulate the parasympathetic division of your autonomic nervous system. This is the section of the nervous system predominant during rest activities. Deep breathing relaxes the nervous system. Considering that modern life is full of stress, deep breathing is probably the most portable stress reliever we have.
  • While the liver receives most of the glory regarding detoxification (followed closely by the kidneys, bowel, lymphatics and skin), respiration is responsible for ridding the body of the gaseous waste products of human metabolism. CO2 is the major waste product here, but other minor gaseous wastes are also expelled on exhalation.
  • Pain relief. Any woman has been through labour, or any person who has suffered the pain of injury and trauma will be able to relate to the power of breathing as a form of analgesia. This requires effort, as our natural instinct when in pain is to hold our breath. If initiated, deep breathing through pain is known to increase endorphin levels, which are natural pain killers.
  • Lymphatic system. Our lymphatic system is a network of vessels that carry lymphatic fluid throughout the body. Unlike blood vessels, lymphatic vessels are not powered by the heart, thus requiring other ‘pumps’ to move lymphatic fluid around. One of these pumps is good respiration, facilitated by deep breathing. The lymphatics are involved in detoxification.
  • Energy production. It stands to reason that the higher the oxygen content of your blood, the better your energy levels will be
  • Digestive system. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing encourages blood flow to abdominal organs, including those of the digestive tract. This can help to facilitate peristalsis (muscular movements of the digestive tract). Additionally, a calm nervous system is required for efficient digestion. By supporting your nervous system with deep breathing, you also facilitate healthy digestion.

Practical tips for better breathing.

Due to our busy lives, we often do not breath properly and in a very shallow manner. Here are some practical tips to help you reconnect with the feeling of deep breathing:

  1. Sit up straight and walk tall. Improved posture automatically helps fill your lungs with more air when you breathe.
  2. Allocate some time each day for deep breathing: at your desk, in the shower or in bed at the beginning and end of the day. 5 to 10 minutes is all it takes to help make this a habit.
  3. Feel your body move when you breathe… is anything moving? Deep breathing is rather active and uses multiple muscle groups. Focus on pushing your abdominal area in and out to enhance deep breathing, as opposed to the rise and fall of your shoulders (this indicated shallow breathing).
  4. Consider looking in to the practice of Buteyko breathing. 

References

  1. Guyton, A. and Hall, J. (2000). Textbook of Medical Physiology (Tenth Edition). W. B. Saunders Company. Harcourt Health Sciences. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  2. Harvard Medical School. The family Health Guide (2015). Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response. Harvard Health Publications. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response
  3. Moseley, A. et al. (2005). The effect of gentle arm exercise and deep breathing on secondary arm lymphedema. Lymphology. 38: 136-145.
  4. Westerdahl, E. et al. (2005). Deep-Breathing Exercises Reduce Atelectasis and Improve Pulmonary Function After Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery. Chest. 128 (5): 3482-3488.

Written for and originally published by the MINDD Foundation www.mindd.org

Image Source: bbc.co.uk

 

Metabolic Disorders: Part I

Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc, Masters Candidate (USYD).

 

Question anyone on the concept of metabolism, and you will surely receive responses supporting that everyone knows about it. Young children learn of its existence at school; science students worldwide study the intricate metabolic reactions of living cells and the general public speaks this technical term during social banter around food and weight. However, metabolism is a facet of human health involving far more than the breakdown of food or the production of energy. Metabolism, and the biomedical understanding of metabolic disorders is one of the five pillars of health supporting the philosophy behind the MINDD Foundation. Over a series of articles, these five pillars will be presented and discussed to help you understand the importance of each for human health, including the biomedical, nutritional and lifestyle measures to improve your own health, your family’s health and safeguarding the health of generations to come.

 

Research and education into the role of Metabolic disorders in Pediatric health is fundamental to the work of the MINDD Foundation. This two part article serves to explain the importance of metabolism to our overall state of health, list the conditions associated with errors in metabolism (including the cause of such errors) and what can be done to prevent the potentially devastating consequences of errors of metabolism.

 

Definition of Metabolism

 

Metabolism occurs at the cellular and even subcellular level within tiny structures known as organelles. It is usually defined and interpreted in biochemical terms, where all reactions of the metabolic system are considered together.  In the most simplistic definition, metabolism is defined as the sum total of all chemical reactions in the body. Metabolism is comprised of:

 

  • Anabolism: chemical reactions where substances are synthesized or ‘built up’. For example: the synthesis of hormones, new tissue and antibodies, to name a few.

 

  • Catabolism: chemical reactions where substances are degraded or ‘broken down’. For example: the breakdown of food for energy production and the generation of metabolic waste products such as ketones, urea and lactate to name a few.

 

Therefore, every single chemical reaction in your body is part of your metabolism. Every useful chemical substance your body makes for you, and every waste product generated is part of your metabolism. These metabolic reactions differ depending on which organ of the body you are looking at. For example, the reactions of thyroid metabolism are completely different from reactions in skeletal muscle; every tissue and organ has a completely different role to play and their metabolic chemical reactions reflect this. Your metabolism represents far more than just weight loss and weight gain.

 

Errors in Metabolism +Causes

 

Inborn errors of metabolism are a very large group of rare and congenital disorders of metabolism, where babies are born with a genetic defect involving a specific aspect of their metabolism. These conditions are usually inherited. Most are due to single genetic mutations, where the faulty gene leads to the production of a faulty enzyme. The faulty enzyme produced is unable to catalyze its specific chemical reaction in the body (each enzyme in the human body is highly precise and usually only facilitates one specific chemical reaction). The resulting problems are incredibly varied, depending on the gene and enzyme product involved. Some conditions can be managed well, while others can be lethal errors. Depending on the actual condition inherited, symptoms can range from acute and late-onset acute, through to progressive, generalized and permanent symptoms.

 

List of Conditions

 

There are hundreds of inherited metabolic disorders, and most are exceedingly rare. As a whole, metabolic disorders usually involve a gene/enzyme product involved in:

 

  • Carbohydrate metabolism: these are usually detected in infancy and cover a vast range of conditions where specific aspects of carbohydrate metabolism are impaired. Energy production in vital organs can be severely compromised. Depending on the exact problem, these conditions are often supported by dietary interventions. Some better-known examples in this category are galactosaemia, lactose intolerance and glycogen storage diseases.
  • Amino acid metabolism: these metabolic conditions involve either the synthesis of vital amino acids, or impairment of amino acid degradation. These are so many diseases in this category, however Phenylketonuria (PKU), Homocysteinuria and Maple Syrup Urine disease are some well-known examples. If a vital amino acid is not synthesized, it is unavailable for its many roles within the body. If an amino acid is not degraded properly, it can build up, causing damage to specific tissues and organs. Dietary interventions are often used to abate the effects of these diseases.
  • Organic acid metabolism: these involve the branched chain amino acids (isoleucine, leucine and valine). If a specific amino acid cannot be broken down, its build-up can lead to academia (dangerously low blood pH) and vital organ damage. Specific dietary interventions are required, and these often commence in infancy.
  • Fatty acid metabolism: many enzymes are required to break down fatty acids for energy; a problem with any one of these enzymes is known as an inborn error of lipid (fat) metabolism. Some involve carnitine (which helps transport fatty acids to your mitochondria for energy production), while others prevent correct lipid storage. Yet another vast category.
  • Mitochondrial metabolism: these have a huge array of presentations, but ultimately involve impairment of mitochondrial function and ultimately the production of energy as a whole.
  • Porphyrin metabolism: porhyrin rings are specific chemical structures found in vital substances such as haeme (predominantly found in red blood cells) and cytochromes (found in mitochondria for energy production and also in hepatic tissue for detoxification). When not synthesized or degraded properly, they are classified as metabolic diseases known as Porphyrias. It is believed that Pyrrole Disorder may belong to this category.
  • Purine and pyrimidine metabolism: purines and pyrimidine’s are essential chemicals produced by the body and contribute to the structure of DNA, RNA and energy molecules such as ATP to name just a few. Defective enzymes governing purine and pyrimidine metabolism affect the normal sequences of human DNA, meaning harmful mutations are common in this group of metabolic diseases.
  • Peroxisomal metabolism: peroxisomes are organelles involved in breaking down very long chain fatty acids for energy.
  • Steroid metabolism: human steroid hormones include oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and aldosterone. All steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol. Each condition varies, depending on the exact enzyme and hormone involved. Disorders of secondary sexual characteristics, ambiguous genitalia and adrenal insufficiency all come under this category.
  • Lysosomal storage diseases. Lysosomes are organelles, and can be described as the recycling centre of the cell. Unwanted substances can be converted into useful substances for a cell by lysosomes. Metabolic disorders involving lysosomes result in the accumulation of cellular waste, leading to cellular and organ damage.

 

Due to the overwhelming number of metabolic disorders, diagnosis in a clinical setting can be difficult. The range of signs and symptoms that could possibly present is enormous. In general, infants and children who present with the following signs/symptoms may be investigated for a congenital metabolic disease, depending on their entire clinical picture and medical case history:

 

  • Failure to thrive
  • Growth failure
  • Developmental delay
  • Delayed or precocious puberty
  • Ambiguous genitalia
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac issues: cardiac failure, myocardial infarction and both high and low blood pressure
  • Skin: abnormal pigmentation, lack of pigmentation, excess body hair growth
  • Some childhood cancers
  • Hematological issues: low platelets, low red cell count, splenomegaly and lymphadenopathy
  • Diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal pain, weakness and cramping
  • Congenital malformations, especially involving facial features

 

In part 2 of this article: treatment and prevention, and where to seek help for metabolic disorders.

 

References

 

  1. Fernandes, John; Saudubray, Jean-Marie; Berghe, Georges van den (2013-03-14). Inborn Metabolic Diseases: Diagnosis and Treatment. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 4. ISBN9783662031476
  2. Jorde, et al. 2006. Carbohydrate metabolism. Medical Genetics. 3rd edition. Chapter 7. Biochemical genetics: Disorders of metabolism. pp139-142
  3. Ogier de Baulny H, Saudubray JM (2002). “Branched-chain organic acidurias”. Semin Neonatol. 7 (1): 65–74.
  4. Rosemeyer, Helmut (March 2004). “The Chemodiversity of Purine as a Constituent of Natural Products”. Chemistry & Biodiversity 1 (3): 361–401.
  5. Mark A. Sperling (25 April 2008). Pediatric Endocrinology E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 35.
  6. Vernon, H. (2015). Inborn Errors of Metabolism. Advances in Diagnosis and Therapy. JAMA Pediatrics. 169(8): 778-782

Gut Feelings and the Gut Brain Axis

 

Gut Feelings and the Gut Brain Axis

Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc

Written for and originally published by the MINDD Foundation: www.mindd.org

For the past few years, the topics of mental health, emotional health and psychological wellbeing have received some much-needed attention. What was once an area only discussed in the seclusion of a medical appointment, counselling session or support group, emotional health is now a mainstream aspect of our total health and wellbeing. Health blogs, scientific journals and medical conferences are teeming with advice and new research on how to support this fundamental facet of our health.

One area of integrative medicine gaining momentum in mental health research is the Gut-Brain Axis. This axis involves chemical signals that occur between your gastrointestinal tract and your nervous system. Studies are showing the intestinal microbiota are particularly influential here, communicating with the brain via several physiological pathways. In the future, its possible that many mental health conditions will be treated via amendment of our intestinal microbial populations.

What is the Mechanism?

In medical science research, disease correlations are often found between a specific environmental factor (e.g., diet, lifestyle, medication, pollutant) and a resulting condition or disease state. Correlations are interesting to researchers and the general public alike, but correlations do not prove causation. What is required to prove causation is a cellular mechanism, the discovery of a molecular event that ultimately links a specific environmental factor with causing a condition.

Does a mechanism exist between the gut microbiome having an influence on brain health? The science for this is very strong, and three mechanisms are receiving a lot of attention:

1) The immune mechanism. Microbial populations can cause immune activation directly at the gut mucosal surface membranes. This is especially the case when microbes are pathogenic (disease causing) members of the microbiome. The enhanced inflammatory response in the gut leads to stimulation of the peripheral immune system. This immune stimulation is able to stimulate specific neurons (nerves) associated with serotonin, a neurotransmitter implicated in many behavioural and emotional health disorders.

2) The vagus nerve mechanism. The Gut Brain Axis is a two-way communication network between your central nervous system (which includes your brain and spinal cord) and your enteric nervous system (a nerve network in your gut). Essentially, this anatomical link establishes a direct, physical connection between the emotional centres of the brain and intestinal function. Studies are revealing that the gut microbiota may signal the brain via nerves, hormones, immune responses and antibodies.

3) The bacterial waste product mechanism. Funnily enough, the link between gut and brain health is not new. Just over 100 years ago, patients with depression, anxiety and psychosis were ‘purged’ of their imbalanced state of mind with colonic irrigation and abdominal surgeries. The idea was that poisons originating in the gut were the root cause of these mental health issues. These days, modern medicine has identified these toxins as metabolic by-products (wastes) of certain bacterial populations. Many of these less favourable gut microbes produce neuroactive compounds (including neurotransmitters such as serotonin, melatonin, histamine, acetylcholine and gamma amino butyric acid, GABA) that directly influence brain activity.

Mental Health Conditions Associated With Poor Gut Health

The composition of the gut microbiome is believed to influence the brain in the following conditions:

• Autism
• Anxiety
• Bi-polar
• Depression
• Insomnia
• Schizophrenia
• Poor concentration, aggression, temper and difficulty relaxing
• Overwhelming sense of tension and pressure
• A vast array of other behavioural issues, such as procrastination, teeth grinding and restlessness to name a few.

Take Away Advice:

• Avoid the over use of antibiotics. Thankfully, this message is becoming louder in mainstream medicine. The overuse of antibiotics is one of the main methods of disrupting and destroying a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut. Only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary, if there is no other alternative.
• Stress management. Everyone finds different life matters stressful, and some people do not find traditional ‘de-stressing’ activities effective. Firstly, identify what causes you the most stress on a daily basis, and speak to a supportive person about ways you can try to manage this. A prolonged stress response releases stress hormones into our body, which in turn have a direct effect on the balance of bacteria in our gut. You can clearly see the vicious circle here.
• Diet. Specific diets and foods are known to encourage the growth of good bacteria, preventing dysbiosis and even restoring gut health. Examples of foods in this category include prebiotic foods (radishes, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, asparagus, carrots, sweet potato, onions and garlic are all particularly good), probiotic foods (fermented foods such as kefir, yoghurt, Kyr, kombucha and fermented vegetables, coconut cheese).
• Remove processed sugar and processed foods from your diet. Focus on obtaining natural sugars from fresh vegetables and fruits instead.
• Probiotic therapy can be prescribed for you, and is a very effective way of restoring the health of your microbiome. This course of action is likely necessary for long-term emotional health issues.

Written by Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc

References:

1. Carabotti, M., et al. (2015). The Gut Brain Axis: Interactions Between Enteric Microbiota, Central and Enteric Nervous Systems. Annals of Gastroenterology. 28(2): 203-209.

2. El Aidy, S. et al. (2014). Immune Modulation of the Brain-Gut Microbe Axis. Frontiers in Microbiology. Evolutionary and Genomic Microbiology. April, 2014. Available at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmicb.2014.00146/full

3. Monteil-Castro, A. et al. (2103). The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Neurobehavioural Correlates, Health and Sociality. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience. 7: 70. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3791857/

4. Reardon, S. (2014). Gut Brain Link Grabs Neuroscientists. Nature. 515: 7526. Available at: http://www.nature.com/news/gut-brain-link-grabs-neuroscientists-1.16316

5. Schmidt, C. (2015). Mental Health May Depend on Creatures in the Gut. Scientific American. Available at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-health-may-depend-on-creatures-in-the-gut/

Image credit: Nature Reviews Neuroscience

Bioenergetics: The Chemical Conversions of Energy Production

Bioenergetics: The Chemical Conversions of Energy Production

Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc

Written for and originally published by the MINDD Foundation: www.mindd.org

The concept of energy for most people on a day-to day basis is an elusive one. It is that longed for health trait, presenting itself swiftly at certain points in our day, then lost as quickly as it was gained. For many individuals with robust good health, they still want more energy. Others simply never have enough, either due to genetic conditions, chronic disease, illness or malnutrition.

While the underlying reasons for lack of energy differ from one person to the next, its synthesis is universal in all human beings. In fact, energy is manufactured in humans via the same chemical reactions used to make energy in all animals, some microorganisms and insects. In the digital age, we have instant access to information to educate ourselves or seek advice on how to have more energy, yet most people still do not attain this goal for their health and well being. It’s not as simple as taking an energy supplement or drink. For decades now, science has known how energy is synthesised by the body. It’s known as bioenergetics, the study of how the body converts food into energy. It is inextricably linked to your nutritional state. Let’s take a look at some of the finer points of bioenergetics.

Energy Currency

Food contains stored energy. When we eat, carbohydrates, lipid (fats) and proteins are broken down to supply energy to every cell of the body. Energy is constantly being used up; it is needed to think, breathe, digest, walk, mount immune responses, maintain heart rate and produce hormones (to name a mere few). Once used up, we need to supply more energy, and so we must eat.

Think of energy like currency; if you spend money and have a zero balance, you need to make money. In biochemistry, this energy currency is actually in the form of a molecule known as Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This molecule stores huge amounts of energy within specific chemical bonds in its structure. When these bonds are broken, energy is released. To replenish ATP, and put the bonds back together, we must eat. Food is broken down into its basic molecular structure. After digestion, absorption into the bloodstream and delivery to our cells, food molecules are oxidised, broken down and transformed, eventually culminating in the regeneration of ATP. This process continues, from our beginnings as an embryo to the day we take our last breath.

Mitochondria

Any reader of science will know about mitochondria. These microscopic, bean-shaped structures are classified as organelles, which translates to ‘little organs. Organelles are present inside cells; there are several different types and all have highly specialised functions. For mitochondria, their specialist function is energy production.

The inner membrane bestows mitochondria with a highly specialised structure geared specifically for energy production; the highly folded arrangement creates a huge surface area for this to take place. Mitochondria are the site of the common catabolic pathway for ATP production. ‘Common’ means that all foods (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) can enter mitochondria to make energy, and ‘catabolic’ simply means to break down the molecular structures of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in order to yield energy.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are sugars. Lactose (dairy), maltose (grains), sucrose (many foods) and starches (complex carbohydrates) are broken down via digestion to yield the three simplest sugars: fructose, glucose and galactose. These three simple sugars enter cells and are catabolised via a biochemical pathway known as glycolysis, which literally translates to ‘breaking glucose’. This pathway occurs in cells, but outside our mitochondria. Once glycolysis is complete, the final product enters the mitochondria, to begin the journey through the common catabolic pathway.

Interesting fact: when you are hungry and do not eat, your body will access glucose from your liver and skeletal muscle tissue, where we store glucose for times of starvation. Liver and muscle are quickly depleted of glucose if we do not eat.
Lipids

Lipids are an excellent source of energy. While carbohydrates are exclusively used for energy production, lipids have many other important roles to play in the body, and are not always used for energy production. Lipids are also required for cell membrane structure and insulation of nerves.

Dietary lipids (fatty acids) are digested then absorbed into the lymphatic system before entering the blood stream. Upon reaching cells, fatty acids are broken down via the biochemical pathway known as B-oxidation. Like glycolysis, the final product of B-oxidation of fatty acids then enters the common catabolic pathway for energy production.

Interesting fact: as with carbohydrates, your body can access stored lipids during starvation or when energy requirements are high. Lipids are stored in our adipose tissue. The biochemical breakdown of lipids is known as lipolysis
Proteins

Proteins are complex structures, often consisting of thousands of units of amino acids linked and coiled up together. After digestion, larger proteins no longer exist, with free amino acids being absorbed into the blood stream.

It may or may not surprise you that proteins and amino acids are not the body’s first choice of molecule to break down for energy. Like lipids, amino acids have many other roles in the body. Amino acids are needed to build every single protein structure in your body, and the list is exhaustive. Proteins are structural, and form the scaffolding of your hair, skin, bones and teeth. Proteins are globular, forming everything from your blood clotting factors, some hormones through to some neurotransmitters. Amino acids are broken down in cells, and also enter the common catabolic pathway in mitochondria for energy production.

Interesting fact: We really only use proteins as an energy fuel during starvation. Again, our body will access stored protein and use it up, particularly from skeletal muscle.

Micronutrients
Micronutrients (all the vitamins and minerals) are not catabolised to yield energy. Only the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) can be catabolised by the many chemical reactions of the common catabolic pathway to yield energy. This is not to say micronutrients are not important for energy production. In fact, they are essential. Every step of the common catabolic pathway is catalysed or made more efficient by a specific enzyme at each step. Put simply, enzymes require nutrient co-factors, or they simply do not function. The micronutrients essential for the common catabolic pathway include vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and the minerals magnesium, iron and sulphur.

In order to make and replenish energy, all of the following needs to be in place:

  • Consumption of food. You must eat to make energy, you must eat to live.
  • A great diet. All diets supply carbohydrate, protein and lipids in various proportions. Only great diets supply the micronutrient vitamins and minerals to help break them down.
  • Good digestion. You are what you eat, but even more so, you are what you absorb. We must absorb all nutrients well in order to deliver them to the blood stream and our cells.
  • Good genetics. Unfortunately, our genes control all the enzymes for the various pathways described above. Some genetic diseases directly affect specific enzymes of glycolysis, or the common catabolic pathway. Energy production is compromised, sometimes very severely in these genetic conditions. In rare situations, mitochondria themselves are not functioning properly. This specific set of genetic conditions is known as mitochondrial disorders.
  • Trying to pinpoint why you are low in energy may seem complex, but if you do not have a rare genetic condition, it’s actually rather simple. It’s a currency. If you use it, you must replenish it with food and rest. Simply eat well, with a diet high in micronutrients. Focus on having a healthy gut, not just over a quick detox or cleanse, but for the long term. Not only will you experience robust energy levels, but robust good health.

References

Ball, Hill and Scott. Introduction to Biochemistry: General, Organic and Biological, First Ed.

Metabolic Disorders: Part II

 

Metabolic Disorders: Part Two

 Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc

Written for and originally published by the MINDD Foundation: www.midd.org

 In Part One of this article, the breadth of metabolic disorders was discussed. The important take away points from Part One included the following:

  • Metabolism is the sum total of all chemical reactions in the human body. Referring to metabolism by a simple reference to weight loss and weight gain is not entirely correct.
  • Metabolism consists of thousands of chemical reactions, where chemical entities are either synthesized for the body (anabolism), or broken down by the body (catabolism).
  • Metabolic reactions are accomplished by enzymes. Functionality of these enzymes is critical to your health, and is governed by your genes.

Treatment of Metabolic Disorders

As discussed in part one, the vast majority of metabolic disorders are genetic. They are heritable and exceptionally atypical. Most are autosomal recessive conditions, meaning that an affected child would need to inherit two copies of a faulty gene, one from each parent. Each parent would be a carrier of the faulty gene, and would likely be unaware of their genetic carrier status. Each carrier parent has one functional copy of the gene, and one faulty copy. The functional gene copy will correctly synthesize its enzyme product and compensate for the faulty gene + enzyme. No signs or symptoms of disease would be present for the parents.

The autosomal recessive inheritance pattern of metabolic disorders does prove problematic for prevention. Most parents are unaware they are carriers of specific genetic mutations, and the likelihood of having a child with a partner carrying the same mutation is exceedingly rare; too rare for pre-natal genetic screening of all babies to be necessary or feasible. In reality, the genetic mutation would have occurred many generations ago, and has been passed on through families, often undetected. Additionally, there are literally hundreds of metabolic disorders, and all require their own unique treatment approach; there is no blanket clinical protocol for treatment.

If a metabolic disorder is inherited, treatment options usually follow this clinical pattern:

  • If a specific food, drug or amino acid cannot be metabolized properly, its intake must be reduced or completely eliminated.
  • Enzymatic replacement of the faulty enzyme. This is only an option if enzymatic replacement (usually in the form of a medication) of the faulty enzyme actually exists.
  • Removal of toxic substances that accumulate via the faulty metabolic pathway.
  • Specific diets can remove specific macro or micronutrients that are not metabolized correctly.
  • Specific micronutrient supplements can support faulty metabolic pathways, depending on the specific metabolic disease in question.
  • Specific drug treatments to detoxify the blood of toxic metabolic by-product may be possible, depending on the disease in question.

As you can appreciate, altering diets to such a significant extent to reduce the possibility of other deficiencies and to prevent further illness requires the assistance of medical and nutritional experts.

 Prevention of Metabolic Disorders

Searching for information on the prevention of metabolic diseases is often fraught with frustration, as most sources will lead you to information regarding how to combat and prevent the metabolic syndrome (i.e., the cluster of conditions involving insulin resistance, obesity, dyslipidaemia and type II diabetes mellitus). Additionally, metabolic disorders are inherited, thus prevention is often deemed to be impossible, as they are inherited genetic disorders.

 Despite this, there are ways of eating and living life that are known to protect DNA and enhance the correct replication of DNA (thus preventing further mutations and even providing the healthiest genome possible to your future off spring). Whilst they may not prevent 100% of metabolic disorders in affected families, these strategies seek to safeguard the general health of all individuals and support healthy genes, from their replication through to gene expression. Additionally, well functioning organs and tissues will support treatments for metabolic disorders, and will have all affected individuals well placed to experience the best health the possibly can. This is the science of nutrigenomics; the “Genome-Food Interface”.

  • Cease all cigarette smoking and address excessive alcohol consumption. Both are known to have detrimental effects on our genes and how they function. Seek help to find ways to abstain from cigarettes permanently.
  • Many nutrients regulate gene expression, including folate, zinc, EPA and DHA to name just a few. Seek assistance from a health professional specializing in clinical nutrition and wholefood eating to formulate eating plans high in genome protecting nutrients.
  • Phytochemicals such as flavonoids, carotenoids, coumarins and phytosterols are also known to regulate gene expression. This is simple; eat lots of fruit and vegetables in abundance, everyday. This is especially important for both men and women in their reproductive years.
  • Healthy levels of folate, vitamin B12, niacin, vitamin E, retinol, and calcium are linked to decreased levels of DNA damage; riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and biotin are associated with an increase in DNA damage to the same extent observed with occupational exposure to genotoxic and carcinogenic chemicals. Do not self-prescribe supplements and gather information from integrative health professionals before considering supplementation.

 Where to seek assistance

 Many countries employ newborn screening programs to investigate the presence of metabolic disorders at birth. For example, screening for PKU forms part of the newborn screening panel. The diseases chosen for screening at birth have met certain clinical criteria for their inclusion in screening; the testing is reliable and non-invasive, and the treatment is straightforward and life saving. Many metabolic conditions do not manifest clinical signs at birth and are diagnosed in infancy or even later once evident signs and symptoms appear. In most cases, infants and children will be under the care of a specialist Paediatrician, and one who sub-specializes in specific metabolic conditions.

 Children and adults with metabolic disorders will require lifelong care and can often become ill very quickly. It is essential that they receive care from both their medical specialists and ideally an integrative doctor with their allied health teams. The MINDD Foundation is an excellent resource for locating doctors, nutritionists, naturopaths, pharmacists, dieticians and nurses experienced in the treatment of these rare and high-care diseases.

 “There is increasing evidence that genome instability, in the absence of overt exposure to genotoxicants, is itself a sensitive marker of nutritional deficiency”.

–Michael Fenech, CSIRO Genome Health and Nutrigenomics Laboratory

 References

 

  1. Fernandes, John; Saudubray, Jean-Marie; Berghe, Georges van den (2013-03-14). Inborn Metabolic Diseases: Diagnosis and Treatment. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 4. ISBN9783662031476
  2. Jorde, et al. 2006. Carbohydrate metabolism. Medical Genetics. 3rd edition. Chapter 7. Biochemical genetics: Disorders of metabolism. pp139-142
  3. Meade, N. (2007). Nutrigenomics: The Genome-Food Interface. Environmental Health Perspectives. 115 (12): A582-A589.
  4. Ogier de Baulny H, Saudubray JM (2002). “Branched-chain organic acidurias”. Semin Neonatol. 7 (1): 65–74.
  5. Rosemeyer, Helmut (March 2004). “The Chemodiversity of Purine as a Constituent of Natural Products”. Chemistry & Biodiversity 1 (3): 361–401.
  6. Mark A. Sperling (25 April 2008). Pediatric Endocrinology E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 35.
  7. Vernon, H. (2015). Inborn Errors of Metabolism. Advances in Diagnosis and Therapy. JAMA Pediatrics. 169(8): 778-782

 

 

 

 

 

The Digestive System: Revealing Hidden Facts of your Overall Health

 

The Digestive System: Revealing Hidden Facts of Your Overall Health.

Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc, ND

Written for and originally published by the MINDD Foundation: www.mindd.org

For most people, the digestive system serves as the repository for delivering food to the body, and eliminating waste. We may never give thought to the impressive amount of physiological effort and biochemical work necessary for this to take effect. Most people are not troubled by major digestive pathologies. We enjoy our food, and we get on with life.

Do other small ailments plague your everyday experiences of good health and wellbeing? Are these complaints you simply put up with, or are they major health conditions? Would you feel better if you had more energy? Is your immune system not as resilient as it should be? Are you prone to atopic conditions, such as allergies and eczema? Do you have signs of endocrine dysfunction, fertility issues, or autoimmune disease? Is your mental and emotional health in need of support? All of these are linked to poor digestive health. This list reads like a marketing campaign for the latest ‘cure all’ supplement. However, there is good reason for this; basic scientific principles explain exactly why digestive health is critical to the health of an entire organism. Ask any Naturopath, Integrative Doctor or holistic Nutritionist what is the most important system in the human body and you are most likely to hear the same response: The Digestive System. It is why the MINDD Foundation is so notably focused on how to attain and maintain enduring Digestive health, at any age.

Anatomy and Physiology

The human digestive tract is purpose built for every aspect of digestion. The anatomy of the digestive tract actually changes as it descends from the oral cavity, all the way down to the rectum and anus:

  • Oral cavity: a cavity lined with a thick and stratified epithelium, perfectly suited to with standing mechanical and harsh pressures from chewing and swallowing. The oral mucosa is supported heavily by salivary glands and blood vessels. Saliva is a complex fluid of water, electrolytes, mucous, antibodies, and digestive enzymes. Signs of poor digestive health in the oral cavity include halitosis (bad breath), some dental problems, ulcerations, oral infections and abnormal coatings on the tongue
  • Oesophagus: again lined by a stratified epithelium that secretes mucous and has a high cell turn over of desquamation. This desquamation or cell ‘sloughing’ is necessary in the mouth and oesophagus to replace tissue damaged by temperature extremes, mechanical and chemical trauma. Smooth muscle layers facilitate swallowing and peristalsis. Signs and symptoms of poor digestive health in the oesophagus include acid reflux, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, difficult or painful swallowing and inflammation (oesophagitis).
  • Stomach: a highly specialised and thick muscular organ. Mucous must be secreted here to protect the stomach from the low pH of gastric secretions (the low acidic pH here is fundamental to healthy and thorough digestion). Muscle layers are thicker in the stomach, to facilitate strong contractions for the mixing and churning required for both mechanical and chemical digestion. Signs and symptoms of poor digestion originating in the stomach include acid reflux and excessive belching. Achlorhydria (low stomach acid) is rather prevalent in the population. Gastric ulcers and gastritis are another well-known diseases, often induced by diet, stress and infection.
  • Small Intestine: the site of nutrient absorption. Specialised anatomical modification of the mucosa (known as villi, microvilli and lacteals) facilitate the absorption of monosaccharides (simple sugars), amino acids (from proteins) and fatty acids (from lipids). Significant amounts of enzyme secretion to facilitate chemical digestion. Facilitated by smooth muscle contractions for peristalsis. Vast surface area of villi and microvilli network to enhance absorption. Heavily influenced by the health of the nervous system, via the enteric plexus. Influences the health and functionality of the immune system, via gut associated lymphoid tissue located predominantly in the ileum, but also found in other areas of the digestive tract. Signs of poor digestive health and disease here include allergies, atopy, Coeliac disease, malabsorption, obesity and IBS, through to major immune, developmental and mental health conditions.
  • Appendix: the forgotten and neglected appendage of the digestive tract. New research is revealing that the appendix might be a reservoir for beneficial species of good/healthy gut bacteria. It may also be involved in immune responses, hence the volatile reactions noted with appendicitis.
  • Large Intestine: essential functions include the absorption of water and many vitamins. Digested, unabsorbed food is converted to faecal material. Thick walls of smooth muscle facilitate powerful contractions for the defecation reflex. Gut bacteria perform fermentation reactions on complex sugars indigestible to humans, helping to release nutrients from these foods such as vitamins, B1, B2, B6, B12 and vitamin K. Constipation, bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea are all multifactorial in nature, but indicate problems with the large intestine. Other diseases of poor large intestinal health include ulcerative colitis, and any significant signs such as blood and mucous in the stool.

The microbiome

 No discussion of human digestive health is complete without mention of the microbiome. The human microbiome consists of all the genes of the microorganisms living in and on the human body. The vast majority of these microbes reside in our digestive system. Think of the human microbiome as the microbial counterpart of the human genome. Without question, the advances in this area of medical science are incredibly important to health; we will likely see many future chronic disease treatment protocols based around gut health and the microbiome. Obesity, allergies, cancer, autoimmune disease, depression and even Alzheimer’s’ disease all show links to unhealthy gut microbes and a poor quality microbiome. The microbiome population changes rapidly in response to the type of diet we eat, thus nutritional medicine and nutritional counselling is paramount to gut health. For a recent MINDD article on the specifics of the human microbiome, including what to eat, please see www.midd.org

 All disease begins in the gut

“All disease begins in the Gut” – Hippocrates

The iconic figure of both ancient and modern medicine coined this phrase over 2000 years ago, yet it seems nothing could be truer today. In a recent book (Gut: The Inside Story of Our body’s Most Under-rated organ), doctor and scientist Giulia Enders explains that we need to stop treating people as having skin conditions, mental health conditions, immune conditions, etc., and start recognising skin, emotional, immune and a host of other pathologies as patients with intestinal problems. This has indeed been the approach of Naturopathic medicine for thousands of years; fortunately, modern medicine is beginning to accept this approach and provide valuable evidence to support naturopathic and integrative health protocols.

 

Top 5 take away clinical pearls for gut health

  1. Try not to consume large amounts of liquids with meals. Sips of water are OK to as you get used to this change. Copious amounts of water with food dilute the digestive secretions that contain the acids, hormones and enzymes required to digest food thoroughly and correctly. Adequate water is often secreted by the digestive tract as you digest food, so the need to add more is unnecessary.
  2. As much as you can, chew your food slowly and thoroughly. Take time to eat your meals, at least 20 minutes. Far too many people ‘inhale’ a large meal in less than 5 minutes. Preparing, smelling, touching and tasting food as you cook is incredibly strong sensory stimulation for your brain; the process of digestion has literally begun before you take your first bite. A note to parents of young children: it is hard to eat slowly when you have no time. At least attempt to do this one meal per day. Sit down and enjoy 30 minutes of actual slow eating with your family, at as many meals as you can.
  3. Try not to eat when under stress, or address any chronic stress issues. Under the effects of stress hormones and nerve impulse transmission, blood is diverted away from digestive organs during the stress response. Digestion is deemed unnecessary when other organs such as skeletal muscle and the heart need high blood circulation during the stress response. This lack of blood circulation to digestive organs is incredibly counterproductive to good digestion, diminishes peristaltic activity of smooth muscle decreases secretions involved in chemical digestion, absorption and transport of nutrients across the gut wall in to the blood stream and lymphatics.
  4. Make healthy defecation a priority. This may seem crude or embarrassing to consider, but it is essential to your health on every level. Good quality, healthy stools (faeces) are simple to achieve with the right diet and lifestyle choices. We should all pass 1-3 formed stools each day. If you are regularly constipated, have frequent diarrhoea, loose motions, blood or mucous in the stool, it is vital you seek help from a Naturopath, Nutritionist or Doctor to receive assistance on normalising your bowels through diet and lifestyle practices. Familiarise yourself with the Bristol Stool chart, an insightful and incredibly simple piece of health and medical education.
  5. Consider your diet and where it needs to be overhauled. Diets for healthy digestion are not a one-size approach; the diets we all need for gut health are often unique and tailored to suit our individual needs. Certain food groups may require elimination. To avoid nutrient deficiencies, this should be done with the guidance of a health professional. In general, we need to keep very hydrated between meals with water, fruits, vegetables and herbal tissanes. We need to eat complex carbohydrates and fibre. We need to look at our medications; some digestive problems are a known side effect of specific pharmaceuticals. Reaching out to an integrative health practitioner for a prescription of probiotic strains for your specific health needs is wise. This is especially true if you were born via caesarean section, could not be breastfed, or have had a long history of antibiotic use.

References

  1. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The Human Microbiome. The Genetic Science Learning Centre, University of Utah. Available at: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/microbiome/credits/
  2. Anders, R. (2011). Functional Histology of the Gastrointestinal Tract. Lecture. Johns Hopkins Pathology. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/mcp/Education/300.713%20Lectures/GI.pdf
  3. Janeway, CA Jr.; et al. (2001). “The mucosal immune system”. Immunobiology. New York: Garland Science. 10-13.
  4. Kuo, B. (2006). Oesophagus- anatomy and development. GI Motility online. Available at: http://www.nature.com/gimo/contents/pt1/full/gimo6.html
  5. Tiwari, M. (2011). Science Behind Human Saliva. Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine. Jan-Jun; 2(1): 53-58.
  6. Zahid, Aliya (2004-04-01). “The vermiform appendix: not a useless organ”. Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons–Pakistan: JCPSP 14 (4): 256–258.

Neurological Networks: powered by Nutrition and Lifestyle

 

Neurological Networks: Powered by Nutrition and Lifestyle

Annalies Corse BMedSc, BHSc

Written for and originally published by the MINDD Foundation: www.midd.org

 Broadly speaking, neurological conditions are disorders of both the central (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral (all body nerves) nervous systems. This collection of conditions is so vast, many sub-categories of disorders exist. Mental health conditions, dementia’s, epilepsy, acquired brain and spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, autism and learning difficulties are all forms of neurological illness, but each is very different. The aetiologies (causes) of these diseases represent some of the most complicated clinical situations for modern medicine to manage.

Despite the intricacies of these pathologies, some are renowned for presenting in infancy and childhood. Others present in young adulthood. Some conditions are endured by individuals their whole lives, only to receive some clinical insight and solutions from integrative health and medicine later in life. This article will discuss neurological conditions that predominantly present in childhood. Each has great propensity for healing and reversal through the biomedical approach of nutritional, lifestyle and integrative medicine. Neurological health is a central pillar supporting the work of the MINDD Foundation.

Scientific literature is accumulating more and more research that children with the conditions listed below are deficient in micronutrients essential to cognitive, mental and behavioural health. Without treatment interventions, these conditions do persist in to adulthood.

Conditions associated with compromised neurological development:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADHD)
  • Learning and language delays/impairment: including dyslexia and dyspraxia
  • Visual processing delay
  • Auditory processing delay
  • Other sensory processing disorders
  • Gross and fine motor skill delay
  • Socialisation and emotional problems
  • Behavioural concerns: including aggression, bed wetting, short tempers and poor concentration

Any of the above conditions or situations represents signs that a) thorough routine medical investigation is required b) illness is present and change is required c) nutritional and possibly allied behavioural therapies are essential.

Neurological conditions linked to mental and emotional health:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Objective Defiance Disorder (ODD)
  • Pyrrol Disorder
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Compromised Neurotransmitter Biochemistry:

In a previous article published by The MINDD Foundation, the entire range of human neurotransmitters implicated in neurological conditions were discussed. A link to this article can be found here. Key neurotransmitters discussed include Acetyl Choline, Adrenalin, Dopamine, Gamma Amino Butyric Acid, Glutamine, Histamine, Noradrenalin and Serotonin.

 Key nutrients for neurological health:

  • Vitamins: A, C, D, E. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12.
  • Minerals: Zinc, Magnesium, Manganese, Calcium, Iron, Chromium and Selenium
  • Amino acids: Tyrosine, Taurine, Glycine, Methionine, Glutathione, and Glutamine
  • Essential fatty Acids: Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA’s): required for the structure of phosphatidylcholine, sphingosine and other lipids essential for building healthy neural tissues. Poly-unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s): Alpha linolenic acid, Eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexanoic acid (DHA) are all forms of omega 3 fatty acids. These are abundant in brain tissue and breast milk

Problematic environmental substances and contaminants:

  • Lead (Pb): this heavy metal can substitute for calcium ions. Lead is particularly toxic to the developing brain.
  • Mercury (Hg): methylmercury bioaccululates in the food chain. Degree of exposure dictates the severity if neurologic issues, ranging from infant mortality to very subtle developmental delays.
  • Arsenic (As): Inorganic arsenic (sodium arsenite). Contamination of ground water with As is a significant environmental health issue for some countries.
  • Pesticides: for example, organophosphates such as DDT.
  • Solvents: used in everything from cosmetics, pharmaceuticals to household cleaners, paints and varnishes.

Breast milk as a contamination source

It goes without saying that if you can breastfeed, breast milk is best for babies. However, a mother is exposed to countless toxic substances in the environment, the home, the workplace, her beauty and hygiene products and her diet. Many environmental contaminants known to trigger neurologic problems are lipid soluble and are stored in adipose tissue, thus breast tissue and breast milk are potential sources of contaminant exposure for infants. Mothers must plan for reducing her toxin exposure while both pregnant and breast-feeding. Ideally, this would start in the very early pre-conception months.

What you can do immediately:

The take-away advice that you can implement today, without immediately seeking advice from an integrative health professional is as follows:

  1. Just Eat Real Food! Keep things simple; avoid anything that is a false, manufactured food-like substance
  2. Beware of preservatives: get to know food labels, or simply avoid any food with a very long shelf life.
  3. Avoid processed foods: they are deplete of micronutrients, difficult to digest and offer no real nutritional value for building health.
  4. Smart cooking methods: including fermenting, and choice of cooking oils, fats and liquids. Learn how to make healthy staples and take classes.
  5. Ready made foods: avoid these, as they often contain preservatives or additives that may not require a food label.
  6. Eliminate packaged foods: these often fall in to the processed, preservative laden category. You will become very savvy regarding packaged foods as you learn more. Healthy kitchen and pantry classes can really help you here.

In theory, these changes can be made immediately at your next meal, or at your next food-shopping trip. In reality, some individuals and families need to make changes in a step-by-step fashion in order for changes to be lasting. The important point here is to make life-long, permanent changes. Discuss these changes with your family, and select which change will be the easiest to implement first. Set a realistic time frame for change (it may be a few weeks to a couple of months). Researching new places to shop and source food will be necessary. If you do need to progress to an Integrative health practitioner, much of the challenging diet change work will already be done. Most people notice enormous, positive changes in their children’s and family’s health by simply eating according to these principles. Often, the improvement in general health assists in revealing the precise clinical issue requiring attention, as opposed to being concealed by many lower grade or sub-clinical health issues.

 

Conclusion

Cellular and digestive health improves and can be recovered via targeted nutritional therapies and integrative medicine. The improvements in health are a physiological and biochemical cascade; the enhanced nutrient utilisation supports neurotransmission in the brain. These positive changes go on to further support allied and behavioural therapies. The human brain is incredibly plastic; very much so when we are young. A healthy diet, home and environment support’s the cells and structures needed for neural plasticity to reveal its full potential.

 References

  1. Sanders, T., Liu, Y., Buchner, V., & Tchounwou, P. B. (2009). Neurotoxic Effects and Biomarkers of Lead Exposure: A Review. Reviews on Environmental Health, 24(1), 15–45.
  2. Castoldi A, Coccini T, Manzo L. (2003). Neurotoxic and molecular effects of methylmercury in humans. Reviews on Environmental Health. Jan-Mar;18(1):19-31.
  3. DeFuria, J. and Shea, T. (2007). Arsenic inhibits neurofilament transport and induces perikaryal accumulation of phosphorylated neurofilaments: roles of JNK and GSK-3beta. Journal of Brain Research. Nov 21; 1181: 74-82.
  4. Gomez-Pinilla, F., & Gomez, A. G. (2011). The Influence of Dietary Factors in Central Nervous System Plasticity and Injury Recovery. PM & R : The Journal of Injury, Function, and Rehabilitation, 3(6 0 1), S111–S116.
  5. Dick, F. D. (2006). Solvent neurotoxicity. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 63(3), 221–226
  6. Rosales, F. J., Reznick, J. S., & Zeisel, S. H. (2009). Understanding the Role of Nutrition in the Brain & Behavioral Development of Toddlers and Preschool Children: Identifying and Overcoming Methodological Barriers. Nutritional Neuroscience, 12(5), 190–202.
  7. Nyaradi, A., Li, J., Hickling, S., Foster, J., & Oddy, W. H. (2013). The role of nutrition in children’s neurocognitive development, from pregnancy through childhood. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 97.