March 28, 2016

363 Vitamin D & Pregnancy #2 [28 March 2016]

Rhonda Patrick, PhD, in an interview on (14 March 2016) described three locations where vitamin D regulates serotonin production. Last week (#362) I discussed two of these – the brain and the gut. The third location is the placenta of a pregnant woman. Here, as in the gut, D turns off the gene that produces the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) which converts the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin.

In the gut vitamin D prevents overproduction of serotonin which activates T cells and could lead to inflammatory bowel disease. In the placenta, as I showed last week, serotonin is essential for normal brain development (in mouse studies serotonin deficiency causes autistic-like behavior). But excess serotonin is even more devastating for fetal development because of maternal autoimmunity. Patrick explains:
“Mothers of autistic children are four times more likely to have autoantibodies against fetal brain proteins in their blood. Studies have shown that a very strong autoimmune response in pregnant monkeys leads to abnormal fetal brain development.”
What happens is the mother’s immune cells attack the fetal brain tissue, resulting in brain damage or even miscarriage. This autoimmune response is prevented by a special type of immune cell called T regulatory (Treg) cells. Formation of Treg cells requires a molecule called kynurenine which is made from tryptophan. The problem is that tryptophan binds so strongly to the TPH enzyme that there is little or none available for the kynurenine pathway. Vitamin D slows the TPH enzyme leaving enough tryptophan for the production of Treg cells. Again, Vitamin D to the rescue.

This is in addition to the well-known role of vitamin D in fetal bone formation. A recent study found that supplementing with 1,000 IU of vitamin D increased bone mass in babies born in the winter. The bone mass increase may have been significant in all seasons had they used a higher dose like 4,000 IU. A 2012 study found 4,000 IU was safe during pregnancy and resulted in fewer premature births, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or infections than 400 or even 2,000 IU.

Note that based on old data, RDAs and prenatal vitamins are often limited to 400-600 IU. It is critical for pregnant women to have their D levels tested and to supplement as needed to maintain levels of 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L).

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

March 21, 2016

362 Vitamin D & Pregnancy #1 [March 21 2016]

In April 2012 (#160) I reported on a study showing that maternal supplementation of 4,000 IU vitamin D daily was still too low to achieve sufficiency (20ng/ml) in all newborns. Recent findings show how important maternal D levels are to the developing fetus.

Rhonda Patrick, PhD, was interviewed on (14 March 2016) on the role of D in the developing fetal brain. One of the more than 1,000 physiological processes regulated by vitamin D is the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) which converts the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin. Patrick discovered we have two different TPH genes – one in the brain and another in the gut which work independently – the serotonin they produce does not cross the blood-brain barrier. About 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut, where it enables blood platelets to begin the clotting process that heals our cuts and bruises. The 10% of serotonin produced in the brain lifts our mood, enables impulse control, calms anxiety, and boosts memory.

Vitamin D regulates genes by attaching to the vitamin D receptor and either activating or deactivating the gene, depending on the receptor. Curiously vitamin D regulates the two different TPH genes in opposite ways. In the brain it turns the gene on, causing it to produce more TPH and therefore more serotonin. This is good. Insufficient serotonin in the brain results in impulsive behavior, depression, anxiety, and the inability to filter sensory stimuli (think ADHD).

In the gut, however, vitamin D turns the TPH gene off or slows it down. This is also good – we need some serotonin in the gut but not too much. Excess serotonin in the gut activates T cells which causes inflammation that can lead to inflammatory bowel disease. Vitamin D helps control this and clinically has been found to reduce inflammation in diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

In the developing fetus serotonin plays a much more important role. It acts as a brain morphogen, shaping the structure and wiring of the neurons in the developing brain. The fetus is completely dependent on the mother’s vitamin D levels for serotonin production. A maternal deficiency in vitamin D can have severe consequences for the fetal brain development, including autism. Low maternal D and serotonin levels have been linked to autism by many different researchers. More on this next week.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

March 14, 2016

361 Exercise and Cancer [14 March 2016]

Among its many other benefits, exercise is an important part of cancer treatment and prevention. Research has consistently shown that regular exercise reduces your risk of getting cancer, improves your chance of recovering from cancer, and helps prevent cancer from recurring. Here are a few examples:

A 2003 review of epidemiologic studies, published in Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 35(11), found that physical activity reduced the risk of colon cancer by 30-40% and of breast cancer by 20-30%.

A 2005 Harvard study found that 3 to 5 hours a week of moderate exercise reduced the risk of death by about half for breast cancer patients. For cancer patients, exercise also reduces the side effects of conventional cancer treatment, shortens hospital stays, reduces fatigue and generally improves quality of life.

A news release from August 2012 published in Medical News Today reported that exercise has been found to reduce recurrence of cancer by up to 50%.

When and how much exercise is required? Exercise seems to have a dose-response relation to cancer meaning the more you exercise, the lower your risk of cancer. In one study 30 to 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise was required to reduce breast cancer risk. But any amount is better than none, and of course you have to work within your body’s ability.

Exercising when younger reduces your risk of cancer when you are older. Regular activity in teen years significantly lowered risk of women at age 40-70 from dying of cancer (and of all-cause mortality). Men over 65 who had kept fit in middle age reduced their risk of lung cancer by 55% and colon cancer by 44%, and reduced their risk of dying from lung, bowel and prostate cancer by 32%.

So how does exercise help prevent and fight cancer? A mouse study published in Cell Metabolism in March 2016 found that exercise activated NK killer cells resulting in a 50% reduction in tumor growth. Exercise reduces insulin resistance which in turn reduces glucose available for cancer cells. But possibly the most important way that exercise prevents and fights cancer is by increasing both the function and number of mitochondria. As I discussed in the last three columns, mitochondrial dysfunction appears to be the driving force behind all cancers.

Source: Exercise Helps Shrink Tumors... March 4, 2016.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

March 7, 2016

360 Two Promising Cancer Cures [7 March 2016]

In the last two weeks I outlined the history of cancer theory and the evidence against the Somatic Mutation Theory (SMT). This week I want to share two promising cancer treatments that developed from the Metabolic Theory of Cancer.

According to the metabolic theory, all cancer cells have the same underlying metabolic dysfunction – the cell’s inability to use the oxidative pathway of energy production, forcing it to use fermentation. Treatments based on this theory should be effective on all cancers.

Fermentation is 32 times less efficient than oxidation in energy production so cancer cells require large amounts of glucose. Simply restricting calories was known to shrink tumors (in fact animals studies showed that many chemotherapy drugs reduced tumors only by suppressing appetite!). Expanding on this, Thomas Seyfried developed the Restricted Ketogenic Diet (R-KD) which produces extremely low glucose and very high ketone blood levels. Cancer cells, with their dysfunctional metabolism, are unable to use ketones for fuel and starve while normal cells thrive. R-KD makes cancer cells very vulnerable to other treatments like radiation and chemo while protecting healthy cells from damage, making it an excellent adjunctive therapy. Also the vulnerability of cancer cells make treatments effective at lower doses, reducing the cost and the degree of side effects.

All cancer cells produce large amounts of lactic acid in the fermentation process. To get rid of it the cells grow more ports in the cell walls. Young Ko, a researcher at Johns Hopkins, discovered a cancer treatment, 3-bromopyruvate (3BP), that uses these ports to preferentially enter the cancer cells where it inhibits the enzyme hexokinase II and kills the cell. 3BP showed unprecedented success in animal trials, melting tumors while leaving healthy tissue undamaged. In 2009, 3BP restored a 17 year old boy in the Netherlands with advanced liver cancer from the brink of death. Unfortunately disputes over patents and lab space prevented Ko from doing further research for many years, delaying the trials required for drug approval.

Let’s pray these two treatments are approved soon. Imagine cancer treatments where you come out healthier than you started! That’s the way it should be.

Source: Tripping over the Truth: The Metabolic Theory of Cancer by Travis Christofferson, 2014.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.