(Protect The Brain.) What Was The Role Of Methylcobalamin In The Alzheimer’s Study?

Mom's hollyhocksReversal of cognitive decline:  a novel therapeutic program is a recent, small Alzheimer’s study reporting some treatment success using a multi-faceted regimen which addresses sleep, stress, nutrition, and supplements.  I enthusiastically encourage lifestyle change, particularly regarding food, to address health, and many of the things done in this study, my husband and I adopted about two and a half years ago into our lifestyle–with fantastic health results. I’ve been an evangelist ever since.  (It’s not the stuff they bombarded me with in pharmacy and medical school, by the way.)  Somebody who read that Alzheimer’s-related post posed a question regarding why methylcobalamin was used as a supplement:

Hi Terri, thanks for your great post. I love hearing about diet and lifestyle changes reversing disease. Lately I read about coconut oil and its usefulness in Alzheimer’s – Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure?  Terri, can you tell me why the methylcobalamin and CoQ10 were used?  What were their specific roles?”

In the study (follow the link above), there is a nice table listing all the specific interventions taken and why the researchers chose them.  If you are interested, I think it’s a good read.  There’s not too much detail, so today’s post on methylcobalamin and the last post regarding Co Q 10 definitely elaborate on a deeper level.

And let me tell you before we get started and I lose you to the jibber-jabber, these people were not eating breakfast cereal and drinking juice as part of the plan.  And neither should you or your kids.  My kids will never see a Pop-Tart again.

I see the researchers used methylcobalamine.  Why didn’t they just use the kind of vitamin B 12, cyanocobalamin, I have in my multi-vitamin?

Take 1
Because your vitamin sucks.  That’s why.
Take 2
Because cyanocobalamin is cheaper.
Take 3
My apologies.  There are different forms of vitamin B 12.  The vitamin B 12 commonly in our vitamins or in our injections is called cyanocobalamin and is not naturally occurring, but man-made.  The vitamin B 12 used in this study is methylcobalamin and is one of the forms active in our bodies.  Let’s talk about the differences in these two entities using an analogy about hats.

On hats
Sometimes you wear a hat.  You might wear a baseball cap.  Or a top hat.  Or a cowboy hat.  If you’re going to a formal restaurant with a great reputation and you wear a baseball cap, you won’t fit in.  In fact, you may not even be let in!  Well, cyanocobalamin, a synthetically made vitamin B 12, is wearing the wrong hat to the body’s party.  To change its cyanide (whoa) side-chain group to an appropriate hat requires lots of steps by the body.

On Methylcobalamin
Methylcobalamin is also a kind of vitamin B 12, and it is wearing the right hat to the body’s party!  Specifically it is vitamin B 12 with a  methyl group on it instead of a cyanide (whoa) group and has more success getting into the central nervous system than cyanocobalamin.  The vitamin B 12 in most Walgreen’s or CVS supplements is likely to be cyanocobalamin, the synthetic vitamin B 12.  (Man. I worked for CVS during medical school as a pharmacist to make money to cover Indian food and a movie.  I worked so hard there, I swear they were trying to kill me.  Made medical school feel like a breeze.)  Anyhow, here we go again (remember my folate posts), a synthetic vitamin supplement that needs converted by multiple steps to the active form.  Not a good idea if the active form is absorbable, effective, and not too cost prohibitive.

In an Alzheimer’s patient (heck, any of us for that matter!!!), oxidative stress (see last post for an oxidative stress easy explanation) is rampant and taking a toll on the biochemical pathways of the body.  Providing the active form of vitamin B 12 bypasses the reactions that have become broken and faulty due to oxidative stress.  (And providing dense nutrition and well-placed supplements can allow these broken and faulty reactions to be restored, like in the Alzheimer’s study.)  In addition, Alzheimer’s patients probably, being older patients, have low stomach acid, a condition which decreases vitamin B 12 absorption orally.  They may also be on the diabetic medicine metformin or the proton pump inhibitor Prilosec and thus have low stomach acid, exacerbating vitamin B 12 deficiency.  A GREAT REASON to change your diet and see if you can get OFF those medicines!

OK.  But what does the methylcobalamin do?

Some studies show that Alzheimer’s patients have low vitamin B12 levels.  A low vitamin B 12 level can lead to damage of myelin, the protective coating of our nerves.  Improving vitamin B 12 status can help in myelin regeneration.  That’s likely to be important, but what they say they were after in this study was lowering homocysteine levels.  Homocysteine, an amino acid, can be elevated in Alzheimer’s disease.  High homocysteine is destructive in the brain.  It overactivates receptors in the neurons known as NMDA (glutamate) receptors and leads to cell death.  It leads to DNA damage and programmed cell death.  It keeps the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA from doing its job.  It interferes with the important blood brain barrier.  High homocysteine levels are implicated in dementia and just overall decline in thinking ability (cognitive decline).

Low vitamin B 12 and high homocysteine levels can be linked.  A low vitamin B 12 level can result in high homocysteine levels.  Vitamin B 12, specifically methylated vitamin B 12–methylcobalamin, is necessary to take this homocysteine and turn it back into something called methionine.  Methionine then starts a cascade of reactions which provides necessary protection from oxidative stress, which we talked about in the last post.  Oxidative stress is prevalent in Alzheimer’s disease (and most people eating  sugar and grain-rich diets).

Extra credit paragraph:  Converting homocysteine to methionine requires methylated vitamin B 12 (methylcobalamine) AND a methyl group from 5-Methyl THF or “folate.” (Folate post 1 and folate post 2.)  (Eat real food.  Eat your greens and broccoli.  Eat your meat.)  From methionine, SAM is formed, which goes on to assist in many methylation reactions.  For those of you who are getting started in this alternative health area, you may have went googly-eyed over the forums where people start talking about methylation and methylation pathways.  You wanted to pull your hair out and tell them to stop it.  This homocysteine to methionine is a methylation process.  And don’t feel bad.  I used to stop reading right there too.  I didn’t want to go through those pathways again by choice!  But it’s all an onion.  Layer by layer by layer we learn if we persist.

Closing

Methylcobalamin was used as part of a multi-faceted approach to reverse symptoms and brain changes in Alzheimer’s dementia.  There was some preliminary success!  Many of the changes we can implement in our own lives and our children’s lives, without popping a pill!  Methylcobalamin helps lower homocysteine and power our “detoxification” systems.  Food sources are mostly, if not entirely, considered to be meats.  Liver is king.  If you are vegan or vegetarian, I encourage you to read up on vitamin B 12 so you do not get deficient.  Also, if you don’t like meat, you pop prescription medicines which could interfere with B 12, or you eat a crummy diet.  This is important.  It is your brain we are talking about here.

And just some last ideas to chew on.  Vitamin B 12 absorption decreases as we age.  Acid reflux medicines can interfere with vitamin B 12 absorption.  Vitamin B 12 lab values can be in normal range and a patient still be vitamin B 12 deficient.

Be diligent.  Don’t use the internet as your doctor.  My blog posts are not meant to be medical advice or treatment advice.  I stay at home and fold laundry, while reading “Go, Dog, Go” all day; don’t trust me.  Discuss all health changes with your favorite doctor.

Terri

 

References:

1.  The Neuropsychiatry of Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Elderly Patients.  Christian Lachner, M.D.; Nanette I. Steinle, M.D.; William T. Regenold, M.D., C.M.  The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2012;24:5-15. doi:10.1176/appi.neuropsych.11020052

http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=1034883

2. Low vitamin B-12 status in confirmed Alzheimer’s disease as revealed by serum holotranscobalamin.  H Refsumi, AD Smith.  J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2003;74:959-961 doi:10.1136/jnnp.74.7.959

http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/74/7/959.full

3.  Methylcobalamin Facilitates Collateral Sprouting of Donor Axons and Innervation of Recipient Muscle in End-to-Side Neurorrhaphy in Rats.  Wen-Chieh Liao,  Yueh-Jan Wang,  Min-Chuan Huang,  Guo-Fang Tseng.  September 30, 2013.  DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076302

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0076302

What Is Coenzyme Q 10? Why Was It Used In The Small Alzheimer’s Study? What is Oxidative Stress? Statins and Coenzyme Q 10.

“Hi Terri… I love hearing about diet and lifestyle changes reversing disease. Lately I read about coconut oil and its usefulness in Alzheimers – Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure?   Terri, can you tell me why the methylcobalamin and CoQ10 were used?  What were their specific roles?”

Please refer to last post for the article this question refers to.

wpid-IMAG1043.jpgIn medical school, the basic science classes are usually contained to the first two years of study, classes like physiology, biochemistry, and histology. The last two years of school we don short white coats and run around wards and clinics learning how to take care of patients.  We put basic science behind us as we forge forward, identifying diseases in actual patients and learning what our staff doctors do about it.  When we transition to “real doctor-hood,” we all like to roll our eyes and refer to the basic science stuff as “minutiae.”  It is in this “minutiae” that I am learning how food is the best medicine but can be the worst disease.

Co Q 10 ( also Coenzyme Q 10 or ubiquinone) helps make our energy and is highest in our mitochondria:

Where specifically do you find Co Q 10 in the body? It’s everywhere!  Ubiquitous.  But it’s super high in our mitochondria because one of its main functions is helping to generate energy (ATP) via the electron transport chain.  (Egads.  I thought my test on ATP production was over 12 years ago.  This blog is a hobby?)  Mitochondria are the “power-houses” of cells and make our energy, which comes from ATP.  Co Q 10 is therefore highest in organs that are “highly active,” such as the heart and liver, but it is present in every cell since every cell needs energy.  Mitochondria need Co Q 10 to make energy, and you need mitochondria and Co Q 10.

Co Q 10 is also an extremely important, well-placed anti-oxidant our body can make:

Co Q 10 has the ability to easily transfer electrons back and forth in different situations, and so it can block free radical formation. Free-ruh-form-WHAT?  Free radicals.  Free radicals can also just be simply called “radicals.”  Free radicals are unstable molecules and will “steal” electrons from the proteins and fats that make up our cells in order to stabilize themselves.  Good for them.  Bad for the cell (us).  Even in a perfect world, free radicals are actually made in our bodies as a by-product of all the reactions going on, especially in our mitochondria, who are busy, busy making us energy to live.  (Living is good.)  You cannot escape free radical formation.  It’s a fact of life, although our food choices can definitely drastically increase the load of free radicals in our body.  (Eat right.  Eat right.)  Co Q 10 has the ability to give or take electrons to help these free radicals calm down.  I find it amazing that co Q 10 functions in both the production of ATP and the protection from by-products of ATP production; it is a pretty darn cool design.  (Never lose your awe of life.)

An aside on why getting off of statins if a person can is ultra-important:

Co Q 10 can be (and is) made by the body. (Three things I want you to know about this.  One, it takes a lot of other nutrients to make it, so you must eat right.  Two, you can also eat it to get it.  Three, production slows down drastically as we age.)  Because the body doesn’t like to waste effort, it builds cholesterol and Co Q 10 along the same assembly line.  (Cholesterol is not bad.  It is absolutely, positively necessary to live.)  For those who have had biochemistry and pharmacology, statins are made to block cholesterol formation by blocking HMG-CoA Reductase, a necessary enzyme to take acetoacetyl co-A to mevalonate, which then goes on to become either Co Q 10 or cholesterol.

So in our efforts to block cholesterol formation, we are blocking one of the cofactors necessary for energy production and intense anti-oxidant protection! (Through my study of food, I very clearly see that everything in the body is a path that leads right back to the beginning. We must be careful when mucking with the system.  It is best to try to RESTORE the system, the point we conventional doctors and modern patients don’t really want to accept.  We CANNOT beat the design.)  Some patients can actually “feel” this lack of Co Q 10, and they get muscle aches and have to stop the medicines so freely handed out.  To combat this loss of Co Q 10 levels, many physicians advocate for Co Q 10 supplementation for statin patients, particularly as they age.  None of my friends and family members who are on statins has been told to take Co Q 10.  Regardless, their Co Q 10 production is being blocked, and they could probably benefit from Co Q 10—and a strict diet of real food low in grains, sugar, and detrimental vegetable/grain oils.

How does this relate to Alzheimer’s?

It is now suspected that Alzheimer’s disease is due, in part, to damage to the brain’s proteins, fats, and DNA by free radicals. The mitochondria are hit particularly hard, and because they are damaged, they create even more of these free radicals, thus damaging themselves further.  If you know much about Alzheimer’s disease, you may have heard of the amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.  It is felt these changes occur after the mitochondria are damaged.

Mitochondria work extensively with oxygen to make our energy. You will see the words “oxidative stress” associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases.  Let’s manipulate the phrase oxidative stress to “oxygen stress.”  What?  I thought oxygen was good!  Well, it is, but when processed it makes some nasty reactive byproducts.  When the mitochondria use oxygen to make our energy (ATP) the oxygen is made into a reactive oxygen species (ROS) (a kind of free radical).  The ROS free radical goes to scavenge electrons from fully-functioning proteins, fats, and DNA which are sitting there minding their own business and quite content with their electrons just the way they are.  When there is increasing ROS without a counter-balance, it damages structure and function of cells.  In the brain, that’s neurons.

Enter Co Q 10 to act as an anti-oxidant. Not just any anti-oxidant, but an anti-oxidant which shoots like a bullet to a target—right to the mitochondria.  Co Q 10 is more specific to mitochondria than, say, vitamin C, a perfectly good anti-oxidant, is.  Struggling mitochondria play a large role in the development of Alzheimer’s, so using Co Q 10 is a way to boost mitochondrial function and halt damage.  Animal studies support that Co Q 10 reduces oxidative stress, reduces amyloid plaques, and improves behavior in mice with induced Alzheimer’s disease.

Closing:

My hobby site here is not intended as medical advice or treatment advice. You should consult with your healthcare practitioner regarding your health.  This site is only my story of what I am learning in my journey through food.  I am learning that deep nutrition counts.  Taking out foods which lead to inflammation and oxidative stress in the body (sugars, ill-prepared and excessive grains, and vegetable/processed oils) and putting in nutrient-dense foods (vegetables, greens, seafood, organ meats, and fruits).  If you’re wondering where you can get your Co Q 10, you won’t like the answer.  I don’t always like the foods I eat, but “Let food be they medicine…”  Anyhow.  The answer to that question is beef heart.  (And less but still fair quantities in liver, kidney, and muscle meats.)  However, a healthy, young, well fed body can make its own Co Q 10.  As we age or as we acquire deficits, that may not be enough and supplementation via strong food sources or vitamins may be indicated.  Read up.  Talk with your doc.

Methylcobalamin next.  Thank you for the question.

~~Terri

 

Antioxidant Therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease. Ye Feng and Xiaochuan WangOxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.  April 2012.

Coenzyme Q10 Decreases Amyloid Pathology and Improves Behavior in a Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease. Magali Dumont, Khatuna Kipiani, [...], and M. Flint Beal. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2011.  27(1): 211-223

Reversing Alzheimer’s With Food and Lifestyle? For Real?

In the small way that I can, I try to redeem myself and modern medicine regarding food and lifestyle.  I don’t know where we got so off base.  I’m just a stay-at-home mom now who homeschools.  I’m not sure why I can’t just leave it behind and say, “Who cares?  Not me.  At least now I know.”  I guess it doesn’t matter.  I can’t.  You can take the doctor out of the hospital and clinic, but you can’t quell her thirst for learning and helping.

I put this following information on my personal Facebook timeline several days ago, but this morning a real friend who isn’t a Facebook friend (Oh my Gosh, is that possible?) sent it to me with excitement.  I decided to make it a small post here in case others haven’t seen it.  It is regarding a small research study which successfully implemented diet and lifestyle change for Alzheimer’s dementia.

I have three very good medical school friends that I hold dear who are scattered across the United States.  Two of them have strong family histories of premature dementia in their families, and I harp on them about nutrition when we talk by phone.  When the craziness of these days with young kids is over, we all plan to get together for a beach vacation.  I jokingly, but quite seriously, tell them they have to change the way they eat or else they won’t know who I am over their pina coladas.

Anyhow…

Memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s reversed: Small trial succeeds using systems approach to memory disorders

An excerpt from this article, (emphasis mine):

“Bredesen’s approach is personalized to the patient, based on extensive testing to determine what is affecting the plasticity signaling network of the brain. As one example, in the case of the patient with the demanding job who was forgetting her way home, her therapeutic program consisted of some, but not all of the components involved with Bredesen’s therapeutic program, and included:

(1) eliminating all simple carbohydrates, leading to a weight loss of 20 pounds;

(2) eliminating gluten and processed food from her diet, with increased vegetables, fruits, and non-farmed fish;

(3) to reduce stress, she began yoga;

(4) as a second measure to reduce the stress of her job, she began to meditate for 20 minutes twice per day;

(5) she took melatonin each night;

(6) she increased her sleep from 4-5 hours per night to 7-8 hours per night;

(7) she took methylcobalamin each day;

(8) she took vitamin D3 each day;

(9) fish oil each day;

(10) CoQ10 each day;

(11) she optimized her oral hygiene using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush;

(12) following discussion with her primary care provider, she reinstated hormone replacement therapy that had been discontinued;

(13) she fasted for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime;

(14) she exercised for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-6 days per week.”

What Are You Waiting On, People?

I just want to yell, “What are you waiting on, mom, dad, sisters, friends, doctors?”  Do we need to wait on studies to confirm that we need to eat REAL FOOD, REDUCE STRESS, AND GET SLEEP?  Good grief.  Are we stupid?  WE ARE NOT.  Please, do the right things when it comes to food and lifestyle.  Eliminate sugar.  Make treats treats–as in, not every day!  Get rid of all the processed vegetable and grain oils now!  Strongly consider eliminating wheat.  Increase vegetables and fruits.  Do not buy premade food.  Reduce stress.  Get sleep.  Move more.  We doctors have tried to make it too complex for you for years.

And now, geesh, to do it right, it sounds too hard for people!  What?  Buy fresh fruits and vegetables?  But they’ll spoil.  What?  Turn on the stove?  I might burn the house down!  Don’t buy things in a box?  But what will we eat?  Take away cereal?  But my kids will scream.  What will they eat?  Buy fresh meat?  I don’t know how to cook it.  Don’t drink pop?  What do I drink?  Juice?  Ummm.  NO.  Water has worked for millennia.

I don’t want to be a part of some faction who eats weird.  I’m tired of fighting the crowd who brings candy to my kids.  I want you on board for the sake of all of our kids.  I’m not a self-righteous, better than thou, health nut snob.  I’m not.  I’m a doctor who used to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE pizza, pasta, sub sandwiches, donuts, bagels, bread, cookies, cake, Diet Coke, Sonic, candy bars and eating out.  Medical school taught me no different.  So I learned it the hard way on my own thanks to some people willing to put themselves on the line (on-line) when my gut finally crashed.  And I am going back now and applying what I have learned about food to the biochemical and physiological pathways I learned in med school and pharmacy school.  And I am aghast.  Duh.  Duh.  Duh.  You are what you eat.

If you have any questions, drop them in the comments.  Try me.  What are your barriers?  Do you think I’m full of it?  Do you not care?  I’ve got one of those medical school friends burning the house down with coconut oil while her kids run to the windows for fresh air and the fire alarms in the house scream out.  Yay!  I don’t know how she caught the coconut oil on fire, and I don’t care.  She has made the change and she tells me her kids feel better for it.

The research will eventually pile up on real food.  Don’t wait on it.

~~Terri

The Brain is the Boss

STRESS MAILWho’s the Boss Here, Anyhow?

Key Point:  If the brain psychologically experiences stress, it creates physiological changes in the body which are destructive in the long term.  If we are observant, perhaps we can identify signs that the brain is stressed before the body is affected.

The brain is the boss.  If it’s feeling stressed, it sets off a chemical cascade.  The same chemical cascade for when your car stalls on the rush-hour freeway as when you’re running late to your kid’s big baseball game.  Or your company makes cuts only to give you more work.  Or you bought a new house and it’s stretching your budget tightly and you and your wife are bickering more.  Or your laundry stacks up, irritating you immensely.

The cortisol and adrenaline in the short-term make you alert.  So you can stay up late to fold that laundry and eliminate that stress.

The hormones mobilize needed nutrients, like sugars, for immediate use.  Because you’ll miss kick-off if you stop and eat before the game.

They shut down unnecessary organ systems.  The side of the free-way is not the place for that kind of pit-stop.

The brain and body know what to do to help you survive life and death situations (or the laundry it perceives as life or death).  But this nickel-and-dime stress, particularly that which comes with the 2014 lifestyle, reveals a bit of a shortcoming in the system.  Chronic stress brings about high blood pressure, high blood sugars, obesity, low libido (makes sense–the body is trying to deal with itself and questions the sanity of bringing new life to a stressful situation), poor gut function (the gut is not priority in battle), and poor sleep (sleep is not an option when the tornado is looming).

Do You Overlook This Chronic Low-Lying Stress?–Thinking, “It’s Nothing Big.”

Most people overlook their chronic low-lying stress.  It’s just the way nearly everybody lives nowadays and has become normal.  (But it wasn’t meant to be normal.)  Work.  Weekend ball tournaments.  Church.  Teach Sunday school.  Help friends.  Evening meetings.  Wednesday night church.  Kid’s practices.  Pay bills.  Pampered Chef party.  Stay up late and watch a movie.  Call mom.  Get passports.  Check e-mail.  Check social media.  Take car to garage.  Clean your own garage.  Deal with flooded basement.

It never stops.  Life is stressful enough with living, dying, and illness without complicating it with so much “busy-ness.”  Aside from the impact it has on our families and happiness, which I can’t prove with diagrams and chemical equations, the impact on our health is dramatic and easily proven.  So here I’ll take my stance and hope to reach you.  I want to take a better way, and I want to take you with me.

Secret Signs of Brain Stress

Stress takes a huge toll on well-being and healthcare utilization.  Even if your car still works, your wife hasn’t left you, and your kids are healthy, look at the following list.  If you do too many of these behaviors, you’re brain is stressed, whether you admit it or not.  Your brain has control and it’s creating hormones that you just don’t need chronically.  First step to dealing with stress?  RECOGNIZE YOU HAVE IT!

Here goes.  Do you  have these secret stress signs?  Ok.  Maybe they’re not “secret.”  Maybe this should be “Whispered Signs of Brain Stress.”  Tally up your score.

Do you…

  • 1.  Find yourself dropping things more?  A good sign of being in a hurry or thinking of something else when reaching for things.  Make yourself slow down physically.  Make your movements slower and deliberate, forcing the brain to slow down too.
  • 2.  Fidget, bop your foot, or bite your nails?  Often a sign of preoccupation on something besides the matter at hand.  Perhaps your planning supper during a meeting.  Stop and figure out where your mind is really at when you start that foot shaking thing.  Where your mind is tells you what you’re worried about.  Worry equals stress.
  • 3.  Hunch up your shoulders?  You may not even realize it until you sigh and all of the tension leaves the shoulders.  Four times a day, drop those shoulders and let out a deep breath.  But you still have to take control of the stress of each day to permanently stop hunching your shoulders.
  • 4.  Clench your jaw?  Relax it and rub it.  Try to notice when you become so absorbed in thought that your jaw clenches.  Because just relaxing it and rubbing it does NOT remove the thoughts that caused it.
  • 5.  Sigh and it feels so good?  A definite sign that your physically reacting to your thoughts.  You are too tense and something has to give.
  • 6.  Check Facebook and Twitter a lot thus finding a way to “do” something when you feel helpless to really do something?  You have no time.  But you check Facebook or Twitter anyhow.  It allows you to feel like you’re doing something in little snippets of time when you can’t accomplish anything else.  You’d be better served in these snippets of time to shut your eyes, take some breaths, and focus on something delightful to you.  I dare you to try it.
  • 7.  Find you have no time to do your hair?  There’s a difference between choosing to not do your hair and not having time to do your hair.  Which are you?
  • 8.  Frantically brush your teeth because you’re late?  The speed and pressure with which you brush your teeth are direct indicators of stress.  Did you know that brushing hard increases receding gum lines?
  • 9.  Feel angry all the time?  You definitely have lots going on and are feeling the crunch of it.  This anger is very detrimental to health.  And relationships.  When the surge starts coming, find a way to escape the situation.  That’s a short-term solution.  But this still doesn’t stop the fact that you have to decrease stress and busy-ness to help stop this anger.  You must stop this anger.
  • 10.  Snap at your kids?  Either you’re just a mean grouch or you’re displaying signs of stress.  Your brain is searching for peace and the kids are disturbing it.  You can’t even calm yourself down enough to reprimand them kindly and with respect that developing people deserve.  You’re developing them into kids with stress.
  • 11.  Tell your kids “not now?”  Lots going on.  Too much of this alienates your kids from you.  Like that song that sings about “…cat’s in the cradle…silver spoon…man in the moon…when you comin’ home dad…don’t know when…I’m gonna’ be like you, Dad…”  Do you know that one?  You should.  Makes me cry every time.
  • 12.  Eat out frequently?  A sure sign you’re busy or lazy.  Or probably lazy because you’re busy.
  • 13.  Skip exercise?  Just no time.  Although exercise helps with stress, it is often the first to go when stressed.  And I agree that trips to the gym take time.  What about a walk down the street?  Or jogging up and down the stairs in your house for 5 minutes.
  • 14.  Find yourself criticizing the incompetency of others?  Mistakes of other people cut into your time, it’s true.  When your brain has had enough, it can’t handle its own mistakes PLUS the mistakes of others.  No room for that.
  • 15.  Pace?  The brain is forcing the body to march onward in battle.  Or onward to find food in famine.  Never stopping.  Always onward under stress.

How’d you do?  Let’s set our score.  What do you say?

0-4  You’re keeping the brain pacified, whether or not life is calm.  Good work.
5-8  You’re on the edge.  Better learn to calm the brain or remove situations bothering it.  You still have time.
9-12  The brain is pumping on the hormones which are pumping on the body.  If this keeps up, you can count on measurable changes such as high blood pressure, high heart rate, irregular heart rate, expanding waist line, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, or insomnia.
10-15  The brain is a bloody general screaming from the bucking stallion in battle.  “Onward, hardy, bedraggled, down-trod soldiers.  We have no room for pause.  Onward.  Onward.  Onward.”  You know you’re stressed.  Your body knows it’s stressed.  You didn’t need this quiz.  You need to change your brain’s response to stressors that can’t be changed and change the stressors that can be changed.

Recognize behaviors indicating stress.  I couldn’t list them all.  What did I leave out?

And then if you care to share, how have you permanently molded the brain to “not be stressed?”  Recognition helps, but change is what we’re shooting for.  A massage only lasts an hour and costs too much.

Thanks to my daughter for helping with the photo.  I admit.  With the addition of a newborn baby and moving my preschool daughter up to kindergarten in our homeschool, I am stressed.  :-)

~~Terri

A Riddle

It’s Sunday.  Let’s talk about sin.  (Guffaw.  Guffaw.)  Please identify the answer to this simple riddle.

Black sin.

White sin. 

Sweet sin.

Why do I always give in?

Give it a shot.  What is this “sin?”

What excuse do you have for “always giving in?”

Keep it clean.  My kids read this blog sometimes.  Anyhow, it’s Sunday too.

~~Terri

Stress Is Not Just A Feeling. It’s A Biochemical Response.

“It’s just stress.”

Great_Fire_LondonI want to take a moment to clarify something.

The body’s biochemistry doesn’t know the difference between the stress and frustration of a printer jam that you can’t fix and the stress and frustration of your house burning down.  It rolls out the same chemical response to both situations.  Cortisol.  Epinephrine.  Norepinephrine.  And all the dozens of effects those are made to exert in the body.

The body doesn’t know the difference.  It just doesn’t.  For all it knows, it could be gearing up for a huge, bloody battle or a long, strenuous trek across the continent.  The body knows that these situations may not allow you to eat for quite a while.  It will shut down fat-burning pathways.  Any hopes you had about losing weight in the midst of chaos are thrown out the window.

Only your thinking brain knows the difference.  The only hope you have of controlling the body’s biochemical stress response which can wreak havoc on the heart, blood vessels, waist line, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, or ability to fight off colds is the ability to you have to quell your mind and its reaction to external forces.  Or to remove impeding obstacles.

So in our day-to-day lives, if we allow the little things to bother us and tax us, the body responds the exact same way.  Screaming baby while you’re trying to cook supper.  Late for work and hitting every red light.  Laundry piling up higher and higher along with the bills.  Preacher went over his time limit at church.  Too many meetings and get-togethers every night of the week.  You just get puffier, fatter, and more drained at every stressful encounter.

Do what it takes to either change your situation or change your mind in response to the situation.  It’s not just stress.  It’s health. 

Do what it takes.  Your body will thank you because it was tired of fighting off alien invaders to save your family.  Your family will thank you too.  They miss the real you.

~~Terri

Image:  Great Fire London 1666 from Wikimedia Commons.  Link: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Fire_London.jpg

Curing My Colon

Last post was my personal gastrointestinal story.  Did you come back for more?  Really?  I know.  Forget Freud and his envy idea.  Freud had it all wrong.  I have the real psychological envy theory figured out.  What is it you ask?  Drumroll.  We all desire something actually within our reach.  More drumrolling.  Whether male or female.  Final drumroll.  Colon health.  Yep.  Forget those nether male parts.  I want none of that.  But colon health?  Sure.  A little bit of “colon envy?”  Probably so.

How did I achieve the object of my heart’s desire, colon health?  Let me tell you.  (But let me first remind you that this is a personal story.  It is not intended and should not be used as medical advice.  Eating real food could be dangerous for your health, and I must tell you so for your own good.)

1.  Massive nutritional intervention (aka dietary overhaul):

Did I say massive?  Oh, man.  Was it.  My nutrition has changed so much, I don’t even recognize food served at potlucks and ball parks anymore.  (Our soccer club is begging for parents to work in the concession stand.  Not this mama.  I’d lose sleep if I handed any of that stuff out.)  I started a diet called GAPS and followed it for 18 months before diversifying what I ate.  People really get hung up on names of diets, which I disagree with, but I certainly now know that a person has to have a blueprint to follow to start changing their diets.  I would have failed without a guide. What people eat has become so off base, so unnatural, that we CANNOT see it.  A real food-based diet was key.

So what do I eat?  The bottom line is I eat REAL, unprocessed food and I usually try to avoid grains.  My diet is rich in vegetables (all types but particularly greens), fats (plenty of it), fruits, and fresh meats.  You will find my diet devoid of processed foods, sugar, processed flours, low in grains, and devoid of processed oils like vegetable oil.  Did I mention that my diet was rich in vegetables?  Well, my diet is rich in vegetables.

But diet alone wouldn’t kick the colon and relieve my envious spirit.

2.  Identification of food intolerances:  

I was shocked, appalled, and disgusted when the GAPS introduction diet helped me identify food intolerances for two reasons.  One, I love to eat.  Two, food intolerances seemed so, oh, I don’t know, just so weak and finicky.  (I didn’t like the thought of being that dinner guest.)  For awhile, I told myself the intolerances were just in my head.  But careful exclusion and reintroduction revealed that I had sensitivities to dairy, nuts, coconut, chicken, eggs and certain fruits and vegetables.  I also knew that gluten was problematic too.  Definitely some of those foods slowed my gut down and I had to take them out.  Out.  Out. Out.  Dairy, nuts, gluten, and eggs were worst offenders for me.  (This will lead to my next saga of curing my leaky gut.  Leaky gut leads to food intolerances.)

But diet and removal of problematic foods were not Holy Grails in my colonic development.

3. Experimented with probiotics: 

I have used many types of probiotics and probiotic foods (and drinks).  I don’t always use the same kind.  My gut is moving now with one called Jarrow Ideal Bowel Support (lactobacillus plantarum).  But last fall before I got pregnant, it was moving with VSL #3.  (VSL#3 increases butyrate.)  There was a period where it moved with GI Pro Health’s lactobacillus  acidophilus.  But never could I deviate from my diet and  high dose magnesium.  Some people have success with S. boulardi and soil based organisms, but these didn’t help me when I tried them.  For me, it does seem valuable to drive up the dose to about 40 billion colony forming units daily.  That is usually much higher than the labeled dose.  Probiotics may help decrease inflammation, provide a better environment for the host’s normal bacteria, and may also make metabolites to feed other host bacteria.

Although much improved with diet, intolerance identification, and probiotics, my colon was still in Freudian-like angst.

4.  Removed Mirena IUD:  

I do not recommend this if you REALLY do not want an addition to your family.  (For us–Welcome Baby Girl Number Four!)     But progesterone is known to influence GI peristalsis, so to gain any edge I could, I had my Mirena IUD, which provides a little progesterone, removed.  Incredibly, for about two weeks after the Mirena was out, my gut moved well on its own, only to revert to its usual slow self.  Hormones definitely play a role in constipation.  I hope to have more posts on this later.

Colon health still evaded my pursuits…

5.    Working on GI colon barrier:

The integrity of the GI tract, its bacterial flora, and its mucous layer is important.  If I can help these to be restored, I can decrease chronic inflammation in the gut which could irritate and exacerbate my bowel troubles.  To work on my GI colon barrier I incorporate homemade broths and gelatin into my diet.  I remove known inflammatory foods and foods that I am intolerant to, which would increase inflammation.  I use the probioitics.  Butyrate is known to be anti-inflammatory in the gut, and I started taking that.

Yee-haw.  That just about takes care of it!

6.  Butyrate:

For me, this supplement called butyrate (butyric acid) finally allowed me to stop taking anything for constipation.  Now I have to get off of the butyrate again (like last fall)!  I have loads of posts on butyrate, and although it seems very safe, I still don’t like supplements.  Assuming you have the appropriate bacteria in your colon, you can eat particular foods to increase butyrate production.  After having a baby recently, I have once again resumed butyrate and will try to transition to butyrate-producing foods once again to see if I can be supplement-free for my GI tract like I was briefly last fall!

Colon envy averted.

7.  Other implemented changes that don’t work in isolation but help in a minor way:  

  • Find quiet time to sit without interruptions:  Not an easy task to accomplish but it seems to help.  No TV.  No cleaning.  Just sitting and reading. The gastro-colic reflex is great in the morning, and so getting up early before everybody else and before the stress of the day helps capitalize on this natural reflex.  If I miss this window, I may skip that day.
  • A warm drink in the morning:  It seems to offer a slight nudge.  Caff, decaf, or tea.
  • Feet on a stool to help anatomical alignment:  I used my kids’ little step-stool for a long time.  Then I bought a Squatty Potty, but my step stool was just as good.  Let me tell you, a Squatty Potty or step stool is NOT going to get your bowel MOVING again if you don’t even have urges.  But it may provide better anatomical alignment so that if you have stool in your rectal vault and an urge, it is easier to pass.
  • Large meals rather than grazing:  A large meal stimulates the gastro-colic reflex more than a small snack.  The term gastro-colic reflex refers to the movement of the colon in response to a meal.
  • Cherries:  I hate to mention one food which helps.  For so many years I had to listen to people tell me to just eat prunes, sauerkraut, pickles, or watermelon.  “If that doesn’t do it–you’ve got problems.”  Well, yes I did.  No food ever, ever helped me.  If it had, I would have been content to stop right there.  But this past summer, I found that those large, red cherries actually did help peristalsis.  Of course, bowls of them.  So I tried some dried cherries.  Worked, too.
  • Bowl retraining:  As the rectum and colon are under chronic distention from chronic constipation and stool in the rectal vault, they will “reset” themselves to accommodate more stool.  Thus, it will take even more distention and pressure to make it push stool out the vault.  If you’ve had constipation long enough, you may need to have some bowel retraining, which you can ask your doctor about.  It may require biofeedback exercises and enemas.  Enemas are not good to use routinely.

 

Closing:

Despite my attempts at humor, if constipation is your problem, so much so that you’re considering a colectomy, then I strongly encourage you to ask your doctor if it’s okay to try the things I talk about above.  I know some of you are just about unresponsive to anything.  You may not achieve complete success, but maybe if you can get some of the simple over-the-counter meds working for you again, you might be able to avert a huge surgery.  When I started this journey, I had to take high dose over the counter meds to get my GI tract to move three days later.  Slowly, with these changes, magnesium started working again.  And now, I’m actually confident I’ll be med-free for constipation in the near future.  And along the way, I’ve shed headaches, fatigue, and allergy prescriptions.  I’ve left some things out that I’ve tried since they didn’t seem to contribute greatly, but maybe they did more than I know.  I don’t mind questions.  Good luck.  The best to you.

Remember, this is my story.  Please seek the advice and treatment of a real, live doctor you trust.

Terri