Category Archives: nutrition

COVID-19 Sweden vs Other Countries

5/21/2020 deaths/ million 7 day running average doubling time
cumulative deaths/million/day days
SWEDEN 379 3.3 46
Norway 43.6 0.13 241
Finland 54.9 0.52 138
Denmark 95.6 0.49 120
USA 282 4.02 49
NZ 4.3 0 598
stay home test-trace leadership
isolate example
SWEDEN no yes ?
Norway yes yes good
Finland yes yes good
Denmark yes yes good
USA late/variable POOR poor
New Zealand yes excellent excellent

Sweden was a source of controversy for the choice against instituting a stay-home policy. As you compare Sweden with other Scandinavian countries above you will see a dramatic difference in deaths per million (cumulative), running 7 day average deaths per million per day, and doubling time. The higher the doubling time (in days) the more a country has slowed the spread. New Zealand is the obvious winner. Early and aggressive action, effective test/trace/isolate, excellent leadership and example by the president are the hallmarks of success in New Zealand. Of course New Zealand is a small island with minimal international business and tourism so the comparison is not fair. HOWEVER, their success and strategy are obvious.

The US failed (and continues to fail) on test/trace/isolate despite the bluster and misrepresentations from the Whitehouse. California and Washington instituted early measures with respect to stay-home but without adequate test kits all of US states have been unable to execute the test/trace/isolate strategy proven effective in other countries. President Trump promised California 100,000 nasal swabs per week three weeks ago. They have not arrived. (California Department of Public Health)

Thus comparing USA to Sweden we see that with adequate social distancing, test/trace/isolate, Sweden did almost as well (or as poorly) as the US where stay at home was employed on a variable time line and to different degrees between the states.

You can review worldwide data, download spreadsheets, choose countries for comparison here.

Test/Trace/Isolate + Social distance + Masks4all + cooperation = SUCCESS

Had the US responded early and effectively, stay-home could have ended very quickly and safely with much less economic disruption.

Poor Management = inadequate Test/Trace/Isolate and other measures.

The New England Journal of Medicine published an article discussing the failure of the
USA relative to Test/Trace/Isolate.

Failing the Test — The Tragic Data Gap Undermining the U.S. Pandemic Response

 

The importance of  Reviving the US CDC after annual cuts by the Trump Administration is discussed here.

On March 25 the NEJM published an editorial on responding to the pandemic.

We did not follow the recommendations.

The AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE, a conservative think-tank, published a comprehensive Roadmap to Reopening.

Unfortunately we have not followed that roadmap.

So boost your immune system and meet the challenge with your personal behavior. Be smart.

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. You must follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
  8. Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet. These increase inflammation, cause metabolic dysfunction, and suppress immunity.

THIS WEBSITE PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR MEDICAL ADVICE.

Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob

 

COVID-19: ARDS, CYTOKINE STORM, and GLUTATHIONE

My good friend Dr. Deborah Gordon recently sent me a terrific article on an Integrative Medicine Approach to Covid-19. It confirmed much of what I have discussed about COVID-19 and provides 383 scientific references (many of which were cited in my previous posts). Thank you Dr. Deborah!

In my last post I promised to write about glutathione and cytokine storm.

Cytokines are proteins made by our immune system. When our body suffers an infection, cytokines act as essential signaling proteins that produce a defensive inflammatory response. In a cytokine storm the usual regulatory process that helps resolve inflammation becomes disturbed and self destruction can occur.

With COVID-19 this can happen in any organ of the body but frequently starts in the lungs, resulting in ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome).

In most clinical contexts the mortality rate of ARDS is 40-45%. In the context of COVID-19 it is 80-90 % lethal in most clinical reports (twice the usual mortality rate for ARDS). However, the ICU doctors in the Northwell Hospital system in NYC have been using NAC (n-Acetylcysteine).

While using NAC as part of their treatment protocol of COVID-19 associated ARDS, they are getting 50% of patients off the ventilator with a significant reduction in mortality rates compared to previous reports (personal communication with a Northwell physician and also mentioned in the Review Article cited above.)

This drug (also available as a dietary supplement) has been used for decades to treat acetaminophen (APAP) overdose (Tylenol brand name, also called paracetamol in Europe). If not treated early APAP overdose commonly causes death from liver failure.

Chronic acetaminophen toxicity is the most common cause of liver failure leading to liver transplant in the US.

How does this treatment  with NAC work in the setting of APAP overdose?

“When paracetamol is taken in large quantities, a minor metabolite called N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine (NAPQI) accumulates within the body. It is normally conjugated by glutathione, but when taken in excess, the body’s glutathione reserves are not sufficient to deactivate the toxic NAPQI. This metabolite is then free to react with key hepatic enzymes, thereby damaging liver cells. This may lead to severe liver damage and even death by acute liver failure.”

NAC (n-acetylcysteine) provides cysteine, one of the three amino acids that make up glutathione.

“glutathione synthesis is primarily controlled by the cellular level of the amino acid cysteine, the availability of which is the rate-limiting step.”

So by providing a source of cysteine, the body produces more glutathione which can detoxify the liver damaging metabolites of APAP.

Glutathione is our MASTER ANTI-OXIDANT. Since a cytokine storm involves an overwhelming amount of oxidative stress, glutathione is obviously important.

Clinical research in the 1990s established that the lungs of patients with ARDS are very deficient in glutathione.

A profound 20 fold reduction was confirmed in this study.

“Glutathione is a tripeptide that is able to react with and effectively neutralize oxidants, such as hydrogen peroxide. The present study found that the alveolar epithelial lining fluid of patients with ARDS was deficient in total glutathione compared with that of normal subjects (31.5 ± 8.4 versus 651.0 ± 103.1 µM, p = 0.0001) and patients with cardiogenic pulmonary edema (31.5 ± 8.4 versus 154.1 ± 52.4 µM, p = 0.001). In addition, a greater percentage of total glutathione was in the oxidized form in patients with ARDS compared with normal subjects (30.6 ± 6.1 versus 6.4 ± 2.9%, p = 0.03). This deficiency of reduced glutathione in the alveolar fluid may predispose these patients to enhanced lung cell injury.

Subsequent studies of humans with ARDS on ventilators showed clinical benefit by increasing glutathione levels with NAC.

“In our controlled clinical trials with NAC we found that patients with ARDS have depressed plasma and red cell glutathione concentrations, that these levels are substantially increased by therapy with intravenous NAC and there are measurable clinical responses to treatment with regard to increased oxygen delivery, improved lung compliance and resolution of pulmonary edema.”

Despite these findings decades ago, the use of NAC for ARDS has not been widely adopted. But it would make sense to employ this inexpensive medication, widely used for APAP overdose, for ARDS and in particular for cytokine storm caused by COVID-19.

Oxidative stress decreases glutathione levels and if these levels reach a critically  low level in tissues, organ damage can ensue rapidly. Cytokine storm is the extreme example.

Chronic alcohol abuse also decreases protective glutathione levels in the lung.

In my recent posts on COVID-19 I have pointed out that alcohol (even 2 drinks) suppresses the immune system for at least a few days. Alcohol consumption is a double hit, first as an immune suppressant, then as a major source of oxidative stress and reduction in protective glutathione levels. Two glasses of wine tonight followed by a COVID-19 sneeze in your face the next day could be the difference between an effective immune response (mild symptoms) versus an overwhelming life threatening infection!

Likewise, one night of inadequate sleep (which immediately suppresses immunity) followed by a COVID sneeze in your face the next day could have the same deleterious effect.

Below is a chart from the review article mentioned at the start of this post. Notice the top line states “ADDRESS SLEEP, STRESS, DIET, SUGAR, ALCOHOL

If you have been reading my posts on COVID-19, you have heard this before.

integrative medicine chart

Notice the second row in the chart with escalating doses of NAC as intensity of disease increases. When cytokine storm hits NAC dose recommendations peak and glutathione (available for IV administration) is recommended. IV glutathione surprisingly is not part of most hospital formularies and I have never seen it used in a hospital setting. Functional medicine physicians sometimes use it outside of the hospital setting. IV glutathione has become a sexy and lucrative office procedure in some functional medicine practices.

NAC has high bioavailability, meaning it is absorbed well in our gut. So oral supplementation can rapidly and effectively increase levels of glutathione in the body. IN FACT, treatment of acetaminophen overdose in the ER typically begins with oral NAC (often administered through a naso-gastric feeding tube, passed through the nose and into the stomach) Doses are often calculated by the regional poison control center (available by phone 24/7/365) and subsequent doses follow a standard protocol based on weight.

I would encourage you to read through this COVID-19 INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE review article.

It is thick with science but you might be surprised by how much you understand and learn.

In the chart above there is specific mention of Vitamin C supplementation in escalating doses as degree of illness increases. Vitamin C is an important anti-oxidant and in that sense is a glutathione sparing agent helping to mitigate glutathione depletion.

Other important factors mentioned in the article and the chart above include items mentioned here in previous posts: ZINC, ZINC IONOPHORES, phytochemicals (quercitin, EGCg, curcumin), Vitamin D, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, sunshine.

So I will close this post the way I have closed on many posts related to COVID-19.

Support your immune system.

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. Follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
  8.  Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet, sugar increases inflammation, contributes to metabolic dysfunction and impairs immunity.

In a future post I will describe my PERSONAL approach to dietary supplements in the context of COVID-19. I will also discuss the issue of an ADVANCED DIRECTIVE, in case you are hospitalized.

THIS WEBSITE PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR MEDICAL ADVICE.

Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob

Glutathione review links are below:

Glutathione!

Mitochondrial Glutathione, a key survival antioxidant

Glutathione: overview of its protective roles, measurement, and biosynthesis

 

 

 

COVID 19: Drugs vs Food and Supplements, Part 1.

There are several drug studies underway for treating COVID-19. Millions of dollars will be spent on drug studies. Yet there are several dietary supplements that are known to have anti-viral activity through several mechanisms. Some phytochemicals act as zinc ionophores. They facilitate entry of zinc into cells where zinc can block virus replication. Some phytochemicals (including those that act as zinc ionophores) can bind to the critical spike protein on the surface of COVID-19 which allows the virus to enter the cell. In addition there are many anti-inflammatory phytochemicals that could potentially mitigate the lethal cytokine storm that leads to multi-organ failure in the ICU, resulting in death. Some phytochemicals might have all three effects.

Despite the basic science that would support the potential use of these phytochemicals in the treatment of COVID-19, no clinical studies have been funded. They likely never will. The culture of medical research and practice in the US remains oriented towards drug interventions and surgery. Without a patent there is little profit in finding clinically effective, inexpensive and safe alternatives to drugs.

I have previously discussed EGCg (green tea extract) and quercitin as zinc ionophores. If you have not already read that discussion please go here.

Lets look at the second mechanism of action mentioned above, binding to the COVID-19 spike protein that facilitates cell entry.

Recently several NATURALLY occurring phytochemicals, found in vegetables, fruits, and tea, have been compared to two drugs under study for COVID-19 in terms of their ability to bind to the COVID-19 spike protein. The results are noteworthy.

“The computed activity of EGCG was found to be higher than that of both reference drugs, Remdesivir and Chloroquine”

So a naturally occurring substance found in green tea has greater binding affinity for the critical spike protein on COVID-19 then two leading drug candidates.

The image below shows the binding affinity of various phytochemicals for several COVID-19 surface protein domains (domains are areas on the protein where drugs and phytochemicals might bind and work). The phytochemicals appear in rank order. EGCg found in green tea and available as an extract in supplement form, binds to the viral protein more strongly than the drugs Remdesivir and Chloroquine.

EGCg also functions as a zinc ionophore, as does quercitin, which also binds to the critical COVID-19 spike protein. Remember, the virus must first enter the cell before it can replicate. If the virus cannot enter the cell, it cannot replicate. COVID-19 enters the cell when the surface spike protein on the virus binds to the ACE-2 receptor on human cells. These receptors are found in abundance in the nose, throat, and lung. (They are present on many other types of human cells as well) This binding/docking and entry process represents a major target for drug interventions.

docking sites and polyphenols.png

Curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory activity (potentially mitigating a cytokine storm) has the second strongest binding among the many phytochemicals studied. And quercitin (another zinc ionophore) is not far behind.

You can read this study (a preprint which means it has not yet been peer-reviewed) here.

So both EGCg and quercitin have potential benefit by  blocking the virus from entering the cell as well as facilitating zinc’s ability to block virus replication once the virus is inside the cell.

But that’s not all. Both of these supplements have anti-inflammatory activity.

“Dietary plant polyphenols such as the flavonoids quercetin (QCT) and epigallocatechin-gallate act as antioxidants and as signaling molecules.”

And the cytokine storm that can be lethal with COVID-19 is an inflammatory reaction.

Quercitin is the most abundant polyphenol found in foods:

FOODS QUERCETIN
(MG/100G)
capers, raw 234[6]
capers, canned 173[6]
dock like sorrel 86[6]
radish leaves 70[6]
carob fiber 58[6]
dill 55[8]
cilantro 53[6]
Hungarian wax pepper 51[6]
fennel leaves 49[6]
onion, red 32[6]
radicchio 32[6]
watercress 30[6]
kale 23[6]
chokeberry 19[6]
bog blueberry 18[6]
cranberry 15[6]
lingonberry 13[6]
plums, black 12[6]

EGCG is found in green tea but has low bioavailability.

EGCG in very high doses can cause liver toxicity. From WIKIPEDIA:

A 2018 review showed that excessive intake of EGCG may cause liver toxicity.[15] In 2018, the European Food Safety Authority stated that daily intake of 800 mg or more could increase risk of liver damage.[16] The degree of toxicity varies by person, suggesting that it is potentiated by genetic predisposition and the diet eaten during the period of ingestion, or other factors.[17]

A typical 400 mg capsule of green tea extract contains 200 mg of EGCg, so if you decide to take some, read the labels carefully to avoid taking too much. If you like to drink green tea:

A single cup (8 ounces or 250 ml) of brewed green tea typically contains about 50–100 mg of EGCG.

Part 2 of this series will discuss the cytokine storm, glutathione our body’s major anti-oxidant, and potential strategies to mitigate the lethal excessive inflammatory spiral of a cytokine storm.

But remember, there are many lifestyle choices we make that can protect us against any viral infection:

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. You must follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system

THIS WEBSITE PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR MEDICAL ADVICE.

Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob

 

Study shows only 12% of US adults are metabolically healthy!

What does this mean? The authors of this study looked at several important markers of health: waist circumference, fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL, and whether someone was taking any medication related to these markers. They used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-2016. Only 12.3% of US adults qualified as healthy on all measures. So how did we get into this horrible situation?

Let’s step back and look at modifiable factors that play into these health measures.

  • Adequate restorative sleep
  • Stress
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Sunlight (Vitamin D)
  • Social connection
  • Environmental toxins
  • Rest

I have discussed the importance of sleep in several posts. Following this link you will find recommendations for good sleep habits that can enhance the quality and duration of your sleep.

If you have not watched Dan Pardi’s discussion of “HOW TO OPTIMIZE LIGHT FOR HEALTH” I recommend you watch this.

STRESS

Stress reduction is a huge topic. Managing stress involves so many areas it deserves a separate discussion. But here are some basics. Getting adequate sleep is the place to start. Activities like Meditation, Yoga, moderate exercise (walking outdoors in a green space) Tai Chi, music, practicing Mindfulness, and spending time with family and friends are all potential avenues to reduce the deletrious effects of stress in our lives.

NUTRITION

I have presented one approach to an anti-inflammatory diet  and if you have not read through the details just follow the link. The low hanging fruit begins with elimination of processed foods, sweetened beverages, and pro-inflammatory “vegetable oils” (OILS made from corn, soy, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, canola, margarine). EAT WHOLE FOODS.

TO LEARN ABOUT THE ILL-EFFECTS OF “VEGETABLE OILS” LISTEN TO NINA:

EXERCISE

My post about exercise as medicine can be found here. 

The best way to exercise is to play as described by my friend Daryl Edwards in his TED talk.

 

Most Americans do not get enough, but some get too much. Moderation is important.

SUNLIGHT

Getting outdoor light exposure early in the day and avoiding the deleterious effects of artificial light in the evening (wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening) are two important ways to get the most benefit from light exposure, improve your sleep and enhance your Vitamin D level. Exercise outdoors in a green space provides more benefit than walking the treadmill indoors.

SOCIAL CONNECTION

Blue Zones are areas in the world that have the greatest numbers of individuals living to age 100. The climates and food varies among the various areas. They  all have two things in common. First is a high degree of social connection, strong family ties, lifelong friends. Social connection within a supportive community is arguably one of the most important factors affecting health, longevity, and healthspan. Second, they eat REAL WHOLE FOOD.

blue zones longevity hotspots.jpg

 

ENVIORNMENTAL TOXINS

Part of eliminating environmental toxins includes consuming organic fruits and vegetables and eating meat, poultry and eggs from hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free- range/pastured sources. (ALL PART OF AN ANCESTRAL/PALEO DIET) If you are not familiar with the “dirty dozen” and the “clean 15” head on over to EWG.org where you will learn not only about what foods have the most/least residual pesticides, but also what personal care products and household cleaners are safe for you and your family.

WATER: Because humans have spent the last 4-5 decades polluting our air and water there is probably no water supply that is totally free of enviornmental toxins. To minimize your consumption of enviornmental toxins, filter your drinking water through a high quality system.

REST

Matthew Redlund MD has written a great book “THE POWER OF REST”. Here he discusses why sleep is not enough.

The fact that only 12% of American adults are metabolically healthy should be cause for great alarm. All chronic and degenerative  diseases including dementia, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and cancer rise as metabolic health deteriorates.

Remember, this website offers educational information only. Consult your health care provider for medical advice.

Sleep well, exercise outdoors, laugh, love, engage in meaningful work, drink filtered water, eat clean, eat whole foods, get plenty of sunshine, spend time with those you love.

Doctor Bob

 

Ketogenic Diet, Keto-Medicine

I have spent a few days watching lectures from various low-carb-healthy-fat meetings. There is an impressive amount of solid clinical data to support Very Low Carb (with healthy fat)  diets to treat obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and seizure disorders. Eric Westman MD, author, Associate Professor of Medicine, Past Chairman of the Obesity Medicine Association,  and director of Duke University Lifestyle Medical Clinic gave an impassioned and authoritative talk on the success of LCHF in treating all of these disorders here.

 

Dr. Steven Phinney,  Professor Emeritus UC Davis and presently Chief Medical Officer for VIRTA has given numerous talks on the beneficial effects of a ketogenic diet. He and Jeff Volek Ph.D. have done research for decades on the physiology of low carbohydrate diets. They elucidated the changes that occur in high level athletes as they adapt to burning fat as their major fuel source during and after a period of “fat adaptation”. It turns out that endurance athletes, after a period of 1 to 3 months of adaptation to a low carb-high fat diet (variable from person to person) perform at equal or higher levels as compared to their performance when previously on a high carbohydrate diet. In fact, because lean athletes have much greater energy stored in fat as compared to glycogen (carbohydrate) they can go for many hours longer than an athlete who is dependent on carbohydrate metabolism (not fat adapted). Glycogen is the starch source of energy that humans store in the liver (100 grams) and in muscle (400 grams). Compared to glycogen, fat stores in lean individuals, including buff athletes,  can provide more than 10 times the amount of energy. Endurance athletes who are keto-adapted (fat burners) can ride a bike all day or run an ultra-marathon (100 miles) without taking in any energy source. (They must of course replace fluid and electrolytes). Whereas athletes who have followed a traditional high carb diet must start consuming calories after about 3 hours of moderate-high intensity exercise. Doctors Phinney and Volek have done clinical research on humans with obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes and they have demonstrated superior results when compared to any other dietary approach.

You can learn about their work here:

And here:

So what is this all about? If carbohydrates are restricted to very low levels and instead we consume (healthy) fat as our major source of energy with moderate amounts of protein, then the human body starts to burn fat. This process results in the production of ketones (in the liver) which serve not only as a source of energy but also act as “signaling” molecules that turn on beneficial genes that fight inflammation and turn off genes that produce inflammation. When a well formulated ketogenic diet is followed under medical supervision, diabetics can often get off most or all of their diabetes medications within weeks to months as they lose weight. Improvements are seen quickly in blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, liver function tests, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, subjective energy levels, mental clarity and mood. Triglycerides are reduced, HDL increases, and improvements are seen in the “atherogenic profile” with reductions in small dense LDL particles with a shift to large buoyant LDL particles. On a ketogenic diet humans spontaneously consume lower caloric intake because fat and protein are more satiating compared to carbohydrate. Circulating saturated fat in the blood DECREASES on a keto-genic diet. Refined carbohydrates and sugar (so prevalent in processed foods) produce increased circulating fat in the blood and increased fat storage throughout the body, often leading to fatty liver disease and the long list of chronic diseases caused by and associated with insulin resistance.

A ketogenic diet is also part of Dr. Dale Bredesen’s effective treatment program for early dementia (ReCoDe-Reversal of Cognitive Decline). I have discussed Dr. Bredesen’s approach before. Here is one of his discussions.

You can read Dr. Bredesen’s report of 100 patients who have reversed cognitive decline using a ketogenic diet as PART of the ReCoDe program here.

So what are the healthy fats in a low carb high fat diet?

They include fats found in whole foods such as nuts and avocados, pasture raised animals free of hormones and antibiotics, free range poultry and eggs, wild fish and seafood (avoiding large fish that have high mercury levels), extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, butter from pastured grass-fed animals, and coconut oil. (yes butter is included despite that fact that strict paleo excludes dairy)

You should avoid all of the processed/refined oils that come from seeds, grains and legumes including soy oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil. You can learn why these (misnamed) “vegetable oils” are dangerous and how they were marketed to an unwitting public with the help and support of faulty science by listening to Nina Teicholz here:

There are many great lectures about the low-carb-high-fat ketogenic diet in addressing obesity, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, seizures and more. Go to youtube and search “keto diet”, “low carb high fat”.

Before I sign off I will provide one more link:

Remember, this website offers educational information only. Consult your health care provider for medical advice.

Sleep well, exercise outdoors, laugh, love, engage in meaningful work, drink filtered water, eat clean, eat whole foods, get plenty of sunshine, spend time with those you love.

Doctor Bob

 

 

My Autoimmune Disease: remission with the AIP (and one medication)

In September of 2018 I awakened with swollen, red and painful hands. I could not make a fist. I could not grip a steering wheel without extreme pain. I left dropped items on the floor because it was too painful to pick them up. All of my joints were painful and stiff. My legs were swollen. My wife had to help dress me so I could go to work. The simplest hand techniques to perform nerve blocks were painful. Just putting on sterile gloves caused severe pain. This happened just a few days after a week of camping. I felt weak all over and had trouble sleeping, unable to find a comfortable position.

(My camping vacation included digressions from my typical paleo/ancestral diet. I drank wine, ate some gluten containing foods and some dairy. I ate some wheat and sugar containing deserts.)

As a physician I ordered a variety of blood tests for tick born illness (such as Lyme’s Disease), rheumatoid arthritis, and other disorders that could cause my symptoms. All tests were negative except for an inflammatory marker (hsCRP) which was very high.

I queried physician friends about something I may have overlooked. No suggestions were forthcoming above and beyond what I had already done.

I prescribed myself a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug  NSAID. That provided modest relief but I was still suffering severe symptoms.

After 6 stubborn weeks I consulted a rheumatologist and he diagnosed me as having  “sero-negative” rheumatoid arthritis. Given the choice of several pharmaceutical interventions I chose the least toxic and started a drug called hydroxychloroquine. I was told it would take about 3 months to produce results, and in the meantime should continue the NSAID.

I immediately started to follow the Autoimmune Protocol AIP

Within one week of the AIP the redness in the joints of my hands was gone.

Within 2 weeks the pain in my joints was significantly reduced.

Within 3 weeks the swelling in my hands/fingers was completely gone and I stopped the NSAID. I no longer had pain in my hands and fingers while doing every day tasks.

Within 4 weeks I was able to resume my daily yoga and Pilates routine.

Within six weeks I felt in complete remission.

My rheumatologist agreed that I appeared to be in remission at follow up visit (no signs of inflammation, synovitis, etc., on examination with resolution of presenting symptoms) but he was and remains skeptical about the auto-immune protocol.

My clinical response was clearly way ahead of the expected time sequence for hydroxychloroquine. I concluded that the AIP was a major factor in my recovery.

All X-rays and MRI scans of my joints (which have suffered from osteoarthritis) were negative for the typical findings associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

The autoimmune protocol is a combination of lifestyle modifications involving diet, sleep, exercise, and stress reduction. It goes beyond the paleo diet. The paleo (ancestral) diet  eliminates processed/refined foods,  grains, legumes, dairy, added sugar, and refined vegetable oils. It stresses the consumption of a variety of organic vegetables and organic fruit, grass-fed meats, organ meats, free range poultry and eggs, wild seafood. The auto-immune protocol adds further restrictions: no nuts, eggs, nightshades, seeds, spices from seeds, and absolutely no alcohol.

There are many reasons for the added restrictions under the AIP. The added dietary restrictions are important for what they avoid but also important for the resulting increase in other beneficial foods that are allowed. The foods are omitted because they can cause or contribute to: gut irritation, dysbiosis, act as carrier molecules across the gut barrier, increase gut permeability, and/or cause inflammation. In theory, by eliminating those foods (hopefully on a temporary basis) and substituting nutrient dense less potentially harmful foods, we reduce some of the contributing factors to autoimmunity and inflammation.

For a detailed discussion of the AIP I suggest you visit Sarah Ballantyne’s  website and read her book: The Paleo Approach, Reverse Autoimmune disease and Heal Your Body.

Avoiding potentially harmful foods and beverages while increasing healthy nutrient dense foods represents the major focus of many individuals following the AIP. But equally important are the other lifestyle components. These include obtaining adequate  restorative sleep, reducing/managing stress (Stress Reduction and Health), getting reasonable amounts of playful exercise (this should be fun and occur in a green space as much as possible), sunshine, eliminating exposure to  environmental toxins, drinking filtered water, and frequent contact with supportive family and friends. Without addressing all of these areas one is not likely to succeed in achieving remission from an auto-immune disease.

In addition to Sarah’s Ballantyne’s book and website, if you have an auto-immune disease I recommend Dr. Terry Wahl’s website and book. Dr. Wahl’s, a medical school faculty physician, teacher and researcher,  was wheelchair bound with Multiple Sclerosis and facing death having failed all available medical treatments as well as some experimental drug protocols. She read about functional medicine, paleo nutrition and evolutionary biology in order to create her own treatment plan. One year latter she was in remission and riding her bike 20 miles. She subsequently raised money to do clinical research using her version of the AIP and has published a successful clinical trial.

There have been few controlled clinical trials of the AIP for auto-immune disease, largely because it does not involve drug research (no profits to be made) and because the NIH does not like to fund studies that alter multiple parameters at one time. Unfortunately, NIH funding has followed a drug and surgery model of medical treatment and does not look favorably on lifestyle interventions (one exception being the Mediterranean diet). I hope that bias changes in the future. In the meantime, physicians and scientists like Terry Wahls MD and Dale Bredesen MD, PhD (neurologist/researcher/author, The End of Alzheimer’s) remain pioneers in functional medicine and lifestyle interventions, being left to start their own foundations and raise money to fund medical research.

Both of these physicians have conducted clinical trials of lifestyle interventions (see below) that have produced revolutionary results, largely ignored by major medical societies and medical organizations. Progress occurs slowly, today’s iconoclasts are often tomorrows Nobel laureates.

Sometimes, despite significant clinical improvement with the AIP, some medication remains necessary with an auto-immune disease. If the auto-immune disease has been present for a long time, permanent damage may be present. That does not represent failure. If one can reduce drug doses, eliminate one or more drugs from a complicated medical regimen, and improve symptoms beyond what drugs alone achieve, I would call that success. Anecdotal reports from many patients (including my own) with auto-immune disease, suggest that it is not a cure-all, and those that show significant clinical improvement demonstrate various time responses ranging from weeks to several months in order to see results. But there are no down-sides to the AIP, no bad side-effects, no dangerous drugs, and only potential for clinical improvement. That seems like a no-brainer to me.

After eight weeks of strict dietary adherence, having achieved remission and appearing to be stable, I slowly added back small amounts of eggs, nuts and some nightshades (one at a time, observing for negative responses). I have been successful with that approach. I have not suffered any symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis since my initial remission. I remain on a paleo/ancestral diet and remain very cautions with regards to sleep habits, exercise, stress reduction, and social support. I try to laugh frequently and continue to engage in meaningful work. All of these components are essential to the AIP and to healthy living in general.

The following are links to published studies on the auto-immune protocol as well as links to a similar lifestyle intervention for Alzheimer’s disease. Another link is an editorial on inflammatory bowel disease and diet. The Autoimmune Protocol has been studied for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. In a peer reviewed published clinical trial it improved symptoms and inflammation seen on endoscopy, even producing remission in some patients. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5647120/) It has also been studied for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and found to be effective .(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6592837/)

Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Randomized control trial evaluation of a modified Paleolithic dietary intervention in the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: a pilot study.

Multimodal intervention improves fatigue and quality of life in subjects with progressive multiple sclerosis: a pilot study.

Diet and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A Multimodal, Nonpharmacologic Intervention Improves Mood and Cognitive Function in People with Multiple Sclerosis.

Reversal of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.

Inhalational Alzheimer’s disease: an unrecognized – and treatable – epidemic.

A colleague and scientist (Pedro Bastos), after reading my post, sent the following links to related articles (two by Loren Cordain, and a Master’s Thesis by one of his graduate students). For those interested in understanding the theories of molecular mimicry as triggers and mechanisms in autoimmune disease, Cordain’s work is outstanding.

Cereal grains, double-edged sword, Loren Cordain, 1999, Evolutionary Aspects of Nutrition and Health.

Rheumatoid Arthritis, molecular mimicry, dietary lectins, Loren Cordain, 2000, British Journal of Nutrition

Master’s Thesis, auto-immune disease and Paleo Diet, Trevor Connor

Eat clean, sleep well, exercise out-doors, get sunshine, love and laugh.

Bob Hansen MD

Sleep! You can’t live without it.

Circadian rhythm refers to the cycling of hormones according to the time of day. Every hormone cycles with daylight and darkness, each in it’s own way. Our brain has a master clock, called the circadian clock, controlled by specialized cells deep in the brain. There is a direct connection from our retina (in the back of the eyes) to the circadian clock in the brain. Blue light (part of the normal outdoor spectrum of light) stimulates very specific receptor cells in the retina which in turn communicates directly with the circadian clock telling the brain whether it is day or night. To synchronize our hormones and achieve restorative sleep, we must get outdoor light exposure to our eyes (without sunglasses, early in the day) and limit light exposure in the evening.

Artificial light, especially from cell phones and other devices that emit intense blue light, shift work, late night social activity, poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyle and at the opposite extreme, late evening workouts,  can all disrupt our circadian rhythm preventing adequate restorative sleep. A rare genetic illness called fatal insomnia that strikes adults at middle age prevents sleep and results in death within a few months, highlighting the importance of sleep. Sleep deprivation can kill a human quicker than starvation! Adequate amounts of deep non-REM sleep are required for tissue regeneration, healing, DNA repair and immune function. REM sleep with dreaming provides great benefit by organizing our memory, discharging the emotional content of traumatic events, and facilitating creative brain activity. One night of short-sleep produces a state of inattention and slow reflexes as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol intoxication. Chronic  short sleep and disrupted circadian rhythm results in increased risk of depression, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, dementia, obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, heart attack and stroke, to name a few. Sleep interruption immediately halts weight loss during a calorie restricted diet (likely the result of hormonal disruption). So getting an adequate amount of restorative sleep every night is essential to good health. Here a few tips to help achieve a good night’s sleep each and every night.

  1. GET OUTDOOR LIGHT EXPOSURE ON YOUR EYES WITHOUT SUNGLASSES EVERY DAY, EARLY IN THE DAY. This helps set your biologic/circadian clock. Even on a cloudy day, outdoor light is much stronger and natural than indoor light. It is essential for setting your biologic/circadian clock. If you cannot get outside, stand or sit in front of a large window for 20-30 minutes in the morning, looking outside. Take a lunch break outside without sunglasses. Wear a shade hat instead of sunglasses. Your brain needs to experience natural outdoor light during the day.
  2. Avoid bright light in the evening, especially the light from TV, computer screens, cell phones, which all emit intense blue light and trick your brain into thinking it is daytime. Wear blue light blocking glasses/goggles for 2-3 hours before bed. (Amber tinted glasses which block blue light can be purchased on-line and can be worn over reading glasses) There is also software available that will decrease the blue light intensity of computer screens and cell phones in the evening.
  3. Practice time restricted eating. Limit all eating to an eight hour period, thus providing for an over-night fast of 16 hours. If that does not seem possible try to limit eating to a 10-hour period which provides a 14-hour overnight fast. This improves sleep, circadian rhythm, blood pressure, blood sugar and reduces stress hormones. NO SNACKS BETWEEN MEALS. NO FOOD FOR 2 HOURS BEFORE BED. For every hour decrease in eating time period from 12 hours to 8 hours you get health benefit.
  4. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
  5. If you snore, are overweight/obese, fall asleep during the day, or do not feel refreshed in the morning ask your doctor to order a sleep study. Obstructive Sleep Apnea makes restorative sleep impossible and increases risk of heart attack, stroke and most chronic diseases.
  6. Avoid alcohol altogether and avoid caffeine after late morning.  Alcohol in the evening may help you fall asleep but it results in a withdrawal from alcohol during the night. This disrupts normal sleep patterns.
  7. Sleep in a cold, dark, quiet room. Use black-out curtains, no night lights, no phone charger lights, no lights of any kind should be on in the room. Any amount of light in the room impairs the production of melatonin which facilitates sleep onset.
  8. Have a winddown time every evening. Develop habits of non-stressful activities, soft music, dim light, casual conversation, enjoyable reading. Do not spend evening time dealing with finances, conflict, or emotional activity.
  9. Try a magnesium supplement before bedtime. Magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate, are absorbed much better than cheaper supplements such as magnesium oxide. Magnesium L-Threonate is expensive, but it crosses the blood brain barrier into the brain with the greatest brain penetration of all magnesium supplements.
  10. Manage stress with yoga, meditation, regular exercise (but no intense exercise in the evening.) Perform most of your exercise outdoors in a green space. This provides much more health benefit than the equivalent exercise indoors.
  11. Regular contact with supportive family and friends is essential to health and reduces stress. The greatest predictor of health vs disease is the amount of social connectedness an individual experiences.
  12. Establish regular wake-up times and go-to-bed times. Regular sleep habits are essential. If you must rely on alarm clocks you do not have good sleep habits.

A few words about alcohol, caffeine and sleeping pills.

A drink or two in the evening may help you relax but it disrupts your sleep by causing a mild episode of alcohol withdrawal as your liver metabolizes the alcohol and your blood levels drop. Even this slight degree of alcohol withdrawal will impair a good night’s sleep.

Caffeine impairs sleep by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is the neurotransmitter that increases gradually during the day creating a sate referred to as sleep pressure. Some people metabolize caffeine quickly, others slowly. The slower you metabolize caffeine the longer it takes to clear it from your adenosine receptors. Without adequate sleep pressure (adenosine receptors filled with adenosine in the brain) you cannot fall asleep. Many sleep experts recommend complete abstinence from caffeine and suggest that if you need caffeine to get started in the morning you are regularly sleep deprived.

Sleeping pills of all kinds interfere with normal sleep architecture. While they facilitate falling asleep, they impair your ability to achieve deep restorative stages of sleep and can produce many undesirable side effects including addiction, withdrawal symptoms, sleep walking, sleep driving, worsening of asthma and COPD, constipation, diarrhea, daytime drowsiness, burning and tingling sensations, unusual dreams, weakness, heartburn, etc…. Most importantly they all interfere with cycling through the various stages of sleep in a normal, restorative pattern!

If you want to explore these concepts in depth here are two excellent books that discuss sleep and circadian rhythm.

Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker Ph.D.

The Circadian Code, by Satchin Panda Ph.D.

Eat clean, sleep well, spend time exercising out of doors, love one another.

Bob Hansen MD