The sodium-potassium balance (Pt. 2)

The exchange pumps

The outward sodium current generated by the sodium-potassium pump must move back into the cell to complete a closed circuit. Sodium must do this through what is known as the ‘exchange pumps’. These pumps are also located on the cell membrane and their job is to regulate other functions of the cell: the ‘sodium-acid exchange acid pump (Na+/H+)’ controls the levels of acid inside the cell, and the ‘sodium-calcium exchange calcium pump’ (Na+/Ca2+) controls the amount of calcium inside the cellThis means that every cell in the body takes advantage of the sodium current generated by the sodium potassium pump in order to perform other functions. Like we said before, a slowing down of the sodium-potassium pump will have tremendous consequences on overall health, including these two pumps.

The sodium acid (Na+/H+) exchange acid pump

As we saw in previous blogs, cell detoxification is an essential part of health. We explained that as a normal part of a cell’s life, cells produce acid that needs to be removed on a regular basis; failure to do so would result in the shutting down of the energy machinery and the death of the cell. If there was no mechanism to pump acid out of the cell, since the inside is negative, compared to the outside, this would pull so much acid inside the cell that the pH inside the cell would go down to about 6.0, far too low to be compatible with healthy function. The ‘acid pump’, therefore, has the important job of removing excess acid (H+) out of the cell.

The acid pump gets its energy not from ATP but from the electrical current generated by the sodium-potassium pump (via sodium ions). It works by exchanging sodium for acid across the cell membrane, this means that sodium moves into the cell and an acid is taken out. Its main role is to keep acid from piling up in the cell, but it also has the important function of influencing the pH of the inside of the cell which in turn affects directly how enzymes inside the cell function. In turn, this regulates many cellular functions, one very important example is the hormone insulin.

Dr. Richard D. Moore, together with other doctors, obtained evidence that insulin increases the pH inside the cell via the sodium-acid exchange pump by moving acid outside of the cell and therefore increasing the pH inside the cell. They theorized that through this mechanism insulin stimulates glycolysis, the first step in the metabolism of glucose, as it enters the cell. Dr. Moore discovered that when there is no sodium outside the cell, the sodium-acid exchange pump runs backwards, pumping acid into the cell. Low potassium can also cause sodium to stay inside the cell. This shows once again how an imbalance between sodium and potassium inside and outside the cell can have catastrophic consequences for health.

Other aspects of health that are affected by this imbalance are:

  1. Protein synthesis
  2. Cell growth
  3. The manufacture of new DNA and subsequent cell division

This also explains how diet is crucial in this aspect, eating too many acidic foods can cause electrolyte imbalances, changing pH levels to a state of acidosis (3). A diet high in alkalizing minerals like kelp, garlic, found in the ‘Heart and Body Extract’, and green leafy vegetables can bring our bodies back to the balance it needs to function properly. What is important to remember here is that the pH inside the cell depends on the balance between sodium and potassium.

The sodium-calcium exchange calcium pump (Na+/Ca2+)

Another pump that uses the electrical current produced by the sodium potassium pump is the ‘sodium-calcium exchange calcium pump’ (Na+/Ca2+). This pump removes excess calcium from the inside the cell, by exchanging one calcium ion (Ca2+) for three sodium ions. This means it moves three sodium ions in and takes one calcium out. Since this pump is powered by the sodium-potassium pump, anything that slows this pump will slow the sodium-calcium pump, with tremendous implications for our health. How? Keeping the level of calcium inside the cell low is critical, because small variations in this low level of calcium influence cell function greatly. For example, a small increase in the level of calcium inside muscle cells causes them to contract more than needed, leading to hypertension.

The increase in calcium inside cells results in other imbalances like:

  1. Decreased effectiveness of insulin (inability of insulin to remove glucose from the blood, leading to diabetes)
  2. Disturbance of fat and cholesterol metabolism
  3. Narrowing of the smallest arteries leading to high blood pressure
  4. Increased growth and division of cells

All of this creates an increase in the pH inside cells through the body, possibly leading to the development of cancer.

Sodium-potassium imbalances, excess calcium and hypertension

Low potassium slows the sodium-potassium pump increasing sodium inside the cells and decreasing membrane potential across the cell surface. Dr. Moore warns about the ‘deadly’ consequences of a dietary imbalance between sodium and potassium, consequences that have only begun to be understood. This imbalance is seen mostly in people with hypertension, therefore high blood pressure is an indicator of low potassium (hypokalemia).

The level of sodium inside cells of hypertensive lab rats was found to be a 40% higher and the voltage of their membranes was decreased by 3%, compared to rats with normal blood pressure. Thus, high blood pressure can be used as an indicator of low potassium and high sodium inside the cells.

This imbalance also has consequences in the other pumps we looked at. The sodium-calcium exchange pump is very sensitive to increased sodium inside the cells. An increase of 5% sodium translates into at least 15-20% increase in the level of calcium, which could cause as much as 50% increase in resting tension of the small resistance arteries. For hypertensive rats this was observed to be much higher, up to 100-200% higher. In kidney cells this meant a 64% increase.

What does this elevated calcium translate into? First of all, in muscle cells this increase means the muscles contract more. In the smaller arteries this increased tone, narrows the artery, increases peripheral resistance and raises blood pressure. An increase in the calcium levels inside sympathetic nerves that regulate blood vessel contraction would also increase the release of transmitting hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline). This causes further contraction of the smooth muscle cells of the small resistance arteries.

High calcium inside cells also means:

  1. Increase in growth and division of cells
  2. Increase in the production of collagen
  3. Alterations in protein synthesis
  4. Alterations on the rate at which proteins are made and the way they are assembled together into larger structures

We are out of balance

Since it is the balance of sodium and potassium that counts, our high sodium and low potassium diets put us at risk. Our bodies are not designed to withstand such an extreme dietary imbalance, especially when it is maintained through the years.

In practical terms, increasing the sodium-potassium ratio should be done always slowly according to Dr. Moore, because a body deficient in potassium takes more time to adapt to increased dietary potassium. The presence of hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease and some drugs can slow the body’s adaptation to increased dietary potassium. In these cases, changes in the potassium to sodium balance may require the advice of a physician.

Because the body has so many complex and interrelated regulatory mechanisms, once they are adapted to a situation they require some time to adapt to another. We should not make changes to the body too quickly, because it may not be able to adapt. Since sodium and potassium are interconnected with so many regulatory systems, changing the dietary level of these two minerals too suddenly, especially if they are changed at the same time, could be dangerous.

What is more, since the kidneys excrete excess potassium, an excessive elevation of potassium could result in kidney disease serious enough to involve an inability to excrete potassium. Therefore, Dr. Moore advises to consult with a doctor to rule out kidney problems before increasing the sodium-potassium ratio.

People with hypertension, on diuretics, with magnesium deficiency or hypokalemia, diabetes, kidney insufficiency, and metabolic acidosis all can have an inability to regulate potassium. This is also the case of users of certain drugs like beta blockers, potassium sparing diuretics, ACE inhibitors, etc. A good idea is to start by slowly reducing the intake of sodium through a period of one week, once it has been decreased significantly, one can start increasing potassium with an alkaline diet.

How out of balance are we?

Our dietary intake of potassium should be at least 4-5 times higher than that of sodium. Our ancestors used to have this ratio, even higher on potassium (16:1 ratio). However, our current dietary sodium is about ten times what it should be, around 4,000 mg/day. To make matters worse the average American diet gets about half the daily potassium necessary. This translates into a ratio of 0.6, much worse than 1:1.

How much sodium and potassium do we need?

Surprisingly, a lot less sodium than we think. Some health care professionals estimate we need from 50 mg to 230 mg per day. This points to a minimum required amount of sodium of not more than 100 mg-300 mg. The ‘National Academy of Sciences’ recommends a minimum daily intake of 500 mg. The FDA recommendation is of 2,500 mg a day. Other health care professionals using ‘hair tissue mineral analysis’ (HTMA) like Dr. Robert Selig, explain that ratios are very personal and should only be recommended based on a study of the person’s mineral ratios on a regular basis (twice a year). This is due to the fact that there are many factors influencing mineral ratios in the body like stress, environmental conditions, etc. For this, a hair sample of the patient is taken in order to study the present levels of minerals inside and outside the cell. Blood tests are not considered reliable according to HTMA practitioners because the blood is only a transport system, therefore it does not show how much is actually being used by the cells.

When it comes to potassium, Dr. Young estimates that healthy adults should consume as much as 10,000 mg/day. According Dr. Eric Berg, a minimum of 4,700 mg is needed, that is 7 to 10 cups of vegetables a day. This recommendation goes along the alkaline diet we discussed in previous blogs.

A simple solution

Decreasing the risk of hypertension, stroke, osteoporosis, and other salt linked health problems can be as simple as decreasing salt intake while at the same time increasing the amount of potassium rich foods. This can be done with a personalized hair tissue mineral analysis to better evaluate mineral levels in the person’s body.

An alkaline diet, together with a good nutritional supplement like the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ can support the body’s own regulatory mechanisms toward a balanced sodium-potassium ratio.

In conclusion

Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that are significant for providing the infinitesimally small units of life called ‘cells’ with the electrical energy they need to do their work. They exist within cells as well as in the fluid that surrounds our cells, and they create an electrical flow when they are in the right balance. Potassium is a specially important mineral for a healthy heart that is usually missing in our diet. In today’s blog we learned that it is the right balance between sodium and potassium that is key for proper heart function. An alkaline diet and the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ can help you bring your body back to balance.

Thank you for reading.

References:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinus_rhythm

(2)  Boynton, Herb, et al. The Salt Solution. Avery, 2001.

(3) https://www.perque.com/pdfs/Joy_In_Living_TheAlkalineWay.pdf

(4) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2vPQYP0dpI

(5) https://www.backtonaturalhealth.com/blog/

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The sodium-potassium balance (Pt. 1)

The health of the cell is of utmost importance for the heart. A balance of electrical minerals (electrolytes) both inside and outside the cell provides a flow of energy that allows the heart to beat with the proper rhythm (1). Due to the constant pumping action of the heart, a steady and constant flow of this electrical energy is key for proper heart function. This is made possible by the presence of pumps on the cell membrane that turn each of our cells into a small battery, capable of releasing and storing energy and maintaining an electrical charge.

We saw how an alkaline diet, together with a good nutritional protocol, like the ‘Heart and Body Extract’, are the best sources of these electrolytes, namely, sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. We also saw how potassium has a critical role for heart health as pointed out by the ‘National Council on Potassium in Clinical Practice’. Such research represents a new focus in the field of cardiology, and one that is receiving much interest from many health care professionals. One of these health care professionals is Richard D. Moore, M.D., Ph. D., who in his book ‘The salt solution’ (2), goes into deep detail about the importance of balancing sodium and potassium for heart health. He has worked with other doctors and published his research on how the sodium potassium pump influences insulin in the body.

In today’s blog, we will focus on his work. Specifically, we will look at how the sodium-potassium pump works to keep our heart healthy, and how it is needed to keep other important pumps working in the cell, the ‘sodium-acid exchange acid pump’, and the ‘sodium-calcium exchange calcium pump’.

Basics of cell biology 

90% of the potassium in the body is found within cells.This compartmentalization depends on its active transport through the cell membrane by the sodium-potassium pump. Before we look deep into this mechanism, we need to understand something basic in cell biology: all cells consist of a surface membrane called ‘plasma membrane’. Across this plasma membrane there is a voltage difference, with the inside of the cell being negative with respect to the outside. This voltage difference is made possible by the presence of the sodium-potassium pump, which acts as a microscopic electric generator of current carried by positive sodium ions.

The main job of this pump is to move sodium out of the cell and move potassium in. The purpose of this distribution is to generate a voltage between the inside and the outside of the cell: With each cycle, the sodium-potassium pump moves more sodium ions out than potassium ions in. The sodium pumped out is positively charged while the inside of the cell is negatively charged.This movement of electric current out of the cell leaves the inside more negative. In this manner, the sodium-potassium pump generates an electrical current, creating a powerful electric field across the cell membrane. The negative charge, and the lower concentration of sodium inside the cell, create a very strong ‘tug’ which makes sodium ‘want’ to leak back into the cell. This acts like a ‘sodium battery’ that is capable of performing work in a manner similar to a car battery.

The energy this battery creates is so crucial, that life could not be possible without it. This is proven by the astonishing number of pumps the body has: each of our 100 trillion cells have between 800,000 and 30 million of these pumps on the cell membrane (4). This great amount of electricity the human body is capable of generating also means that just a slight slowing down of these pumps can mean a tremendous decline in overall health.

It was originally thought that only nerve, muscle and kidney cells made use of the sodium-potassium pump. The reason for this might have been the fact that nerve and muscle cells have the largest potential (70 and 90 Volts respectively). However, it is now known that all cells in the body use the sodium-potassium pump. A nerve impulse, for example, consists of a 1 millisecond switching of the membrane potential from a negative value to a positive value and then back to the negative. This is accomplished by sodium ions rushing into the cell: as sodium rushes into the cell, the positive charge it carries makes the inside more positive. As the inside becomes positive potassium rushes outside the cell. All this process provides the signal for muscles and nerves to contract. When this happens several times, it is the equivalent of ‘running down’ of a battery, which is thought to be responsible for the fatigue we experience when we exercise. The sodium-potassium pump has the key job of restoring the cell’s energy by pushing the extra sodium back out and pulling the missing potassium back into the cell.

The obligatory link between sodium and potassium

Too much focus has been put on just limiting sodium for improving heart health, however, the sodium-potassium pump proves that it is not possible to isolate either sodium or potassium. It is the right ratio of the two that brings cells back into a healthy balance. This is because in the body sodium and potassium oppose one another, when one goes up the other goes down. Increasing potassium causes sodium to be excreted through the kidneys and vice versa. According to Dr. Moore, it makes no sense to talk about one without mentioning the other. He explains that there is a reciprocal relation between the levels of sodium and potassium inside the cell: anything that decreases sodium will increase potassium and vice versa, because the sodium-potassium pump moves sodium and potassium in different directions. In practical terms, without enough potassium, excess sodium cannot be lowered within the cells, in other words, to lower sodium in the cell, it must be replaced by potassium. This is one of the reasons why low salt diets don’t work for people with high blood pressure.

The teeter-totter rule

Dr. Moore refers to this as the ‘teeter-totter rule’. He explains that in the body it is not possible to affect sodium without affecting potassium. Not getting enough potassium and lowering salt intake cannot possibly restore the normal level of potassium and sodium within the cells. This is because sodium and potassium work together: When potassium goes into the cell, sodium must come out and vice versa, because the pressure inside the cells and the pressure outside must remain constant. An indicator of a healthy sodium-potassium pump is a ratio of around 14 to 1 of potassium to sodium inside the cell, and outside the cell the fluid should contain 30 times more sodium than potassium.

We could therefore say that heart health is not a matter of how much sodium or potassium one gets from the diet, but a matter of balance between the two. However, our present diet contains much more salt than our ancestors used to consume, and this has brought an imbalance to the body. Too much salt, without potassium to balance it out, can damage the heart, blood vessels and even bones. Only the right sodium-potassium ratio can reverse this damage.

More roles of the sodium-potassium pump

As we mentioned earlier, the sodium-potassium pump is present in all the cells of the body. Therefore, it has many different and important functions. So far we have explained that the job the sodium-potassium pump has is to move sodium out of the cell while moving potassium in for cells to be able to conduct electricity. But the sodium-potassium pump could do this without generating electricity, and since the body always works to conserve energy, there must be a very important reason for this. What is the purpose for generating electricity?

First of all, this pump helps maintain order in the body, by keeping sodium on one side of the cell and potassium on another side.

Secondly, the strength of this electric field also influences the structure and function of many proteins in the cell, and these proteins, in turn, play an important role in:

  1. Transporting substances into and out of the cell
  2. Transmitting hormonal signals, and
  3. Carrying out a host of enzymatic reactions

Thirdly, the sodium-potassium pump affects a number of functions which in turn influence:

  1. Cholesterol levels
  2. How well the heart pumps
  3. It influences fat metabolism
  4. It allows nerves and muscles to conduct electrical signals
  5. It allows sodium to be reabsorbed into the kidneys
  6. It provides the power for regulation of levels of acid, calcium, and sugar inside the cell (sugar metabolism)
  7. It governs cell growth and division, which makes it significant for cancer prevention
  8. It regulates the response to hormones, including insulin

A minor slowing of the sodium potassium pump can affect all of these aspects of health.

Implications for heart energy

Nowhere in the body is the sodium-potassium pump best exemplified than in the heart. Not only because of the number of sodium-potassium pumps heart cells contain, but because the heart is a pump. A pump can be defined as a device that uses energy to move something in a direction opposite to the direction the substance would naturally move if left alone. For any pump to work, energy is required. Both the sodium-potassium pump and the heart use ATP as a source of energy (for more information on ATP please refer to previous blogs). This is the equivalent of a quarter of the energy our body obtains from the food we eat. In this manner, the heart uses energy to move blood against the potential energy force of blood pressure. In the case of the sodium-potassium pump, it also takes energy to move sodium out of the cell, generating an electric current also requires energy. A malfunction of the sodium-potassium pump can mean high blood pressure, stroke, but also osteoporosis, peptic ulcer, stomach cancer, and asthma.

The importance of potassium in heart health (Pt. 2)

Consensus guidelines for the use of potassium replacement in clinical practice

Low serum potassium concentration is perhaps the most common electrolyte abnormality encountered in clinical practice. According to the ‘National Council on Potassium in Clinical Practice’, in order to maintain normal levels of potassium several factors must be take into account such as:

  1. Baseline potassium values
  2. The presence of underlying medical conditions (such as CHF)
  3. The use of medications that alter potassium levels (eg, non–potassium-sparing diuretics) or that lead to arrhythmias in the presence of hypokalemia (eg, cardiac glycosides)
  4. Patient variables such as diet and salt intake, and
  5. The ability to adhere to a therapeutic regimen

Because of the multiple factors involved, guidelines should be directed toward patients with specific disease states, such as those with cardiovascular conditions, and toward the general patient population. The following list encompasses the guidelines developed at the 1998 meeting of the National Council on Potassium in Clinical Practice. This council has also called for the continued research on potassium to determine specific recommendations.

General Guidelines

  1. Dietary consumption of potassium-rich foods should be supplemented with potassium replacement therapy.
  2. Potassium replacement is recommended for individuals who are sensitive to sodium or who are unable or unwilling to reduce salt intake; it is especially effective in reducing blood pressure in such individuals. A high-sodium diet often results in excessive urinary potassium loss.
  3. Potassium replacement is recommended for individuals who experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bulimia, or diuretic/laxative abuse. Potassium chloride has been shown to be the most effective means of replacing acute potassium loss.

Patients with hypertension

  1. Patients with drug-related hypokalemia (therapy with a non–potassium-sparing diuretic) should receive potassium supplementation.
  2. In patients with asymptomatic hypertension, an effort should be made to achieve and maintain serum potassium levels of at least 4.0 mmol/L. This can be achieved with a diet high in potassium-rich foods as well as potassium supplementation.

Patients with CHF

Potassium replacement should be routinely considered in patients with CHF, even if the initial potassium levels appear to be normal (eg, 4.0 mmol/L).The majority of patients with CHF have an increased risk of hypokalemia. In patients with CHF or myocardial ischemia, mild-to-moderate hypokalemia can increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmia. In addition, diuretic-induced hypokalemia can increase the risk of life-threatening arrhythmias.

The risk of hyperkalemia secondary to drug therapy with ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers, makes the regular monitoring of serum potassium level a life saving strategy for these patients. Stress is something also to be considered in these patients as it can trigger the secretion of aldosterone, and therefore a loss of potassium levels.

Patients with cardiac arrhythmias

Maintenance of optimal potassium levels (at least 4.0 mmol/L) is critical in these patients and routine potassium monitoring should be mandatory. Patients with heart disease are often susceptible to life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias. In particular, such arrhythmias are associated with heart failure, left ventricular hypertrophy, myocardial ischemia, and myocardial infarction. Magnesium supplementation should be considered too in order to facilitate the cellular uptake of potassium.

Patients prone to stroke

In patients at high risk for stroke, including those with a history of atherosclerotic or hemorrhagic cerebral vascular accidents, achieving optimal levels of potassium should be a priority. Although the effectiveness of potassium supplementation in reducing the incidence of stroke in humans has not been demonstrated in randomized controlled trials, prospective studies suggest that the incidence of fatal and nonfatal stroke

correlates inversely with dietary potassium intake. In addition, the association of stroke with hypertension is well known.

Patients with diabetes

Patients with diabetes show a marked decline in the levels of potassium, accompanied by a high incidence of cardiovascular and renal complications. Potassium levels should be closely monitored in patients with diabetes and potassium replacement therapy should be administered when appropriate.

Patients with renal impairment

Data suggest a link between potassium levels and lesions of the kidneys in patients with renal disease or diabetes. Animal studies have demonstrated that potassium may offer a protective effect on the renal arterioles. The clinical implications of these findings are not yet clear.

In conclusion

Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that are significant for providing the infinitesimally small units of life called cells with the electrical energy they need to do their work. Electrolytes exist within cells as well as in the fluid that surround our cells, and can create an electrical flow when they are in the right balance. One of these electrolytes is potassium, which has been shown to have a great positive effect in heart health. A diet rich in potassium, paired with the many benefits of supplemental potassium, like the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ will ensure your heart is well taken care of. Get your bottle today!

Thanks for reading.

Resources:

(1) https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/485434

(2) https://www.backtonaturalhealth.com/blog/am-i-potassium-deficient

(3) Wilson, Lawrence D. “Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis.” Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis, Center for Development, Inc., 2010, pp. 316–317.

(4) https://drjockers.com/6-major-health-benefits-of-sea-kelp/

The importance of potassium in heart health (Pt. 1)

When it comes to the health of the cell, we have seen that the right balance of electrolytes inside and outside of the cell is key to allow energy into the cell. For heart health this is important because the proper flow of electrolytes into and out of the heart cells is required to keep the heart from filling up with water (cardiac edema) and to keep the electrolytes present that allow the heart to beat properly. This is made possible by the presence of pumps on the cell membrane, called ‘sodium-potassium pumps’, that turn each of our cells into a little battery capable of releasing and storing energy and maintaining an electrical charge.

We also saw how the ‘Heart and Body Extract’, and an alkaline diet are the best sources of these electrolytes, namely, sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. In today’s blog, we will focus on the role of potassium in heart health, as observed by the ‘National Council on Potassium in Clinical Practice’. According to this council, low potassium is the most common electrolyte abnormality encountered in clinical practice, a condition known as ‘hypokalemia’ (1).

The ‘National Council on Potassium in Clinical Practice’ 1998 meeting

The critical role potassium has for heart health was studied in depth at a 1998 meeting of the ‘National Council on Potassium in Clinical Practice’. The Council was a multidisciplinary group comprising specialists in cardiology, hypertension, epidemiology, pharmacy, and compliance.

The main focus of this meeting was to study how maintaining normal levels of potassium in the body could help reverse challenging heart conditions. The evidence accumulated confirmed the crucial role potassium has for reducing the risk of life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias, high blood pressure and stroke. As a result of this meeting and its findings, new guidelines for potassium replacement therapy in clinical practice were established.

This initiative represented a new approach to the field of cardiology as, so far, potassium had not been the focus of treatment in any cardiological conditions. Quite the contrary, the many health challenges caused by hypertension and heart failure, had mandated the introduction of drugs that, according to the authors, disrupt electrolyte homeostasis, a fact that emphasizes the serious role of potassium.

The sodium-potassium pump

In their research, the authors were able to prove that, in healthy circumstances, potassium is one of the most abundant electrolytes in the body. Of the total body potassium content (about 3500 mmol), 90% is sequestered within cells, where it does all its work. This compartmentalization depends on its active transport through the cell membrane by the sodium-potassium pump, which maintains an intracellular positively charged ion ratio of 1:10. The smallest percentage of potassium can be found in the blood, as the blood is the main carrier for potassium to the cells. The loss of just 1% (35 mmol) of total body potassium content would seriously disturb the delicate balance between intracellular and extracellular potassium and would result in profound physiologic changes.

Clinical implications of potassium depletion

Potassium depletion, hypokalemia, is one of the most common electrolyte abnormalities encountered in clinical practice. More than 20% of hospitalized patients have this deficiency, and up to 40% of patients treated with thiazide diuretics.

The kidneys, being the major regulators of potassium levels, account for approximately 80% of potassium transit from the body; this is reason why kidney dysfunction can result in low levels of potassium.

But potassium homeostasis also depends to a large extent on the acid-alkaline balance in the body. Acidosis causes the cells to lose potassium. What is more, increases in insulin or glucose, and type 2 diabetes can affect potassium homeostasis as well.

Drugs like decongestants and bronchodilators can temporarily reduce potassium and increase sodium. Other potential causes include diuretic therapy, inadequate dietary potassium intake, high dietary sodium intake, and low magnesium. In most cases, hypokalemia is secondary to drug treatment, particularly diuretic therapy. Diuretics inhibit sodium reabsorption in the kidneys, creating a favorable electrochemical change toward potassium loss.

Hypokalemia occurs less frequently in patients with uncomplicated hypertension who take a diuretic but is more common in patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), nephrotic syndrome, or cirrhosis of the liver, who take an equivalent dose of a diuretic and consume approximately the same amount of potassium from food.

Aside from potassium-wasting drugs, hypokalemia is most commonly caused either by abnormal loss through the kidney due to metabolic alkalosis or by loss in the stool secondary to diarrhea.

According to other healthcare professionals, potassium deficiency is caused by the ‘improper processing of food over the last 100 years, complicated by the fact that the food industry has used super phosphate fertilizers’ (2).

Because potassium is a major intracellular positively charged ion, the tissues most severely affected by potassium imbalance are muscle and kidney cells. Manifestations of hypokalemia include generalized muscle weakness, paralytic ileus, and cardiac arrhythmias. Severe untreated hypokalemia, may progress to acute renal failure.

Protective effect of potassium

Data gathered from animal experiments and epidemiologic studies suggest that high potassium may reduce the risk of stroke. Part of the protective effect of potassium may be due to the fact that potassium lowers blood pressure. Other protective mechanisms include:

  1. Reduction of free radical formation, and oxidative stress
  2. May reduce macrophage adherence to the vascular wall, an important factor in the development of arterial lesions

In 1987, the results of a 12-year prospective population study showed that the relative risk of stroke-associated mortality was significantly lower with higher potassium intake. In fact, the study demonstrated that just a 10-mmol higher level of daily potassium intake was associated with a 40% reduction in the relative risk of stroke mortality. This apparent protective effect of potassium was independent of other nutritional variables, including caloric intake, dietary levels of fat, protein, and fiber, intake of calcium, magnesium, and alcohol. The authors also noted that the effect of potassium was greater than that which would have been predicted from its ability to lower blood pressure.

Similarly, an 8-year investigation of the association between dietary potassium intake and subsequent risk of stroke in 43,738 US men, aged 40 to 75 years, without previously diagnosed cardiovascular disease or diabetes was conducted. During the study follow-up, only 328 strokes were documented. The association between low potassium intake and subsequent stroke was more marked in hypertensive men.

Other investigators also found that the use of potassium supplements was inversely related to the risk of stroke, particularly among hypertensive men. They speculated that this relationship might be due, at least in part, to a reduction in the risk for hypokalemia.

Clinical implications in hypertension

Studies have shown a strong relation between potassium depletion and essential hypertension. Increasing the intake of potassium appears to have an antihypertensive effect that is evident in effects like vasodilation, and lower cardiovascular reactivity to norepinephrine or angiotensin II.

Similarly, correction of diuretic or laxative abuse can also raise potassium level and lower blood pressure.

The large-scale Nurses’ Health Study found that dietary potassium intake was inversely associated with blood pressure. Specifically, intake of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables was inversely related to systolic and diastolic pressure.

Similarly, 24-hour urinary potassium excretion, and the ratio of urinary sodium to potassium were found to be independently related to blood pressure in the ‘Intersalt’ study, a 52-center international study of electrolytes and blood pressure.

Additional information was provided by the ‘Rotterdam Study’, which evaluated the relationship between dietary electrolyte intake and blood pressure in 3,239 older people (age ≥55 years).

Another recent meta-analysis evaluating the effects of oral potassium supplementation on blood pressure, included 33 clinical trials involving 2,609 participants. The results demonstrated that potassium supplementation was associated with a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The greatest effects were observed in participants who had a high sodium intake. This analysis suggests that low potassium intake may play an important role in the genesis of high blood pressure.

Clinical Implications in ‘Congestive Heart Failure’ (CHF)

Potassium depletion is commonly seen in patients with CHF, a condition that is characterized by electrolyte disturbances. CHF is linked to renal dysfunction and neurohormonal activation, both of which stimulate aldosterone, sympathetic nervous tone, and hypersecretion of adrenaline.

The researchers have observed a common misperception regarding angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor therapy is that these drugs enhance potassium retention, thereby eliminating the need to add potassium or potassium-sparing diuretics to ACE inhibitor therapy. What they observed is that, in many cases, the prescribed dosages of ACE inhibitors in patients with CHF are insufficient to protect against potassium loss. Their recommendation is that potassium levels must be closely monitored in all patients with CHF, even those taking ACE inhibitors, to minimize the life-threatening risk of hypokalemia.

Clinical implications in patients with arrhythmias

Mild-to-moderate hypokalemia can increase the likelihood of cardiac arrhythmias in patients who have cardiac ischemia, heart failure, or left ventricular hypertrophy. This is not surprising taking into account the important role that potassium plays in the electrophysiologic properties of the heart. The resting membrane potential (RMP) (the difference in electrical charge inside and outside the cell) is determined by the ratio of intracellular to extracellular potassium. Changes in potassium levels modifies the amount of electricity able to pass the cell membrane and can have profound effects on impulse generation and conduction throughout the heart. Changes in this ratio, such as those induced by diuretic therapy, can alter cardiac conduction greatly.

Something significant observed during this research is that patients with hypertension who were prescribed non–potassium-sparing diuretics had approximately twice the risk of sudden cardiac death compared with users of potassium-sparing therapy.

To prove the link between hypokalemia and clinical heart arrhythmia and to determine the relationship of diuretic-induced hypokalemia, 17 hypertensive men receiving diuretics were studied. These patients had increased frequency and complexity of ventricular ectopic activity during diuretic therapy. However, oral potassium supplements or potassium-sparing agents reduced the complexity and frequency of arrhythmias by 85%, even after discontinuation of diuretic therapy.

There is also evidence that hypokalemia can trigger sustained ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation, particularly in the case of acute myocardial infarction.

Potassium supplementation strategies

All this evidence has led the authors to suggest that increasing potassium is necessary in the case of cardiac arrhythmias, such as heart failure, myocardial infarction or ischemic heart disease.

Repletion strategies should include eating foods high in potassium, potassium salts substitutes, and supplements. Potassium salts include potassium chloride, potassium phosphate, and potassium bicarbonate. Potassium phosphate is found primarily in food, and potassium bicarbonate is typically recommended in the case of metabolic acidosis (pH <7.4).

In our blog covering the alkaline diet we saw how fresh fruits and vegetables are a great source of alkalizing minerals, especially potassium. This includes kelp and garlic (3) found in the ‘Heart and Body Extract’; but also food sources like avocados, peas, beans, nuts, cocoa, seafood, and dark green vegetables.

According to Dr. David Jockers, “Kelp is extraordinarily rich in alkaline buffering nutrients such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. It is also a phenomenal source of chlorophyll to boost blood cell formation and purify the blood” (4).

The role of magnesium in potassium repletion

Magnesium is an important cofactor in potassium absorption and necessary for the maintenance of intracellular potassium levels. Research has demonstrated that long term magnesium deficiency could lead to the inability to replete potassium. It has been observed that many patients with potassium depletion most frequently also have magnesium deficiency. This is especially the case of patients on diuretics, which cause a substantial loss of intracellular potassium and magnesium. Some diuretics accelerate the excretion of magnesium by reducing its reabsorption in the kidneys.

It is thereby recommended considering the repletion of both magnesium and potassium for patients with hypokalemia.

The acid-alkaline balance in the body (Pt. 2)

The alkaline diet

Our bodies reflect what we eat, drink, think, and do. Therefore, our diet should be aimed at alkalizing our body in order to prevent illness and disease by more safely meeting its needs.

An alkaline diet consists of not only alkaline nutrients, but also avoidance of immune-intolerant foods and optimal hydration. It is also about taking care of the soil we grow our food in. Research shows that the type of soil that plants are grown in can significantly influence their vitamin and mineral content, which means that not all alkaline foods are created equally. This is why organic foods, because they are grown in a more mineral dense soil, tend to be more alkalizing (4).

The ideal soil pH for the best overall availability of essential nutrients in plants is between 6 and 7. Acidic soils below a pH of 6 may have reduced calcium and magnesium, and soil above a pH of 7 may result in chemically unavailable iron, manganese, copper and zinc. Soil that’s well-rotated, organically sustained and exposed to wildlife/grazing cattle tends to be the healthiest (3).

The 7 principles of the alkaline diet

According to Dr. Russell Raffe, MD, PhD, CCN, in order to follow an alkaline diet, there are 7 basic principles to follow (4):

1) A wide variety of fresh, high-quality, whole foods

The basis of eating an alkaline diet is to eat predominantly whole foods grown organically. Focus should be on eating plant-based, including fresh vegetables and fruits, lightly toasted nuts and seeds, lightly steamed vegetables, sprouts of grains and beans, fermented foods, freshly squeezed fruit juices, and vegetable juices. All these foods retain active enzymes that enhance digestion.

A wide variety of whole foods is advised, as eating the same foods repeatedly limits digestive and nutritional variety and also increases the likelihood of becoming reactive to those foods if digestion is weak, stressed, or compromised. Focus should be placed on a diverse selection of foods that are easier to digest, assimilate, and eliminate.

Super foods are those foods that are considered specially healing, such as:

  • Seeds, nuts, and sprouts
  • Dark fruits & berries
  • Sea vegetables and mushrooms
  • Lentils, beans, and artichokes
  • Healthy oils, vinegars, and spices
  • Fermented/Probiotic foods

2) 60-80% alkaline forming foods:

The majority of our diet should be alkaline, approximately 60% if the person is already in good health. If the immune system is compromised, the person is reacting to certain foods, or their health needs to be restored in any way, Dr. Raffe suggests an 80% alkalinizing diet. This will help calm the immune system and support digestion.

3) Immune system friendly foods:

Foods that cause the immune system to react should be avoided, at least until the root cause has been addressed. A test can be done to determine which foods each individual’s immune system is reacting to. The test is known as the ‘LRA by ELISA/ACT’, a therapeutic and diagnostic test that can analyze hundreds of common substances known to cause immune reactions, by measuring the reactivity of white blood cells (lymphocytes).

Since many allergic reactions or sensitivities are delayed, occurring hours to weeks after exposure, the immune system can be triggered by any number of these substances without the sufferer being aware of the link. In that case, the body shifts into a constant defensive mode. Identifying and eliminating the substances that are causing these reactions can lighten the burden on the immune system allowing the body to restore and repair itself.

While the body is healing, healthy substitutes can be used instead. For a complete list, including recipes, please check this link: https://www.perque.com/pdfs/Joy_In_Living_TheAlkalineWay.pdf

4) Healthy ratio of complex carbohydrates to proteins and fats. The recommended ratios are as follows:

  • 60-70% plant-based complex carbohydrates:

The alkaline way eating plan should be rich in complex carbohydrates from vegetables, and legumes (beans, peas and lentils), as well as seasonings, spices, and herbs.

  • 15-20% quality protein:

Proteins should be approximately 15-20% of your total calorie intake. This is the equivalent of approximately 50 to 60 grams of protein per day. Sources of protein may include organic eggs and dairy products, whey protein, as well as deep cold-water fish such as mackerel, sardines, tuna, herring, and salmon. Additional protein sources include nuts and seeds, sprouts, nutritional yeast, blue-green algae, miso, and mushrooms. ‘Complimentary proteins’ can be added by pairing grains with beans, and/or gains with dairy. Protein requirements may be higher in the case of pregnancy, recovery from chronic illness, intense exercise, or other specific needs. In special circumstances, working with a healthcare professional is advised.

  • 15-20% healthy fat:

Fat should be 15-20% of your daily calories. Focus should be on healthy ‘omega-3 essential fats’, which enhance the body’s energy production, protein production, and tissue repair. Food based sources of protective ‘omega-3 essential fats’ are found in fresh nuts and seeds as well as cold-pressed organic oils such as avocados, olive oil, safflower, flaxseed, walnut, sesame, peanut, and pure deep-sea fish oils. Other sources include borage, black currant, grape-seed and evening primrose oils. Unless you eat line-caught, oily, deep-water fish more than three times per week, ‘omega-3’ supplements are recommended. When selecting ‘omega 3’ supplements those obtained from uncontaminated sources and not oxidized during processing are the freshest. Unsaturated, non-hydrogenated “expeller-pressed” and preferably organic or oils such as olive, grape seed, coconut, and peanut, along with exotic oils such as avocado, almond, and mustard seed are highly recommended. Trans fats and hydrogenated oils should be avoided entirely as hydrogenated oils can interfere with liver enzymes and are associated with higher cholesterol levels. These artificial oils can also have a negative effect on immune function and are known to promote certain types of tumors. Solid cooking fats such as margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils, lard, and Crisco should be avoided, as well as deep-fried fast food.

For more information on this, please check our blog on fats.

5) Probiotic and fermented (Cultured) foods and drinks:

The term ‘probiotic’ means ‘promoting life’. A healthy gastrointestinal tract is home to a plentiful variety of beneficial (probiotic) bacteria responsible for keeping our bodies and immune systems in balance. Poor diet, stress, illness, and antibiotics can deplete these beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to proliferate. Probiotics in food or drink can colonize the gut with beneficial bacteria.

Some probiotic-rich foods and drinks are:

  • Kombucha (fermented tea)
  • Kefir (fermented milk)
  • Yogurt (dairy or nondairy, with live cultures)
  • Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
  • Kimchi (a spicy fermented cabbage common in the Korean diet)
  • Tempeh (fermented soybeans)
  • Microalgae (freeze dried)
  • Hatcho Miso soup
  • Pickles
  • Olives
  • Natto (a fermented soybean)

6) Plenty of fiber and water:

As compared to traditional cultures who consume 40-100 grams of dietary fiber from whole, lively foods, Americans consume far too little food fiber, around 10 grams.

A minimum daily fiber intake of at least 40 grams is recommended. The beneficial ‘roughage’ from fiber makes the stool bulky and soft and helps to maintain a shorter transit time (the time from food consumption to waste elimination). A healthy transit time ranges from 12–18 hours. This reduces the opportunity for unhealthy bacteria and yeast to dominate in the body. Adequate fiber encourages wastes to be eliminated easily and comfortably on a regular basis. Doing this means less toxic waste matter will be reabsorbed back into circulation.

Plentiful water intake is also key to health, especially when consuming a high-fiber diet. Water helps fiber do its job of efficiently moving wastes through the body. Room temperature, warm water or healthy tea is a better option, as cold water can really slow down digestion. Fresh lemon juice, lime juice, and/or ginger act as digestive aids and alkaline enhancers while enhancing the taste of water.

7) Healthier food combinations:

The way foods are combined can have a tremendous impact on digestion, and therefore overall health. Just as the typical American diet is unhealthy, the American meal, usually represented as meat (protein) and potatoes (starch), combines foods in the least effective manner.

The art of healthy food combining is an important aspect of balanced nutrition, as it lessens wear and tear on the digestive system. Food combining is especially important in the case of digestive discomforts (acid reflux, bloating, leaky gut, heartburn, irritable bowel, diverticulosis, or other digestive problems).

Basic eating and food combining tips for optimal digestion and assimilation are:

  • Simple meals, those with fewer ingredients, digest better
  • Overeating is not recommended. We should eat until 75% full, leaving 25% for digestion
  • Foods that digest faster should be eaten first
  • Fruit juices and healthy sweets should be eaten on their own (30 minutes before or 2 hours after a meal has digested)
  • Concentrated proteins (meat, fish, or eggs) should not be combined with starches/carbs, especially while digestion is weak or repairing. Each of these can be eaten at separate meals
  • Green, non-starchy vegetables pair with everything (except fruit)
  • Cold water with meals should be avoided as it dilutes digestive juices and reduces digestive ability. Warm water or broth to start any meal or 1 hour after meals is a better option. Hot tea during or at the end of a meal may assist with digestion.

Best alkaline foods

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: they promote alkalinity the most. Some of the top picks include the green leafy vegetables, the cruciferous vegetables, wheat grass, mushrooms, citrus, tomatoes, avocado, summer black radish, cucumber, oregano, garlic, ginger, green beans, endive, cabbage, celery, red beet, watermelon and ripe bananas.
  • Raw food: Ideally we should try to consume a good portion of our food raw. Juicing or lightly steaming is also a good option, as it can help release the nutrients stored in fiber. Cooking depletes alkalizing minerals and enzymes.
  • Plant proteins: Almonds, navy beans, lima beans and most other beans are good choices.
  • Alkaline water has a pH of 9 to 11. Distilled water is fine to drink. Water filtered with a reverse osmosis filter is slightly acidic, but it’s still a far better option than tap water or purified bottled water. Adding pH drops, lemon or lime, or baking soda to water can also boost its alkalinity.
  • Green drinks: Drinks made from green vegetables and grasses in powder form are loaded with alkaline-forming foods and chlorophyll, which is structurally similar to our own blood and helps alkalize it.

Acidic foods and habits

An acid forming diet results in cells that are too acid. When this happens, the cell slows down its energy production partially or completely. Another side effect of acid cells is that the body pulls minerals from them and from bones to protect the body from this acid load, causing osteoporosis.

Foods that contribute most to acidity include (3):

  • High-sodium foods: processed foods contain high amounts of sodium chloride (table salt) which constricts blood vessels and creates acidity
  • Cold cuts and conventional meats
  • Processed cereals
  • Caffeinated drinks and alcohol
  • Oats and whole wheat products: All grains, whole or not, create acidity in the body. Americans ingest most of their plant food quota in the form of processed corn or wheat
  • Milk: Calcium-rich dairy products cause some of the highest rates of osteoporosis. That’s because they create acidity in the body. To buffer this acidity in the bloodstream, the body steals calcium (an alkaline mineral) from the bones to try to balance out the pH level. Because green leafy greens also contain calcium, balanced with other minerals, consuming these every day is the best way to prevent osteoporosis
  • Peanuts and walnuts
  • Pasta, rice, bread and packaged grain products
  • Antibiotic overuse
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Chronic stress
  • Declining nutrient levels in foods due to industrial farming
  • Low levels of fiber in the diet
  • Lack of exercise and over-exercising
  • Excess animal meats in the diet (from non-grass-fed sources)
  • Excess hormones from foods, health and beauty products, and plastics
  • Exposure to chemicals and radiation from household cleansers, building materials, computers, cell phones and microwaves
  • Food coloring and preservatives
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Pollution
  • Poor chewing and eating habits
  • Shallow breathing

Measuring your pH at home

The first morning urine pH is a good indicator of the body’s mineral reserve and its acid/ alkaline state. This is because the body routinely uses overnight rest time to excrete excess acids. This capacity varies based on toxin load and individual ability to make energy, to make toxins inactive, and to excrete them (4).

To test pH, one can purchase a packet of pH test paper with a test range of 5.5 to 8. For best results, a 6-hour to 8-hour period of rest prior to pH testing is needed.

The pH strip is inserted in the urine collected and as the tape comes in contact with urine it will change color. The color relates to the urine’s acid or alkaline state and ranges from yellow to dark blue. A chart is usually found on the package and it can be used to match the color of the test strip. Results should be recorded daily or periodically based on the person’s needs or as recommended by a health care provider.

Any number below 7.0 means urine is on the acid side. The lower the number, the more acid the urine. Ideally, the first morning urine pH should be 6.5 – 7.5. If the first morning urine is neutral or just slightly acidic, this is an indication of a healthy alkaline pH. If the readings are below 6.5, this is an indication of an acid pH. Increasing the body’s mineral reserves can help alkalinize the body.

In conclusion

We have seen how the cells in our body function better when our body’s pH is maintained at a constant alkaline level. For that to happen our diet has to contain a high percentage of alkalizing foods. This, together with a sensible food combining approach can make a great difference in our overall health, and consequently, the health of our heart.

Thank you for reading.

References:

(1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpb_X1NNYVU&pbjreload=10

(2) https://liveenergized.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Alkaline-Food-Charts-5.0-b.pdf

(3) https://draxe.com/alkaline-diet/

(4) https://www.perque.com/pdfs/Joy_In_Living_TheAlkalineWay.pdf

(5) http://drsircus.com/diabetes/the-pancreas-bicarbonate-and-diabetes-2/

The acid-alkaline balance in the body (Pt. 1)

Cell energy is an essential aspect of heart health that is made possible by the delivery of nutrients through the circulatory system. A key part of a cell’s energy production is detoxification. Cell detoxification keeps excess acid from building up, without which the cell would have to shut down its energy machinery (1). This would not only affect the health of the cell, but it would create an overall state of acidosis in the body.

We saw in our previous blogs how acidosis can prevent the flow of lymph, allowing dangerous toxins to build up in the body. How can we keep this from happening? The answer is in an alkaline diet, which provides the minerals necessary to buffer this acid and allows the body to have the pH it needs to perform all its functions. In this blog, we will talk about the balance of acid vs. alkaline in the body, we will look at what an alkaline diet looks like and how it can improve heart health.

The health of our cells equals the health of our body

As part of their healthy metabolism, cells produce acid. In order to buffer this acid they must receive minerals. The most alkaline minerals are calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium bicarbonate, manganese, and iron (2). When enough of these nutrients are inside cells, the cell can have a healthy mitochondria to produce energy. When this is not the case, the cell begins to shut down and it is forced to go into ‘survival mode’, where it cannot make the protective molecules that are necessary to guard us from toxins (1).

Normally, the kidneys maintain our electrolyte levels (calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium). However, when we are exposed to overly acidic foods, these electrolytes are used up to combat acidity (3). The consequences of this could be devastating, because, as we know, electrolytes are essential for heart and brain function, among other things. This is where an alkaline diet comes to the rescue.

What is an alkaline diet?

An alkaline diet is one consisting of foods that contain mainly alkaline minerals. Alkaline minerals have a certain pH that our body needs to stay in a healthy balance. In this sense, the pH in our body is determined by the mineral density of the foods we eat, and because of this, we could say that pH health and mineral balance go together.

A 2012 review published in the ‘Journal of Environmental Health’ found that balancing the body’s pH through an alkaline diet can be helpful in reducing the symptoms associated with conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, vitamin D deficiency, and low bone density, among others (3).

Why is the right pH necessary for optimal health?

Our body requires a very tightly controlled blood pH level of about 7.365–7.4. This is necessary because most functions in the body can only happen at a specific pH. For example, the enzymes in the stomach need a different pH to those of the pancreas in order to be activated. Because of this, the body will go to extraordinary lengths to maintain safe pH levels. Consuming too many acidic foods can cause electrolyte imbalances, changing pH levels to a state of acidosis.

When we look at the optimal pH of the body, health then can be seen as a matter of balance between acid and alkaline cells. What does this mean? The cells of our bodies are always seeking for a healthy balance to keep us alkaline. Even a small shift toward more acid is linked to a great increase in disease and loss of cell resilience. When our bodies are in a more acidic state, they are weaker and more vulnerable to disease; our defenses and ability to repair from usual wear and tear are down. When our bodies are in a healthier, more alkaline state, they are more resilient and can resist and recover from illness more effectively (4).

The foods that we choose have a great impact on our health, they affect our acid and alkaline balance. The common ‘Standard American Diet’, high in sugar, meat, dairy, soda, coffee, tea, alcohol, nicotine, processed foods, and so on, is quite imbalanced and increases our risk of ill health, in part by contributing to an excess acid load. Burdened by this excess acid, our bodies have a harder time resisting sickness and bouncing back from stress, resulting in fatigue, illness, and infection risks. Acid makes our bodies more acidic, and less resilient. This state is known as ‘metabolic acidosis’ (4). High degrees of acidity force our bodies to rob minerals from the bones, cells, organs and tissues. This accelerates the aging process, causes gradual loss of organ functions, and degenerates tissue and bone mass. On the other hand, when we enjoy a diet rich in greens, plants, fruits, vegetables, minerals, and antioxidants, our cells become more alkaline, and more resistant to everyday stress (3).

A very acidic diet can be the cause of:

  • Kidney disease
  • Auto-immune disorders
  • Premature aging
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Weight gain, obesity and diabetes
  • Bone disorders: osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • Bladder, kidney stones
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Joint pain, aching muscles and lactic acid buildup
  • Slow digestion and poor elimination
  • Yeast/fungal overgrowth

What does ‘pH level’ mean?

pH is short for the ‘potential of hydrogen’. Our pH is the measure of how acid or alkaline we are (our body’s fluids and tissues). pH is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. A pH of 0 is absolutely acid, 14 is completely alkaline and 7 is neutral. Our bodies seek to maintain a slightly alkaline pH of approximately 7.35 in the blood of our veins as they bring blood back to lungs and heart to be recharged. This is considered to be the optimal pH, slightly alkaline. Also, pH levels vary throughout the body, with the stomach being the most acidic. Even very tiny alterations in the pH level of various organs can cause major problems (4).

Having a balanced (more alkaline) body pH can lead to less illness and infection, lowered cancer risk, better digestion, abundant energy, more restful and restorative sleep, reduction of yeast and parasite hospitality, increased mental alertness, and more (4).

Alkaline foods also have more electrolytes, those that our heart needs to function properly. Compared to the diet of our ancestors, the food we eat has significantly less potassium, magnesium and chloride, but significantly more sodium. The ratio of potassium to sodium in most people’s diets has changed dramatically. Potassium used to outnumber sodium by 10:1, however with the ‘Standard American Diet’ the ratio has dropped to 1:3 as people eat three times as much sodium as potassium on average. All of these changes have resulted in increased ‘metabolic acidosis’. This, in conjunction with low nutrient intake and lack of essential minerals like potassium and magnesium, has caused the pH levels of many people’s bodies to be less than optimal (3).

Benefits of an alkaline diet

An alkaline diet will provide a more balanced pH level of the fluids in the body, including blood and urine. This helps protect healthy cells and balance essential mineral levels in the following ways (3):

  • Prevention of plaque formation in blood vessels
  • Stopping calcium from accumulating in urine
  • Prevention of kidney stones

More benefits of an alkaline diet are (4):

  1. Protects bone density and muscle mass

More than 40 million Americans currently suffer from bone loss, as osteoporosis or osteopenia (a major cause of hip fracture). Among Caucasian women over 65, one in two will suffer a fracture due to osteoporosis.

Scientific and medical communities now widely accept that an acidic diet plays a key role in bone loss and weakening of bones. This happens because acidosis increases the loss of minerals from bones and joints, where mineral reserves (magnesium, calcium, and a dozen others) are stored.

When cells are too acidic, calcium and magnesium are drawn from the bones. Cells that build bone are less effective, and the cells’ pH balance is affected. Chronic metabolic acidosis depletes bone and causes osteopenia (lower bone density) and eventually osteoporosis (loss of bone mass with risk of fractures).

Animal studies confirm that even small changes in pH make a big difference in bone and cell function. In one animal study, bone loss increased by 500% with a pH change of just 0.2 units. This shows how even a small change in cell pH induces big problems over time.

Fortunately, this process can be reversed, and new bone can be built, even in those with longstanding deficits. Intake of minerals through the diet has an important role in the development and maintenance of bone in the body. Research shows that the more alkalizing fruits and vegetables someone eats, the better protection that person might have from this decreased bone strength and muscle wasting as they age. An alkaline diet can help balance ratios of minerals that are important for building bones and maintaining lean muscle mass, including calcium, magnesium and phosphate. Alkaline diets also help improve production of growth hormones and vitamin D absorption, which further protects bones in addition to mitigating many other chronic diseases.

  1. Lowers risk for hypertension and stroke

By decreasing inflammation and causing an increase in growth hormone production, alkaline foods have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and offer protection against high cholesterol, hypertension, kidney stones, stroke and memory loss.

  1. Lowers chronic pain and inflammation

Studies have found a connection between an alkaline diet and reduced levels of chronic pain. Chronic acidosis has been found to contribute to chronic back pain, headaches, muscle spasms, menstrual symptoms, inflammation and joint pain.

  1. Boosts vitamin absorption and prevents magnesium deficiency

An increase in magnesium is required for the function of hundreds of enzyme systems and bodily processes. Many people are deficient in magnesium and as a result experience heart complications, muscle pains, headaches, sleep troubles and anxiety. Available magnesium is also required to activate vitamin D, which is important for overall immune and endocrine functioning.

  1. Helps improve immune function and cancer protection

Cells need minerals to properly dispose of waste and oxygenate the body. Minerals are also needed for vitamins to be absorbed. A high mineral-vitamin diet prevents the accumulation of toxins and pathogens in the body that would weaken the immune system.

  1. Can help with healthy weight

Consuming an alkaline diet gives the body a chance to achieve normal leptin levels, which decrease hunger.

  1. Diabetes Protection

Studies show that even the slightest degree of metabolic acidosis produces insulin resistance and systemic hypertension. A strongly acidic diet, combined with excess body weight, lack of physical exercise, and aging, may result in metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. These conditions, in turn, may lead to impaired cardiovascular health. In contrast, increased intake of alkalizing foods can help reverse these.

An organ that is tightly related to diabetes is the pancreas. This important organ has three main functions (5):

  1. Making insulin
  2. Making digestive enzymes
  3. Making bicarbonate

The pancreas is a great example of the acid-alkaline balance needed in the body. It produces bicarbonate (alkaline) to neutralize acids coming from the stomach to provide the right pH for the pancreatic enzymes to be activated. The pancreas also provides digestive juices, which contain pancreatic enzymes in an alkaline solution to provide the right conditions for digestion to be completed in the small intestines.

Without enough bicarbonate, the pancreatic enzymes produced by the pancreas cannot be activated which allows undigested proteins to stay in our digestive system and finally penetrate the blood stream, where they start allergic reactions.

Acid producing diets destroy the pancreas because as the levels of acidity rise in the body, the pancreas has to work harder to maintain bicarbonates. Without sufficient bicarbonates, the pancreas is slowly destroyed, insulin becomes a problem and diabetes is the end result. Because the pancreas is the organ that controls the body’s pH, by making bicarbonate ions, when the pancreas starts failing, the whole body starts getting more acid. This bicarbonate is needed as a buffer to maintain the normal levels of acidity (pH) in blood and other fluids in the body. Ironically, the pancreas is also is one of the first organs affected when general pH shifts to the acidic.

Once there is an inhibition of pancreatic function and pancreatic bicarbonate flow, there naturally follows a chain reaction of inflammatory reactions throughout the body. The reactions would include even the brain as acidic conditions begin to generally prevail. Decreasing bicarbonate flow would boomerang hardest right back on the pancreas, which itself needs proper alkaline conditions to provide the full amount of bicarbonate necessary for the body.

  1. Liver protection

Not only is the pancreas affected by a highly acidic pH level, the liver is also greatly affected. In the same manner, because of the important role played by the liver in removing acid waste from the body, liver function is also particularly at risk when acids accumulate. When acidity prevents the liver and pancreas from regulating blood sugar, the risk of diabetes and thus cancer increases. On the contrary, when the body is bicarbonate sufficient it is more capable of resisting the toxicity of chemical insults.

  1. Kidney Protection

An alkaline diet contributes to the health and protection of our kidneys, another most vital organ in our body. Our kidneys remove wastes, help control blood pressure, and help keep bones healthy. An alkaline diet contributes to lowered risk of kidney disorders, such as kidney stones, kidney disease, and kidney failure.

The lymphatic system (Pt. 2)

Nutrients from the ground up

Studies have shown that a diet high in fresh foods like fruits and vegetables boosts ATP production, keeping the cells’ mitochondria healthy throughout the aging process. This is due to “naturally-occurring fulvic and humic acids (which) are natural compounds found in soil that convert the minerals from the earth into bio-available nutrients for the plant, and then us” (13).

Humic acids found in soils break down nutrients and deliver them to plants in a digestible form. In the body, they play a similar role. Specifically, fulvic acids stimulate the transfer of energy along the electron transport chain in the mitochondria, making the energy production of ATP in the mitochondria more efficient, and allowing it to ward off oxidative stressors linked to aging (14).

However, the use of farming chemicals like pesticides drastically reduce the amount of fulvic acid and other minerals present in soil. Since organic farmers don’t use pesticides or other chemicals, organic vegetables are far more likely to contain fulvic acid than non-organic vegetables. Due to the diversity of soil, there is no simple way to measure the amount of fulvic acid in vegetables (15).

How the Heart and Body Extract can help

The Heart and Body Extract drops are a blend of wild-crafted herbs grown in the Pacific Northwest without synthetic fertilizers. In their natural environment they receive fresh air, clear mountain water and sunlight. They are also prepared in a way that allows the maximum amount of nutrients to be preserved (16).

What is more, because it contains ginger, the Heart and Body Extract helps with digestion by preventing undigested foods from clogging up our digestive system. Ginger is known as a carminative herb and one of the best foods for producing stomach acid, gastric juices like hydrochloric (HCL) acid and bile and for a healthy liver. It has also been shown to inhibit inflammation of liver tissue aiding in the removal of toxins (17).

The acid-alkaline balance theory

Our body works better at a neutral pH of 7. The wrong pH can affect our health greatly because many functions in the body can only be carried out at a certain pH. The heart, for example, needs the blood to be at a constant certain pH of 7.37-7.43. Variations can cause palpitations or arrhythmias.

This is why an alkaline diet is important. Alkaline foods are all those that are fresh and minimally processed like fruits and vegetables that have been organically grown. On the contrary, acidic foods are those that have been processed, altered and had chemicals added to preserve their shelf life. Acidic foods change the pH of our blood and constrict lymph not allowing toxins to be removed. For a complete list of alkaline-acid foods please check this site:   http://www.rense.com/1.mpicons/acidalka.htm

The problem with eating a diet high in acidic foods is that too much acid slows flow of lymph and creates a condition known as ‘acidosis’. Without the proper flow, cells cannot detoxify themselves, creating a toxic environment due to fluid retention around our cells. This can show as excess fluid in our tissues affecting the whole body as:

  • Fluid filled cysts
  • Enlarged prostate and spleen
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Excess fluid in the brain

Acidosis can silently damage our organs and tissues and destroy the cells that make our lymph, blood vessels, nerves, and organs like the heart. Cells that are surrounded by toxic waste have no option but to become damaged, mutate or die. Overtime this can end up as cancer, heart disease, diabetes or depression (10).

How can we become acidic?

Mainly the acidic foods we eat, but also the air we breathe, medications, stress and lack of exercise. The food we eat leaves an ash residue that, depending on the mineral content, can leave an acidic, neutral or alkaline waste. The body stores the alkaline minerals on the skin, bones and teeth. These are calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron and manganese,  and they are found abundantly in organically grown vegetables and fruits.

If our diet is mainly acidic, the body has to use up these mineral reserves in tissues, teeth, bones to buffer this acid building up, causing osteoporosis (10).

How does this process of detoxification in the body break down?

In the toxic world we live in, the lymph system can get congested very easily (19). Because the lymphatic system is the largest circulatory system in the body, it is uniquely susceptible to stress.

Stress, the wrong diet, excess environmental toxins, shock, poison, injury or heavy exertion, cause acids and toxins to build up. When this happens, organs start to lose their function, which leads to more toxicity and inflammation and more organ dysfunction. Examples of this would be enlarged prostrate, enlarged spleen, heart disease, cancer, etc.

Stress can cause blood proteins and water to escape the bloodstream via tiny pores in these blood vessels. The excess fluids, excess sodium, and lack of oxygen cause the sodium-potassium pump to malfunction, and leave it unable to make energy. This leads to acidity in the body, loss of energy, free radicals, pain, and disease. Excessive stress will cause the lymph system to atrophy, making it unable to detoxify our cells.

Specifically, when we are under stress, cortisol, in an attempt to wall the area off and prevent excess fluid circulation, is released and lymphatic drainage of the area is reduced. Excessive stress severely compromises the lymphatic system, allowing dangerous toxins to migrate to different areas of the body (20).

Healing is all about circulation!

If areas of our body are too acidic, a build up of protein and waste starts forming, and circulation is decreased to these areas. This is known as fibrosis.

An injury that doesn’t receive oxygen, nutrients and cannot be detoxified will feel like pain. Pain in the body can be treated by changing the pH and improving circulation. By improving lymph and blood flow we increase circulation, increasing oxygen and nutrient delivery. This will decrease pain in parts of the body that have been blocked by acid. Pain and toxicity has caused many people to have sedentary lives, but when the circulation is restored and the internal environment of the body is improved these people can start moving freer. Increased circulation helps the cells to start working again (21).

Heart disease and the lymphatic system

There is a possibility that clogging of the arteries may be due to acid damaging the heart cells. When this happens, the body sends fibrin, a protein, to try to repair the damaged vessel. The excess protein mixes with collagen, cholesterol and other cellular debris to make plaque, which builds on the artery walls leading to decreased circulation. If the lymph system is congested it may create a toxic backup in the lymph vessels in the blood vessel wall. Then oxygen cannot get to the heart cells and proteins cannot be removed efficiently, creating angina, and fibrosis in the heart tissue. This makes the heart less efficient where it cannot pump enough blood (10).

High blood pressure

One of the hallmarks of high blood pressure is kidney failure. When we are overly acidic the excess proteins can be trapped in the kidney and harden it. Because the kidneys filter the blood, then waste accumulates. The kidneys also play an important part in alkalizing the body, regulating blood volume and blood pressure. It takes pressure to move blood through the kidney to make urine. If the kidneys become congested the heart must pump harder.

When waste, cellular debris and excess proteins accumulate the blood can start thickening, impeding circulation, causing blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. All of this will increase blood pressure because the heart has to ‘push through’ this thick blood to get nutrients and oxygen to the cells.

There is some new research being done in the role the lymphatic system could have in reducing the damage to the heart after a heart attack. While more evidence is being released, make sure you take care of your circulatory and lymphatic health by adding the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ to your health protocol!

Thank you for reading.

References:

The lymphatic system (Pt. 1)

Production of energy is an essential aspect of our health that is directly linked to longevity (1). Key nutrients in the energy cycle of our cells are L- Carnitine, D-Ribose, magnesium and CoQ10, as we have seen. The circulatory system carries these nutrients and oxygen to all the cells in the body via the pumping action of the heart.  The lymphatic system is an adjacent system that supports the circulatory system by removing toxins, excess proteins and fluid from the cells of every organ.  This highly organized system of nutrient/oxygen delivery and toxin removal is what keeps the energy levels in our body working at high demand. However, with stress, chemical toxicity and oxidative damage, energy production starts declining with age.

In today’s blog we will look at another nutrient that is essential for energy  production, potassium, and how it works in what is knows as the ‘sodium-potassium  pump’. We will also look at the lymphatic system as it relates to the circulatory system.

The lymphatic system: Definition and structure

The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system and a vital part of the immune system. It consists of (2):

  1. Lymphatic tissues and organs: thymus, spleen, tonsils, appendix and some special lymph tissue in the gut (3).
  2. A conducting network of lymphatic capillaries, vessels, nodes and ducts (3): They carry a clear liquid known as ‘lymph’ towards the heart.
  3. The circulating lymph: The word ‘lymph’ derives from the Latin ‘lympha’meaning ‘water’. Although it is 95% water, lymph also contains plasma, proteins, hormones, waste products and cellular debris together with bacteria and toxins. It also contains lymphocytes (immune cells), which are concentrated in the lymph nodes.

Because the lymphatic system is our major source of immunity, it also includes all the structures dedicated to the circulation and production of lymphocytes (one of the subtypes of immune cells known as white blood cells, that include ‘natural killer cells’, ‘T cells’ and ‘B cells’ (4). These structures include the bone marrow, and the lymphoid tissue associated with the digestive system.

There are between five and six hundred lymph nodes in the human body. Many of them are grouped in clusters in different regions, like in the underarm (armpits) and abdominal areas (groin), and in the neck, where lymph is collected from regions of the body likely to sustain pathogen contamination from injuries.

The lymphatic system runs parallel to the circulatory system with its final destination being the heart. The lymph, via lymph vessels and nodes, drains fluid from virtually every tissue toward the heart. In between the circulatory system and the lymphatic system, there is a space known as the ‘interstitial space’, where the cells of each organ are located.

Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system is not a closed circular system but it branches out like the roots of a tree to reach the cells found in the interstitial space. Out of the 20 liters of blood per day filtered through the circulatory system, 3 liters remain in the interstitial fluid, thanks to the work of the lymph system as an accessory return route to the blood for the surplus blood (5).

As opposed to the circulatory system, which uses the heart as a pump, there is not an associated organ that pumps lymph.  Instead, the lymph depends on the ‘squeezing’ motion of our muscles to push this fluid through the lymph vessels, and also the involuntary movement of our smooth muscles when we breath. Both of these mechanisms push lymph back from the peripheries to the center in a way similar to how blood is returned to the heart.

Like veins, lymphatic vessels have regular valves inside their walls to stop the backflow of fluid. In this manner, lymph is drained progressively towards the larger and larger vessels until it reaches two main channels in our trunk, where filtered lymph fluids can be returned to the venous blood.  From there, the lymphatic system’s vessels branch through junctions called ‘lymph nodes’. These nodes are often referred to as glands, but they are not true glands as they do not form part of the endocrine (5).

Functions of the Lymphatic system

  1. Major detoxification system in the body: Lymph vessels and nodes run through every organ and most tissues in the body, collecting excess toxins, bacteria and extra fluid and proteins.
  2. Fluid homeostasis: Its major role is to maintain fluid balance in the tiny spaces surrounding cells (the interstitial spaces), and then returning this excess lymph together with proteins that are too large to be transported via the blood vessels. This is only 10%, or 2-3 liters, of the total blood arriving at tissues from the arterial blood capillaries. Without the lymphatic system, excess fluid would build up and our tissues would swell greatly, causing lost blood volume and pressure.
  3. Absorption: The lymphatic system is also one of the major routes for absorption of nutrients from the gastrointestinal tract, especially fats. The lymphatic system has special small vessels called ‘lacteals’ that form part of the protruding structures (the finger-like villi) produced by the tiny folds in the absorptive surface of the gut. These ‘lacteals’ work alongside blood capillaries in the folded surface membrane of the small intestine and are responsible for taking up fats and fat-soluble nutrients, emulsifying them to form a milky white fluid called ‘chyle’. This substance is then delivered into the venous blood circulation.
  4. Immune system: The lymphatic system forms a major part of our immune response to the continual exposure to micro-organisms. Some such organisms are potentially harmful and even fatal as there are some infections that our immune system is not equipped to deal with. When there is an accumulation of toxins or harmful organisms we have the so called ‘swollen lymph nodes’

Physiology of the lymphatic system

Almost all organs including the heart have lymph channels that drain excess fluid directly from the interstitial spaces. In the case of the lower part of the body, all the lymph flows up the thoracic duct and empties into the venous system.

The work of the lymphatic system as the body’s drainage system is accomplished by little pumps present at each juncture.  The rate of lymph flow is determined by interstitial fluid pressure and the activity of the lymphatic pump.

When a lymph vessel becomes stretched with fluid , the smooth muscle in the wall of the vessel automatically contracts. Each segment of the lymph vessel between successive valves functions as a pump. When pumps fill up, the pressure of the fluid makes them contract and the fluid is pumped through the valve into the next lymphatic vessel. This fills the next segment on and on until the fluid is all emptied. Bigger lymph vessels exert greater pressure.

The lymph system also has flaps that allow the fluid to go into the circulation but it will not allow it back in, this makes sure the lymph empties into the blood always and not the other way around.

In addition to pumping caused by the lymph vessel walls, there are external factors that intermittently compress the lymph vessel to cause pumping. In order of importance these are:

  1. Contraction of the muscles of the body
  2. Movement of the parts of the body
  3. Arterial pulsations
  4. Compression of the tissues by objects outside the body

The lymphatic pump becomes very active during exercise, often increasing lymph flow 10 to 30 fold. During periods of rest lymph can become sluggish (18).

The circulatory and the lymphatic systems

In the human body, the cells of every organ and tissue are surrounded by a total of 6,000 miles of blood vessels and capillaries that run parallel to 24,000 miles of lymph nodes (6). This tight enclosure our cells are placed in is the ‘interstitial space’ (7). It is primarily a liquid known as ‘plasma’ that contains a combination of water, liquid protein, hormones and electrolytes. Electrolytes provide the electrical charge for the exchange of particles across the interstitial space, from the arteries and capillaries to the lymph system. This strategic distribution has a double purpose: On the one hand, it makes sure the circulatory system carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells of every organ and tissue.  On the other hand, the lymphatic system removes excess protein, fluid, bacteria and the toxins and acid waste these cells make everyday. This is possible because of branch-like extensions in the lymph vessels that spread out and reach in between the cells to remove this excess.

Dr. C. Samuel West, DN, ND, Chemist and Lymphologist, father of Applied Lymphology and also the father of the ‘Sodium-Potassium Pump’, compared the lymphatic system to a tree inside our body with branches that spread out and whose main job is to “vacuum pack the cells of each vital organ so the blood stream can bathe each and every cell with an abundance of oxygen and nutrients”. This is what Dr. West called the ‘dry state’ (6).

Once the lymph system collects and moves acidic waste, toxins and bacteria out of the tissues, they go back to the blood supply then to the kidneys, lungs (8) and other end organs, such as the liver, colon and skin (9),(10) where they are destroyed by lymphocytes. This is the healthy state of the body and the major detoxification system. In this manner, cells receive nutrients and oxygen via the circulatory system, and their waste is removed via the lymphatic system. Failure to do so would result in death due to toxicity in 24 hours.

Oxygen delivery is necessary for the sodium-potassium pump to work

The discovery of the dry state of the cells, led Dr. Samuel West to the realization that only when the cells of every organ are able to obtain oxygen from the circulatory system can the sodium-potassium pump work to produce energy.

He called the sodium-potassium pump the ‘electric generator’ of the body because it gives all cells the power to work (11).

The importance of the sodium-potassium pump that he discovered is immense when it comes to energy and overall health (12).  Each of the 100 trillion cells in the body has between 800,000 and 30 million of these pumps built on their surface. The role of sodium and potassium in these pumps is to allow nutrition (glucose, aminoacids, minerals, etc) inside the cell that is needed for:

ü Muscle health: allowing muscle contraction and relaxation

ü Nerve health: powering nerve impulses

ü Fluid balance

ü Energy production

This means that our cells need certain voltage to work and do all its functions. Because of potassium’s role in muscle and nerve health, a diet low in potassium can cause arrhythmias, heartbeat problems, skipped beats, and atrial fibrillation.

What is more, these pumps require a lot of energy to work and to generate electricity. In fact, 1/3 of the energy we get from food is used up to power these pumps. This is why our diet has to be aimed at ‘feeding’ these pumps. Dr. Eric Berg recommends a minimum of 4,700 mg of potassium balanced with 1,000 of sodium. This is the equivalent to 7-10 cups or more of fresh green leafy vegetables a day (12).

Co-enzyme Q10, the spark of life (Pt. 2)

CoQ10 in clinical cardiovascular disease

Myocardial biopsies have confirmed that CoQ10 deficiency is quite common in cardiac patients: congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, angina pectoris, cardiomyopathy, hypertension, and mitral valve prolapse as well as patients of coronary bypass surgery. All these conditions can share common symptoms such as extreme fatigue, chest discomfort, shortness of breath even when at rest.

CoQ10 can be administered in clinical settings for a wide variety of cardiovascular disease, including:

  • Angina pectoris
  • Unstable anginal syndrome
  • Myocardial preservation during mechanical or pharmacological thrombosis
  • Before, during and after cardiac surgery
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Diastolic dysfunction
  • Toxin induced cardiotoxicity
  • Essential and renovascular hypertension
  • Ventricular arrhythmia
  • Mitral valve prolapse

Many studies have shown a strong correlation between low blood levels and tissue levels of CoQ10. As well as the improvement seen with CoQ10 like in the heart’s pumping ability, improved left ventricular function, ejection fraction, exercise tolerance, diastolic dysfunction, clinical outcome and quality of life.

How Coq10 supports the failing heart

More energy is needed to fill the heart than to empty it, this makes CoQ10 a great supplement to improve diastolic cardiac function. Several studies have proven this fact. In one study of 109 patients with hypertension and isolated diastolic dysfunction, CoQ10 supplementation resulted in clinical improvement, lower high blood pressure, enhanced diastolic cardiac function, and decreased myocardial thickness in 53% of hypertensive patients.

In another study, a group of 424 patients with systolic and/or dyastolic dysfunction was administered 240 mg of CoQ10 for an 8 year period. The subjects were followed for 18 months. Only one side effect was noticed only, mild nausea, clearly demonstrating that CoQ10 is safe and effective for a different number of cardiovascular diseases including CHF and dilated cardiomyopathy, systolic and/or diastolic dysfunction in patients with hypertensive heart disease.

Dr Sinatra recommends that if any patient fails to respond to standard levels of CoQ10, it is essential to obtain a blood level of CoQ10. If this is not available, he recommends to double the standard dose of 90-150 mg, even triple it until the desired result happens.

Congestive heart failure (CHF)

CHF, together with dilated cardiomyopathy (end stage CHF), is one of the most challenging issues cardiologists have to deal with today. Most CHF patients have a low quality of life with a low survival rate, and in most cases drug therapy does not provide any relief.

CHF is a condition in which the heart muscle is so weak that is cannot pump effectively to the various areas of the body. This causes the blood to back up in the lungs and lower extremities and the space around the heart causing congestion. A heart like that is literally energy starved and patients experience fatigue and shortness of breath even with minimal exertion. The most common cause of CHF is coronary artery disease and the blockage of the arteries of the heart which can result in heart attacks. Longstanding untreated high blood pressure, toxic drugs, alcohol abuse, valvular heart disease etc can also cause CHF.

Dr. Sinatra treats cases of CHF with CoQ10 because it supports ATP recycling in the mitochondria of the cell, acts as an antioxidant, stabilizes cell membranes, and reduced platelet size.

Several studies have proven the efficacy of CoQ10 for treating CHF. In a study, the administration of CoQ10 decreased edema (fluid retention) by 79%, pulmonary edema by 78%, liver enlargement by 49%, venous congestion by 72%, shortness of breath by 53%, and heart palpitations by 75%. Improvements in at least three symptoms were noted in 54% of patients.

All this is key information that allow us to conclude that CoQ10 alleviates symptoms of CHF and improves quality of life.

A most recent investigation in the treatment of heart failure came out of the Lancisi Heart Institute in Italy. The team of investigators evaluated 21 patients with moderate to severe heart failure. All of them were assigned to four weeks of oral CoQ10 or a placebo with or without exercise training five times a week. They found that when the patients took CoQ10, the heart assessment test results and their ability to exercise without discomfort improved. This study also showed that in participants with heart failure the heart size decreased by 12% while the blood flow to the heart improved by 38% and the protective cholesterol levels increased as well.

The aging heart

Aging increases the death rate by 3 times, specially at the age of 70. CHF is also a bigger concern in these patients because the older the heart is the more prone it is to lack of oxygen and other stressors. What makes the aging heart more vulnerable is the low levels of coQ10., this is because aging depletes CoQ10.

During the first 20 years of life quantities of CoQ10 rise steadily 3 to 5 times, then they plateau if health is good. After the age of 40 there is a gradual decline in the amount of Coq10 a healthy body produces and it falls very rapidly at the age of 80. This is when congestive heart failure is most predominant. Fortunately our brains keep some level of CoQ10 stability so it is not until the age of 90 that CoQ10 levels really plummet, affecting brain functions such as memory, problem-solving ability and coordination.

So to the question, can CoQ10 help the aging heart? The answer was found in a research which demonstrated the overwhelming cardio protective benefit of CoQ10. In one clinical trial, researchers demonstrated that a daily regiment of 300 mg of CoQ10 for two weeks prior to cardiac surgery increased the CoQ10 content in cardiac muscle, mitochondrial energy production and offered myocardial protection during heart surgery.

In another study the same group of researchers demonstrated that in the older heart, CoQ10 helped in the ability of the heart to sustain cardiac workload by 28% compared to non-treated hearts.

All this evidence proves that although the aging heart is very vulnerable to lack of oxygen, it responds very well to CoQ10 supplementation. This includes all those patients recovering from any cardiac procedure, heart attacks. For this reason, even if there is not an evident stressor, anyone after the age of 70 should supplement with CoQ10.

Cardiomyopathy

Patients with this condition are particularly more vulnerable to CoQ10 deficiency. Cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the muscle tissue of the heart has become damaged, diseased, enlarged or stretched out, leaving the muscle fibers weakened. Like congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy is associated with major CoQ10 deficiency.

In a study by the ‘European Journal of Nuclear Medicine’, researchers were able to document and measure a significant therapeutic effect of CoQ10, proving that even small doses can have great implications for some patients with dilated cardiomyopathy.

Other studies done on patients awaiting cardiac transplantation, was done to determine if CoQ10 could improve the pharmacological bridge to transplantation. The results showed three different findings:

  1. A significant increase in CoQ10 blood levels
  2. Increases in exercise tolerance and less shortness of breath
  3. Fewer episodes of nocturnal urination.

Hypertension

Systolic blood pressure reflects the amount of pressure needed to open the aortic valve for each contraction of the heart, and diastolic pressure is a measurement of the pressure (resistance to blood flow) on the other side of the aortic valve against which the heart pumps. Diastolic pressure also reflects the amount of muscle tone in the vascular walls that press the blood through the arteries. Both these pressure levels need to be balanced: high enough for optimum circulation but not so high that excess wear and tear of the cardiovascular system occurs.

Research done in the 1980’s showed that hypertensive patients have low levels of CoQ10. Several years later follow-up studies confirmed that just 100 mg of CoQ10 a day lowered both diastolic and systolic blood pressure following 12 weeks of administration.

In another study, 46 men and 35 women with systolic hypertension and normal diastolic blood pressure underwent a 12 week trial in which they received either a 60 mg/day of hydrosoluble COQ10 Gel containing 150 IU of vitamin E or a placebo containing only vitamin E. Some subjects without hypertension were enrolled as controls and were also given CoQ10 therapy. Over the study period the group receiving CoQ10 experienced a drop in hypertension, and no change was observed in the group that received only vitamin E alone or in the control group. And there was a significant rise in CoQ10 levels in the blood. 55% of the patients in the CoQ10 group responded by achieving a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 25 mm Hg. The absence of response in the remaining 45% suggests the possibility of a threshold effect in CoQ10 ‘s mechanism of action. It is possible that a higher dose of CoQ10 may have increased the number of responders in the study.

These and other studies have confirmed what Dr. Sinatra has been practicing with his patients, CoQ10 is a great addition to a high blood pressure health protocol. He was even able to reduce at least half of their cardiac medications.

Dr. Sinatra considers CoQ10 the best way to lower hypertension. It all the studies CoQ10 has consistently been proven to lower high blood pressure in both systolic and diastolic pressure in patients with uncontrolled or poorly controlled blood pressure. What is in CoQ10 that makes this possible? CoQ10 may indirectly influence vascular function by preventing the oxidative damage to LDL, as well as by improving blood sugar control. Since oxidative damage to LDL, insulin resistance and elevation in plasma glucose concentrations can increase oxidative stress, the damage within the arterial wall is a critical event in the development of vascular dysfunction and even atherosclerosis. In a study with type 2 diabetics treated with 200 mg of CoQ10 a day, there was a significant reduction in glycated hemoglobin which is suggestive of improved sugar control and insulin resistance. More researchers have found impressive reductions in fasting glucose and insulin concentrations in patients treated with CoQ10, especially hypertensive patients who also suffered diabetes. This evidence suggests that coQ10 can reduce oxidative stress within the arterial wall via its antioxidant mechanism.

CoQ10 is also protective of the lining of small vessels and serves as an endothelial cell protector.

Angina pectoris

This condition, known for a ‘squeezing’, pressure or burning-like chest pain , or ‘heart cramp’, is caused by an insufficient supply of oxygen to the heart tissues, which drains them of energy and makes them vulnerable. This deprivation of oxygen is almost always caused by atherosclerotic plaque formation in the blood vessels feeding the heart, called coronary artery disease. Intense cold, physical exertion, or emotional stress may cause an increased need for oxygen and result in symptoms of angina too. Dr. Sinatra also treats patients with angina with CoQ10. It has been found to be effective in several small studies of patients with angina. Just 150 ml of Coq10 a day decreased the frequency of anginal episodes, a 54% reduction in the number of times nitroglycerin was needed and an increase of exercise time during treadmill test.

One study stands out in proving how CoQ10 increases exercise tolerance and decreases the frequency of anginal attacks. In this study, 15 patients with chronic stable angina were enrolled in a double blind placebo controlled crossover trial. Participants took 600 mg of CoQ10, a placebo or a combination of anti-anginal drugs. Results of the three interventions were compared. CoQ10 was shown to provide a significant reduction of exercise induced electrocardiographic abnormalities during stress testing when compared to placebo. A reduction in exercise systolic blood pressure without any changes in diastolic blood pressure or heart rate.

The mechanisms by which CoQ10 improves exercise capacity are not fully understood. But some possible explanations are that CoQ10 has beneficial effects on increasing energy metabolism delaying the onset of anginal symptoms. Also it is possible that its free radical reduction, or a combination of both had to do with the results. CoQ10 is an excellent adjunct strategy to angina pectoris sufferers. A dose of 180-360 mg/day is a good start or higher if there are no results.

Arrhythmia

Arrhythmia frequently occurs in the setting of a heart attack because the oxygen deprived heart is electrically unstable and heart cells then fire randomly.

By stabilizing the membranes of the electrical conduction system, CoQ10 can make it harder for arrhythmia to start in the first place. All the studies done have been on animal models. But the results have proven promising: reduced free radical stress, for blood clotting dissolving therapy during an acute heart attack, angioplasty, and coronary artery bypass surgery.

In one study of 27 patients with abnormal heart beat, reduction in premature ventricular contraction activity was significantly greater after four to five weeks of CoQ10 administration, 60 mg/day. This reduction of palpitations was also seen in diabetics, and hypertensives.

CoQ10 can have an effect on shortening the interval between heartbeats on the electrocardiogram, that may be of benefit for the period immediatly after a heart attack.

The good effects of CoQ10 on reducing oxidative damage, while at the same time controlling arrhythmia potential, suggests coQ10 is a logical treatment of choice in acute heart attack.

CoQ10 appears to be of great value in any case of acute coronary insufficiency, whether from angina, heart attack, congestive heart failure or any coronary heart procedures.

Myocardial protection in cardiac surgery

Pretreating surgical candidates with CoQ10 during cardiac operations has been proven to provide a great deal of protection because the heart is placed under a great deal of metabolic stress that significantly affects the function of the heart following surgery. This has resulted in proven improvement in right and left ventricular myocardial structure.

CoQ10 is effective in preserving heart function following CABG (coronary artery bypass graft surgery) and valve repair surgery and protects the heart against injury. In CABG patients, CoQ10 was proven to have higher myocardial performance and lower requirements for cardiac drugs that help support the heart while coming off heart lung-bypass.

Coronary artery disease and fat oxidation

Coronary artery disease is a condition in which the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become clogged by atherosclerotic plaque that is deposited on the walls of the artery by oxidized low density lipoprotein (LDL). If plaque buildup is allowed to proceed, coronary artery disease can eventually lead to heart attacks that will kill portions of the heart. Heart attacks are the direct result of energy starvation, caused by the inability of the heart to supply enough oxygen-rich blood to keep the energy furnaces burning. This reduction of blood supply is called ischemia.

Several studies have proven that CoQ10, because it is a fat soluble nutrient, can act as a potent antioxidant of fats, including cholesterol and its components.

In a study by the ‘Heart Research Institute’ in Sidney, Australia researchers found that CoQ10, 100mg 3 times a day, for 11 days increased resistance of LDL to the oxidation process. This has enormous implications since the oxidation of LDL appears to be the key step in atherosclerosis.

These results were taken even further in a 2003 report in the scientific journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, this study studied 144 patients with classic symptoms of acute myocardial infarction (AMI), or heart attack. Patients were followed for one year. This study showed for the first time that treatment with CoQ10 was associated with significant decline in total cardiac events, including nonfatal heart attacks and cardiac deaths, probably because of its rapid protective effects on blood clot formation (thrombosis), endothelial function, and prevention of oxidative damage (free radicals).

No other study has researched this, and it is highly significant because studies like these indicate that treatment with CoQ10 within 72 hours of infarction may be associated with a significant decline in total cardiac events, decreased risk of atherosclerosis, increased blood levels of vitamin E helping inhibit LDL oxidation and reduced oxidative damage to the heart by fighting free radicals and reducing injury.

Concluding, Co-enzyme Q10 has proven to be of great importance in the energy production of the heart. It is so important that the body will make its own under healthy circumstances. However, since there are many factors that can influence its availability, it is important to consider supplementing with CoQ10, as part of a health regiment that includes the other vital nutrients: D-Ribose, L-Carnitine, and magnesium, together with the Heart and Body Extract, a sensible diet and moderate exercise.

Thank you for reading.

References:

(1) Sinatra, Stephen T. The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health, 2011. 59-100. Print.

Co-enzyme Q10, the spark of life (Pt. 1)

As the heart is the most metabolically active organ in the body, a constant supply of energy is required to allow it to pump out blood to the rest of the body. If there is something we can do to improve the heart’s energy production, it is key that we learn about it. The good news is that the heart is highly responsive to supplementation. So far we have explained how good circulation is key because it allows nutrients to be transported where they are needed for heart cells to make energy. We have also explained that key nutrients for energy are L-Carnitine, D-Ribose, and magnesium. But there is another molecule that is essential in the energy cycle of the heart. This is the case of Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10).

Dr. Stephen Sinatra believes the discovery of CoQ10 was one of the greatest advancements of the 20th century for the treatment of heart disease. He has seen the great improvement CoQ10 offers for many heart conditions like congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, angina, and arrhythmia, but also for non-cardiological issues like periodontal disease, cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, male infertility, immune support in HIV/AIDS, even aging. In his practice he has used CoQ10 with his patients with a lot of success, even two of his patients were able to come off the transplant list. Despite all this, he still feels this nutrient is being ignored by many cardiologists. This is the reason he has dedicated much on his work to bringing awareness about it.

In today’s blog we will explain with detail what CoQ10 is, and how it can be used as part of a nutritional protocol that includes the Heart and Body Extract, L-carnitine, D-Ribose, and magnesium, together with a sensitive diet and moderate exercise. We will focus on the work of cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra and his many years of experience in heart health.

Definition and biochemistry of CoQ10

CoQ10, also known as ubiquinone, is a fat soluble vitamin-like compound that is found and manufactured in virtually every cell and tissue of the human body. The highest concentrations are found in the liver, the kidneys and the lungs, but the heart requires the highest amounts.

Generally speaking, energy manufacture is a second by second process that depends on some necessary steps: oxygen, essential nutrients, vitamins and co-factors. A deficiency or imbalance in any of these may contribute over time to impaired functioning of the cells, tissues, organs and the entire body.

Specifically, manufacture of CoQ10 is a complex process that needs the aminoacid tyrosine and multiple vitamins: folic acid, vitamin C, B 12, B 6, B 5, co-factors, aminoacids, trace elements and a few essential nutrients. A deficiency in any of these will impair the cells’ ability to make CoQ10, and without CoQ10 our body cannot survive.

In terms of cellular energy production (ATP) ‘CoQ10 is a vital component of the mitochondrial respiratory chain supporting heart energy at the cellular level’ (1). In fact, cellular energy metabolism is CoQ10’s most important function. This is how it happens: Inside the mitochondria, electrons are transported in order to give up their energy to generate ATP, fueling every cellular function. CoQ10 is vital in the electron transport chain because it picks up electrons from one member of the chain and drops them at the feet of another. And the key aspect to understand here is that Co Q10 is constantly in motion: it picks up electron and delivers them along the chain over and over. Without CoQ10 doing this, the activity of the electron transport chain would slow or cease altogether. CoQ10 is like the spark in the mitochondria of each cell that initiates the energy process, making it vital to life. Deficiency in CoQ10 can translate into a failing heart or a declining immune system, both of which will put us at risk for disease and premature aging.

This step by step energy process dependent on oxygen and essential nutrients like CoQ10 is also why the Heart and Body Extract is a key player in the energy production of the heart. Without proper circulation, oxygen and nutrients cannot reach the cell and this process then is hindered. Dr. Sinatra recommends a health protocol that includes key nutritional supplements like CoQ10 (around 360 mg/day), potassium, magnesium, garlic, 2-3 grams of fish oil, and 1-2 grams of L-carnitine. With this program, together with a sensible diet and exercise, he has been able to wean his patients off of anti-hypertensive drugs or at least reduce them.

CoQ10s role as an antioxidant

CoQ10’s key role in energy production in every cell of the body also gives it a powerful antioxidant activity. Its properties as antioxidant are:

  • It reduces oxidation of fats in the cell membrane
  • It reduces oxidation of LDL
  • It protects proteins and DNA from oxidation
  • It assists the body in combating free radical stress: In this sense, CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant molecule which can be used throughout the body but specifically for the prevention of atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease. Coq10 accomplishes this by engulfing free radicals before they do damage. CoQ10 also recycles vitamin E, another key antioxidant nutrient.

How and when to supplement with CoQ10

As long as we are healthy and eat a diet high in vitamins, aminoacids, and minerals and as long as we are not exposed to many environmental toxins that lead to free radical formation, our bodies can make all the CoQ10 they need. But in the case of an ailing heart, supplementation is key. Just a 25% reduction of CoQ10 can cause our organs to become deficient and impaired. When levels decline by 75% serious tissue damage and even death may occur. Nutritional deficiencies, disease, stressors like high intensity exercise, cholesterol lowering drugs and aging can lead to deficiencies in CoQ10.

Dietary sources of CoQ10 are vegetables (like broccoli and spinach), nuts, ocean fish and shellfish, and meats (pork, chicken and beef). However, we usually only get around 2-5 mg per day from food.

In cases of disease, supplementation is needed because dietary sources might not be enough. Something that needs to be understood about CoQ10 is that it is not uncommon to find it hard to absorb. Dr Sinatra explains that the relative large size of the CoQ10 molecule can impede its absorption. The powder forms of CoQ10 are almost totally unabsorbed by the intestine, while the fatty forms are more readily absorbed. This is because CoQ10 is a fatty substance and as such it needs a working digestive system.

Another important factor to consider is the kind of CoQ10 administered, as not all of them are the same. Some are more bioavailable than others. There are commercially available coQ10 capsules that contain either oil-based suspensions (soft gels) or dry power blends. Most have proven to be very poorly absorbed. CoQ10 may not be absorbed by the body for a number of reasons. The person may not be absorbing because of digestive problems, or the product may be of low quality, either because it doesn’t contain pure CoQ10 or because it may contain fillers.

Since CoQ10 is fat soluble it is poorly absorbed in water and is absorbed the same way as any regular fatty food is. It is therefore ingested better with fatty foods. And it requires a working liver and gallbladder. This also means that the fat soluble form is better than the powder. The largest producer of coenzyme Q10 in the world is the Japanese fermentation technology leader named Kaneka. The brand name is ‘Q-Gel’.

Deficiencies are more prominent in tissues that are more metabolically active, such as the heart, immune system, gingiva (soft tissue around the teeth) and an over active thyroid.

Dosage

The usual dosage is 100mg, but Dr. Sinatra has observed that higher doses might be needed. This is the when there is no evident improvement with the usual dose, in which case the dosage always needs to be increased until obvious improvement is seen. The sickest patients obviously will need more.

When it comes to the amount, it is important to consider how it is absorbed and how much is delivered to the tissues. Whether capsules, cap-tabs, or regular oil based Co-Q10 Dr. Sinatra’s recommendations are as follows:

  • 90-150 mg daily as preventive in cardiovascular disease or periodontal disease
  • 180-360 mg daily for the treatment of angina, cardiac arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and moderate gingival disease and for patients taking statin drugs
  • 300-360 m daily for mild/moderate congestive heart failure
  • 360-600 mg daily for severe congestive heart failure and dilated cardiomyopahy
  • 600-1,200 mg daily for an improvement in quality of life in Parkinson’s disease

For severely impaired immune system as in cancer even higher doses of coQ10 may be required.

15 mg of Q-Gel softgel capsules, a water-soluble form of Co-Q10 is the equivalent of about 50 mg of standard coQ10. Once a therapeutic effect is obtained, that is, when there is improved well-being, lowered blood pressure, improved shortness of breath, better gum tissues, etc maintenance dose may be adjusted.

The most accurate way to assess how CoQ10 is being absorbed and delivered to tissues and organs is by blood test. When CoQ10 is delivered in sufficient dosages, it will support the tissues in need.

Ubiquinol, the other form of CoQ10

Ubiquinone is a stable form of CoQ10. Once ingested in the form of food or supplements, enzymes in the body called reductase reduce ubiquinone to ubiquinol, the antioxidant form that makes up practically all the circulating coQ10 in the body. More than 90% of the circulating CoQ10 in our body is present as ubiquinol. It is during the transport of electrons process in the mitochondrial membrane that this conversion from -none to -nol is done.

Ubiquinol has been developed as a commercial supplement only recently, and one small study has shown it has an excellent absorption rate when compared to the non-soluble form of CoQ10.

Is ubiquinol really better than ubiquinone?

Most ubiquinone has to be reduced to ubiquinol in order to be used by the body, so it would make sense that the best way is to supplement with its reduced or ubiquinol form. After years of research, Japan’s largest producer of CoQ10 in the world has recently developed a patented method to manufacture ubiquinol so that it can be used in supplements.

Dr. Sinatra recommends this form for patients with severely depleted energy such as patients with advanced end stage heart failure, liver failure, renal failure, or in patients with advanced, relentless chronic fatigue. In these cases there might be an advantage in using ubiquinol over ubiquinone since it does not need to be converted.

Also, those with a genetic mutation known as NQO1 lack the enzyme necessary to make the conversion. In these cases it might be more appropriate to use the ubiquinol form. Also for patients for which ubiquinone is not yielding results, Dr. Sinatra recommends ubiquinol.