Ribose, the sugar of life (Pt. 2)

D-Ribose in cardiovascular disease

The heart could be said to be the most metabolically active organ in the body, requiring a large volume of oxygenated blood flow to continually supply its tremendous demand for ATP. Oxygen deprivation due to heart disease or stress depletes energy from the heart and will quickly empty the heart’s energy reserves. The good news is that the heart is also the most responsive organ to supplementation. D-Ribose is particularly effective in this respect and the reason why it shows such promise in treating heart patients. D-Ribose increases the energy pool and promotes the metabolic health of the tissue (1). Medical and scientific literature has repeatedly confirmed that D-Ribose can be effective in treating patients with congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, angina, ischemic cardiomyopathies and for those recovering from cardiac intervention such as aortic valve repair, coronary artery bypass graft surgery and angioplasty.

D-Ribose in congestive heart failure

Hearts with congestive heart failure are severely energy depleted, in many occasions up to 30%. Because the loss of energy is progressive, it is not evident until there is severe failure. Congestive heart failure is also characterized by the loss of the more efficient energy pathway in favor of the less efficient, which causes:

  1. Stress in the heart
  2. Ventricular pump failure caused by diastolic dysfunction
  3. Thickening of ventricular walls

Because D-Ribose supports the heart’s ability to preserve and rebuild its energy pool, it helps provide the heart with the energy it needs to do its job. D-Ribose also helps reduce free radical formation by salvaging ATP breakdown products. Both of these actions are critical for congestive heart failure patients in which low energy output, free radical stress and cardiac arrhythmia dominate.

The effectiveness of D-Ribose in treating congestive heart failure was proven in a study done in 2003 reported in the ‘European Journal of Heart Failure’. In this study D-Ribose supplementation resulted in a highly significant improvement in:

  1. Atrial contribution to left ventricular filling: More blood was able to flow into the relaxed ventricle, making it possible for more blood to pump to the rest of the body.
  2. Reduced left atrial dimension: Less back-up of blood that is associated with congestion.
  3. Greater flow rate across the valve separating the left atrium and the left ventricle: More blood flow to the ventricle.
  4. Ventricle relaxation, which allows it to fill more easily and reduces diastolic dysfunction.

This study showed that D-Ribose supplementation improved diastolic heart function (less shortness of breath), quality of life and exercise capacity in coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure in 90% of patients.

D-Ribose in coronary artery disease

Vascular disease has a profound effect on energy metabolism, with a reduction of as much as 40% in patients with chronic cardiac ischemia. Heart attacks or surgery can deplete the energy pool even further, by 50% or more. Since normal heart function requires large amounts of energy and since the energy stores of the heart are limited to sustain only a few seconds of contraction, supplementation is key.

In myocardial ischemia there is a severe and chronic depletion of the energy stores due to inadequate oxygenated blood flow that can take up to ten days to rebuild. Even when normal circulation is restored through surgery, this can lead to extended post-ischemic heart dysfunction. This energy strain depletes ATP and it is ironically exacerbated when blood flow is restored. The new blood flow pulls these energy substrates out of the cell leaving it energy deprived. Dr. Sinatra has seen how many patients who have surgery to open their coronary arteries get actually worse for up to two weeks after the surgery. These patients become very fatigued, and during this time of recovery, the lack of energy reserves puts them at great risk.

On the other hand, those patients that are not candidates for this kind of surgery, remain in a chronic stage of energy depletion   and their heart function worsens progressively to congestive heart failure if the energy metabolism does not improve. “Restoration of the energy pool ….can only be accomplished through the pathway of energy metabolism regulated by the availability of D-Ribose” (1). This reduces fatigue, increases exercise tolerance and enhances quality of life. All this information was first reported in a 1992 study published by the British medical journal ‘The Lancet’. The subjects in this study had chronic coronary artery disease in at least one main coronary artery and a history of angina induced by normal daily activities. Three of them had had heart attacks. These patients were randomly given either D-Ribose or a placebo of glucose for three days. The group that were given D-Ribose performed significantly better when compared to baseline tests, while there was no improvement in the group that was given glucose. The conclusion of this study was clear: D-Ribose supplementation effectively increased cardiac energy metabolism in only three days, controlled the onset of angina and improved exercise tolerance in chronically diseased patients.

Another study from the University of Minnesota showed that D-Ribose is valuable after a heart attack. The study was conducted in animals because it was too invasive to be done in humans. After four weeks of treatment with D-Ribose, animals showed better heart function than those given a placebo. This study showed that by increasing the energy level of the heart, the heart muscle could function better and be less affected by the stress of a heart attack.

Another study showed that D-Ribose also helps reduce the development of pulmonary hypertension in ischemic hearts. The study showed that D-Ribose significantly reduced the development of heart failure on the right side of the heart, allowing the heart to pump blood to the lungs more easily.

D-Ribose in Peripheral vascular disease

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) results from arterial clogging, especially in the arteries feeding blood to the legs. It leads to severe leg pain even with mild exercise. The same pain that patients with congestive heart failure feel due to the heart being unable to pump blood out to the extremities.

Similar energy depletion occurs in leg muscles during PVD, in congestive heart failure and in coronary artery disease. In all three cases oxygen deprivation leads to a depletion of the tissue energy pool because an adequate volume of oxygenated blood cannot be supplied to the heart muscle. This energy depletion disrupts the normal function of the muscle, leading to fatigue, soreness, and stiffness that can become so severe that patients cannot stand and walk.

D-Ribose has been shown both in human and animal studies to greatly accelerate energy synthesis in skeletal muscle. By accelerating energy synthesis muscles are better equipped to keep up with the energy demand, improve their physiology and reduce pain. While D-Ribose supplementation will not increase blood flow to the tissues, it allows muscles to manage the balance between energy supply and demand more effectively.

Myocardial protection and recovery in cardiac surgery

There are three major cardiac interventions that have to do with restoring blood flow to the heart:

  1. Traditional coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery: During this kind of cardiac surgery, the body’s temperature is lowered to decrease metabolism and reduce cardiac energy loss. The body’s blood supply is then rerouted to the bypass pump so the heart can be stopped for surgery, while the body continues to receive oxygenated blood from the pump.
  2. “Off pump” CABG: During ‘off pump’ procedures, on the contrary, the body is cooled, but the blood is not rerouted to the bypass pump and the heart is not stopped. This is also called ‘beating heart surgery’ and it places less metabolic strain on the heart, muscles and brain.
  3. Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA): PTCA is a procedure where a balloon is placed into the clogged artery and expanded, which breaks apart the plaque and eliminates the clog. While the balloon is expanded, blood flow stops to a portion of the heart and an ischemic event is the immediate result. This ischemic event, although short, also stressed cardiac energy metabolism to the limit.

All these three interventions cause the heart to become ischemic and put it under extreme metabolic stress. All of them also provide an immediate restoration of highly oxygenated blood to the heart which can cause some issues.

There have been numerous animal and human studies that researched the role of D-Ribose in protecting the heart during surgery and helping it recover after cardiac intervention. Some research has shown that bathing the stopped heart in a solution with D-Ribose preserves energy metabolites and slows the energy drain during traditional CABG surgery. Other studies have shown that the metabolic state of the heart prior to surgery is the main factor affecting functional cardiac recovery following the procedure and that the preservation of the energy pool in the heart before surgery is crucial for a successful outcome. Still other studies have shown that keeping donor hearts for transplant bathed in a D-Ribose solution can be an effective way to preserve the tissue energy pool and promote cardiac function following transplant.

Giving patients D-Ribose before and after cardiac intervention has proven very effective. In one study, giving it intravenously to patients following aortic valve repair enhanced cardiac recovery. Other studies show that giving energy to the heart before surgery improves the surgical outcome and helps the heart pump blood more easily and completely following the surgical intervention.

Reperfusion

It is defined as the restoration of blood flow to the heart. In this technique, massive amounts of oxygen-rich blood flow into regions of the heart that previously had been deficient. Reperfusion can happen spontaneously if an arterial clog or blood clot breaks away from the vessel wall or it can be done surgically when a surgeon ‘replumbs’ the heart during CABG, opens a clogged vessel , or when a clog-buster agent is used to dissolve away the clots.

There is a downside to reperfusion, when this fresh supply of oxygenated blood is delivered under high-oxygen tension, it brings an excessive amount of oxygen to the previously starved tissue. All this oxygen must be broken down by the cells, creating inevitable and harmful byproducts called ‘reactive oxygen species’ (ROS). What is more, the increased flow of blood that comes with reperfusion washes huge amounts of energy substrates away from the cell and some of these energy metabolic byproducts contribute to free-radical formation in the presence of too much oxygen.

This process can place so much oxidative stress on the tissue being rescued that causes a condition called ‘reperfusion injury’. D-Ribose can counter-balance this harmful effect because it helps control free radical formation by salvaging some of the energy substrates before they can be washed away, not allowing them to escape the cell.

Adverse reactions

When taken as directed, D-Ribose has been proven to be safe. However, because there is not enough published data on pregnant women, nursing mothers and very young children, Dr. Sinatra recommends these populations to refrain from taking D-Ribose.

Also, because D-Ribose lowers blood sugar levels temporarily, insulin dependent diabetics should have their blood sugar monitored so they do not accidentally overdose with insulin.

On an empty stomach, D-Ribose can cause minor light-headedness in a large dose (10 mg.), therefore, it is best taken with food.

Summing up

Because the heart is in such a need for energy, D-Ribose, together with a heart healthy diet and the products you can find in the ‘Healthy Hearts Club’, can make a great difference in energy levels, as we have seen. This is especially important in the case of heart disease, which depletes energy in heart cells.

References:

(1) Sinatra, Stephen T. The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health, 2011. 145-177. Print.

D-Ribose, the sugar of life (Pt. 1)

We have seen how proper circulation is key for heart health. Good circulation carries nutrients and oxygen, both of which are essential for energy production. L-carnitine assists the body in taking fats into the part of the cell that manufactures ATP (the energy provider for all cells in the body). Another nutrient that is essential for energy metabolism is D-Ribose, which we already saw is one of the components of ATP.

Dr. Sinatra, in his many years as a cardiologist has seen how D-Ribose has helped his patients. He explains that D-Ribose can be used by the body to rebuild the energy pool once it has been depleted. It can also accelerate energy recovery during and following cardiac ischemia because it “supplies the energy needed by the heart to allow full ventricular relaxation during the diastolic phase of the heartbeat.” (1)

Something like stress and heart disease can cause lack of oxygen and blood flow, conditions under which D-Ribose cannot be made fast enough to replace the lost energy in our organs. This is the reason why improving circulation is key to energy production, and the reason why the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ is such an important piece of the puzzle in restoring energy metabolism. Taken together with D-Ribose and L-carnitine, it can bring our heart health protocol to a whole new level.

In today’s blog, we will look at D-Ribose, what it is and all the functions it has in the body.

Ribose in energy metabolism

Depletion of cellular energy is well known in cardiovascular diseases like congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, aortic valvular disease, peripheral vascular disease and certain types of cardiomyopathy. When considering heart and circulatory diseases, the effect of D-Ribose supplementation on maintaining energy levels cannot be overstated. Let us remember some basics of energy metabolism.

Every cell in our body uses up a great deal of energy. The energy unit is known as ATP as we saw in previous blogs, and it has D-Ribose as one of its components. Exercise, stress and disease can put a burden in the body’s energy metabolism, especially the heart, depriving it of oxygen. Without oxygen, the energy pathways do not work efficiently to make energy. The heart cells then must rely on glucose to fulfill their entire energy requirements, and they become very reluctant to change from glucose metabolism to D-Ribose synthesis. This is further complicated by the fact that the cell has no glucose to spare. Until the mechanisms of energy metabolism return to normal and take pressure off glycolysis, and until the cells develop the enzymes needed for D-Ribose synthesis, the process of making D-Ribose is slowed down, especially under stress. This translates in severe weakness and fatigue for up to a week after exercise. However, when D-Ribose is added to the health routine, the cells are able to recover well enough to make energy at a faster rate.

What exactly is D-Ribose?

The chemical name of D-Ribose is ‘D-ribofuranose’, a simple five-carbon sugar made in every cell in the body. Because of this chemical composition, D-Ribose cannot be used by the body in the normal carbohydrate metabolism pathway, which uses a six-carbon sugar like glucose. Instead D-Ribose, is conserved by the cell for its primary role: rebuilding the energy pool. D-Ribose is unique among sugars because it is the only sugar used by the body to regulate and control this vital metabolic pathway.

D-Ribose synthesis happens in every cell in the body but it is a slow process and varies according to the tissue. At the cell level the manufacture of D-Ribose begins with glucose and involves a series of biochemical reactions that follow a complex metabolic pathway known as ‘pentose phosphate pathway’ (PPP).

Although D-Ribose is found naturally in the body, it cannot be stored, instead, cells must make it every time it is needed. Several organs make their own D-Ribose to manage their own needs, like the heart, skeletal muscle, nerve tissue, brain, etc. However, under stress there is a reduction in oxygen and blood flow. Under conditions of low oxygen, D-Ribose cannot be made fast enough to replace lost energy in each of the organs. If this oxygen and/or blood flow deficits become chronic, as is the case of heart disease, tissues can never can make enough D-Ribose and cellular energy levels are constantly depleted. This is the reason why improving circulation is key to energy production, and the reason why the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ is such an important piece of the puzzle to restore energy metabolism.

According to Dr. Sinatra, D-Ribose has been shown to be beneficial by reducing the time the heart needs to rebuild cellular energy and normalizing diastolic cardiac function from 10 days to 1-2 days. Without D-Ribose supplementation, hearts are forced to slowly make their own D-Ribose before energy synthesis can proceed. Once D-Ribose is present in the cell, energy recovery can proceed quickly.

When it comes to food sources, D-Ribose is found in meats, especially veal, but not in enough quantities to contribute to its role. Therefore, for those people suffering from any heart condition, neuromuscular disease, peripheral vascular disease, etc supplementation is key. When D-Ribose is ingested, it is quickly and easily absorbed through the digestive tract and into the blood and then the tissues. About 97% of supplemental D-Ribose is absorbed and it reaches steady state in the blood in 3-12 minutes, depending on the dose. It also moves easily from blood to tissue. Virtually all of the D-Ribose absorbed into the blood is used by tissues, only 5% is excreted through urine.

D-Ribose in the cell has several very important functions:

  1. Drives the synthesis of energy compounds
  2. Controls the production of DNA and RNA (the genetic materials)
  3. Influences the synthesis of certain vitamins and co-enzymes crucial to cellular function

Of all the sugars in nature, D-Ribose is the only one that performs these functions.

A brief history of D-Ribose

Although D-Ribose is one of the most widespread substances in the body, it took several decades for scientists to pinpoint what its role was. It was in 1944 when Japanese researchers, doing some experimentation with laboratory mice and rabbits, discovered that D-ribose was converted in the liver. This first discovery triggered further research in other laboratories in the world and it was reported that D-Ribose was a primary intermediate in an important metabolic pathway, the ‘pentose phosphate pathway’ (PPP). The PPP is of great importance for:

  1. The body ‘s energy synthesis
  2. The production of genetic material
  3. To provide material used by certain tissues to make fatty acids and hormones

This information led to the isolation of a purified enzyme called ribokinase from calf liver. This enzyme is key in allowing D-Ribose to enter the ‘pentose phosphate pathway’.

In 1969 researchers in the ‘Department of Anatomy’ at McGill University, Montreal used radioactively labeled D-Ribose injected into young rats to finally determine that D-Ribose could be removed from the blood tissue and metabolized into physiologically important compounds in the cell. Techniques for analyzing blood D-Ribose levels were developed at about the same time, revealing normal circulation levels of D-Ribose to be between 0.5 and 1.0 mg per 100 milliliter of blood.

Many years of research had to follow before researchers in Munich, Germany reported that energy-starved hearts could recover their energy levels if D-Ribose was given prior to, or immediately after ischemia (oxygen deprivation). In 1978 these researchers reported that a similar phenomenon occurred in skeletal muscle. At the same time, it was learned for the first time that the energy draining effects of some drugs that make the heart beat more strongly (isotropic drugs) could be lessened if D-Ribose was given along with the drug. These researchers proved that D-Ribose assisted the body in energy synthesis. More research proved that D-Ribose administration greatly improved the energy recovery in ischemic, hypoxic, or cardiomyopathic hearts and muscles and improved functional performance of the tissue. In addition, studies showed that L-Carnitine helped the action of many heart drugs.

The most significant studies showed that D-Ribose supplementation played a key role in energy restoration and return of diastolic cardiac function. The results of these studies led to the first two U.S patents issued for the use of D-Ribose to treat ischemic tissue.

In 1989, the first organized clinical trial of D-Ribose in human subjects was conducted, which showed the great effect of D-Ribose has on a muscular disorders.

All these new discoveries created a torrent of worldwide clinical investigations on the possible benefits of D-Ribose on heart disease, disorders affecting muscle energy metabolism, arthritis, athletic performance and neuromuscular disease. The first clinical study on the role of D-Ribose for heart disease was published in 1991. In this study, it was theorized that D-Ribose could be used to enhance the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, and that portions of the heart that were alive but not functional could be assisted by increasing their energy level. It was known that these portions of the heart simply hibernate, and they conserve energy until they have enough blood flow and oxygen to turn up their energy metabolism. This discovery allowed cardiologists to wake up hibernating segments of the heart and allowed them to locate them better by giving them a ‘roadmap’ to follow during surgery.

In 1992 another clinical study was published showing that D-Ribose supplementation to patients with severe stable coronary artery disease increased exercise tolerance and delayed the onset of moderate angina. This study included 27 men with heart disease for 3 days only. Even in that short period of time, D-Ribose increased the amount of time they could exercise on a treadmill before they had ischemic changes or before the onset of moderate exercise related angina. Since this study, the benefits of D-Ribose administration have been reported for cardiac surgical recovery, treating congestive heart failure and neuromuscular disease, restoring energy to stressed skeletal muscle , controlling free radical formation in hypoxia. Other benefits that were reported were improved oxygen utilization efficiency of heart and muscles.

Other studies done by the ‘European Journal of Heart Failure’ investigated the effects of D-Ribose administration in patients with congestive heart failure. They showed that D-Ribose improved diastolic functional performance of the heart, increased exercise tolerance and significantly improved the quality of life of patients participating in the study.

Another study reported on the benefits of D-Ribose in both healthy and sick hearts. In healthy individuals, D-Ribose increased the anaerobic energy reserves of the heart and delayed the onset of irreversible ischemic injury by 25%. It also proved that giving D-Ribose to hypertrophied hearts improved ventricular function and normalized contractility of the ventricle.

In 2004, a study conducted by two of the leading muscle physiologists in the world, Jens Bangsbo and Ylva Hellsten, proved that D-Ribose increased energy metabolism in stressed skeletal muscle and accelerated recovery of the energy pool once it was depleted. This is significant in congestive heart failure and peripheral vascular disease because they relate to the heart muscle.

Research continues today.

How and when to supplement with D-Ribose

Since D-Ribose is not stored in cells in its free form, there is no normal levels in tissue, and therefore D-Ribose deficiency does not exist. Instead, cells are faced with the task of making it in response to a specific metabolic demand. And this is where the problem is, because making D-Ribose is a slow time-consuming and rate limited process.

Factors that have to be taken into account to know whether or not to supplement with D-Ribose are:

  1. Exercise: Athletes place a great amount of strain on their muscle energy metabolism. Repeated exercise drains energy in the muscles, promoting free radical production. Exercise tolerance is also very personal, someone who has a sedentary life will become more oxygen deprived with just a little exercise in which case the energy reserves of the muscle will be depleted.
  2. Age: With age the health of the mitochondria suffers, therefore even a minor level of stress can have a dramatic effect on cellular energy stores. A great percentage of the population over the age of 45 both male and female shows signs of diastolic cardiac dysfunction. This is specially the case of patients with high blood pressure and women with severe mitral valve prolapse. D-Ribose supplementation increases the cardiac energy reserve and can help the heart restore normal diastolic cardiac function if early signs of diastolic dysfunction exist.
  3. Use of certain drugs: Inotropic drugs, which work by making the heart beat harder put a big strain in the heart by limiting its ability to supply enough energy to support the extra metabolic stress placed on it by the drug. This kind of drug has been shown to drain the heart’s energy reserve, making it run out of energy. Research shows that supplementing with D-Ribose can reduce the energy drain common with inotropic agents without having any negative impact on the activity of the drug.

Studies have shown that any amount of D-Ribose given to an energy starved cell will give it an energy boost. Even a small dose of 500 mg can increase energy by 100%. Larger doses have been shown to increase the synthesis of energy in muscle between 340% and 430%. This increase was even the case when muscles were actively working.

The amount of D-Ribose needed depends on the type of condition we are dealing with. For chronic fatigue and shortness of breath as a result of heart disease the amount is different than for cases of poor peripheral blood flow, soreness from strenuous exercise, chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.

An adequate dose of D-Ribose usually results in symptom improvement very quickly, within a day or a few days. If the relief is not immediate, the dosage should be increased until the patient feels better. Dr. Sinatra often takes into consideration the following in order to determine the right dose:

  1. How energy depleted are the cells: Have they been depleted for long as in the case of chronic disease or is it a temporary cause like is the case of exercise?
  2. What is the circulatory status of the patient? Are they healthy or do they have heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, fibromyalgia, neuromuscular disease or other conditions that affect the delivery of oxygen to the cells?

In general, athletes can benefit from a small dose before and after exercise to attenuate soreness in the muscles and stiffness. Before exercise, D-Ribose gives muscle a boost needed to salvage energy compounds as they are being broken down by the muscle. After exercise it allows new energy synthesis to proceed quickly, aids in recovery and improves the physiological health of the muscle. A usual dose is 1 tsp (5 grams).

For patients with heart disease or circulatory conditions that chronically affect oxygen delivery the answer is not that straightforward. Because D-Ribose does not stay in the blood long, around 30 minutes only, the amount of D-Ribose must be large enough to get into the affected tissue. This is not a problem if the person has normal blood flow, because D-Ribose is quickly delivered to stressed tissue. However, if heart or muscles are low in oxygen due to poor circulation or clogged arteries, more D-Ribose will be needed to allow enough of it to work its way through into the energy starved portions of the heart.

Another concern to consider is the energy drain in cells and tissues. Increasing oxygen delivery and maintaining it is key to D-Ribose supplementation because without oxygen energy metabolism cannot be kept. This is why improving circulation is crucial, without proper circulation the patient will continue to run out of oxygen. This also means that D-Ribose must be taken everyday. According to Dr. Sinatra, it is not enough to take it until the patient feels better. Missing just one or two days will have a serious impact on cellular energy levels, which will quickly feel as fatigue, weakness, and loss of quality of life.

The dosage will be very personal as every patient has his or her own pathological conditions, but a general recommendation can be made as follows:

5-7 grams (1 tablespoon) daily as a preventative measure for cardiovascular disease, or for athletes or healthy people doing strenuous activity.

7-10 grams daily for patients with congestive heart failure, ischemic cardiovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, patients recovering from heart surgery or heart attack, for treatment of stable angina pectoris, and for athletes working out in chronic high intensity exercise.

10-15 grams daily in divided doses of about 5 grams each, for patients with advanced congestive heart failure, patients awaiting heart transplant, patients with dilated cardiomyopathy , frequent angina, fibromyalgia or neuromuscular disease.

Once the patient starts seeing results, the dose can be lowered slightly until a maintenance level is reached, taking into account that changes in lifestyle like increased exercise will require the dose to be adjusted.

L-Carnitine (Pt. 2)

L-Carnitine and the heart

As we have seen, the main job of L-carnitine is to transport fatty acids to the inner mitochondrial membrane where they are burned as fuel. A healthy heart obtains 60% of its fuel from fat, therefore, maximizing the burning of this fat is crucial for heart function.

The more advanced the heart disease is the harder it is to get oxygen, and the more blood congestion backing up into the lungs and tissues occurs. When this is the case, a thorough nutritional program can make a great difference. L-Carnitine, with the help of the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ and other nutrients that we will look at in following blogs, can be life altering.

Atherosclerosis sufferers with various degrees of congestive heart failure are the most compromised in their symptoms, all of which are related to a heart that is starved of oxygen, struggling to pump hard enough to keep the blood moving forward. Dr. Sinatra recalls how much improvement he saw when he combined L-carnitine with nutrients like CoQ10, D-Ribose and hawthorn for the most symptomatic of his patients. Hawthorn is one of the ingredients found in the ‘Heart and Body Extract’, making it a great addition to your heart protocol for its circulation enhancing properties. All of these nutrients can be used to treat any of the following heart conditions quite effectively.

L-Carnitine and angina

Angina is caused by insufficient supply of oxygen to the heart tissue due to blockages or spasms of the coronary arteries. Symptoms of angina are pressure, burning discomfort on the chest or pain from shoulder to shoulder or up into the neck, radiating into the back and left arm. Shortness of breath is also a sign because the body is trying to get more oxygen to compensate for the shortage. This symptom may be the only warning for someone with diabetes because their nerve endings have lost sensitivity. Other less typical signs of angina are throat tightness, soreness or pain in the jaw, a tooth, the back or the forearms.

Regardless of the cause, the source is always a lack of oxygen in the heart muscle, due to coronary arteries that have become blocked either from a build-up of inflammatory cholesterol plaque that progresses with age. As these blockages increase in size, they crowd the artery opening and limit the flow of oxygen to the heart muscle. This lack of oxygen leads to the symptoms, because lack of oxygen leads to energy depletion, which kills the cell, resulting in numbness and pain.

While the traditional treatment for angina works by reducing the workload of the heart and oxygen demand and can widen the arterial walls, these drugs can’t improve the oxygen demand ratio and do little to affect the energy imbalance. L-carnitine, on the contrary, can alleviate the symptoms of angina most effectively.

Many double-blinded placebo controlled research studies in the cardiovascular literature show the efficacy of L-carnitine and its cousin propionyl-L-carnitine (PLC) in treating angina and other cardiovascular disorders. PLC is taken into the myocardial cells more readily than other forms of carnitine. While acetyl-L-carnitine is taken up more widely by the brain.

As we have seen, L-carnitine enhances fatty acid metabolism and prevents the accumulation of toxic fatty acid metabolites inside the heart. In angina it improves overall oxygen use by the heart cells, allowing the heart to do more things with less oxygen.

L-carnitine was found to be helpful in angina and myocardial ischemia. Ischemia is defined as the lack of oxygenated blood flow to a tissue. When this happens it triggers other effects that compound the problem:

  1. Toxic levels of fatty acids and their metabolites start accumulating, which paralyze mitochondria.
  2. ATP levels crash.
  3. ATP breakdown products form and leave the cell, depleting the energy pool.

Studies have shown the effectiveness of L-Carnitine for all these conditions.

L-carnitine and myocardial infarction

Myocardial infarction is another term used to refer to a heart attack; infarction refers to tissue death. Dr. Sinatra explains that a heart attack can start when a clot coming from an artery plaque rupture site gets stuck in a coronary artery. Sometimes a clot can form somewhere else and it becomes stuck where it can not get through, creating a blocked artery. Another cause is a spasm that lasts so long that the blood congeals in an open area of circulation. In any case, it always results in an emergency, because without blood supply the heart muscle will die.

A lot of research has been done on the role of L-carnitine in heart attacks. In one study researchers tried to determine whether L-carnitine would protect the heart and micro-circulation against heart attack damage when given immediately during the acute phase of a heart attack. The results indicated that L-carnitine slows down the progression of a heart disease and limits its size.

Another study tried to determine whether propionyl-L-carnitine could improve exercise tolerance and physical function following a heart attack. They observed that 100 mg a day increased the level of total L-carnitine in both the blood serum and the heart muscle by 15-23%. Exercise capacity also increased by 3%, while in the group that didn’t receive L-carnitine it decreased by 16%.

In a third study researchers measured energy levels in the heart following a heart attack, the three different forms of L-carnitine were used in three different groups to check if there was a difference. All three forms markedly improved recovery of energy in the tissue, increasing energy levels for an hour. Acetyl-L-carnitine was even stronger in its early response, but did not keep the energy level as high as L-carnitine. Propionyl-L-carnitine didn’t provide very early recovery as compared with the other two forms but by the end the recovery was greater.

All this information helps us conclude that all three forms of L-carnitine protect the heart against the intracellular damage associated with the buildup of lactic acid that normally happens during heart attacks. Heart patients that were given any of the forms of L-carnitine were able to withstand four induced heart attacks in succession.

In yet another study, researchers observed that L-carnitine was able to reduce infarct size, limiting tissue damage. There was also a reduction of ischemic arrhythmias and heart enlargement as well as the number of deaths.

Another study from the ‘Journal of the American College of Cardiology’ confirmed that supplementing with L-carnitine after an acute heart attack had a beneficial effect on the preservation of the left ventricle, where most heart attacks happen, by preventing an increase in heart size. Increased left ventricle during the first year of a heart attack is a very good predictor of future adverse cardiac events according to Dr. Sinatra.

L-Carnitine and congestive heart failure

In congestive heart failure the heart cannot contract with enough force to pump blood around the body. This is the reason for the congestion through the body: ankles, lungs and heart. One of the ways to help the heart is to supplement the diet with nutrients that strengthen heart contractions and help the heart fully relax so it can fill up again. L-carnitine is one of them.

One of the major problems with congestive heart failure is the scar tissue present after repeated heart attacks, which limits muscle function. Another side effect is a heart muscle that is stretched out, dilated and enlarged due to long standing high blood pressure. In any case, the research shows that in patients with end stage congestive heart failure and donor hearts, concentrations of L-carnitine in heart muscle was significantly lower and it correlated with ejection fraction. Ejection fraction measures the amount of blood volume pumped from the heart with each heartbeat. In congestive heart failure ejection fraction is reduced sometimes to 10-15%. Research showed that this condition made patients lose L-carnitine from the heart itself, creating a deficiency. This is evidence that a diseased heart has difficulty holding on to its L-carnitine. Conclusions of these studies showed that supplementation with L-carnitine was able to reverse this deadly trend. Advantages included improvement in arterial blood pressure, cholesterol levels, rhythm disorders and signs of congestive heart failure, but above all a reduction in mortality. Dr. Sinatra, working with his patients, has observed less shortness of breath, less fatigue, less ankle swelling, more energy, better sleep and increased appetite.

L-carnitine and peripheral vascular disease

Also known as intermittent claudication, peripheral vascular disease is a condition that mimics angina but the pain occurs in the calf instead of the heart. It is characterized by poor circulation in the legs with obstructed blood flow in a large artery, such as the femoral, due to loss of energy in the muscle tissue of the leg. It may happen after a bypass operation and the pain is due to reduced oxygen delivery to the legs, which encourages increased production of free radicals. Both angina and peripheral vascular disease share the fact that the pain can occur with normal everyday activities like walking. L-carnitine works for this condition as well as for angina, because it can help maximize cellular energy production if blood flow is compromised.

Research showed that propionyl-L-carnitine supplementation could increase exercise tolerance and reduce the pain associated with physical activity. Walking time increased by 54%, in walking time, distance and speed, muscle strength increased, pain was reduced and resulted in higher quality of life.

Cardiac arrhythmia

Two of the most frequent types of arrhythmia are ‘premature ventricular contractions’ (PVCs) and ‘premature arterial contractions’ (PACs). Both of these start with an early beat followed by a pause, often described as a palpitation. This pause is actually allowing more blood to enter the heart so that the next contraction feels more pronounced, creating a sensation like the heart is palpitating. These two conditions usually happen due to the accumulation of fatty acid metabolites that weaken the contraction of the heart and make the sufferer more vulnerable to irregular heartbeats, eventually injuring heart tissue, and interrupting electrical transmission of impulses. Supplementing with L-carnitine can help the heart keep the beat energetically. Research has shown that L-carnitine assists the body in free fatty acid metabolism and high grade ventricular arrhythmia. Dr. Sinatra also recommends to add magnesium, potassium, calcium and hawthorn berry, fish oil, CoQ10 and D-ribose as adjunct therapy.

Concluding, research has shown repeatedly the remarkable properties of L-carnitine in treating various heart disorders. Taken together with other nutrients like the ones present in the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ can add to its benefits and make a complete health protocol.

References:

Sinatra, Stephen T. The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health, 2011. 101-143. Print.

L-carnitine (Pt. 1)

We have seen how good circulation is essential to deliver the nutrients our cells need to produce energy. The heart in particular is so metabolically active that it requires a constant supply of energy to pump 60 to 100 times a minute everyday for years. By improving circulation, the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ ensures that the nutrients in the food we consume reach the cell where they can be turned into energy the heart can use. In the words of Dr. Stephen Sinatra, “Our heart muscle is one of the most responsive organs in the body for targeted nutritional supplementation” (1).

In this blog, we will look at a nutrient that is essential to make this conversion from food to energy. We are talking about L-carnitine, a vitamin like nutrient that, while it doesn’t have a direct effect on blood flow, it can help maximize cellular energy production. Together, the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ and L-carnitine can be considered a powerful combination that can benefit our heart health greatly, as we will see. First, we will look at how the body converts our food into energy. Then, we will discuss the different conditions in which L-carnitine has been found to be helpful.

How does the cell convert nutrients into energy?

When it comes to heart health, energy metabolism is critical. Both the food we consume and oxygen are essential for the production of energy. Our food choices should be have this principle in mind. After all, we do not eat only for the sake of pleasure, but to provide the building blocks our body needs to thrive. It is important then to understand how the body converts food and oxygen into energy.

Energy metabolism occurs via three metabolic pathways:

  1. The glycolytic pathway
  2. The krebs cycle
  3. The Electron transport chain of oxidative phosphorylation

All of these are extremely important for cellular health. In the glycolytic pathway, glucose, a simple sugar made by the body from carbohydrates, becomes the body’s main source of energy. However,

glucose only provides short bursts of energy and cannot keep the cell working for long periods of time. Only three molecules of ATP are formed this way. What is more, under conditions of oxygen deprivation, like is the case of ischemic heart disease, the energy that is produced from glucose turns into lactic acid quickly, increasing acid levels in the cell. This can cause cellular stress and a burning sensation in heart muscles like is the case of angina. This form of energy, though important, is not the preferred source of energy for the heart.

Via the other two metabolic pathways, the body can obtain great amounts of energy from fatty acids. When oxygen is present, fatty acids become the preferred energy fuel, producing an astounding 129 molecules of ATP. The burning of fats contributes to 60-70% the heart’s energy. And this is when L-carnitine comes into play, because L-carnitine is the only nutrient that can transport fatty acids across the inner membrane of the mitochondria to begin a process called ‘beta-oxidation’. Without it the body could not metabolize fats, and the heart would suffer for lack of energy.

It is in the krebs cycle that fatty acid metabolism occurs. First, electrons from fatty acids are removed, the electrons then travel through the electron transport chain and make ATP. The energy taken from the electrons is used to attach inorganic phosphate to ATP in order to reform it; oxygen is required for this pathway to function. Co-enzyme A also helps to move energy substrates into the mitochondria by binding to fatty acids and other molecules, thus helping them be transported across lipid membranes.

The importance of oxygen is vital, without it, like is the case of ischemia (lack of oxygenated blood flow to the tissue), or hypoxia (oxygen deprivation to the cell) the recycling of energy slows down and this causes ATP to be used faster than it can be replaced.

What is L-carnitine?

L-carnitine is a vitamin-like nutrient, which means that it can be obtained through diet and it is made by the body too. The word ‘carnitine’ comes from the latin word ‘carnis’ which means ‘meat’. L-Carnitine, therefore, is mainly found in protein. The highest sources are mutton, lamb, beef, other red meat and pork in that order. The quantities in plants are rather low, 90% lower than in meat, so vegetarians may show a higher deficiency of this nutrient. Plants also are low in the other nutrients that are needed to metabolize L-carnitine, methionine and lysine. It is important then for vegetarians to supplement with these nutrients. It is also significant that its production slows down with age, so it is important to obtain it through supplementation as we age.

Biosynthesis of L-carnitine

L-carnitine is derived from two amino acids, lysine and methionine. The body synthesizes these via a series of metabolic reactions involving these two amino acids together with niacin, vitamin B 6, vitamin C and iron.

To make L-carnitine, the body goes through different steps and needs the following nutrients to synthesize it: the amino acids L-methionine and L-lysine , vitamin C, B 6, niacin, and iron. Without these nutrients L-carnitine will not be synthesized properly, thereby the importance of obtaining these from the diet. Apart from this, L-carnitine is produced in the kidneys and liver.

Functions of L-carnitine

Generally speaking, L-carnitine helps maximize efficient metabolic activity by mobilizing ATP and promoting better use of oxygen. The main function of L-carnitine is to facilitate the transport of long-chain fatty acids across the inner mitochondrial membrane to begin the process called ‘beta-oxidation’. Most importantly, L-carnitine is the only carrier that can do this, so its presence in the cell is an absolute requirement for heart health. Energy recycling, like the one we explained in the manufacturing of ATP, is dependent directly on the amount of L-carnitine available in the cell accelerating energy metabolism.

Another function of L-carnitine is the removal of ammonia, and lactic acid from our tissues which have shown to have negative effects in the brain and heart. For this reason L-carnitine is recommended after strenuous exercise. Exercise can lead to high levels of lactic acid in the body, and L-carnitine can help the body clear high levels of lactic acid from tissues and blood.

L-carnitine is also an antioxidant and free radical scavenger and has the ability to chelate iron.

Types

L-carnitine is the most available and least expensive of all forms. However, because the free form of L-carnitine is very unstable, it makes it not suitable for tablets or capsules. This has led to research to find ways to make it more stable. Several forms have been synthesized: fumarate, tartrate, citrate, lactate and amino carnitines (new molecules with specific amino acids attached to L-carnitine molecules). Between the fumarate and the tartrate versions, the former appears to be absorbed better than the latter. L-carnitine fumarate has a 58% content of L-carnitine and 42% of fumaric. Both of these compounds are naturally occurring substances in living organisms.

A newer version of the L-carnitine is the amino-carnitines, they are the result of bonding certain amino-acids like glycine, arginine, lysine, and taurine with L-carnitine derivatives. These combinations have been found to increase L-carnitine’s metabolic performance. The resulting molecule is being called amino-carnitine. Combining L-carnitine with these amino-acids provides an interesting synergistic effect on how much of each nutrient is made available, making both more readily used by the body.

Two of these amino-carnitines are acetyl-L-carnitine arginate and acetyl-L-carnitine taurinate. These amino-carnitine combinations are effective because, in general terms, when our bodies are low on L-carnitine they are also low on its amino-acid precursors. Since these precursors are also essential they must be obtained from the diet. In addition, they help us synthesize L-carnitine.

Another reason why these new forms of L-carnitine are so effective is that they have similar properties, therefore they can get better results when bonded together. Arginine taken with L-carnitine aids in the delivery of L-carnitine to ischemic regions of the heart and muscles. The amino-carnitines also work together with D-ribose. The combinations enhance each of the nutrients properties and assist in energy recycling in heart cells. This makes them suitable for heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. For athletes it can also be beneficial because they increase exercise capacity by reducing muscle fatigue, increasing recovery and overall energy.

A specific form of L-carnitine known as propionyl-L-carnitine (PLC) is an L-carnitine derivative that along with the base L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine forms a component of the body’s L-carnitine pool. A dietary version of this PLC is called Glycine-Propionyl-L-Carnitine (or GlycoCarn). It has been shown to be a powerful vasodilator, improving the blood supply to the heart, muscles and other tissues. In some studies it was shown that this form of L-carnitine is rapidly taken up by heart, muscle, kidney and other tissue and what is not needed is secreted through urine.

In a study done with 42 subjects, results showed that supplementation with GPLC helped muscles retain L-carnitine during and after physical activity, as well as the levels of nitric oxide (a powerful vasodilator).

Dosages

Dr. Sinatra recommends 3,000 mg of GPLC a day, or 500-1000 mg capsules three times a day, between meals. This dosage of GPLC showed to reduce oxidative damage (free radical stress) and triglyceride levels, while increasing nitric oxide levels.

Why carnitine deficiency?

Although L-carnitine is found throughout the diet and is synthesized by the body, it is very common to find deficiencies in this very important nutrient. Deficiencies can be caused by genetic defects, poor diet, co-factor deficiencies of vitamin B 6, folic acid, iron, niacin and vitamin C, liver or kidney disease, and use of some drugs, especially the anti-convulsants.

People with deficiencies can have symptoms like muscle fatigue, muscle cramps, and muscle pain following exercise, also, muscle disease, or cardio-myopathy. This can be seen under the microscope in the presence of fat deposition and abnormal mitochondria in the cells because that is where L-carnitine has its greatest efficacy. Renal failure is also associated with deficiencies, severe malnutrition, and liver cirrhosis and of course, heart disease. Dr. Sinatra believes L-carnitine offers its most greatest use for the heart.

Concluding, “L-carnitine is a heart and muscle specific supplement that must be considered if you have any cardiac or vascular conditions” (1). Together with its derivative, propionyl-L-carnitine , L-carnitine is a key nutrient for the heart. These co-factors not only enhance free fatty acid metabolism but also reduce the intra-cellular buildup of toxic metabolites, particularly where the heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen.

In what follows, we will look at how L-carnitine can improve different heart conditions that have to do with energy metabolism malfunctions.

References:

(1) Sinatra, Stephen T. The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health, 2011. 101-143. Print.

Basics of cellular energy (Pt. 2)

Extraction of energy from food, the mitochondria

Of all the different structures that comprise the cell, we will focus on the mitochondria. The mitochondria is where the cellular energy known as ATP is manufactured out of nutrients (oxygen and food). The mitochondria is contained inside the cytosol, the fluid portion of the cell (4).

The main substances from which cells extract energy are oxygen and the food we ingest: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose by the digestive tract and liver before they reach the cell, proteins are converted into amino acids and fats into fatty acids. Then they all enter the cell. Inside the cell the food reacts chemically with the oxygen under the influence of various enzymes. Almost all of these oxidative reactions occur in the mitochondria, and the energy that is released is used to form the very high energy compound known as ATP (Adenosine triphosphate). ATP then is used throughout the cell to energize almost all the intracellular metabolic reactions.

What is ATP?

ATP is a small simple compound that supplies all the energy used by every cell in the body, including the heart. It is for this reason that it is known as the‘powerhouse of the cell’. As long as the cell is given two basic ingredients: food and oxygen, the cycle of energy utilization and supply goes on unimpeded millions of times per second in every cell in the body. This continual cycle of energy supply and demands keeps the cell fully charged with energy and maintains a constant level of ATP no matter how hard the heart is working.

When one of these ingredients is missing, sickness follows. A good example of this is lack of oxygen; oxygen starvation always results in a heart attack. Blocked arteries can deprive the heart cells of oxygenated blood flow, causing the tissues to consume their energy supplies faster than they can be restored (1).

The human heart has approximately 700 milligrams of ATP and this is enough to pulsate at a rate of one beat per second for 60 seconds. This may sound like a lot but it is a considerable slow rate for a healthy person. For this, 6,000 grams of ATP will need to be generated per day.

Magnesium is always found attached to ATP in cells. It has important functions like helping ATP move around within the cell, and attracting various structures in the cell that require energy to function.

ATP composition

ATP is composed of adenine, ribose and three phosphate radicals connected by high energy phosphate bonds. Each of these bonds are known as ‘high energy bonds’ because they contain about 12,000 calories of energy per mole of ATP. When ATP releases its energy, a radical is split away and ADP is formed (adenosine diphosphate), which recombines over and over to form new ATP. Because ATP can be spent and remade again and again, it is called the ‘energy currency of the cell’.

Uses of ATP

ATP is then used to:

  1. Supply energy for the transport of sodium, calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and chloride ions through the cell membrane, among other substances. This transport of ions is so important for the cell that some use as much as 80% of the ATP made by the cells for this purpose alone.
  2. Promote protein synthesis as well as phospholipids, cholesterol, etc. The synthesis of all these nutrients require thousand of molecules of ATP.
  3. Supply energy needed during muscle contraction.

Because of all these important functions, ATP must always be available to release its energy rapidly and almost explosively whenever it is needed in the cell. To replace ATP used by the cell other much slower chemical reactions break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins and use the energy derived from these to form new ATP (2).

ATP keeps the heart beating. With each heartbeat ions of potassium, sodium, and calcium move in and out of the cell and in and out of different organelles inside the cell. The continual flow of ions keeps the heart beating rhythmically and allows the heart to fully relax between beats and able to refill with blood for each contraction.

ATP also allows the heart to build important cellular constituents such as proteins and genetic material. These allow the heart to be repaired whenever there is enough wear.

Mitochondria, the cellular energy powerhouse

The mitochondria is considered the powerhouse because it produces most of the energy needed by the cell. Mitocondria generates more than 90% of the body’s need for energy to sustain life and they take approximately 35% of the space within the heart cell.

The way energy is produced is called ‘respiration’because it requires oxygen. It happens as follows: carbon fragments like fats and pyruvate are oxidized by oxygen that is delivered by the blood and used to make ATP. This process releases electrons, which recycle ADP back into ATP, thereby restoring energy to the cell.

ATP formed inside the mitochondria must be moved into the cytosol of the cell to release its life-giving energy. ADP from the cytosol must be moved into the michochondria, where it can recycle to ATP. Because the mitochondrial membrane is permeable to both ATP and ADP, they can be exchanged across the mitochondrial membrane, with ATP moving out and ADP moving in. Then an enzyme called ‘ATP-ADP translocase’ moves ATP and ADP across the mitochondrial membrane, keeping ATP flowing to the cell and ADP flowing to the mitochondria. This process supplies the vital energy needed to sustain life.

Oxygen does not contribute to the process directly, but acts as a metabolic garbage can, gathering up the spent electrons after they have flowed through the process, then releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) and water. Some of this is released when we exhale, and the rest is transported by the blood to the kidneys to be excreted as urine.

Around 2-5% of this oxygen is turned into free radicals. These free radicals are formed inside the mitochondrial membrane and they can accumulate rapidly because oxygen utilization occurs constantly within the mitochondria.

While an abundance of free radicals can accelerate aging and degenerative diseases,and be the major unexplained cause of congestive heart failure, research has shown that a small percentage of free radicals may play an important part in supporting life processes, like mitochondrial respiration.

Recent research has shown that we can enrich our mitochondria with nutrients. Since our diets are not balanced, supplementation has become ‘ necessary way of life’ (1). Dr. Stephen Sinatra, considers mitochondria to be the key to how we age, why we get disease any why we die prematurely.

Something else important about mitochodria is that they contain their own set of DNA, from 2 to 10 copies of DNA called mtDNA. All of this genetic material is obtained from the mother , not the father. Mitochondrial DNA makes the proteins needed for energy metabolism. Because this mitochondrial DNA is not isolated from its environment by a membrane, it is exposed to free radicals, rendering it unable to pass on genetic information. It it for this reason that we must supplement with antioxidant nutrients.

Roles of the mitochondria

The majority of the ATP is formed in the mitochondria.This is how it happens, step by step: When glucose enters the cell it is acted on by enzymes and becomes ‘pyruvic acid’ by a process known as ‘glycolysis’. The pyruvic acid derived from carbohydrates, fatty acids and amino acids are all converted into a compound known as ‘acetyl-CoA’. Another set of enzymes act on this compound in order to extract its energy through a process known as ‘Krebs cycle’.

In the ‘citric acid cycle’, acetyl-CoA is split into its components: hydrogen atoms and carbon dioxide, the latter eventually comes out of the cell, while the hydrogen atoms are highly reactive and combine with oxygen. This releases a tremendous amount of energy which is used by the mitochondria to convert large amounts of ADP to ATP. The newly formed ATP is transported out of the mitochondria into all parts of the cell and used as energy for the cell functions.

Hearts need a constant supply of energy

As long as the cell is supplied with two basic ingredients: food and oxygen, the cycle of energy use and supply goes on unimpeded millions of times per second in every cell in the body. Since the amount of ATP available is small compared with the demand, the cells must continue manufacturing energy. The continual supply of ATP is necessary to maintaining cardiac function.

In heart cells most of the ATP is present in the cell in two cellular structures: the cytosol and the mitochondria. The cytosol is the fluid portion of the cell that contains main constituents of the cell including the mitochondria.Each heart cell can contain as many as 5,000 mitochondria, If the heart works extra hard, like it is the case of ischemic heart disease, the ATP pool may increase in order to get more energy (1).

Once ATP releases its energy most of the ADP that is generated returns to the mitochondria to be recycled back into ATP. After ATP forms again it leaves the mitochondria and moves to the region of the cell needing energy. A small amount of the ADP remains in the cytosol, where it is reformed into ATP more slowly. This ATP is generally associated with cell membranes and provides the energy needed to control ion movement into and out of the cell (1).

There is ATP also outside the cell that is important for cell energy but it is small compared with the amount of ATP found inside the cell. In diseased hearts, the amount of ATP found outside the cell can be up to ten times higher than in healthy hearts.This extracellular ATP has a major function of forming adenosine, a strong vasodilator. ‘In ischemic heart conditions, the vasodilatory effect of adenosine helps open blood vessels, allowing more blood and oxygen to flow to the heart’(1).

Measuring cellular energy

In the cell there are hundreds of different enzymes whose job is to accelerate biochemical reactions. For this reason, they can be compared to spark plugs in a car, and the amount of energy generating material available to gasoline. Enough energy is needed for the spark to act on it and speed up these reactions. Enzymes that release the chemical energy in ATP are called ‘ATPases’.

How energy translates to work in the body

The human heart has four chambers, two upper chambers, called ‘left and right atria’, two lower chambers, called ‘left and right ventricles’. When the heart beats there are several stages that involve energy within the ventricular muscles.

‘Systolic function’ refers to the stage of the heartbeat when the lower chambers contract, squeezing blood out of the arteries . This requires adequate ATP energy in cells of the heart muscle and a strong muscle to respond and contract effectively. Contraction empties most of the blood out of the heart chambers, but requires the least amount of cellular energy.This means that even in cases of exhaustion there is still energy left in the heart to allow our body to rest. In terms of blood pressure, contraction corresponds to the upper number in blood pressure measurement.

After the contraction phase there is a brief period of rest, 1/3 of a second long. This is the ‘relaxation’ or ‘diastolic phase’, where the heart refills with blood for the next contraction.The relaxation stage also depends on energy and on the ability of the heart to ‘stretch without sagging, fill and accommodate adequate blood volume. (1)’ A lot more energy is needed for the heart to relax than to force it to contract for two reasons:

  1. A lot of energy is needed to separate the bonds (called ‘rigor bonds’)formed during contraction in order to allow the muscle to return to its relaxed state.
  2. During relaxation, energy is also needed to remove the calcium ions from the cell following contraction. This is how it works: When the heart is preparing to contract, large amounts of calcium rush into the cell, helping the heart contract. When contraction is over, calcium must be pumped out of the cytosol, this requires ATP. The calcium pump has two sites for ATP and both have to be attached to ATP before the pump can work. This process is similar to what is known as ‘writer’s cramp in which the muscles of the finger get so tight after being used without pause that they cannot relax. This is caused by the fact that all the energy has been used to contract the muscle holding the pencil. Because there is no energy left, calcium cannot be discharged from the cytosol and the rigor bonds formed in the muscle fibers cannot be broken. In the case of the heart, the heart will not be able to fully relax, which means that it cannot be filled with blood properly and pump it to the whole body.This is what is called ‘dyastolic dysfunction’. It is characterized by a thickening and stiffening of the walls of the ventricles, which increases blood pressure, reduces the amount of blood discharged from the heart and makes it harder for the heart to fill.It is an early sign of cardiac problems that around 25% of the population over the age of 45, both male and female have. Around 50% of this percentage does not know they have this condition which puts them at risk for congestive heart failure.

Concluding, the heart needs a constant supply of energy. A key player in this supply of energy is a circulatory system that is fluid enough to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the heart cells. Only when this is the case can cells manufacture ATP to keep the cycle of energy use and supply unimpeded millions of times per second in every cell in the body to keep the cell fully charged, no matter how hard the heart is working.

The Heart and Body Extract, because of its role in improving circulation can help carry oxygen and nutrients to the cell. Make sure you add Heart and Body Extract to your health protocol today!

Thank you for reading.

References:

 

 

 

Basics of cellular energy (Pt. 1)

We have seen how the health of the body depends on fluidity and pressure. Fluidity allows the blood to circulate unimpeded and easily under the pressure exerted by the heart. Only when this is the case can our cells be oxygenated, receive nutrition and detoxify themselves. Proper circulation, therefore, could be said to be one the most important aspects of our health, and the reason why the Heart and Body Extract is such a great addition to our health protocol.

Good circulation is also key because it allows the movement of intracellular and extracellular fluids to be transported throughout the body, allowing nutrients to be carried to the cells so they can manufacture the energy they need to do their job. Many health care professionals believe it is the ability of the cell to manufacture energy that is at the core of many cardiac disease disorders. This is the case of ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure and ‘cardiomyopathy (1).

In today’s blog, we will focus on the role of circulation in the cell’s ability to manufacture energy.We will look at the microscopic cell, its main functions and parts and how its ability to make energy influences heart health.

The microscopic cell

When we consider the health of our body, it is easy to think of only organs, like the heart. But we need to remember that each organ in our body is ‘an aggregate of many different cells’(2). Because of this, the health of our organs depends on the health of each microscopic cell.

So, what is a cell? Cells are the ‘basic structural, functional, and biological unit of all known living organisms’(3). Each of the 100 trillion cells in the human body is a ‘living structure that can survive indefinitely and even reproduce itself, provided its surrounding fluids contain appropriate nutrients’ (2).

Each specific cell is specially adapted to perform one or more functions, like the heart cells. However, despite the differences, all cells have the same basic characteristics. For instance, in all cells oxygen combines with the breakdown products of carbohydrates, fat or protein to release the energy required for cell function. What is more, the basic mechanism for turning nutrients into energy is basically the same in all cells. In this sense, all cells deliver the end products of their chemical reactions into the surrounding fluids.

Composition of the cell

The cell is a complex unit composed of highly organized physical structures called ‘organelles’. The two major parts of the cell are the ‘nucleus’ and the ‘cytoplasm’, both separated from each other and the surrounding fluids by a barrier called ‘membrane’. They are all equally important to the functioning of the cell, but the mitochondria provides 95% of the cell’s total energy supply(2).

The substances that make up the cell are called ‘protoplasm’ and they are: water, electrolytes, proteins, lipids and carbohydrates.

  1. Water: It is the main fluid medium in cells at a concentration of 70-85%. Many cellular chemicals are dissolved in water and this allows many chemical reactions to take place.
  2. Electrolytes: The main electrolytes in the cell are potassium, magnesium, phosphate, sulfate, bicarbonate, and small amounts of sodium, chloride, and calcium. Electrolytes provide inorganic chemicals for cellular reactions. On the cell membrane, for example, they allow transmission of electrochemical impulses in nerve and muscle fibers.
  3. Proteins: They are 10-20% of the total cell mass. They are divided into ‘structural proteins’ and ‘globular proteins’. The structural proteins are present in hair, collagen and elastin fibers of connective tissue, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, etc. The globular proteins are the enzymes of the cell and are soluble in the cell fluid. Enzymes catalyze chemical reactions, an example is the chemical reaction that splits glucose into component parts and combine these with oxygen to form carbon dioxide and water, providing energy for cellular functions.
  4. Lipids: They are soluble in fat solvents. The most important ones are phospholipids and cholesterol, which together add up to 2% of the cell’s total mass. Because they are insoluble in water they make up the cell membrane and the intracellular membranous barriers that separate the different cell compartments.
  5. Apart from cholesterol and phospholipids, we can also find triglycerides, which make up 95% of the cell’s mass. The fat stored in these cells are the body’s main storehouse of energy-giving nutrients that can be dissolved and used for energy when the body needs it.
  6. Carbohydrates: They play a major role in the nutrition of the cell. Carbohydrates in the form of dissolved glucose are always present in the surrounding extracellular fluid as a form of readily available energy for the cell. A small amount is always stored in the cell in the form of glycogen, which is a source of quick energy. Most human cells do not contain large stores of carbohydrates, only around 1%. 3% is found in muscle cells and sometimes up to 6% in liver cells (2).

Extracellular fluid, the internal environment

We have seen how our body is mostly made out of water, and how water balance is very important. When it comes to the health of our cells, it is key to understand how fluid is kept in the right places. Some of this fluid is inside the cells and is known as intracellular fluid, but some other is in the spaces outside the cells, known as extracellular fluid.

In the extracellular fluid are the ions and nutrients needed by the cells for maintenance of cellular life. Because this extracellular fluid is in constant motion, its contents are rapidly being transported in the general circulation and then mixed between the blood and the tissue fluids through the capillary walls.

Basically, all the cells in our body live in this extracellular fluid, and because of this it is called internal environment of the body. The key aspect to understand here is that this internal environment determines the health of the cells and their ability to make energy,‘As long as the proper concentrations of oxygen, glucose, ions, amino acids, fatty substances and other constituents are available in this internal environment’(2).

Differences between the extracellular and intracellular fluid

The extracellular fluid contains large amounts of sodium, chloride, and bicarbonate ions, plus nutrients for the cell: oxygen, glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids. It also contains carbon dioxide that is being transported from the cells to the lungs to be excreted, plus other cellular products that are being transported to the kidneys for excretion.

The intracellular fluid differs from the extracellular because it contains large amounts of potassium, magnesium,and phosphate ions instead of the sodium and chloride ions found in the extracellular fluid. Special mechanisms for transporting ions through the cell membranes maintain these differences. In other words, the extracellular fluid contains a large amount of sodium but only a small amount of potassium, and the exact opposite is true of the intracellular fluid. These differences between the inside and the outside of a cell are extremely important for the life of a cell.

Maintaining the ion balance requires energy. The proper flow of ions into and out of the heart is required to keep the heart cell from filling with water (cardiac edema) and to keep the electrolytes present that allow the heart to beat avoiding irregular heartbeats.

The role of circulation in cell health

Extracellular fluid is transported through all parts of the body in two stages:

During the first stage, the extracellular fluid is transported in the circulatory system as the blood moves around in a circular motion from heart to the lower parts of the body and back up again. All the blood in the circulation moves through the entire circulatory system an average of once every minute when the body is at rest and as many as six times each minute when a person becomes extremely active.

During the second stage, the extracellular fluid is transported via the movement of fluid between the blood capillaries and the cells: As blood passes through the capillaries there is a continual exchange of extracellular fluid between the blood and the interstitial fluid in the intercellular spaces. This is possible because the capillaries are porous and allow large amounts of fluid and its dissolved nutrients to diffuse back and forth between the blood and the tissue spaces. The fluid and dissolved molecules are continually moving and bouncing in all directions within the fluid themselves and through the pores and through the tissue spaces.

How nutrients are distributed through the different organs

As the extracellular fluid, both that of the plasma and that in interstitial spaces is continually being mixed, it allows complete homogeneity throughout the body.Then, as blood circulates through the different organs, nutrients are distributed in the following way:

1) Respiratory system: Every time the blood circulates through the body it also flows through the lungs. There, the blood picks up oxygen that the cells need. Carbon dioxide is released from the blood into the lungs and the respiratory movement of air into and out of the alveoli carries the carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

2) Gastrointestinal tract: A large portion of the blood pumped by the heart also passes through the walls of the gastrointestinal organs. Here, different dissolved nutrients like carbohydrates, fatty acids, and amino acids are absorbed from the ingested food into the extracellular fluid.

3) Liver: Not all substances absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract can be used in their absorbed form by the cells. The liver changes the chemical compositions of many of these substances to more usable forms; then other tissues of the body, fat cells, kidneys, etc help to modify the absorbed substances or store them until they are needed.

4) Kidneys: Passage of blood through the kidneys removes most of the other substances besides carbon dioxide from the plasma that are not needed by the cells, such as urea and uric acid. They include excesses of ions and water from the food that might have accumulated in the extracellular fluid. The kidneys perform their function by first filtering large quantities of plasma then reabsorbing those substances that are needed by the body into the blood: glucose, amino acids, water and ions.

 

Are you dehydrated? How dehydration can influence blood pressure (Pt. 2)

We are electro-magnetic beings

The movement of water (blood and lymph) exerted by our circulatory and lymphatic systems generate hydro-electric energy that the body can use. This is possible because of special pumps found on the cell membrane that generate energy when water passes through this membrane. But it is also made possible by minerals flowing through our arteries and smaller vessels carrying electricity. Whenever electricity is flowing along well-defined pathways, magnetic fields develop around those same pathways. The magnetic fields, in turn, have an effect upon the flow of charged particles in our blood and lymph (3).

Salt, because of its high concentration of minerals, is needed to keep the fluid in the body electrically charged. This is the reason these minerals are called ‘electrolytes’, they carry electrical charges. What is more, salt keeps water in the right places in the body, especially in the inside and outside the cells. Not only salt and water create this electro-magnetic effect, the foods we eat extract the minerals from the soil, then as we digest these foods they get incorporated into our bloodstream and tissues.

Something like ‘leaky gut’ and maldigestion, however, can allow undigested food to enter the blood stream and interrupt the normal flow of energy by thickening the blood, creating an immune response and an increase of ‘circulating immune complexes’, blood clots, and many dead cells.

In this sense, health can be defined as a combination of all the electromagnetic fields of the foods we eat, and the minerals circulating in the blood, lymph, the vital organs, nerves and brain. The health of the whole body is built around the presence of these minerals, being suspended in the body. A mineral rich diet is essential for heart health (3).

The composition of the body: Minerals, trace elements and electrolytes

Like we already pointed out, 4-5% of our body’s tissues are made of minerals, trace elements and electrolytes. 25-26% is made up of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, the remaining 70% is made out of water.

All of the electrolytes, minerals and trace elements are needed for the body to function properly. Deficiency of one does not result in death but the tissue that mineral, electrolyte or trace mineral activates can throw the other processes off balance. Deficiency symptoms may lead to fatigue, nausea, disease although not necessarily to death.

The critical mineral balance in the body is known as homeostasis: the normal internal stability of the body chemistry and processes when all body systems are in the proper balance. How much we need of each depends on age, sex, weight, lifestyle and individual body chemistry.

Each mineral has its own vibration (electrical charge) and each has its function in the body. In general, electrolytes are found in the body in greater amounts than minerals and trace elements. Out of the 4-5% amount of minerals present in our body, electrolytes make up 70-80%. Electrolytes are vital to health and life, without them life would not be possible (3).

What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals which are capable of splitting into two opposite electrically charged minerals (ions) when dissolved in a fluid like water or blood plasma. Once they split, the water portion of the blood transports them to body tissues in this electrically charged form, then they move from one electrical level to another, and recombine with other ions or interact with one another. When this happens, they attach themselves to:

  • Proteins to become part of enzymes (Eg. hemoglobin)
  • Co-enzymes
  • Hormones
  • Vitamins and
  • Other highly active and important substances in the body

 As an example, let’s say you take some magnesium chloride. This combination will stay as such until it is dissolved in the blood or lymph. There, it separates into two particles with opposite electrical charges: magnesium and chloride. This split form keeps recombining to allow the body to perform all the functions we know as heartbeat, nerve conduction, etc.

The electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which have a positive electrical charge, and chloride, sulfate and phosphate which are negatively charged. Electrolytes act mainly inside and around cells: potassium, magnesium and phosphate are found inside, while sodium, calcium and chlorine are found outside the cells. Differences in electrical potential between the inside and the outside of the cell allow some substances to go through the cell wall and keep others out. This is one of the ways cells control what can enter and what cannot.

Electrolytes work in pairs, this is the case sodium and potassium, calcium and magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. This means that when there is too much of one, the other that pairs with it, is excreted.

Electrolytes can be destroyed with vomiting or diarrhea, high fevers, perspiration, even drinking too much water can can flush them out of the body through urine. Physical or mental stress will deplete electrolytes and trace minerals at a very fast rate. Conditions caused by electrolyte deficiency are high blood pressure, cholesterol and clogged arteries, digestive problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.

More functions of electrolytes

-Keeping the acid-alkaline balance: The normal state of the blood stream is slightly alkaline, limited to a very narrow pH of 7.3 to 7.45. This is important because most of the mineral processes in the body can only happen in the narrow pH between 7.35 and 7.45 and temperatures close to 98.6 degrees F. Many of the body’s enzymes are designed to trigger or speed up mineral processes at that pH and temperature range. Certain electrolytes constantly neutralize metabolic and other acids to keep the pH of the blood within the proper range. For example, carbon dioxide wastes released by the cells are carried in the blood plasma as sodium bicarbonate, rather than carbonic acid. When this happens, the pH of the blood is not forced to be too acidic (3).

Magnesium also assists in the neutralization of acid wastes in the bowel.

Potassium combines with metabolic acids in the muscle tissues especially in critically important tissues like the heart, lungs, liver and pancreas.

-Muscle contraction: Muscle contraction depends on the electrically charged ions of calcium, magnesium and phosphate. This is initiated by a nerve impulse requiring potassium and sodium at every nerve synapse that allows the nerve impulse to get to the muscle from the brain.

-Sulfur is used in tissue respiration, plays an important part in bile secretion and is found in insulin. The sulfur compounds in garlic are believed to have a powerful anti-cancer effect and an immune system enhancing effect as well.

-Calcium and sodium are in every cell of every organ, gland and tissue of the body and they are two of the most needed elements. The fluid surrounding the cells of the body contains a certain concentration of sodium ions which cannot pass through the cell membranes. When the fluid level drops too far, the sodium concentration increases and the thirst center of the brain is activated. The pituitary gland releases a hormone that signals the kidneys to conserve water. When the fluid level increases too much, the sodium concentration is decreased and the adrenal glands release the hormone aldosterone, which signals the kidneys to get rid of some of the water while retaining the sodium. In the course of filtering 170 liters of blood plasma every 24 hours, the kidneys recycle over 99% of the water, sodium, chloride and bicarbonate, 95% of the phosphate, 93% of the potassium and 70% of the sulfate. The excess minerals or metabolic wastes that are not needed are excreted in the urine (3).

They assist vitamins: Vitamins cannot do their job unless adequate minerals are present in the body. Minerals combine with certain vitamins to detoxify and help remove metabolic waste from the body.

What are the most important electrolytes for a healthy heart?

Sodium-potassium and calcium-magnesium are some of the most important electrolytes for the heart.

Sodium and potassium are always found together in the body. According to Dr. Eric Berg, potassium is one of the electrolytes that we need in the highest amounts: we need four more times potassium than sodium. That is around 4,700 mg of potassium a day, balanced with 1,000 mg of sodium.

Dr. Berg explains there is what is known as sodium-potassium pump that is built on the surface of our cells. Each of our 100 trillion cells has between 800,000 and 30 million of these little pumps. The importance of these ‘pumps’ is immense: these pumps are generators of electrical energy and they allow nutrients to go in and out of the cell. This is essential for health because each cell requires a lot of energy in order to do their work, in fact, 1/3 of all the food we consume is used to run these pumps.

There is another pump in the stomach called the hydrogen-potassium ATP ACE pump that also requires potassium and allows the body to create stomach acid to help us digest food. These pumps are also in the muscles, and the nervous system.

Potassium, therefore, is essential for building these pumps and because of this potassium is needed for:

  • Charging the cell electrically: Our cells have certain voltage that allow things in and out of the cell to create energy for our body to function
  • Helping the muscles contract and relax: Potassium allows calcium to go into the cell. Calcium is essential for muscles to relax, and muscle cramps might be a sign of potassium deficiency
  • Helping in nerve conduction: The nerves need potassium too in order to conduct electricity
  • Controlling fluid and hydration in the body
  • Assisting in the production of energy in the body as a whole

Best food sources of potassium are dulse with 8,060 milligrams per 100 grams, kelp (5,273 mg.), goat whey (3,403 mg.), wheat bran (1,121 mg.), sunflower seeds (920 mg.), almonds (773 mg.), etc. Eating two generous garden salads each day containing at least 6 vegetables, will provide enough food sodium and food potassium to keep the body’s reserves. Processed foods have a lot more sodium and little potassium, while unprocessed foods provide more potassium than sodium.

Symptoms of potassium deficiency are:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of heaviness on muscles
  • Arrythmias, because the electrical impulses don’t work
  • Alteration in heart beat, like the ‘skipped beats’ characteristic of atrial fibrillation
  • Hypertension
  • Fluid retention
  • Lack of stomach acid, which translates into problems digesting protein and absorption of minerals
  • Constipation, the potassium from vegetables helps with constipation and keep the liver clean

Potassium levels can be low due to different reasons:

  • Not consuming enough vegetables in the diet
  • Surgery
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Too much sugar in the diet: High sugar can lead to a condition known as ‘insulin resistance’ in which the high levels of sugar cause the body to start ignoring insulin. Because insulin helps carry nutrients inside the cells and is necessary for the sodium-potassium pump to absorb nutrients, with insulin resistance, nutrients don’t get stored inside the cell
  • Diuretics: They flush the electrolytes from the body
  • Too much salt: It can deplete potassium
  • Ketogenic diets: As the body looses fat, urination is increased and potassium is lost
  • Drinking too much water
  • Stress

Most tests don’t show a deficiency in potassium because potassium stays inside the cell, with the exception of a very sophisticated test called ‘Intercellular test’.

Calcium and magnesium are also among the most important electrolytes for the body. They both combine with certain enzymes that break down foods, produce energy, form proteins and help make DNA.

Both calcium and magnesium are insufficient in the majority of the population. Lack of stomach acid can keep calcium from being absorbed. If calcium isn’t dissolved when it reaches the small intestine it is excreted. Calcium absorption requires vitamin A, C and D, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, manganese and zinc. For calcium to be used properly vitamin D, stomach acid, and trace elements zinc, copper, chromium, manganese and molybdenum are all necessary. Best magnesium foods are the green vegetables especially the chlorophyll rich leafy, green vegetables, poultry and fish. Best calcium foods are leafy, green vegetables, raw goat milk, nuts, seeds, ripe olives, white beans, lentils, broccoli, green snap beans (3).

Concluding, we have seen how water and salt are essential for healthy blood pressure. The minerals present in salt generate electrical currents that provide us with energy, even to the level of the cell. This is essential for the health of our heart.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulics
  2. Batmanghelidj, F. Your Body’s Many Cries for Water. Place of Publication Not Identified: Tagman, 2004. Print.
  3. Jensen, Bernard. Come Alive. Escondido, CA: B. Jensen, 1997. Print.
  4. (http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/list-minerals-sea-salt-8907.html)

Are you dehydrated? How dehydration can influence blood pressure (Pt. 1)

We have seen how the body is a pressurized system that depends on fluidity to perform many important functions: transport of oxygen and nutrients, and detoxification. Good circulation means the body can receive oxygen, nutrients and can remove toxins. On the contrary, poor circulation translates into lack of oxygen, starvation and build up of toxins. For this reason, proper circulation could be said to be the key to good health. Health is movement and movement creates electrical energy to power our heart, brain and other organs.

The importance of this is shown in the composition of the body itself: 70% of the body’s weight is made out of water, 25-26% is made out of protein, fats, and carbohydrates and the remaining 4-5% is made out of minerals, trace elements and electrolytes.

In this blog, we will see look at the importance of proper hydration for heart health. We will focus on the importance of salt and the role it plays in water balance and healthy blood pressure.

The bodys hydraulic system

The word ‘hydraulics’ comes from the Greek meaning ‘water pipes’ and it is defined as the power exerted by pressurized fluids (1). The body’s circulation system is designed as the most advanced hydraulics system (2), with its miles of arteries and capillaries. This hydraulics system makes sure that water is distributed promptly wherever it is needed in the body.

In this sense, the vessels of the body are designed to cope with the fluctuation of their blood volume and the tissue requirements by opening and closing. When the total fluid volume in the body is decreased, the main vessels also have to decrease their aperture, otherwise there would not be enough fluid to fill all the space allocated to blood volume in the body (2).

Blood volume fluctuates regularly as the body’s needs change, and it is influenced by the ‘blood-holding capacity of the capillary bed that determines the direction and the rate of flow to any site at a given time’ (2). This process is naturally designed to cope with any priority work without the burden of maintaining an excess fluid volume in the body.

As a general rule, where there is a higher demand of blood, circulatory systems are kept fully open for the passage of blood. This is the case of digestion. When we eat, more capillaries are open in the gastrointestinal tract and fewer are open in the major muscle systems. This is why we feel less active after a meal. When digestion is finished, less blood is needed in the digestive tract so the circulation to other areas of the body can open more easily (2).

This shunting of blood is highly orchestrated by a mechanism that establishes the order of priorities for the capillaries to open or close. This order is predetermined according to a scale of importance and function: The brain, lungs, liver, kidneys and glands take priority over muscles, bones and the skin in blood distribution(2).

Water shortage: dehydration

Dehydration is a serious health problem. In normal circumstances, the water we drink gets inside the cells, and regulates the volume of a cell from the inside. Salt regulates the amount of water that is held outside the cells. Water balance is kept in the right place by a self regulating mechanism in the brain. However, dehydrating beverages like alcohol, tea, coffee, juices, and other commercial drinks, processed and denatured foods with chemical additives and not enough water can influence this water regulating mechanism negatively. Even milk in great quantities can cause greater volume of urine to be excreted that is ingested (3).

What is more, when we don’t drink enough water to keep all the needs of the body going, some cells become dehydrated and release some of their water to the body’s general circulation. ‘The capillaries in some parts of the body then have to close’ (2). This is because there is a very delicate balancing process in the design of the body in the way it maintains its composition of blood at the expense of fluctuating the water content in some cells of the body. When there is a shortage of water, some cells will go without a portion of their normal needs and some others will get a predetermined rationed amount to maintain function. However, the blood will normally retain the consistency of its composition. It must do so keep the normal composition of elements reaching the vital centers. Under circumstances of dehydration the body will favor blood even if it means to shut down some vascular vessels (2).

Loss of this self regulating brain mechanism (loss of thirst sensation) (2) is characteristic of the elderly (3), and it always translates into blood volume loss. When this happens, 66% of the water lost is taken from the water volume normally held in the cells, 26% is taken from the volume held outside the cells and 8% is taken from blood volume (2).

How dehydration can lead to hypertension

Under circumstances of water shortage, the blood vessels close to deal with the loss in blood volume in the less restrictive areas. This allows the body to keep the balance needed to keep other capillaries open. When the capillaries are closed and offer resistance, only an increased force behind the circulating blood will ensure the passage of some fluids through the system. This extra force increases blood pressure as it requires the heart to work harder to ‘push through’. To improve this condition, the capillaries must remain open and full and offer no resistance to blood circulation. Activities like exercise will allow the capillaries to open and hold a greater volume of blood within the circulation, relieving hypertension (2).

In this respect, high blood pressure is ‘an adaptive process to a gross body water deficiency’ (2). Essential hypertension should primarily be treated with an increase in daily water intake. When we don’t drink enough water, the body’s only way to keep its water volume is by keeping sodium in the body, only this way will water remain in the extra cellular fluid. This is not the healthy normal status of water balance, but a last resort way of retaining some water in cases of emergency needs.

Diuretics are ‘scientific absurdity’ (2) because they force the body to get rid of its water, making the body even more dehydrated. Water is the best natural diuretic.

Dr. Bernard Jensen also believed that not taking enough water before eating may cause the circulating blood to be too concentrated with nutrients, which could affect the liver, heart and lungs negatively. He recommended people with high blood pressure to increase their water intake with added potassium and magnesium, especially after heavy meals.

Dehydration, therefore, explains the need to increase blood pressure to build a ‘filtration force’in the body. The precaution to keep in mind is loss of salt from the body when water intake is increased and salt intake is not. Dr. Batmanghelidj’s recommendation is as follows:‘After a few days of taking six-eight-ten glasses of water a day, you should begin to think of adding some salt in your diet.’(2)

Water is also needed for digestion, assimilation, elimination, circulation, nutrient transport, temperature control and as a solvent and medium for chemical reactions to take place. But the body needs a certain amount of water, no less and no more. All but 1.5 quarts of the water in the body is recycled. The 1.5 quarts represent water plus waste that must be excreted from the body as urine (3).

The role of salt in fluid balance

We just mentioned how water stays in the inside of the cell, while salt stays on the outside of the cell. When we are talking about dehydration, both water and salt are of equal importance. ‘Salt is a most essential ingredient in the body’ (2). The body’s wisdom dictates the need to retain salt in order to keep water inside the system. It will take a gradual increase in urine to pass the excess salt out. Meanwhile, the ‘edema fluid’ many people are concerned about when they start supplementing with salt, is explained by the body’s need to ‘filter some of its water and flush it through the cell membrane into some of the cells’ (2). It is the same principle as a water osmosis purification system used in cities. This also explains the rise in blood pressure to build a ‘filtration force’.

Functions of salt in the body

Salt is a most essential ingredient of the body. ‘In order of importance, oxygen, water, salt and potassium rank as the primary elements for the survival of the human body.’ (2)

Salt has many functions:

About 27% of the salt content of the body is stored in the bones in the form of crystals. Thus, salt deficiency in the body also could be responsible for the development of osteoporosis, because salt will be taken out of the bones to maintain its vital normal levels in the blood.

Low salt intake will contribute to a build up of acidity in some cells. High acidity in the cell can damage the DNA structure and be the initiating mechanism for cancer formation in some cells. Experiments have shown that quite a number of cancer patients show low salt levels in their body.

Muscle cramps at night are a sign of becoming salt deficient. Also, dizziness and feeling faint might be indicators of salt and water shortage in the body. In these circumstances, an increase in vitamins and minerals intake is recommended, especially vegetables for their water soluble vitamin content (2).

Other health care professionals also believed in the importance of salt for health. Dr. Bernard Jensen had this to say about salt:

‘Sea salt (food sodium) is assimilated and stored especially in the walls of the stomach and the bowel where it neutralizes excess acids and protects the stomach and bowel wall from tissue damage due to acids. Sodium is also stored in the joints where it helps keep the joints supple and prevents calcium from coming out of solution to deposit in the joints as spurs.’ (3)

Differences between table salt and sea salt

Table salt is mainly sodium chloride and a caustic alkali with chlorine. Sodium chloride is not found alone in nature. In its natural state, it is mixed with other minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, sulfate, etc. that have to be separated in order to produce the kind of table salt that we buy at the store. This refining is done through a series of chemical procedures including bleaching and added chemicals. This kind of salt used excessively can rob calcium from the body, cause water retention, high blood pressure, loss of elasticity in blood vessels and hardened tissues (3).

Table salt enters the body in a concentrated form that the body cannot assimilate so it is sent to the kidneys. Food sodium, on the contrary, is not concentrated so it enters the system in an amount that can be controlled and directed to the right organs and tissues. The stomach and the intestine are sodium organs and are in need of constant food sodium.

Sea salt is the closest thing in nature to a natural mix of different mineral salts. It disperses little by little into the blood as it is broken down, digested and assimilated. Table salt, on the other side, overdoses the body with sodium which is more or less useless in the functioning of the various tissues and its main effect is to cause more water to be held in the tissues.’ (3)

Sea salt mineral composition

‘Sea salt comes from evaporated sea water…as a result, …sea salt has as many as 75 minerals and trace elements.’ Among them we can find:

Sodium and chloride: The most abundant ions in sea salt, representing about 33% and 50.9% of total minerals, respectively. They are both essential substances our body needs for normal function and nutrient absorption. Chloride specifically helps with muscle and nerve function. Sodium also acts in muscle function and helps regulate blood volume and pressure.

Potassium: Another important macro-mineral that works with chloride to help regulate acid levels in the body.

A quarter-teaspoon of Celtic sea salt contains 601.25 milligrams of chloride, 460 milligrams of sodium and 2.7 milligrams of potassium (4).

Calcium and magnesium: They both play essential roles in several chemical reactions in your body. Magnesium, for example, intervenes in energy production and the synthesis of RNA and DNA. Calcium helps give structure to bones and teeth, in addition to regulating heartbeat, normal muscle and nerve function. Both are present in sea salt at the approximate concentrations of 1.5 milligrams and 5.2 milligrams per 1/4 teaspoon, respectively (4).

Sulfur: It is the third most common mineral in sea salt. There is about 9.7 milligrams per quarter-teaspoon of sea salt. Even though it is not an essential mineral, sulfur plays an important role in the immune system and detoxification. Every cell in the body contains it, and it helps give structure to two amino acids. According to researcher Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., sulfur is the eighth most common element in the human body and is important for normal metabolism and heart health (4).

Trace Elements: Trace elements are metals with very specific electrical and chemical properties. As such, they have electrical effects in our body and take place in particular and unique reactions. This is the case of many enzymes, where trace elements are found embedded deep within. Enzymes could not function without trace elements: On enzyme structures they serve as valuable spark plugs that help speed up chemical reactions. They also act on proteins like hemoglobin (carries oxygen in the blood) and myoglobin (which stores oxygen in the muscles). These reactions, despite being subtle, are very powerful, therefore, although needed in very minute amounts, trace elements, work with the rest of minerals to create health. Since processing removes all vitamins and minerals from food, it is important to eat fresh foods (3).

Trace elements are also essential because they work with other minerals to maintain optimal function in your body. Among the trace minerals found in sea salt are: Phosphorus, Boron, Zinc and iron (used by the body to make enzymes involved in metabolism), Manganese, Copper, Silicon and phosphorus. Phosphorus typically occurs in trace amounts in sea salt, but it is actually an essential macro-mineral. Our body uses it as a structural component of bones, teeth and cell membranes, as well as for energy production (4).

 

 

High blood pressure, the silent epidemic (Pt. 2)

Clinical studies on Dr. Rath’s cellular recommendations regarding high blood pressure

Scientific and clinical research have documented the value of these nutrients in normalizing high blood pressure. These cellular recommendations are based on the fact that millions of artery wall cells are supplied with cell fuel for optimum function.

Dr. Rath’s recommendations were tested in a clinical pilot study with 15 patients suffering from severe hypertension, age 32-69, for 32 weeks. They followed Dr. Rath’s recommendations as they continued their prescribed high blood pressure medications. At the beginning of the study the patients blood pressure was 167 over 97. Their blood pressure was taken every two weeks for the duration of the study. At the end of the study the patients’ blood pressure had dropped to 142 over 83, a 16% difference.

Other studies showed how each specific nutrient decreased the patients’ blood pressure. Vitamin C showed a drop in blood pressure of 5-10%, Coenzyme Q10 10-15%, magnesium 10-15% and arginine more than 10%.

Dr. Rath empasizes that with these nutrients the blood pressure never dropped to low levels, caused dizziness or other health problems, like is the case of overdosing with conventional medicine. (4)

Stress as a cause for hypertension

Stress will cause the body to run through nutrients a lot faster. Under stressful circumstances, it is even more important that the patient follows a high nutrient diet.

When we are under stress aldosterone levels raise. (8) Aldosterone is the major hormone maintaining both water balance and minerals in three places: the blood, the interstitial fluid (space between cells) and inside the cells. These minerals are some of the electrolytes and they are sodium, potassium magnesium and chloride. They are called electrolytes because they carry electrical charges.

Electrolytes are very important for proper cell function as we mentioned before. But to that we need to add that they are critical in maintaining fluid balance in the body. For this to occur, they must remain in a constant ratio to each other and to the body’s fluids. Small alterations in their ratios to each other or to their concentration in the body’s fluids will mean:

  1. Alterations in the properties of the fluids of the body
  2. Changes in the cell membrane
  3. Changes in the biochemical reactions within the cell
  4. Change in the physiological reactions in the body

All of which depend on this flow or concentration of electrolytes.

In the body, under normal circumstances, there is fluid inside the cell, fluid in the space between cells (interstitial fluid) and fluid in the blood, all these three have to be in balance and in the right ratio to one another. Together with water, we find potassium inside the cell, sodium in the space between cells and sodium in the blood. Aldosterone, because it is a very powerful hormone, can alter fluid volume and electrolyte ratio even in the smallest amounts, and this will increase blood pressure.

This is how it happens: As aldosterone rises, as is the case of stress, this hormone causes sodium to be pulled out of the cells’ interstitial fluid into the blood. Whenever sodium goes, so does water. This increased water volume in the blood is what raises blood pressure. It will show as water retention on the ankles even on the skin because aldosterone is also made in the skin.

Sodium and other minerals will then be excreted through the kidneys via urine. This loss of electrolytes will cause salt cravings. If you are on a low salt diet, the problem is exacerbated even more. James Wilson N.D., D.C., Ph. D. recommends to take kelp to replenish the sodium and potassium levels in the body. Kelp, he explains, contains both potassium and sodium in the right proportions in an easily assimilated form. The ‘Heart and Body Extract’ has kelp as one of its active ingredients which makes it a great way to replenish electrolytes when under stress.

Something that is important to understand about this condition is that under chronic stress, the body can become deficient in aldosterone and this will lead to the opposite effect, hypotension. This is what is called ‘adrenal fatigue’, which can cause dizziness, salt cravings, increased thirst, muscle weakness, decreased force of the heart’s contractions, irregular heartbeat, lightheadedness upon standing and lethargy. (8)

Ways to improve hypertension

Minimizing toxins coming from the diet, improving digestion like we have explained in previous blogs, especially digestion of fats, can keep the blood fluid and help the heart.

A supplement that can help accomplish this is the Gland Extract from the Healthy Hearts Club. The ingredients in the Gland Extract can help increase the absorption of nutrients and allow the body to have access to them. Among the ingredients in the Gland Extract you can find:

  1. Kelp, high in nutrients like iodine and potassium
  2. Horsetail grass, which helps the body utilize and hold calcium
  3. Digestive aids papaya and beet that help assimilate nutrients by assisting digestion and helping the bile system respectively
  4. Blood purifiers like red clover and chapparal, which cleanse the lymphatic system and the liver (9)

The ‘Heart and Body Extract’ also contains ingredients that help the digestive process and assist circulation. Namely garlic, ginger and cayenne. Mistletoe has been used to lower blood pressure and heart rate, it eases anxiety, and has been used as an herbal sleep aid. (10)

Moderate exercise will move the lymph and improve circulation. This is because lymph movement depends on muscle movement. Even a brisk walk can get muscles to put enough pressure on the lymphatic vessels to move things around. Sedentary lifestyle, on the contrary, will cause lymphatic congestion and will guarantee accumulation of toxins. And because there are large concentrations of lymph nodes and muscles next to the lungs, deep breathing will work to reduce lymph congestion too. As you breath deeply, these muscles move , moving the lymph. (7)

Concluding, high blood pressure does not have to be the silent mysterious condition it has been. We can keep it at bay by improving digestion, changing our eating habits, and getting some exercise. Products like the Heart and Body Extract and the Gland Extract can keep blood pressure stay at healthy levels.

Thank you for reading.

References:

(1) Ignarro, Louis J. No More Heart Disease: How Nitric Oxide Can Prevent – Even Reverse – Heart Disease and Strokes. Place of Publication Not Identified: Tdc, 2005. Print.

(2) Sinatra, Stephen T., James Roberts, and Martin Zucker. Reverse Heart Disease Now: Stop Deadly Cardiovascular Plaque before It’s Too Late. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2007. Print

(3) http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_319587.pdf

(4) Rath, Matthias. Why Animals Don’t Get Heart Attacks– but People Do!: The Discovery That Will Eradicate Heart Disease: The Natural Prevention of Heart Attacks, Strokes, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, High Cholesterol and Many Other Cardiovascular Conditions. Santa Clara, CA: Dr. Rath Education Services USA, 2003. Print.

(5) Guyton, Arthur C., and John E. Hall. Textbook of Medical Physiology. 1104p.: Ill. (some Col.), n.d. Print.

(6) http://thetraumapro.com/2016/12/15/how-does-it-work-the-lowly-blood-pressure-cuff/

(7) http://pharmacistben.com/toxic/anti-hypertensive-drugs/

(8) Wilson, Jim. Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Lanham: Smart Publications, 2010. Print.

(9) http://hhcextracts.com/

(10) https://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/mistletoe-herbs.html

High blood pressure, the silent epidemic (Pt. 1)

High blood pressure is considered ‘the single largest epidemic’ by many health care professionals (1) (2), and the most prevalent reason why people visit the doctor’s office (1). It is also significant that one third of individuals affected have no symptoms and don’t even know they have this condition. (2)

According to the ‘American Heart Association’, 1 out of every 3 people, or 78 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure. (3) 90% of these cases are considered ‘essential hypertension’ and the causes are unknown. However, many health care professionals, like Dr. Matthias Rath and Dr. Stephen Sinatra believe high blood pressure has been insufficiently understood, until now. And while causal factors like age, body weight, diet, heredity, kidney infection, and stress have always been considered the most probable causes, they assert there are other causes that have not received much attention. (2) (4)

High blood pressure if left untreated can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Dr. Stephen Sinatra asserts that it can conspire with other risk factors like smoking, oxidized LDL, and toxic metals, and “literally pound these toxins into the artery walls, weakening blood vessels at the bends and splits and accelerate the inflammatory-plaque cascade.” (2)

In previous blogs we looked at low thyroid as a cause for hypertension. In this blog, we will look at other reasons for high blood pressure. We will also see how the Gland Extract and the Heart and Body Extract can help.

 What is blood pressure?

 Blood pressure is defined as the ‘force the blood exerts against the walls of the arteries as it moves through the circulatory system’ (1). Any kind of resistance to this normal blood flow, like it is the case of constricted blood vessels, will increase blood pressure. On the contrary, “(when) arteries are relaxed and widened, blood flows more easily and blood pressure decreases.” (1)

Blood pressure is almost always measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). In this sense, when we say that the pressure is 140 mm Hg, for example, what it means is that the force exerted by the blood against the blood vessel is sufficient to push a column of mercury up to a level 140 mm high. Occasionally, pressure is measured in centimeters of water (cm H2O), which points to the pressure needed to raise a column of water to a height of 10 centimeters. 1 millimeter of mercury equals 1.36 cm H2O. (5).

Doctors used to have a sphygmomanometer and a stethoscope to get manual blood pressure readings, but nowadays there are other methods to measure blood pressure that do not require so much work.

An automatic blood pressure device can be used to take blood pressure at home. “It consists of a cuff, tubing that connects it to the monitor, a pressure transducer in line with the tubing, a mini air pump, and a small computer. The transducer can “see” through the tubing and into the cuff.” (6)

With devices like this, anybody can have an instant reading of their blood pressure and monitor their progress with several readings.

There are two numbers that are taken when measuring blood pressure:

  1. The systolic pressure: it is the force on the arterial walls as the heart beats to pump out blood. This is when blood pressure is at its highest.
  2. The diastolic pressure: it is the pressure on the walls as the heart relaxes between beats and fills with blood.

Optimal blood pressure is considered to be under 120-80, normal 129-84, high normal 130-139 and hypertension 140-90 and up. (1)

High blood pressure is usually silent because there are no symptoms. However, this does not mean there is no damage being done internally. According to Dr. Louis J. Ignarro, Nobel Laureate in Medicine, chronic high blood pressure “can gradually lead to inflammation of the arteries, which is followed by arteriosclerosis and plaque formation. It can also enlarge the heart, trigger a heart attack or stroke and set the stage for kidney failure.” (1)

 Why pressure?

Benjamin Fuchs, R Ph explains that the body is a pressurized system powered via the rhythmical pumping action of the heart. This is the way nutrients and oxygen are distributed through the body, and cellswaste is detoxified.“From the heart, (nutrients and oxygen) enter into the large arteries, then travel into smaller and smaller vessels until they reach the tiniest capillaries which are in close contact with cells. And this is the ultimate goal of the ‘Journey of the Blood’: to reach a cell with nutrients and oxygen and then as it leaves on its return trip back to the heart, to drain away its wastes.”

We could say this is health in a nutshell. And it is essential to understand that each of the 100 trillion cells in our body depends on this free flow for nutrition, oxygenation and detoxification.

We also need to remember that the blood is a liquid organ, and as all liquids, it depends on pressure to move. To understand this, we could compare our heart and arterial system to a garden hose. If we wanted to reach far with our hose we would increase the pressure, wouldn’t we? In the body it is the force of blood flow (pressure) which is needed to “bathe and nourish cells and rinse away the cellular waste.” (7)

What causes high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is not a disease in itself, but the manifestation of more serious chronic health conditions (2). To treat high blood pressure successfully, we need to understand these underlying causes properly.

Using the same comparison we used before, let us now imagine our hose is full of dirt inside. Would the water flow as forcefully? Obviously not, because something is preventing the free flow of water. In the body, this could be caused by toxins present in the blood, blood clots, which would cause the blood to thicken, but also by damaged arteries, etc, which will also affect circulation and require extra pressure in order to ‘push through’.

In fact, a diagnosis of hypertension refers to “a resistance to blood flow”and “increased pressure in the blood vessel.”This means that under these conditions “it becomes harder and harder for blood to make it to its ultimate destination, the capillaries and the cells., which ironically means that this increase in pressure at the level of the blood vessels (where a blood pressure cuff works), is low pressure at the level of the capillaries and cells. And this is where it becomes a problem, because low blood pressure means less nutrient and oxygen delivery, and less detoxification of these cells. In other words, the high blood pressure caused by any kind of resistance in the flow of blood is also causing the pressure to be low at a cell level. (7)

One of the main reasons for these toxins and clots is a digestive system that is not processing food correctly and ultimately causing ‘leaky gut’, which exacerbates the problem even more by causing more toxins and undigested particles of food to end up in the blood. This is why digestion is so important for heart health. For a full explanation on this, please read our previous blogs on the digestive system.

The lymphatic and circulatory systems

Benjamin Fuchs explains that the lymphatic system, while often regarded as distinct from the circulatory system, is essentially one and the same. “There are just as many miles of lymphatic vessels as there are blood vessels. And they are connected. They are in essence one system. Both branch out from centralized large vessels into teeny tiny capillaries at which point nutrients are dropped into tissues and cells and then picked up again for a return trip. At this point, an uptake between systems takes place and what was in the blood becomes the lymph and what was in the lymph becomes the blood….The implications of the merging and unification of these two systems for blood pressure health is significant. It means that blood pressure actually depends on the fluidity and movement of two systems, not just one.”(7)

What is also important to understand about the lymph system is that it is the bodys waste disposal system, and while both the blood and the lymph are susceptible to toxins coming from the digestive system, the lymph is particularly vulnerable. “It’s the main port of egress for gross gunk that accumulates from bad living and eating.”(7)

What this means for hypertension is that when it comes to blood toxicity, the lymph is just as important as the circulatory system. Specifically, the lymphatic system is very prone to congestion from fat malabsorbtion. In addition to being a route for the elimination of toxins, it’s also a transport system for essential fatty acids (EFAs), fatty vitamins and other dietary fats. What this means is that proper digestion of fats is essential for healthy blood pressure.

Pharmacist Benjamin Fuchs also explains that pharmaceutical anti-hypertensives like beta blockers or calcium channel blocker drugs slow down the pump (the heart), lowering the pressure but reducing the flow to the already deprived cell. Likewise, vasodilators, which widen the vessels, and diuretics, which reduce the blood’s fluid content, also lower pressure at the level of a cell, leading to cellular starvation, suffocation and toxification, making the person even sicker.

Other causes for hypertension

Dr. Matthias Rath also points to chronic nutritional deficiencies as a major cause for high blood pressure. He explains that under circumstances of undernourishment, millions of artery cells lack the nutrients they need to relax blood vessels, causing spasms and a thickening of the blood vessel walls, which can ultimately elevate the pressure.

On the contrary, when blood vessels are relaxed, this decreases vascular wall tension and keeps blood pressure in the normal range.

The essential nutrients he is referring to are vitamin C, magnesium, arginine, and coenzyme Q10.

Arginine is a natural amino acid that provides the cells with nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes and decreases the tension of the artery walls and lowers elevated blood pressure, which increases the elasticity of the artery walls and helps to normalize blood pressure.

Vitamin C increases the production of prostacycline, a small molecule that relaxes the blood vessel walls and keeps blood viscosity at optimum levels. Bioflavonoids are catalysts which, among others, improve the efficacy of vitamin C.

Magnesium is calcium’s partner, it is essential for optimal mineral balance in the blood vessels’ wall cells, decreases tension and lowers elevated blood pressure.

Other nutrients that are essential are Vitamin E, the entire B complex, minerals, including calcium, potassium, phosphate, and trace elements including zinc, manganese, copper, selenium, chromium, and molybdenum.

Vitamin E provides antioxidant protection of cell membranes and blood components, calcium optimizes mineral metabolism, decreases tension of the artery walls and lowers elevated blood pressure.

Optimum mineral balance is necessary for the relaxation of the artery walls. Since arteriosclerosis is linked to high blood pressure, lysine and proline are needed to protect the artery walls and prevent the development of arteriosclerotic plaques.