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

The alkaline diet

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

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

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

The 7 principles of the alkaline diet

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) 60-80% alkaline forming foods:

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

3) Immune system friendly foods:

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

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

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

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

  • 60-70% plant-based complex carbohydrates:

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

  • 15-20% quality protein:

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

  • 15-20% healthy fat:

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

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

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

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

Some probiotic-rich foods and drinks are:

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

6) Plenty of fiber and water:

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

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

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

7) Healthier food combinations:

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

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

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

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

Best alkaline foods

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

Acidic foods and habits

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

Foods that contribute most to acidity include (3):

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

Measuring your pH at home

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

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

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

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

In conclusion

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

Thank you for reading.

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The health of our cells equals the health of our body

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

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

What is an alkaline diet?

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

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

Why is the right pH necessary for optimal health?

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

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

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

A very acidic diet can be the cause of:

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

What does ‘pH level’ mean?

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

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

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

Benefits of an alkaline diet

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

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

More benefits of an alkaline diet are (4):

  1. Protects bone density and muscle mass

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Lowers risk for hypertension and stroke

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

  1. Lowers chronic pain and inflammation

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

  1. Boosts vitamin absorption and prevents magnesium deficiency

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

  1. Helps improve immune function and cancer protection

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

  1. Can help with healthy weight

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

  1. Diabetes Protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Liver protection

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

  1. Kidney Protection

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

The lymphatic system (Pt. 2)

Nutrients from the ground up

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

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

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

How the Heart and Body Extract can help

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

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

The acid-alkaline balance theory

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

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

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

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

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

How can we become acidic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healing is all about circulation!

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

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

Heart disease and the lymphatic system

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

High blood pressure

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

References:

The lymphatic system (Pt. 1)

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

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

The lymphatic system: Definition and structure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Functions of the Lymphatic system

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

Physiology of the lymphatic system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The circulatory and the lymphatic systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ü Muscle health: allowing muscle contraction and relaxation

ü Nerve health: powering nerve impulses

ü Fluid balance

ü Energy production

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

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

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

CoQ10 in clinical cardiovascular disease

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

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

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

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

How Coq10 supports the failing heart

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

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

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

Congestive heart failure (CHF)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The aging heart

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

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

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

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

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

Cardiomyopathy

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

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

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

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

Hypertension

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angina pectoris

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

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

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

Arrhythmia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Myocardial protection in cardiac surgery

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

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

Coronary artery disease and fat oxidation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

References:

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

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

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

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

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

Definition and biochemistry of CoQ10

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

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

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

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

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

CoQ10s role as an antioxidant

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

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

How and when to supplement with CoQ10

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dosage

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ubiquinol, the other form of CoQ10

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

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

Is ubiquinol really better than ubiquinone?

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

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

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

The importance of magnesium for heart health (Pt. 2)

Heart benefits of magnesium

Some of the many benefits of magnesium in heart disease are as follows:

  • Antiarrhythmic properties
  • Controls flow of calcium into the heart cell ( like a calcium channel blocker effect)
  • Improvement of cholesterol
  • Improvement of vasodilation of coronary arteries
  • Inhibition of clot formation in coronary arteries
  • Protection against free-radical damage
  • Reduction of blood lipid levels
  • Maintenance of vascular tone
  • Improvement in energy synthesis and turnover

Similarly, Dr. Sinatra asserts there is a direct link between magnesium intake and a lower incidence of diseases, like type 2 diabetes and a variety of heart conditions:

  • Angina
  • Arrhythmias and sudden death
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Arterioesclerotic heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Stroke
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Mitral valve prolapse

According to him, magnesium, because it improves the metabolic efficiency of heart cells, alleviates chest pain and other symptoms of angina that are due to lack of oxygen and energy in the heart. It is particularly helpful when ischemia is caused by spasm of the coronary vessels, because it helps to relax the muscle walls of the arteries directly. It works as a natural calcium channel blocker, it nurtures the heart during the acute phase of a heart attack, lowers blood pressure, and eases many dangerous cardiac arrhythmias. Dr. Sinatra has even used intravenous magnesium for his patients with migraine headaches.

Cardiac and non-cardiac concerns

Clinical conditions in which magnesium has been found to have an important role are: Angina, arrhythmias, atherosclerotic heart disease, cerebrovascular atherosclerosis and stroke, congestive heart failure, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, asthma, insulin resistance and diabetes. We will look at each individually:

Angina

Magnesium deficiency is associated with a higher risk of angina. Some researchers from Japan studied 12 women with different levels of this condition. Results from this study demonstrated that women with more angina attacks had lower magnesium levels in their red blood cells than those experiencing fewer attacks. This indicated two things: one, deficiency in magnesium was directly linked to more angina attacks and two, the level of deficiency was directly related to the frequency of chest pain.

Arrhythmia and sudden death

In a double-blinded placebo controlled crossover study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 22 post-menopausal women were given a diet with different amounts of magnesium. Patients’ heartbeats were constantly being monitored for 21 hours and magnesium levels were analyzed in red blood cells, blood plasma and urine. The patients that were on a low magnesium diet, had an increase in both supraventricular and ventricular ectopic hearts. The conclusion of this study suggested that 130 mg is a very low dose but 320 mg was acceptable.

Atherosclerotic heart disease

Research in this area has shown that magnesium intake provides some kind of protection, depending on how much was ingested. Studies have proved that increased intake of dietary magnesium was associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, while those who consumed the least magnesium were almost twice as likely to develop heart disease compared to those who consumed the most magnesium. Other studies have also confirmed the protective effect of dietary magnesium in developing heart disease.

Cerebrovascular atherosclerosis and stroke

Cerebrovascular atherosclerosis refers to blocked blood vessels in the brain and it is also associated with magnesium deficiency. Low levels of cellular magnesium in the brain increases the risk of neurological events. In one study, 323 patients with peripheral artery disease and poor circulation in the extremities were followed for an average of 20 months as the atherosclerotic plaque from the carotid artery was being removed. Over the 20 month period, 35 of the 323 patients suffered a stroke and/or underwent a carotid revascularization procedure. Those patients supplementing with the lowest amount of magnesium had 3 times increased risk for neurological events compared to the patients in the highest spectrum.

Congestive heart failure

A study done with 404 congestive heart failure patients, who had been treated with a diuretic for at least 3 months, were included in the study. 12% of the participants were found to be deficient in magnesium, only 4 % had high levels. Factors associated with magnesium deficiency were female gender, diabetes, calcium deficiency and high fever.

High blood pressure

We have seen how increased resistance in the peripheral blood vessels is the main contributing factor for the development of high blood pressure. Small changes in magnesium levels may have large effects on vascular tone, which directly affects blood pressure.

In an animal study the effects of low magnesium on high blood pressure were studied. In the low magnesium group, after 5 weeks, blood pressure was severely elevated, blood vessels had constricted and showed high levels of free radical formation. The conclusion from this study was that chronic magnesium deficiency leads to the development of severe hypertension, endothelial dysfunction and free-radical stress.

The results of this study were extended to a human study involving childbearing aged women, who were divided into 3 groups: 12 were non-pregnant, 11 in the third trimester of pregnancy and seven women had pre-eclempsia. Compared with the non-pregnant women, brain and muscle magnesium levels were lower both in those who were pregnant and those with pre-eclempsia, the latter had the lowest levels of all. In all groups blood pressure was inversely related to brain magnesium levels. This study although small, supports the observations Dr. Sinatra has made connecting low magnesium to high blood pressure.

Insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome

Unstable blood sugar is another condition that is becoming very prevalent. This simple nutrient, magnesium, can protect against blood sugar fluctuations, and type 2 diabetes. More and more studies document a high occurrence of low magnesium in people with diabetes, as well as those with insulin resistance (also known as Syndrome X). In a recent trial study of 63 patients with type 2 diabetics with decreased magnesium blood levels, oral supplementation improved both conditions.

The ‘Women’s Health Study‘ involved a population of 39,345 women in the US age 45 or older, with no previous history of heart disease, cancer or type 2 diabetes. For 2 years of follow-up, 920 women developed diabetes, an inverse result was seen with those that supplemented with magnesium. As magnesium levels went down, the cases of diabetes went up. There was also a direct correlation in the amount of magnesium taken and the level of protection obtained.

Another similar studies, the ‘Nurses Health Study’ and the ‘Health professional follow-up study’ provide us with similar data. In these two, 85,060 women and 42,872 men with no history of heart disease, cancer or diabetes, were followed for 18 to 12 years respectively. Evidence from this study showed that increasing the intake of magnesium slashed the risk for diabetes by 33-34%.

Many patients with insulin resistance also have what is considered the typical metabolic trio of insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides. Dr. Sinatra has found that magnesium can lower high risk triglycerides and is associated with a ‘modestly lower risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, …(and) mitral valve prolapse.’

Mitral valve prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse is a benign condition of the mitral valve, which is between the left atrium and the left ventricle which is named after its shape (like a bishop’s mitre). Sometimes the mitral valves become thickened, or stretched causing a slight to severe leakage of the valve. This can cause symptoms ranging from chest discomforts to irregular heartbeat. Magnesium has also shown considerable efficacy in relieving symptoms of mitral valve prolapse. Participants in a study with low levels of magnesium were randomly assigned to receive magnesium supplement or a placebo. The results of the magnesium group were dramatic, showing a reduction of the number of symptoms: less weakness, chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations and even anxiety. Decreases in the amount of adrenalin-like substances in the urine were noted as well.

The conclusions from this study were as follows: many patients with severe symptoms have a low serum of magnesium levels. Supplementation with magnesium leads to an improvement in symptoms and a decrease in adrenalin-like hormones. For these individuals, magnesium supplementation may be the solution for reducing symptomatology and improving quality of life.

Dr. Sinatra has seen an improvement in symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue and palpitations up to 70-80%, this might be due to an improvement in diastolic dysfunction.

In another study with 49 patients compared to 30 healthy individuals, the effect of magnesium was studied. The concentration of magnesium was measured in blood plasma and in lymphocytes isolated from venous blood. The blood plasma level of magnesium was similar in both groups, but in patients with MVP the lymphocyte magnesium concentration was much lower than it was for healthy subjects, suggesting that magnesium deficiency was part of the MVP syndrome.

This study also points to the fact that blood measurement for magnesium might miss a deficiency in the cells of tissues. For patients with MVP, ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure or hypertension Dr. Sinatra recommends to supplement with magnesium as well as a diet in green leafy vegetables.

Concluding, magnesium is a very important mineral not only for heart health but for the whole body. Together with a healthy diet, D-Ribose, L-Carnitine and the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ we can greatly improve energy manufacture in heart cells. Without energy the heart cannot properly keep the rest of the body running. Take your heart to a new level by incorporating these into your routine. Thanks for reading.

References:

(1) http://drjockers.com/top-10-surprising-benefits-of-magnesium/

(2) Sinatra, Stephen T. The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health, 2011. 179-192. Print.

(3) http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/01/19/magnesium-deficiency.aspx

(4) http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/1009485/more-magnesium-for-hormonal-balance

(5) http://drjockers.com/top-12-best-food-sources-magnesium/

(6) http://pharmacistben.com/nutrition/mineral-of-the-day-magnesium/

The importance of magnesium for heart health (Pt. 1)

We have been talking about energy production in the body and more specifically in heart cells. As we saw, ATP is the energy molecule for every cell in the body and optimizing its production has an incredible impact on our overall well being (1).

One way to optimize energy production is by improving circulation. Healthy circulation is essential to carry key heart nutrients for energy manufacture, which is why the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ is so important. The other way is by providing these nutrients. L-Carnitine and D-Ribose are the ones we have looked at, but there are others that are needed as well. This is the case of the mineral magnesium. Like L-carnitine, and D-ribose, magnesium is a necessary ingredient in maintaining healthy levels of cellular energy (2).

In what follows we will look with detail at this mineral, its main functions in heart health and how to obtain it in our diet.

What is so important about magnesium?

Primarily, magnesium is a co-factor that contributes to over 300 enzymatic systems in the body. One of these enzymatic reactions has to do with ATP (production of energy). This is how it happens: Inside the cell, magnesium appears to be concentrated in the mitochondria, where it attaches to proteins, co-factors and ATP to aid energy transfer. All enzymatic reactions involving ATP have an absolute requirement for magnesium. This includes the heart, making it another great addition to our health protocol (2). It also makes magnesium a true energy mineral, but it is more than that.

To understand magnesium we need to say that all human tissue contains some amounts. In total, the human body contains from 20 to 25 grams. It is the most common intracellular ion in the human body, second only to potassium.

Magnesium is distributed in three major body compartments:

  • Approximately 65% is in the mineral phase of bone. From the bones it can be transported to other tissues where there might be a shortage
  • 34% is sequestered in muscle
  • 1% resides in blood plasma and interstitial fluids (2)

The fact that there is only 1% in the blood means that blood tests are not very reliable in terms of showing magnesium deficiency. Which is also the reason why magnesium deficiency is an “invisible deficiency” (3). Mononuclear blood level analysis is much more predictive (2).

Benefits of magnesium

From all this we can infer how magnesium is a mineral used through the body, specially by the heart, muscles, and kidneys. However, recently, researchers have discovered 3,751 magnesium-binding sites on human proteins, indicating that its role in human health and disease may have been vastly underestimated (3). This makes magnesium even more important than we thought. Some health care professionals, like neurosurgeon Norman Shealy , M.D, PhD, goes as far as to say that almost every disease we know can be associated with magnesium deficiency (1).

This means that magnesium is not only critical for energy requiring processes, but also for:

  • Protein synthesis: Helping digest proteins, as well as carbohydrates, and fats
  • Membrane integrity
  • Nervous tissue conduction: Activating nerves
  • Muscle contraction: Activating muscles
  • Hormone secretion
  • Maintenance of vascular tone
  • Intermediary metabolism
  • Body’s detoxification processes, making it important for helping prevent damage from environmental chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins
  • Serving as a building block for RNA and DNA synthesis
  • Acting as a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin
  • Blood sugar balance
  • Improving circulation and blood pressure
  • Helping cellular energy production
  • Relaxing the nervous system
  • Relieving pain and relaxing muscles
  • Bone density and calcium balance
  • Regulating heart contractility by blocking calcium from heart muscle. The heart has twenty times higher concentration of magnesium

New research is giving us additional information about this important mineral. Dr. Dean’s work of more than 15 years points to the fact that there are 22 medical areas that magnesium deficiency can trigger, all of which have all been scientifically proven. This includes, among others:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Blood clots
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Insomnia
  • Hypertension
  • Fatigue
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Liver disease
  • Musculoskeletal conditions: fibromyalgia, cramps, chronic back pain, etc.
  • Nerve problems
  • Migraine
  • Obstetrics and gynecology (PMS, infertility, and preeclampsia)
  • Tooth decay
  • Osteoporosis

Magnesium and stress

The prevalence of individuals with anxiety has grown significantly over recent years. Anxiety typically manifests due to the perception of unmanageable stress. This can sometimes be due to chemical imbalances in the brain, such as the balance between glutamate and GABA.

Chronic stress can influence glutamate-GABA balance and lead to the development of anxiety over time. A deficiency of magnesium can quickly build up stress within the body and drain energy reserves (ATP), making the sufferer feel chronically fatigued. With regular intake of magnesium, one can increase resilience to stress, effectively combat anxiety and increase energy. Because magnesium is an absolute requirement to make energy and since it is needed for so many processes in the body, keeping its stores full is a great way to help overall health function smoother.

Dr. Jockers mentions several ways to incorporate this vital mineral into our daily routine. One very important way is to control blood sugar and reduce stress, since these two are some of the most common factors that drain magnesium stores. Another way is to add magnesium rich foods. When it comes to getting nutrients into our body, food should always be the first strategy, he asserts. Foods that are high in magnesium are:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Avocados
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sea vegetables
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Sprouts

Another way is to have Epsom salts baths (magnesium sulfate). Soaking in an epsom salt bath is an easy and relaxing way to get magnesium into the body. This method is especially helpful for people with digestive disorders as it bypasses the GI tract altogether by absorbing through the skin (1).

Magnesium deficiency

A high percentage of the American population is magnesium deficient (2). By some estimates, up to 80% of Americans are not getting enough magnesium (3). Low levels of magnesium in the blood are known as hypomagnesemia. Several factors have contributed to this:

  • Depleted soils are becoming more and more prevalent and as they do, our food and water are also being depleted
  • Emotional and physical stress also deplete the body’s magnesium stores. This is because with stress more cortisol, (the ‘aging hormone’) is secreted from our adrenals which overtime leads to subtle magnesium depletion
  • Dehydrating drinks like alcohol or coffee, diuretic medications, etc can promote excessive loss of this mineral through urine
  • Several bowel diseases and some medications impede the intestinal absorption of magnesium, this is the case of acid blockers
  • Poor dietary habits such as high sugar intake, over consumption of processed goods and too little intake of plant based nutrients
  • What is so troubling about this loss of magnesium is that excessive loss has a strong link to diabetes and insulin resistance. What is more, magnesium loss is more prevalent in women, the elderly and those with various disease syndromes
  • Deficiencies may lead to changes in neuromuscular, cardiovascular, immune and hormonal function, impaired energy metabolism, and reduced capacity for physical work. Magnesium deficiency is now considered to contribute to many diseases, and the role of magnesium as therapy is being tested in many clinical trials.

Early signs of magnesium deficiency include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue and weakness

An ongoing magnesium deficiency can lead to more serious symptoms, including:

  • Numbness and tingling
  • Personality changes
  • Muscle spasms and cramps, even eye twitches
  • Abnormal heart rhythms: Irregular heart beats, this includes rapid heartbeats, slow heartbeats, and sudden changes in heart rhythm for no apparent reason
  • Seizures
  • Coronary spams
  • Unexplained fatigue or weakness (3)
  • Chronic Headaches/Migraines
  • Constipation
  • IBS
  • Muscle Spasms and cramping: Because magnesium is so important for proper nerve transmission, it comes as no surprise that it also plays a vital role in muscle contraction. When magnesium is depleted, muscle contractions can become weak and uncoordinated, leading to involuntary spasms and painful cramps. This is actually one of the most common early signs of magnesium deficiency. Spasms typically occur in the legs, feet, and sometimes even in places like the eyelids. Women may also experience worsened PMS-related cramping when magnesium stores are low.
  • Mood Disorders
  • ADD/ADHD symptoms (1)

Magnesium levels in women

Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of ‘The Magnesium Miracle’, who shares her expert insights with us says: “Fluctuating sex hormones affect magnesium levels, making women more sensitive to magnesium deficiency than men… Magnesium levels fluctuate during a woman’s cycle. The higher the estrogen or progesterone, the lower the magnesium. During the second half of the menstrual cycle, when both estrogen and progesterone are elevated, magnesium plummets. This can result in spasms in the brain arteries, a prelude to PMS and migraines. Increasing dietary and supplemental magnesium can help relieve PMS-related symptoms, such as headaches, bloating, low blood sugar, dizziness, fluid retention and sugar cravings.’ (4)

Magnesium supplementation and dosage

Research shows only 25 % of adults in the USA are getting the recommended daily amount of magnesium. When it comes to dosages some health care professionals recommend 310-320 milligrams for women and 400- 420 for men (3). However, others believe we need 1,500-2,000 milligrams of magnesium a day (6).

Dr. Sinatra recommends to supplement with 400 milligrams of magnesium once or twice a day and consume magnesium rich foods. Those on certain medications, like diuretics should make sure they follow this recommendation as these drugs excrete excessive amounts of magnesium, he also recommends supplementing with magnesium for type 2 diabetes patients.

Top food sources high in magnesium are:

  • Swiss chard
  • Spinach
  • Grass fed dairy
  • Avocados
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pink salts
  • Nuts
  • Dark chocolate
  • Wild caught fish
  • Sprouts
  • Sea vegetables (5)

Types of supplemental magnesium

In addition to what can be obtained through the diet, many health professionals often recommend supplemental magnesium. There are many different types of supplemental magnesium:

  • Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form of magnesium that tends to provide the highest levels of absorption and bioavailability and is typically considered ideal for those who are trying to correct a deficiency
  • Magnesium chloride/magnesium lactate contain only 12% magnesium, but has better absorption than others such as magnesium oxide, which contains 5 times more magnesium
  • Magnesium oxide is a non-chelated type of magnesium, bound to an organic acid or a fatty acid. Contains 60% magnesium, and has stool softening properties
  • Magnesium sulfate/magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) are usually used as laxatives. It can be easy to overdose so only take as directed
  • Magnesium carbonate, which has antiacid properties, contains 45% magnesium
  • Magnesium taurate, contains a combination of magnesium and taurine, an amino acid. Together, they tend to provide a calming effect on body and mind
  • Magnesium citrate is a magnesium with citric acid, which like most magnesium supplements has laxative properties but is well absorbed and cost effective
  • Magnesium threonate is a newer, emerging type of magnesium supplement that appears promising, primarily due to its laxative properties but superior abilities to penetrate the mitochondrial membrane and may be the best supplemental magnesium on the market (3). Magnesium threonate is the only form found in studies to easily cross into the brain to exert its effects. Dr. Jockers typically recommends 1-2 grams of this magnesium every day. If the person is having digestive issues or is wanting to use magnesium for the relief of joint pain, Dr. Jockers recommends a topical magnesium, like magnesium oil with MSM and if the person is also experiencing trouble falling asleep, topical magnesium with melatonin (1).

Calcium to Magnesium Ratio

The heart is a muscle that is constantly contracting. Just as with other muscles in the body, the heart relies heavily on magnesium for proper contractility. This is thought to be due to its role in regulating calcium and potassium concentrations in the muscle tissue (5).

Unlike our ancestors whose balance of calcium to magnesium levels were equal, our lifestyle habits today lead to an imbalance in this key electrical gradient. The result is a 10:1 calcium to magnesium ratio. This ratio disrupts the healthy balance of electrolytes within cells making nerves more susceptible to stress and pain perception.

Taking high amounts of calcium without adequate magnesium, will make the muscle contract involuntarily. This is known as hypercalcemia and it can contribute to significant changes in heart rhythms. Magnesium helps to balance out excess calcium to coordinate muscle contractions and reduced unwanted tension.

References:

(1) http://drjockers.com/top-10-surprising-benefits-of-magnesium/

(2) Sinatra, Stephen T. The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health, 2011. 179-192. Print.

(3) http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/01/19/magnesium-deficiency.aspx

(4) http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/1009485/more-magnesium-for-hormonal-balance

(5) http://drjockers.com/top-12-best-food-sources-magnesium/

(6) http://pharmacistben.com/nutrition/mineral-of-the-day-magnesium/

 

 

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.