You have cancer, and there’s lots you can do

Everybody knows that cancer rates are rising everywhere and every year. Everybody also knows that the words, “You have cancer. I am sorry.”, fall upon us like a death sentence. Everybody knows this, because we see it all around us, everywhere we look, and we hear about it every day, everywhere we turn.

If a doctor has, indeed, said these words to us, then we are probably scared, probably very scared. We know that basically everyone we have ever heard of who were diagnosed with cancer, died. Sometimes they died really quickly, like, within a few weeks. Sometimes they died within a few months. Sometimes it wasn’t so quick. Maybe it took a year of two, or three, or even five. They went through rounds of chemo. They were on sick leave at home for months on end. They sometimes appeared to recover at some point, maybe a bit, for a little while, but in the end, they died. And they died of cancer.

We also know that not even the most famous and richest people, like Steve Jobs, for example, can escape this kiss of death that the diagnosis of cancer delivers. Wealth and power are irrelevant when it comes to our prognosis as cancer patients: it is always bad. Of course, how bad it is depends on the kind of cancer, but why is it that so many different people, in so many different places, die of cancer every day?

I won’t venture into formulating an answer to this question, and I won’t dwell on cancer survival statistics. I don’t think it’s useful for us right now. I want to hurry and move to the good news. And the good news is that there many things you can do to help your body rid itself of cancer, which is usually the result of a long-standing disease process that has evolved over a lifetime, and has finally manifested itself in this way. This presentation of the question at hand is definitely not exhaustive, nor attempting to be. But this is what I consider to be some of the essential elements.

whitebloodcellsattackingcancercells

White blood cells (shown in blue) attacking cancer cells (shown in red).

 

Understanding cancer

To understand cancer, we have to understand the origin of cancer cells. Cells become cancerous due to a defect in energy production, a mitochondrial dysfunction, an inability to manufacture enough ATP (adenosine triphosphate) through oxidation of glucose or fatty acids to sustain the cell’s functions. This forces the cell to fall back on anaerobic (without oxygen) fermentation of glucose to supplement the deficient energy production from the dysfunctional or reduced number of mitochondria. Fermentation produces an increase in lactic acid in and around the cell. This decreases the availability of oxygen to the mitochondria, which further impedes their ability to produce ATP through oxidation of nutrients, and creates a negative feedback loop that pushes towards further mitochondrial stress and dysfunction, less oxidation, more fermentation, more acid, and less available oxygen.

Because energy production through fermentation is so very inefficient, the cell needs far more glucose, and naturally develops more insulin receptors in order to be ever more sensitive to, and able to capture circulating glucose more effectively. Cancer cells often have 10 times more insulin receptors than healthy cells. What should be clear is that it doesn’t matter where the cancer is, and it doesn’t matter how it evolved, whether it was due to a gradual evolution from an environment too high in glucose, lacking in oxygen, and saturated with acid, or whether it was due to exposure to a toxin or mitochondrial poison, of which there are many and increasingly more in our environment. In the final analysis, this is how cancer cells become how they are, and this is how they survive.

As to their multiplication and proliferation from a single or small group of microscopic cells to large macroscopic tumours in one spot or all over the place, this can be understood by considering that the cell that is devolving from its normal function to that of cell whose only function is to ferment glucose at the fastest possible rate, loses, little by little, the ability to do whatever it was doing before, by losing the ability to produce ATP that can be used by its different specialised parts and constituents to perform their specialised functions, the cell becomes less and less specialised, less and less differentiated and therefore more and more general and more and more primitive, to the point where the essential ability of the cell to destroy itself, when something in its workings has gone wrong, is lost. Having lost this safeguard, the primitive, the undifferentiated, but also necessarily abnormal and weakened cell, just ferments and multiplies, limited only by its ability to fuel itself and sustain this most basic activity of survival without other purpose but this survival in and of itself.

Removing cancer

Having recognised and understood this, the strategy by which we can help the body rid itself of the cancer cells, and regain its healthy physiological functions becomes clear. We have to 1) do all we can to cut off the source of fuel to the cancer cells, 2) clear out the accumulated acids and transform the acidic environment into one that is alkaline and oxygen-rich, 3) help restore the cells’ mechanism of apoptosis—their ability to self-destruct, and 4) do everything else we can to further weaken and destroy cancer cells by means that simultaneously strengthen healthy cells. It’s a simple strategy that is also simple to put into practice, as we will see in a moment.

1) Starve the cancer cells

The first point is to cut off the fuel to the cancer cells. The source of fuel is glucose, because cancer cells can only ferment and cannot oxidise, and the way the glucose is supplied to the cell is by the action of insulin that moves it across the cell membrane. Therefore, what has to be done to is minimise the availability of glucose, and, more important still, minimise the availability of insulin to shuttle the glucose into the cells. The lower the glucose, the less potential fuel there will be. The lower the insulin, the less glucose will actually be able to enter cells. There is no real lower limit. Without ingesting any carbohydrates, the body maintains and regulates blood sugar according to the stress levels and kinds of activities we engage in, independently of how low insulin levels are. And so, the focus should be to have the lowest possible insulin levels naturally.

The fastest way to lower blood sugar, but especially insulin, is to fast, to stop eating altogether, and just drink water and herbal tea, remembering to eat enough salt to match the water intake. The second best way of doing this is in form very similar, but turns out to be much easier to do, is also a kind of water fasting, but with the addition of fat from coconut oil and butter, melted in the herbal teas. Both of these forms of fasting will most effectively deprive the body of anything that can easily be made into glucose, and of anything that will stimulate the secretion of insulin, thereby will allow glucose to drop as low as possible, but more importantly, insulin to drop and stay at an absolute minimum, and therefore most effectively starving cancer cells, no matter where they are in the body and bodily fluids, in the tissues and organs. The first form of the classic water fast is harder, but many people do it without hesitation nor difficulty. The second form is much easier, and may even be more effective in inducing a deep state of ketosis given the additional intake of medium chain fatty acids.

We can easily imagine doing such a fat “fast” for days, or even weeks, depending on the severity of the situation, our resolve to suffocate and starve the cancer cells as quickly as possible, and, of course, the state and circumstances in which we find ourselves. In addition, we can do this as much as possible on any given day, independently of what else we eat. The more fat and the less carbohydrate we ingest, the lower the insulin and the more effective the anti-cancer healing protocol will be.

The third option is to eat and drink to keep insulin levels as low as possible. Here again, because fat is the macronutrient that stimulates the least secretion of insulin, truly minimal, it should be the main source of calories. Simple carbohydrates and starches are most insulinogenic, and protein is about half as insulinogenic as are carbs. Indigestible fibre does not stimulate insulin. Therefore, in the extreme, we would eat only fat, pure fat. The best ones being the most natural and least processed, most saturated and least unsaturated: coconut fat, butter, animal fat and, the best of the vegetable oils, cold pressed olive oil.

It’s important to understand the difference between having low blood sugar, and having low insulin levels. The first is like the amount of food in the kitchens of the restaurant, the second is like the waiter bringing it to the table. It is far, far more important in our efforts to stop the supply to cancer cells that we keep insulin levels as low as possible, than it is to try to keep glucose levels low. And to push the point further, it doesn’t really matter what the amount of glucose actually is, because as long as insulin is low, it will not be brought into the cell, into the cancer cells. The reason I emphasise this is because lack of sleep, emotional or psychological stress, intense physical exercise will all raise blood sugar levels temporarily, in some instances, to high levels. But as long as insulin is as low as it can be, the sugar will not be readily transported into the cells.

Naturally, we cannot have zero insulin, because we would die: our cells would literally starve to death, no matter how much we ate. Babies with a genetic defect that makes their pancreas not able to produce insulin always died of emancipation before the discovery and subsequent commercialisation of insulin as medicine. Similarly, if at any point in a child’s or adult person’s life, insulin stops being produced, incredible weakness and emancipation will follow, before it is tested and identified as the cause of their problem, hopefully in time before permanent damage ensues. Therefore, there is always some insulin in circulation, and therefore, sugar will eventually make its way into at least some cancer cells. This is why it is important to keep it as low as we possibly can naturally, and this is how we can appreciate the essential difference between the effects of high glucose and high insulin.

In a less extreme form than the fat-fast, we maintain low sugar and low insulin by getting and deriving most of our energy from fat. Eating cucumber or celery with almond butter or tahini, for example, or a green leafy salad with lots of olive oil, walnuts, and avocado, provides basically all calories from the fat, given that cucumber, celery and lettuce greens, are basically just water and indigestible fibre, while almond butter and tahini are 80\% fat by calories, and walnuts are 84\%. So is coconut milk, for example, at nearly 90\%, and dark 85\% chocolate, at 84\% fat based on calories. Focusing on feeding the body with these kinds of healthful, high-fat foods, will nourish, stimulate healing, and keep insulin and glucose levels as low as we can without either water fasting, or consuming only fat.

2) Alkalise to remove and excrete accumulated acids

The second point is just as important as the first, because it is the environment in which the cells live that actually has the most direct effect on their function. We have looked at the importance of achieving and maintaining an alkaline environment in the body in several other places. The essence is excellent hydration with alkaline water (pH>8) combined with the intake of proportional amounts of unrefined salt to promote the release of acids from the tissues, and its excretion through the urine by the kidneys. Without proper hydration, the cells will retain the acid with the little water they have to hold on to. Without proper amounts of salt, the kidneys will also retain the acid in order to maintain the concentration gradient that allows the nephron to function when it re-absorbs water.

Naturally, alkaline water will work infinitely more effectively. But the most important detail is the controlled balance between water and salt intake, and what we want is a lot of water and a lot of salt. We cannot take in large amounts of salt water without getting loose stools. So, it has to be smoothly distributed throughout the day, except in the morning, when we get up, because we are dehydrated, and need to drink about 1 litre of water over the course of one to two hours, before we start taking salt.

If you buy mineral or spring water, find the one that has the highest pH value. It should be greater than at least 8. If you have a water filter at home, then add alkalising drops to it before drinking it. I use Dr. Young’s PuripHy drops.

As acidity decreases, and the environment becomes more alkaline, oxygen will flow more freely, and become more available to mitochondria for oxidising fatty acids in producing energy. Remember that cancer cells do not use oxygen, and cannot use fatty acids to fuel themselves, whereas normal, healthy cells, not only can, but function much more efficiently on fat rather than glucose as their primary fuel. Adding chlorophyll and fresh juice of green vegetables to the alkaline water is an excellent way to further boost alkalisation, neutralisation, and elimination of accumulated metabolic acids. Unlike the first step, which is to lower insulin and glucose levels, and that can be done, to a great extent, literally overnight under fasting conditions, alkalising to eliminate accumulated acids is something that takes time. But in both cases, what matters most is consistency. Hour by hour, and day after day, the body will do what it needs to do as best is can, and improve in these functions with time.

Beyond this fundamental necessity to hydrate with alkaline water throughout the day, and day after day, the most therapeutic way to alkalise the tissues, and detoxify the body, is by taking medicinal baths in which we add two cups of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and two cups of magnesium chloride (nigari), or magnesium sulphate (epsom salts), if nigari is not available. This is easy, relaxing, extremely medicinal, and very effective in neutralising and eliminating acids and toxins from the body. In fighting cancer, you should be soaking in this kind of hot bath for 45-60 minutes three times per week. The benefits of this ultra simple trans-dermal therapy with sodium bicarbonate and magnesium are incredible. You can read a lot more about this from the baking soda, magnesium and iodine doctor, Dr Sircus.

3) Restore cellular self-destruct function

The third line of action is also essential, and it only requires you to take a few key supplements. The most important of these in the fight agains cancer is iodine, because of its fundamental role both in the structure and architecture of cells, but also in the regulation of apoptosis, the process by which a damaged cell will self-destruct when things have gone wrong somewhere. The importance of iodine cannot be overemphasised. And in healing cancer, or any serious disease condition, we will want to take high doses daily. Doses of at least 50 mg, but preferably 100 mg.

However, because of its very strong detoxification effects, as it pushes out all accumulated toxic halogens out of the cells to replace these by iodine in its proper place, we must work up to these high doses gradually, starting with 12.5 mg, and increasing the dosage as quickly as possible given the body’s response to it. Some people , maybe most, will experience headaches and possible nausea when starting on iodine. This is perfectly normal. The stronger the reaction, the more indicative of the body’s level of toxicity. Therefore, you should always view this as something good, in that toxins are being excreted out of your cells. It is important to support the detoxification process by taking chlorella and spirulina, probiotics and psyllium husks every day as well, while always drinking a lot of alkaline water with added chlorophyll for extra cleansing, if possible.

What I take and consider to be the best supplement is Iodoral by Optimox. Optimox recommends taking the iodine on an empty stomach for faster absorption, but it can also be taken with food for slower and possibly better assimilation. In addition, although iodine can easily be taken on an empty stomach, the co-factors, which include B vitamins, are much better taken with food to avoid potential nausea or queasiness. Moreover, taking it with food will slow down the absorption, and thereby decrease the negative sensations from the detoxification effects. The only thing is that iodine, given its stimulation of thyroid function, will energise the body. Therefore, it should be taken before midday. I take it either first thing in the morning or at lunch (or both).

You can read about the importance and functions of iodine in the following three books: Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It by Dr. Brownstein; What Doctors Fail to Tell You About Iodine and Your Thyroid by Dr. Thompson; and The iodine crisis: what you don’t know about iodine can wreck your life by L. Farrow. There are also many web resources and highly informative forums about iodine and cancer. You can search for the words iodine and cancer to see for yourself.

Other fundamentally important micronutrients are vitamins B12 and D, both of which are needed for proper cellular function, and DNA transcription and replication, because of their roles in the nucleus of cells, activating and de-activating, switching on and off genes, to ensure everything in the cell works as it should. For best and fastest results—and that’s definitely what we need in our fighting cancer—B12 should be injected weekly in the amount of 1 mg, and in the form of methylcobalamin. (For optimal health in normal circumstances, it can be injected once a month in the amount of 5 mg.) Vitamin D should be taken with its sister vitamins, A and K2, for synergistic effects and biochemical balance in their functions. Each of these have complimentary roles, and should generally be taken together, unless there is a reason not to. You can read these two articles published by Chris Masterjohn from the Weston A. Price Foundation to learn why and how: On the trail of the elusive X-factor: a sixty two year old mystery finally solved, and Update on vitamins A and D.

It is by supporting proper cellular function, especially in the nucleus, with iodine, B12 and D, that cells will regain, little by little, the ability to recognise that they are damaged and need to self-destruct. There will always be millions or even billions of cells involved in the disease process we call cancer, but they will be distributed along a wide spectrum of dysfunction, from having very mildly impaired mitochondrial function from a light oxygen deficit cause by a little too much acid in the environment surrounding the cell, to full cancer cells that derive 100% of their energy needs from anaerobic fermentation without using any oxygen at all, and thriving in extremely acidic conditions.

Hence, many cells will die from being starved of glucose, because that’s the only fuel they can use; many cells will recover enough of their normal regulatory mechanisms to know its time to self-destruct; and many cells will actually regain their healthy function, repair their damaged parts, and replace their dysfunctional mitochondria with new ones. Nothing is ever black and white when it comes to cells and cellular function. Instead, everything is grey. But it is a million different shades of grey.

4) Do everything else that can help

The fact is that there are many, many more things you can do. Many therapies, many treatments, many supplements and herbal formulas, that have all proved highly effective against cancer. There are so many that many books have been written about them: About Raymond Rife, you can read The Cancer Cure That Worked by Barry Lynes; about Gaston Naessens, you can read The Persecution and Trial of Gaston Naessens: The True Story of the Efforts to Suppress an Alternative Treatment for Cancer, AIDS, and Other Immunologically Based Diseases by Christopher Bird; about Rene Caisse and the Essiac tonic, you can read Essiac: The Secrets of Rene Caisse’s Herbal Pharmacy; about Johanna Budwig, you can read Cancer – The Problem and the Solution; and the list goes on. There are websites devoted to these people and their approach to cancer, and this is just a few of them that I know about. One book that compiles a lot, maybe most, of the information on non-toxic treatments for cancer, is Ty Bollinger’s Cancer: Step Outside the Box.

Maybe you find it hard to believe that our governmental and medical authorities would have gone—and continue to this day—to go through such extreme measures in order to suppress treatments that work so effectively to help and heal people of their illnesses and of cancer, without negative side effects, and at very low costs. But this is a simple fact. And it is quite easy to understand if we consider that anyone, or any institution, that has commercial investments and interests in a particular endeavour, will go to great lengths to maintain and strengthen, as much as they can and for as long as they can, the conditions that make them successful. There’s nothing more to it than that. Let’s look at a few of those therapies and supplements which are easy to implement, and highly effective against cancer: hyperthermia, flax seed oil, enzymes, and turmeric.

Hyperthermia, or heat therapy, is a very well studied and effective therapy against cancer, both preventatively and curatively. The idea or principle is very simple: healthy cells can withstand high temperatures without damage. The reason why this is so, and why we know it for sure, is that the body produces fevers as a defence mechanism to destroy invading viruses and bacteria that, unlike our own cells, cannot withstand the heat. Similarly, cancer, and other compromised and damaged cells, are unable to cope with high heat. Hence, it was hypothesised, tested, verified and demonstrated that hyperthermia is really very effective at destroying cancer, while simultaneously cleansing and strengthening healthy cells and tissues. Infrared saunas are ideal in heating the tissues more deeply, but any sauna, steam room, or even bath that induces hyperthermia by raising the temperature in the body, will help kill cancer cells, cleanse, and restore health.

Enzyme therapy has also been used for many decades in the treatment of cancer patients extremely successfully. The late Nicolas Gonzalez who passed away last year, was its most recent champion, following in the footsteps of his mentor, Dr William Kelley. The treatment protocols are more complicated, and are always highly individualised, but the main element is the supplementation with large doses of enzymes, combined with the colon cleansing to eliminate the dead tumour tissues from the body. Large quantities of fresh vegetable juice are also often included in his recommendations. You can read about it here: http://www.dr-gonzalez.com/index.htm, but whether you decide to throw yourself completely into it or not, I strongly recommend taking proteolytic enzymes three times per day, always on an empty stomach at least 30 minutes before eating, and support cleansing by taking a colon cleanser before going to bed. This site, http://www.losethebackpain.com, has good quality enzymes and cleansing supplements that we’ve used, but you can also do your own research.

Flax seed oil, organic and cold pressed, combined with fresh organic quark or cottage cheese is, based on Johanna Budwig’s extensive, lifelong research, as well as practical clinical experience with patients, is another one of the most effective and simple cancer treatments. And although the biochemistry of it, and biochemical pathways through which the cancer is weakened and destroyed may be complicated, the implementation is very easy and simple, costs very little, and cannot in any way bring about harm, unless one is severely allergic to milk proteins (in which case the dairy can be replaced with another source of protein that will work as the carrier). Here is a good article that has links to other excellent articles about this: https://www.cancertutor.com/make_budwig/

Turmeric, an ancient, bright yellow, Indian spice, which is a powder made from drying the ginger-like root that is turmeric, is one of the most researched natural substances in modern times, and is surely one of the most powerful natural anti-cancer supplements. Since it has tons of wide-ranging health benefits, and carries no risks at all, it’s clear that everyone can benefit from it. You can read about it from Mercola here. You should take it three times per day, but with your meals, because the more fat there is in the gut, the better the absorption will be, as is true for most antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

I feel it is important to emphasise the point just made about the risk-free nature of supplementing with turmeric, because it is a crucial point that applies to everything we have discussed here, and everything we have discussed in all the natural healing protocols and nutritional approaches we have presented in the past. Food-based nutritional healing is, in general, risk-free, because it doesn’t involve ingestion of or exposure to toxic substances, and instead involves correcting deficiencies, boosting nutritional status, and optimising the biochemical and hormonal environment of the body in order to promote healing.

Of course, we can object by referring to examples of people dying from drinking too much water too quickly. But we are not talking about such extremes. Nonetheless, we could, for example, eat coconut oil or butter all day, and other than the possible nausea from taking in so much fat, you wouldn’t get anything more than loose stools. Moreover, the body’s own hormonal responses would naturally prevent overconsumption through a feeling of extreme satiety that would basically make it impossible to willingly eat more.

Another example is that of using baking soda or iodine. So simple, and yet so powerful, they stand as the perfect examples of the benign nature but extreme effectiveness of natural healing. We find written in the most recent edition of the Manual for the Medical Management of Radiological Casualties of the US Military Medical Operations, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, that sodium bicarbonate will “prevent deposition of uranium carbonate complexes in the renal tubules”, and that we should, “within 4 hours of exposure, administer potassium iodide (KI) to block uptake of radioactive iodine by the thyroid”, because they are the best known ways to protect the kidneys and thyroid from being destroyed by the radioactive elements that would—without the use of sodium bicarbonate and potassium iodide—migrate to these organs and destroy them.

But why wait for a chemical spill or a nuclear power station meltdown in order to rid the body of accumulated chemicals and toxins, and to replenish every cell with a plentiful supply of iodine to ensure that all cells and all glands function at their best, now and every day? We don’t have to wait. The same goes for turmeric, for enzymes, for B12, for A-D-K2, for hydration, for alkalisation, for minimal glucose and minimal insulin loads, for maximum nutrition and maximum health. Why don’t we start doing this preventatively right now?

Summary and Wrap up

Maybe you know all of this stuff already, or maybe you don’t and you are blown away and overwhelmed by the amount of information and range of topics we have covered. Maybe you are reading this because you are interested and curious to learn and be as well-informed as you can about health topics, or maybe you are desperately looking for relevant information that can help you or a loved one. No matter in which camp you find yourself, here is the summary and wrap up I can offer to bring all of what we have discussed down to a simple set of recommendations that anyone faced with a diagnosis of cancer, and fearful of, or skeptical about, or doubtful that the current standard of care in the cancer industry will help them, can understand and follow, knowing that none of these food choices, supplements, and therapies will bring them harm in any way, and that all will only do good, regardless how dire or hopeless their situation may appear to be.

  • Keep low insulin levels, as low as possible, by not having insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, and by keeping protein intake reasonably low. Focus on consuming natural, unprocessed fats as much as possible to supply the largest proportion of your daily calories. Consider a water or a tea-with-fat fast for a few days when it is suitable, or even as an intermittent fasting strategy on a daily basis. Consider also doing a green juice “fast” (only green vegetables) with added fat from blending in melted coconut oil or milk.
  • Drink alkaline water, always on an empty stomach, considering the day as divided between hydration periods, and feeding and digestion periods. The first hydration period is from the time you get up until you have your first meal. It is good to extend that period if you can to allow plenty of time for proper hydration after a long night of dehydration, with at least 1 to 1.5 litres over a period of at least 2 hours. Drink slowly to improve absorption and not pee everything out. Always allow 30 minutes without drinking before meals, and 2-3 hours after meals, depending on their size. The cycles of hydration and feeding during the day (for 3 meals) should be as follows: drink, wait, eat, wait, drink, wait, eat, wait, drink, wait, eat. For only two meals, which I recommend, then periods of drinking are extended and allow for even better hydration, cleaning of the blood, and better digestion.
  • Take iodine supplements with the co-factors and with food to maximise absorption and effectiveness. Start with 12.5 mg per day, and work your way up to 100 mg. Do this as quickly as your body allows you to. Take the iodine every weekday, and stop on weekends; five days on, two days off. (My wife and I take 50 mg per day.)
  • Take hot baths with sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride (or sulphate; 2 cups of each). Soak for 40 to 60 minutes. Do this three times per week. Always take your baths on an empty stomach, and drink at least one litre of alkaline water during the length of the bath. (Once per week is what I aim for as preventative medicine.)
  • Get B12 injections of methylcobalamin, 1 mg on a weekly basis. (My wife and I get a 5 mg injection once per month.)
  • Take proteolytic enzymes and Essiac tonic three times per day, always on an empty stomach, always at least 30 minutes before meals. (We take it once, first thing in the morning.)
  • Take turmeric and turmeric extract, as well as A-D-K2 with every meal or fatty snack, three times per day during recovery. (Once daily in normal circumstances.)
  • Take infrared or regular saunas, every day if possible, or even in the morning and at night if you have or decide to buy your own little sauna. I would definitely do this given how effective hyperthermia is at destroying cancer cells.
  • Eat Budwig cream.
  • Eat and drink greens.
  • Spend time outdoors, as much time as you can, moving, breathing fresh air, exposing your skin to the sunlight.
  • Keep low stress levels, as low as possible. Take tulsi, ashwagandha, and HTP-5 to keep stress hormone levels low, and mood high.
  • Take probiotics, chlorella and spirulina in the morning, and a colon cleansing supplement before bed.
  • Sleep well, long restful nights. Melatonin is very useful for this, and has many additional health benefits.

Cancer is very easy to prevent, but somewhat harder to dislodge once it has taken hold somewhere within the body. But no matter what type of cancer, how localised or generalised it is, or at what stage it finds itself, there is always hope. Hope of getting better and more comfortable, and hope for a complete recovery.

We have to remember that cancer cells are degenerate and weak. By making the environment as health-promoting to normally functioning cells, and simultaneously as hostile as possible to cancer cells, they will perish and be cleared out from the body as the waste that they are. The body heals itself, often miraculously quickly, when impediments are removed, and the elements needed for healing are provided. With all my heart, I hope this can help you and your loved ones.

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First high-carb-low-fat day after 8 years on a low-carb-high-fat diet

A little taste of what’s to come from the results of my experiment with continuous glucose monitoring: this roller coaster ride is what most people experience every day. What was on the menu: melon, raspberries, watermelon, (nap), coconut water, tomato salad, fresh corn, a little ‘financier aux pistaches’, and finally, popcorn to finish off the day. Can you guess when I ate? Pretty obvious, isn’t it?

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 14.43.43

Hypoglycaemia as a metabolic impossibility

Last Thursday, the day before the operation, the dental surgeon told me: “Make sure you have a good breakfast. I don’t want you to get hypoglycaemic. It will last several hours.” I replied: “I never have breakfast, and it is impossible for me to become hypoglycaemic.” He was like: “What? What are you talking about? I don’t understand what you’re saying.” I just said: “Because I don’t eat carbohydrates, I cannot become hypoglycaemic.” I’m not sure he understood what I meant, but I suppose that given my response, he figured I knew what I was talking about.

I’m sure you’ve heard, at one point or another in your life, someone say: “I’m hypoglycaemic, I need to have something”, and then seen them pull out a can or bottle of juice, an apple or an orange, a granola or a chocolate bar? Maybe you’ve said it yourself! It sounds scientific; like we know what we’re talking about. Don’t you think? Maybe we’ve heard a doctor or a nurse say it. Maybe we’ve heard other people say it, here and there. And over time, saying this has become common parlance in North America, and surely in the UK as well. But what does it mean? What do we mean when we say that?

Do you know why I said what I did to the dentist? Do you understand why it is impossible for me, (and possibly you too), to become hypoglycaemic, even without eating for 12, 24, or 36 hours? Why is it that so many people suffer from hypoglycaemia on a daily basis, especially type II diabetics, and all the while, I’m writing that it is ‘a metabolic impossibility’? Am I wrong? Am I lying? Am I confused or trying to be confusing? And why is there so much hype about hypoglycaemia? Just Google it and you’ll see: 6.35 million hits! There’s even a Hypoglycaemic Health Association!

First of all, if you don’t already know what it means, hypo means low, and glycaemia means ‘sugar in the blood’. So, hypoglycaemia just means low blood sugar. But the thing is that what people usually mean when they say this, is that they are feeling tired, slow, flat, low-energy, light headed, maybe even dizzy, and interpret these symptoms to reflect a state of low blood sugar, which it usually does. But there’s a caveat: different people will feel the same symptoms at different blood sugar levels! Isn’t that a little weird? Doesn’t that make you wonder about what this means and implies? If there is such as thing as hypoglycaemia, why would it be different for different people? Meaning, why would a certain blood sugar level be fine for one person, and too low for another?

But what is low blood sugar? What is high blood sugar? What is normal blood sugar? Do you have any idea? And how much sugar is that, actually, circulating in the bloodstream? Any idea about that?

Let’s make it simple. Most people have between 5 and 6 litre of blood. Let’s take 5 litres as our baseline to make the numbers easier. Most people, on average, have around 100 mg/dl of glucose in their blood (even if they should have less!) Since there are 10 dl in 1 litre, and 100 mg =0.1 g, this makes 5*10*0.1 g = 5 g. Think on that for a second: in your entire body, there are 5 litres of blood, and in this volume of blood, there are 5 measly little grams of glucose. That’s a teaspoon!

For very low blood sugar levels, we can go down to about 50 mg/dl (half the normal average). This would amount to just 2.5 g in your whole body! And for critically (as in dangerously) high levels, we can go up to around 400 mg/dl (four times the average). In this case, that would amount to still just 20 g! Therefore, we can say that at any given time in our body there is on average 5 g of sugar, very rarely less than 2.5 g, and only extremely rarely, when we are severely diabetic, up to 20 g. So, all things considered, it’s not much, is it?

Now, why is it that most people feel hypoglycaemic at one point or another if they don’t eat for a while, sometimes in as little as a few hours? Why would different people feel these symptoms more or less intensely? And why would different people feel the same unpleasant or even debilitating symptoms of hypoglycaemia at different concentrations of blood glucose?

Well, if you feel symptoms of hypoglycaemia it means that 1) your blood glucose levels are significantly lower than your own usual average level, the level at which your system and cells have gotten used to functioning. This average level could be 200, 150, 120, 100 mg/dl or whatever. And the lower threshold before you start feeling weak, tired or even dizzy could be 40, 50, 60, or even 90 mg/dl. In fact, diabetics or soon-to-be-diabetics, could be walking around, going about their business with an average of 150, 200 or even 300 mg/dl without knowing it, until they get a blood test and someone notices. And they would definitely feel hypoglycaemic at levels that could be quite high. How come?

The key to understanding this conundrum in the apparent subjectivity of hypoglycaemia is the notion of glucose tolerance. But what is glucose tolerance if it is not insulin sensitivity? And what is insulin sensitivity if it is not the flip side of insulin resistance? I hope that by now, having been reading this blog for a while, you know everything about insulin resistance, how it develops and how it manifests itself in the biochemistry and metabolic functions of the body. (If you don’t, then just reread the posts you’ll find in the Diabetes and Carbs categories.)

This notion of tolerance explains it all very neatly: with chronic exposure to glucose, (as in high average levels of glucose in the blood for an extended time), insulin resistance increases, and thus, insulin sensitivity decreases. As insulin sensitivity decreases, more insulin is needed to clear the glucose from the bloodstream, and more glucose stays in circulation longer. The cells get used to this high level of insulin, and become less and less sensitive to it, allowing less and less glucose to get in. When the level of glucose drops below the threshold at which the cells can use it without much effort, muscle but especially brain cells, we feel hypoglycaemic. This is why hypoglycaemia is defined on a subjective and relative scale that depends on our own cells’ sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that shuttles the glucose in. We become hypoglycaemic when the body cannot use fat to fuel its cells, and ketones to fuel its brain. And the more insulin resistant, the more prone to hypoglycaemia.

Moreover, insulin sensitivity, or resistance, exists on a continuous spectrum in the population. It goes from extreme sensitivity to extreme resistance. On the side of high resistance, we have type II diabetics; and on the side of high sensitivity, we have those people like me, and maybe also like you, who restrict carbohydrates, getting most of their calories from fat, and whose cells are consequently fuelled primarily by fat and not by glucose. This makes them, it makes us, not only highly metabolically efficient, but also impervious to hypoglycaemia.

This is why I said what I did to my dentist over the phone the other day: for a body whose cells are highly insulin sensitive from being minimally exposed to glucose/insulin in the bloodstream, the levels of which are delicately and sensitively regulated by the liver (glucose) and pancreas (insulin) throughout the day based on food intake, activity and stress levels, the cells are primed to burn fat efficiently, and the liver is primed to produce all the fat-derived ketones to nourish the brain, which they do far better than glucose can. For a body that works like that, it is physiologically impossible to become hypoglycaemic.

By the same token, it is also physiologically impossible to ‘hit the wall’, just because the cells are fuelled by burning fat, not glucose, and there is always a large reservoir of fat in the body, in terms of calories, at least an order of magnitude larger than the reserves of glycogen in the liver and muscles combined, and this, no matter how thin you may be. For example, even at 8% body fat (like me), which is quite low, a person weighing 63 kg (like me), has 5 kg of fat to draw on, providing a reservoir of 45 000 kcal! This is why we see more and more high level long distance athletes and professionals (like this one), and even power lifters (like this one) switching to a very low carb high fat diet (often abbreviated VLCHF). They do this to get lean and to tap into the metabolic advantages of nutritional ketosis.

Two final points:

1) Insulin sensitivity depends sensitively on exposure to insulin, which depends sensitively on the presence of glucose, which depends sensitively on carbohydrate intake. And it is as simple as this: the less carbohydrate, the less glucose; the less glucose, the less insulin; the less insulin, the more insulin-sensitive. This is always true even if different people have different genetic predispositions to insulin resistance.

2) Nutritional ketosis depends on the ratio of calories derived from fat to those derived from carbs, as well as on a specific maximum amount of insulin-stimulating carbohydrates per day. This threshold depends on each person individually. For one person it can be as high as 100-120 g, whereas for another it could be at low as 15-20 g. In addition, if you deplete your glycogen stores from going for a really long bike ride, for example, you can eat as much as 200 or even 300 g of carbs, and still remain in ketosis, because all of it will go to replete glycogen in the muscles and liver. In most people and in most cases, however, a standard guideline is less than 50 g per day. But, remember, the lower the better.

So, are you clear on what the deal is with hypoglycaemia? And now, what’s it gonna be: carbs, hypoglycaemia, feeling tired and irritable, low in energy and mentally slow, light headed and dizzy; or fats and protein, nutritional ketosis, feeling good and strong, high in energy and mentally sharp, stable and alert.  That’s a no-brainer, right? What do you say?

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Living healthy to 160 – insulin and the genetics of longevity

Of the most remarkable discoveries of the last 15 years, discoveries that might well turn out to be the most remarkable of the 21st century, are those of the telomere—a little tail at the end of our DNA whose length tells us how long we have left to live, and of the enzyme telomerase—the specialised protein whose job it is to try to repair the telomeres so that the cells (and we) can live longer and, from an evolutionary perspective, increase the probability that we’ll have more babies. This and other research into the biology of ageing and the details relating to the transcription of DNA, and the expression or suppression of genes is truly amazingly fascinating. I will turn to this in time, but think it would be jumping the gun to do so now.

What is definitely one of the most remarkable discoveries of the 20th century pertains to the hormone insulin. I am not, however, here referring to the fact that its discovery revolutionised medicine by allowing the saving of countless diabetics from highly premature and painful deaths, usually preceded by torturous amputations of their feet or legs and all the of the horror and misery brought on by these seemingly barbaric and radically extreme measures. (And don’t for one second imagine that such amputations are a thing of the past: I know for a fact—heard directly from the mouth of a practicing orthopaedic surgeon—that amputations are the reality of his everyday, performing sometimes two in a single day.) I’m not either, at least this time, talking about insulin as the master metabolic hormone that regulates the storage into cells of nutrients circulating in the bloodstream. What I am referring to as one of the 20th century’s greatest discoveries in regards to insulin is that of its role in regulating the rate of ageing.

Something that is almost as remarkable is that we hardly ever hear or read about this. For me, that’s really strange. But whatever, I’m not going to hypothesise and speculate to come up with an explanation for why this is. Insulin as regulator of the rate of ageing is what we’ll look at in this article.

Why do mice live two years but bats fifty? Why do rats live three years, but squirrels fifteen. Why do some tortoises live hundreds of year? Why do the smallest dogs, like Chihuahuas, live about twenty years, while the largest, like Great Danes, live five to seven years only? And why do we, humans, live around 80 years, rarely making it to 90, and very rarely to 100 years of age? It is this line of questioning that triggered in the late 80’s and early 90’s a geneticist working in evolutionary biology to hypothesise, for the first time, that ageing could be genetically regulated, at least to a certain extent.

It was the discovery and subsequent realisation in evolutionary biology at that time, that a large number of fundamental cellular processes and mechanisms regulated by a variety of genetic expressions were common to widely different organisms. The realisation was that because all animal life must necessarily share a common ancestor, it is not only logical that the most fundamental functions of cells and especially of how genes express themselves under the influence of hormones essential for life could be the same, but that it should be, to a great extent, expected to be that way. And even though these considerations may seem obvious in retrospect, the fact is that there was only one person with this knowledge, asking these questions, and having the means to do something about seeking an answer to some. Cynthia Kenyon, Professor at UCSF, was this person.

The subject was quick to choose: the tine worm that Kenyon had already been studying for years, C. elegans, was perfect because it is simple but nonetheless a complex animal, and because it has a short natural lifespan of about 30 days. The first step was clearly defined: find at least one long-lived individual. What seems very surprising from our current vantage point it that she couldn’t readily find one: she couldn’t convince anyone to join with her in this endeavour. Everyone was at that time convinced that ageing was something that just happened: things just wore out and deteriorated with use and with time; nothing to do with genes. But how could this be if different species—some very physically similar—are witnessed to have such widely different lifespans? It just had to be genetic at some level, Kenyon thought. Eventually, after a few years of asking around and searching, she found a young PhD student that was up to it, and set out to find a long-lived mutant.

A number of months down the road a long-lived mutant was found and immediately identified as a ‘DAF-2 mutant’. This mutation made the DAF-2 gene—a gene responsible for the function of two kinds of hormone receptors on a cell’s membrane—less active. The next step was to artificially create a population of DAF-2 mutants and see how long they live, statistically speaking, compared to normal C. elegans. It was found that the genetically ‘damaged’ worms, the ones for which they had turned down the expression of the DAF-2 gene, lived twice as long: starting with exactly the same number of worms, it took 70 days for the last one of the mutants to die compared to 30 days in the normal population.

But an additional observation was made: the curve that traced the fraction of worms remaining was stretched by a factor of two from about the start of adulthood for the mutants. They had the same relatively short childhood but then for the remainder of their lives, for every day in the life of the normal worms, the mutants would live two days. The most impressive was that they were really half their chronologically equally aged cousins in all respects: external appearance, level of activity and reproduction.

To make your appreciate this point as much as you should, this observation with respect to not just the lifespan but notably the healthspan of C. elegans would translate in human terms in someone being 80 years old but looking and acting like a 40 year old in the sense that nobody could tell that they were not 40, let alone 80 years old. Just like Aragon in the The Lord of the Rings. This person would be like a 40 year old at 80, like a 60 year old at 120, and like an 80 year old person coming to the end of their life by the time they were 160! Can you even imagine that? Hard isn’t it. But this is exactly what Kenyon and her team were looking at in these experiments with these little worms.

Now they wanted to understand the effect of the DAF-2 gene, or rather, understand the effect of suppressing its expression in the DNA of each cell’s nucleus at different developmental stages. If it was turned off completely, the worms would die: clearly, DAF-2 expression, at least in C. elegans, is essential for life. If it was suppressed immediately after birth (hatching), the little worms would enter the Dauer state in which they don’t eat, don’t grow, don’t reproduce, and basically don’t move either: they just sit and wait. Wait for what? For better times!

This Dauer state is a remarkable evolutionary adaptation seem in some species that allows the individual to survive during periods of severe environmental stress such as lack of food or water, but also high UV radiation or chemical exposure, for example, for long periods of time with respect to their normal lifespan in a very efficient kind of metabolic, physiological and reproductive hibernation. What’s really cool is that inducing worms out of the Dauer state, no matter how long they’ve been in it, they begin to live normally again, moving and eating, but also reproducing. So, in the Dauer state C. elegans literally stops ageing altogether and waits, suspending metabolic activities and physiological functions until conditions for reproduction and life become adequate once again.

celegansfasting

Taken from Worms live longer when they stop eating  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/2790633)

If DAF-2 expression was turned back up to normal, then they moved out of Dauer and resumed their development stages equivalent to childhood, teenage-hood, and then adulthood, but didn’t live any longer as adults. Finally, suppressing DAF-2 expression at the onset of adulthood resulted in the extended lifespan as originally observed. The conclusion was therefore clear: DAF-2 expression is essential for life and necessary for normal and healthy growth and development in immature individuals from birth until they reach maturity, and suppressing DAF-2 expression was only effective at extending both lifespan and healthspan in mature individuals.Going further, they now wanted to understand how DAF-2 suppression actually worked to extent healthspan: what were the actual mechanisms that made the worms live longer when DAF-2 expression was turned down. For this, Kenyon’s team needed to look at all of C. elegans’s 20000 genes and figure out how they affect each other. (Note that this is also more or less how many genes we have, but C. elegans has only 3 chromosomes and is also hermaphrodite.) The sequencing of the worm’s genome was done in 1998, and what was found after analysis was very interesting:

The DAF-2 gene activate a phosphorylation chain that attaches phosphate groups onto the DAF-16 transcription factor. In normal individuals the DAF-2 gene is expressed normally, the phosphorylation chain works unimpeded, and the DAF-16 transcription factor is inactivated. In the mutants, the DAF-2 gene expression is suppressed, and as a consequence, the DAF-16 transcription factor is not inactivated and instead accumulates in the nucleus. There, DAF-16 encodes what Kenyon’s team showed to be the genetic key to health and longevity they were looking for from the start of this now decade long pursuit: the FOXO gene.

What does FOXO do? It promotes the expression of other genes, at least four other genes: one responsible for manufacturing antioxidants to neutralise free radicals the largest amount of which are produced by the mitochondria as they make energy for the cell, a second responsible for manufacturing ‘chaperons’ whose role as specialised proteins is to transport other proteins and in particular to bring damaged ones to the cell’s garbage collector and recycling facility to promote the replacement of those damaged proteins by new and well-functioning ones; a third responsible for manufacturing antimicrobial molecules that increase the cell’s resistance to bacterial and viral invaders; and the fourth that improves metabolic functions and in particular fat transport (reduce) and utilisation (increase).

It is these four genetically regulated cellular protection and repair mechanisms, the cumulative combined effects of all these increased expressions of antioxidants, chaperons, antimicrobials and metabolic efficiency—all of them at the cellular level—that allow the lucky DAF-2 suppressed mutants to live twice as long twice as healthy. Remarkable!

Now that all the cards about how the long-lived mutants actually live twice as long as expected under normal conditions are laid on the table, and that there is only one detail I left out of the story up to this point, tell me: can you guess what are the two sister hormones to which the cell’s sensitivity through the activity of its receptors for them are controlled by the DAF-2 gene? It’s a trick question because I told you half the answer in the introduction: The DAF-2 gene encodes the hormone receptors for both insulin and the primary form of insuline-like growth factor IGF-1. Surprised? It isn’t surprising, really. In fact, it all makes perfect sense:

Insulin and IGF-1 promote growth; nutrient absorption and cellular growth and reproduction are essential for life and thus common to all living organisms, including the more primitive of them like yeasts; growth in immature individuals is fundamental for health and for ensuring they reach maturity; but growth in adults, in mature individuals, just means ageing, and the more insulin and IGF-1 there is, the faster the rate of cellular damage and deterioration, the more genetic mutations from errors in transcription, the more pronounced the deterioration of the brain and the heart, of the arteries and the veins, of the muscles, the bones and the joints, and obviously, the faster the rate of ageing. Because what is ageing if it is not the word we use to describe the sum total, the multiple negative consequences, the end result of all of these deteriorations in these vital organs and systems but also everywhere else throughout the organism, all of it starting at the cellular level, in the nucleus of every cell.

About the necessity of insulin for normal growth, you should definitely not think that these observations impliy we should stimulate insulin secretion in the young in order to ensure proper growth. Totally not! The body knows exactly when and how much insulin is needed at any given time. In fact, any additional stimulation of insulin promoted by eating simple and starchy carbs actually deregulates the proper balance of hormones that the body is trying to maintain. This deregulation from a sugar laden diet in children is the very reason for many wide spread health problems in our youth most important of which is childhood obesity and the metabolic and physiological stresses this brings on. So, leave it to mother nature to know how to regulate the concentration of insulin in the bloodstream. Do not disrupt the delicate biochemical balance by ingesting refined carbohydrates: it’s the last thing anyone needs for good health and long life.

The first results were so interesting that several other groups joined in this research into the genetics of ageing. Not as much as one would think, but at least a handful of other groups began to apply and expand the techniques to other species. Unsurprisingly, the same effects, although with different magnitudes, were seen in these very different species, from an evolutionary standpoint: fruit flies and mice. In addition, the connection was made with lifespan-extending experiments using calorie-restriction, which have also been carried out on mice and other animals (we’ll look into this another time). And beyond the work around DAF-2, DAF-16 and FOXO, Kenyon’s group investigated other ways to influence lifespan and found two more.

The first was by disabling some of the little worm’s sensory neurones of which there are very few, making it easy to test and determine the influence they have separately and in combinations. They tested smell and taste neurones, found that disabling some would extend lifespan while disabling others didn’t. They also found that disabling different combinations of smell and taste neurones could have nulling effects. The second was playing with the TOR gene expression. For now, however, we will leave it at that.

As the fact that it is rare and relatively hard to come by this work without actually looking for it, there is something else I find very hard to comprehend. In Kenyon’s various lectures on this work, there is usually a mention of the biotech company she founded called Elixir Pharmaceuticals and how they aim to find one or more drugs that can suppress DAF-2 expression in humans without causing negative side-effects in order to extend lifespan and healthspan as was done in C. elegans with genetic manipulation. That’s fine, and does make sense to a certain extent, especially if we can find not chemical drugs but natural plant-derived compounds that have this effect on us.

The thing that doesn’t make sense and that is hard to understand from the naive perspective of the honest scientist looking for the simplest possible solution to a problem of inferring something we don’t know from information that relates to what we want to know: in this case this mean the simplest way to make the best use of this information and apply what we have learnt from these two and half decades of research in a way that we know would be beneficial in promoting a longer and healthier lifespan in humans without risks through the introduction of foreign substances in our body. Because they haven’t, here I offer my attempt to do this.

We have, thanks to Kenyon and others, understood in great detail how lifespan in complex organisms can be, to a great extent, genetically regulated, and which genes, transcription factors and mechanisms are involved in the process of regulating the rate of ageing in conjunction with the propensity for developing age-related degenerative diseases. In the final analysis, the main players are the DAF-2 gene that tunes up or down the sensitivity of insulin and IGF-1 receptors, the DAF-16 transcription factor that encodes the FOXO gene but is made inactive by the expression of DAF-2, and the star FOXO longevity gene that promotes the expression other genes responsible for stimulating the cell’s most powerful protection and repair mechanisms.

We have, from many decades of research on calorie-restriction and fasting in animals including humans (and which we’ll explore elsewhere), understood that this is an extremely effective way to extent both lifespan and healthspan and basically eliminate the occurrence of age-related degenerative diseases by greatly increase resistance to health disorders of all kinds. Some key observations on calorie-restricted animals include their very low blood levels of sugar, insulin and IGF-1, high metabolic efficiency and ability to utilise fat demonstrated by low blood levels of triglycerides, and their remarkably younger appearance with increased energy and activity levels.

And finally, we have, from more than a century of observations and research, concluded that diabetics, whose condition is characterised by very high levels of blood glucose, insulin and triglycerides, are plagued by a several-fold increase in rates of cancer, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and dementia, basically all the age-related degenerative diseases known to us, and in addition, also a several fold increase in their rate of ageing based on the spectrum of blood markers used for this purpose, their appearance, but also on the length of their telomeres.

Is it not, therefore, obvious from these observations that high blood sugar, high insulin and high triglycerides are hallmarks of accelerated ageing and a propensity for degenerative diseases, while low blood sugar, low insulin and low triglycerides are instead necessarily related to extended lifespan, extended healthspan and increased resistance to all disease conditions including those categorised as degenerative, and this, independently of the actual mechanisms involved?

Is it not, therefore, plausible from these observations that the genetic mechanisms relating to the function of the DAF-2 gene, DAF-16 transcription factor and FOXO gene in conferring to the DAF-2 mutants twice as long a life can, in fact, be activated and enhanced epigenetically by creating an environment in the organism that is conducive to it: simply by keeping blood sugar, insulin and triglycerides as low as possible? In other words, isn’t it plausible from these observations that by manipulating the biochemistry to ensure that blood sugar, insulin and triglycerides are throughout the day and night as low as possible depending on the organisms requirements, that this will actually translate into the activation of the FOXO gene to enhance protection and repair at the cellular level and thus extend lifespan and healthspan?

And what is, not only the easiest and simplest, but also the most effective way to do this? It is to eliminate insulin-stimulating carbohydrates—sugars and starches—from the diet completely. This, within 24-48 hours, will allow sugar levels to drop to a functional minimum. The low blood sugar will allow the pancreas to reduce production and insulin levels to drop bit by bit. Lowered insulin will eventually allow the cells to start using the fat circulating in the blood, and in time, increase in efficiency, thereby dropping triglyceride levels lower and lower.

Why is it you think that Kenyon never mentions this anywhere? Do you think that this has simply not occurred to her? I honestly don’t know. But if there is a single thing to remember it is this: insulin is necessary for life; in the immature individual, insulin regulates growth; in the mature individual, insulin regulates the rate of ageing and the propensity for degenerative diseases. Hence, if you are a mature individual, and by this I mean full grown, and if you want to live long and healthy, the very first thing you need to do is to keep the concentration of insulin circulating in your blood as low as possible. Everything else that we can do to extend healthspan and lifespan is secondary to this.

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On the origin of cancer cells – part 2

Fifty years of intense research had passed from the year he received his doctorate in chemistry in 1906 to the year when On the Origin of Cancer Cells was published in 1956. The uniquely exceptional scientist that was Professor Otto Warburg was nominated for the Nobel Prize by his scientific peers a total of 46 times between 1923 and 1931, with 13 of these nominations in that last year. And in 1931, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his seminal work on the essential role of iron in the biochemistry of cellular respiration published in 1928, and more generally for his work on the aerobic and anaerobic metabolic processes in cells. He was also, in that year, made director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Cell Physiology in Berlin (renamed Max Planck Society in 1948), and he maintained not only his post but also his scientific activity until his death in 1970 at the age of 86.

otto-warburg-old-highresfaceshot

In fact, in 1969, just months before his passing, he published with one of his long-standing collaborators Dean Burk who translated the text (as he did for the 1956 paper), a revised and additionally prefaced version of the lecture he gave at the meeting of Novel Laureates at Lake Constance, Germany, in 1966 entitled The Prime Cause and Prevention of Cancer. The tone of this lecture, both for the first part of 1966 and the second of 1969, transpires frustration and even anger at the general lack of notice and acceptance of the crucial elements of the physiology of cancer cells that he had studied, understood, elucidated and clearly described in his publications over the course of more than 60 years of research.

Attempting to formulate a well-rounded and balanced explanation would require a lot of time and effort, not to mention a lot more words. But it is evident that then as now, financial interests have generally always been among the strongest driving forces both in research and in developing applications based on the understanding derived from this research. Hence, it is more than clear that eliminating the use of chemicals in all agricultural and industrial processes, stopping the consumption of simple and starchy carbohydrates and refined foods, and supplementing with iron, niacinamide and enzymes in general like Warburg recommended and did as a means to prevent and treat cancer is not only not at all lucrative, but it is highly financially detrimental to all chemical-based agricultural and industrial activities. I believe this is a most important part of the explanation, as it is for so many things.

What Warburg understood

Warburg had slowly, carefully, cautiously, diligently, painstakingly carried out experiment after experiment, trial after trial, studying every last detail of every aspect of the experimental process. He explained the cell’s most vital function, that of respiration, using oxygen to burn glucose or fats and produce energy, with a particular focus on the critical role of iron as a ‘respiratory enzyme’ carrying the oxygen molecule. He explained that the glucose molecule was ‘fermented’ (that it underwent glycolysis) in the cytosol of the cell, split into pyruvate molecules and fermented to lactic acid, and that this produced a small amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) without the need or use of oxygen. This process is termed anaerobic fermentation.

He explained that this process could either stop there, or be extended further by the pyruvate being taken up into mitochondria of the cell, and with the use of much oxygen, almost magically produce a lot more ATP without needing any additional glucose, but going through a series of steps and transformations relying primarily on clever recycling and reusing mechanisms of the niacin (B3) based molecule NAD (which stands for Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) within the mitochondria.

The ATP-generating process taking place inside the mitochondria was eventually described in detail by one of Warburg’s students, Krebs, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1953, and to which his name was given as the Krebs cycle also known as the citric acid cycle, as everyone who has studied some biology has heard (even if you never quite understood was this stuff was all about). Note that the Krebs cycle produces only 2 molecules of ATP, just as glycolysis does, and that it is what is called the electron transport chain, also taking place inside the mitochondria and using plenty of oxygen, that produces the bulk of the ATP with a potential of an additional 34 molecules, using products of the Krebs cycle, and in particular the 10 molecules of NADH.

Warburg was motivated to understand at the most fundamental level what was the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells. Naturally, as cancer was already a devastating disease in the 1930’s, he wasn’t the only scientist working and leading researchers in the study of the mysteries of cancer. He was, however, one of the most talented, dedicated and productive, together with the group of scientists he led at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute and those with whom he collaborated.

The first major step was made in showing that tumours fermented glucose much more intensely than healthy tissues that normally hardly do so at all. This fact—that tumours ferment a lot more glucose than healthy mature tissues even in the presence of oxygen—is known as the Warburg Effect and is universally studied in physiology, medicine and oncology (cancer-ology). This fact is so fundamental to cancer metabolism as well as cancer research that it is the basis of the PET scan imaging technique in which radioactively labelled glucose is used to make detailed images of active tumours and their tendrils in our tissues. The reason why it works is that cancer cells take up glucose from the bloodstream far more efficiently than normal cells.

What is unfortunate but not surprising given how myopic scientists and we all in general tend to be, is that this has been consistently overlooked as being a critical aspect of the genesis of cancer, as Warburg’s research implied, and instead has been interpreted as a consequence of the dysfunctional cellular metabolism of these mutated cells that is unrelated to the actual development of the cancer.

This is pretty absurd. After all, if cancer cells derive a substantial fraction of their energy from fermenting sugar, wouldn’t the absence of sufficient glucose naturally halt the growth and proliferation, and thus the development of tumours? And even more fundamentally, because glucose can only be transported inside the cell by the action of insulin, and it is, in fact, to insulin—not glucose per se—that cancer cells are incredibly more sensitive than healthy cells, wouldn’t an important drop in circulating insulin levels be detrimental or even lethal to cancer cells? Of course it would! They would be starved of the only fuel they can use, and as a consequence, eventually become incapable of sustaining their activity.

How was this measured?

The way it was done was to measure oxygen consumption and lactic acid production either with plenty of oxygen or without any, for tumours and different tissues under physiological conditions of pH and temperature. This is the perfect trick because fermentation outside the mitochondria does not require any oxygen, whereas energy production by glucose oxidation inside the mitochondria depends entirely on the presence of ample amounts of oxygen, In fact, even a minute drop in oxygen concentration will negatively affect mitochondrial ATP production. Cancer cells don’t care much if there is oxygen or not: they don’t use much and therefore don’t depend on it. They ferment glucose anaerobically no matter what because this is the only way they can generate enough energy to survive.

It was understood a number of years later that tumours are rather heterogenous both in terms of the types of cells and tissues they are derived from, and in the concentration of cancer cells: tumours can grow extremely fast or extremely slowly; they can have a large proportion of cancer cells in relation to normal cells or a small one; and since different specialised tissues require different conditions and function differently, it is an obvious consequence that tumours developing in different tissues will have different characteristics.

Hence, the next step necessitated the isolation of cancer cells in order to avoid the problem of dealing with heterogeneous mixtures of cancer and healthy cells cohabiting in a solid tumour. It was this that Warburg presented in the 1956 paper, and what a difference this would make! These are his opening paragraphs:

Our principal experimental object for the measurement of the metabolism of cancer cells is today no longer the tumour but the ascites cancer cells living free in the abdominal cavity, which are almost pure cultures of cancer cells with which one can work quantitatively as in chemical analysis. Formerly, it could be said of tumours, with their varying cancer cell content, that they ferret more strongly the more cancer cells they contain, but today we can determine the absolute fermentation values of the cancer cells and find such high values that we come very close to the fermentation values of wildly proliferating Torula yeasts.

What was formerly only qualitative has now become quantitative. What was formerly only probable has now become certain. The ear in which the fermentation of cancer cells or its importance could be disputed is over, and no one today can doubt that we understand the origin of cancer cells if we know how their large fermentation originates, or, to express it more fully, if we know how the damaged respiration and the excessive fermentation of the cancer cells originate.

This was the programme that in the end led to the discovery that cancer cells produced 2-3 times (that’s 200-300%) more lactic acid than the most solid tumours. This meant that even those most solid tumours must have been composed of only about 1/3 active cancer cells, and thus 2/3 normal and inactive cancer cells.

This is necessary because cancer cells cannot do the things needed for the tumour to survive and grow, like making new blood vessels for example; only healthy cells can carry out such specialised activities. The wildly fermenting and proliferating cancer cells are dependent on healthy cells in the tissue where they are growing in order to survive. This makes good sense given that cancer cells gradually devolve, generation after generation, losing their function, their specialisation and their differentiated nature, and eventually cannot do much of anything but ferment glucose and replicate. For this reason, they rely on the healthy cells to maintain a viable environment for them.

Oxygen is crucial

Recall a key observation that was made in comparing the metabolic activity of cancer cells to normal cells: as the cell transitions from functioning normally and deriving virtually 100% of its energy needs by burning glucose (or fat) with oxygen inside the mitochondria, towards the defective cancerous cellular metabolism characterised by fermenting glucose without oxygen outside the mitochondria, they derive progressively more energy from fermentation and less from oxidation, independently of the amount of oxygen available.

You see, if oxygen in the cell drops, then ATP concentration drops because the mitochondria need the oxygen to make ATP. Immediately, fermentation outside the mitochondria will begin or increase in order to make up the energy deficit. This is normal and happens in all healthy cells whenever this situation occurs. However, the drop in available oxygen will also trigger heart rate and breathing to increase in order to make more available. This will very quickly correct the problem, allowing the cell to stop fermenting and return to the much preferred condition of generating ATP though oxidation in the little power plants that are the mitochondria. Once again, this is perfectly normal and happens in healthy, well-functioning cells every time we exercise.

Those cultured cells with which they were working did not have the support of the entire organism that we have, exquisitely fine tuned and orchestrated by countless specialised hormones, sensor cells, worker enzymes, etc., to react instantly to any kind of chance of condition. As oxygen concentration dropped, fermentation increased. But if oxygen levels weren’t replenished quickly enough, the damage to cellular respiration was found to be irreversible. Now, fermentation continued no matter if oxygen levels were raised to saturation following the period of hypoxia.

Not only did fermentation continue under oxygen saturation, but it increased over time. This is what was meant by irreversible in terms of the damage to respiration sustained by the period of deficient oxygen levels, and this is what showed very clearly how a cell can transition and devolve from normal and healthy to cancerous. The same observations were made irrespective of the means that were used to damage respiration: arsenic, urethane, hydrogen sulphide and its derivatives, hydrocyanic acid, methylcholanthrene and whatever else, whether oxygen was deficient or prevented from reaching the cell by a respiratory poison, the result was irreversible damage that always eventually resulted in cancer cells if the damage wasn’t too severe, because otherwise the cell would not survive at all.

The unavoidable consequence of this was immediately understood: it is the cumulative effect of chronic exposure to small amounts of carcinogenic respiratory poisons or low-oxygen that causes and leads to cancer within our tissues. Very unfortunately for us, the number, spread and quantity of such carcinogens grows with each passing day. Is it any wonder then, that cancer rates are soaring? That it is a modern plague in our highly industrialised, pesti-cised, herbi-cised, fungus-ised and globally chemi-cised countries?

Measuring cancer cell metabolism

Quantitative measures of cellular activity and metabolism of ascites cancer cells were done keeping the cells in their natural medium, ascites serum, that was ‘adjusted’ physiologically once they were removed from the abdominal cavity. Adjusted how? By adding glucose to feed them, but also bicarbonate to neutralise the lactic acid, because the fermentation rate was so strong that without the bicarbonate the pH would drop too quickly and too drastically, causing fermentation to be brought to a standstill and soon after the cells to die.

Under physiological conditions of pH and temperature, in units of cubic mm for 1 mg of tissue (dry weight) per hour at 38 C, they found the following:

  • Oxygen consumption: 5 to 10,
  • Lactic acid production with oxygen saturation: 25 to 35, and
  • Lactic acid production without oxygen: 50 to 70.

Warburg and colleagues estimated that in anaerobic glucose fermentation, one mole of ATP was produced for every one mole of lactic acid. In contrast, even though the exact details were not yet known, measurements indicated that in cellular respiration, 7 moles of ATP could be produced for every mole of oxygen that was consumed. Based on these estimates, they compared ATP production form fermentation and oxidation in different types of cells.

Healthy liver and kidney cells showed identical metabolic values, consuming 15 cubic mm of oxygen per mg per hour, and in the absence of it, producing only 1 cubic mm of lactic acid. This means these cells were very poor at fermenting glucose; they could basically only derive energy from oxidation within the mitochondria. And this was made even more apparent by comparing, as they did, the amount of ATP that can be derived from fermentation or from oxidation. Using the 1:1 ratio of lactic acid to ATP under fermentation, and the 1:7 ratio of oxygen to ATP under oxidation, they found that these healthy liver and kidney cells could derive 105 (that’s 15 x 7) moles of ATP from oxidation versus only 1 from fermentation. As a fraction of the total, this is 105/106 or 99.1% from the normal mechanism reliant on the Krebs cycle and electron transport chain inside the mitochondria.

Next they looked at very young embryonic cells and found equal oxygen consumption of 15 cubic mm, but with a significantly greater—25 times greater—production of lactic acid when oxygen supply was cut. What this means is that these embryonic cells were much better adapted to surviving in anaerobic conditions without oxygen. This is quite natural given that the less evolved the cell, the more primitive and less specialised or differentiated, and therefore the closer to simpler cellular forms like yeasts. Doing the same as above in translating this metabolic function to compare the amount of ATP derived from either anaerobic or aerobic usage of glucose, we find that the same amount of 105 cubic mm of ATP from respiration, but in this case 25 moles of ATP from fermentation. And so, in this case the fraction is 105/130 or 80.8%, compared to the above 99.1% in normal liver and kidney cells.

The difference between these numbers and those calculated for the ascites cancer cells was large: they consumed less than half the oxygen, 7 cubic mm, but produced a whopping 60 cubic mm of lactic acid. That was 60 times more than the healthy mature liver/kidney cells! Here, ATP derived from respiration was therefore 49 (7 x 7) compared to 60 from fermentation. Hence, the fraction of the total that could be derived from oxidation was a mere 49/109 or 45%, implying that more than half the energy requirements could be derived from fermentation. This is how these quantitative measurements on the metabolism of healthy and cancer cells were done, and the result was indeed a remarkable finding.

What these results explained

So many things were understood or clarified through his efforts across these five long decades of intense research, and now with these latest results we understood different cell types have different propensity to become cancerous based solely on the cell’s inherent propensity towards fermentation: the higher the amount of ATP that could be derived from anaerobic fermentation, the easier it would be for the cell to become cancerous, and also the faster the tumour would grow.

The unfortunate but unavoidable implication is that embryos whose cells are all immature and therefore more primitive and naturally prone to greater fermentation, are the most susceptible to sustain damage to respiration whether from periods of low oxygen (think asthmatic mothers) or from exposure to respiratory poisons (think anything from pesticides, herbicides, food preservatives, to just supermarket household ‘cleaning’ and skin ‘care’ products, synthetic perfumes or substances they contain, and on and on…). Here again we can ask: is it any wonder that infantile cancer rates are also on a sharp rise?

We understand, for exactly the same reasoning, why cancer tumours in different tissues grow at different rates under the same physiological conditions, and easily explain why the increase in fermentation is gradual, requiring many cell divisions after the initial injury. As we know very well, it typically takes decades for adults to develop large cancer tumours that cause enough of an effect to get us to the hospital before it is diagnosed as such. Also, we know that tumours in or near the brain can develop and grow very quickly—within a year or two—whereas for the prostate they typically take an entire lifetime, sometimes completely unbeknownst to the host whose quality of life is not affected noticeably.

It was also understood why radiation therapy was generally effective at reducing the size of solid tumours by killing those already weakened and energy deficient cancer cells through a final blow to their injured and struggling mitochondria. By the same token, however, radiation will also always damage mitochondria of healthy cells, and thus set them on their way towards the process of devolution into dysfunctional fermenting cancer cells that the injury to respiration brings about.

And imagine this: 52 years following the publication of this landmark paper and a whole three quarters of a century after Warburg’s discovery of the fermentation of tumour cells even in the presence of oxygen, was published in the journal Nature a paper entitled The M2 splice isoform of pyruvate kinase is important for cancer metabolism and tumour growth. In this paper the authors describe how they were able to manipulate the expression of this enzyme in cancer cells, and doing so, decrease fermentation while increasing oxidation of glucose.

This enzyme, pyruvate kinase, is expressed in mammals in four different flavours (isoforms): L is expressed in liver cells, R in red blood cells, M1 is by far the most dominant and is expressed in most adult tissues, and M2, a variant of M1, is expressed during embryonic development. As it turns out, and as reported by two other groups of researchers in 2005 (refs 2 and 7 in the 2008 Nature paper), tumour tissues exclusively express the embryonic M2 form of pyruvate kinase.

Expressing these results as simply as we can, the situation appears to be as follows: once a glucose molecule enters the cell through one of the insulin-mediated entry ports, it is in the cytosol. There, through a series of 10 enzyme-mediated steps, it is split in two molecules of pyruvate. This requires 2 ATP but produces 4 ATP molecules; hence there is a net production of 2 ATP. At this stage pyruvate can either be converted to lactate which then turns to lactic acid, or to acetyl-CoA which is then transported to the mitochondria to enter the Krebs cycle and the electron transport chain. This transformation of pyruvate is performed by the enzyme that is the subject of these scientists’ investigation, pyruvate kinase. It would seem that the M1 form, the one that is active in healthy cells, takes pyruvate into acetyl-CoA and into the mitochondria, whereas the M2 form, the one that is expressed in embryos and cancer cells, takes it into lactic acid.

By some clever genetic manipulation, working with tumours in rats, they were able to switch off M2 expression and switch on M1 expression in cancer cells, and measured a decrease in lactic acid production and an increase in oxygen consumption that was associated with ATP production in the mitochondria through oxidative phosphorylation. This is the remarkable result that made the paper worthy of a publication in Nature magazine. And it is indeed amazing! This is why they write in the first paragraph that based on their research, the defect is not with the mitochondria as Warburg thought, but rather it is with the expression of the enzyme pyruvate kinase that goes from the healthy M1 to the embryonic M2 form. Why or how this happens is unknown.

This is indeed very encouraging! Just the idea of being able to force the expression of the healthy M1 and suppress the cancerous M2 form of pyruvate kinase is really amazing and has very important potential implications for cancer prevention and treatment. And this even if we don’t really yet know why or how it happens. But tell me, have you ever heard of this more than critically important result in cancer research on the news? Do you think your doctor has? Or his oncologist colleagues that cut, poison and burn cancer patients day in and day out?

Our basic cancer-fighting strategy?

What can we gather from this work that can help us not just understand Warburg’s research and his remarkable contribution to humanity though it, but also avoid cancer in this world where more than 1/3 of people currently succumb to it and where cancer rates keep rising every year?

Naturally, we want to minimise as much as possible our exposure to all manufactured chemicals, especially those confirmed as carcinogenic. We are all exposed to a greater or lesser extent through our being immersed in the environment in which we live, but we can go a long way by eating the cleanest, most natural and unprocessed food possible, drinking the cleanest water possible, using only natural cleaning and skin care products, and using regular or daily detoxification strategies such as taking sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride baths one to three times a week, drinking psyllium husks in water to cleanse the colon, and supplementing with iodine, chlorella and spirulina daily to flush out chlorine, fluorine, bromine and heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic on a continuous basis. These are, in a way, the simplest and easiest preventative measures we can take to reduce as much as we can our exposure to external sources of potentially carcinogenic and otherwise dangerous substances, as well as do what we can to flush them out to prevent accumulation in our tissues.

In consideration of the two fundamental characteristics of cancer cells—that they rely on glucose fermentation, and that they live and thrive in a milieu that his highly acidic and deprived of oxygen—it is just common sense to conclude that doing the opposite of what they need and prefer would be a good strategy. Doing the opposite means minimising glucose availability and especially insulin that is ultimately the agent responsible for transporting the glucose into the cell; remember that this is why cancer cells typically have 10 times the number of insulin receptors on their surface than normal cells. Doing the opposite also means preventing the accumulation of metabolic acids in their subsequent storage in tissues, preventing latent tissue acidosis, and ensuring a plentiful oxygen supply from a highly alkalising drinks, foods and lifestyle.

The first can be achieved by eliminating all simple and starchy carbohydrates, refined or not. Blood glucose levels will drop, and insulin levels will follow suit. This will shift the metabolism towards relying on fat as the primary source of cellular fuel throughout the day and night, day after day. The cool thing is that healthy cells function much more efficiently by burning fatty acids in the sense that they derive a lot more energy than they can do from burning glucose, even if the later is easier and enzymatically simpler: it is, after all, common to all living organisms, including the most primitive. The important difference is that all evolved and highly specialised animal cells can use fat, whereas primitive or devolved cancer cells simply cannot.

The second can be achieved by keeping the body hydrated and alkaline by drinking and eating to promote the alkalisation of the digestive tract, the blood, the other fluids of the body, and thus the tissues throughout: alkaline water and pressed lemon water, highly alkaline and alkalising freshly cold pressed green vegetables both juiced and whole, and magnesium chloride and sodium bicarbonate baths. Eating plenty of unrefined sea salt is also of the utmost importance in this. These are among the most important and effective means to first pull out and eliminate stored acids from the tissues and body, and then maintain alkalinity.

The only caveat is that digestion of concentrated protein in animal food, for example, require an acidic stomach for complete breakdown and digestion. Therefore,we should not combine alkalising water, lemon water or green juice when eating protein because this will cause poor digestion and absorption. Also, because protein is very important but also highly acid-forming, it is essential to not have excessive amounts, especially in a single serving, because this will cause excessive acidification and toxicity. Restrict your servings of animal protein to about 30-50 grams per serving, and try to restrict that to one main meal in the latter part of the day (afternoon or evening).

Pretty simple, aren’t they, these two strategies that we can draw from what we have learnt about cancer up to now. We will further explore cancer metabolism, prevention and treatment in the future, looking at methods that have been and continue to be successfully used to treat cancer patients and bring them back to health, as well as important nutrients and supplements with powerful cancer-fighting and health-promoting properties. But the fact is that these two basic points that address the most fundamental characteristics of cancer cells to ensure, on the one hand, that those that do emerge one way or another cannot sustain themselves or grow due to the lack of enough glucose and insulin for their needs, and on the other, cannot readily develop from being pushed towards fermentation because the environment of the body is everywhere alkaline and oxygen rich, are probably the most effective and important measures to grasp and apply in order to remain optimally healthy and cancer-free for as long as we are alive.

In closing

Before closing I want to briefly highlight that the vast majority of effective natural cancer healing treatments are based to a greater or lesser extent on the understanding of cancer as I have presented it in this and the previous article on the subject. However, there is a truly wide range of successful treatments that are used out there in various specialised cancer treatment centres. One important point to make in regards to the consumption of simple sugars from sweet root vegetables such as carrots and beets or fruit is that several treatment protocols include these and in sometimes large quantities still with great success in overcoming cancers of various kinds. This shows us that there is definitely more to preventing and treating cancer than just eliminating simple sugars.

There is lot of tremendously interesting material to explore about cancer, a disease that has been an important cause of suffering for at least a century. A lot of this exploration will be of historical research, experiments and discoveries that either have escaped the attention of the masses and medical establishment, or been actively suppressed by various agencies and individuals intent on nurturing as substantial population of ailing people for the purpose of profiting from the treatments they would require.

As awful as this may seem, it is unfortunately the sad truth. And even more unfortunately, this is not only historical as in the case of this well documented 1921 action plan by the US government, FDA and AMA for an influenza vaccination campaign to quickly and effectively spread disease across the country and greatly stimulate the need for medical attention and case as a means to generate profits from the associated expenses, but this continues to this day. The essential conclusion to draw from this is that it is we who must care for ourselves, our children, our family members, and our friends. And to do this, it is again we who must first learn and then teach our children and each other how to best do it. This is what I strive to do and what I strive to share with you.

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Reversing diabetes: a four-week programme

The key factors of the process of reversing diabetes are: dropping blood sugar concentration and keeping it low, dropping insulin concentration and keeping it low, and alkalising the blood, fluids, tissues and organs—especially the pancreas, to eliminate accumulated acids and reverse the physiologically debilitating effects of chronic acidosis so common to diabetes.

We have examined both the process of developing and that of reversing diabetes in several previous articles. Now, we present a detailed four-week programme to put things into practice, begin recovering correct metabolic function, and get you on your way to ridding yourself of diabetes, if this happens to be a condition from which you are already suffering, towards which you are moving, or simply want to make sure it never develops.

As you will see, beyond the manipulation of the biochemistry through what is consumed, there are in addition several tweaks that are employed to ensure the best possible response to and outcome of the programme. These have mostly to do with timing: when we do things, when we drink, and when we eat. But also include important supplements (in addition to other ones you are taking like B12, ubiquinol, etc); as well as physical exercise, and specific types of exercise done under specific conditions.

The programme is constructed based on a four-week period because this is the amount of time that is needed, in the majority of cases, for the hormonal system to rebalance itself around the much lowered insulin levels, and for the cells and metabolism to regain insulin sensitivity and switch from using glucose and breaking down muscle tissue to satisfy energy needs, to instead use primarily fat, and naturally, as we would expect, the fat stored in the body’s adipose tissues throughout, which means sub-cutaneous—the fat that sits under the skin, intra-abdominal—the fat that is between the various digestive organs in the abdomen, and even the fat that is stored inside the tissues of organs like the liver and heart, and in the muscles themselves.

It is very important to understand, however, that even though the startup programme lasts four weeks, it is a transition period and a complete re-education that marks the beginning of a different way of doing things in order to first allow the body to heal itself and for you to regain your health, and then to maintain and refine this state of health over the course of the rest of your life.

It is also very important to understand that what leads and has led you to a diabetic or pre-diabetic condition are factors related primarily to diet and lifestyle, which if adopted by most will cause similar metabolic dysfunction, and obviously, if adopted anew following this four week programme will inevitably lead back to diabetes, and all that much faster for those whose system has already been compromised by the years and decades that led to this metabolic dysfunction in the first place.

Therefore, you must absolutely understand that this is a four-week programme intended to correct major imbalances and dysfunction and get you on your way to reversing your diabetes and tuning your metabolism to efficiently run on fats as the primary cellular fuel. But that it is also intended to re-educate and teach you a completely new way of doing things on a daily basis in order to empower you in knowing what to do to be and remain in perfect health, why you do what you do, and why it works on a physiological and biochemical level.

Lastly, because of its strict timing and numerous elements throughout the day on a very regular schedule, you have to make this programme a priority, and, ideally, make it your primary activity during this period. You will probably find it close to impossible to follow if you are trying to maintain other demanding and time consuming activities like a full time job at the same time. So, just take a break from everything else, and concentrate on your health for a month. Afterwards, once many of these new ways of taking care of yourself have become more habitual, you will find it far easier to maintain a similar routine while working and doing other things simply because it will be far more natural for you.

The first five days

Background

For maximal effectiveness, we start with a period of intensive cleansing and alkalisation during which the key nutritional element is fresh juice of green vegetables, and the sources of calories are restricted to coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut flesh and milled chia seeds. Like a traditional juice cleanse, everything that is consumed is raw and therefore living, enzyme rich, and easily absorbed with minimal digestive stress; and nothing is acid-forming and acidifying, for this would defeat one of the fundamental purposes of the healing protocol which is essential to restore correct pancreatic function.

Highly unlike a traditional juice cleanse, however, there are virtually no simple sugars consumed and entering the bloodstream, and there is a significant amount of fat, almost all derived from coconut oil. This serves several purposes: it provides the metabolism a perfect fuel for cellular function that is easily broken down and generally not stocked away in fat cells; it enhances the production of ketone bodies necessary to fuel the brain in the absence of glucose, at the same time helping heal and repair the brain by promoting the evacuation of plaques from cerebral arteries and thus increasing blood flow to these starved brain cells; it maximises the absorption of the rich array of minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients in the green juices; and finally, but also importantly, it very effectively suppresses hunger.

During this period the body will quickly and efficiently make the metabolic transition from using exclusively glucose as is always the case in diabetics and insulin resistant individuals, to burning fat reserves as the cellular fuel of choice; significantly decrease the level of systemic inflammation and release several kilograms of the water that is retained under conditions of chronic inflammation and insulin resistance, in great part responsible for hypertension, swelling of the joints and extremities, and poor blood circulation; thoroughly alkalise, cleanse and begin to rejuvenate, heal and repair the vital digestive organs: the stomach and intestines, and the kidneys, pancreas and liver; alkalise the blood and eliminate large amounts of accumulated acids stored throughout the body in the joints, soft tissues and muscles.

All of these processes are very physiologically tiring. For this reason it is important to rest in the afternoon, and have long nights of deep sleep every night. Hence, only walking is recommended as a form of exercise during this period, ideally in the morning (between 9:00 and 10:00) and in the evening after the last meal (anywhere between 20:00 and 22:00).

Detailed schedule

Here is what and when to eat and drink during this period (times can be adjusted slightly according to sleep patterns):

8:00-9:00 (or upon getting out of bed) – Water and Mg oil

  • Put on Mg oil all over the legs, arms, chest and abdomen, shoulders and back (as best you can). Leave on for at least 30 minutes before showering.
  • Large glass of plain water (400-500 ml)
  • Supplements:
    • Proteolytic enzyme complex (3; Baseline Nutritionals)
    • Spirulina (3; Nutrex) / Chlorella (5; Healthforce Nutritionals)
    • Tulsi extract
    • Lugol’s iodine solution (in water; 5%: 6 drops, 15%: 2 drops)
    • ATP Cofactors (Optimox)
    • Probiotics (Prescript-Assist)

9:30-10:00 – Green juice and chia seeds

  • Glass of water with milled chia seeds (1 flush tablespoon)
  • Green juice with coconut oil (1 tablespoon, melted and emulsified with hand-held blender)
  • Supplements:
    • Niacinimide (2)
    • Turmeric (powdered (2) or extract (1))
    • Cinnamon (powdered (2) or extract (1))
    • Krill Oil (2; Mercola)
    • Astaxanthin (Nutrex)
    • A/D/K2 (DaVinci Laboratories)
    • Zinc (MegaFood)

11:30-12:00 – Lemonade

  • Lemonade: 1 medium (or 2 small) pressed lemon, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 mini spoon stevia in 500 ml of water.
  • Vitamin C: 1/2 tsp with small amount of water, stir until fizzing stops, fill small glass half way. (Ultimate Ascorbate C Powder by Source Naturals mixed with highest quality, food grade, powdered sodium bicarbonate in ratio 2:1)

12:00-12:30 – Salty veggies

  • Cucumber, kohlrabi or celery with salt
  • Supplements:
    • Enzymes (3)
    • Spirulina (3) / Chlorella (5)
    • Tulsi
    • Lugol’s
    • ATP Cofactors

13:00-13:30 – Green juice and coconut milk pudding/ice cream

  • Green juice without coconut oil
  • Coconut milk pudding (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry or cacao-chia)
  • Supplements:
    • Niacinimide (2)
    • Turmeric (powdered (2) or extract (1))
    • Cinnamon (powdered (2) or extract (1))
    • Krill Oil (2)
    • Astaxanthin
    • A/D/K2
    • Zinc

14:00-15:30 – Sleep

Sleep (very important for the first 5 days that will be very tiring for the body in terms of cleansing and repair)

16:00-16:30 – Water

  • Large glass of water
  • Supplements:
    • Enzymes (3)
    • Spirulina (3) / Chlorella (5)
    • Probiotics

16:30-17:00 – Green juice and chia seeds

  • Glass of water with milled chia seeds (1 flush tablespoon)
  • Green juice with coconut oil (1 tbs melted)
  • Supplements:
    • Niacinimide (2)
    • Turmeric (2)
    • Cinnamon (2)

18:00-18:30 – Lemonade

Lemonade and Vitamin C (as above)

19:00-19:30 – Salty veggies

  • Glass of water with milled chia seeds (1 flush tablespoon)
  • Cucumber, kohlrabi or celery with salt
  • Supplements:
    • Enzymes (3)
    • Spirulina (3) / Chlorella (5)

20:00-20:30 – Green juice and coconut macaroons

  • Green juice without coconut oil and coconut macaroons (but not with cacao).
  • Supplements:
    • Niacinimide (2)
    • Turmeric (2)
    • Cinnamon (2)

22:00-22:30 (just before bed) – Psyllium and charcoal

  • Large glass of water with psyllium husks (2 rounded teaspoons, mixed and allowed to swell for a few minutes)
  • Supplements:
    • Charcoal (Source Naturals)
    • Valerian root extract (Bluebonnet Nutrition)
    • NightRest (Source Naturals)

Beyond the first five days

Background

At this stage, the body will have undergone a radical transformation biochemically and physiologically from the inside out. Most noticeable will be the loss at least 4-6 kilos of water (about 2 kg) and fat (about 2-4 kg), with the accompanying feeling of being much lighter and thinner at the waste with a deflated abdomen and gut. The digestive system will have experienced a very effective cleansing and bowel movements will be noticeably more regular and quite different in texture, smell and sensation. The smell and volume of both urine and sweat will have evolved markedly during this period. And all the vital digestive organs will have been given a powerful boost and rejuvenation, but this cannot really be felt. You should as mindful as possible of all of these details and everything else you can notice over the course of the first five days. This will give you a much deeper appreciation of the process and of its importance in regards to your moving towards better health.

We can now continue with a regime that includes two green juices per day instead of four, dropping the afternoon green juice, and replacing the evening green juice by a large green leafy salad with small amounts of nuts, seeds or fish (sardines, anchovies or wild smoked salmon, for example). We will also reduce quantity and frequency of supplements.

In addition, we will introduce a component of exercise that is absent in the first five days, which will greatly enhance the body’s response to the new regime and metabolic environment. The exercise will take the form of fast walking with very light weights for strengthening the shoulders and arms, Pilates workouts to develop strength in the core muscles (abs and back) for postural balance, high intensity interval training coupled with resistance as well as cross-fit training with weights to increase cardiovascular and metabolic efficiency, fat and glucose utilisation, muscle mass, done density, and tendon and ligament strength and flexibility.

Detailed schedule

8:00-9:00 (or upon getting out of bed) – Water and Mg oil

  • Put on Mg oil all over the legs, arms, chest and abdomen, neck, shoulders and back (as best you can). Leave on for at least 30 minutes before showering.
  • Large glass of water (400-500 ml)
  • Supplements:
    • Proteolytic enzyme complex (3)
    • Spirulina (3) / Chlorella (5)
    • Tulsi extract
    • Lugol’s solution (in water; 5%: 6 drops, 15%: 2 drops)
    • ATP Cofactors
    • Green tea extract
    • Green coffee bean extract
    • Probiotics

9:00-9:45 – Walk

Fast walk with 1 kg weights in each hand, using them to do shoulder rotations, biceps curls and triceps extensions while walking.

10:00 – Green juice

  • Glass of water with milled chia seeds (1 flush tablespoon)
  • Green juice with coconut oil (1 tbs, melted and emulsified with hand-held blender)
  • Supplements:
    • Niacinimide (2)
    • Turmeric (powdered (2) or extract (1))
    • Cinnamon (powdered (2) or extract (1))

11:30-12:00 – Lemonade

  • Lemonade and Vitamin C (as above)

12:00-12:30 – Salty veggies

  • Cucumber, kohlrabi or celery with salt
  • Supplements:
    • Enzymes (3)
    • Tulsi
    • Lugol’s
    • ATP Cofactors
    • Green tea extract
    • Green coffee bean extract

13:00-15:00 – Workout

  • Resistance and high intensity interval training on Mondays
  • Pilates on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays
  • Cross Fit training on Fridays
  • Rest on Saturdays and Sundays

15:00-:15:30 – Gren juice and coconut milk pudding (or ice cream)

  • Green juice without coconut oil
  • Coconut milk pudding or ice cream (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry or raw cacao and chia)
  • Supplements:
    • Niacinimide (2)
    • Turmeric (2)
    • Cinnamon (2)
    • Krill Oil (2; Mercola)
    • Astaxanthin (Nutrex)
    • A/D/K2 (DaVinci Laboratories)
    • Zinc (MegaFood)

15:30-16:30 – Sleep

Sleep (highly recommended; optional after the first five days)

16:30-17:00 – Water

  • Large glass of water
  • Supplements:
    • Enzymes (3)
    • Spirulina (3) / Chlorella (5)
    • Probiotics
    • Green tea extract
    • Green coffee bean extract

17:30-18:00 – Lemonade

Lemonade and Vitamin C (as above)

18:00-18:30 – Salty veggies

Cucumber, kohlrabi or celery with salt

19:00-20:00 – Green juice, salad and coconut macaroons

  • Green juice without coconut oil (then wait 30 minutes)
  • Green leafy salad with oil and salt (no vinegar), and small amount of either walnuts, anchovies, sardines or salmon (smoked, grilled or pan fried)
  • Coconut macaroons for dessert.
  • Supplements:
    • Niacinimide (2)
    • Turmeric (2)
    • Cinnamon (2)

22:00-22:30 (just before bed)

  • Supplements:
    • NightRest
    • Valerian root extract

Concluding remarks

This is a programme designed for reversing type II diabetes, and will, without any doubt, do exactly this. What might vary from one person to another is really only the time that will be required to recover ideal insulin sensitivity.

It is important to appreciate, however, that it would be just as effective in treating any kind of degenerative condition like arthritis, but also atherosclerosis of the coronary or cerebral arteries, and arteriosclerosis due to the accumulation of calcium in the tissues; kidney or liver disease but also pancreatic fatigue or dysfunction; stomach and peptic ulcers, but also candida overgrowth and infection, as well as leaky gut syndrome; and of course, probably the most fearsome of them all—cancer.

Why? Because all health problems and disease conditions stem from biochemical and hormonal imbalances, and metabolic and physiological dysfunction. Therefore, in order to either prevent or correct any one problem, all problems must be prevented and corrected. For some of us—very few of us indeed—this is plainly obvious. It is, however, also obvious that this understanding is definitely absent—conspicuously and painfully absent—from modern conventional health care, no matter what it is intended to treat and no matter where we look.

Hence, it is my hope that this programme will not only help diabetics and pre-diabetics permanently reverse their diabetes and all the associated problems related to the underlying metabolic dysfunction, but also help all those who wish to treat whatever health concern they may have, as well as those who wish to prevent any such health problems from developing.

The only way to develop and nurture optimal health is for every cell, organ and system of the body to function optimally. Therefore, this is what we must do, and that’s the bottom line. Good luck with the programme. Naturally and as usual, you are welcome to post you comments, questions and observations, especially those from your experience with the programme. I would be very happy to hear from you.

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Reversing diabetes: understanding the process

The fundamental problem, the cause of all the complications associated with diabetes, is the chronically elevated glucose and insulin levels. Independently of the fact that each individual, each one of us, has a different tolerance to carbohydrates, a different metabolic response to the presence of glucose and insulin in the blood, there are basically only two ways that blood glucose can be elevated: the first is by the consumption of sugar or starch that finds its way into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall; the second is by the stimulation by stress hormones of liver glucose production whereby the glycogen reserves are broken down and the resulting glucose released into the blood. Therefore, in order to most effectively bring down chronically elevated blood sugar levels, it is essential to eliminate insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, but it is also essential to eliminate chronic stress.

The sugar

The vast majority of the millions of type II diabetics that constitute the body of what is now generally considered to be a diabetes epidemic in many western countries, have developed the condition primarily from the consumption of dietary insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, from eating high-sugar and high-starch diets over the course of decades. The process of growing insulin resistance due to chronic consumption of carbohydrates is described in several other posts (like, for example, We were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates, A diabetic’s meal on Air France, and Cure diabetes in a matter of weeks). It is for this reason that the same vast majority of type II diabetics responds extremely well to the elimination of these carbohydrates from their diet, whereupon glucose levels drops, insulin levels drop, the cells gradually regain insulin sensitivity, and the tissues and organs gradually recover from years or decades of the toxic environment created by continuously being exposed both to glucose and insulin. Naturally, the recovery process depends intimately on how long and how bad things were before implementing these dietary changes, but it happens in more or less the same way in every person.

The stress

The tendency, in many western societies, especially in North America, to create and generate in all sorts of ways very high levels of stress in most spheres of activities in our life, and, unfortunately, also thrive on this stress, often for years or even decades, in order to be highly productive, successful, and therefore important, or at least, make ourselves feel and believe that we are, is extremely bad. This, compounded with the fact that most of our standard western diets are very high in insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, makes the evolution towards of type II diabetes faster, more pronounced, and much more harmful. As a consequence, there is without a doubt a non-negligible fraction of diabetics that suffer from both a high intake of sugary and starchy foods, as well as high stress levels.

In the extreme, however, it is definitely possible to develop diabetes uniquely or primarily due to chronically high levels of stress. The most important, and indeed, very important difference between elevating blood sugar through diet or as a consequence of stress hormones, is that the former is naturally corrected by the secretion of insulin, which helps put aways the sugar either as glycogen or as fat, whereas the latter, the presence of high levels of stress hormones, simultaneously induces insulin resistance in order to keep the glucose in circulation as long as possible. This makes perfect sense from an evolutionary standpoint because under stress, under a fight or flight situation, we need lots of glucose in the blood and we want it to stay there to allow us to respond physically to whatever needs to be done: to run, jump, climb, fight, survive. The problem is that our high levels of stress are not only chronic, but they are not associated with a situation in which we need to have access to high levels of sugar in the blood in order to respond to the stressor physically with our muscles. And so, glucose remains high and circulates, insulin remains high but is not effective, and from this, all our blood vessels, tissues and organs get damaged: glycated from the glucose, oxidised from the free radicals, and literally corroded by the insulin.

This clearly implies that chronically high levels of stress are far worse than a high carbohydrate diet, and explains in no uncertain terms why high-stress professionals—even low-carb eaters—can not only suffer from chronically elevated blood sugar levels and the full array of damaging consequences, but also develop diabetes, and almost inevitably, heart and artery disease, because they all come from the same place: high stress leads to high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones; high levels of stress hormones lead to high glucose and insulin resistance no matter what is eaten because it comes from the liver; high glucose levels and insulin resistance leads to artery disease which leads to heart disease, and it also leads to type II diabetes. This is why, for those high work volume and high stress high-strung high-achievers, it is essential to eliminate all insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, but it is crucial to significantly reduce, and ideally, eliminate chronic stress. (We have looked at many of the physiological effects of stress in The kidney: evolutionary marvel and in At the heart of heart disease.)

The physiological consequences

As every diabetic knows, or at least should know, the consequences or complications associated with the condition of diabetes are horrific. What is very unfortunate is that it appears as though many doctors do not understand the biochemical and physiological connections and chains of  reactions and responses that develop and grow more sever over time as a consequence of the underlying chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin levels (as you may remember from your reading of Why do diabetics have high blood pressure?). What happens in the body when levels of blood sugar and insulin resistance stay high? Let’s follow this through:

High blood pressure, atherosclerosis and heart disease

The most immediate consequences are the rise in blood pressure and increased damage to blood vessels from glycation: the elevated levels of glucose that the kidneys have evolved to keep in circulation causes a rise in osmolarity (blood concentration), which the kidneys try to counter by retaining water in order to keep the blood from getting too concentrated. Since blood pressure is mostly a function of the amount of water in the blood, this causes the pressure to rise. Because glucose is meant to remain in minimal circulating concentrations or otherwise be quickly cleared from the bloodstream by pancreatic insulin shuttling it into cells, long-lasting elevated sugar concentration leads to the glycation of tissues, which is the damage of protein or fatty structures of the cells due to the glucose molecules “sticking” in the wrong places and in the wrong way. This, in combination with the higher blood pressure, is the perfect recipe for much increased damage to the blood vessels, especially the large arteries in which the pressure is greatest, the increased production of cholesterol and lipoproteins for cholesterol transport and damage repair, and the consequent plaque buildup termed atherosclerosis, which eventually (sooner than later) leads to artery disease, heart disease, and heart attacks from the occlusion of vessels bringing blood to the heart muscle (the coronary arteries).

Kidney disease

Even though it is the kidney that regulates the blood pressure and retains water in order to keep the blood from getting too concentrated with the increasing concentration of glucose, the higher blood pressure puts great strain on all of its micro filtering units, the nephrons, whose function is to filter out acidic metabolic waste from the bloodstream and get rid of it through the urine. The nephron works optimally under optimal conditions, but optimal for it, which means ideal blood pressure: not too low, but especially, not too high. It’s a self-regulating system in that if we are relaxed and at rest, then breathing is slow, heart beat is slow, blood circulation is slow, blood pressure is low and the kidneys are under little strain. As we get moving, through exercise, for example, then breathing is faster, heart beat is faster, blood flow is faster, blood pressure is higher, and the kidneys filter a larger volume of blood per second in order to eliminate as much of the acid that is building up from the activity and that needs to be eliminated in order for the muscles to continue working in ideal conditions.

With chronically high blood pressure, the kidneys are continually under stress and the nephrons get damaged. However, because there are millions of nephrons in each of the two kidneys, and it has been estimated that we can live with only 1/3 of the nephrons in only one of the two kidneys, this problem of the gradual deterioration of kidney function is not really considered as a big issue until the kidneys fail (or little time before), at which point it is far too late, and the situation is irreversible.

In addition, insulin resistance—to any degree—promotes the break down of muscle tissue, because as soon as sugar levels drop after a few hours after a meal or snack, during the night is the most apt example, since the cells cannot use fats for energy, the muscle tissue is broken down and constituents of its proteins made into glucose. This leads to chronically high levels of circulating creatinine that, as a metabolic waste product, must also be filtered out and eliminated by the kidneys. This happens in everyone with insulin resistance, and the amount of muscle breakdown is a function of the degree of insulin resistance. In the case of extreme insulin resistance as is seen in type II diabetics, the process is far more pronounced. The excessive stress on the kidneys inevitably leads to deterioration, nephron dysfunction, and eventually to failure. (You can read more about kidney function in The kidney evolutionary marvel.)

What makes things even worse is that most diabetics/heart disease sufferers have elevated lipoprotein (and cholesterol) levels due to the excessive inflammation and speed at which tissue damage is taking place in the blood vessels and all over the body. This, as you all know, has been wrongly interpreted and widely promoted as a major risk factor for heart attacks. The “treatment” of choice for these patients are a lifelong prescription for statin drugs. Very unfortunately, not only do statin drugs not confer any health or longevity benefits, but they accelerate the speed at which muscle breaks down, causing even greater amounts of creatinine to make its way into the bloodstream, and thus creating a heavy additional load on the kidneys. Is it any wonder that the rise in kidney disease closely reflects the rise in diabetes but also in statin consumption? If you’ve been taking statins, don’t get overly worried: physiological degradation is a slow process, and it is rarely too late to make the intelligent choices and changes that will help stop and reverse the disease process, and in time allow the body to heal itself.

Systemic acidosis

The way in which the kidney regulates blood pressure upwards is by secreting different hormones that prevent water from being eliminated, that thicken the blood, and that contract the blood vessels. In most people, the majority of which is chronically dehydrated, there is already a shortage of water and therefore a dehydration response by the kidneys; the elevated sugar concentration makes this far worse, of course. And under dehydration conditions, the means by which the kidney can retain even more water, as much water as it can, is by increasing the concentration gradient in the interstitial medium through which the nephron passes in order to pull as much water out of the filtrate as possible.

Increasing the concentration gradient is done by keeping and concentrating sodium and uric acid. It is more important to retain water than to eliminate uric acid, because water is primordially important for all body functions. Consequently, urea and uric acid levels rise, gradually but consistently over time. Because acid cannot accumulate in the blood, whose pH must absolutely be kept pretty much exactly at 7.4 (7.35-7.45), but because, at the same time, it cannot be eliminated by the kidneys under the given circumstances, it is stored away in the tissues all over the body: joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and organs. Chronically high levels of uric acid in the blood lead to the condition known as gout. The buildup of acid in the tissues leads to pain, inflammation, arthritis, cartilage breakdown, bone demineralisation and osteoporosis, and a slew of other undesirable consequences, including increased susceptibility to all forms of infections: yeast, viral and bacterial, and severely depressed immunity. (You can read more about acidosis and alkalisation in A green healing protocol, Detoxification, and Such a simple and yet powerful natural anti-inflammatory.)

Maybe the most critical point about acidosis in how it relates to diabetes is that the pancreas and its precious beta cells, those that produce the insulin, are extremely sensitive to pH, and simply cannot function when the blood and cellular environment is acidic. The cells simply stop functioning because of the overload of acid that is not excreted and not neutralised. This makes the pancreas more and more dysfunctional over time, and eventually leads to exhaustion and the complete inability to secrete insulin or do any of the other functions that it is intended to perform. Something very similar happens in the liver, and, in fact, everywhere else, when chronic acidosis defines the internal environment of the body.

Pancreatic exhaustion

The distinction between type I and type II diabetes is usually highlighted by calling the first insulin-dependent diabetes, and the second insulin-resistant diabetes. Type I diabetics are usually identified and diagnosed as children or young adults because their pancreas does not produce insulin, and are then “treated” by having to inject themselves insulin after they eat for the rest of their lives. Naturally, over time, from the continual and usually excessive exposure to insulin, their cells become insulin-resistant, and they subsequently develop all the same problems as type II diabetics, whose condition is, in a way, exactly the opposite, in the sense that they suffer from chronic hyper-insulinemia, because their pancreas that senses the elevated glucose concentration in circulation, produces more insulin in order to clear it out and store it away. The problem is that the cells are not sensitive to the presence of insulin, and therefore do not take in the sugar. The pancreas is then forced to produce and secrete more insulin, and on it goes. Amazingly, type II diabetics are also “treated” by insulin injections, which increase insulin levels even more, and increase insulin resistance even more, obviously making the situation far worse. Eventually, the pancreas of the type II diabetic gets completely exhausted, and loses the ability to manufacture and secrete insulin. At this point, the type II becomes a kind of type I. Interesting how this goes, isn’t it.

The pancreas’ main function is not to secrete insulin, even though in our diabetic-centric worldview it is certainly considered as such. This is one of its functions, but not the most important. By far the most essential is the production and secretion of enzymes, the specialised proteins that break down foods but also do everything else that needs to be done, especially tissue building and repair throughout the body. The third essential function of the pancreas is the concentration and secretion of sodium bicarbonate in the small intestine following the movement of the pre-digested chyme from the stomach into the small intestine. This is also extremely important because all absorption and digestion in the intestine must take place in an alkaline environment, compared to the acidic environment required in the stomach when protein is present. Pancreatic exhaustion from the over-production of insulin for years on end, therefore spells disaster on many more fronts than just insulin and glucose metabolism. It spells disaster for all digestion and absorption processes, and all enzyme regulated activities, which basically means everything, really. This is very serious.

Liver dysfunction

The liver does an amazing amount of vital work, most of it incredibly complex. This includes filtering the blood from all sorts of toxins, both biological and chemical in nature, and breaking those down for elimination; it includes the manufacture of cholesterol and lipoproteins, vital for survival, but the details of which are so intricate that they are still not completely understood after a century of study; it includes the transformation of excess glucose into glycogen and into fat for storage; and in includes the manufacture of glucose from liver-stored glycogen to continually adjust the levels of glucose in the circulation depending on the body’s needs, or more specifically, on the hormonal and biochemical environment. The distinction may appear subtle, but it is quite important in the sense that it is really the hormones and biochemistry of the blood that regulates the function of most tissues and organs, especially those of the vital glands like the liver, pancreas and adrenals, and there is hardly anything more disruptive and unbalancing to the hormonal and biochemical makeup than chronically elevated glucose, stress hormones and acid levels.

Under such conditions, the liver must manufacture an inordinate amount of glucose from the glycogen stores that it itself must also replenish, but also from the broken down muscle tissue. At the same time it converts as much as it can of the glucose into fat for storage, but unfortunately, insulin resistance makes it impossible for the triglycerides to be used, and they are therefore left in circulation for longer than they should before eventually being stored in our fat cells. To top up the list, the free-radical and glycation damage to the vessels and tissues require the liver to also manufacture an inordinate amount of cholesterol and lipoproteins in an attempt to repair these damaged cells, which is no small feat, (you can read more about cholesterol and lipoproteins in But what about cholesterol? and in Six eggs per day for six days: cholesterol?). All of these processes are perfectly natural. However, they are not meant to be running in overdrive for years on end. It is no surprise then that imposing upon the liver to cope with this, eventually leads to dysfunction, deterioration, exhaustion and failure.

Towards a working solution

This is definitely not the end of the list of the complications and physiological consequences that develop from chronically high circulating glucose and insulin levels, but they are some of the most important. Also, it is essential to understand the process by which these consequences first arise and then grow in severity and into the disease process over time. It is, however, infinitely more useful to know what to do in order to maintain a biochemical and hormonal environment in which none of these various dysfunctions and complications can arise if they haven’t yet, or how they can be stopped and reversed if they have.

It shouldn’t be surprising that these are the same, and that they are keys to any optimal health plan, simply because the cells, tissues and organs that make up the human body function, or rather, should function in the pretty much the same way in everyone, allowing for small differences in some of the details. For example, the fact that different people have different tolerances to carbohydrates does not change anything to the consequences of chronically elevated glucose levels on physiological function. It only changes the details relating to the thresholds and time scales involved in developing the same problems. The same goes for vitamin D: the fact that different people require different amounts of vitamin D in order to remain healthy does not in the least alter the basic fact that virtually all complex living creatures depend on it for life. So, yes, everyone is different, but, at the same time, everyone is the same.

No sugars, no starches, no dairy

The first step to take is to eliminate from the diet foods that cause glucose and insulin levels to rise. For this, we must

  1. Eliminate all simple sugars: that’s basically anything that tastes sweet, including sweet fruit, because all simple sugars will elevate blood glucose levels almost immediately after consumption;
  2. Eliminate all starchy carbohydrates: that’s all grains and grain products (at least 90% carb), beans (typically more than 70% carb), potatoes (virtually 100% carb), and other starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, yams, taro, etc, because the starches they contain are broken down to glucose by enzymes in the digestion process; but also sweet root vegetables like carrots and beets, which are just full of simple sugars (you’ll know this if you’ve ever had carrot or beet juice?)
  3. Eliminate dairy: that’s all milk products, which, even those low in sugars like hard cheeses, cause a rise in insulin levels. Besides, most people are allergic or intolerant to dairy products, whether they are aware of it or not.

And aside from just glucose and insulin levels, as we discussed in At the heart of heart disease, insulin-stimulating carbohydrates are highly inflammatory, triggering more than 300 inflammatory pathways. So, excluding them from our diet not only brings about plenty of positive metabolic and physiological changes, but it is, as far as I am concerned, a requirement to make those positive changes happen.

Drop the stress

For those people to whom we referred to earlier that suffer mostly from the chronically elevated stress hormone levels, it is crucial to eliminate the causes of stress, ensure long hours of high quality sleep, and incorporate exercise and activities that effectively reduce stress levels, as well as supplements that can help with that. Obviously, the most important sources of stress for most professionals are psychological ones. But what is also well established is that the level of stress that is experienced (i.e., the amount of stress hormones secreted and in circulation) depends entirely on each person’s outlook and attitude. Therefore, it is this—the attitude and outlook—that are the most influential factors in generating or relieving stress on a daily basis.

Having said this, it is also obvious that going to a remote holiday house on sandy beach without access to phone or internet communications, and making a point of simply relaxing, going for walks, swimming in the sea, reading good books, watching good films, taking naps, eating healthfully and sleeping long and soundly every night, is inherently far more conducive to eliminating stress than the usual school year and work day conditions. What we must find a way to do is to function well in all circumstances with minimal stress, and most importantly, without chronic stress. It is chronic stress that is the problem; not relatively short periods of high stress. And stress, it shouldn’t be surprising, is also happens to be extremely acidifying (haven’t you ever noticed the strong, acidic smell of underarm stress sweat?).

Very helpful in this is taking Tulsi in the morning and at lunchtime (only during the day), and valerian root before bed. But exercise, conscious relaxation, and modifying outlook and attitude towards a more open and relaxed position are definitely most important.

Lower blood pressure

Lowering glucose levels will automatically lower blood pressure. Lowering stress will also automatically lower blood pressure. Biochemically though, the most important muscle relaxant—and this most definitely applies to the smooth muscle cells that line the blood vessels—is magnesium. Therefore, magnesium baths, oil and oral supplementation is essential. On the other hand, calcium is contractile and unfortunately, much more present in the foods we eat. Therefore, most of us are magnesium deficient but also over-calcified. Hence, minimising calcium intake is also very important. (You can read more about these topics in Minerals and bones, calcium and heart attacks, and in Why you should start taking magnesium today.)

Proper mineral balance, especially sodium and chloride, are essential for blood pressure regulation. Eating plenty of unrefined sea salt with meals (and with drinks) is also crucial. Naturally, we seek balance, and salt intake has to be balanced with water intake, and this leads to optimal kidney function. (You can read more about water, salt and physiological function in How much salt, how much water and our amazing kidneys, Why we should drink water before meals, and in Water, ageing and disease)

Support the kidneys

The kidneys want to maintain optimal blood pressure; regulate water, sodium and mineral content of the blood; and clear out metabolic wastes, mostly uric acid. To have them do what they are trying to do as best they can, we must very simply provide plenty of water, plenty of unrefined salt rich in sodium and all the other essential minerals, plenty of alkalising sources in drink and food, minimise glucose levels and minimise creatinine levels. The importance of alkalising the body intensely at first and continuously thereafter cannot be overstated with regards to the proper function of all the vital organs discussed here, and everything else really: every cellular process and every enzymatic action; everything depends on this.

Rejuvenate the pancreas

The pancreas senses and responds to glucose in the blood by manufacturing and secreting insulin. It responds to the movement of food from the stomach to the intestines by manufacturing and secreting sodium bicarbonate and digestive enzymes. To rejuvenate the pancreas, we need to not only give it a break, but help it recover. For this, we need to minimise glucose levels in the blood, and thereby minimise the need for it to manufacture insulin; maximise intake of enzymes to minimise the need for it to produce them; and, especially in light of what we discussed under acidosis, we need to maximise alkalisation, including through oral and transdermal absorption of sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride, with a focus on chlorophyl and chlorophyl-rich foods and drinks.

Cleanse the liver

The liver’s most taxing function is the breakdown of toxins (all substances foreign and dangerous to the body). Another taxing function of the liver is the manufacture and recycling of cholesterol and lipoproteins that, as we said earlier, are in production overdrive because of the excessively fast free-radical and glycation damage to the lining of the blood vessels, as well as the damage these cause everywhere else in the tissues of the body, accompanied by the chronic systemic inflammation this leads to (you can read more about systemic inflammation in Treating Arthritis and At the heart of heart disease.)

To help the liver, we must therefore first stop ingesting chemically manufactured medications, and we must eliminate sources of toxins and chemicals from the things we eat and drink; from the air we breathe, especially from those toxic cleaning products we use; and from all the chemicals we absorb through the skin in soaps, shampoos, lotions and creams. Second, we eat and drink to minimise inflammation and internal tissue damage, therefore minimising the strain of excessive manufacture of cholesterol and lipoproteins. And third, we must take regular toxin cleansing and alkalising baths with sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride. This simple therapy is the most effective means of detoxifying the body from chemicals and toxins or all kinds, including the most notorious radioactive isotopes that can make their way into our bodies from nuclear weapons, spills and power plant accidents through the air, water and food. Here again, chlorophyl and chlorophyl-rich foods and drinks are essential.

In conclusion

The basic conclusion is the same as what we have come to whenever we discussed type II diabetes: while it is a devastatingly damaging condition that affects every metabolic and physiological function of the body, it is incredibly easy to prevent, and even after many years of deterioration for the diabetic sufferer, it is relatively easy to reverse the condition and cure the disease, including the beta cells of the pancreas, by understanding the disease process thoroughly, and by adopting an appropriate healing protocol. Here, we have detailed several of the key problems or complications that stem from chronically elevated glucose and insulin levels, with specific discussion of the ensuing dysfunction in some vital organs, and highlighting the crucial importance of considering the effect of stress in addition to the effects of dietary insulin-stimulating carbohydrates.

You might have noticed that a discussion revolving around overweight, obesity and fat metabolism is missing, maybe conspicuously so. This is not an oversight, but a conscious move towards a focus on the underlying causes of the metabolic, hormonal and physiological natures of the disorder instead of the superficial and rather inconsequential repercussions of it that take expression in the form of excess body fat. The only point I want to mention about this is that by correcting the causes of the disorder, excess body fat stores will melt away on their own. Some help from supplements and hormonal manipulation through diet and timing here and there will be useful. But, the point remains that if the body is in optimal biochemical balance, then physiological and metabolic functions will also be optimal, and no excess body fat will remain, no matter how young or old we are, and no matter what our genetic makeup happens to be.

The overview of the basic strategy for preventing and overcoming diabetes should make it clear that what it implies, although in some aspects quite specific and targeted, is very simple in that it relies mostly on drinking clean water, eating unrefined salt and clean foods, especially those that are chlorophyl-rich, eliminating damaging foods, chemicals and toxins, alkalising and detoxifying with sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride, and finally, using a number of important supplements to correct deficiencies and restore optimal biochemical balance. In a subsequent post we will formulate a detailed programme that incorporates all of the elements and strategies discussed here in general terms, together with some additional considerations about details like the timing and amount of food, drink, exercise and supplements.

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Why do diabetics have high blood pressure?

This is the question that someone in the audience asked at the end of a presentation on diabetes that I attended a few months ago. Remarkably, the speaker was unable to answer this question. Amazingly, neither could any one of the three medical doctors that were in attendance. I was, naturally, quite shocked by this obvious display of ignorance on all of their part. At the same time, I wasn’t really surprised, and, in fact, relieved to be vindicated in my belief that probably the majority of MDs don’t understand the most basic things about human physiology and metabolic function.

Now, you, on the other hand, you who has been following and reading this blog, might (or even should), I believe, be able to answer that question. But since you’re reading this, and therefore cannot be put on the spot, as was the speaker and those MDs at that presentation, you don’t have anything to worry about if you can’t. And yes, I am going to explain. On top of that, I’ll be as quick as I can about it.

As always, first things first: How is blood pressure regulated? What is it that does the regulating? And why is it important?

Blood pressure regulation is of the utmost importance for the proper functioning of every organ because every cell in the body depends on a properly functioning circulatory system to bring nutrients and carry away waste. Blood pressure is like the voltage that drives current through wires and electronic components: it is a driving force. And exactly like it is for electric and electronic devices, the driving force must be just right: it cannot be higher and it cannot be lower than what it needs to be in every moment depending on what the immediate circumstances and needs happen to be. Therefore, blood pressure regulation is essential for the moment to moment adaptation of every metabolic and physiological function, to the different activities we do, and circumstances we find ourselves in.

The main organ responsible for blood pressure regulation is the kidney. I use the singular because the two kidneys work in the same way. It’s just that their function is so vitally important that there are two of them, most logically for redundancy, as a fail-safe system. I have written at length about kidney function in two articles entitled The kidney: evolutionary marvel; and How much salt, how much water, and our amazing kidneys. By the way, this is what I meant earlier: if you’ve read those, understood and happen to remember a few essential bits, then you would be in a good position to answer the question as to the relationship between diabetes and blood pressure. Here it is in a few words; well, maybe a few paragraphs.

The kidney’s vital role is filtration of metabolic acids out of the blood, and elimination of these through the urine. To do this as best it can, because the first and most important part of the filtration process relies on the separation of the liquid from the solids in the blood, and because this is done through what is a mostly “mechanical” filtering through a membrane as it is in water filters, the kidney must maintain optimal pressure to ensure optimal function of the little filtering units, the nephrons. If pressure is too low, the membrane filtering does not work well. If pressure is too high, the membrane tears or pops, and the filtering units stop working altogether.

The good news is that damaged nephrons can sometimes recover when the conditions are made conducive to it, and that there are millions of them in each kidney. The real bad news is that when they die, they do not come back to life. Another bit of bad news, although some would surely take this as good news instead, is that this process of deterioration of kidney function and death of nephrons takes place gradually but silently over the years and decades of our life. When the consequences of poor kidney function become noticeable or even critical, and we finally go see our MD because we’re not feeling good, or worse, are brought directly to the emergency room, it is far too late, for most of the nephrons are already dead.

And to be perfectly clear on this, if the kidneys fail and we don’t get immediate attention and artificial filtering of the blood through dialysis, we die within hours. This is what is meant by the word vital when qualifying the kidney as such an organ.

As I often highlight, the cells, tissues and organs that constitute the entirety of the body that we erroneously call ours and mistakenly believe this to be the case, do not care about you in the least. They do not know anything about you and never will. They, as all living things, are only concerned with survival and self-preservation. It is for this reason that they continually adapt in all sorts of ways to the environment in which they find themselves: this is the internal environment of the body. And it is for this reason that the kidney regulates blood pressure so accurately and so well when allowed to function as it should.

How does it do this regulating? By very closely monitoring the concentration of the blood and secreting hormones to induce the necessary adjustments. The concentration of the blood is the balance between the amount water and the amount of solutes (things dissolved in the water). Most important is the amount of water, because it gives the blood its volume and thus pressure within the closed circulatory system of somewhat malleable veins and arteries. Of the solutes, the most important is sodium, because it holds and must be held in the highest concentration of all solutes, accounting for about half of the overall solute concentration (140/300 mOsmol/L). But the kidney works to keep the entire spectrum of natural solutes, especially the minerals, each in its optimal physiological range.

Two nutrients that the kidney works to keep in circulation are proteins and glucose for the obvious reason that they are essential to proper physiological function, and, evolutionarily speaking, rather rare to come by and thus precious. As they are also solutes circulating in the blood plasma, each contributes to the total concentration. And this is where we get to the point:

As glucose concentration rises, the total concentration of the blood rises accordingly. For insulin-resistant diabetics whose cells have lost their sensitivity to insulin, and with that their ability to take up glucose from the blood, there is no outlet for this excess glucose that just keeps on rising in concentration. But unlike what the kidney does in regulating the concentration of sodium and other minerals by excreting any excesses through the urine, glucose is kept in circulation, as much as possible.

After some time, whether because the concentration is through the roof, because the kidney cannot anymore function as it should to keep the glucose in the blood, or both, glucose spills into the urine. This is how, in fact, it was discovered that all of the symptoms that we described as the condition of diabetes are due to a dysfunctional metabolism of glucose: because the urine of diabetics was sweet smelling and sweet tasting. (What dedicated MDs we had 100 years ago! Do you think your MD would taste your piss today to make sure you’re not sick?).

In response to this, to maintain the concentration as close to 300 mOsmol/L as possible, the kidney retains water to dilute the blood from the excessive glucose. This makes the blood volume increase and therefore also the blood pressure. This is why diabetics have high blood pressure. This is also why diabetics have very high incidence of kidney disease. This is also why diabetics have water retention and circulatory problems.

But this is also why they suffer from a lot more strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s, dementia, arthritis, why they have elevated cholesterol, why they age so much faster, and why they go blind.

Chronically elevated glucose leads to chronically elevated levels of glycation. Glycation damages cells and tissues everywhere in the body, but firstly in the veins and arteries, which are already significantly more susceptible to damage because of the chronically elevated blood pressure. This leads to more and faster plaque formation, as well as cholesterol production for damage control and repair. Elevated glucose levels and heightened glycation lead to a flood of free radicals and vastly increased systemic inflammation, which makes everything worse, much worse.

And all of these conditions, all stemming from insulin resistance and chronically elevated blood sugar, give rise to the multiplicity of the health problems just enumerated that are the main causes of death in the general population, but which are seen with an approximate three to four fold increase (that’s 300-400% more!) in incidence for a given age in the diabetic population.

What about non-diabetics? Do they need to be concerned about this? Does it mean that there is a direct relationship between blood sugar and blood pressure in all of us? Does it mean that all of us suffer from the whole lot of direct and indirect consequences of having high blood glucose concentrations in the same way as diabetics do, but in proportion to the concentration and the time it takes for it to drop depending on insulin sensitivity? What do you think?

Is any of this surprising? Not in the least: it makes perfect sense. Is it difficult to understand why it happens? Not really: when we understand some basic physiology and biochemistry, everything becomes relatively easy to grasp and explain. At least that’s what I hope I was able to show here, and at the very least, in regards to the question posed in the title that we set out to answer in the first place. You got it, right? And you’ll remember? And next time you see your MD, (if you have one, that is), ask them why diabetics have high blood pressure, and see what they say…

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On the origin of cancer cells – part 1

On February 24 1956 was published in the journal Science a remarkable and exceptional paper by an equally remarkable and exceptional scientist. The paper was entitled On the Origin of Cancer Cells, and the author was the winner of the 1931 Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine, Professor Otto Warburg.

otto-warburg-old-highresfaceshot

Professor Otto Heinrich Warburg (1883-1970)

After more than 50 years of research on cellular respiration, metabolism and physiology, Warburg had identified, understood, demonstrated and now explained the mechanisms by which cancer cells develop, survive, spread and proliferate, and what, at the most fundamental level, distinguishes them from normal cells.

It is my intention to relate the essence of these results, together with the necessary background, as clearly as it is possible for me to do with the hope that you will remember it well. This is without any doubt one of the most important and far-reaching results of medical science in its entirety. Such is the importance of this work, that it may well be the most important bit of medical science I will ever write about and that you will ever read about. But although this is so, it can be stated in a single sentence.

The truth about the origin of cancer is that despite the numerous carcinogenic agents, those identified as such and those still unknown, and despite the numberless forms and tissues in which cancer can manifest itself, there is only one fundamental cause of cancer at the cellular level: injury to respiration by damage to mitochondria.

Biological energy

The mitochondria, independent micro-organisms with their own metabolic and reproductive systems living symbiotically with the other organelles inside the cell, could be considered as the most important of the organelles because it is the mitochondria that normally produce the energy (in the form of adenosine triphosphate or ATP) on which each cell, and therefore also the entire organism, rely for function and survival.

Each cell must produce the energy it needs to sustain its activity and maintain its structure, and each cell cares only about itself: it knows only what it must do and what it needs in order to keep itself alive in the best possible condition and health that it can manage through continual adaptation. The way it knows anything else outside of itself is by sensing its environment, its immediate surroundings, through the various sensors (biochemical receptors) and doorways (ionic channels) in its walls (the cell’s outer double-layered membrane).

Cells can produce energy using glucose (from carbohydrates), amino acids (from protein) or fatty acids (from fat). By far the most effective way to do it is through burning fatty acids. This produces the most energy and no acidic byproducts. This is therefore a normal cell’s preferred fuel.

There are two intervening factors, however, that make it rather rare for humans to function primarily on energy derived from fat. And although this is true today, it wasn’t for the bulk of our evolutionary history during which all species of homo must have derived most, and probably often even all, of their energy from fat. The first and most important of these factors is that today, we tend to get most of our calories from carbohydrates.

Because it is easier for cells to breakdown and use the much smaller and simpler glucose molecules than it is to use the longer and more complex fatty acids, while there is enough glucose in the bloodstream, it will always be used preferentially, and eventually almost exclusively, as the cells grow insulin-resistant and become unable to use fatty acids almost completely. In such a metabolic state, because protein can relatively easily be converted into glucose, this is what the body does when it runs out of glucose, because, from the lack of practice, it cannot access the fat stores. Therefore, due to insulin resistance, fat just keeps accumulating, stock piled in ever larger and distended fat cells throughout the body, and never used to make energy for the now struggling, energy-starved cells.

The second factor is strictly physiological, and relates to the fact that it takes longer to oxidise fat than to oxidise glucose, and even for glucose, it takes about 100 times longer to oxidise inside the mitochondria than it does to process it anaerobically (without oxygen) in the protoplasm, the general space within the cell, outside the mitochondria. For this reason, in circumstances where the cell needs ATP quickly (in lifting weights or sprinting, for example), it will need to use this super fast energy production mechanism in addition to the slower oxidation in the mitochondria, with proportions that depends on the energy demand.

All ATP production using glucose begins with its breakdown into something called pyruvate. This is called glycolysis (or substrate level phosphorylation). It takes place whether there is oxygen available or not, and does not involve the mitochondria because it takes place in the protoplasm. Glycolysis involves 10 steps each of which requires the action of specialised worker proteins (respiratory enzymes). From this process the cell derives two molecules of ATP. Pyruvate is the main product, but the process also leads to the production of lactic acid and hydrogen ions.

At this point, the pyruvate can be carried to the mitochondria where through a much lengthier and vastly different process (oxidative phosphorylation), which in this case relies on an ample supply of oxygen, the mitochondria can produce up to an additional 34 ATP molecules (this is the case in aerobic yeasts), for a total of 36 counting the first two from glycolysis.

In practice, factoring in some metabolic inefficiencies in the process, the result is probably somewhere around 28-30 molecules of ATP for our cells. This is nonetheless a lot of energy—15 times more than from glycolysis alone—that can be derived from a single molecule of glucose. Bear in mind, however, that gram for gram, fat can produce six times more energy than glucose, raising the total to around 200 molecules of ATP, and this without producing acidic byproducts.

Aside on the use of words and names as symbols

Before going any further, I want to bring your attention to something important, generally unrecognised, but essential to our understanding and perception of the world and everything we come into contact with. It is language, complex language, symbolic language, that allowed a small subgroup of Homo Sapiens to first distinguish themselves from all other animals and also from all other species of Homo, and then spread across the continents and come to dominate almost every ecosystem on the planet.

The more language is refined and the more thorough is its mastery, the more complex cognitive processes become and the more subtleties of understanding can be both expressed and discerned. There is a major problem, however, that comes about in every language-using person, and this is that the symbol used to refer to something, the word, is unconsciously taken to be the same as the object to which it refers. Furthermore, not only is the object treated as an entity on its own, a thing that does not depend on anything else to be what it is (which, of course, it does), but the word also becomes a thing unrelated to other words that are different in appearance and sound.

This is a serious problem for understanding complex processes. And it is particularly relevant in this discussion here. We must remember that even if we are talking about all sorts of different things like glucose, amino acids, fats, pyruvate, enzymes, mitochondria, organelles, and on and on, that these are all words, symbols that we use to identify molecules and little beings like mitochondria that do not possess language, and further, that do not care at all what we call them.

It is best to view this whole business of processes at the cellular level as a ceaseless dance where atoms mostly of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen with a few others here and there, combine into molecules that are manipulated by proteins into other molecules, sometimes simpler and sometimes more complex, the change sometimes being unidirectional and sometimes a reversible state change going back and forth, everything depending everywhere on the characteristics of the environment, the stage, in which this dance is taking place. And that all of this takes place totally unaffected and independently from any of the names we have for any of its characters and dancers.

So don’t be fooled by the words and names in thinking that because the names are so different they are referring to inherently different things. This is not so. Words and names are just words and names. We use them to express ourselves, but must not be moved to believe that they are referring to entities having a life of their own, interacting in a world of things where every thing bounces against every other thing. This is just wrong, and it is highly misleading: clearly misleading in the realm of cellular biology, which is our immediate concern in this article, but also misleading in our everyday, which should definitely be of concern.

Back to cellular respiration

Cellular respiration (oxidation in the mitochondria) requires oxygen. If for any reason there is not enough, the cell uses a backup method to sustain its energy needs. This happens when the energy demand is so great that the cell cannot wait for the mitochondria to produce the additional ATP (as mentioned above under extreme exertion), but also if there is simply a lack of oxygen for any other reason, whether it is acute, like from exposure to a large enough amount of a respiratory (mitochondrial) poison or during an asthma attack, or chronic, like when we spend our days in an office building with recycled air where levels of oxygen are lower and carbon dioxide higher than they should ideally be, but not quite enough to become a problem noticeable by a critical number of people. In such cases, instead of being brought to the mitochondria, the pyruvate can be used as the oxidative agent by the respiratory enzymes to ferment the lactic acid, and recondition the NAD so that it can engage again in the breakdown of another molecule of glucose into pyruvate. (We’ll come back to the details of this another time.)

Essential to remember is that for a normal cell this is the solution of last resort when there is not enough oxygen, and that animal tissues suffer serious damage when deprived of oxygen for an extended time, where ‘extended’ here is on the timescale of cellular processes, which for us is very short—on the order of minutes.

Anyone who has done all out sprints with high resistance on a bike, or bench pressed a heavy weight to muscular failure, knows the feeling associated with the muscles being unable to respond to the load. This is because the cells are starved of oxygen and overloaded with acid. Under extreme exertion, lactic acid fermentation for ATP production dominates from about 10 to 30 seconds, and muscular failure follows within 30 to 60 seconds.

Struggling to survive

As we’ve seen, there are two major differences between these processes of using glucose for energy production. The first is that for one molecule of glucose, complete oxidation produces around thirty molecules of ATP, whereas glycolysis or fermentation produces only two. The second is that oxidation occurs inside the mitochondria, whereas fermentation, sustained by respiration enzymes, takes place outside the mitochondria. Therefore, it is both the quantity and quality of the energy that is degraded.

Also as we’ve seen, a normal cell under normal circumstances sustains itself—both in function and structure—by relying on the energy produced by the mitochondria, whether by oxidation of glucose (pyruvate) or fatty acids, and only ever use fermentation for energy balance adjustments in exceptional circumstances. If, however, for any reason at all, even a small number of the mitochondria in the cell get damaged, a serious problem arises because the injury makes the cell incapable of producing the energy it needs for proper function, maintenance and repair.

If the damage is severe, the cell will die, and will, if things are running relatively smoothly, be broken down, cleaned up, excreted and replaced by a new one that will take its place. If the damage to the mitochondria is not so severe, the cell will not die, but will be crippled in its energy-producing capacity, the mitochondria will not be able to produce all of the ATP the cell needs, and this will force it to use fermentation to top up its energy requirements.

Unfortunately, the injury to the mitochondria’s genetic code will not only be passed down from the damaged parent to the next generation, but will lead to an irreversible degradation of mitochondrial function with each transcription and reproduction into each successive generation of these vital organelles. With each generation, the mitochondrial function is degraded further and the energy deficit grows.

As a consequence, the growing energy deficit is compensated by increasing ATP production from fermentation. But the energy from fermentation is not just less plentiful, it is also of a much lesser quality compared to that resulting from proper aerobic respiration involving the mitochondria, and it simply cannot maintain the structure and function of the cell. Thus, the cell degrades. Everything about the cell degrades as it struggles for survival.

The evolution in the ratio of energy produced by respiration to that produced by fermentation, initiated by the damage to the mitochondria and driven by the cell’s striving to maintain energy balance, is in fact a devolution from a finely tuned energy production system of a highly refined and specialised cellular structure and function, to a primitive energy producing mechanism and a coarse and severely degraded cellular structure and function akin to what we see in yeasts and fungi.

The birth of a cancer cell

Degradation and devolution continue until fermentation energy is enough to fully compensate the loss of respiration. It is at this point that we witness the emergence of a cancer cell. And it is now a perfectly functional and healthy cancer cell that has lost enough of its original characteristics, both structural and functional, to begin a programme of its own, intended to increase as much as possible survival probability in its new and partially self-generated environment that should ideally be high in glucose—as high as possible, low in oxygen—this is preferred but not critical, and highly acidic—cellular pH as low as 6 or even less and extracellular pH potentially significantly lower.

Although these terms, birth and emergence, are powerful and very useful in conveying a vivid imagery of a developing process that eventually reaches and overcomes a critical threshold as it is the case here, it is not really a birth or an emergence as much as it is a metamorphosis, gradual and typically very slow, taking place over decades if not over most of a person’s lifetime, with a continual and intimate dependence on the biochemical makeup of the environment surrounding the cell, and surrounding each and every cell throughout the body, from hair, scalp and skin, to fingers, fingernails, toes and toenails, from mouth to colon, from brain to liver, from breast to uterus, from throat to prostate, and from and to everything else that constitutes the entire human organism inside and out.

Over this long struggle for survival, because this is truly what it is, the cell is at first forced to generate supplemental energy from fermentation to make up the small difference that the slightly damaged mitochondria cannot. This increases the level of acid inside the cell. Because every enzyme-mediated biochemical process that takes place—and that indeed has to take place—is sensitively pH-dependent, all are instantaneously affected negatively by this acidification and drop in pH.

Moreover, increased acid translates directly into lack of oxygen, which further stresses the mitochondria, making their oxidation of glucose and fatty acids more difficult and less efficient. This in turn leads to a further degradation of the mitochondria, cell structure and function, an increased reliance on fermentation energy, a rise in acid levels, and a drop in oxygen availability: clearly a vicious cycle—a very vicious cycle.

Because ATP production is so much less efficient through fermentation than through respiration, the cell needs much greater amounts of glucose. This forces it to develop a greater sensitivity to it, which forces the formation of more insulin receptors because it is insulin that carries the glucose through the cell wall. And it is, in fact, the case that cancer cells typically have about ten time more insulin receptors than normal cells, and that this makes them ten times more capable of grabbing hold of circulating glucose to sustain themselves. But again, remember that this is yet another adaptation in a struggle for survival without which the cell would die.

Questions, questions and more questions

There is quite a lot more that needs to be addressed and explained. General questions like: How did Warburg figure all this stuff out? And what else did he discover? Specific questions like: Are cancer cells weaker or stronger, more fragile or more resilient? What is it that fundamentally distinguishes them from normal cells? And why does it sometimes take an entire lifetime but at other times just a few years to grow a cancerous tumour? Epidemiological questions like: Why is cancer spreading? Why does it appear more and more in young people? And why does it tend to not only develop but intensify with each generation along family lines? Finally, from all of this detailed information and knowledge, wouldn’t we like to know if there is something to do to prevent or cure cancer? Wouldn’t we like to know what that is: what we can do to prevent and cure it? Of course! That’s our main goal, isn’t it?

We will look at all of these issues and more together, but now I can’t help wonder if the following question, this multi-billion dollar question, might have popped up in your mind while you were reading, as it did for me when I read Warburg’s paper: If he, and by extension, we, as the community of thinking human beings, had understood, explained and demonstrated how cancer arises and then develops in 1956 already, why is it that today, almost 60 years later, cancer rates continue to rise every year, cancer cases appear in people at an increasingly younger age every year, and cancer claims the lives of more people every year than it has ever done? How can this be, and why is it so? Hasn’t anybody else looked at his research and reproduced the results? Haven’t we got today much better instruments and technical means of verifying everything he presented throughout his long career? Don’t worry. We’ll definitely look at that too.

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Cure diabetes in a matter of weeks

Both the incidence and growth rate of insulin-resistant diabetes have reached epidemic proportions in many countries. It is most remarkable in the US with probably close to 30 million by now, and thus about 10% of the population (1, 2). Globally, the numbers are even more impressive: 370 million with diabetes predicted to grow to 550 by 2030 (3). This entails that as a disease, type-II diabetes (90% of diabetics) is one of the fastest growing causes of death, now in close competition with the well-established leaders, cardio-vascular disease and cancer, that each account for 25% of deaths in more or less all industrialised countries.

Insulin-resistant diabetes is very similar to both vascular disease (cardio and cerebro) and cancer, as well as intestinal, kidney, pancreatic and liver disease, arthritis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, in the sense that it is also a degenerative disease that develops over a lifetime, or at least over several decades. It is, however, quite different from all other chronic degenerative diseases because it is, in a way, the ultimate degenerative disease, in which the occurrence of all others increases markedly, and in some cases two to four times (4).  That’s not 10 or 15%, this is 200 to 400% more!

For this reason alone, it seems clear that all these degenerative conditions are intimitely related, and that furthermore, understanding insulin-resistant diabetes will most definitely give us keen insights into the genesis of degenerative diseases in general.

What boggles the mind is that, in a very real sense, we understand precisely and in exquisite detail how and why insulin-resitant diabetes develops, how and why it is related to all other degenerative diseases, and consequently, both how to prevent diabetes and all disease conditions for which it is a proxy, and why what is needed to achieve this actually works (5, 6).

In fact, type-II diabetes can be cured; not just controlled or managed, but cured; not just partially or temporarily, but completely and permanently. And this, in a matter of weeks.

This may seem simply impossible to the millions of suffering diabetics that live with their disease for years and more often decades, but it is the plain and simple truth, which has been demonstrated by more than one, but unfortunately rather few exceptional health care practitioners, already several decades ago by Robert Atkins (7), and more recently by Ron Rosedale and Joseph Mercola, for example (89), in a remarkably repeatable, predictable and immensely successful manner on most probably tens of thousands of people by now.

About insulin and glucose (or should it be glucose and insulin)

Insulin is a master hormone one of whose important roles is to regulate uptake of macronutrients (carbs, proteins and fats) by facilitating their crossing the cellular membrane through channels guarded by insulin receptors, from the bloodstream into the cell, either for usage or storage. It is for this role that insulin is mostly known.

However, arguably insulin’s most important and critical role is the regulation of cellular reproduction and lifespan, a role which is, as amazing as it may seem, common to all animals that have been studied from this perspective, from microscopic worms to the largest animals.

As such, insulin is a master and commander for regulating reproduction and growth in immature and therefore growing individuals, and regulating lifespan and ageing in mature and therefore full-grown adults (10).

Insulin is absolutely essential to life because in its absence cells can neither use glucose—a most basic cellular fuel, nor reproduce correctly—making growth impossible. It is, however, needed in only very small amounts. Why? Because insulin is very damaging to tissues and especially blood vessels, something that has been well known for a long time (look at this short review on the role of insulin in atherosclerosis from Nov 1981—that’s 32 years ago!, and you’ll see what I mean.)

Insulin is secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas in response to glucose concentration inside of these. As blood passes through the pancreas, these special cells that produce and store insulin, sense how much glucose there is by taking it in, and release insulin into circulation proportionally. This release is pulsed (while eating, for example) with a period of between 5 and 10 minutes, but only in response to blood sugar concentration, meaning that insulin is released only if blood sugar rises above the individual’s threshold, which depends on the metabolic and hormonal state of that individual.

However, it is important to note that pretty much no matter what the metabolic or hormonal states may be, eating fat and having fatty acids circulating in the bloodstream does not stimulate the release of insulin, while eating protein, in particular the animo acids arginine and leucine, does, albeit a lot less than glucose. This is because insulin is generally needed for cells to take in and use amino acids.

An insulin molecule that has delivered a nutrient to a cell can be degraded by the cell, or it can be released back into the bloodstream. A circulating insulin molecule will be cleared by either the liver or the kidneys within about one hour from the time of release by the pancreas.

Exposure to most substances, including lethal poisons such as arsenic and cyanide, naturally and systematically decreases sensitivity, or from the reverse perspective, increases resistance to it (as demonstrated by generations of Roman emperors and their relatives). This applies to cells, tissues and organs, and happens in the same way for biochemical molecule like messenger hormones, for the one that concerns us here, insulin. Thus, as cells are more  frequently and repeatedly exposed to insulin, they lose sensitivity and grow resistant to it.

Insulin primarily acts on muscle and liver cells where glucose is stored as glycogen, and on fat cells where both glucose and fats are stored as … fat, of course. Muscle cells grow resistant first, then liver cells and in the end, fat cells. Fortunately or unfortunately, endothelial cells (those that line the blood vessels), do not become resistant to insulin, and this is why they continue to store glucose as fat, suffer severely from glycation, and proliferate until the arteries are completely occluded and blocked by atherosclerotic plaques.

What happens when a large portion of the muscle and liver cells, and enough of the fat cells have become insulin-resistant? Glucose cannot be cleared from the bloodstream: it thus grows in concentration which then stays dangerously high. This is type-II, adult onset, or most appropriately called, insulin-resistant diabetes.

Unnaturally high glucose concentrations lead to, among other things, increased blood pressure, extremely high rates of glycation (typically permanent and fatal damage) of protein and fat molecules on cells throughout the body, heightened stimulation of hundreds of inflammatory pathways, and strongly exaggerated formation of highly damaging free radicals, which, all in all, is not so good. This is why insulin is secreted from the pancreas so quickly when glucose is high in the first place: to avoid all this damage and furiously accelerated ageing of all tissues throughout the body.

The five points to remember

  1. Insulin is a master hormone that regulates nutrient storage, as well as cellular reproduction, ageing and therefore lifespan.
  2. Insulin is vital to life, but in excess concentrations it is highly damaging to all tissues, especially blood vessels.
  3. If blood sugar is high, insulin is secreted to facilitate the uptake of the glucose into cells, but at the same time, because it is present, also promotes the storage of amino and fatty acids (protein and fat); if blood sugar is low, insulin is not secreted.
  4. Chronically high blood glucose is remarkably damaging to the organism through several mechanisms that are all strongly associated with degenerative disease conditions in general.
  5. Chronically high blood glucose concentration leads to chronically high insulin concentration; chronic exposure to insulin leads to desensitisation of muscle, liver and fat cells, and, in the end, to type-II or insulin-resistant diabetes.

And in this succinct summary, in these five points to remember, we have the keys to understanding not only how diabetes develops and manifests, to understand not only the relationship between diabetes and other degenerative diseases, but also to understand how to prevent and cure diabetes as well as degenerative conditions in general.

And I’m suppose to say …

But you already know what I’m going to say:

Because the basic, the underlying, the fundamental cause of insulin-resistant diabetes is chronic over-exposure to insulin, it means that to prevent—but also reverse and cure it—what we need is to not have chronic over-exposure to insulin. And this means to have the very least, the minimal exposure to insulin, at all times, day after day.

The good news, which is indeed very good news, is, on the one hand, that it is utterly simple to do and accomplish, and on the other, that almost independently of how prone we are to insulin resistance (genetically and/or hormonally) or how insulin-resistant we actually are right now, insulin sensitivity can be recovered quite quickly. And here, “quite quickly” means in a matter of days, which is truly remarkable in light of the fact that our state of insulin resistance grows over decades, day after day, and year after year. It is rather amazing, miraculous even, that the body can respond in this way so incredibly quickly.

Now, type-II diabetes is nothing other than extreme insulin-resistance. Naturally, the longer we are diabetic, the more insulin-resistant we become. But unbeknownst to most (almost all MDs the world over included), if your fasting blood glucose is higher than 75-80 mg/dl or your insulin higher than 5 (mU/L or microU/ml), then the muscle and liver cells are insulin resistant. And the higher the insulin, the more resistant they are. In fact, if you have any amount of excess body fat, your cells are insulin resistant. And the more body fat, especially abdominal but also everywhere else, the more insulin resistant they are.

Because insulin sensitivity is lost gradually over our lifetime through daily exposure, some consider that everyone is becoming diabetic more or less quickly, and that eventually, if we live long enough, we all become diabetic. But this is only true in a world where virtually everyone suffers from chronic over-exposure to glucose and insulin. It is not true in a world in which we eat and drink to promote optimal health.

In practice, because basically everyone is more or less (but more than less) insulin-resistant, concentrations around 10 mU/L are considered normal. But when I wrote earlier that insulin is vital but needed in very small amounts, I really meant very small amounts: like optimally between 1 and 3, and definitely less than 5 mU/L (or microU/mL; and the conversion from traditional to SI units is 1 mU/L = 7 pmol/L).

So how do we do it?

You already know what I’m going to say:

Because insulin is secreted in response and in proportion to glucose concentration, when it is low, insulin is not secreted. Therefore, insulin sensitivity is regained by completely eliminating insulin-stimulating carbohydrates. This means zero simple sugars without distinction between white sugar, honey or fruit; zero starchy carbs without distinction between refined or whole grains, wheat or rice, bread or pasta, potatoes or sweet potatoes; and zero dairy, which triggers insulin secretion even when sugar content is low. It also means minimal protein, just enough to cover the basic metabolic needs (0.5-0.75 g/kg of lean mass per day). Consequently, it means that almost all calories come from fat—coconut oil, coconut cream, animal fats from organic fish and meats, olive oil and avocados, as well as nuts and seeds—and that the bulk of what we eat in volume comes from fibrous and leafy vegetables.

And what happens? In 24 hours, blood glucose and insulin have dropped significantly, and the metabolism begins to shift from sugar-burning to fat-burning. In 48 hours, the shift has taken place, and the body begins to burn off body fat stores, while it starts the journey towards regaining insulin sensitivity. In a matter of days during the first couple of weeks, the body has released a couple to a few kilos of water and has burnt a couple to a few kilos of fat. We feel much lighter, much thinner, much more flexible and agile, and naturally, much better. In four weeks, blood sugar and insulin levels are now stable in the lower normal range. All of the consequences and side effects brought on by the condition of insulin-resisitant diabetes decrease in severity and amplitude with each passing day, and eventually disappear completely. In eight weeks, the metabolism has fully adapted to fat-burning as the primary source of energy, and we feel great. (See 11 for more technical details.)

The result is that within a matter of weeks, we are diabetic no longer: we have regained insulin sensitivity, and have thus cured our insulin-resistant diabetes. Over time, a few months or maybe a few years, feeling better with each passing day, there remain very few if any traces of our diabetes, and we live as if we never were diabetic. Amazing, isn’t it? So simple. So easy. So straight-forward. And yet, still so rare.

And what about the relationship between diabetes and heart disease, diabetes and stroke, diabetes and cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s? Why do diabetics suffer the various health problems that they do, like high blood pressure, water retention, blindness, kidney disease, and how do those come about? What of the lifespan-regulating functions of insulin, how does that work? All these interesting and important questions and issues will have to wait for another day. This article is already long enough.

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A diabetic’s meal on Air France

A few days ago, I was updating a reservation on the Air France website in anticipation of my trip from Madrid to Toronto on my way to the Origin of Stars and their Planetary Systems conference at  McMaster University. Looking through my personal profile, I found a section where to define a preference for the meals served on long flights. Looking through the list, I was intrigued by the “Diabetic” option.

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The fact is, I’ve read more than I ever intended about diabetes. That’s because the authors of most, if not all books that relate to natural health and nutrition in some way or another, usually have something to say about diabetes, more specifically, insulin-resistant or adult-onset or type II diabetes. One simple reason for this is that diabetes is so widespread in the populations of industrialised countries that it is almost ubiquitous. Another reason, certainly just as important if not more, is that the most common causes of death in industrialised countries—heart disease, stroke, alzheimer’s and cancer—are all much more common in diabetics than they are in non-diabetics, and in all cases, several-fold more common. Doesn’t this very naturally suggest that there is a fundamental relationship between insulin-resistant diabetes and these other conditions? Maybe even that what causes the development of the diabetic condition also causes the development of the others?

Type II diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes, should instead always be referred to insulin-resistant diabetes in order to highlight the actual problem—insulin resistance. Unfortunately, it is only rarely referred to as such. Insulin resistance is a description of the state of a cell that does not allow insulin through its membrane to carry glucose to the inside of the cell—it resists insulin’s plea to let the glucose enter. The consequence of this is high levels of blood-glucose and insulin that don’t drop down as they should to acceptable, let alone ideal physiological levels. In fact, as far as I know, the primary, if not the only criteria used by  most MDs to diagnose the onset of diabetes is blood-sugar levels. It is considered normal to have blood-sugar levels anywhere between 65 and 110 mg/dl, but at 120 or above we are considered at risk of developing diabetes.

Interestingly, although fasting insulin concentration is a much better, more robust, indicator of not only the condition of insulin-resistant diabetes, but also of the gradual development of it, which does not appear from one year’s blood test to the next but rather develops over an entire lifetime, slowly and surely, it is almost never performed in standard blood tests ordered by general practitioners. It should.

And why is it better? Because instead of being subject to large fluctuations due to a myriad of different factors as is blood-sugar, such as carbohydrate intake, stress and physical activity, for example, fasting insulin is much more stable, decreasing steadily over the course of several hours, and reflects well the overall state of insulin resistance or sensitivity of our cells.

There is another more direct and accurate way of testing insulin sensitivity that involves measuring blood-sugar and insulin concentrations at regular intervals after ingesting a large amount of glucose. But this method is much more involved and lengthy. Fasting insulin is simple, easy, accurate and cheap. It really should always be done in standard blood tests. Request it on your next blood test. Although, if you follow the dietary advice on this blog, you should never even have to think about getting any blood tests done at all. I just do them because I find it interesting.

I discussed the insulin mechanism in We were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates, and also in When you eliminatie insulin-stimulating carbohydrates. But for just a second, forget what you remember about it, and consider the following:

Insulin is necessary to clear out excess sugar in the blood: it is the hormone that regulates fat storage. The greater the amount of sugar, the greater the amount of insulin required, and the greater the fat storage. The more often there is sugar, the more often insulin is needed. Insulin resistance in cells develops over time due to over-exposure to insulin, snack after snack, meal after meal, day after day and year after year.

Would we not then immediately conclude that in order to avoid developing insulin resistance we simply and straight-forwardly need to avoid raising blood-sugar levels? Furthermore, would we not immediately hypothesise that in order to reverse insulin resistance and regain insulin sensitivity we need to do just that: avoid raising blood-sugar levels? And how might we do that? You already know this: by not eating simple or starchy carbohydrates. Instead, eating most of our calories from fat to provide all the energy and calories needed for healthy cellular and hormonal activity throughout the body, and never or rarely be hungry.

Now, what was I served as the special order diabetic meal on the flight from Paris to Toronto that I am still sitting on? The salad was of grated carrots sprinkled with super dry, also kind-of-grated white meat, either of chicken, turkey of tuna, (I can’t tell because it didn’t have a smell and I don’t eat meat, so I didn’t taste it). The main course was of a piece of super-dry white fish on a bed of pre-cooked, dry, white rice with boiled frozen ripple-cut carrot slices. This was accompanied by not one of the classic crusty, refined white flour, mini-baguettes they serve on Air France flights, but by two of them. There were also two deserts, a small, dry-baked apple cut in two halves, and a soy-based pudding-like desert. Needless to say that I didn’t eat much of this meal. It was an experiment anyway: I was curious to see what a diabetic would be served, and now I know.

Before reading the next sentence, could you now tell me what is the main characteristic of the meal I just described?

It is a low-calorie, low-protein, super-low fat meal. As a consequence, it is a very high carbohydrate meal: there’s obviously nothing else it could be. Well, that’s not quite true: it is a very low-mineral and enzyme content meal, highly processed and totally dead. But that’s not really important, right? Only calories are important, right? And it is only important that it be low-fat, right?

Therefore, a diabetic that goes to the effort of ordering a special meal instead of the standard menu will end up consuming less protein, a lot less fat, and a lot more carbohydrates. This will cause a much greater rise in blood-sugar levels, that will in turn cause a much greater rise in insulin, and in the case of most diabetics will, in fact, require the injection of additional insulin because their cells are already mostly insulin-resistant. This will inevitably cause increased insulin resistance. But to make matters even worse than this already is, because they are eating very little fat, they will be increasingly hungry after each meal, and thus tend of overeat every time they get the chance. And overeat what? … carbohydrates. This is the definition of a vicious cycle. How sad. How incredibly sad.

I was just offered by second meal: it was pretty much the same thing with a cold dry meat salad instead of the re-heated dry fish with rice dish. What a laugh. This time, I just turned in down.

Oh, and by the way, the first meal was frozen almost solid. Every component, including the carrot salad, baked apple, soy desert and water: everything except for the main course that had been heated. And the second meal was also frozen, but this time, the air flight attendant felt quite sorry about it, and was rather sheepish when offering it to me. How funny! It’s a good thing I am used to fasting.

Six eggs per day for six days: cholesterol?

In What about cholesterol we saw how important cholesterol is for so many essential bodily functions and in so many important ways, that there should never have been a shadow of a doubt in anyone’s mind that cholesterol is anything but essential and vital to our health and our life. And that, therefore, it is ridiculous to even have to say that cholesterol is good for us. However, it is more than completely absurd, non-sensical, and outright dangerous to claim that it is bad for us. Let me assume you are now well convinced of this.

There is something we didn’t go into that relates to the fact that we’ve been told—and continue to be told—that we should minimise our intake of dietary cholesterol. The crazy thing about that recommendation is that the amount needed by the body of this vital substance depends solely on the body’s needs for it. And thus, the normally functioning liver, supplied with adequate amounts of the essential building blocks, produces cholesterol in the amount that is necessary for proper bodily function—whatever that amount happens to be at a particular time. What this means is that in a healthy individual, the amount of cholesterol you eat should not really affect the amount of cholesterol in the blood, estimated by the concentration of the lipoproteins that transport it to and from tissues.

Even though this obvious consequence of considering the body’s physiological function should just be accepted as a plain fact, unfortunately, most people—including health professionals—don’t. We continue to believe that cholesterol is bad, and we continue to try to minimise dietary cholesterol in order to lower lipoprotein concentrations, completely ignoring the fact that cholesterol and lipoprotein production is an exceedingly refined and well regulated mechanism that responds directly to the body’s needs.

It is certainly possible that if dietary cholesterol intake decreases, the liver produces more, and if dietary cholesterol intake increases, then the liver produces less; to what extent certainly depends on the physiological circumstances, and specific needs for cholesterol depend on many factors, all related to the state of the body. But it is pretty well established that the body produces more or less the same amount of cholesterol regardless of the dietary cholesterol intake because it much prefers to use the kind of cholesterol the liver produces, which is free or un-esterified cholesterol, rather than having to de-esterify the dietary cholesterol that comes primarily as cholesterol ester. Therefore, much of the dietary cholesterol is used in bile and excreted through the intestines.

For a lot more details, you can check out Peter Attia’s essential points to remember on his series The straight dope on cholesterol, even if I don’t really agree with the points linking LDL with atherosclerosis, simply because lipoprotein concentration, particle number, size distribution and everything else are all secondary or even further removed consequences of other dietary and metabolic factors upstream. In fact, I believe we should not even have started measuring lipoprotein concentrations and cholesterol in the first place. What we should have always focused on are uric acid levels and tracers of inflammation. And on another note, Peter is categorical that dietary cholesterol is not absorbed and all excreted. However, a couple of review papers I read about lipid absorption state that about 50% of intestinal cholesterol is, in fact, absorbed. The truth is that it is almost certainly dependent on a whole slew of factors and that, as for all things, the body absorbs and excretes in accord with its needs.

A viral infection, for example, will generally lead to the increase of lipoprotein concentration because these are the molecules that can most effectively gobble up and destroy viruses. Dehydration leads to a scarcity of water at the cellular level. As a consequence, each cell’s survival relies on producing more cholesterol in order to more effectively seal in the precious water it depends on for life that appears to be so scarce. Hence, dehydration also leads to higher cholesterol. A diet high in sugar—simple and starchy carbohydrates—naturally leads to a much greater amount of damage to cells and tissues throughout the body, but especially to the blood vessels themselves, from the highly damaging presence of insulin, the result of glycation of proteins and fats by higher concentrations of circulating glucose, and several other related factors. To repair the damaged cells, cholesterol is needed, and thus, in this case also, lipoprotein concentrations rise accordingly.

Although the fact that the amount of dietary cholesterol does not affect blood lipoprotein concentrations much is not debated by people in-the-know about issues pertaining to cholesterol, I just wanted to see this for myself what would happen. So, I devised a simple self-experiment: compare the lipoprotein concentrations in my blood when following my low-card, high-fat, high-nutrient diet, to those after eating 6 eggs per day for 6 days in a rowwhere I basically just added to my diet more eggs, usually raw in smoothies. That’s a lot of eggs… But before I present the results, I think it’s important to go through a few numbers relevant to this discussion.

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Eggs: An average organic egg of 50 g supplies 70 calories, and contains 5 g of fat (all in the yolk), 6 g of protein (all in the egg white), less than 0.5 g of carbohydrates and 215 mg of cholesterol. This means that 6 eggs supply a total of 1300 mg of cholesterol. For me, 6 eggs per day is 3 times my usual consumption of 2 eggs per day on average—a 300% increase.

Blood volume: The blood in our body accounts for about 7% of its mass (Ref). For a weight of 100 kg, there is 7 kg of blood (about 7 litres); if you weight 50 kg, then there is 3.5 kg of blood or about 3.5 litres. And therefore, for a 57-58 kg person like me, this makes almost exactly 4 kg, and thus about 4 litres or 40 decilitres.

Lipoproteins: Cholesterol is not water-soluble, and thus has to be transported by lipoproteins. Different lipoproteins carry a different amount of cholesterol. The bulk of it, however, is found in LDL and HDL molecules. The percentage of cholesterol by weight in LDL is about 40%, and in HDL it is between 20 and 35% (Ref). To keep our calculation simple, we’ll take this to mean that LDL is half cholesterol by weight, and HDL is one quarter cholesterol.

Here are the results of the blood tests from December 16 and 22, 2011, both taken in the late afternoon after nearly 24 hours of fasting (I do this every week, so it was nothing unusual). And please don’t worry about the boldface: it appears automatically if the numbers are not in the “recommended” range, which for cholesterol is below 200 and for glucose 65-110 mg/dL. And don’t worry about the spelling: it’s spanish because I live in Spain.

Now, looking at the results, can you guess which one is which: which is the result of the blood test before one week of 6 eggs per day, and which one is after?

The answer is that the first table is from the blood test done on Dec 16, and the second table is from the blood test done on Dec 22:

After one week of eating 6 eggs per day, the LDL decreased from 110 to 95 mg/dL, the HDL increased from 106 to 112 mg/dL, the “total cholesterol” decreased from 224 to 213, and the triglycerides decreased from 41 to 29 mg/dL.

About the lipoprotein concentrations, you may recall from this graph I linked to in my first post on cholesterol, and in which was compiled all the available data found by its author, that included mortality rates and what is referred to as “total cholesterol” (but is in fact total lipoproteins), the ideal range for which is labelled “Colesterol total” in the above test results is 200-240 mg/dL, and the minimum all-cause mortality is found for concentrations of 220 mg/dL. That’s right where my numbers happen to be.

As for the glucose, well, you already know I try to keep it as low as possible, and by the way, I had no signs of hypoglycemia when my blood glucose was 60 mg/dL. In fact, I never do, even during three-day fasts, cycling to and from work, and doing resistance training at lunchtime. This demonstrates that the state of hypoglycemia can not be defined by a fixed threshold of glucose concentration below which we are considered to be in that state, but rather is based upon the individual’s metabolic function. This should be obvious since some people feel the consequence of hypoglycemia quite regularly and at glucose levels that would be exceptionally high for others, who on the contrary never feel them, simply because their metabolism has been trained to use fats for the body’s energy needs efficiently, and in fact, almost exclusively—to function in ketosis—as is my case. I plan to revisit this topic in greater detail in the future. But for now, let’s come back to the blood test results.

Firstly, we see that the sum of LDL and HDL compared to the “total cholesterol” is 216 vs. 224 (Dec 16) and 207 vs. 213 (Dec 22). This tells us that the VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) and CM (chylomicrons) together account for 8 mg/dL on Dec 16, and 6 mg/dL on Dec 22. They are, and we’ll not discuss these lipoproteins any further in this post.

Secondly, we note that the small difference in the very low concentrations of triglycerides (three fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone), considered to be “normal” up to 150 mg/dL, mirrors the small difference in the lipoproteins that carry most of the triglycerides: the CM (90% triglycerides) and VLDL (62% triglycerides). Low triglyceride levels with low glucose and insulin levels equate to efficient metabolic use of fats.

And thirdly, we find that for 4 litres of blood, if we assume simple rounded figures of 100 mg/dL of LDL and 100 mg/dL of HDL, the total amount of cholesterol being carried around in the bloodstream is about 3000 mg: 40 dL*(50%*100 mg/dL + 25%*100 mg/dL). This is just 3 grams in the entire blood supply for a body weight of 58 kg! And an additional 1300 mg of cholesterol per day—almost half of the cholesterol in the bloodstream—from eating 6 eggs, and this for 6 consecutive days that supplied a total of 7800 mg of cholesterol, did not affect the lipoprotein concentration.

This leads us back to the hypothesis presented in the first paragraphs: the amount of cholesterol you eat should not really affect the amount of cholesterol in the blood. And although a quick experiment on a single person is far from being definitive proof of anything, this one clearly indicates, at least for me, that increasing intake of dietary cholesterol by an amount that is close to half of the total cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream, and doing this each day for 6 days in a row, does not raise lipoprotein concentrations (in this case, they went down slightly) when comparing the values measured at the same time in the late afternoon after a 24 hour fast once at the start of the week and 7 days later.

Furthermore, based on the sensible assumption that cholesterol synthesis by the liver is a response to the body’s needs, but also ability to manufacture it, if absorption of intestinal cholesterol is not nil but varies depending on the body’s needs, then supplying more dietary cholesterol may help ease the requirements on the liver for manufacturing the quantities needed. Therefore, this “help” to the liver can only be viewed as favourable considering the extreme importance of this organ for good health. It could also be that most or even all the additional dietary cholesterol was simply excreted in the stools. But in any case, it is absolutely certain that eating this huge amount of cholesterol every day did not affect lipoprotein concentrations in the blood after the period of fasting.

What I would like to do is to evaluate dietary cholesterol absorption on me, a 40-year old man in excellent health, by adopting an extreme diet of eating only eggs and water (this will remove the influence of other foods and nutrients and therefore reduce significantly the number of variables that can influence cholesterol synthesis and absorption), and take minimal blood samples at regular time intervals such as every hour or every couple of hours. By evaluating the changes in cholesterol transporters we would be able to estimate how much is absorbed because we know that lipids from the intestines are transported to the blood mostly by CM and VLDL, whereas HDL and LDL are mostly responsible for transport to and from the liver.

In any case, as we have seen here, but also as I mentioned in my opening sentences that we have known for a rather long time, dietary cholesterol does not influence blood cholesterol much. So please, when you hear someone say that we should avoid eating too much cholesterol because they have “high cholesterol”, you don’t need to say anything if you don’t want to, but remember at least this: cholesterol is so important and so good for us, that the liver and cells themselves will always do everything to supply the all the cholesterol that is needed, whatever that is at a particular time, and no matter how little or how much we get from our food. And maybe it is even the case that eating more cholesterol actually helps the liver and cells meet the body’s continuous demands throughout the day and night of this vital substance.

Healthy and lucid from childhood to old age

So you’ve been around for 70 years, and you’re still well enough to read this. Have you actually made it past 75, 80 or even 85? This is really great! Through a combination of different factors, various reasons, personal habits and choices, you have made this far.

Maybe because of your genetic makeup: Your parents and grand-parents all lived well into their 80’s or 90’s by following a kind of innate, traditional wisdom based on the understanding that we really are what we eat, in a very real sense, and you’ve done more or less the same, following in their footsteps.

Maybe because you have always been moderate in your eating habits: You’ve never been overweight; you’ve never eaten much sweets or deserts; you’ve never eaten much preserved meats and canned foods; you’ve never drank much alcohol; you’ve never drank sweetened soft drinks, juice or milk—mostly just water, always paying attention not to drink too much coffee or strongly caffeinated tea.

Maybe you have made it this far because you have also been moderately active throughout your life, never exercising too much or too intensely, but always quite regularly: Walking; doing light exercises for your joints (rotations of the arms for your shoulders, stretches for your neck and back, and exercises for your knees); riding a bike a couple times a week in the good season, not getting off the bike but instead riding up those hills; maybe you went skiing a week or two most years; went for long walks or even hikes in the mountains during holidays; or did a little swimming in the sea or in lakes when the occasion presented itself.

The golden middleas my grand-father called it: everything is moderation. And he almost made it to 90 years of age! But no matter what the reason is, it is truly wonderful that you have indeed made it this far. Then again, you might be young or middle aged, but interested—maybe somewhat, maybe highly, but nonetheless interested—in being healthy and lucid for as long as possible, and hopefully well into your old age.

Either way, young or old, you live in this modern world like most of us. You live in a city, you drive a car, you work in an office, you fly or flew often on business trips, maybe even several times per week. You eat meat and fish; bread, potatoes, rice and pasta; fruits and vegetables, all from the supermarket.  And so you have, throughout your life, been continuously exposed to increasing amounts of chemicals, heavy metals and various other toxins in our environment, most of which have been accumulating in your tissues. You live in the modern world like most of us, and so you have taken medication on various occasions during your life: antibiotics a few times, maybe some pain killers, maybe some sleeping pills, maybe simple anti-histamines when you had a cold. Maybe you are and have even been taking medication on a daily basis for some “minor” but “chronic” condition.

You live in this modern world and so you have been told to drink plenty of fluids and that salt is bad and should be avoided. You’ve been told that fat in general, but especially saturated fats and cholesterol, are bad because they cause heart disease: they cause your arteries to clog up with fatty plaques that eventually block them to give you a heart attack. You’ve been told to avoid them as much as you can, and instead to consume polyunsaturated vegetable oils, plenty of whole grains and cereal products, legumes, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and so you have done that: you have decreased or almost eliminated your intake of butter, eggs, fatty cheese, fatty yoghurt, red meat—never ever eating the fatty trimmings, and also of the fatty skin on chicken or fish.

Consequently, you have increased your intake of morning cereal—but only sugar-free whole grain cereal like muesli; increased your intake of bread—but usually whole grain bread; increased your intake of rice—but usually brown rice; increased your intake of pasta—but usually also whole grain pasta; and increased you intake of potatoes—but never fried, only baked, steamed or boiled potatoes.

Maybe your total lipoprotein levels are around 220 or 240 mg/dl, and you have been told that this is too high, and for this reason you have tried to further reduce your fat intake, and are even taking statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs, every day, just like hundreds of millions of other people in this modern world.

Unfortunately, you have not been told that you should be drinking water; not fluids in general, and that there are many reasons water, ageing and disease are intimately connected—the lack of water, that is. In addition to that, you have not been told that it is not enough to drink some water sometimes: it is essential to drink water before meals. Unfortunately, you have not been told that sodium is one of the most important minerals for health: why else would the kidneys, without which we cannot live for more than a few days, go to such great lengths to prevent its excretion in the urine, and keep it in the blood if it wasn’t? But even more unfortunately, you have not been told that minerals in general, are essential for health, and that unrefined sea salt contains all naturally occurring trace minerals is proportions that closely match those of several of our bodily fluids. And that furthermore, proper bodily function depends intimately on the balance of the minerals available, and that our salt-phobic and calcium-phillic society has led to most of us becoming completely over-calcified while growing more and more deficient in the rest of the trace minerals, and in particular magnesium. The link between generalised magnesium deficiency and minerals, ageing and disease are now everywhere painfully obvious.

Unfortunately—and indeed very sadly—you have not been told that cholesterol is absolutely vital for life and good health: that it forms the membrane of every single cell in your body and in that of every animal, that your entire nervous system and especially your brain are built using cholesterol and depend intimately on the availability of plenty of cholesterol, that your hormonal system relies completely on cholesterol for building hormones, and that your best defences against infectious and inflammatory pathogens are in fact the lipoproteins carrying around the precious cholesterol throughout your body. You have not been told that cholesterol is so important that it is manufactured continuously by our liver to keep up with the body’s needs, and that therefore, the cholesterol we eat does not in any ways raise lipoprotein concentrations. You have not been told that in addition to cholesterol, fat is also essential for building hormones, essential for absorbing minerals from the intestines into our bloodstream, essential for the binding of these minerals into the bones and teeth, essential for energy production in every cell of our body.

Furthermore, you have not been told that saturated fats like those found in animal products and coconut oil are molecularly stable, whereas unsaturated and particularly polyunsaturated oils such as those that make up all vegetable oils are molecularly unstable, some more than others, for the double bonds between carbon atoms in the chain that forms the fat molecule are weak and readily broken to permit some other unstable molecule seeking a free electron to attach in order to make the final molecular configuration stable. But that those unstable compounds are actually scavenging around for any electron to bind to, and unfortunately most of the time if not always, these free-radicals will attach themselves to healthy tissue without proper enzymatic action to guide them in the proper place and position, thus damaging our tissues.

In fact, you have not been told that all large studies that have been conducted to evaluate the “health-promoting” properties of polyunsaturated fats have not only failed to do so, but instead have shown that the more polyunsaturated oils we consume, the more atherosclerotic plaques develop in our arteries, and therefore the more likely we are to suffer a heart attack or stroke. And that on the contrary, the more saturated fats we consume, the less plaques we have, and consequently, the less likely we are to have a heart attack or a stroke (see any of the books about cholesterol in Further readings).

You have not been told, that for millions of years our species has evolved consuming most of its calories in the form of saturated fats from meat and animal products—in some cases exclusively from these, from coconut and palm oil (where these grow), and to a much lesser extent from polyunsaturated fats, and this only in whole foods such as fish, nuts and seeds—never concentrated into vegetable oils.

Unfortunately—and indeed very sadly—you have not been told that we were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates: that eating such carbohydrates always triggers the pancreas to secrete insulin in order to clear the bloodstream of the damaging glucose in circulation, that chronically elevated glucose levels lead to chronically elevated insulin levels that in turn lead to insulin resistance—first in our muscles, then in our liver, and finally in our fat cells—which leads to type II diabetes, to heart disease from the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries and vessels, and to Alzheimer’s and cognitive degradation from the buildup of plaque in the cerebral arteries and vessels.

Unfortunately—and indeed very sadly—you have not been told and have not considered that all the multitude of chemicals and heavy metals that we are exposed to in the medications we take, in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, in the food we eat, in the soaps and shampoos we use, and in the household products we employ to keep our house sparkling clean and bacteria-free, accumulate in our bodies. They accumulate in our fat cells, in our tissues, in our organs, in our brains. They burden, disrupt and damage our digestive system, our immune system, our hormonal system, our organs, tissues and cells. Sometimes they reach such concentrations that we become gravely ill, but none of the doctors we visit in seeking a solution and relief understand why. Most often, however, we don’t get gravely ill but instead start developing different kinds of little problems: we get colds more often and take longer to recover, we get mild but regular digestive upsets that we can’t explain and that seem to get worse with time, we get headaches and have trouble sleeping, we feel depressed, tired, alone, helpless, not acutely but enough to disturb us enough that we notice it.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, you have not been told how truly essential vitamin B12 really is, but how, for a variety of different reasons, blood concentrations B12 decrease with age, and eventually dwindle to very low levels. That B12 is essential most crucially to preserve the myelin sheath that covers all of our nerves healthy, and thus crucially important for everything that takes place throughout the nervous system, which means, everything in the body and brain. Levels of B12 should never go below 450 pg/ml, and ideally should be maintained at 800 pg/ml throughout life, from childhood to old age hood.

Can we do anything about all this?

The most fundamental point to understand is that everything about your health depends on the state of health of your digestive system. All absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste happens in the digestive system. Since our health depends on proper absorption and efficient elimination, the digestive system should be our first as well as our main concern.

The first step is to rebuild and establish a healthy intestinal flora of beneficial bacteria (breakdown and absorption), and at the same time begin to detoxify the body and clean out the intestines (elimination). This is done by taking high quality probiotics to supply beneficial bacteria on a daily basis, high quality chlorella to both supply a lot of micronutrients and pull out heavy metals, and water-soluble fibre like psyllium husks to clean out the intestines by pushing out toxins and waste products. If you are not already taking these, read Probiotics, chlorella and psyllium husks.

The second step is by far the most important, and in fact, crucial dietary change necessary to achieve optimal metabolic health. It is to eliminate simple and starchy carbohydrates from you diet, and replace them with more raw vegetables—especially green and leafy salads and colourful vegetables such as red and yellow peppers, more nuts and seeds—especially raw and soaked, more good and efficiently absorbed protein—especially eggs, fish and raw cheeses, and much more saturated fats—especially coconut oil (at least 3 tablespoons per day) and butter. Doing this is  essential for the systemic detoxification, rebuilding and then maintaining a healthy digestive system. Everything should be organic: you obviously don’t want to be adding to your toxic load while trying to detoxify.

And the third step is to supplement our now-excellent, health-promoting diet with a few essential and very important nutrients that are, for most of us, difficult to obtain. The only such supplements that I believe to be essential, and that my family and I take daily, are: Vitamin B12 and vitamin D3—the most important supplements to take for overall health, but in which we are almost all deficient; Krill oil—a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat with its own natural anti-oxidants, highly absorbable, and particularly important for proper brain function; Ubiquinol—the reduced and thus useable form of coenzyme Q10, critical for cellular energy production, and a powerful lipid-soluble anti-oxidant that protects our cells from oxidative damage, but both of whose synthesis as CoQ10 and conversion from CoQ10 to ubiquinol drop dramatically after about age 30-40; Vitamin K2—essential for healthy bones but very hard to get other than from fermented foods, which we typically eat little of.

In addition to these, we usually always take Astaxanthin and turmeric—very powerful antioxidants with amazing general and specific anti-ageing health benefits, and also sometimes take a whole-foods-multi—basically dehydrated vegetables and berries made into a powder and compressed into a pill for extra micronutrients. (You can read about all of these supplements on Wikipedia or any other page you will find by doing an internet search.)

I tend to buy our supplements from Dr Joseph Mercola, (whose website also provides a lot of info about these and other supplements, as well as about a multitude of other health-related issues and conditions), because I trust that his are among if not the best on the market: there’s really no point in buying cheap supplements at the pharmacy, and risking doing yourself more harm than good, as would happen with a rancid omega-3 supplement, or a synthetic Vitamin D, for example.

Staying healthy and lucid is, in reality, quite easy and simple. Unfortunately, most of us, including, and maybe especially our medical doctors, just don’t know how. And so, medical diagnostic and high-tech treatment technologies continue to improve and develop, and medical expenditures continue to rise throughout the modern world, but we are sicker than ever: more obesity, more diabetes, more strokes, more heart attacks, more cancers, more Alzheimer’s, more leaky guts, more ulcers, more liver failures, more kidney failures, and on and on. There is more disease, more pain, more suffering and more premature deaths. And all of it is completely unnecessary and avoidable by such simple and inexpensive means as those outlined herein. The only critical point is that only you can do it; nobody else can do it for you.

We were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates

The transition between hunting-gathering and farming took place over a period of about 1000 years between 11000 and 10000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, a crescent-like shape of land that stretches across parts of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Iraq. The first people to settle were hunter-gatherers that built villages in places they found provided enough food to sustain them without having to move around. At first, these were “seasonal” villages located in different areas, to which they returned in a seasonal cycle. Finding ways to store the grain from the large seeded grasses like barley and emmer wheat growing wild but in large quantities, allowed them to settle permanently. This most likely led to a rapid growth of the population, that was matched with a proportionally rapid growth in the demand for food. The response was the development of agriculture.

The gradual decimation of the wild game over the course of about 2000 years led to the domestication of the most easily domesticable, large mammals to inhabit the region, the sheep, goat and pig, all about 8000 years ago, followed by the cow about 6000 years ago. It is very interesting and important to point out, from an anthropological point of view, that the Fertile Crescent—the seat of civilisation—is the region in the world where there were the greatest number of large-seeded grasses, as well as the greatest number of large, easily domesticable animals, by far.

The cultivation of cereal crops allowed our ancestors, some 10000 years ago, to have, for the first time in our evolutionary history, enough spare time to develop tools and technologies, as well as arts and music. For the first time in evolutionary history, a handful of people could sow, tend to, and harvest enough cereal grain to feed hundreds or even thousands of people who were, therefore, free to do a multitude of other things. Without agriculture and this shift from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of spending most of our waking hours hunting and rummaging around looking for food, we would not have developed much of anything because we simply never would have had the time to do so.

Now, although it is well known to most anthropologists, it is not a well appreciated fact that the cultivation and eating of cereal crops as an important source of calories, is possibly the most negatively impacting evolutionary mistake to have been made in regards to the health and robustness of our species as a whole. There was, indeed, plenty of free time, and we did develop technologies extremely quickly considering how slowly things had changed before then. But the price to pay was high.

Within as little as one or two generations, our powerful stature shrank markedly, our strong teeth rotted, our massive bones became thin and brittle, our thick hair grew thin and fell out at an early age. In fact, evidence indicates that while our hunter-gatherer ancestors were tall, strong, robust, with hard teeth and bones, and apparently healthy to their death—usually of a violent nature instead of progressive degradation through “ageing” as later became the norm, our oldest cereal-eating ancestors in contrast, were the exact opposite: small, weak, fragile, with rotten teeth, and advanced osteoporosis in their bones at the time of their death in their early 50’s. (For a lot more details about all the points discussed up to here, I strongly recommend Jared Diamond’s fascinating books: The Third Chimpanzee; Guns, Germs and Steel; and Collapse).

Today, at the beginning of the 21st century some 10000 years later, we know exactly why we were never meant to consume carbohydrates on a regular basis, let alone in large quantities as we do today, such that they provide a significant part of our daily calories—sometimes even the majority! We know exactly why because we have pretty clearly understood the primary effect of phytic acids or phytates, the importance of dietary fats, and the insulin mechanism.

Phytates are compounds that exist in all grains and legumes—where they are found in the greatest concentration—as well as in all nuts and seeds. Some animals like rats, for example, have evolved the necessary digestive mechanisms to break down phytates, but humans have not. The consequence is these bind to minerals in the gut and in so doing prevent their absorption into the bloodstream. The regular consumption of grains and legumes—and we believe that many of our first agrarian ancestors lived almost exclusively from grains—leads to severe mineral deficiencies that result in demineralisation of the teeth and bones, exactly as is seen in the remains of these ancestors.

Moreover, any diet consisting primarily of grains (and legumes) as was theirs, will also inevitably be extremely deficient in fat, that is now know to be essential for the proper function of every cell, tissue and organ in the body (especially the brain), but also crucial in the absorption of minerals. So, the combination of a high concentration of phytates together with an almost complete absence of fat, made for an extremely effective demineralisation, which is indeed seen in the smaller statures, weakened bones and teeth, and considerably shortened lifespan of our agrarian ancestors. This obviously still applies today: the more phytates, the faster the demineralisation; and the less fat; the faster the demineralisation.

Finally, insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. There is always a certain concentration of glucose in the blood, and there is also always a certain concentration of insulin. If there isn’t a major metabolic disorder, then the higher the glucose concentration, the higher the insulin concentration. And conversely, the lower the glucose concentration, the lower the insulin concentration. But since the body is programmed to always keep glucose concentrations to a minimum, as soon as there is a simple carbohydrate in our mouth, insulin is secreted into the bloodstream. As the glucose—either from the simple carbohydrates or from the breakdown of starches—enters the bloodstream through the intestinal wall, and as its concentration continues to rise, the pancreas continues to secrete insulin to match the concentration of glucose; but always a little more, just to be on the safe side.

Why? If glucose were good for us, then why should we have this highly sensitive mechanism to always try to get rid of it?

Insulin’s primary role is storage of “excess” nutrients, and regulation of fat storage and fat burning: when insulin is high, there is fat storage; when insulin is low, there is fat burning. It’s very simple. This, in turn, means that insulin is the primary regulator of energy balance, and therefore of metabolism. From an evolutionary perspective, the importance of insulin is perfectly clear. Firstly, it is a mechanism that is common to almost if not all living creatures, from the simplest to the most complex, because all living creatures depend for their survival on a mechanism that allows them to store nutrients when they are available for consumption but not needed by their metabolism, in order to live through periods where food is not available. This is why the role of insulin is so fundamental and why it is a master hormone around which most others adjust themselves. But when glucose levels are higher than a minimum functional threshold, what insulin is trying to do, in fact, is to clear away the glucose circulating in our bloodstream.

Why? Because the body simply does not want large amounts of glucose in circulation. In fact, it wants blood glucose to be low, very low, as low as possible. And beyond this very low threshold of glucose concentration between 60 and 80 mg/dl, it always tries to store it away, to clear it from the bloodstream, to make it go away. It tries to store as much as possible in the muscles and the liver as glycogen, and converts the rest to fat stored away in fat cells. That the body does not want glucose in circulation is most certainly related to the fact that the insulin mechanism even exists: very small amounts of glucose in the bloodstream is essential for life, but large amounts of glucose in the bloodstream is toxic. And all simple and starchy carbohydrates stimulate the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.

Keep in mind that the presence of insulin promotes the storage of glucose, but also of proteins as well as fats. Once more, its role is to store away and deplete the “excess” nutrients in the bloodstream for later times of food scarcity. Once the insulin molecule has delivered its load (glucose, protein or fat) through the receptor on the cell, it can either be released back into circulation or degraded by the cell. Degradation of circulating insulin is done by the liver and kidneys, and a single molecule will circulate for about 1 hour from the time it was released into the bloodstream by the pancreas until it is broken down.

It is important to add that stress stimulates the secretion of stress hormones that in turn stimulates the release from and production of glucose by the liver, just in case we need to sprint or jump on someone to save ourselves. Obviously, the presence of glucose—now not from ingested carbohydrates but from the liver itself—will trigger the secretion of insulin in exactly the same way as if we had eaten sugar. This means that stress mimics the physiological effects of a high sugar diet. And that’s not good. In fact, it’s pretty bad.

Chronically elevated glucose levels lead to chronically elevated insulin levels. And this is much worse. Like for any kind of messenger mechanism—as is insulin, if there are too many messengers repeating the same message over and over again, very soon they are not heard well because their efforts at passing on the message becomes more like background noise. Frustrated that they are not taken seriously, the messengers seek reinforcements in numbers to be able to pass on their message more forcefully. This, however, leads to even more annoyance on the part of the listeners—the message recipients—that now start to simply ignore the message and the messengers. This process continues to gradually escalate up to the point where the terrain is completely flooded by messengers yelling the same thing, but there is no one at all that is listening because they have insulated their windows and doors, and closed them tightly shut.

Here, the messengers are the insulin hormone molecules secreted by the pancreas and coursing throughout the body in our veins and arteries; the message recipients are our cells: muscle tissue, liver and fat cells; and the message itself is “Take this sugar from the bloodstream, and store it away. We don’t want this stuff circulating around.” The desensitisation—the not-listening—to different, progressively higher degrees with time, is called insulin resistance. Finally, the complete ignoring by the cells of the message and the messengers is called type II diabetes.

Furthermore, insulin resistance—not in the muscle, liver and fats cells, but in the brain cells—clearly leads to neurological degradation identified as cognitive impairment, dementia, Alzheimer’s or whatever other terms are used. Because beyond the fact that type II diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are both increasing together at an alarming rate in the US and other western countries, and beyond the fact that diabetics are at least twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to non-diabetics, the basic condition of insulin resistance inevitably leads to chronically elevated glucose concentrations simply because the cells do not allow the glucose to enter. And it is well known that glucose in the blood simply and straight forwardly damages to the lining of the blood vessels, which then leads to plaque formation—the body’s repair mechanism for the damaged cells underneath. Thus, as are the coronary arteries of advanced atherosclerotic heart disease sufferers (and diabetics): riddled with plaques, so are the arteries and blood vessels in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers (and diabetics).

Now, although many claim that these and other issues related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of neurological degradation are still relatively poorly understood, as far as I’m concerned, it’s all the evidence I need: Do you want the vessels supplying blood to the brain fill up with plaque in response to the damage caused by glucose circulating in the bloodstream? Do you want the coronary arteries fill up with plaque in response from the damage caused by glucose circulating in the bloodstream? I certainly don’t. How could anyone?

What do we need to do? Very simple: just eliminate  simple and starchy carbohydrates from the diet. Concentrate on eating a lot of green vegetables, tons of green leafy salad greens; plenty of fat from coconut milk, coconut oil, nuts and seed of all kinds; and a little animal protein from eggs, raw cheese, wild fish and meat (if you chose to do so). Blood sugar will drop to its minimum, insulin will follow suit, and the body’s own repair and maintenance mechanisms will clear out the plaques, repair damaged tissues, degraded unneeded scar tissues and small tumours and recycle these proteins into useful muscle tissue, and many, many more amazing things will happen to the body that it will gradually look and feel younger and stronger as time passes. Sounds too good to be true? Just try it, and you’ll see for yourself. I guarantee it.

What about concentration

Concentration is a complex topic. As with many other things, because we use a single word for it, we can be tricked into believing that it is, in fact, one thing even though it is not. In addition to that, different people will likely mean different things when they use the term “concentration”.

For me, “concentration” means focusing attention onto something, and in the process, excluding as much as we can of everything else that is going on in the field of present experience, deeming them distractions. To concentrate on trying to hear a particular sound, for example, a very faint sound way off in the distance, implies directing our attention towards it with all our mental might. And somehow by doing this it is implied that we have to exclude everything else that is happening, and the better we can exclude everything else the more concentrated we can be.

But focused attention tends to be very fast moving, spontaneously jumping from this thing to that thing to the other thing, continuously and restlessly. This happens so quickly and so continuously that most of us hardly notice it at all. Therefore concentrating requires a great deal of effort and energy. This is why it is so exhausting, and this is also why it cannot possibly be sustained for very long. In fact, there may come a time when we notice that concentrating is becoming harder and harder, or even that we are simply unable to do it for any length of time. And then we start to worry because we feel that we cannot get anything done as we are totally distracted and scattered, continuously and incessantly.

Naturally, our first strategy should be to minimise our own stimulating of this jumping from one thing to another by restricting ourselves to doing the task we have at hand whole heartedly, without interrupting ourselves every few minutes or even seconds to check this last email that just came in to our inbox, or lookup something with Google. For most of us, this kind of scattered multi-tasking will only exacerbate the scattering of attention and gradually prevent us from doing any one thing for longer than a few minutes, if that. To minimise mental jumpiness we should minimise jumpiness in the way we work and function. Just turn off that email notifier, close your inbox, close your web browser, and work on your document or the problem you are trying to solve.

Beyond this basic strategy of minimising scattering behaviours, what if instead of concentrating we simply paid attention. The essential difference is that although paying attention does require a certain kind of effort, it does not require excluding anything at all, it does not require the straining effort of continuously pushing things away to re-focus attention. In fact, the more facets of our immediate experience we include in paying attention—the more we open our attention—the more we can indeed pay close attention to what we are attending to. Since we tend to focus on the thoughts, images, memories and run-on stories and commentaries that we continuously tell ourselves throughout the day and night, since we tend to live in our head, looking out through the eyes as if they were our windows onto this world outside that surrounds and often threatens us in various ways, the means to bring in balance is to spread attention to the body.

Feel the breath in the belly filling our inner cavity with air and keeping us alive in this very moment, and feel it in the belly with the belly, not just once, but breath after breath after breath. Feel the feet on the floor with the feet and toes, whether we are sitting, standing or walking: feeling the weight of the body rolling from the heel to the front of the foot, first on the right foot, then on the left, step after step. Feel the hands holding a cold glass of water, holding a hot cut of tea, holding a book, holding a baby: feeling the weight, the texture, the temperature. Feeling the water running on the skin when we wash the hands over the sink, the body in the shower. Really feel the body with the body. Don’t talk about it to yourself, don’t comment: just feel it.

Doing this—feeling the life of this body with this living body—will gradually and naturally bring our attention into balance, allowing us to function more freely, more easily, and more efficiently, no matter what we are doing. However, on the most basic level, our emotions, moods, tendencies, states and thus the general configurations of attention, are regulated by hormones: messengers coursing through the blood carrying all sorts of signals to organs and tissues. And as it cannot possibly be otherwise because the same blood circulates everywhere, all of these hormones have some influence on our brain. Therefore, for the brain to function properly, and our moods to be stable, and our attitude positive, there is no other way than to re-establish and maintain proper hormonal balance. Hormones, in turn, are primarily regulated by what we eat and what we drink: hormonal balance is rooted in our diet.

One of, if not the most important hormone—the one that has both the greatest direct and indirect influence on the other hormones—is insulin. For this reason, the only way to establish and maintain proper hormonal balance is to make sure that insulin is balanced—that it is by natural means as low as possible.  When insulin is low, everything else naturally falls into place: appetite, energy levels, mood, mental function and sleep. Naturally, it should be needless to say that all chemical stimulants, be it coffee, alcohol, cigarettes or drugs (prescription or not) should be eliminated, as these are all potent hormonal disruptors.

Fortunately, it is very easy to lower insulin levels and keep them low: as insulin levels mirror blood glucose levels, we need simply eliminate refined and starchy carbohydrates from your diet. Unfortunately, for most of us today this is not so easy because we are plainly addicted to carbohydrates.

I use “addicted” with the same strong, negative connotation as it is used in the context of drug use, because it really is so in the sense that our entire hormonal system is regulated by glucose levels and insulin, and although we may think somewhat differently of the powerful urge to smoke a cigarette or have a cup of coffee, an intense craving for chocolate or plain old hunger, all of these are regulated by our hormones whose overall profile is shaped, (distorted rather), by the presence of sugar and insulin. So, we do need to get over our addition to carbohydrates in order to function smoothly and efficiently as stable and balanced individuals. This is done by gradually reducing refined and starchy carbs as much as possible. And there is no minimum: the less of them we consume, the better off we’ll be.

Eliminating these carbohydrates from our diet will most likely lead to the elimination of at least half, if not three quarters of our daily calories. Considering the multitude of detrimental effects carbs have on our health—on our body and mind—this is indeed quite sad, but for most of us it is true. So what do we replace these empty calories with? Fats, and mineral and enzyme rich foods.

Fat is not only the constituent of every membrane of every cell in our body, but it is also the cellular fuel of choice. Therefore, fat should rightly be our main source of calories—at least 50% of them (I personally aim for 70% of my calories from fat). What kinds of fats? Lots of natural, unprocessed, chemically stable saturated fats from coconut oil, butter, eggs and cheese—preferably all organic to minimise the ingestion of toxic substances; monounsaturated fats from olive oil for salad dressings—choose a flavourful, unfiltered, fresh and cold pressed oil; polyunsaturated plant-based omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fats with Vitamin E complex from many different kinds of whole, raw nuts and seeds every day—buy only the best and freshest organic or wild harvested nuts and seeds; and polyunsaturated animal-based omega-3 fats with the vital Vitamins A and D from eggs, fish (for those who eat some), and krill oil supplements—these are absolutely essential for optimal health. Omega-3 fats are really important but needed only in small amounts. They should also be consumed in small amounts because they are very easily oxidised into free radicals. The animal omega-3 fats are particularly important for proper brain function.

Cholesterol is essential, especially for optimal brain and nerve function because synapses—the connections that allow electrical impulses to travel from one nerve cell to another—are almost entirely made of cholesterol. Moreover, most hormones are also made from it as cholesterol is used as their building block. Therefore, we must consume plenty of cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs, as well as plenty of cholesterol synthesis-promoting foods such as the good saturated fats mentioned above.

Minerals basically make up the solids of the body, and in this respect, it is vital to replenish them on a daily basis through the foods we eat: nuts, seeds and vegetables, (sea vegetable are the richest of all). And for vegetables, the greener and darker the better. Furthermore, eaten raw these nuts, seeds and vegetables provide plenty of enzymes and anti-oxidants that offer a wide spectrum of remarkable health benefits. It is crucial to keep in mind that all minerals and anti-oxidants are much better absorbed from the small intestine into the bloodstream when there is plenty of fat in the digestive system. In fact, in some cases, the absence of fat prevents the absorption of both minerals and anti-oxidants. I have not included fruit in this discussion because fruits are basically just simple sugars: glucose and fructose, and offer very little in terms of minerals, and phytonutrients compared to most vegetables. All berries, however, fresh or dried, are excellent as they are usually low in sugar, and often very high in anti-oxidant and healthful compounds.

Sometimes, allergies and toxicities such as heavy metal accumulation in the tissues, are at the root of what may appear to be either a mood or neurological disorder. The best way to detoxify and cleanse the body of heavy metals such as mercury is to take chlorella and spirulina supplements on a daily basis, on an empty stomach with plenty of water at least 30 minutes before meals. These have the ability to bind to heavy metals and flush them out of the body through the stools. And as for allergenic compounds, this needs to be investigated be each person individually.

Finally, water is vital for life and health. We must therefore have plenty of it, and drink on an empty stomach first thing in the morning and before meals.

There is no way to address what we may call “concentration problems” without addressing everything about what we eat and drink. Everything relating to brain function is also related to bodily functions and vice versa. Whether we like it or not, and whether we recognise it or not, this bodymind is whole, and mind and body are seamless. This is therefore how it must be taken care of and treated.