Reversing calcification and the miracle of vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is the only known substance that can stop and reverse soft tissue calcification.

If you didn’t stop at the end of that sentence to say Wow to yourself, you should keep reading.

Soft tissue calcification is one of the most serious health problems we face as individuals, as modern societies, and, on a global scale, as a species.  Cardiovascular disease—which leads to heart attacks and strokes, and accounts for nearly half of all deaths in industrialised countries—is a disease of soft tissue calcification: the calcification of our arteries.

Arthritis, of which basically everyone past the age of 40 suffers, and increasingly more with time and with age, is a disease of soft tissue calcification.  It is caused by the calcification of the cartilage in the joints:  the joints of the knees, but also of the shoulders; the joints of the hips, but also of the wrists; the joints of the elbows, but also of the feet and the toes; the cartilage between the vertebrae of the neck and the spine all the way down the back, but also of the hands and of the fingers.

Soft tissue calcification also causes kidney stones and kidney disease.  How many people above the age of 60 don’t have kidney problems?  Hardly any.  And how many young men and women in their 20s and 30s already have kidney stones and kidney dysfunction?  More and more every year.

Every one of the processes generally associated with ageing, from heart disease and stroke, to Alzheimer’s and dementia, to arthritis and kidney disease, to stiffness in the joints and muscles, but also to the wrinkling of the skin, is intimately linked to soft tissue calcification.

And now, let me repeat the sentence with which we opened:  Vitamin K2 is the only known substance that can stop and reverse soft tissue calcification.  It is really remarkable.

Maybe you didn’t know about calcification.  And so, maybe you are wondering why it is such a major and widespread problem, why it affects everyone no matter where we are or what we do.  It’s a good question.  But because we know that only vitamin K2 can prevent this from happening, we already have our answer:  soft tissue calcification is a major and widespread problem because our intake of vitamin K2 is inadequate to provide protection from calcification.

Naturally, the next question is why?  Why is our intake of vitamin K2 so inadequate?  If it is such a crucial essential nutrient, we would surely not be here as a species if intake had always been so inadequate.  Looking at things the other way around, if we are so dependent on adequate K2 intake for staying healthy, this must necessarily mean that we evolved having plenty of it in our food supply.  What’s so different now?

To answer this question with some level of detail—meaning with an explanation more extensive than just saying that it’s industrialisation that stripped our food supply of vitamin K2 as it has for all the essential nutrients to a greater or lesser extent—we have to understand what K2 is, how it’s made, and where it’s found in food.

The short answer is that K2 is found in the fat of pastured animals that graze on fresh green grass, and produced from vitamin K1 by certain kinds of bacteria in their gut.

The longer answer is that vitamin K2 is a family of compounds called menaquinones, ranging from MK-4 to MK-13 depending on their molecular structure.  These compounds are derived from the plant analog, the sister compound, vitamin K1, called phylloquinone, and found in chlorophyll-rich plant foods.  Phylloquinone is consumed by the pastured animal, it makes its way into their intestines, and there it is transformed by the bacteria of the animal’s intestinal flora.  The resulting menaquinone is then stored in the fat cells of the animal as well as in the fat of their milk if they are milk-producing.  Consuming these animal fats in which vitamin K2 has been concentrated will provide this precious essential micronutrient.

If the grazing animal does not feed on green grass, they get no vitamin K1.  If they get no vitamin K1, their gut flora is not only compromised and negatively altered with respect to what it should be if they were consuming the grass they have evolved eating, but it produces no vitamin K2.  If their gut flora produces no vitamin K2, their fat and milk will contain no vitamin K2, and neither their offspring nor any person consuming products derived from the animal will get any vitamin K2.  Hence, no grass feeding, no vitamin K2 in the animal’s fat.

international_dairy_week_banner

It is most natural that grass-eating animals should be grazing on fresh green grass in open pastures.  And yet, it is rather rare.  But without green grass, there is no vitamin K1.  And without vitamin K1 there can be no vitamin K2.

Maybe you’ve already thought ahead, and wondered since it is bacteria that produces vitamin K2 from vitamin K1 in the guts of grazing animals, can’t we make vitamin K2 without the need for grass-fed animals to do it for us?  Yes, it is possible.  Fermented vegetables and dairy products like cheese can also contain vitamin K2.  In fact, in the case of cheese, there is a lot more in the finished hard cheese than in the milk used to make it.  The amount varies widely because it depends on the kind of bacteria.  For dairy products, hard cheeses like Gouda have the most, and for plant foods, even if fermented veggies have a little, the Japanese fermented soybean snack natto is the ultimate source of K2.

As we all know, pastured meat and dairy is not easy to come by in our modern world.  It’s actually quite hard to find.  Our supermarkets and food stores are flooded with industrially produced meat and dairy from animals that have never seen a blade of grass—grass-grazing animals living their entire lives indoors, in stalls, fed and fattened exclusively on grains, corn, and soybeans.  This is how we have stripped our food supply of vitamin K2, and this is why is this a modern phenomenon—most of our grand-parents were still eating pastured meats and animal foods.

And if this wasn’t enough of a blow to vitamin K2 status, trans-fats, which are formed when vegetable oils are hydrogenated to be made saturated and stable (for long shelf life), and which most of us consume in great quantities, contain a K2 analog called DHP (dihydrophylloquinone) that displaces the little K2 that might has found its way into our diet.

It is for all these reasons that soft tissue calcification is so widespread.  And you have at this point what you need to know in order to first stop the process by which your soft tissues are getting increasingly calcified, and then, in time, to remove the accumulated calcium from these tissues.  It’s simple: healthy grass-fed animals produce yellow butter, yellow yolks, and yellowish fat;  you need to eat plenty of pastured animal foods, making sure you eat the fat in which vitamin K2 is concentrated, and, to be sure you have enough to reverse the already present calcification, take K2 supplements.  And this might be enough for you.

If it is, you can head to your browser to find and order some K2 supplements (I currently get mine, it’s a 500 mcg per tablet, from Phoenix Nutrition).  Also, we need to know that the two main forms of K2 are MK-4 (with four double bonds) and MK-7 (with seven).  The first is the one generally found in animal fats that haven’t been fermented, while the second is the product of bacterial fermentation.  Hence, meat and butter contain mostly MK-4, whereas natto, sauerkraut, and cheese contain mostly MK-7.

There is an important difference between these two forms of K2 in terms of their effects inside the body which has to do with their half-life, not in the sense of radioactivity, but in the sense of duration of biological activity in the body.  MK-4 will be in circulation at therapeutic doses for a number of hours, while MK-7 remains in circulation between 24 and 48 hours.  Therefore, to be safe, we need to eat grass fed meat and butter, and take MK-7 supplements (I take 1000 mcg), always after a meal with plenty of fat to maximize absorption.

If you are curious to find out more, if you want to know how menaquinone does this, how vitamin K2 does its miracles inside the body, then we need to take a closer look at the biochemistry of calcium metabolism.

There are three proteins found in bone matrix that undergo gamma-carboxylation via Vitamin K-dependent enzymes: matrix-gla-protein (MGP) (Price et al., 1983), osteocalcin (bone gla-protein, BGP) (Price et al., 1976), both of which are made by bone cells, and protein S (made primarily in the liver but also made by osteogenic cells) (Maillard et al., 1992) (Table V).  The presence of di-carboxylic glutamyl (gla) residues confers calcium-binding properties to these proteins.

MGP is found in many connective tissues and is highly expressed in cartilage.  It appears that the physiological role of MGP is to act as an inhibitor of mineral deposition.  MGP-deficient mice develop calcification in extraskeletal sites such as in the aorta (Luo et al., 1997).  Interestingly, the vascular calcification proceeds via transition of vascular smooth muscle cells into chondrocytes, which subsequently hypertrophy (El-Maadawy et al., 2003).  In humans, mutations in MGP have been also been associated with excessive cartilage calcification (Keutel syndrome, OMIM 245150).

Whereas MGP is broadly expressed, osteocalcin is somewhat bone specific, although messenger RNA (mRNA) has been found in platelets and megakaryocytes (Thiede et al., 1994).  Osteocalcin-deficient mice are reported to have increased bone mineral density compared with normal (Ducy et al., 1996).  In human bone, it is concentrated in osteocytes, and its release may be a signal in the bone-turnover cascade (Kasai et al., 1994).  Osteocalcin measurements in serum have proved valuable as a marker of bone turnover in metabolic disease states.  Interestingly, it has been recently suggested that osteocalcin also acts as a hormone that influences energy metabolism by regulating insulin secretion, beta-cell proliferation, and serum triglyceride (Lee et al., 2007).

These are the first three paragraphs of the chapter Noncollagenous Bone Matrix Proteins in Principles of Bone Biology (3rd ed.) which I found it on the web when I was searching for more info on the biochemical action of menaquinone.

And now, here is my simple explanation of how things work:

The players are the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2;  three special proteins called osteocalcin, matrix gla protein, and protein S;  and an enzyme called vitamin K-dependent carboxylase.

First, vitamin D makes calcium available by allowing its absorption from the intestines into the bloodstream.  This is vital for life and health.  You know that severe vitamin D deficiency is extremely dangerous and develops into the disease that deforms bones called rickets.  Milder forms of vitamin D deficiency are much harder to detect without a blood test, but can and do lead to a huge spectrum of disorders and health problems.  However, without vitamin K2, ample or even just adequate levels of vitamin D will inevitably lead to increased soft tissue calcification.

Vitamins A and D make bone-building cells (osteoblasts) and teeth-building cells (odontoblasts) produce osteocalcin (also known as bone gla protein or BGP) and matrix gla protein (or MGP).  This is key because it is these proteins that will transport the calcium.

Vitamin K2, through the action of the vitamin K-dependent carboxylase enzyme, activates bone and matrix gla proteins by changing their molecular structure which then allows them to bind and transport calcium.

Once activated, bone gla protein brings calcium (and other minerals) into the bones;  and matrix gla protein takes calcium out of the soft tissues like smooth muscle cells of arteries, but also organs, cartilage, skeletal muscles, and skin.  Without this K2-dependent activation, BGP and MGP remain inactive, and the calcium accumulates in soft tissues all over the body.

What completes the act, is that vitamin K2 activates protein S which oversees and helps the immune system clear out the stuff of arterial plaques that remains once the calcium making the plaques structurally stable has been taken out.  And, amazingly, protein S does this without triggering a large inflammatory response.

Even though it is quite straight forward when explained in this way, this understanding of vitamin K2 and its action in the body is really quite recent: in the last 20 years or so.  For one thing, it was only 10 years ago that Chris Masterjohn solved the 60-year old mystery of Weston A. Price’s X-Factor, correctly identifying it for the first time as vitamin K2. (You can read that for yourself here.)  And although some laboratory studies and experiments on vitamin K were done several decades ago, the majority are from the last 10 years (take a look at the references in Masterjohn’s paper.)

We’ll stop here for now.  But we’ll come back to vitamin K2 because there are so many other amazing things it does for our health.

This article was inspired by Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue’s book entitled Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox.

Join our patrons today!

Treating arthritis I: super-hydration, alkalisation and magnesium

This is entitled Treating arthritis I, because I want to highlight that it is the first phase of what I think is of the most fundamental importance for people suffering from any form of arthritis. It should really be entitled Treating and preventing any and all disease conditions in everyone I, because these measures are truly fundamental to optimal health in all respects and for everyone throughout life. So even if you don’t have arthritis, you should read on.

This first phase should be viewed as one during which you train yourself to acquire new habits. It is not a treatment per se, but rather a prescription for the basis of a new daily rhythm where hydrating and cleansing the body are of the most fundamental importance. In the end, it is really very easy and very simple. It’s just that we need to get used to it.

Arthritis is a word that means joint (arthro) inflammation (itis). There are tons of different types of arthritis (in the hundreds), but all of them are manifestations of the same thing in different joints and somewhat different ways. And the symptoms: the stiffness, the breakdown of cartilage and other tissues, the ossification or rather calcification, the crippling pain, are all related to the inflammation. But what if there were no inflammation? Would there be no arthritis?

what-arthritis-pain-feels-like-722x406

Illustration of painful, inflamed, arthritic joints. (Image taken from Everyday Health)

Without inflammation there is no tendonitis where a tendon gets inflamed like in the well known tennis elbow. Without inflammation of the lining of the arteries there is no plaque and no atherosclerosis, and thus no heart disease and no stroke. Without inflammation there is no Multiple Sclerosis (MS), the inflammation of the myelin sheath that covers nerves, and no Crohn’s disease either, inflammation in the gut. We could go on and on like this because inflammation is at the heart of almost every single ailment from which we suffer. The reason is simple: inflammation is the body’s way of responding to injury in our tissues.

We sprain an ankle and it swells up by the inflammation that follows the partial tearing of ligament and tendon: this is essential for bringing plenty of blood carrying all the specialised molecules and nutrients necessary to repair the injured tissues. What is the best course of action? Just rest and allow the ankle to heal. The more we use it, the slower the healing will be, the longer the inflammation will last, and the more we will increase the chances of causing some more serious or even permanent damage to these fragile tissues. Without the body’s inflammatory response mechanisms, healing would be impossible.

In fact, repair and growth would also be impossible; muscle growth would be impossible. The process is rather simple: stress and tear (injury) followed by inflammation and repair or growth. This applies to body builders who develop enormous muscle mass over years of intense daily workouts, but it also applies to a baby’s legs kicking and tiny hands squeezing your index finger tightly. It applies to their learning to hold their head up and pulling themselves to their feet with the edge of the sofa to then take those first few steps. It applies to me, to you and to every animal. So, once again: repair and growth of tissue depends on the body’s inflammatory response mechanisms. In a well-functioning metabolism, this process takes place continuously in a daily cycle regulated by activity during the day and rest during the night: stress, tear and injury to tissues during activity; repair, growth and cleaning during the night.

Difficulties arise when inflammation becomes chronic. Either a low-grade inflammation that we can ignore completely and go about our business until it manifests in the form of a serious health concern, or a sustained,  sub-acute state of inflammation that does indeed make it difficult to go about our business, but that we can nonetheless learn to ignore or cope with hoping that it will eventually disappear. Unfortunately, this is how it is for most of us to a greater or lesser extent, whether we are aware of it or not. If it weren’t the case, there wouldn’t be hundreds of millions of people suffering from arthritis the world over, and atherosclerosis-caused heart attacks and strokes would not be claiming the lives of more than one quarter of the population of industrialised countries.

As an aside, for those of you who are interested in measurements and quantifiable effects, among the best markers of chronic inflammation are C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6). The number of white blood cells relate to immune response, and if elevated mean the body is fighting something. Elevated concentrations of Ferritin and Homocysteine (HcY) are also associated with chronic inflammation much elevated risks of heart attack and stroke. You can easily get a blood test to check those numbers among other important ones (see Blood analysis: important numbers).

So what is it that causes a person to develop arthritis at 50 or even 40 years of age, while another person only begins to have mild signs of it at 80? What is it that causes a teenager to develop the crippling Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) at 16, while none of her friends do? Why does only 1 in 400 develop Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) or bamboo spine, characterised by the chronic inflammation of the spine, the ossification and gradual fusion of the vertebrae? Who knows?

But, for example, approximately 90% of AS patients express the HLA-B27 genotype and exhibit the HLA-B27 antigen, which is also expressed by Klebsiella bacteria. Could it be the bacteria that causes the damage and injury to spinal tissues and structure, which then follows by inflammation that over time becomes chronic, and since the bacteria remains and continues its damaging activities, the inflammation continues to grow together with all the awful symptoms? Maybe. The debilitating effects of certain bacteria and viruses such as Epstein Barr or HPV for example, that persist in the bloodstream over years and decades, are well known. And the chronic inflammation that results of the activity of infectious agents such as these is also a well established effect, even claimed by some to be among the primary causes of arterial disease (see Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You in the Bibliography page.

But whether it is AS or arterial disease, MS or tendonitis, what is common to all is inflammation, and what needs to be addressed are the causes of the inflammation, not the inflammation itself, which is what we do with anti-inflammatory medication. The inflammation is the body’s response to the injury. What we need to do is find and stop the process causing damage and injury to our tissues, and once the tissues have healed, the inflammation will disappear of itself.

There are many things that cause injury to our tissues, and we will look at all the most important ones in greater detail in subsequent posts, but it is fundamental to address first order issues first. Among the most fundamental issues of all are therefore those with which we concern ourselves in the first phase of treatment:  super-hydration, alkalisation and magnesium. But the truth is that these fundamental elements are what everyone concerned with optimising their health should actually concern themselves with first, before everything else.

Super-hydration

Chronic dehydration is at the root of so many health problems that it is hard to know where to begin. I’ve written a few posts on the importance of water that you can identify by their title. If you’ve read them and want to know more, you should read Your Body’s Many Cries for Water (see Bibliography). In relation to arthritis, however, water is not only the primary means to reduce inflammation of stressed cells and tissues, but it is also what gives our cartilage suppleness and flexibility.

Cartilage a very simple tissue. It is water, 85% in healthy cartilage, down to 70% or less in compromised cartilage and in most older people, held within a matrix of collagen and other proteins that consists of a single type of cell called chondrocyte. These cells have very special electrical properties that give cartilage its amazing resistance to friction and pressure. Without sufficient water, however, the chondrocytes cannot work correctly, cartilage dries out and breaks down, and calcification grows.

What is totally under-appreciated is that because cartilage does not have a blood supply, nerves or lymphatic system, water makes it into the cartilage through the porous end of the bone to which it is stuck, and the only way water can make it into the bone in order to get to that porous end to which the cartilage is attached is through the blood that makes it into the bone.

Since there is, within the body’s functions, a definite hierarchy in water usage in which the digestive system is naturally the first served since it is through it that water enters, even the mildest dehydration can be felt in the function of the most water-sensitive tissues like those of the lungs (90% water) and muscles (85% water), (something any athlete who has drank alcohol the night before a race or even training run or ride will have noticed), it is unfortunately often the cartilage that suffer the most.

Dehydration will make it such that the soft conjunctive tissues at the ends of our bones, in every joint, and that allow us to move will not get the water supply they need to remain well hydrated, supple and flexible. This is really the most important point to remember. What is also highly under-appreciated is the vital importance of silica in the form of silicic acid in the growth, maintenance, repair and regeneration of all connective tissues, including and maybe especially bones and cartilage (here is a good article about it). Silicic acid should therefore be included in all arthritis treatment programmes.

How do we super-hydrate? By drinking more, as much as possible on an empty stomach, and balancing water with salt intake. You should read How much salt, how much water, and our amazing kidneys, and make sure you understand the importance of a plentiful intake of water, an adequate intake of salt, and the crucial balance of these for optimal cellular hydration and function. Detailed recommendations are given below.

Alkalisation

Chronic acidosis, some would argue, is not only at the root of innumerable health complaints and problems, but that it actually is the root of all health disorders. The reading of Sick and Tired, The pH Miracle and Alkalise or Die is, I  believe, enough to convince most readers that that premise is in fact true. Not surprisingly though, it is not possible to alkalise bodily tissues without optimal hydration. And so we immediately understand that chronic dehydration is the primary cause of chronic and ever increasing tissue acidosis. Therefore we address both simultaneously, and in fact, cannot do otherwise.

Briefly, what is essential to understand is that healthy cells thrive in an alkaline environment, and indeed require an alkaline environment to thrive. Conversely, pathogens such as moulds, yeasts, fungi, viruses and bacteria thrive in acidic environments. Healthy cells thrive in well oxygenated aerobic environments, whereas pathogens thrive in anaerobic environments deprived of oxygen. Since this is so, we can say, crudely speaking, that if the tissues and inner environment of the body—its terrain—is alkaline, then pathogens cannot take hold nor develop nor evolve nor survive in it. On the other hand, if the body’s terrain is acidic, then they thrive, proliferate, and overtake it, sometimes slowly and gradually, but sometimes quickly and suddenly, causing sickness and disease.

Everything that we eat and drink has an effect that is either alkalising, acidifying or neutral. This is after digestion, and has little to do with taste. All sweet tasting foods or drinks that contain sugars, for instance, are acidifying. I will write quite a lot more about pH and alkalisation in future posts. For now, we are concerned with alkalising through super-hydration, and this involves drinking alkaline water and green drinks. By the end of phase I, drinking your 2 litres of alkaline water and 2 litres of super-alkalizing green juice should be as second nature to you as brushing the teeth before bed.

Magnesium

As I attempted to express and make evident the importance of magnesium for every cell and cellular process in the body in Why you should start taking magnesium today, and thus show that we all need to take plenty of magnesium daily in order to both attain and maintain optimal health, for someone suffering from arthritis it is extremely important, it is crucial. And the reason is very simple: arthritis is characterised by inflammation, stiffening and calcification. They come together, of course, and it is useless to even wonder if one comes before another. Regardless, the best, most effective, most proven treatment or antidote for inflammation, stiffening and calcification is magnesium.

Magnesium, injected directly into the bloodstream, can almost miraculously stop spasms and convulsions of muscle fibres, and release, practically instantaneously, even the most extreme muscular contraction associated with shock, heart attack and stroke. This is used routinely and very effectively in birthing wards and surgery rooms. Magnesium is the only ion that can prevent calcium from entering and flooding a cell, thereby causing it to die, and magnesium is the best at dissolving non-ionic calcium—the one that deposits throughout the body in tissues and arteries, and over bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments—and allowing all this excess calcium to be excreted: precisely what we must do in treating arthritis.

In addition, magnesium is very effective at chelating (pulling out) both toxic heavy metals like mercury and persistent chemicals that bio-accumulate in blood, brain and other tissues. For too many unfortunately unsuspecting people, heavy metal toxicity is the cause of a plethora of various symptoms, wide-ranging in nature, hard to understand or associate with some known and easily identifiable condition, but that cause them often immense discomfort up to complete disability.

Putting all of this into practice

When you get up in the morning, you go to the bathroom, undress and spray or spread on your legs, arms chest and belly, neck and shoulders, the 20% magnesium chloride solution (4 teaspoons of nigari with 80 ml of water for a total of 20 g in 100 ml of solution). You wash your hands and face well, put your PJs back on, and head to the kitchen to prepare your water and green drinks for the day.

Line up three wide-mouth 1 litre Nalgene bottles. In each one put: 5 drops of alkalising and purifying concentrate (e.g. Dr. Young’s puripHy) and 10 drops of concentrated liquid trace minerals (e.g. Concentrace).

In the first bottle, add 50 ml of the 2% solution of magnesium chloride (made with 4 teaspoons of nigari dissolved in 1 litre of water), 50 ml of aloe vera juice, 20 ml of liquid silicic acid, fill it up with high quality filtered water, shake well to mix, and take your first glass with 1 capsule of Mercola’s Complete Probiotics. You should drink this first litre over the course of about 30 minutes, taking the third or fourth glass with an added 1-2 teaspoons of psyllium husks. (The aloe vera and psyllium husks are to help cleanse the intestines over time.)

In the second and third bottles, add a heaping teaspoon of green juice powder (e.g., Vitamineral Green by HealthForce), 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of fine, grey, unrefined sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of finely ground Ceylon cinnamon, a heaping mini-spoonful of stevia extract powder and a single drop of either orange, lemon or grapefruit high quality, organic, food-grade essential oil. Shake well. One of them you will drink between about 10:00 and 12:00, the other between 15:30 and 17:30. Shake every time you serve yourself a glass or drink directly from the bottle to stir up the solutes in the water. You should take these two bottles with you to work and/or keep them in the fridge until needed: the drink is really nice when it’s cool.

Now that the magnesium has been absorbed through the skin—this takes around 30 minutes, you can go have a shower to rinse off the slight salty residue that feels like when you let sea water dry on your skin without rinsing it off. You should wait at least 30 minutes after you have finished your first litre of water before you eat anything.

By about 10 or 10:30, depending on when you finished breakfast, you should start to drink your first litre of green drink and continue until about 12:00 or 12:30. Make sure you finish drinking 30-45 minutes before you eat. Wait at least couple of hours after eating. Then start drinking the second litre of green drink by about 15:30 or 16:00 until about 17:30 or 18:00. Again, make sure you stop drinking always at least 30 minutes before eating. Depending on when you eat dinner, you should drink a half litre of plain water 30 minutes before the meal. The general rules for drinking you should follow are: 1) always drink at least 500 ml up to 30 minutes before eating, and 2) do not drink during or within 2 hours after the meal.

Before going to bed, take a small glass of water with 50 ml of 2% magnesium chloride solution. And that’s it for the day. And tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, keeping to this schedule, until it becomes perfectly natural and customary. After four weeks, you should do another blood test and see how the numbers compare to those before starting. In addition, if you are interested in this from the scientific standpoint, or just curious, or both, you should get Doppler imaging of your coronary and cerebral arteries, as well as an MRI of the joints in your body, including the spine, before you start and at then end of every phase. It will also be extremely informative to test and record the pH of at least your first urine every morning; any additional urine pH readings will be very useful and tracing the progress of the gradual de-acidification of your tissues and the days and the weeks progress. And finally, the transdermal magnesium therapy (putting the 20% solution on your skin), should last 6-8 weeks. By that time, you intracellular magnesium stores should have been replenished. We continue taking the 2% solution indefinitely, and use transdermal magnesium once in a while (once or twice per week).

The great advantage of the transdermal magnesium is that almost all of it is absorbed into your tissues and bloodstream. The oral magnesium is absorbed a level between 25 and 50%, and this depends primarily on the amount of magnesium in the blood when you take it. This is why it is very important to take it first thing in the morning when magnesium is at its lowest, and then in the latter half of the afternoon and before bed, those times when concentrations are lowest. You don’t have to worry about too much magnesium because any excess will be excrete in the urine and faeces.

You should just worry about not enough: that’s the real problem. Incidentally, the fact that almost all the magnesium that you put on your skin is absorbed underlines the importance of carefully choosing what we put on our skin. Because in the same way, anything we put on it will be absorbed into our system. So putting coconut and almond oil is just as good for our skin and our health, as it is bad to put on creams and lotions with synthetic chemicals and compounds that all make their way into our blood. General rule: if you cannot eat it, don’t put it on your skin.

Update: read these Updated recommendations for magnesium supplementation.

That’s it for the first phase: mostly drinking a lot more than you used to, with a few special tweaks to what and when you drink. I haven’t mentioned anything about food even though you can obviously know from the rest of the articles on the blog that this will come in time: in the second phase. We first deal with the first order terms, then the second order terms, and after that with the third and fourth order terms. That’s very important to grasp: what has the most and what has the least impact and thus importance.

If you enjoyed this article, please Like and share it to help other people.

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.

Minerals and bones, calcium and heart attacks

Asking Robert Thompson, M.D., author of The Calcium Lie, what causes atherosclerosis and heart disease, he would most likely say that it is the accumulation of calcium in the veins and arteries, but also everywhere else in the body, that leads to a hardening of the tissues, and eventually to the complete stiffening of the blood vessels that inevitably leads to heart attack. He might add that this calcification of the body comes from an imbalance in the amount of calcium that is consumed compared with that of all the other essential minerals required for proper bodily function.

He would also be quick to point out that based on a huge database of about one million results of detailed hair mineral analysis, about 90% of the population is deficient in most if not all elements of the spectrum of essential minerals we need for optimal health, while being over-calcified. Dr Thompson would probably also say that a majority of the conditions that lead to disease, no matter what form it takes, are rooted in mineral deficiencies. Naturally, given that all deficiencies grow with time unless something is done to address the problem, how can this fundamental issue not be related to ageing.

Just as the amount of water in our body and cells tends to decrease with age, so do both bone mineral content and density, as well as the specific hormones like calcitonin and parathyroid hormone. Calcitonin helps fix calcium in the bones, and parathyroid hormone removes calcium from bones when it is required for other purposes. Their main roles is to regulate the amount of calcium to fix in our bones, and their delicate balance depends on factors mostly related to diet and nutrition, but we know that it is intimately linked to Vitamin D levels.

We also know that uric acid tends to accumulate in the tissues throughout the body with time, making every soft tissue stiffer and making our every movement more difficult and painful as we get older, and that an acidic environment tends to leach out minerals from the bones. So what causes bone loss: dropping levels of hormones, dropping levels of Vitamin D, increasing levels of uric acid, increasing mineral deficiencies, all of these, other things?

Thompson repeats throughout his book: “bones are not made of calcium, they are made of minerals”. What minerals? Calcium and phosphorus, yes, but also sodium, sulfur, magnesium, potassium, copper, iodine, zinc, iron, boron, and more. Calcium accounts for about 30% of the mineral content of bone, but phosphate (PO4) makes up about 50% of the bone mass. And in fact, what makes bone hard is calcium phosphate Ca3(PO4)2(OH)2, which immediately shows that it is the balance of calcium and phosphorous intake and absorption—mostly regulated by Vitamin D, which is of vital importance for bone strength and rigidity.

However, it is essential to understand that it is the presence and balance of all of the 84 essential minerals found in unrefined sea or rock salt that are required for optimal overall health, which includes the health of our bones. And remember that table salt contains 97.5% sodium chloride and 2.5% chemical additives, whereas unrefined sea salt from the French Atlantic contains 84% sodium chloride, 14% moisture, and 2% trace-minerals (follow the links to see the chemical analysis of Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan, and a comparison of the two).

Therefore, one of our primary aims when choosing the foods we eat should be to maximise mineral content. Since Nature’s powerhouses of nutrition, the foods with the highest mineral content and nutritional density are seeds, nuts, sea vegetables, and dark green leafy vegetables, in that order, these are the foods that we should strive to eat as much of as we can in order to always provide the body with maximum amount of minerals that we can. Unrefined sea or rock salt should also be eaten liberally for a total of at least 1-2 teaspoons per day with 2-4 litres of water. (And no, salt does not cause hypertension or any other health problems of any kind, and never has.)

Now, maximising our intake of minerals through our eating of mineral-dense foods, how can we ensure maximum absorption of these minerals? Two key elements are Vitamin D, and fats, especially saturated fats.

Vitamin D is so extremely important for so many things that I simply refer you to the non-profit Vitamin D Council web page for long hours of reading on everything related to Vitamin D. I will just quote the following as an extremely short introduction to it:

Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but one of the oldest prohormones, having been produced by life forms for over 750 million years. Phytoplankton, zooplankton, and most animals that are exposed to sunlight have the capacity to make vitamin D.

In humans, vitamin D is critically important for the development, growth, and maintenance of a healthy body, beginning with gestation in the womb and continuing throughout the lifespan. Vitamin D’s metabolic product, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (calcitriol), is actually a secosteroid hormone that is the key which unlocks binding sites on the human genome. The human genome contains more than 2,700 binding sites for calcitriol; those binding sites are near genes involved in virtually every known major disease of humans.

Vitamin D is one of, if not the most important substance for optimal health. I take between 25000 and 50000 IU per day, which is approximately the amount produced from about 30 minutes of full body exposure to midday sun for a caucasian. But for the purpose of this discussion on minerals and bones, it is enough to know that vitamin D plays an crucial role in regulating how much calcium and phosphorus is absorbed in the intestine and ultimately fixed in the bones.

On fats there is so much to say that it will have to be for another post. You could read The truth about saturated fats by Mary Enig, PhD, on this coconut oil website that has links to many other interesting articles on fats. And remember that coconut oil is by far the best fat to consume, but more on this another time. But once more, the essential thing to remember is that the more fat there is in the intestines, the more minerals (and antioxidants) will be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Now, what is ageing if it is not the gradual decay of the body and its systems. Given that everything in the body is constituted and constructed from the food we eat and water we drink, isn’t it utterly obvious that in order to maintain the bodymind as healthy as possible for as long as possible it is absolutely essential to ensure that it is always perfectly hydrated by drinking plenty of water before meals, maximise the nutrition density and mineral content of the foods we eat, and minimise intake of harmful substances that disrupt or damage the delicate inner workings of this bodymind? I certainly think so.