Why the Blood-Brain Barrier Is So Critical (and How to Maintain It)

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You all know about intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut.” The job of the gut lining is to be selectively permeable, allowing helpful things passage into the body and preventing harmful things from getting in. Nutrients get through, toxins and pathogens do not. Leaky gut describes the failure of this vetting process. But what about “leaky brain”?

A similarly dynamic barrier lies between the brain and the rest of the body: the blood-brain barrier. Since the brain is the seat of all the conscious machinations and subconscious processes that comprise human existence, anything attempting entry receives severe scrutiny. We want to admit glucose, amino acids, fat-soluble nutrients, and ketones. We want to reject toxins, pathogens, and errant immune cells. Think of the blood-brain barrier like the cordon of guards keeping the drunken rabble from spilling over into the VIP room in a nightclub.

The blood-brain barrier (or BBB) can get leaky, just like the gut lining. This is bad.

A compromised BBB has been implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and vascular dementia.

More generally, the BBB regulates passage of inflammatory cytokines into the brain, prevents fluctuations in serum composition from affecting brain levels, and protects against environmental toxins and infectious pathogens from reaching the brain. A leaky BBB means the floodgates are open for all manner of unpleasantries to enter the brain.

Some pathogens even wield chemical weaponry that blasts open the blood-brain barrier, giving them—and anything else in the vicinity—access to the brain. To prepare for that, you must support the integrity of your blood-brain barrier.

How?

Optimize your B vitamin intake

In adults with normal B vitamin levels, mild cognitive impairment, high homocysteine levels, and a leaky BBB, taking vitamins B12, B6, and B9 (folate) restored the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.

Review this post and make sure you’re getting the B vitamins you need. Primal folks tend to overlook them.

Nourish your gut

A leaky gut accompanies, and maybe causes, a leaky brain. Funny how that works, eh?

It’s a rodent study, but it’s quite illustrative: a fecal transplant from healthy mice with pristine BBB integrity to unhealthy mice with leaky BBB and pathogen-filled guts restored the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.

DIY fecal transplants are an extreme intervention. Until that becomes more feasible, simply eating more prebiotic fiber, experimenting with resistant starch, taking a quality probiotic, and eating fermented foods on a regular basis will get you most of the way there.

Eat plenty of magnesium

Okay, Sisson. Enough already with the magnesium. We get it! But magnesium can attenuate BBB permeability, even if you inject an agent explicitly designed to induce leaky blood-brain barriers.

This is yet another reason to eat enough magnesium-rich foods (like spinach, almonds, blackstrap molasses, winter squash), drink magnesium-rich mineral water (I love Gerolsteiner, but you can also just go down to the local Euro food market and check the labels for high-Mg waters), or take a good magnesium supplement (anything ending in “-ate” like magnesium glycinate or citrate).

Don’t eat a 40% cocoa butter diet

Rodents given a 40% saturated fat (from cocoa butter) diet experienced elevated BBB permeability.

Except wait: The remaining 60% of calories was split up between white sugar, wheat starch, casein, and dextrin (PDF). So this isn’t the type of 40% SFA diet you folks are eating.

Except wait again: Adding in either aged garlic extract, alpha lipoic acid (ALA), niacin, or nicotinamide completely abolished the increase in permeability.

It looks like a refined diet high in saturated fat and sugar/starch and absent any phytonutrient-rich plant foods like garlic or antioxidant supplements like ALA will cause elevated BBB permeability (in rodents). I’m not sure I’d recommend a 40% SFA diet either way, however. Balance is probably better.

Use phytonutrient-rich plants and spices

Recall the study from the last section where some garlic extract was enough to eliminate the bad BBB effects of a refined lab diet. That’s because aged garlic extract is particularly rich in phytonutrients with strong antioxidant effects. What about other fruits, vegetables, and spices with different phytonutrients—do those also help BBB function?

Curcumin (from turmeric) certainly helps. Astragalus root, used in many ancient medical traditions, can help. Sulforaphane, from cruciferous veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, shows promise.

Drink coffee and/or tea

As phytonutrient-rich plants, they technically belong in the previous section, but coffee and tea are so special that they deserve their own space. Both are sources of caffeine, a noted protector of BBB integrity.

Supplements can help

Supplement forms of the aforementioned nutrients are worth a look. Also:

Alpha-GPC (a type of choline that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier) has been shown to reduce BBB permeability in hypertensive rats.

Inositol (which you can get from foods like egg yolks but not in very large amounts) improves BBB integrity. Another option is to consume phytate-containing foods; if you’ve got the right gut bacteria, you can convert phytate into inositol.

Berberine, noted anti-diabetic compound, reduces BBB permeability and increases resistance to brain damage following head trauma.

Control your blood pressure

Both acute and chronic hypertension increase BBB permeability. This means you’ll have to control your sleep and stress. You’ll need to reduce insulin resistance. Eat dark chocolate (the horror). Figure out if you’re salt-sensitive (you may even have to increase salt intake if it’s too low). Get enough magnesium (yes, again) and potassium.

Sleep

Sleep really is everything. You can’t avoid it, and if you skimp on it, things fall apart. The blood-brain barrier is no exception: sleep restriction impairs BBB function and increases permeability.

If you can’t stick to the bedtime you know is ideal, a little (0.25-0.5mg) melatonin can help set your circadian rhythm. Plus, supplementary melatonin may also preserve BBB integrity.

Don’t drink too much alcohol

Alcohol is a tough one. While I just wrote a big post explaining the merits of wine consumption, ethanol is undoubtedly a poison in high doses, and I derived real benefits when I gave it up for a few months. One way alcohol exerts its negative effects is by inducing BBB dysfunction. This allows both the pleasant effects of alcohol (low-dose ethanol migrating across the BBB and directly interacting with neurons, triggering endorphins and interacting with GABA receptors) and the negative effects (high-dose ethanol migrating across the BBB to damage the neurons, leaving the door open long enough for immune cells to sneak in and cause all sorts of trouble).

Stimulate your vagal nerve

After a traumatic brain injury or stroke, the resultant increase in BBB permeability floods the brain with inflammatory cytokines, causes swelling and neuronal death, and worsens the prognosis. Stimulating the vagal nerve after such an injury decreases the BBB permeabilityand improves the prognosis.

One treatment for epilepsy is to wear vagal nerve stimulators which send light electronic pulses to the nerve, akin to a pacemaker for the brain. Easier options include humming, cold water exposure (even just splashing the face can help), singing, chanting, meditating, deep breathing, coughing, moving your bowels (or summoning the same abdominal pressure required for said movement; girding your core for a heavy squat or deadlift should also work along the same lines), and many more.

Perhaps an entire post on the vagal nerve is in order. It’s an interesting area that impacts more than just the BBB.

Stop eating so often

Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. When you haven’t eaten in a while, ghrelin tells you that it’s time to eat. It also increases blood-brain barrier stability after (again) a traumatic brain injury.

So, never eat? No. But make sure to feel actual hunger. It’s the best spice, and it confers a whole host of other benefits, including better blood-brain barrier function. Heck, try intermittent fasting for the ultimate boost to ghrelin.

You might notice that a lot of the studies I cite involve traumatic brain injuries to rodents. Dropping a weight on a rat’s head or triggering a stroke in a mouse are two of the most reliable ways to induce BBB permeability. Brain injuries are also quite common in humans, and the BBB permeability that results is a major therapeutic target, but we can’t study it so easily in people. While acute and chronic BBB permeability are different beasts, and mice are not men, they operate along the same rough pathway.

That’s about it for today, folks. I hope you feel encouraged and able to fortify your blood-brain barrier. Don’t wait for cognitive decline to set in. Get started now.

How do you improve the integrity of your blood-brain barrier? Have you even considered it prior to today?

Thanks for reading!

Written By: By Mark Sisson  Article Source: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-the-blood-brain-barrier-is-so-critical-and-how-to-maintain-it/

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The real truth: antidepressants actually deplete these 3 crucial nutrients for the brain

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I experienced this firsthand.

When I took antidepressants, I felt better initially.

But then something just didn’t feel right.

I started suffering from cognitive decline, something I hadn’t experienced before.

I eventually got fed up with the medication and tried getting off them.

 But then I felt remarkably worse – much worse than I did before starting the medication.

 

Doctors simply told me I was experiencing a relapse of my depression and anxiety.

But that couldn’t be it, because not only were my symptoms much worse, but I also had new symptoms – symptoms I didn’t experience before I went on medication.

So, I did some research and discovered something called “drug-induced nutrient depletion”.

Studies show that pharmaceutical drugs can deplete your body of critical nutrients through multiple mechanisms, including increased excretion of nutrients, and impaired digestion, absorption and storage of nutrients. Over time, nutritional deficiencies can develop. And these deficiencies can cause additional symptoms and increase side effects. In fact, many drug “side effects” are simply nutritional deficiencies.

This is clearly a problem because nutrient deficiencies can be one of the main causes of mental illness. Being prescribed medication that further deplete nutrients from your body will make you worse. It’s an epidemic that seems to be ignored by the conventional medical system.

You may even develop new symptoms or side effects months or years after starting a medication because it takes time for nutrients to be depleted from your body. So both you and your doctor may not make the connection between the original medication and new symptoms.

These additional symptoms and “side effects” are often diagnosed as a new disease, leading to a new prescription, which further depletes nutrients.

So it’s clearly a downward spiral where you could end up being on multiple medications.

At my worst, I was on four psychiatric medications. Thankfully I’m off them all now and very healthy.

This article discusses the three key nutrients that are commonly depleted by psychiatric medication.

Your drug package insert won’t list these deficiencies, and your doctor is likely not aware of them.



Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10 is a molecule found in every cell of your body and plays a key role in the production of energy.

It’s also an antioxidant and protects your body and brain from free radical damage.

Higher levels of CoQ10 have a “significant antidepressant effect” in rats because of its “well-documented antioxidant effect”. This makes sense considering the increasing amount of scientific literature suggesting that oxidative stress contributes to depression.

Unfortunately, studies show that a number of psychiatric medications, including antidepressants and antipsychotics, deplete CoQ10.



Low levels of CoQ10 can cause brain fog, mental fatigue, difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, depression and irritability.

Other deficiency symptoms can include increased blood pressure, muscle cramps, high blood sugar, and shortness of breath.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a vital mineral that participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body. This includes neurotransmitter, enzyme, and hormonal activity, all of which can have a huge effect on your mood and brain function.

It’s one of the most important nutrients for optimal brain health, and reduces anxiety, depression and irritability. Yet, many people are deficient in magnesium today and may experience the following symptoms because of it:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness, cramps, tremors, and spasms
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Osteoporosis
  • Nausea

Interestingly, these symptoms sound very similar to the list of side effects of some psychiatric medications.

In fact, research has shown that many antidepressants and stimulants do deplete magnesium from your body, increasing the likeliness of developing a deficiency.

Inadequate magnesium levels can then contribute and worsen many neuropsychiatric problems. This includes depression, anxiety, insomnia, seizures, ADHD, pain, schizophrenia, irritability, premenstrual syndrome, drug abuse, and short-term memory and IQ loss. Case studies have shown that patients with schizophrenia or major depression who have attempted suicide had significantly lower levels of magnesium in their cerebrospinal fluid.

So if you have mental health condition, or take medication to deal with it, you should consider supplementing with magnesium.

Also, you should make sure to eat lots of food with magnesium, including avocados, almonds, pumpkin seeds, swiss chard, spinach, dark chocolate, halibut and beets.

B Vitamins

A number of B vitamins are also depleted by psychiatric medication, including B2, B6, B12 and folate.

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, plays a key role in energy metabolism throughout your entire body.

As a result, a deficiency can affect the entire body, leading to low energy, weight gain, and skin and thyroid problems.

Antipsychotics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and mood stabilizers can inhibit the absorption of vitamin B2, increasing your need for supplementation.

Lower levels of vitamin B2 have been found in people with depression, so giving them psychiatric medications can actually make them feel worse in the long run.

Healthy food sources of riboflavin include pastured eggs, leafy vegetables, beef liver, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, and almonds.

Vitamin B6 is another key nutrient that boosts mood, deepens sleep, and supports your entire nervous system.

It accomplishes this by playing a key role in the production of many neurotransmitters in your brain, including serotonin, GABA and dopamine.

But since psychiatric medications alter these neurotransmitters, vitamin B6 levels can be affected as well.

When I took antidepressants, multiple functional and integrative doctors suggested I supplement with vitamin B6.

This is because antidepressants and benzodiazepines have been shown to deplete B6.

Symptoms of deficiency include weakness, mental confusion, depression, insomnia and severe PMS symptoms.

Some of the best food sources of B6 include potatoes, bananas and chicken.

Lastly, vitamin B12 and folate are essential B vitamins that play a key role in methylation, one of the most important processes in your body and brain for optimal energy and nervous system function.

If you are depressed, you likely have lower levels of B12 and folate circulating in your blood, and people with low blood folate and B12 are at greater risk for developing depression.

Yet, instead of looking at folate and B12 levels in the blood, doctors often prescribe antidepressants, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants and mood stabilizers that have been shown to deplete folate and B12.

B12 and folate deficiency can lead to an inability to methylate properly and increased homocysteine levels. This can worsen your depression, irritability, fatigue, confusion and forgetfulness.

Good dietary sources of natural folate include leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries. B12 is found primarily in animal foods, and beef liver is a good source.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that the medication that you take to manage your mental health can actually reduce nutrient absorption and rob your body and brain of essential vitamins and minerals. This can lead to unwanted side effects and declining health.

On top of this, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are actually a huge underlying cause of mental health issues to begin with.

Luckily, you can avoid side effects, and even control and overcome chronic mental disease without medication, by restoring these missing nutrients.

Unfortunately, in my case, I was given a prescription that made my underlying deficiencies worse, and dug me into a deeper mental health hole.

If you’re required to take a prescribed drug, you can offset many of the side effects and experience much better health by supplementing with the above nutrients.

So why isn’t this information passed on to patients who are taking psychiatric drugs? Because unfortunately, almost all doctors are unaware that medications can deplete nutritional reserves.

So, for now, you’ll just have to be aware of drug-nutrient depletions yourself.

Sources:

  1. Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook
  2. The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs
  3. The Side Effects Bible: The Dietary Solution to Unwanted Side Effects of Common Medications
  4. A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition: Improve Your Health and Avoid Side Effects When Using Common Medications and Natural Supplements Together
  5. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8219648
  7. https://tantor-site-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/bonus-content/B0592_DrugMuggers/B0592_DrugMuggers_PDF_1.pdf
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7728363
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8848522
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1289919
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6262379
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7150370
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6705444
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6626265
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6737696
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6167651
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1578091
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9155210
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10896698
  20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7150370
  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10746516
  22. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9861593
  23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16542786
  24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11041381
  25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9368236
  26. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18705537
  27. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16542786
  28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17568057
  29. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/635065
  30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22081620
  31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23313551
  32. https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/melatonin
  33. http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000712
  34. http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000706
  35. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00048670802534408
  36. http://www.naturemade.com/~/media/Images/NatureMade/PDF/Health%20Care%20Professionals/HCP%20Updat

Article Source: http://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/antidepressants-side-effects.html

This fantastic article was written by Jordan Fallis, a brain health journalist and biohacker. We encourage you to ckeck out his website here

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WHAT ALOE VERA DOES IN YOUR BODY: WHY EGYPTIANS CALLED IT THE PLANT OF IMMORTALITY

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Known to the Egyptians as the plant of immortality and to Native Americans as the wand of heaven, aloe vera comes with a wide array of amazing healing properties — some of which you may already be aware. You might even have your own aloe vera plant in your home for those small emergencies like scrapes, cuts, and burns, but did you know that aloe vera is not only limited to topical use and is actually even more beneficial to your body when taken internally?

Aloe vera contains over 200 biologically active, naturally occurring constituents which include polysaccharides, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, and minerals that promote nutrient absorption.

According to The Journal of Environmental Science and Health, aloe vera also possesses anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties that assist the immune system in cleansing the body of toxins and invading pathogens. But that isn’t all aloe vera juice/gel has to offer.[1]

Minerals

Aloe vera has loads of minerals including calcium, magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium, sodium, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese. These minerals work together to boost metabolic pathways.

Enzymes

Aloe Vera contains important enzymes like amylase and lipase which can aid in digestion by breaking down fat and sugar molecules. One molecule in particular, Bradykinase, helps to reduce inflammation.

Vitamins

One study  showed that aloe vera actually contains vitamin B12, which is required for the production of red blood cells. That would be great news for vegetarians and vegans in particular, who often do not get adequate amounts of B12 through their regular diet. Keep in mind however, that was just one instance and you shouldn’t rely on aloe alone for your daily requirements of b12.

Other studies have shown that taking aloe can assist with the bioavailability of vitamin B12, meaning the body can more easily to absorb and utilize it which can prevent deficiency. Aloe vera is also a source of vitamins A, C,E, folic acid, choline, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), and B6. While it’s tough to say whether we could rely on Aloe as a source of B12, it can be used in conjunction with a supplement to help increase uptake.

Amino Acids

Aloe vera contains 20 of the 22 essential amino acids that are required by the human body. It also contains salicylic acid, which fights inflammation and bacteria.

Other Uses For Aloe

Aside from being an excellent body cleanser, removing toxic matter from the stomach, kidneys, spleen, bladder, liver, and colon, aloe can also offer effective relief from more immediate ailments, such as indigestion, upset stomach, ulcers, and inflammation in the gut. It also strengthens the digestive tract and alleviates joint inflammation, making it a great option for arthritis sufferers.

One study found that aloe vera juice, when taken the same way as a mouthwash, was just as effective at removing plaque as the common mouthwash and its active ingredient, chlorhexidine. This is a much better alternative because it is all-natural, unlike the typical chemical-laden options found in stores.

Aloe vera gel has also been found to effectively heal mouth ulcers, which are more commonly known as canker sores.

How To Take Aloe?

Aloe can be consumed straight from the plant, but the easiest and most palatable option is probably aloe juice, which you can find in most health food stores. You can also buy the leaves from many common grocery stores, or harvest your own, and juice them yourself.

You can buy the juice and mix it into your juices and smoothies or just drink it straight up. Make sure you are buying pure aloe juice/gel which is either of the whole leaf or just the inner filet. It does have a somewhat bitter taste though, so you may want to include other things. On the bottle you can find specific dosing instructions, but it would be wise to talk to a natural health expert or do some research into the matter to find instructions on specific dosing.

 

Source:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3729540/

http://www.herballegacy.com/Baldwin_History.html

Article Source: http://www.collective-evolution.com/2016/03/09/what-aloe-vera-does-in-your-body-why-egyptians-called-it-the-plant-of-immortality/

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The Harmful Effects of Vitamin B12 Deficiency (and How to Heal It)

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Are you suffering with fatigue and low energy? Do you struggle to get through your day? Are you no longer motivated to hit the gym? While there are many causes of fatigue, we’re going to dig a little deeper and look at how the deficiency of one nutrient in particular, vitamin B12, can lead to fatigue and low vitality. 

What Does Vitamin B12 Do?

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is one of eight essential B-vitamins, and essential for maintaining your energy levels via the production of your red blood cells, the oxygen- and nutrient-carrying “taxis” traveling through your bloodstream. However, you may be surprised to learn just how many other key processes are regulated by this essential vitamin.

 B12 plays a crucial role in melatonin production, your sleep hormone critical for recovery, rejuvenation and building resiliency.
For example, B12 plays a crucial role in melatonin production, your sleep hormone critical for recovery, rejuvenation and building resiliency. It’s also important for myelin formation, which keeps your nerves and nervous system running on all cylinders.

Vitamin B12’s role goes right down to your DNA and RNA production, the genetic material that lays the blueprint for your health and performance. B12 works together as a team with other B-vitamins to convert your food to energy (crucial for fighting winter fatigue) and also keeps your heart healthy by controlling pro-inflammatory homocysteine levels, a reliable marker associated with heart disease. (1)

If your B12 levels are low, you may suffer from increased fatigue, poor memory, lack of concentration, anemia, muscle weakness, low vitality and poor sleep. (2) Let’s take a closer look at why your B12 may be low and how you can top it up.

Why Is My B12 Too Low?

 

Common causes of low B12 that you may have already read about are vegan/vegetarian diets, inability to absorb B12 (e.g. due to inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or weight loss surgery), bacterial infection (e.g. h. pylori infection) and aging.

However, if we dig a little deeper and do some more detective work, we find a few more very commonly seen causes that go unnoticed by many doctors.

1. Your Stomach Acid Is Too Low

Your stomach plays a key role in supporting the absorption of B12 via the production of a protein called intrinsic factor (IF), which is needed to effectively take up B12 into your cells.(3) If your stomach acid levels are too low – due to stress, vegan/vegetarian diet, heartburn drugs, aging, etc – then your stomach can’t produce adequate IF, leading to B12 deficiency. A gentle fix for supporting optimal stomach acidity is to take apple cider vinegar before your meals.

2. Genetic SNiPs

Your DNA may be holding you back from achieving optimal B12 levels. Genetic single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNiPs, pronounced “snips”) are small genetic variants or blips that occur in your DNA can lead to inadequate production of key enzymes needed to absorb certain vitamins.

New research shows the genetic SNiP FUT-2 gene may strongly contribute to low levels of B12. (4) However, it’s important to remember that even if you test positive for a SNiP on a genetic test, it doesn’t mean you’ll have lifelong deficiency. It simply means you’ll need to take extra steps to ensure your diet is rich in B12 foods.

3. Medications

It’s not just the classic proton-pump inhibitor drugs and H2 blockers (i.e. drugs like omeprazole or ending with the suffix “–azole,” or ranitidine or drugs ending in “-tidine”), designed to treat heartburn by reducing stomach acid that can lower your B12 levels. There is a whole host of other drugs that can lead to low B12 levels and fatigue; metformin (to treat diabetes), antibiotics, methotrexate (used in chemotherapy), colchicine (used to treat gout) and a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs (e.g. cholestyramine). If you’re on one of these medications, talk to your doctor about getting your B12 levels assessed.

How Do I Get Tested?

The classic method for assessing vitamin B12 status is to perform a blood draw. A frank deficiency is typically classified as blood levels below approximately 150-200pg/mL (depending on the lab). However, this level falls short of the ideal “functional range,” a term used to describe the amount needed to support good health (not just prevent disease). Most functional medicine doctors aim for about 800-1,000pg/mL; anything less is considered insufficient. A dietary insufficiency reflects a level too low to promote and support your best health, and while not a frank deficiency, can still lead to many of the adverse symptoms associate with B12 deficiency.

Another key test to perform if you suspect low B12 is methylmalonic acid (MMA). If you have deficient or insufficient B12, you’ll begin to produce significant amounts of MMA, which may occur despite a “normal” finding of your blood B12 levels. This can be measured via blood draw along with B12. Genetic testing can also be useful to identify any SNiPs in your DNA that may predispose you to insufficiency or deficiency.

What Are The Best Foods To Increase My B12 Levels?

The best way to boost your B12 levels is to follow a dietary approach that provides a robust source of dietary B12. A Paleo approach to eating is the perfect foundation for correcting low B12 for good, because animal protein is hands down the best dietary source of B12.

Boost your levels by including more of the following foods regularly in your diet; shellfish (which has 85g per 3oz. serving), organ meats, cold-water fatty fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines), beef and wild game meats, and pasture-raised eggs. Aim for 1-4 servings (3oz) per day of these nutrient-dense foods, depending on your level of deficiency.

What About B12 Shots, Are They A Good Option?

If find you have insufficient or deficient B12 levels and need to restore your levels quickly to fight off fatigue and low energy, then B12 shots can be a great option. The injection is given intra-muscularly (IM), normally in the back of your shoulder, bypassing your digestive system (an area that may be compromising your ability to absorb B12) and dramatically increasing the bioavailability or your capacity to absorb it. In short, B12 shots are a great way to increase your levels acutely, while you ramp up your dietary intake.

B12 shots can help restore ideal levels and provide a nice energy boost. But remember, your diet is the foundation for good health and performance, so be sure to include B12-rich animal protein to keep your levels topped up throughout the year.

It’s important to note that the typical form of B12 used in doctors offices is cyanocobalamin, an older form of B12 that is not actually found in nature. While some of it does get converted to the active form in the body, those with conversion problems (i.e. digestive issue) or SNiPs will likely not absorb this form very well.

Instead, choose the methylcobalamin form, the “active” form of vitamin B12, that requires no conversion in the body and will give you the most benefit. B12 shots are typically given in 1,000mcg doses, weekly for 4-8 weeks depending on your levels and clinical picture. (Ask your doctor for more information.)

Low energy, fatigue and brain fog are no fun anytime of year, but they’re especially difficult in the winter months when colder, darker days and the hectic nature of the holidays can easily leave you rundown. If you need a quick boost, a series of B12 shots can help restore ideal levels and provide a nice energy boost. But remember, your diet is the foundation for good health and performance, so be sure to include B12-rich animal protein to keep your levels topped up throughout the year.

Source: http://blog.paleohacks.com/effects-of-vitamin-b12-deficiency/

For more information on our therapies including B12 therapy and appointments, please contact Clinic Director Charlie Blaisdell at CBlaisdell@CoreNewEngland.com

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Elite Athletes Try a New Training Tactic: More Vitamin D

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Professional and college sports teams think they have found a cutting-edge advantage hidden in one of the most basic nutrients: vitamin D.

With millions of dollars at stake, elite teams are tracking player health more precisely than ever to make sure their athletes keep playing. As part of this push, teams in all U.S. major leagues, some college athletic departments and the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams have started monitoring players’ vitamin D levels and intake. A few are even recommending more time in the sun, which helps the body produce the nutrient.

The focus on vitamin D is part of a growing emphasis on player wellness, from proper sleep to carefully planned nutrition, to maximize performance. Team officials also are acting on eye-opening research that suggests vitamin D deficiency might increase an athlete’s risk of injury.

A study of the Pittsburgh Steelers published in 2015 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine was especially striking. It found that vitamin D levels were significantly lower in players with at least one bone fracture. Players who were released during the preseason due to injury or poor performance also had significantly lower D levels than those who made the team, the study found.

THE ABCS OF VITAMIN D

  • How can you get vitamin D? Through certain foods such as fatty fish and eggs, or sun exposure. More than 1 billion people world-wide are estimated to have insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels. Vitamin D3 is the preferred form of the nutrient in a supplement because of its similarity to the form produced by the body.
  • Who’s at risk? People at higher latitudes and in colder climates such as the northern U.S. and Europe are at risk because of their lack of sun exposure. Those with darker skin are at risk because pigmentation slows vitamin D production in the skin. Those who are older, overweight or obese also are at higher risk.
  • How much is necessary? The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 International Units (IU) daily for most adults (800 IU for those over 70). That’s equivalent to six cups of milk, most of which in the U.S. is fortified with 100 IU. Some sports dietitians encourage athletes to get 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily. Adults shouldn’t take more than 4,000 IU daily, the Institute says, though vitamin D toxicity is rare.
  • What are the risks of vitamin D deficiency? Low D levels have been associated with higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, many cancers and bone loss, among many other conditions.

Sources: Institute of Medicine, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

A 2011 study of the New York Giants, presented at a meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, found an association between low vitamin D levels and injuries. Team officials launched that study to see whether levels of vitamin D, a hot research topic at the time, might be connected to soft-tissue injuries such as muscle strains, saysMichael Shindle, the study’s lead researcher.

Both studies were small—fewer than 100 players each. But they were intriguing enough that researchers plan to do a larger study with about 320 NFL players, says Mark Duca, a Steelers team physician and co-author on the Pittsburgh study.

“You can’t draw a definitive conclusion” that low vitamin D levels increase fracture risk, Dr. Duca says. “But it certainly piques our interest, particularly in a violent contact sport like football.”

For most people, sunlight is a major source of vitamin D. It is also found in foods such as fish, eggs and fortified milk, as well as pills and drops. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium to keep bones dense, and helps maintain a variety of metabolic functions.

Doctors are testing more patients in the general population for vitamin D deficiency as research connects the nutrient to more important functions. Debate continues about how much vitamin D is best, even after the nonprofit Institute of Medicine in 2010 tripled the minimum recommended daily intake to 600 international units (or 800 IU for those over age 70).

That is equivalent to six cups of fortified milk. But some sports dietitians say athletes should get at least 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily through food, supplements or both.

The U.S. women’s national soccer team is among those that charts the vitamin D levels of its players.

The Institute of Medicine recommends no more than 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily to avoid potential risks, which include a calcium buildup in the blood, which can disrupt appetite and cause nausea and vomiting. Taking 50,000 IU a day of vitamin D for months can cause toxicity but such cases are rare, according to a 2015 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Pro and college sports engage in “smack talk” about maintaining healthy vitamin D levels in their athletes, says Lisa McDowell, sports dietitian for the Detroit Red Wings and a member of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association. “It’s a source of pride when your team checks in with a good level.”

Some teams also test athletes for other nutrients such as iron and magnesium to make sure deficiencies aren’t slowing them down.

Ms. McDowell aims to get her hockey players’ vitamin D levels between 40 and 80 nanograms per milliliter. Many players show up to training camp with vitamin D levels in the teens, she says.

An adequate vitamin D level for the average person is between 20 and 50 ng/ml, with a level over 50 potentially producing adverse effects, according to the IOM. But some experts have said the bottom end of that range is too low, and the Endocrine Society recommends maintaining a level between 40 and 60 ng/ml.

The Detroit Red Wings made a point to get sun, which produces vitamin D in the body, on their recent trip to California.

Red Wings players get little sun due to the team’s Midwestern locale. Ms. McDowell encourages players to spend time outside when the team plays in California so they can soak up vitamin D.

Only a handful of studies have focused on elite athletes and vitamin D. But a few larger studies of military populations have drawn a link between vitamin D levels and injuries. One study, of more than 5,000 female U.S. Navy recruits, found a 20% drop in stress fractures after recruits received doses of calcium and vitamin D.

The University of Virginia has made 2,000 IU vitamin D supplements available to all of its athletes for at least the past six years, says Randy Bird, director of sports nutrition. It is the only vitamin he encourages every athlete to take, he says.

“The research on it outside of muscle and bone injuries is that it’s great for your immune system,” Mr. Bird says. “And we can’t afford to have athletes missing for illness.”

Even the University of Southern California, where sunshine abounds, checks its varsity athletes’ vitamin D levels annually. Despite all that sun, more than one-third of 223 USC athletes tested for a study published in 2015 had insufficient vitamin D levels.

The University of Virginia has made vitamin D supplements available to all of its athletes, including its women’s soccer team, pictured here.

Some USC athletes’ low vitamin D levels, along with conversations about player tastes, spurred a surprising addition to the athletic department’s food offerings: Frosted Flakes. It’s fortified with vitamin D. Along with vitamin D-fortified milk, it provides quick fuel for morning workouts and an important dose of the nutrient, says Becci Twombley, USC’s director of sports nutrition.

“After we put Frosted Flakes out, their vitamin D levels were much better,” she says. USC aims to get athletes to consume 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily of vitamin D through foods, including yogurt and fish, but provides vitamin D supplements for players who need them, she says.

The USC study, along with those of the Giants and Steelers, showed African-American athletes tend to have lower vitamin D levels. Athletes with darker skin are at higher risk for D deficiency because pigmentation slows vitamin D production in the skin.

Researchers are still exploring how race affects vitamin D levels. That is an important question in leagues such as the National Basketball Association, where a majority of players are African-American, says Elliott Schwartz, former physician for the Golden State Warriors.

In that team’s training camps of 2007, 2008 and 2009, between nine and 12 of 16 players tested vitamin D insufficient and were given 5,000-IU supplements daily, Dr. Schwartz says.

Dr. Schwartz, founder of the Northern California Institute for Bone Health and a physician for the Oakland Athletics, still tests and treats dozens of injured pro athletes for vitamin D deficiency. Yet he says the evidence isn’t overwhelming that vitamin D helps prevent injury.

He treats deficiency with supplements, he says, because “there’s no harm, and it may be helpful.”

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/elite-athletes-try-a-new-training-tactic-more-vitamin-d-1453745154

For more information on our therapies including Vitamin D and appointments, please contact Clinic Director Charlie Blaisdell at CBlaisdell@CoreNewEngland.com

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