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Radiation and Your Health: To Iodine or Not to Iodine?

The very term RADIATION conjures nightmarish images of mushroom clouds, apocalyptic scenery and people dying slow, agonizing deaths. Then again, one doesn’t need an imagination to turn on the news and see the mounting horrors and suffering of Fukushima or the gaseous plumes erupting from the enormous, multi-reactor nuclear facility there.

In some respects the press is having a field day with this simply because it is BIG news…and in other ways many of us suspect we aren’t being told the whole truth and paranoia is reigning supreme. What and who can we believe? We know the Japanese are in deep trouble and we fear for them but we also wonder (and reasonably so) how much we here in the Unites States and elsewhere in the world have to fear from not one, not two, but THREE nuclear reactors in a now-undeniable state of melt-down . We know the radiation has already been making its way over the Pacific and that radioactive elements from this disaster have already begun showing up in places like California, Oregon Washington and across the entire United States, including the Midwest clear over to the East Coast. Radiation from this event is primarily circulating the northern hemisphere now but will ultimately show up everywhere…and it will continue to circulate our planet essentially forever. It is a part of our lives, believe it or not and like it or not.

So what can we do? How do we protect ourselves and to what extent?

The popular trend right now is to start guzzling potassium iodide as though it were some sort of magical all-protective potion that can save us from the horrors of radiation-induced illness. Emergency preparedness outlets and online supplement retailers are making a killing and are getting wiped out of their iodine inventory.

Slow down and get a grip, folks! Please take a moment here to think about what you’re doing!

I value iodine as much as the next guy, but its supplementation is not for everyone and it’s certainly not a magical potion. –Not only that, you could actually be taking some risks and worsening your own health in the process. For starters, keep in mind that radioactive iodine 131 is primarily a danger to an iodine-deficient thyroid…but also radioactive iodine 131 (half-life 8 days) is only one threat among many that one may face with radiation particulate exposure. There is also radioactive Cesium 134 (half-life 2 years) and 137 (half life 30 years), radioactive strontium-90 (half-life 28-29 years) and (with this particular disaster) plutonium (half-life 27,000 years), as well as the intense oxidative free-radical activity and DNA mutagenic properties of ionizing radiation and its particulate elements that may enter our food chain, our lungs through the air we breathe and our water supplies. Iodine is no panacea for this. Not even close.

There is a fine line we must tread between denial and fear mongering. Falling to one side or the other of this line does not serve us. We need to face this rationally if we are to have the best chance of getting through this stressful, vulnerable time intact. Reality for better or worse is grounding and sobering…and we all need to become as grounded and sober as possible to navigate clearly in these uncertain times. Both paranoia and denial get us into trouble.

Paranoia leads us to rash, desperate and impulsive behavior….and conversely, if your head is in the proverbial sand in a state of denial then, well, let’s just say your butt is in the air.

I have been getting inundated with e-mails from friends, clients and fans concerning the question of whether to take iodine at this time and what to do. Keep in mind that I am fully able to sell supplements to my clients and could be making a real killing right now in potassium iodide sales, if I so chose to. As such, I am neither advertising nor recommending it, and (in case you’re curious) I am not personally taking it. There is a very real concern that can come with haphazard iodine supplementation, despite the fact that in my book I share information concerning the need for iodine and the common deficiencies leading to numerous health problems. –All true, but it’s simply not for everybody. I am personally able to take iodine supplements if I so choose without much risk, but am relying mostly right now on iodine-rich foods and focusing more on other aspects of my own health and immune function.

Basically, I see four potential problems with haphazard iodine supplementation:

  1. The potential for iodine sensitivity or “allergic” reactions in certain sensitive people
  2. The potential to either trigger or significantly exacerbate autoimmune thyroid issues
  3. Detox reactions resulting from overly rapid displacement of toxic halogens
  4. Finally, there is the risk of what is referred to as “iodism” (basically iodine poisoning).

To further clarify each point:

#1:  Iodine allergies (which many people would probably know they had….but there are always a few that may not) can include symptoms such as itching, throat swelling, rash, fever, joint pains, hives and other typical and more severe allergy symptoms including the potential for anaphylactic shock and death.

#2:  The body uses iodine to manufacture the enzyme called “Thyroid Peroxidase”, also known as TPO.   The very thing autoimmune thyroid (Hashimoto’s) individuals are producing are TPO Antibodies, resulting in cytokine (inflammatory) “storms” and destruction of the thyroid.  Not pretty.  IF you have consistently tested negative for TPO antibodies (I say “consistently” because even those with full-blown Hashimoto’s will have periods of time where TPO antibodies may register as “negative” during quieter phases of the illness), and if taking iodine has not led to any symptoms of discomfort for you, then supplementing with iodine might be an OK or even beneficial thing.  It is an essential element, after all.

Note, however, that overdoing iodine or “loading” iodine too quickly can also stimulate over-activation of the thyroid in certain individuals in general, leading to possible heart palpitations, nervousness, trouble sleeping and anxiety-related issues.  I would be inclined to test for TPO antibodies in such individuals just to be sure it wasn’t an autoimmune activation.

#3:  Finally, iodine is a member of the “halogen” family in the periodic table of elements.  In this same family are chloride (chlorine), fluoride (fluorine) and bromide (bromine).  Bromides are by far the most common halogen toxicity and some degree of “bromidism” is present in most of us. –Sign o’ the times. Pronounced symptoms can include feelings of apathy, difficulty concentrating, headaches and a general mental dullness (don’t get me started on my conspiracy theories about this).  Bromides are in everything from people’s hot tub spas, flame retardant in everything from carpeting and clothing to electronics, it’s used as an anti-caking agent in baked goods and processed flour, it is an additive in certain pharmaceuticals…it’s everywhere.  Most people walking loose are chock full of these toxic halogens, which (among other nefarious things) can have the effect of displacing our friend iodine from its natural receptor sites.  Taking larger doses of iodine can theoretically be used to displace these halogens and reclaim its proper place in your tissues…but these toxic halogens can reap havoc in a body unprepared for handling a detox or utilizing iodine properly.   Detox reactions can include flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea and diarrhea, emotional crises (odd, but I’ve seen it), headaches, skin eruptions (i.e., rashes, acne and unpleasant secretions), sleep disruption, appetite disturbance, brain fog and extreme fatigue.  –Not my idea of a good time.

#4: The medical dictionary defines iodism as “an acute or chronic intoxication caused by the ingestion or absorption of iodides. Manifestations of acute poisoning include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, hyper-salivation, conjunctivitis, and collapse. Chronic manifestations include hyper-salivation, fever, acute rhinitis, swelling and tenderness of the salivary glands, and dermatitis and stomatitis in hypersensitive individuals. Iodism is a toxic condition that sometimes follows the use of preparations containing iodine.”

In certain individuals clearly deficient in iodine who are interested in improving this, it makes sense to prepare the body for what is termed “iodine loading” by first and foremost testing one’s thyroid to be sure autoimmune issues are not present (PLEASE). Some of the symptoms of iodine deficiency may certainly include hypothyroidism, symptoms of which are extreme fatigue, goiter, mental slowing, depression, weight gain, and low basal body temperatures. Make certain it isn’t autoimmune in nature (do NOT just assume it isn’t just because your doctor never mentioned it).

Breast cancer has also been associated with iodine deficiency (as well as low thyroid and autoimmune thyroid tendencies…so TEST!). Fibrocystic breast disease. cervical dysplasia, and certain oral and salivary related diseases/problems have additionally been associated with iodine deficiency.

Certain things can predispose one to having an iodine deficiency or an extra iodine need:

  • Living in the “goiter belt” of the US (see below: states in red are where iodine is known to be deficient in the soils—not to be confused with “red political states”)   ;)
  • Tobacco use
  • Excess alcohol use
  • Over consumption of goitrogens (i.e., soy, flax seed, raw cruciferous vegetables, peanuts and other legumes)
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Pregnancy (infants and young children are the most vulnerable to effects of iodine deficiency and radiation exposure, with the developing fetus and newborns the most extremely vulnerable, BUT ALSO these are the most vulnerable to potentially ill effects of excess potassium iodide). Pregnant women should only take iodine under the supervision of a knowledgeable and qualified health care provider.
  • Thiocyanates (herbicides and insecticides) exposure
  • Perchlorates (from rocket fuel and found significantly contaminating many areas—particularly those with little or no rainfall) – turning up in tap water, vegetables and milk almost everywhere nowadays
  • Selenium deficiency
  • And…(tah-dah!) –Exposure to radiation

Once you have determined you really do need iodine (and real radioactive danger is not imminent), then it may be advisable to spend about a month supplying ones-self with increased magnesium, selenium, vitamin C, extra B-complex and good old fashioned full-spectrum sea salt (Celtic sea salt or Himalayan sea salt are best).  It also makes sense to be sure all one’s “avenues of elimination” are open (a healthy, well functioning colon, liver, kidneys and being well hydrated) and that the liver is well supported for both phase-one and phase-two detoxification.  Once the ground work has been laid for iodine’s best utilization then caution should be taken to start with a preferably lower dose of iodine and gradually work up (this is NOT a race) to the full “loading” dose over time (with no bad symptoms), then work back down to a maintenance dose.  It is absolutely best to do this under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider. Also, be careful to use a complete source of iodine and not just potassium iodide. As long as you’re not living next to the melting-down nuclear reactor you have time to do this right.

The thing is, if people really want to effectively protect their thyroids from radioactive iodine 131 (only one small component of radioactive danger)—and they’re not living next door to the nuclear reactor—they really do need to build their iodine dosing slowly and very cautiously as I’ve described in order for it to work the way it’s supposed to and be free of potential unpleasant or even dangerous side effects.  I believe it is best to first supply full spectrum iodine, then—if needed or if the radiation concern becomes more realistically serious then add extra potassium iodide to help thwart its radioactive cousin from setting up shop in the body where it doesn’t belong once the plume sets in overhead.  Note that potassium iodide supplementation is really only meant for high dosing short-term, and not long-term use. In the long run we are better off restoring healthy iodine levels slowly and safely than mega-dosing on potassium iodide for any length of time (unless one is at risk for mega-radiation exposure). Given the deteriorating nuclear events in Japan, with confirmed meltdowns occurring in an unbridled fashion as we speak this concern could in time become more pronounced for us.  It’s hard to say. The long term tragedy, of course, is that we ALL will be faced with this potential threat circulating the globe for decades and even centuries to come.  As physicist Michio Kaku succinctly puts it, “nuclear meltdowns are forever”.

Word on the street is that folks are rushing online and into preparedness centers looking for Geiger counters (not cheap) to monitor the dangers. The particulate forms of radioactive material actually carried on the wind and likeliest to reach us here in the US (radioactive iodine-131, cesium-134 and 137 and strontium-90) probably wouldn’t budge a Geiger counter but could very potentially damage your DNA and enhance your risk of any number of cancers markedly if you happened to come into contact with the through your food, skin or lungs. The unfortunate reality is that we all will come into contact with these elements sooner or later to at least some extent as this nuclear meltdown nightmare will not be going away in any of our lifetimes. It is part of our day-to-day reality now and in our future (and children’s future). Detectable levels of radioactive fallout in the US have been already found as far east as Florida and the Carolinas. Right now the northern hemisphere is circulating most of it in its jet-stream but eventually the southern hemisphere will be involved, as well. There is no escape from all of it.

So what can we do?

First and foremost, do not panic!

I believe where radiation exposure is concerned with where we are here in the States our primary concern should be mainly taking the best possible care of our overall health that we can as a foundational defense, which can actually go a long way toward enhancing our resilience. There really isn’t anything one can do to avert all the potential problems with radiation, other than avoiding exposure as much as possible.  In my book (which I wrote long before this nuclear disaster—more true than ever now) I make the case for the fact that we are living in a time where we really have no room for error anymore and simply do not have the luxury of enjoying empty indulgences.  We can’t approach our food any more as a nutrient-devoid source of entertainment.  We have to really nourish ourselves as our ancestors once did (with real, nutrient dense naturally produced and unprocessed food), avoid overly provoking insulin and free radical activity and take care to include lots of antioxidant-rich vegetables and greens.  Balanced natural fat strengthens the brain, immune and nervous system and sugar and starch destabilize and suppress the same, making us vulnerable to environmental and free radical onslaught, as well as inflammation.  –Avoid it.  Get adequate sleep/rest.  Manage stress in any and all ways possible (that’s the REAL killer).  Drink plenty of purified water.  If you can, do far infra-red saunas for general detox.  Cells in the bone marrow and GI tract are particularly susceptible to radiation exposure. Your blood health and digestion are areas potentially requiring extra care. The most important key is in our dietary and lifestyle foundations…not the supplements we take.

YOUR MOST EMPOWERING TAKE-AWAY MESSAGE HERE:

It may well turn out that the principles outlined in my book, Primal Body, Primal Mind are the best possible guidelines for supporting a cancer-free life (cancer being the most frightening consequence of radiation element exposure) in existence. There are four primary things to consider where any risk of cancer is concerned: The #1 most necessary substance in order for cancer to take a foot-hold in anyone is sugar (in any form or guise). Sugar is cancer’s primary and nearly sole source of fuel. The more carb-free you are the less welcome cancer will ever be in your body. The next key to a cancer-free existence is low insulin levels. Stimulating insulin through excess (particularly) carbohydrate intake also stimulates cellular proliferation. If you happen to have DNA damage or mutation happening then cellular proliferation is decidedly NOT a good thing. That’s what cancer growth is all about.

You may also recall the part in my book about mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin). Eating but not exceeding sufficient protein intake per day (0.8 grams of protein per kg of ideal body weight and no more than 25 grams of actual protein in a meal) helps not only keep mTOR and cellular proliferation from activating but by keeping mTOR suppressed this has the effect of enhancing DNA repair! –The best of both worlds. Also, keep in mind that a significant percentage of protein consumed that is in excess of what you actually need for your daily maintenance and repair will convert to sugar and get used exactly the same way. This is why the modified caloric restriction I talk about in my book has such longevity enhancing effects and why cancer is so non-existent in these subjects.

Making natural fats and anti-inflammatory EFA’s the primary source of fuel in the diet and establishing a dependence on ketones (instead of glucose) as a primary source of fuel provides steady energy for virtually every single cell in our body and brain—and furthermore, cancer cells cannot make use of ketones for fuel. A ketogenic diet is literally a cancer-starving diet. In addition, natural fats feed the lymphatic system and strengthen the immune system. Fat is where it’s at!

Finally, by enhancing our intake of fibrous vegetables and greens (and by maybe adding a few green drinks) we substantially improve our cancer-thwarting phytonutrient and antioxidant intake. Consuming enough fat to keep your appetite satisfied puts the proverbial (low carb) cherry on the sundae and helps fuel us in a very stable way for longer periods of time on less. We all need to learn to do with less and indulge less in these economic and environmentally dubious times. It simple makes sense.

EXTRAS (just as an FYI or if desired or needed):

If your inner “foundations” are in order and you want to do something extra, you can add the following:

  • Modifilan seaweed: a highly concentrated form of seaweed containing lots of natural iodine and other natural components.  Modifilan was formulated to help the detoxification and recovery of the victims of Chernobyl.  It’s WAY better in my mind than taking a bunch of potassium iodide. There are numerous online sources.
  • Eat iodine-rich seafood and seaweeds/sea vegetables.  Kelp noodles, by the way, are lovely.  You will never miss pasta.
  • Calcium (ionic or another bioavailable form—avoid calcium carbonate) can help block the uptake of radioactive Strontium (and you thought radioactive iodine was your only problem).  Be sure to also get sufficient magnesium (ionic form or trans-dermal magnesium “oil”)
  • Potassium rich foods and supplements (but don’t go too crazy with the supplementation) can help thwart radioactive Cesium uptake.
  • Siberian ginseng has supposedly been shown to help reduce damage caused by radiation (and is excellent adrenal support, to-boot)
  • Chlorella (broken cell-wall) has been used as far back as WWII to help flush radiation from the body
  • Turmeric is powerfully helpful for reducing free radical activity and inflammation
  • Astaxanthin – potent singlet oxygen free radical scavenger
  • Glutathione or GSH (avoid glutathione pills, as glutathione cannot be directly absorbed through the GI tract). Transdermal glutathione preparations (such as Oxi-Cell and Super Oxi-Cell made by Apex Energetics) and the use of glutathione precursors are best. Precursors include NAC (N-acetylcysteine), alpha lipoic acid, vitamin D, sulfur-rich foods, SAMe (s-adenosylmethionine). Radiation literally decimates the body’s supply of glutathione. Diminished glutathione levels greatly elevate cellular vulnerability to oxidative stress. Critical antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase is dependent on selenium/vitamin E (only mixed tocopherols rich in gamma tocopherol in a glycerine base—NOT soybean or canola oil!).
  • If you feel you’ve been exposed to radiation a combination of baking soda and sea salt in a bath soak is a low-cost combo purported to help. Sodium bicarbonate is known to safely bind with uranium. The kidneys are, in fact, particularly vulnerable to uranium exposure. Research recommending sodium bicarbonate originally came from the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1950’s. It can supposedly be used both internally and externally following exposure. The recipes are as follows: Add 1 cup each of sea salt and baking soda into a tub of hot water and soak in it for at least 20 minutes. This should theoretically be done daily for as long as there is a threat of exposure. For use internally, add 1 teaspoon each of sea salt and baking soda into a quart of pure water and drink an 8 ounce glass four times a day. Remember, this is only if exposed to radiation, not for prevention. For protecting lungs baking soda (bicarbonate) together with glutathione (if available) can be nebulized to support and protect radiation-exposed lung tissue.
  • Magnesium baths using Epsom salt can also help support vital hepatic detoxification pathways
  • “Ancient Minerals” (a great company) makes a “magnetic mineral” clay bath specifically designed to absorb radioactive elements from the body following exposure
  • Calcium bentonite clay (use for bathing following exposure)

For additional protection, another thing to consider is possibly avoiding certain foods known to concentrate radioactive elements more. One food that has the unfortunate potential to concentrate radioactive fallout (radioactive iodine and strontium) is milk.  If the radiation issue gets much worse you might want to limit or avoid most milk products, which may not be the worst idea, anyway (many people are more casein sensitive than they realize).  The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the US government has admitted to radioactive iodine-131 showing up in milk from Washington State.

Here’s the link to that story: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703806304576233221749626458.html

BTW—radioactive iodine levels are 10 times higher in goat and sheep milk products than in cow’s milk. Iodine in milk is additionally seasonally influenced and is also likely to concentrate more in winter than in summer months. Technically, if a farmer were to supplement the diets of their grass-fed milking animals with healthy iodine the radioactive iodine contamination could potentially be avoided. Eggs are another potential concern unless the feed were similarly supplemented with healthy sources of stable iodine. The bottom line with both these foods is get to know your local farmer. Buying your food locally from well-known sources has never been more important than it is now. Other foods that were shown to concentrate radioactive fallout following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Europe also included spinach, lettuce, leeks, berries and mushrooms. The reality is this, folks…sooner or later radiation will turn up in everything we eat, the water we drink and the air we are breathing. It is with us here-on-out no matter what we do (or what the media says or does not say). With all the supplements or clay baths you could take or all the time you could spend hiding indoors, nothing will ever protect you more from the EFFECTS of this exposure than your foundational diet. –And no diet will be more foundationally sound than the one I’ve outlined in Primal Body, Primal Mind.

You can bet on it.

–That’s my personal take on this.

~ Nora

Additional resources:

Here’s some additional information on potassium iodine:

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/EmergencyPreparedness/BioterrorismandDrugPreparedness/ucm072265.htm

Environmental radiation levels in the United States updated in real time:  http://www.radiationnetwork.com/

USA EPA’s RadNet Monitoring: continuously monitors the nation’s air regularly monitors drinking water, milk and precipitation for environmental radiation: http://www.epa.gov/japan2011/rert/radnet-data-map.html

 

Info on calcium bentonite clay: http://www.aboutclay.com/clay_info.htm

 

"Primal" Primates Live Longer

Studies involving the use of caloric restriction for significantly improved health and longevity have been ongoing for about the last 75 years.  Most of these studies have involved species such as worms, fruit flies,  mice and dogs due to their shorter life spans.  Although some degree of benefit, often enormous benefit relating to the impact of caloric restriction has been shown in every species studied, some degree of skepticism existed as to whether such dietary restriction would be of similar benefit to primates such as us.

In July of 2009 the eagerly awaited results of a twenty year study on the effects of caloric restriction on primates were finally published in the journal, Science (2009 Jul 10; 325(5937): 201-204).

Two groups of Rhesus monkeys (selected for their strong similarity to us) were studied.  One group of Rhesus monkeys were allowed to eat as much as they wanted and the other group was given a sufficiently nutrient dense diet with 30% fewer calories than they would normally consume.  Twenty years later only 63% of the monkeys that ate as much as they wanted were still alive.  37% of them had died due to age related causes (heart disease, cancer or diabetes).

And the caloric restriction group?

Fully 87% were still alive and only 13% had died–and of these only 5 of the 14 individuals died of age related causes!  The rest died from complications of anesthesia, gastric bloat, endometriosis or injury.

Even the researchers themselves were blown away by these results and confidently speculated that these findings would have considerable implications for combating aging and disease in humans.

Of all monkeys that survived–the remaining two groups of monkeys even looked considerably different from one another.  Each group had aged very, very differently.

Throughout their lives the calorically restricted group maintained superior health and aging-related biomarkers in every area: brain health, metabolic health and rate, insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular vitality.  The caloric restriction group enjoyed a 3-fold reduction in age-related disease!!  Also, they lost fat weight but maintained healthy levels of lean tissue mass.  They additionally retained greater brain volume (which normally shrinks with age and glycation) but more than that they retained superior cognitive function.  The cardiovascular disease rate of the caloric restricted group was fully half the rate of the control group.  40% of the control group developed diabetes (or pre-diabetes).  Not ONE single monkey in the calorically restricted group developed either.

Remarkable.

Photos from the study, shown here, present examples of age-matched individuals from the two groups.  The contrast is visually striking.  Stunning, even.  The caloric restricted monkeys looked almost literally half the age of the controls:

Control group monkey on left and calorically restricted monkey of the exact same age on the right

Example of a control group monkey is shown on the left (AB) and a calorically restricted monkey on the right (CD)–both are exactly the same age

The study was designed, of course, well before Cynthia Kenyon’s work was published or anything related to mTOR–both of which have added richly to the understanding behind the mechanisms of just why caloric restriction is so effective, so one can only imagine how much more might have been accomplished with that awareness in mind.

FYI–Among the most common misconceptions about monkeys and apes, incidentally, is that they are vegan animals.  They are better adapted to making use of plants in some ways than we are, but they also readily eat the same things we eat. ALL monkeys and apes are known to eat meat–and many even hunt for meat. The one notable exception is the mountain gorilla…and even they get some insects in their diet. Monkeys and apes are omnivores and, like us, will eat whatever might be available to them in their environment. Some even catch and eat fish (crazy, but true)!  One of the reasons Rhesus monkeys were selected for this particular study, in fact, is because of their pronounced similarity to us, even in terms of diet.  For more reading about this particular aspect of things I can recommend the book, “The Hunting Apes: Meat Eating and the Origins Of Human Behavior” by Craig B. Stanford.

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Recent Human Longevity Research

There are actually other recent studies, too, showing significant health benefit where caloric restriction in actual humans is concerned.  A newly released study in the Journal of Applied Research, Clinical Experience of a Diet Designed To Reduce Aging (Ron Rosedale, MD, E.C. Westman, MD, MHS, J.P. Konhilas, PhD; Vol 9, No. 4, 2009) demonstrated in the context of an outpatient medical clinic that a diet high in fat (unlimited quantity), adequate in protein (50-80 grams per day) and very low in carbohydrate, with some added multi-vitamin and mineral supplementation (together with 2,000 mg/day L-carnitine, 400 mg alpha lipoic acid, 100 mg CoQ10, and 1 TBSP cod liver oil) led to significant improvement in recognized serum factors related to the aging process (glucose, insulin, leptin and triglycerides).  Patients were told to eat when they were hungry.  The results also included a significant loss of adipose body weight, a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and a reduction in levels of leptin, insulin, fasting glucose, and free T3 (with TSH levels and creatinine largely unchanged).  Despite the predominance of fat in the diet, serum triglycerides were also greatly reduced.

Another area of human longevity research getting a lot of publicity these days involves manipulating the length of something called “telomeres”.  Telomeres are sequences of nucleic acids extending from the ends of chromosomes and act to maintain chromosomal integrity. Every time our cells divide telomeres are shortened, leading to cellular damage and cellular death associated with aging. Scientists (at Geron Corporation) discovered that the key element in rebuilding our disappearing telomeres is the “immortalizing” enzyme telomerase, an enzyme found only in germ cells and cancer cells. Telomerase appears to repair and replace telomeres manipulating the “clocking” mechanism that controls the life span of dividing cells.  Drug companies, of course, are looking for ways to enhance telomerase any way they can.  In fact, look for up-coming supplements and possibly “life extension” related medications claiming to do just this.  What they won’t tell you, however, is that caloric restriction also preserves telomere length.  You don’t have to wait for a questionable drug to come out or go broke buying hyped “designer supplements”.

Of course, it’s easy to restrict overall calories with lab animals, as they have no choice in the matter.  It is quite another matter to try and restrict overall caloric intake when you’re driving past 15 fast food joints on your way home, are surrounded by constant advertisement and have a refrigerator and cupboards full of food at your ravenous fingertips.  UNLESS, of course, you apply the caloric restriction model in a way that does not leave you hungry–which is exactly what Primal Body-Primal Mind tells you how to do.  Just follow the simple, most basic dietary guidelines outlined in my book to eat optimally well while feeling fully satisfied, live healthier, longer–and even save some real money along the way!

The most basic guideline to remember is this: greatly restrict or eliminate sugar and starch (preferably eliminating gluten completely), keep your protein intake adequate (roughly the RDA–44-56 g/day or 0.8 g/kg of ideal body weight) amounting to approximately 6-7 ounces of organic grass fed/wild caught meat/seafood total per day, eat as many fibrous “above ground”/non-starchy vegetables and greens as you like and eat as much fat (from fattier cuts of meat or fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, butter/ghee, olives, olive oil…etc) as you need to satisfy your appetite.

The bottom line here is that natural dietary fat is not at all our enemy–and that in the absence of dietary carbohydrate and with adequate protein can result in a far more satisfying, longer and healthier life overall. Simple, delicious and satisfying.  No hunger or feelings of deprivation needed…and all the benefits of supporting a longer and healthier life while saving you money.

If you do nothing from my book other than what was outlined in the paragraph above your health and well being will change remarkably–and chances are you will age much more gracefully and live longer.

And that’s no monkey business.

Question about Primal Pregnancy…

Q:  Any tips for a Primal Pregnancy and raising Primal Kids?

A:  When it comes to pregnancy the rules change a bit.  Remember that activating mTOR pathways are the equivalent to activating reproductive pathways and a cellular proliferation mode.  I would say that pregnancy qualifies as reproductive mode.  ;)  Also, a growing child needs to produce lots of new cells and healthy growth is important here.  I would not be inclined to overly restrict protein or fat under your circumstances at all, or for your child.  Kids (and teens) should not be overly subject to protein or fat caloric restriction due to their pronounced metabolic needs.

You still have no need for sugar or starch, but complete (i.e., nutrient dense animal source) protein, fat and naturally occurring fat soluble nutrients in them are critical for you and you need to keep in mind you are eating for two!  Now is not the time for caloric restriction.  You can revisit that after you are done breast feeding!

I would also like to refer you to guidelines provided for pregnancy on the Weston A. Price web site at www.westonaprice.org.  It will help you to familiarize with those.

~ Nora

noracrop

Protein: How Much Is Too Much?

http://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/uploads/image/Meat%20Question.jpg

So…you love a good juicy steak?  Fancy a fabulous sauteed fish fillet?  Love those incredible edible eggs?  Unless you’re an avowed vegetarian or vegan, who doesn’t?  But…how much protein is “too much”?  Is there such a thing?

This can be a complicated question to answer.  Some diet pundits feel that meat is too great a source of saturated fat.  Anyone who has read my book, Primal Body-Primal Mind knows what the overwhelming evidence from objective (i.e., non-corporate funded) science has to say about that misguided (to put it mildly) concern.  Some think that vegetable sources of protein are somehow superior–an argument more than easily put to rest once a little basic human physiology and biochemistry are taken into account.  Others assert that protein is somehow “hard on the kidneys”.  –Any time spent reviewing the literature rapidly dispels that myth.  If you already have kidney disease then protein restriction becomes (perhaps) more necessary….though the problem there often isn’t so much protein as it is glycated protein causing the problem (a whole different topic of discussion).  From a “Paleo perspective” it’s certainly arguable that our more stone age ancestors readily consumed as much woolly mammoth at a time as their bellies would hold (or as hunting allowed).  Heck–Our Primal ancestors didn’t worry about it, so why should we?

Well…

Welcome to the modern world.

Let’s just say a few things have changed–not the least of which being our better developed understanding of how mother nature “thinks” and what her intentions are…and why this may not always be compatible with our own self interests–something I go on about at some length in Primal Body-Primal Mind.  But let’s start with something more obvious:

First, consider the modern day food supply:

We’re still walking around with the identical genetic profile of an Ice Age human…but nowadays we have as much easy access to food as we could ever possibly want–and more.  We don’t even have to work that hard to get it, much less share it with anyone else if we don’t want to—There’s plenty to go around (at least in industrialized society).   What’s one of the laws of the Primal jungle?  –Feast or famine.  Let’s face it, in the wild food is anything but easy to come by.  In a tribal setting, also, whatever is hunted or gathered must also be shared and divided among members of the group.  Sometimes there would have been enough food to go around…sometimes not.  It’s unlikely our predecessors were able to gorge themselves on an 8-10 oz steak at every meal, though they would likely have done so, if given the chance.  It still leaves the open question of whether they should have or not (we’ll get to that).

We still possess that feast or famine instinct…only today we have access to an unprecedented and unnatural abundance of food. There is an inherent–almost instinctual tendency to want to over eat for many…particularly if we eat when we’re really hungry (or when blood sugar is low…if you’re still dependent on that sort of thing).  Many people don’t feel like they’ve been fed enough unless their plate is filled and heaping with generous portions of all the goodies they love.  Buffets feel like a rip-off unless you get to go back through a second-time around and pile more on.  Most people associate satiety with fullness…and far too many people are so out of touch with their own bodies that they don’t know they’re full until it becomes uncomfortable or even hurts.

In Primal Body-Primal Mind I strongly advocate and make the case for the importance of quality (read: q-u-a-l-i-t-y), complete, animal source protein.  –No big surprise, right?  Most writers advocating evolutionarily based dietary approaches (so-called “Paleolithic diets”) recognize the necessary role animal protein plays in our human physiological requirements.  Few recommend much restriction, however…though one or two authors (who shall remain nameless) strongly assert the need for “lean” meat sources, eschewing natural fat in an effort to uphold the edicts of the now defunct, wholly inaccurate and overwhelmingly outdated lipid hypothesis.

So why would I recommend limiting protein intake at all…much less to the RDA of 44-56 grams…amounting to little more than about 6 ounces of  natural protein per day???  This wouldn’t look much larger on a dinner plate than a deck of playing cards…only you’d be dividing that into 2 or 3 meals.   Say WHAT??

*GASP*!!

Let’s just say I may have upset the applecart with a few die-hard carnivores…many of whom take on a “more is better” attitude toward their meat at mealtime.  I can certainly sympathize.  There was a time when I could have eaten a lot of them under the table and gone back for seconds when it came to a big juicy rare steak.  I still love juicy rare steaks…I just limit the amount I consume at a meal nowadays.

Why on earth is that, you ask?

Am I trying to be more environmentally sensitive?

Am I trying to seem less insensitive to those suffering across the world from hunger?

Am I trying to lose weight?

Am I trying to avoid excess ammonia burden?

Am I trying to “go easy” on my digestive processes?

Am I trying to save  money in these tough economic times?

Not necessarily.  –Though a positive case could be made for any of this reasoning.  The primary reason doesn’t have to do with any of the above…though I will say I don’t mind that a lot of these things are nice side-line benefits that come along with my primary incentive.  What opened my eyes to the virtues of limited protein consumption wasn’t consideration from a Paleolithic, political, environmental or economic perspective but rather a more  recent scientific one.

Turns out that 75 years of human longevity research and recent findings can help to uniquely wed our most primal nutritional requirements with a loophole that can help us all beat mother nature at her own game and stay healthier and younger much longer.

Research in just the last few years  revealed a  metabolic pathway that wasn’t known about before.  This discovery revealed a new perspective on dietary protein that, together with insulin–can powerfully influence reproduction, aging, as well as  susceptibility to degenerative illness and even cancer.  Cynthia Kenyon’s important work back in the mid-1990′s revealed conclusively that the minimization of insulin is the single most important factor toward the enhancement of longevity and health.  No small finding–even though it was hardly headline news (I could be persuaded by a conspiracy theory or two as to why it wasn’t at the time, but I digress).  Her work pretty clearly showed the primary reason that caloric restriction–the single most effective of all anti-aging approaches–actually worked.  –But it turns out there’s a secondary reason that caloric restriction seemed to confer a marked improvement in health and longevity, and resistance to degenerative processes and cancer.  It has to do with something scientists found called mTOR–which stands for  mammalian Target Of Rapamycin.  I talk about this in my book at considerable length and won’t overly go into it here.   Suffice it to say that this newly discovered metabolic pathway,  “mTOR”, apparently serves as a sort of metabolic “protein sensor”. It belongs to something called the “P13K” pathway that is activated by insulin, nutrients and growth factors. It turns out that keeping mTOR down-regulated–by limiting protein intake to what is simply necessary for maintenance–is actually part of the key to maximizing our internal repair and regeneration, immune function–enhancing longevity, anti-aging and minimizing the risk of cancer.  Coupled with maintaining low insulin levels, keeping the mTOR pathway largely down-regulated helps keep deterioration and disease at bay and helps keep us young.  Ironically, dietary fat has no negative influence here.

Because mTOR is intimately involved with growth and reproduction, however, there may be instances–such as while seeking successful conception, pregnancy, extreme work loads, high level athletic training and critical growth periods from infancy through adolescence where the practice of limiting protein and mTOR might be less desirable.   During time periods such as this the stimulation of cellular proliferation becomes  more necessary.  Apart from times like this, however, higher than needed amounts of protein can take away from your own maintenance and repair, lessen immunity, and make you far more susceptible to cancer.

Protein is not our enemy…but it is certainly true that too much protein is also arguably not necessarily our friend. I choose (with sound reason) to define “too much” as anything overly provoking of mTOR.  Also, keep in mind that protein in excess of what is actually needed for repair and maintenance simply gets converted to glucose and is stored the same way.

I’ve also realized that 1) it’s not at all necessary to eat that big a portion of protein to truly have “enough”  2) it’s entirely possible to be fully satisfied with less, using sufficient accompanying dietary fat (this is KEY)   3) Past a certain amount in a meal protein ceases to be purely beneficial and really can place considerable demand on energy and digestive, etc. systems that can also lead to undesirable consequences (i.e., impaired digestion, excess ammonia burden, and potential weight gain).   Former “carbovores” who try to switch to eating “high protein diets” may be just that much more efficient, too, at turning that excess protein into sugar and storing it the same way  4) it’s unnecessarily expensive to eat this much…and by restricting protein consumption in this way one can literally save thousands of dollars on grocery bills.  –Not even counting the money you save avoiding processed junk, all the sugary and starchy carbs, juices, sodas and alcohol.  Protein is often the most expensive thing we buy at the grocery store (not counting “specialty gourmet items”).   Eating even THE best possible quality food becomes literally downright cheap.  I kid you not.  This amounts to literally the least expensive way to eat optimally well anywhere.  Plus, you’re saving a fortune on medical bills in the long run, too—all the while you’re experiencing a rather astonishing enhancement of your energy, immune function and well-being.  It’s a win-win–as long as you’ve also ditched the sugar and starch (and are eating enough natural fat).

Of course, you might not get to indulge in gorging yourself on that 10 oz side of beef–but truth be told, I doubt you’d much miss it.

Protein takes more energy than anything else to digest.  By moderating your protein intake you lessen that burden and have more energy for a whole lot of other things.  If you still want that 10 oz steak with dinner, go ahead.   –But your appetite could be every bit as satisfied with less, you’d have better quality digestion, more energy and probably live longer and healthier than you otherwise would if you’d give the ideas in Primal Body-Primal Mind a try.

Besides, it may not be nice to fool mother nature, but it sure can be fun and a whole lot healthier beating her at her own game.

Bullet-Proofing Your Immune System

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The big news headlines concern a possible pandemic caused by a virulent new contagious strain combining elements of swine flu, human flu and avian flu (being labeled H1N1) is a wake-up call to everyone to start paying some serious attention to the health of your immune systems.

Many here in America function with marginal immune health as it is, compounded by additional compromises coming from contaminants in food air, water and EMF influence.  Add to this equation rampant iodine and zinc deficiencies (essential to healthy immune function), stress and crappy dietary habits and you have a real recipe for impending disaster.

The information put forth in my book, Primal Body-Primal Mind has never been more timely, as the manner of eating advocated in it has the most optimal immune-enhancing potential of possibly any diet ever known.  Add to this a little appropriate immune-enhancing supplementation and you maximize your odds of weathering the looming health crisis on multiple fronts.

Although companies like Roche stand to profit handsomely from the promise of widespread use of their product ‘Tamiflu’ (Donald Rumsfeld has big financial interests in this company) as a potential treatment for infected citizens…it may be wisest to adopt this forgotten mantra: “Prevention is the best medicine.”

The following is an abbreviated guide to bullet proofing your immune system:

  • Eliminate sugar and starch from your diet. No lie.  A high glycemic meal can decimate your leukocytic index (your primary immune response) for 2-4+ hours following it.  Glucose attracts undesirable free radical activity, glycation, fermentation, is acidifying to the system (favoring pathogens) and increases insulin production (taking away from your internal repair and maintenance processes).  Sugar also literally feeds pathogens.  ALL carbs (except indigestible fiber) are sugar once they reach your bloodstream.  This includes bread, cereals, pasta, potatoes, rice, juices, grains (even whole grains), corn, low-fat/non-fat milk (very high in sugars), legumes (are about 60% starch) and other starchy carbs.
  • DO NOT OVEREAT. Digestion takes more energy than any other daily human activity.  Placing excessive burden on one’s digestive processes diverts energy and resources that might otherwise be devoted to better quality immune function.  Also, consuming excesses of protein up-regulate the metabolic pathway mTOR (which you can read about in Primal Body-Primal Mind in more detail) additionally suppressing internal repair and maintenance processes.  Also, dietary protein in excess of what is needed for daily maintenence and repair will likely be converted to sugar also and be stored and used the same way.
  • Be sure to get enough healthy natural fat in your diet! Fat is the only macro nutrient that can truly calm the hormone, leptin and satisfy appetite.  Always include enough in each meal to make sure you are satisfied.  (Use fibrous veggies and greens for bulk and added antioxidants).   Short chain fats found in butter (butyric acid), coconut oil (capric, caprylic and lauric acid) have potent anti-microbial qualities, as do certain other natural fats (chicken fat is another good one).  Your immune system cannot function without healthy natural fat, including some saturated ones!  Lauric acid, found in coconut oil, converts to monolaurin in the human body.  Monolaurin may be the single most potent natural anti-viral agent known.According to a new update from Dr. Mary Enig, two to three tablespoons of coconut oil per day appears to be an adequate dosage to fight infection, even from virulent antibiotic-resistant organisms such as MSRA.  As I had mentioned before, coconut oil is made up of better than 50% of lauric acid, which converts to monolaurin in the human body.  Monolaurin is among the most potent natural anti-viral agents ever found, and is known to be effective against even the most resistant lipid coated viruses, such as H1N1.   Personally, I am partial to the extra virgin, raw and cold pressed coconut oil from Wilderness Family Naturals (www.WildernessFamilyNaturals.com) .
  • The shoring up of your own internal wildlife–namely your healthy gut bacteria is a critical step in anyone’s effort to improve immune health.Your GI tract and its healthy denizens are literally the first line of defense of your immune system.  These can constitute up to 80-85% of your resistance against disease.  I typically recommend using a variety of quality probiotic supplements and/or eating a diet containing significant amounts of quality (preferably home made lacto-fermented/cultured foods.  Cultured vegetables are an excellent source of healthy probiotics and are a delicious and exceptionally healthy addition to the diet.  These can often be found in local co-ops (in the refrigerated section) or made at home inexpensively.  I’ll try to include a recipe in this blog in the next few days.  Sally Fallon’s book: Nourishing Traditions provides excellent instruction for preparing lacto-fermented/cultured vegetables and other lacto-fermented foods and beverages.  Raw Kombucha and/or beet kvass can be other good sources, as can (preferably) home made plain raw yogurts and kefirs.
  • Drink plenty of pure, clean, filtered water (NOT distilled). If you can get it alkalized and micro-clustered, so much the better.  Water is required for each and every cellular and metabolic process in the body.  Chronic dehydration is a set-up for ill health and vulnerability to all manner of illness.  Furthermore, water is your body’s single best detoxifier.  Detoxification greatly reduces the burden to your body’s immune processes.  Always drink the best quality water–at least half your body weight (lbs) in ounces per day–that you possibly can!  Squeezing a little lemon into the water you drink can help boost your system’s alkalinity.
  • Use a rebounder! Say WHAT?  Yep–those little mini trampolines are a wonderful adjunct to your detoxification and immune-boosting regimen.  Bouncing on one of these for minutes a day can greatly improve lymphatic circulation, effectively “massaging” your lymphatic system and improving its capacity for waste removal (again, drink water!).
  • Avoid food sensitivities. Food sensitivities can place a tremendous burden on your immune system.  If you’ve never determined whether you have them or not, then simply avoid the most common foods known to trigger sensitivity issues: grains (gluten), conventional dairy (casein), soy, corn, peanuts and chicken eggs.  In these cases, butter, heavy cream, sheep and goat milk dairy sources and duck eggs might be OK.   For the most reliable testing, go to www.enterolab.com.
  • Practice regular detoxification. Undergoing 21-day nutritional  “detox” programs offered by Certified Nutritional Therapists (CNT’s)/Nutritional Therapy Practitioners (NTP’s), saunas (especially the infrared variety), periodic colon hydrotherapy, skin brushing, “green drinks”, etc. are all good ways of reducing your toxic burden and enhancing your immune function.
  • Exercise daily – but don’t overdo it! Exercise helps move your lymphatic system and (together with perspiration) promotes detoxification.  Too much exercise produces cortisol, though (your body’s stress hormone), which suppresses the immune system.
  • Practice stress reduction daily. This can include, meditation, yoga, massage, laughter, biofeedback/neurofeedback, lessening exposure to EMF pollution, taking time to spend in peace and quiet out in nature, relaxation tapes, releasing techniques (Sedona Method, EFT, TFT).  These practices can help minimize excess cortisol production, known to suppress your immune system.  They can also possibly serve to enhance your immune function.
  • Get plenty of sleep! No one’s immune system can possibly work well in a state of sleep deprivation.  Most people get far to little–but a few get too much.  Shoot for a good 7 to 8 hours of quality deep sleep each and every night.

SUPPLEMENTS (a few basics):

  • Vitamin C Complex (yes, I said “complex”). Ascorbic acid, alone, isn’t vitamin C.  In nature, vitamin C appears as a complex including numerous bioflavinoids.  Taking ascorbic acid without vitamin C’s other vital natural cofactors can lead to depletion of tissue levels of cofactors and eventual C deficiency!  Acerola powder would be one source of complete vitamin C.  I also like “Pure Radiance C” carried by www.radiantlife catalog.com.
  • B-complex. By enhancing your resistance to stress, B-complex can help promote better immune function.  Be sure to add B12 in a sublingual methylcobalamin form.
  • Zinc. One of the single most important nutrients for the functioning of the immune system, many people lack adequate levels of zinc due to impaired digestion (low hydrochloric acid production), stress (up to triples the rate of zinc excretion), heavy metal burden (mercury and cadmium can displace zinc in the body), nutrient imbalances (copper dominance/excess copper can off-set zinc and prevent its proper absorption and utilization), chronic infections and genetic metabolic disorders (such as pyroluria).  My preference is for supplementing with zinc in ionic form (www.ionicmagnesium.com) or with good digestion, zinc monomethionene can be a good bioavailable form.  Oysters and sardines are a great dietary source (as long as you have enough hydrochloric acid to digest them well).  Pumpkin seeds, although touted as rich in zinc are also rich in phytic acid which binds zinc and makes it difficult to absorb.
  • Iodine. –HUGELY important to your immune function, but you have to know what you’re doing  (please read my article on iodine in the “Nutritional Geek Corner” on this web site).
  • Vitamin D. Very few people are not vitamin D deficient today–even those living in areas with year-round sunlight.  Indoor jobs, SPF use and sunlight (UV) phobias have led to epidemic vitamin D deficiencies.  Vitamin D is essential to the functioning of your immune system.  I personally prefer emulsified forms of vitamin D.  Be sure to regularly test you vitamin D levels to be sure you’re getting enough…and also not too much.  Also, be sure to supplement with some cod liver oil in order to get  vitamin A.  You need A in order to balance D.  A is important for your immune system, too.  Remember, though:  beta carotene is NOT the same thing as vitamin A!  True vitamin A can only be found in animal source foods!
  • Antioxidants.   Our need for antioxidants has likely never been greater.  Increasing supplementation with antioxidant nutrients grows in importance with stress, exposure to environmental pollutants, poor digestion, heavy metal contaminants, blood sugar disregulation and rancid fats.

Natural immunity is by far your best protection against contagious threats.   Why this isn’t front page news certainly speaks to part of what’s wrong with our health care system in the first place.  Don’t fall prey to the conventional medical mantra: “the best prevention is early detection”.  The best prevention is…PREVENTION!

Keeping your immune system healthy and resilient can be a real challenge in our modern world.  Be sure to remember, however, the last words of Louis Pasteur: “The microbe is nothing…the terrain is everything!”