Electrolyte Balance – Part Two

Achieving electrolyte balance is a key step in getting to a place of optimal health. It isn’t an easy thing to do, what with the stress of everyday life (robs your body of potassium), working out hard (lose sodium) and trying to deal with out toxic environment. But, with a little bit of time and effort, you can get it right.

The key issue is getting the right balance of potassium and sodium everyday in your diet to attain electrolyte balance in the long term. As I mentioned in my previous blog on electrolyte balance, you need to get about a 2:1 ratio of potassium over sodium. As you recall, this is not what the average person living in the Western world is getting. According to research, we are nowhere near that ratio, as is evidenced by this important paper. In it they state that it is estimated that only 3% of Americans get the daily need of 4,700 mgs of potassium. That is insane!!! As they put it “Adequate dietary potassium is important for heart and bone health and reduces the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.”

We already have been made aware that many people get more than enough sodium, typically 3,300-3,400 mgs a day but that is only 1 gram more than is recommended. Potassium deficit’s are a much greater problem in my opinion. The best way is by increasing your dietary intake like I mentioned in the previous blog.

Now it sounds to some that I’m being a bit too repetitive on increasing potassium but the data out there shows that it is a crises in the making. Athletes are a group that needs to be aware of this, especially those who cramp a lot. Recently, I did a podcast interview with the guts at Clean Health in Sydney, Australia on the subject of electrolyte balance and athletes (you can find it on iTunes or other podcatchers). In it, I recount a conversation I had with a trainer where they mentioned another “biochemist” claiming that athletes do not need additional potassium as when tested after working out, their levels were high.

What the skeptic failed to realize is that most potassium is intracellular (inside the cell) and when looking at a blood test, you are measuring the extracellular (outside the cell) amounts. Athletes, especially high performing ones, are breaking up cells when they work out which would naturally increase their extracellular levels for a short time but that does not mean they don’t need it. Quite often they cramp precisely because they don’t have enough potassium. Electrolyte balance is key in preventing cramping and improving performance.

So next time you’re out looking for a electrolyte that is truly balanced, make sure it has a 2-1 ratio of potassium over sodium like the ones at KTS Products.

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Phthalates and their effect on human health

Phthalates are one of the most ubiquitous chemicals in our environment today. The effect of phthalates on human health has been the source of research for many years. What has surprised me over the years is the amount of denial from both the medical field and industry. In this blog post, I will link the reader to a number of studies on the effect of phthalates on human health. If you want to review the long list of studies on phthalates, you can click here.

Phthalates

The Phthalate Molecule

Part of the activity of phthalates is its depressing effect on testosterone. This may be why I’ve been approached by a number of universities asking why they are seeing young males between the ages of 18-25 having testosterone levels of 60-70 year old men. I thought it was likely due to exposure to phthalates and lo and behold, when a mid west university tested a number of boys, they indeed had high urinary phthalate levels.

The question that needs answering of course is, ‘where are they getting all of those phthalates?’ The answer that we came up with was a popular body spray that is marketed to young males which contains five  different forms of phthalates. The ads for the product tout how using it will attract women to the user but the problem is the males won’t know what to do when they get there.

Here are a few links to show the negative effect of phthalates.

There was a study published in my favorite journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), that suggested a link between breast cancer and phthalates, in particular, diethyl phthalate, in 2010. You can read it here

In the September 2012 issue of, data gathered from NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), showed a link between urinary phthalate levels and diabetes in women. Click here to read the paper.

Allergy in adults has been linked to urinary phthalate levels in an October 2013 paper you can read by clicking here.

Phthalates effects on adults is considerable, but the issues it causes with children and developing fetuses is even more dramatic. In this study, published in October of 2011, phthalates were negatively implicated in mental and psychomotor development in infants, with the greatest impact on males.

May of 2014 was when a study showing a mothers exposure to phthalates linked to behavioral problems in young 6-10 year old boys.

Next time, I will link a few more studies implicating phthalates and other illness and negative health and behavioral outcomes.

Don’t forget to click on the library link above to see what books I’ve recommended.

 

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Arsenic and hypertension

In a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers led by Jiang, et al, revealed that arsenic can increase the risk for developing hypertension (high blood pressure). The study looked at people in Bangladesh whose water supply (wells) has been found to be contaminated with arsenic. You may ask how that would affect people in the rest of the world. Arsenic in the environment is almost universal, contaminating our water supply and our food chain.

Arsenic

Arsenic

One of the main sources of arsenic in our diet is through the consumption of rice. It is estimated that rice will soak in up to 10 times the arsenic that other grains will. Also, a number of strains have been bred to thrive in high arsenic fields. All of this should make people reduce the amount of rice in their diets.

Removing or reducing rice is a difficult dietary change. If that is not an option, there are things you can do to lower the amount of arsenic in rice. The most important thing you can do is select a strain that is grown in low arsenic areas such as California. Rice grown in Asia seems to be much higher in arsenic content. The other thing you need to do is to rinse your rice, dispose of the water and then cook it. While it doesn’t eliminate the heavy metal, it does reduce it by a significant amount.

Children should be the one group that needs to greatly reduce their rice intake as they, along with the elderly are at greatest risk for detrimental health outcomes due to arsenic exposure. Rice milk is to be avoided at all costs as it has higher levels of arsenic than is allowable in drinking water.

If you want to learn more about this go to the Environmental Working Groups page on the subject by clicking here.

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Electrolytes and Organ Function

The importance of electrolytes, especially their balance and multiple organ functions cannot be overstated.  So which organs are dependent on the balance of our electrolytes? All of them. Today we will go over one of them, the heart.

Some of you might remember the frog’s leg experiments from junior high school. In it, a frog’s leg, in water, would have either sodium (table salt – NaCl) sprinkled on it or potassium (KCl). When sodium is put in, the leg would contract and when potassium is added, the leg would relax. Now think about the actions of the heart muscle. It contracts and relaxes in order to pump blood around the body. The contraction is known as the systolic phase of blood pressure and the diastolic is the relaxing phase.

As I mentioned in the previous blog about electrolyte balance, the Western diet takes in more sodium than necessary but even more troubling is the low potassium intake. If this were just an occasional problem, the effect on blood pressure would be minimal. The problem is, this is a chronic problem that people face over decades. Too many people neglect to get the right balance of electrolytes.

According to an article entitled “Worldwide epidemic of hypertension” published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology in 2006, they write the following “The World Health Report 2002 identified hypertension, or high blood pressure, as the third ranked factor for disability-adjusted life years. Hypertension is one of the primary risk factors for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death worldwide. Recent analyses have shown that as of the year 2000, there were 972 million people living with hypertension worldwide, and it is estimated that this number will escalate to more than 1.56 billion by the year 2025.”

Given this problem, what is the solution given our knowledge base? First off, we do need to reduce sodium intake. That is not a difficult thing to do if we’re willing to work on it. The number one method of reducing sodium is stop eating prepackaged, premade fast food. Most fast foods contain amounts of sodium that equal the daily recommended allowance of 2,400 milligrams. Cut that out and you go a long way in reducing systolic hypertension.

Second thing to do is to up your potassium intake. We should get about 4,700 milligrams but the typical Western diet only gets half. Increasing potassium intake means more fresh fruits and vegetables as well. Here is a list of the top ten foods with the highest levels of potassium per 100 grams.

White Beans

White beans are among the best foods that are rich in potassium.

White Beans, dark leafy greens, baked potatoes, dried apricots, baked acorn squash, yogurt (plain), fish like salmon, avocados, white mushrooms and bananas (maybe why the Minions are so relaxed).

Another way to increase potassium while not getting high amounts of sodium are the KTS Revive Electrolytes which have a 2-1 ratio of potassium over sodium.

Whatever you do when it comes to electrolytes, make sure that you follow the concept of balance.

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BPA Free – Another Con Job?

Bisphenol A, aka BPA, has been implicated as an endocrine disruptor (affecting organs like your thyroid). In response, consumers have demanded that it be removed from products they use like hard plastic bottles. Over the past few years we’ve seen lots of stickers on these products proudly announce that they are ‘BPA Free!!!’ Many out there were happy to see this change.

For anyone who has listened to my lectures recently should remember that I warned the audience that this was likely to be nothing more than a con job. Did industry remove BPA from these products? Of course they did, doing anything less would have been lying. Were they being entirely honest? Heck no. No more BPA meant using BPS and BPF both of which I said were going to be just as bad.

This week, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives released a pre-publication article saying that “Based on the current literature, BPS and BPF are as hormonally active as BPA, and have endocrine disrupting effects.” People in the plastics industry knew that these replacements for Bisphenol A were damaging to the endocrine system and if they claim they didn’t, then, frankly, they had their heads buried in the sand.

Critics of the position that toxicity from chemicals like BPA is not a major issue relating to human health are cut from the same cloth that claimed that cigarette smoking wasn’t a major cause of cancer. ‘Humans are not exposed to that much on a daily basis.’ goes the argument. Former Washington State governor, Dixie Lee Ray once said about the dangers of excessive radiation, “Everybody is exposed to radiation. A little bit more or a little bit less is of no consequence.” She even dismissed the negative health claims of the victims of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. 

While this may seem over the top, it is the reality of what we as consumers face. Denial, delay, and slight of hand like the replacement of BPS and BPF for Bisphenol A. Instead of using BPA free plastic bottles, use glass or unlined metal containers. Your thyroid will thank you later.

Next time, I’ll continue the discussion on electrolytes and health.

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Electrolytes – Balance is Key – Part 1

One of the most asked questions I am posed with is what supplement(s) would I want to take with me on a desert island and my answer always remains the same, electrolytes. There are others I would bring along depending on how many things I could take like Vitamin C, trace minerals and definitely B-Complex vitamins (wouldn’t want pellagra, beriberi or anemia). Electrolytes though would always be number one.

A better question would be, ‘If you were dropped into a western, developed country, which supplement would you most want to make sure you have available?’ My answer would definitely be electrolytes with a bullet. The balance between two components of electrolytes, sodium and potassium, are as messed up in the Western diet as could be imagined.

Before we go much further, we need to define what electrolytes are. The standard definition is ‘any fluid that conducts, or has the ability to conduct electricity.’ Distilled water does not conduct electricity so would not be considered an electrolyte. Most soft drinks like Cola’s can be called an electrolyte but they are very poor conductors. So what about those sports drinks that are mass marketed? They probably are but they have lots of things in them like sugar and food colorings that are not helpful and for many people, detrimental. Your best choice for good electrolytes contain a balance of salts without sugars, additives or colorings.

Going back to the question of electrolytes and the Western diet, why you might ask, do I feel so strongly about its need? According to research, the average human needs 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day and 2,300 milligrams of sodium. In the typical Western diet, we get about 3,400 milligrams of sodium, slightly above recommendations, but the real kicker is that we only get about 2,400 milligrams of potassium, almost half of what we should be getting.

Today’s health monitors tell us that we need to reduce sodium intake because of its implication in coronary heart disease and in particular, high blood pressure (hypertension). Problem is, most studies done to measure the benefits of sodium reduction come up way short. Frankly, they tell us that reducing sodium intake really doesn’t do anything beneficial unless the amounts ingested are far greater than the average person takes in. Medicine seems to be stumped which astonishes me as they are missing the other side of the equation, potassium deficiency.

The DASH study is supposedly the be all reason why reducing sodium works so well but when you look at the diet, it dramatically increased potassium and magnesium, two of the minerals most deficient in the Western diet. While sodium reduction was the focus, I propose that it was the improved diets (vegetables, legumes and fruits) that helped the most as well of increasing the minerals we needed.

Every food we eat contains potassium so our bodies do not store this essential mineral very well. We don’t need to. Sodium on the other hand, is found in far fewer foods so we have evolved to retain this mineral. For millenium, salt, which is known as sodium chloride or NaCl, was an expensive commodity and not available to everyone. Today, it is loaded into almost every processed food and is a cheap condiment. Because of the West’s reliance on fast food for its convenience and easy availability, we are getting all the sodium we need. Potassium? Not so much.

Fruits, legumes and vegetables are abundant in potassium but that is what we tend to leave out of our diets. And we don’t do this for a few days a week, we do this year in and year out. Continuing to be deficient in potassium should be one of the main concerns in today’s Western diet but unfortunately it isn’t.

Next time, I will continue showing how important electrolyte balance is and what systems within the human body are most affected by imbalances.

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Responses to Comments

In November of this year, I did two speeches at the annual Weston A. Price Foundation conference. Recently, I received my speakers review which had some interesting comments, some of which I’d like to respond to here.

Typically, when I get criticized I like to use it to improve my public speaking which is something I always strive to do. Comments like, “Spoke so fast it was hard to take notes” told me something important that I need to work on. Others, baffled me like, “Mark was too much opinion without 3rd party content or much supporting science.” What baffled me was in that particular presentation I repeatedly mentioned journals the research I was presenting came from and on one slide I listed nine references on the health effects of phthalates. On seven slides out of 46 I listed references or links to sites where the information came from like Environmental Health Perspectives and the Environmental Working Group. On top of it, I always tell my audience to doubt what I say and verify things independently.

One comment that enlightened me was, “I don’t think he fully understands the detoxification process and the role of the gut.” I guess I dropped the ball somewhat on that issue as I didn’t go into it in great detail, something I will do in the future. There are two slides in my presentation where I talked about the role of the gut, and I did go into how important it was to deal with gut issues, especially inflammatory reactions in the gut, but obviously, not enough. That will be a topic that I will go into in a future blog.

Here is one that tells me that the attendee may not have listened to me fully, “For research-oriented presentation I’d like to see bibliography or references; e.g he asserted aspartame proven to lead to insulin resistance – I can’t find proof of this. Great topic though, and otherwise good.” Problem here was I did not say aspartame was proven to lead to insulin resistance. What I did refer to was a paper in the October 9, 2014 issue of Nature magazine (which I referenced) entitled “Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota.”

I criticized and praised the article. My praise was for the study of this important issue, the overuse of artificial sweeteners and their potential affect on health. What I criticized was their broad statement of culpability of all artificial sweeteners when it seems that when you read the paper, all they studied in lab rats was the affect of saccharin on the gut microbiota. You can’t indict everyone when you only study one of them.

Another criticism I’d like to address was this one, “He stated that electrolytes were helpful for depression and internet later confirmed he is affiliated with seller of such.” Guilty as charged but I stated at the lecture that I had created an electrolyte but I was not going to mention its name as I wanted to avoid my talk being a commercial one, which is something I do at conferences like this one. My affiliation and part ownership of KTS Products is not something I have hidden but I understand the critique. In the future, I will make my affiliations a little bit more assertive, so thanks for the comment.

One critique on a scientific basis I need to address is this one, “Needs to inform himself between glutamic acid in protein and possible injury to brain similar to MSG.” Without glutamic acid, your brain would cease to function. According to Dr. Eric Braverman in his book “The Healing Nutrients Within” (which I highly recommend) “…glutamic acid is the most prolific neurotransmitter; it exists everywhere in the body and is present in almost all nerve cells.” He goes on to say, “Of all the amino acid in the brain, glutamic acid has the highest concentration with the exception of aspartic acid, another glutamate amino acid.” I made it very clear in my talk that there is a distinct difference between MSG and glutamic acid. To eliminate this important amino acid would come with dire consequences. What I also said was that excessive glutamic acid is dangerous. Guess I didn’t say it with enough conviction.

All in all though, it was a great experience to speak at this conference and if you ever get a chance to attend (next year it’s in Anaheim, California), go. The people and the speakers were for the most part amazing and the attendees are fantastic.

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Testosterone, MI and Stroke

Late last year, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an article that purported that there was an increased risk of developing a myocardial infarction and stroke in men taking testosterone therapy if they had signs of coronary artery disease. The media jumped on the article and bellowed loud and long that this showed that men should not take testosterone and that doctors who use it are quacks. Problem is that the paper was deeply flawed and did not show what it claimed it did. This is sad as this error will not be picked up in the media and a lot of men’s health will be negatively affected.

So what is my support for my claim above, Dr. Eugene Shippen, MD  Medical Staff, St. Joseph Hospital, Reading, PA posted his open letter to JAMA on the FACT newsgroup at Gordon Research today. Here it is in its entirety

To the JAMA editor:

 

The article by Vigen et al has so many design flaws that the conclusions of increased risks of testosterone treatment should be questioned.(1)

1.     The most important design flaw is the choice of angiography as the primary entry variable that had NO effect on outcomes. Previous VA studies and their own current analyses demonstrate no risk differences for treated or non-treated men for cardiovascular disease mortality(2). Therefore, this variable not only had no bearing on the results directly, but it resulted in many time-related statistical complexities regarding treatment timing and event relationships.

2.     Additionally, this variable resulted in substantial exclusions that would have significantly increased the cohort numbers and important comparative results. For example, 2798 were excluded because testosterone treatment was started before angiography.

3.     If the actual deaths in the treated (67/1223 – 5-5%) and untreated cohorts (681/7486 – 9.1%) are simply analyzed, there is an amazingly similar reduction in actual death rates of 39.6% (5.5/9.1%) in the treated cohort. This is dramatically similar to the 39% reduction in overall mortality in testosterone treated men at VA facilities reported by Shore et al (2). The complexities of statistical analysis due to time and treatment variables reverses this clear mathematical data. How can this dramatic reversal to a 30% INCREASE occur when the RAW actual data say the opposite occurred! That is a 70% difference between actual and analyzed (manipulated) statistics?

4.     A serious flaw regards the time of testosterone treatment and relationship to event outcomes. For example, 1 in 6 of treated men filled only one prescription, yet these men were entered into the treatment cohort for the duration of the study. Duration of treatment or the time between treatments and endpoints is not clearly reported. It would be difficult, for example, to relate treatment for 1-3 months to an event 2-3 years later.

5.     Testosterone testing post-treatment was available for only 60% of the treatment cohort and was reported as 332.2 ng/dl for the “first repeat testosterone measurement”. This low value suggests poor compliance with any of the treatments. Where are the testing data for any additional tests over the treatment periods? There is poor treatment data for 60% and NO reliable data to corroborate adequate treatment for 40% of the cohort. Who can rely on the published conclusions?

References:

1. Vigen R, et al. Association of testosterone therapy with mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in men with low testosterone levels.JAMA. 2013 Nov 6;310(17):1829-36.

2. Shores MM, et al. Testosterone treatment and mortality in men with low testosterone levels. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 June;97(6):2050-8.

Hope you can share this and tell others the truth.

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Sleep to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

A Normal Brain and an Alzheimer's One

A Normal Brain and an Alzheimer’s One

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating disorder, not just to the person with it but the entire family of the afflicted. There is some good news on how to possibly prevent it and a new understanding of how sleep can affect it may lead to new treatments. So how does sleep affect Alzheimer’s? Turns out that sleep may help flush out toxins from the brain.

A recent paper published in Science magazine (October 18, 2013) suggested that one of the reasons sleep is so important is that during sleep, the brain and spinal cord fluid flushes the space between brain cells. The toxins and waste material is then sent to the liver for processing. The study, done on mice revealed this operation of what is known as the glymphatic system. The leader of the study, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard of Rochester Medical Center in New York said, “it was almost like you opened a faucet” when explaining what the researchers saw.

While awake, glial cells expand which reduces the space between brain cells and they contract during sleep to allow the fluid to rush in. This swelling and contraction changes the space about 60% between sleep and being awake. Numerous compounds build up in the brain during waking hours including amyloid-beta which has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. When you sleep, amyloid-beta decreases but no one understood what the mechanism was. It was thought that enzymes might have been the way amyloid-beta was decreased but now that may need to be reexamined.

Researchers like Dr. Randall Bateman at Washington University in St. Louis said, “I’d be a fool not to pay attention to this.” As was mentioned in an article in Science News (November 16, 2013), “Increasing the brain’s ability to rinse itself off may also prevent or combat Alzheimer’s and similar diseases…”

Whatever your preferred method of getting to sleep, it seems to be critical in preventing any number of neurological disorders as well as allowing you to achieve optimal health.

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The Plague and Heavy Metals

Talking about the plague and heavy metals may seem like a kind of odd subject to talk about but bear with me, it will be worth it. Just this past weekend I was a speaker at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s (WAPF) annual international conference where I heard a talk from the controversial doctor, Andrew Wakefield. He was the guest of honor and he made a very impassioned speech but there was one comment he made where I had an “ah ha” moment.

As some of you might know, Dr. Wakefield is the British gastroenterologist who made the claim that autistic children had inflamed guts, more so than the average child, and that there seems to be a correlation with the MMR vaccine. He has been vilified by the media and his own professional organizations despite having solid evidence to back his position. His talk at WAPF was passionate and information. Then he made a comment about the plague and heavy metals in the Siberian steppe. This picked my interest despite him only briefly commenting on it.

So why would this three second snippet get my attention? Simple, what he said was that researchers found the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, in marmots on the Russian steppe but only those who foraged on heavy metal laced grasses died of the disease. All of these members of the rodent family had the bacterium but only those with higher levels of heavy metals died of the plague.

This got me to thinking, how many diseases are dormant in our bodies waiting for a trigger to turn them virulent? And I’m not just talking about viruses, bacterium like the plague or parasites like toxoplasma gondii, but chronic diseases like type II diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or cancer. We get a load of toxins building up, like heavy metals or petrochemicals and when a critical mass is reached, bang, a disease begins to ravage us. This phenomenon can explain a lot of sudden onset disorders which come out of the blue.

My take on this is to not only be on the constant outlook for toxic exposure but to make it a lifestyle choice to always look to detoxify yourself regularly. Whether you follow the protocols of Dr. Andrew Cutler for heavy metal detox or use glycine and other amino acids for petrochemical removal, just do it and do it all the time.

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