Category Archives: glycocalyx

GPI anchors are cell membrane glycoproteins

Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins are long and firmly embed within the membrane and leave an extension out over the surface of the membrane. One end of the protein stays embedded firmly within the cell membrane and the other end can attach to a variety of important molecules such as enzymes and antigens. The enzyme or antigen is held above the cell membrane in a position that makes it available to be activated on the cell surface.

The phosphatidylinositol end is lipid (oil or fat) based and dissolves well in the fatty acid rich environment found within the membrane. The glyco- or sugar part of the molecule is able to dissolve in water or form bonds with other proteins or carbohydrates and is found on the end of the molecule that sticks out over the surface of the membrane.

GPI anchor proteins are essential for life. Mice that were experimentally made to lack the gene thought to encode for GPI anchor proteins did not survive. Experimental “knockout” mice are usually observed to see what types of function the knocked out gene might have performed. The experiment showed that GPI anchors were necessary for basic survival of baby mice. (Ref. 1, Brooks, Dwek, Schumacher, 2002, p 225) When a protein is found to be so essential that a “knockout” mouse doesn’t survive than more minor differences are attempted to be made in order to try to find out what types of functions are changed or are missing from the more slightly modified “knockout” mice.

Background information: GPI anchors are found in some types of G-protein couple receptors and may have importance within the cannabinoid receptor system which has been found to play early and essential roles in implantation of the newly fertilized egg within the mother’s uterus.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

  1. Brooks SA, Dwek MV, Schumacher U., Functional and Molecular Glycobiology, (Bios, 2002, Oxford, UK)
  2. Landry Y, Niederhoffer N, Sick E, Gies JP., Heptahelical and other G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) signaling., Curr Med Chem. 2006;13(1):51-63. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16457639]
  3. Maccarrone M, Bernardi G, […], and Centonze D., Cannabinoid receptor signalling in neurodegenerative diseases: a potential role for membrane fluidity disturbance., Br J Pharmacol. 2011 August; 163(7): 1379-1390 [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165948/]

Additional note on GPI anchors:

  1. Fujita M, Kinoshita T. “GPI-anchor remodeling: potential functions of GPI-anchors in intracellular trafficking and membrane dynamics.” Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Aug;1821(8):1050-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2012.01.004. Epub 2012 Jan 11.  Abstract: [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22265715] “and discuss how GPI-anchors regulate protein sorting, trafficking, and dynamics.”

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Sugars give energy and structure to life

Carbohydrates are molecules of various size and shape which are formed from atoms of carbon (chemical symbol “C”) and water molecules (chemical symbol “H2O”).  An atom is the single smallest chemical unit of an element. A molecule is the single smallest unnit of a more complex chemical made up of atoms of other elemental chemicals or small groups of atoms that typically stay together in chemical reactions. The name carbohydrate means ‘hydrate of carbon.’

As single molecules carbohydrates are commonly known as sugars and  the single molecules  of  a sugar may be found in nature in a ring form or in a straight chain of carbon atoms that have hydrogen (H) and hydroxyl groups (OH) from the water molecules connected to the string of carbon atoms. As a visual, imagine a diamond ring where the gold band is made up of five to nine atoms of carbon and the diamond is an OH group that kind of points outward.

Individual carbohydrate molecules are called simple sugars or monosaccharides. They are commonly found in the diet as disaccharides, pairs of two monosaccharides, and as long chain polysaccharides in the form of the energy rich starches and the indigestible fiber found in cell walls of plants.

In a fluid environment such as a glass of fruit juice, the individual monosaccharides may be found as a straight chain of linked carbon atoms or as closed rings. The ring form is more stable chemically. A glass of sugar water made with pure glucose would only have ~0.0026% of the glucose molecules in the straight chain formation, the rest would be in some variation of the the ring form.

The juice of the sugar cane gives us sucrose or table sugar, which is made up of two 6 carbon monosaccharides, one molecule of glucose and one of fructose. The disaccharide lactose is better known as milk sugar and is made up of one molecule of galactose and one of glucose.

Mannose and fucose are monosaccharides that are less common in unprocessed foods but are very useful as food additives in mixtures such as ice cream or pudding.

  • Fucose is commonly found in brown seaweeds. About forty percent of the dry weight of brown seaweeds is the commercially useful alginate polysaccharides. Alginates are used as food additives to help stabilize mixtures and act as emulsifiers which help keep the mixture well mixed even while the food mixture remains still when sitting for weeks or months in a package on the grocery shelf or kitchen cupboard.
  • Mannans are the polysaccharide of mannose. Mannans are found in red algae which is useful for its agar and carrageenan content. They are used as food additives for their gelatinous properties and as thickeners.
  •  Carrageenan may be a health risk and has been shown to cause inflammation, impaired glucose tolerance and increased insulin resistance in lab animals at levels that might be found in comparable amounts in an average day’s food for a person. An update suggests that in larger quantities or more daily use that carrageenan may be linked to gastrointestinal symptoms or glucose intolerance. [12]
  • Mannans are also the main type of energy storage starch in the seeds of the oil palm trees.
  • One variety of the tree species, the ivory nut tree, is also known as ‘vegetable ivory.’ The mannan within the ivory like seeds resembles the overlapping long polysaccharide chains of cellulose, which is the type of fiber more commonly found in plant cell walls.

Other uses of the oil palm:  There are two types of oil produced from the seed of oil palm trees. Palm kernel oil is paler in color than the reddish color, beta-carotene rich, palm oil. Palm kernel oil contains a higher percentage of saturated fat than palm oil. It may increase the risk of high blood cholesterol but is an inexpensive cooking oil. Palm kernel oil is also frequently used in the production of soap because some of the saturated fatty acids produce good lather, even in salty sea water. Fibrous seed pulp that is left after oil production is used as animal feed.

  • The monosaccharide mannose may be the active factor that gives cranberries a reputation for helping prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). The monsaccharide mannose is thought to help make the lining of the bladder more resistant to infectious bacteria. More research is needed though to prove health benefits from cranberries or from more concentrated supplemental doses of D-Mannose.
  • Update – clinical research with patients with UTI symptoms were found to benefit from the use of D-mannose supplements. Two grams of D-mannose in powder form was given dissolved in a glass of water each day as a preventative. Patients in the D-mannose group were found to have fewer Urinary Tract Infections than the group who received daily low dose antibiotics. The control group of patients who recieved neither D-mannose or antibiotics had the most UTIs during the study (six months). The role mannose has to play in helping protect against UTI causing bacteria is discussed in further detail in the following article: D-Mannose for UTI Prevention Validated in Clinical Trial. [10] Capsules of cranberry concentrate or extract were found effective for preventing UTIs compared to drinking cranberry juice. [11]

Glyconutrients are essential for helping protect cell surfaces from infectious agents – so fans of cranberries are probably onto a good thing for more than one reason. Cranberries provide other healthy nutrients such as vitamin C so enjoying them provides the body a variety of helpful nutrients. [11]

The complex branching that is possible when monosaccharides and disaccharides join together in long chains is an essential part of our immune system defense. The surface of cells and bacteria and other microbes all have identifying molecules of complex sugar containing molecules which are used to tell friend from foe – like having a Welcome mat out on the front door or a Please Don’t Disturb sign hanging on the doorknob.

These longer types of molecules and the types of structures they form are discussed in more detail in the post: To Termites, Trees are like giant Sugar Cubes .

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

First posted (July 16, 2013), revised 4/18/2017.

References:

  1. S.A. Brooks, M. V. Dwek, U. Schumacher, Functional and Molecular Glycobiology, (BIOS Scientific Publishers, Ltd., 2002), Amazon.
  2. Out of One Many, or How to Use Agar Agar,” (Dec. 17, 2008) by chocolatecoveredKatie.com.
  3. Palm Kernel,” Wikipedia (Warning: this Wikipedia entry contains an old war propaganda poster about harvesting palm seeds which may offend some people and for that very reason should never be forgotten.)
  4. Palm Kernel Oil,” Wikipedia.
  5. Palm Oil,” Wikipedia.
  6. D-Mannose Offers Great Protection Against Urinary Tract Infections,”  SmartPublications.com.
  7. Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of a health claim related to a Uroval® and urinary tract infection pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation,” (EC) No 1924/20061, EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy
    pdf: efsa.europa.eu.
  8. L. Johnston, “Natural Urinary Tract Health: The D-Mannose Solution,” healingtherapies.info.
  9. A Weil, “Is Carrageenan Safe?” (Oct. 1, 2012), drweil.com.
  10. D-Mannose for UTI Prevention Validated in Clinical Trialhttp://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/28/d-mannose-uti-prevention.aspx
  11. Cranberries, Health Benefits, Facts, Researchhttp://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269142.php
  12. What is Carrageenan? https://wellnessmama.com/2925/what-is-carrageenan/

To termites, trees are like giant sugar cubes

Sugar cubes contain the disaccharide known as sucrose which is made up of one molecule of the monosaccharide most common in fruit called fructose in addition to one molecule of the monosaccharide called glucose which is essential for energy production within the body and brain.

The cellulose portion of trees is made of long fairly straight chains of glucose with no fructose, so trees and sugar cubes aren’t really alike. The bonds between table sugar and tree fiber are at slightly different angles which means a hungry person or animal would require different enzymes in order to be able to break them down during digestion into smaller molecules and atoms for further use as an energy source.

The straighter angle between the simple sugars of plant fiber allow the linked chains of glucose to line up with each other.  When lined up the fibers then can form layers, which might seem a little like sheets of paper stacked on top of each other in a book, except it would be a round cylinder doughnut shaped book. Cellulose is one type of plant fiber, it and other types of plant fiber are found in the cell walls throughout the plant in the leaves, stems and roots.

Chitin is similar strong chain of the simple sugar N-acetylglucosamine. The simple sugars in chitin and cellulose both have the slightly straighter beta angle than the bonds found in energy storage starches or polysaccharides. Termites [3] and the bacteria found in the stomach of grazing animals are able to digest the stronger beta bonds of cellulose.

Humans and most other animals can’t digest the strong beta bonds of cellulose because a specific enzyme is needed. The termites and bacteria in the stomach of grazing animals can make the enzyme from other chemicals but humans and the grazing animals themselves can’t make it.

Energy rich plant starches have alpha type bonds between the simple sugars. Alpha bonds connect at an angle that might twist into a spiral chain similar to the double helix spiral of DNA.

The angled alpha bonds are also found in branching shapes of storage starches like glycogen or amylose. The sugar molecule at the end of each ‘branch’ is available for rapid digestion. Glycogen is the energy storage polysaccharide of glucose in animals and humans and amylose is the form of glucose storage used in plants. Glycogen is slightly more branched than amylose.

Tree bark and tree sap both contain glucose but the bark contains cellulose and the sap would have amylose or a similar alpha bonded energy storage starch. A shiny insect shell or seashells also are a type of sugar but not glucose. Shells contain N-acetyl-glucosamine in the form of chitin.

Supplements of glucosamine may be helpful for reducing joint pain. Clinical research studies with patients have found 1500 mg/day may be beneficial. [2]

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

References:

  1. S.A. Brooks, M. V. Dwek, U. Schumacher, Functional and Molecular Glycobiology, (BIOS Scientific Publishers, Ltd., 2002), Amazon.
  2. “Questions and Answers: NIH Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial Primary Study,” National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [nccam.nih.gov]
  3. Nakashima K, Watanabe H, Saitoh H, Tokuda G, Azuma JI.,”Dual cellulose-digesting system of the wood-feeding termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki.” Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2002 Jul;32(7):777-84. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]

Neuraminic acid was known first as sialic acid

Neuraminic acid, or sialic acid as it was first called, is a monosaccharide with nine carbons. It has a negative electric charge which gives compounds containing it a negative charge. This is useful for keeping molecules like red blood cells from getting to near to each other. The negative charge on the surface glycoproteins repels the red blood cell from each other or from the walls of blood vessels which also have compounds containing sialic acid.

Mature red blood cells have an active life for about seven days.  White blood cells remove older red blood cells and de-sialylation of the surface proteins is one way the older cells are identified. Cancer cells with the ability to produce excess surface sialyation may have an increased chance to metastasize and turn up somewhere else in the body. [13]

Our bodies need to be healthy and well enough nourished overall to keep the whole system working. The neuraminic acid is produced within our cells from other chemicals in a series of membranous channels called the endoplasmic reticulum and the golgi apparatus. The channels have embedded enzymes along the way somewhat like an assembly line in a factory. We can not just eat more sialic acid in our diet and have it show up on our cell surfaces – we have to be healthy enough and well enough nourished over all in order to be able to manufacture our own supply of sialic acid.

Therapeutic glycoproteins are being developed and the problem of just the right amount of sialylation is one of the hurdles being studied. [2] In addition to the negative charge sialic acid tends to stabilize and stiffen the protein portion of the glyco-compound.  The proteins that line vessels were described to be somewhat like bottle-brushes; the protein being somewhat like the sturdy wire handle of the brush and with the negatively charged sialic acid acting as bristles that electrically repel other molecules of sialic acid. [1]

/This article was originally posted on 8/21/2013./ /Disclaimer: Information presented on this site is not intended as a substitute for medical care and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment by your physician./

More recent research from the scientists at the University of Zurich, regarding sialic acid, found an association between the presence of autoimmune disease and reduced levels of sialic acid on the individual’s antibodies, which are important for the body’s immune cells to be able to recognize and remove infected or foreign or decaying cells: “Specific Sugar in Antibodies Structure Determines the Risk of Autoimmune Diseases,” Oct. 7, 2015, [molecularbiologynews.org]

References:

  1. S.A. Brooks, M. V. Dwek, U. Schumacher, Functional and Molecular Glycobiology, (BIOS Scientific Publishers, Ltd., 2002), Amazon.
  2. Bork K, Horstkorte R, Weidemann W., “Increasing the sialylation of therapeutic glycoproteins: the potential of the sialic acid biosynthetic pathway.” J Pharm Sci. 2009 Oct;98(10):3499-508. doi: 10.1002/jps.21684.  [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  3. R. T. Almaraz, et. al., “Metabolic Flux Increases Glycoprotein Sialylation: Implications for Cell Adhesion and Cancer Metastasis.” Mol Cell Proteomics. 2012 July; 11(7): M112.017558. Published online 2012 March 28. doi:  10.1074/mcp.M112.017558 [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]

 

Nasal congestion and fiber; a glycocalyx clarification

In a previous post, Glycocalyx – What’s Snot All About?

Homemade chicken soup and mucilaginous fibers would be more likely to help promote healthy nasal mucous than the fiber found in broccoli or bran cereal. Bulky vegetable and whole grain fiber is more beneficial within the gastrointestinal tract for supporting healthy bacteria but it is not typically absorbed into the blood stream.

Fiber is made up of long branching or straight chains of sugar molecules. Cellulose, a common fiber in plants, is not typically digestible by humans. Bacteria in the guts of ruminant animals like cows help breakdown the fiber contained in grasses so the nutrients become available to the animal.

The nutrients from bulky long chain fibers are broken down and used to support the growth of the gut microbes rather than being digested by our enzymes and absorbed into the bloodstream. However some of the nutrients from fibers that would normally be indigestible by human enzymes may become available after they are partially broken down or modified by certain types of gut microbes. Butyrate / butyric acid is an example of a fatty acid with anti-inflammatory benefits that can be produced by certain types of bacteria from fiber that would be indigestible without the help of the bacteria. [1] The addition of a probiotic strain of bacteria, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, to infant formula has been found to help promote the production of butyric acid for infants with cow’s milk allergy and it helped reduce their level of allergic sensitivity. [11]

Having plenty of bulky fiber from foods like broccoli in addition to having plenty of water can help move everything through the GI tract at a steady rate and make constipation unlikely. Other types of mucilaginous fiber can have a laxative effect possibly by helping to attract and retain water in the bowels. [2] The word mucilaginous refers to something that contains or helps produce mucilage — that gooey stuff lining the cell membranes and the rest of the body.

Mucilaginous fibers are found in the vegetable called okra which is commonly used in Creole or Cajun gumbo type stews. The inner fiber of the slippery elm tree is also a source of mucilaginous fiber. Look for very finely ground slippery elm powder in herbal specialty stores. Slippery elm bark helped keep Revolutionary War soldiers alive during a harsh winter when they were left hungry enough to eat the inner lining of tree bark. Other settlers depended on it for food too. [3]

Marshmallow root powder [4] is similar to slippery elm powder but the marsh mallow plant is more available than slippery elm trees which may be help explain why more people have heard of marshmallows than slippery elm trees but it also might be the deliciousness of marshmallows. The sweet airy candies were originally made with marsh mallow powder. Either slippery elm powder or marshmallow root powder may help soothe sore throats or sore digestive systems when dissolved in tea or taken with some other food. I add a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of slippery elm powder in a mug of herbal tea when I have a sore throat. Commercially slippery elm powder has been available in the Herbal Medicinal brand tea called Throat Coat. Marshmallow root powder is categorized as an expectorant within herbal medicine which means it may help loosen lung congestion.

Chia seeds also contain a mucilaginous fiber. Okra, slippery elm powder and chia seeds may also help prevent constipation or may help if constipation is already a problem. [2]

Chicken soup made the old fashioned way may also help loosen congestion because it acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and helps thin nasal congestion. [5] Glucosamine may be released from cartilage and bone marrow during the long slow cooking of a soup stock made with bones. [9]  Glucosamine is also the healthy type of sugar found in the tough shells of insects (chitin, [10]) and in the shells of shellfish. It has been found beneficial for reducing arthritis pain with a 1500 mg/day dose. [8]

Hot pepper also helps loosen nasal congestion but not because of mucilaginous fiber. The capsaicin content of hot peppers reduces nasal congestion by activating vanilloid receptors. Capsaicin is now available in a nasal spray for non-allergic rhinitis. It may be helping to desensitize overactive vanilloid receptors for some people. [6, 7]

Adequate fluid and sodium and other electrolytes are also important for a healthy glycocalyx. It is a protective layer where white blood cells patrol for pathogens and the sticky mucous helps collect dust and other debris and move it out of the lungs and nasal passages. The glycocalyx layer coating our GI tract may also help prevent allergens from entering the blood stream and add strength to the delicate layer of cells and tight junctions that make up the walls of intestines. A fiber rich diet not only feeds the good guy bacteria, it may also help prevent food allergies by strengthening the intestinal walls.

The branching water soluble mucilaginous fibers weave together and form an intricate network that might look semi solid but is really mostly water — like a gelatin dessert. The structure can be unstable however and dissolve easily in the presence of excess acidity or salt. So my self care treat when I’m feeling very congested is a trip to a restaurant for a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup. It has the capsaicin from hot pepper and the anti-inflammatory power of chicken broth and garlic and it also provides fiber and other nutrients from the two types of mushrooms, straw mushrooms and black fungus, and the baby sweet corn, bamboo shoots, and water_chestnuts.

This post is part of a series on the glycocalyx:

  • Food Additives, leaky intestinal membranes, and autoimmune disease
  • Fringe Report: The glycocalyx, fiber rich produce, and intestinal health, 
  • Transport across the glycocalyx; a link
  • Glycocalyx – What’s Snot All About?

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Bibliography:

  1. Butyric acid-producing anaerobic bacteria as a novel probiotic treatment approach for inflammatory bowel disease. [1]
  2. Michael Ravensthorpe, Three mucilaginous foods that make great natural laxatives, July 18, 2014, [2]
  3. By Victor A. Croley, Slippery Elm Uses: Learn the benefits of Slippery Elm trees, including how to use it as a natural health remedy., January/February 1977, [3]
  4. Marshmallow Root Powder [4]
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff, Chicken soup: Can it cure a cold? [5]
  6. Alisha Mehta, Chili Peppers and Nasal Congestion, Nov. 8, 2011, [6]
  7. Umesh SinghJonathan A. Bernstein, Intranasal Capsaicin in Management of Nonallergic (Vasomotor) Rhinitis., Capsaicin as a Therapeutic MoleculeVolume 68 of the series Progress in Drug Research pp 147-170 [7]
  8. WebMD, Supplement Guide: Glucosamine [8]
  9. eatlocalgrown.com, Benefits of Bone Broth, [9]
  10. food-insects.com, Chitin, [10]
  11. Roberto Berni Canani, et. al., Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG-supplemented formula expands butyrate-producing bacterial strains in food allergic infantsThe ISME Journal advance online publication, 22 September 2015; doi:10.1038/ismej.2015.151 [11]
  12. Fiber Consumption Increases Beneficial Bacteria in the Gut Microbiome, 8/20/2015, [12]
  13. Oh B, et. al., The Effect of Probiotics on Gut Microbiota during the Helicobacter pylori Eradication: Randomized Controlled Trial. Helicobacter. 2015 Sep 23. doi: 10.1111/hel.12270 [13]

Glycocalyx – What’s Snot All About?

*This post was written in 2010 as the second chapter of a book that I had started writing about nutrition and my own struggles with health. I’ve shared other sections from the book but I had never shared the following chapter because of the taboo nature of nasal mucous — common sense suggested that it is just too controversial a topic to write about nasal congestion — but snot’s all right, we need it to help stabilize the thin layers of membranous cell walls that surround all of our cells and organs.

“Good behavior is attained at a young age.”                            – Burkino Faso proverb

[1, African wisdom desk calendars, Annetta Miller]

Is picking it and eating it a disgusting and filthy habit or an oral vaccination boost to the immune system? Traditional Eskimo cultures conserved fluid and heat by picking and eating it. [3]

Just what is snot? It may be described as a freeform gelatinous matrix of glycolipids and glycoproteins that covers our internal surfaces and is known as the glycocalyx.

Good snot, bad snot, it’s not all the same. Healthy mucous layers are two millimeters thick — about the same width as a piece of thread or single strand of hair. Obviously we can produce a lot more than that in response to sickness or allergies. Over the course of my life I have had a lot of experience with nasal mucous and congestion. Most of my childhood was spent breathing through my mouth because I was so congested, so often. On a good day I would be able to breath through one or the other nostril but usually both were congested – and messy. Eventually I learned how to tell whether I needed antibiotics or more antihistamine based on the color, texture, and smell of my nasal mucous.

Gross yellowish-green mucous that had a rotten smell and a stringy, sticky texture meant go to the doctor and get antibiotics because the congestion has become a lung infection.

Thin, watery, clear or whitish mucous is produced in large amounts during allergy attacks. Mucous produced due to allergies didn’t have smell associated with it in my experience. The thin fluid mucous produced in such large amounts during allergies may be helping the body carry the allergen debris up and out of the lungs. Constantly suppressing this response with medications may produce short term symptom relief, however in the long run using medications that dry up mucous may be allowing the allergens full access to deeper lung tissue made accessible through the artificially opened airways. The mucous is part of our body’s defense system.

Coughing and sneezing and moving the mucous out may be better for your health than regularly using an over the counter medication. Cleaning up the environment and removing dust and allergens would also probably be better for your health, when possible, ie: you can stop smoking but you have little control over smog alert days beyond wearing a face mask and voting for environmental protection; or you can vacuum and wash your bedding weekly but you may not be able to give away the family pet as easily.

I tried a nasal steroid spray for the first time recently and discovered myself producing a brand new type of mucous. My airways felt more open than usual but I also developed a new cough that felt like I had something stuck in my throat that I was choking on, like a cat with a hairball. When I successfully cleared the mucous, it appeared a typical whitish color but the texture was much stickier and slimier — more like my childhood toy can of Slime. I stopped using the steroid nasal spray fairly quickly; free flowing snot’s all right — sticky, slimy snot is not — it isn’t able to be expelled as easily. Free flowing mucous allows the body to carry allergens and pathogens up and out of the lungs when the mucous is thin enough to allow productive coughing.

Occasionally I would blow my nose and find little round globule of clear semi-solid mucous — fascinating for an easily amused and not easily disgusted child — they looked just like a gelatin dessert without the bright food coloring. The chemical structure of mucous is similar to a gelatin dessert or fruit jams and jelly. Fruit jams and jelly thickens when the pectin fiber is cooked. Heating the pectin fibers cause them to change shape and form the semi-solid structure of the jam or jelly. Gelatinous mixtures are all fairly chemically unstable and minor changes in acidity or hydration may cause changes in the structure or cause the gelatinous mixture to dissolve back into a fluid.

Chemical mixtures are made when we cook food. Tiny chemical changes can produce big changes in a “free-form gelatinous matrix.” You could experiment by adding a little lemon juice or carbonated beverage to a bowl of a gelatinous dessert or scoop of jam. The acidity should cause the gelatinous structure to break apart and get watery looking again.

The glycocalyx may act a little like glue between cells or like a sealant coating pipes in a plumbing repair. The jelly-like glycocalyx helps protect our inner surfaces around cells and in the lining of blood vessels and throughout the intestinal tract. A healthy glycocalyx layer may help prevent allergens from leaking through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. Pectin is important for making jam or jelly and eating fiber rich foods everyday is probably just as important for maintaining a healthy glycocalyx. Good sources of fiber include any whole plant foods such as: vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and herbs and spices. There is also a healthy type of fiber in edible insects called chitin.

Happy dining!

— on fiber rich foods of course.     😉

Read more about which types of fiber are beneficial within the GI tract and which types of foods and fiber might help with nasal congestion:  Nasal congestion and fiber; a glycocalyx clarification

 

A gelatin dessert.

*Having enough water every day is also important for healthy mucous. And the electrically active minerals sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are also important in fluid balance and healthy mucous .

Read more: Electrolytes are essential, magnesium helps protect brain cells 

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

 

 

 

 

 

Bioslime is another word that is used specifically to describe the gelatinous glycocalyx layer produced by pathogens on the surfaces of transplant devices and tubing used in patient’s wounds for drainage or tube feedings.

 

Transport across the glycocalyx; a link

More information and illustrations about the structure and function of the glycocalyx and tight junctions are available online from an academic textbook called, Molecular Cell Biology, 4th Ed.:

Interestingly, cells grown in a solution with very low concentrations of calcium ions formed a monolayer with a lack of tight junctions between the cells but when calcium ions were added to the solution, tight junctions formed between the cells within an hour.

–This could suggest that calcium ions are necessary for cell monolayers to be able to form the tight junctions — or it might suggest that tight junctions are formed between cells in the presence of calcium in order to prevent the calcium ions from passing between the cells. Or in other words: Does the presence of calcium ions allow the tight junctions to form? Or do the tight junctions form because there are calcium ions present that need to be prevented from passing through the cell monolayer?

More research has been done and it suggests that the intracellular calcium ion level is also important for maintaining strong tight junctions. Both intra- and extrcellular levels of calcium are kept under careful control during normal health. Tight junctions also will become disfunctional if intracellular calcium levels become elevated.

Magnesium ions inside of the cell are also important for controlling intracellular levels of calcium. Nutrients usually have to work together as a team.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Glyco-compounds – essential sugar building blocks

Glyco- refers to glycogen which is sugar in a bigger starch form. Sugars are the building blocks of starches in the way that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. The amino acids join together in straight chains like a string of beads or like letters in a word, a sentence, or a book. The straight protein chain can then fold into intricate shapes and form many chemicals.

However the sugars can actually connect to each other at each or most of the carbons in their structure – not just in one to one connections like beads on a necklace or letters in a sentence. Instead the sugars can connect at different ways and form many shapes like a Tinker Toy or Kinex building sets or like the words that can be built off of each other’s letters in the game Scrabble or Bananagrams.

Glucose and fructose are molecules that contain 6 carbons each but they are slightly different in shape – like mirror images – and our bodies need the glucose for building materials not the fructose. Fructose is an energy source (in other words it may be fattening if eaten in excess of the physical number of calories that are used up each day). Fructose is less useable as a building block – glucose is the form that is essential for our health. A molecule of table sugar is made from one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose.

Fucose, (6 C), mannose, (6 C), N-acetylglucosamine, (8 C), N-acetylneuraminic acid (11 C)  and galactose are also essential types of sugars with slightly different chemical forms. Some can be converted from one to another type but eating food sources may be better insurance (in case there are enzyme defects or other trace mineral deficiencies that may be reducing one’s ability to make enzymes).

The starches can code very complicated chemicals because the branching chain of sugar molecules can link together at more then one place – usually a bond can be formed at each of the carbon molecules in the molecule of sugar. So while there are fewer types of sugars than amino acids, each one can link together in several places and can create a more complex language in their branching shapes than is possible with the one to one connections of amino acids that from proteins.

The glyco-compounds form part of the jelly-like matrix of the glycocalyx layer. Proteins and lipids might be part of a glyco-compound. White blood cells can read and understand this glyco-language on the surfaces of other cells and allergens. Antigens and antibodies may not be effective if the diet doesn’t supply enough of the more unusual essential sugars.

Glyco-compounds dissolve in water better than the proteins or lipids (fats) would on their own. Glycolipids and glycoprotiens are nature’s way to help keep them suspended in water better. The sugar containing end of the compound dissolves in the watery fluid and helps keep the lipid or protein end moving along. The protein or fat by itself might separate from the fluid and stick to vessel walls or clot together into ungainly rafts of debris, which could lead to strokes or cardiovascular disease.

A life preserver keeps us suspended above water. The air trapped in the life preserver is keeping us mixed in the air environment and above the water while the body tries to sink. The floating masses of garbage in the oceans are suspended in a similar way.

Picture from: [thegoldenspiral.org/tag/environmental-terrorism/]

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

The Glycocalyx, Our Jelly Filling

The glycocalyx is a free form matrix made up of a jelly like mixture of starches, fluid, ions and other goo. Gelatin desserts are well known examples of a free form matrix supported by the starch, pectin. The glycocalyx jelly layer may act like glue between cells or like sealant coating the interior and exterior of pipes in plumbing repair. It protects our surfaces around cells and the lining of blood vessels and organs. The stickiness allows cellular interactions to take place more easily between white blood cells and protein receptors found in cell membranes. Imagine trying to build a garden hose out of lettuce leaves and strawberry jam – that is kind of how a blood vessel is made.

A gelatin dessert is

The faster current in blood vessels can flow on while white blood cells can pause and perform tasks safely sticking in the slower goo of the glycocalyx layer. It reminds me of the muddy bottom of river beds where minnows hide and frogs lay eggs. The glycolipids and glycoproteins may be long and branching like sea-weed and algae and the fibrous mixture may be like a net, slowing down and trapping things flowing by in the blood stream or in other vessels like airways and the digestive track.

The inside of a jelly jar.

Our intestines are miles long and wide open to every passing food particle unless our cells are replaced regularly and are well coated with the glycocalyx layer. The digestive track has the shortest lived cells in the body. They are replaced every seven days on average – that is a lot of miles of cells for our white blood cells to patrol in order to identify the decaying ones and provide them a quick death by apoptosis.

Apoptosis is nature’s control over pre-cancerous, decaying cells. Well nourished white blood cells can recognize the old or infected cells, give them a little enzyme blast of death and then engulf the waste material, resulting in no inflammation or discomfort to us. It happens every day. Apoptosis requires the white blood cell to have nutrient building blocks for all the chemical steps in the process, and the white blood cell membrane has to join with the other cell membrane temporarily probably occurring within the glycocalyx layer.

The intestines also need plenty of fiber from our diets to build and rebuild the jelly layer coating its surfaces. Animal foods do not offer any fiber for building this protective layer and a diet high in meat and dairy and refined grains can leave the body more open to allergens and infection. Fiber is found in all plant foods and whole grains. A fiber pill or fortified food is unlikely to meet our need for a variety of different starches. Vine ripened produce has a higher content of some of the essential types of starches then produce that is picked early and forced to ripen with plant hormones. Frozen and canned vegetables are picked at peak ripeness and then processed rapidly. They lose some nutrients in processing but will retain value over time. Fresh produce will retain nutrient value longer when stored as recommended for the variety.

Some natural food sources of healthy types of fiber include: Carrots, apples, pears, pre-ripened peaches and nectarines, berries, cherries, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, peas, green beans, other beans, nuts, seeds, guava, turnips, mushrooms, corn, leeks, dark greens, fenugreek, aloe vera, slippery elm powder, marshmallow root, cinnamon, turmeric, horseradish and ginger. And other whole fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices would also be sources of fiber. It is found in all plant foods.

Glucosamine is one of the super starches. It is important within bone tissue and may help those with arthritis problems. A typical supplement size is a large 1500 mg capsule once a day or three 500 mg tablets. Supplemental glucosamine is usually extracted from shells of crustaceans and can be a risk if there is an allergy to seafood. Glucosamine derived from corn has been developed and hopefully will make it into a variety of foods soon. Glucosamine derived from corn is available as a vegan source of the supplement at Deva Nutrition: [devanutrition.com].

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

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