Nutrients Rock – “School house” style

More recently in the past than the days of my childhood, at some point when I was first writing online ~ 2010/2011, I mentioned a goal or rather an idea to “be like” a pop singer and I think my admiration and what my idea actually was may have been misunderstood. Memorable and entertaining music can be a fun way to deliver educational messages not just fill stadium shows for adults.

The children’s song and video series called School House Rock is an early example of education set to rock music. Examples are available online: [Youtube: Preamble to the Constitution]

Teaching in song goes farther back though to early nursery rhymes and the “clean up, clean up, time to clean up” song. I don’t know if that tune has a title, I learned it as an adult after my kids were already too old for it to have worked. Some lessons are learned at certain stages of development and then unlearning those habits can be difficult later in life.

Here’s a slightly different tune than I remember but – use it regularly during preschool and you may be more likely to end up with a teenager who simply is used to and prefers to have and maintain a neat room. Sing the song while cleaning up with the children everyday while they are young and need the help. In a few years they’ll be singing the song and cleaning up naturally and may even teach younger kids how much fun it is: [Youtube: Clean up song]

  • Teaching healthy eating habits and a love for a variety of flavors starts with pregnancy when mom eats a variety of healthy and flavorful foods and continues during breastfeeding. The fetus and infant do sense some of the flavor variety in their nutrition they receive from mom.
  • Offering a variety of easy to digest foods as the toddler and child grows helps teach them that a variety of flavors are interesting and enjoyable. There can be a tendency for children to prefer a favorite but offer it too often and then they may suddenly get tired of it and not want it again. Offering a variety regularly and encouraging tastes of new things without forcing a certain amount can help make an environment that feels safe for a child to explore new tastes without negative effects resulting due to feeling pressured.
  • Controlling food intake can make disordered eating habits more of a risk later on in life; eating too much, too little, or too limited a variety can be examples of disordered eating habits. Ideally it is best to encourage a child to learn to listen to their own body’s hunger and fullness signals and eat when their are hungry of a variety of foods and stop when full. A healthy microbiome, the good guy bacteria in the gastro-intestinal tract, also is important for appetite control and a good mood.
  • Fiber rich vegetables and other fiber foods are helpful for supporting the healthy types of GI tract bacteria. The good strains help protect us from bad strains and from yeast and other types of microscopic organisms. The good strains of GI bacteria have also been associated with a healthy weight and normal appetite. Some other types have been found to be common in patients with obesity and the bacteria may be playing a role in promoting an increased appetite and weight gain, more research is needed. Certain types of GI bacteria have also been found to produce different types of brain neurotransmitters, some that can increase anxiety and some that can increase a good mood.
  • So the take home point may be that bacteria that promote a good mood and healthy appetite sound like better passengers to feed and maintain during our journey through life.

Having wandered from my initial point, I’ll return to it, School-house rock style songs about nutrients might be a catchy, memorable way to learn about the nutrients. Young children could just be getting familiar with the larger message about their function and then the songs might be useful again during high-school or college along with flashcards to help learn the more complex nutrient names that go with the basic roles in the body. Chemistry students with a talent for tongue twisters can sing along with Tom Lehrer’s 1967 version of song from a Gilbert and Sullivan musical Pirates of Penzance where he shares all the chemical elements that were known at the time. [Youtube]

Now in a trip back through time you need either a time machine or a well-organized file cabinet. I’ve tried to organize my file cabinets over the years but at this particular stage of my life they are as rare as time machines – so instead of worrying about finding a particular scrap of paper with song lyrics about the vitamin B group from ten years ago I just grabbed a pencil and notepad:

B, B, B

You light my fire,

B, B, B

and give me energy

for all I require.

B, B, B

You light my fire,

B, B, B

energize my day

like a live wire.

Thiamin, Riboflavin,

Pyroxidine too,

Pantothenic acid, Cobalamin

and folate or folic acid are B’s,

Choline and biotin too,

Niacin or Niacinamide,

are also all B’s on my side.

B, B, B, B’s

Keep lightin’ my fire,

B, B, B, B’s

and I’ll never tire.*

(*obviously people do get tired eventually even with a good supply of B vitamins – lyrically the last line has more punch with the stronger statement then a more physiologically correct “so I won’t tire.” – this is why teams are helpful.) More info on the group of B vitamins: medlineplus.gov/bvitamins

Since I didn’t waste any time digging through old boxes or building a time machine, I just kept writing:

Iron, a red corpuscle’s friend,

helping make our muscles bend,

as we move about and play,

Iron carries oxygen all day,

delivering energy

throughout,

each muscle needs

a fair amount

to shorten and

lengthen as we

bend about.

And I kept writing, there are lots of nutrients:

Phosphorus, potassium,

Molybdenum, manganese,

Magnesium, calcium,

Sodium and copper

Are all trace minerals

We need each day

for enzymes to work

so that we can play.

And a draft to introduce the macro-nutrients too:

Protein, carbohydrates,

and fats,

are the three,

big macro-nutrients

on the nutrient

family tree.

As drafts for song lyrics go, it might be time to hire a song lyricist.

Addition: But finding a song lyricist also takes time so I wrote a couple more drafts instead,

The discovery of Vitamin C is an exciting story:

Ascorbic acid,

also known as vitamin C,

protected sailors from scurvy,

while they were away at sea.

Limes were a source

of the mysterious stuff

that helped men stay well

when oceans were rough,

and journeys were long

without a single stop

for fresh supplies

and a chance to shop.

Limes would stay fresh

for months, while at sea,

and provided the sailors

a good source of vitamin C.

Scurvy was the feared

disease of the sea

until it was seen

that citrus fruit cured

and prevented the dread disease.

Bleeding gums and sore knees?

How could a sailor chew hard tack

or climb trees?

Let alone scurry up the ship’s mast

to keep watch in the lookout’s post?

Vitamin D was also discovered early for its role in preventing rickets in children, but now it has a new story to share as well:

Vitamin D, we know,

helps our bones

be strong and grow,

and now we also know

Vitamin D acts as defense

for our nutrient family tree.

It helps immune cells

learn to know

which other cells are

friend or foe

and helps mom and baby

safely get to know

each other’s cells as family

and not as foe.

Not quite ready for Youtube yet, but everything starts somewhere.

The lyrics about vitamin D contain information that is not part of standard education about the nutrient – yet. The area of immunology during pregnancy and early implantation is advancing. The fetus plays a role in decreasing the activity of the maternal immune T cells. A decrease in the internal level of tryptophan within the maternal T cells seems to be involved. A diet containing large amounts of tryptophan was associated with more fetal loss than a standard diet in animal research. For ethical reasons this field of research takes place with lab animals or murine animals. [1]

And third, fetal survival depends on tolerogenic mechanisms
that block maternal T cell responses.” [1]

The estrogen level of the mother may affect the ability of the fetus to inhibit her immune T cells:

Estrogen treatment and pregnancy both induced FoxP3 protein expression to a similar degree both in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that high estrogen levels during pregnancy may help maintain fetal tolerance by promoting regulation (65). Trophoblast-derived chemokines have also been implicated (63).” [2]

It had previously been known that estrogen has protective effects against autoimmune disease. Symptoms for some types can improve for a woman during her pregnancy and then flair back up after delivery.

Estrogen has been shown to protect against the development of autoimmune disease, yet the mechanism is not known.” (65)

The study found that estrogen treatment led to an increase in the FoxP3 protein in CD4+CD25 T cells. These are a type of regulatory T cell of the immune system which are essential for protecting against self intolerance – ie autoimmunity:

“Recently, in a TCR-transgenic mouse model where full protection against spontaneous experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis could be achieved by the transfer of wild-type CD4+CD25 T cells, Furtado et al. (47) showed that responsiveness to IL-2 was required for the suppressive function.”  [5]

Having walked this around a ball park or ocean going vessel, I’ll get to the point, cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, helps the body make adequate supplies of Treg immune cells, and it is better at it than calcitriol. [7] Calcitriol is a synthetic form of vitamin D3 called “Rocaltrol“, [8] I’m not sure of the exact difference chemically – but they both can help our body tell us who is friend and who is foe.

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.

  1. A. L. Mellor and D. H. Munn, Immunology at the Maternal-Fetal Interface: Lessons for T Cell Tolerance and Suppression. Annu. Rev. Immunol. 2000. 18:367–391. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Andrew_Mellor2/publication/12481340_Immunology_at_the_Maternal-Fetal_Interface_Lessons_for_T_Cell_Tolerance_and_Suppression/links/0912f50aa0af8ce00b000000.pdf [1]
  2. Indira Guleria and Mohamed H. Sayegh, Maternal Acceptance of the Fetus: True Human Tolerance. J Immunol 2007; 178:3345-3351; https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Indira_Guleria/publication/6468186_Maternal_Acceptance_of_the_Fetus_True_Human_Tolerance/links/55a4f85008ae5e82ab1f718a/Maternal-Acceptance-of-the-Fetus-True-Human-Tolerance.pdf [2]
  3. Saito, S., Y. Sasaki, and M. Sakai. 2005. CD4(+)CD25 +high regulatory T cells in human pregnancy. J. Reprod. Immunol. 65: 111–120. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/articles/15811516/ (63)
  4. Polanczyk, M. J., B. D. Carson, S. Subramanian, M. Afentoulis, A. A. Vandenbark,
    S. F. Ziegler, and H. Offner. 2004. Cutting edge: estrogen drives expansion of the CD4 (+)CD25(+) regulatory T cell compartment. J. Immunol. 173: 2227–2230. http://www.jimmunol.org/content/173/4/2227.long (65)
  5. Pascal FeunouLionel PoulinClaude HabranAlain Le MoineMichel Goldman and Michel Y. Braun, CD4+CD25+ and CD4+CD25 T Cells Act Respectively as Inducer and Effector T Suppressor Cells in Superantigen-Induced Tolerance. http://www.jimmunol.org/content/171/7/3475 [5]

  6. Mostafa G. Aly, Karina Trojan, Rolf Weimer, Christian Morath, Gerhard Opelz, Mohammed A. Tohamy, and Volker Daniel,

    Low-dose oral cholecalciferol is associated with higher numbers of Helios+ and total Tregs than oral calcitriol in renal allograft recipients: an observational study. BMC Pharmacol Toxicol. 2016; 17: 24.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4906900/ [7]

  7. “Rocaltrol,” “Calcitriol,” http://www.rxlist.com/rocaltrol-drug.htm [8]

 

Prenatal ultrasounds are a great idea, but for baby too?

I told you the last story to tell you a different one. My father is not a computer scientist but as a mechanical engineer and he liked to build things in his spare time in a home workshop with many tools with which he could custom make hand engineered parts built to fit whatever the project required.

As a professional mechanical engineer he worked on national defense projects for a company who contracted with the U.S. government.  He didn’t own the patents on any of his work as a employee; all rights to his inventions and collaborations remained the property of the company. Feeling proud to work in defense of your country is a reward in itself.

One of the projects he worked on in collaboration with two other engineers is still in active production. Underwater detection of submarines is performed with sound-waves, somewhat like whale’s communicating with songs that travel across oceans, or like bat’s sending out clicks and listening for the rebound in echo location. Fascinating and not my area to try to explain in more detail. The Sonar detecting equipment that my father helped invent is still in production for the defense of the nation and I am very proud of him and his work.

Since the initial invention of the sound-wave technology the same “ultrasound” technology was adapted for use to make black and white images of the interior of the body that are formed of soft tissue and can’t be viewed with an X-Ray in the way that hard bone tissue can be viewed. The ultrasound technology can be used to view organs or look for tumors and it is now regularly used to view and make images of a fetus during it’s prenatal development.

The use of ultrasound imaging for viewing babies has become almost standard as an early proof of pregnancy even though it is not necessary as lab tests checking hormonal changes are also performed.

The use of ultrasound imaging during pregnancies has become standard in the United States, however women in China may not receive an ultrasound during their pregnancies.

To skip back to the whale song momentarily — try to visualize the sound-waves of a deep long note or tone that is strong enough to travel across an ocean and now the bat clicking. The deep long note travels across the ocean from one whale to another and is heard as communication.  Or the clicks of a dolphin or a bat are sent out in long deep or shorter more rapid notes that bounces off an object and returns to be interpreted as a map or echo location. Now try to visualize the ultrasound technician holding an ultrasound device that sends long deep notes through the abdomen into the watery environment surrounding or making up the body of the baby. Sound travels well through liquid and it would be loud.

Research studies on the effects of ultrasound imaging on the expected fetus took place in China with a group of women who were requesting abortions. Other studies with animal subjects have replicated part of the results which showed that ultrasound could cause fetal cells to move out of place within the developing infant. Ultrasound waves when held in one place for a longer time and at a closer distance were found to cause actual movement of fetal cells out of their normal positions.  [The animal-based research study.]

Other risks were also noted in the research performed in China, most significantly when the imaging wand was used for ten minutes instead of three and when it was used in an internal, vaginal position instead of using a larger external sweeping motion across the expanse of the abdomen. [pubmed/11776185 ]

The other risks to the infant included increased heat especially within the bony cavity of the skull which has been studied elsewhere without any babies. A container of water was found to consistently have an increase in temperature occur after just one minute of ultrasound exposure. Specific types of ultrasound devices vary somewhat and the recommendations and cautions regarding ultrasound use in pregnancy are available in this research article: [PMC4547707 ] Avoiding use of ultrasounds during the first trimester is recommended in the article and using the lowest settings possible for patients who have a medical need for ultrasound imaging is recommended for prenatal patients in later stages of pregnancy.

Gastroschisis is a rare medical condition in a developing fetus that might require an ultrasound for diagnosis around 18-20 weeks/gestation as surgery would be needed shortly after the baby’s birth as the condition would likely be deadly otherwise. An opening in the infant’s abdomen near the umbilical cord allows some of the intestine and/or liver to be outside of the body. [cincinnatichildrens.org/gastroschisis]

Protecting the developing brain of the fetus is important throughout the pregnancy but  the greatest risk to the fetus from ultrasounds may occur during the first trimester according to a research study that took place elsewhere than China.

  • A book, 50 Human Studies, in Utero, Conducted in Modern China, Indicate Extreme Risk for Prenatal Ultrasound: A New Bibliography by Jim West, a non-Chinese scientist, is available in which the findings from the Chinese studies are summarized for English readers and a Japanese translation is now also available. The book is mentioned on the following site along with a variety of links to research on the topic of the use of ultrasounds prenatally and a potential increased risk for autism developing in the infant later in life: ultrasound-autism.org
  • A lengthy review of the book and the history of how it came to be written by Jim West is available here: whale.to/50 Human Studies.
  • An excerpt summarizes the recommendation regarding ultrasound use prenatally based on findings by a project that ultimately involved approximately 100 scientists in China and 2,700 maternal-fetal pairs, between 1988-2011 :

“From these human studies, Professor Ruo Feng, of the Acoustic Institute at Nanjing University, published guidelines in 2000:

“Commercial or educational fetal ultrasound imaging should be strictly eliminated. Ultrasound for the identification of fetal sex and fetal entertainment imaging should be strictly eliminated. For the best early pregnancy, avoid ultrasound.”

Ruo Feng, who reviewed many of the studies, stipulated that routine ultrasound be avoided. Only if there were exceptional medical indications should ultrasound be allowed, and at minimum intensity. Sessions should be very brief, no more than 3 minutes, 5 minutes at most. Multiple sessions should be avoided because hazards are cumulative. Human studies had found sensitive organs damaged at 1 minute exposure.

The Chinese studies echo and confirm the earlier, ignored and rejected, 1984 “Consensus Statement”, published by the National Institute of Health and signed by the preeminent American scientists of that era. 2″  – whale.to/50 Human Studies

  • I learned of this research on the potential risks of ultrasound when researching other topics on possible causes of autism. Many factors may be involved in the risk of autism developing, which, in combination, can lead to changes occurring in the developing fetus that aren’t obvious in the infant but which may flair up into an autoimmune-like reaction during toddler-hood if there are enough negative factors and not enough or an adequate variety of nutrients and other positive factors in the child’s home life. Genetic susceptibilities are also involved but none identified thus far have been found to lead to autism without there being additional environmental toxins or nutrient deficiencies involved.
  • Autism can be caused by the use of thalidomide prenatally. That wouldn’t be recommended as the medication can also cause physical birth defects when used during a pregnancy, however it is a medication used for some non-pregnancy related conditions and there might be an occasional unplanned pregnancy. The point is not only that planning pregnancies is recommended so that prenatal vitamins can be started months in advance (ideally a year prior to conception for least risk of autism in one study); and so that potentially toxic medications can be gradually stopped before trying to conceive; but that if autism can be caused by a medication then how could it also be a natural variation?
  • Family studies suggest that personality traits slightly similar to autistic characteristics can be more common in the family members of patients with autism. Protecting the developing fetus from ultrasounds that are too intense, or go on for too long a time causing over-heating can be a simple way to help protect the child’s true genetic potential. Higher functioning people with Asperger’s like symptoms and skills may represent the more natural variation end of the autism spectrum while patients at the least functioning end of the spectrum have likely been exposed to more variety of toxins and possibly with less nutrients available or less genetic detoxification ability available to excrete the toxins.
  • The use of ultrasounds in addition to other factors may all be adding up to increased rate of autism that has been seen in our modern culture.
  • Using equipment that was originally designed to  detect submarines to take pictures of a developing infant is a practice to use cautiously rather than allowing it to become typical for all pregnancies or to be available for non-medical reasons, possibly performed by non-medical staff who may not follow safe procedures in the pursuit of a better image. In some areas the technology has been used for photo-booth type purposes, “Have you noticed ultrasound boutiques popping up in strip malls?”. Read more: birthrelaxationkit.com/ Ultrasound Concerns for Baby’s Development.
  • If the damage can accumulate with repeated exposure as suggested by the statement by Dr. Ruo Feng then each additional ultrasound may be adding to the risk of a neurological conditions such as autism.

Ultrasound technology is currently being used medically in other ways then prenatal or soft tissue imaging. It may be used specifically as a heat treatment on sore or cramped muscles during a physical therapy session.  And still in the research phases, high frequency ultrasound waves are being used at more intense strengths to actually kill cancer cells. That would be a safer technique for the health of the surrounding tissue than using radiation on cancerous tumors. X-ray type radiation is directed at the tumor in a rotating manner so that surrounding tissue gets less rays while the tumor gets a maximum dose in order to kill the cancerous cells.

So killing cancer cells with high frequency soundwaves sounds like a great idea compared to being rotated on a table while an X-ray is directed at a tumor. Eating healthy and not getting a tumor also sounds good.

  • Having an ultrasound during the first trimester of a pregnancy doesn’t sound good to me. Disclosure – I declined any ultrasounds for both of my pregnancies. I had listened to my dad play whale songs for too many hours of my youth to want my babies to have a sound wave ray gun directed at them. My thought at the time, which research suggests was an accurate concern, was, “I don’t want to risk scrambling my baby’s brain just to see what sex it is. I’d prefer to wait and see anyway.”
  • At the time of my pregnancies, ultrasounds were still a fairly “new-fangled” invention or service which was offered as a choice rather than being expected with every single “I’m expecting a baby” announcement. Send a photo of the urine test stick instead or the results from the official lab test. Once you’ve seen one black and white fuzzy image of a blob, you’ve seen them all – you can trust me on that. Ultrasound images have become so standard they are used as proof of pregnancy for agencies that offer free services to women who are pregnant and I admired a lot of little adorable blobs — women can be very protective of their babies, no matter what they look like.

So protecting your newly conceived baby’s brain seems worth considering , not just the fuzzy image for a birth announcement.

In high risk pregnancies there may be an increased number of ultrasounds recommended, possibly just to be cautious. It is okay as a patient to ask questions about medical necessity and what is truly necessary and what is possibly being recommended to look thorough in case of a potential malpractice suit. If the ultrasound tests themselves may be increasing risk to the infant though, then how cautious is it to use them more often just because a woman’s pregnancy has some high risk factor?

It’s okay to ask questions. It’s your baby, your body, and your baby’s brain and future at risk.

  • A whale song combined with music by a musician I listened to as a child can be heard online; Whale Lullaby, with music by Paul Winter: Youtube.

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.