Is it Addiction or Starvation?

1. Talk Therapy or “Just say no” can’t help a genetic difference.

Talk therapy is also beneficial but can not “cure” a biological difference in metabolism.
  • Looking up the definition of the word “disease” suggests that a genetic difference affecting a body wide receptor system might fit the term “body disease.” “Disease: a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific signs or symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.” – Oxford Dictionaries (I.1.disease)
Redefining the neurobiological underpinnings and genetic risks of the behavior we call addiction could lead to more targeted help for the sufferers of addiction rather than continuing to treat them primarily by focusing on a discussion of their difficulties with motivation or impulse control.
Binge eating disorder for some sufferers may involve a genetic difference in the endogenous cannabinoid system which leaves the person unable to produce the cannabinoids normally and so they are left hungry, starving for the foods that are better sources of cannabinoids naturally.
Chocolate is the richest standard food source that isn’t a controlled substance but it isn’t a low calorie food (hemp oil and hemp seed products are not available in a limited quantity but they are still difficult for farmers to grow in all areas and medical marijuana is still considered a controlled substance at the U.S. federal level.) Less calorie dense foods than chocolate include pomegranate seeds, dark green leafy vegetables and herbs such as oregano and other green leafy herbs. So if binge overeating sounds sadly familiar, consider making an enormous salad and it may be just what your body needs. I use a half a pomegranate worth of seeds on my salad, which is about 1/2 cup of the seeds, and 1 teaspoon each of Italian Seasoning and Basil or Tarragon or some other leafy green herb. The enormous (a full dinner plate size is what I mean) salad might also help sufferers who are trying to resist the urge to over-consume alcohol or a few other addictive substances as well, if an underlying difference is present in their genetic code.
A dinner plate with a soup spoon and regular spoon for size comparison. Salad includes romaine lettuce, cilantro, tarragon, Italian seasoning, carrot, celery, avocado, pomagranite seeds, hemp seed and pumpkin seed kernels, lime juice and hemp oil and sea salt to taste.
The discussion of foods that are good sources of phospholipids or cannabinoids is not to suggest that medical marijuana patients should stop using their medication but simply to point to some food sources that might be available to most people where ever they live. Medical marijuana has significantly more cannabinoids than the foods that I mentioned in the previous paragraph or which will be mentioned later. My own physical symptoms are better helped by use of medical marijuana than by very large salads however the large salads are less expensive and have less effect on my mood. My previous use of the psychiatric medication Olanzapine has changed my withdrawal reaction to the medication and to marijuana significantly. I still have four months supply of the medication Olanzapine and plan to never ever use it again because its physical side effects while using it are very bad and withdrawal from it are much worse, frighteningly worse.
Medical marijuana patients who have never used olanzapine are unlikely to have the negative withdrawal reaction that I now experience within a few hours of my last dose. The strain of medical marijuana or type of synthetic or natural product is also important for any user in order to have a positive mental health reaction. Pure THC or the synthetic version, Dronabinol, can cause increased anxiety. Strains that have a mixture of cannabinoids and terpenes seem to help balance the mental effects in a way that is less likely to cause increased anxiety. Real lemon and lime products that contain the oil is one example of a easily available food substance that provides terpenes which help reduce the anxiety effects of medical marijuana or the synthetic Dronabinol. Terpenes and a link about lemon is included later in this post.
The Endogenous Cannabinoid System holds answers.
Background information:
  • Endogenous refers to something that can be made internally by our body rather than a chemical that is needed to be obtained from an external source on a daily or semi-regular basis. An example such as oxygen from the air we breathe is needed within every few minutes or cellular damage can start to occur; or trace nutrients such as essential fats or fat soluble vitamins may not be needed as often because they can be stored in the fat and membranes of the body. They may only need to be consumed in the diet every few days or weeks without resulting in negative health effects. The body can store extra vitamin D during summer months that can last most of the winter but does start to run out by springtime.
A person with a metabolic difference due to genetics, chronic illness, or the standard changes associated with aging may need an external source of nutrients that other people of average health would be able to make internally – “endogenously.”
  • Cannabinoids are a type of chemical called phospholipids which are formed from a lipid, a type of fat, and the mineral phosphorus.
I have a genetic difference in my ability to phosphorylate (I.2.wikigenes.BHMT) so that I am unable to make phospholiids endogenously and I have found that having an external source of cannabinoids in my diet every day helps my chronic illness conditions and improves my muscle and nerve control. I am registered as a Medical Marijuana patient in a state where it has been legalized for medical use.
     Some of my symptoms that are relieved by the herbal medicine have been troubling me since I was an infant. I had severe eczema throughout my childhood and severe congestion. Rarely could I breathe through both nostrils and nosebleeds were also common. The enzyme the BHMT gene produces when functioning incorrectly is associated with a risk for vascular problems – ie nosebleeds or easy bruising or spider veins or all of them.
     The protein that the gene normally produces is necessary in Glycerophospholipid biosynthesis, metabolism , and Phospholipid metabolism, (so a double mutation in this gene may make it difficult for me to make phospholipids endogenously), among 17 pathways in all – that is an important enzyme: (I.6.genecards.BHMT) And the CDK-mediated phosphorylation and removal of Cdc6 SuperPath involves 97 other pathways which include a Calcium2+ pathway and a Parkinsons Disease pathway and creatine metabolism (important for muscles) and synthesis of DNA and many other metabolic paths/chains of chemical events : (I.7.genecards.phosphorylation)
  • Phospholipids are found in human breast milk and helps stimulate the infant’s appetite and helps support adequate weight gain. The cannabinoids and phospholipid group perform two main functions – they are flexible and form a significant part of membrane walls, like building blocks or bricks; they can also be released from the membrane and act as messenger chemicals that can activate other systems or be modified slightly to become a different type of messenger chemical called eicosanoids.
  • Eicosanoids include the leukotrienes: Santa Cruz Biotechnology,(I.8.scbt.com)

2. It might be motivating to learn of an underlying cause to cravings.

It might help a person to learn that for a person with a genetic difference, difficulties with motivation or impulse control are likely due to an underlying deficiency of a substance they are missing, which would likely have helped them have better impulse control and to not have cravings for substances.
Someone without the genetic difference would be making the substances internally which would help them have good impulse control and not crave substances.
     Helping the person with substance abuse problems to find approved external sources of the substance (cannabinoids) seems like it would be more helpful and potentially more motivating for them to be able to view themselves as a worthwhile person with special dietary needs rather than as an unmotivated drug addict who just doesn’t try hard enough to change.
     Substance abusers likely quit using and relapsed again more times than anyone cares to count. every single time a chronic user runs out of their substance of choice they are “quitting” until they get more.
     Do you blame a hungry person for eating breakfast in the morning? Should a person just “quit eating” if they have an overeating disorder? Answer: No.
  • Cannabinoids might help some types of eating disorders and some types of drug or alcohol addictions by providing an essential nutrient that the person might not be able to make.
  • If the body can’t make an important substance or convert substances into active forms then it becomes an essential nutrient – essential for that specific person’s daily diet.

3. Genetics of the cannabinoid system and binge eating disorder, alcohol abuse and drug addiction.

“It is important to note that, as with alcohol, marijuana, and heroin, a human genetic variant of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor gene CNR1 has been associated with susceptibility to cocaine and amphetamine dependence (Ballon et al. 2006, Comings et al. 1997; Zhang et al. 2004).
  • Behavioral Neurobiology of the Endocannabinoid System; Ch.13: Drug Addiction, (page 334, I.9.Searchworks)
Endocannabinoids: The Brain and Body’s Marijuana and Beyond is a reference textbook available online as a pdf. (I.10.Endo.pdf)  It includes information regarding the genetic differences known to be associated with binge eating disorder and other drug addictions affected by rimonabant, a chemical which inhibits the endogenous cannabinoid system. Use of rimonabant affected craving for food/sucrose and alcohol in animal research, and it was found to reduce rewarding effects of morphine/opioids, amphetamine, cocaine and diazepam in other studies.
  • Rimonabant is not in use for drug addictions because it is associated with a significantly increased risk for suicide. This is an important point to note – blocking the endogenous cannabinoid system is associated with a significant risk for suicide.
The problem with addiction to some substances or to eating excess food for some cases of over eating disorders is an underlying inability to make the cannabinoids but a remaining need for them and a hunger, an urge for “something,” something that is unknown however. And what people choose to consume in order to try to quench that unknown hunger varies from food and alcohol, to the rest of the drugs that are commonly abused.
     Dietary sources are needed instead. However our food supply has limited sources. Vine ripened produce or lemon oil, rich in aroma, are examples of a food containing cannabinoids or a similar group of aromatic and medicinal phytochemicals called terpenes. Chocolate and the herb rosemary are two other food sources. The spices cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg are also sources. Non-euphoric cannabinoids also exist and may have medicinal benefits depending on the patient’s condition. Copaiba oil is a food grade essential oil that can have non-euphoric cannabinoid content with medicinal benefits.
     Wouldn’t it be nicer to tell starving people that they are starving rather than that they are poorly motivated?
  • For more information regarding binge eating disorder, drug addiction and rimonabant: See Ch.3: Endocannabinoid Receptor Genetics and Marijuana Use, (p72-73 & 91, I.10.Endo.pdf) and Ch.13: Behavioral Effects of Endocannabinoids, mentions that research with rimonabant has helped show excessive alcohol drinking behavior and development of alcoholism may be related to genetic differences in the CB1 receptors. (p319, I.10.Endo.pdf)
  • Impulse control deficits may involve the cannabinoid system: See Ch.13: Behavioral Effects of Endocannabinoids, (pp325-330, I.10.Endocannabinoids.Full Text.pdf).
  • Schizophrenia may be related to a deficiency in the cannabinoid receptors themselves rather than being due to a deficiency in cannabinoids: See Ch.15, Neuropsychiatry: Schizophrenia, Depression, and Anxiety,; of the book Endocannabinoids: The Brain and Body’s Marijuana and Beyond: (p378, I.10.Endocannabinoids.Full Text.pdf)
More recently a gene has been identified in binge eating disorder, the gene for the cytoplasmic FMR1-interacting protein 2 (CYFIP2). (I.11.sciencedaily) The gene has a number of known variations and has allso been associated with Fragile X, an autism like condition, ADHD, autism, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and Prader-Willi Syndrome.. (I.12.ncbi.FragileX)
     The enzyme the gene CYFIP2 produces when functioning normally is involved in many metabolic pathways in the body including one that plays a role in myelination of nerve cells and one in phospholipid metabolism. (I.13.reuters) (I.14.genecards.CYFIP2)
     So an external source of cannabinoids might help a person with a problem in their CYFIP2 gene to have normal appetite control and also to protect their nerves from multiple sclerosis – which causes degeneration of myelin.  Myelin is similar to the lipid part of some of the phospholipids of the endogenous cannabinoid system. Multiple sclerosis has been associated with social anxiety and eating disorders (I.15.omicsgroup) which are also conditions associated with gene differences in the cannabinoid system. Myelin is made with sphingomyelin which is made of sphingolipids. (I.16.sphingolipids) Easy right? (I.17.mpcfaculty.lipids) Even easier – coconut oil is about 50% phospholipids and is a good source of sphingolipids. (I.18.coconut)
     I don’t know if I have any differences in my CYFIP2 gene; it was not one of the 30 genes that were included in the Nutrigenomic Screening I had done for my personal use for the “purposes of research.” Genetic screening is only used for certain conditions in standard health care currently and some types of health care claims can not be made by practitioners about genetic screening for other conditions – no guarantees in life or lab tests. The screening I had was designed to test genes commonly found to have differences associated with autism. (I.33.Nutrigenomic Screening) (p22, I.34.example of the genetic screening I had)
     I have a genetic difference in my ability to phosphorylate (I.2.wikigenes.BHMT) The gene I have a double malfunction in, BHMT, is also associated with multiple sclerosis except it seems to be with an over activity rather than too little function. Methionine and homocysteine metabolism and vitamin B12 may be involved. (I.19.BMHT.MS) Hypothyroidism may be associated with over expression of this gene: (I.20.wikigenes)
     The enzyme BHMT/1 (Call – T), Betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT), in normal health helps produce the amino acids methionine and Dimethylglycine (DMG).
     DMG has been found helpful in ADHD, autism, allergies, alcoholism drug addiction, and chronic fatigue syndrome among other chronic issues. Methionine has been found helpful in treating depression, allergies, alcoholism and schizophrenia among other chronic issues. Since learning of the difference in my genetics I have been taking the two amino acids in a powder form that I add to a glass of water. It doesn’t taste good but it leaves me feeling more energetic and with a more positive mood.
     What it tasted most like was a tart red wine and the nutrient content of red wine does contain free amino acids, so someone with a problem with the BHMT gene may have problems with unidentified cravings that wine seem to help. While I did love red wine, it didn’t love me. It was one of the first triggers for severe migraines that I identified and started avoiding. A painkiller did help with migraine pain somewhat but zero time spent with a migraine is my goal.
     I found based on the information that is available regarding dose, that a half teaspoon of each of the amino acid powders helped my mood without causing such an energy boost that it caused an increased heart rate or prevented me from going to sleep. I tried one teaspoon of each initially and found that it was too much of an energy boost. Both amino acids can act as activating chemicals within the brain.
     I have early symptoms of neuropathy, I would rather prevent multiple sclerosis than to learn more about it first hand. Taking the supplemental methionine may be helping my body do what it needs to do to prevent an autoimmune breakdown of my myelin.

4. Sometimes people are wrong – Nixon was wrong.

If the good people, in their wisdom, shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.” – Abraham Lincoln (1809-1894), (p 634, I.23)
Hemp fiber was essential for rope and strong fabric. Thomas Jefferson grew hemp and is said to have smoked it too. It is time to stop being disappointed in loved ones who are likely suffering from a metabolic deficiency that leaves them susceptible to substance abuse or overeating and instead start accepting that they have needs that a person of average health doesn’t have or may not have to the same extent. Many nutrients are needed in a just right amount, not too little or too much.
     Cannabinoids are powerful and can be consumed in excess however it does not have the toxicity and deadliness of many other substances that are abused, including alcohol.
     The American Medical Association has recommended that marijuana be rescheduled as an herb with medicinal benefits. (I.24.AMA resolution) (I.25.veteransformedicalmarijuana)
     Rescheduling marijuana as a medicinal plant would free academic researchers to study its medicinal benefits. As a “Scheduled Substance” currently research studies are only supposed to assess toxicity and rehabilitation areas rather than design experiments assessing the medicinal value. Currently the synthetic form of the main euphoric cannabinoid, THC, is listed at a “safer” level of risk than the marijuana plant itself.
     The synthetic forms can be even more dangerous as they are more concentrated and are in isolation rather than also providing the non-euphoric cannabinoids that are found in most strains of marijuana and which have calming effects. Synthetic THC or THC in excess can cause paranoia and other mood symptoms that would have been unknown to Thomas Jefferson when he enjoyed smoking marijuana that was milder in the amount of THC it likely contained and more likely to be balanced with non-euphoric cannabinoids.
     The problem with black market development of a product is that it is often being designed to maximize the “buzz” or “euphoria” rather than the medicinal or pain killing effects. However, there is not that much “euphoria” felt by the person with chronic illness who is using a larger quantity of marijuana everyday due to an underlying inability to make cannabinoids because a tolerance is built up and they simply need some of the herb or other concentrated sources of cannabinoids every day just to maintain a state of health and function that is a little closer to everyone else’s “normal function“.    

     The person with a chronic need wants an herbal medicine that has a balanced variety of cannabinoids that treats a variety of symptoms, not just the euphoria inducing THC that can lead to overdose symptoms of a racing heart, feeling very chilled, and paranoia or anger combined with extra energy, so manic behavior might be a risk with an overdose reaction. Real lime or lemon juice products that are concentrated rather than being a watery lemonade may help counteract some of the mood changes associated with an overdose of THC. More on lemon oil is included in the next section. 

5. Medical Marijuana helps reduce opioid use, which can save lives.

     We currently have an epidemic of deaths due to opioid medications, prescription and black market drugs. The increase in deaths is due in part to the over prescription of opioid painkillers by the medical community but it is also due to black market substitutes that have been introduced in recent years. One type is particularly potent and is being sold as something else so consumers wouldn’t even know that they were being given a stronger version of an opioid medication than the prescription medication they were told they were purchasing on the black market – key point – don’t buy drugs on the black market because you don’t know what they might contain.
     This likely seems an obvious point which, honestly, even the drug addict knows that but their need is great enough during withdrawal that they may be more likely to take risks.
     Women may be especially at risk for opioid addiction whether it is due to differences in size or physiology is unknown. Addiction to opioids seems to occur for women at lower doses of the medication that were taken for a shorter amount of time than for men who become addicted. Women may be more susceptible to the cravings for the drug. (I.27.jotopr)
     In states with medicinal marijuana sales of painkillers dropped,which would include the opioids. Physicians are not comfortable with the inability to “prescribe” a set dose. “Take two hits and call me in the morning?” was asked in jest or in seriousness by a psychiatry professor, Deepak D’Souza, who also has researched marijuana. (I.28.npr)
     Deaths due to overdoses of opioids have also decreased in those states. (I.29.nbcnews) The cannabinoid and opioid receptor systems may both be involved in the regulation of appetite. Levels of the hormone leptin may be increased in response to CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus. Leptin and other appetite hormones may then “control opioid-regulated feeding…(Verty et al., 2003).” See Ch.13: Behavioral Effects of Endocannabinoids, (p313, I.10.Endocannabinoids.Full Text.pdf).
     Since marijuana use seems to be saving lives and has low toxicity risks, it doesn’t seem like how big a dose is as big a question as how to get a safe reliable supply to more patients in pain. The answer does exist but it is one a physician or psychiatrist is unlikely to like – the dose varies based on the person’s genetics and metabolism, the supply of nutrients available, tolerance, etc.; the answer is “It depends.” But the medication is so safe that worries about “too much” are really unnecessary, except possibly for more concentrated synthetic sources or extracted cannabinoid oil products.
     Signs of “too much” THC or synthetic THC can include a racing heartbeat, which very, very rarely has caused a couple/very few deaths. To the user first experiencing the racing heartbeat of excess THC, it may be frightening and feel like a panic attack. Relax it slows down again and only people with a pre-existing heart condition may be at risk during the time that the heart-rate is rapid.
     So if you have a weak heart – avoid excessive amounts of THC. The rapid heart-rate doesn’t occur at low doses. It may be accompanied a feeling of being chilled, and suddenly needing a jacket. Anxiety or anger may occur with excess THC or synthetic THC or during withdrawal from an excessive amount.
     The aromatic terpenes in citrus oil can have a calming effect if anxiety is a problem after consuming marijuana. Pinene from pistachio nuts may also be helpful, but a glass of lemonade might help the mood more quickly than eating pistachios because they would take longer to digest. (I.26.fastcompany)
     Artificial lemon flavored products wouldn’t help, only real lemon or lime juice products would help calm a mood unsettled by an excess or imbalance of THC. The plant contains many active phytochemicals which can include terpenes and other cannabinoids that are calming to the mood rather than causing euphoria. THC is the only cannabinoid in marijuana that causes euphoria.
     Opioid medications also cause euphoria – so why is one more socially acceptable than the other? Smoking is dirty and smelly and – the easiest way to not overdose.
     Eating products or the concentrated synthetic dose in one single sitting can leave a person feeling symptoms of overdose about one hour later, far too late to stop at half a serving or a small taste to see how you might handle that particular product and/or the strain that was used in it. Different strains of the plant can cause very different symptoms and help different types of symptoms, so the question of “how much” is less significant than which strain to use and the method to use to consume it.
     Smoking provides fairly instant changes to the mood so it is easy to tell if you’re getting more anxious or developing a rapid heart rate. Strains of marijuana can vary a lot, some types may cause the anxiety symptoms, while others would just cause the stereotypical “couchlock” – falling asleep. While setting fire to the couch might be a very real risk, otherwise, no danger other than possibly drooling a little and looking stupid. Looking stupid is better than looking dead from an opioid overdose – in my opinion – and I am a medical marijuana patient who has experienced these symptoms and read research about safe use.

6. Resources for help or just someone to talk to:

  • National Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.” (1.30samhsa.org)
  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, RAINN Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE, (1.31RAINN.)
  • U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: “Call 1-800-273-8255, Available 24 hours everyday.” (1.32.suicidepreventionlifeline.org)

Help is only helpful when you accept it. Recognizing that you need it is the first step.

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.

Links and References:

(I’ll finish this list later, I’ve learned a lazy editing tactic is to skip the footnote numbers until the final draft is complete.)

  1. Disease,” Oxford Dictionaries (I.1.disease)
  2. BHMT,” wikigenes.org, http://www.wikigenes.org/e/gene/e/635.html (I.wikigenes.BHMT)
  3. Glycerophospholipid biosynthesis,
  4. metabolism ,
  5. Phospholipid metabolism,
  6. (I.6.genecards.BHMT) [http://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=BHMT] (I.6.genecards.BHMT)
  7. (I.7.genecards.phosphorylation) [http://pathcards.genecards.org/card/cdk-mediated_phosphorylation_and_removal_of_cdc6] (I.genecards.phosphorylation)
  8. Leukotriene,” (I.8.scbt.com)
  9. Behavioral Neurobiology of the Endocannabinoid System; Ch.13: Drug Addiction, (page 334, I.9.Searchworks)  Behavioral Neurobiology of the Endocannabinoid System, Editors David Kendall and Stephen Alexander (Springer, 2009, Nottingham, U.K.). (I.Searchworks)
  10. Endocannabinoids: The Brain and Body’s Marijuana and Beyond, (CRC Press, 2006, Boca Raton, FL), Chapter Three, Endocannabinoid Receptor Genetics and Marijuana Use, editor and chapter by Emmanuel S. Onaivi, et al., (pages 72-73, 91, and 333), Chapter 15, Neuropsychiatry: Schizophrenia, Depression, and Anxiety, chapter by Ester Fride and Ethan Russo, (page 378), (I.10.Endocannabinoids: FullText pdf)
  11. (I.11.sciencedaily) Genetic risk factor for binge eating discovered. Sciencedaily.com, Oct. 26, 2016,  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161026170543.htm (I.sciencedaily)
  12. (I.12.ncbi.FragileX) Sabiha Abekhoukh and Barbara Bardoni, CYFIP family proteins between autism and intellectual disability: links with Fragile X syndrome, Front Cell Neurosci. 2014; 8: 81., ncbi.nlm.nih.gov https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3973919/ (I.ncbi.FragileX)
  13. (I.13.reuters) Pathway Maps: G-protein signaling_RAC1 in cellular process, Life Sciences Research, thomsonreuters.com, http://lsresearch.thomsonreuters.com/maps/383 (I.reuters)
  14. (I.14.genecards.CYFIP2) CYFIP2, genecards.org,  http://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=CYFIP2 (I.genecards.CYFIP2)
  15. (I.15.omicsgroup) Shahla Mohamadirizi1*, Vahid Shaygannejad2, Soheila Mohamadirizi3 and Marjan Mohamadirizi4, Eating disorders in a multiple sclerosis clinical population and its association with social anxiety.   https://www.omicsgroup.org/journals/eating-disorders-in-a-multiple-sclerosis-clinical-population-and-its-associationwith-social-anxiety-2376-0389-1000183.php?aid=82623 (I.omicsgroup)
  16. (I.16.sphingolipids)
  17. (I17..mpcfaculty.lipids)
  18. (I.18.coconut) Handbook of Plant-Based Fermented Food and Beverage Technology, Second Edition, edited by Y. H. Hui, E. Özgül Evranuz  CRC Press, May 17, 2012, https://books.google.com/books?id=5fvRBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA669&lpg=PA669&dq=sphingolipids+in+coconut&source=bl&ots=QlgC46XLn8&sig=Y5AiDM4oUTBp9BS3aOKCtWK0Fbk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiQuL-wmdbVAhUG7CYKHXZCCxsQ6AEILjAB#v=onepage&q=sphingolipids%20in%20coconut&f=false
  19. (I.19.BMHT.MS) Naveen Kumar Singhal, et al., Changes in Methionine Metabolism and Histone H3 Trimethylation Are Linked to Mitochondrial Defects in Multiple Sclerosis. J of Neuroscience Vol 35, Issue 45, 2015 PAGES: 15170-15186 ISSN: 0270-6474 https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rohan_Dassanayake2/publication/283710653_Changes_in_Methionine_Metabolism_and_Histone_H3_Trimethylation_Are_Linked_to_Mitochondrial_Defects_in_Multiple_Sclerosis/links/5693c64508aeab58a9a2aaf3.pdf (I.BMHT.MS)
  20. (I.20.wikigenes)
  21. ( methionine )
  22. ( Dimethylglycine (DMG).
  23. John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 14th Ed., 1910, (p 634, I.23)
  24. (I.24.AMA resolution) American Medical Association Medical Student Section, Resolution 2, JUne 8, 2008, http://www.oregon.gov/pharmacy/Imports/Marijuana/Public/AMA_MedStudentSectionResolution.pdf (I.AMA resolution)
  25. (I.25.veteransformedicalmarijuana) AMA Votes to Reschedule Medical Marijuana, VMCA, http://www.veteransformedicalmarijuana.org/node/67 (I.veteransformedicalmarijuana)
  26. (I.26.fastcompany) Chris Dannen, Three Beginner Mistakes to Avoid When Eating Cannabis, fastcompany.com Sept. 10, 2014, https://www.fastcompany.com/3035175/three-beginner-mistakes-to-avoid-when-eating-cannabis (I.fastcompany)
  27. (I.27.jotopr) Karen Barth, New Study Shows Women are Hit the Hardest as Opioid Epidemic Sweeps the Country. Jotopr.com, Feb. 27, 2017, https://jotopr.com/new-study-shows-women-are-hit-hardest-as-opioid-epidemic-sweeps-the-country/?utm_source=ReviveOldPost&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=ReviveOldPost (I.jotopr)
  28. (I.28.npr) Shefali Luthra, After Medical Marijuana Legalized, Medicare Prescriptions Drop for Many Drugs. npr.org, July 6, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/07/06/484977159/after-medical-marijuana-legalized-medicare-prescriptions-drop-for-many-drugs (I.npr)
  29. Reuters, Legalized Marijuana Could Help Curb the Opioid Epidemic, Study Finds. March 27, 2017,nbcnews.com,  http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/legalized-marijuana-could-help-curb-opioid-epidemic-study-finds-n739301 (I.29.nbcnews)
  30. National Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (1.30samhsa.org)
  31. Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, RAINN Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE, (1.31RAINN.)
  32. U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline:  1-800-273-8255, (1.32.suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
  33. Amy Yasko, Nutrigenomic Testing, Holistic Health International, http://www.holisticheal.com/health-tests/nutrigenomic-testing (I.33.Nutrigenomic Screening)
  34. Amy Yasko, Methylation Analysis Pathway: John Doe, Neurological Research Institute, http://www.holisticheal.com/media/wysiwyg/John_Doe_MPA_05.19.17.pdf (p22, I.34.example of the genetic screening I had)

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.