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.

 

World Autism Awareness Day; “Please teacher” video

It is World Autism Awareness Day and this video of children with autism addressing their teachers is heart breaking – and hopeful.

 

Recently I was reading a poem by someone with autism and it reminded me of me. It was describing a feeling of not fitting in with the normal types of people but not wanting to be lumped in with the type of people who couldn’t communicate at all:

High functioning people with autism might understand and listen and be interested but not be comfortable or able to speak their thoughts well. They might enjoy going to a party and just listening and smiling on the outskirts rather than chatting much but they could still be enjoying themselves in their own ways. I liked to water plants during social gatherings at a church where I was a member. I was part of the group and enjoyed saying hi’s briefly to people and it helped the plants and gave me something to do so it wouldn’t seem odd to not get into longer chats with people. I’m much better at talking about nutrition then about social chit-chat.

Some families have found that smartphones allow instant texting as a modern solution to conversation. The family talks and the person with autism listens and texts back to them in response. It can also be common for people with autism to communicate in snippets of quoted lyrics or other phrases – using other’s words to say what’s also on their mind.

The Legoland article reminded me of my favorite “amusement” museum. The City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri is full of decorations made from recycled materials built into mosaics and patterned walls. The museum is built within and on the grounds of a large multi-storied building that was a shoelace factory. Shoelaces are still made there and can be purchased. There are numerous imaginative landscapes that can be physically explored and played on and in and under and above – the place is a jungle and cavern and a maze and amazing – truly. If I could live anywhere on the planet that I wanted to, then it might be here: http://www.citymuseum.org/

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.

Glycine is an amino acid with neurotransmitter roles

Subtitle: Rebranding and the power of a name: “Essence of Meat-ade” or “Cheerful Juice.”

Sub-subtitle:  Genetic defects in metabolism can affect the entire body due to lack of essential nutrients.

Background: I was found to have eleven of thirty defects in the methylation cycle that were known to be more common in patients with autism spectrum disorder. The screening is not for diagnostic purposes at this stage but is available to consumers interested in the information for their own research purposes (which might include what to feed their child or themselves for better management of autism symptoms – but it is use at your own risk information rather than ‘evidence based’ medical treatment approved for a certain diagnosis).

One of my genetic defects affects my ability to break down betaine into the free amino acids glycine and methionine (roughly, I would have to review the chemistry for the specifics). So armed with this new information I ordered tablets of each amino acid and started taking them each day as supplements. They seemed to help but it wasn’t a dramatic change in how I felt.

A month or two later before reordering more bottles I considered the question of just how much glycine or methionine I might need each day if I had a defect that prevented me from digesting protein and releasing the essential amino acids. When I looked into how much glycine might be needed by the body each day, I didn’t find much research but there was some and the amount suggested was far greater than the amount I was taking in the form of a tablet — 200 milligram tablet compared to two grams of the essential amino acid as a minimum recommendation with up to ten grams being proposed as possibly beneficial. And no toxicity risks were mentioned. Two grams is equivalent to 2000 milligrams or ten of the tablets each day, which would be expensive and a lot of tablets.

Many things that are available as supplements are also available in bulk as a powder that companies might use to make capsules or tablets for the individual consumer to purchase. The amino acids glycine and methionine were available online in a package size that was designed for individual use, possibly being marketed to people interested in body building or weight lifting.

A teaspoon of a powder substance is roughly five grams, depending on the density of the powder. I decided to try one teaspoon of glycine and one teaspoon of methionine per day as that would easily provide two grams and might provide up to five grams per day.

Results: Free essential amino acids are acidic — like lemonade — but taste a little like protein aka meat, so two teaspoons of free amino acids in water tasted VERY BAD. My nickname for the concoction became “Essence of Meat-ade” for the first day or two, however almost immediately after drinking the vile drink my mood became incredibly cheerful and I was suddenly filled with energy. I was amazed — how could a horrible tasting glass of water change my mood? I started looking forward to the drink and while I had started taking it in the evening I gradually switched to taking it earlier in the day and even twice a day occasionally, which would provide about ten grams of the powder.

My mental nickname changed from “Essence of Meat-ade” to “Cheerful Juice,” it helped my mood so much that I loved the stuff no matter how silly my face looked while trying to gulp it down too quickly to taste. I was amazed, and a little sad to consider that I had been without “Cheerful Juice” for my first fifty years of life — but better late than never is a motto of mine. With a double genetic defect I wouldn’t have been able to release glycine or methionine from larger proteins for my entire life — and therefore wouldn’t have had the cheerful effects or boost in energy due to the incomplete digestion of my food.

Why would a bad tasting drink give me a good mood?

I knew the amino acids glutamine and aspartic acid can act as messenger chemicals within the brain so I looked up glycine and methionine and sure enough they both also can act as brain signaling chemicals.

The rest of this information is about glycine’s role as a brain neurotransmitter. It doesn’t cover methionine but it also has roles in brain chemistry.

Glycine is a Neurotransmitter: 

Glycine has inhibitory and excitatory roles in the brain as a neurotransmitter – a type of chemical that can serve as a messenger between brain cells which are called neurons.

“Interestingly, glycine receptors comprised of a1 subunits are efficiently gated by taurine and b-alanine, whereas a2-containing receptors are not (8). The a1 and a2 genes are expressed in the adult and neonatal brain, respectively.”

ie-the type of glycine receptor found within the baby brain is not as well protected as the type found within the adult brain, later in the next paragraph:

“Recently, the expression of a1 and a2 subunits has been shown to be developmentally regulated with a switch from the neonatal a2 subunit (strychnine-insensitive) to the adult a1 form (strychnine-sensitive) at about 2 weeks postnatally in the mouse (8). The timing of this “switch” corresponds with the development of spasticity in the mutant spastic mouse (5), prompting speculation that insufficient expression of the adult isoform may underlie some forms of spasticity.” [1]

Background: Glyphosate is chemically very similar to glycine in that it may be incorporated into proteins but is not functionally the same. A protein containing glyphosate instead of glycine would be dysfunctional. Glycine provides methyl groups which are important for turning strands of DNA on and off, (DNA is the genetic material that acts as recipe cards for making proteins).

If glyphosate is being physically incorporated within body tissues in place of the amino acid glycine, then the role of glycine within early fetal development discussed in the above excerpt might be part of the mechanism for how autism risk may be occurring during the prenatal stage of life.

From a Marketing Perspective: How to sell something that tastes horrible but makes certain people feel great?

From my experience working with special need infants and children I learned that sick children when given a formula they can tolerate will cheerfully start drinking the formula if it  isn’t making them feel sicker — no matter how bad the formula tastes — and some of them are like “Essence of Meat” because they are based on free amino acids that would be easy to digest and wouldn’t have the same allergy risk as the larger and more complex proteins.

So how to market a specialty product? Target the special needs market, and pitch having the genetic screening done first in order to find out who needs the special product — and put the bulk powder in capsules  😉 , I tried to add lemon flavoring to make it more like lemonade but that didn’t change the flavor enough — I’m working on acquiring a taste for it instead.

The genetic screening I had done is “For Research Purposes Only” but it was assembled by a specialist with a PhD and experience in genetics. She is not a medical doctor and no diagnoses are provided however some health information is provided I haven’t reviewed it yet and therefore can not provide any feedback regarding it.

  • The Methylation Cycle genetic screening test: http://www.holisticheal.com/dna-methylation.html
  • My results and my notes regarding the 11 defects, this is a list of notes rather than being in article format, see number three of the double defects for details about the gene BHMT/1 (Call – T), which is for the enzyme Betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT): http://transcendingsquare.com/2016/03/30/methylation-cycle-defects-in-me-genetic-screening-for-research-purposes-only/
  • An excerpt from that post regarding diagnoses that may be helped by use of dimethylglycine (DMG) and methionine as supplements : 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.

/Disclaimer: 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. Steven M. Paul, GABA and Glycine, https://www.acnp.org/g4/GN401000008/Default.htm