The idea of taking one capsule of ‘Nrf2 Activator’ seems unrealistic – to me

This is a continuation of the last post which expanded on a topic brought up in the previous post. Nrf2 is an important chemical produced within the body when hormone D is available to turn on the gene that encodes Nrf2 and then Nrf2 can activate many other genes which are the map/encode/are the recipe card for proteins which are our own natural antioxidants and which are important for detoxifying the oxidative stress free radicals which are a natural part of energy production – turning glucose/blood sugar into usable energy.

The idea of taking one capsule of an ‘Nrf2 Activator’ seems great and might seem like a natural idea to our medicine mindset, however medicine and food are different. Medicines that can be taken in one pill per day tend to be something that triggers other events and which might not be needed within every single cell. Food on the other hand is needed in every single cell, like if every cell were its own Taxi cab in need of gasoline and motor oil and radiator fluid and windshield wiper fluid and whatever other things go on within a motor vehicle – we just think about the gasoline because it is needed most often but the car also needs those other fluids which can be reused for awhile. Medicine in a single pill per day type is more like the windshield wiper fluid or motor oil – it lasts awhile but eventually runs out or becomes less efficient.

A brief glance at the list of phytonutrients and foods that help promote production of Nrf2 suggests that since it is needed in every single cell of the body – as energy production and free radical production take place in every single cell – that it needs to be produced in a larger quantity and more regularly throughout the day then any one capsule might be able to promote/activate.

Magic bullet/one pill a day medications are not the same as the essential building blocks of the bulk macronutrients, protein, fats, and carbohydrates; or even the same as the trace micronutrients, the vitamins, minerals, phospholipids and essential amino acids, fatty acids and essential sugars/starches (specialized types of carbohydrates), which are needed in smaller amounts then the bulk supply of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Improving intake of any one group is going to help health but to really help improve health all the groups, macro and micronutrients, are needed on a regular basis. Some can be stored longer than a day or two because they are fat soluble and are stored within cell membranes and other fat storage areas of the body but even those run out eventually. Vitamin D is a trace nutrient that can be made within our bodies during sun exposure if adequate cholesterol is available (it is a slight chemical modification of the cholesterol molecule) and supplies that are made during summertime in areas with seasonal changes can last throughout most of the winter but tend to start running out during early spring/late winter.

Skipping ahead a bit – I have several of the chronic conditions that were listed in the last post and I have several genetic differences from average that may be making it more likely for me to have difficulties producing some of the important factors involved in detoxifying oxidative stress chemicals. I have managed to change my diet enough to feel better and to have the chronic conditions be considered ‘in remission’ but I know that it has to do with my daily habits in diet and in the supplements that I’ve added to my daily routine. When I get forgetful or too stressed to remember the supplements or start eating fewer of the healthy foods I’ve added my symptoms can start returning very quickly. So the idea of taking one capsule of ‘Nrf2 Activator’ per day seems like a nice but very unrealistic idea. Every cell of the body produces free radicals all day long, they need antioxidants all day long, which means they need Nrf2 helping promote production of our own natural antioxidants – all day long.

I’ll get back to the menu and recipe ideas shortly but first a list of the supplements I take  – the herbal supplements can vary somewhat from month to month as they may all be beneficial but they all cost some money but they don’t cost as much as expensive hospital bills or expensive pharmaceuticals (chemotherapy for cancer can cost a quarter of a million dollars). I have to avoid some nutrients as my genetic condition leaves me at risk of excess for some things and my autoimmune hyperthyroid condition is made worse by too much iodine intake so I take some B vitamins and trace minerals as individual supplements everyday but I’m only going to list the herbal supplements here. They may be beneficial because they are likely to have some of the list of phytonutrients mentioned as promoting Nrf2 in the last post. I’m sharing this list not as a recommendation but as an example of what I find helpful to help keep my own autoimmune, chronic inflammatory bowel, migraine, chronic pain and itch problems mostly in remission and help with mood stability as I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the last few years – it can be made worse by menopause or may be menopause, I’m hoping to get more stable moods as I move further through ‘the change.’

-I try to get only supplements with vegetarian gelatin or gelatin free and free of modified food starch as those ingredients may make my health worse – in alphabetical order for ease of reference:

  1. Artemisinin – 200 mg, I just added this one, I’m not sure if I will continue it past the first bottles that I ordered.
  2. Astragalus – 500 mg – this is also a recent addition.
  3. Black Cohosh – 300 mg – this is for menopausal female support.
  4. Dong Quai – 1.13 grams – also for menopausal female support.
  5. A mixture for menopause support which contains Maca extract, Angelica gigas, Pholomis umbrosa, Cynanchum wilfordii, and Cordyceps extract (a beneficial mushroom). – 1590 mg total for the mixture. This is a recent addition but I’ve found the Black Cohosh and Dong Quai helpful for a few years.
  6. While on the area of menopause support I also have used a topical Wild Yam Extract cream for a natural source of progesterone. I’m better with it then without. Menopause for women starts as peri-menopause and the process can last more than a decade.
  7. Gingko Bilobo – 60 mg. I’ve taken this off and on for many years. It may be helpful for mental sharpness/brain vascular system. My migraines may have to do with blood vessel problems.
  8. Kava Root – 800 mg – I have taken this for a few months as it may help promote more stable mood and my mood swings were quite bad for a while.
  9. Milk Thistle – 1260 mg/ 240 mg active phytonutrients – This may help with liver health and I added when reading about the importance of the liver for basically everything else in the body. I’ve only been taking it for a few months/ half a year.
  10. Oil of Oregano – 60 mg – I eat Italian Seasoning in teaspoon quantities on my salads, it is an herb mix containing oregano however the health benefits are suggested to be beneficial for general health and the oil is a more concentrated source. Eating larger quantities of oregano would be very strong flavor. I’ve been taking the concentrated oil for at least a half a year or more, it seems helpful. It is difficult to really know if something helps – it is easier to tell once you run out of something and don’t replace it if you start feeling a little worse again.
  11. Resveratrol – 250 mg, with Quercetin – 150 mg – I’ve taken both of these off and on for many years. They are both antioxidants that may help with skin health and general well being is a good general term.
  12. Slippery Elm Powder – 400 mg – I’ve taken this off and on over the years whenever I have a bad cold with a sore throat as it was in a soothing tea. The herb provides a mucilaginous protective coating to the digestive lining. More recently I added it about a year ago when my digestive problems began – it’s my go to herb for gastrointestinal tract problems. Marshmallow Root powder would act similarly. I have recently also been having a Tablespoon of Chia seeds in water everyday as they also help the GI tract in a similar way. Water soluble fiber is another term for mucilaginous substances.

So taking one bottle with one capsule per day of an Nrf2 Activator sounds like a nice idea for a pharmaceutical representative but not for dietitian recommendation.

The list of phytonutrients, for convenience:

Specific foods or phytochemicals mentioned to help increase Nrf2 include:

  • sulforaphane from cruciferous vegetables, (such as broccoli and cauliflower);
  • foods high in phenolic antioxidants, (This is a large group including bright yellow and red fruits and vegetables, and deep purple produce. The group includes the subgroup flavonoids which include anthocyanins, flavonols, and it also includes the less familiar subgroup chalcones which are found in the commonly used fruits apples, pears and strawberries. The group also includes aldehydes which are found in vanilla and cinnamon, phenolic acids which include salicyclic acid, and tannins which are found in tea, coffee and wine. Baking cocoa and cherries, beans and whole grains are also mentioned, the summary point would be eat more fruits and vegetables; see: (11))
  • the long-chained omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, (salmon, tuna, sardines, krill oil, ground flax meal, walnuts, hemp seed kernels);
  • carotenoids (especially lycopene), (such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, and lycopene is in tomato, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava); 
  • sulfur compounds from allum vegetables, (such as onions, garlic, shallots, green onions); 
  • isothiocyanates from the cabbage group and
  • terpenoid-rich foods. (Terpenes are found in real lemon and lime oil, rosemary, oregano, basil and other aromatic green herbs).
  • The Mediterranean and the traditional Okinawan Diets are also mentioned as being Nrf2 promoting diets. See: (1)

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.

 

Nrf2 – helps activate beneficial genes, protective against inflammatory conditions

Nrf2 is an acronym for a substance that helps activate genes that protect against oxidative stress and the resulting inflammation from excess oxidative chemicals. Nrf2 is a lot easier to remember then: nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). 

The list of chronic illnesses and genetic conditions that it may help prevent or treat is also quite long. The protective benefits against electromagnetic field radiation that was discussed in the last post may be due to the genes activation and resulting increased protection against oxidative stress chemicals – and this mechanism may be the same pathway for its beneficial role in preventing or treating the long list chronic illnesses.

It has been studied by a number of different groups in the prevention or treatment of: 

  • Cardiovascular diseases including atherosclerosis, ischemic cardiovascular disease, vascular
    endothelial dysfunction, and heart failure;
  • Neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, Huntington’s diseases;
  • Cancer (prevention);
  • Chronic kidney diseases;
  • Metabolic diseases: Type 2 diabetes; metabolic syndrome; obesity;
  • Several types of toxic liver disease; (not from the pdf article (1) – Nrf2 helps the liver to better utilize free fatty acids and triglycerides as an alternate energy source during times of starvation/malnutrition, which speculatively then, a deficiency of Nrf2 might be a factor in fatty liver disease (8))
  • Chronic lung diseases including emphysema, asthma, and pulmonary fibrosis;
  • Sepsis;  — (sepsis is a serious type of infection that spreads throughout the blood system.)
  • Autoimmune diseases;
  • Inflammatory bowel disease;
  • HIV/AIDS;
  • Multiple sclerosis;
  • Epilepsy;
  • See Table 1 for the list of studies regarding Nrf2 and the above conditions: (1).

Other diseases or conditions that may also be helped by adequate levels of Nrf2 have been less well studied but the same mechanism of reducing oxidative stress might also benefit in the prevention or treatment of:

  • “hemoglobinopathies including sickle cell
    disease and β-thalassemia [35], malaria [36],
  • spinal cord injury [37], traumatic brain injury [38,39],
  • altitude sickness [40,41], the
    three classic psychiatric diseases, major depression,
    schizophrenia and bipolar disorder [42–45],
  • gastric ulcers [46,47],
    glaucoma [48], age-related macular degeneration [49],
    cataract [50,51],
  • pathophysiological responses to herpes
    activation [52] and
  • benign prostatic hyperplasia [53,54].”
  • Nrf2 was reported to lower skin sensitization produced by sensitizing chemicals [57,58].” — (“skin sensitization..” – this likely refers to chronic itch type of conditions that are exacerbated by chemicals that activate TRP channels, which I discuss in more detail in a series of posts. TRP channels are also a big topic that could use more discussion time: (2, 3, 4, 5,))
  • See page 3, for the quotes and see the citation list of the pdf for the [__] references: (1).

Those are some common and severe conditions – so why aren’t we all aware of Nrf2? I don’t know. Possibly because the suggested treatment by the research discoveries are simple dietary changes which are not high profit margin treatments. However the list of foods that may help happens to overlap with those that I’ve been finding helpful for my own autoimmune and undiagnosed digestive problems. (There is a website with guidance about products that may be falsely claiming to have peer-reviewed studies showing that they are effective as Nrf2 activating compounds 2300 articles are mentioned as having been published on the topic of Nrf2, so I have some reading to catch up on. See: (9).)

So skipping the medical jargon, I’ll share some recipes and menu ideas that incorporate some of these foods and phytonutrients (list from the last post, the phytonutrients were quoted from this pdf: (1)

Specific foods or phytochemicals mentioned to help increase Nrf2 include:

  • sulforaphane from cruciferous vegetables, (such as broccoli and cauliflower);
  • foods high in phenolic antioxidants, (This is a large group including bright yellow and red fruits and vegetables, and deep purple produce. The group includes the subgroup flavonoids which include anthocyanins, flavonols, and it also includes the less familiar subgroup chalcones which are found in the commonly used fruits apples, pears and strawberries. The group also includes aldehydes which are found in vanilla and cinnamon, phenolic acids which include salicyclic acid, and tannins which are found in tea, coffee and wine. Baking cocoa and cherries, beans and whole grains are also mentioned, the summary point would be eat more fruits and vegetables; see: (11))
  • the long-chained omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, (salmon, tuna, sardines, krill oil, ground flax meal, walnuts, hemp seed kernels);
  • carotenoids (especially lycopene), (such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, and lycopene is in tomato, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava); 
  • sulfur compounds from allum vegetables, (such as onions, garlic, shallots, green onions); 
  • isothiocyanates from the cabbage group and
  • terpenoid-rich foods. (Terpenes are found in real lemon and lime oil, rosemary, oregano, basil and other aromatic green herbs).
  • The Mediterranean and the traditional Okinawan Diets are also mentioned as being Nrf2 promoting diets. See: (wakeup-world.1)

Menu ideas, a start –

  • Add more fruits and vegetables to any meal or snack.
  • Add a dash of real lemon or lime juice to salads or soups. A large spoonful can help aid digestion as we reach middle age. The digestive system tends to produce less natural acidity and it is needed for better absorption of B vitamins. Or sprinkle fresh lemon or lime zest grated from the peel or add a teaspoon of Ground Dried Lemons / Citron Seche Moulu / Limon Seco Molido which may be available at an India foods market. A spoonful of apple cider vinegar or other food grade vinegar could also aid digestion but would not provide the terpenoids found in lemon or lime oil. High quality apple cider vinegar or wine vinegar may contain other beneficial phytonutrients from the phenolic group from the above list as apples and wine are sources of some types.
  • Add a teaspoonful or more or less or any, to taste, of dried green leafy herbs to your salad or soup for aromatic terpenoids and likely phenolic phytonutrients as well; such as Basil, Cilantro, Italian Seasoning, Tarragon, Thyme. Basil and Cilantro are mild and are also used fresh in larger amounts as part of the salad greens. Basil is used fresh or dried in larger amounts in Pesto sauces. Parsley is also used fresh in larger amounts in Tabouli salads.
  • The herb Rosemary is also a good source of terpenoids but is slightly like pine needles and needs to be added to a dish that will be cooked about 20 minutes for better texture. I enjoy Rosemary with beta carotene rich orange flesh Sweet Potatoes which I cook as a skillet scalloped potato. I first saute an Onion sliced in thin rings (allium group) and then add thinly sliced triangles of Sweet Potato so they cook fairly quickly and a teaspoon to a tablespoon of Rosemary. Rosemary is strongly flavored and accidentally spilling too much in the pan can leave the dish inedible, scoop out the excess.
  • Rosemary is a medicinal herb which may help with pain and in traditional folk medicine has been used as a strong tea for pain and inflammation conditions but several cups can have a diuretic effect similar to too much coffee.
  • While discussing hot beverages, Herbal Teas, Green Teas and Black Teas, and Coffee provide phenolic phytonutrients and other antioxidants.
  • Chamomile is a medicinal herb that is frequently used as an Herbal Tea. It has been studied in animal based cell research to increase Nrpf2. (10) The amount used in a cell based study is not something that I could calculate a human recommended serving size for but the traditional medicinal information is available here: (12), caution against its use for asthma, and some seasonal allergy sufferers is mentioned and it is not recommended for use in pregnancy due to a possible risk of miscarriage. Chamomile is a tiny daisy like flower with white petals and a yellow center. The bright yellow center may be a source of phenolic nutrients. (11) Medicinal uses mention digestive and skin complaints, inflammation, relief from muscle contractions, particularly in the intestines, and relief from anxiety. (12)
  • Baking Cocoa is also a source of some phenolic and antioxidant nutrients and can quickly be made into a cup of Hot Cocoa by boiling  a cup of water and adding one or two large spoonfuls of the baking cocoa powder, to taste, along with a spoonful of sweetener. If richness is desired a half teaspoon of Coconut Oil can be stirred in for a hint of creaminess. Less processed/cold pressed Coconut Oil is also a source of phenolic nutrients. (6)
  • Sugar itself can be a source of inflammation so limiting sugar in beverages or other foods is generally a good idea for a health promoting menu plan.
  • Wine can be a source of phenolic nutrients, however it can also be a migraine trigger for some migraine sufferers (like me). Some of the benefits of wine are provided by the free (not-bound-within-a-larger-protein) amino acid content and other free amino acids in wine may be part of the migraine cause. Due to a genetic difference I found a bulk supplier of powdered free amino acids and tried Methionine and Glycine in water. A half teaspoon of each provides a cheerful mood boost without causing excess energy boosting effects – I tried a teaspoon of each initially and it could cause sleeplessness if taken late in the evening and almost too much of a energy boost to the point of increased heart rate. The free amino acids are acidic and cause a puckery tart wine effect. Adding an ounce or two, 2-4 Tablespoons of a 100% purple grape juice or cherry juice or black currant juice could add a hint of sweetness and makes the beverage slightly more juice or wine like. A deficiency of Methionine whether due to a genetic difficulty in metabolism such as I have or due to a dietary lack can increase the body’s need for Nrf2. (7) A deficiency of Nrf2 could negatively effect the body’s supply of the amino acids glycine and serine and it is involved in their biosynthesis pathways. (13) The pathway, called the pentose phosphate pathway, is shown in Figure 2: (14). So speculatively glycine wouldn’t be helping make Nrf2 but if there was a problem with supply of Nrf2 then there might be a shortage of glycine or serine, and they do have biological roles throughout the body.

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. Martin L Pall, Nrf2, a master regulator of detoxification and also antioxidant, antiinflammatory and other cytoprotective mechanisms, is raised by health
    promoting factors., Stephen Levine, Acta Physiologica Sinica, February 25, 2015, 67(1): 1–18  http://www.actaps.com.cn/qikan/manage/wenzhang/2015-1-01.pdf (1)  // quoted in: Joseph Mercola, The Harmful Effects of Electromagnetic Fields Explained, wakeup-world.com, Dec. 22, 2017, https://wakeup-world.com/2017/12/22/the-harmful-effects-of-electromagnetic-fields-explained/ (1)
  2. https://effectiveselfcare.info/2017/10/15/g3-5-negative-stress-chemicals-may-cause-symptoms-like-itching-migraines-pain-or-ibs/ (2)
  3. https://effectiveselfcare.info/2017/10/15/antihistamines-may-help-if-genetic-tendency-overproduce-histamine/ (3)
  4. https://effectiveselfcare.info/2017/10/15/g3-6-1-calcium-sparklets-and-oxidative-stress/ (4)
  5. https://effectiveselfcare.info/2017/10/15/trpv-channels-comfort-vanilla-heat-capsaicin/ (5)
  6. Marina AM, Man YB, Nazimah SA, Amin I.,  Antioxidant capacity and phenolic acids of virgin coconut oil. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009;60 Suppl 2:114-23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19115123 (6)
  7. Lin AH, Chen HW, Liu CT, Tsai CW, Lii CK., Activation of Nrf2 is required for up-regulation of the π class of glutathione S-transferase in rat primary hepatocytes with L-methionine starvation., J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Jul 4;60(26):6537-45. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22676582 (7)
  8. Yu-Kun Jennifer Zhang, Kai Connie Wu, Curtis D. Klaassen, Genetic Activation of Nrf2 Protects against Fasting-Induced Oxidative Stress in Livers of Mice., March 18, 2013http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0059122 (8)
  9. Which Nrf2 Products have Peer-Reviewed Studies – Beware of Phony Science, nrf2.comhttp://www.nrf2.com/?page_id=38 (9) Stuff to read later list: */Curcumin restores Nrf2 levels and prevents quinolinic acid-induced neurotoxicity. */Curcumin attenuates Nrf2 signaling defect, oxidative stress in muscle and glucose intolerance in high fat diet-fed mice. */Effects of a Water-Soluble Curcumin Protein Conjugate vs. Pure Curcumin in a Diabetic Model of Erectile Dysfunction. */Curcumin enhances non-opsonic phagocytosis of Plasmodium falciparum through up-regulation of CD36 surface expression on monocytes/macrophages. */Function and regulation of the Cyp2a5/CYP2A6 genes in response to toxic insults in the liver.– Curcumin is a vitamin/hormone D analog and is an extract of the root vegetable Turmeric which provides the bright yellow color to Indian curry spice mixes. CYP enzymes are actively involved in vitamin/hormone D metabolism.  /Yes, Vitamin D is needed to produce Nrf2: (15)/ */Role of Nrf2 in preventing ethanol-induced oxidative stress and lipid accumulation. – so yes, speculatively, a deficiency might increase risk of fatty liver disease. */Effects of aging and methionine restriction applied at old age on ROS generation and oxidative damage in rat liver mitochondria. */Extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields activate the antioxidant pathway Nrf2 in a Huntington’s disease-like rat model. */Quercetin ameliorates cardiovascular, hepatic, and metabolic changes in diet-induced metabolic syndrome in rats. */Chamomile Confers Protection against Hydrogen Peroxide-Induced Toxicity through Activation of Nrf2 -Mediated Defense Response.
  10. Bhaskaran, Natarajan & Shukla, Sanjeev & Gupta, Sanjay. (2012). Abstract 2594: Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) upregulates heme oxygenase-1 through activation of ERK-Nrf2 signaling: Cytoprotective mechanism against oxidative damage. Cancer Research. 72. 2594-2594. 10.1158/1538-7445.AM2012-2594. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275442168_Abstract_2594_Chamomile_Matricaria_chamomilla_L_upregulates_heme_oxygenase-1_through_activation_of_ERK-Nrf2_signaling_Cytoprotective_mechanism_against_oxidative_damage (10)
  11. Maria de Lourdes Reis Giada, Chapter 4: Food Phenolic Compounds: Main Classes, Sources and Their Antioxidant Power, Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology » “Oxidative Stress and Chronic Degenerative Diseases – A Role for Antioxidants”, book edited by José A. Morales-González, ISBN 978-953-51-1123-8, Published: May 22, 2013    https://www.intechopen.com/books/oxidative-stress-and-chronic-degenerative-diseases-a-role-for-antioxidants/food-phenolic-compounds-main-classes-sources-and-their-antioxidant-power (11)
  12. Roman Chamomile, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000233 (12)
  13. Gina M. DeNicola, Pei-Hsuan Chen, Edouard Mullarky, Jessica A. Sudderth, Zeping Hu, David Wu, Hao Tang, Yang Xie, John M. Asara, Kenneth E. Huffman, Ignacio I. Wistuba, John D. Minna, Ralph J. DeBerardinis, and Lewis C. Cantley., NRF2 regulates serine biosynthesis in non-small cell lung cancer., Nat Genet. 2015 Dec; 47(12): 1475–1481.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4721512/ (13)
  14. Albena T.Dinkova-KostovaAndrey Y.AbramovThe emerging role of Nrf2 in mitochondrial function., Free Radical Biology and Medicine, Vol 88, Part B, Nov 2015, Pages 179-188, Part of special issueNrf2 Regulated Redox Signaling and Metabolism in Physiology and Medicine Edited by 
    G E Mann, H J Forman, M Yamamoto, T Kensler, J D Hayes,

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891584915002129 (14)

  15. K Nakai, H Fujii, K Kono, S goto, R Kitazawa, S Kitazawa, M Hirata, M Shinohara, M Fukagawa, S Nishi, Vitamin D Activates the Nrf2-Keap1 Antioxidant Pathway and Ameliorates Nephropathy in Diabetic Rats., American Journal of Hypertension, Volume 27, Issue 4, 1 April 2014, Pages 586–595, https://academic.oup.com/ajh/article/27/4/586/2743232 (15)

EMFs and Intracellular Calcium – Magnesium is nature’s calcium channel blocker

Electromagnetic fields, (EMFs) are the non-ionizing radiation that makes WiFi connections work and other devices like televisions and cellphones. The electronic details are beyond my field of experience and they are generally claimed to be harmless however research is being done on the health effects on people and other species. As more and more ‘hotspots’ become active and there is discussion of making entire regions WiFi spots the question of whether the radiation is truly harmless or not is important.

The research that has been performed suggests that the mode of action is on the ion channels in cell membranes called voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs). The EMF radiation seems to activate ion channels and allows the interior of the cell to fill with calcium which then can proceed to activate membrane breakdown and other actions within the cell. Oxidative stress can involve an excess of calcium within the interior of the cell which leads to other free radical chemicals – electrically active chemicals which antioxidant nutrients can help deactivate. See: (1)

Oxidation is a normal part of cell function as it is how glucose sugar energy is freed for use. Too many oxidative free radical chemicals also called, reactive oxygen species (ROS), can overpower the natural antioxidant chemical pathways and lead to increased cell damage and even cell death. (2, 3, 4)

Ion channels refer to chemicals that contain atoms that have a positive or negative charge which can be used to provide energy for chemical reactions. Ions in nature generally are found in pairs with a balance of positive and negative charges so the grouping is fairly stable. Calcium and magnesium both have ionic forms with a chemical charge of +2, which means they are missing two electrons. Sodium and potassium have ionic forms with a chemical charge of +1 – they are missing one electron each.

An ion is an atom or chemical that has more protons than electrons and carries a positive charge or has more electrons than protons and carries a negative charge, while a free radical specifically has at least one unpaired electron in its outer electron shell/valence which makes it very reactive but does not necessarily mean an electron is missing nor suggest a negative charge. Depending on their chemistry they may be able to receive or donate another electron and are very reactive, very active chemically, as the outer shell prefers to be stable chemically. The presence of an unpaired electron makes the free radical chemically encouraging other chemicals to give up or receive the unpaired electron even if the other chemical is more chemically stable. (7) The electrons in an atom are arranged around the inner ball of positively charged protons and neutrally charged neutrons in layers of electrons (valences) which prefer to be in groups of 2, 6 or 8 electrons, so a free radical with an outer layer with one electron might want to donate it while one with an outer shell with seven electrons might want to receive an extra electron.  Element valences are slightly different than what might be expected looking at the Table of Elements – here is a chart of the typical ion or free radical charges: (6)

Oxygen can carry an electrically negative charge of -2, meaning it can accept two additional electrons in its outer valence. (6) And hydrogen can accept or donate an electron, +1 or -1, (6) which chemically can result in our most important molecule for life – water, H2O, formed from two atoms of hydrogen sharing their unpaired outer electron with one atom of oxygen which wants an additional two electrons. The slight preference for different electric charges gives the molecule of water a slight polarity, the oxygen part of the water molecule has a slight negative charge on average while the hydrogen parts of the molecule have slight positive charges. (8) A more thorough description of the chemical structure of the water molecule and its electrical charge distribution with illustrations is available here: (12).

Why is this important? Because our bodies are made up of at least 70% water and electromagnetic radiation does have effects on water (9) so a basic understanding of the chemistry can help understand the more complex issues of why having region wide areas of WiFi might affect health of humans and other animals, plants and possibly even microbial life. There is evidence that microbes can modify nearby DNA via EMFs generated by the microbial DNA when both sets of DNA are in a watery dilution. (10, [1602 from ref 9]) This may increase risk of infection or cross contamination of infectious substances. We don’t know what we don’t know. The research may simply confirm the need to be concerned about Electromagnectic fields on DNA. The negative effect of EMF exposure to DNA and an increase in DNA breakdown/fragmentation was mentioned in the first link. See: (1).

Research that looked for epigenetic effects on DNA that might be associated with leukemia or other cancerous changes found that Extremely Low Frequency-Magnetic Fields which have been labeled potentially carcinogenic as some association with leukemia has been noted, did not consistently lead to epigenetic changes in the study. Changes that did occur were more likely to be found when the genetic material, called chromatin, was in a more open and active form rather than when it was in the condensed, non-replicating form. (13) Pregnancy would be a time when DNA is expected to be more active, and infancy and childhood are also times when growth and replication of cells is expected. Concerns and a review of available research about the risk of EMF radiation for adults and childhood development is discussed in a Special Section of the journal Childhood Development: (14)

Calcium channel blocker medications have been found to help reduce the effects of EMF radiation for individuals who seem to be more sensitive to ill effects from the form of radiation than the average person. See: (1)

Magnesium is nature’s calcium channel blocker so there may be an underlying deficiency of magnesium in the the people who are more sensitive to EMFs. A number of conditions can make the intestines absorb less magnesium and more calcium than average and the kidneys can be better at holding onto calcium and more likely to excrete magnesium than average. The food and water supply is not as rich in magnesium as it was during earlier centuries of human development. Magnesium deficiency as a risk factor in sensitivity to EMFs is discussed in the first link and it introduces a protective factor that can be increased with more variety of vegetables and other phytochemical rich foods in the diet – nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). See: (1)

Specific foods or phytochemicals mentioned to help increase Nrf2 include:

  • sulforaphane from cruciferous vegetables, (such as broccoli and cauliflower);
  • foods high in phenolic antioxidants, (This is a large group including bright yellow and red fruits and vegetables, and deep purple produce. The group includes the subgroup flavonoids which include anthocyanins, flavonols, and it also includes the less familiar subgroup chalcones which are found in the commonly used fruits apples, pears and strawberries. The group also includes aldehydes which are found in vanilla and cinnamon, phenolic acids which include salicyclic acid, and tannins which are found in tea, coffee and wine. Baking cocoa and cherries, beans and whole grains are also mentioned, the summary point would be eat more fruits and vegetables; see: (11))
  • the long-chained omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, (salmon, tuna, sardines, krill oil, ground flax meal, walnuts, hemp seed kernels);
  • carotenoids (especially lycopene), (such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, and lycopene is in tomato, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava); 
  • sulfur compounds from allum vegetables, (such as onions, garlic, shallots, green onions); 
  • isothiocyanates from the cabbage group and
  • terpenoid-rich foods. (Terpenes are found in real lemon and lime oil, rosemary, oregano, basil and other aromatic green herbs).
  • The Mediterranean and the traditional Okinawan Diets are also mentioned as being Nrf2 promoting diets. See: (1)

A 2012 article that discusses the science known at the time and reviews cellphone cases designed to redirect EMF radiation away from the user available at the times suggests some health evidence exists but that the information is not conclusive yet but that no study has been longer than ten years. Children have less dense bone structure and may be accumulating more life time exposure so limiting use of cellphones around children or their use by children may be playing it safer until more research is available. (5) Turning off cellphones when not needed can save battery time and would be turning off the WiFi when it is not needed. You can always check for messages when you turn it back on again. Using a hard wired computer at home or at least turning off the laptop at night is recommended along with other tips in the first link. See: (1)

Disclaimer

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.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)

  1. Joseph Mercola, The Harmful Effects of Electromagnetic Fields Explained, wakeup-world.com, Dec. 22, 2017, https://wakeup-world.com/2017/12/22/the-harmful-effects-of-electromagnetic-fields-explained/ (1)
  2. Chapter 1: Cell Injury, Cell Death,
    and Adaptations, sample, not final copy, Elsevier, pdf http://www.newagemedical.org/celldeath-injury-link2.pdf (2)
  3. Khalid Rahman, Studies on free radicals, antixidants, and co-factors., Clin Interv Aging. 2007 Jun; 2(2): 219–236., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684512/ (3)
  4. V. Lobo, A. Patil, A. Phatak, and N. Chandra, Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health, Pharmacogn Rev. 2010 Jul-Dec; 4(8): 118–126., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/ (4)

  5. Joseph Hanlon, Radiation-reducing phone cases: saviours or snake oil?, Aug. 13, 2012, https://www.cnet.com/news/radiation-reducing-phone-cases-saviours-or-snake-oil/ (5)

  6. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. “Valences of the Elements – Chemistry Table.” ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com   https://www.thoughtco.com/valences-of-the-elements-chemistry-table-606458 (6)
  7. UCSB Science Line, What is the difference between ion and radical?, 04/01/2015, http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=4833 (7)
  8. Biochemistry, Chemistry Tutorial, The Chemistry of Water, biology.arizona.edu, http://www.biology.arizona.edu/biochemistry/tutorials/chemistry/page3.html (8)
  9. Martin Chaplin, Water Structure and Science: Magnetic and electric effects on water, 2001, last update by Martin Chaplin on Nov. 3, 2017, lsbu.ac.uk http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/magnetic_electric_effects.html (9)
  10. [1602 from the above reference] L. Montagnier, J. Aïssa, S. Ferris, J.-L. Montagnier, C. Lavallée, Electromagnetic signals are produced by aqueous nanostructures derived from bacterial DNA sequences, Interdisciplinary Sciences: Computational Life Sciences, 1(2009) 81-90. L. Montagnier, J. Aissa, E. Del Giudice, C. Lavallee, A. Tedeschi and G. Vitiello, DNA waves and water, Journal of Physics.: Conference Series, 306 (2011) 012007, arXiv:1012.5166v1 (10)
  11. Maria de Lourdes Reis Giada, Chapter 4: Food Phenolic Compounds: Main Classes, Sources and Their Antioxidant Power, Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology » “Oxidative Stress and Chronic Degenerative Diseases – A Role for Antioxidants”, book edited by José A. Morales-González, ISBN 978-953-51-1123-8, Published: May 22, 2013    https://www.intechopen.com/books/oxidative-stress-and-chronic-degenerative-diseases-a-role-for-antioxidants/food-phenolic-compounds-main-classes-sources-and-their-antioxidant-power (11)
  12. Martin Chaplin, Water Structure and Science: Water Molecule Structure,  2000, last updated by Martin Chaplin Oct. 15, 2017, lsbu.ac.uk, http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/water_molecule.html (12)
  13. Melissa Manser, Mohamad R. Abdul Sater, Christoph D. Schmid, Faiza Noreen, Manuel Murbach, Niels Kuster, David Schuermann, and Primo Schär,

    ELF-MF exposure affects the robustness of epigenetic programming during granulopoiesis, Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 43345.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5339735/ (13)

  14. Cindy Sage, Ernesto Burgio, Electromagnetic Fields, Pulsed Radiofrequency Radiation, and
    Epigenetics: How Wireless Technologies May Affect Childhood DevelopmentContemporary Mobile Technology and Child
    and Adolescent Development, edited by Zheng Yan and Lennart Hardell, A Special Section of Child Development, 2017, Pages 1–8, https://eliant.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/de/pdf/Sage_Burgio_Childhood_2017_Epigenetics.pdf (14)