Alopecia – hair loss; autoimmune & other reasons

Male pattern baldness, thinning at the forehead scalp line, can have genetic reasons and can be more likely when autoimmunity is a factor. The hair follicles become dysfunctional due to autoimmune changes. Malnutrition of adequate protein, trace minerals, and B vitamins, methylated forms, may also be involved, and also essential fatty acids and phospholipids play a role.

Nutrients that play a role in hair growth or other growth and energy pathways:

  • Methyl folate, methyl B12, choline, other B vitamins,
  • Magnesium, especially Epsom salt soaks, which provides sulfate also,
  • Trace minerals including boron, silicon, manganese, molybdenum, copper, and especially zinc, and inadequate Iodine in ratio to excess halides (bromide, fluoride, chloride), is likely involved,
  • Nrf2 promoting foods (page G10)/herbals, especially sulfur containing foods like onions and cruciferous vegetables. Herbs and Spices adds more of the Nrf2 promoting phytonutrients in addition to trace minerals and other vitamins. See page G10. Nrf2 Promoting Foods, on the site:
  • p53 promoting foods is a similar list with some more specific herbals.
  • Fennel seeds or fennel oil, seem to particularly help hair growth, and other
  • Phospholipid rich foods also can help build strong flexible membranes which are needed for strong hair or healthy cells: seeds, nuts, whole grains, cumin, coriander, cardamom,
  • Protein adequacy – hair is made of protein,
  • Omega 3, EPA/DHA, is also involved in having strong flexible membranes,
  • Moderate carb, higher fat from coconut & olive oil & pumpkin seeds/blanched almonds, can help reduce inflammation.

Low stomach acid may be factor in low B vitamin level. 2 spoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice with a meal can help low stomach acidity & increase B vitamin intake. It is similar type of acidity.

Fennel seeds or Fennel oil (how to make it yourself link)

Fennel seeds – eat them and are used in a scalp and hair oil by making your own or buying some Make your own, link: How to make Saunf – Fennel Oil and use for Hair Growth Benefits; Prevents Hair Loss Cleanses Scalp. (

Fennel Seed Oil product page, *unaffiliated: Fennel Seed Oil Benefits.

  • Free radicals are detrimental to the hair. Without enough antioxidants in the body, free radicals can cause oxidative stress, which impedes hair growth and causes thinning. Fennel seeds are packed with antioxidants, as well as nutrients like pantothenic acid, iron, molybdenum, copper, folate, iron, and niacin that stimulate hair growth.” (

Magnesium, protein & phospholipids are needed for reducing oxidative stress whether it is from fear, worry, physical work or exercise, or from an infection or chronic illness. Volatile chemicals from new vinyl furnishings or smoke or smog may also increase inflammation. Poor sleep quality, bright lights in the evening, or EMF exposure anytime, may be increasing low level chronic inflammation.…

This site has my main magnesium blogs: To have optimal magnesium needs protein and phospholipids too (Food sources and supplement types of magnesium and food sources of phospholipids and the basic protein minimal requirements for a healthy diet. We can not have electrically active ions of magnesium present in excess, or other ions.

Protein transport proteins carry magnesium and other trace minerals and may be shared. So too much of one type can cause a deficiency of another type of trace mineral – as seen with the interaction between high intakes of zinc leading to low copper, or high intakes of copper leading to low zinc. (to-have-optimal-magnesium-needs-protein-and-phospholipids-too/)

A personal success story – low oxolates, gluten free, moderate carb Paleo approach:

Carla Coulson shares about her own strategies that helped with her autoimmune and alopecia hair loss symptoms – she uses a Paleo approach which may be a higher protein balance than I tend to recommend (Moderate carb calorie diet: 30% carb/45-50% fat/20-25% protein). Lower carbohydrate intake and adequate protein is likely helpful for reducing inflammation and improving mitochondrial health and cytokine balance.

Cutting out gluten and going on a low oxalate diet were also important steps she says in the article: Cutting out gluten and going on a low oxalate diet were also important steps she says in the article: Auto-immune – going, going, almost gone!

Immune Cell – cytokines and myokines

Cytokines or myokines (like cytokines but formed by muscle cells during activity) are inflammatory signals made in response to physical or emotional stress and they cause junior immune cells to differentiate into more specialized types. The types vary to respond to different types of pathogens, or other needs.

Excessive numbers of active immune cells may be created during an infection or stressful time of life from the increased amounts of inflammatory cytokines, or for people with very strenuous physical work or exercise as more myokines form with increased muscle activity. Having an excess of myokines from muscle overwork, or excess cytokines from EMF exposure, infection, or a really stressful day, can lead to more junior immune cells converting into whatever active form the specific type of cytokine or myokine causes.

This increase in immune cells may lead to more risk of antibodies forming against food proteins that also resemble one of our own proteins. These antibodies then attach to our tissue and our own immune cells then attack one of our own cells. This leads to autoimmune damage to cells and tissues that have a lot of that type of protein. The gluten protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains is similar thyroid tissue and can be a factor in autoimmune thyroid disease. Molecular mimicry – dietary molecules mimicking a body protein can cause the immune antibodies to be formed against the body protein.

In the case of spike lodged in a receptor, the numerous immune cells may make autoimmune antibodies against that type of receptors. Video—Dr.-Sherri-Tenpenny:d

The risk of antibodies forming against food proteins is also more likely if leaky bowel membranes are a problem – leaky in the sense that larger size proteins can slip through gaps between cells (called tight junctions). The mucus or jelly like glycocalyx layer that coats our mucus membranes and intestinal lining, helps close that gap between cells. Eating more foods like okra, or slippery elm powder in tea, can help add to the fibrous structure of the glycocalyx.

As a bonus for eating more fiber rich foods, including the gooey ones (mucilaginous starches – can attract and hold water kind of like a sponge), the hair follicle is also supported. The glycocalyx, extracellular matrix (semi-solid fluid environment surrounding our cells), and the hair follicle which grows and supports our individual hairs, are all made in part with proteoglycans. (4)

  • The proteoglycans are part of membrane cell,
  • they are part of the glycocalyx and the extracellular matrix,
  • they are compound by carbohydrates and sulfated amino acids
  • that confers negative charges able to attract water and form gels that resist mechanical forces in the connective tissue,
  • as well as function as a semipermeable and selective membrane to various cationic molecules [positive charged ions or other larger molecules with a positive charge],
  • its direct and indirect interaction with membrane receptors and growth factors regulates several transcription ways involved in the development of multiple pro-oncogenic processes.” (4)

Sulfur containing produce can help promote Nrf2 and provide bioavailable sulfur compounds for our proteoglycan needs. Baths, foot or hand-soaks with Epsom salt, magnesium sulfate, would also help.

Nrf2 is the short name for a gene and the protein it encodes. It helps promote the activation of genes that make antioxidants and promote growth and repair. Sulfarophane is another sulfur containing phytonutrient found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. It is also an Nrf2 promoter. Any of the Nrf2 promoting molecules also tend to be inhibitors of inflammatory pathways as there are circadian cycle proteins that are shared. Simplified example: An assembly line might make one product on the night shift and another on the day shift using the same machine – so the two products can not be made at exactly same time – because the machine is busy.

The membrane control of the positively charged cationic molecules is an important function of proteoglycans and their presence in hair follicles might help explain why radiation poisoning causes hair to fall out. Proteoglycan replacement therapy was found helpful for reducing hair loss in male or female pattern balding. (5)

Research shows that bioactive proteoglycans, e.g., versican and decorin, can actively trigger follicular phase shift by their anagen-inducing, anagen-maintaining, and immunoregulatory properties. This emerging insight has led to the recognition of “dysregulated proteoglycan metabolism” as a plausible causal or mediating pathology in hair growth disorders in both men and women. In support of this, declined expression of proteoglycans has been reported in cases of anagen shortening and follicular miniaturisation.

To facilitate scientific communication, we propose designating this pathology “follicular hypoglycania (FHG),” which results from an impaired ability of follicular cells to replenish and maintain a minimum relative concentration of key proteoglycans during anagen. Lasting FHG may advance to structural decay, called proteoglycan follicular atrophy (PFA). This process is suggested to be an integral pathogenetic factor in pattern hair loss (PHL) and telogen effluvium (TE).” (5)

Low carb diets or moderate low (30% calories from carbohydrates) can help fight inflammation.

Higher carbohydrate diets, such as the standard American diet, cause the body to use B vitamins and magnesium in greater amounts which can lead to deficiency, and store excess carbohydrates as fats throughout the body or excess fructose is converted into fats stored in the liver. When the body is busy making and storing fats in adipose/fat cells, then it can’t be doing other things like growing hair.

Our body needs us to be efficiency experts for it and our microbiome and part of that efficiency is detox and moisture. The glycocalyx or extracellular matrix or our hair follicles can not work well if to dry. We are about 60-70% water and it helps move nutrients to cells and take away toxins. Thick congestion that makes it hard to breathe is glycocalyx that is too dry while a drippy nose with allergy season thin watery mucus is too wet. Health generally is a balance. Drinking plenty of water and moving regularly can use our motion to help the blood vessels circulate nutrients to all of our cells and our lymphatic system to remove toxins.

Disclaimer: This information is being provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of Fair Use and is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please seek a functional health practitioner for individual health guidance.

Reference List

  1. Haslam IS, Jadkauskaite L, Szabó IL, Staege S, Hesebeck-Brinckmann J, Jenkins G, Bhogal RK, Lim FL, Farjo N, Farjo B, Bíró T, Schäfer M, Paus R. Oxidative Damage Control in a Human (Mini-) Organ: Nrf2 Activation Protects against Oxidative Stress-Induced Hair Growth Inhibition. J Invest Dermatol. 2017 Feb;137(2):295-304. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2016.08.035. Epub 2016 Oct 1. PMID: 27702566.
  2. Pham CT, Romero K, Almohanna HM, Griggs J, Ahmed A, Tosti A. The Role of Diet as an Adjuvant Treatment in Scarring and Nonscarring Alopecia. Skin Appendage Disord. 2020;6(2):88-96. doi:10.1159/000504786
  3. European Medicines Agency. 2008. Assessment Report on Foeniculum Vulgare Miller. Available:
  4. Sánchez-álvarez, I. & Ponce-Olivera, R.M.. (2017). Role of proteoglycans in the hair follicle. Dermatologia Revista Mexicana. 61. 474-486.
  5. Wadstein, Jan & Thom, Erling & Gadzhigoroeva, Aida. (2020). Integral Roles of Specific Proteoglycans in Hair Growth and Hair Loss: Mechanisms behind the Bioactivity of Proteoglycan Replacement Therapy with Nourkrin® with Marilex® in Pattern Hair Loss and Telogen Effluvium. Dermatology Research and Practice. 2020. 1-17. 10.1155/2020/8125081.

Glycine – good for our extracellular matrix & for immune protection against viral infection.

The extracellular matrix is very important for our immune defense as white blood cells actively patrol the areas surrounding cells for pathogens to remove, such as virus. Deficiency of glycine may be involved for patients with more severe COVID-19. “Glycine intake as nutritional supplement was very effective against virus infections.” (1)

Glycine is an amino acid and is important in the structure of protein chains because it is small in size and can allow folding of the long chain into a three dimensional shape. (See post: Glyphosate & COVID19) It is important within proteins (such as collagen) that help stabilize the gooey gelatin like fluid that supports the areas within our cells and surrounding our cells. There can be a thicker layer immediately surrounding cells which is called a glycocalyx, a term also used to describe the gel coating that surrounds bacteria.

Biofilms formed by an alginate-overproducing strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa have a complex structural architecture that allows them to more resist tobramycin than biofilms formed by an isogenic nonmucoid strain. This suggests that an altered structure of biofilms cause increased resistance of pathogens against antibiotics.182 ” (9)

It helps protect our cells from bacteria, virus and other pathogens. A stronger extracellular matrix, made possible with daily supplements of 10 grams of glycine, was found to help protect against viral infection. (1)

Glycine is used often in the assembly of collagen proteins. The small glycine molecules help stabilize the triple helix shape of the long column like folded protein. The long sturdy fiber like proteins help add stability and structure to the three dimensional woven mesh of the fluid gelatin like extracellular matrix or cytoplasm within cells.

Glycine is utilized to synthesize serine, sarcosine, purines, creatine, heme group, glutathione, and collagen. Glycine is a major quantitative component of collagen. In addition, the role of glycine maintaining collagen structure is critical, as glycine residues are required to stabilize the triple helix of the collagen molecule.

The collagen fibers can be chemically stained for viewing on microscope slides. In an image here (7, 8) the collagen fibers are greenish and surround the cells that each have a brownish-black nucleus in the middle.

Extracellular matrix – our glycocalyx – our jelly lining.

We need a healthy extracellular matrix that is not too sticky and dehydrated to prevent easy flow of fluid and cells and not too watery as some solid support is needed. We are almost 70% water but it doesn’t seem like it. Magnesium is also essential for the structure of the gelatin like matrix within and surrounding cells. Each atom of magnesium can hold 18 molecules of water in an electrically stabilized cloud of water surrounding the magnesium atom. Sulfates are also essential for the stability of the matrix structure. Monosaccharides, single molecules of sugars, are also an important part of the glycocalyx on cell surfaces. Different types of monosaccarides are combined into surface glycoproteins that tell the immune system information about the cell – whether friend or foe.

Many of the extracellular proteins, such as sialic acid, also carry a negative electrical charge so there is a slight magnetic like repelling against other cells. This is critically important for holding vessel walls open – the negative charge surrounding the interior repels the other wall from collapsing inward. Some food additive emulsifiers may be too effective and also may emulsify our intestinal lining and cause bowel troubles such as diarrhea and discomfort. Gumbo file is a very healthy emulsifier from nature -powdered sassafras leaves – used by indigenous Americans.

Cells encounter surrounding surfaces first through their glycocalyx and therefore it may substantially contribute to crucial physiological and pathophysiological processes. The glycocalyx is a carbohydrate-enriched sugar coating that covers the surface of many cells, including cancer cells, presumably greatly influencing cellular interactions with their environment at the molecular scale. Its components are glycolipids, glycoproteins and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). Glycocalyx contains large amounts of chondroitin sulfate (CS), dermatan sulfate, heparan sulfate, sialic acid, and hyaluronic acid, all negatively charged at neutral pH21.” (4)

The amino acid Glycine – available in supplements as Dimethylglycine (DMG) and Trimethylglycine (TMG).

Glycine is available as a bulk powder available from protein supplement companies focused on the weight lifting industry. Betaine is the more common name for Trimethylglycine (TMG), it and Dimethylglycine (DMG) are available as supplements in tablets or powders. It may be helpful to have both as they are used for different purposes and are not exactly equivalent. DMG can cross the blood brain barrier so it is helpful when the calming inhibitory effects of glycine are needed within the brain. (2)

Dimethylglycine (DMG) is an amino acid found naturally in plant and animal cells and in many foods such as beans, cereal grains, and liver. It is used to improve energy, boost the immune system, and to manage seizures and autism. There are some positive reports of DMG efficacy on the immune system.” (3)

DMG may be helpful for people with seizure risk – it was found to help some patients but not showing conclusively positive results overall. Some patients may have a genetic difference and need an external supply. (3)

People with a BHMT gene allele (like myself) would need an external source of DMG as the BHMT enzyme is needed to breakdown betaine to DMG. You can see the chemical steps in a graphic here: (6). From a previous post: “DMG has been found helpful in ADHD, autism, allergies, alcoholism, drug addiction, and chronic fatigue syndrome among other chronic issues.” See #3. BHMT in this post: Methylation Cycle Defects – in me – genetic screening “for research purposes only” A more recent post goes into further detail about the BHMT enzyme’s role in the production and breakdown of endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids are made with the BHMT gene (and others).

I have a double BHMT gene allele – I need an external source of DMG and methionine and it helped my mood immensely. It helps me feel more cheerful as well as more energetic. I take about a half teaspoon of each once or twice a day. A teaspoon at a time was too much energetic, seemed to cause a racing heart rate. The total amount a person needs per day may be more than that. Capsules would be giving a smaller amount, I didn’t notice much effect at all from taking a little tablet supplement and the price was significantly larger. A half teaspoon of a powder is about 2.5 grams, a tablet is usually about 500 milligrams, 0.5 grams.

I am not taking enough DMG and I hadn’t realized TMG might be helpful too – what I also hadn’t realized is TMG is betaine – so I should be taking the DMG form, I get betaine from food and I don’t do well with too much of a good source (quinoa). We need about 10 grams of glycine per day from dietary sources, yet the typical diet only provides two grams. “Glycine produced by human metabolism is much lower than the cell’s needs giving a general glycine deficiency of 10 g/day in humans.” (1)

People who took ten grams of glycine per day as a supplement had fewer viral infections than the control group. (1) “Glycine intake at the afore-mentioned dose prevents the spread of viruses by strengthening the extracellular matrix barriers against their advance. ” (1)

Nutritional supplement, 10 g/day, Glycine, promotes young strong collagen, compared to old weak collagen formed from an un-supplemented diet (~2 gr/day) and our own metabolic pathways (~3 gr/day). Graphic from: “Glycine can prevent and fight virus invasiveness by reinforcing the extracellular matrix” (Meléndez-Hevia, et al., 2021) (1)

Gee, I do want “young, strong collagen” (see above image, (1)) , so I will have my glycine drink four times a day. Breaktime, be right back. I will be so cheerful it may be hard to recognize me. :-)

  • My “Cheerful Juice” drink reminds me of red wine without the alcohol, ~ 10 oz water, 1/2 teaspoon DMG, 1/2 tsp methionine; a little of my coffee sweetener mix: Stevia, powdered cardamom, sage and oregano; 2 ounces pomegranate juice. If I had taurine and creatine on hand I would try adding that too, but amino acids are acidic. The beverage is tart and I sip it slowly.

People with a genetic problem with methylation may have problems making a variety of proteins, as well as people with a diet deficient in the methyl donating nutrients folate, B12, betaine, choline, and the amino acid methionine. “Studies that simulated methyl-deficient diets reported disturbances in energy metabolism and protein synthesis in the liver, fatty liver, or muscle disorders.” […] “Hypomethylation has a wide spectrum of effects that include genetic, epigenetic, and metabolic alterations.” (5) Someone with a genetic problem with methylation would need to take the bioactive, methylated form of B12 and folate. The standard supplement of folic acid and cyanocobalamin are unmethylated forms and would be not helpful for someone unable to remethylate them.

Summary – to fight virus well, we need a healthy extracellular matrix for white blood cells to be able to patrol easily — and to have that we need adequate glycine in our diet and the genetic ability to digest it to Dimethylglycine (DMG).

  • We also need to stay well hydrated, and to have adequate sulfate, magnesium, protein and ATP for magnesium storage, and a wide variety of monosaccharides to make surface glycoproteins that say and do the correct functions as cell surface immune markers.
  • Epsom salt soaks may be helpful as a topical source of magnesium and sulfate for people with poor intestinal absorption of magnesium, or sometimes there can be a genetic difference limiting intestinal absorption for the person’s whole life.
  • Fiber rich plant foods are also needed to support the extracellular matrix – similar to how gelatin is supported by fruit pectin fibers when making jams.
  • We can’t do much without B vitamins – they are the body’s energy providers, essential for our mitochondria. Lack can lead to mitochondria switching to anaerobic glycolysis which may be a risk for later transition to cancer. Methylated forms of folate and B12 are needed by people with certain gene differences. Niacin in a much higher dose than would be available from the diet can help reduce inflammation, (niacin post) and also help preserve tryptophan stores for use to make serotonin and melatonin (see last post).

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.

Reference List

  1. Enrique Meléndez-Hevia, Patricia de Paz-Lugo, Guillermo Sánchez, Glycine can prevent and fight virus invasiveness by reinforcing the extracellular matrix. J Functional Foods, Vol 76, 2021, 104318, ISSN 1756-4646,
  2. Is TMG or DMG more effective?,,
  3. Dimethylglycine: Purported Uses,
  4. Kanyo, N., Kovacs, K.D., Saftics, A. et al. Glycocalyx regulates the strength and kinetics of cancer cell adhesion revealed by biophysical models based on high resolution label-free optical data. Sci Rep10, 22422 (2020).
  5. Obeid R. The metabolic burden of methyl donor deficiency with focus on the betaine homocysteine methyltransferase pathway. Nutrients. 2013;5(9):3481-3495. Published 2013 Sep 9. doi:10.3390/nu5093481
  6. Glycine formation from betaine-trimethylglycine. image from Adeva, María & Souto-Adeva, G. & Ameneiros-Rodríguez, E. & Fernández-Fernández, C. & Donapetry-García, C. & Domínguez-Montero, A.. (2018). Insulin resistance and glycine metabolism in humans. Amino Acids. 50. 10.1007/s00726-017-2508-0.
  7. Collagen Fiber,, see,
  8. Michal Miko, Ivan Varga, Chapter 6 – Histologic Examination of Peripheral Nerves, Editor(s): RS Tubbs, E Rizk, MM. Shoja, M Loukas, N Barbaro, RJ Spinner, Nerves and Nerve Injuries, Academic Press, 2015, Pages 79-89, ISBN 9780124103900,
  9. Baral B, Mozafari MR. Strategic Moves of “Superbugs” Against Available Chemical Scaffolds: Signaling, Regulation, and Challenges. ACS Pharmacol Transl Sci. 2020;3(3):373-400. Published 2020 Apr 13. doi:10.1021/acsptsci.0c00005

Zinc, cancer, and bitter taste receptors

Take home point – we need the food industry to stop taking bitter tasting, but cancer preventing phytonutrients out of our processed foods. People like bland, but that doesn’t make it good for us.

We also like sweet and protein rich foods. The crispiness on baked goods, chips, or grilled foods is a combination of sugar and protein. AGEs is an acronym for the glycated – sugar added proteins. Within our body they are associated with out of control blood sugar in diabetes and with aging. In our food supply – they taste delicious but may be cancer promoting. Acrylamide is one that has been more researched and some regulations to reduce the content in food have been passed. (10)

Extruded breakfast cereals and snack foods can have an excessive amount due to the high heat of the heated extrusion process – shaping the snack and cooking it at the same time. Both people and animals like this group of glycated proteins – sweetened protein, no wonder people & animals like it. (6) We need both calories and protein to survive, but too much of most things can become a problem.

When starchy foods are cooked at higher heat, sugar and proteins can combine into acrylamide (& other AGEs) which is delicious tasting, yet may be cancer promoting & genotoxic – harmful to our DNA. (5) “Acrylamide is a chemical that naturally forms in starchy food products during high-temperature cooking, including frying, baking, roasting and also industrial processing, at +120°C and low moisture.” (5)

The breakfast cereal industry is working on methods to remove the amino acid most linked to the formation of acrylamide; so that during the high heat processing of extruded grain based foods less acrylamide will be produced. (11) Nutritional flaw in the plan – that would also leave a lower protein breakfast cereal. Your homemade hot oatmeal or oven toasted granola would not have as much acrylamide as an extruded shaped cereal.

Podcast with more info about Advanced Glycation End Products, (AGEs) and aging: Advanced Glycation End Products. Podcast w/ Pankaj Kapahi. “What are advanced glycation end products, and why do they matter for your health?” – humanOS Radio (6)

Amino acids are the smaller units that make protein chains, many can activate bitter taste receptors.

We are still learning about taste receptors. Some amino acids are detected by sweet taste receptors. L-glutamate and l-aspartate, the potentially excitotoxic amino acids, are detected by the umami receptors, savory taste receptors (TAS1R1/TAS1R3). And many amino acids are detected by bitter taste receptors, (TAS2Rs), including “l-leucine, l-isoleucine, l-valine, l-arginine, l-methionine, l-phenylalanine, l-tyrosine, l-tryptophan, and l-histidine, exhibit a bitter taste [16]“. Vitamin B1 and B2 have been evaluated as quite bitter tasting, B3 and B6 somewhat bitter tasting, while the other B vitamins and vitamin A have been evaluated as mild. Vitamin C is sensed as sour. Taste receptors are grouped as sweet, salty, sour (acidic), bitter and umami. (12)

Bitter taste receptors are a group, and are found in various places within the body in addition to the tongue.

The bitter taste receptors are a group of approximately 25 variations (7) which include some that are responsive to a few specific bitter chemicals and others that are activated by many. Four are still unknown regarding the chemicals that activate them. (12)

It has been shown that some TAS2Rs detect only a few bitter molecules, whereas others are broadly tuned to detect numerous bitter compounds [23]. To date, 4 TAS2Rs have been qualified as orphan receptors; that is no bitter compounds that are capable of activating them have been identified.” (12)

Bitter phytonutrients commonly found in many whole food herbs and spices may help prevent cancer, likely because bitter taste receptors are found in many areas of the body in addition to the tongue. On the tongue they are connected to nerves going to be brain and act as their name suggests – taste receptors. In the other locations of the body where they are prevalent they can perform many different actions.

The different types of bitter taste receptors are not all equally found on the tongue, many are found in greater concentration in other areas of the body. Some types may be more prevalent in some areas of the body than others. (7)

Within the intestines bitter taste receptors that are activated by bitter tasting phytonutrients signal our brain that we are satisfied now, we found enough food to eat. They also are involved with reducing insulin resistance leading to more stable blood sugar levels and less risk of glycated hemoglobin, a risk factor measured in diabetes, that is associated with aging and other health problems. Bitter phytonutrients from citrus peel bioflavonoids have been found helpful to reduce Metabolic Syndrome and improve some digestive problems. (Bitter taste receptors post)

Within the kidneys bitter taste receptors help us remove excess calcium from the circulating blood (16) which might help protect against renal disease if there is chronically too much calcium and too little magnesium available. (Kidney Appreciation Day post, see the addition)

Zinc is needed to make Bitter Taste Receptors

Background info included in the last post – we need zinc to make taste receptors for sweet, bitter or protein flavors.

Our taste receptors can also be affected by what our mother ate while she was pregnant with us. What a woman eats regularly while she is pregnant can affect her child’s taste preferences later in life. More calories from fats in mom’s typical prenatal diet can lead to there being more sweet taste receptors on the tongue for baby. “Recent research indicates that the diet of a mother could directly impact the taste buds of her offspring, affecting food preferences.” (4)

We can also adjust our taste preferences by limiting sweet foods in our diet and our taste receptors will become more sensitive to sweet tastes, or by eating more bitter tasting foods we can become more used to the bitter flavors – acquiring a taste preference for some. Too much would signal we are satisfied.

Deficiency of both zinc and bitter taste receptors is associated with breast cancer cells.

Receptors are like specialized machines on the outside of cells which interact with the interior of the cell, telling it what might be going on in the surrounding extracellular fluid – are we hungry or well fed? Do we need to get a jacket because it feels cold? Is there a lack of bitter nutrients and we feel sick so we should forage for that herb that seemed to be so satisfying and helpful the last time I felt this way?

Yet we need adequate zinc in order to be able to make taste receptors. Zinc deficiency is linked to breast cancer. (1) One of the odd places where bitter taste receptors are located is the mammary tissue – milk producing cells within the breasts. It has been found that breast cancer cells have fewer bitter taste receptors on their membrane surface than cells of healthy breast tissue. (2) Zinc deficiency leads to a lack of the mRNA that is needed within a cell for it to make the specific protein that forms a taste or odor receptor. Surface receptors are made within the cell and relocated to the cell membrane.

What does the bitter taste receptor do for the mammary tissue that helps protect it against cancer? They may be promoting anti-inflammatory pathways and chemicals that help identify damaged DNA or cells and remove them safely before they start to grow into a tumorous cell.

Many plant nutrients are found to help protect against cancer, (3), but also, probably not coincidentally, are bitter in taste, so the food industry has been removing them from processed food in order to increase consumer appeal. “Dietary phytonutrients found in vegetables and fruit appear to lower the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.” (3)

Protection against low oxygen, hypoxia, and oxidative stress reduction may also be part of the anti-cancer benefit provided by bitter taste receptors.

Retinoic acid, a metabolite of vitamin A caused an increase in the bitter taste receptors on pre-cancerous neuroblastoma (NB) cells. NB cells are immature brain cells that contain cancer stem cells and generally only causes cancer in early infancy and childhood. Having more bitter taste receptors led to fewer tumorous cells forming from the NB cells treated with retinoic acid, and there was also a reduction in the movement of the cells which would help prevent spread of cancer. (7)

The presence of more bitter taste receptors was found to help reduce risk of cancer metastasis, the migration to other areas of the body and invasion of other tissue areas. Increased metastasis/movement of cancer cells may be more of a risk in the presence of low oxygen levels, hypoxia. Hypoxia has been linked to increased movement of cancer cells. (7) (Hypoxia is also a problem in symptomatic COVID19).

Furthermore, expressions levels of HIF-1α-downstream genes were affected, with VEGF and GLUT1 up-regulated under CoCl2-induced hypoxic conditions, and the same genes were down-regulated following over-expression of TAS2R8 and TAS2R10 (Fig 6B). These results suggest that TAS2Rs contribute to the regulation of hypoxia-related gene expression.” (7)

The increase in bitter taste receptors and suppression of metastasis may have been due to a reduction in an enzyme MMP-2 which breaks down extra cellular matrix (the gelatinous fluid, or glycocalyx that surrounds all of our blood vessels and other organs, and fills spaces in between). Increased MMP-2 and less extra cellular matrix protection allows more invasive metastasis of cancer cells. (7)

Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a group of 23 enzymes involved in extra cellular matrix and are dependent on adequate zinc availability. They also are involved with “control of expression and activation of chemokines, growth factors, and cellular receptors,” and therefore have a role in normal development, and in inflammatory diseases and cancer. (14)

Zinc has antioxidant properties and deficiency of the trace mineral is associated with increased oxidative stress and decreased MMPs which may increase risk for excess collagen and development of fibrosis – scar tissue like formation in the areas of inflammation. (15)

Within the lungs bitter taste receptors can help thin mucus (extra cellular matrix), cause increased motion of the cilia lining airways to move it up and out of the lungs, through more opened airways – provided we include bitter tasting nutrients in our diet. (Bitter taste receptors post)

Phytonutrients that have been shown to have anti-cancer benefits and activate certain bitter taste receptors include allyl isothiocyanate, (7) , an organosulfur found in mustard, radish, horseradish, wasabi, and other cruciferous vegetables. (13) Quercetin and naringenin, found in citrus peel and other plant foods, have also been found to provide anti-cancer benefits against several types of cancer including NB cells “[24, 26, 27].” (7)

Are AGEs always bad? – confusingly, no. Some may activate, some may inhibit bitter taste receptors.

AGEs may activate or inhibit Bitter taste receptors too, throughout the body, depending on the type of glycated protein (AGE-Advanced Glycation End-Products) which may be why some are aging & cancer promoting but not all, or not always.

AGEs may be cancer promoting in some cases but not others because of their roles as bitter taste receptor (T2R) ligands – some AGEs may activate, while others may inhibit bitter taste receptors -“In this study, we identified AGEs as novel T2R ligands that caused either activation or inhibition of different T2Rs.” (8) “Bitter taste receptors (T2Rs) are expressed in several tissues of the body and are involved in a variety of roles apart from bitter taste perception.” (8)

So the sweetened protein, potentially bitter taste of acrylamide may be inhibiting or possibly activating bitter taste receptors found in different areas of the body in ways that may affect cancer risks.

Coffee, has a varying amount of acrylamide depending on how it is prepared. Overall the beneficial antioxidants and other phytonutrients seem to give an anti-cancer effect to coffee, rather than being cancer promoting due to the acrylamide. The Coffee Acrylamide Apparent Paradox: An Example of Why the Health Impact of a Specific Compound in a Complex Mixture Should Not Be Evaluated in Isolation (9)

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.

Reference List

  1. Kaczmarek K, Jakubowska A, Sukiennicki G, et al. Zinc and breast cancer risk. Hered Cancer Clin Pract. 2012;10(Suppl 4):A6. Published 2012 Dec 10. doi:10.1186/1897-4287-10-S4-A6
  2. Dupre, D.J., Martin, L. and Nachtigal, M. (2017), Expression and Functionality of Bitter Taste Receptors in Ovarian and Prostate Cancer. The FASEB Journal, 31: 992.2-992.2. doi:10.1096/fasebj.31.1_supplement.992.2
  3. Adam Drewnowski, Carmen Gomez-Carneros, Bitter taste, phytonutrients, and the consumer: a review, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 72, Issue 6, December 2000, Pages 1424–1435,
  4. Mother’s diet may affect child’s taste buds,
  5. Acrylamide,,
  6. Ginny Robards, The Role of Advanced Glycation End Products in Aging and Disease. Podcast with Pankaj Kapahi. Sept 18, 2019,, via Tweet by
  7. Seo Y, Kim YS, Lee KE, Park TH, Kim Y. Anti-cancer stemness and anti-invasive activity of bitter taste receptors, TAS2R8 and TAS2R10, in human neuroblastoma cells. PLoS One. 2017;12(5):e0176851. Published 2017 May 3. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0176851
  8. Jaggupilli A, Howard R, Aluko RE, Chelikani P. Advanced Glycation End-Products Can Activate or Block Bitter Taste Receptors. Nutrients. 2019;11(6):1317. Published 2019 Jun 12. doi:10.3390/nu11061317
  9. Astrid Nehlig and Rodrigo A. Cunha, The Coffee–Acrylamide Apparent Paradox: An Example of Why the Health Impact of a Specific Compound in a Complex Mixture Should Not Be Evaluated in Isolation. Nutrients. 2020 , 12, 3141; doi:10.3390/nu12103141 Published 14 October 2020 via Tweet by
  10. David Acheson of The Acheson Group, FDA Issues Guidance on Reducing Acrylamide. May 31, 2016,,
  11. E. J. M. Konings, P. Ashby, C. G. Hamlet & G. A. K. Thompson (2007) Acrylamide in cereal and cereal products: A review on progress in level reduction, Food Additives & Contaminants, 24:sup1, 47-59, DOI: 10.1080/02652030701242566
  12. Delompré T, Guichard E, Briand L, Salles C. Taste Perception of Nutrients Found in Nutritional Supplements: A Review. Nutrients 2019, 11(9), 2050;
  13. Zhang Y. Allyl isothiocyanate as a cancer chemopreventive phytochemical. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010;54(1):127-135. doi:10.1002/mnfr.200900323
  14. Xu X, Wang Y, Chen Z, Sternlicht MD, Hidalgo M, Steffensen B. Matrix metalloproteinase-2 contributes to cancer cell migration on collagen. Cancer Res. 2005 Jan 1;65(1):130-6. PMID: 15665288.
  15. Cao, J., Duan, S., Zhang, H. et al. Zinc Deficiency Promoted Fibrosis via ROS and TIMP/MMPs in the Myocardium of Mice. Biol Trace Elem Res196, 145–152 (2020).
  16. Liang J, Chen F, Gu F, Liu X, Li F, Du D. Expression and functional activity of bitter taste receptors in primary renal tubular epithelial cells and M-1 cells. Mol Cell Biochem. 2017 Apr;428(1-2):193-202. doi: 10.1007/s11010-016-2929-1. Epub 2017 Feb 24. PMID: 28236092.

Quantum biology, microtubules – antennae for energy?

Theoretically our bodies have quantum energy fields that permit rapid movement of subatomic particles and possibly other very small atoms or molecules – at a lower total energy cost, so to speak. Fewer calories of glucose or other biological energy sources would be needed than might be expected for transport within or between cells. Study of this intersecting area of physics and microbiology is still in early stages.

One theory about quantum energy fields within biological systems involves cellular structures such as microtubules and nerve axons. They are straight cylinders formed of protein or a combination of proteins and fats which add stability to cell structure and provide tunnel like access from one area of a cell to another. Axons are the branching parts of brain and nerve cells that form connections between pairs or groups of cells. These straight cylinder like structures may also be acting somewhat like antennae (think cellphone towers receiving and transmitting energy in the form of Radiofrequency waves), to orient or stabilize quantum energy fields within the cells or in clusters of cells. Quantum energy fields are described in fairly simple terms by a NOVA story on pbs_org: The Good Vibrations of Quantum Field Theories, (

The quantum physics of the microtubule theory is complicated, see:

  • Quantum Antenna Hypothesis, by M. Pitkanen, April 26, 2018 (
  • Quantum mechanical aspects of cell microtubules: science fiction or realistic possibility? by Nick E Mavromatos, CERN – Theory Division, Journal of Physics: Conference Series 306, 2011, (
  • Or for an overview description of the discovery of electrical vibrations in microtubules see this article about a research paper: Discovery of quantum vibrations in ‘microtubules’ inside brain neurons supports controversial theory of consciousness, 2014, (ScienceDaily).
  • Or a video lecture on the topic is available: Quantum Consciousness _ And its Nature In Microtubules. Dr. Stuart Hameroff, (youtube). *microtubules and Tau protein seem to be involved in Alzheimer’s disease – more on this planned for another post. See~8-9 minutes into the video, but more recent research has reached different conclusions. Initial info for those who like the links:
    1) Tau does not stabilize microtubules, challenges approach to treating Alzheimer’s /it stabilizes the dynamic/growing area of the microtubules, MAP6 stabilizes the microtubule more after Tau is lost & -> neurofibrillary tangles. 2) The dynamic region of the microtubule is important for plasticity of nerve cell – ability for form new or dissolve unneeded connections between brain cells – so learning ability is affected by loss of Tau.- Microtubules in neurons as information carriers .
  • 3) Glycine is an amino acid that helps stabilize amyloid protein ( 4) Glyphosate may be substituting in place of glycine, forming a misfolded protein that doesn’t stabilize the amyloid protein in the same way. (

A simpler article discusses the possibility of quantum physics playing a role within the brain describing research that does not include the microtubule theory. See: A New Spin on the Quantum Brain, by Jennifer Ouellette, 2016, (

Video of microtubules within the body:

Some types of straight cylinder proteins can be seen in a live action video, Strolling through the skin, which shows living tissue in normal motion. The fibrous collagen network that supports our skin and other ligaments, blood vessels and organs can be seen, (youtube). Microtubules within axons or in more close up views showing kinesin protein movement along the outside of a microtubule can be seen in a few videos within this group of links: (Kinesin protein). A variety of other links about quantum effects in biology are available in this group of links: (quantum tunneling).

Use of ionic plasma energy fields for wound healing:

The electrical/energy nature of our bodies has been found to be involved in wound healing. Ionic plasma fields (electrical fields, not blood plasma) are being experimentally tested to help wound healing in diabetics. Activation of Nrf2 pathways and rebalancing levels of oxidative stress chemicals seems to be involved in the mechanism of the electrically active ionic plasma treatment. The treatment also helps stabilize the cellular matrix of the healing wound. The cellular matrix is the intracellular fluid and includes the glycocalyx layer that coats the inner and outer membranes of cells and organs. It is made up of a gelatinous mixture of fluid and fibrous protein cylinders, some of which could be seen in the Strolling through the skin video, (youtube).

  • For more about ionic plasma in wound healing see: Redox for Repair: Cold Physical Plasmas and Nrf2 Signaling Promoting Wound Healing, (

Brain waves, sleep and relaxation:

Better understanding of the energy patterns in our bodies may also help us improve our health in a more general way – with mood and sleep. Sleep and more relaxed states of wakefulness have slower, cooler energy wave patterns while more active thinking has faster hotter energy waves. (See: On the Temperature and Energy of the Brain Waves Is there Any Connection with Early Universe?, byMiroslaw Kozlowski and Janina Marciak-Kozlowska, NeuroQuantology 2012; 3: 443-452 (pdf) ) Learning and regularly practicing some sort of meditative activity can help train the brain patterns towards slower wave energy, even if the meditative activity is simply zoning out while washing dishes or going for a walk instead of doing dishes with a grumpy resentful attitude or listening to a stimulating podcast on the walk. (See: Brain Waves and Meditation, (ScienceDaily)) Physically cooling the forehead/top of the head has been found to help people with insomnia fall asleep more easily. Insomnia is associated with the brain remaining more stimulated into of drifting into the cooler more relaxed lower activity brain waves. (See a previous post: Sleep and Health/reference, Sleep, Neurobiology, Medicine and

Life in the oceans and our cells have many similarities:

This area of study, quantum energy fields in living organisms, is important within all types of biology. Basic cellular processes have many similarities from microbes to plants and animals and humans. Marine algae were the life form used to study quantum fields in the second link mentioned earlier: Quantum mechanical aspects of cell microtubules: science fiction or realistic possibility? by Nick E Mavromatos, CERN – Theory Division, Journal of Physics: Conference Series 306, 2011, (

From a health perspective it is also important to increase our understanding of how non natural electrical fields or nanoparticles in air or water pollution might be negatively effecting health of living species. (Nanoparticles were discussed in two previous posts, Air or Water Filters for Nanoparticles, and in the second part of Inventions Occur in Stages.)

What makes marine algae healthy or less healthy may help us understand our own health better or help us to better protect the health of the ocean and other forms of life on Earth.

Macro-tubules – logs.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. It is not intended to provide individual health care guidance. Please see a health care professional for individualized health care needs.