Pomegranate extract update – has similar mechanism to NSAIDs

Update, 8/18/2018, for anyone interested in phytonutrient biochemistry or herbal medicinal foods: Wintergreen and wintergreen berries are also a natural source of a painkiller in the NSAID group – aspirin. The plant can also be a source of phytonutrients that activate TRPA1 channels which can affect fluid balance and other symptoms. Winterberries are in the cranberry family and have a minty flavor. They are in season currently and eating more of them seems to increase my symptoms of inflammation and swelling more than the pomegranate extract or pomegranate seeds. Having too many variables in an experiment makes it unclear which factor might be a cause or if both may be involved. Experimental method tries to narrow variables to one factor at a time. Stopping both pomegranate products and wintergreen berries helped but other symptoms got worse, adding pomegranate back to my diet didn’t make the inflammation/swelling symptoms much different but more recently adding the wintergreen berries back into my diet did make the symptoms of lower leg inflammation/swelling and pain worse.

An excerpt from one of my other websites, G3.6.1.5: People with overactive TRPA1 channels may be sensitive to:

  • “(Winter-green),” (G3.67); Wintergreen is a natural flavoring herb in the mint family. It is typically used as an essential oil as a flavoring in many foods and other types of products. It has medicinal benefits related to it containing the chemical that acts as the pain killing ingredient of aspirin.(G3.73) (effectivecare.info, G3)

My ongoing self study of pomegranate extract for my mental and physical health symptoms has led me to use a fairly small dose, daily though is still best. Missing even a few days seems to increase mood and anxiety problems but using a very large serving has some side effects. Lower leg and foot swelling is associated with some physical health problems but it can also be a side effect of NSAIDs pain killers such as ibuprofen. (7) Pomegranate extract has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation by the same mechanism as NSAIDS – inhibition of cyclooxygenase enzymes (COX1 and COX2,  with more inhibition of COX2 than COX1). It also may have an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing inflammatory cytokines that signal increase in production of Nitric Oxide (NO) and Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). (1) Prostaglandin E2 is made from arachidonic acid and is involved in the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. (2) Nitric oxide can be beneficial but it can also transform into reactive oxidative species and add to the antioxidant burden of metabolism. (5) (9) Other studies including an animal study on obesity found pomegranate extract reduced inflammatory biomarkers and increased nitric oxide, which might make it helpful for Metabolic Syndrome. (6)

Pomegranate extract was found helpful in a dose related level against mammary tumerogenesis in an animal study, (0.2-5 gram/Kg body weight was used). Reducing COX2, heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) pathways, and increasing Nrf2 pathways were found to be part of the mechanism for benefit. (4) That amount could be quite a lot. Equivalent amounts for a 75 kilogram/165 pound human would be 15-375 grams per day or roughly one tablespoon (15 grams approximately)-13.4 ounces/27 tablespoons per day. (Mammary tumerogenesis means the initial onset of breast cancer tumors.)

It helps to prop my feet when sitting or even lay down with my feet above my heart. I’m getting better at typing while laying down. Better mood and having feeling in my fingertips is worth it. There may some other health or diet issues affecting the leg swelling. Heart or kidney or vein problems can be a cause. (7) I do have vein problems and may have heart issues, which can be an increased risk with hyperthyroidism. Cutting back on salt, daily exercise, and elevating the lower legs above the level of the heart several times per day for a half an hour is recommended, wearing compression socks is also a recommendation and that makes me feel old. (7) Maybe 52 is old.

Lymphedema – lower leg swelling due to reduced drainage from vein problems may be the best fit for my personal history, and lack of stretching exercises lately may be part of the reason the problem has become worse lately. Physical therapists explain the problem and provide exercise, massage and compression wrapping suggestions in a free video available online. (8) The exercise routine is similar to what I generally do when I do stretching exercises – so that seems like a good habit to return to my daily schedule.

Lower leg swelling has been a symptom for me at various stages of previous ill health and with some other medications I’ve used in the past, but currently it does seem worse when I use larger amounts of the pomegranate extract. One teaspoon a day helps with the stable mood and I haven’t had numbness in my fingertips in months with the ongoing daily use of pomegranate extract in larger amounts, 2-3 tablespoons was typical. I stopped use of it altogether when the leg swelling became a problem to see if the swelling would get better but the mood symptoms got worse again after having seemed fine for quite a while – quite a while while using pomegranate extract daily and the leg swelling didn’t get a lot better. Being not well is unpleasant and some side effects can be better than being unwell.

Breast cancer treatments currently may cause hair loss, severe vomiting and may leave the patient with cognitive decline afterwards, and pomegranate extract doesn’t cause any of those symptoms in the amounts that I’ve tried. It is a diuretic and causes increased urination which I cope with by drinking extra fluids and using the pomegranate extract early in the day rather than at night. I may be preventing breast cancer tumor development (4) while drinking extra fluid and urinating in increased amounts – getting old isn’t great but the alternative isn’t better. I may go buy my first pair of compression socks and feel young at heart if not in body.

Industry math – one pomegranate peel makes about six cups of extract by my method which would provide 288 teaspoons/96 tablespoons. It may have improved somewhat but the worsening in mood was more obvious.  From an industry perspective getting 288 servings of a mood and nerve treatment from one pomegranate peel seems like it could be profitable. Dehydrating one teaspoon into a capsule serving also seems possible. Side effects with psychiatric medications are unfortunately common and can include swelling/edema of the lower legs or more severe edema including facial edema.

/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. Shukla, Meenakshi & Gupta, Kalpana & Rasheed, Zafar & A Khan, Khursheed & Haqqi, Tariq. (2008). Bioavailable constituents/metabolites of pomegranate (Punica granatum L) preferentially inhibit COX-II activity ex vivo and IL-1beta-induced PGE2 production in human chondrocytes in vitro. Journal of inflammation (London, England). 5. 9. 10.1186/1476-9255-5-9.
  2. Jean Y. Park, Michael H. Pillinger, Steven B. Abramson, Prostaglandin E2 synthesis and secretion: The role of PGE2 synthases, Clinical Immunology, Vol 119, Iss 3, 2006, pp 229-240, ISSN 1521-6616, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clim.2006.01.016.
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1521661606000453 (2)
  3. Arachidonic Acid – an overview, ScienceDirect, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/arachidonic-acid (3)
  4. Mandal A, Bhatia D, Bishayee A. Anti-Inflammatory Mechanism Involved in Pomegranate-Mediated Prevention of Breast Cancer: the Role of NF-κB and Nrf2 Signaling PathwaysNutrients. 2017;9(5):436. doi:10.3390/nu9050436. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452166/ (4) From Abstract: “Mammary tumor samples were harvested from our previous chemopreventive study in which PE (0.2–5.0 g/kg) was found to reduce mammary tumorigenesis in a dose-dependent manner. The expressions of COX-2, HSP90, NF-κB, inhibitory κBα (IκBα) and Nrf2 were detected by immunohistochemical techniques. PE decreased the expression of COX-2 and HSP90, prevented the degradation of IκBα, hindered the translocation of NF-κB from cytosol to nucleus and increased the expression and nuclear translocation of Nrf2 during DMBA-induced mammary tumorigenesis.” From Introduction:”During the last decade, pomegranate fruit has been gaining a widespread reputation as a dietary supplement as well as a functional food due to emerging scientific evidence on potential health benefits, including prevention and/or treatment of cardiovascular ailments, neurological disorders, oncologic diseases, dental problems, inflammation, ulcer, arthritis, microbial infection, obesity, diabetes, acquired immune deficiency syndrome and erectile dysfunction [,,,,,]. Pomegranate fruit contains phytochemicals, including flavonoids (e.g., anthocyanins and catechins), flavonols (e.g., kaempferol and quercetin), flavones (e.g., apigenin and luteolin), conjugated fatty acids, hydrolyzable tannins and related compounds which are thought to be responsible for various biological and pharmacological activities [,,,,,]. Based on preclinical and clinical studies conducted by various laboratories worldwide, pomegranate-derived substances, such as juice, extracts and phytoconstituents exhibited cancer preventive and therapeutic effects against colon, liver, lung, prostate and skin cancer [,,,,]. Various extracts, fractions and phytochemicals from pomegranate fruit, peel, seed and flower demonstrated cytotoxic, antiproliferative, proapoptotic, antiangiogenic, anti-invasive, and antimetastatic properties against estrogen receptor-positive and ‑negative breast cancer cells [,,,,,,,,,,,,,]” (4)
  5. Matsubara K, Higaki T, Matsubara Y, Nawa A. Nitric Oxide and Reactive Oxygen Species in the Pathogenesis of Preeclampsia. Miller FJ, ed. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2015;16(3):4600-4614. doi:10.3390/ijms16034600. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394437/ (5)
  6. Filomena de Nigris, Maria Luisa Balestrieri, Sharon Williams-Ignarro, Francesco P. D’Armiento, Carmela Fiorito, Louis J. Ignarro, Claudio Napoli,
    The influence of pomegranate fruit extract in comparison to regular pomegranate juice and seed oil on nitric oxide and arterial function in obese Zucker rats, Nitric Oxide, Volume 17, Issue 1, 2007, pp 50-54, ISSN 1089-8603, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.niox.2007.04.005.
    (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1089860307000432) (6)
  7. Swollen Legs: Causes and Treatments, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/dvt/why-legs-puffy#1 (7)
  8. Bob Schrupp, Brad Heineck, 10 Exercises for Leg Lymphedema (Swelling or Edema of the Lower Extremities). physicaltherapyvideo, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3t8Kp99e50k&feature=youtu.be (8)

  9. Aouache R, Biquard L, Vaiman D, Miralles F. Oxidative Stress in Preeclampsia and Placental Diseases. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2018;19(5):1496. doi:10.3390/ijms19051496.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5983711/ (9)

Why care about demyelination?

We need to care about demyelination as a society because it may be a factor underlying many conditions that have been occurring at increasing rates. The high cost of health care is not just due to the cost of individual medications or the price of hospitalization but is due to the additive cost of increased numbers of individuals needing care. Autism care alone is estimated to likely reach $500 billion by 2025 for care in the U.S. alone, (link), demyelination or disordered myelin formation is thought to be involved. Our food supply may provide calories but it may no longer be supporting health due to imbalance in some nutrients and lack of sufficient amounts of other nutrients – in addition to personal choices for some people leaning toward convenient and tasty foods that provide very few nutrients besides calories.

The other reason to care about demyelination as a society is because the early symptoms can occur for years without clear reasons and may disrupt relationships or the ability to hold a job – personality changes including anxiety and anger, paranoia and a short temper – problems with impulse control and the ability to follow through on planned actions or with communication and the ability to tell the truth instead of substituting other statements that may seem illogical and obviously far from the truth. Problems with impulse control and a tendency toward mood problems may also include an increased risk for suicide or self injury or violence towards others.

The medical research is complex and I haven’t seen all the loose threads together yet, so I will summarize my summary points in a more concise list here and am working on a more organized document elsewhere. This list combines my tips from the previous post with the work of the other summary article (22) — I was also given the link to another summary article which also has tips which I have not incorporated here. It provides an excellent overview about myelin production and function –selfhacked/myelin – what I and the authors of (22) and {selfhacked} have in common is that we all got sick and sought information about regaining our health for ourselves and are sharing the information in case it might help others.

My personal goal is to not become paralyzed (post: ALS & CBD receptors), number of clicks on a website is not something I pay attention to. The loose threads that I’ve woven together in this series of posts which are not included in the excellent selfhacked article are that a) many of the herbs or phytonutrients found helpful for myelin regeneration are Nrf2 promoting which is also important for myelin regeneration and/or reducing oxidative stress that may lead to more degeneration of myelin. b) Foods that are good for promoting Nrf2 often are also good sources of cannabinoids or phospholipids which can be protective. c) And preventing excessive cell death or excess intracellular calcium may decrease the excess production of cytokines by decreasing release of cannabinoids from cell membrane storage and their breakdown into arachidonic acid and eventual transformation into cytokines and other inflammatory chemicals.}: 

Strategies to help prevent the breakdown of myelin or help promote regeneration of myelin:

{In the past at different points in time, I personally have experienced and improved with supplementation or diet changes physical and mental symptoms of vitamin B1, B5, B6, folate and B12 deficiencies; iodine, magnesium, calcium and zinc deficiencies; vitamin/hormone D and calcium excess at a different stage of health;  cannabinoid/phospholipid deficiency; inadequate protein and general malnutrition due to the zinc deficiency which can greatly reduce appetite at one stage and due to severe bowel mal-absorption more recently; omega 3 fatty acid/omega 6 fatty acid imbalance; and also lack of sleep/melatonin and lack of oxygen/excess toxins in the air; health requires all of the nutrients and adequate oxygen, exercise, sleep and stress coping.}

  1. Vitamin B1, thiamin deficiency, chronic, severe – Wernicke’s encephalopathy may be more of a risk for severe alcoholics and people with anorexia – severe lack of appetite or the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.
  2. Vitamin B12 deficiency – may be more of a risk for people with low stomach acidity, due to older age or chronic use of calcium type antacids; or due to genetic reasons limiting production of Intrinsic Factor; or due to a vegan diet without supplementation of vitamin B12 or inclusion of Nutritional yeast flakes in the diet.
  3. Zinc deficiency (22or copper  excess (link).
  4. Adequate but not excessive lithium may increase myelin production. (22)
  5. Adequate but not excessive iron intake is needed for production of myelin.
  6. Magnesium deficiency or poor intestinal absorption of magnesium, or lack of adequate protein and phospholipids in the diet for the body to be able to store magnesium in the normal manner within the intracellular fluid.
  7. Inadequate calcium or vitamin D can be a factor but excessive intake of either can also be a factor in cell breakdown and risk of demyelination. If taking vitamin D as a supplement the vitamin D3 form may be most bioactive and taking vitamin K2 with it may help with myelin production (22) and protect against osteoporosis. Green leafy vegetables are good sources of vitamin K.
  8. Adequate intake of cholesterol is needed as a building block for our own production of vitamin D and other steroid hormones and as a building block for myelin. (22) Pregnenolone is a steroid hormone precursor that may benefit some people when used as a supplement. It and other steroid hormones are involved in signaling increased production of myelin. Testosterone insufficiency may also negatively affect myelin production. (22)
  9. Excessive intake of free glutamate or aspartate – excitatory amino acids that are commonly used as flavoring or sweetening agents in foods or may occur naturally in fermented foods or alcoholic beverages.
  10. Adequate protein is needed to support a variety of body functions in addition to supporting magnesium levels. Uridine is a nucleotide base (part of DNA that is a combination of a type of sugar and an amino acid) that is also is involved in energy metabolism, fasting occasionally may increase our own production (more info). Insufficient amounts may negatively affect myelin production and use as a supplement may help some people. (22)
  11. Insufficient calories to provide the body enough glucose to support mitochondrial health. They can use protein or fats for energy but it shifts the metabolism more towards oxidative stress.
  12. Occasional fasting and/or a low carbohydrate diet may help promote autophagy due to increased use of ketones for energy (22) but may cause health problems due to excess oxidative stress or an increased burden of nitrogen waste removal for the kidneys when followed long term.
  13. Lack of antioxidants due to lack of Nrf2 within the body to promote our own production of antioxidants internally; and/or lack of antioxidants within the diet, including vitamin C, (22), would decrease our ability to detoxify the reactive oxidative chemicals produced during normal metabolism or which are produced at increased rates when protein or fats are being used for energy instead of glucose.
  14. Use of the herb ashwagandha or Gingko biloba (22) may help protect against oxidative stress and protect against demyelination by promoting Nrf2. (ashwagandha & Nrf2) (an overview of Nrf2 metabolism, its potential benefits for conditions such as Multiple sclerosis, and Gingko biloba and pomegranate are mentioned as promoters of Nrf2: nutricology/newsletter, see first article) (other Nrf2 promoting phytonutrients/foods and menu ideas: G10: Nrf2 Promoting Foods.) Flavonoids are one of the groups of phytonutrients that helps promote Nrf2; and also may help protect myelin production. (22) Medicinal mushrooms, including Hericium Erinaceus, Lion’s Mane Mushroom,(22), may also help protect myelin production and prevent breakdown by reducing oxidative stress (link) and promoting Nrf2. (link)
  15. Having a healthy balance of omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids in the diet helps reduce risk of inflammation/oxidative stress and also helps us build healthy membranes which are necessary to control flow of minerals and other chemicals from the exterior to interior of cells and organelles such as the mitochondria.
  16. Inadequate iodine for healthy thyroid hormone production, (22); may be a combined problem of excess presence of bromide, fluoride and perchlorate in the diet or environment.
  17. Lack of oxygen due to poor air quality, or smoking, or health problems causing inadequate breathing function. Emotional or physical stress may also increase the need for oxygen or increase the tendency to hold our breath; Take ten deep breaths and think before you speak is good advice for any emotionally stressful situation because oxygen is needed to think rationally and we tend to hold our breath when we are upset.
  18. Avoid extreme physical and emotional stress.
  19. Avoid toxins.
  20. Get adequate sleep at night, and a brief nap during the day may be beneficial for some people. Melatonin helps promote myelin production and inadequate sleep and having lights on at night can disrupt our production of melatonin. (22)
  21. Adequate exercise (22) and stretching regularly helps move nutrients throughout the body and remove toxins in the lymphatic fluid for further detoxification and eventual removal from the body.
  22. Wear a helmet for any activity that may cause head trauma and avoid sports which may cause frequent closed head trauma and especially when helmets are not used (sorry soccer, football, hockey, (link), and boxing fans).
  23. Adequate phospholipid and other phosphonutrients or cannabinoids may be necessary to include from external sources if genetic differences or other health problems or age interferes with the body’s internal production capability. Dark cocoa products, cardamom powder, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds are a few legal dietary sources.
  24. Use of ibuprofen and/or ginger (approximately 1/2 teaspoon per day) may help prevent breakdown of our body’s supply of cannabinoids, breakdown of which may then lead to increased breakdown of cells and may then lead to increased degeneration of myelin.
  25. Lack of any B vitamins or genetic differences in the ability to remethylate folate and vitamin B12 may disrupt the ability of mitochondria to generate usable energy from glucose or proteins and fats, and may reduce production of myelin. (22) Inositol and choline may be particularly important for myelin production. They are considered to be in the B vitamin group but was discovered more recently than the numbered series of B vitamins. (22)
  26. Low Level Laser Therapy – I am not familiar with this, see #10: (22), but I have read elsewhere that certain types of light can stimulate activity levels. (Haier)
  27. Practice, practice, practice – new things. (22Myelin is produced in response to learning [45] so remaining mentally stimulated with new experiences and learning new topics or techniques keeps signalling the body to produce myelin. 
  28. Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor, (BDNF), the brain’s growth factor, may help increase production of myelin by increasing production of brain cells, which include oligodendrocytes. (22) Ways to promote BDNF (link, from within 22) fortunately overlap with the strategies for protecting against demyelination already mentioned above or included in the list of Nrf2 promoting foods.
  29. Reducing exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) – energy leakage from laptops, smartphones, WiFi, televisions, and other strong sources of electicity may help protect against myelin degeneration. (22)

References and more details for some of this information were included in the last two posts:

  • Good News/Bad News about Multiple sclerosis Research (7/26/2018)
  • Demyelination, continued. (7/28/2018)

/Disclosure: 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./ 

Good news/Bad news about Multiple sclerosis research

The good news about Multiple sclerosis (MS) research is that there seems to have been a major breakthrough in treatment, the bad news is that research regarding demyelinating disorders which includes MS seems to have slowed down (1) – finding a solution, a medical answer, that isn’t politically approved of or one that is able to be easily patent protected may be the reason for the bad news. Finding an answer that you don’t like shouldn’t mean we stop asking the question. Work is progressing on genetic modification of mitochondrial DNA differences that can cause demyelination disorders and success has been seen in animal models for disease. Aging increases the risk for different types of mitochondrial DNA changes that can cause a variety of symptoms and diseases. (mitoTALENS/session by Moraes/28)

(Ubiquitin (a protein, not the same as CoQ10/ubiquinone, an electron carrying quinone involved in energy metabolism, 29) is needed for identifying which mitochondria are damaged and need to be recycled in the normal way, by autophagy/mitophagy, which involves the debris being taken into a container particle called lysosomes – imagine a cellular vacuum cleaner that can then recycle any useful material and discard any non-useful, potentially toxic material. See the session on Mitochondria in Parkinson’s Disease/Youle: 28)

Cannabinoids seem to be the good news treatment for MS in humans, whether as purified extracts of medical marijuana or as the whole product which can contain many cannabinoids and medically active terpenes.  An overview published in 2016 regarding the role of cannabinoids in neurology in various types of autoimmune disease: (2). An overview of the role of cannabinoids in neuroinflammatory conditions published in 2008: (3). An opinion article published in 2018 regarding the potential role of cannabidiol ( a non-euphoric cannabinoid) to improve mobility for patients with Multiple sclerosis: (4).

What is Multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition that seems to be autoimmune in nature where the body is breaking down the protective coating around the branching segments between nerves. The coating is called the myelin sheath and it acts a little like the plastic coating around an extension cord. Myelin on a nerve fiber or plastic on an extension cord keeps the electrical signals on the inside and out of danger of creating sparks elsewhere along the path of the cord or nerve fiber.

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are directly involved in making strong and flexible cell membranes as they are building blocks that make up portions of the membrane, like bricks in a wall. They can also be signaling chemicals that can be activated when released from the membrane. Excess calcium inside of a cell can be a signal that causes the release of cannabinoids. Once they are released they break down into their two basic components, phospholipids and a free fatty acid, often arachidonic acid. The problem is two part – 1) both of the components of cannabinoids once they are released from the membrane can become signaling chemicals that can lead to increased inflammation, NSAID pain killers (aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen helped reduce level of fatigue experienced by MS patients) may help block the negative effects of excess free arachidonic acid (21); 2) if too many bricks are released from the wall, then the wall may no longer function – the plastic coating on the extension cord may allow sparks through that can be a risk for an electrical fire. In the case of Multiple sclerosis the nerve damage and lack of myelin sheathing around nerve fibers causes difficulties with muscle control and the patient may have increasing difficulty walking and doing other normal daily tasks.

Preventing the increased release of cannabinoids from the membrane walls would likely to the best plan for preventing the resulting increase in inflammatory signaling chemicals they form and the reduction in membrane function. The amount of cannabinoids present can cause opposite effects, small or medium amounts can have beneficial effects while large amounts may have significantly different effects. Mitochondria are the main energy production center of the cell, where sugar is turned into a usable form of energy with the chemical shorthand name ATP or ADP. Both are phosphochemicals differing in the number of phosphate groups, adenosine tri-phosphate and adenosine di-phosphate. The amount of calcium within the cell and within the mitochondria may be different and cannabinoid can affect the movement across the mitochondrial membrane and cause differenct effects depending on the amount of calcium in each area and the amount of cannabinoids that are present. It’s complicated is the short story. This article goes into a longer  but still simplified description of the chemistry. (23)

And part of the point is that having adequate cannabinoids and adequate phosphonutrients and adequate but not excessive calcium are all important for cellular health and the ability to produce energy – and to not be fatigued – excessively tired all of the time. And in order to have adequate calcium but not excessive the cells need adequate magnesium and adequate protein and phosphonutrients in order to hold it ready for use – like taxicabs circling the block ready to discharge magnesium as a free ion when and where it is needed. The topic of magnesium, and the need for protein and phosphonutrients was introduced in a recent post. Magnesium blocks entry of excess calcium from being able to enter the interior of the cell, where it can cause increased release of cannabinoids from their storage positions within the cell membranes. Ibuprofen, but not other NSAIDs such as naproxen, also help reduce the amount of breakdown of cannabinoids. (pp 82-83, 24)

What are oligodendrocytes?

A type of specialized brain cell called oligodendrocytes are responsible for building or repairing the myelin sheath. Multiple sclerosis involves increased loss of oligodendrocytes. The specialized cells have calcium permeable glutamate receptors and are more susceptible to oxidative stress than average cells so they are particularly at risk for being damaged by ongoing emotional or physical stress or a traumatic brain injury. (6) Sphingomyelin is one of the building blocks of the myelin sheath, (7),  and is formed by oligodendrocytes. (8)

The body is complicated and needs many/all of the nutrients for optimal health. More nutrients and other lifestyle issues that may benefit myelin production or increase risk are discussed in a list of tips for regenerating myelin, phosphatidylserine, a phospholipid, is one of the recommendations; other conditions that may include myelin breakdown besides Multiple sclerosis are also mentioned: (22). 

Problems with vitamin D availability may also be involved in the body being more prone to autoimmune reactions by the immune system (attack on our own healthy cells instead of only attacking foreign or damaged cells); and on the natural building or repair of the myelin sheath. (5) And just to keep things interesting – iron is important but too much within the oligodendrocytes may increase risk for MS; polyunsaturated fats are also important but their reactivity may increase risk to the oligodendrocytes from oxidative stress; lack of Nrf2 may be involved in the susceptibility to oxidative stress in the development of MS due to damage to the oligodendrocytes; and the oligodendrocytes have an abundance of calcium permeable glutamate receptors so excess glutamate may increase risk of excess calcium entry into the cells which can lead to cell death. (8)

Summary points for protecting oligodendrocytes –

  • all nutrients are important, (22), but balance is also important.
  • Avoid excess emotional and physical stress if possible.
  • Adequate iron is important because the oligodendrocytes need more than average in order to be able to make the myelin sheath. Some patients may have an underlying genetic difference that leads to their needing supplementation of a well absorbed form of iron throughout their life. Genetic screening and individualized metabolic guidance may be needed for optimal treatment of patients with MS as it may have differing causes. A true autoimmune antibody/antigen has not been identified. (10)
  • In general however, avoid excess iron (fortified breakfast cereals and meats for example; men and menopausal women who eat large servings of very iron-fortified foods or large servings of iron rich meats can be more at risk for iron overload. Donating blood occasionally can benefit society and may help protect against the risk of iron overload for people who do not menstruate. Food sources of iron and more information about donating blood: (9) Iron overload can be a cancer risk and tends to be more common than iron deficiency in the non-menstruating population.(11))
  • and avoid excess free glutamate (frequently used in seasonings and naturally found in fermented products such as soy sauce. It is in many processed foods, (12)).
  • Eat a balance of omega 3, (22), and omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Eat plenty of antioxidant rich foods regularly that also include Nrf2 promoting phytonutrients and other phospholipid containing nutrients. Here is some Nrf2 promoting foods and menu ideas: G10: Nrf2 Promoting Foods.
  • And cannabinoids or other phospholipid/phosphonutrient containing foods include these, many of which are also Nrf2 promoting foods:

Food Sources of Phospholipids and other phospho-nutrients, a partial list:

Hemp seed kernels and oil; Artemisia turanica/wormwood leaf; amaranth seed; asparagus; avocado fruit or the inner kernel, dried and powdered; beans/legumes; cardamom seeds and powder; carrots; celery stalks and leaves; cocoa beans and cocoa powder, baker’s chocolate, dark chocolate and to a lesser amount milk chocolate and chocolate syrup; coconut; cumin seed/powder; fennel seed, flax seed, pine nuts; sesame seeds, pumpkin seed kernels, squash seeds; butternut squash and pumpkin; gingko leaf; grapefruit and orange juice with the pulp; Jerusalem artichoke (this is a root vegetable rather than a green artichoke); lettuce, spinach and mustard leaves and other leafy green vegetables and herbs; nuts/peanuts, cashews, walnuts; oats; okra seeds; onion root, leek leaves, garlic;  parsnip root; pomegranate seeds and pomegranate peel extract;rice, white or brown but the bran is the best source; rosemary; sorghum;  sweet potato or yam; buckwheat (a seed botanically that is not wheat and is gluten free); wheat. (G.26)

The current treatments for Multiple sclerosis are very costly, and may not help all patients while also tending to cause negative side effects.

Returning to the original question – why has the ratio of research being published about demyelinating disorders declined since 2013? It is possible that the answer might be that medical marijuana or a recommendation to eat more dark cocoa and beans, nuts, and seeds is not as profitable as the older MS treatments may average $60,000 per year and newer treatments cost 25-60% more than that, (13), which would be an average prescription cost of $75,000-96,000 per year per patient with Multiple sclerosis. Good quality cocoa is expensive but can fit within most grocery budgets. Being a medical marijuana patient might cost around $12,000 per year for a patient using it several times each day. Use of ibuprofen daily might cost a few hundred dollars per year depending on the amount used and whether it was a name brand or off brand. (21(24) (Note – long term use of ibuprofen may cause intestinal problems, ginger (about 1/2 teaspoon) can be healing for the intestines and help with pain relief as well as ibuprofen and provided better pain relief when used in combination with ibuprofen in a study with arthritis patients. Ginger may be reducing inflammation by reducing the amount of cannabinoid breakdown to free arachidonic acids and preventing transformation into inflammatory eicosanoids. (27))

Efficacy and negative side effects are also worth considering – for that $60,000-96,000/year price tag only half of the patients may gain health benefits while many will experience negative side effects in addition to needing time and copays for office visits to receive some types of treatments. Fewer than half of patients receiving interferon-β treatment were found to benefit medically and many experienced side effects. (13)

The pharmaceutical industry frequently does medical research involving new drug treatments. The use of medical marijuana for the treatment of Multiple sclerosis or other demyelinating disorders is not legal at the Federal level as the herb is still scheduled as a substance with no medical benefit. Private research in states that have legalized medical use could possibly be performed however. Enrolling patients would likely need to be by self selection though, and for comparison purposes an experimental group of patients could be given a phospholipid rich diet plan to follow and a control group of patients receiving standard pharmaceutical treatments could also be followed to compare health outcomes with the current standard of care.

How many patients have Multiple sclerosis?

More math – there are about 400,000 people in the U.S. with Multiple sclerosis and about 10,000 newly diagnosed patients each year. (14) Averaging the cost of standard treatments to $78,000 per year would mean the 400,000 patients require $31,200,000,000 per year in pharmaceutical care. Thirty one billion dollars would buy a lot of cocoa. The number of patients living with the condition globally is estimated to be around 2.3 million people. (15) If they all received treatment at the average U.S. cost it would require $179.4 billion in care.

People living farther from the equator tend to have a greater risk for developing Multiple sclerosis so vitamin D deficiency may be involved.

Looking at the global distribution map on the link does visually suggest that vitamin D deficiency may be involved – it is not as much of a risk for nations around the equator where more sunshine would consistently be available.  Genetic differences may also be involved as it is more of a risk for Caucasians and people of central and northern European descent. It is rare for Inuits, Aborigines and Maoris. (14) (The Inuit native diet is rich in vitamin D from seafood sources.) A map of distribution risk across the U.S. also suggests a sunshine factor – rates below the 37th parallel are reduced compared to farther north. (15)

Sphingomyelin is found in the diet but needs to be made by the oligodendrocytes.

Why discuss eating cocoa or sources of phospholipids or vitamin D? Why not just eat sphingomyelin? We do eat some but our digestive systems break it down into smaller types of fats, (16), and then our oligodendrocytes have to rebuild it. Sphingomyelin tends to be found with cholesterol within the body, and both can affect the digestion of the other. (16)

Genetic differences may be involved in risk for MS. Variations in genes involved in Vitamin D metabolism may be a risk factor. There also may be differences in the cannabinoid metabolism involved or in other metabolic pathways.

Vitamin D can be made out of cholesterol when our skin is exposed to adequate sunshine. Genetic differences in vitamin D metabolism may be why some people are more prone to developing multiple sclerosis than others – speculatively. Genetic differences in vitamin D metabolism have been studied in relation with multiple sclerosis risk and a correlation was found however studies with supplementation have been inconclusive. (17) One nutrient solutions can not solve multiple nutrient problems – adequate iron but not too much, adequate balance of polyunsaturated fats to promote health without increasing inflammation, avoiding excess free dietary glutamate, and having adequate phospholipids and Nrf2 promoting foods in the diet may also all be important – in addition to having adequate vitamin D in the diet or from sunshine or tanning lights.

Vegetarian based diets include many foods that help reduce inflammation & protect against oxidative stress, & may save money.

Some more good news – a vegetarian based diet can provide many of those dietary factors and save money (about $750/year, (18)) compared to a meat based diet (which tends to be more inflammatory – i.e. oxidative stress promoting). More math – the economical vegetarian diet (2015 U.S. prices) was estimated to cost about $2,762/year which would add up to $6,353 million per year for the 2.3 million global population of people with MS instead of the $179.4 billion that would be needed for current pharmaceutical treatments for Multiple sclerosis. Phosholipid rich, Nrf2 promoting foods can also provide a good balance of omega 3 fatty acids and include sources of vitamin D and iron and tend to include many high quality vegetarian sources of protein such as nuts, beans, and seeds.

Cocoa has been found to reduce fatigue for MS patients and is a good source of phospholipids and Nrf2 promoting flavonoids.

Better news – cocoa, which is made from a bean that is rich in flavonoids, which are Nrf2 promoting phytonutrients, G10: Nrf2 Promoting Foods, and is a good source of phospholipids, (G.26), has been found to help reduce fatigue levels in patients with Multiple sclerosis while not increasing high blood sugar risk factors. (19)

Skip the sugar if possible, Insulin resistance may increase breakdown of the myelin sheath.

I add a spoonful of dark cocoa powder (unsweetened Baking cocoa) to my coffee – like mocha coffee without the syrup. Once you stop using sugar your taste buds adjust to not needing as much sweet taste – or add a little sugar or honey but artificial sweeteners may not be that helpful because the sweet taste is still signaling the body to increase insulin levels which then increases appetite and studies have found snacking calories are then increased -resulting in no overall reduction in calorie intake. Avoiding insulin resistance, frequently a problem with Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome, may also help protect against Multiple sclerosis risk as it may have something to do with the breakdown of the myelin sheath. (20)

/Disclosure: 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. Thanks./ 

  1. James Lyons-Weiler, *A graph of all research studies regarding demylinating disorders such as Multiple sclerosis as a ratio of all medical research studies over time – there has been a significant decrease in the ratio since 2013. The graph begins with approximately 4/100,000 studies in 1944, peaks at approximately 46/100,000 in 1998/1999 and drops to approximately 7/100,000 in 2017/2018.   https://twitter.com/lifebiomedguru/status/1021794538682236929 (1)
  2. Katz D, Katz I, Shoenfeld Y,  Mini Review, Open Access, Cannabis and Autoimmunity – The Neurologic Perspective: A Brief Review. June 2, 2016, J Neurology, Neuromedicine. http://www.jneurology.com/articles/cannabis-and-autoimmunity–the-neurologic-perspective-a-brief-review.html (2)
  3. G. A. Cabral, L. Griffin-Thomas, Cannabinoids as Therapeutic Agents for Ablating Neuroinflammatory Disease. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2008 Sep; 8(3): 159–172.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2750822/ (3)
  4. Thorston Rudroff, Jacob Sosnoff,Cannabidiol to Improve Mobility in People with Multiple Sclerosis. Opinion Article, Front. Neurol., 22 March 2018.   https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2018.00183/full (4)
  5. Cell-based study reveals that vitamin D can drive the activity of neural stem cells that promote myelin repair, MS Society of Canada, March 30, 2015, https://mssociety.ca/research-news/article/cell-based-study-reveals-that-vitamin-d-can-drive-the-activity-of-neural-stem-cells-that-promote-myelin-repair (5)
  6. Attila Köfalvi, Cannabinoids and the Brain, Springer Science & Business MediaDec 22, 2007, pp 342 and 344, https://books.google.com/books?id=ZNIorLciZCoC&pg=PA342&lpg=PA342&dq=myelin+sheath+cannabinoid+metabolite&source=bl&ots=t0vcsRm2HK&sig=oDbCl2JBArCt9s5KT8xawwBrv5M&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjf2MS3xbrcAhUBI6wKHdIEDbUQ6AEISDAE#v=onepage&q=myelin%20sheath%20cannabinoid%20metabolite&f=false (6)
  7. ElenaPosse de Chaves, Simonetta Sipione, Sphingolipids and gangliosides of the nervous system in membrane function and dysfunction. Frontiers in Membrane Biochemistry, FEBS Letters, Vol 584, Issue 9, 3 May 2010, Pages 1748-1759, ScienceDirect,   https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014579309010564
    (7)
  8. Arundhati Jana, Kalipada Pahan, Sphingolipids in Multiple sclerosisNeuromolecular Med. 2010 Dec; 12(4): 351–361.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2987401/ (8)
  9. Iron-Rich Food-List of Meats, Vegetables and Meals, American Red Cross, https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/blood-donation-process/before-during-after/iron-blood-donation/iron-rich-foods.html (9)
  10. Susan J. van Rensburg,Maritha J. Kotze, Ronald van Toorn, The conundrum of iron in multiple sclerosis – time for an individualised approach. Metab Brain Dis. 2012 Sep; 27(3): 239–253.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3402663/ (10)

  11. Iron: The Double-Edged Sword, The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, https://www.pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/nutrition/iron-the-double-edged-sword (11)
  12. Dr. Amy Yasko, Detecting Neuro-Provoking Foodshttp://www.dramyyasko.com/wp-content/files_flutter/1279663001Neuroprovokers8.pdf (12)
  13. Daniel M. Hartung, PharmD, MPH, Dennis N. Bourdette, MD, Sharia M. Ahmed, MPH, Ruth H. Whitham, MD, The cost of multiple sclerosis drugs in the US and the pharmaceutical industry: Too big to fail?,  Neurology. 2015 May 26; 84(21): 2185–2192. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4451044/ (13)

  14. MS Statistics, multiplesclerosis.net, https://multiplesclerosis.net/what-is-ms/statistics/ (14)
  15. Multiple sclerosis: Facts, Statistics, and You, healthline.com, https://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/facts-statistics-infographic#2 (15)
  16. Åke Nilsson, Rui-Dong Duan, Absorption and Lipoprotein Transport of Sphingomyelin, January 2006, The Journal of Lipid Research, 47, 154-171http://www.jlr.org/content/47/1/154.full (16)
  17. Shoemaker TJ, Mowry EM, A review of vitamin D supplementation as disease-modifying therapy. Multiple Sclerosis Journal, Volume: 24 issue: 1, page(s): 6-11 Jan 182018, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1352458517738131 (17)
  18. Justin Caba, A Vegetarian Diet Can Save You Around $750 Each Year When Compared To A Meat-Eating Diet. Oct. 9, 2015, MedicalDaily.com, https://www.medicaldaily.com/vegetarian-diet-can-save-you-around-750-each-year-when-compared-meat-eating-diet-356670 (18)
  19. S. Coe, E. Axelsson, V. Murphy, M. Santos, J. Collett, M. Clegg, H. Izadi, J.M. Harrison, E. Buckingham, H. Dawes, Flavonoid rich dark cocoa may improve fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis, yet has no effect on glycaemic response: An exploratory trial. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, Oct. 2017, Volume 21, Pages 20–25   https://clinicalnutritionespen.com/article/S2405-4577(17)30280-2/abstract (19)
  20. Kristina Fiore, Does Insulin Resistance Degrade Myelin? – Imaging study suggests insulin resistance is linked to loss of myelin., Oct. 23, 2015, MedPageToday.com, https://www.medpagetoday.com/meetingcoverage/sfn/54260 (20)
  21. Sara Palumbo, Chapter 7 Pathogenesis and Progression of Multiple Sclerosis: The Role of Arachidonic Acid–Mediated Neuroinflammation. from the book edited by Zagon IS, McLaughlin PJ, editors. Multiple Sclerosis: Perspectives in Treatment and Pathogenesis [Internet]. Brisbane (AU): Codon Publications; 2017 Nov 27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470143/ (21)
  22. Jordan Fallis, 27 Proven Ways to Promote the Regeneration of Myelin. Feb. 18, 2017, Optimal Living Dynamics,  https://www.optimallivingdynamics.com/blog/25-proven-ways-to-promote-the-regeneration-of-myelin (22
  23. Adrian Devitt-Lee, CBD Science: How Cannabinoids Work at the Cellular Level to Keep You Healthy, Project CBD,  Dec. 15, 2016, alternet.org, https://www.alternet.org/drugs/cbd-science-mitochondria-mysteries-homeostasis-renewal-endocannabinoid-system (23)
  24. Editors, Emmanuel S. Onaivi, Takayuki Sugiura, Vincenzo Di Marzo, Endocannabinoids: The Brain and Body’s Marijuana and Beyond, (Taylor & Francis Group, 2006, Florida), pages 82 and 83 are from Chapter 3, by: E.S. Onaivi, H. Ishiguro, P. W. Zhang, Z. Lin, B. E. Akinshola, C. M. Leanoard, S. S. Chirwa, J. Gong, and G. R. Uhl, Chapter 3, Endocannabinoid Receptor Genetics and Marijuana Use. https://www.crcpress.com/Endocannabinoids-The-Brain-and-Bodys-Marijuana-and-Beyond/Onaivi-Sugiura-Di-Marzo/9780415300087 (24)
  25. J. Depew, RD, G10: Nrf2 Promoting Foods, 2018, effectivecare.info, G10: Nrf2 Promoting Foods. Particularly helpful for an overview of plant phytonutrients groups: 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 (G10.11)
  26. Arlen Frank, Chemistry of Plant Phosphorus Compounds, Elsevier, Jun 3, 2013, https://books.google.com/books/about/Chemistry_of_Plant_Phosphorus_Compounds.html?id=6btpFSV1T2YC (G.26)
  27. Ginger Decreases Colon Inflammation, Prime Endoscopy Bristol, Oct. 12, 2011,  http://www.primeendoscopybristol.co.uk/ginger-decreases-colon-inflammation/ (27) 
  28. From Pediatric Encephalopathy to Alzheimer’s: Linking Mitochondria to Neurological Diseases. 2016 Neurobiology of Disease Workshops, Neuronline.sfn.org, http://neuronline.sfn.org/Articles/Scientific-Research/2017/From-Pediatric-Encephalopathy-to-Alzheimers (28)