Essentials About Amino Acids and Where to Get Them
It is a serious myth that humans must eat animal flesh (beef, fish, chicken – it’s all meat) to obtain protein. It is also a myth that animal flesh is the only source of quality protein. All proteins must be broken down into usable amino acids otherwise the body can’t do anything with complex animal protein. We can save energy by providing the body these amino acids ready to go rather than complex protein chains, like those found in animal products, that require a large amount of energy to break down into usable parts for our bodies.
Not only are foods high in amino acids more readily available for the body to use, saving energy, they typically don’t cost as much either. Consider the cost of a head of lettuce compared to the cost of a steak. An additional cost savings is to your health. You don’t get heart disease and clogged arteries eating a salad but you do get useful protein. Consider this when you are debating on where to get healthy nutrients. Would you rather eat animal protein and have to have heart surgery in a few decades?
There are nine amino acids humans cannot synthesize thus are essential that they be added to the diet:
Facts about these essential amino acids:
- Phenylalanine elevates the mood by stimulating the nervous system and may be important to staying motivated. It aids memory and, together with its derivative glutamine, is considered a smart-vitamin (though they aren’t vitamins). It increases levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the anterior pituitary. All three are important neurotransmitters needed for optimum operation of the nervous system. Phenylalanine helps the absorption of UV rays in sunlight, which in turn gives a higher rate of Vitamin D. Its main metabolite is tyrosine, which increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, as stated above. It’s also one of the manufacturers of glutamine, the amino acid that makes up the largest part of the amino acid pool. Phenylalanine often gets a bad wrap in the press. It is used as a non-carbohydrate sweetener in many soft drinks (combined with aspartic acid, as aspartame) and made headlines recently when some claimed it was hazardous to the brain, and then later it was linked to carcinogenic risk. Toxic levels of phenylalanine can indeed be lethal, but trust me, so can drinking too much water. Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, and most nutritionists will tell you that you are more likely to be deficient than run the risk of overdosing. Toxic doses exceed 3 to 4 times the amount you would get on average from a diet containing 250-300 grams of protein daily. Phenylalanine can be found in seaweed, spirulina, watercress, pumpkin leaves, horseradish tree (the leafy tips), kidney beans, spinach, turnip greens, skunk cabbage, broccoli raab, swiss chard, amaranth leaves, cottonseed, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pigeon peas, lupin seeds, soy, whole grains, peanuts, almonds, avocado, rice, avocados, apricots, bananas, raisins, peaches, plums, figs, persimmons, oranges, dates, pears, grapefruit, elderberries, apples, star fruit, ripe olives.
- Valine is a branched chain amino acid that helps the repair and growth of muscle tissue. It maintains the nitrogen balance and preserves the use of glucose. Valine can be found in seaweed, spirulina, watercress, mushrooms, horseradish tree(leafy tips) pumpkin leaves, snow peas, snap peas, turnip greens, kidney beans, spinach, skunk cabbage, broccoli raab, sunflower seed, sesame seed, cottonseed, soy, peanuts, whole grains, rice, bananas, peaches, figs, apricots, avocado, guavas, raisins, dates, pears, apples, persimmons, kiwi, cranberries, ripe olives, blueberries, oranges.
- Threonine is an essential amino acid that is not manufactured within the body, ever. It is found in heart, skeletal muscle, and nerve tissue in the central nervous system. Threonine is used to form the body’s two most important binding substances, collagen and elastin. It is also essential to maintain proper protein balance. It is involved in liver functioning, lipotropic functions (when combined with aspartic acid and methionine), and in the maintenance of the immune system by helping in the production of antibodies and promoting growth and activity of the thymus. Threonines’ most useful property of all is that it allows better absorption of other nutrients, so protein sources containing threonine are more bioavailable than others. Threonine can be found in watercress, seaweed, spirulina, pumpkin leaves, spinach, skunk cabbage, horseradish tree (leafy tips), turnip greens, kidney beans, soybeans, alfalfa seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, soy, wheat, some nuts, rice, peaches, apricots, bananas, guavas, figs, avocados, raisins, pears, dates.
- Tryptophan helps fight depression and is converted into serotonin and niacin. You can find tryptophan in oat bran, seaweed, spirulina, spinach, watercress, soybeans, horseradish tree (leafy tips) pumpkin leaves, mushrooms, turnip greens, broccoli raab, turnip greens, parsley, spinach, winged bean tubers and leaves, mustard greens, asparagus, beet greens, mushrooms, mung beans, kidney beans, bamboo shoots, lettuce (red leaf, butterhead, iceberg), mustard greens, amaranth leaves, chicory greens, asparagus, soybeans, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, chives, kale, broccoli, taro leaves, zucchini, radicchio, kelp, collards, brussel sprouts, navy beans, pinto beans, swiss chard, lima beans, hearts of palm, broad beans, savoy cabbage, green and red peppers, okra, turnips, winter squash, onions, green and yellow snap beans, celery, cucumber, some hot chili peppers, radishes, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, green peas, garlic, corn, sesame seeds, cottonseed, sunflower seed, chia seeds, peanuts, rice, apricots, raisins, avocados, apples, plums persimmons, guavas, figs, kiwi, dates, oranges, peaches.
- Methionine assists in the breakdown and use of fats, which in turn yields a higher testosterone rate. It also eliminates excess fat from the bloodstream, resulting in less potential adipose (fat) tissue. Methionine is key in digestion and the removal of heavy metals from the stomach and liver. It is a good anti-oxidant because it readily supplies sulfur, inactivates free radicals, and helps with memory recall. It is a precursor to cysteine that produces glutathione to detoxify the liver. It’s also one of the three aminos that are needed to manufacture creatine monohydrate within the body, an essential compound for energy production and muscle growth. A deficiency can cause dementia, fatty liver, slow growth, weakness, skin lesions, and edema. Methionine can be found in seaweed, spirulina, sesame seeds, whole wheat, rice, peaches, avocados, figs, peaches, oranges, kiwi, pears, grapes, raisins, apricots, plantains, guavas, plums, blueberries, cantaloupe, ripe olives, persimmons.
- Leucine is a branched chain amino acid that is responsible for the regulation of blood-sugar levels and the growth and repair of tissues in skin, bones, and of course skeletal muscle. It’s a strong potentiator to Human Growth Hormone (HGH). It helps in healing wounds, regulating energy, and assists in the preventing the breakdown of muscle tissue. Leucine can be found in seaweed, spirulina, pumpkin leaves, watercress, horseradish tree (the leafy tips), alfalfa seeds, turnip greens, kidney beans, sesame seed, sunflower seeds, soy, peanuts, rice, bananas, apricots, peaches, guavas, avocados, figs, persimmons, raisins, pears, dates, apples, kiwi, olives, and blueberries.
- Isoleucine is a branched chain amino acid and is very similar to leucine in most every way. Isoleucine promotes muscle recovery, regulates the blood-sugar levels and stimulates HGH release. But isoleucine holds its own in terms of wound healing. It helps in the formation of hemoglobin and is strongly involved in the formation of blood-clots, the body’s primary defense against infection through open wounds. Isoleucine can be found in seaweed, spirulina, watercress, pumpkin leaves, swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, horseradish tree (the leafy tips), spinach, kidney beans, alfalfa seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, soy, baking yeast, soy, wheat, almonds, rice, bananas, apricots, peaches, avocados, persimmons, apricots, dates, kiwi, apples, oranges, cranberries, blueberries, and plantains.
- Lysine is very important for growth and development. It is used in the body for calcium absorption, which results in bone and muscle growth, as well as fat mobilization for energy uses. Lysine maintains nitrogen balance and helps to maintain lean body mass in periods of extreme stress and fatigue. It is also needed to produce antibodies, hormones, such as GH, testosterone, insulin; enzymes, collagen and is used to repair damaged tissue, much like histidine and most of the essential amino acids. Next to maintaining muscle, it also helps to build new muscle protein. Cardiovascular benefits include the maintenance of healthy blood vessels. Deficiencies in lysine may lead to enzyme disorders, lack of energy, hair loss, weight loss, no appetite and loss of concentration. Lysine can be found in watercress, seaweed, spirulina, parsley, soy, wheat, buckwheat, amaranth, apricots, bananas, tamarinds, avocados, peaches, guavas, dates, oranges, pears, plantains, plums, and watermelon.
- Histidine is needed for the growth and repair of tissue of all kind. It plays a key role in the maintenance and manufacture of glial nerve cells called oligo-dendrocytes that wrap themselves around your nerves to form a protective sheath called myelin. This prevents unintended impulses that can obviously lead to serious defects in the brain and spinal cord. Histidine is also a manufacturer of both red and white blood cells. It helps in radiation protection and removing excess heavy metals (such as iron) from the body. In the stomach, it produces gastric juices that may speed up and improve digestion, so it’s a helpful tool in fighting indigestion and gastro-intestinal disorders. Histidine is a precursor to the non-essential amino acid histamine, which is released by the immune system as a response to allergic reactions. It has also been linked in recent studies to longer orgasms and better sexual enjoyment. Histidine can be found in seaweed, spirulina, soy, black beans, lentils, almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflowers seeds, amaranth, quinoa, rice, broccoli, carrot, kale, romaine, tomato, apple, banana, orange, and strawberries.
There are also eleven amino acids that can be synthesized in the body making them non-essential but, none the less, important:
- Alanine works to remove muscle tissue breakdown and toxins so the liver is able to metabolize them and eliminate them from the body. Alanine may also help to keep cholesterol levels in check.
- Arginine is only needed for the young and can be synthesized in a healthy body. It has amazing nitrogen retention ability which is a key element in muscle protein synthesis. It enhances the immune system and stimulates the size and activity of the thymus gland, which is responsible for the famous “T-cells.” The hormonal release properties include releasing insulin from the pancreas and a massive stimulator in the manufacture of GH from the anterior pituitary. The metabolite arginine pyroglutamate allows it to pass the brain-blood barrier more easily. But mostly it facilitates muscle mass gain while limiting fat storage, because it keeps fat alive in the system and uses it.
- Asparagine is a requirement in amino acid transformation. It helps the nervous system maintain its equilibrium, acts as a detoxifier in the system, and regulates metabolism.
- Aspartic acid is similar to asparagine in helping elevate metabolic levels. Due to its effect on cellular energy, it is sometimes used to combat fatigue and depression. Aspartic acid also acts as a synthesizer for other amino acids.
- Cysteine, like alanine, acts as a detoxifier due to its sulphur content. It is required for healthy skin, performs as an antioxidant removing free-radicals, and the production of collagen (used for skin elasticity and texture). Cysteine is the manufacturer of taurine, which is a component of glutathione. Glutathione, in turn, protects the brain and liver from damage by way of drugs, alcohol and other substances the body considers harmful.
- Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid that is present in the body in large amounts. It can forms 60% of your total amino acid pool. Because it passes through the blood-brain barrier rather easily it’s often called brain-food. It aids memory recall and concentration. In the brain it converts to glutamic acid, which is essential for brain functioning and increase GABA (gamma-amino-butyric-acid, another popular supplemented amino) needed or mental activities. It is used in synthesis of muscle-tissue. Glutamine helps to get rid of excess nitrogen by attaching itself to the nitrogen and forming glutamic acid and carrying it out of the body. Glutamine is also one of the main building blocks in the genetic coding. And most important perhaps is that it balances the acid/alkaline level, so it reduces lactic acid.
- Glutamic acid (see Glutamine)
- Glycine is a glucogenic amino acid, supplying beneficial glucose the body needs for energy. It is essential for proper cell growth and function and is also crucial to digestive health. Glycine makes up a large portion of collagen which helps skin retain its elasticity and healing properties.
- Proline is used by the body to create new, healthy cells. This amino acid helps in the regeneration of skin and helps to reduce sagging and wrinkles. Also a proponent of collagen and cartilage, proline helps keep muscles and joints pliable.
- Serine is also derived from glycine. It is essential to brain function, particularly the chemicals that determine mood and mental stability. Serine, found in all cell membranes, also aids in muscle formation and immune health.
- Tyrosine is made from another amino acid called phenylalanine. It is a building block for several important brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, including epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
Make healthy choices that are easier on your body’s innate design and you will have much more energy left over to do the things you love to do with your life!
Essentials About Sugars and Where to Get Them
Essential sugars are the glyconutrients that we get from nutritious uncooked fruits and vegetables. They are also known as biological sugars, saccharides, and monosaccharides. Glyconutrients are part of an even broader category known as nutraceuticals. The words nutrition and pharmaceuticals are combined in this word because they are food-based substances that have a pharmacological effect on the body.
The eight essential sugars are actually necessary for our health and proper cell functioning. All eight of them are required for our cells to interact and function properly. After being processed by our digestive system, these sugars are transformed into glycoproteins and glycolipids.
Glycoproteins are molecules made of sugars and proteins found coating the surface of every cell in the human body that contains a nucleus. Glycolipids are molecules made of sugars and fats. Lipids is often a term used to refer to fat cells. Glycoproteins and glycolipids are essential for our cell structure. They facilitate the formation of tiny antennae on the cellular wall.
These antennae allow the cells to interact, and to be able to absorb and process nutrients, enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals. This type of functioning is at the heart of our immune system and allows for healing to occur in a wide variety of conditions from skin conditions to bacterial infections, as well as arteriosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. Extensive research is ongoing, and many studies have been published about the structure and content of glycoproteins and glycolipids found on the surface of cells.
The Eight Glyconutrients
- Glucose is a simple monosaccharide and one of the most widely available of all the essential sugars. It is paired with fructose in common table sugar (sucrose), which is a disaccaride. Glucose is a primary energy source for all plants and animals and is absorbed into the bloodstream quickly. Very few people are deficient in glucose due to it’s high usage in processed foods. Too much glucose raises insulin levels and, with unchecked consumption, can lead to obesity and diabetes. When glucose is processed into table sugar nutrients and fiber are completely stripped away. This causes the absorption period to be greatly reduced taxing the liver so that it must store most of the energy as fat. Healthier forms of glucose can be obtained from all veggies, certain fruits such as grapes, bananas, cherries, strawberries, mangoes, aloe vera, seaweed, kelp, honey, licorice herb, sarsaparilla, garlic, hawthorn, echinacea, and cocoa, and even some herbs and of course honey.
- Galactose is consumed predominantly from dairy products in most westernized cultures. When combined with glucose, it forms lactose, a disaccharide, which is the sugar that comprises around 5% of the solids in dairy products. People who are lactose intolerant may be lacking in this essential sugar. Galactose is readily available in a wide variety of healthier options such as fruits and vegetables, and even in some herbs, but it is difficult to obtain a sufficient amount of it if the food has been processed (packaged), green harvested (picked before ripe), and cooking at high temperatures. Excellent sources include blackberries, apples, cranberries, mango, oranges, plums, echinacea, fenugreek, chestnuts, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocado, carrots, celery, leeks, green beans, onions, spinach, and pumpkin.
- Fucose is only found in great quantities in human breast milk, sea kelp, brewer’s yeast, and certain types of mushrooms. Studies have indicated that it may help long term memory, prevent respiratory infections, and inhibit tumor growth. It is known that the glycoproteins and glycolipids from fucose are essential to controlling inflammation and enhancing the immune system.
- Mannose was the first essential glyconutrient identified. It appears to be the foundation of all the essential sugars, so much so that it is an integral part of the immune system. A deficiency in mannose can lead to inflammation and disease. It is absorbed at a much slower rate than glucose, and goes to the bloodstream directly from the upper gastrointestinal tract. Mannose is one of the easier essential sugars to obtain in our diets. One of the main sources is aloe vera, and other sources include sea kelp, green beans, capsicum (the hot stuff in cayenne or jalapeno peppers), cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes, currants, turnips, and Shiitake mushrooms.
- Glucosamine is a well known glyconutrient that has benefits in joint health, shown to improve osteoarthritis and is a precursor to cartilage. It is readily available though insects and the shells of crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs. A much easier source to obtain it from than eating insects and difficult to chew crustaceans would be mushrooms such as Shiitakes. While some of the ingested glucosamine is oxidized, the remainder is converted into glycoproteins and glycolipids. The key to note here is that the human body can make glucosamine if given the right building blocks. Replacing nutrients that are supposed to be secreted by the body can disrupt natural body processes, creating imbalance in the body and causing dependence. Eating plenty of natural plant sources of glucose and, the amino acid, glutamine will provide your body what it needs to make glucosamine (parsley, spinach, brown algaes, and the red algae called Dumontiaceae). Glucosamine is ten times more potent than regular glucose in causing insulin resistance in animals. High doses or prolonged use of glucosamine causes the death of pancreatic cells and could increase the risk of developing diabetes, according to scientific research.
- Galactosamine is the least known essential sugars even though it is just as critical for cell to cell communication as the other seven. It is an important part of joint health, as well as being necessary for systemic functions used in the regulation of inflammation and normal operation of the immune system. It has been found that people with cardiovascular disease are shown to have lower levels of this glyconutrient. It too is found in shark cartilage and the shells of crustaceans but a better source is red algae called Dumontiaceae.
- Neuraminic Acid (sialic acid) has been found to be important in brain function, particularly for development and learning. Studies have also shown it to be linked to memory and performance as well as an important immune system facilitator. It is found in breast milk, organic hen’s eggs, whey protein (non-powdered form).
- Xylose has been shown in research studies to be a key contributor to the prevention of cancer in the digestive tract. Xylose is found in many fruits and vegetables including guava, pears, raspberries, blackberries, sea kelp, aloe vera, broccoli, spinach, eggplant, peas and green beans.
Do beware the green harvested produce. When fruits and vegetables are picked green, they lack many necessary vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes, and glyconutrients. Without a steady supply of uncontaminated, ripe harvested fruits and vegetables, our intake of these nutrients is most likely limited.
Do be cautious about eating too many high fructose fruits and stay within 15 g of fructose per day. The amount of high concentrate fruit juices can provide our bodies with too high a concentration at one time, leaving the liver to process the sugars it cannot convert to energy into fat. Juices with high fructose corn syrup, HFCS as an ingredient, should be avoided completely.
Although the first two essential sugars listed above are readily available in our daily diets, the others are not. This is why proper planning of the consumption of a wide variety of plant based foods and sea vegetables is important as well as minimal supplementation of these nutrients is recommended. As it happens, an excellent source of these essential sugars is the sea kelp known as Limu Moui, which has the powerful active component, Fuccoidan, that is proving to be a powerful anticancer nutrient.
Essentials About Fatty Acids and Where to Get Them
The body can synthesize most of the fats it needs from the diet. However, two essential fatty acids, linolenic acid and linoleic acid, cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from food. These basic fats, found in plant foods, are used to build specialized fats called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. There is also omega-9 fatty acid but the body can synthesize it but it does diminish with age if the diet has been deficient in proper building materials, meaning not enough raw plant based sources of building blocks.
Deficiencies in these fatty acids lead to a host of symptoms and disorders including abnormalities in the liver and the kidneys, reduced growth rates, decreased immune function, depression, and dryness of the skin.
Adequate intake of the essential fatty acids results in numerous health benefits. Documented benefits include prevention of atherosclerosis, reduced incidence of heart disease and stroke, and relief from the symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis, menstrual pain, and joint pain. Omega-3 fatty acid levels have also been associated with decreased breast cancer risk.
It is not only important to incorporate good sources of omega-3 and omega-6s in your diet, but also consume these fatty acids in the proper ratio. Omega-6 fatty acids compete with omega-3 fatty acids for use in the body, and therefore excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids can inhibit omega-3s. Ideally, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should be between 1:1 and 4:1.
Instead, most people consume these fatty acids at a ratio, of omega-6 to omega-3, between 10:1 and 25:1, and are consequently unable to reap the benefits of omega-3s. This imbalance is due to a reliance on processed foods and oils, which are now common in the Western diet. To combat this issue it is necessary to eat a low-fat diet with minimal processed foods, minimal cooking, and with naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids. A lower omega-6:omega-3 ratio is desirable for reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 fats are derived from linoleic acid and are found in leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, and vegetable oils (corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, sesame, sunflower). Most diets provide adequate amounts of this fatty acid, and therefore planning is rarely required to ensure proper amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.
A less common omega-6 fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects along with other disease-fighting powers. GLA can be found in rare oils, that have not been exposed to heat at cooking temperatures, such as black currant, borage, and hemp oils.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It is vital for everyone to eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis. Unlike omega-6 fatty acids, it may take more planning in the diet to ensure adequate intake of these fatty acids. Omega-3s are used in the formation of cell walls and assist in improving circulation and oxygen uptake. The recommended amount for adequate omega-3 intake is 1.1 grams for women and 1.6 grams per day for men over the age of 14.
Omega-3 fatty acids are derived from linolenic acid. The principal omega-3 is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is then converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenonic acid (DHA) by the body. This makes ALA the only essential omega-3 fatty acid. ALA can be found in many vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and fruits.
Some of the best sources of ALA include flaxseeds and walnuts, along with different oils such as flaxseed, canola, soybean, walnut, and wheat germ. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in smaller quantities in other nuts, seeds, and soy products, as well as in beans, vegetables, and whole grains. Corn, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed oils also contain omega-3s, though in lower levels than the previously mentioned oils.
Fish for Omega-3s?
While fish are frequently referenced as good sources of essential fatty acids, the high amounts of other fats and cholesterol and the lack of fiber make fish poor dietary choices. Fish are also often high in mercury and other environmental toxins that pose dangers to the consumer. Eater higher up on the food chain than plants exponentially concentrates toxins.
Fish oils have been popularized as an omega-3 supplemental option. However, the omega-3s found in fish oils (EPA and DHA) are actually highly unstable molecules that tend to decompose and unleash dangerous free radicals, making these supplements an unfavorable option. In addition, current research demonstrates that taking fish oil supplements does not actually produce significant protection on cardiovascular health.
Obtaining omega-3s from plant sources is more beneficial for one’s health. Research has shown that omega-3s are found in a more stable form, ALA, in vegetables, fruits, and beans. For healthy individuals, natural conversion of ALA to the longer chain omega-3s, DHA and EPA, should be sufficient to maintain tissue function. In fact, according to a European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, women on vegan diets actually have more long-chain omega-3s in their blood compared with fish-eaters, meat-eaters, and lacto-ovo vegetarians.
Flaxseeds for Omega-3s
Flaxseed oil and ground flaxseeds are particularly good choices to meet your needs for omega-3 fatty acids. One teaspoon of fresh flaxseed oil or one tablespoon of fresh ground flaxseed will supply the daily requirement of ALA. Flax seeds must be ground in order for you to absorb the proper nutrients, and flaxseed oil or ground flax seeds must be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer to protect them from oxygen damage (oxidation). Also, keep in mind that heat will damage the omega-3s, so it is important not to heat this oil or any other foods with omega-3s. A spoonful of fresh ground flax seeds can be added to a smoothie or sprinkled on breakfast cereal, a salad, or other dishes for easy and efficient incorporation of omega-3s into the diet.
|Plant Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids||Omega-3 Content of Natural Oils|
Pregnancy and Lactation
It is especially important to obtain adequate essential fatty acids from the diet during pregnancy and lactation. Recent research suggests that these fatty acids are needed for fetal growth and fetal brain development. Essential fatty acids are also important for infants in order to ensure proper growth and development, and normal functioning of all tissues of the body. Increased omega-3 fatty acid intake in the immediate postnatal period is associated with improved cognitive outcomes in the child and reduce likelihood of postpartum depression for the mother.
It is important that the mother’s diet contain a good supply of omega-3s because infants receive essential fatty acids through breast milk. Pregnant women and lactating mothers may also opt to take a DHA supplement. A DHA supplement based on cultured microalgae is available in many natural food stores.
MAIN POINTS FOR ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS:
- Fatty Acids play critical roles in numerous bodily processes.
- The human body is capable of taking the Omega 3 essential fatty acid, ALA, and converting it into longer and more unsaturated members of the Omega 3 family, such as EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid).
- Unsaturated fats are curved, fluid and flexible. They react easily and are not stable.
- There are two essential fatty acids that we must consume from our diet: Omega 6 fat Linolenic Acid and Omega 3 fat, Alpha Linolenic Acid.
- In general, Omega 3 fats reduce inflammation, (chronic inflammation is considered to be one of the main underlying causes of cancer and other chronic diseases) and Omega 6 fats promote inflammation.
- Most people eat far too many Omega 6 fats and not enough Omega 3 fats.
- High Omega 6 fat ratio foods are found in animal foods and processed junk food.
- High Omega 3 fat ratio foods are found in flax, salba (chia), hemp, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
- DHA is essential for the proper functioning of our brains as adults, and for the development of our nervous system and visual abilities during the first 6 months of life. In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids are part of a healthy diet that helps lower risk of heart disease.
- Our bodies naturally produce small amounts of DHA, but we must get the amounts we need from our diet or supplements. Most people in the Western world do not get enough Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.
- Saturated fats have been given a bad rap as “bad fats.” This is only true for cooked saturated fats. Any cooked fats undergo a structural change and become carcinogenic in various degrees. Saturated fats are straight, stiff and rigid. They are stable and don’t react.
- Trans fat (fried fats), cooked saturated fat, too high of an Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio (too much Omega 6), too much fat in general, and alcohol are known to inhibit the conversion process.
- DHA is extremely important to pregnant and nursing women, as well as for infant and childhood development. There are several sources of DHA available from cold water algae and seaweed.
- Fish contains unhealthful levels of environmental contaminants such as mercury, dioxin, PCB’s, due to biological concentration, and is not a recommended option.
Whether you are interested in promoting heart health, ensuring the proper growth and development of your child, or relieving pain, adequate intake of the essential fatty acids can help you achieve your goal. A well-planned plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes will allow you to obtain plenty of these omega-6s and omega-3s for optimal health benefits.
- Dr. Brian Clement, Killer Fish
Essentials About Minerals and Where to Get Them
In technical terms, minerals are chemical molecules that cannot be reduced to simpler substances. The human body is comprised of about 4-6% minerals and all are important. A lack of any one can cause imbalance in the body. Optimal mineral reserves and intake are vital for healthy body form and function. They form part of our body structure, carry out central roles in energy production and transmission, and are required as co-factors in order for vitamins and enzymes to work.
There are three types of minerals; metallic (inorganic), chelated and hydrophilic. Metallic minerals are typically from ground up rocks and old sea beds. They are not water soluble and difficult to absorb. The body only absorbs about 8% of metallic minerals. Chelated minerals are also inorganic (lacking a life-force) but are wrapped in an amino acid or protein that helps absorb the inorganic substance. They still require efficient digestion before providing any benefit. Hydrophilic minerals are those we receive from eating plant foods.They enter the growing plants through their root system and are 200 to 2000 times smaller than metallic minerals. They are water soluble and easy to absorb. The body absorbs almost 100% of hydrophilic minerals. This is the natural and most effective means of providing minerals to our body.
Critical Macro Minerals:
Calcium, along with magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C, boron, phosphorus and fluoride it is important for the development of bone tissue and teeth as well as strengthens the bone. Although most calcium is found in the bones, the small amount found in the blood is essential to metabolic functions and acid/alkaline balance of the blood. When the diet lacks sufficient calcium to maintain the metabolic process causes the bone’s supply to be depleted. Additionally, calcium is required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion and less than 1% of total body calcium is needed to support these critical metabolic functions.
The National Institutes of Health recommends 1000-1500 mg of dietary calcium per day but must be accompanied by D, K, trace minerals like boron, and weight bearing exercise for proper absorption to create healthy bone density. The myth that dairy has enough calcium is inaccurate and does not contain nearly enough. Dark uncooked leafy greens is a must for balanced intake of nutrients to create healthy bone growth. See the chart below for more details.
Magnesium is a co-factor in more than 300 enzyme systems for essential metabolic reactions that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, acid/alkaline balance, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, metabolism of blood sugars, proteins and carbohydrates, and blood pressure regulation. It’s required for energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis, contributes to the structural development of bone, required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione. Also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm. It is also vital for proper bone growth and necessary for adequate calcium absorption. A 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium is essential for the effectiveness of taking calcium supplements to maintain strong bones.
Magnesium deficiency is considered one of the most under-diagnosed nutrient deficiency based illnesses in the US today, suffered by approximately 70% of the US population. Indications of a magnesium deficiency may include muscle twitches (e.g., Restless Leg Syndrome), nervousness, abnormal heart beat or disorientation. Also counteracts the effects of sodium.
Healing properties of magnesium rich foods include the calming of nervous system functions, mental and emotional imbalances including irritability, depression, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders and PMS. It is also helpful in relaxing the functioning of muscles, reduction in symptoms of migraine, cramps and digestion. See the chart below for more details.
Phosphorus is stored in the bones at normally a 1:2 ratio to calcium. It is a major structural component of bone (hydroxyapetite) and a major component of cell membranes (phospholipids) and other soft tissue and cells, where it contributes to the body’s chemical processes. Phosphorus is involved in the energy production necessary for metabolism, energy storage, and the formation DNA and RNA. Too much phosphorus in the diet, especially from soft drinks, fast food, and processed foods can lead to reduced calcium mineralization of the bones.Some phosphorous is present in almost all foods. With this and the fact that it is easily absorbed by the body, it is not found in most supplements. People taking aluminum hydroxide for extended periods however may end up with a deficiency, as these normally contain aluminum that prevents phosphorus absorption. See the chart below for more details.
Sulphur is a major component found in all cells of the body. It is needed for the production of keratin, a protein that is found in all cells of the body, and is essential for the formation of bone, cartilage and tendons. It is also needed for digestion, elimination (helps rid itself of harmful toxins such as lead and cyanide) and bile secretion as well as production of the hormone insulin that keeps blood sugar levels in balance. It can also relieve the symptoms of conditions like arthritis, eczema, psoriasis and hemorrhoids.
Sodium, potassium, chloride, along with plenty of water, are essential to maintaining healthy electrochemical activity. Sodium and potassium are positively charged and chloride is negatively charged. Typically, we get plenty of these minerals in our daily diet, but through exercise, high temperature conditions such as fever, and other mechanism that raise body temperature, they are excreted through the sweat glands and must be replenished to avoid serious health risks. Potassium, along with Sodium, is responsible for the regulation of fluids inside of the cells. Potassium is crucial for a healthy nervous system in nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and blood pressure. Levels are controlled by water consumption and kidney function.
Deficiencies in electrolyte minerals are not common in healthy people, who consume a high plant based diet, but are common in individuals who use chemical laxatives and diuretics, or who have had excessive vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney failure. Symptoms of deficiency include muscle weakness, intestinal issues, heart and respiratory problems. Potassium is only toxic if taken in excess of 18,000 mg/day.
The following table of minerals includes some key activities and good food sources.
Remember there is no match for plant sourced minerals!
|Mineral||Key activities||Food sources|
||Sesame seeds, sea vegetables such as kelp, kale, parsley, almonds, broccoli, mustard greens, legumes, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, filberts, walnuts and sunflower seeds.|
||Sea vegetables like kelp, leafy greens like spinach, chard, & collard green walnuts, almonds, seeds, artichokes, raw chocolate (cacao), cashews, dulse, hazelnuts, pecans, beet greens, coconuts, apricots, and avocados. Small quantities are found in most foods.|
||Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, beans, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, dulse, kelp, most foods contain it|
||Sea vegetables such as Dulse & kelp, garlic, cayenne pepper, cauliflower, celery, spinach, almonds, Brazil nuts, pecan, sunflower seeds, legumes, avocado,banana, all unprocessed vegetables|
||Sea vegetables, celery, dandelion greens, kale, olives, virtually all foods|
||Dandelion greens, cucumber, onion, strawberry, asparagus, spinach|
||Kale, kelp, watercress, cabbage, cauliflower, raspberry, garlic, onion, legumes, nuts, beans, peas, cabbage, pineapple, avocado, lettuce|
||Tomato, celery, kelp, cabbage, kale, radish, parsnip, spinach|
||Pears, tomato, prunes|
Critical Trace Minerals (micro-minerals):
Iodine is essential to the function and development of the thyroid gland. Primarily used for the production of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). Deficiencies result in enlargement of the thyroid, and during pregnancy and infancy can cause brain development and growth issues in the child. Any more than 150 mcg/day is possibly a concern for those with thyroid abnormalities, but for most people 1000 mcg/day is a safe limit. However, such amounts may result in breathing difficulties or skin irritations for anyone with sensitivities.
Dietary iron has two main forms: heme and non-heme. Hepcidin, a circulating peptide hormone, is the key regulator of both iron absorption and the distribution of iron throughout the body, including in plasma. Iron, as part of the hemoglobin molecule (blood), is critical for the delivery of oxygen from the lungs to the cells, is necessary for the production of energy, DNA synthesis, has both antioxidant and pro-oxidant functions, necessary for the synthesis of collagen, and healthy function of the immune system. Iron is normally deficient only among children and pre-menopausal women, but excess iron is
more common in men and post-menopausal women. Excess amounts adversely affect the immune system, cell growth, and the heart. Iron absorption can be blocked by excessive amounts of and the wrong forms of calcium, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. See the chart below for more details.
Selenium is a powerful mineral antioxidant that works in concert with vitamin E to support the operation of antioxidant enzymes and supports DNA repair. It helps in conversion of T4 to the active thyroid hormone T3. Soil content dictates the amount of selenium found in plant foods. It may reduce the risk of abnormal cell growth, plays a critical role in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, protection from oxidative damage and infection, supports cardiovascular health, and supports the thyroid and nervous system. Thyroid disorders are a growing concern in the US, and obesity and low thyroid are directly related.
Toxic heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, can be bound up with selenium and rendered harmless. The dietary intake should be limited to 200mcg daily to avoid toxicity. Excess amounts can compromise the enzyme functions and skeletal development in fetuses, and in amounts of as much as 75mgs per day, it can cause nerve damage, nausea, hair loss and skin abnormalities.
Copper is important for the health of the cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems, the liver, skin, joints, and blood. It is involved in energy production, connective tissue formation, iron metabolism, and normal brain function. It is most concentrated in the liver and brain, and a crucial component in the absorption and utilization of iron and zinc. Any excess of copper or zinc causes the suppression and decreased utilization of the other. Copper deficiencies have been shown to be linked to the inadequate production of the critical antioxidant enzyme, super-oxide dismutase (SOD), and to red blood cell deficiency.
Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism. It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes and it plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, reproductive health (particularly in men), DNA synthesis, and cell division (growth). A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no specialized zinc storage system. Deficiencies are common, and can adversely affect the ability to heal, physical growth, immune system function, neurological function, DNA synthesis and wound healing. Amounts of zinc in excess of 100 mg/day or more can have adverse effects such as lower HDL (good) cholesterol and poor copper retention. See the chart below for more details.
Manganese is critical to the metabolism of bones, is essential for enzyme reactions, healthy brain, thyroid, and nervous systems. It is involved in carbohydrate metabolism, energy production, protein metabolism, collagen formation, and fatty acid synthesis. It is easily lost in processed foods. Deficiency may affect the health of these systems, including cartilage and skeletal formation, normal reproduction, and glucose tolerance.
Fluorine is an element that occurs in a gas never occurring in its free state. In microscopic amounts, fluorine combines with other minerals. It’s often listed as a trace mineral, a nutrient for human nutrition that can protect tooth enamel from acid forming bacteria and strengthens bone and tissue. There are many warnings about fluoride in our diets, particularly as an additive to the public water systems, and even toothpaste, although associated with prevention of tooth decay. This form is highly toxic to the human body destroying critical enzymes, causing autoimmune situations where the body attacks itself, and many other many additional chronic situations. The proper form is found naturally in . Details found on fluoridation of water and human health: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/02/02/fluoride-safety-part-one.aspx
Chromium is essential to several enzyme systems, including that which works with insulin in the processing of glucose (sugar). Chromium enhances blood sugar regulating activity of insulin by helping it bind to its receptors in the cellular membrane. Insulin is necessary in the metabolism of triglycerides (the primary form of fat in the body). Therefore, chromium assists with maintaining triglycerides due to its control of insulin. It is also critical to the metabolism and storage of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in the body, making sure every cell get gets energy as and when needed. As long as your diet contains servings of sprouted grains, fresh vegetables and herbs, you should be getting enough chromium.
Molybdenum is necessary for the proper function of important enzymes and other biological functions. It is a necessary soil component for preventing the growth of cancer-producing agents, known as nitrosamines, in plant foods, and helps to jump-start four of your body’s important enzymes. It works as a co-factor for sulfite oxidase, which is necessary for metabolism of sulfur-containing amino acids; xanthine oxidase, which contributes to antioxidant capacity of the blood; aldehyde oxidase, which joins with xanthine oxidase in the metabolism of drugs and toxins; and mitochondrial amidoxime-reducing component, which accelerates the removal of certain toxic substances. Deficiencies occur most often in those with metabolic conditions, while excess amounts can cause poor copper retention. Sources include whole grains, beans and dairy products.
The body needs trace minerals in very small amounts. Note that iron is considered to be a trace mineral, although the amount needed is somewhat more than for other micro-minerals.
|Mineral||Key activities||Food sources|
||Foods grown in iodine-rich soil, sea vegetables such as dulse and kelp, kale, summer squash, asparagus, blueberries, beans, lentils, spinach|
||Sea vegetables such as kelp, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, dried fruit, cauliflower, dark leafy greens such as mustard greens, kale and Chinese cabbage|
||Brazil nut, garlic, trace amounts found in whole grains, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, onions, carrots and oranges.|
||Legumes, whole grains, drinking water, cashews, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, almonds, lentils, mushrooms, avocados, garlic, pecans, oranges, raisins, and leafy green vegetables.|
||Spinach, Brazil nuts, pecans, cashews, almonds, walnuts, beans and dark chocolate (raw cacao), wheat, rye, buckwheat, dulse, kelp, pumpkin seeds, black pepper, paprika, mustard, chili powder, thyme,cinnamon|
||Parsley, celery, carrot, cucumber, pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds, spinach, avocados, dulse, other sea vegetables, leafy greens, widespread in plant foods,|
||unprocessed fruits, veggies, and spring water|
||Unrefined foods, especially brewer’s yeast, whole grains, nuts, dulse, apple, parsnip, banana, spinach, carrots, lettuce, brown rice|
||Legumes, beans, lentils, grains, leafy greens & vegetables, nuts|
Non-Essential Trace Minerals
There are other trace minerals not yet recognized by the health authorities, but none the less are believed essential for human health such as silicon, arsenic, boron, and vanadium.
Boron has been shown to play an important role in the metabolism of other minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium. It is involved in maintaining healthy bone mineralization & trans-membrane cell communication. It is also believed to play a part in regulating steroid hormones. The best sources are vegetables, nuts, beans, prunes and other fruit.
Silicon is involved in the formation of cartilage and skeletal system. It is common in most unrefined produce (grains, vegetables and fruits).
Vanadium has been found to be important for metabolizing fat, glucose metabolism, formation of red blood cells, and maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis. The healthiest and most common sources are vegetables, parsley, dill, and sunflower seeds. . Vanadium absorption is normally poor, less than 5% of dietary vanadium is absorbed by the body.
Cobalt is required in the synthesis of vitamin B12 (cobalamin), but because bacteria are required to synthesize the vitamin, it is usually considered part of vitamin B12 deficiency rather than its own dietary element deficiency. It supports red blood cell production and the formation of myelin nerve coverings, beneficial in some cases of fatigue, digestive disorders, anemia, and neuromuscular problems. Too much cobalt leads to cobalt poisoning. Chocolate, fresh fruits, and nuts contain the highest amounts.
Bromine has anti-seizure properties, and is effective in the treatment of hyperthyroid conditions. It is required for basement membrane architecture and tissue development. Too much bromine leads to a condition called bromism. Food sources include many marine plants, particularly kelp, are a rich source of bromine and iodine, so depending on their bromine to iodine ratio, and whether someone is hypothyroid or hyperthyroid, this can have a beneficial or unfavorable effect on thyroid functions when regularly consumed.
Nickel plays a major role in helping the body absorb the iron, helps prevent conditions such as anemia, helps towards building strong skeletal frames by strengthening bones, assists in breaking down glucose, helps in creating energy for daily use, and even contributes to the production of certain enzymes that initiate important chemical reactions such as the development of nucleic acids. Good sources include chocolate, nuts, peas, beans and grains.
Silicon is involved in normal growth and development of bone, connective tissue, and cartilage. It increases bone mineralization with calcium. Foods of plant origin like root vegetables, also bell peppers and leafy greens are good sources.
Your body stores varying amounts of minerals but keeps more than 5 grams (about 1/6 of an ounce) of each of the macro-minerals and principal electrolytes on hand; you need to consume more than 100 milligrams a day of each macro-mineral to maintain a steady supply and to make up for losses. You store less than 5 grams of each trace element and need to take in less than 100 milligrams a day to stay even.
Additional Nutrient Information:
|Dietary element||RDA/AI (mg)||Description||Category||High nutrient density
|Potassium||4700 mg||Quantity||A systemic electrolyte and is essential in co-regulating ATP with sodium.||Legumes, potato skin, tomatoes, bananas, papayas, lentils, dry beans, whole grains, avocados, yams, soybeans, spinach, chard, sweet potato, turmeric.||hypo- kalemia||hyper- kalemia|
|Chlorine||2300 mg||Quantity||Needed for production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and in cellular pump functions.||Full spectrum salts like Celtic sea salt and Himalayan Pink salt||hypo- chloremia||hyper- chloremia|
|Sodium||1500 mg||Quantity||A systemic electrolyte and is essential in coregulating ATP with potassium.||Sea vegetables and spinach.||hypo- natremia||hyper- natremia|
|Calcium||1300 mg||Quantity||Needed for muscle, heart and digestive system health, builds bone, supports synthesis and function of blood cells.||Green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, tofu, thyme, oregano, dill, cinnamon.||hypo- calcaemia||hyper- calcaemia|
|Phosphorus||700 mg||Quantity||A component of bones, cells, in energy processing, in DNA and ATP (as phosphate) and many other functions.||Bread, rice, oats. In biological contexts, usually seen asphosphate.||hypophosphatemia||hyperphosphatemia|
|Magnesium||420 mg||Quantity||Required for processing ATP and for bones.||Raw nuts, soybeans, cocoa mass, spinach, chard, sea vegetables, tomatoes, beans, ginger, cumin, cloves.||hypo- magnesemia, magnesium deficiency||hyper- magnesemia|
|Zinc||11 mg||Trace||Pervasive and required for several enzymes such ascarboxypeptidase, liver alcohol dehydrogenase, and carbonic anhydrase.||Dry beans, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, green peast, oats, seeds, miso.||zinc deficiency||zinc toxicity|
|Iron||18 mg||Trace||Required for many proteins and enzymes, notably hemoglobin to prevent anemia.||Grains, dry beans, spinach, chard, turmeric, cumin, parsley, lentils, tofu, asparagus, leafy green vegetables, soybeans, beans, tomatoes, olives, and dried fruit.||anemia||iron overload disorder|
|Manganese||2.3 mg||Trace||A cofactor in enzyme functions.||Spelt grain, brown rice, beans, spinach, pineapple, tempeh, rye, soybeans, thyme, raspberries, strawberries, garlic, squash, eggplant, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric.||manganese deficiency||manganism|
|Copper||0.900 mg||Trace||Required component of many redox enzymes, including cytochrome c oxidase.||Mushrooms, spinach, greens, seeds, raw cashews, raw walnuts, tempeh, barley.||copper deficiency||copper toxicity|
|Iodine||0.150 mg||Trace||Required not only for the synthesis of thyroid hormones,thyroxine and triiodothyronine and to prevent goiter, but also, probably as an antioxidant, for extra thyroidal organs as mammary and salivary glands and for gastric mucosa and immune system (thymus).||Sea vegetables, iodized salt, & small amounts in strawberries||iodine deficiency||iodism|
|Selenium||0.055 mg||Trace||Essential to activity of antioxidant enzymes like glutathione peroxidase.||Brazil nuts, mustard, mushrooms, barley, garlic, tofu, seeds.||selenium deficiency||selenosis|
|Molybdenum||0.045 mg||Trace||The oxidases xanthine oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and sulfite oxidase.||Tomatoes, onions, carrots.||molybdenum deficiency||molybdenum toxicity|
Plant based nutrients, known as phytonutrients, are the future of nutritional science. These are as yet largely unclassified as essential for life but awareness is growing of their health promoting and disease preventing properties. Nearly one thousand have been identified to date and there are likely to be hundreds, if not thousands more. Phytonutrients are found in all classes of plant foods; fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
The primary classes of phytonutrients include carotenoids and polyphenols.
Carotenoids are the red, orange, and yellow pigments in fruits and vegetables. They are also richly found in leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and beet greens. Fruits and vegetables that are high in carotenoids appear to protect against certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and age related deterioration.
|Beta carotene, lutein, lycopene, zeanthin||Leafy greens, carrots, peppers, sweet potato, pumpkin, apricots, citrus fruit|
Polyphenols occur in a wide variety of plant foods and include flavones, coumarins, catechins and isoflavones. The commonly known antioxidants found in green tea and grapes are included in this classification.
|Catechins, flavones, isoflavones,||Berries, citrus fruit, green tea, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes|
Another phytonutrient source that has picked up speed in research are essential oils. Pure essential oils are filled with polyphenols, phenolics, terpenes, and flavenoids. These chemicals make up the immune and defense system of the plant and studies are showing they benefit the human body as well.
Phytonutrients promote health and protect against disease in the following ways:
- Serve as antioxidants
- Enhance immune response
- Enhance inter cellular communication
- Support hormone levels and metabolism
- Detoxify carcinogens through activation of cellular enzyme systems
- Repair DNA damage caused by smoking and other toxins
- Stimulate apoptosis (programmed cell death) of cancer cells
Essentials About Vitamins and Where to Get Them
Vitamins are organic micronutrients essential for the normal functioning of the human body. Each performs a unique role and is necessary to maintain correct balance (homeostasis). Most vitamins are not manufactured by the body and must be obtained from our food.
There are 2 main types of vitamins; fat soluble and water soluble. Fat soluble means the molecules are stored and transported by fats. They include vitamins A, D, E and K. Water soluble means the molecules are stored and transported by water. They include the 8 B vitamins and vitamin C. Fat soluble can be stored by the body while water soluble can not and must be replaced regularly.
Vitamins can be man made in laboratories or occur naturally. Man made “vitamins” are no substitute for naturally occurring vitamins and, in fact, are generally toxic to our body. Especially the fat soluble vitamins that are stored. Additionally, most supplemental vitamins contain petroleum residues, coal tar, and additional industrial poisons. These are the raw materials that “nutriceutical” laboratories use to make them. They were originally developed as a cheap alternative to naturally grown and harvested sources. If nutritional supplements are labeled to contain so many IUs or milligrams of any individual ingredient or uses a chemical name they are most likely synthetic.
Naturally occurring vitamins found in food are structurally different from those chemically produced and form synergistic relationships that enhance their efficacy. By contrast, multiple research studies have shown that taking synthetic vitamins can, in fact, increase the risk of disease, including cancers, and death. This information is controversial yet ALL “experts” agree that the best source of vitamins and minerals is whole food.
The vitamin content of any food provides a greater benefit than the equivalent dosage in synthetic form. This is likely due to the synergistic effects of additional nutrients both known and unknown. Never forget our body is unable to recognize petrochemicals, coal tar, and other poisons even if they are made to LOOK like natural nutrients. Nature knows best.
Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) are generally recognized as those that prevent specific deficiency symptoms or disease. This is the opposite end of the spectrum to levels required to support optimal health. Optimal allowances are largely unknown but likely to be many times that of the RDAs.
One additional piece of the nutritional pie is the nutrients available in the soil to the plant while it is growing. This is another area of great concern as the food we eat today is close to 50 times more nutrient deficient than that from only 50 years ago. Again, chemical fertilizers made from synthetics, petroleums, and industrial chemicals do not provide the plants with what they need to absorb the full spectrum of nutrients they utilize and when we ingest those plants we are not getting everything we need. At this point in history, we’ve come to a point where we do need to supplement but we need to use whole plant based concentrated food supplements to add to a healthy balanced diet so that the majority of our nutrients are coming from whole food not supplements.
Vitamin A (antioxidant) – Involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, cellular communication, cuts risk of heart disease, and may slow skin aging. Recommended daily dosage: 2,300 international units (IU). It’s best to get A from a beta-carotene source, i.e. orange foods.
B vitamins help energy production, iron absorption, maintain metabolism, muscle tone, and a sharp mind.
B9 (folate or folic acid) – A coenzyme in single-carbon transfers in the synthesis of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and metabolism of amino acids. Protects against cancer and birth defects, assists in healthy cell renewal, and keeps red blood cells. Folate recommendations daily 400 micrograms (mcg); 600 mcg if you’re pregnant.
B6 (pyroxidine) – In coenzyme forms, performs a wide variety of functions in the body and is extremely versatile, with involvement in more than 100 enzyme reactions, mostly concerned with protein metabolism. Plays a role in cognitive development through the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters and in maintaining normal levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood. Involved in gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis, immune function (for example, it promotes lymphocyte and interleukin-2 production), and hemoglobin formation.
B12 (methylcobalamin) – Required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. Functions as a cofactor for methionine synthase and L-methylmalonyl-CoA mutase.
Vitamin C (antioxidant) – Boosts immune system function and helps prevent heart disease, prenatal problems, and eye illnesses. It even helps wounds heal faster, fends off wrinkles (gives elasticity to skin), strengthens blood vessels (along with minerals such as copper), and assists with proper iron absorption. Daily recommendation minimum 1,000mgs but higher doses are safe and therapeutic. Eat citrus fruits and vibrant veggies. A single orange is packed with nearly all of your daily C. So is one red pepper or a cup of broccoli.
Vitamin D3 – Has many roles in the body, including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation. Many genes encoding proteins that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis are modulated in part by vitamin D. Studies are showing it can reduce your risk of breast cancer by as much as 50 percent, and it may offer protection from both ovarian cancer and diabetes. Plays a central role in muscle function. Promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralization of bone and to prevent hypocalcemic tetany. It is also needed for bone growth and bone remodeling by osteoblasts and osteoclast. Recommended daily intake minimum 1,000iu and as much as 5-10,000iu is showing to be safe and therapeutic. Most processed foods are fortified but with not nearly enough. Getting sun is a must for healthy D intake.
Vitamin E (antioxidant) – A fat-soluble antioxidant that stops the production of ROS (reactive oxygen species) formed when fat undergoes oxidation and helps with blood circulation.
Vitamin K2 – Essential for reactions needed to create blood clots to stop bleeding.
The following table of vitamins contains some key activities and good food sources. Remember there is no match for plant sourced vitamins!
|Vitamin||Key activities||Food source|
|Alpha & beta carotene||Improves stability, integrity and healing of epithelial (skin) tissues including those that line our digestive tract
Functions as an important antioxidant
|Dandelion greens, kale, spinach, carrot greens, carrots, parsley, sweet potato, cantaloupe|
|B1||Helps detoxify carcinogenic chemicals
Possesses strong antioxidant properties
|Wild rice, sunflower seeds, millet, nuts, nutritional yeast|
|B2||Boosts production of red blood cells
Enhances the ability of cells to utilize oxygen
Is noted to prevent many forms of cancerNecessary for healthy Thyroid function
|Cayenne pepper, almonds, wild rice, sea vegetables, watercress, dandelion greens, kale|
|B3||Helps protect bone marrow against chemotherapeutic drugs
Essential for the body’s production of energy
Broadly supportive of the cardiovascular system
|Sea vegetables, cayenne pepper, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, millet|
|B5||Improves production of white immune blood cells
Is necessary for cellular energy production
|B6||Helps prevent blood clotting
Stimulates production of white immune blood cells
|Cabbage, beets, lemon|
|Helps prevent many forms of cancer
Protects against birth defects
|Banana, legumes, chili peppers, yeast, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, kale, almonds, walnuts, molasses|
|B12||Necessary for red blood cell production
Important for the health of our nervous system
|Spirulina, blue green algae, marine phytoplankton|
|C||Helps retard the aging process
Acts as a potent antioxidant
Actively kills cancer cells
|Oranges, red & green peppers, broccoli, guava, kiwi, grapefruit, chili pepper, kale, parsley, acerola, black currents|
|D3||In D3 form stimulates programmed cell death of cancer cells
Stimulates production and activity of immune cells
|E||Important for stability of cell membranes
Exerts antioxidants which protect mitochondria (our cells energy production plants) from free radical damage
Helps protect against toxic side effects of radiotherapy
|Sunflower seeds, almonds, wheat germ, avocados, olives, spinach, tomatoes|
|K2||Inhibits the development of many forms of cancer
Facilitates the apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells
Is necessary for ATP (energy) production
|Green tea, parsley, cabbage, kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts|
What Does Water Do For You?
Water, after oxygen, is the most essential element to life and is crucial for efficient metabolism and health maintenance. A healthy adult’s body should comprise approximately 75% water and this must be continually flushed and renewed to optimize all aspects of healing, health, and vitality.
Our cells are water, as are the systems that nourish, support, and cleanse them. Water is central in temperature regulation, acts as a shock absorber to vital organs, such as our brain and spinal cord, and provides lubrication for our joints.
Imagine a stagnant pool of water or a fish tank that never gets cleaned. Stagnation is a breeding ground for unhealthy pathogens. The lack of movement does not allow flushing of fresh nutrients in and waste out. That is what happens to our body when its fluids aren’t continually refreshed. As our internal fluids stagnate our body’s ability to cleanse, renew itself, and conduct energy reduces.
What Water Does for the Human Body
Delivers oxygen and nutrients; While 75% of the human body is water, the blood, if we are well hydrated, comprises approximately 90% water. This is how oxygen and all nutrients are transported to our cells to fuel efficient cellular metabolism and cleansing. Dehydration causes our blood to thicken, impeding its flow and slowing delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Fresh water consumption thins the blood enhancing its flow thus allowing nutrients to get where they are needed and waste to be removed and taken out of the body.
Cleans cells and surrounding areas: Our cells themselves are largely water and our lymphatic system, comprised of about 95% water, is the drain that our cells empty waste products of metabolism and the stuff we’ve been exposed to. If not continually refreshed, this lymph fluid becomes saturated with waste toxins that continue to circulate around our entire body poisoning all tissues it comes in contact with.
Cleans our body: Urination, sweating, and mucous from our sinuses are all ways our body detoxifies. Even our feces contain water, which hydrates fiber creating lubrication and stimulates their excretion. Dehydration is a key contributor to constipation that causes the reabsorption of wastes through the bowel wall.
Flushes the kidneys; Our kidneys are in charge of filtering and directing acids out of the body as urine. These acids must be diluted and it is water that does this. Concentrated acid wastes are harmful to our kidneys contributing to kidney stone formation and compromising effective waste excretion.
Detriments to an Under Hydrated Body
Dehydration accelerates aging: At birth our bodies comprise about 80% water while the water content of senior citizens approaches 50%. This shows us that depletion of internal fluids can be central to the aging process itself, if we don’t take action and stay hydrated. Many people continually ignore the signs of dehydration or satiate themselves with coffee, alcohol, or soft drinks. These drinks aggravate dehydration due to their diuretic effects and introduce more acids to the body.
How to recognize dehydration: Thirst is not an early sign of dehydration but a late sign. If you are thirsty or have a dry mouth you are already very dehydrated. Poor concentration, mood swings, headaches, and other aches and pains are all potential signs of dehydration as it places stress on the body.
How much water to ingest: We should all drink a minimum of 2 liters per day of pure water. Herbal teas or vegetable juices are a good substitute. Alcohol, coffee, or soft drinks are not. If you ever consume these drinks you should increase your water intake to counteract their dehydrating effects. If you eat dry foods such as breads or crackers, live in a hot climate, exercise intensely, or use saunas or steam rooms you should drink more accordingly.
To determine if you are drinking enough water for you lifestyle, record the amount of water you ingest as well as the number of times you urinate. These urinations should be very large. The ideal water intake will produce 8-10 copious urinations a day. This ensures that our tissues are adequately hydrated and our kidneys and bladder supported in the removal of acidic wastes from our body.
The best time to drink water is first thing in the morning to flush out acids from the work the body does to heal while sleeping. Drink 1 or 2 glasses of water first thing upon rising. Adding the juice of ½ a lemon or a few drops of therapeutic grade essential oils, such as doTerra, will add an additional boost to the liver and lymphatic systems. Then throughout the day drink 1 or 2 glasses at least half an hour prior to meals or 2 hours afterwards. Try not to drink with meals as this dilutes our digestive juices, inhibiting digestion. Being thirsty with meals is a sign you are not drinking enough away from them. It is also important to note that hunger can usually be a sign of dehydration.
A gradual increase in you body fluid levels will bring many benefits. Energy levels will improve as will levels of concentration as your body is able to function more efficiently. Many aspects of your life will profit. Maintaining a healthy fluid balance is one of the keys to a healthy and happy life.
What Kind of Water Should I Drink?
The quality of our drinking water is important. Water supplies are often affected by numerous toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides,pharmaceutical metabolites, and hormone residues. It is often treated with chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals to remove bacteria and other organisms. These chemicals are harmful to us. Choose high quality distilled, reverse osmosis, filtered ionized, spring water, or mineral water for optimal health.
Water Distillers remove 99.5% of all water impurities and provides the purest water. It is very effective at assisting detoxification due to its high osmotic pull that increases binding of stored toxins. Water distillers boil water to steam and recollect it. There is reduced free oxygen in distilled water but this and the water structure can be restored by placing a seed sprout or grass in the water after collection. Additionally, all minerals will be removed but can be added back by simply adding a small pinch of natural salt such as Himalayan or Celtic salt.
Some of the benefits of distilled water is that it is not acidic, does not leach minerals from the bones, and is not dead.
Reverse Osmosis is essentially an exceptionally fine filtration system involving multiple filters. It removes solutes down to a size of 0.001 microns. That is up to a thousand times or more that of most conventional water filters. Reverse osmosis provides the second purest water after distillation.
Water Ionizers use the process of electrically charging water to introduce an antioxidant capacity and separate alkaline and acidic solutes. Though the alkalizing effect of this water is often the primary selling point the greatest benefit is the antioxidant capacity. To maintain this it must be fresh. Additionally, the quality of water being ionized is paramount. Ensure high quality filtration proceeds the ionization.
Fruit Infused Water
|Many of us struggle to drink enough water every day. It’s not as interesting as coffee, soda or fruit juice. Not only does water offer hydration but it can also help flush out all the toxins and waste out of your system. These recipes with their fruity flavors and straightforward preparation will transform your water drinking experience. By adding fruit and herbs to the mix you can make sipping on water a powerful medicine.|
|1. Apple Cinnamon Detox
This refreshing beverage is also called the Zero Calorie Detox Water. Instead of sipping on soda or fruit juice, which can make you gain weight without your even noticing, you can drink this flavorful beverage. It’s a tasty addition to plain water. The fusion of apple and cinnamon cleanses your system of toxins, helps balance your blood sugar, and can help speed up the process of your body’s ability to cut water weight.
|2. Apple Cider Vinegar Detox
Drink this powerful fusion throughout the day to flush your system. This beverage is a great way to remove toxins from the blood and liver. Apple cider vinegar is particularly powerful at stimulating lymphatic fluid to move and helps improve digestion. Lemons are immune-boosting, antiviral and antibacterial while the cucumber serves to help one stay hydrated by helping the body absorb water. Mint is known to help with digestion, headaches, nausea and respiratory issues.
|3. Strawberry Detox
This is a fantastic summer drink with a sweet zest, which can make detoxing more enjoyable. The combination of strawberries, rosemary and watermelon provide you with added vitamins and plenty of antioxidants, which can help the water flush out toxins. This drink is also anti-inflammatory and the has skin enhancing nutrients to boot. You can also add a dash of lemon for a source of bioflavonoids.
|4. Sassy Water
This is another delicious way to make drinking water more enjoyable. This recipe is similar to the apple cider vinegar one, but more suited for those who can’t stomach vinegar. In this natural combination, lemon, mint and cucumber work together to boost the immune system, aid digestion and hydrate your body well while the water removes impurities.
|5. Fat Flush Water
This fruity drink is super for helping you burn fat while also offering hydration. The water removes waste, the tangerine processes glucose effectively instead of turning it into fat, and the grapefruit bolsters your metabolism. The cucumber makes your body feel full, and the mint helps with digestion, allowing for waste to eliminated effectively.
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The Importance of Oxygen
Oxygen as an Essential Nutrient
Oxygen is the most vital element, nutrient, for health, energy, and life itself. Oxygen makes life possible. We can survive months without food, weeks without water but only 7 minutes without oxygen. Few of us however, give much thought to its roles and may be surprised at some sources.
A major component of our environment
Oxygen is a major component of our greater environment. The earth’s atmosphere, our oceans, lakes and rivers, and the earth’s crust all contain significant oxygen, largely the result of green plants and water borne algaes.
Chlorophyll and Oxygen
Oxygen is produced by green plants in a process called photosynthesis. The pigment chlorophyll absorbs the sun’s energy in transforming water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates (caloric energy) with oxygen as an end product. Animals, including humans, then consume this energy and produce carbon dioxide and water as wastes, which plants absorb and convert back into oxygen.
The Foundation of Life
Every healthy cell, tissue, and function in our body is the result of oxygen. From our lungs and heart to our immune system, our body has developed the ability to enable the delivery and usage of oxygen in all its tissues.The brain cells are extremely vulnerable to the changes in the oxygen supply, and these may start dying as early as five minutes after they are deprived of oxygen. This reflects its role as our most vital nutrient. Every cell in our body needs oxygen to function, repair, and rejuvenate.
The brain cells are extremely vulnerable to the changes in the oxygen supply, and these may start dying as early as five minutes after they are deprived of oxygen.
Oxygen Depletion and Disease
Our diet, lifestyle, and environment all play a role in the availability of oxygen. The pollution of our environment, use of industrial chemicals, poor food choices and lack of exercise all reduce the availability of oxygen for efficient energy production and health.
When insufficient oxygen is available to our cells they turn to an emergency form of energy production called fermentation. Anaerobic respiration, best known in athletes, produces waste acids that upset healthy cell function. This occurs in all of us if insufficient oxygen is available for our needs. Our diet, lifestyle, and environment play a role in the availability of oxygen. The pollution of our air and water, use of industrial chemicals, poor food choices, and lack of exercise all reduce the availability of oxygen for our health, energy, and life. These conditions are associated with immune depletion and the foundations of disease.
Fermentation and Cancer, The Seventh Stage of Dis-Ease
Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1931 for proving that cancer cells are formed during a shift by healthy cells towards anaerobic respiration. In cancer cells, respiratory enzymes used in aerobic energy production die and are replaced by the fermentation of sugar.
Decades later researchers Dean Burn and Mark Woods at the National Cancer Institute also found that the speed of progression of cancer was related to its anaerobic fermentation. The cancers with the highest rates of fermentation were also the fast growing.
Sources of Oxygen
There are 5 sources of oxygen for our health.
The most recognized source of oxygen is fresh air. Clean, unpolluted air contains around 20% oxygen. Complete, rhythmic breathing delivers oxygen from our lungs into our bloodstream and cells for optimal metabolism. This also will allow the lymphatic system to move more efficiently allowing for more removal of waste. Proper breathing can remove up to 70% of body toxins.
Pure water is a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen. An optimal daily water intake provides significant oxygen to our cells for health. A healthy adult is 75% water so regular drinking of purified water is a major source of oxygen for our body. This is another way to flush the lymphatic system and facilitate the removal of waste.
Raw vegetable foods are rich in oxygen by way of their water and chlorophyll contents. Animals, including humans, burn this oxygen in the processes of metabolism. Animal products, like meats and dairy, contain no residual oxygen for our benefit. Processing and cooking of vegetable foods also depletes them of oxygen.
Greens are an especially fine source of oxygen. Chlorophyll, the blood of plants, is almost identical to hemoglobin, which is the molecule that carries oxygen in our blood. The primary difference is that chlorophyll carries magnesium and holds carbon dioxide while iron of hemoglobin holds oxygen. The transformation of chlorophyll to hemoglobin is a very energy efficient process and makes chlorophyll a fine means of enhancing oxygenation within our body.
The most obvious method of increasing oxygen intake is through aerobic exercise. The greater demand for oxygen from our working muscles stimulates greater inhalation and enhances lung function enabling greater efficiency of oxygen utilization. Our quadriceps muscles in our thighs have the ability to draw in the most oxygen so with limited time for working out exercises that activate these muscles will create the biggest increase in blood oxygen levels. Additionally, this type of exercise will stimulate the lymphatic system to move more efficiently as well.
Therapies are available that enhance the concentration of oxygen to the body. IV ozone therapy and Hydrogen peroxide increase the concentration at which oxygen is introduced to the body encouraging a higher delivery to our cells. Oxygen enhanced exercise, called Exercise With Oxygen Therapy or EWOT, also increases oxygen uptake throughout the body via nasal tubes or a mask.
Healthy levels of tissue oxygenation boost immunity, enhance cellular detoxification and directly fight bacteria, other organisms, and cancer cells. The combination of these factors not only helps prevent disease but can also reverse it by establishing an environment in which these pathogens cannot survive.
Elements Found in the Human Body
Chlorophyll is the molecule that absorbs sunlight and uses its energy to synthesise carbohydrates from CO2 and water. This process is known as photosynthesis and is the basis for sustaining the life processes of all plants. And this process gives the green color to all the plants.
The green color of chlorophyll is secondary to its importance in nature as one of the most fundamentally useful chelates. It channels the energy of sunlight into chemical energy, converting it through the process of photosynthesis. In photosynthesis, chlorophyll absorbs energy to transform carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and oxygen. This is the process that converts solar energy to a form that can be utilized by plants, and by the animals that eat them, to form the foundation of the food chain.
The molecular structure is almost identical to hemoglobin except for the center atom. In hemoglobin this is iron, whereas in chlorophyll it is magnesium.
This means that when ingested, CHLOROPHYLL can actually help to do the job of hemoglobin (hemoglobin is so vital to the health of our blood – in fact, blood is approx 75% hemoglobin). It helps to rebuild and replenish our red blood cells, boosting our energy and increasing our wellbeing almost instantly.
Eating/drinking liquid chlorophyll can increase the quality AND quantity of your red blood cells.
Chlorophyll has the power to regenerate our bodies at the molecular and cellular level. Because it’s indisputable that GREEN FOODS are incredible for our health and all green foods contain an abundance of chlorophyll!
Enzymes, The Spark for Life
What are they & Why we need them
Among the multitude of reasons for consuming raw and living foods possibly the single greatest is their enzymatic content. Enzymes are catalysts, tiny electrically charged proteins, that literally provide the spark to turn the “engine” over, for every one of the millions of biochemical reactions that combine to cause the miracle of life. Another way to look at the way enzymes function for the human body is how the spark plugs are to the engine of a car.
Enzymes come in three broad categories, endogenous and exogenous. Two of these categories are endogenous, meaning they happen within us. They are digestive enzymes, that facilitate the digestion and absorption of our food, and metabolic enzymes that drive all the other functions of our bodies. These activities range from movement and mental activity to cellular repair and healing. The exogenous enzymes, enzymes that come from outside of our bodies, are food enzymes.
Our Enzyme Resources
The first two endogenous categories come from the same “enzyme resource” within us. We call this enzyme potential. This can be compared to stem cells; the immature, undifferentiated cells that our bodies take, modify, and replenish tissues with as required. Our enzyme resource is a finite resource. Though aided by optimum nutritional intake, it is gradually depleted throughout our lives and consequently the body’s processes become less efficient. We are less able to digest and metabolize our food, less able to repair oxidative damage, and less able to perform all physiological functions. What we are describing here are aspects of the aging process. In studies conducted by Doctor Meyer and associates at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, they found the enzymatic concentration of saliva in young adults was more than 30 times that of those over the age of 69 years.
The third category is food enzymes, that comes exogenously, within raw and living plant foods. The enzymes specific to that food source are purposely designed to break down its particular array of nutrients. These enzymes are vital in the effective digestion of foods and absorption of their nutrients. This becomes increasingly important as we make mounting withdrawals through aging, illness, pollution exposure, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. However, food enzymes are destroyed in the cooking process and begin deteriorating at exposure to heat above 105ºF (40ºC). That is less than half of boiling point.
If insufficient digestive enzymes are available they are diverted from our enzyme resources in glands, neural tissue, organs, and blood. The vitality of these areas suffers. We believe chronic enzyme deficiency is a significant contributor to aging, disease, and death.
There are still some who argue that food enzymes are merely benign proteins, subject to the digestive and physiological stresses of all proteins. This is not the case. Dr Edward Howell, the author of “Enzyme Nutrition,” has shown that the electrical charge of enzymes and living plant foods contain them. To prove this, researchers have tagged supplemental enzymes and traced them through the digestive tract. These tagged enzymes were found in the liver, spleen, kidneys heart, lungs, and urine.
Electric Equals Energy
We now understand that the electrical charge of any substance is a persistent link to its ability to transmit energy. The life force of living foods is passed into our cells elevating their frequencies and ability to produce energy. This energy is devoted to metabolism, cleansing, and healing.
Supplemental enzymes enhance the value of living foods even more so. Significant enzymatic depletion is a key factor in reaching a place of disease. Supplemental food enzymes further enhance the metabolism of living foods and catalyze our body’s restoration. This is an exponential factor when taken with cooked food that has become devoid of enzymes due to heating about 118ºF (47ºC).
The Energy of Healing
Our body wants to be in balance and well and comprises an amazing recuperative mechanism known as the immune system. Given what it needs in the way of nutritional support, our immune system is capable of remarkable feats of rejuvenation. Enzymes drive all healing in our body.
What are Enzymes Exactly?
From a scientific perspective, enzymes are proteins (amino acids chains) that are located inside cells and significantly speed up, catalyze, the rate of virtually all of the chemical reactions that take place within cells. Proteins are the building blocks of the human body and all living organisms. Humans, animals, plants and microorganisms are all made up of proteins. Even the largest muscle or the smallest hormone, nerve fiber, or enzyme is made up of small protein molecules. Proteins constitute about 80% of the dry weight of muscle, 70% of the dry weight of skin, and 90% of the dry weight of blood. In the body, proteins are vital to many cell functions, for example, they are responsible for transporting all molecules into and out of cells.
Enzymes are formed by special chains of amino acids, that come together in different shapes to do special jobs, like breaking down sugar and fat molecules or to bind molecules together to make more enzymes and new molecules. Enzymes are highly selective catalysts, meaning that each enzyme only speeds up a specific reaction. Being catalysts also means that enzymes are not part of the final product. They make things happen. When the job is done, enzymes are ready to catalyze a new biochemical reaction. All cells need enzymes to live and each different enzyme has its own work to do.
When an enzyme is formed, it is made by stringing together between 100 and 1,000 amino acids in a very specific and unique order. The chain of amino acids then folds into a unique shape. Even the tiniest microscopic bacteria cell can have about 1,000 enzymes at work inside. For example, the bacterium, E. coli, has about 1,000 different types of enzymes floating around in the cytoplasm at any given time. Enzymes are what make all the chemical reactions in the cell possible. When the body is missing a type of enzyme, the cells can’t work properly. This can lead to problems for the person whose body is missing the enzymes.
You may have heard of people who are lactose intolerant, or you may suffer from this problem yourself. The problem arises because the sugar in milk, lactose. does not get broken into its glucose components. Therefore, it cannot be digested. The intestinal cells of lactose-intolerant people do not produce lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose. This problem shows how the lack of just one enzyme in the human body can lead to problems. A person who is lactose intolerant can swallow a drop of lactase prior to drinking milk and the problem is solved. Many enzyme deficiencies are not nearly so easy to fix.
Inside a bacterium there are about 1,000 types of enzymes (lactase being one of them). All of the enzymes float freely in the cytoplasm waiting for the chemical they recognize to float by. There are hundreds or millions of copies of each different type of enzyme, depending on how important a reaction is to a cell and how often the reaction is needed. These enzymes do everything from breaking glucose down for energy to building cell walls, constructing new enzymes and allowing the cell to reproduce. Enzymes do all of the work inside cells.
The human body is made up of trillions of cells, and there are different cells for different functions. Cells are little bundles of chemical reactions. They reproduce, they create energy, they break molecules down (catabolism), and build them up (anabolism). All that action going on is made possible by the enzymes and is part of the process called, metabolism.
The molecules that an enzyme works with are called substrates. The substrates bind to a region on the enzyme called the active site. The chemical reactions result in a new product or molecule that then separates from the enzyme, which goes on to catalyze other reactions. Here’s an example: When the salivary enzyme amylase binds to a starch, it catalyzes hydrolysis (the breakdown of a compound due to a reaction with water), resulting in maltose, or malt sugar.
Enzymes, Nature’s Tools
Enzymes cut and paste products such as nutrients. They speed up all vital biological processes. The enzymes in the stomach, for instance, ensure that food is cut into tiny particles that can be converted into energy in the body. Wherever one substance needs to be transformed into another, nature uses it’s specialized set of tools, enzymes, to speed up the process.
Enzymes are the workhorse of the body breaking down your food into usable products. When you eat, enzymes break down the food into tiny particles which can be converted into energy in the body. The process starts in the mouth, where an enzyme called amylase begins working on all incoming food particles. Like a well-drilled team of engineers, different enzymes continue to break down the food all the way to the stomach and intestines.
The breakdown of food is an essential part of the conversion of food into energy. Undigested food is unable to pass on the energy stored within it. The enzymes involved in the digestion process carry out the final cutting, lysing, of the food particles so that they can be easily converted into the essential energy needed by all parts of our body. Without enzymes you would die from starvation, even sitting in the middle of a restaurant waving your gold card.
You Can Count on an Enzyme to Do it’s Job, Continuously
One of the unique things about enzymes is that they have one function and one function only. Every function or substrate in an organism has its own unique enzyme. The substrate which is to be transformed fits the enzyme like a key in a lock. Only when the right enzyme finds the right substrate can biochemical reactions occur. The correlation between enzyme and substrate means that you never have to worry about what will happen when enzymes are added to an industrial process. If you are using chemicals as a catalyst, you have to put up with a bundle of side effects because chemicals are non-specific. The chemicals will do their thing to whatever they come across. When an enzyme does the job, there are no side effects. For instance, when enzymes transform starch into sugar, you can be sure that that is all that will happen. No other material or process will be altered or affected.
Enzymes are far more stable catalysts than other chemicals or biological molecules. At the same time, enzymes also work at low temperature and moderate pH. This is not the case for most chemicals which perform the same processes. For this reason enzymes are the environmentally friendly solution to industrial problems.
Enzymes are not living organisms; they are simply biological molecules. They do not therefore live or die. They just keep on working until they are dissolved, usually by other enzymes. That enzymes are catalysts also means that they do not become part of the final product of the biochemical reaction which they are catalyzing. When the biochemical reaction is over, the product of the reaction leaves the enzyme. The enzyme is then ready to effect the same reaction on another molecule again and again. Given the right conditions to function, the enzyme can go on and on for as long as needed.
Enzymes are fully biodegradable unlike most industries that result in production waste. When using chemicals, these present a threat to nature. Enzymes can do the same job cheaper and do not threaten the environment. Enzymes are a part of nature and are therefore fully biodegradable. When industrial enzymes have done their job, they leave the production plant with the waste water. The retired enzymes do not last long in the surrounding environment. Nature has many microorganisms that easily break down enzymes into single amino acids, which are used to build up life around us. The fact that there are no hazardous waste products makes industrial enzymes the most environmentally friendly solution to most industrial problems.
Are All Proteins Enzymes?
There are many different kinds of protein that can be split into two basic groups. The first group covers the structural proteins, which are the main constituents of our bodies. Well-known structural proteins are collagen, which is the protein of bones, tendons and ligaments, and keratin, the protein of nails, hair and feathers. The second large group of proteins covers the biologically active proteins. Most of these catalyze biochemical reactions in cells.
All known enzymes are proteins and can occur in the body in very small amounts. All the same, enzymes catalyze all processes in the body, enabling organisms to build up chemical substances such as other proteins, carbohydrates, or fats that are necessary for life. In short, all enzymes are proteins, but not all proteins are enzymes. If a protein can catalyze a biochemical reaction, it is an enzyme.
Enzymes consist of long strings of amino acids each bonded to the next by chemical bonds. The vast majority of enzymes are made of only 20 different kinds of amino acids. The structure and function of the enzyme is determined by the order of the amino acids. No two enzymes are alike. Each enzyme has its own unique sequence of amino acids, which is determined by the genes in the cells. Most enzymes do not look like a long string of amino acids. In most enzymes, the string is coiled and folded thousands of times to form a highly complex three-dimensional structure. It is the chemical interactions between the amino acids that force the enzymes into their three-dimensional structure, which is held together by the many different links between the different amino acids.
The arrangement of amino acids determines the enzyme’s function. The three-dimensional structure of enzymes is determined by the order of the amino acids in the coiled string. Even slight changes in the sequence of the amino acids on the string have a huge impact on the structure of the protein. With just one or perhaps a few amino acids replaced or switched, an enzyme may not only look different, but also act different. With only a slight change in the sequence of the amino acids, an enzyme may be converted into working on other biological molecules or treating them differently. Adding heat to the enzyme can cause a major change in the structure of the enzyme causing it to become biologically inactive as well as a foreign substance to the human immune system setting of an unwanted chain of events.
Enzymes in History
Enzymes have been used in brewing, baking, and alcohol production since prehistoric times. Our ancestors did not call them enzymes, but they certainly used them. One of the earliest written references to enzymes is found in Homer’s Greek epic poems dating from about 800 BC, where mention is made of the use of enzymes in the production of cheese. The Japanese have also used naturally-occurring enzymes in the production of fermented products like sake, a Japanese schnapps brewed from rice, for more than a thousand years.
Bacteria and fungi produce most industrial enzymes. Naturally-occurring microorganisms are the most productive producers of enzymes. This knowledge has been exploited by industry for more than fifty years. Bacteria and fungi are the microorganisms best suited to the industrial production of enzymes. They are easy to handle, can be grown in huge tanks without light, and have a very high growth rate. Some examples of these enzymes producing microorganisms are the bacterium Bacillus subtilis and the fungus Aspergillus oryzae. Both have a huge capacity for producing enzymes and are completely harmless for humans.
Some microbes are more efficient enzyme producers than others and the ideal microorganism grows quickly producing lots of the desired enzyme at mild temperatures whilst consuming inexpensive nutrients. However, like most things in life, the ideal microorganism is hard to come by. Most microorganisms found in the wild are not well suited to domestication in large fermentation tanks. Some only produce tiny quantities of enzymes or take a long time to grow. Others can produce undesired by-products that would disturb industrial processes.
To Your Best Self,
Health Educator, LMT
Recommended Reading or Video
Conscious Eating Dr. Gabriel Cousens
Food enzymes, The Missing Link Humbart Santillo
Enzyme Nutrition Edward Howell
- Conscious Eating, Dr. Gabriel Cousens
- Enzyme Nutrition, Edward Howell
additional enzyme info to assimilate…
Enzymes are proteins that facilitate specific chemical reactions. Digestive enzymes facilitate the chemical breakdown of food into smaller, absorbable components. Enzymes called amylases break down starches into sugar molecules; proteases break down proteins into amino acids; and lipases break down fat into its component parts.
Humans naturally produce multiple different enzymes in these families that encounter food at different places in the digestive process: first in the mouth, then in the stomach, and finally, within the small intestine. Humans also possess disaccharidases, or enzymes that break the bonds between double sugar molecules like sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (milk sugar) into two individual sugar molecules for absorption.
Unlike members of other biological kingdoms, humans (as mammals) lack digestive enzymes that break down compounds from plant cell walls like cellulose, pectins and resistant starches. These dietary compounds are collectively called “fiber.” By definition, fiber is a non-digestible substance whose health benefits derive from its inability to be absorbed. Since it survives the digestive process intact and unabsorbed, it can travel along to the colon where it feeds our resident bacteria and contributes to fecal bulk.
Pancreatic insufficiency (PI): This condition, in which the pancreas is unable to produce or excrete normal amounts of digestive enzymes into the intestine, is treated with enzymes taken orally with meals so that food can be absorbed.
Unlike over-the-counter enzymes, these prescription enzymes are specially coated to resist being digested by stomach acid before they can do their work in the intestines. Signs and symptoms of PI include light-colored, foul smelling, loose stools—often that float as the result of malabsorbed fat.
High-fiber diets. People following high-fiber diets, and often vegetarians and vegans, who rely heavily on beans and large portions of veggies as a cornerstone of their diets, sometimes find that a little bit of enzymatic help from a friend in the fungi kingdom can make a huge difference in their diet tolerance.
Enter Beano—a popular digestive enzyme product that contains alpha-galactosidase, a mold-derived enzyme that’s required to break down the type of fiber found in beans and gassy veggies like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Taking multiple Beano tablets with a plant-based meal that’s high on the flatulence meter can help minimize the gas that follows.
some degree of intestinal gas is perfectly normal; its presence does not necessarily imply that something is amiss.
Integrative nutritionist Liz Lipski and author of the book, “Digestive Wellness,” is one such clinician. She acknowledges that scientific evidence supporting the benefits of digestive enzymes is lacking but recommends these products based on her practical experience that they work in certain cases.
“If someone tells me they consistently feel bloated or gassy two to four hours after eating, or that food feels like it just ‘sits there’ hours after a meal, I’ve found that support from digestive enzymes in these cases can make a real difference.” Lipski, who is based in Laurel, Md., is careful to note that she never uses enzymes as a first-line treatment for such digestive symptoms, as it’s important to first rule out causes that would require conventional dietary or medical treatment—like celiac disease or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).
Strangely-colored poos: Green or yellow poos generally hint at rapid transit, or poos passing abnormally fast through your intestines. Poo gets its typical brown color from bile, a greenish emulsifier that’s secreted by your liver and gallbladder to aid in the digestion of fats. Bile needs to spend several hours in the colon to develop this color, which means that poos passing through too quickly may retain the greenish hue. Furthermore, if you’ve recently eaten green veggies—like spinach—that green poo may also result from chlorophyll, due to incomplete digestion from rapid transit. If you’ve eaten beets in the past few days, your normal brown poo may be tinted magenta from the beet pigments; totally normal and harmless. Other shades of red—or even blue—can result from food dyes; take special note, ye Froot Loop and Kool-Aid lovers among us. Black poos may often result from high intake of supplemental iron. However, if yours is black and you haven’t used iron, it could suggest bleeding in the GI tract that’s worth checking out. Unless you’ve recently used Pepto-Bismol, poos that are pale (or white) in color are not likely the result of something you’ve eaten and are worth having checked out by a gastroenterologist sooner rather than later.
- Undigested food particles in the poo: Fragments of fibrous foods, like corn kernels, tomato skins, quinoa grains, whole flax seeds, raw leafy greens, or fruit seeds often show up recognizably intact in a poo. This is normal, and it shows that your high-fiber diet is doing its job of providing indigestible material to bulk up the poo and feed the beneficial bacteria that live in your colon. Rest assured, it does not mean you’re not absorbing the nutrients in your food.
- Poos with a strange consistency: Loose, poorly-formed poos that resemble Shredded Wheat generally suggest rapid transit. In other words, the poo is moving too quickly through the colon to allow for the excess water to be re-absorbed by the body. One dietary strategy to correct this is to go easy on the raw veggies, and choose foods at each meal that will help slow down transit time while contributing to fecal bulk. The best foods for the job are those high in gummy, soluble fibers, like oats or oat bran, rice, barley, root vegetables (including carrots and potatoes), applesauce or peeled apples, banana and papaya. In some cases, a soluble fiber supplement like Benefiber, Citrucel or psyllium husk can also work wonders toward achieving the Platonic ideal of a poo: soft, bulky, well-formed, and easy to pass. Talk to your doctor or dietitian to see if a fiber supplement is appropriate for you.
Poos that are visibly oily tend to hint at malabsorption—or, abnormally poor absorption, of fat—and this can have multiple underlying causes. Often, such oily poos will be unusually stinky as well. Dietary causes of this condition include consumption of a type of fish called escolar (often improperly labeled as “white tuna” on sushi menus) or oilfish (often mislabeled as “butterfish,” or even cod!), or the fat replacer Olestra in a reduced-fat product. If diet is the cause, the problem should resolve itself once the offending ingredient leaves your system within a day or so. Otherwise, the cause may be medical, and you should consult a gastroenterologist.
- Multiple, urgent poos first thing in the morning: There’s a normal, hormonally-induced phenomenon called the gastro-colic reflex that takes place soon after waking and throughout the day in response to eating. It’s a contraction of the digestive system’s muscles designed to keep food moving along to make room for whatever’s coming down the pike. The three strongest triggers of this reflex are waking up, drinking coffee, and eating. (Note that it’s not the caffeine in coffee, but rather a compound called cholinergic acid. Caffeinated tea should not have the same effect, but decaf coffee will.) So if you tend to guzzle two cups of Joe and down your breakfast within an hour of waking, don’t be surprised if you’re rushing to the toilet in the middle of it all. Spacing out the timing of these three stimuli over the course of your morning—or saving your coffee for later in the day—may help keep things running a little more smoothly.
If you’ve got poo woes that this primer doesn’t address, don’t be afraid to snap a digital photo, and make an appointment to share it with your friendly, local gastroenterologist. As the popular children’s book by Taro Gomi correctly asserts, “Everyone poops!” There’s no shame in discussing yours with a qualified health professional.
How Your Gut Flora Influences Your Health
A new study in the journal Nutrition in Clinical Practice shows that microorganisms in the human gastrointestinal tract form an intricate, living fabric of natural controls affecting body weight, energy, and nutrition1. The findings may offer new ideas on how to treat nutrition-related maladies, including obesity and a range of serious health consequences linked to undernutrition, the scientists said.
An article in Science Daily reported on the featured findings, stating:
“The microbes in the human gut belong to three broad domains, defined by their molecular phylogeny: Eukarya, Bacteria, and Achaea. Of these, bacteria reign supreme, with two dominant divisions — known as Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes — making up over 90 percent of the gut’s microbial population… Within the bacterial categories… enormous diversity exists.
Each individual’s community of gut microbes is unique and profoundly sensitive to environmental conditions, beginning at birth. Indeed, the mode of delivery during the birthing process has been shown to affect an infant’s microbial profile. Communities of vaginal microbes change during pregnancy in preparation for birth, delivering beneficial microbes to the newborn.
At the time of delivery, the vagina is dominated by a pair of bacterial species, Lactobacillus and Prevotella. In contrast, infants delivered by caesarean section typically show microbial communities associated with the skin, including Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium, and Propionibacterium.
While the full implications of these distinctions are still murky, evidence suggests they may affect an infant’s subsequent development and health, particularly in terms of susceptibility to pathogens.” [Emphasis mine]
How Your Baby’s Gut Flora Impacts His/Her Future Health
The health implications of this variation in gut bacteria acquired from birth is exactly what Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s research sheds light upon. Her research shows there’s a profound dynamic interaction between your gut, your brain, and your immune system, starting from birth. She has developed what might be one of the most profoundly important treatment strategies for a wide range of neurological, psychological, and autoimmune disorders—all of which are heavily influenced by your gut health.
I believe her Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and Gut and Physiology Syndrome (GAPS) Nutritional program is vitally important for MOST people, as the majority of people have such poor gut health due to poor diet and toxic exposures, but it’s particularly crucial for pregnant women and young children.
Children who are born with severely damaged gut flora are not only more susceptible to disease; they’re also more susceptible to vaccine damage, which may help explain why some children develop symptoms of autism after receiving one or more childhood vaccinations.
According to Dr. Campbell-McBride, most autistic children are born with perfectly normal brains and sensory organs. The trouble arises when they fail to develop normal gut flora. In a previous interview, she explained the chain of events that is typical for many, if not most, autistic children:
“What happens in these children [is that] they do not develop normal gut flora from birth… As a result, their digestive system—instead of being a source of nourishment for these children—becomes a major source of toxicity. These pathogenic microbes inside their digestive tract damage the integrity of the gut wall. So all sort of toxins and microbes flood into the bloodstream of the child, and get into the brain of the child.
That usually happens in the second year of life in children who were breast fed because breastfeeding provides a protection against this abnormal gut flora. In children who were not breastfed, I see the symptoms of autism developing in the first year of life. So breastfeeding is crucial to protect these children.
… If the child’s brain is clogged with toxicity, the child misses that window of opportunity of learning and starts developing autism depending on the mixture of toxins, depending on how severe the whole condition is, and how severely abnormal the gut flora is in the child.”
It’s important to understand that the gut flora your child acquires during vaginal birth is dependent on the mother’s gut flora. So if mother’s microflora is abnormal, the child’s will be as well. Autism isn’t the only potential outcome in this case. GAPS may manifest as a conglomerate of symptoms that can fit the diagnosis of either autism, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, just to name a few possibilities. Digestive issues, asthma, allergies, skin problems and autoimmune disorders are also common outgrowths of GAPS, as it can present itself either psychologically or physiologically.
The Importance of Fermented Foods and Probiotics
Maintaining optimal gut flora, and ‘reseeding’ your gut with fermented foods and probiotics when you’re taking an antibiotic, may be one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health. If you aren’t eating fermented foods, you most likely need to supplement with a probiotic on a regular basis, especially if you’re eating a lot of processed foods. As explained by Dr. Campbell-McBride, poor diet in general, and each course of antibiotics extols a heavy price:
“Every course of antibiotics tends to wipe out the beneficial bacteria and that gives a window of opportunity for the pathogens to proliferate, to grow uncontrolled, and to occupy new niches in your gut. The beneficial flora recovers, but different species of it take between two weeks to two months to recover in the gut and that’s a window of opportunity for various pathogens to overgrow.
What I see in the families of autistic children is that 100 percent of mom’s of autistic children have abnormal gut flora and health problems related to that. But then I look at grandmothers on the mother’s side, and I find that the grandmothers also have abnormal gut flora, but much milder.” In essence, what we have is a generational build-up of abnormal gut flora, with each generation becoming ever more prone to being further harmed from the use of antibiotics—and vaccines as well. To learn more about GAPS, please see this previous interview with Dr. Campbell-McBride.
How Your Gut Impacts Your Metabolism and Genetic Expression
As time goes on, we’re gaining more and more information about the important roles gut flora plays in maintaining overall health. The good news is that this is an area you can exercise a lot of control over. Your diet can quickly alter the composition of your gut flora. Processed foods high in sugar and chemical additives and low in nutrients is a surefire way to decimate the beneficial bacteria in your gut, allowing the harmful pathogenic kind to thrive.
Research has also shown that your microflora has a significant impact on gene expression, such as the genes responsible for vitamin biosynthesis and metabolism. Probiotics have been found to influence the activity of hundreds of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner—some of which affect your body in a manner resembling the effects of certain medicines!
A recent study published in the journal Nature3 found that “gut microbial communities represent one source of human genetic and metabolic diversity.” According to the authors:
“To examine how gut microbiomes differ among human populations, here we characterize bacterial species in fecal samples from 531 individuals, plus the gene content of 110 of them. The cohort encompassed healthy children and adults from the Amazonas of Venezuela, rural Malawi and US metropolitan areas and included mono- and dizygotic twins.
Shared features of the functional maturation of the gut microbiome were identified during the first three years of life in all three populations, including age-associated changes in the genes involved in vitamin biosynthesis and metabolism.
Pronounced differences in bacterial assemblages and functional gene repertoires were noted between US residents and those in the other two countries. These distinctive features are evident in early infancy as well as adulthood. Our findings underscore the need to consider the microbiome when evaluating human development, nutritional needs, physiological variations and the impact of westernization.” [Emphasis mine]
Three Global Varieties of Gut Bacteria
You might not be aware of this, but scientists are now busy mapping the microbes in your body in much the same way as they mapped the human genome. The Human Microbiome Project4 was launched in October 2008, with the goal to catalogue all the bacterial inhabitants in the human body. Researchers have identified most of the microbes in the human gut, but they still don’t know much about the actions of each individual microbe, or how they work together. An article published in Wired Magazine last year discussed this fascinating work5. It also features an illustrative graphic of the primary microbes found in humans across the globe. According to another study, also published in the journal Nature, each of us harbors one of three primary “communities” of bacteria. The health ramifications of each are still being teased out.
According to Wired:
“In terms of function, each of the enterotype-defining genera has been linked to nutrient-processing preferences — Bacteroides to carbohydrates, Prevotella to proteins called mucins, or Ruminococcus to mucins and sugars — but far more may be going on. “Exactly what they are doing in there is still to be explored,” said Arumugam, who also mentioned enterotype-based differences in drug metabolism as another possible implication of the findings.”
The Ideal Way to Optimize Your Gut Health
The ideal balance of beneficial to pathogenic bacteria in your gut is about 85 percent good bacteria and 15 percent bad. Maintaining this ideal ratio is what it’s all about when we’re talking about optimizing your gut health. Historically, people didn’t have the same problems with their gut health as we do today for the simple fact that they got large quantities of beneficial bacteria, i.e. probiotics, from their diet in the form of fermented or cultured foods, which were invented long before the advent of refrigeration and other forms of food preservation.
You can ferment virtually any food, and every traditional culture has traditionally fermented their foods to prevent spoilage. There are also many fermented beverages and yoghurts. Quite a large percent of all the foods that people consumed on a daily basis were fermented, and each mouthful provides trillions of beneficial bacteria—far more than you can get from a probiotics supplement.
Here’s a case in point: It’s unusual to find a probiotic supplement containing more than 10 billion colony-forming units. But when my team actually tested fermented vegetables produced by probiotic starter cultures, they had 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria. Literally, one serving of vegetables was equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic! Fermented foods also give you a wider variety of beneficial bacteria, so all in all, it’s your most cost effective alternative.
Fermenting your own foods is a fairly straight-forward and simple process, and can provide even greater savings. To learn more, please listen to my interview with Caroline Barringer, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) who has been involved with nutrition for about 20 years. She’s now one of Dr. Campbell-McBride’s chief training partners, helping people understand the food preparation process.
Benefits of Fermented Foods to the Gut Flora
The growing awareness of the relationship between diet and health has led to an increasing demand for food products that support health above and beyond providing basic nutrition. Probiotics and prebiotics are components present in foods, or that can be incorporated into foods, which yield health benefits related to their interactions with the gastrointestinal tract (GI). While the benefits of prebiotics have come to light in more recent years, recognition of probiotic effects dates back to the 19th century when the French scientist Louis Pasteur (1822 –1895) postulated the importance of microorganisms in human life; this was further reinforced by work done by 1908 Nobel Prize-winner Elie Metchnikoff.
Slightly different definitions of probiotics exist. For example, a probiotic has been defined as “a live microbial food ingredient that, when ingested in sufficient quantities, exerts health benefits.”1 Similarly, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Working Group on drafting “Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food” has recommended that probiotics be defined as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
Prebiotics are defined as “nondigestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth of one or a limited number of bacterial species in the colon, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, which have the potential to improve host health.”1 Prebiotics are, simply speaking, the “food” for beneficial bacteria.
Probiotics and Prebiotics Found in the Foods We Eat
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Today, probiotic-containing foods are commonly found and consumed in Japan and Europe.3 In the US, several probiotic- and prebiotic-containing foods have recently been introduced into the marketplace. The benefits associated with pro- and prebiotics are strain- and substance-specific, respectively, and must be shown through adequate clinical trials reflective of the dose of pro- or prebiotics present in the food at the time of consumption.
Probiotic microorganisms can be found in both supplement form and as components of foods and beverages. These bacteria and yeasts have been used for thousands of years to ferment foods. Certain yogurts and other cultured dairy products contain such helpful bacteria, particularly specific strains of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. Not all bacteria present in fermented milk products or yogurt have a probiotic effect. For this reason, in order to consider a Lactobacillusor Bifidobacterium a probiotic, the specific strains selected must exert a clinically established health benefit.4-6
Prebiotics are found naturally in many foods, and can also be isolated from plants (e.g., chicory root) or synthesized (e.g., enzymatically, from sucrose)—see below, “Examples of Probiotics and Prebiotics.” In order for a food ingredient to be classified as a prebiotic, it has to be demonstrated, that it: (a) is not broken down in the stomach or absorbed in the GI tract, (b) is fermented by the gastrointestinal microflora; and (c) most importantly, selectively stimulates the growth and/or activity of intestinal bacteria associated with health and wellbeing.7
Probiotic bacteria taken together with prebiotics that support their growth are called “synbiotics.” Both work together in a synergistic way more efficiently promoting the probiotics’ benefits.
Actions of the GI Tract
To understand the role that probiotics and prebiotics play in overall health, familiarity with the GI tract and the body is important. Human beings play host to many types of microorganisms on the skin, in the mouth, and in the GI tract. The human gastrointestinal environment, including the microflora, has a significant role in the health of its host. The normal gut microflora activity is complex and can be impacted by a number of factors. The gut microflora, which includes both potentially beneficial and potentially harmful bacteria, is important in maintaining a healthy intestinal tract and helps the intestine act as an effective barrier; allowing nutrients to be absorbed, and keeping out toxins and pathogens (foreign bacteria or viruses). The gut microflora breaks down vitamins and also ferments fibers and carbohydrates that are not digested in the upper GI tract. This breakdown produces fatty acids that are important for supporting a healthy intestinal barrier (particularly in the lower GI tract) and also inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Healthy intestinal flora is also associated with intestinal (stool) regularity.
Actions of Probiotics in the GI Tract
Consumption of probiotics, particularly certain species of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, can help “balance” the flora, increasing the number of helpful, and reducing (inhibiting the growth of) harmful bacteria, in the intestine. Consumption of probiotics can also modify the gut immune response and improve its barrier function. For example, specific probiotic species can shorten or reduce the risk of certain infections, particularly those of the GI tract, such as intestinal viruses.1 More recently, probiotics have also been shown to modulate/adjust the activity of the immune system, helping to control or reduce the development of certain allergies.
Research on Probiotics’ Health Effects
Perhaps the most compelling evidence for probiotic efficacy is in the areas of antidiarrheal effects and helping with stool regularity. In the case of yogurt containing sufficient amounts of live and active yogurt cultures (Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus), there is significant evidence for the alleviation of the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.3,7 A study in young children showed a clear beneficial effect of two Lactobacillus strains on the improvement of acute rotavirus diarrhea.8 In studies of children attending day care centers, changes in severity and duration of diarrhea after consumption of specific strains, were also seen.9-11 A meta-analysis of 18 studies also reported that bacterial probiotic therapy shortened the length of acute diarrheal illness in children.12 In adults there are limited data to support an effect on either travelers’ diarrhea or that caused by antibiotic use.13
Some probiotic strains can modulate the immune system and enhance immune system defenses of the intestinal mucosal cells through both specific and non-specific effects.14-15 Certain probiotic strains have been shown to have a favorable effect on markers of the immune response to stress.15 A study among the elderly found an enhancement of immune function following consumption of milk supplemented with a Bifidobacterium lactis strain.16Bifidobacteria are the predominant bacterial species in the intestinal tracts of breastfed infants. Some experts believe higher levels of Bifidobacteria in the gut of breastfed infants may be one reason why they are considered to be generally healthier than formula-fed babies.17 There is also a growing body of new evidence that some probiotic strains may have a beneficial impact on allergy.14,15,18 Some probiotic strains may also reduce the severity of microbe-induced gut inflammation, acute gastroenteritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and may also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.5,19,20
While research is ongoing, current evidence with several probiotic strains in animal and human studies suggests a moderate cholesterol-lowering effect from cultured dairy products such as yogurt and milk products.21-22
Actions of Prebiotics in the GI Tract
The principal characteristic and effect of prebiotics in the diet is to promote the growth and proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract, and thus, potentially yield or enhance the effect of probiotic bacteria. Prebiotics have also been shown to increase the absorption of certain minerals (such as calcium and magnesium).4 Prebiotics may also help inhibit the growth of lesions, such as adenomas and carcinomas in the gut, and thus reduce the risk factors involved in colorectal diseases.1
Research on Prebiotics’ Health Effects
Prebiotic effects on mineral absorption have been investigated, and recent human studies have confirmed that specific prebiotics, such as non-digestible oligosaccharides (NDOs) enhance calcium absorption.23 However, this effect varies according to the individual NDO and particular human population studied, and is thought to be due to its specific fermentation profile and the amount consumed.20 Preliminary studies suggest that prebiotics may have a favorable effect on the immune system and provide improved resistance against infection.24-25
For prebiotic substances, little data pertaining to lipid-lowering effects are available and come mostly from studies with inulin and oligofructose. In hyperlipidemic subjects, when a prebiotic effect is seen, it is a reduction in cholesterol; whereas in normal-lipidemic subjects, any noted effects are on serum triglycerides.26 While some of the pro- and prebiotic beneficial effects on the function of the human gut have been established and their favorable impact on health widely supported, further scientific research is ongoing to substantiate their direct relationship to disease risk reduction.27
Examples of Probiotics and Prebiotics
Certain species and strains
of Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria,
Certain yogurts, other cultured
and non-dairy applications
May improve gastrointestinal health
and systemic immunity
Inulin, Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS),
Whole grains, onions, bananas,
garlic, honey, leeks, artichokes,
fortified foods and beverages,
and other food applications
May improve gastrointestinal health;
may improve calcium absorption
Chart adapted from International Food Information Council Foundation: Media Guide on Food Safety and Nutrition: 2004-2006.
*Examples are not an all-inclusive list
The Bottom Line
The healthful effects of pre- and probiotics factor in their potential impact on the balance of the body’s microflora, and directly or indirectly in their enhancement of the function of the gut and systemic immune system. Although benefits vary, depending on the type and amount of a pre- or probiotic consumed, experts agree that daily consumption of foods containing these functional components is beneficial. In addition, effects of probiotics are strain-specific and must be demonstrated through appropriate clinical trials.
- Ashwell M. Concepts of Functional Foods (ILSI Europe Concise Monograph Series Ed Walker, R) 2002. Available at: http://www.ilsina.org/file/ILSIFuncFoods.pdf.
- Joint FAO/WHO Working Group Report on Drafting Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food, London, Ontario, Canada, April 30 and May 1, 2002. Available at: ftp://ftp.fao.org/es/esn/food/wgreport2.pdf.
- Sanders ME. Probiotics: A Publication of The Institute of Food Technologists Expert Panel on Food Safety and Nutrition, Food Technol. 1999;53:67-77.
- Adolfsson O. Yogurt and gut function. Am J of Clin Nutr. 2004;80:245-56.
- Saikali J. Fermented milks, probiotic cultures, and colon cancer. Nutr and Cancer. 2004;49:14-24.
- Picard C. Review article: Bifidobacteria as probiotic agents-physiological effects and clinical benefits. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005;22:495-512.
- Gibson GR. Dietary Modulation of the Human Gut Microflora Using the Prebiotics Oligofructose and Inulin. Am Socity Nutr Sci. 1999;129:1438S-1441S.
- Rosenfeldt V, Michaelsen KF, Jakobsen M, Larsen CN, Moller PL, Pedersen P, Tvede M, Weyrehter H, Valerius NH, Paerregaard A. Effect of probiotic Lactobacillus strains in young children hospitalized with acute diarrhea. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002;21:411-416.
- Pedone CA, Bernabeu AO, Postaire ER, Bouley CF, Reinert P, Cirde. The effect of supplementation with milk fermented by Lactobacillus casei (Strain DN-114 001) on acute diarrhea in children attending day care centers. Intl J Clin Pract. 1999;53:179-184.
- Pedone CA, Arnaud CC, Postaire ER, Bouley CF, Reinert P, Cirde. Multicentric study of the effect of milk fermented by Lactobacillus casei on incidence of diarrhea. Intl J Clin Pract. 2000;54:568-571.
- Weizman Z, Asli Ghaleb, Alsheikh A. Effect of a probiotic infant formula on infections in child care centers: Comparison of two probiotic agents. Pediatrics. 2005;115:5-9.
- Huang JS, Bousvaros A, Lee JW, Diaz A, Davidson EJ. Efficacy of probiotic use in acute diarrhea in children. Dig Dis Sci. 2002;47:2625-2634.
- De Roos NM, Katan MB. Effects of probiotic bacteria on diarrhea, lipid metabolism, and carcinogenesis: A review of papers published between 1988 and 1998. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71:405-411.
- Isolauri, E. Probiotics: Effects on immunity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;73(suppl):444S-450S.
- Pujol P, Huguet J, Drobnic F, Banquells M, Ruiz O, Galilea P, Segarra N, Aguilera S, Burnat A, Mateos JA, Postaire. The effect of fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei on the immune response to exercise. Sports Med. Training and Rehab. 2000;9:209-223.
- Gill HS, Rutherfurd KJ, Cross ML, Gopal PK. Enhancement of immunity in the elderly by dietary supplementation with the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis HNO19. Am Clin Nutr. 2001;74:833-839.
- Rubaltelli FF, Biadaioli R, Pecile P, Nicoletti P. Intestinal flora in breast- and bottle-fed infants. J Perinat Med. 1998;26:186-191.
- Duggan C, Gannon J, Walker WA. Protective nutrients and functional foods for the gastrointestinal tract. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;75:789-808.
- Isolauri E, Kirjavainen PV, Salminen S. Probiotics: A role in the treatment of intestinal infection and inflammation? Gut. 2002;50(suppl III):54-59.
- Saggiro A. Probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2004;38(supp. II):S104-S106.
- St-Onge MP, Farnworth ER, Jones P. Consumption of fermented and nonfermented dairy products: Effects on cholesterol concentrations and metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71:674-681.
- Xiao JZ, Kondo S, Takahashi N, Miyaji K, Oshida K, Hiramatsu AK, Iwatsuki K, Kokubo S, Hosono A. Effects of milk products fermented by Bifidobacterium longum on blood lipids in rats and healthy adult male volunteers. J Dairy Sci. 2003;86:2452-2461.
- Scholz-Ahrens KE , Schaafsma G, Heuvel E, Schrezenmeir J. Effects of prebiotics on mineral metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;73(suppl):459S-464S.
- Saavendra JM, Tschemia A. Human studies with probiotics and prebiotics: clinical implications. British J Nutr. 2002;87:S241-S246.
- Cummings JH, Macfarlane GT. A study of fructo oligosaccharides in the prevention of travelers’ diarrhea. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2001;15(8):1139-1145.
- Pereira DI, Gibson GR. Effects of consumption of probiotics and prebiotics on serum lipid levels in humans. Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2002;37:259-281.
- Roberfroid M. Prebiotics and probiotics: Are they functional foods? Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71 (suppl): 1682S – 1687S.
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