Chitin’s Powerful Anti-inflammatory Properties

Shrimp and lobsters make their own anti-inflammatory molecules. That has scientists very excited. In a press release posted last week by the College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, officials announced that they had received a $380,000 National Institute of Health grant to investigate just how the marine medicine could be used to eliminate inflammatory diseases in humans.

The crabby chemical that is the center of attention is called a chitin. It’s a key constituent of the shells of various oceans animals including crayfish, shrimp, krill, and barnacles. It is one of the most abundant molecules in all of nature, second only to cellulose. And, as it turns out, in addition to being abundant (and cheap), chitin has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Properties that are so impressive, that the natural molecule found in so many crust critters is being studied in hopes of finding a pharmaceutical treatment for inflammatory diseases including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, arthritis, and heart disease. And it’s not just shellfish that contain this fascinating medicinal molecule. You can find chitin in the hard shells of insects as well as in the cell walls of most fungi and algae.

Chitin's Powerful Anti-inflammatory PropertiesChitin is made up of repeating pieces of sugar to which it owes its interesting medicinal properties. Actually the sugar isn’t any old glucose. It’s a “specialty” glucose that scientists call a “proteo-glycan” (protein-sugar) because it has a little chunk of amino acid attached to it. The little proteanaceous piece turns the ordinarily “one trick pony” glucose, which is basically only good as a source of energy, into glucoseamine, a sort of “super glucose”, that provides structure and support for everything from bones to butterfly wings and has therapeutic properties to boot. Arthritis sufferers, in particular, have exploited the healing powers of glucosamine for decades.

The glucosamine pieces that make up chitin are a type of glucosamine called NA-glucosamine (NAG). The NA component makes this type of glucosamine especially effective at healing and soothing. This is really what has scientists and drug companies so excited. In addition to NAG’s calming and quenching qualities, it contains the precursors for hyaluronic acid, one of the most important of all growth and repair and anti-inflammatory molecules in the body. NAG is especially effective at helping take the edge off intestinal pain and discomfort associated with various digestive ailments.

If you don’t want to wait for some drug company to patent a molecule, and sell it to you for 20 dollars a dose, to enjoy the benefits of crustacean chitin, use glucosamine supplements. If you’re looking to heal the gut get some NAG. They’re available in health food stores or on the internet. They are very inexpensive and both are completely non-toxic.

Food can be an especially good source of NAG, especially homemade chicken soup. The knobby cartilage on chicken bones is a great source of NAG as well as other substances like amino acids, chondroitin, and collagen that can all contribute joint health benefits. You can save shrimp shells, put in a tea ball and let them steep in the soup. Make sure you throw in some lime or lemon; a little acid is required to dissolve the NAG into the soup. Aloe is also a good source of NAG, as is Noni. Algaes, a great source of everything good and healthy, also contain appreciable amounts of NAG.

  • NAG can improve the health of your skin. It can prevent wrinkles, improve sun damage, and has topical moisturizing benefits too.
  • If you’re looking for a blend of joint rebuilding glucosamine AND gut soothing, skin supporting NAG use chitosan, a chitin-derivative that is composed of both glucosamine and NA glucosamine.
  • Chitosan is great for your hair. Break open a capsule; dissolve it in water, mix, and let sit until it forms a clear gel which you can apply to your tresses as a hair mask. Upon rinsing, it will leave your hair soft and smooth. Its molecules are positively charged, and they can bind to negatively charged protein on the hair cuticle giving it conditioning and strengthening properties too!
  • Glucosamine and NAG contain glucose, so if you’re a diabetic, taking too much may throw off your blood sugar a bit.
Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

The Problem with High Fructose Corn Syrup

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

The next time you see that commercial where the two people are trying to figure why high fructose corn syrup is problematic, here’s somethings YOU can think about…

Table sugar is made up robust chemical bond that connects fructose and glucose; it’s a natural product with a natural bonding that makes it very strong. High fructose corn syrup, which is made up of an artificially processed combination of fructose and glucose has no such chemical constituency. The two sugars aren’t bonded. And that means it’s is fructose is free and easily absorbed by liver which doesn’t really know how to handle kind of fructose load. High Fructose Corn SyrupThe net result is a too horrible words that when it comes to your health and longevity that you don’t want to hear together “fatty liver”.

High fructose sweeteners have another unpleasant quality. While all sugars can make you fat, fructose-fat may be specific for the belly. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers showed that volunteers who consumed fructose sweetened beverages experienced significantly higher accumulations of fat within the abdomen even though they and their glucose drinking experimental colleagues gained the same amount of total weight.

Got gout? Well, it turns out one of the ways the the liver handles all that excess fructose ends up creating the uric acid crystals that wreak so much havoc in millions of big toes around the country. And uric acid doesn’t just cause the grief of gout. It associated with high blood pressure and kidney disease too.

And if that’s not enough, there’s recent literature that suggests that even though fructose doesn’t raise insulin, it may increase insulin resistance. In article published earlier this year in Diabetes Care, fructose consumers were more likely to have depotentized insulin than glucose consumers.

Perhaps the worst thing about high fructose corn syrup is a particularly distressing feature it shares in common with most common sweeteners, artificial and “natural”. They make you want to eat more. In the book ‘Salt Sugar Fat” by Michael Moss, there’s an interesting and revealing vignette about how surprised researchers were to discover that sweetened beverages more hungry not less. And now it turns out that fructose may be particularly culpable. Two papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2007 showed that pure glucose decreases food intake while fructose had the opposite effect fructose increased it .

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Toxic

Sugar is the Adversary!

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

When it comes to good health and nutrition there are clearly many hurdles and adversaries that must be addressed and conquered. However, a strong case can be made, that no adversary is more formidable or needs to be addressed more that the one known as SUGAR! Now aside from the fact the body really has a hard time processing sugar and aside from the fact that the body’s insulin response to sugar can be as problematic as the sugar itself, (we’ll be talking more about that later), there is the whole subject of sugar’s effects on the skin.

You see sugar explodes, witness the sugar we call ethanol that is used to run cars. Think of a marshmallow when it’s lit in a campfire, poof!. This reaction that sugar has with burning is actually an important part of biochemistry and how energy is produced in the body. Sugar in the form of glucose reacts with oxygen and a type of burning takes place and that’s how we get the energy to blink an eye, think a thought, wiggle a toe and generally move about the world.

The problem starts when there’s too much sugar around and this burning (which is technically called oxidation) goes out of control. Then you have these burnt sugar particles (I’m not being technical here) floating around. These burnt sugar particles are very reactive and one of their favorite things to react with is…protein, as in, the body’s protein. That means every single part of the body is at risk. In fact every single cell of the body is at risk to damage from this burning process which is called glycation. And by the way fructose is a lot more susceptible to glycation than glucose. Which is another reason to stay away from high fructose corn syrup.

Fructose is also associated with elevated uric acid levels and all the fructose we’re ingesting may be one of the reasons why gout, which is a type of arthritis is becoming such a problem. Incidence of gout is increasing and it’s especially increasing among women. Because of the chemical nature of fructose, it is more likely to react with proteins than glucose, some studies say 10 times more likely.

Now, cell receptors are made of protein and because they’re the link to hormones like insulin and thyroid hormone and digestive hormones, you can see how this glycation process, which remember is the result of eating too many potatoes and Twinkies can wreak havoc on multiple systems in the body. So you’re stomach’s bothering you or your thyroid’s not working like it should for example and you go to the doctor, what’s he or she gonna do? Probably put you on some drug like Synthroid or Lomotil to do what? To TREAT THE SYMPTOM!!! And that’s a classic example of why our medical model doesn’t work. Now glycation can affect a lot of other biological systems.

Take the vasculature. Because blood vessels are in large part composed of proteins like collagen, glycation issues can weaken blood vessels leading to cardiovascular issues like stroke and aneurysms. The body attempts to patch up weak vasculature with cholesterol, so now you’ve got plaques. And what’s pharmaceutical solution? Of course it’s a statin drug that stops the liver from making cholesterol. Or some well-meaning medical person will tell you to stop eating fatty or cholesterol-rich foods. But the problem isn’t cholesterol. That’s just the symptom. Once again if you back track far enough upstream you’ll find the problem is very likely too much sugar. It’s a dietary problem. It’s a food problem. It’s a lifestyle problem. It’s a choice problem.

And that’s the good news, that’s The bright side! We’re not sick or defective, we’re simply making the wrong choices. Glycation of the vasculature in the extremities, the fingers and toes and hands and feet can cause neuropathies, nerve pain and can even lead to amputations. Glycation in the small blood vessels in the eye can ultimately lead to blindness. And diabetes is a well known cause of both amputations and blindness. When it comes to the skin, which is my area of expertise, now you’ve got glycation-caused accelerated skin aging. That means photodamage and wrinkles. Wrinkles are caused by breakdowns in skin proteins and one of the leading causes is sugar glycation. If you’re eating the standard American diet of soda pop and desserts grains and fruits, and you’re worried about wrinkles and skin aging it’s not gonna do you much good to stay out of the sun. And I don’t if they’re whole or processed or whatever, grains are a major source of sugar . Especially corn! Glycation and sugar reactions are far more dangerous to skin health than any reasonable exposure to the sun.

And then there’s cellulite. One of the causes of orange-peel cellulite, and there are several factors involved, but one of the things that happens is connective tissue, in other words proteins, like collagen break down. Connective tissue, which is located in the bottom layers of the skin, which is called the dermis, acts to separate fat into little compartments or chambers. When sugar attacks, glycates connective tissue it degrades it ,and the fat can now leak out. And viola, you’ve got your wonderful orange-peel, cottage cheese look.

So, while there are many factors involved in the formation of cellulite in many ways it can be considered a connective tissue disorder. So if you’re eating lots of glycating sugars it doesn’t matter how much cellulite cream you put on. There’s lots of nutrients you can take to protect yourself from the ravages of sugar and glycation and we’ll be talking a lot about specific supplements today and in the weeks to come but for now please understand for skin health, connective tissue health, circulatory health, for looking good and feeling good, we’ve got to begin to address the impact of the choices we make around the foods we eat.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Mental Health, Sugar and Insulin

Mental Health, Sugar and Insulin

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

One of the most important mental health references in my library is called “Insulin Treatment in Psychiatry”. It was published in the 1950s and it provides ample evidence of how critical changes in blood sugar chemistry are for mental and emotional well-being. There are chapters with titles like “Biochemical Changes in the Brain Occurring During Insulin Hypoglycemia” , “Insulin Therapy in Schizophrenia” and “Trends in Insulin Treatment in Psychiatry” that provide proof positive that manipulations of blood sugar can play a crucial, non-pharmacological role in improving mental health.

Insulin is an anabolic (growth) hormone with many properties, the most striking of which is its ability to encourage fat cells to absorb sugar (glucose) and store it as fat. But what was recognized by old-time medical researchers, many decades ago, was the fact that this same hormone, as well-known as it was for its role in blood sugar control, was also a potential tool for psychiatrists treating various mental disorders.

Why is this so important? Well, the average American is ingesting over 140 pounds a year of sugar and another 60 pounds or so a year of high fructose corn syrup. In 1960 the amount Americans consumed was less than 100 pounds a year of sugar and zero pounds of high fructose corn syrup. If it is indeed true that there is an insulin connection to mental illness, considering the seeming epidemic in mental disorders 21st century Americans are confronting, one is forced to question how much is related to insulin and associated issues with blood sugar.

This question becomes especially significant in the case of children who are the most obvious and notorious consumers of the sweet stuff. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at any given time, one out of five American children is suffering from some kind of mental illness. That’s anywhere from 7.7 to 12.8 million kids! 30 to 40 percent have ADHD, 10% suffer from an anxiety disorder, and at any given time, 1 out of thirty-three will be clinically depressed and 3 out of 1000 will be diagnosed as schizophrenic.

The statistics for adults are no less alarming. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in four Americans over the age of 18 suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder.

If you go to a physician or psychiatrist and leave with diagnosis of depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD or some other mental health issue, it’s unlikely anyone will be questioning your diet or suggesting nutritional supplements. In fact, the odds are pretty good that you’re going to get a prescription (or two or three) for a psychotropic drug. In a one year survey period from 2006 to 2007, there were 472 million mental health prescriptions written. That’s almost 10 percent of the total annual number of prescriptions written in the U.S. There are over 170 prescription drugs used for mental health and there are more on the way. According to the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, there are 313 new drugs in research and development that are designed specifically to treat a variety of mental health concerns.

If you are suffering from some kind of mental illness, or you or your children are on a prescription drug that you want to get off of, or if you are being pressured by a well-meaning physician or loved one to start taking a prescription drug, please understand that you have options. And one of the most important ones involves (surprise, surprise) blood sugar and insulin.

Insulin Treatment In Psychiatry Insulin Treatment In Psychiatry

Contributing Authors Include Hans Hoff, Joseph Wortis, Ivan Bennett, And Many Others. Proceedings Of The International Conference On The Insulin Treatment In Psychiatry Held At The New York Academy Of Medicine, October 24-25, 1958.

Insulin Treatment In Psychiatry

Laying off the sugar and refined carbohydrates is the obvious first step. But “just say no” doesn’t usually work. Will-power is relatively useless when it comes to resisting sugar. The best way to wean yourself blood sugar and insulin spiking foods is to increase intake protein and essential fatty acids. It’s probably a good idea to start off all meals with a protein powder drink and 3 to 9 Omega6/Omega 3 capsules or a couple of teaspoonful of a good EFA liquid-like Udo’s Choice. Then make sure you’re getting all the nutrients that help the body process sugar. The B-vitamins in liquid form are very important. Vitamins B1 and B3 have specific sugar-metabolizing properties. (Interestingly, Dr. Abram Hoffer used to use these two nutrients as medications in his protocol for treating schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.). Taking 50mg a day of Zinc picolinate and 2000 mg of chelated Magnesium would probably be wise. And, the minerals Chromium and Vanadium are well known for improving insulin response and blood sugar levels. There are many more supplements available for stabilizing blood sugar, and ultimately improving and helping maintain mental health. We’ll be getting to those in future posts.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health