Potential Cure for Celiac Disease

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects about 1 percent of the world’s population.1

In response to gluten, the intestinal lining becomes inflamed and damaged, leading to symptoms such as cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Celiac disease is a troubling condition. Repeated exposure to gluten increases the risk for diseases such as type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and even bowel cancer.2, 3, 4, 5

So far the only therapy is gluten-avoidance, which is difficult considering the ubiquitous presence of gluten in processed foods.

A new study out of Australia offers hope. The only catch is that it involves the ingestion of hookworms. The results were published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Hookworms Allowed Participants to Eat Gluten, Symptom-Free

Scientists recruited 12 individuals with celiac disease and gave each 20 hookworm larvae to ingest. Over a period of 52 weeks, varying amounts of gluten were given to participants:

  • 10 to 50 mg for 12 weeks 
  • 25 mg daily + 1 g twice weekly for 12 weeks 
  • 3 g daily (about 60-75 straws of spaghetti) for 2 weeks. 
Blood and tissue samples were taken to examine the response to therapy. Of the 12, only 8 completed the trial. Tests measuring gluten toxicity showed improvement and overall the participants reacted well to gluten and the hookworm therapy.

By the end of the trial, participants were able to eat the equivalent of a bowl of spaghetti, symptom-free.6

Samples of intestinal tissue showed beneficial changes. T-cells (immune cells) changed from being pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory.6 Larger trials are needed to confirm the benefits of hookworm therapy.

The Future of Celiac Treatment?

Hookworms play an important part of our gut flora and consequently our immune systems. Due to excessive hygiene in the West, our exposure to these “bugs” has lessened considerably.

According to the Australian investigators, hookworms secrete anti-inflammatory proteins which help to tame an overactive immune system. This could potentially help to treat inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.

The goal is to produce medications out of these proteins so that individuals with celiac disease can enjoy a normal diet.

What Do You Think?

How far would you go to treat celiac disease? Would you consider hookworm therapy? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

References:

  1. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2011 May;26(5):894-900 
  2. Nutrients. 2013 Mar; 5(3): 771–787. 
  3. Diabetologia. 2014 Sep;57(9):1770-80. 
  4. Gut. 1989 Mar; 30(3): 333–338. 
  5. Biomed Res Int. 2013; 2013: 127589. 
  6. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Feb;135(2):508-516.e5.

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Organic Food Reduces Toxins

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

Organic food can be expensive. With living expenses through the roof, few people want to pay double or triple for their favorite foods. As a result, many health-conscious people eat organic selectively, focusing on specific foods.

And according to a new study, these efforts appear to be worthwhile. Eating organically - even occasionally - can help reduce your toxic burden.

The results were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Eating Organic May Decrease Pesticide Levels by up to 65%

Over 4,400 participants were selected for the study. Data was collected from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. The purpose was to examine the relationship between organic food and pesticide exposure.

Researchers from Boise State University collected information on the types of produce eaten and the frequency in which organic foods were consumed. They also collected urine samples to measure the amount of organophosphate, the most common pesticide used in produce, which is also considered to be toxic by health experts.

Compared to individuals who never or rarely ate organic, participants who ate organic occasionally had significantly lower levels of organophosphates in their urine. And those who ate organic frequently had 65% lower levels.1

The Boise study shows that eating organic occasionally is worth it. It also highlights the use of organophosphates, a pesticide that is found in the urine of 75% of the US population.1 Research links this pesticide to memory, attention, and developmental problems.1

Minimize Pesticide Exposure by Avoiding the "Dirty Dozen"

If you eat organic foods occasionally, you can minimize your pesticide exposure by limiting your intake of foods which are known for being heavily contaminated, or you may choose to buy these foods organic. These foods are popularly referred to as the "dirty dozen".

Each year, the Environmental Working Group publishes a list with the most contaminated foods based on pesticide residue testing.

The following foods made the dirty dozen list in 2015: Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas, and potatoes. Note that the “dirtiest” of all produce is potatoes.2

Similarly, the Environmental Working Group has a list of clean foods, which have little pesticide residue. These foods can be eaten conventionally: Avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.

References:

  1. Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Feb 5. 
  2. Available at: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php. Accessed February 23, 2015.

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BPA Increases Blood Pressure

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

We know that canned foods aren't the healthiest of food choices. Their high sodium content and lack of fresh nutrients alone are worthy of concern. And now, a recent study gives us yet another compelling reason to avoid them.

Researchers from Korea found that BPA, a chemical found in most canned foods, may elevate blood pressure.

The results were published online in the journal Hypertension.

BPA Exposure Raised Blood Pressure by Five Points

In the study, 60 participants were randomly given canned soy milk, soy milk from a glass, or a combination of the two to drink. Blood pressure, heart rate, and urinary levels of BPA were measured two hours after ingestion. This experiment was conducted on three separate occasions.1

The group drinking canned soy milk experienced a 1,600% increase in urinary BPA levels compared to the group drinking soymilk out of the glass. In addition, their systolic blood pressure (top number) readings increased by about five points.1

This increase seems small but is significant enough to create health problems, especially in individuals with hypertension. Most of the research linking BPA to health problems has been correlational.

This study provides direct evidence of BPA’s physiological effects. It’s not entirely clear how BPA seems to increase blood pressure. It may stem from its ability to interact with estrogen receptors which line the arteries and heart.

95% of Humans Test Positive for BPA

Research shows 95% of humans test positive for BPA.2 That could be due its ubiquitous presence in food containers, cash register receipts, and plastic water bottles.

Health officials disagree about the potential health impacts of BPA. Some urge strict bans while others don’t.

Until BPA is banned from all food products, the best thing to do in the meantime is avoid it.

References:

1. Hypertension. 2015;65:313-319. 2. Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Apr;113(4):391-5.

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Broccoli Compound May Fight Leukemia

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a common form of cancer found in children. It’s caused when the bone marrow produces too many immature white blood cells, called lymphoblasts, which crowd out healthy cells. Symptoms include bone pain, nose bleeds, swollen lymph nodes, and fever.

The cure rate for children is high, with approximately 80% of cases cured. Nevertheless, additional treatments are needed for the remaining children who don’t respond to conventional treatments.

New hope may be found in sulforaphane, a compound in broccoli. Scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine found that it’s able to kill leukemia cells. The results were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Sulforaphane from Broccoli Reduces Tumor Size

Scientists collected samples of leukemic cells and lymphoblasts and tested them against a concentrated form of sulforaphane. They also investigated the effects of sulforaphane in mice with leukemia.

The sulforaphane had multimodal effects against leukemia cells. It activated tumor-suppressing proteins, induced apoptosis — a process in which cancer cells “commit suicide” — and it arrested the cell cycle, which stops cancer cells from multiplying.

In mice, the sulforaphane reduced the size of tumors in as little as four days.1 All of these results were possible without harming healthy cells. This is unlike chemotherapy which kills healthy cells as well as cancerous cells.

Sulforaphane from Broccoli Fights Different Forms of Cancer

Previous studies demonstrate the cancer-preventive effects of sulforaphane.

Individuals with the highest intake of cruciferous vegetables, a rich source of dietary sulforaphane, seem to have lower rates of breast, lung, prostate, bladder, and colon cancer.1

How to Get More Sulforaphane in Your System

Eating broccoli isn’t the same as taking a concentrated form of sulforaphane, however, broccoli is a good source of this phytochemical.

Higher amounts sulforaphane are found in raw broccoli and broccoli sprouts. Note, however, that heat reduces its natural production. Sulforaphane is also found in dietary supplements, for those of you seeking the ultimate concentration.

References:

1. PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e51251.

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Coffee May Reduce Melanoma Risk

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

Do you love coffee? If so, here's some more good news regarding coffee and your health.

A recent study found that coffee drinkers may be better protected against the deadliest type of skin cancer, melanoma.

The results were published in the January issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Four Cups of Coffee a Day Linked to 20% Lower Melanoma Risk 

Researchers from Yale analyzed data from a study involving over 440,000 people. Participants were given food questionnaires which analyzed their coffee intake. They were followed up after a period of 10 years, on average, to determine the incidence of melanoma.

Compared to non-drinkers, coffee drinking lowered the risk of melanoma by 10%. The risk was 20% lower for individuals who drank four or more cups daily.1

Interestingly, the results did not hold true for decaffeinated coffee, the earliest stage of melanoma (melanoma in situ), nor were the results influenced by factors traditionally associated with melanoma such as UV-light exposure, smoking, or alcohol intake.

Ealier Studies Confirm the Anti-Cancer Benefits of Coffee

It’s not known exactly how coffee drinking may potentially lower the risk of melanoma. The researchers propose that caffeine may be the culprit, since previous studies show it protects against UV radiation.

The benefits may also be attributed to the numerous antioxidants found in coffee, which includes
caffeic acid, diterpenes, trigonelline, and chlorogenic acid. More research needs to be conducted.

Whatever the case, it’s not surprising that other studies confirm the anti-cancer benefits of coffee. Research shows coffee drinkers may have a higher protection against breast, prostate, colon, and even liver cancer.2-5

Drink High Quality, Antioxidant-Rich Coffee

Not all coffee provides the same protection against disease. The antioxidant content varies with how long the beans are roasted and the roasting method itself.

Several companies now offer antioxidant-retaining coffees. Be on the lookout for these!

References:

  1. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2015 Jan 20;107(2). 
  2. Breast Cancer Res. 2011 May 14;13(3):R49. 
  3. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011 Jun 8;103(11):876-84. 
  4. Cancer Causes Control. 2010 Nov;21(11):1949-59. 
  5. Int J Cancer. 2005 Aug 10;116(1):150-4.

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