Calcium and our Heart Health

When it comes to calcium and heart health, calcium is a major player.

Calcium is one of the Swiss army knives of our body’s chemistry. In addition to its contribution to our bones, teeth, and nails, calcium is essential to the chemistry that makes our muscles contract and release, including the muscles in the heart. You need calcium to conduct nerve impulses, create blood clots when you’re injured, and help your cells grow normally.

At the same time, however, calcium’s pervasive presence throughout the body, and its role in healing, can also lead to problems.

Older healthy happy people who take calcium for their heart health

I call this the calcium paradox.

Damaged tissues in the body can calcify—becoming reinforced with excess calcium—until they can no longer function efficiently.

The build-up of calcium can occur in arteries, and even in the valves of your heart. In fact, arteriosclerosis happens when calcium builds up in the walls of the arteries, which can eventually lead to heart attack and a risk of stroke.

This vascular calcification is a mortality risk factor, especially for people with diabetes, atherosclerosis, and kidney disease, and currently, researchers are looking for ways to treat these problems with drugs.[1]

High arterial calcium is also a risk for cancer,[2] kidney disease,[3] and obstructed arteries.[4]

Some people with arteriosclerosis are prescribed statins, despite the fact that research shows statins do not help slow calcification,[5] and long-term, high-dose statins can even accelerate calcification, according to research published in 2015.[6]

Is The Calcium in Your Blood Too High?

High blood calcium is common, found in millions of Americans every year. Some people have high blood calcium because of undiagnosed thyroid conditions.[7] One of the common bad health effects of this is atrial fibrillation, especially common in those with high calcium and thyroid disease.[8]

There’s a negative relationship between high blood calcium and heart health: It has also been shown to be a risk factor for myocardial infarction. Other effects can include renal stones, osteoporosis, constipation, fatigue, and weakness.

For example, in the Kuopio Osteoporosis Study, conducted in Finland, where over ten thousand women were followed for 7 years, the resting heart rate for coronary heart disease in those who were taking calcium was highly elevated compared with women who didn’t take calcium.[9]

Calcifications Can Hurt Your Heart

Calcifications—the accumulation and hardening of calcium salts in living tissue—can form in many places throughout your body, including in the heart valves, as well as in both small and large arteries.

Calcification-related disorders or displaced calcium are major contributing factors in chronic disease, including heart disease.[10],[11],[12],[13]

It’s About Balance

We need calcium in the right form. But we don’t want too much. Too little and your body can’t do what it needs to do. Too much and the calcium itself starts petrifying you. That’s the calcium paradox.

So how do we resolve the calcium paradox?

The answer to bone loss with aging was long thought to be more calcium—the more the better. That appears to be incorrect. More recent research has helped us understand that a regulated, moderate amount of calcium is healthier.

Bone calcium loss contributes to calcification elsewhere. The loss of bone calcium can happen when the body’s pH becomes too acidic, which liberates calcium from the bones to buffer it. This leads both to osteopenia and to the calcium ending up where we don’t want it, such as in the artery walls.[14]

D3 helps us absorb calcium, but it’s just an on-switch. Too much D3 on its own has been shown in studies to lead to artery calcification. K2 supplementation has been shown to regulate calcium levels, even when subjects are exposed to high doses of cholesterol and D3, preventing heart valve calcification.[15]

So, one way to modulate calcium is by combining vitamin D3 with vitamin K2, which synergizes and regulates the D3. You may have seen that many supplements now often include both.

Magnesium[16] and phosphorus[17],[18] are helpful in regulating calcium’s effect on arteries, and potassium (especially in the form of potassium bicarbonate) may be one of the most helpful nutrients, as it helps buffer acid in the body.[19],[20]

Potassium bicarbonate helps the body put calcium back into the bones where it belongs—especially in older women and men.[21],[22]

The Paradox of Calcium and Heart Health

In addition to these vitamins and minerals, there are a host of herbs that have been shown to reduce calcium deposits to remedy existing calcification.

The good news is that the paradox of calcium is solvable.

When our bodies get the right amount of calcium, as part of a healthy diet, along with vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements that help regulate the healthy processing of calcium and bone health, one the most important elements of life can do the work in our bodies as it was meant to do.

References


[1] Pijuan J, Cantarero L, Natera-de Benito D, Altimir A, Altisent-Huguet A, Díaz-Osorio Y, Carrera-García L, Expósito-Escudero J, Ortez C, Nascimento A, Hoenicka J, Palau F. Mitochondrial Dynamics and Mitochondria-Lysosome Contacts in Neurogenetic Diseases. Front Neurosci. 2022 Jan 31;16:784880. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2022.784880. PMID: 35177962; PMCID: PMC8844575.

[2] Wang FM, Reiter-Brennan C, Dardari Z, Marshall CH, Nasir K, Miedema MD, Berman DS, Rozanski A, Rumberger JA, Budoff MJ, Dzaye O, Blaha MJ. Association between coronary artery calcium and cardiovascular disease as a supporting cause in cancer: The CAC consortium. Am J Prev Cardiol. 2020 Nov 12;4:100119. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpc.2020.100119. PMID: 34327479; PMCID: PMC8315471.

[3] Hill Gallant KM, Spiegel DM. Calcium Balance in Chronic Kidney Disease. Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2017 Jun;15(3):214-221. doi: 10.1007/s11914-017-0368-x. PMID: 28474258; PMCID: PMC5442193.

[4] Peng, A., 2021. Very High Coronary Artery Calcium (≥1000) and Association With Cardiovascular Disease Events, Non–Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes, and Mortality. [online] Circulation. Available at: <https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.050545> [Accessed 19 October 2022].

[5] Taron J, Lyass A, Mahoney TF, Ehrbar RQ, Vasan RS, D’Agostino RB Sr, Hoffmann U, Massaro JM, Lu MT. Coronary Artery Calcium Score-Directed Primary Prevention With Statins on the Basis of the 2018 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association/Multisociety Cholesterol Guidelines. J Am Heart Assoc. 2021 Jan 5;10(1):e018342. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.120.018342. Epub 2020 Dec 22. PMID: 33348999; PMCID: PMC7955488.

[6] Henein M, Granåsen G, Wiklund U, Schmermund A, Guerci A, Erbel R, Raggi P. High dose and long-term statin therapy accelerate coronary artery calcification. Int J Cardiol. 2015 Apr 1; 184:581-586. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2015.02.072. Epub 2015 Feb 24. PMID: 25769003.

[7] Yeh  MW, Ituarte  PH, Zhou  HC,  et al.  Incidence and prevalence of primary hyperparathyroidism in a racially mixed population. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013;98(3):1122-1129. doi:10.1210/jc.2012-4022 

[8] Patrik Andersson, Erik Rydberg, Ronnie Willenheimer, Primary hyperparathyroidism and heart disease – a Review, European Heart Journal (2004) 25, 1776–1787

[9] Pentti K, Tuppurainen MT, Honkanen R, et al. Use of calcium supplements and the risk of coronary heart disease in 52–62-year-old women: The Kuopio Osteoporosis Risk Factor and Prevention Study. Maturitas. 2009;63(1):73–78.

[10] Silverberg SJ, Fitzpatrick LA, Bilezikian JP. Hyperparathyroidism. In: Becker KL, ed. Principles and practice of endocrinology and metabolism. 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1995:512-9.

[11] Bringhurst FR, Demay MB, Kronenberg HM. Hormones and disorders of mineral metabolism. In:Wilson JD, ed. Williams Textbook of endocrinology. 9th ed. philadelphia: Saunders, 1998:1155-1209.

[12] Wermers RA, Khosla S, Atkinson EJ, Hodgson SF, O’Fallon WM, Melton LJ 3d. The rise and fall of primary hyperparathyroidism: a population-based study in Rochester, Minnesota, 1965-1992. Ann Intern Med 1997;126:433-40.

[13] Al Zahrani A, Levine MA. Primary hyperparathyroidism. Lancet 1997;349:1233-8.

[14] Conyers, R. A., R. Bais, and A. M. Rofe. (1990). “The relation of clinical catastrophes, endogenous oxalate production, and urolithiasis.” Clinical chemistry 36, no. 10, 1717-1730

[15] van Ballegooijen AJ, Pilz S, Tomaschitz A, Grübler MR, Verheyen N. The Synergistic Interplay between Vitamins D and K for Bone and Cardiovascular Health: A Narrative Review. Int J Endocrinol. 2017;2017:7454376. doi:10.1155/2017/7454376

[16] Castiglioni S, Cazzaniga A, Albisetti W, Maier JA. Magnesium and osteoporosis: current state of knowledge and future research directions. Nutrients. 2013;5(8):3022-3033

[17] Goodman WG, Goldin J, Kuizon BD , et al. Coronary-artery calcification in young adults with end-stage renal disease who are undergoing dialysis. N Engl J Med. 2000; 342:1478–83.

[18] Onufrak SJ, Bellasi A, Shaw LJ, Herzog CA, Cardarelli F, Wilson PW, Vaccarino V, Raggi P. Phosphorus levels are associated with subclinical atherosclerosis in the general population. Atherosclerosis. 2008 Aug;199(2):424-31. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2007.11.004. Epub 2008 Feb 21. PMID: 18093595.

[19] Lambert H, Frassetto L, Moore JB, Torgerson D, Gannon R, Burckhardt P, Lanham-New S. The effect of supplementation with alkaline potassium salts on bone metabolism: a meta-analysis. Osteoporos Int. 2015 Apr;26(4):1311-8. doi: 10.1007/s00198-014-3006-9. Epub 2015 Jan 9.

[20] He FJ, Marciniak M, Carney C, Markandu ND, Anand V, Fraser WD, Dalton RN, Kaski JC, MacGregor GA. Effects of potassium chloride and potassium bicarbonate on endothelial function, cardiovascular risk factors, and bone turnover in mild hypertensives. Hypertension. 2010 Mar;55(3):681-8. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.109.147488. Epub 2010 Jan 18.

[21] Dawson-Hughes BHarris SSPalermo NJCastaneda-Sceppa CRasmussen HMDallal GE. Treatment with potassium bicarbonate lowers calcium excretion and bone resorption in older men and women, J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Jan;94(1):96-102. doi: 10.1210/jc.2008-1662. Epub 2008 Oct 21.

[22] Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Palermo NJ, Gilhooly CH, Shea MK, Fielding RA, Ceglia L. Potassium Bicarbonate Supplementation Lowers Bone Turnover and Calcium Excretion in Older Men and Women: A Randomized Dose-Finding Trial. J Bone Miner Res. 2015 Nov;30(11):2103-11. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.2554. Epub 2015 Jul 28.

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Covid and Indoor Air:  What We Know Now and the Aftermath Caused by the Overuse of Chemical Disinfectants

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote a blog about the importance of being outdoors and how easily the virus spreads indoors, despite mask wearing. I emphasized the best ways to reduce the spread of the virus, in order of effectiveness: 1) ventilation, 2) filtration, and 3) mask wearing.

A significant amount of data now indicates that indoor transmission of the virus far outstrips outdoor transmission. This is likely the result of longer exposure times and decreased turbulence levels (and therefore dispersion) found indoors.[i] A recently published paper in JAMA[ii] has confirmed exactly that. 

Ventilation and Filtration Reduce the Concentration of Viral Particles

There is no question that the most effective methods to reduce the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 particles in indoor air include ventilation and filtration. Observational studies along with modeling suggest substantial effectiveness for these strategies used alone, combined, and with other approaches.

For example, in one study conducted in 2020 that included 169 Georgia elementary schools, the incidence of COVID-19 was 39% lower in 87 schools that improved ventilation compared with 37 schools that did not;  35% lower in 39 schools that improved ventilation through dilution alone; and 48% lower in 31 schools that improved ventilation through dilution along with the addition of improved filtration.[iii]  A simulation model found that filtration with two high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners alone or combined with mask wearing could potentially reduce exposure to infectious particles by an estimated 65% or 90%, respectively.[iv]

An individual can wear a mask in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but as these studies found, it is more important to open windows and doors, turn on fans and open vents, and use portable air cleaners. Honestly, I don’t understand why these simple methods were not employed at the onset of the pandemic. Instead, we went crazy with disinfection, often with strong chemicals, only to find out this had little to no effect on stopping the spread of COVID-19.

The Dangers of Disinfectants

In the attempt to prevent and control infection, the use of disinfectants skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are significant concerns regarding the large-scale use of disinfectants and sanitizers, including worrisome effects on human and animal health and harmful impacts on the environment and ecological balance.[v]

Studies show the excessive use of disinfectants poses a potential threat to living beings and ecosystems,[vi] with a myriad of side effects reported.[vii]  For example, using chlorine bleach increases the risk of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, infertility, and impaired brain development in children.[viii] Even the seemingly benign act of too-frequent hand washing with soap and alcohol-based sanitizers can cause painfully dry, cracked skin and potential skin infections. More alarming is that alcohol-based sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning, especially in infants or young children.[ix]

An Israeli worker in a hazmat suit sprays disinfectant in the cabin of an Israir Airlines Airbus A320 airplane at Ben Gurion International Airport on June 14, 2020. Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images

A Reality Check from the CDC

In April of 2021, the CDC finally admitted that COVID-19 infections very rarely spread to people from surfaces.[x] However, because of fear instilled by the pandemic, many people have not relinquished their need to constantly disinfect and sanitize themselves and everything they come into contact with. Adding to the disinfection obsession is that many private and public businesses and venues employ drastic fumigation measures in an attempt to reassure the wary public.

It’s important to realize that the fumigation of outdoor spaces, such as streets, sidewalks, unpaved walkways, and marketplaces is not a useful tool for eradicating the COVID-19 virus or any other pathogen. Any type of disinfectant is immediately inactivated by dirt and debris.[xi]

Here’s a disturbing statistic: In China, 2000–5000 tons of disinfectants have been dispensed in Wuhan alone since the beginning of the pandemic.[xii]

Overuse of Disinfectants is Leading to Pathogenic Resistance through Hormenis

The overuse of disinfectants is creating a serious problem. Collated evidence from multiple studies shows that the chemicals used for disinfectant products can induce hormesis in plants, animal cells, and microorganisms. This is true when applied singly or in mixtures, suggesting potential ecological risks at sub-threshold doses that are normally considered safe.

Among other negative effects, sub-threshold doses of disinfectant chemicals can enhance the proliferation and pathogenicity of pathogenic microbes, enhancing the development and spread of drug resistance.

The massive application of disinfectants for containing COVID-19 is a double-edged sword, in that it may inhibit/prevent the virus but also imposes potentially significant but non-apparent costs or risks by affecting other non-target organisms in a dose-dependent manner, and by promoting traits of drug resistance.[xiii]

Weighing the Risk-to-Benefit Ratio

We need to do a better job when it comes to weighing the risk-to-benefit ratio of practices such as widespread disinfection. And we need to evaluate these practices carefully, considering the immediate side effects and the long-term implications.

I always advocate for a less invasive, more natural approach for supporting health. In terms of disinfection, I recommend using essential oils instead of chemicals. Plant extracts and essential oils provide a full-spectrum and safer approach to mediating the spread of viruses, without any of the detrimental personal or environmental effects of chemicals. For more on this, see my blog from December 17, 2021, entitled “Essential Oils with Anti-Viral Properties” at https://www.donnieyance.com/essential-oils-with-anti-viral-properties/.

References


[i] Bhagat, R., Davies Wykes, M., Dalziel, S., & Linden, P. (2020). Effects of ventilation on the indoor spread of COVID-19. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 903, F1. doi:10.1017/jfm.2020.720

[ii] Dowell D, Lindsley WG, Brooks JT. Reducing SARS-CoV-2 in Shared Indoor Air. JAMA. Published online June 07, 2022. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.9970

[iii] Gettings  J, Czarnik  M, Morris  E,  et al.  Mask use and ventilation improvements to reduce COVID-19 incidence in elementary schools—Georgia, November 16–December 11, 2020.   MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;70(21):779-784. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7021e1PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref

[iv] Lindsley  WG, Derk  RC, Coyle  JP,  et al.  Efficacy of portable air cleaners and masking for reducing indoor exposure to simulated exhaled SARS-CoV-2 aerosols—United States, 2021.   MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;70(27):972-976. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7027e1

[v] Dhama, K., Patel, S. K., Kumar, R., Masand, R., Rana, J., Yatoo, M. I., Tiwari, R., Sharun, K., Mohapatra, R. K., Natesan, S., Dhawan, M., Ahmad, T., Emran, T. B., Malik, Y. S., & Harapan, H. (2021). The role of disinfectants and sanitizers during COVID-19 pandemic: advantages and deleterious effects on humans and the environment. Environmental science and pollution research international28(26), 34211–34228. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-14429-w

[vi] Chen Z, Guo J, Jiang Y, Shao Y. High concentration and high dose of disinfectants and antibiotics used during the COVID-19 pandemic threaten human health. Environ Sci Eur. 2021;33(1):11. doi: 10.1186/s12302-021-00456-4.

[vii] Yari S, Moshammer H, Asadi AF, Mosavi Jarrahi A. Side effects of using disinfectants to fight covid-19. Asian Pacific Journal of Environment and Cancer. 2020;3(1):9013. doi: 10.31557/apjec.2020.3.1.9-13.

[viii] Fair D (2020) Issues of the environment: chemical impacts In fighting the spread of COVID-19. https://www.wemu.org/post/issues-environment-chemical-impacts-fighting-spread-covid-19. Accessed 24 June 2020

[ix] Santos, C., Kieszak, S., Wang, A., Law, R., Schier, J., Wolkin, A.J.M.M., report, m.w., 2017. Reported adverse health effects in children from ingestion of alcohol-based hand sanitizers—United States, 2011–2014. 66, 223.

[x] https://www.businessinsider.com/cdc-relaxed-cleaning-rules-disinfectants-for-covid-19-not-necessary-2021-4?op=1

[xi] Ghafoor D, Khan Z, Khan A, Ualiyeva D, Zaman N. Excessive use of disinfectants against COVID-19 posing a potential threat to living beings. Curr Res Toxicol. 2021;2:159-168. doi: 10.1016/j.crtox.2021.02.008. Epub 2021 Mar 4. PMID: 33688633; PMCID: PMC7931675.

[xii] Zhang H., Tang W., Chen Y., Yin W. Disinfection threatens aquatic ecosystems. Science. 2020;368:146–147. doi: 10.1126/science.abb8905

[xiii] Agathokleous, E., Barceló, D., Iavicoli, I., Tsatsakis, A., & Calabrese, E. J. (2022). Disinfectant-induced hormesis: An unknown environmental threat of the application of disinfectants to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection during the COVID-19 pandemic?. Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987)292(Pt B), 118429. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2021.118429

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Adaptogens, Bioregulatory Systems Medicine and Network Pharmacology

Have you ever wondered how life on Earth has managed to survive in the midst of volcanos, ice ages and asteroids? The answer is adaptation. Humans are remarkably adaptable. We’ve been able to adjust to almost any condition on the planet, while continuing to thrive as a civilization.

Think about this:

  • No other species lives in such a variety of places, including the Arctic, in deserts, in jungles, at sea, or in barren wastelands.
  • No other species has the ability to eat and digest such a wide variety of foods.
  • No other species is able to reconstruct their living environment to the degree that humans do.

Charles Darwin said it well: “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent of the species that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

Hormesis: The Key to Adaptation

The biological phenomenon of this adaptogenic quality of life is called “hormesis.” The principal pillars of my approach to health are to enhance adaptation, energy transfer efficiency, protection, and reproduction (hormonal health). Perhaps the most important of these is adaptation, but really, they are all interconnected. Everything is networked. Thus, the best approach to health is to support the networks of the body as a whole, to enhance robustness and our ability to auto-regulate and auto-organize at the molecular, cellular, and organ system levels. 

This is why adaptogenic formulas are the first step in building and enhancing robust health, and the most important supplemental support you can provide to your body. Every other supplement you take should be secondary to adaptogenic formulations.

Our approach to health and healing is not a fixed line, but a circle that is alive and in constant motion. It is not functional, but rather responsive, so although everything in our body has a function, ultimately what makes us alive and human is how our bodies respond.  Response implies a life-force that activates and regulates all components of energy transfer. This life-force is capable of listening to the “orchestra” (ie; network) and providing direction while constantly adapting. To function is robotic and programmed, while response is connected to wisdom and is alive. 

Medicine today continues to view the body in a fragmented way, including body systems, parts, genes, and microbiomes. Very few people, particularly in the medical profession, see the whole, but we have complex diseases that are characterized as polygenic and multifactorial. We are therefore best served with medicines—specifically plant medicines—that are pleotrophic, gentle, nourishing, strengthening, and assist in normalizing, or auto-regulating.

Thinking Outside the Current Medical Model

Herbal formulations contain multiple components that dock to multiple target sites and synergistically exert beneficial effects throughout a wide range of pathways. Through many years of clinical practice, I’ve realized that it is neither possible or appropriate to try and fit herbal medicine into or alongside the current conventional model. That is why I developed the Mederi Care model as a new way of thinking and combining various approaches that is inclusive of both holistic and allopathic medicine. The soul of this approach, however, is rooted in botanical medicine, combined with nutritional supplementation, food as medicine, life-style modifications, and spiritual care. Once this foundation is in place, then it is appropriate to evaluate if more specific, “heroic” (ie; pharmaceutical) medicine is needed, and if so, where it fits within the whole systems, unitive approach.

The molecular pathways that govern human disease consist of molecular circuits that coalesce into complex, overlapping networks. These network pathways are presumably regulated in a coordinated fashion, but such regulation has been difficult to decipher using only reductionistic principles. The emerging paradigm of “network medicine” proposes to utilize insights garnered from network topology (ie; the static position of molecules in relation to their neighbors) as well as network dynamics (ie; the unique flux of information through the network) to understand better the pathogenic behavior of complex molecular interconnections that traditional methods fail to recognize.[1]

Bioregulatory Systems Medicine

Bioregulatory Systems Medicine (BrSM) is a comprehensive, innovative approach in medicine. It embraces the complexity of diseases by supporting the general idea of autoregulation and addressing underlying dysregulating biological networks.

The objective of Bioregulatory Systems within the Mederi Care approach is to improve patient outcomes by supporting a patient’s autoregulatory capacity. This is accomplished through the Mederi Care toolboxes, specifically botanical and nutritional medicine, which is applied in a gentle, synergistic way. Botanical and nutritional medicine practiced within Mederi Care is primarily directed at enhancement of ‘Self-regulating Internal Community Networks,’ supporting and even directing, while allowing the freedom to improvise.

The poet and philosopher Mark Nepo says: “To be the best we can be, we have to meet the outer world with our inner world. I’ve always believed in the amazing resilience of the human spirit.” Nepo believed that life has been made just hard enough that we need one another. Through experiences of great suffering and great love, we are reduced to what is essential.

The most effective way to reduce the possibility of poor health and disease is to keep the root system healthy and robust. Adaptogenic herbs in combination have a synergistic and pleotropic effect.

Synergism Enhances the Actions of Plant Medicines

Synergistic plant medicines contain bioregulatory properties. Their actions are determined by both chemistry and synergy, as their biological activity often results from the additive or synergistic effects of their components.

Synergy means behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts.”

― Buckminster Fuller

These synergistic strategies can be much more comprehensive and broader in their scope of effects than single-component drugs[2]. This concept is not new to science. Synergy is an ubiquitous phenomenon in nature, and is widely used in numerous scientific disciplines, including thermodynamics, biophysics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and neurobiology.[3]

Herbal medicines are often combinations of botanical extracts that have additive or synergistic effects.  For example, combining the four herbal (S. baicalensis, D. morifolium, G. uralensis and R. rubescens) extracts significantly enhanced their activity compared with extracts alone in a prostate cancer model.[4]

It is important not to confuse synergistic effect with additive effect. Synergy occurs when two or more drugs/compounds are combined to produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual agents while an additive effect is an add up of individual effects where each individual agent is not affecting the other (no interactions).[5]

The synergy of biological effects of plants in medicine is well documented, and encompasses synergistic multitarget effects, physicochemical effects based on improved solubility, antagonization of resistance mechanisms, and elimination or neutralization of toxic substances.[6] As such, multi-combination and/or multi-system low dose medications, preferably of natural origin, are well suited for the bioregulatory medical approach and offer the potential for a graded response to treatment.[7]

Generally speaking, herbal and nutritional medicine within this model exhibits four fundamental advantages of a multicomponent, combinatorial strategy over a single-component strategy:

1. Synergistic effects target a wider range of information flow in disease-related biological networks;

2. Modest modulation allows for more efficient control of biological networks;

3. Low concentrations ensure higher safety of the whole combination;

4. Drug resistance is much less probable.[8]

According to Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), every living thing is sustained by the balance of two opposing forces of energy, Yin and Yang. Together they make up Qi (pronounced ‘chee’), which is the vital energy that flows in, through and around the body.

Network Pharmacology: A New Way of Understanding Herbal Formulations

Network pharmacology stems from several pioneering works. The holistic theory and practice of TCM, as well as other herbal medicine systems, play a key role in the origin and rapid development of network pharmacology. The original hypothesis referring to the biological associations between TCM syndromes, herbal formula, and molecular networks was proposed in 1999 and 2002.[9]

Network pharmacology has been used to study multiple protein/gene target diseases. It describes the relationship between biological systems, drugs, and diseases from the perspective of the network. This is consistent with the holistic pattern differentiation theory of TCM[10] as well as Mederi medicine.

Mitochondrial Network Medicine

The mitochondrial network is constantly in a dynamic and regulated balance of fusion and fission processes, which is known as mitochondrial dynamics. Mitochondria make physical contact with almost every other membrane in the cell, thus impacting all cellular functions.[11] 

“Qi,” as noted above, describes energy-dependent body functions. This can broadly be correlated with mitochondria-energy dynamics.

[12]

The term adaptogen was first proposed in 1940 by a scientist from the USSR. Lazarev described Schisandra chinensis and other herbs as plant-derived adaptogens that non-specifically enhance human physiology.[13]

Adaptogens are the material basis of the bodily response to the external environment and can act on the immune system and the stress response system, as shown below.

The non-specific response mode, especially the hormone response mode, occurs when homeostasis is not the driving force.[14]

Schisandra Fortifies Mitochondrial (Qi) Antioxidant Status

Schisandra

Schisandra berry or Wu-Wei-Zi, meaning the “the fruit of five tastes” in Chinese, is a commonly used herb in TCM. Ancient Chinese herbalists noted the berry’s beneficial effect on the “Qi” of the five visceral organs.  Schisandra is one of the main researched primary adaptogens that I use in adaptogenic formulations.  It is perhaps my favorite adaptogen, but I believe combination formulas have many advantages over single herbs.

Schisandra berry is well-known for it’s “Qi-invigorating” properties. The herb has been shown to fortify mitochondrial antioxidant status, thereby offering the body generalized protection against noxious challenges, both of internal and external origin. Given the indispensable role of the mitochondrion in generating cellular energy, the linking of Schisandra chinensis berry extract (SCBE) to the safeguarding of mitochondrial function provides a biochemical explanation for its “Qi-invigorating” action.[15]

SCBE is a potent adaptogen, and has been shown to improve disease and stress tolerance, while increasing energy, endurance, and physical performance.

SCBE is helpful in the treatment of neurological, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal disorders. It has been shown to decrease fatigue, relieve insomnia, reduce obesity, and provide protection from mitochondrial dysfunction. SCBE stimulates immunity, acts as a tonic, and exerts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anticancer, anti-aging, anti- diabetic, and liver- and skin-protecting activities.

Effects of Schisandra chinensis fruit extracts and their bioactive compounds in mitochondria.

[16]

SCBE has been shown to restore impaired mitochondrial function, acting as a mitoprotective agent. Studies show that schisandrin, the identified active ingredient in SCBE, restored cytochrome c oxidase activity, and protected the opening of mitochondrial permeability transition. Furthermore, schisandrin improved ATP production, citrate synthase activity, and the process of mitochondrial fusion and fission.[17]

Recent studies investigating the various active compounds within schisandra identified a total of 78 compounds consisting of 13 prototype lignans and 65 metabolites (including isomers).[18]

Combining schisandra extract with other adaptogens and tonic herbs provides hundreds to thousands of active compounds swimming together, bathing the cells and molecules throughout the body. Complex formulas no longer act like the single herb, but in an entirely new way. Think of an orchestra, and perhaps what a single member playing an instrument might sound like. Then consider the entire orchestra, and all of the instruments working in harmony. As a jazz musician and an herbalist with an interest in network pharmacology, this is a perfect analogy for the way that herbs work together when combined in appropriate formulations.

On Pubmed alone, there are now 30 articles illustrating the increasing interest in network pharmacology and traditional herbal medicine.[19] Understanding network pharmacology and Bioregulatory Systems Medicineis the foundation of Mederi Care. I am grateful that this comprehensive, harmonious system of healing is gaining the recognition it deserves.

References


[1] Chan SY, Loscalzo J. The emerging paradigm of network medicine in the study of human disease. Circ Res. 2012 Jul 20;111(3):359-74. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.111.258541. PMID: 22821909; PMCID: PMC3425394

[2] Lila MA. 2007. From beans to berries and beyond: Teamwork between plant chemicals for protection of optimal human health. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci.1114:372–80

[3] Corning PA. 1998. “The synergism hypothesis”: On the concept of synergy and its role in the evolution of complex systems. J. Soc. Evol. Syst.21(2):133–72

[4] Adams LS, Seeram NP, Hardy ML, Carpenter C, Heber D. Analysis of the interactions of botanical extract combinations against the viability of prostate cancer cell lines. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2006 Mar;3(1):117-24. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nel001.

[5] Zhou, Xian et al. “Synergistic Effects of Chinese Herbal Medicine: A Comprehensive Review of Methodology and Current Research.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 7 201. 12 Jul. 2016, doi:10.3389/fphar.2016.00201

[6] Wagner H. Synergy research: approaching a new generation of phytopharmaceuticals. Fitoterapia. 2011 Jan;82(1):34-7. 

[7] Bioregulatory Systems Medicine. White Paper. Published February 2019 – Copyright © Biologische Heilmittel Heel GmbH. Rights Reserved

[8] Kong DX, Li XJ, Zhang HY. Where is the hope for drug discovery? Let history tell the future. Drug Discov Today. 2009 Feb;14(3-4):115-9. 

[9] Li S. (2007). Framework and practice of network-based studies for Chinese herbal formulaZhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao. 5, 489–493.  10.3736/jcim20070501

[10] Zhang R, Zhu X, Bai H, Ning K. Network Pharmacology Databases for Traditional Chinese Medicine: Review and Assessment. Front Pharmacol. 2019 Feb 21;10:123.

[11] Pijuan J, Cantarero L, Natera-de Benito D, Altimir A, Altisent-Huguet A, Díaz-Osorio Y, Carrera-García L, Expósito-Escudero J, Ortez C, Nascimento A, Hoenicka J, Palau F. Mitochondrial Dynamics and Mitochondria-Lysosome Contacts in Neurogenetic Diseases. Front Neurosci. 2022 Jan 31;16:784880.

[12] Tian J, Huang Y, Wu T, Huang HD, Ko KM, Zhu BT, Chen J. The Use of Chinese Yang/Qi-Invigorating Tonic Botanical Drugs/Herbal Formulations in Ameliorating Chronic Kidney Disease by Enhancing Mitochondrial Function. Front Pharmacol. 2021 Jun 24;12:622498. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2021.622498. PMID: 34248614; PMCID: PMC8264145.

[13] Liao LY, He YF, Li L, Meng H, Dong YM, Yi F, Xiao PG. A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chin Med. 2018 Nov 16;13:57.

[14] Panossian A, Wikman G, Wagner H. Plant adaptogens. III. Earlier and more recent aspects and concepts on their mode of action. Phytomedicine. 1999 Oct;6(4):287-300.

[15] Ko KM, Chiu PY. Biochemical basis of the “Qi-invigorating” action of Schisandra berry (wu-wei-zi) in Chinese medicine. Am J Chin Med. 2006;34(2):171-6. 

[16] Kopustinskiene DM, Bernatoniene J. Antioxidant Effects of Schisandra chinensis Fruits and Their Active Constituents. Antioxidants (Basel). 2021 Apr 18;10(4):620. doi: 10.3390/antiox10040620.

[17] Piao, Z.; Song, L.; Yao, L.; Zhang, L.; Lu, Y. Schisandrin restores the amyloid -induced impairments on mitochondrial function, energy metabolism, biogenesis, and dynamics in rat primary hippocampal neurons. Pharmacology 2021, 1–11.

[18] Wu Z, Jia M, Zhao W, Huang X, Yang X, Chen D, Qiaolongbatu X, Li X, Wu J, Qian F, Lou Y, Fan G. Schisandrol A, the main active ingredient of Schisandrae Chinensis Fructus, inhibits pulmonary fibrosis through suppression of the TGF-β signaling pathway as revealed by UPLC-Q-TOF/MS, network pharmacology and experimental verification. J Ethnopharmacol. 2022 May 10;289:115031. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2022.115031. Epub 2022 Jan 26. PMID: 35091014.

[19] Lai, Xinxing et al. “Editorial: Network Pharmacology and Traditional Medicine.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 11 1194. 4 Aug. 2020, doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.01194

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Resveratrol – “Privileged Structures” with Unique Advanced Health Promoting Properties Acting as an Epigenetic Modifier of Cancer Risk –

Many plant molecules, such as polyphenols, interact with and modulate key regulators of mammalian physiology in ways that are beneficial to health. The more we understand about this interaction, the more effectively we can target both the prevention and treatment of disease.

Polyphenol compounds, when ingested, interact with receptors and enzymes within the consumer. The fact that stress-induced plant compounds tend to upregulate pathways that provide stress resistance in humans and animals suggests that plant consumers may have mechanisms to perceive these chemical cues and react to them in ways that are beneficial. The term xenohormesis is used to explain this phenomenon (from xenos, the Greek word for stranger, and hormesis, the term for health benefits provided by mild biological stress, such as cellular damage or a lack of nutrition).[1] 

Continue reading “Resveratrol – “Privileged Structures” with Unique Advanced Health Promoting Properties Acting as an Epigenetic Modifier of Cancer Risk –”

What the Science Really Says About Natural Immunity vs. Vaccine Immunity, Strategies for Dealing with Ongoing Variants, and the Latest Research on the Risk of Breakthrough Infections in Cancer Patients

Immune response to coronavirus
Image: Health Matters

When it comes to the question of vaccine immunity verses natural immunity, the stance taken by the CDC is that vaccine immunity is stronger, which they maintain is confirmed by research. But when you analyze the study they use and compare it to, for example, the Israeli study that states the opposite, there is an enormous discrepancy. And this discrepancy is between studies that are designed to answer the same question.

The Israeli study[1] found that the vaccinated have a 27 times higher risk of symptomatic infection than those who recovered from Covid-19 infection. At the same time, the vaccinated were nine times more likely to be hospitalized for Covid. In contrast, a CDC study[2] by Bozio et al. claims that the Covid recovered are five times more likely to be hospitalized for Covid than the vaccinated. Both studies cannot be right. 

While a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released findings that alleged recovered individuals have a 5.5 times more likely chance of being hospitalized when compared to vaccinated people with no prior infection, no other independent research corroborates these findings.

This CDC report was recently dismantled by Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Martin Kulldorf and was revealed to have fatal flaws.[3]  He states that the Israeli study was a “straightforward and well-conducted epidemiological cohort study that is easy to understand and interpret.” At the same time, he found the US study filled with flaws, deeming it fatally flawed. He goes on to say, “It is surprising that the CDC chose this case-control design rather than the less biased cohort design selected by the Israeli authors. Such an analysis would answer the question of interest and may have given a different result more in line with the Israeli study.”

A very recent December 4th, 2021, study[4] supported the finding of the Israeli study, in that infected individuals with or without one vaccination dose have better protection than uninfected doubly-vaccinated individuals 3 to 8 months after the last immunity-conferring event. The data from this study does not suggests that vaccinated individuals were more protected than previously infected individuals 3 to 6 months after the immunity-conferring event. This study highlights that hybrid immunity is the strongest immunity.  In other words, those that have been both infected and have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

How the Omicron Variant Differs

Other variants including Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta have had maybe eight or 10 mutations in the spike protein, and that’s largely what’s given them their advantageous phenotype. Omicron originated with 30 or more mutations in the spike protein!

There has been rapid spread in South Africa’s Gauteng province of Omicron as it rapidly replaces Delta. Omicron is spreading almost three times faster when compared to the Delta variant, which was two times faster compared to previous variants.

Early Lab Data Provide Glimpse into Omicron’s Immune Escape

Preliminary data from a small study at a prominent South African lab have found a 41-fold reduction in neutralizing antibody titers for the Pfizer vaccine against Omicron.

Virologist Florian Krammer, PhD, of Mount Sinai hospital in New York City, noted that the drop was significant and raised concerns.[5]

Omicron was first identified on 23 November in South Africa by researchers using genome sequencing to investigate a puzzling surge in case numbers there. Daily cases went from 274 on 11 November to 1000 a fortnight later, and currently number more than 2000.

Stéphane Bancel, chief executive of Covid-19 vaccine maker Moderna, has predicted that omicron will cut the efficacy of existing vaccines. The new variant is also expected to be more resistant to antibody treatments such as those developed by Regeneron. “That is really a cause for concern,” says Barclay.[6]

Most experts now propose Omicron most likely developed in a chronically infected Covid-19 patient, likely someone whose immune response was impaired by another illness or a drug. When Alpha was first discovered in late 2020, that variant also appeared to have acquired numerous mutations all at once, leading researchers to postulate a chronic infection. The idea is bolstered by sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 samples from some chronically infected patients.[7]

Cancer Patients May Have Double the Risk of Breakthrough Infection After Covid-19 Vaccination

Most patients with solid tumors develop antibodies after Covid-19 vaccination, but many patients with hematologic malignancies fail to seroconvert, according to a meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Cancer.[8] Studies have shown that a “substantial proportion” of blood cancer patients who did not produce anti-S antibodies following complete vaccination continue to be seronegative after receiving an additional dose.[9]

The fact that some patients have poor immune responses even after 3 vaccine doses highlights the importance of additional precautions to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, according to Dr Vaca- Cartagena.[10]  However, it does appear for the time being that vaccine boosters provide protection to cancer patients. The meta-analysis did not include data on seroconversion rates in cancer patients after a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.[11] Since the researchers conducted the meta-analysis, studies have come out suggesting that additional vaccine doses may benefit patients with cancer.[12],[13]

Viral resistance can drive enhanced infectiousness of SARS-CoV-2, which in turn may ultimately enable SARS-CoV-2 to utilize alternative cell surface determinants to enter permissive cells. It is plausible that mass vaccination may drive the virus to fully exploit its evolutionary capacity, including its ability to use alternate receptor domains other than the Spike protein. This can lead to enhanced pathogenicity.[14] This is not an anti-vax statement, but rather an insight into the importance of supporting our innate healing capacity.

Viruses continually mutate, and by relying solely on vaccines, we are engaging in a never-ending race to stay ahead of the mutations. Supporting our overall health and innate immune response capacity is not variant specific and is a prudent approach to Covid-19, particularly as it becomes more apparent that there will never be a “post-Covid” world. We need to understand and accept that Covid-19 is here to stay. We need strategies beyond vaccines alone for living with this virus, starting with building our own robust health and immunity and reducing known risk factors where possible.

There are volumes of existing irrefutable evidence that foods, herbs and specific nutrients possess potential antiviral immune enhancing ability against SARS-CoV-2. According to recent research, herbal medicines, like herbs and essential oils, may have a part to play in counteracting Covid-19.[15] As we head into the 3rd year of living with Covid-19, there is no doubt in my mind we would be in a very different situation today if we had embraced dietary, herbal, and nutritional medicine for supportive care during the past two years, but it’s not too late to start. In my next blog, I’ll be sharing all the wonderful antiviral properties of some of my favorite essential oils.


[1] Sivan Gazit, Roei Shlezinger, Galit Perez, Roni Lotan, Asaf Peretz, Amir Ben-Tov, Dani Cohen, Khitam Muhsen, Gabriel Chodick, Tal Patalon, Comparing SARS-CoV-2 natural immunity to vaccine-induced immunity: reinfections versus breakthrough infections

doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.24.21262415

[2] Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19 Among Adults Hospitalized with COVID-19–Like Illness with Infection-Induced or mRNA Vaccine-Induced SARS-CoV-2 Immunity — Nine States, January–September 2021, Weekly / November 5, 2021 / 70(44);1539–1544, On October 29, 2021, this report was posted online as an MMWR Early Release.https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7044e1.htm

[3] A Review and Autopsy of Two COVID Immunity Studies BY MARTIN KULLDORFF   NOVEMBER 2, 2021, https://brownstone.org/articles/a-review-and-autopsy-of-two-covid-immunity-studies/

[4] Yair Goldberg, Micha Mandel, Yinon M. Bar-On, Omri Bodenheimer, Laurence Freedman, Nachman Ash, Sharon Alroy-Preis, Amit Huppert, Ron Milo, Protection and waning of natural and hybrid COVID-19 immunity, MedRxiv, BMJJ Yale, doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.12.04.21267114

[5] Kristina Fiore, Early Lab Data Provide Glimpse Into Omicron’s Immune Escape, MedPage Today December 8, 2021,

[6] Vaughan, Adam, Omicron emerges, 4 December 2021 | New Scientist | 7, Mutations could have accumulated in a chronically infected patient, an overlooked human population, or an animal reservoir

[7] KUPFERSCHMIDT, KAI, Where did ‘weird’ Omicron come from?, December 4th, 2021, A version of this story appeared in Science, Vol 374, Issue 6572., https://www.science.org/content/article/where-did-weird-omicron-come

[8] Becerril-Gaitan A, Vaca-Cartagena BF, Ferrigno AS, et al. Immunogenicity and risk of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection after Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination in patients with cancer: A systematic review and meta- analysis. Eur J Cancer. 2021;S0959-8049. doi:10.1016/j.ejca.2021.10.014

[9] Re D, Seitz-Polski B, Carles M, et al. Humoral and cellular responses after a third dose of BNT162b2 vaccine in patients treated for lymphoid malignancies. medRxiv. Published online July 22, 2021. doi:https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.07.18.21260669

[10] Storrs, Carina, PhD December 7, 2021, Cancer Patients May Have Double the Risk of Breakthrough Infection After COVID-19 Vaccination, Cancer Therapy Advisor, https://www.cancertherapyadvisor.com/home/cancer-topics/general-oncology/cancer-patients-double-risk-covid19-breakthrough-infection/?mpweb=1323-165465-6575524

[11] COVID-19 vaccines for moderately to severely immunocompromised people. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated November 23, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/immuno.html   

[12] Shroff RT, Chalasani P, Wei R, et al. Immune responses to two and three doses of the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine in adults with solid tumorsNat Med. 2021;27(11):2002-2011. doi:10.1038/s41591-021-01542-z

[13] Shapiro LC, Thakkar A, Campbell ST, et al. Efficacy of booster doses in augmenting waning immune responses to COVID-19 vaccine in patients with cancerCancer Cell. 2021;S1535-6108(21)00606-1. doi:10.1016/j.ccell.2021.11.006

[14] Read AF, Baigent SJ, Powers C, Kgosana LB, Blackwell L, Smith LP, Kennedy DA, Walkden-Brown SW, Nair VK. Imperfect Vaccination Can Enhance the Transmission of Highly Virulent Pathogens. PLoS Biol. 2015 Jul 27;13(7):e1002198. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002198. PMID: 26214839; PMCID: PMC4516275.

[15] Vellingiri B., Jayaramayya K., Iyer M., Narayanasamy A., Govindasamy V., Giridharan B., Rajagopalan K. COVID-19: A promising cure for the global panicSci. Total. Environ. 2020:138277. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138277.

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Synthesizing the Latest on Covid-19 Science on Vaccines, Variants, Natural Immunity and Essential Nutrients for Immune Enhancement

Regardless of where you stand on the vaccine debate, my goal is to provide reliable, fact-based information on current vaccine trends and to share the good news about the powerful role herbal medicine, nutrition, and diet play in building a healthy immune system. There is undoubtedly a great deal of conflicting misinformation circulating in the public amidst a high degree of vaccine skepticism. On a positive note, the latest scientific consensus is now confirming a reduced rate of severe illness and death from COVID-19, including the Delta variant, in vaccinated individuals, especially for high-risk populations, including the elderly and those with underlying conditions. A recent meta-analysis on Vitamin D is also garnering attention on the critical importance of this nutrient. However, with vaccine effectiveness waning[1],[2] amidst rising numbers of breakthrough infections, the continued transmissibility of infection despite vaccination[3], and new variants of concern continuing to emerge[4], the challenge of relying exclusively on immunizations to move past the pandemic underscores the importance of being ever more vigilant in optimizing our health.

Continue reading “Synthesizing the Latest on Covid-19 Science on Vaccines, Variants, Natural Immunity and Essential Nutrients for Immune Enhancement”