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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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 –”

Is Omicron the “Scrooge” or Could it be the “Ideal” Variant to Put an End to the Pandemic?

Although Omicron is now 73% of all new cases in the US[1],  I don’t feel we need to press the panic button. I have some hypotheses on the emergence of the Omicron variant that could put the brakes on the doom and gloom scenario we are all being fed.

Photo from the Hollywood Mirror

According to a study published on December 16th, authored by more than 20 scientists at Columbia and the University of Hong Kong, a striking feature of the Omicron variant is the large number of spike mutations that pose a threat to the efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine boosters and antibody therapies.[2] The scientists express concern that the variant’s “extensive” mutations can “greatly compromise” the vaccine, even neutralizing it. The report said the booster shots prevent some of the neutralization, but the variant “may still pose a risk” for those with their third shot. “Even a third booster shot may not adequately protect against Omicron infection,” the study said.

Omicron is spreading faster than previous variants of the novel coronavirus with the virus now in at least 90 countries since it first appeared in South Africa last month. Therefore, the Omicron variant could “out compete” other variants, including the more dangerous Delta variant – thus becoming the dominant variant. However, Omicron infections seem to be less severe and hospitalization and death nowhere near the rates of the other variants. Early reports suggest South Africa were reporting that people testing positive are presenting with mild symptoms: “In fact, they said, most of their infected patients were admitted for other reasons and have no Covid symptoms.” In other words, most of these patients had evidence of infection with SARS-CoV-2 but did not have COVID-19.[3]

What about Africa and Omicron?

There is something “mysterious” going on in Africa that is puzzling scientists, said Wafaa El-Sadr, chair of global health at Columbia University. “Africa doesn’t have the vaccines and the resources to fight COVID-19 that they have in Europe and the U.S., but somehow they seem to be doing better,” she said. Fewer than 6% of people in Africa are vaccinated.

“I think there’s a different cultural approach in Africa, where these countries have approached COVID-19 with a sense of humility because they’ve experienced things like Ebola, polio and malaria,” Sridhar said.

In past months, the coronavirus has pummeled South Africa and is estimated to have killed more than 89,000 people there, by far the most deaths on the continent. But for now, African authorities, while acknowledging that there could be gaps, are not reporting huge numbers of unexpected fatalities that might be COVID-19 related. WHO data shows that deaths in Africa make up just 3% of the global total. In comparison, deaths in the Americas and Europe account for 46% and 29%.

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the government has recorded nearly 3,000 deaths so far among its 200 million population. The U.S. records that many deaths every two or three days.[4]

Why Some Viruses Can Be Good

Not all viruses are bad, and perhaps the Omicron variant could actually help us to overcome the pandemic. Omicron, like some viruses, can actually fight against more dangerous viruses and more dangerous COVID-19 variants such as the Delta variant. Keep in mind that viruses typically evolve to become less lethal over time. Like wolves domesticated into dogs, disease-causing viruses seem to become tamer in an effort to survive. The reasoning goes that, sooner or later, SARS-CoV-2 must “lose its fangs and become as boring as the common cold”.[5]

Generally, like protective bacteria (probiotics), we have several protective viruses in our body. I am a believer in hormesis and building adaptive response/immunity. For example, viral infections at a young age are important to ensure the proper development of our immune system.  Yet, we keep believing we should vaccinate against everything that poses a threat, even if the threat is mild. We should vaccinate when we have a real threat, and we have proven, non-leaky, and safe vaccines. But this should still be a personal decision and based on a multitude of factors; such as the frail and elderly. Elderly individuals are the most susceptible to an aggressive form of COVID-19, caused by SARS-CoV-2. 

In some cases, latent (non-symptomatic) herpes viruses can help human natural killer cells (a specific type of white blood cell) identify cancer cells and cells infected by other pathogenic viruses. They arm the natural killer cells with antigens (a foreign substance that can cause an immune response in the body) that will enable them to identify tumor cells.[6]

Researchers working in Uganda said they found COVID-19 patients with high rates of exposure to malaria were less likely to suffer severe disease or death than people with little history of the disease.

If the Omicron variant is truly as transmissible as the say and significantly less harmful – some reports say 1/10 as strong – should we be afraid of it?

The main part of my personal practice is supporting people with cancer, and there are many situations where approaching cancer with low-dose metronomic chemotherapy yields significantly better results than standard-of-care high dose chemotherapy. In Oncology, systemic chemotherapies typically use the maximum tolerated dose to cause maximum tumor cell death. However, this paradigm has been challenged, particularly in older people and those who have reoccurring cancer, by theoretical models of tumor evolution, which suggest that removal of all cells that are sensitive to chemotherapy permits unopposed proliferation of any remaining resistant cells — a phenomenon called ‘competitive release’. Competitive release applies to viruses and different mutations and occurs when one of two species competing for the same resource disappears, thereby allowing the remaining competitor to utilize the resource more fully than it could in the presence of the first species.

Based on this model, an evolution-based treatment strategy that maintains a residual population of chemotherapy-sensitive cells should suppress growth of resistant cells when therapy is withdrawn, as the drug-sensitive cells have a fitness advantage in this condition.

A 2016 study designed an evolution-based treatment strategy using taxol (paclitaxel) adaptive therapy (AT), and compared this with standard taxol therapy (ST) in orthotopic xenograft mouse models of triple-negative and estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Two AT regimens were tested: AT-1, which maintains dosing frequency, but decreases paclitaxel dose as a tumor responds, and AT-2, which uses the same doses of paclitaxel, but doses are skipped when a tumor has responded. The treatment algorithms relied on tumor volume measurements determined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as this could be used clinically.

In both mouse models, ST initially suppressed tumor growth, but exponential growth resumed following treatment cessation. AT-1 had the same effect as ST initially but was able to maintain a stable tumor burden similar to the initial tumor volume throughout the experiment (∼2 months). This allowed continued reduction of the paclitaxel dose, and eventually treatment withdrawal in some cases. Interestingly, AT-2 controlled tumor volume for longer than ST, but unlike AT-1, tumors treated using AT-2 eventually progressed. A direct comparison between AT-1 and AT-2 indicated that AT-1 provided better tumor growth control.[7]

The failure to trigger an effective adaptive immune response in combination with a higher pro-inflammatory tonus may explain why the elderly do not appropriately control viral replication and the potential clinical consequences triggered by a cytokine storm, endothelial injury, and disseminated organ injury.[8]

Perhaps the best approach would be to implement strategies, such as herbal medicine and nutritional compounds, including Zinc, Vitamin D, Quercetin, Selenium and an immune health-promoting diet, which provides a diverse and robust GUT microbiota.  This would be a sensible, cost-effective, approach that supports and optimizes innate health and the immune response.  

Dysregulation of the gut microbiota (gut dysbiosis) is an important risk factor as the gut microbiota is associated with the development and maintenance of an effective immune system response.[9] The elderly have a significantly increased susceptibility to infections and it has been reported that probiotic bacteria from the genus bifidobacterium can enhance certain aspects of cellular immunity in the elderly.[10] The best places to find this beneficial bacterium are yogurt, probiotics like kefir, or sauerkraut.

Selenium is a trace mineral which is deficient in many people. It plays an important role in free radical scavenging, targeting oxidative damage, a major factor in the COVID-19 “cytokine storm,” which is the immune response with an overproduction of cytokines and other immune cells that can lead to a rapid multi-organ failure and damage to the lungs, heart and kidneys.[11]  Animal studies show that selenium with ginseng stem/leaf saponins increase the immune response against infectious bronchitis causes by a live coronavirus vaccine.[12]

This may provide all those infected by SARS-CoV-2, to develop a milder disease and help them to clear the virus through an efficient adaptive immune response. With a milder form of COVID-19, being infected by the Omicron variant could be the path to building natural immunity which builds effective immune memory that can persist for decades and typically results in enhanced responses and accelerated pathogen control, and a generation of robust and durable T and B cell alike;[13] and this goes beyond the detection of antibodies. The absence of specific antibodies in the serum does not necessarily mean an absence of immune memory.[14] 

Wishing a Joyous Christmas, Winter Solstice, belated Chanukah, and a Happy New Year to you and our world. May our prayers be our words in deeds, and may our earth be made very peaceful because of each of us.


[1] https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/96309?xid=nl_covidupdate_2021-12-21&eun=g1065123d0r&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyUpdate_122121&utm_term=NL_Gen_Int_Daily_News_Update_active

[2] Lihong Liu, Sho Iketani, Yicheng Guo, Jasper Fuk Woo Chan, Maple Wang, Liyuan Liu, Yang Luo, Hin Chu, Yiming Huang, Manoj S. Nair, Jian Yu, Kenn Ka-Heng Chik, Terrence Tsz-Tai Yuen, Chaemin Yoon, Kelvin Kai-Wang To, Honglin Chen, Michael T. Yin, Magdalena E. Sobieszczyk, Yaoxing Huang, Harris H. Wang, Zizhang Sheng, Kwok-Yung Yuen, David D. Ho; Striking Antibody Evasion Manifested by the Omicron Variant of SARS-CoV-2, preprint doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.12.14.472719

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Glossary, Principles in Epidemiology in Public Health Practice, Third Edition, reviewed July 2, 2014, accessed December 17, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/csels/dsepd/ss1978/glossary.html.

[4] MARIA CHENG and FARAI MUTSAKA, November 18, 2021·6 min read, Cheng reported from London. Rahim Faiez in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Chinedu Asadu in Lagos contributed to this report. https://sports.yahoo.com/why-double-mask-prevent-covid-235151606.html?utm_source=spotim&utm_medium=spotim_recirculation

[5] https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/covid-19/do-bad-viruses-always-become-good-guys-end, Jonathan Jarry M.Sc. | 18 Dec 2021, COVID-19, Do Bad Viruses Always Become Good Guys in the End?, McGill University

[6] https://theconversation.com/viruses-arent-all-nasty-some-can-actually-protect-our-health-117678, 08/2019, retrieved 12/16/2021

[7] Seton-Rogers, S. Preventing competitive releaseNat Rev Cancer 16, 199 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrc.2016.28

[8] Cunha LL, Perazzio SF, Azzi J, Cravedi P, Riella LV. Remodeling of the Immune Response With Aging: Immunosenescence and Its Potential Impact on COVID-19 Immune Response. Front Immunol. 2020 Aug 7;11:1748. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.01748. PMID: 32849623; PMCID: PMC7427491.

[9] Chen J, Vitetta L, Henson JD, Hall S. The intestinal microbiota and improving the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccinations. J Funct Foods. 2021 Dec;87:104850. doi: 10.1016/j.jff.2021.104850. Epub 2021 Nov 10. PMID: 34777578; PMCID: PMC8578005.

[10] Chiang, B. L., Sheih, Y. H., Wang, L. H., Liao, C. K., & Gill, H. S. (2000). Enhancing immunity by dietary consumption of a probiotic lactic acid bacterium (Bifidobacterium lactis HN019): Optimization and definition of cellular immune responses. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2000 Nov;54(11):849-55

[11] Chen C, Zhang XR, Ju ZY, He WF. (2020). Advances In The Research Of Cytokine Storm Mechanism Induced By Corona Virus Disease 2019 And The Corresponding Immunotherapies. Zhonghua Shao Shang Za Shi (Chinese Journal of Burns), 36(0), E005. doi: 10.3760/cma.j.cn501120-20200224-00088. http://rs.yiigle.com/yufabiao/1183285.htm

[12] Ma X, Bi S, Wang Y, Chi X, Hu S. Combined Adjuvant Effect Of Ginseng Stem‐Leaf Saponins And Selenium On Immune Responses To A Live Bivalent Vaccine Of Newcastle Disease Virus And Infectious Bronchitis Virus In Chickens. Poult Sci. 2019;98:3548‐3556. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/pez207

[13] Jarjour NN, Masopust D, Jameson SC. T Cell Memory: Understanding COVID-19Immunity. 2021;54(1):14-18. doi:10.1016/j.immuni.2020.12.009

[14] Cox RJ, Brokstad KA. Not just antibodies: B cells and T cells mediate immunity to COVID-19. Nat Rev Immunol. 2020 Oct;20(10):581-582. doi: 10.1038/s41577-020-00436-4. PMID: 32839569; PMCID: PMC7443809.

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Essential Oils with Anti-Viral Properties

Spices, herbal medicines, essential oils, and distilled natural products provide a rich source of compounds for the discovery and production of novel antiviral drugs. The determination of the antiviral mechanisms of these natural products has revealed how they interfere with the viral life cycle, i.e., during viral entry, replication, assembly, or discharge, as well as virus-specific host targets.[1] 

[2]

A number of essential oils exhibit anti-viral and anti-influenza activities. These include Cinnamomum zeylanicum leaf oil (cinnamon), Citrus bergamia (bergamot), Cymbopogon flexuosus (lemongrass) and Thymus vulgaris (Red Thyme).[3] In studies, a blend of essential oils has been proven to inhibit the infectivity of influenza virus via inactivating viral binding ability and viral protein translation.[4]

Eucalyptus essential oil has been shown to improve the innate cell-mediated immune response and can be used as an immunoregulatory agent against infectious diseases.[5],[6] Tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil are capable of inactivating influenza virus A.[7] Geranium and lemon essential oils downregulate ACE2, a SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor-binding domain in epithelial cells, and are valuable natural anti-viral agents that may contribute to the prevention of the invasion of SARS-CoV-2 into the human body.[8]

Tea tree essential oil inhibits influenza during the early stages by preventing intracellular processing of the viral particle. When introduced into cell culture media, tea tree oil prevented viral uncoating by interfering with the acidification of the endosomes and membrane fusion. The ability to prevent endosome acidification was ascribed to the tea treeessential oil constituents terpinen-4-ol, α-terpineol and terpinolene. Tea treeessential oil, when actively diffused with a nebulizer for two seconds, cleared nearly all airborne influenza viruses at 10 minutes, and showed zero virus at 15 minutes post nebulizer treatment. Eucalyptus essential oil showed zero virus at 15 minutes following a 15 second period of active diffusion with a nebulizer.[9]

Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) Leaves

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) essential oil has been used extensively to prevent HSV infection and to inhibit influenza viruses. Lemon balm essential oil has been shown to prevent attachment of the virus to host cell surface cell receptors.[10] Studies show that viral induced autophagy was effectively inhibited by clove bud (Eugenia caryophyllata) essential oil and eugenol in cells infected with 8 separate flu viruses. And a blend of clove bud and sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) essential oils has been shown to inhibit viral protein production.[11]

Essential oils are complex mixtures of compounds and several essential oil components may act synergistically to inhibit the virus.[12] For example, a study evaluated the in vitro antiviral effect against influenza type A (H1N1) of commercial essential oils that included cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), bergamot (Citrus bergamia), lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). The oils were tested in the liquid phase at a concentration of 0.3% and in the vapor phase. The oils of cinnamon, bergamot, thyme, and lemongrass displayed 100% inhibition of H1N1 in the liquid phase, while the inhibition for lavender essential oil was 85%. However, in the vapor phase, 100% inhibition was observed only for cinnamon leaf essential oil after 30 min of exposure. The bergamot, lemongrass, thyme, and lavender essential oils displayed inhibition rates of 95%, 90%, 70%, and 80%, respectively.[13]

Limonene is a terpene compound found in many citrus oils. It may be a possible agent or adjuvant against infection, immunity, and inflammation in COVID-19.

[14]

How to Use Essential Oils

There are a variety of ways to use essential oils. For optimal results, I recommend using a blend of oils. To use essential oils therapeutically:

  1. Treat face masks by sprinkling a few drops onto the outer surface;
  2. As an aerosol disinfectant or a surface sanitizing agent, combine 5% essential oil blend,  60% alcohol and 35% distilled water in a spray bottle;
  3. Add essential oil to a diffuser;
  4. Mix with a carrier oil and rub on hands and neck area. Use 5% EO blend to carrier oil (a blend of coconut and almond oil is very nice);
  5. Add to a bath with Epsom salts and mustard powder (I like Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath with essential oils). Use 1-2 cups of Epsom salts, 1 tablespoon mustard powder, 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 10-20 drops of essential oil blend. Taking this bath before bedtime with a diaphoretic tea blend is wonderful for helping with fevers, chills, and body aches.
  6. Inhalation steam: Add 3-5 drops to a bowl of hot water, lean your head over the bowl, put a towel over your head and bowl, and breathe in the vapor.

Surgical masks are helpful for preventing virus spread into the air and transmission to humans. However, after mask removal, the virus remains on the mask and is probably re-aerosolized, increasing the risk of human infection. Coating the mask with a few drops of essential oil, or spraying the mask with an aerosol spray of essential oil blend as described above, may be helpful.

Lavender

Along with antiviral activity, there may be some relief of symptoms of COVID-19 provided by essential oils including relaxation and mood enhancement. For example, a systematic review and meta-analysis (65 RTCs) review paper on the effects of lavender essential oil found lavender to be very effective at reducing anxiety.[15]

There are nondrug therapeutic strategies targeting inflammatory and immunological processes that may be useful for reducing COVID-19-induced complications and improving patient outcome. For example, vagal nerve stimulation has a wide field of therapeutic benefit for patients and could easily be combined with the best current medical strategies. Vagus nerve stimulation attenuates inflammation both in experimental models and preliminary data in people. The development of non-invasive vagal nerve stimulation, a non-pharmacological adjuvant, may help reduce the burden of COVID-19 and could be investigated more thoroughly.[16]  Continuous vagal tone monitoring in patients with COVID-19 could be used as a predictive marker of COVID-19 illness, as well as a predictive marker of response to COVID-19 treatment such as VNS or others.[17]

Activation of your vagus nerve counteracts your sympathetic nervous system. Stimulating the vagus nerve is a quick and easy way to relieve anxiety and  is the “yin” activator that can reduce heart rate and blood pressure and stimulate digestion.

The vagus nerve functions in the service of awakening (sub or super) consciousness and in immortality – the connection to Spirit. This system is described in the Tibetan Inner Fire meditations as well as in the Taoist, “shen” breathing practices.[18]

When you stimulate your vagus nerve, it releases an array of anti-stress enzymes and hormones such as acetylcholine, prolactin, vasopressin, and oxytocin. Vagus nerve stimulation is associated with benefits such as improved memory, immune function, sleep, and higher levels of growth hormone. It can also help to regulate immune function – buffering inflammation, allergic responses, and even tension headaches. Increased positive social connections are also beneficial for your overall wellbeing. Positive emotions, positive social connections, and physical health influence one another in a self-sustaining upward-spiral dynamic.[19]

Repetitive meditation or prayer, often with beads or knotted ropes, and controlled deep breathing are other relaxation technique that can have health benefits.  

In these challenging times, when we’re constantly confronted with uncertainty, one of the most beneficial things we can do for our emotional and physical wellbeing is to practice being present, calm, and grateful. I recommend preparing a relaxing candlelight bath with lavender essential oil and reading and reflecting on something you find spiritually nourishing to relieve stress and lift the spirits. 


[1] Panyod S, Ho CT, Sheen LY. Dietary therapy and herbal medicine for COVID-19 prevention: A review and perspective. J Tradit Complement Med. 2020 May 30;10(4):420-427. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcme.2020.05.004. PMID: 32691006; PMCID: PMC7260602.

[2] Boukhatem MN, Setzer WN. Aromatic Herbs, Medicinal Plant-Derived Essential Oils, and Phytochemical Extracts as Potential Therapies for Coronaviruses: Future Perspectives. Plants (Basel). 2020 Jun 26;9(6):800. doi: 10.3390/plants9060800. PMID: 32604842; PMCID: PMC7356962.

[3] Vimalanathan S., Hudson J. Anti-influenza virus activity of essential oils and vapors. Amer J Essential Oil Nat Prod. 2014;2(1):47–53.

[4] Wu S.H., Patel K.B., Booth L.J., Metcalf J.P., Lin H.K., Wu W.X. Protective essential oil attenuates influenza virus infection: an in vitro study in mdck cells. BMC Compl Alternative Med. 2010;10:69.

[5] Serafino A., Vallebona P.S., Andreola F. Stimulatory effect of eucalyptus essential oil on innate cell- mediated immune response. BMC Immunol. 2008;9:17. [PMCID: PMC2374764] [PubMed: 18423004]

[6] Sadlon A.E., Lamson D.W. Immune-modifying and antimicrobial effects of eucalyptus oil and simple inhalation devices. Alternative Med Rev. 2010;15(1):33–42.

[7] Pyankov O.V., Usachev E.V., Pyankova O., Agranovski I.E. Inactivation of airborne influenza virus by tea tree and eucalyptus oils. Aerosol Sci Tech. 2012;46(12):1295–1302.

[8] Senthil Kumar KJ, Gokila Vani M, Wang CS, et al. Geranium and Lemon Essential Oils and Their Active Compounds Downregulate Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2), a SARS-CoV-2 Spike Receptor-Binding Domain, in Epithelial CellsPlants (Basel). 2020;9(6):E770. Published 2020 Jun 19. doi:10.3390/plants9060770

[9] Letters in Applied Microbiology, vol. 49, 2009, pp. 806-808. doi:10.1111/j.1472-765X.2009.02740.x; Antiviral Research, vol. 89, 2011, pp. 83-88. doi:10.1016/j.antiviral.2010.11.010; Journal of Aerosol Science, vol. 59, 2013, pp. 22-30. doi:10.1016/j.jaerosci.2013.01.004

[10] Pourghanbari, Gholamhosein, et al. “Antiviral activity of the oseltamivir and Melissa officinalis L. essential oil against avian influenza A virus (H9N2).” Indian Journal of Virology, vol. 27, no. 2, 2016, pp. 170-178. doi:10.1007/s13337-016-0321-0

[11] Ramos A, Santos C, Mateiu L, et al. Frequency and pattern of heteroplasmy in the complete human mitochondrial genomePLoS One. 2013;8(10):e74636. Published 2013 Oct 2. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074636

[12] Silva JKRD, Figueiredo PLB, Byler KG, Setzer WN. Essential Oils as Antiviral Agents. Potential of Essential Oils to Treat SARS-CoV-2 Infection: An In-Silico Investigation. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 May 12;21(10):3426. doi: 10.3390/ijms21103426. PMID: 32408699; PMCID: PMC7279430.

[13] Vimalanathan S., Hudson J. Anti-influenza virus activity of essential oils and vaporsAm. J. Essent. Oils Nat. Prod. 2014;2:47–53

[14] Nagoor Meeran MF, Seenipandi A, Javed H, Sharma C, Hashiesh HM, Goyal SN, Jha NK, Ojha S. Can limonene be a possible candidate for evaluation as an agent or adjuvant against infection, immunity, and inflammation in COVID-19? Heliyon. 2020 Dec 11;7(1):e05703. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e05703

[15] Donelli D, Antonelli M, Bellinazzi C, Gensini GF, Firenzuoli F. Effects of lavender on anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytomedicine. 2019 Dec;65:153099. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2019.153099. Epub 2019 Sep 26. PMID: 31655395.

[16] Azabou E, Bao G, Bounab R, Heming N, Annane D. Vagus Nerve Stimulation: A Potential Adjunct Therapy for COVID-19. Front Med (Lausanne). 2021 May 7;8:625836. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2021.625836. PMID: 34026778; PMCID: PMC8137825.

[17] Bonaz B, Sinniger V, Pellissier S. Targeting the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway with vagus nerve stimulation in patients with Covid-19? Bioelectron Med. 2020 Jul 29;6:15. doi: 10.1186/s42234-020-00051-7. PMID: 32743022; PMCID: PMC7387121.

[18] Brown D., The energy body and its functions: immunosurveillance, longevity, and regeneration, Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Aug;1172:312-37. doi: 10.1196/annals.1393.019.

[19] Kok BE, Coffey KA, Cohn MA, Catalino LI, Vacharkulksemsuk T, Algoe SB, Brantley M, Fredrickson BL. How positive emotions build physical health: perceived positive social connections account for the upward spiral between positive emotions and vagal tone. Psychol Sci. 2013 Jul 1;24(7):1123-32. doi: 10.1177/0956797612470827.

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The Courage to Step into the Great Outdoors

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are plenty of good reasons to be outdoors this summer, and now we can add ‘safe haven’ to the list. As we all know, strict isolation strategies have been employed since mid-March to curb the spread of the pandemic. The resulting isolation, combined with fear of contagion and misinformation overload (“infodemic”) is creating a great deal of confusion and stress.[1]

2

There is no question that reducing the contact rate of latent individuals, and interventions such as quarantine and isolation, can effectively reduce the potential peak number of infections and delay the time of peak infection. However, as much as I believe this to be true as it applies to being indoors, I question whether being outdoors—even in groups—poses much risk at all. While there is still so much we don’t know about the virus transmission, we have yet to see proof or a strong likelihood that the outdoors poses a significant risk.  In fact, research suggests it may be safer compared to indoors.

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