This time of year, there’s a staple in your kitchen that probably gets a lot of use – especially if you’re baking Christmas cookies. While the sugar and flour in your
cookies won’t fight disease – and may encourage it – this staple is great for fighting cancer. But there’s a lot more this kitchen-cabinet cure can do – including an amazing ability to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.
If you’ve ever grabbed baking powder when a recipe called for baking soda, you probably quickly realized your mistake when your cake or cookies came out completely flat. And you may have even used baking soda to deodorize a refrigerator or some smelly shoes. But most people have never used it to improve their health. But there’s good reason to try it. Let’s start with cancer.
Many of us have heard of baking soda helping to fight cancer. It has to do with baking soda’s ability to deal with dormant cells. That might not sound like a big deal. But it is. Cancer occurs when cells are growing out of control. Unfortunately, dormant cells don’t respond well to chemotherapy. They need to be active so the chemo can target them.
Researchers at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research have been looking at what causes cancer cells to go dormant. In particular, they wanted to study what happens to cancer cells when they don’t get enough oxygen. This creates an acidic environment for the cells. And that environment causes them to shut down. Here’s why.
Cells contain a molecular switch called mTOR. It serves as a sort of scout, making sure that there are enough nutrients available for new cells. Its job is to tell cells that it’s okay to divide. But in an acidic environment, mTOR never gives cells the go-ahead.
The researchers wanted to investigate this process more closely. Why, exactly, does mTOR activity slow down in an acidic environment?
The answer has to do with lysosomes. Lysosomes are organelles with cells. They help with a variety of functions – including moving mTOR around within the cell.
In order to work properly, mTOR has to meet up with a protein called RHEB. RHEB stays near the cell’s nucleus. And in an acidic environment, lysosomes move mTOR away from the nucleus. So the mTOR never activates. And without mTOR to tell it to divide or grow, the cell goes dormant.
The researchers knew that other studies had found that baking soda could improve cancer immunotherapy. They wondered if it might be because the baking soda was neutralizing the acidic environment. This would allow the lysosomes to get mTOR and RHEB together. They decided to test their theory in mice.
It was easy enough to do. They simply added baking soda to the mice’s drinking water.
Sure enough, this neutralized the acidic areas around the mice’s tumors. The cancer cells’ lysosomes started taking mTOR back to the nuclei. There it met up with RHEB. And it told the cells to reactivate, making them vulnerable to chemotherapy once again.
An added bonus is that the cancer-fighting T cells our immune systems produce also have trouble working properly in an acidic environment. So neutralizing the acid allows them to get back to work too.
The researchers are understandably thrilled with this discovery. After all, baking soda is cheap and readily available. It could make chemotherapy much more effective. And given the side effects of chemotherapy, we certainly want to deploy it as efficiently as possible.
The formation of a tumor can often cut large sections of cancer cells off from oxygen. As these patches become acidic, they can become the main problem areas when tumors stop responding to chemo. They are often also responsible for cancer recurrence.
Baking soda can help neutralize and even eliminate these acidic patches, allowing chemo to reach every part of the tumors. If you’re undergoing chemo to eliminate tumors, simply mixing some baking soda into your drinking water could supercharge your treatment – and it will cost you only a few pennies. I know reactivating dormant cancer cells might sound scary. But it’s actually the best way to help the chemotherapy find them and kill them off for good. Dead cancer cells are definitely better than dormant ones.
And cancer patients aren’t the only ones who could benefit from this simple concoction. Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) have found that baking soda could help people suffering from autoimmune diseases as well.
Excessive inflammation drives many autoimmune diseases. Don’t forget that inflammation is a tool the immune system uses to fight off invaders. But it can get out of hand and begin attacking the body instead, leading to disease. Quelling this inflammation can offer significant relief for people suffering from a number of diseases.
It turns out that baking soda can help promote an anti-inflammatory environment. And it does this by working with an organ most of us don’t give much thought to: the spleen. One of the functions of this small organ is activating the immune response – or triggering inflammation. If you can adjust how the spleen reacts to the environment inside the body, you can decrease overall inflammation.
The researchers thought to test
baking soda’s effects on the spleen because of the effects it has on another pair of small organs: the kidneys. Yes, in addition to fighting cancer and autoimmune disease, baking soda can also improve kidney function.
The kidneys have a number of important responsibilities, but one of their jobs is to balance acid, potassium, and sodium throughout the body. If the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, the body can become too acidic. This can increase risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis in addition to the other problems kidney failure presents.
Research has found that baking soda could both help neutralize the acidic environment in the body, reducing these risks, and slow the progression of kidney disease. It does this by shifting the production of pro-inflammatory M1 immune cells to anti-inflammatory M2 cells. Baking soda is now a regular treatment offered to kidney disease patients to encourage this shift.
The MCG researchers wanted to know just how this shift was happening and if it could benefit people other than kidney patients. So they asked healthy medical students to try drinking baking soda in water. Sure enough, they started having more M2 cells instead of M1 cells, too.
The researchers believe this happens for a couple reasons. The body actually converts some of the M1 cells into M2 cells. And it produces more M2 cells. This significantly shifts the balance toward an anti-inflammatory environment. The researchers also found that the body was producing more T cells. These regulatory immune cells help keep the immune response in check. Part of their job is to keep the immune system from attacking its own body – the main problem in autoimmune diseases.
The effects of drinking the baking soda water lasted about four hours in the medical students. They lasted three days in rats. The researchers knew that somehow drinking baking soda was getting a message through to the spleen. But they weren’t sure how this was working.
At first, they thought the vagal
nerve might be responsible. This is a
major cranial nerve that connects the brain to the heart, lungs, and gut. It helps the body regulate heart rate and digestion. And other treatments for autoimmune
disease have harnessed it. But when the researchers cut this nerve in rats, the
baking soda solution still worked.
That’s when they realized something more local must be sending the message. They found the answer in mesothelial cells. These special cells line body cavities and organs. They provide a buffer layer to keep our organs from chafing against each other. But that’s not all they do.
It turns out that microvilli, tiny sensors that warn the organs of danger, cover the mesothelial cells. If the microvilli sense a problem, they tell the immune
system to get to work.
The researchers believe that drinking baking soda sends these sensors an all-clear message. And this message is particularly important to the spleen. If the environment within the body gets too acidic, the spleen starts pumping out those M1 cells. Baking soda neutralizes that environment, particularly within the gut. It essentially tells the body that it might need to digest a meal, but it doesn’t need to fight off an invader.
The mesothelial cells rely on a chemical called acetylcholine to send messages back and forth. Once mesothelial cells sense the neutralizing effects of baking soda, they use acetylcholine to tell other mesothelial cells to calm down.
The researchers found that if they removed the spleen from rats, the body continued to produce inflammation. And moving the spleen so that the mesothelial cells couldn’t communicate also caused problems. Even slight movements disrupted the mesothelial cells and allowed the inflammation to stay.
But leave the spleen alone, drink some baking soda, and experience relief from inflammatory diseases? That’s a combination the researchers can get behind. They’re particularly hopeful it will help people with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which inflammation targets the joints. But it could certainly help others as well.
Whether you’re undergoing cancer treatment, suffering from an autoimmune disease, or just want to reduce inflammation, baking soda can help. You can pick up a box of it at any grocery store. Mix a small amount with water to drink regularly.
Keep in mind that sugar promotes inflammation (and can feed cancer cells), so try to resist using any leftovers to whip up a chocolate cake. The baking soda will react with other acidic ingredients to make your cake fluffy, but it won’t help your body that way.
Zandra E. Walton, Chirag H. Patel, Rebekah C. Brooks,
Yongjun Yu, Arig Ibrahim-Hashim, Malini Riddle, Alessandra Porcu, Tianying Jiang, Brett L. Ecker, Feven Tameire, Constantinos Koumenis, Ashani T. Weeraratna, David K. Welsh, Robert Gillies, James C. Alwine, Lin Zhang, Jonathan D. Powell, Chi V. Dang. Acid Suspends the Circadian Clock in Hypoxia through Inhibition of mTOR. Cell, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.05.009.
Just Smelling This Drink Can Help You Perform Better – But Drinking It Can Help You Live Longer
My mother lies about her age. I won’t say by how much. But most people are shocked when they learn the truth. And that’s not her only “bad” habit. She used to drink eight to ten cups of coffee per day. Now she’s down to about four. Many people think having this much caffeine is unhealthy. But this so-called bad habit might just be what’s enabled her to get away with lying for so long.
There’s a good bit of research indicating that coffee can help you lead a healthier life. Studies have linked it to reductions in risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. They’ve also found that it can actually improve memory, reduce mortality, and increase motor speed. Now research is even finding that coffee, specifically the caffeine in it, could improve not just the quality of your years, but their quantity as well.
When researchers study lifespan, they often begin with rodents or worms. After all, it’s hard to finish a lifespan study in humans. If the experiment is a success, the researcher might not still be around to publish it! For this study on caffeine, the researchers turned to a type of roundworm called Caenorhabditis elegans.
The researchers knew from previous studies that temperature could affect the worm’s lifespans. So they made sure to incorporate this information into their study. They kept worms at 15°C, 20°C, and 25°C and gave them 0 mM, 5 mM, or 7.5 mM of caffeine. At both 15°C and 20°C, exposure to caffeine increased the worms’ lifespan. These findings agreed with another study that indicated exposure to 5.15mM of caffeine at 20°C led to a median lifespan increase of 29.4% for these worms.
The researchers then went on to try to find the best combination of caffeine and temperature. They found that the highest mean lifespan extension, 36.7%, occurred when they exposed the worms to 10mM of caffeine at 15°C.
Of course, just because you’re still alive doesn’t mean you’re healthy. So the researchers evaluated the worms’ “healthspan” as well. To do this, they measured the worms’ ability to thrash and to travel, indicators of their mobility. Sure enough, worms fared better when the researchers exposed them to caffeine.
While we already knew that caffeine can help slow neurodegeneration, this study helps show that caffeine may help improve quality of life in other areas for humans. And it may even extend your length of life. It certainly seems to be working for my mother!
If you’re not a coffee drinker – or if you haven’t reached the ranks of my mother – you may wish you could be like these worms and get the benefits simply from being exposed to caffeine. Unfortunately, setting a cup of coffee on your desk won’t help you live longer. But, believe it or not, it could help you perform better – even if you never take a sip.
Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have been studying the effects of scents. And they’ve found that smelling coffee can boost mental performance.
They tested their theory on a group of students practicing for the Graduate Management Aptitude Test, or GMAT. Many business schools use this test to evaluate candidates.
The researchers divided 100 business-major undergraduates into two groups. Each group took a 10-question GMAT
algebra test in a computer lab. But the researchers pumped the scent of coffee into one lab. The other was unscented.
Sure enough, the students in the
coffee-scented lab did quite a bit better than those in the unscented lab.
The researchers wanted to know if the placebo effect could explain this phenomenon. So they administered a survey to 200 more students. They asked them about how they expected humans to respond to various scents. As you might expect, college students do indeed believe the scent of coffee makes people feel more alert and energetic. They also expected that this scent could boost performance on tasks requiring a lot of brainpower.
It’s true that the placebo effect explains the results. But that doesn’t
mean the results aren’t real. So if you believe in coffee’s benefits, you can experience some of them even if you don’t actually drink it.
This can be a good strategy for people who are sensitive to caffeine as the day goes on. If caffeine after lunch keeps you up at night, try just putting a cup on your desk to help you through an afternoon slump. You can also keep a jar of coffee beans or a coffee-scented candle nearby for similar effects.
I take after my mother. I drink black coffee in the morning. I keep going with green tea most of the day. I’ll mix it up with black or white tea occasionally. Then, in the latter part of the day and evening, I switch to herbal (caffeine-free) tea.
I know not everyone can tolerate this much caffeine. If you can’t, don’t push yourself. But if you enjoy it, the research shows that it could actually help you live a longer, healthier life. Just don’t load it up with cream and sugar. Black is your best bet. And if you’ve got college students in your life, consider sending a coffee-related gift in their next care package. It could help them get the most bang for their (or your) tuition buck!
Special Type of Vinegar Can Slow Down the Progression of Alzheimer’s
As you know, there is currently no
cure for Alzheimer's disease, but researchers are exploring a number of avenues to try to find one. One of those avenues involves a signaling compound called acetylcholine.
People with Alzheimer's typically have low levels of acetylcholine, and
previous research has also found that blocking acetylcholine receptors interferes with memory and the learning process.
So scientists have been trying to find a way to keep acetylcholine from breaking down.
A team of researchers have decided to seek a safer alternative than some of the harsher drugs by looking to nature.
They knew that blueberries are full of nutrients that can help prevent cognitive decline, and they also knew that fermentation can help with the bioactivity of some
of these compounds.
So they decided to make blueberry vinegar and see whether it could help mice with induced amnesia.
Sure enough, they found that the mice who received the vinegar had less acetylcholine breakdown.
They also had higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is a key protein in the process of creating and maintaining healthy neurons.
The researchers evaluated whether these improved levels translated to real-world effects by having the mice complete maze and avoidance tests.
The mice who had received the blueberry vinegar performed better on both tests than the mice who went without, indicating that their short-term memory had improved.
The researchers believe blueberry vinegar could be a promising option in
There are multiple blueberry vinegars available. I recommend organic because blueberries are typically sprayed heavily with pesticides and herbicides. On the internet and in health food stores, the price range is from $10-$40.
You can use blueberry vinegar in your salad dressing and in marinades. Not only will it aid in preventing the destruction of acetylcholine but it will also help keep your blood sugar in good order.
Seong Min Hong, Kyong Hee Soe, Taek Hwan Lee, In Sook Kim, Young Min Lee, Beong Ou Lim. Cognitive Improving Effects by Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium crymbosum L.) Vinegar on Scopolamine-Induced Amnesia Mice Model. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.7b03965.
Eating a Healthy Diet May Ward Off Wrinkles
Governments often create dietary guidelines to help keep their citizens healthy, reduce healthcare costs, and improve overall quality of life. But while those are good motives, they aren’t always effective. Sadly, people often just aren’t motivated by their health. But a new study Dutch researchers conducted has found another angle. The Dutch government just might be able to convince its citizens to follow its dietary guidelines by appealing to their vanity.
Through the Rotterdam Study, the researchers looked at data from 2,753 elderly participants. Now, we know that some wrinkles are likely inevitable as we age. Many of us invest a good bit of time and money in applying lotions and other products to ward them off. Those certainly help, but the researchers found that diet can be important as well.
The researchers used a food frequency questionnaire to assess how well the participants followed the Dutch Healthy Diet Index (DHDI). They also evaluated how many wrinkles they had. They used digital tools to determine what percentage of total skin area the wrinkles covered. They separated the men and women and analyzed the relationships between their dietary habits and wrinkle severity.
Interestingly, there didn’t seem to be much of a connection for men. But for women, the better they followed the DHDI, the fewer wrinkles they had. In particular, those who ate more red meat and snacked more frequently had more wrinkles. Those who had higher fruit consumption had fewer wrinkles.
This study only measured association, not causation. But other studies have linked healthy diets to healthy skin. I think copying the healthy habits of the unwrinkled women in this study is wise. Keep snacking to a minimum. If you do snack, choose whole foods – such as vegetables, fruit, and simple, easily digested proteins. Limiting red meat is also a good idea. That’s a tenet of many healthy diets, including my personal favorite, the Mediterranean diet. Doing so will help give your skin the nutrients it needs to nourish your skin and give you a healthy glow.
I’m obviously a fan of anti-wrinkle skincare products. I’ve developed a line of products to keep your skin looking great and glowing. It’s called Système 41 (www.systeme41.com). These products work. Add a healthy diet and you are on your way to Nature’s Natural Glow.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for helping leg cramps? – Donna G., Fort Dodge, IA
Yes, leg cramps are easier to treat than you might think. They are often caused by a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is a mineral that helps muscles relax. So you can see why a deficiency might cause your muscles to contract so dramatically.
First, apply topical magnesium oil twice daily for one month and then once daily for three months.
You also can take magnesium citrate or glycinate along with the topical oil. Take 400 mg twice daily. If your stool becomes loose, cut back to 400 mg daily.
I also suggest trying Phytotherapy Soft Gel Cal Mag or a liquid Cal Mag twice daily for one month and then once daily
for three months.
You can find the Phytotherapy Rx Calcium Liquid Softgel online at www.amazon.com. All of these can help relieve your magnesium deficiency and keep your muscles relaxed and pliable.
But don’t stop there. You also can drink one cup of chamomile tea in the afternoon and evening. Chamomile is great for helping your body relax. You’ll notice you sleep better and your muscles will relax too.
Why does this work?
Chamomile raises your urine levels of glycine, a compound linked to causing muscle spasms. Raising your glycine levels in your urine means your body is getting rid of it. So your muscles don’t spasm and they’re able to relax.
This allows chamomile tea to be an effective remedy for stomach aches and menstrual cramps as well.
Q. You’ve mentioned in the past that an improper amount of selenium can leave you vulnerable to serious diseases. However, you do not clarify this statement by including how or why this occurs and what these illnesses might be. We presently take 200 mcg of SeMSC selenium every weekday with weekends off. Is this okay – or should we do otherwise? Thank you for your advice and newsletter. – Susan C., North Babylon, NY
Getting too much selenium over
time can cause the following problems: nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, irritability, brittle hair or nails, loss of hair or nails, discolored teeth, and nervous system
An easy way to tell if you’re getting too much selenium is that you’ll either have garlic breath or a metallic taste in your mouth.
If you’re taking 200 mcg for five days a week, this is perfect for selenium supplementation.
You can also use a couple of Brazil nuts to give you dietary selenium. Dietary selenium is slightly different than a supplement, as there are “selenoproteins” that have benefits that we are not fully aware of, but have been associated with improved immune function.