No Scientific Evidence That Probiotics Improve Anxiety Symptoms In Humans, Finds Study – David DiSalvo

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A new review and analysis of several studies has found that probiotics do not improve self-reported anxiety symptoms in humans, although there was evidence of minor improvements in rodents.

The study reviewed 36 preclinical studies in total, 14 involving humans and 22 involving rats and mice. That’s a decent-sized sampling of the research covering a variety of probiotic strains, and it turned up zero evidence that humans with self-reported anxiety symptoms benefited from taking any of them.

“Probiotics did not significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety in humans and did not differentially affect clinical and healthy human samples,” the study concluded.

One of the strains, Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus, did appear to reduce anxiety symptoms in rodents, but further analysis showed that effects were most pronounced only for the sickest of the specimens, and even in those animals the results weren’t dramatic.

Probiotics are one of the strongest selling nutritional products in the world, with annual US sales exceeding $3.3 billion in 2016. That market size is predicted to more than double by 2025. Clearly a large chunk of the supplement-buying public has confidence in these products, and the marketing push is only intensifying. But this study, like others turning up similar findings, suggests caution is warranted.

“I think people should wait — that’s the best takeaway here,” said lead study author Daniel J. Reis, a doctoral student of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas. “We’re in the early days of this research into probiotics. I’ve seen a lot of stories hyping probiotics as helpful for anxiety. We’re not saying they do nothing, but we have a lot to figure out before we know if they can be used therapeutically.”

Why some effects were found in rodents and not in humans isn’t clear, but the researchers noted that the differences in dosage between humans and rodents were significant.

“If you control for the weights of animals versus humans, animals are getting much larger doses of probiotics in these experiments by one or two orders of magnitude. Sometimes the doses were hundreds of times higher than we see in human studies,” said Reis in a press statment.

The researchers also noted that while this study didn’t find anxiety-reducing benefits for humans, it’s still possible that a pathway exists for certain strains to yield therapeutic effects. And they were clear that the anxiety levels among the human participants in the reviewed studies weren’t necessarily “clinically elevated.” Future research has an opportunity to delve more deeply among that expanding population.

“We see a lot of pathways between our digestive systems and our brains,” Reis said. “We see nervous system connections, the inflammation response — these microorganisms seem to be able to influence the human brain through this gut-brain axis. We wanted to know if changes to the microbiota could improve mental health. But in terms of research, it’s all at a very preliminary stage.”

And that, for the moment, is the big takeaway on probiotics – the research is still very preliminary, despite marketing claims of conclusive results. Evidence supporting the claims just isn’t there, at least not yet.

Scientific research is nearing a consensus that bacteria in our digestive systems affect our brains. The microbiome in our guts, populated by billions of bacteria, appears to play a significant role not only in our digestive health, but also our mental health. Exactly how this happens is still being worked out, with each new study turning over another proverbial rock of possibilities. Despite these advances, we don’t yet know how, or if, probiotic supplements can improve our mental health by influencing gut bacteria. The marketing of these products is far ahead of the facts, as a quick review of what we know will show.

First, a brief sampling of the latest bacteria-brain research, which includes a study that found specific hormonal exchanges enabling communication between gut bacteria and the brain. This is especially noteworthy because the hormone in question is cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone”– a well-established indicator of stress levels in humans and other mammals. The study was conducted in pigs, which share several physiological similarities with humans, and it identified a possible communication pathway between gut bacteria and the brain that uses cortisol as a channel to send “messages.” The implications of this research will take some time to unravel, but one initial takeaway is that our stress-response system may play a key role in how gut bacteria communicate with the brain.

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Another recent study suggests that gut bacteria may influence anxiety and depression. This study was conducted with mice raised in a sterile, germ-free environment devoid of bacterial influence. Researchers exposed these mice to gut bacteria and watched what happened compared to mice that were raised in a normal, germy environment.  The germ-free mice exposed to bacteria developed anxiety and depression symptoms on par with the human equivalent. The researchers identified a specific brain region influenced by the bacteria, and suspect that our early-life exposure to bacteria may predispose us one way or another to anxiety and depression later on. Again, the conclusions are speculative, but the research is exciting because it moves us a little closer to figuring out what’s going on.

More studies like these are underway and another wave is in the planning phase. So why, with all of this research, can’t we make grand claims for the promise of probiotics? After all, if we have even an inkling that gut bacteria affect our brains (and we certainly have more than an inkling at this point) then why not jump onboard the probiotic supplement express?

The reasons can be boiled down to a few big ones.

The probiotic philosophy is to blast the gut with billions of allegedly “good” bacteria, in hopes of populating out the bad ones. While re-populating the gut with good bacteria sounds plausible, there’s little scientific clarity around which gut bacteria are objectively “good” or if that qualification is even valid. Bacteria can be “good” or “bad” depending on a slew of variables. Even less clear is which bacteria influence the brain and how they’re exerting their influence.

But let’s say we could achieve perfect clarity on that point, there’s still an enormous gastric obstacle ahead. Whether you’re ingesting a probiotic with one billion or 30 billion live bacterial cultures, they still have to survive your stomach acid to do anything worthwhile. Only a couple types of bacteria have proven resistant enough to survive that peril (lactobacillus and bifidobacteria), which means almost everything else in your pricey probiotic capsule is toast.

But let’s say that problem is solved by a fantastic pill coating – what will this army of bacteria do once they arrive in your gut?  We simply don’t know enough to know for sure. Last year a review of probiotic trials in humans concluded that the research “demonstrates a lack of evidence for an impact of probiotics on fecal microbiota composition in healthy adults.” In other words, we don’t know precisely what probiotics are doing in the gut – and there’s at least a possibility that they aren’t doing much to make a difference.

Given how little we understand about what probiotics can accomplish in our guts, jumping to a further conclusion that they can improve our mental health is really reaching. That hasn’t stopped those marketing these products from making outlandish claims, but that’s standard operating procedure for a large chunk of supplement marketing.

Where actual science is concerned, we don’t yet know if probiotics can achieve the promises made for them, or what sort of probiotic formula will prove effective. We may eventually find out that probiotics need to be tailored to a given person’s microbiome like bespoke clothing. Once that’s established (if it can be established), then perhaps we’ll have a better opportunity to understand how probiotics might improve our mental health – assuming the underlying theory holds up over time.

Right now, we don’t know enough to justify the claims made for probiotic supplements. The marketing is leagues ahead of the evidence, and we’d do well to view these claims with skepticism. Perhaps one day probiotics will give our brains a boost, but we’re just not there yet.

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5 Habits That Are Draining Your Energy – Dr. David B. Samadi

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We rely on energy to get through the day, the week, the year. We know that losing out on sleep can leave us feeling drained, but sleep deprivation is only one of a long list of possible reasons behind feeling exhausted.

The following are some of the typical pitfalls which will cause chronic fatigue:

You don’t drink water. Even slight dehydration will cause a drop in energy level. This may be surprising, but dehydration actually makes your blood thicker, meaning your heart has to work harder to pump oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and organs, ultimately slowing you down.

You don’t eat breakfast. It’s not called the most important meal of the day for nothing! Skipping breakfast can often leave you feeling lifeless the rest of the day.  We rely on breakfast to kickstart our metabolism after a goodnight’s sleep. The body continues to burn through food and nutrients even as we sleep, leaving our stores depleted by morning.  A meal shortly after waking up is important to replenish these depleted energy stores and re-energize the body.

You have a drink to unwind. Many adults enjoy an alcoholic beverage after a long day of work, to help them unwind before bed.  However alcohol can actually interrupt your sleep at night.  Initially, the alcohol will depress the nervous system and produce a tranquilizing effect helping you to fall asleep. But as it breaks down while you sleep, it gives your body a surge of energy, likely to wake you up at night.

You stay up late on weekends. Altering your sleep cycle on the weekends can leave you feeling tired by the time Monday rolls around.  It is unrealistic to expect people to stay in on the weekends to avoid a case of the “Mondays,” but trying to stay close to your regular bed time, or at least wake time, is essential for your body. Keeping your sleep patterns regular will keep you feeling fresh throughout the day.

You check your phone in bed. The light given off by your most prized electronics – phones, TVs and tablets – can actually throw off your sleep cycles. Your body typically follows the rule of if it’s bright it’s time to get up, if it’s dark it’s time for sleep. The glow from the modern tech devices that surround us can keep us awake for longer, and make it difficult for our bodies to wind down.

So you know what you are doing wrong, but what can you do to boost your energy levels throughout the day? The best way to keep energy up is to eat well. The general rule of thumb for high-energy foods is to eat those high in fiber, but low in glycemic index.

Glycemic index (GI) measures the variation in blood sugar levels according to foods consumed. Foods with carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, tend to have a low GI. Consuming foods with high GI will cause a spike in blood sugar and energy, translating to a jolt of energy followed by a crash. This constant up and down will leave you exhausted. For this reason we look to foods with low GI to create a sustained level of energy.

Here are some foods that will give you that much-needed boost:

  • Tomatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Black beans
  • Walnuts
  • Oats

It is important to remember that energy not only refers to physical strength and alertness, but mental health as well. Whether the issue is committing yourself to too many social obligations, or always saying yes to a new project at work (even during your time off), it is important to take time for yourself. It is easy to overlook stress and anxiety as a cause of prolonged fatigue, but this can be both physically and emotionally taxing.

Getting outdoors, meditating, and regular exercise boosts strength, endurance, and energy. This movement not only delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, but provides an influx of endorphins, boosting both your energy and mood!

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Shaking Hands is Disgusting – Here’s What Else You Can Do – Nicky Milner

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The traditional handshake plays a central role in our daily lives. We shake hands with people we know and those who are new to us. A handshake communicates our personality and mood to people and we use them as a mutually acceptable way of agreeing to seal the deal in endless scenarios.

But if you stop all that handshaking for a moment and take a closer look at the science behind this gesture, things might not seem quite so pleasant. This is in part because the human body contains many different types of bacteria. Some are good and we rely on these to help keep us healthy. Others are not so good and might make us sick.

We constantly gain and lose bacteria and so we are never sure when we might pick up an infection. Surfaces act as a route of transmission for bacteria and therefore every time we touch a surface we share bacteria unknowingly. This is why the risk of picking up an infectious disease is increased in places such as toilet seats. But have you ever thought about what bacteria you share when shaking somebody’s hand?

The power of a handshake

According to research from the University of Colorado, on average we carry 3,200 bacteria from 150 different species on our hands. And yet, shaking hands can be an everyday occurrence. It is considered to be an accepted means of greeting people and is the epitome of politeness in diverse cultures – especially in the Western world. As well as being a means of greeting people, it is also used to build rapport and trust with people. Ignoring a handshake is deemed to be impolite and rude.

Research has shown that on average, we will shake hands on average 15,000 times in our lifetime. So there are lots of opportunities for spreading bacteria between people – particularly if they are carrying potentially infectious bacteria that could make us ill. This includes faecal bacteria, which is quite common on hands.

This risk increases even further when we don’t wash our hands regularly – which is why good hand hygiene is essential. And of course, if the bacteria are resistant to antibiotics then we could inadvertently playing a role in spreading antibiotic resistance within our environment.

Fist pumps preferred

Some hospitals are so concerned about the spread of germs via handshakes that they are looking at creating handshake-free zones. Good hand hygiene and regular hand washing is often very low in hospitals. And hospital acquired infections are a major concern in healthcare institutions.

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The hospital environment is regularly monitored for the presence of potentially infectious agents that can be acquired by a patient during a stay there. Critical care wards, and those containing vulnerable patients (such as the very young, elderly and immunocompromised) are especially important since patients are more prone to severe infections.

Research performed in neonatal intensive care wards – where sick newborn babies are cared for – explored the potential for handshake free zones. The wards ran a trial to see if they could discourage handshaking and actively encourage alternative greetings – such as fist bumps, smiling and eye contact – to try to reduce the person to person spread of infectious agents.

Alternative hand shakes

But it’s not just limited to fist pumps – around the world there are many different ways of saying hello and you don’t have to look far to find “healthier” ways of greeting. The New Zealand Maori, for example, rub noses and foreheads in their traditional hongi greeting and the Japanese bow to each other. Then there are the “dap greetings” such as high fives and fist bumps – which are commonly used by young people in the Western world.

Research has shown that the amount of bacteria transferred through a handshake is twice as much when compared to a high five. Significantly lower numbers of bacteria are also transferred when a fist bump is used. This is largely due to the difference in surface areas that are in contact with each other – despite the greeting taking the same time and number of bacteria on the surface of the person initiating the greeting on each occasion.

So, is the traditional handshake being replaced with more diverse and healthier options? This will take time – if it happens at all. But that said, as awareness of infectious diseases grows and people actively try to reduce the spread of infection, perhaps there could be a future where we all high five and fist pump rather than formally shake the hands of those we meet. Or at the very least better adoption of handwashing.

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Should Healthy People Take Probiotic Supplements – Koldunov Alexey

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A visit to the supermarket these days can feel more like walking through a pharmacy, with an ever-expanding range of milks, yoghurts, pills, powders and speciality foods promoting their “probiotic” prowess.

Advocates of probiotics have hailed them as the answer to all sorts of health issues and conditions. But what exactly are probiotics? And, more importantly, should you be taking them?

Probiotics are scientifically defined as “live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”. In simple terms, they’re “good” bacteria that are beneficial to the body.

Probiotics exist naturally in some foods (such as some types of yoghurt and fermented vegetables such as pickles and sauerkraut), but can also be taken in dietary supplement form, via products such as Yakult and Inner Health Plus.

While our digestive system ordinarily contains trillions of microbes, including both “good” and “bad” bacteria, sometimes the balance between these can get out of whack. Diseases, poor lifestyle behaviours (such as not eating enough fruit and vegetables, heavy drinking, smoking, and physical inactivity) and ageing can all disrupt this balance.

By many accounts, probiotics can improve the number and diversity of “good” gut bacteria that help to keep our digestive system healthy and working efficiently. As such, probiotics have been proposed to:

However, most scientific research on the health benefits of probiotic supplementation seems to have been done in people with existing health problems. Evidence supporting the health benefits of probiotics in healthy adults is very limited. Probiotic supplements are most likely to be consumed by the general (and otherwise healthy) population, despite this group receiving relatively little documented benefit.

We reviewed the scientific literature (45 original studies) on probiotic supplementation in healthy adults. Our findings, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that giving healthy adults live bacteria (either in yoghurt, capsules, or drinks) can have a few benefits:

1) it can increase the concentration of “good” bacteria. So, if an imbalance of digestive system bacteria does occur in healthy adults (due to poor lifestyle, the use of antibiotics, or ageing), probiotic supplementation may help restore the balance

2) it can reduce abdominal discomfort caused by irregular bowel movements and constipation

3) it can increase the population of “good” bacteria in and around the vagina. From the four studies conducted in this area, all four demonstrate improvements in vaginal lactobacilli after probiotic capsules or suppositories were used. This may help prevent urinary tract infection and bacterial vaginosis

4) there is some evidence that it can boost the immune system, and help reduce the incidence, duration and severity of the common cold. While the exact mechanism for this is not clear, probiotics might influence immune responses by stimulating production and improving activity of cells that fight respiratory infections. But only three studies have shown these benefits in healthy adults.

While this sounds like great news for probiotics, let’s not get carried away. Our review also found the changes appear to be short-lived. In other words, you need to keep taking the probiotic supplements for the effects to last. If you stop taking them, your gut bacteria are likely return to their pre-supplementation condition within one to three weeks.

You may be able to get longer-lasting changes by “feeding the healthy bacteria”. Like all living organisms, bacteria need food to survive. Foods that are high in dietary fibre, such as fruit and vegetables, can be used as energy sources (or so called “prebiotics”) for these bacteria.

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We also found little evidence that probiotic supplements can reduce cholesterol in healthy adults. And there is little evidence to show that probiotics can improve glucose (blood sugar) and insulin responses in healthy adults. Taking probiotics won’t reduce heart disease risk, or prevent you from developing type 2 diabetes.

So if you have a poor diet (you eat too much take-away food and not enough fruit, vegetables and whole-grain products, or you drink alcohol too much and too often) and don’t exercise regularly, your digestive bacteria may benefit from probiotic supplements, though you’ll have to keep taking them to get lasting effects.

But if you are otherwise healthy, probiotic supplements are likely to be a waste of money. Here’s some simple advice: take what you spend on probiotic supplements, and use it to buy and eat more fruit and vegetables.

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10 Women Discuss The Crazy Ways They’ve Tried To Lose Weight Fast – Fizzation

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Unless by some genetic miracle you’re able to eat whatever you want and not look a pound over tweenage Victoria’s Secret angel, you’ve probably tried a special diet… or three.

Even if we’ve been down that road before — and back again — there’s something about the promise of seeing results quickly (coupled with the glamour of eating like a waif celebrity) that makes us keep wanting to test it out for ourselves.

We’re a goal-oriented society, after all. Who cares that the process sucks if it’s only temporary?

In the spirit of female solidarity and all the Blueprint cleanses we’ll be back-ordering until the first beach day (and then regretting after the first BBQ), we’ve rounded up our favorite, hilarious and horrific diet stories.

Because we all have at least that one time*…

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of contributors.

1. The Spoon Diet

“In college, right before spring break, my roommate and I decided to go on the Spoon Diet. We were literally allowed to eat anything that we could put on a spoon — soup, parfaits, yogurt, pudding.

“You’d think it would be fun (my preferred utensil is spoon), right? But it was the most miserable two weeks of my life.

“Instead of slowing down to eat, enjoying what I was eating or eating more of the right types of foods, I was literally shoveling parfait after parfait into my mouth as often as possible because I spent most of the day famished and angry at everyone.

“Plus, chugging Natty Lights every night didn’t exactly fall on the Spoon Diet, but it was a liquid so, whatever, okay?”

– Katie, 26.

2. The South Beach Diet

“I just moved to Miami for work and was having trouble making new friends (Miami is cliquey like that). Between that, everyone around me walking around half-naked and having amazing bodies, and I was going through a breakup when I just moved to Miami. I was a prime diet candidate (Did I mention I was dating someone I worked with long distance to only have him break up with me when there was no distance?).

Needless to say, it was a rough time, and I dived deep into working out EVERY DAY.

“My diet of course was the South Beach diet. There are three phases to the South Beach diet: Phase 1 is mostly lean proteins, low-sugar vegetables, and nuts in moderation. No carbs or added sugar whatsoever. Phase 2 adds some grains back in, and Phase 3 shows you how to eat like a normal human being, but I never got this far. I told myself I’d make more of an impact if I stayed in Phase 1 forever.

“This diet was super easy to follow in Miami, as everyone is super healthy, but if I ever left Miami, I’d have to explain my psychotic substitutes when eating out.

“I recall coming back to NY for a work trip with a co-worker/best friend who was also on the South Beach diet. We went for a morning coffee at Starbucks together and both ordered our sad, nonfat cappuccinos. We started to add the cinnamon into our coffee when we saw it appeared unusually shiny.

“Turns out the barista put cinnamon sugar in the cinnamon containers, and we were having a tachycardia in the Starbucks at the thought of consuming sugar in our coffee and were desperately trying to scoop it out. The baristas and customers on line were looking at us like we were crazies.”

– Melissa, 32.

3. The Weekend Diet

“I go on a new cleanse/diet every week, then the weekend comes, and I blackout eat mac and cheese. Every time. All the time. I have no shame.”

– Ashley, 25.

4. The Bee Pollen Diet

“I took bee pollen pills in college before going on spring break. They were amazing, and I lost 10 lbs, so I eventually started taking an extra pill… then I started blacking out randomly midday and having vertigo, and my mom found my pill bottle and the fact that it was made in China and made me swear to stop so I did.

– Karen, 26.

5. The Mono Diet

“It’s definitely not a fad, but anyone looking to drop half of his or her body weight in a matter of hours should definitely acquire mononucleosis.

“When I got mono in 11th grade I dropped three pants sizes. It’s really effective, and it doesn’t cost any money. All you have to do is make out with a bunch of people.”

– Sam, 27.

6. The Dukan Diet

“One year after moving back home to NYC I gained like, 20 pounds. I turned to the Dukan diet, which was created by this French doctor, and supposedly, Kate Middleton had followed it. Between my love of France and Kate Middleton, I figured why not give it a try?

“This diet has multiple phases, which have fun names like “Attack” and “Cruise” phase. The Attack phase had you eating lots of lean protein and 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran a day. I’d have the oat bran in fat-free Greek yogurt with as much cinnamon to make the yogurt palatable. My coworkers were really grossed out with the amount of Greek yogurt that I was consuming.

“I definitely lost weight and looked great, but with summer approaching and all this amazing tasty fruit around like strawberries and watermelon, I had to forget about the diet. Another after effect of Dukan was that I couldn’t look at yogurt for at least an entire year afterwards.”

– Dana, 24.

7. The Gummy Diet

“One time I tried taking these gummy diet supplements. I thought they were too innocent and cute-looking to ever cause me any harm. You were supposed to take two shortly before each meal, but they just made me feel jittery and on edge.

“I’m not sure if they worked because after almost a week on this gummy bear binge, I decided I felt too weird and stopped taking them cold turkey. The next day I woke up at 3 am and vomited about once every half hour for the rest of the day.

“‘First they’re sour, then they are sweet’ is just a myth; those things are straight evil.”

– Caroline, 23.

8. The Homemade Juice Cleanse

“About three summers ago (before it was cool, OBVI), I read about juice cleansing and tried to do one.

“I didn’t have a juicer, and I just used my mom’s old blender. The kale and spinach never ground up quite right, so I ended up half drinking/half chewing nasty green mush for a week.

“I did lose weight, but that could have been because my juices were so disgusting I didn’t touch them.”

– Emma, 23.

9. The No-Diet Diet

“Dieting… it’s really not a part of my vocabulary. I try to do the whole gluten-free thing for health purposes. Back in high school, I tried taking garcinia cambogia, but that stuff made me feel strung out.”

– Natalie, 31.

10. The Organic Juice Cleanse

“I had done the occasional Blueprint cleanse and thought it tasted great. It didn’t bother me that the first day my mind would crash, and I couldn’t process simple decision-making. By the time the three days were over, I’d feel great and get so many compliments on how glowing my skin looked that it didn’t matter.

“When I was about to purchase another juice cleanse, I bumped into my uber-holistic, healthy sun salutation friend. We were chatting, and she insisted that I try Organic Avenue instead of Blueprint because it was way better.

“I took her advice and got the juices for the following day.

“Organic Ave is just plain gross. I don’t mind green juices — provided that they have LOTS of apple or some sort of fruit. Their juices tasted like straight-up vegetable, baby food puree. I told myself to hang in there.

“Second day comes along, and I had SoulCycle planned with String at 6:30pm. He’s notorious for flipping out if anyone is “not on point” or riding “janky.” I had taken his class for a couple months and was finally in a good place.

“This second day on the juice cleanse, however, was a different story. Midway through the class, the dumb candles they had lit were moving, and the room started to spin.

“He kept calling me out for not being on point. I could barely function. No idea how I got through that class.

“The next day, when I had the shakes around midday, I threw in the towel and got a chicken wrap across the street. Last time I juice cleansed.

“When I started to eat carbs again I realized I was such a nasty person before carbs. Carbs make me happy.”

– Erica, 28.

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If Cancer Can’t Survive In An Alkaline Environment, Why Don’t We Use That As A Treatment – Quora

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If no disease, including cancer, can survive in an alkaline environment, then why aren’t doctors using this method to heal their patients? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Mike Condron, M.D. Medicine, Meharry Medical College, on Quora:

If no disease, including cancer, can survive in an alkaline environment, then why aren’t doctors using this method to heal their patients?

This is a great question.

First of all, let’s be clear about this: human blood is in fact “alkaline”. Our blood pH is very (and I mean VERY) tightly regulated to be almost exactly 7.4 (maybe 7.35, but let’s use 7.4 so I don’t have to type more), which is in fact slightly alkaline. There are multiple systems in place to keep our blood pH at or very near this level.

So, right away, the premise of the question is off: Lots of diseases—or actually, all human diseases, can survive just fine in an alkaline environment, since our blood is alkaline.

But it is also true that if you make the environment alkaline enough, nothing can survive. You could pour, say, lye (sodium hydroxide, with a pH of about 13), onto tumor cells in a laboratory dish, or bacteria, or yeast, and you would kill them in an instant. But is this a useful therapeutic method?

If your blood were infused with sodium hydroxide you would be dead long before it got to a pH of 13. I don’t think experiments have been done to test exactly what blood pH is lethal, but I can assure you it is nowhere near 13. Probably about 7.8.

We cannot survive with a blood pH much different from 7.40. The “normal” range is 7.35 to 7.45. Any significant deviation will cause major problems, and is in fact a sign of major derangement of the systems that are designed to keep our blood pH in that range. There are buffers in the blood that chemically limit the pH, and then there are mechanisms in both the lungs and the kidneys to change the way acidity (which is just hydrogen ions) is managed, just to keep the blood pH in that range.

A deviation to either more acidic or more alkaline will cause severe physiologic disturbances, like enzymes not working properly, chemical reactions in cells not working right, and so on. That is the reason we have evolved so many multi-layered backup systems and emergency plans to keep our blood pH in that range.

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The question does not say what kind of range of alkalinity is being considered as a treatment for diseases, but we are already slightly alkaline, and we cannot survive any deviation from the very precise level of alkalinity that we need.

So, one major idea here is that you can kill a tumor, or micro-organism, or whatever else may be causing a disease, by putting it in a sufficiently alkaline environment. But you can do the same with acidity — pouring hydrochloric acid on tumor cells in a laboratory dish will kill them too. You can also do the same with heat—nothing can survive being heated to 250 F (about 120 C).

We would kill all cancers, infections, and every other disease known, by heating them to that temperature. That works great in a laboratory test dish, but we can’t subject living patients to such a treatment, obviously, just like we can’t infuse lye or hydrochloric acid into patients’ blood to kill their cancer. You can kill cancer by depriving it of oxygen, too…but that is also not a useful treatment, because it would also kill the patient.

Same for glucose — cancer cells need glucose (although some bacteria could maybe make it from things they can absorb from your body, perhaps) but your body’s cells need glucose too, so inducing a hypoglycemic state is not a useful treatment for cancer. You could make the same argument for vitamins and minerals, since cancer cells (and micro-organisms) need them too.

So, to summarize before I go on: We are alkaline to begin with, so the idea that an alkaline environment is bad for diseases is simply wrong. Making the body more alkaline will kill the patient. Lots of other things can kill cancer or other diseases, but they will all kill the patient, too, like acidity, or heat, or deprivation of oxygen, or glucose, etc.

Now let me turn to a different perspective on this question.

I have a feeling — and forgive me if I am jumping to conclusions here but I have a feeling that this question is about one of the latest trends in marketing … “alkaline” water, and “alkaline” diets.

I described earlier that our blood pH is very (and I emphasized VERY) tightly regulated. One part of that is that there is almost nothing you can eat or drink that will affect your pH. Certainly not the “alkaline water” that is being sold everywhere now. Think about this.

It’s true that pure water is at a pH of 7.0, which is neutral. But does that really matter? We eat fruits, most of which are acidic. Are we saying that fruits are bad? Or what about meat? It has a pH, like most tissues, around the same as our body, so why drink alkaline water, when you can just eat meat? Does the idea that the pH of our food affects our blood pH even make sense? No, it does not.

Bear in mind that the acidity of our stomach is impressive — the cells lining the stomach secrete acid with a pH of around 1. That is somewhere between vinegar and battery acid. And that is regardless of what you eat. So if you eat or drink something slightly alkaline (say, 7.5 or 8.0) it will be immediately overwhelmed by the gastric acid, and what enters your duodenum (the first part of the small intestine after your stomach) is going to be at the pH of your gastric secretions, more or less.

Maybe around pH 3 or 4. Is a slightly alkaline water going to stand a chance against the wildly acidic environment of the stomach? Then bear in mind this: Immediately after the stomach contents goes into the duodenum, it is met with a huge load of bicarbonate ions secreted by the pancreas, which immediately neutralizes any acidity. And this all happens before anything is actually absorbed into the body.

Another aspect of this is the concept of “alkaline foods”. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding of an almost irrelevant idea from old food physiology research, which looked at the pH not of foods, but of the ash left over after foods were burned. The vague idea that burning something and looking at the residue left over applied to our physiology of digestion has led to the concept that certain foods are “acidic” and others are “alkaline”.

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This was not the intent of the original research, but for some reason has been taken on by alternative medicine as a way of directing dietary choices, and then there was the birth of alkaline water. Wikipedia has a good article on this: Alkaline diet – Wikipedia

And now let me take a more general perspective on this question. It is in a broad category of questions: “I read somewhere [or heard, or saw in an advertisement] that doing X will cure diseases. So why don’t doctors do X?”

The answer to that is: Because X does not work in the real world, and X is being sold to people, hoping that the customer is too ignorant to know better. I know what I am about to say implies something that you have not stated, but maybe I can speak to others reading this answer who might think this: Please, if you read about something that someone is selling, and they are trying to say doctors are keeping a miracle cure from you, don’t believe them.

I am glad you asked this question, and I hope this answer gives some insight into why we don’t treat cancer or any other disease with alkalinity… or any other non-scientific method.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure by your donations – Thank you.

Could Immunotherapy Lead the Way to Fighting Cancer – Robin Marantz

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In the morning of June 24, 2014, a Tuesday, Vanessa Johnson Brandon awoke early in her small brick house in North Baltimore and felt really sick. At first, she thought she had food poisoning, but after hours of stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, she called her daughter, Keara Grade, who was at work. “I feel like I’m losing it,” said the woman everyone called Miss Vanessa. Keara begged her to call an ambulance, but her mother wanted to wait until her husband, Marlon, got home so he could drive her to the emergency room. Doctors there took a CT scan, which revealed a large mass in her colon.

Hearing about the mass terrified her. Her own mother had died of breast cancer at the age of 56. From that point on, Miss Vanessa, then 40, became the matriarch of a large family that included her seven younger siblings and their children. Because she knew how it felt to have a loved one with cancer, she joined a church ministry of volunteers who helped cancer patients with chores and doctor visits. As she prepared meals for cancer patients too weak to cook for themselves, she couldn’t know that the disease would one day come for her, too.

The ER doctors told Miss Vanessa she wouldn’t get the results of follow-up tests—a colonoscopy and a biopsy—until after the July 4 weekend. She had to smile her way through her own 60th birthday on July 6, stoking herself up on medications for nausea and pain to get through the day.

At 9:30 the next morning, a doctor from the Greater Baltimore Medical Center called. He didn’t say, “Are you sitting down?” He didn’t say, “Is there someone there with you?” Later Miss Vanessa told the doctor, who was on the young side, that when he delivers gut-wrenching news by telephone, he should try to use a little more grace.

It was cancer, just as Miss Vanessa had feared. It was in her colon, and there also was something going on in her stomach. The plan was to operate immediately, and then knock out whatever cancer still remained with chemotherapy drugs.

Thus began two years of hell for Miss Vanessa and her two children—Keara, who is now 45, and Stanley Grade, 37—who live nearby and were in constant contact with their mother and her husband. The surgery took five hours. Recovery was slow, leading to more scans and blood work that showed the cancer had already spread to the liver. Her doctors decided to start Miss Vanessa on as potent a brew of chemotherapy as they could muster.

Every two weeks, Miss Vanessa underwent three straight days of grueling chemo, administered intravenously at her home. Keara and her two teenage sons came around often to help out, but the older boy would only wave at Miss Vanessa from the doorway of her bedroom as he rushed off to another part of the house. He just couldn’t bear to see his grandmother so sick.

Miss Vanessa powered on for 11 months, visualizing getting better but never really feeling better. Then, in July 2015, the doctor told her there was nothing more he could do for her.

“My mom was devastated,” Keara says. Keara told her mother not to listen to the doctor’s dire prediction. “I said to her, ‘The devil was a liar—we are not going to let this happen.’”

So Keara—along with Miss Vanessa’s husband, brother and brother’s fiancée—started Googling like mad. Soon they found another medical center that could offer treatment. But it was in Illinois, in the town of Zion—a name Miss Vanessa took as a good omen, since it was also the name of her 5-year-old grandson. In fact, just a few days earlier little Zion had asked his grandmother if she believed in miracles.

The family held a fund-raiser for Stanley to get on a plane to Chicago with his mother every two weeks, drive her to Zion and stay with her at the local Country Inn & Suites hotel for three days of outpatient chemotherapy. It felt like a replay of her treatment in Baltimore—worse, since the drugs were delivered in a hotel instead of in her bedroom, and the chemotherapy caused nerve damage that led to pain, tingling and numbness in Miss Vanessa’s arms and legs.

And then, in May 2016, the Illinois doctor, too, said there was nothing more he could do for her. But at least he offered a sliver of hope: “Go get yourself on a clinical trial.” Weeks later, desperate, Miss Vanessa and Keara grew hopeful about a treatment involving mistletoe. They attended an information session at a Ramada extolling the plant extract’s anti-cancer properties. But when they learned that it would cost $5,000 to enroll, they walked out dejected.

Finally, Miss Vanessa’s husband stumbled onto a website for a clinical trial that seemed legit, something underway at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, just down the road from their home. This new treatment option involved immunotherapy, something markedly different from anything she had gone through. Rather than poisoning a tumor with chemotherapy or zapping it with radiation, immunotherapy kills cancer from within, recruiting the body’s own natural defense system to do the job. There are a number of different approaches, including personalized vaccines and specially engineered cells grown in a lab. (See “A Cancer Vaccine?” and “A DNA-Based Attack”)

The trial at Hopkins involved a type of immunotherapy known as a checkpoint inhibitor, which unlocks the power of the immune system’s best weapon: the T-cell. By the time Miss Vanessa made the call, other studies had already proved the value of checkpoint inhibitors, and the Food and Drug Administration had approved four of them for use in several cancers. The Hopkins researchers were looking at a new way of using one of those drugs, which didn’t work at all for most patients but worked spectacularly well for some. Their study was designed to confirm earlier findings that had seemed almost too good to be true.

“With the very first patient who responded to this drug, it’s been amazing,” says Dung Le, a straight-talking Hopkins oncologist with long dark hair and a buoyant energy. Most of her research had been in desperately ill patients; she wasn’t used to seeing her experimental treatments do much good. “When you see multiple responses, you get super-excited.”

Immunotherapy is poised to become the standard of care for a variety of cancers. The work being done now is forcing a reconsideration of basic tenets of clinical oncology—for instance, whether surgery should be a first line of treatment or should come after drugs like Keytruda.

Many questions still remain. Elizabeth Jaffee, a member of the “cancer moonshot” panel convened by then-Vice President Joseph Biden in 2016, says she’s conscious of the danger of overselling a treatment. While the effect of checkpoint inhibitors can be “exciting,” she says, “you have to put it in perspective. A response doesn’t mean they’re cured. Some may have a year of response,” but the cancer might start growing again.

When Miss Vanessa paid her first visit to Le in August 2016, the physician explained that not every patient with advanced colon cancer qualified for the trial. Investigators were looking for people with a certain genetic profile that they thought would benefit the most. It was a long shot—only about one person in eight would fit the bill. If she had the right DNA, she could join the trial. If she didn’t, she would have to look elsewhere.

About a week later, Miss Vanessa was in her kitchen, a cheery room lined with bright yellow cabinets, when her telephone rang. Caller ID indicated a Hopkins number. “I didn’t want anyone else to call you but me,” said the study’s principal investigator, Daniel Laheru. He had good news: her genes “matched up perfectly” with the criteria for the clinical trial. He told her to come in right away so they could get the blood work done, the paperwork signed and the treatment started. Miss Vanessa recalls, “I cried so hard I saw stars.”

The trial was part of a string of promising developments in immunotherapy—an apparent overnight success that was actually more than 100 years in the making. Back in the 1890s, a New York City surgeon named William Coley made a startling observation. He was searching medical records for something that would help him understand sarcoma, a bone cancer that had recently killed a young patient of his, and came upon the case of a house painter with a sarcoma in his neck that kept reappearing despite multiple surgeries to remove it. After the fourth unsuccessful operation, the house painter developed a severe streptococcus infection that doctors thought would kill him for sure. Not only did he survive the infection, but when he recovered, the sarcoma had virtually disappeared.

Coley dug deeper and found a few other cases of remission from cancer after a streptococcus infection. He concluded—incorrectly, it turned out—that the infection had killed the tumor. He went around promoting this idea, giving about 1,000 cancer patients streptococcus infections that made them seriously ill but from which, if they recovered, they sometimes emerged cancer-free. He eventually developed an elixir, Coley’s Toxins, which was widely used in the early 20th century but soon fell out of favor as radiation and then chemotherapy began to have some success in treating cancer.

Then, in the 1970s, scientists looked back at Coley’s research and realized it wasn’t an infection that had killed the house painter’s tumor; it was the immune system itself, stimulated by the bacterial infection.

In a healthy body, T-cells activate their weaponry whenever the immune system detects something different or foreign. This might be a virus, a bacterium, another kind of disease-causing agent, a transplanted organ—or even a stray cancer cell. The body continuously generates mutated cells, some of which have the potential to turn cancerous, but current thinking is that the immune system destroys them before they can take hold.

Once scientists recognized the cancer-fighting potential of the immune system, they began to look for ways to kick it into gear, hoping for a treatment that was less pernicious than chemotherapy, which often uses poisons so toxic the cure may be worse than the disease. This immune-based approach looked good on paper and in lab animals, and showed flashes of promise in people. For instance, Steven Rosenberg and his colleagues at the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute made headlines when they removed a patient’s white blood cells, activated them in the lab with the immune system component known as interleukin-2, and infused the cancer-fighting cells back into the patient in hopes of stimulating the body to make a better supply of cancer-fighting cells. Rosenberg ended up on the cover of Newsweek, where he was hailed for being on the cusp of a cancer cure. That was in 1985.

The FDA did approve interleukin-2 for adults with metastatic melanoma and kidney cancer. But immunotherapy remained mostly on the fringes for decades, as patients continued to go through rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. “We’ve been curing cancer in mice for many, many years . . . but the promise was unfulfilled for a very long time in people,” says Jonathan Powell, associate director of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute at Hopkins.

Meanwhile, Topalian is continuing to work with Hopkins experts in genetics, metabolism, bioengineering and other areas. One of her colleagues, Cynthia Sears, recently received a grant to study biofilms—the colonies of bacteria that grow in the colon and can either promote or prevent cancer growth. Sears is looking at how a particular “tumor microbial environment” affects the way a patient responds—or fails to respond—to cancer immunotherapy.

“The immune system is the most specific and powerful killing system in the world,” says Pardoll, summing up the state of immunotherapy in early 2018. “T-cells have an amazingly huge diversity, and 15 different ways to kill a cell. The basic properties of the immune system make it the perfect anti-cancer lever.” But science won’t be able to fully mobilize that system without the help of myriad specialists, all working from different angles to piece together the incredibly complex puzzle of human immunity.
Indeed, many cancer experts lost faith in the approach over the next decade. “Nobody believed in immunotherapy except our own community,” says Drew Pardoll, the director of the BKI. The lack of support was frustrating, but Pardoll says it did have one salutary effect: It made immunotherapy more collegial and less back-biting than a lot of other fields of science. “When you’re a little bit ostracized I think it’s just a natural part of human nature…to sort of say, ‘Well, look, our field is going to be dead if we don’t work together, and it shouldn’t be about individuals,’” Pardoll said. He calls the recent explosion of successes “sort of like Revenge of the Nerds.”

In keeping with this collaborative spirit, immunotherapy researchers from six competing institutions have formed a cover band known as the CheckPoints, which performs at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and in other venues. The band’s harmonica player, James Allison of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, helped set immunotherapy on its current course with his work on checkpoint inhibitors in 1996, when he was at Berkeley. He was the first to prove that blocking the checkpoint CTLA-4 (shorthand for “cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen”) with an antibody would generate an anti-tumor response. As Pardoll puts it, once Allison demonstrated that first checkpoint system, “we had molecular targets. Before that, it was a black box.”

The checkpoint system, when it’s working as it should, is a simple one: invader is detected, T-cells proliferate. Invader is destroyed, T-cells are deactivated. If T-cells were to stay active without an invader or a rogue cell to fight, they could create collateral damage to the body’s own tissues. So the immune system contains a braking mechanism. Receptors on the surface of the T-cells look for binding partners on the surfaces of other cells, indicating that those cells are healthy. When these receptors find the proteins they’re looking for, they shut the T-cells down until they spot a new invader.

Cancer cells are able to do their damage partly because they co-opt these checkpoints—in effect, hacking the immune system by activating the brakes. This renders the T-cells impotent, allowing the cancer cells to grow unimpeded. Now scientists are figuring out how to put up firewalls that block the hackers. Checkpoint inhibitors deactivate the brakes and allow the T-cells to get moving again. This lets the body kill off the cancer cells on its own.

Suzanne Topalian, who is Pardoll’s colleague at the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute (and also his wife), played a key role in identifying another way the immune system could be used to fight cancer. After working as a fellow in Rosenberg’s lab, she became the head of her own NIH lab in 1989 and moved to Johns Hopkins in 2006. At Hopkins, she led a group of investigators who first tested drugs blocking the immune checkpoint receptor PD-1—short for “programmed death-1”—and the proteins that trigger it, PD-L1 and PD-L2.

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