Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A Chinese Restaurant Syndrome Serves Glutamates

Last Saturday an Italian cook tried to kill me with flavours so intense I told my work colleague sitting just in front of me - This is the best food I had in a restaurant, ever!

The taste was incredibly intense, so particular, so lively that I surrendered to the Chef and gave away all predicates of quality I had in my hedonistic glossary. But it didn't take more than 60 minutes to understand that something was going wrong with my systems. I felt a sudden heavy weight like I wasn't able to lift up my head, a muscular weakness, palpitations, numbness and tingling in my hands, cold sweats, hot face and a range of specific vestibular system problems like disequilibrium, unsteadiness and spatial disorientation. I started stressing out when the most worrying symptom of all emerged - slurred speech. 

After many different diagnostics produced by my stressed-out brain I got to only two possible options, either something serious, discarded almost immediately because I exercise, I don't drink alcohol or smoke, I do gym twice a week, I monitor my health yearly and I believe there is some divine entity taking care of the good ones (regardless of that being a God or quantum matter), OR maybe something I had already experienced in the past.

The unexpected stroke me and I had to go deep into my memory lane to recall a similar situation lived when I was in my early 20s. I was then savouring the mystical delicacies in a Chinese restaurant in Faro (Portugal). 

Diagnosis: Monosodium Glutamates (clap clap clap, standing ovation, they deserve because you don't even know they're coming and once stricken it's like a multiple bee sting)!!! The typical symptoms produced by a meal 'rich in MSG" already gained a historical stamp - The Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (no need to say why, I guess)!

Also known as Ajinomoto, monosodium glutamates are the world's most extensively used food additives present in processed foods. These flavour enhancers were used up to around 600 mg/day per general individual back in 1991 (in the UK alone) [1]!!! The review article by Husarova and Ostatnikova on the toxic effects and health implications of MSG for humans is full of in-depth information that you must read about [2].

Since glutamate is the excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system it plays an active function in the neuronal processes. Let us then look at effects already scientifically recognised as damaging to a brain exposed to high doses of glutamates:

a) Neuronal necrosis in hypothalamic arcuate nuclei in neonatal rats [3];

b) Potential connections between MSG and obesity due to increased palatability of food and disruptions in the hypothalamic signalling cascade of leptin action ('the hunger hormone') [4];

c) A portfolio of expression of inflammatory signalling molecules like increased mRNA expression of interleukin-6, TNF-alpha, resistin (peptide hormone linked to obesity and insulin resistance) and leptin, and incipient nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (inflammation of the liver with concurrent fat deposition in the organ) [5]; all of these factors contributing to inflammation which overall is terrible news for anyone dealing with any type of autoimmune disease;

d) Impaired glucose tolerance [5] (a pre-diabetes state where sugar levels in the blood are close to the typical in diabetics).

But what about any Antidotes that can be used to counteract the excitotoxic effects of MSG in our body? Well, recent research has brought up some very interesting substances. For me, personally, the most interesting ones were those revealed by Sudha et al (2016) [6] whilst offering us a really impressive article unveiling possible antidotes, namely: Hesperidin (a natural antioxidant) and Memantin (a drug used to treat Alzheimer's). Hesperidin is a bioflavonoid found in citrus fruits. And to be fair  there is also data available out there that state that Vitamin C has been showing a protective role against toxic nerve cell and astrocyte glial fibrillary acidic protein damage in cerebellar cortex in male albino rats [7]. But luckily many other vitamins have elicited protective roles against the excitotoxic effects of MSG, such as vitamin E (200 mg/kg) and the plant pigment flavonoid quercetin (10 mg/kg) that can be found in green tea, apples, and in large quantities in Buckwheat tea.

Now I know how to fight it if I ever have to face it again. But the best approach is just to ask the chef if he is using glutamates, even before I consider the restaurant for a meal.

[1] Rhodes, J., Titherley, A. C., Norman, J. A., Wood, R. & Lord, D. W. (1991). “A Survey of the Monosodium Glutamate Content of Foods and an Estimation of the Dietary Intake of Monosodium Glutamate”. Food Additives & Contaminants, 8(5), pp. 663-72.

[2] Husarova, V. and Ostatnikova, D. (2013). "Monosodium glutamate toxic effects and their implications for human intake: A Review". JMED Research, 2013, pp. 1-12.

[3] Pelaez, B., Blazquez, J. L., Pastor, F. E., Sanchez, A. and Amat, P. (1999). “Lectinhistochemistry and Ultrastructure of Microglial Response to Monosodium Glutamate-Mediated Neurotoxicity in the Arcuate Nucleus,” Histology and histopathology, 14(1), pp. 165-74.

[4] He, K., Du, S., Xun, P., Sharma, S., Wang, H., Zhai, F. & Popkin, B. (2011). “Consumption of Monosodium Glutamate in Relation to Incidence of Overweight in Chinese Adults: China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS),” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 93(6), 1328-36.

[5] Roman-Ramos, R., Almanza-Perez, J. C., Garcia-Macedo, R., Blancas-Flores, G., FortisBarrera, A., Jasso, E. I., Garcia-Lorenzana, M., Campos-Sepulveda, A. E., Cruz, M. & AlarconAguilar, F. J. (2011). “Monosodium Glutamate Neonatal Intoxication Associated with Obesity in Adult Stage is Characterized by Chronic Inflammation and Increased mRNA Expression of Peroxisome ProliferatorActivated Receptors in Mice”. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 108(6), pp. 406-13.  

[6] Sudha, N. B, Raju, A. B. and Ashok, A. (2016). "Effect of Memantine and Hespiridine on Monosodium glutamate induced excititoxicity in rats". Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, 50(2), pp. 361-367.

[7] Hashem, H. E., Safwat, M. D. and Algaidi, S. (2012). "The effect of monosodium glutamate on the cerebellar cortex of male albino rats and the protective role of vitamin C (histological and immunohistochemical study)". Journal of Molecular Histology, 43(2), pp. 179-186.

Upper image kindly taken from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, The muscular distrophy association, [https://www.mda.org/disease/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis/causes-inheritance]. 

Lower image kindly taken from Health 24, In Chinese Restaurant Syndrome a thumbsuck?, [http://www.health24.com/Columnists/apparently-there-is-no-chinese-restaurant-syndrome-20160126].

Monday, 14 November 2016

Can Folate and Vitamin B-12 be intrinsically related to the onset of Sjogren's Syndrome?

Iatrogenic factors and amphibiotic H. pylori could trigger Sjogren's syndrome. And what else?

It is my personal belief that one of the triggers related to the onset of Sjogren's syndrome symptoms is our so well known bacteria Helicobacter pylori. This alongside iatrogenic factors derived from the use of pharmaceuticals like tricyclic antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. I am not religiously assuming it, I am conjecturing based on hours of literature research and evidence collected by myself. 

I wrote about the concomitant role of H. pylori in Sjogren's syndrome here, here and also here. In my last post on the subject I stressed the likely amphibiotic behaviour of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori that under attack will determine a shift from the symbiotic to the aggressive-parasitic posture. It is my understanding that whilst under attack the bacteria will make sure the immune system of its host remains busy with capturing decoy substances produced by the invasive agent, to then cause a cascade of actions that ultimately result in the onset of Sjogren's. 

There is a growing wave of acceptance in the scientific community that a viral or bacterial infection can trigger the disease. To that I add that people subjected to, or suffering from severe stress/extreme anxiety are naturally volatile subjects due to a cascade of events that result in stress-induced anxiety and acid reflux. Long story short, stress and anxiety will increase cortisol levels that due to adrenal fatigue and low levels of oestrogen will result in an ever more acid stomach pH. This will reduce mucine levels in our stomach lining, fissures will crack open the surface of an infected digestive wall where the bacteria will start a very resilient amphibiotic process of survival. 

But today, as I was browsing through some articles in the very limited free time I still have, I found yet another incredible piece of evidence for this theory of mine: Folic acid and Vitamin B-12.

Tamura et al (2002) showed that pylori-induced chronic degenerative gastritis reduces both folic acid and vitamin B-12 plasma levels [1] resulting in ailments such as joint inflammation - typical of Sjogren's syndrome. This idea is also vastly and consistently debated by Tollison and Satterthwaite's book "Practical Pain Management" [2]. In addition, if one reads the impressively good review by Fenech (2001) [3] one learns that folic acid deficiency can result in chromosome breaks and hypomethylation of the DNA, both linked to elevated homocysteine levels (also suggested by [1]). High homocysteine levels are linked to chromosomal imbalance and genotoxicity. 

What I am willing to explore over the coming weeks is what some people (I'm not going to say who for I had no time to read their articles yet) are currently suggesting... That all of these events hereby mentioned can 'somehow' result in manganese deficiency. And the lacking of manganese will reveal an incapacity of one's organism to cleanse off free radicals. Those free radicals will allegedly be entrapped at cell membranes and the mitochondrial moiety and be targeted by the body's immune system - A DECOY STRATEGY THAT KEEPS OUR IMMUNE SYSTEM WAY OFF THE REAL ISSUE - H. PYLORI. The body believes that it is making sure the toxic metals are 'exuded', but in reality the attack is constant on the antigen  and never on its precursor - the bacteria. Hidden in the typical muciparous/mucogenic environments, the bacteria thrives on.

That's it for now, folks! Tell me what you think on this matter and come visit the blog next week for the underlying link between the high homocysteine levels and manganese deficiency.

[1] Tamura, A., Fujioka, T., Nasu, M. (2002). "Relation of Helicobacter pylori infection to plasma vitamin B12, folic acid, and homocysteine levels in patients who underwent diagnostic coronary arteriography". The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 97, pp. 861-866.

[2] Tollison, C. D. and Satterthwaite, J, R. (2002). "Practical Pain Management". 3rd Edition, Lippicot Williams and Wilkins.

[3] Fenech, M. (2001). "The role of folic acid and vitamin B-12 in genomic stability of human cells". Micronutrients and Genomic Stability. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Can bay leaf scent inhaling and oil massaging help with COPD?

On the 11th of October 2016 Judy presented us with a question related to a tough medical condition. As a Medical Information Officer I must stress to all of you that the best person to advise you on any medical condition and ways of treatment is your doctor. If for any reason you cannot get hold of your doctor, try and reach for a healthcare professional that is familiar to your relevant medical history. I know this sounds very technical and boring, we doesn't want hot answers served on a plate, but this is the best advise considering that your past and present medical history/records determine a great deal of the prophylaxis and/or medical approach in managing your disease/symptoms.

So please, don't take it leniently - by any means!!!

Now, in regards to Judy's question. She states suffering from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and wants to know if burning bay leaves or massaging the plant's essential oils can help ease her breathing.

Let's just very quickly understand what condition we are talking about and the careful approach to home made remedies that can actually be used in these specific cases.

To start with, COPD refers to a set of problems (namely emphysema and chronic bronchitis) that affect lungs to an extent where the breathing is quite compromised... and with it several other physiological functions which natural dynamics depend directly or indirectly from a healthy breathing process. I won't go in detail through every little thing that is advised as a possible treatment because I want to tackle the specifics of her question, but if any of you is interested to know more, this page is very helpful [1].

Now!, can bay leaf inhaling or oil massaging help with COPD?

Good news is that in May 2011, Shaza Felemban article on the antimicrobial and cytotoxic activities of Laurus nobilis leaves reported investigations that resulted in a weak antimicrobial effect against E. coli [2]. On the other hand, a strong reduction of pyocyanin levels (virulence factor in the Gram-negative Pseudomonas aeruginosa that commonly infect lungs of immunosuppressed individuals) has also been reported by Sabur et al (year unknown) [3] (access here). In addition, Felemban work shows promising results against malignant tumours, inducing the cellular death of human breast adenocarcinomas [2]. You can read and download her masters dissertation here. One of the most interesting things mentioned by the author is that for treating COPD, the substance Tiotropium (an anticholinergic bronchodilator) is used, and generally bronchodilators are based on Ipatropium (a derivative from Atropine). Atropine being obtained from Atropa belladona (the devil's herb), a very dangerous plant I wrote about a long time ago (see here).

I was honestly incapable of finding any scientific article that clearly links any of the active substances in Laurus nobilis to improving COPD. Thus, for that matter, I cannot say that apart from the plant's antibacterial effects reported there is any other positive effect for a COPD patient.

This observation does not mean that there isn't people stating the opposite (Pinterest is full of home remedies I wouldn't use!!!!). However, I personally used bay leaf infusions many years in a row for successfully treating bronchitis... but COPD is a different level.

[1] COPD, British Lung Foundation, [https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/copd/treatment], last visited on the 10th of November 2016, last update unknown.

[2] Felemban, S. (2011). "Antimicrobial and cytotoxic activities of extracts from Laurus nobilis leaves". KAUST repository, [http://repository.kaust.edu.sa/kaust/handle/10754/136195#], last visited on the 10th of November 2011.

[3] Sabur, M. K. M., Ahmadi, L. A. A., Shaaban, M. I. A., Ibrahim, S. R. M. (year unknown). "Appraisal of quorum sensing inhibitory activity of some medicinal plants". Faculty of Pharmacy, Taibah University.

Post image kindly obtained from https://www.davidwolfe.com/

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Bay leaf and the relief of fatigue

Hello everyone on this spooky time of Halloween to which I have no strings to, apart from the last 10 years I've been living in England. Portugal is not so much about spooky celebrations, and the one season we have mildly resembling anything that has to do with this topic might be the February's Carnival. But even that is quite joyful and scares us only when we look at our poor girls dressed on sub-tropical shorts and bras, tripping under 13 Celsius (~ 55.4 Fahrenheit).

Anyway, the matter for today's post is of a different carving; the pumpkin I am to explore today regards a post-comment from a few weeks ago linking fatigue and bay leaf as a potential remedy. I got to be honest with you guys, back in my school days Plant Physiology and Plant Biotechnology were my least favorite subjects; thus, as a punishment the Gods have made the bay leaf post one of the most read of The Toxicologist Today's posts, ever! Thanks, I guess. If you browse through the comments section on the original bay leaf post you'll find links for several other replies that I wrote through time. Or you could just use the fetch the toxic search button and look for any topic I may have written about, you choose. 

The available literature on the capacity of bay leaves to help against fatigue is minimal and quite reduced to anecdotal contributions from different non-scientific blogs. Personally, I don't like that. I am more about proper published scientific information. What was I able to find in the meantime? Not much, but my research through the free available articles draws an indirect link between fatigue and the lacking of ascorbic acid (vitamin C):

- When in deficient levels in the human body it can lead to scurvy ( a disease characterised by incapacity to produce collagen, carnitine and neurotransmitters, thus affecting skin, bones, cartilage and even blood vessels.

- This vitamin C imbalance can determine the human body to be exposed to numerous problems (see image above) that potentially are responsible for bleeding, tiredness and bruising... just to name a few of the many reported.

- Bay leaf has a content of 46.5 mg per 100 g of plant [1]. When you consider the availability of ascorbic acid in so many other types of plants and animals (access here for table) made available at News Medical Life Sciences [2], one must assume that it is quite tough to understand the reasoning behind a person's decision to resort to bay leaf infusion for battling fatigue/tiredness. Maybe the easiness and pleasantness of preparing/tasting said infusion!!! Who knows? Nevertheless, ACEROLA with 1.6 g (ascorbic acid) / 100g or simply PARSLEY with 130 mg (ascorbic acid) / 100 g would do the trick.

In addition it is referred by Elalfi et al (2016) [3] that essential oils extracted from medicinal plants (e.g. bay leaf) have the potential to exhibit anti-tyrosinase activities. Tyrosinase is, among several other things, related to fatigue if the individual is deficient in Copper (Cu2+) as it will affect blood formation. An individual affected in his/her blood formation process will most likely be subjected to tiredness and fatigue. In this sense, bay leaf can help replenish some levels of Copper since its Cu2+ content is of 0.416 mg per 100 g. Considering that an adult man/woman requires a recommended daily dosage of 0.9 mg per day, one can assume that a bay leaf infusion can to a certain extent help partly provide with the needed levels of Copper. However, it is not only important to obtain the necessary ions from different food sources but also to bear in mind potential risks associated to the intake of large amounts of a bay leaf infusion. 

Equilibrium is always the word. I guess in this case, we can say YES - a bay leaf infusion can potentially help with tiredness to a certain extent; as an aid and as part of a strategy, but not as a remedy. Moreover, an important thing to always keep in mind is the origin of such tiredness and fatigue. The understanding of the underlying symptoms are crucial for a proper diagnosis, and a medical doctor is the one to perform such scrutiny when fatigue happens to be far from being just a causality of daily tasks and impact mildly on the day-to-day life.

[1] Bay leaf, Laurus nobilis - nutritional value per 100 g, USDA National Nutrient Database.

[2] Sources of vitamin C, News Medical Life Sciences, [http://www.news-medical.net/health/Sources-of-Vitamin-C.aspx], last visited on the 1st of November 2016, last upadte unknown.

[3] Elalfi, Z. A., Fakim, A. G., Mahomoodally, M. F. (2016). "Kynetic studies of tyrosinase inhibtory activity of 19 essential oils extracted from endemicand exotic medicinal plants". South African Journal of Botany, 103, pp. 89-94.

Friday, 14 October 2016

I'm interested in knowing more about burning Bay leaves to relieve anxiety and fatigue

Let's finally hit those research vehicles so we can respond to important questions received on the bay leaf post. It is ever so surprising the interest of my readers on this topic, I never thought this would be such a hype. But hey, thanks a lot for the attention.

The first questions came from sue g. who is interested in knowing more about burning bay leaves to relieve anxiety and fatigue:

I already expressed that more information can be found on this topic by accessing here. However, this time I am looking more in-depth into bay leave participating in reliving anxiety. Personally, I'd like to suggest visiting your family doctor whenever you have health related questions; he is the one more familiar to your medical history and I do not have a medical degree. All my answers are purely based on available research, facts and information, published out there. 

If you just google-type "bay leaf anxiety" there are numerous web pages dissecting the subject, but NONE of the top four hits (I only looked on the top 4 today) had any kind of direct in-text mentioning of scientific publications backing their suggestions. I don't really trust pages that just blabber about stuff! But running a quick search on scientific publications with the keywords 'bay leaf anxiety stress' resulted in the idea that the available data is based on traditional Ayurvedic utilisation of bay leaf as a plant with the potential for helping with cancer, infections, diabetes, antioxidative power, dermatological diseases, bronchitis and winter blues, etc... Where the article by Sharangi and Guha (2013) [1] mentions the potential of thyme to reduce stress by providing one with 0.35 mg of Pyridoxine (one form of vitamin B6) resulting in balanced levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid levels in the brain, nothing in this article ever combines bay leaf with relief from stress or anxiety. However, a quick search delivers the potential of the volatile active compound linalool (present in bay leaf) in plants of the family Lauraceae. Linalool is present in high percentage in bay leaf and his known to hold hypothermic properties and have produce effects on the central nervous system of mice. These effects are dose-dependent and can be described as sedative, hypnotic and anticonvulsant [2].

Finally, Linck et al (2010) [3] suggests that inhaling Linalool rich essential oils can be used as an anxiolytic to promote relaxation and control stress, as has been shown in mice that responded with increased social interaction and decreased aggressive behaviour.

The information collected show that there is benefit in inhaling, to a dose based on loads of common sense and recognition of your personal health status, essential oils containing bay leaf's linalool. Breathing smokes derived from burning bay leaf is not per se dangerous but can produce two risks, 1) excessive smoke inhalation and 2) inhalation of the very dangerous hydrogen cyanide due to burning the wrong plant, as referred in previous posts.

A quick search on essential oils for anxiety relief took me to this page. Use it as an initial idea of what plant might hold the right oil for you to use it in your home environment. I hope this post was helpful. The coming one will respond yet again to Sue G.'s question on bay leaf and the relief of fatigue. A third post coming out later this week will then finally respond to Judy on her query regarding chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, inhaling bay leaf fumes or essential oils, and massing these oils on the chest. Stick around but bear in mind, your family doctor most of the times will have the adequate answer for your specific case as he knows best your health records.


[1] Sharangi, A. B, and Guha, S. (2013). "Wonders of leafy spices: Medicinal properties ensuring human health". Science International, 1(9), pp. 312-317.

[2] Re, L., Barocci, S., Mencorelli, A., Vivani, C., Paolucci, G., Scarpantonio, A., Rinaldi, L., Mosca, E. (2000). "Linalool modifies the nicotininc receptor-ion channel kinetics at the mouse neuromuscular junction", Pharmacol Res, 42 (2000), pp. 177-182.

[3] Linck, V. M., Silva, A. L., Figiero, M., Caramao, E. B., Moreno, P. R. H., Elisabetsky, E. (2009). "Effects of inhaled Linalool in anxiety social interactionand aggressive behaviour in mice". Phytomedicine, 17(8-9), pp. 679-683.

Image kindly taken from Bay Leaf Oils [http://bayleafoils.com/]. on the 14th of October 2016.

What lies beneath in the months to come

If you have been following this blog for the past years you might have noticed that over the year of 2016 I haven’t said much. The writing of my PhD thesis, preparing for my viva, searching for a job and promoting both my science serious games company and our very first product “Adna’s Lab” occupied most of my time. Add to that my beautiful 2-year-old and preparing the coming product of my company, and you have an idea that updating this toxicology blog was ever so hard.

The year is starting to burn the very first Autumn sticks and most of my personal and professional projects have known a turning point. I submitted my thesis, passed my viva, finished the suggested minor corrections that I will finally submit this 20th of October, SciBoard Games reached the final of the 4th International Educational Games Competition at ECGBL 2016, I was offered the role of multilingual medical information officer at the ProPharma Group and I’m travelling to Germany (as I write) to exhibit “Adna’s Lab” at the Spiel 2016 (Essen).

In addition, I’m having a little girl this December. She will be with us very close to Christmas Day. What a present I’d say… a little girl… I am going to be the proud father of a beautiful ever so smart and artistic kiddo and his newborn sister right at the hype of Christmas. Add to that the possibility of finally selling the rights of our game to a good publisher and the year of 2016 gave me pretty much all I prayed for. In addition, I can also stress that as a Sjogren’s syndrome patient I had an incredible year after all the changes I produced in my diet. Strictly no alcohol, replacing sucrose for stevia, adding chocolate based on xylitol, no spicy food, drinking loads of water, exercising at least twice a week, replacing dairy products for coconut and rice milk and soy yogurts, and eating loads of avocados, walnuts and brown bread.

The year 2016 gave me so far pretty much 90% of the best I could wish for. But I want more, I deserve more, and I will get more. Now that the levels of stress and anxiety are behind, I am enjoying having transitioned from academia to the industry, or at least to a more corporate-based professional context. I am happy, my company looks solid in their market position and their investment on training their employees is so far the most appealing factor I could come across. What I have experienced with them so far isn’t but a very positive attitude towards preparing their employees to deliver immaculate professional results. Contrarily to the chaotic/autistic training approach left behind in academia, this industry so far has really caught my heart.

But I need to write more. Writing and researching scientific subjects is part of my DNA. I cannot live without knowing more and helping others know more and do informed decisions. For that matter I will try and look for a post every 10 days, even if the amount of information isn’t too big, at least I’ll deliver informative and modern topics trice a month.… and if you knew what I have in store for you guys!!! To start with, my fellow American readers are crazy about Bay Leaf. They crave for information and that is what I’ll be doing over the coming weeks, i.e., responding to a pile of questions that have been stacking in the past bay leaf posts. There are very pertinent and interesting questions hanging for a while and I really want to make sure I don’t let those readers down.

Then, a personal opinion article on the possible link between hypercortisolism and the onset of Sjogren’s syndrome. That followed by another research post looking a bit more into the amphibiotic behaviour of Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria’s camouflage strategies and other examples of amphibiotic resistance from bacteria.

But there is lots and lots more of interesting subjects to cover. Stick around.