Monthly Archives: September 2007

Curcumin Bioavailability (Continued)

Two interesting comments to yesterday’s post. First, I would like to address Don’s comment. With my almost non-existent scientific background, I think the idea of swallowing the chocolate lozenge just as you would swallow a pill is in order for it to melt slowly not in the mouth but in the stomach. If it melts in the mouth, wouldn’t that defeat the purpose? How would curcumin bypass the stomach if it were not still encapsulated in fat? I could be totally wrong, of course.

Second, Marcelo’s comment. I agree, I would love to have a chemist comment on all of this, too! At any rate, his wife now dissolves curcumin in olive oil. A possible suggestion to improve taste would be to add herbs and spices to this concoction. In the past, I tried flaxseed oil, but the taste was so dreadful that after a couple of weeks I became nauseous just at the sight of this mixture, no matter how much I tried to think of it as a Harry Potter potion. However, I still think an oil mixture is a good way to take curcumin (and Biocurcumax would be proof of that, although where to get our hands on essential oil of turmeric is beyond me), perhaps THE best way, but you have to have a strong stomach for it. By the way, if you would like to read the Biocurcumax patent application, go to: http://tinyurl.com/2nqcjf I will go through this application more carefully soon.

As for “milk cream” (would that just be cream, Marcelo, as in whipping cream or double cream?), I would suggest heating it. It seems strange that your curcumin didn’t dissolve in cream. In the past, I tried the warm cream/curcumin (another yuck!) mixture, and the former dissolved rather easily. There may not be enough fat content in your “milk cream.” (?)

A good question would be: how to make all these great concoctions more palatable? I am very open to suggestions.

Here are a couple of things that I would like to try in the future. One is the chocolate lozenge idea; the other is the oil idea, with, as I mentioned previously, the addition of other spices (spices have anti-inflammatory effects, generally speaking, so I very much doubt that they would interact negatively with curcumin) in order to make the concoction more palatable. Speaking of palatable, I remember that last year, after preparing a huge Indian feast, I took my curcumin mixed in the oily part of the food, and it tasted absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t taste the curcumin at all when mixed with all those wonderful spices. Well, in my September 12th post ( Signaling Protein for Multiple Myeloma Identified ), I wrote about an Indian dish called Vindaloo. Given my previously-described successful (in terms of taste, anyway!) experiment with curcumin and spicy oil, this reinforced my idea of mixing curcumin with the warmed up oily part of this dish. That might well be the best way to take curcumin. Ahhh, with spices there really are so many different possibilities. I wish I could do one experiment for two weeks, have blood tests done, then do another experiment for two weeks, and so on. But patience is a virtue, no? And in fact, according to an Italian proverb, la pazienza è la virtù dei forti, which roughly means patience is the virtue of strong people. So I will be patient, I will be strong, and try one thing at a time, for two months at a time.

Speaking of patience and strength, it’s time for my health update! 😉 Yesterday morning my doctor finally gave me an ultimatum (he was nice but firm about it): “you will have shots of antibiotics OR ELSE!” (I hate shots!) I didn’t have to ask what OR ELSE! meant. I know it meant going to the hospital. So, after many phone calls (after all, it was Saturday!) we found a professional nurse who came over almost immediately to give me my first shot. What a sweetheart! A sweetheart with a steady but gentle hand, to boot. She didn’t hurt me at all and also played with my cats, with little Peekaboo in particular (we finally had to shut our curious little kitten out of the room, since she was getting a bit too interested in the proceedings!). A lovely lovely lovely person. Anyway, I will have a total of six big shots/three days. But hey, it is working: I am feeling almost normal today. What I don’t know yet is if what I have is acute bronchitis OR pneumonia. It’s a fine line between the two, I have read online, and only an X-ray would tell for sure. Forget the X-ray. Whatever it is, I am going to have to be careful for the next couple of weeks. Well, being housebound will give me time to do some research. Every cloud has a silver lining, right? (Oh dear, I am speaking in proverbs today! A possible side effect from the massive amounts of antibiotics?) 😉

Myeloma Cells, Hara-Kiri And Chocolate Curcumin Truffles ?

A blog reader recently wrote me a fascinating (private) message. With his permission, I am posting parts of it (it’s a long message, so I had to edit it a bit). This is a brilliant presentation of the bioavailability of curcumin with a few interesting suggestions on how to increase it:

Biocurcumax is giving us curcumin that is predissolved in 10-15% oil by weight. Isn’t that what I am doing by mixing curcumin with full fat yogurt: predissolving it before ingesting it? Could it be that those of us who predissolve in oil are already getting the benefit of the improved bioavailability that Biocurcumax wants to offer us? And why does the dissolution of curcumin in oil help the bioavailability? I believe it is because the way the body digests fat is that it the chunks go through the stomach and then it becomes emulsified when bile is added to the initial end of the small intestine. Then those small droplets of oil, containing molecules of dissolved curcumin, are small enough to pass through the vilii of the small intestine into the network of lymph ducts that parallel all the network of blood veins, into which other molecules enter through the vein pores in the walls of the vessels (but the fat droplets don’t). Fats are not digested much in the stomach or the small intestine, but enter the lymph system, along with the enzyme lipase, which breaks down the fat globules and converts the fats into glycerol and fatty acids, both of which are soluble in water. So when the lymph is dumped back into the blood vein system up near the thorax, the fat has been changed into water soluble components. Presumably, the curcumin that was dissolved in the fat globules (dissolved means that it then existed in molecular form, not crystalline form), now remains attached to the fatty acids molecules or exists as free curcumin molecules in the blood to be carried throughout the body to find their home on some ugly little cancer cell in the bone marrow, where it frightens that cancer cell into committing hara-kiri, or your favorite word APOPTOSIS. So my theory is the Biocurcumax improves bioavailability by dissolving part of the curcumin in the oil, making easier for part of it to get into the blood stream through the lymph system. But I want to dissolve ALL of the curcumin in oil so that All of it gets into the blood stream through the lymph system. Maybe we already are there and don’t know it because no one ever measured.Finally, I have two more brainstorm ideas to push on you. First, you must realize that curcumin will dissolve in alkaline aqueous solutions, but not acid solutions. The stomach is very acidic but the small intestine is very alkaline. First idea is to ferry the curcumin through the stomach, where a lot of it gets turned into curcumin glucorinide and curcumin sulfate, neither of which are bioactive, and into the small intestine by encapsulating the fine curcumin powder in an enteric coated capsule that can resist the stomach acids, but will dissolve in the alkaline environment of the small intestine, releasing its contents, which promptly dissolve in that environment and enter the vein system in molecular form. Some may still get lost through conjugation into glucorinide and sulfate, but more will at least get dissolved and able to enter the blood stream because it wasn’t conjugated while in the stomach.Second idea is to dissolve the curcumin into some kind of fat (how about cocoa butter?) that is hard at room temperature, like chocolate, and form it into a capsule form, which gets swallowed whole. As it makes it way through the stomach it slowly melts and the fat breaks into droplets with the curcumin still dissolved in them. These droplets are then emulsified in the small intestine and go on their way into the lymph system to be digested by the lipase, as in the above description. The main advantage of this approach is convenience. Just pop a few delicious chocolate-flavored lozenges into your mouth and swallow them WHOLE, and your curcumin is on its way to lymph heaven.

I would love to hear reader comments on this message. Publicly and/or privately. I particularly liked his second idea: chocolate, my favourite thing in the world, AND curcumin? I must do some experimenting. And why not mix curcumin with a ganache, i.e., warm cream with unsweetened dark chocolate? Ahhh, the possibilities are endless.

Yesterday morning I was suddenly struck by the thought that curcumin probably wouldn’t interfere with my antibiotics, but bioperine might. So today I am going to try the curcumin chocolate ganache idea, since I still have some C3 Complex curcumin powder, and I hate the idea of not taking curcumin for more than a few days. Unfortunately, since I have lost my sense of taste, I won’t be able to report on THAT part of the experiment (perhaps just as well!). 😉

Health update: I felt lousy yesterday, my fever returned and I had a nasty cough, but today I am feeling a bit better. My doctor is monitoring me, and will probably change my treatment today. Anyway, no worries!

Croaking Like A Frog

Well, here we go again. I had been feeling better for days, then last night my sore throat was back, and I started croaking like a frog. Today I have been feeling icky, hardly able to speak, and coughing up, well, you don’t want a description. Are the antibiotics not working? Is curcumin interfering? Just in case, I stopped taking curcumin. Stopped taking WHAT? I know, I know. It probably doesn’t make any sense. Just for a couple of days, though.

I spoke with my doctor this morning and will speak with him tomorrow, too. We have to do something. This is ridiculous.

On a more cheerful note, my cousin sent me a link to an animated short film commissioned by the Tuscan Region for the U.N. Water Year 2003. It has been selected as part of a short film festival dealing with ecological themes. Absolutely brilliant. See: http://tinyurl.com/yuforx

I am so proud of you, my very talented and sweet cousin! Bravissimo!!!

September Test Results

They finally arrived! Okay, there is no getting around it, my IgG count has increased from 30,60 to 34,30 g/L. And the monoclonal component has also increased, from 24,1 to 25,7, the highest it has been except for the period last fall when I took four grams of curcumin a day by mistake (having misread the instructions on the bottle regarding serving size, sigh), when it went up to 25,9. HOWEVER, I have some good news. My IgM and IgA have remained exactly the same (low, but stable). Now, going down the list of my tests, in order:

My white and red cell counts both increased a little bit, and so have my haemoglobin and hematocrit. I should note that they have always been within the normal range.

My platelet count went from 283 to 296, which is higher than any of my pre-curcumin values (so much for the widespread belief that curcumin depresses platelets). Excellent.

My blood viscosity went up 10 points, from 45 to 55, but it is still nowhere near my all-time high, which was 95 (!). Not too bad.

Creatinine and LDH have both decreased somewhat. They have always been way within normal range. My triglycerides and my total cholesterol also went down. My cholesterol is still above normal, but it’s under 300 mg/dL, at least!

My ferritin (iron stores) have gone up slightly, from an abysmally low 7 to a less abysmally low 8 (the low end of the normal range is 10). At least it’s going in the right direction…

My total protein has decreased slightly, from 8,6 to 8,5, which puts it even more within the normal range. My calcium has gone from 9,4 to 9,2 mg/dL. Uric acid has also gone down a bit. Albumin is still stable and within the normal range.

A new test, which supposedly yields my M-spike (?), gives me a value of 2,18. There are no reference ranges. In Italian, this test is called serum monoclonal component. Am I correct in assuming this is the M-spike?

My analysis. These tests were taken during a period of more-than-usual stress for me. I was about to begin a new job teaching English, and I hadn’t taught in years. And there were a few family problems, nothing major, but they did create a certain amount of stress. Could stress have played a factor? Possibly. And what about that rich southern Italian diet? Who knows.

However, I can draw only one conclusion from these tests: curcumin capsules without bioperine are not as effective as those with bioperine, not even taken with quercetin and flaxseed oil capsules. At least in my case. Simple as that. These bioperine-less tests aren’t bad, but they aren’t super, either. Perhaps a mix of capsules with bioperine and ones without would work. I will have to think about trying that in the future.

Right now, I am taking the Doctor’s Best curcumin capsules with bioperine (might as well fess up 😉 , since I have posted about brands!) and have added resveratrol to my regular intake. Next tests in November. We shall see.

Curcumin Brands/Sources in the U.S. and Europe: Powder and Capsules

Yesterday I received a blog comment that turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. In a good sense! Until then, I had rather stubbornly decided not to recommend or even list any curcumin brands or sources on my blog, but I realize that this type of information might be useful to those thinking of taking curcumin but with no idea where to buy it (so many websites sell it now, and it’s hard to separate reliable from unreliable ). So I have changed my mind. Of course, let me state first and foremost that I have no financial or other type of interest in any of the brands or sources that I will be listing below. Okay, with that out of the way, here goes.

Curcumin brands and sources in the U.S.A.: capsules

1. Please go see Don’s excellent list: http://tinyurl.com/34byoj. He does us the huge favour of comparing costs (per capsule, even). The only addition that I would make is that Doctor’s Best can be bought a bit more cheaply at Vitacost, which is where I generally order most of my supplements. Okay, I take that back, the price has recently gone up to $ 14.74. Still, a few cents cheaper. As we say in Italy, tutto fa brodo, which literally means everything makes broth, but is properly translated as it’s all grist to the mill, hey, even just a few cents. 😉 Ok, seriously, now. Don has also posted a lot of good information about curcumin, and, in particular, I would suggest a read of his post on curcumin and nanotechnology: http://tinyurl.com/3as7we Of the brands listed by Don, I have taken NSI and Doctor’s Best. I had fewer stomach gurglings with the former, but of course that doesn’t mean it is better or worse. I know that Don mixes and matches his capsules a bit, which I think is a good idea, especially in order to avoid taking too much bioperine. I read that too much black pepper is not good for us in the long run (I have posted about this), so please remember not to add black pepper to your food if you are taking eight grams of curcumin WITH bioperine.

2. There is also another source for capsules (and perhaps even powder, but that is a question you would have to ask the company) at: http://www.turmeric-curcumin.com/ I have never personally ordered from them, so I cannot say much except that their curcumin does not contain bioperine and is not the C3 Complex curcumin by Sabinsa. Just another option. Ah, if you scroll down their homepage, you will also find up-to-date news about curcumin, which can be very useful.

Curcumin Powder

There are two main U.S. sources for curcumin powder, as far as I know.

1. My first supplier was Supplemental Health Formulations, LLC, a very nice, friendly company. That was before I discovered the Italian distributor of Sabinsa based in Milan, which made my life much easier, of course. The SHF homepage is: http://www.shfnatural.com/ and the page that lists curcumin and many other supplements (I ordered some quercetin powder from them, e.g.) is: http://tinyurl.com/hgfma The price per kilo is $ 75.00 plus shipping. The SHF curcumin is not the C3 Complex type by Sabinsa Corporation (used in the MD Anderson myeloma clinical trial), in case you were wondering. Let’s see, what else? The SHF curcumin is coarser, stains less, and is less palatable (in my opinion) compared to the C3 Complex. However, if I lived in the U.S. I would order from this company again, and test and compare the two powders. If!

2. You can buy the C3 Complex used in the MD Anderson clinical trial directly from Sabinsa, apparently. The cost is $ 73.00 per kilo, plus shipping costs. I took this information from an e-mail exchange I had in January of 2007 with Kavita Subramanian, Senior Manager, International Business, Sabinsa Corporation, 70 Ethel Road West, Unit 6, Piscataway, NJ 08854. Phone number: 732 777 111 (ask for her extension). Please contact her for more information. My blog doesn’t allow me to post e-mail addresses for obvious reasons, but anyone who would like to have Kavita Subramanian’s e-mail address can leave me a comment here, and I will be glad to forward it privately. I should add that I have never ordered directly from Sabinsa U.S.A., but I have ordered from their Italian distributor, see below.

Curcumin brands and sources in Europe: capsules

U.K.: a couple of blog readers (thank you!) sent me their source for Doctor’s Best: http://tinyurl.com/yto9uh

Italy: as far as I know, the only source of capsules in Italy is the same that I will list for curcumin powder, i.e., the Italian distributor of Sabinsa, Sochim International. This is the Sochim homepage: http://www.sochim.it/ Their catalogue can be downloaded in English and in Italian. Sochim does not sell to private citizens, so you must order curcumin (capsules or powder) through your pharmacy or herbal store or whatnot. I have ordered both C3 Complex curcumin capsules and powder (both sans bioperine) from Sochim through my friendly pharmacist here in Florence. A slight drag, but it works.

There is also a French company called Anastore (the website may be viewed in four languages) that uses the C3 Complex curcumin: http://www.anastore.com/ I placed my first curcumin capsule order with Anastore, as a matter of fact. Prompt and free delivery. But it got to be a bit expensive because at the time they were making only a 400 mg capsule. Now I see that they make a 500 mg capsule. Much better. However, if I have done the math correctly (always double-check me, I am not good at all with numbers!), even the 3+1 offer would last only 15 days on eight grams a day. Not very long. Anastore is also my source for black cumin oil capsules, by the way.

Curcumin powder

I have ordered the C3 Complex powder from the Italian Sochim Int., see details above.

There is a Spanish distributor for Sabinsa, Goerlich Pharma Espana, S.L., but I don’t know if they sell curcumin to individuals, although I see that they do list the C3 Complex powder here: http://tinyurl.com/ytn2ng. The website also lists contact numbers, etc.

Sabinsa Europe is based in Germany, see contact information here: http://tinyurl.com/yq8m8t. Again, no idea if they sell to individuals. The only way to find out is to contact them directly.

I will make an effort to find other sources in Europe, which I fear won’t be easy until curcumin becomes a common household word. Of course, Sabinsa’s homepage lists their branches throughout the world. Easy.

Have I missed anything? Probably. As always, I welcome suggestions and comments. Thank you!

Cat Healing

I have no pain in the pleural region and no fever today, and am feeling much, indeed MUCH better. Almost my old self again. Thank you all for your get-well wishes (private and public ones). Much appreciated. Of course, many thanks go to my parents and husband for taking care of me, but I also wanted to mention that they received a lot of help from my cats, who took their nursing duties very seriously. Peekaboo by my sideThey did almost regular nursing shifts on my bed (see photo of little Peekaboo), but on Friday, my worst day, I had at least two cats on me or next to me at all times. It’s rather uncanny, when you think about it. How do they KNOW??? It’s a good thing that I was feeling too poorly to be reminded, at the time, of Oscar the Death Cat (see my July 26, or thereabouts, post). 😉 Seriously, though, I am sure my cats’ warm furry presence was an important factor in my healing so quickly. There is nothing like being surrounded by purring cats.

I tried to pick up on my CRP research this morning but am not up to that yet. So, research will have to wait a few more days. But Stefano is downstairs making me risotto with different kinds of cheeses, so life is returning to normal! Just a few more days.

The Phantom of Pleurisy

Had a bit of a tough day, yesterday. I woke up with a fever of 38 ° Centigrade (100.4 Fahrenheit, oh I do love those online converters!) and felt icky enough to call the doctor. He put me on antibiotics immediately. By 2 p.m. my fever had gone up to 39.3 ° C (102.7 ° F), and I had a familiar pain in my left lung. In May 2006 that kind of sharp pain was my first main symptom of pleurisy (a painful inflammation of the linings around the lungs, called pleura). But back then I didn’t know what the pain meant, so the condition went untreated for days (that’s the problem of getting ill on a Friday!). By the time my doctor came to see me, I was gasping painfully for air. I was ill for two and a half months, and completely bedridden for at least the first month. I refused to go to the hospital, and my parents and Stefano agreed. So they took care of me, a heroic feat indeed. I will always be grateful to them for that. Well, this time I recognized the pain, and am confident that I caught it in time. Gone, however, is my feeling of pride in my valiant little immune system! 😉 Drat.

I am feeling much better today, still a slight fever and a slight pain in the pleural region, but clearly the two types of antibiotics are working. Ah, and my sense of humour has returned. Stefano and I were joking around this morning. However, I won’t be answering e-mails any time soon.

Take care, everyone, and watch out for high fevers and stabbing steady pains in your lung area. Ok, back to bed! :-)

Eat the Colorful Flavonoids, Not the Cans

Once again, I am postponing my segue to the CRP post. Too complicated for my fuzzy brain right now, even though I am feeling better today, and my sore throat is almost gone. But tomorrow I have classes, so I must concentrate on being perky for my students. 😀 One thing struck me when I reread yesterday’s post, though: I didn’t mean to slam specialists. We need specialists, of course. My point was another, and I hope that was clear…

Since I was (and am) not at the top of my mental abilities today, I ignored my increasing pile of medical and scientific studies, and instead read other lighter items such as an article titled “Add Color to Your Diet,” published today in the Tyler Morning Telegraph (East Texas). It’s worth reading, since it explains in simple language what flavonoids €”quercetin, epicathechin (found in chocolate!), delphinidin, capsaicin, curcumin etc. €”are. Instead of posting a summary, here is the link for those interested in flavonoids: http://tinyurl.com/2d3br6

At the end of the article there is a link to a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s database listing 26 selected but important flavonoids in 393 foods. How about that? I was very excited. Until I saw some of the items on the list, that is, then I was sort of amused. Here is the link, have fun! http://tinyurl.com/yvwdrm You will even find chocolate on this list, as follows: “candies, dark chocolate, purchased in the Netherlands.” Dark chocolate candies purchased in…the NETHERLANDS? But the first item that really tickled my funny bone was the ready-to-serve marinara pasta sauce. (No brand name mentioned, so I guess there is only ONE brand that makes this kind of sauce…). The sauce actually turned out to have a tiny percentage (less than 1%) of quercetin. Better than a zero, I suppose.

Another couple of items were canned sauerkraut and commercial condensed canned tomato soup. C’mon, you’ve got to be kidding. Who would go look for flavonoids inside a can??? A Popeye the Sailor Man aficionado? Okay, to be fair I checked the canned foods almost one by one, and it turns out that canned capers do have a high content of kaempferol and quercetin. But the rest of the canned items either turned up a big bunch of zeros or negligible quantities per edible portion. Edible (oh dear, I feel another tickle…)? Oh, I get it, I guess you are not supposed to eat the can part of canned foods like “sweetened canned cranberry sauce” (another item on this list). Just eat the cranberries and put the can in the recycling bin… 😉

The Limits Of Science: Un Altro Giro Di Giostra

Yesterday I felt a bit under the weather; my main symptom was a nasty sore and swollen throat which made it difficult for me to talk or swallow. But today I feel much better, and am up and about. And talking. 😉 I am very proud of my weakened (very low IgAs and IgMs) but valiant immune system. Since Monday evening, when I began feeling a bit ill, I have taken only a couple of aspirins (hey, salicylates!). Of course, I continue to take my curcumin etc. Yesterday I was feeling so poorly that I thought oh great, here we go again, another cycle of antibiotics. But today I think I will be just fine (well, starting tomorrow)! Goes to show that a compromised immune system can still function. Sometimes.

I don’t feel like posting the segue to my CRP post today, though. Instead, I will post about a topic that I have been pondering while reading a fascinating book by Tiziano Terzani, a well-known Italian journalist/writer. The book is about his experience with cancer and life etc. By the way, it took me the longest time to find what type of cancer he had (he died in 2004). Most websites, both Italian and English, just mentioned the generic word cancer. But I finally found it on the International Herald Tribune website: stomach cancer. At any rate, this wonderful book is titled Un altro giro di giostra (or One More Ride on the Merry-go-round ), and one of the themes he discusses is the inadequacy of modern science and medicine, and the fact that we (patients) are sometimes (often? always?) seen by our specialists not as a whole, but merely as a collection of our filled-out medical forms and charts and tests and x-rays. He writes that machines and tests and diagnoses are essential, of course. But if we are seen only as parts of our whole selves, the risk is blindness.

He offers a brilliant example: an ancient Indian story about a group of five blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. There are many versions of this story online, but this is Terzani’s: the first blind man grasps the elephant by its legs and says that an elephant is like a temple, and these are its columns. The second man strokes his trunk and declares that the elephant is like a serpent. The third man feels the elephant’s stomach and reports that the animal is like a mountain. The fourth touches an ear, and the elephant turns out to be similar to a fan. The last blind man grabs the elephant’s tail and announces that the elephant is like a whip. Terzani states that every definition contains some truth, but the elephant is not described by any of these men as it really is. He compares his excellent doctors at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to those five blind men, because if a physicist, a chemist, a biologist and a zoologist were asked to provide a scientific description of an elephant, they would end up giving four totally different portrayals. This illustrates the problem of scientific knowledge: it is precise, it is exact, it is ready and willing to substitute current theories with new ones or vice versa, Terzani writes, but it is also permanently limited in its comprehension of reality. I have a story of my own: a neighbour’s daughter has something wrong with her. She is 17 years old. Her mother has taken her to almost every specialist in Florence, she has had a million tests of all sorts, but not one of these excellent doctors has been able to come up with a diagnosis, even less a course of treatment. Nobody can figure out what is wrong with her, and something clearly is wrong. So she undergoes more tests. This has gone on for months. Could it be that we have too many specialists in our modern Western world? Therein may lie the limits of science.

Terzani tells another story (I love his stories!) showing that if we look at reality only through the lens of science we risk acting like the drunk in a popular Asian story. On his way home after a jolly evening spent drinking with some friends, a drunk realizes that he has lost the key to his house. As he is searching the ground under a street lamp, a passerby asks him what he is doing. The drunk slurs, “I’m looking for the key to my house.” The passerby asks, “Are you sure you lost it here?” “No,” replies the drunk. The passerby asks Then why are you looking for it here? “Because it’s the only place where I can see anything.” Scientists, Terzani continues, behave in the same way. The world that they describe to us through their instruments is not THE world but a partial view of it.

Terzani also describes the frustrations that must be felt by modern scientists, again with a story: one day a scientist friend of his pointed to his head, saying: I know how every single type of cell works up here, but I don’t know how the brain works. Beautifully put. So, how to solve this problem? Well, I certainly don’t have the answer. But perhaps we would be better off if doctors were taught to have more of a holistic approach to medicine. I am lucky in the sense that I have two brilliant doctors: my GP who, in addition to having a specialization in general medicine AND surgery AND psychology, is also a skilled homeopath (the man is a genius), and my haematologist, who is very open-minded etc., as I have written on previous occasions. They both listen to me. I mean, REALLY listen. The first thing they ask when we sit down is: how are you doing? Not: let’s have a look at your tests. Not everybody has my good fortune, though. I belong to three myeloma listservs and have read plenty of ghastly doctor stories.

I concur with Terzani. I think, generally speaking, that doctors tend to identify their patients with their illnesses and not see them as people (excluding my own case). They look at the part, not the whole. This is a HUGE topic, but I must say that my interest in holistic Ayurveda seems to deepen day by day, especially as I read through this book.

Final thought: perhaps one day our specialists will no longer be called multiple myeloma specialists but multiple myeloma PATIENT specialists. 😉

C-Reactive Protein Levels in Multiple Myeloma

Last week a multiple myeloma listserv member posted a ScienceDaily article that initially puzzled me. The article (http://tinyurl.com/2k3acf) begins: Scientists report that a protein best known as a common marker of inflammation plays a key role in the progression of human cancer. The research, published by Cell Press in the September issue of the journal Cancer Cell, implicates C-reactive protein (CRP) as a potential target for cancer treatment. Well, that didn’t seem like breaking news to me. One of my regular blood tests measures my serum levels of CRP, and I know that it’s a myeloma marker. But then I read the showstopper: These results provide strong evidence that CRP is not just a marker for MM but is a critical regulator of myeloma cell survival.

Not good.

Reading on, this protein protects myeloma cells from the effects of chemotherapy and also enhances their production of IL-6 (an evil cytokine that protects myeloma cells from dying). So CRP and IL-6 work together to keep myeloma cells alive, in a sort of vicious circle. Also not good.

As I was reading this article and then the study abstract (http://tinyurl.com/2xop56), a question popped into my mind: are there any natural ways to decrease our CRP levels? The answer is YES. However, since this is a complex topic, both to understand and to investigate, and since my research has led me a bit astray (all over the place, actually!) given the overwhelming amount of information, I chose to post some of what I found out by degrees.

Let’s start with the C-Reactive Protein. What is it? In essence, it’s a protein produced by the liver and released into the bloodstream when there is an ongoing inflammatory process in the body. It is a non-specific marker for inflammation: an elevated CRP level indicates inflammation but won’t tell us where exactly it is located. So we might have high CRP levels due to a simple cold, arthritis or some type of infection. The above-mentioned abstract reports that Elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) are present in many disease situations including malignancies and may contribute to the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disorders. I didn’t know that an elevated CRP is a indicator also of cardiovascular problems, hypertension and other types of cancer (prostate, hepatocellular, e.g.) until I did research for this blog piece. Indeed, one interesting item that I came across is that people at risk of developing heart trouble or a stroke may, strangely enough, have normal LDL cholesterol levels but a high CRP. Quite an important recent discovery! Anyway, I double-checked my own CRP levels, which have never been above 9 mg/L (that is the normal range). The problem with this test, at least in Italy, is that it doesn’t quantify CRP. It simply reports that I have less than 9 mg of this protein in my blood. I prefer to have precise figures, so this test does not satisfy me at all. Besides, I noticed that in 2005 I had.5 mg, so at one point it WAS an actual number. Puzzling.

So we go back to the question of how to reduce CRP levels by natural means. I will give one example before stopping for the day (I have to get ready for my classes tomorrow). I found a couple of recent studies showing that one way to reduce CRP levels may be to increase our daily fiber intake. See: http://tinyurl.com/23hd2p and http://tinyurl.com/3xldst. That’s it for today!