Monthly Archives: May 2008

Acid, alkaline or…balderdash?

Have you ever come across sentences like these: if your acid-alkaline equilibrium is out of balance, you are making your body prone to disease, low energy, stress and infections? Yes, I have, too. Scary, huh?

 

The acid-alkaline theory, as it is called, attempts to explain how tumours develop and proliferate. In a nutshell: since cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment, cancer forms when too much acid builds up inside the body. It follows that if we eat alkalizing foods we can prevent or even reverse a cancerous trend. No acid, no cancer. Ah, fantastic. So simple.

 

Too simple…

The May 2008 newsletter (see: http://tinyurl.com/4ovujo) of the American Institute of Cancer discusses this unsubstantiated theory […] based on lab studies that suggest cancer cells thrive in an acidic (low pH) environment, but cannot survive in alkaline (high pH) surroundings. While these findings are accurate, they apply only to cells in an isolated lab setting. Altering the cell environment of the human body to create a less-acidic, less-cancer-friendly environment is virtually impossible.

Impossible because, generally speaking, our body seeks to maintain a constant equilibrium between acidity and alkalinity. Too much acid in our bloodstream? No problem, it gets excreted via our kidneys. Too much alkali? The kidneys intervene, again. So no matter how many alkaline foods we eat or drink, we cannot change our body’s pH.

 

Jacob Schor, a naturopathic doctor who works at the Denver Naturopathic Clinic, wrote an interesting report (see: http://tinyurl.com/2oon73) debunking the acid-alkaline theory once and for all. One of his statements, based on recent scientific studies, is that an acidic environment doesn’t cause cancer. Indeed, it’s the other way around: Rapidly growing tumors create an acidic environment lacking in oxygen. […] Changing the pH of a tumor does not change its growth rate significantly, nor does it seem to lead to cell death.

The acid-alkaline theory has some positive features, though, as Jacob points out: it promotes the ingestion of foods that are good for us–fruit and vegetables, e.g.–and tells us to cut down on processed foods that are high in sugar. Good advice.

Ah, by the way, if you have ever thought of buying “alkaline” water, please have a look at Dr. Andrew Weil’s report: http://tinyurl.com/2fplhn. It may save you some money.

I have to confess that, more than a year ago, when I first read about the acid-alkaline theory, I was intrigued enough to print out an acid/alkaline food chart and hang it up in my kitchen. Well, that chart has ended up in the trash can.

Balderdash.

A good reason to avoid sugar

The “editor” problem has still not been fixed, but I decided to go ahead and publish a post anyway this morning. You will notice that the tiny urls are not highlighted, so if you want to go and check an abstract, you will have to copy and paste the link. Sorry about that. I hope the problem can be resolved soon! (UPDATE, May 29: the fabulous Healthblogs manager has fixed the formatting/editing problem, so the tiny urls should work now, etc.).

That sugar is bad for folks who have cancer is nothing new. There is a ton of literature on this topic. And the cancer-sugar connection makes sense when you consider that PET scans are able to identify possibly active tumours thanks to radioactive sugar (radioactive sugar…no comment!!!) injected into the body. Since active tumours gobble up sugar much more quickly than healthy cells, the so-called “hot spots” that show up on PET scans could well be cancer cells having a radioactive sugar snack. Scary, when you think of it. (I haven’t had a PET scan yet, but Sherlock had one recently, and it turned out “clean,” by the way, which is super duper! Evviva!).

Anyway, after my diagnosis in 2005, and after reading Quillin’s book, “Beating Cancer with Nutrition,” I cut back on sugar. Way back. For a time I even eliminated it. After a few months, though, I fell off the no-sugar-at-any-costs wagon. I take a bit of honey in my morning cappuccino. I still avoid white and brown sugar as much as possible, but I have resumed eating sweets whenever I feel like it.

Thing is, since reading the study linking stress to myeloma (see my Page on this topic), I have become convinced that it’s worse to crave something sugary and NOT eat it, or eat it and feel guilty!, than just to go ahead and eat it. I don’t fight urges anymore (well, if they are within reason, of course!). My diet is certainly much healthier than it used to be: for instance, I eat heaps of Brassicaceae (broccoli etc.), garlic, onions etc.

But the point of my post today is: why is sugar bad for us? What are the mechanisms involved? Well, researchers at the Duke School of Medicine may have found an answer. According to a recent Science Daily article (http://tinyurl.com/45yrh2), the Duke researchers discovered that sugar is used by tumour cells to avoid programmed cell death (apoptosis): They make use of a protein called Akt, which promotes glucose metabolism, which in turn regulates a family of proteins critical for cell survival […]. So AKT (in its mutant form) apparently keeps cancer cells alive.

The researchers also noticed that when they removed glucose from the environment, Akt was not able to prevent the cancer cells from dying. Aha! One of the researchers commented that Akt’s dependence on glucose to provide an anti-cell-death signal could be a sign of metabolic addiction to glucose in cancer cells, and could give us a new avenue for a metabolic treatment of cancer. Interesting.

Then I read a related Science Daily report (http://tinyurl.com/3or2dj) about glycolysis, a process that turns glucose into energy for cells. Unlike healthy cells that get their energy for growth from both glycolysis and respiration, cancer cells are highly dependent on glycolysis. Highly dependent, huh? More proof that cancer and sugar are good buddies.

The second article tells us that researchers at MD Anderson have now combined two drugs that inhibit glycolysis in human tissue cultures of acute lymphocytic leukemia, thus starving the leukemia cells from their energy source while leaving healthy cells free to get their energy from respiration.

Now I just have to find the time to do some research concerning natural non-toxic ways to inhibit glycolysis without eliminating chocolate chip cookies from my diet…

Blogging woes

I have had some trouble publishing posts in the past few days. The wonderful and very patient Healthblogs manager figured out the problem last night (I apparently have lost my “editor” because of a mischievous “plugin”) and is going to fix it. I hope it won’t take too long! I would have added a smiley face right here but I have “lost” those, too! Argh!
Pazienza, pazienza…

Shakespeare

We spent most of the weekend out in our front and back yard–weeding, raking, planting…just name a gardening activity, we did it! Having a garden is a lot of hard work, but, as I think I have written on previous occasions, it is also wonderful in many ways. For instance, we have heaps of herbs: tarragon, oregano, chervil, parsley and different types of thyme. And, of course, wild (and very sharp-tasting) arugula.

Shakespeare rose 2008

Fantastico!

This is a rose blooming right now out in our back yard. It’s an English rose called “Shakespeare” that we bought last year. I think it’s gorgeous and oh sooo fragrant. A real joy for the senses.

Coconut milk and myeloma

An MMA list member (thank you!) recently posted the link to a Mayo news release on a compound in coconut milk called kinetin riboside that prevents the growth of myeloma cells. It actually kills them in large numbers: http://tinyurl.com/4sj3yy.

Large numbers, huh?! Why, that’s jolly spiffing! (I love that expression, must be my British heritage…).

 

The full Mayo study (http://tinyurl.com/5qfqyf) is available for free online. I haven’t had the time to give it more than a cursory glance, but I read enough to add kinetin riboside to my “to-be-monitored” list.

 

Interestingly, when I first began taking curcumin, I mixed curcumin powder with warm, almost hot, coconut milk, following a suggestion I received from Steve of the Grouppe Kurosawa. At that time, who would have thought that I might also have been ingesting a certain amount of this myeloma-killing compound?

 

And that brings us to the question: how much coconut milk would we have to swallow in order to start killing off our myeloma cells? Well, the answer is probably quite a lot because, as the Mayo study tells us, even though kinetin riboside is present in the human food chain, it occurs at low concentrations. And the Mayo news release tells us that it is present in minute quantities in coconut milk. Still…

 

I have to do more research…

 

Well, this is another promising development in the quest for a non-toxic but effective treatment for myeloma and possibly other types of cancer.

My goal in life.

New blog feature

Since WordPress’s recent update, I have added a couple of new features to my blog. The one that I think will be the most useful is: “Recent Comments.” Useful for those, like yours truly, who like to read blog comments.

 

Frequently readers leave comments on “old” posts, sometimes asking questions that will probably go unanswered (I mean, who bothers reading old posts? When I visit other people’s blogs, I read only their new posts/reader comments). At any rate, the new feature solves that problem, at least in part, since it lists the five most recent reader comments on old and new posts alike.

 

This sounds a bit long-winded, now that I have reread it, but you will see what I mean if you just scroll down this page and look on the right-hand side of your screen. You will find “Recent Comments” right above my monthly Calendar, also a new addition that lists my posts day by day. 

Nifty!

All in good fun…

This is probably going to be one of those “you had to be there” stories, but here goes anyway.
On Friday three of Stefano’s colleagues/friends came over for dinner. Okay, correction: of the three, only one still works in his office. The other two are former colleagues who transferred to the company where I teach English. They are both students of mine. Anyway, it was a very enjoyable evening, even though they talked mostly about work-related stuff and other colleagues that I haven’t met yet. As usual, the meal that chef Stefano prepared was fantastic.
Part of the enjoyment was due to the fact that Stefano and I were able to pull off a joke. As follows.
As I often do now, I had baked two loaves of bread with rosemary (see my post/page on acrylamide) and other herbs from our organic garden. Toward the end of dinner, managing to keep a straight face, I casually asked the women if they liked the bread since we were trying out a new bakery…
Colleague A answered immediately that it was delicious and that she had enjoyed it very much. Colleague B answered that it was very good but a bit salty (very true, I had exaggerated a tad with the salt this time). Colleague C instead screwed up her nose and answered that, even though she hadn’t yet tasted the bread (!), it looked a bit moldy to her.
MOLDY?!!!
Pointing to my precious chopped up herbs, she said, yes, look at all these little green things, what are they? Her actual words in the Tuscan dialect were mah, senti, a me un mi piace ippane che sembra sc’abbia la muffinaicchè sono ‘sti aggeggini verdi?
Stefano and I glanced at each other and began roaring with laughter. After he had somewhat recovered his composure, he explained to our rather baffled guests that I had made the bread. Yes, yes, with my own hands. They were all sooo surprised, even though my reputation as a baker is well known (every year, Stefano’s colleagues receive packets of my U.S. Xmas cookies, and I frequently prepare sweet goodies for my students).
Well, Colleague C was absolutely mortified. A look of (mock) terror settled on her face as soon as she realized that, because of this faux pas, she might flunk her upcoming English exam (hehe…I confess I got some mileage out of that one…).
In an attempt to “mollify” me, she began stuffing my “moldy” bread into her mouth and raving about how tasty it was. She announced that she wanted to take the rest of my bread home and spread Nutella (a popular Italian chocolate-hazelnut cream) all over it. Nutella on rosemary/sage/thyme/origano/moldy bread…hmmm, not quite sure about that combination.
The saga continues. Yesterday at work I discovered that the moldy bread story had made the rounds of the office. Colleague C, a very funny young woman with a good sense of humour, had told everyone what had happened on Friday evening.
She greeted me with an enthusiastic review of my bread and declared that it was the BEST part of the dinner, the best bread she had EVER tasted and would I please make some more so she could take it home to her family. She went a bit overboard. She had even done all of her English homework and more besides. I, of course, was much amused.
But I wasn’t finished with her quite yet. Over the weekend I had chosen and prepared a short text in English on the topic of, you guessed it!, “mold.” I knew she wouldn’t recognize the word, and I deliberately made sure that the text wouldn’t give her any easy clues as to its meaning. During our lesson, I told her that she needed to practice reading English out loud and handed her the…moldy text. She diligently read the first two paragraphs (containing words that were very difficult to pronounce, hehe), then got a bit suspicious and asked me what “mold” meant in Italian.
Ahhh, how I enjoyed the look on her face when I translated the word for her. More laughter.
Later that morning, my other students begged me to be lenient toward Colleague C. This was all done in good fun, of course. They know me well enough by now and, truth be told, Colleague C is my best student. And a wonderful smart and cheerful person, too.
Besides, and even more importantly, she made me laugh more than once, and that alone is worth a whole lot more than a good mark on an exam.

It doesn’t cure death, but…

nigella sativaToday’s Science Daily (http://tinyurl.com/42pofz) has an interesting report on Nigella sativa, also known as black cumin. The black cumin seed plant is a member of the buttercup family and is a highly regarded medicinal plant in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

This is not news to me. I wrote a post in September of 2007 about Nigella sativa titled “A cure for every disease except death.” If you need a memory refresher, just click on my black cumin page on the right side of your screen.

Back to Science Daily. Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University recently discovered that an extract of Nigella sativa, called thymoquinone, blocked pancreatic cancer cell growth and killed the cells via apoptosis.
After adding thymoquinone to pancreatic cancer cells, the researchers observed increased levels of p53 and Bax, both cancer cell killers, as well as decreased levels of Bcl-2, a protein that instead blocks apoptosis. For more technical details please go read the article.
 
So even though I am working on a different topic right now, this article motivated me to have a quick look around to see what else I could find.
 
An interesting abstract published in 2006 (see: http://tinyurl.com/4srow5) deals with the effects of Nigella sativa on rats who had been injected with cadmium. Well, the rats that were treated also with Nigella sativa fared much better than the others: their red and white blood cell counts and haemoglobin were higher, for instance. This is actually the real reason I decided to mention this study: if your haemoglobin and red and white blood cell counts are low, you might consider taking this supplement. Nigella sativa also increased the lowered insulin levels and neutrophils of the rats, and decreased their elevated heart rate and glucose concentration. So, good stuff!

Since Sherlock and I have been doing our experiments together, I have stopped taking Nigella sativa. But I will resume taking it over the summer as soon as our current experiment ends. My RBC and WBC counts are low, albeit still within the normal range. My haemoglobin is also within the normal range but I would love to bring it up a bit.

Hmmm, I just read that black cumin seeds are a good source of iron, as you can see here: http://tinyurl.com/3vvs5m. Well, well…WELL!

No to nano

Yesterday my mother sent me a link (see: http://www.organicconsumers.org/nanotech.cfm) that I thought I would post for those interested in nanotechnology and organic food (plus issues like the parabens and a whole lot more). See also: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_12247.cfm (and the related story…a bit scary, isn’t it?).

At any rate, if, like yours truly, you are concerned that too many nanoproducts are hitting the market without first undergoing adequate safety testing, you can send a message to the FDA from the above link. Just one click. Easy peasy!

There are also updates on my friends the honey bees, and oh a lot of other topics. Very interesting. My first but not last time to this website. I will link to it from my blog.

Please go have a look. Thanks!

Beware of dangling toys!

This morning I was awakened by a noise that no cat lover ever wants to hear: the bloodcurdling screams of one of my cats. I flew downstairs like a puffin (Stefano was taking a shower and heard nothing, by the way).

The first thing I saw in our living room was Priscilla, my second youngest, perched on the armchair and looking extremely upset. And just behind her I saw my little Peekaboo, whose claws had gotten stuck in one of those blasted furry toys attached to one of the cats’ scratching posts. Her howls of pain almost paralyzed me. 

Now, we are normally super careful with cat toys. We have all sorts of cat wands and bright-coloured fluffy toys attached to strings, but once playtime is over (usually when we get tired), the toys get put safely away. We never ever leave out anything that might be dangerous to our cats’ wellbeing. Even a piece of string can be dangerous…or a plastic shopping bag. I remember one time when Piccolo, barely more than a kitten, put his silly little head through the handle of a plastic shopping bag. His head got stuck, at which point he flipped out and began running all over the house, with a very distraught me running after him. He was so terrified that he peed all over the floor and stairs before finally managing to free himself.
 
Anyway, this stupid dangling toy had been dangling on the cat scratching post for ages. We had never had a problem with it.
 
Back to this morning’s horror scene. I rushed up to my screeching Peekaboo and tried to set her loose. She screamed even more loudly, twisting and turning her little body so that I couldn’t hold her still, and ended up biting and scratching me. My sweet gentle kitten. Well, luckily this didn’t last very long. With my help, she managed to free herself and disappeared from sight.
 
My other cats were totally freaked out. Puzzola, my eldest, didn’t even come downstairs for breakfast (I think she is still hiding up in the attic). Piccolo and Priscilla ate their breakfast as though there were a bloodthirsty cat monster in the room: they would take bites of food and cast terrified glances over their shoulders as though something behind them were about to gobble them up.
 
And Peekaboo? After hiding for a few minutes under our bed, she came back downstairs as though nothing had happened and happily ate her breakfast on the kitchen counter (we usually discourage this type of behaviour, by the way…). She is now keeping a watchful eye on the birds flying outside my study window (see photo).

After tossing the evil dangling toy into the garbage and disinfecting my bloody hands, I was finally able to begin my Sunday morning with a nice cup of cappuccino. Phew!