Blood Test Day

I must remember never ever to go to Careggi Hospital on a Monday. I arrived at 7 a.m., and there were already 85 people in line in front of me. Had I arrived at 8 a.m., that number would have risen to 140. But today waiting in line took forever. The nurses were very slow for some reason. It usually goes much faster. I got so sleepy that I even had to stop reading my P.J. Wodehouse (the Jeeves series!). Yawn!

The Careggi waiting hall, located in a building called “La Piastra” for some unknown reason (it means “slab” or “plate,” as in “iron plate” not “dinner plate”), is quite large, and there usually are enough seats for everyone. Problem is, unless you are a special case” (pregnant, e.g.), you are lumped in with everyone else. If my immune system weren’t compromised I wouldn’t mind, of course. But I am very aware of GERMS. I always choose my seat carefully, and if I hear the slightest sneeze or cough nearby, I stop breathing and move away. This morning the waiting room was filled with people with horrific colds and evident cases of bronchitis, coughing and snorting and blowing their noses and sneezing all over the place. All of this, right into their hands. Sigh!

Last night I should have had a proper meal with vegetables and fruit. But we had Sunday lunch at my in-laws’ and overate. Since a bunch of my girlfriends were coming over to play cards after dinner, I ended up making brownies (ah yes, brownies with SUGAR, from a Martha Stewart recipe!) and eating a few of those for dinner. With a glass of MILK! Oh, bad bad girl! I bet my glucose test result will be sky high. At any rate, it will be interesting to see if NOT eating properly the night before having blood tests will make any difference. 😉

Today is my Dad’s 80th birthday. I figured that having my blood tests done on his birthday would bring me excellent luck! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD! AUGURI, BABBO! Ti voglio tanto bene! 🙂

Bence Jones Day!

Today is Bence Jones Day…for ME, I mean. Bence Jones is a typical multiple myeloma monitoring test. But before I get into the nitty-gritty, I would like to mention that this morning I actually looked up Dr. Henry Bence Jones, an English physician and chemist who, in 1845 or thereabouts (some websites say 1847), discovered the existence of the proteins that bear his name. His name is also associated with the first recorded case of multiple myeloma in history, which I thought was a fascinating little historical fact. And he was a friend of Charles Darwin. Oh, but I digress!

Anybody who has ever taken this test (everyone with MGUS or SMM or MM, for sure!) knows what this test entails, but here’s a quick and not overly detailed explanation for those who haven’t. The test measures the presence and quantity of the Bence Jones proteins, which are small abnormal monoclonal proteins (free light chains) made by plasma cells. Now, proteins, generally speaking, are too large to be passed by the kidneys, but these little buggers are small enough to pass easily and quickly from the blood into the urine. When our blood contains too many of these proteins, our efficient bodies filter them out via the kidneys. I should note that during this passage they can damage the kidneys. Not good. Earlier today I read different statistics showing that these proteins are present in 40 to 80 % of myeloma patients. Healthy people don’t have a Bence Jones problem, of course.

In sum, the Bence Jones test is an important one. I have it done twice a year or so, and so far the test has been negative (and I plan to keep it that way!). I should mention that this test is not painful at all (it’s not a bone marrow biopsy, ouch!), but it IS a bit of a drag, especially for women. Every time we pay a visit to the bathroom in a 24-hour period, we have to collect the sample in a large container. Oh, plus, the collected liquid needs to be refrigerated. Since I refuse to keep my urine in the fridge next to our milk and vegetables (!), I bought a cooler that I use for this purpose ONLY. Okay, I have mentioned the word urine enough for one day. Tomorrow morning EARLY I am having my blood tests done at Careggi hospital and should have the results in two weeks or so. My next experiment begins tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. I will post about it in the next few days, once I have it all written down. Of course, my eight grams of curcumin will still be in the picture, but probably in capsule form.

Long Day and Toxic Plastic

It’s been a long day, so this will be brief. On my way home from teaching, I stopped at the organic supermarket located near my neighbourhood in Florence (there are two of these supermarkets, actually, in addition to various health food stores not too shabby for a city with only about 400,000 inhabitants, eh?) and bought some gluten-free organic pasta. I decided to try out three different pasta brands. My first step in the direction of my 2008 gluten-free test. 😉

I have a follow-up to my toxic wrappings piece. It always thrills me to bits to find that things we use everyday without thinking twice could be killing us slowly perhaps but steadily. Indeedie! I recently became a member of Cancer Compass, and now receive its weekly newsletter. This week’s featured article just happens to be on, you guessed it!, the toxic chemicals contained in plastic products and even in the lining of food cans (drat, that means I will no longer be able to use organic cooked and canned beans! Major bummer, I will have to go back to the old time-consuming system of boiling beans for hours). There are toxic chemicals in CDs, DVDs, medical equipment and BABY BOTTLES. Baby bottles!?! Words simply fail me. Okay, to be honest, I am not THAT surprised sigh! My blog reader Cathy is sooo right. Use glass, avoid plastic. Period. You can read the Cancer Compass article here: I did a quick check and found thousands of online references to the possible and real cancer connections of the main chemical discussed in the article, i.e., bisphenol-A. It’s been linked to breast and ovarian cancers, prostate cancer well, you get the picture. It’s one of those estrogen-mimickers that I discussed in my Curcumin and Pesticides Page, by the way. And, quelle surprise, Bisphenol-A is produced in massive quantities: six billion pounds a year. As usual, profit is the name of the game, no matter what the toxic consequences for us.

Well, thank goodness for gluten-free organic pasta, I guess.

To end this piece on a cheerier note, for the first time ever! my tall dark brilliant sweet and handsome husband left me a blog comment today. I just wanted to mention how thrilled I am. Un bacione! 🙂

Myeloma Song

Lots of people, perhaps most people!, associate specific songs with important moments in their lives. You see this happen all the time in movies: first dance, first kiss, first driving lesson, first camping trip, first stubbed toe, first whatever. Songs played at weddings are a typical example. Well, Stefano and I don’t have a specific song. Of course, we both LOVE music, from classical to jazz and so on, but our love story is not tied to any particular song. I do have, however, a specific song tied to a specific moment in my life: when I learned what MGUS really meant the potential consequences

At some point in 2003 my GP finally gave me a gentle but detailed explanation concerning the monoclonal component that had showed up in my bloodstream since 1999, informing me that my still-benign MGUS could some day progress to a malignant incurable cancer.

Malignant. Incurable. Cancer.

Well, I remember being very calm and collected when I received this lovely bit of news in his office. I asked him a few questions, took his written request for me to have a check-up at the Hematology Center at Careggi Hospital in Florence, thanked him as usual and left. I got into my car, turned on the radio, and burst into tears (I still get emotional when I think back to that moment). Just then, though, the radio station began playing a song by Cat Stevens called Father and Son. I began listening to the lyrics and stopped crying. I later read that it was a song about lonely childhoods and the Russian Revolution (not the Myeloma Revolution), but never matter. Here are the relevant, to me, lyrics (I took out several lines, e.g. find a girl, settle down etc.):

Father: It’s not time to make a change, Just relax, take it easy. There’s so much you have to know. I know that it’s not easy, To be calm when you’ve found something going on. But take your time, think a lot, Why, think of everything you’ve got. For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not. It’s not time to make a change, Just sit down, take it slowly. There’s so much you have to go through. Son: All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside, It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.

I remember thinking that this song contained a lot of sound advice: take your time, think a lot, just sit down, think of everything you’ve got, it’s hard but it’s harder to ignore it, etc. The right song came along at the moment I needed it, and I remembered this little fact yesterday while listening to another Cat Stevens’ song on the same radio station.

This song helped me through a tough time. I won’t forget that. Take it slowly but don’t ignore it.

Back to my research, now!

Curcumin and Cigarette Smoke/More Kitchen Experiments (Honey)

I am not a smoker, never have been, never will be. Before Italy came up with a law against smoking in restaurants and public places, life here was tough for me. My parents smoked for many years, and my sister and niece are smokers. The first part of this post is really for the two beloved still-smoking members of my family, since my parents don’t smoke anymore. Prevention is the key!

As happens frequently, I was looking up material on a completely different substance today when somehow I came across a study (full study available here: co-authored by Prof. Aggarwal and published in Carcinogenesis in 2003, with the title: “Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) down-regulates cigarette smoke-induced NF-kB activation through inhibition of IkBa kinase in human lung epithelial cells: correlation with suppression of COX-2, MMP-9 and cyclin D1.”

Okay, we all know that cigarette smoke (CS) can cause all sorts of health problems, including cancers of the larynx, oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus, pancreas, kidney, bladder and lung. [ ] CS is a complex chemical mixture containing thousands of different compounds, of which 100 are known carcinogens, co-carcinogens, mutagens and/or tumor promoters. Known carcinogens, meaning there probably are MORE than 100.

Well, without going into too many details, it turns out that curcumin may well counteract the damaging effects of CS, and the study ends with a suggestion to conduct clinical trials “of curcumin as a chemopreventive agent in former and current cigarette smokers. Well, why am I surprised? After all, curcumin protects us from radiation, pesticides and dioxin! What’s a little cigarette smoke in comparison?!!! I admit, though, that this is not a topic I wish to research at length, even though I saw that there are other studies on this topic online, such as this one, published in March 2007 in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics: But I have other topics that need to be researched, so I shut my eyes and ignored most of those references.

A note for my blog readers: I really really really appreciate the comments you leave, and I read them ALL even if I don’t have time to respond etc. I have received comments from new readers on older posts, which is such a thrill (thank you all). And I wanted to mention that I will do my best to look into all the links and ideas you gave me (Marcelo, have a look at Don’s blog for info on LDN: Don is taking LDN, and in fact I am going to ask my haematologist about it when I see her). I have started thinking that I need a research assistant, or no, even better!, someone who will feed my cats and do laundry (etc.)! Yeah! Dream on, Margaret! 😉

And here we get to the second part of my post concerning my ongoing kitchen experiments. I bought some cocoa butter (FAT! I wonder if the wrapping is toxic, though, sigh ) the other day, so now I can skip the melted butter part of my curculate. Thing is, quercetin and curcumin powders added to melted cocoa butter taste simply TERRIBLE. The adjective BITTER doesn’t cover it. So, in a moment of inspiration, I added honey. I love honey anyway, organic honey, naturalmente. Honey is a natural antibiotic, antiseptic, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal the list goes on and on.! See this good write-up on World’s Healthiest Foods (I subscribe to the WHF newsletter, and highly recommend it, by the way): Okay, Margaret, this is not a honey post!

Back to us. My cocoa butter, honey and powders mixture is tasty and has the consistency of smooth peanut butter. I coat my mouth with it, and wait a bit before swallowing. It takes about an hour, perhaps closer to two (I should time this!), for my tongue to return to its normal colour. Now for the shocker, which requires more in-depth research: honey is quickly absorbed into the BLOODSTREAM. AHA!!!

Four Cats on a Bed and a Few Notes

Quattro gatti sul letto!

It happened. I have proof! This photo documents the first time my cats have ever been together on our bed. My only regret is that it happened (obviously!) when our bed was still unmade and no amount of cutting and editing managed to mask that bothersome (to me!) little fact. No matter. There are worse things in life than unmade beds! (But heck, couldn’t they have WAITED until later in the day, so I could have at least pulled up our covers just a little bit?) 😉

A few notes. The first has to do with recent minor changes to my protocol. At the urging of a close friend here in Florence (Sherlock 😉 ), in fact, I have begun taking vitamin D3 (oil-soluble kind) first thing in the morning. This is my second week. My vitamin D3 levels were tested in June and turned out to be extremely low. I posted about that at the time. I would also like to remark that even though I have been exposed to various types of germs belonging to my MMA/B-M list friend and, more recently, my husband (who has a cold right now), I have not succumbed, nor do I PLAN to succumb!

I have also recently added a few other items to my usual intake (i.e., curculate!), as follows: a vitamin B complex (to give me a boost after my rather recent bout with acute bronchitis), a multivitamin (ditto) and folic acid. I also reordered and have begun (again) taking black cumin oil capsules. I admit to being a bit tired these days, but it is also true that I haven’t taught English in years so I need some adjustment time. Oh, but I must admit that I am having lots of fun, too! My students and I frequently laugh ourselves under the table, yes, even over grammar! You see, I am of the opinion that teaching (a language, in particular) should be a…laughing matter. When I was in high school, I always had dreadfully serious and boring French teachers, the opposite of what I want to be. And besides, I have two hilariously funny students (in two different classes) who come up with the funniest stuff (along the lines of “Anguished English,” I really should take notes), so even if I wished to remain serious it would be quite impossible…!

Lamponi del giardinoYesterday I gathered about three cups of raspberries from our monster raspberry plant in the back yard. Raspberries…in November? I gave some to my next door neighbour, who was also very surprised. This is a photo of what was left. And there are more flowers and unripe fruit left on the plant! But this morning the temperature went down to freezing, and a Siberian weather front is about to hit Italy, so I doubt we will have many more

Speaking of raspberries, the other night Stefano and I added pomegranate seeds to our salad. Delicious. What do raspberries and pomegranates have in common? Ellagic acid and anthocyanins!

Toxic Food Wrappings?

I was awarded my Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, which means that I receive its (paper edition) magazine four times a year. Excellent magazine, I would like to add. At any rate, in the autumn 2007 issue I came across a bit of not-so-stunning (I suppose) information in an article titled A Bad Wrap. Scary stuff…

I quote: “A study led by two University of Toronto chemists has shown that potentially harmful chemicals commonly applied to food wrappers can make their way into the bloodstream. Earlier research has found that perfluorinated chemicals can migrate from wrappers into food. The new study by environmental chemists Scott Mabury and Jessica D’eon establishes that the wrappers are a potential souce of these chemicals in human blood. Professor Mabury, chair of the Dept of chemistry, and D’eon, a doctoral student, fed the chemicals to rats, whose blood was monitored daily. The chemicals appeared in the rodents’ bloodstream within four hours, which suggests a similar process could occur in humans. Researchers have not yet determined the impact of the chemicals on human health, but Mabury says the findings suggest more research is warranted. €˜I think our results do indicate that a broader look is necessary,’ he says, €˜especially when it comes to the potential for toxicity.’ ‘I think (regulators) have made three assumptions, says Mabury, ‘that the chemicals wouldn’t move off paper into food, they wouldn’t become available to the body and the body wouldn’t process them. They were wrong on all three counts.”

How about that? Ahhh, when I think back on all my university years spent eating chocolate bars and wrapped fast food whatnot ! Yikes!

Biological Clock and Bioavailability: Possible Connection?

Last week I came across and had just enough time to glance at an interesting article on the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs administered at different times of the day when my computer crashed. (Don’t you hate it when that happens?) I lost the page reference and so far haven’t been able to find it again. Sigh. The gist, however, was that malignant cells are more susceptible to certain chemo drugs at different times of day. The reason I found this idea fascinating is because I wonder if it applies to curcumin and other non toxic substances. Well, why wouldn’t it? I clearly remember Prof. Aggarwal telling me that the best time to take curcumin is early in the morning. He didn’t say why, but I will ask him again, and I will see if I can come up with an answer on my own (not today, though, I have run out of time!). Also, one of my blog readers takes some of her supplements, I forget the details, late at night when cancer cells may be more vulnerable. I confess that this sounded a bit nuts to diffident and sceptical me when I first read about it, but is now beginning to make sense.

So even though this topic wasn’t on my to-be-researched-in-a-hurry list and I meant to post on an entirely different issue today, I woke up thinking that I would like to take a quick poke at it. It’s a grim day in Florence, so we are staying inside, a perfect day to do research. Well, truth be told, I should be straightening up the house, blablabla but that can wait. 😉

The first reference I found this morning was a well-written article in the online magazine Slate. I confess that this was the first time I’d ever heard the term circadian rhythm, no, not even in connection with jet lag, which is a typical example of disruption of our internal clock. The “Slate” article wasn’t the same one that I lost last week but it covers similar points, i.e. the best time of day to take a given medication” (see: Even something that we imbibe almost without thinking, i.e. aspirin, is best taken in the evening, when it will do “less damage to the stomach lining” than in the morning. Did you know that? I didn’t.

The article continues: Despite this evidence of variation, drug research is almost always done during daylight hours, when the humans leading the studies are awake and alert. And in the animal testing stage, it’s almost always done with mice and rats, which are nocturnal €”the middle of our day is the middle of their night. This can lead to gross misestimations of the effectiveness and toxicity of a drug intended for humans. How about that for a shocker? What if certain toxic or undesirable side effects from drugs, perhaps even from curcumin itself (some of my correspondents have reported diarrhea and stomach upsets, for instance), could be AVOIDED simply by modifying our supplement/drug-taking schedules? Why, that is absolutely BRILLIANT! And WHY doesn’t the FDA focus on such crucial issues? Well, the “Slate” article provides the obvious answer to that question: money!

I quote again from the article, a good easy read, I highly recommend it: Modern drug development generally assumes that the body maintains a stable internal state. To that end, many prescription drugs are designed to be taken in equal amounts at regular intervals to keep a patient’s drug levels steady. The problem is that a growing body of research suggests that our bodies are not constant. Instead, nearly every physiological process oscillates with our internal circadian rhythms. The body’s temperature, immune function, and hormone levels all partly depend on whether it’s night or day, or sometime in between. Meanwhile, many diseases also have daily rhythms, with symptoms more severe at certain times. The body’s sensitivity to time of day means that a drug proven safe to take in the morning may not be safe at night, or that a dose that works at 8 p.m. may be too small at 8 a.m. This would seem to support my friend Ana’s feeling that she should take her curcumin dose once a day instead of twice a day. Perhaps her circadian rhythm is telling her something. Okay, that sounds completely unscientific, but please read the above-mentioned article before jumping to conclusions.

I had the time this morning to find a couple of related and interesting studies. The first one, see full text:, published in “Cancer Research” in 2003, is titled The Days and Nights of Cancer Cells. Need I say more? The second study, see full text:, published in “Cancer Research” in 1977 (1977!), examines how leukaemic mice reacted to the administration of cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) and 1-f3-D-anabinofuranosylcytosine (ara-C, for short)…at different times of day. It turns out that giving these drugs at different times of day produced different effects in terms of animal weight, toxic reactions and survival. For example, more mice (94% compared to 44%!) survived when Cytoxan was given to them in the late afternoon/early evening, leading to the conclusion that the optimal time to administer cyclophosphamide is around the transition from rest to activity (between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. for mice kept in light from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., alternating with 12 hr of darkness). For ara-C, however, the best time was 8 AM. For both drugs taken together, apparently the best time was 11 AM: after 75 days, in fact, 28% of the mice treated with both drugs at 11 AM were still alive. The study also tells us that drug toxicity was affected by circadian rhythms: mice that received Cytoxan in the evening had significantly fewer toxic reactions than those on the morning schedule, for instance.

In conclusion, and speaking of mice (poor dears!), I wish research would focus on important matters such as these instead of developing mutant mice that aren’t afraid of cats (did you hear THAT bit of recent news? A few days ago, it made the Italian national news, for crying out loud talk about research money going down the bloody drain ! Ahhh, che pazienza che ci vuole!!!).

Quercetin and C-Reactive Protein (CRP)

I recently read a study with a very long title, The anti-inflammatory flavones quercetin and kaempferol cause inhibition of inducible nitric oxide synthase, cyclooxygenase-2 and reactive C-protein, and down-regulation of the nuclear factor kappaB pathway in Chang Liver cells (!), published in the “European Journal of Pharmacology” in February of 2007. The abstract can be seen here: I was able to read the full study thanks to a friend (grazie, Sherlock!). As usual, I would be more than happy to forward the study upon request.

First, what are Chang liver cells? The online Dictionary of Cell and Molecular Biology tells us that these liver cells are derived from non-malignant human tissue. Now, I don’t want to get involved in a detailed explanation concerning inducible nitric oxide synthase, or iNOS, which is beyond my purpose here, anyway (phew!!!). Let it suffice to say that iNOS is linked to inflammation, and anything that inhibits it is good news. We already know about COX-2 (see my “Ellagic Acid” and “Natural COX-2 Inhibitors” Pages for more info) and CRP, and of course the ubiquitous NF-kappaB. Ah yes, and kaempferol is a natural flavonoid found in tea, broccoli, grapefruit and other plant sources. On with the study, then.

On page 222 we read that Reactive C-protein (CRP) is an acute phase protein produced by hepatocytes whose serum elevation is considered as indicator of chronic inflammation and whose interaction with endothelial cells may be the mechanistic link between CRP and atherosclerosis [ ]. It is known that IL-6 induces CRP through a mechanism involving NF-κB [ ], but no study has until now documented potential effects of flavonoids on CRP expression in liver cells. Hepatocytes, by the way, are liver cells (for the more scientifically-minded, epithelial cells found in the liver that, among other things, have the function of helping to detoxify our blood).

Both quercetin and kaempferol reduce iNOS and COX-2: The present study indicates that both flavones reduce iNOS protein level in activated Chang Liver cells and that kaempferol was a slightly more potent inhibitor at low concentrations. COX-2 protein level was also reduced [ ] And, most importantly for our purpose, i.e., identifying substances that reduce CRP levels naturally: Our data show that both quercetin and kaempferol significantly reduce CRP protein level in liver cells and that this inhibition is concentration-dependent [ ]. SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE? Well, I have been putting quercetin powder in my curcumin/chocolate mixture for other reasons (see my Bioavailability page for more information), but I am very pleased to discover that it may also be reducing my CRP levels.

The study ends: In summary, the present study indicates that the modulation of iNOS, COX-2 and CRP by quercetin or kaempferol may contribute to the anti-inflammatory effects of these two structurally similar flavonoids in the liver, via mechanisms likely to involve blockade of NF-κB activation. Sounds good to me!

Important aside. After reading this study, I must post a warning: at very high doses, quercetin MAY have some genotoxic effects, see The words to keep in mind are may and very high doses. Low doses of quercetin are okay, and I have confirmed this elsewhere (see for instance: I have been taking a maximum of two grams per day. Not much, so I am not in the least concerned and will continue to take my daily dose, but it reminds me that caution is the name of the game, as the saying goes. So, do your research…first!

Blog Reader Queries

Today I received an e-mail from a U.S. blog reader who would like, if possible!, to have curcumin capsules from two different sources tested by a laboratory. More specifically, he would like to have the capsules analyzed for volume/quality of curcumin and the quality/identity of other ingredients. Does anybody know where in the U.S. he might have this performed? Thanks!

Another blog reader pointed out (please read the comment she left me on yesterday’s post) that myeloma patients are currently discussing the possible connection between myeloma and celiac disease on the Cancer Compass message board. This is not the first time I have read about this connection, and I really hope my friend Paul will have time to post a comment about it. Another item goes on my to-be-researched-soon list! Here is the direct link to the celiac disease myeloma discussion: Coincidentally, just the other day I became a member of the Cancer Compass website and now receive its newsletter! Well, well.

Triumphant Peekaboo on the counterI would also like to point out Art’s experiment with a self-made curcumin patch, which you can read about in the comment section of my November 1st post. Thank you, Art!

I didn’t have time to do any research today. ARGH! I have two half-finished posts on the back burner that I should finish in the next couple of days, though. Oh, and I just couldn’t resist uploading a photo taken last night of Peekaboo on the kitchen counter, even though it has nothing to do with the title of this post. But I couldn’t resist: she looks so adorably triumphant, indeed, a bit defiant (along the lines of: “No, no, no, I won’t, I won’t, I won’t get down, and you can’t MAKE me!”)! Hehe. Time for dinner!