Macro and micronutrients: an overview and food sources

Nutrients:

There are two main groups of nutrients: the Macronutrients and the Micronutrients, both of which include many subgroups.  Water doesn’t officially get listed in either group but it is the most essential nutrient as we are mostly water, roughly 70%, with some of the other nutrients holding us together in the form of membranes, muscles, skin and bones. Water helps the blood carry nutrients to the cells and remove waste products to be excreted by the kidneys in the form of urine. Water helps us stay cool in the form of sweat on a hot day. Water is the best thirst quencher and is what our brain expects as a beverage. In nature there is no juice tree, only whole fruit with fiber slowing down digestion of the sweet fruit juice carbohydrates. We need about eight cups of water per day, more on a hot sweaty day and more if diuretic beverages such as coffee or alcohol are consumed. Without water we wouldn’t be able to digest our macro and micro nutrients. So drink and be merry with a glass of water, nature’s favorite thirst quencher! If you think you don’t like it you may just need to try a glass when you are very thirsty, and relax and remember how good it feels, then maybe next time you’re thirsty you’ll reach for a glass of water because it just sounds good.

Macronutrients

Macronutrients are needed in larger amounts within a daily diet because they are used for energy and to build new cells and other body tissue. They include carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates (G.18) are also known as sugars, starches, and fiber. They are all made up of individual molecules of sugars called monosaccharides (See Table 2.4 for images of all the types of monosaccharides: G.13)). Different monosaccharides can be connected to each other as disaccharides which include table sugar called sucrose, or they may be in long chains called polysaccharides which can be straight or branching in widely varied shapes.

Fiber is also made up of monosaccharides but the bond connecting them requires digestive enzymes that humans do not make, so they are considered indigestible but help with fluid balance within the small and large intestines and adequate fiber in the diet can help prevent both constipation or diarrhea. Bacteria ( known as our microbiome) within the digestive system  may be able to break down some types of fiber and convert it into more beneficial nutrients for us, called short-chain fatty acids, which are a type of fat. The types of fiber that can be converted into beneficial fats by beneficial bacteria are called prebiotics and include resistant starches, inulin, gums, pectins, and fructo-oligosaccharides.

Food Sources of Carbohydrates and Fiber: Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are all sources of fiber and carbohydrates. Sources that contain a greater amount of the prebiotic fiber include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, bananas, and seaweed. Raw forms of the vegetables contain more than cooked forms except resistant starches may be increased after the food, such as rice or tapioca starch, is cooked and then chilled. (G.19) Nuts and seeds also contain some carbohydrates and fiber but are more concentrated sources of fats and protein. (G.20)

Food Sources of Monosaccharides found in human physiology (See Table 2.4: G.13):

  • Glucose: Honey from bees. It is one of the monosaccharides of table sugar, the sucrose disaccharide, along with a molecule of fructose. Table sugar may be made from beet sugar or sugar cane. Glucose is also one of the monosaccharides of lactose – milk sugar, and it is part of larger starches found in grains, seeds, and starchy legumes and vegetables such as beans, peas, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash and some is found in fruits in addition to fructose. Glucose is also found in “Cocoa, Aloe Vera, Licorice, Sarsaparilla, Hawthorn, Garlic, Echinacea, Kelp.” (G.40)
  • Glucosamine: Animal cartilage released in bone broth – soup stock made with bones; supplements derived from the shells of shellfish such as shrimp, crab or lobster; a few fermented grains. (G.39) Vegetarian sources: “Shitake mushrooms and a red Japanese Algae called Dumontiaceae.” (G.40)
  • Galactose: One of the monosaccharides of lactose, milk sugar, that is found in dairy products or human milk. Some people make less of the enzyme needed to digest lactose and may require a digestive enzyme with dairy products to prevent discomfort and promote better digestion. Anyone may become temporarily lactose intolerant after a severe illness with symptoms of diarrhea as the enzyme is formed in surface cells of the intestine which may need a week or two to regrow after a severe intestinal sickness. Hard aged cheeses have a lower lactose content then soft cheeses or milk and butter products. It is also found in some fruits and vegetables, some herbs including “Echinacea, Boswellia, Fenugreek, and chestnuts.” (G.40) Sour cherries. (G.41)
  • Galactosamine: Beef or shark cartilage, and “a Red Algae called Dumontiaceae (as a constituent of dextran sulphate)” (G.40)
  • Mannose: “Gum Ghatti which is made from the sap of Indian Sumac; Black currants, red currants, cranberries, gooseberries, Aloe Vera Gel from the leaves, Fenugreek, soybeans, green beans, capsicum (Cayenne Pepper), cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes, turnip, Shittake mushrooms and kelp” (G.40) Sweet Cherries (G.41)
  • Xylose: Cranberries, raspberries. (G.15Guava, pears, berries, blackberries, loganberries, raspberries, Goji Berry; Aloe Vera, Echinacea, Boswellia; Psyllium Seeds; Broccoli, Spinach, Eggplant, Peas, Green Beans, Kelp, Okra, Cabbage, Corn.” (G.40)
  • Fucose: “Human breast milk, certain types of mushrooms, seaweed – kelp and wakane, beer yeast.” (G.40) Chanterelle and Penny Bun/porcini mushrooms. (G.42) Maitake, Shiitake, Reishi mushrooms. (G.43) Fucose in human breast milk helps a beneficial type of bacteria called Bacteroides (G.43) become established after the infant is born. It helps protect the infant from more harmful bacteria becoming established in the previously sterile intestinal tract.
  • Glucoronic Acid: Usually formed within the liver as it is a very polarized molecule. It is found in heparan sulfate, dermatin sulfate, and chondroitin 4, 6 sulfate. (G.44)
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid (Sialic Acid): “Human breast milk, dairy foods, whey protein isolate, and eggs.” (G.40). After infancy it is generally up to us to make it for ourselves internally. It is electrically polarized and helps stabilize vessel walls by lining the interior and repelling the opposite sides similar to magnets repelling each other.,

Proteins

Proteins (G.17) are made up of molecules called amino acids which, unlike the monosaccharides, can only be connected together in straight chains. The protein chain of amino acids may spiral like the DNA molecule of genetic material or bend in some other way rather than being perfectly straight, and it can then be folded into different 3-dimensional shapes and combined with other protein chains to form larger 3-dimensional shapes. The basic structure is straight though like a string of beads or a sentence of letters.

The monosaccharides can connect to each other in multiple places and form more complex shapes like a crossword puzzle of letters or a branching tree made up of letters. This difference is important for the immune system as the complex antigen/antibody recognition seems to be based on the language spelled out by the types of monosaccharides on the antigens found on the surface of cells. Antibodies are made by immune cells to help the immune cell recognize foreign proteins or mislabeled or defective human cells. Antigens and antibodies contain monosaccharides and proteins or lipids. The combined molecules are known as glycoproteins and glycolipids. The combination makes it possible for them to do more complex chemical functions within the body than a simpler protein, carbohydrate or fat molecule. (G.14)

Food Sources of Protein: Dairy products, eggs, meats, poultry, and fish provide all the essential amino acids that humans can not convert from other molecules. Grains, beans, peas and lentils, nuts and seeds, and other vegetables provide protein but most are missing a few of the essential amino acids that we need to consume from our daily diet. (G.17) Fruits and other vegetables also provide some protein but in smaller amounts. Avocado, dried figs, melon and nectarine, artichokes, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, corn, mushrooms, spinach and potatoes are slightly better sources than other fruits and vegetables. (G.23) (G.24)

  • The nine essential amino acids are:  histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. (G.21) Beans/ legumes and nuts/seeds and grains provide balance within a meal by providing some of each of the essential amino acids. Grains are good sources of methionine, tryptophan and cysteine while legumes/beans/nuts/seeds are lower in those amino acids except for soy beans and nuts/seeds which are a good source of tryptophan. Grains, nuts, and seeds are low in isoleucine and lysine while legumes/beans are a good source of them. (G.22)
  • Conditional amino acids  may not be able to be made during illness or stress and would be required from the diet for better function and health: arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine. (G.21)
  • Non-essential amino acids can be regularly produced in the body and include: alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid. (G.21)  Excessive amounts of aspartic acid and glutamic acid from dietary sources may have negative health effects due to their ability to increase activity within brain cells and are also known as excitotoxins. Mono-sodium glutamate and other seasoning ingredients are sources of glutamic acid and the artificial sweeteners Nutrasweet/Aspartame/Neotame are sources of aspartic acid.

Fats

Fats are also known as oils, lipids, and as essential fatty acids, or trans fats which may be formed during processing of other fats or found ins some animal products naturally. The artificially produced trans fats may increase heart disease risk and it is recommended to limit their use in the daily diet. Molecules of fats can be found as short chain fatty acids or long chain fatty acids which may be then be joined into small groups called triglycerides. Branched chain amino acids are also possible but the branching is somewhat different than the type formed by monosaccharides.

The chains of fats may include more or less hydrogen molecules. Saturated fats have more hydrogen molecules, monounsaturated fats are missing one hydrogen molecule and polyunsaturated fats are missing several along the chain. The point in the molecule without a hydrogen is more reactive. Saturated fats are more stable than polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats may be more helpful for reducing risk of heart disease while saturated fats may increase risk. However we do need a variety of the types as each type is involved in different ways throughout the body. Omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that have important roles in health and help reduce risk of chronic illness. Phospholipids are a combination of a lipid with the mineral phosphorus. They are important for helping make flexible membranes and play a role in immune health and energy metabolism.

Food Sources of Fats: Avocado, coconut, coconut oil, olives and olive oil, nuts, seeds, and oils, butter, dairy products, egg yolk, meats, poultry, fish.

While all the sources have a mixture of specific types of fats some sources have more of one or two of the types:

  • Food Sources of Saturated Fats: Animal products such as butter, cheese, and other high fat dairy products; marbled beef and higher fat processed meats; palm oil and palm kernel oil; coconut and coconut oil. The effect on the body can vary based on the source while too much of any fat is a problem the coconut products have other healthy nutrients while the palm oil and palm kernel oil may promote increased insulin levels and increase appetite. The production of palm and palm kernel oil also may be worse for the environment and cause loss of wild animal habitat. (G.27)
  • Food Sources of Mono-unsaturated Fats: Olives and olive oil, canola, sesame, safflower and sunflower oils, peanut oil and peanut butter, almonds, avocados, cashews, peanuts, eggs, red meat, tea seed oil (Camellia seed). (G.33) (G.34)
  • Food Sources of Poly-unsaturated Fats: Nuts and seeds and oils made from them; salmon and shellfish (G.28).
  • Food Sources of Trans Fats: Margarine and other products made with hydrogenated oils such as coffee creamer,(G.35), commercial baked goods such as frosted desserts or cookies, biscuits, doughnuts, crackers, microwaveable breakfast foods, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, fried fast foods, cream filled candies. (G.36)
  • Food Sources of essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids, including EPA and DHA: Fatty fish such as sardines, tuna, herring, lake trout, and salmon, omega 3 enhanced eggs, omega 3 fortified dairy products, and seaweed,(G.37), shellfish, (G.28) krill and krill oil, (G.38), and vegetarian sources that contain a precursor include flax seeds, walnuts, canola, soybean and walnut oils, beans and tofu and other soy foods, and leafy greens.(G.37)
  • Food Sources of essential Omega-6 Fatty Acids, including Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA): Borage oil, black currant oil, hemp seed oil; butter made from milk from cows that were grass fed; spirulina/blue-green algae. (G.25)
  • Food Sources of Phospholipids and other phospho-nutrients: Hemp seed kernels and oil; Artemisia turanica/wormwood leaf; amaranth seed; asparagus; avocado fruit or the inner kernel, dried and powdered; beans/legumes; cardamom seeds and powder; carrots; celery stalks and leaves; cocoa beans and cocoa powder, baker’s chocolate, dark chocolate and to a lesser amount milk chocolate and chocolate syrup; coconut; cumin seed/powder; fennel seed, flax seed, pine nuts; sesame seeds, pumpkin seed kernels, squash seeds; butternut squash and pumpkin; gingko leaf; grapefruit and orange juice with the pulp; Jerusalem artichoke (this is a root vegetable rather than a green artichoke); lettuce, spinach and mustard leaves and other leafy green vegetables and herbs; nuts/peanuts, cashews, walnuts; oats; okra seeds; onion root, leek leaves, garlic;  parsnip root; pomegranate seeds and pomegranate peel extract;rice, white or brown but the bran is the best source; rosemary; sorghum;  sweet potato or yam; buckwheat (a seed botanically that is not wheat and is gluten free); wheat. (G.26)

Micronutrients

Micronutrients are needed in smaller amounts within the diet and some can be stored by the body and reused so they may not be needed in the diet everyday as long as they are being eaten occasionally; while others can not be stored and are needed in the diet everyday. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. Minerals may be needed in slightly larger amounts or smaller amounts and the ones needed in smaller amounts are also known as trace minerals – because we only need them in trace amounts. Vitamins are grouped into fat-soluble vitamins which can be stored in the body and may not be needed in the diet everyday as long as they are included weekly or monthly depending on the nutrient. Water-soluble vitamins can not be stored and need to be included in the diet everyday for ideal health.

Minerals

Food Sources of some important Minerals:

  • Calcium: dairy products and fortified substitutes made from almond, soy, rice or hemp. Sesame seeds, almonds and other nuts, seeds and beans. Canned salmon and sardines.
  • Magnesium: oat bran, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, chocolate, and molasses.
  • Phosphorus: most foods contain this nutrient, particularly dairy and protein rich foods, also cereals, nuts and beans. An excess may be provided if carbonated beverages are used regularly.
  • Potassium: all fruits and vegetables and juices are the richest sources, but animal products also contain some potassium.
  • Sodium: processed foods containing salt and added table salt are the main sources but use of “softened” water can also increase a person’s daily intake of sodium.
  • Chloride: table salt and processed foods also provide the electrolyte, chloride.
  • Iron: meat, poultry and fish and shellfish (G.28) contain a form called heme iron which is more readily absorbed. Vitamin C eaten along with whole grain or beans, nuts and seeds can help increase absorption of non-heme iron.
  • Iodine: iodized salt and processed food made with iodized salt. Seaweed and coconut products and any other produce grown near the ocean may contain more iodine than produce grown inland.
  • Selenium: selenium is also more available near coastal waters. Seafood and meat can be better sources and Brazil nuts provide more than other foods. Two Brazil nuts per day may provide the 200 mcg recommended for daily needs. Excess intake regularly may cause toxicity symptoms. One milligram or more per day may cause vomiting, loss of hair and nails and skin lesions. (Nutrition & Diet Therapy, 8th Ed.)
  • Zinc: shellfish, (G.28), beef, dairy products, nuts, beans, pumpkin seeds. (G.zinc)
  • Copper: shellfish, (G.28); organ meats such as liver and kidney; cocoa and chocolate; beans such as lentils, nuts such as almonds, sunflower seeds, potatoes, asparagus and leafy greens; mushrooms, dried fruits such as apricots and prunes; blackstrap molasses, black pepper, and yeast. (G.29) (G.30) The modern diet may tend towards too much copper and not enough zinc and the two minerals need to be in balance with each other for optimal physical and mental health. Excess copper and deficient zinc is associated with mental illness symptoms.

Vitamins

Food Sources of some important Vitamins:

  • Thiamin (B1): fortified flour or rice, whole grains, pork, beans, nuts, nutritional yeast, eggs, cantaloupe, green vegetables.
  • Riboflavin (B2): Fortified cereal, milk, eggs, meat, fish, beans, nuts, and seeds. (G.riboflavin)
  • Niacin (B3): nutritional yeast, meats, red fishes such as salmon and tuna, grains and fortified cereals, beans and seeds, milk, green leafy vegetables, coffee and tea. (G.Niacin)
  • Vitamin B6: fortified cereal, barley, buckwheat, avocados, baked potato with the skin, beef, poultry, salmon, bananas, green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, sunflower seeds. (G.Nutritive Value of Food)
  • Folate: Fortified cereal and rice, beans, black eyed peas, green peas, grains, asparagus, green vegetables, orange juice. (G.folic-acid)
  • Vitamin B12: shellfish, (G.28), fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, dairy products, Nutritional or Brewer’s yeast. Vegetarians who don’t eat dairy, eggs, fish or other meat products may need a supplement of B12 or nutritional yeast, a vegan food source of vitamin B12. (G.B12)
  • Vitamin C: many fruits and vegetables and fortified juices including green peas, cabbage, potatoes and citrus fruits.
  • Vitamin D: fortified dairy products or their substitutes made from almond, soy, rice or hemp. Salmon, sardines, mushrooms. And sunshine during summer months, 15-20 minutes several times per week.
  • Vitamin E: nuts, seeds, and oils made from nuts and seeds, peanut butter, avocado, asparagus, spinach and other leafy green vegetables, pumpkin, red pepper, mango, swordfish. (G.16)
  • Vitamin K and K2,  vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone): Vitamin K is found in leafy green vegetables such as kale, lettuce and spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage, and smaller amounts in fish, liver, meat, eggs and grains. (G.31) Vitamin K2 is found in animal products such as meat and dairy foods and in fermented products such as Natto, (G.32),  Japanese traditional fermented soybeans, (G.45). 

Disclaimer

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)

See G. Links & References for the References.

 

 

 

Luck is about being grateful for what you have

I’m not superstitious, I believe good luck is in part simply being grateful for what you have or what you receive. Having a positive attitude in itself may be more physiologically healthy than a negative attitude, so being grateful for what you have may help health by promoting a more positive mood.

Respecting tradition, or participating in tradition, is also something I appreciate. Having black-eyed peas for New Year’s Day wasn’t a family tradition while I was growing up. I first tried black-eyed peas  and tried cooking them after learning of their significant nutritional benefits. The southern tradition may have started out of a negative situation – no other food to eat, but the people left hungry got lucky in the food that was available.

Black -eyed peas are a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is important for the immune system and for a good energy level by promoting healthy fully mature red blood cells. Without adequate folate a type of anemia with immature, non-functional or poorly functioning red blood cells can occur even when adequate iron is available in the diet. Black-eyed peas can help prevent anemia risk with the folate content and their iron content is also quite good at 2.2 milligrams per 1/2 cup serving. (Black-eyed Peas Health Benefits Including Anemia Prevention, Health Tips)

Per 100 grams of the food (about 4 ounces or 1/2 cup), black-eyed peas have 208 micrograms of folate while sugar has 1 microgram of folate. Green peas have 65 micrograms of folate per 100 grams. (Google: black eyed peas and folate)

So was it lucky to be left with very little food during the Civil War – no. Was it lucky to be hungry enough to try the legumes that were meant to feed farm animals – no. Was it sensible to cook them and see how they tasted – yes. Sometimes we make our own luck by working hard and accepting what is available as a positive rather than having a negative attitude and giving up. Black- eyed peas do have a slightly stronger flavor than many other beans and peas but sometimes strong flavor is a sign of more nutrients. Trying things because you learn they are good for you may be an unfamiliar habit but if you try something a few times or more the taste can become familiar and may even become something you enjoy.

With young children it is recommended to not force foods to be tried or eaten in large quantities if they are new but to offer a taste or two regularly. It can take thirty tries of a new food for a toddler to become used to the new food as something familiar and enjoyable. If force and negativity is involved however they may instead develop an aversion, a negative feeling about the food. I use the word toddler because that is the best time to accustom children to a wide range of foods. If caregivers give in too regularly to “I don’t like it” attitudes then that habit may become more fixed for the child and trying to change it later may be more difficult. Children also copy what they see adults doing so having a wide variety of healthy foods on the table and sharing a few tastes of what you are having can also be a good way to start toddlers and children with a taste for variety of flavors and foods. (Getting Kids to Try New and Healthy Foods, pbs.org)

If allergies are a problem then that should be taken into account but there are still many nutritious foods that are not regularly used and are not common allergens that could be added to a menu plan. Avoid this list of eight foods that cause up to 90% of allergies and you’ll be avoiding the most common food allergens, (unfortunately some of the ingredients are in practically most commonly used mixed dishes – so that isn’t easy to do):

  • Milk (mostly in children)
  • Eggs.
  • Peanuts.
  • Tree nuts, like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, and pecans.
  • Soy.
  • Wheat and other grains with gluten, including barley, rye, and oats.
  • Fish (mostly in adults)
  • Shellfish (mostly in adults) (this group may include shrimp as well as crab and lobster) (WebMD)

I am avoiding everything on the list except tree nuts so most of the recipes on this website do not use those foods. The almond meal in the recently posted Chocolate Cookie recipe that was included in the post with the Black-eyed Pea Soup recipe (New Year, new recipes) could be substituted with more brown rice flour or buckwheat flour is used in the original Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. A discussion of modifying recipes is included with that recipe: (G8. Chocolate Chip Cookies)

Herbs and spices that aren’t too hot with hot pepper or horseradish are also a good way to add flavor and nutrients to simpler foods. A child’s tastebuds don’t need too much hot pepper but a small amount of spicy things may be enjoyed and tolerated well. A child’s tastebuds may be more sensitive than an adult’s so they may prefer simpler things because they simply need less flavor to activate their tastebuds. A child’s sense of smell may also be more acute than an adult’s and aroma adds significantly to the apparent “flavor” of food. The tastebuds don’t notice as much difference as our sense of smell can appreciate and differentiate. (Do children have more sensitive taste buds than adults? Ella, age 7: blastscience.co.uk)

Luck and superstition are two different topics and I believe luck is one part hard work and two parts good attitude, throw in a dash of common sense and who knows what might be possible. And superstition may include some common sense, someone may have had an accident occur when they walked under a ladder and the superstition that it is unlucky may have grown out of the common sense habit to not walk under things when you don’t know what is above – it may have grown out of an ancient instinctual knowledge that predators leap down from hiding places.

I try to do the best I can to be careful and simply clean up salt that is spilled, tossing more over my shoulder seems silly rather than respecting a holiday tradition such as having black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. However in more ancient times when salt was difficult to find and was treated as a rare and expensive commodity it may have been a worse catastrophe – very bad luck – to spill some. Throwing a tiny pinch of what was spilled over shoulder to ward off more bad luck may have occurred at that time. During the Middle Ages there was a saying regarding table placement – to be seated above the salt meant you were important and would get served sooner from the shared dish of salt or other more expensive and sparse entrees. To be seated below the salt meant you were of less noble lineage in medieval times. (wisegeek.com) Salt is an important nutrient and more is needed in situations where it is hot and more sodium is lost in sweat from working or just from the hot environment.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

 

Neuropathy can be a cause of extreme tiredness

An underlying problem affecting a main nerve or affecting many nerves can be a cause of tingling and numbness in the hands or arms and legs. An increased feeling of heaviness of the arms or legs or feeling tired from just holding the arms up in the air may be due to problems with the nerves rather than weakness of the muscles. Autoimmune disease or some nutrient deficiencies (vitamin B12 deficiency most common) can be causes of neuropathy, or nerve damage. Other common causes are mentioned later.

Autoimmune disease itself can be very tiring and a cause of muscle cramps and diffuse chronic pain and it could make it very hard to cope with a physically demanding job. Some types of nerve damage can become permanent but may be reversible if caught early enough and the underlying causes are corrected. Vitamin B12 may be poorly absorbed by elderly people or for others with digestive problems; a monthly injection of B12, bypassing the digestive system, is a common treatment.  Dissolve in the mouth supplements of B12, cobalamin, are also used sucessfully by some people. In Parkinson’s Disease neuropathy has been seen and “perhaps we should be measuring MMA levels in these patients and treating with cobalamin supplementation to reduce MMA levels and prevent neuropathy.” [4]

Recognizing when tiredness is tiredness and when it is due to underlying nerve damage may be a step that can help prevent the nerve damage from becoming more permanent paralysis or numbness. Neuropathy can also affect gland or organ function as well as affecting motion and sensation. Poor coordination can become a problem with walking or with picking up and not dropping things because they just slipped from your fingers. Symptoms may also include feeling moments of burning or stabbing pain and bowel and bladder problems may include constipation or feeling unable to urinate. [1]

Neuropathy may affect approximately 24 million people in the United States. [1]

Neuropathy is more of a risk for people with diabetes, about 30% of the cases are associated with diabetes. Heavy alcohol use and traumatic injury can also be causes. And autoimmune celiac disease, hypothyroidism and other immune system diseases and viral infections sometimes can be a cause. Some types of antibiotics, radiation and chemotherapy treatments may cause neuropathy. Some cases of neuropathy are present at birth. [1]

Since celiac disease may be a cause of neuropathy trying a gluten free diet may be worth trying, (and hypothyroidism can also be a cause of neuropathy and for some people that may also be due to or made worse by gluten sensitivity problems).

Not overeating sugars and simple starches in general may help prevent neuropathy from developing by promoting more stable blood sugar. Elevated levels of blood sugar may be part of the cause of nerve damage which would be especially important for diabetics who are more at risk for elevated levels: [3].

Hot pepper – and it’s active ingredient capsaicin may be helpful. It is available over the counter as an active ingredient in skin ointments made for pain relief for arthritis patients and others with chronic pain. Warm showers or a bath may also help circulation and muscle relaxation. Taking care with toenail health is important as numbness becomes more extreme and minor injuries may become infected and go unnoticed until they become major infections and are more visibly discolored or swollen. [1]

Of the 16 million Americans with diabetes, approximately, about 25% have foot problems due to peripheral neuropathy.  Peripheral nerves are those extending out from the brain or spinal cord to the muscles and organs and skin. Neuropathy can progress from feeling tingling sensations of ‘pins and needles’ in the fingertips to not being able to feel sensations of hot, cold or pain. [2]

Peripheral neuropathy has been known to occur with Parkinson’s disease, possibly due to treatment with L-dopa [4], or possibly as a side effect with another commonly used treatment, dopamine hydrochloride. [5] Dopamine producing cells become dysfunctional in Parkinson’s Disease. [6] Dopamine is a brain neurostransmitter involved in movement but it is also has roles in immune system function.

Adequate levels of dopamine are involved in preventing both autoimmune disease and cancer. Research that compared the lifestyles of family members with and without Parkinson’s Disease found that siblings without the disease were more likely to have been coffee drinkers (three or more cups per day) and were more likely to have smoked tobacco cigarettes. Smoking tobacco has negative health risks but it may help boost dopamine levels and may have some protective effects on the dopamine producing cells. [7]

Smoking tobacco may have protective effects for some people but not others due to underlying differences in genetics. Coffee intake has also been associated with less risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), [8] but again it may be helping those with a certain type of genetics and be a negative risk for people with other types of genes. Obesity and smoking cigarettes once a patient already has non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is associated with the disease getting progressively worse. [9] Fructose, sugar from fruit or refined in the form of high fructose corn syrup, intake has also been associated with worsening of NAFLD. [10] And non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has been associated with neuropathy risk in patients with diabetes. [15] So protecting the liver might be helping protect the nerves at the same time.

Protecting liver function may be important for protecting against cancer. The herb milk thistle has been found to have some protective affects for the liver. [12] Cirrhosis of the liver is also associated with peripheral neuropathy so protecting the liver may also help protect the nervous system and brain and help prevent neuropathy from developing. [11]

Summary of tips for protecting against neuropathy:

  1. Stable blood sugar and not developing diabetes may help protect the nerves.
  2. Regular exercise and stretching and warm baths or showers and massage and other methods for increasing circulation may help protect the nerves.
  3. Not eating excessively of fructose or simple sugars may help prevent damage caused by glycation of proteins; and by helping prevent obesity or diabetes.
  4. Moderate use of coffee may help protect the liver from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and some types of liver disease have been associated with peripheral neuropathy.
  5. Dopamine or L-dopa when used as a medication to treat Parkinson’s Disease may be involved in development of peripheral neuropathy. Parkinson’s Disease involves dysfunctional production of dopamine so some other issue may be involved that causes peripheral neuropathy or it may be important to have adequate but not excessive levels of dopamine for health of the nerves.
  6. A deficiency of vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, can be non-reversible cause of peripheral neuropathy. [13]
  7. Smoking tobacco may have some protective affects against Parkinson’s Disease for some people but it has also been associated with worsening of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in patients who already have the disease. It is unclear at this time what genes may be involved in why some people seem less at risk from tobacco smoking than others – overall it has been found to be associated with lung cancer. Chemicals within smoke cause blood vessels to constrict and reduces circulation. It has been associated with worsening of diabetic peripheral neuropathy so quitting smoking may be more protective of nerves. While it may help boost dopamine levels there are many other healthy ways to boost dopamine naturally. [14]
  8. Following a gluten free diet may be helpful in preventing peripheral neuropathy for some people. If hypothyroidism is also a problem then trying a strict gluten free diet may be beneficial as it may be a cause of autoimmune sensitivities. Eating less gluten in that case would still be exposing the body to the autoimmune ‘allergen’ so a trial of a gluten free diet may have to be very strict and last several months to six months before significant health benefits occur (in research on autoimmune celiac disease it took six months on a very strict gluten free diet in order for the levels of autoimmune antibodies against gluten to be reduced — and (potentially) the thyroid hormone which the gluten molecule resembles.)

More information about dopamine and cancer and natural ways to raise dopamine levels are included in the group of Tweets mentioned in this Tweet, click to view the information on that site:

 

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

  1. http://thelightmedia.com/posts/28389-neuropathy-12-ways-to-identify-and-manage-this-painful-disease
  2. http://www.foot.com/site/foot-conditions/neuropathy
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycation
  4. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/725699
  5. http://www.ehealthme.com/ds/dopamine%20hydrochloride/neuropathy%20peripheral/
  6. http://justneurology.com/
  7. https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11568-do-coffee-and-cigarettes-protect-against-parkinsons/
  8. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264995.php
  9. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hep.23516/full
  10. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100427081044.htm
  11. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/460036
  12. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/milk-thistle
  13. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/supplement-guide-vitamin-b12#1
  14. http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/04/17/how-to-increase-dopamine-levels/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28254449

Dimethylglycine (DMG) has one less methyl group than Betaine (TMG)

In the last post I mentioned that I started taking a specific form of an amino acid after I had found out that I have a genetic defect but that I didn’t really know how much might be necessary per day. The difference in my genes affects my ability to convert betaine the common name for trimethylglycine, into a more usable form called dimethylglycine. Betaine has one more methyl group than DMG. It is also called vitamin B15.  Methyl groups are important for many things including preventing cancerous changes from occurring in the genetic structure of cells. [1]

What I didn’t know was how much might be necessary for me to take for daily health. A reference suggested that two grams per day is a minimal daily goal but that up to ten grams per day may be more optimal for health – not enough information is available about that however.

Two to ten grams per day is a specific number. I was taking two 100 milligram tablets per day. Two hundred milligrams is 1800 milligrams less than two grams – so I let my fingers doing the walking and found a bulk supply which I will be able to spoon into something liquid and just drink or eat. The switch will also save me a significant amount of money.  [2]

The bottle of sixty 100 mg tablets provided 6000 milligrams / 6 grams of DMG at a price of $7.64 which I would use in one month. That seems inexpensive but it only provides 200 mg per day not 2 grams which is 2000 milligrams. At that level of use the bottle would last three days. At 10 grams per day I would need more than one bottle per day. The one kilogram bag supplies 1,000,000 milligrams for $65.96. If I use 2 grams per day the bag will last me 500 days or 100 days if I tried to use 10 grams per day. (2 grams of powder is roughly less than one teaspoon, there’s about 5 grams of liquid in a teaspoon but you would need to know the density/weight/mass of a powder to be able to calculate how many grams of a powder would fit in a teaspoon [3])

The genetic defect is in the gene that produces an enzyme that helps break down betaine/trimethylglyine into dimethylglycine and it is also involved in methionine metabolism but that is a different supplement/different topic. The gene is BHMT/1 (Call – T), and the enzyme it encodes for is Betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT). See point #3 in the following post: Methylation Cycle Defects – in me – genetic screening “for research purposes only” . The post includes the link to the company that provides the genetic screening tests ‘for research purposes only’ (in other words: it can not be claimed to be ‘for diagnostic purposes’ legally at this stage of research and federal regulations).

The screening panel was developed to screen for defects that have been found to be more common in patients with autism. It was created by a scientist with a PhD and experience in genetics rather than an MD. The company provides nutritional information and possibly supplements but I haven’t spent enough time looking at the information to provide any review or opinion. I looked up information about my defects (11 out of 30) on my own. My notes are included in the linked post, it is not written as an essay type article with a beginning and end, it is a long list of notes for each defect*/gene allele/anomaly.

*Some gene differences are not negative as the word ‘defect’ suggests; allele is the word used in genetics for all the many known variations of one gene, there can be many slightly different forms with effects that might be good, bad, or cause no difference in health.

Nutrigenomics is an new area of science which specializes in providing individualized dietary counseling based on a person’s specific genetic structure. A person with typical genetic structure wouldn’t need to consider such a high dose of Dimethylglycine.

If the concern however is glyphosate substituting for glycine within proteins, then assuring that the body has a plentiful supply of the right kind of puzzle pieces (glycine) could help the body build more functional proteins, as repair and growth occurs every day. Glycine is an essential amino acid and and is not considered dangerous in isolation to my knowledge. (Aspartic acid and glutamate are also free amino acids and they can e dangerous in quantity to the brain as they can activate cell function and cause overwork to the point of cell death, hence the nickname excitotoxins – they are used in the food supply in a popular artificial sweetener and as a flavoring agent in substances such as MSG.)

/Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

  1. http://naturalhealingretreats.com/products/essential-vitamins/vitamin-b-15-dimethylglycine-dmg/
  2. https://www.amazon.com/BulkSupplements-N-Dimethyl-Glycine-Powder-Kilogram/dp/B00GI24VNG/ref=sr_1_12_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1474328044&sr=8-12&keywords=dimethylglycine&th=1
  3. https://www.reference.com/food/many-grams-make-teaspoon-cfafd9ead940e296