Sleep and Health

The sleep/wake cycle impacts health in many ways. The hormone melatonin has become more familiar as it now more available over the counter as a supplement that may help with sleep. It may help with getting to sleep – but timing – when it is taken, and how much – not an excess, are important factors, and it may not help with staying asleep. Sleep and wake are very complex processes within the brain and body, with many chemical signals causing activation or inhibition of different areas of the brain which then signal activation or inhibition of body functions. Reviewing all of them is beyond the scope of this post – including just the summary points is my goal.

  • Insomnia seems to be a hyperarousal of the system, both the brain and body remain more metabolically active than within normal sleep causing difficulties falling asleep and then leaving the person lest rested after sleeping because it was never reaching deeper relaxation of the brain’s activity levels. The hyperarousal tends to continue during the day so the person with insomnia may be irritable and not able to concentrate as well but may not feel tired or sleepy as might be expected after missing that many hours of sleep. The risk with ongoing insomnia though is the person is in need of deeper sleep and accidents may be more likely to occur in physical activity or in oversight of details in mental activity, especially when there are multiple demands on attention.
  • The wake/sleep cycle is essential for health for many reasons but the overall point is that different functions of metabolism occur when awake than during sleep, and both are important to overall health. Repair and detoxification, roughly, are the focus of the sleep hours and energy use and activity and learning/creating new connections between brain and nerve cells are the focus of wake hours.
    • Sleep and wake have different specialized genes and proteins for metabolism – what gets made or what gets cleaned up and reused or excreted/detoxified. Wakefulness activates genes that are used in active metabolism, using sugar for energy, and sleep activates genes that are important for using fats for building cell membranes or myelin sheaths around nerve cell connections.
    • Chronic sleeplessness can cause insulin resistance and lead to increased risk for diabetes or metabolic syndrome, whether the sleeplessness was due to inadequate hours of sleep because of a busy schedule, or due to poor sleep quality because of insomnia or other health problems or overuse of caffeine or stimulating lights late at night. More about insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome is available in a TEDmed video talk about obesity and insulin resistance. A doctor suggests that the approach medical research has taken in looking at obesity as a cause of insulin resistance may be wrong – insulin resistance may lead to obesity. Peter Attia-What If We’re Wrong About Diabetes?, TEDmed.
    • Hypertension, high blood pressure, is also a risk of chronic sleep problems.
    • Add up the problems of reduced myelin sheath production, blood sugar and blood pressure problems, and it is easy to see that long term risks of poor sleep quality may include dementia whether typical forgetfulness type due to loss of connections between brain cells or the loss of brain cells in Alzheimer’s dementia.

Solutions vary depending on the type of sleep problem however general tips for an ideal sleep setting include:

  • A cool room temperature – the body temperature is at its lowest during sleep.
  • Complete darkness – for the pineal gland to make melatonin the use of a light blocking eye mask on long airplane rides may help provide deeper sleep. In the home setting or when traveling cover alarm clock lights or other digital lights during the night and close curtains. Complete light blocking curtains are ideal.
  • Stop using digital screen devices about a half hour to an hour before intended time to try to sleep. Additional tips about electric light: Digital screens are a very bright type of light and blue lens glasses are available for eye protection for anyone who spends many hours per day using laptops or smartphones. The light settings on the device may also offer a dimmer evening setting which may help reduce eyestrain.*
  • Avoid coffee or other caffeine containing stimulants for about four to six hours prior to intended time to try to sleep.
  • Have a regular time to go to sleep and wake up each day. The average person does need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night and teenagers and toddlers ideally may need 10 hours of sleep for best cognitive performance and physical health. Lack of sleep for adults seems to negatively affect reasoning and verbal performance more than short term memory. (3)
  • Avoid high fat, hard to digest meals or snacks in the hours prior to intending to try to sleep.
  • A cool compress on the forehead or over the eyes or on top of the head may help relax sooner if insomnia and racing thoughts are a problem or feeling hot and jittery. Reusable gel packs designed for sprained ankles or other sore muscles can be kept in the freezer and then wrapped in a few layers of thin fabric to protect the skin from being overly chilled. The gel pack will eventually lose its coolness but use on the forehead may help slow down the metabolic activity of the brain, which then helps slow down signals to the body to be jittery – 20 to 30 minutes with a cool gel pack may help reach a more relaxed state before the pack is warm. Having several in the freezer could allow you to rotate the warm one with a chilled one if reawakening in the middle of the night is a problem. **
  • If reawakening in the middle of the night is a problem but you are still sleepy, try not to use any bright lights while visiting the bathroom or kitchen, etc. If wide awake, then it is recommended to just get up and do something for a while until feeling sleepy again rather than tossing and turning in bed and getting more anxious or jittery.
  • If reawakening in the middle of the night is consistently happening around 4:00 am then low serotonin levels may be a problem.  (University Health News) Taking the precursor to serotonin, 5HTP or the herbal St John’s Wort, may help provide your body with serotonin.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for sleep issues has been found to be as or more effective than sleep promoting medications while they are in use, and more effective at long term benefits even after the therapy or medication is no longer in use. Anxiety may be an issue but habits can also affect insomnia, naps and early bed times may disrupt sleep and staying awake during the day, and ideally getting some bright sunshine or full spectrum light during wake hours can help with the body’s 24 hour metabolic patterns. (CBT-I, National Sleep Foundation)

*Modern laptops or smartphones emit bluelight which may inhibit sleep. (1) Wearing blue light blocking glasses in the evening for any screen time may help reduce the effect. It has been found helpful to prevent sleep difficulties to wear them during the three hours prior to trying to go to sleep. The blue light blocking glasses are not needed for use throughout the day however. Eyestrain from a long day working with a light screen may cause dry itchy eyes and eyedrops for moisture and taking occasional breaks may help prevent that problem. Read more: (2).

**The tip about keeping gel packs in the freezer for use as a cold compress for the forehead that I mentioned for insomnia in the last post is something that I have found helpful in the past for migraines. I tried it recently for insomnia after learning in the course about sleep and neurobiology that a “biothermal device” had been found helpful in sleep lab studies for patients with insomnia. (Sleep, Neurobiology, Medicine and Societycoursera.org)

The drawing suggested they had an electric blanket type compress size cooling device that laid over the forehead and slightly over the ear area, so a little bigger than a gel pack designed for sprained ankles. However a gel pack for sprained ankles is already at stores and electric cooling biothermal devices are not yet available to my knowledge. The point – my trial use with a freezer gel pack for insomnia was very helpful at slowing my thoughts and helping my body reach a relaxed state fairly quickly. I didn’t immediately go to sleep but it did seem to help. I’ve tried it several times now and one night got another out of the freezer when I was awake but sleepy in the middle of the night. 

Environmental cues and genetic differences can effect sleep patterns. (Sleep, Neurobiology, Medicine and Society, coursera.org) (How Nature and Nurture Shape the Sleeping Brainnature.com)

There is more on this topic however this is an overview of the importance of sleep.

/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. Dustin Eves, Do Computer Screens Emit UV Light? techwalla.com, https://www.techwalla.com/articles/do-computer-screens-emit-uv-light
  2. Do Blue Light Blocking Glasses Really Work? 2018, nymag.com,     http://nymag.com/strategist/article/blue-light-blocking-glasses-work.html
  3. Conor J Wild, Emily S Nichols, Michael E Battista, Bobby Stojanoski, Adrian M Owen; Dissociable effects of self-reported daily sleep duration on high-level cognitive abilities, Sleep, , zsy182, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy182

Brain Cells and Aging

Within the majority of the brain the type of brain cells that send nerve signals generally do not get replaced, however they also generally don’t lose function. Dementia – loss of memory and other cognitive skills – is not a normal part of healthy aging. Age related forgetfulness has to do with loss of the connections between brain cells but the brain cells remain functional – so continuing to take part in learning and social activities may help prevent dementia and forgetfulness by helping to maintain current connections between brain cells and add new connections formed during learning or socializing. 

And yet Alzheimer’s dementia now “afflicts 5% to 10% of the U.S. population over the age of 65 and as much as 45% of the population over 85.” (page 694, Neuroscience, 6th. edition, 1)

Research for medications for Alzheimer’s treatment have focused on reducing the levels of certain types of protein that collect in the damaged areas of the brain of a patient with the condition, however even if successful at reducing the amount of the protein the medications have not been found very helpful for restoring the patient’s cognitive health. (previous post) People with normal brain function also can have excess of the protein and it is also found in the brains of people with autism disorder – confusing, yes. Adequate quality sleep may help the brain waste removal system keep the levels of excess protein from building up to damaging amounts. (previous post on sleep and the glymphatic system)

Things that may increase risk include chronic stress and the excess cortisol and inflammatory oxidative stress chemicals production. Moderate exercise may help reduce stress and promote detoxification of inflammatory chemicals. Staying socially and mentally active also may be protective of brain function. Prevention is the best medicine for conditions that cause irreversible degenerative changes such as the damage in Alzheimer’s Disease. Learning about new foods and recipes and then making healthy meals to share with others can be a way to combine physical and mental activity and gain from nutrients that help detoxify inflammatory oxidative stress chemicals. (previous post, Foods for beneficial T-cells) – (Nrf2 promoting foods)

T cells are a type of blood cell with immune system functions. Beneficial T cells can help clear excess protein found in Alzheimer’s (2) while other types can increase inflammation and the types can transform based on the level of oxidative stress chemicals that are present so having antioxidants and other phytonutrients in daily meals can help signal the T-cells to take the beneficial forms instead of the inflammatory forms. (The non euphoria producing endogenous cannabinoid 2-AG (acts at the CB2 receptor, somewhat similar to CBD) may also help signal T cells towards the less inflammatory type, and reduce migration of them. page 96)

Nrf2 is a gene and protein that help promote the more beneficial types of T cells and help the immune system in other ways and also promote our own production of antioxidants for reducing the oxidative stress chemicals that are a natural waste product left from energy metabolism – when blood sugar is turned into a usable form of energy.

The long story is complicated, the short story remains,

  • include moderate exercise most days of the week,
  • have adequate sleep, 6-8 hours/night, ideally with complete darkness, blackout curtains and cover the light from an electric bedside alarm clock (put it in a nearby drawer or cover it with something),
  • get some natural sunshine or full spectrum light during the day if possible (may help with vitamin D, bioactive sulfate, and circadian rhythm metabolism within the body which includes production of melatonin,
  • stay mentally and socially active,
  • reduce stress when possible and/or practice relaxation techniques,
  • drink adequate water and regularly eat a good variety of colorful fresh produce, whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds, and include omega 3 fatty acid sources on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Clean air quality is also important. Formaldehyde (from secondhand smoke or even excessive use of decorative candles), and other air pollutants (released by plastics or new carpeting/flooring for example) can collect in poorly ventilated buildings. See this post for more information about formaldehyde sources and ways to reduce it: Formaldehyde: Health Risks, and Environmental and Dietary Sources.(effectiveselfcare.info)
  • Adequate water, not getting dehydrated regularly, is important enough to repeat because dehydration allows toxins within the body, including formaldehyde, to collect, instead of being removed by the glymphatic/lymphatic and vascular system, and to then be excreted by the kidneys. Brain Formaldehyde is Related to Water Intake Behavior, Ting Li, et al, 2016, (PubMed) A discussion of how much water is typically needed for health each day, and how much protein to eat for basic needs without being too much for long term kidney health, is available in a previous post: Make Every Day Kidney Appreciation Day. (effectiveselfcare.info)

More of the long story – the Cannabinoid Receptor Type 2 is also activated by a phytonutrient called beta-caryophyllene (BCP) which is found in many aromatic herbs and spices including: oregano, cinnamon,  clove , rosemary,  thyme, black pepper, (4), and copaiba oil. (5) Benefits may include reducing inflammation and pain, anti-anxiety, anti-cancer, (4), and protection of the brain by helping reduce increased activity after brain trauma which can lead to scar like tissue walling off the area of trauma instead healing.(5)

The problem in Alzheimer’s may not be the protein itself but instead the cells that over-actively making it in response to inflammatory signals so the solution would be not trying to remove excess protein but to stop the production of excess protein by signaling the overactive cells that all is well again, stop walling off the supposed injury. Formalin, a more dilute buffered form of formaldehyde was the toxin used to create inflammation in an animal based study of the potential benefits of beta-caryophyllene. A dose of 5 mg/Kg purified beta-caryophyllene essential oil given by mouth (rather than by an injection) was found to help reduce inflammatory pain from the formalin. (4) For a 75 kilogram adult that would be a capsule with 375 milligrams of the purified oil.

The herb rosemary is pine needle like plant that has been used as a pain killer in traditional folk medicine for arthritis pain and was thought of a s a memory aid. Studies more recently have found the essential oil beneficial for improving memory. (6)  **Use care when purchasing essential oils, some are intended only for external use either on the skin when diluted in a small amount of milder oil such as almond oil for massage or topical pain relief, or as an aromatic for scent (example, put a few drops on a cotton ball that is attached to a fan or on the outlet of a humidifier to circulate the aroma through a room).

/Disclosure: 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.  Neuroscience, 6th Edition, Editors D. Purves, G.J. Augustine, D. Fitzpatrick, W.C. Hall, A.S. LaMantia, R.D. Mooney, ML. Platt, L.E. White, (Sinauer Associates, Oxford University Press, 2018, New York) (Barnes&Noble)
  2. Anna Mietelska-Porowska and Urszula Wojda, “T Lymphocytes and Inflammatory Mediators in the Interplay between Brain and Blood in Alzheimer’s Disease: Potential Pools of New Biomarkers,” Journal of Immunology Research, vol. 2017, Article ID 4626540, 17 pages, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4626540. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jir/2017/4626540/
  3. edited by Karsten Sauer, Klaus Okkenhaug, Lipid Signaling in T Cell Development and Function, Frontiers Media SA, Nov 12, 2015 page 96
  4. A.-L.Klauke, I.Racz, B.Pradier, et al., The cannabinoid CB2 receptor-selective phytocannabinoid beta-caryophyllene exerts analgesic effects in mouse models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. European Neuropsychopharmacology, Vol. 24, Issue 4, April 2014, Pages 608-620, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924977X13003027
  5. Guimarães-Santos A, Santos DS, Santos IR, et al. Copaiba Oil-Resin Treatment Is Neuroprotective and Reduces Neutrophil Recruitment and Microglia Activation after Motor Cortex Excitotoxic Injury. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2012;2012:918174. doi:10.1155/2012/918174. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3291111/
  6. Rachel Hosie, Surge in Rosemary Sales as Aromatic Herb Found to Boost Memory, May 19, 2017, independent.co.uk,  https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/rosemary-sales-surge-herb-boost-memory-holland-barrett-a7745231.html

Foods and Nutrients that may benefit T cells

T cells are a group of white blood cells with immune functions that may be beneficial or which may promote inflammation. They can change from one type of T-cell to another based on the amount of oxidative stress chemicals present in their surroundings. Our own body can produce antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress when we have adequate Nrf2. We also can get antioxidants from foods and often the foods that are good sources of antioxidants also contain phytonutrients that promote our own production of Nrf2 which then can help us produce our own types of antioxidants. Other nutrients are also helpful for promoting T cells to become the less inflammatory producing types. (1)

Reduced antioxidant production and prevalence of the more inflammatory type of T cells may be involved in aging and many types of chronic illnesses including cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, carcinoma’s and leukemia’s, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease and vitiligo. For more details see: (1) Figure 13)

See Table 3: Antioxidant Compounds of Natural Dietary Products with Role in T Cell Function. (1)

  • Green tea: Catechin hydrate (CH) and Epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG). Teas (white, green, and oolong), cocoa, grapes, berries, apples; Catechins are monomers of Flavan-3-ols; see more:(Flavonoids)
  • Carrot, celeriac, parsnip, and parsley: Aliphatic C(17)-polyacetylenes. The Apiaceae plant family, see more: (Aliphatic C(17)-polyacetylenes) Commonly used herbs spices in the plant family include caraway seeds, coriander seeds/cilantro leaves, cumin seeds, dill, fennel; see more: (Apiaceae plants)
  • Turmeric (yellow spice in curry powder): Curcumin (diferuloylmethan). See more: (Curcumin)
  • Garlic: Ajoene. Organosulfur compound, others also present in onions, see more: (Ajoene/organosulfur compounds).
  • Plant foods/beverages with yellow pigments: Chalcones (precursors for flavones). Chalcones are found in many plant foods including; “fruits (e.g., citruses, apples), vegetables (e.g., tomatoes, shallots, bean sprouts, potatoes) and various plants and spices (e.g., licorice),” see more: (Chalcones). Flavones, (found in Parsley, thyme, celery, hot peppers), are part of the Flavonoid group; see more: (Flavonoids). 
  • Anthocyanin (purple/blue pigments): Wild blueberry, bilberry, cranberry. Red, blue, or purple berries; red and purple grapes; red wine, Anthocyanidins combined with sugar molecules are anthocyanins; see more: (Flavonoids).
  • Proanthocyanidin: Grape Seed and Jamapa Bean. Apples, berries, cocoa, red grapes, red wine; Proanthocyanidins are dimers and polymers of Flavan-3-ols; see more: (Flavonoids).
  • Resveratrol: Peanuts; Grape skins, red wine; dark colored berries including blueberries, bilberries, and cranberries; dark cocoa; see more: (Resveratrol.
  • Lycopene: Tomatoes; guava, watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit, mango; red sweet peppers, asparagus, purple cabbage, carrots: (Lycopene).
  • Carrots and other orange/yellow fruits and vegetables: Beta-carotene (orange/yellow pigment, precursor to Vitamin A). Sweet potato, squash, carrots, apricots, cantaloupe, mango; broccoli, greens; red sweet peppers; tomato juice; black-eyed peas, beans; see more: (Vitamin A – provitamin A, beta-carotene, is found in plant sources)
  • Vitamin A: Carrots, cheese, eggs, and meat. Liver; fish oils; fortified milk; see more: (Vitamin A-preformed, retinol, is from animal sources primarily).
  • Vitamin B6: Whole grains, vegetables; liver, meats and fish; nuts; chickpeas/garbanzo beans and other beans, tofu; cottage cheese; banana; see more: (vitamin B6).
  • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, cantaloupe, kiwifruit, strawberries, cauliflower, the cabbage family, tomatoes, peppers, and greens, green peas, potatoes – see more: (vitamin C).
  • Vitamin D: Cod liver oil, egg yolk. Fortified dairy products or orange juice, or other fortified foods such as breakfast cereals or meal replacement bars; salmon, tuna, sardines, krill oil; liver; some types of mushrooms; – see more: (vitamin D).
  • Vitamin E: Wheat germ oil, sunflower oil. Nuts, greens, asparagus, pumpkin, mango, avocado – see more: (vitamin E).
  • (1)

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. Kesarwani P, Murali AK, Al-Khami AA, Mehrotra S. Redox Regulation of T-Cell Function: From Molecular Mechanisms to Significance in Human Health and Disease. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. 2013;18(12):1497-1534. doi:10.1089/ars.2011.4073. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3603502/ (1)
  2. Flavonoids, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/flavonoids
  3. Christensen LP, Aliphatic C(17)-polyacetylenes of the falcarinol type as potential health promoting compounds in food plants of the Apiaceae family. Recent Pat Food Nutr Agric. 2011 Jan;3(1):64-77. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21114468
  4. Apiaceae: Parsley or Carrot Family. Identify herbs, plants, and flowershttps://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/Plant_Families/Apiaceae.htm
  5. Curcumin, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University,  https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/curcumin
  6. Garlic and Organosulfur Compounds, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/garlic
  7. Orlikova B, Tasdemir D, Golais F, Dicato M, Diederich M. Dietary chalcones with chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic potential. Genes & Nutrition. 2011;6(2):125-147. doi:10.1007/s12263-011-0210-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3092904/
  8. Resveratrol, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University,  https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/resveratrol
  9. Top 10 Foods Highest in Lycopene, myfooddata.com,  https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/high-lycopene-foods.php
  10. Vitamin A: Health Professional Fact Sheet, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/
  11. Vitamin B6: Health Professional Fact Sheet, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/
  12. Vitamin C: Health Professional Fact Sheet, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
  13. Vitamin D: Health Professional Fact Sheet, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
  14. Vitamin E and Health, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vitamins/vitamin-e/

Why should we care about demyelination?

This post is a summary of two recent posts:

  • Good News/Bad News about Multiple sclerosis Research (7/26/2018) 
  • Demyelination, continued. (7/28/2018) 

Why Care about Demyelination? 

We need to care about demyelination as a society because it may be a factor underlying many conditions that have been occurring at increasing rates. The high cost of health care is not just due to the cost of individual medications or the price of hospitalization but is due to the additive cost of increased numbers of individuals needing care. Autism care alone is estimated to likely reach $500 billion by 2025 for care in the U.S. alone, (link), demyelination or disordered myelin formation is thought to be involved. Our food supply may provide calories but it may no longer be supporting health due to imbalance in some nutrients and lack of sufficient amounts of other nutrients – in addition to personal choices for some people leaning toward convenient and tasty foods that provide very few nutrients besides calories.

The other reason to care about demyelination as a society is because the early symptoms can occur for years without clear reasons and may disrupt relationships or the ability to hold a job – personality changes including anxiety and anger, paranoia and a short temper – problems with impulse control and the ability to follow through on planned actions or with communication and the ability to tell the truth instead of substituting other statements that may seem illogical and obviously far from the truth. Problems with impulse control and a tendency toward mood problems may also include an increased risk for suicide or self injury or violence towards others.

The medical research is complex and I haven’t seen all the loose threads together yet, so I will summarize my summary points in a more concise list here and am working on a more organized document elsewhere. This list combines my tips from the previous post with the work of the other summary article (22) — I was also given the link to another summary article which also has tips which I have not incorporated here. It provides an excellent overview about myelin production and function –selfhacked/myelin – what I and the authors of (22) and {selfhacked} have in common is that we all got sick and sought information about regaining our health for ourselves and are sharing the information in case it might help others.

My personal goal is to not become paralyzed (post: ALS & CBD receptors), number of clicks on a website is not something I pay attention to. The loose threads that I’ve woven together in this series of posts which are not included in the excellent selfhacked article are that a) many of the herbs or phytonutrients found helpful for myelin regeneration are Nrf2 promoting which is also important for myelin regeneration and/or reducing oxidative stress that may lead to more degeneration of myelin. b) Foods that are good for promoting Nrf2 often are also good sources of cannabinoids or phospholipids which can be protective. c) And preventing excessive cell death or excess intracellular calcium may decrease the excess production of cytokines by decreasing release of cannabinoids from cell membrane storage and their breakdown into arachidonic acid and eventual transformation into cytokines and other inflammatory chemicals.}: 

Strategies to help prevent the breakdown of myelin or help promote regeneration of myelin:

{In the past at different points in time, I personally have experienced and improved with supplementation or diet changes physical and mental symptoms of vitamin B1, B5, B6, folate and B12 deficiencies; iodine, magnesium, calcium and zinc deficiencies; vitamin/hormone D and calcium excess at a different stage of health;  cannabinoid/phospholipid deficiency; inadequate protein and general malnutrition due to the zinc deficiency which can greatly reduce appetite at one stage and due to severe bowel mal-absorption more recently; omega 3 fatty acid/omega 6 fatty acid imbalance; and also lack of sleep/melatonin and lack of oxygen/excess toxins in the air; health requires all of the nutrients and adequate oxygen, exercise, sleep and stress coping.}

  1. Vitamin B1, thiamin deficiency, chronic, severe – Wernicke’s encephalopathy may be more of a risk for severe alcoholics and people with anorexia – severe lack of appetite or the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. 
  2. Vitamin B12 deficiency – may be more of a risk for people with low stomach acidity, due to older age or chronic use of calcium type antacids; or due to genetic reasons limiting production of Intrinsic Factor; or due to a vegan diet without supplementation of vitamin B12 or inclusion of Nutritional yeast flakes in the diet. 
  3. Zinc deficiency (22) or copper  excess (link). 
  4. Adequate but not excessive lithium may increase myelin production. (22) 
  5. Adequate but not excessive iron intake is needed for production of myelin. 
  6. Magnesium deficiency or poor intestinal absorption of magnesium, or lack of adequate protein and phospholipids in the diet for the body to be able to store magnesium in the normal manner within the intracellular fluid. 
  7. Inadequate calcium or vitamin D can be a factor but excessive intake of either can also be a factor in cell breakdown and risk of demyelination. If taking vitamin D as a supplement the vitamin D3 form may be most bioactive and taking vitamin K2 with it may help with myelin production (22) and protect against osteoporosis. Green leafy vegetables are good sources of vitamin K. 
  8. Adequate intake of cholesterol is needed as a building block for our own production of vitamin D and other steroid hormones and as a building block for myelin. (22) Pregnenolone is a steroid hormone precursor that may benefit some people when used as a supplement. It and other steroid hormones are involved in signaling increased production of myelin. Testosterone insufficiency may also negatively affect myelin production. (22) 
  9. Excessive intake of free glutamate or aspartate – excitatory amino acids that are commonly used as flavoring or sweetening agents in foods or may occur naturally in fermented foods or alcoholic beverages. 
  10. Adequate protein is needed to support a variety of body functions in addition to supporting magnesium levels. Uridine is a nucleotide base (part of DNA that is a combination of a type of sugar and an amino acid) that is also is involved in energy metabolism, fasting occasionally may increase our own production (more info). Insufficient amounts may negatively affect myelin production and use as a supplement may help some people. (22) 
  11. Insufficient calories to provide the body enough glucose to support mitochondrial health. They can use protein or fats for energy but it shifts the metabolism more towards oxidative stress. 
  12. Occasional fasting and/or a low carbohydrate diet may help promote autophagy due to increased use of ketones for energy (22) but may cause health problems due to excess oxidative stress or an increased burden of nitrogen waste removal for the kidneys when followed long term. 
  13. Lack of antioxidants due to lack of Nrf2 within the body to promote our own production of antioxidants internally; and/or lack of antioxidants within the diet, including vitamin C, (22), would decrease our ability to detoxify the reactive oxidative chemicals produced during normal metabolism or which are produced at increased rates when protein or fats are being used for energy instead of glucose. 
  14. Use of the herb ashwagandha or Gingko biloba (22) may help protect against oxidative stress and protect against demyelination by promoting Nrf2. (ashwagandha & Nrf2) (an overview of Nrf2 metabolism, its potential benefits for conditions such as Multiple sclerosis, and Gingko biloba and pomegranate are mentioned as promoters of Nrf2: nutricology/newsletter, see first article) (other Nrf2 promoting phytonutrients/foods and menu ideas: G10: Nrf2 Promoting Foods.) Flavonoids are one of the groups of phytonutrients that helps promote Nrf2; and also may help protect myelin production. (22) Medicinal mushrooms, including Hericium Erinaceus, Lion’s Mane Mushroom,(22), may also help protect myelin production and prevent breakdown by reducing oxidative stress (link) and promoting Nrf2. (link) 
  15. Having a healthy balance of omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids in the diet helps reduce risk of inflammation/oxidative stress and also helps us build healthy membranes which are necessary to control flow of minerals and other chemicals from the exterior to interior of cells and organelles such as the mitochondria. 
  16. Inadequate iodine for healthy thyroid hormone production, (22); may be a combined problem of excess presence of bromide, fluoride and perchlorate in the diet or environment. 
  17. Lack of oxygen due to poor air quality, or smoking, or health problems causing inadequate breathing function. Emotional or physical stress may also increase the need for oxygen or increase the tendency to hold our breath; Take ten deep breaths and think before you speak is good advice for any emotionally stressful situation because oxygen is needed to think rationally and we tend to hold our breath when we are upset. 
  18. Avoid extreme physical and emotional stress. 
  19. Avoid toxins. 
  20. Get adequate sleep at night, and a brief nap during the day may be beneficial for some people. Melatonin helps promote myelin production and inadequate sleep and having lights on at night can disrupt our production of melatonin. (22) 
  21. Adequate exercise (22) and stretching regularly helps move nutrients throughout the body and remove toxins in the lymphatic fluid for further detoxification and eventual removal from the body. 
  22. Wear a helmet for any activity that may cause head trauma and avoid sports which may cause frequent closed head trauma and especially when helmets are not used (sorry soccer, football, hockey, (link), and boxing fans). 
  23. Adequate phospholipid and other phosphonutrients or cannabinoids may be necessary to include from external sources if genetic differences or other health problems or age interferes with the body’s internal production capability. Dark cocoa products, cardamom powder, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds are a few legal dietary sources. 
  24. Use of ibuprofen and/or ginger (approximately 1/2 teaspoon per day) may help prevent breakdown of our body’s supply of cannabinoids, breakdown of which may then lead to increased breakdown of cells and may then lead to increased degeneration of myelin. 
  25. Lack of any B vitamins or genetic differences in the ability to remethylate folate and vitamin B12 may disrupt the ability of mitochondria to generate usable energy from glucose or proteins and fats, and may reduce production of myelin. (22) Inositol and choline may be particularly important for myelin production. They are considered to be in the B vitamin group but was discovered more recently than the numbered series of B vitamins. (22) 
  26. Low Level Laser Therapy – I am not familiar with this, see #10: (22), but I have read elsewhere that certain types of light can stimulate activity levels. (Haier) 
  27. Practice, practice, practice – new things. (22) Myelin is produced in response to learning [45] so remaining mentally stimulated with new experiences and learning new topics or techniques keeps signalling the body to produce myelin.  
  28. Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor, (BDNF), the brain’s growth factor, may help increase production of myelin by increasing production of brain cells, which include oligodendrocytes. (22) Ways to promote BDNF (link, from within 22) fortunately overlap with the strategies for protecting against demyelination already mentioned above or included in the list of Nrf2 promoting foods. 
  29. Reducing exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) – energy leakage from laptops, smartphones, WiFi, televisions, and other strong sources of electicity may help protect against myelin degeneration. (22) 

References and more details for some of this information were included in the last two posts:  

  • Good News/Bad News about Multiple sclerosis Research (7/26/2018) 
  • Demyelination, continued. (7/28/2018) 

/Disclosure: 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./