Calcium—An Extremely Important Mineral

calciumIn the minds of most who are concerned about health, calcium is important for building strong bones. Generally, the physician does not explain all that calcium does in the body. We are told that calcium plaque is very dangerous, but we are not told how calcium plaque forms. We are told that cholesterol is the reason for blocked arteries. Really? Strong bones are used as a storage place for calcium as well as to support our structure. Calcium acts in almost every biological activity in the human body. That is the reason that our calcium is controlled in such narrow limits within our blood.

Calcium is required for every thought you make and every action you take. When neurons fire in your brain, signal muscle contraction, or sensory feedback, calcium is required. The signal travels along the neuron to the neural head through the action of voltage potential, sodium, and potassium. Before the neurotransmitters are released to carry the signal to the next neuron, a voltage gated calcium channel opens to allow calcium to flow into the cell. This fact has allowed the creation of a calcium channel blocker, gabapentin (brand name Neurontin). This drug was originally used to stop seizures. It was later used to blunt the action of pain signals. In blocking the action of the neuron, it slows done all neural response. Because the drug was used as an “off label” to block pain and not approved as such, the manufacturer was fined both in the US and the EU. A second drug, pregabalin or Lyrica, was patented and approved for pain reduction and to prevent seizures.

When I was in significant back pain, tramadol was prescribed. Because the pain was not being sufficiently blunted by tramadol, gabapentin was also prescribed. I was able to function well, with pain, with the tramadol. When gabapentin was added, I felt like tar flowing uphill on a cold day. The first experience with gabapentin was slow speech. My trainer sent me home because I was slurring my words. After two months on gabapentin, I had to drink fourteen plus cups of coffee just to function. It not only blocked pain, it blunted all neural action. I got off the drug. There are many other side effects of this drug.

The narrow range of calcium in the blood also has the important action of maintaining a proper acid/base balance. Without a proper acid/base balance, the proteins in our blood tend to fold. This causes loss of the oxygen carrying ability of red cells. It also causes other proteins to not respond for proper biological action.

Secondary signaling is also a very important action of calcium. Before proteins and enzymes are formed, calcium plays an important role. Calcium floods into the cell initiating the RNA/DNA response for the formation of important proteins and enzymes. The RNA/DNA response also includes cell division. Without this signaling, our biology would fail.

How is calcium controlled in our body? There are multiple mechanisms that must be supported by nutrients for proper control of calcium:

  • Vitamin D acts to allow increased calcium absorption in the gut. In the parathyroid gland, parathyroid hormone (PTH) is produced to increase calcium absorption from the gut or from our bones if we are not consuming enough calcium in our diet. If we are not consuming enough calcium, osteopenia and osteoporosis will occur. This is the start of bone loss and other assorted problems like calcium plaque forming in our arteries. Blocked arties and osteoporosis seem to go together. There has not been a single case of secondary hyperparathyroidism when the blood serum level of 25(OH)D, a marker for vitamin D sufficiency, is above 40 ng/ml. Two studies of research literature have shown this.  Secondary hyperparathyroidism is when your parathyroid becomes over active and causes your serum calcium levels to go into a high danger zone. The typical response of modern medicine is to remove several of your parathyroid glands.
  • Loss of proper gut bacteria causes the loss of the important vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 acts to move calcium to the proper locations in our body. It has been shown to reduce calcium plaque in the arteries. It has also been used in Japan for osteoporosis as a prescription drug. Typically, we need vitamin K2 at a rate of about one thousand micrograms per day. Vitamin K2 must be produced in the gut or supplemented. Fermented foods as well as probiotics are known sources of restoring and maintaining our gut bacteria. Properly maintain gut bacteria allow the formation of many nutrients and helps maintain our immune system.
  • When our calcium level starts to go too high, calcitonin is formed by our thyroid glands (or bodies on the thyroid gland). Calcitonin acts to replace calcium in our bones. It is important to keep a healthy thyroid gland. Health of the thyroid is related to how much iodine is consumed. The US government recommends that we only need 150 micrograms per day. This is significantly lower than the consumption of the Japanese population. Studies have shown that typical consumption in Japan is five to fifteen milligrams per day or approximately one hundred times more than the US recommendation. Dr. David Brownstein in his book, “Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Cannot Live Without it,” suggests that we need a minimum of 12.5 milligrams (combination of iodine/iodide) per day or more if there are serious thyroid issues. I do this either with the supplement Iodoral or Lugol’s solution.
  • Vitamin A is also very important. In my reading of the literature, I am now of the understanding that we do not produce vitamin A from beta-carotene until we are already deficient. This is the body’s mechanism to keep us alive. The importance of vitamin A with bones is the differentiation of bone and cartilage stems cells. It acts in combination with Vitamin D for form a dimer for the differentiation. I supplement vitamin A by taking cod liver oil as a liquid or capsules or eat a piece of beef liver every three weeks.
  • Collagen is also very important in the formation of bone and cartilage. We typically got this protein from bone gravies. It was suggested many years ago that we should stop eating gravies, the drippings of skin and bone when cooking meat, because there was too much fat. The mass hysteria about overconsumption of fat has led to increased consumption of sugar. Sugar stimulates insulin and havoc occurs in our bodies. Reduction or elimination of sugar and flour is also important to bone health.  Are you starting to see how this is all interrelated? To get enough collagen, I put one to two teaspoons of just plain gelatin in my morning coffee. Bone broth is also a good source of important proteins. Vitamin C and magnesium also act to help us form collagen in our body.

Mineralization of our bones not only requires calcium but also magnesium. There are many other minerals that act in the formation of our bones. Primarily, this is through the action of enzymes. To be sure that I am getting enough of these micronutrients, I take a multi-mineral each day. The multi-mineral also supports my calcium requirement. The requirement for magnesium is 3.5 to 4.5 mg per pound of body weight per day. Magnesium supplementation should be done with a chelate of amino acids and not as magnesium oxide. We do not absorb magnesium oxide, and you are just wasting your money if you use magnesium oxide as a supplement. Also, magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker and should be taken in the evenings to support sleep. Magnesium requirements.

This is a long post and somewhat complicated. However, to not allow our biology to move calcium around properly through consumption of the proper nutrients is the first step toward your grave.          –Pandemic Survivor

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Opioid Induced Constipation and Magnesium

We are constantly bombarded with ads for drugs. The most recent astonishment was a drug to relieve constipation caused by pain killers.  Specially, opiate type pain killers and the malady has the name opioid-induced constipation (OIC).   I had this problem for the years that I was on opiate pain killers.  There is a simple solution that results in a remarkable to return to health and energy.  When you have constipation from taking opiate pain killers the solution is magnesium.  Constipation is a warning signal that you are deplete in magnesium. I solved the problem by taking 200 mg of magnesium citrate capsules twice per day. Not only did I gain relief from constipation, I was improving my problem with magnesium deficiency.

From Medical News Today:

“For the treatment of OIC, doctors may prescribe:

  • Osmotic laxatives – increase the amount of water in the gut, increasing bulk and softening stools.
  • Emollient or lubricant cathartics – soften and lubricate stools.
  • Bulk cathartics – increase bulk and soften stools.
  • Stimulant cathartics – directly counteract the effect of the opioid medications by increasing intestinal motility, helping the gut to push the stools along.
  • Prostaglandins or prokinetic drugs – change the way the intestines absorb water and electrolytes, and they increase the weight and frequency of stools while reducing transit time.
  • Other medicines block the effects of opioids on the bowel to reverse opioid-induced constipation.

Although the treatments listed above are usually successful in treating OIC, sometimes a physician will recommend rectal intervention.”

Wow and ouch, I just can’t imagine the effort to treat constipation; in particular, when you are in other pain.  Here is a list of drugs for OIC from Web MD.  The primary use of opiates is for treatment of pain resulting from spine and joint issues.  Here is what Spine Universe suggest for OIC.  In any case, there is no suggestion that you may have magnesium deficiency.

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Magnesium deficiency is a very serious problem.  It has been estimated that 68% of the population do not get the recommended daily intake. This article from Life Extension list the diseases associated with magnesium deficiency as well as the battles of correcting the problem in the general population.  You can also read more about the diseases associated with magnesium deficiency as well as many peer reviewed papers at the Magnesium Library Online.

The issue with magnesium deficiency is no blood test to tell you if you have enough for health.  The serum test that is used only measures what is in the blood stream which does not correlate to what is inside the cells.  Many prescription drugs deplete the body of magnesium. Chronic pain can cause deficiency in magnesium.  One of the primary issues with low energy is not enough magnesium.  Magnesium is the positive ion that carries the energy molecules (ADP-ATP) to supply energy to the biological actions in your body.

I think the best understanding in simple terms can be found from Krispin, a lifelong nutritionist. She describes the diseases from deficiency and how to supplement for the best benefit of health.  She states that it may take six months of supplementation to get the full benefits of health. One important take away for you is that vitamin D3 needs magnesium to work properly.  If you have a serious problem with constipation, contact your doctor.  To your health and proper bowel movements!  –Pandemic Survivor

Migraines – The Unknown Pain

It starts as jagged little lines in your vision otherwise known as an aura. Usually one side of the head fills like it is ready to explode or implored.  Bright lights really do you in and the doctor does not seem to be able to help you.  “We are not sure of the cause”, she says. “Take this jagged little pill and why don’t you call me later this week if you still cannot function.” – OUCH!

Modern medicine seems to be at a loss for what causes migraines.  As a suggestion by one of my readers, I have decided to spend some time in exploring what is available.  The findings – not much, but don’t despair there is hope as research and clinical practice has provided some clues. There are quite a few research papers on migraines and the treatment with IV magnesium sulfate.  The question then becomes what are the mechanisms involved so that we can make a drug to treat migraines.  Of course I don’t ask questions like that.  Better is the question is it sulfur or sulfate deficiency or a magnesium deficiency or is it a combination of the two.

We know that sulfites are a significant trigger for migraines.  But I would not discount sulfate as an aid to the solution to migraines.  I find it extremely interesting that IV magnesium sulfate is used for the treatment pre-eclampsia.  Is it the sulfate or the magnesium or both that helps with the high blood pressure in pregnant women?  It has been shown by Dr. Hollis of the Medical University of South Carolina that higher levels vitamin D significantly reduces the possibility of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.

The question then becomes how does something as simple as Epsom salt relieve both pre-eclampsia as well as migraines?  We also know from an earlier post that magnesium sulfate is significant in treating pulmonary hypertension.  Another yet unexplored clue.  As always statements give us a state but questions lead on a quest.

If we take all the clues and toss them into the air and let then rotate in quantum permutations, it would seem that vitamin D, magnesium, and sulfur as sulfate act both independently and together.  Acting independently vitamin D controls a significant amount of mineral balance and hormonal activation and balance.  The mineral balance of course leads to fluid balance across membranes.  Vitamin D3 is the gate keeper for the sodium-sulfate transport through all dermal layers.  The magnesium is the ion of choice for the ATP/ADP energy transfer and is the ion of choice for over 350 of the body’s enzymes. Sulfate acts in many ways as in helping to control fluid pressure in arteries and membranes.  As an example, since I have assured an adequate amount of sulfate intake, my blood pressure has stabilized at 115/70- not bad for a fat sixty plus grumpy.  Also the sulfate makes a water soluble ester of super oxide dismutase that is your body’s cellular waste removal system.  Blocking of the mitochondrial bodies in their effort to produce usable energy, whether from not having enough magnesium for transport or sulfate for waste removal is certainly an issue.

So what to do?  I guess if I had migraines, I would assure that I was getting an adequate amount of each of these nutrients.  You could start by taking 40 IU of vitamin D3 per pound of body weight.  The serum for vitamin D or 25(OH)D is critical and should be maintained above 60 ng/ml- get tested.  Magnesium and sulfate may be solved by simply soaking in an Epsom salt bath about three times per week once your serum vitamin D is high enough to allow for the transport of sulfur to take place properly. Alternative would be to take about 1000 mg of MSM per fifty pounds of body weight (found at your local vitamin store) and 3.5 to 4.5 mg per pound of body weight of magnesium as a chelate like, aspartate, malate, glycinate or an amino acid chelate.  I would suggest not taking magnesium hydroxide like milk of magnesia or magnesium oxide.  It you are taking magnesium oxide, just throw it into the commode because that is where it will end up – not absorbed in your gut.  Also for sulfate, you may consider that you eat at least three cups of the combination of cruciferous and alliums vegetables each day.  Think cold slaw with an onion diced into it or asparagus with garlic. Also be sure to take a multiple vitamin to assure you are getting the minerals necessary to make the sulfate esters, i.e. manganese, copper, zinc, etc.

To recap: vitamin D, magnesium as a chelate, sulfate, and a multiple vitamin.  Sounds too simple – it must be right.  The key is to get enough of each.  Also be sure to eliminate all foods that contain sulfites.  This may be a difficult task as it is used as a preservative and in wine and sometimes even on salads to keep them fresh.  The body will preferentially take on the sulfite and interfere with the desired sulfate reactions.

My wife recently complained that she thought she was getting a migraine which seems to run in her family.  Distorted vision and a low throbbing in her head were her symptoms.  I had her take 800 mg of magnesium as magnesium malate along with ten thousand IU of D3 and the symptoms left.  I would not have any suggestions otherwise unless it is so severe that you may want to consider IV magnesium sulfate – see your doctor.  You could try a teaspoon full of Epsom salt in coffee or tea. More than two teaspoons full and you will start to reach bowel tolerance as Epsom salt is used as a laxative.

Pain is not felt in the brain because there are no sensory nerve endings, which allows surgery on the brain while being conscious.  So where is the pain felt in headaches? – don’t know, but when I have a headache it sure feels like it is in the brain.  Maybe it is because the neurons are so clogged with waste, not enough energy, and improper sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium balance it pains you.  -Pandemic Survivor

More info on migraines and magnesium: http://mgwater.com/listd.shtml#migraine
Note: The serum test for magnesium does not correspond to cellular levels of magnesium.  It may take several months to become replete in magnesium.

Seizures and Electrolytes

From the Epilepsy Foundation we find that a seizure is: “A seizure is a massive disruption of electrical communication between neurons in the brain—.“  You can find this at their web site and this page defines a seizure and a seizure threshold.

As someone that is not trained in biology or medicine it seems that a seizure occurs when the ‘break-over voltage’ exceeds the resistance of the circuit.  This is how a semiconductor works as well which starts conduction when the ‘saturation voltage’ is reached.  So let’s think about how signals travel down neural pathways.  It would seem that they travel through a series of gates that control the ‘saturation’ levels of sodium and potassium along the pathway.  The ‘action potential’ varies along the axon causing the sodium gates to open and allow sodium into the axon and then the potassium gate opens and allows potassium to rush out so that through this mechanism the ‘signal’ travels along the axon.  When the signal reaches the synapse then neural transmitters are released to carry the signal to the next neuron through its dendrites.

The cell and axon returns to a stable voltage ‘without’ transmitting when the sodium potassium pumps through its action causes the sodium to be forced outside the axon and potassium to be brought into the axon thus reversing the signal or action potential.  The cell body is somewhat more complicated but know that calcium gates are somewhat controlled by the concentration of magnesium.

It is interesting that the article immediately goes to neural transmitters like GABA and ACH and how too much of these will cause the cells to be over stimulated and continue to fire.  This is somewhat different in how engineers would look at a semiconductor and what causes it to fire.  Yes we look at the voltage of the base to control whether the semiconductor is on or off.  However, we control what voltage causes the semiconductor to turn on/off by the amount of ‘doping’ or mineral/metal that is placed in the semiconductor during manufacture.  The equivalent of this in the body of the cell and the axon is how the gates of the cell are working to allow conductive ions in and out and if there is adequate amounts of these electrolytes available.

Ions that are associated with this conduction are calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium.  So it would just seem that a proper diet is extremely critical for a stable environment of electrical conduction in the cell.  That is you need to eat and absorb enough of these minerals so that proper electrical potentials are maintain.

Before you consider changing your diet and taking supplements be sure that you consult with your physician to get him to approve your changes.  If he is resistant please suggest that he read the articles that I am suggesting for you.

Also as vitamin D is extremely important to maintain a healthy endocrine system, proper levels of this vital nutrient should be maintained.  The newer understanding is each cell makes its own steroid form of vitamin D from the storage form of vitamin D.  The cell does not have to get it through the serum level of the steroid as converted in the kidneys.  So does vitamin D affect the threshold levels for seizures?  Here is a study that was done in 1974 that says that there is an association:  “Anticonvulsant Action” of Vitamin D in Epileptic Patients? A Controlled Pilot Study  – 1974 Claus Christiansen, Paul Rødbro, and Ole Sjö

Also Dr. John Cannell talks extensively about seizures that are associated with autism and how that autism may be a result of vitamin D deficiency: “Vitamin D Deficiency’s Role in Autism”

Also Dr. Cannell has located many research articles that can be linked from PubMed through his research page on epilepsy.

ADP/ATP or your energy cycle in the mitochondrial bodies is important as this is where the energy for the sodium/potassium pump comes from.  Magnesium/calcium balance in the mitochondria is extremely critical in proper operation of this ‘energy engine’.  Some researchers claim that as much as 30 percent of the energy that is processed through these engines is used to maintain this balance.  It should also be noted that ADP and ATP are ions and the cation that this reaction works best with is magnesium.

We typically get enough calcium from our diets but whether we properly absorb the calcium is dependent on whether we are replete in vitamin D.  Magnesium however is another story.  I particularly like Krispin’s page on magnesium on how much is enough.  She is a life long nutritionist puts together a very clear way to get to proper magnesium levels.  Krispin’s webpage on magnesium.

Vitamin D levels that are replete tend to cause magnesium to be reduced in your body.  It typically takes about three months or longer for magnesium levels in the cells to reach a healthy value.  There are many research papers that you may access at www.mgwater.com.

Potassium is also not properly understood as you can see that we need a minimum of 4.7 grams per day from this report from the Institute of Medicine from February, 2004.  This article also tells you the proper  balance of sodium and chloride.  “Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate”

Krispin does a great job on how to determine how much potassium we should get in a day based on weight and what foods to get if from.  Krispin’s webpage on magnesium.

If you get a chance you may want to read her page on forgiveness:  this is great piece of work in how we our bodies relate to our environment and memory.

Iodine properly works for energy balance as well and I would suggest these two articles on iodine:

Donald W. Miller, Jr. MD  “Iodine for Health”

This recent article by Dr William Davis of the Heart Scan Blog written for life extension magazine:  “Halt on Salt Sparks Iodine Deficiency”

I know this is a lot but taking only neurotransmitter stabilizers without being sure that you have proper minerals for electrical balance is just a road toward bad health.  Remember the health of the brain activity is related to neural transmitter balance and electrolyte balance.  This is true of the heart as well as a majority of the cells in the heart are neural cells.

Remember that electrolytes are really inexpensive and cannot be prescribed so that is not much of a profit motive to actively treat using proper diet to achieve mineral balance.  Yet minerals may be more critical than neurotransmitters.  I have always suspected this was the case in depression.  Not enough potassium and magnesium to drive the signaling pathways.

EAT YOUR BUCKET OF DIRT!  Just kidding   – Pandemic Survivor