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Larry Newman is the Chief Operating Officer, Technical and Regulatory Affairs of Kirkman Group, Inc. (Kirkman). Contact Kirkman at 1-800-245-8282; 6400 Rosewood St., Lake Oswego, OR.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Scientific Model for Special Needs Conditiions

By Larry Newman

Last month we looked at the most recent scientific model for approaching special needs conditions.  Reviewed and prioritized in the following order were:
  • evaluating gastrointestinal health;
  • using special diets;
  • improving nutritional status;
  • addressing sleep disorders;
  • addressing behavioral and social skills issues;
  • improving immune status.
Addressing those aspects should generate great improvements in special needs individuals.  Most of the information outlining those conditions was such that parents could try a lot of interventions on their own.   There are additional interventions for special needs conditions which are more complicated and require the involvement of a physician and possible laboratory testing.  These are conditions which you may hear about at conferences or read about in special publications, and you may be uncertain as to whether they affect your child or what interventions can be used for these more complicated situations.  Included in this list of complex topics are:
  • methylation;
  • sulfation;
  • oxidative stress and the use of antioxidants;
  • toxicity and detoxification.
Sulfation and methylation refer to biochemical pathways that get regulated by the body and normally do not present complications in healthy individuals with well-functioning immune systems.  Special needs and sensitive individuals tend to exhibit abnormalities in these biochemical pathways, however.   Each of these pathways has a unique purpose, and an abnormality can lead to numerous health issues, which are explained in the subsequent discussions.

The sulfation process is linked to an enzyme system known as phenol sulfotransferase (PST).  Normally, PST is involved in a process called sulfoconjugation, whereby a group of potentially harmful chemicals known as phenols are attached to sulfate and thereby eliminated from the body. When there is a deficiency of sulfate in the bloodstream, phenolic compounds may build up in the body, and this in turn can interfere with neurotransmitter function. Sulfate deficiency and the resulting impairment of PST activity may explain some sensitivity reactions to a variety of phenol-containing foods, such as apples, grapes, chocolate, food colorings, and some herbs and spices.

Special needs individuals seem to have only about 20% of the normal level of sulfate in their bodies, the rest having been excreted excessively in the urine.  In addition to the phenolic buildup described above, sulfate deficiency can contribute to other negative aspects of body chemistry including:
  • preventing the detoxification of metals and other environmental toxins from the body;
  • inhibiting the release of pancreatic digestive enzymes, thereby hindering digestion;
  • limiting the activation of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), which plays a role in socialization;
  • contributing to a leaky gut because of an unhealthy ileum.
Sulfation can often be supported and improved by topical Epsom salt products such as Kirkman's Magnesium Sulfate Cream or by giving individuals Epsom salt baths.  A combination of the two also works very well, such as using the cream in the morning and giving a bath at night.  Oral sulfate such as glucosamine sulfate may be effective to some degree in certain individuals, but this is not purported to be as effective as the Epsom salt preparations or baths.
Methylation is a series of very important biochemical reactions in the body which are responsible for overall good health.  In special needs individuals, this process is very often lacking to some degree, making these individuals poor methylators.  A properly functioning methylation pathway has life-rewarding health benefits including:
  • proper brain function;
  • healthy detoxification;
  • proper reproduction;
  • DNA protection;
  • a healthy, normal, non-premature aging process.

There are many nutritional supplements which support proper methylation.  You should discuss these options with your physician carefully because each special needs individual is unique and requires a methylation improvement program specifically tailored to their specific disorder and lab test results.  
Products used to support the methylation process include:

Oxidative Stress and Antioxidants

Our bodies constantly react with oxygen as we breathe and as our cells produce energy.  This oxygen activity has its consequences in that during this process, highly reactive molecules are produced known as free radicals.  These free radicals then interact with other molecules within our cells causing oxidative damage to proteins, membranes, genetic material and other cell components.  External factors such as pollution, sunlight, chemicals, heavy metals and other impurities we encounter or ingest also trigger the production of free radicals.  This whole process of oxidation and free radical production is known as oxidative stress.  Evidence is convincing that oxidative stress is implicated in many diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease and that it also has an impact on the body’s aging process.

It is important to minimize oxidative stress damage by consuming antioxidants which retard the process.  Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals.  The body produces an array of antioxidants to defend itself against these free radicals.  Selected foods we eat also contain a variety of antioxidants, including vitamins, minerals and enzymes.  Of note, certain fruits and vegetables contain certain nutrients which are powerful antioxidants.

Many of the vitamins and minerals we consume from food or nutritional supplements have antioxidant properties.  These include:
Specialty dietary supplements that provide antioxidant activity include:
Tomatoes contain a pigment called lycopene which gives the plant its red color.  Lycopene is a very powerful antioxidant, so consuming tomato based products such as canned tomatoes, tomato sauces, tomato soup or juice -- even ketchup -- will supply your body with antioxidant activity.  Lycopene is also present in watermelon in highly concentrated quantities.  Additionally, lycopene is available as a dietary supplement.

Lutein is a carotenoid-type antioxidant found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach; this has been recently implicated in preventing or lessening the severity of macular degeneration.  Lutein is available as a supplement as well.
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes, are extremely high in antioxidant activity because they contain natural substances such as carotenoids, flavonoids, terpenes and coumarins, all of which offer good free radical protection.

Certain members of the berry family contain powerful antioxidants, including cranberries, blueberries, elderberries, acai, black currants and grapes, all of which contain high concentrations of anthocyanins.  Grapes also contain another powerful antioxidant called resveratrol which is getting a lot of interest as of late.  Resveratrol is the component of red wine which is thought to be very beneficial to health; resveratrol plus the abundant flavonoid polyphenols also present in the red wine help contribute to the fact that the French suffer a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease despite having a diet rich in saturated fats.  More research is necessary to prove this correlation.

When it comes to antioxidant activity, the described compounds work more powerfully as a group rather than separately.  Combining the vitamins, minerals, specialty supplements and foods provides a far greater benefit.  It is not necessary to take all of the aforementioned products to get this beneficial effect.  You can pick and choose those that fit into your dietary habits and supplement regimen.
It is impossible for us to avoid all damage by free radicals because they are present both inside and outside of our bodies.  By utilizing the protective effect of antioxidants, however, one can feel comfortable with the fact that research shows that people who eat a diet rich in antioxidants, fruits and vegetables are less likely to get certain diseases.
Individuals with special dietary requirements and individuals with special needs often have elevated oxidative stress.  There are laboratory markers which measure levels of antioxidant compounds present in the body.  Talk to your doctor about appropriate testing and subsequent supplementation with antioxidants.

Substantial evidence is emerging linking many medical conditions to negative environmental influences present in our world.  The frequency of many of these medical conditions is increasing, which leads to further speculation that outside environmental causative factors are involved.

Included in the list of environmental insults that can affect disease states are toxins such as heavy metals, PCBs, and pesticides present in the products we use; toxic chemicals; and contaminants in the air we breathe and the water we utilize and drink. 

These environmental pollutants can affect the body in numerous ways.  Natural body defense mechanisms such as immune response can be bombarded with the insults, thereby becoming less effective because of the toxic load.   

Another area of intense research is how environmental factors affect the genetic makeup of an individual.  There are many genes in our body that are considered “environmentally responsive,” which means that they can be altered by environmental factors.  If you alter a gene’s makeup, the potential exists for changing the normal development of a person. Some of these changes can be immediate, and some may take many years to manifest.  Depending on which gene is involved, an individual can become vulnerable to changes in metabolic pathways, physical development, immune response, brain development and function, and nervous system development and function.

The following conditions could be linked to continued exposure to environmental toxins:
  • learning or speech difficulties;
  • lack of social skills;
  • aggressive behavior;
  • passive behavior;
  • poor immune response;
  • biochemical pathway issues.
Certain nutrients are considered natural detoxifiers and can help minimize exposures and enhance the body’s natural detoxification process.  Examples of such vitamins and minerals are zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and selenium.  Other nutritional factors which can be helpful are taurine, N-Acetyl cysteine and glutathione.

Being selective in the products we use or the foods we eat can greatly influence our toxic load.  The FDA has already issued warnings about how much fish we should eat because of the mercury content.  Using other food products or dietary supplements with ultra-high purity, such as those with a hypoallergenic designation, is another means of minimizing our toxic load.  This also carries over into the personal care products and household cleaning agents we use.  And don’t forget about the air we breathe and the water we drink and cook with.  The purer our water and air are, the less exposure we will have to environmental contamination.  Numerous air and water filtration products are available to improve air and water purity.   Kirkman® markets the Kirkman Kleen™ line of personal care and cleaning products which are formulated with safe ingredients so as not to contribute to a toxic load in the home.

When these environmental toxins are encountered by the body, a detoxification process must occur to prevent a toxic overload.  In sensitive individuals the detoxification pathways are often compromised, requiring the system to obtain a “boost” from the outside.  Kirkman’s Detox-Aid Advanced Formula is a product which may provide that “boost” to help support the body’s natural detoxification processes.  On the other hand, severe heavy metal overloads such as lead poisoning may require a drug treatment.  Only a physician can make that determination. 
This completes our discussion of the more complex parts of a scientific model for approaching special needs conditions.  In summary, our complete scientific model now includes:
  • evaluating gastrointestinal health;
  • using special diets;
  • improving nutritional status;
  • addressing sleep disorders;
  • addressing behavioral and social skills issues;
  • improving immune status;
  • evaluating methylation status;
  • evaluating sulfation status;
  • monitoring oxidative stress and using antioxidants;evaluating toxic exposure and potential detoxification requirements.

All of the major conditions affecting sensitive or special needs individuals have now been addressed. With your physician, the correct intervention plans can be appropriately implemented.