News and Notes December 2022

    New discovery of an enzyme that reverses muscle loss due to old age

    These published findings could contribute to future therapeutics for muscle degeneration due to old age, and diseases such as cancer and muscular dystrophy. An enzyme named GCN5 maintains the expression of key structural proteins in skeletal muscle. It also regulates multiple cellular processes such as metabolism and inflammation. Multiple experiments were done to examine the role of GCN5 in muscle fiber. The team’s research found that GCN5 boosts the expression of key structural muscle proteins, notably dystrophin, and a lack of GCN5 will reduce them. Dystrophin is the body’s most important protein for maintaining the membrane of muscle cells, serving as a kind of anchor and cushioning shock absorber in cells of muscles. Without it, muscles are very susceptible to physical stress, and the withering of muscles can lead to crippling and deadly consequences.


    Breakthrough in inflammation research

    Scientists from Trinity College Dublin have just discovered that a key immune alarm protein (interleukin) previously believed to calm down the immune response actually does the opposite. Interleukin-37 has an unexpected function as an immune-activating molecule, as previous studies suggested that this interleukin instead served as an ‘off switch' for the immune system. Prior to the new study, Interleukin-37 was thought to have immune-suppressive functions but how exactly it switched off inflammation was hotly debated. However, the Trinity scientists now report that, when activated in the correct way, Interleukin-37 displays potent (and highly unexpected) pro-inflammatory activity.


    A Protective Probiotic for ALS Found

    A new study published in the journal Communications Biology, suggest that the disruption of lipid metabolism contributes to this cerebral degeneration, and show that the neuroprotection provided by Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus HA-114, a non-commercial probiotic, is unique compared to other strains of the same bacterial family tested.

    ‘When we add it to the diet of our animal model, we notice that it suppresses the progression of motor neuron degeneration,' said Parker, the study’s lead author. ‘The particularity of HA-114 resides in its fatty acid content. Recent research has shown that the disruption of the gut microbiota is likely involved in the onset and progression of many incurable neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS,' explained Parker. Identifying neuroprotective bacterial strains could form a basis for new therapies.


    Asthma breakthrough and tissue remodeling

    Researchers have detected a progressive thickening of the smooth muscle in the airways of asthma sufferers. Referred to as 'tissue remodeling,' this process essentially adds to a patient's breathing problems over time, making their asthma get worse and worse. In this new study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the researchers looked at two key receptors expressed on smooth muscle cells in the airway. These two receptors are how LIGHT molecules (the protein produced by immune T cells in excessive volumes when the body is presented with an allergen)  bind to the airway muscle cells.

    Mouse studies revealed LIGHT molecules binding with LTβR receptors trigger the airway thickening seen in chronic asthma. A foundations has now been laid for entirely novel therapeutics designed to fix the structural airway problems that are associated with asthma.


    Hope for survival of deadly age-related condition IPF

    Known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, IPF most often affects those over age 50. In a new study we now see that it is actually a zinc deficiency that impairs epithelia renewal and enhances lung fibrosis. According to the research team, reversal of IPF-related lung damage may now be possible.


    Breastfeeding linked to higher IQ scores

    The South African Breastmilk Reserve urges society, business and government to invest in the future of the next generation’s health and prosperity by supporting breastfeeding mothers.

    The Breastfeeding Series, an evidence-based report published in The Lancet, found that ‘breastfeeding [is] consistently associated with higher performance in intelligence tests in children and adolescents.’ This increase in IQ scores translates directly to higher earnings throughout adulthood. Breastfeeding also benefits children’s health as it reduces the incidence of type 2 diabetes by as much as 35% and the incidence of obesity by 13%.

    According to Stasha Jordan, breastfeeding activist and executive director of the SABR: ‘Breastfeeding is an incredibly cost effective investment in the future of our society. Its positive effects last throughout adult life.’

    Breastfeeding benefits

    Topical pain relief

    Nagging pain, at times, can be debilitating. Before taking pain pills and risking their side effects, try a more natural approach. Consider the topical application of natural anti-inflammatories in a cream or gel form. Buchu gel is a good start and a cream containing capsaicin, the component that makes hot peppers spicy, is a safe topical anti-inflammatory remedy.

    Other popular natural anti-inflammatories include: MSM, glucosamine, curcumin, bromelain and ginger extract. One of the most effective remedies for pain relief is physical therapy. Apart from exercise and sufficient rest, possible pain therapies include: physiotherapy, acupuncture, body stress release, massage, reflexology, multi-radiance therapy and hydrotherapy. Pain is a messenger telling you that something is amiss – always listen to your body. For more on this topic, read the article by Dr David Nye on Alternative Pain Therapies: are they realistic?


    The art of the combination of herbal preparations

    A typical feature within phytotherapy, combining herbs has been at the heart of herbal medicine for thousands of years and in all ancient cultures. A combined herbal preparation has the potential of becoming more than the sum of its parts. As a general rule, the action of a single herb does not usually meet the requirements for the treatment of a complex condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Typically, combinations of, for example, aromatic and bitter substances are used in synergy.

    ‘Most herbalists have learned that preparing several herbs in a formula which are extracted together or brewed into a tea causes the infinite number of biochemical constituents to interact and to some extent alter so that a formula has the potential of becoming more than the sum of its parts.’ ~ Michael Tierra O.M.D., R.H. (founder of the American Herbalist Guild).

    Moving forward with algae

    Perhaps the best diet moving forward just might involve algae, which are not only packed with twice as much protein as meat, plus vitamins and minerals, but can be grown in non-potable water. We have even been eating algae (particularly seaweed) for thousands of years – the recent proliferation of algal powders as food supplements suggests many people might be willing to jump onboard.

    kelp seaweed

    How to recover from festive season overindulgence

    I love Christmas and New Year and all the associated festivities and time shared with family and friends. The only downside is that I always overindulge and end up feeling pretty grim by the time I have to return to work. Do you have any good tips or remedies to help me recover? B.M.

    THE EDITOR REPLIES: The festive season is indeed upon us and it is pretty much par for the course that we will indulge to excess when it comes to all that delicious food, not to mention the wine and bubbly. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t, so don’t feel too bad. The good news is that there are a number of ways you can get back on track, naturally.

    protect the liver

    The liver

    The most important organ in your body that you need to consider when you overindulge is your liver, which plays a key role in the processing and detoxification of chemicals, alcohol, drugs and cholesterol. The liver removes toxins from your body through the production of bile whereby any waste is either transported by the bile into the intestine where it mixes with your faeces and leaves your body or enters the blood stream to be excreted through the kidneys. If you do not look after your liver and it becomes sluggish it will produce less bile, constipation will set in and toxins will be reabsorbed and you will indeed feel grim.

    According to our expert Dr Ameet Aggarwal, here’s how to give your liver extra TLC this Christmas:

    • As hard as it may be, try to cut down on alcohol and coffee as they both interfere with liver function.
    • Some foods help your liver to produce more bile: beetroot, garlic, carrots, leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, onion, parsley, rocket, avocados, apples, blueberries, peas, pumpkin and squash.
    • Hot water with the juice of half a lemon and a little cayenne pepper half an hour before eating gently detoxifies the liver.
    • Antioxidants are nutrients found in colourful berries such as blueberries and raspberries. Fresh veggies are also a great source of antioxidants. Antioxidants repair and protect liver cells from damage caused by toxins.
    • Drink plenty of water to flush out your kidneys.

    Herbs, used under the supervision of your health practitioner, detoxify the liver and improve its function:

    –  Milk thistle is an extremely popular herb used to protect the liver from toxins and other chemicals. It also aids liver function.

    –  Dandelion root encourages the liver to produce more bile and is a great liver detoxifier. The dandelion leaf is useful for kidney detoxification.

    –  Turmeric protects liver cells and stimulates the liver to produce and excrete bile.

    The skin is our largest organ

    The skin

    The skin is our largest organ and it too plays a large role in detoxification. There are several ways in which you can support detoxing through the skin:

    • Dry body brushing boosts circulation and stimulates the lymphatic system to release toxins. Before you shower, use a body brush with firm natural bristles and brush your skin all over in circular movements towards your heart.
    • A hot apple cider and Epsom salts bath (one cup of each) draws toxins out through the skin.
    • A natural clay mask applied to the face and area over the liver encourages the release of toxins. You can even use the clay over your whole body.
    • Bikram yoga, practised at a high temperature and in about 40% humidity, makes you sweat and sweating helps release toxins.

    I hope these tips help and that you have a wonderful festive season!

    Christmas gift ideas

    Think ‘less is more’ this festive season

    The following simple ideas will help make your Christmas merry and green.


    Making your own creative wrapping paper, by using children’s drawings, brown paper and/or newspaper with leftover string and ribbon to complete the look.

    When it comes to decorating the tree and the table – less really is more…

    • Make your own Christmas tree decorations, using shells, sticks and homemade chocolates, or get your children to create some exciting designs.
    • Create simple but effective Christmas table decorations by using fruit, candles, pine cones and flowers – the food and laughter should take centre stage.


    Use LED lights on your Christmas tree or place candles all around the base of the tree. Homemade lanterns using tea lights are a great way to make a room festive without the cost!


    Use a real tree or make one out of twigs or bark; there are some wonderfully creative ideas around if you take the time to look.

    Holly explored

    Holly explored

    ‘Holly was originally used as a Christmas decoration in the northern hemisphere as it symbolised the continuation of life during the cold and dormancy of winter. The red berries ripen in the cold, and the evergreen, glossy leaves were made into garlands. Holly is steeped in ancient folk-lore: the Romans used it at their winter solstice Saturnalia celebration, and in Christianity it was associated with Christ’s crucifixion.

    ‘In the Middle Ages, monks grew hedges of spiny-leafed holly around their cloister gardens to protect the herbs from grazing animals, and they made warming teas from the leaves to restore ailing parishioners to health. Holly tea was considered particularly useful for chest ailments and rheumatic aches and pains through the bitter winters. Today, holly is recognised as a valuable treatment for a range of chest ailments and for reducing fevers.'

    ~ Margaret Roberts

    Roberts M. 100 New Herbs. Struik Nature, 2015

    WARNING: The berries are poisonous and unpalatable. Only the tough, prickly leaves should be used to make medications and teas.

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