Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Emerging Science of Electrostimulation

inline_electroceuticalsAs a Primal lifer, I recognize that purity has a certain allure, just as I know it has its decided limitations. I frequently find myself wondering, “Would my paleolithic forebears have done/said/eaten that?” and choosing my course of action based on this line of educated assumption. It’s the WWGD lens on modern living. In a Primal-perfect world, that would be sufficient to ensure continued health and happiness. But things don’t always work out as planned…

Let’s say you hurt your back in an unfortunate turn of events. Primal dictates can certainly help with healing you over the long term, but if you want to get out of bed in the morning you’re likely stuck with the doc’s prescriptions. Similar situation if you’ve suffered physical damage to your eyesight, hearing, brain, or any number of your less robust anatomical sectors. Sometimes to get life done, you’ve just got to suck it up and take your meds.

It’s possible, however, that this may soon change. In my recent post on the vagus nerve, I touched upon an emerging curiosity in the medical world: electroceuticals. While still in comparative infancy, electroceuticals may end up revolutionizing a health care model currently dominated by the drug industry.

Electroceuticals, Bioelectronic Therapy, and All Things High-Tech

Simply put, bioelectronics is the field of developing “medicines” that use electrical impulses to modulate the body’s neural circuits. Electroceuticals are the devices which generate these electrical impulses to achieve therapeutic effects. Over the course of the article I may chop and change between the two terms for the sake of simplicity.

To understand how these nifty little devices work, we’ll need to take a short 20-year detour to 1997. Back then, neurosurgeon extraordinaire Kevin Tracy was studying whether an experimental molecule called CNI-1493 could limit damage to the brain after a stroke. Tracy and his team were injecting this molecule into rat brains mid-stroke to determine the extent to which it prevented swelling. To their surprise, they discovered that it not only reduced local swelling in the brain, but shut down the immune response throughout the entire body.

It seemed that none other than the vagus nerve was being stimulated by the drug, which in turn was switching immune system mediators – and hence inflammation – to the “off” position. It was at this point that Tracy abandoned his drug ambitions and began turning his eye to the brand new field of bioelectronics. He understood that by applying precise doses of bioelectric currents to certain neural pathways within the body, he could target specific areas and provide instantaneous, effective relief from pain, inflammation, and more.

The beauty of electroceuticals is their ability to target specific problem areas within the body while avoiding the wide range of side-effects often experienced with conventional drugs. Provided researchers can accurately map the neural signatures of certain diseases and inflammatory pathways, there exists the potential to stimulate or inhibit the malfunctioning pathways with tiny electrical pulses. In this way, electroceuticals can restore the health of the patient without having to flood their body with medicines that can interact negatively with otherwise healthy organs and systems. Add to this the prospect for electroceuticals (in some cases at least) to be more affordable than conventional prescription drugs, and you’ve got yourself a viable contender to the multi-billion dollar drug industry.

The Technology behind Electroceuticals

At this stage, bioelectronic research is all about mapping the neural networks associated with certain diseases. This means developing ludicrously small devices that can transmit information from within the body regarding neural feedbacks and responses to electrical treatments.

Unlike other areas of the medical research sector, bioelectronics requires a close collaboration between engineers, computer scientists and biologists. While bottling up three very diverse disciplines in the same lab for days at a time must have its moments, it’s so far made for very interesting developments. Examples of these outcomes include optogenics, which allows for cellular-level control; cochlear and retinal implants, which have seen large improvements in neural signal processing; and fine-tuning of prosthetic limb control, which has meant that specialists can now interact with individual neurons to allow complex motor skills. Something out of Star Wars, and it’s actually pretty darn cool.

The field has so far also produced the very promising creation of tiny nanoscale devices called memristors. These little guys can be implanted in the body with minimal invasiveness to provide compressed, real-time information on neural spikes. This, in turn, will enable scientists to develop more precise electroceutical treatments and expand their use to new areas of the body and brain.

Next, Berkeley engineers have built the first dust-sized, wireless sensors that can be implanted in the body and used to monitor internal nerves, muscles and organs. The sensors can also be used to stimulate nerves and muscles, making them a valuable device for all the budding electroceutical researchers out there. Even cooler, they’re both powered and controlled by ultrasound, a technology that is already in hospitals.

It gets weirder. DNA is now being investigated as a means of conducting electrical charges, thereby allowing for its use as an electromechanical switch for nanocomputing. Josh Hihath, author of “Gate-controlled conductance switching in DNA,” explains: “As electronics get smaller they are becoming more difficult and expensive to manufacture, but DNA-based devices could be designed from the bottom-up using directed self-assembly techniques such as ‘DNA origami’.” You heard right: DNA origami.

And if you’re completely opposed to surgical implants, how about swallowing one instead? Researchers are also in the process of developing novel ways to get electroceuticals into the body without an invasive procedure. One such means is to create “digestible electronic devices” that are non-toxic, self-powered, and even biodegradable…all while telling your doc valuable information about anything from gastrointestinal infections to diabetes.

The future is here, folks. And it’s edible.

The Forecast Is in, and It Looks Good for Electroceuticals

So good, in fact, that UK pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has teamed up with Google subsidiary Verily in an effort to take this technology to the next level. They’ve invested a whopping $715 million into funding research and development into bioelectronic treatments over the next seven years. Yes, they may have billions to play around with, but it’s not a sum to scoff at either.

There’s plenty of other big players in this emerging field. The US National Institute of Health announced late last year that it would provide over $20 million for research into its Stimulating Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC) program. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) received a casual $80 million from the US government to develop bioelectronic treatments for chronic diseases and mental health conditions for active military and veterans.

At the “smaller” end of the spectrum, start-up NeuSpera Medical of San Jose, California, received $8 million to fund an injectable electroceutical project designed to eliminate the need for surgery.

So what’s the lion’s share of this money getting spent on? An electroceutical market worth report published last year has a few key insights. Here’s a quick rundown of where all the magic is projected to happen:

While implantable cardioverter defibrillators (used for arrhythmia) were the hot topic for 2016, the retinal implants segment is expected to experience the most growth over the next 4 years.

With regards to implantable vs. non-invasive electroceuticals, it was all about the implants last year. But with advancements in nanotechnology driving smaller and smaller bioelectronics, non-invasive devices are set to take center-stage by 2021. It makes sense—few people want to be sliced open and have an electrical device stuck into their flesh. Morphius would agree.

Unsurprisingly, hospitals and research institutes will be the first in line to receive any electroceuticals that make it past the testing phase. While there’ll be plenty of growth in the individual use sector as well, it’s probably a good thing that these devices will remain predominantly targeted at emergency applications and under the supervision of trained professionals while we’re learning more about their potential—and potential impacts.

Electroceutical Applications

When I wrote about the vagus earlier this year, I explained how the birth of bioelectric treatments actually began with vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). VNS was being employed as early as 1997 to provide an effective alternative to anti-epileptic seizure drugs. Even with the technology in its infancy, these surgically implanted devices were (and still are) able to reduce seizures by up to half in many patients. These patients also reported significant improvements in depression and weight gain from being zapped, by which point it was hard to deny its potential.

Of all the non-emergency electroceutical applications, finding ways to treat inflammation via stimulation of the peripheral nervous system is one of the hottest trends in the bioelectronic world. As we explored a few weeks back, scientists are increasingly finding linkages between vagal dynamics and inflammation throughout the body. In this way, VNS via electroceuticals shows potential for treating anything from inflammatory bowel disease to arthritis.

From a basic standpoint, the vagus nerve can be seen as a continuous feedback loop that both activates and inhibits inflammation in the body. In this study, for example, scientists were able to directly stimulate the peripheral vagus nerve in rats to prevent the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the liver. This electrical stimulation also prevented the development of shock, which can be fatal.

From a more practical perspective, this know-how can be applied to treating common inflammatory disorders. Once again playing around with rats, researchers were able to alleviate colonic inflammation and reduce weight loss associated with inflammatory bowel disease. It only takes a small assumptive leap to see how stimulating the vagus nerve in humans could help those suffering from all manner of GI inflammatory disorders.

The same mechanism by which gastrointestinal inflammation is inhibited by VNS also applies to rheumatoid arthritis. This multi-national study found that electrical VNS of up to four times daily significantly inhibited the inflammatory cytokines associated with RA. They also found that, over the course of 84 days, patients’ RA severity scores dropped markedly. We’re still in the early days, but it shows serious promise.

These developments in VNS and immune-inhibiting bioelectric therapies have driven plenty of other medical advancements. There’s now electromagnetic patches available for purchase that you can stick on any area experiencing chronic pain, which then overstimulates the brain’s pain receptors and dulls the ache. Much the same as good old cayenne pepper, as it happens.

There’s also plenty of interesting stuff going on in the acute pain department. Rather than sticking a conventional band-aid on that cut, scratch or graze, why not upgrade to an electrical bandage? Recent findings from a University of Manchester study indicates that this might just be the next big breakthrough in wound healing. As part of the study, two half-centimeter wounds were created on the arms of each brave participant, with one wound left to heal normally and the other treated with small electrical pulses over two weeks. Those pulses were found to stimulate the process by which new blood vessels are formed, meaning the wounds being zapped closed faster, had greater blood flow, and showed improved healing markers compared to the “she’ll be all right” wounds.

Electroceuticals have also expanded to encompass central nervous system disorders like MS. Researchers from Osaka University were studying the mouse equivalent of multiple sclerosis, which is induced by certain white blood (T) cells attacking the central nervous system. They found that by the simple act of hanging the mice upside down by their tails, they were able to prevent the spread of the T cells and hence stall the development of MS. This signifies that by tapping into particular neural circuits via electroceuticals, practitioners may be able to halt the progression of MS beyond the initial stages. Interesting stuff.

Short of hanging humans upside down and hoping for the best, researchers are busy developing electroceuticals to treat many of the symptoms associated with MS. One study gave 25 MS patients a headband equipped with moistened sponges attached to an electronic stimulator and got them to play computer games designed to boost cognition. After 10 sessions, the stimulator group had greater improvements and were more relaxed than the control group. In another experiment, this same treatment was shown to improve mood and reduce fatigue associated with MS.

Foot drop, a form of gait dysfunction commonly found in MS patients or those who have suffered from a stroke, may also be treatable by employing electroceuticals. Research indicates that the pre-tibial muscles can be stimulated electrically to “correct” the foot drop and adapt walking patterns for individuals. Kind of a “customize your gait” sort of scenario. Pretty neat, huh?

Some Final Primal Thoughts…

It’s a lot to take in—imagining health largely as energy to be stimulated or inhibited electronically, but it’s a new frontier for acting on age-old biological principles.

Part of looking at life from a Primal lens is recognizing the opportunities as well as challenges that modern living offers. I won’t be letting go of my Primal lifestyle anytime soon—or my preference for choices that stave off ill health as much as reason and science can predict. That said, it’s good to know medical innovation continues to advance. Regardless of our efforts, sometimes we find ourselves in need of medical intervention, and I won’t be someone who says no on stubborn principle.

In this way, electroceuticals can be seen as a promising field that may help some of us in decades to come (or in this one). They offer novel potential for the treatment of life-threatening conditions and show plenty of promise in improving the quality of life for millions worldwide. To boot, with careful neurological mapping and strictly-regimented testing, they should be able to do so without all the side-effects associated with conventional drugs. As for me, I’ll be keeping an eye on this sector in the years to come.

Thanks for reading, folks. Have you or those you know used any kind of electroceutical therapy? Have you done your own reading/thinking on the matter? Share your thoughts, and have a great end to the week.


The post The Emerging Science of Electrostimulation appeared first on Mark's Daily Apple.

from Mark's Daily Apple

Market Watch: Radishes


Grown throughout the world, radishes come in a surprising number of shapes, sizes, and colors, from the large, white daikon to the ping-pong ball sized red globe radish. They range in flavor too, from slightly peppery to seriously pungent. What they have in common is a satisfyingly crunchy texture and an ability to add fresh flavor to all sorts of dishes. Though they are in season all year long, they are at their peak from spring to summer. Look for them at local farmer’s markets, where you are likely to find varieties like the whimsically named French breakfast radish, an elongated red-skinned radish with a white tip and a mild flavor, striking black radishes that pack a seriously spicy punch, and gorgeous pale green watermelon radishes that reveal a hot pink interior once sliced.


Radish facts

Radishes belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables, and like cousins broccoli and cabbage, offer up a wealth of nutrition. They are particularly high in Vitamin C and contain fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals called indoles, which have a detoxifying effect on the body. What’s more: radishes have only 20 calories in an entire cup.

Choose radishes that are firm and free of cracks or brown spots. Before refrigerating them, snip off the greens and place the red bulbs in a plastic bag. If the greens are still crisp and not beginning to wilt, rinse them and refrigerate them separately. Plan on using the leaves within a day or so, as they won’t stay fresh for long. The radish bulbs can be stored up to two weeks.


What to do with radishes

Most often, radishes lend their peppery flavor to salad and slaws. But it’s a shame more people don’t know just how versatile these veggies can be. While delicious raw, they also stand up well to cooking and even pickling. Roasting them at high heat intensifies their sweetness, all but erasing their spicy flavor and making them taste more like mild turnips. For a colorful springtime side dish, roast halved radishes and asparagus at high heat until tender and caramelized. Or try sautéing them briefly in olive oil with minced shallot and snap peas. For an elegant appetizer, forget the crudités platter. Instead, plunge French breakfast or Easter egg radishes in ice water, halve lengthwise and serve with pots of softened butter and flaky sea salt for dipping. And don’t forget the greens: Use them as you would spinach—toss them into a salad, stir into a soup, or sauté them with other greens.


Recipes to try

Main course:

Chicken, Celery and Radish Salad

Grilled Shrimp with Mango, Lime and Radish Salsa

Side dishes:

Roasted Radishes

Buttery Radishes with Honey and Chives


Salads & Slaws:

Mexican Radish Slaw

Sugar Snap Pea, Radish and Cucumber Salad Recipe

Snow Pea, Scallion and Radish Salad

Orange, Radish and Mint Salad


Pickled Carrot, Fennel and Radish Relish


Abigail Chipley is a freelance recipe developer, writer and cooking teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon.

from Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy...

Evolving The Theory of Adrenal Fatigue

Written by: Mike Ritter

In my generation, most young boys and girls have experienced an awakening upon our arrival to adulthood. Most of us did not become firefighters, actors, comedians, or world explorers, but instead dove directly into the professional world, crossing our fingers, and praying we listened to the right people. At twenty-four years old, the reality of ‘Adult’ing’ was unveiled to me as 9-10 hours of seated task work, constant problem solving, multi-tasking, 1 hour of exercise (big maybe), followed by endless multi-tasking. Factor in 50 (or more) TV/radio/web advertisements, synthetic food occupying my imagination, and an ample dose of blue light, it’s easy to see that being an adult is more about survival than enjoyment.

Many people reach for the nearest gym as a solution. Some watch the news to find the best diet, but those solutions are all but guaranteed misses if we continue this trend of massive stress overload.

Vast amounts of research compiled over the last two centuries have provided us with reason to believe that a lifestyle filled with chronic stress is at least partially responsible for many modern chronic diseases and dysfunctions. Men are reporting low testosterone at younger and younger ages, while the average age for menopause is slowly getting lower.

Initially this was attributed to a factor called ‘Adrenal Fatigue.’

Adrenal Fatigue: exposure to chronic stress causing the adrenals to go through stages of excessively high cortisol output and then fading to low levels of cortisol output, usually resulting in a low production of sex hormones

This phenomenon of metabolic dysfunction is believed to be responsible for many of the health problems we deal with in today’s world. I have actually used the term ‘adrenal fatigue’ in the past since it simply resonated well with people and is pretty ear friendly. It had the word ‘adrenal’ which accurately targeted an anatomical point of interest and ‘fatigue’ which accurately described a symptom which a person feels after years of chronic stress. There is a major flaw in this term however. Using this term with patients, clients, or peers ineffectively communicates the vastly complicated nature and individuality of each case.

The Problem with ‘Adrenal Fatigue’


Traditionally, if you had your serum cortisol or free cortisol tested, and it was below reference range, you would told you have some degree of Adrenal Fatigue. This misappropriation oversimplifies the problem.

Example: The fitness world attempted to fix back problems by stretching hip flexors would fix chronic sitting. The assumption was that sitting created ‘shortened’ hip flexors, preventing full hip extension when standing and forces the lower back to hyper extend to compensate. This wasn’t completely wrong, as chronic sitting does typically result in poor standing/walking mechanics, but it’s not because the hip flexors became short.

You may be thinking; what’s the difference? The end result is the same.’ But it’s not.

That misappropriation led to ineffective strategies. The presumption that muscles eventually become ‘shortened’ resulted in many (sometimes under a fitness coaches watch) wrenching themselves into hip extending stretches to ‘lengthen’ the shortened muscle and banking on a positive result. In reality, tight muscles are not ‘shortened at all.’ They are a result of a mechanistic problem created when the nervous system memorizes positioning, breathing patterns, bone and muscle density requirements for the bulk of your life’s work – sitting. In essence, your body begins to ‘prefer’ or ‘adapt’ to the seated position. It’s a much broader picture and simply letting your 250lb man-child of a trainer wrench you into a stretch will rarely result in better active range of motion.

Ultimately the best way to fix the problems caused by chronic sitting, is to avoid chronic sitting, practice better breathing patterns, and move around with more frequency and variance. How does this apply to adrenal fatigue?



The same principles apply. The fatigue and symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue are actually a result of your adaption into undesirable state of overall metabolic function – not the fatiguing of one, albeit important, gland. This could be caused by a wide variety of factors, some are lifestyle related and some not. Associating this multitude of inputs with the term “adrenal fatigue” inevitably gives the impression that the solution lies in improving the function of the adrenals. This reductive approach is rarely an effective solution for chronic problems. Many factors such as alcohol use, infections, blood sugar imbalance, chronic inflammation, and emotional stress influence not only the adrenals but your detox capacity, muscle tissue quality, digestive tract, and more. Dysfunction in those systems cyclically affects each other as well.


Other factors that affect HPA Axis Dysfunction



COMT is a gene which helps to break down neurotransmitters epinepherine, norepinephrine, and dopamine which are, in large part, responsible for igniting your almighty fight or flight stress response. When a stressful scenario has concluded, COMT comes right along and starts sweeping the floor of these sympathetic NT’s, making room for a much needed rest and relaxation. For some, that doesn’t come easily. Some researchers believe that up to 80% of people have some level of mutation in this gene, suggesting that most people do not effortlessly recover from stress. Research on COMT is providing a window as to why some people are crushed by the discomforts of crowded rooms and others seem to never ever burn out regardless of the circumstances. Some people, genetically are more prepared to recover from stressful situations than others.


Hydrochloric Acid is responsible for breaking down proteins, kills unwanted bacteria, and helps to produce pepsin which also assists in breaking down proteins. Stress naturally decreases the amount of HCL produced in the gut, since stopping for chow won’t be necessary during a boxing match or if and when you need to escape a dangerous situation.  Chronically low levels of HCL ultimately means that foods you consume do not get broken down in the gut effectively and can lead to nutrient deficiency or other consequences of malnutrition.


With High-Intensity-Training still raging as the most popular training method, more people are busting their butts in the gym with fury. Some community based training facilities encourage training 6 days a week of high intensity interval based weightlifting. Without ample time dedicated to flushing the chemical stress response from training and recover from the catabolic nature of training, exercise can tear down a body faster than it can rebuild. Although movement and intense activity is a tremendous help to optimizing HPA Axis function, high levels of intensity in training must be coupled with active recovery methods both mentally (alpha states) and physically (joint mobility, massage, float tank). Overdriving exercise alone can cause stress maladaptation in individuals who do not recover well from stress or do not take the time to address joint inflammation incurred through weightlifting.

Finding a better description

HPA Axis Dysfunction: this term is a little more descriptive as it describes a maladaptation of the entire Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. From the brain down to the adrenals there are a plethora of ways an individual can over or under produce hormones inside of this chain, resulting in poor output of the adrenals. This system however will find the most efficient way to respond to the inputs you give it.

Stress Maladaptation: Your body has simply adapted to the stressors. Remove or manage those stressors and your body will adapt accordingly. Finding hidden stressors is not a simple task, but this term more accurately describes the situation. This is also more ear friendly for clients and patients. It directly states that they are experiencing an adaption to negative inputs and not the fatiguing of a gland.

Another thing that should be noted are the factors that impact overall adrenal output and the creation of sex hormones:


There is still plenty of evidence that regularly committing to 7-9 hrs of sleep, a diet absent of processed oils/artificial sweeteners/processed sugars & starch, intelligent movement practice, and a variety of mentally stimulating tasks can improve the entire HPA Axis. Our bodies are great compensators, and metabolic functions are very expensive. Wherever we can afford to slow functions down to preserve energy or allocate it somewhere else.

Rather than communicating that some gland gets sleepy because of a high workload, think of it as your body just borrowing currency and allocating it elsewhere. Eventually over time, your HPA Axis will essentially learn, or prefer functions which meet the demands of your life which may not be in-line with optimal function or health. Acute (sometimes underlying) infections can also affect your HPA Axis function.

Some people can adapt well, others not. But the good news is, if you’re alive, you’re still adaptive.


from The Paleo Diet

Super Healthy Hummus Pita Pockets

I haven’t been putting enough effort into eating healthy lately. Not that my meals have been totally unhealthy, but they’ve been more of an afterthought. So this week I just felt called to stock the fridge with super healthy things.

I practiced what I preach and filled the fridge with chopped veggies, easy proteins, berries, greens, and nutritious staples like eggs, yogurt, and kombucha.

With all that fresh produce at my fingertips, I found myself snacking on sliced peppers instead of chips while I made lunch!

I also made a batch of my favorite hummus. I used this recipe and just omitted the sweet potato, since I didn’t have that on hand.

With all that stocked in the fridge, I made this delicious little pita for a lunch date with T. The “recipe” was actually his idea. He said he used to eat hummus, pepper, cuc and sprout pitas a lot, so I did that plus banana peppers and mustard. Gotta have the spice!

I much prefer the wholewheat version of these pitas from Whole Foods, but they were all out so white it was.

Assembled and ready to go!


  • As many slices of bell peppers, cucumbers, and carrots as can fit
  • 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
  • A spoonful of banana peppers
  • ~1/3 cup homemade hummus
  • Sprouts on top

This week has been very healthy thanks to a little advanced planning. Stock your fridge with the best choices, do a little prep, and you’re 80% of the way there!

The post Super Healthy Hummus Pita Pockets appeared first on Kath Eats Real Food.

from Kath Eats Real Food