Toxic Mineral Linked with Bowel Inflammation, Mitochondrial Damage, and Alzheimer’s

Monday, March 30, 2015
By: Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

Baking powder, common table salt, cigarette filters, Maalox, and deodorants all have something in common. They contain aluminum added as a food additive or inert ingredient for stabilization or anti-caking. Researchers are finding that this heavy metal—although assumed inert and innocuous—is related with tissue damage and dysfunction far more than previously understood.

Aluminum is one of the most abundant metals in the Earth’s crust and yet, paradoxically, it has no known biological function. Aluminum is biochemically reactive, but it is not required for any essential process known to life at this time. Most adults on average consume 1-10 mg of aluminum on a daily basis from natural sources. Those who consume foods or medications with aluminum added may consume up to 95 mg per day.  Researchers acknowledge that aluminum toxicity is a problem and related with neurological injury, but the government views these intakes as within the maximal allowable limit without causing harm. The literature however, reveals that chronic intake of very small amounts over a lifetime allows low levels of accumulation, which crosses past the blood brain barrier and into the brain. There are now 100 years of research on Alzheimer’s disease and aluminum toxicity, yet it is commonly used in medications and considered tolerable.

Medications, Foods, Environment and Vaccines

Aluminum use permeates food, personal care and medical products. Medications that contain aluminum are some of the worst sources of contamination more so than dietary or environmental exposures. This includes buffered pain medications, arthritis pain formulas, and antacids used to treat indigestion, duodenal and peptic ulcers, GERD, mouth ulcers etc. Cake mixes, flavoring salts, dried egg mixes, icings for cakes, and other products contain aluminum. Potatoes, tea, spinach and some infant formulas are foods with higher content. Even check your favorite brand of pickles. Historically, for premature infants the parental feedings often contained aluminum salts as components of the infant feeding formula. Various medical imaging techniques and injections will have aluminum mixed in.

Aluminum contamination is present in water and air. It is also is used as a fire retardant especially in polyesters, acrylics, epoxies, PVC, rubber, and ethylene vinyl acetate found in many items used within daily life or occupations. This includes things like electronics, sofas, mattresses, and more. While you are not literally consuming these products, there is still the concern for off-gassing and breathing in the nano-particles found in dust on a chronic basis. This doesn’t even include housing material or cookware.

Vaccines contain aluminum as an adjuvant. Adjuvants are compounds added to the vaccination designed to heighten the immune system’s response to the compound being inoculated against. Aluminum has been used as vaccine adjuvant for nearly 90 years! Researchers continue to hotly debate and study aluminum adjuvants and its link with Alzheimer’s disease and are on both sides of the fence. Recent evidence shows aluminum lining cerebral arteries that go to tissues like the hippocampus, which is heavily damaged in Alzheimer’s.  Macrophages doing their job have engulfed aluminum from the vaccine adjuvants, but often get trapped in the brain and provoke chronic inflammatory reactions.

Aluminum contamination is linked with problems with anemia, osteomalacia (bones are too soft), liver disorders and several neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and encephalopathy induced by dialysis. Dialysis patients are at high risk because of the aluminum solutions used the dialysis process. Aluminum exposures disrupt cell membranes that lead to imbalances with iron, magnesium, and calcium levels, making these minerals out of balance in the body. This cell membrane damage is far more complicated than just the regulation of these minerals. Cell membrane damage means that the receptor sites for hormones, such as insulin, leptin and thyroid, are not going to work in the presence of aluminum toxicity. This is a big topic with much left to be explored. We however know that any time that cell membrane function is disrupted, hormones don’t work and autoimmune inflammation and cell death is present.

Mitochondria – The Main Site of Damage

The main site of damage induced by aluminum is the mitochondria. Aluminum exposure is involved with the production of severely destructive free radicals – reactive oxygen species (ROS). This ROS radical impairs mitochondria function damaging energy production. Once the mitochondria are damaged in tissue, it creates a snowball effect of more free radical damage and eventually tissue pathology. It shifts the body into anaerobic activity and depletes antioxidants to defend and buffer against this problem. This means it disrupts the Kreb’s cycle and oxidative phosphorylation process—the vital backbone that our body uses to make energy. The end result is poor brain/mental energy and physical energy. It further drains antioxidant stores needed to protect against damage. The subtle breakdown process eventually leads to a loss of function and cell death in all types of tissues, but especially high energy tissues such as the brain, heart, and liver.

Aluminum Causes Exhausted Brain Cells

A new study in January 2015 described the brain cell mitochondria damage even further. The brain’s nerve cells or astrocytes, named because they have a star-shape to the cell body, lose the ability to generate ATP or energy. This is because the mitochondria within the nerves are impaired. The oxidative stress from the aluminum toxins causes the astrocytes throughout the brain to become so depleted and non-functional that they no longer process blood sugar or fats to make energy for the brain. These exhausted, damaged, and toxic mitochondria and astrocytes cause the loss of brain function leading to the development of neurodegeneration.

Aluminum, Liver, Cholesterol, and Metabolism

When the liver and its mitochondria become damaged from aluminum, researchers have shown that fatty liver build-up occurs as does dyslipidemia. Your cholesterol markers and fat metabolism becomes a problem. The liver cells are damaged creating problems with metabolism and detoxification eventually becoming fatigued. This leads the way to lack of fitness for your liver, fat cells, metabolism, and cholesterol. Statin drugs will not save you in this case. Yo-yo diets or starvation diets will also not help you with this problem, thus it is imperative to follow The Leptin Diet.

Aluminum, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A ground breaking study published in May 2014 looked at the increasing problems of inflammatory bowel disorders in developed countries and its relationship with environmental pollutants, specifically aluminum and intestinal inflammation. The scientists orally administered aluminum to mice. Results showed the mice developed high levels of intestinal cellular inflammation and free radicals along with breakdown of the digestive tract lining. It also compromised the cells that renew the gut lining, which impaired the intestinal barrier. It caused increased gut permeability or “Leaky Gut Syndrome”. The scientists strongly suggested that “aluminum might be an environmental factor in inflammatory bowel disease.” Did you pick up on that? At the beginning of this article, I discussed several aluminum-containing medications that are prescribed for for digestive inflammation, GERD, and ulcers. New research in animal studies shows that this aluminum exposure promotes gut inflammation, yet we take aluminum-containing medicines that have no known nutritional value to medically treat this inflammation. It certainly looks like this is an “aluminum tainted medical pickle” that needs some explaining and rethinking at the least.

Aluminum and Heart

Aluminum toxicity is being investigated with other areas of health that may be surprising at first glance. Brand new research shows early stages of investigation linking aluminum toxicity with cardiomyopathies or heart damage. The May 2015 release of Current Treatment Options Cardiovascular Medicine has scientists looking at the role of environmental toxins like aluminum along with mercury, antimony, cobalt, and others in the development of “idiopathic cardiomyopathies”. Idiopathic cardiomyopathies is a term for unknown reasons for why the heart muscle fails. Its incidences have sky-rocketed. It makes sense as a potential disease-promoting agent to the heart because of the high content of mitochondria in the heart and the heart’s nervous system. Remember, the first target for aluminum damage is the mitochondria.

Try putting the puzzle pieces together i.e., mitochondria injury, Leaky Gut Syndrome, intestinal inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease, brain-gut connection, beta-amyloid plaques, vaccine adjuvants, multiple medications, food products laced with a mineral that has no nutritional value, aluminum cooking ware, cooking foods with high citric acid levels (tomatoes, etc.) with high heat and aluminum pans, chronic frequent low-grade exposures, flame retardants, and so much more. Is there a link with persistent disease and chronic aluminum exposure? The evidence appears so. It took several decades for the medical and tobacco industries to realize and admit the link between lung cancer and smoking. Think about high school and college classrooms and dental offices that used liquid mercury without protection for decades, but now if there is a tiny mercury spill, the area is completely evacuated and in lock-down. Are we following the same path with aluminum in our children, parents or ourselves with neurological, autoimmune disorders, or inflammatory bowel diseases? 

Protection

The list of things that have higher amounts of aluminum are medications, personal care items, and processed foods followed by occupational and electrical exposures. We can choose alternatives for many of these substances and reduce exposure just by being proactive. Thankfully, there are many nutrients that help protect against aluminum. Consuming rich, deep, colored organic fruits and vegetables provides many protective nutrients. Curcumin, cilantro, parsley, vitamin C, chlorella, dandelion root, and glutathione provide wonderful support for detoxification. These nutrients also help protect your body from the inflammation that is provoked by aluminum. Specifically, compounds include naringin found in grapefruit, curcumin, taurine, l-carnitine, alpha-ketoglutaric acid, DHA and quercetin, have been shown to prevent, stop and/or overcome the oxidative stress and inflammation induced by aluminum. Research published in August 2014 showed that the omega 3 oils and quercetin markedly reduced aluminum induced free radicals and nourished the brain’s own antioxidant enzymes and turned on healthy gene signals. It also reversed memory problems induced by aluminum in animals.

We live on a planet fraught with challenges. While research continues to debate cause and effect and to what extent, common sense tells us that a mineral with no nutritional value and a known toxicity should be avoided or cautiously used. While not everyone who has aluminum exposure develops these disorders and concerns, no one knows where the tipping point is into a disease state. Autoimmune disorders, neurodegenerative, cardiac disorders (heart failure, etc) are at epidemic levels, while mitochondrial disorders are exploding in the last 20 years. All of this is within a recent short time with human history. Clearly, modern age has changed the amount of aluminum exposures in ways that were never imagined at the turn of the 20th century. It should make us be more thoughtful about what we are doing to ourselves. Check your labels, read the fine print of your medications. Look for natural replacements. Ask what is being used for special imaging studies before you go in for that medical test with a special contrast or tracking agent. Don’t just sit back and think that everything is benign. Think before you reach for the Maalox or antacids with added aluminum. While one dose may not put you over the edge into a disease state, chronic diseases never happens over night. It is a process of daily chronic low level insults that insidiously gnaw away at function and promote dysfunction. No one knows when it will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for you. Fight for your health today and every day!

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