TIMEBOMB PART 4: Declaring War On God’s Design To Protect Your “Blood-Brain Barrier”
We left off in the last entry discussing GMOS. Another reason these modified foods are a threat is that they aren’t labeled or monitored—and can even infect and contaminate our pure food sources. This means the potential for harm cannot be traced or measured. Additionally, when something new is introduced and no science to back it exists yet, the side effects can’t be speculated upon. For example, if a person were on a prescription drug and side effects were to manifest, it would then be reasonable to research the medication that person had taken to pinpoint the cause of the side effects. With GMO foods, there is no such qualifying information yet: Our bodies are digesting food that nature never intended for us to take in, and the room for ambiguity as to the root of the symptoms is untraceably vast.
Taking in a GMO food places us at risk; adding this to the fact that many foods are processed and contain ingredients that are toxic means that our bodies are under a double attack. Many of these details will be highlighted in a later chapter, wherein we will discuss specific ingredients and why they are toxic to the body or mind. But to appreciate the drastic level at which these ingredients are affecting our psychology, physiology, and digestive systems, it is necessary to define excitotoxins and the blood-brain barrier. In the next chapter, we will discuss how the impact of these ingredients reaches farther than most people know.
The Blood-Brain Barrier
Between 1880 and 1913, scientists Paul Ehrlich and Edwin Goldman experimented on animals by injecting blue dye into their bloodstreams. When all the tissues of the body except the brain and spinal cord turned blue, the scientists theorized that something was isolating the brain from elements the rest of the body was exposed to. Another scientist, M. Lewandowsky, called this the “blood-brain barrier.” Through their experimentation, these scientists determined that neurotoxic agents only affected brain function when they were directly injected to the brain. When these components were administered into the vascular system, the brain showed no reaction. It took the better part of one hundred years—seventy, to be exact—for two other scientists, T. S. Reese and M. J. Karnovsky, to pinpoint the location of the barrier, which they determined was the capillary endothelial cells within the brain. The endothelial cells and the brain capillaries, according to Neuroscience Online, “consists of a complex cellular system of a highly specialized basal membrane, a large number of pericytes embedded in the basal membrane and astrocytic end feet.”[i] The endothelial cells of the brain are different from those found in other organs. The ones in the brain are connected, almost woven, in a tremendously tight fashion that keeps paracellular molecular movement from occurring, and they have no transendothelial pathways or intracellular vesicles. In a nutshell, it is a tightly woven barrier that only allows fat-soluble molecules, small molecules, and some gases into the brain. Larger molecules (such as glucose) have to pass through using a transporter protein, which essentially serves as the brain’s way of filtering which molecules are allowed in and which must be blocked. This creates a type of “border” that keeps the blood in the brain chemistry separated and protected from occurrences within the rest of the body.
The blood-brain barrier is a safety system within the body that keeps foreign substances that are in the bloodstream out of the brain. For example, it blocks the ability of hormones and neurotransmitters from being able to cross over from the bloodstream into the brain, except through certain predesignated “doorways.” This helps to keep the brain at a consistent level. When the blood-brain barrier is weakened, substances that should not be able to cross from the bloodstream into the brain are allowed through.
Some things that can weaken the blood-brain barrier are high blood pressure; any type of birth defect that keeps the blood-brain barrier from being fully developed at birth; hyperosmolitity (this occurs when high levels of certain substances exist in the blood); microwaves or radiation; certain types of infection; or brain injury. The purpose of the blood-brain barrier is to protect the brain tissue from the variations that the rest of the body endures with the highs and lows of sugars, hormones, chemicals, agents, toxins, or anything else found in the rest of the body. As fluctuation within the body occurs around times of exercise, meals, illness, or even stress, the endothelial cells that form the blood-brain barrier are the gatekeepers of what is allowed into the brain.
Essential amino acids (coming from the blood because the brain cannot synthesize them) help move glucose into the brain. Metabolic processes performed in the brain capillary endothelial cells regulate the transference, or carrying, of neurotransmitters into the brain.
Circum-ventricular organs are specific locations in the brain that do not have a blood-brain barrier in place. These are the “doorways” within the barrier. This is where the hormone regulation between the blood and the brain takes place. Some examples are the pituitary gland, median eminence, pre-optic recess, the pineal gland, and the endothelium of choroid plexus. In these areas, the “weaving or knitting” of the endothelial cells is looser, allowing the molecular exchange.
Perhaps you have known of somebody who was abusing a substance and ended up vomiting as a result. When the body’s toxin levels get so high that the blood-brain barrier is compromised, the circumventricular organ called the area postrema kicks in, causing the body to basically “evict” the toxic substance so that the level can be restored to a more manageable level, allowing the blood-brain barrier to continue protecting the brain from the toxic substance.
The blood-brain barrier is so effective that some drugs are unable to cross it. Scientists, experimenting with new drugs promised to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s, find in their studies that some drugs have to be connected to a molecule or transporter protein to enter the brain’s chemistry.
So why are we talking about the blood-brain barrier? Why is it so important?
Anytime something crosses the blood-brain barrier that is not supposed to enter the brain, it has a huge impact on our brain chemistry. Consider, for example the effect that certain diseases have on the blood-brain barrier. Meningococcal disease is particularly dangerous, because its bacteria binds to the endothelial wall, which results in small openings in this tightly woven barrier. This allows bacteria, toxins, and other compromising elements into the brain, which can lead to infections of the brain tissue, giving way for inflammation or even death. There are also other elements such as those mentioned earlier that affect the blood-brain barrier; this is only one example.
But there is more to consider than the effects of actual disease on the blood-brain barrier. Many of the ingredients legally added to our food with FDA approval cross the blood-brain barrier. Because so many of the foods we eat involve an excess of hormones, sugar, excitotoxins, and other chemicals that can cross this barrier, what we are eating doesn’t only affect our bodies, but crosses this sovereignly placed barrier guarding our brain and having effects there as well. We’re not simply eating foods that cause us to gain weight or munching on things that tinker with our blood sugar or blood pressure; we are changing our brain’s chemistry.
We talk more about the spiritual application to this in the new book TIMEBOMB, but for now, consider this: When you’re eating food that is upsetting your brain’s chemistry, over time, it has a long-term effect on how you think. Not only are we taking in ingredients that affect the physical aspect of how our bodies function, but these elements trigger emotional and biological reactions in our brains to the foods we are eating!
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Now that you understand the basic concept of the blood-brain barrier, it is necessary to explain what an excitotoxin is, since the danger presented by your food means requiring an understanding of these two elements and how they go hand in hand. If you’ve never heard the word before, you may think that it has a villainously fictional ring to it, as if it were some sort of mad-scientist weaponry taken from an old-school comic book. However, the most nefarious villain in such cartoonish works of fiction could not have come up with a chemical warfare as potent and yet as capable of flying under the radar as your friendly local excitotoxin.
Excitotoxins are an element found in flavor enhancers. They are dangerous because they cross the blood-brain barrier. They are nonessential amino acids that stimulate the taste receptors or taste buds into believing the food has more flavor than it actually does.
Do you remember in your early adulthood, when you got your first credit card? Weren’t you excited? You could have anything you wanted even if you didn’t have the money! Maybe you bought some tires, or a tube of lipstick, or a cool new leather coat. Do you remember how you felt at the end of the month when your statement showed up? Perhaps you were one of those people who did well in the willpower department and kept the balance low. Or, maybe you were like so many others your age who learned this lesson the hard way, and whose gut sank immediately at seeing the accumulated balance. If you were in the latter group, then you probably had made a little purchase here, a little purchase there…and with each transaction, you forgot about the previous day’s charges and the charges you had made even the day before that. Maybe you expected a bill of $150 or $200, only to learn at the end of the month that you had actually charged $600? It’s a trap many fall into, and it’s even easier to do this with food that has excitotoxins. A little bite here, a nibble there, and before you realize it, you’ve eaten more excitotoxins than you can account for.
Extremely alarming about excitotoxins is not only the fact that they cross the blood-brain barrier, but also that they trigger a neurological transmitter reaction in the brain that overstimulates the senses. This reaction within the brain is similar to a drug-induced high. As suggested by the name, these toxins “excite” the brain. After ingestion, the neurons within the brain began to fire erratically without cause. Several hours after those neurons fire, they die. They do not come back. Repeat: The brain does not renew them. This damage cannot be undone. Additional cell death occurs because of the elevated levels of free radicals and lipid peroxidation that result from the intake of excitotoxins. In lab animals, the increased levels of these free radicals and lipid peroxidation products are endured within the body for a period equivalent to decades for humans. Even more alarming than anything we’ve discussed yet is the fact that these chemicals not only cross the blood-brain barrier in a pregnant mother, but can actually cross the placental barrier as well, damaging the brain of the fetus. Of this connection, Dr. Edward Brown stated:
When we eat foods laced with MSG or diet drinks sweetened with NutraSweet, the body is flooded with these excitatory neurotransmitter substances, to a level 5–20 times greater than normally present within the blood. This neurotransmitter excess can cause repetitive firing of neurons, and when this continues without rest, neurons can eventually fatigue and die. This is the origin of the term excitotoxin—the neurons are literally worked to death.… There is growing evidence that these artificial food additives accelerate neurodegeneration in the individuals with a genetic predisposition to condition such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Because these substances readily pass the placental barrier from mother to fetus, there is also speculation that MSG and NutraSweet have contributed toward the dramatic increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).[ii]
Over time, the “high” of this experience literally addicts people to food and dulls their brain’s ability to function, increasing vulnerability to mental illness. The population is riddled with people who, unwittingly, are either addicted to food or suffering mentally (or both) because of excitotoxins. They don’t realize the price they’re paying for the taste they’re experiencing is much higher than they know. As stated, excitotoxins cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the brain. Over time, their effect “stacks up” in the brain, leading to much more serious consequences. Some of the long-term prices to be paid for this are Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of disease that contribute to dementia.
In the meantime, we’re also feeding our children these stimulants. The average “fruit” snacks are loaded with excitotoxins. The impact of excitotoxins is far more extensive than that of the food dyes, preservatives, and multiple sugars that are in these products. Because the body responds to excitotoxins nearly immediately, kids become hyperactive and are then diagnosed with behavioral disorders (more on this later).
Excitotoxins, because they are a stimulant, have been linked to many problems ranging from hormonal disorders to violent behaviors. They cause brain-cell death, sexual development and fertility problems, and have been named as directly contributing to mental illness. Excitotoxins have also been linked to neurological side effects, headaches, sleep disorders, seizures, epilepsy, and paralysis. Excitotoxins such as cysteine (made from human hair and poultry feathers!) have been associated with neurodegenerative damage—wherein is the link to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Other linked issues are amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, strokes, heart attack, heart disease, brain injury, brain tumors, neurological Lyme disease, encephalitis, schizophrenia, migraines, and seizures. A large majority of the complications caused by excitotoxins are irreversible.
Sadly, these brain-damaging toxins are even found in some of our “health foods,” with the endorsement of the FDA! Understand—these have absolutely no health value and no nutritional value whatsoever. They are nothing more than a mere chemical added to your food to make it “taste better.” Excitotoxins hide out in our food under other names such as MSG or aspartame, although there are many others.
Glutamate is an excitotoxin that often appears on the health foods lists, posing as a friend. Because the body uses glutamate as one of the main neurotransmitters of the brain, some people have fallen for the lie that it’s safe to eat, but it isn’t. It’s true that a very small amount of glutamate does play a role in our cellular function, but its role is limited, and the brain generates it as needed. At the time that the brain needs this substance, it generates the precise amount it requires. For the brain to be flooded with this substance when it is not needed is detrimental to the brain’s signaling system, throwing it off base. Additionally, when the brain does produce glutamate, it does so in tiny amounts. When glutamate is consumed in food, it is at a much higher concentration than the brain would generate on its own, overloading the signal center of the brain.
The worst part about this is that scientists have been telling about the dangers of excitotoxins since the 1950s. Yes, that’s right—we are approaching nearly seventy years of unheeded warnings regarding these extremely dangerous chemicals!
Serious concern about excitotoxins date as far back as 1957, when researchers attempted to repair the diseased retina of a lab rat using glutamate.[iii] Instead, they found that not only did the glutamate fail to perform as expected, but it caused the retinal cells to be altogether destroyed. Later, further investigation showed that the entire brain was compromised by the use of glutamate. The hypothalamus, a tiny organ in the brain that plays a key role in hormonal function, can be destroyed by an excessive intake of MSG (of which Americans have consumed 282,000 metric tons since the 1980s[iv]) or other excitotoxins. In 1981, some doctors within the FDA did not support the approval of aspartame, because mice experimented on using the substance developed brain tumors. Former FDA toxicologist Dr. Adrian Gross even testified before the US Senate, saying, “It is clear beyond any shadow of a doubt that aspartame has caused cancer in laboratory animals.”[v]. Some experts argue that excitotoxins are not the direct cause of neurological diseases, but even they are unable to deny that research consistently proves a direct link between excitotoxins and the susceptibility to the previously mentioned diseases. So what does this mean for us? Food companies are (legally) adding to our groceries chemicals that literally “mess with our head.” They overstimulate taste receptors, leading us to crave food when we do not need to eat. Excitotoxins create the impression within our brain that we are hungry when we are not. On top of this, it interrupts brain function, compromises our general health, and causes cell death within the brain that leads to dementia-related illness in the elderly and behavioral disorders in children. Why does the FDA allow this to continue? That is the million-dollar question. If the FDA were looking out for the general health of the public, these chemicals would be illegal.
Before you assume that you are free from the risk presented by these excitotoxins because you’re eating natural food, beware. Unfortunately, MSG is only one type of excitotoxin, and it hides under at least thirty different names. Upwards of seventy types of excitotoxins are added to our food these days. Just the simple word “spice” can be a signal word for MSG.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by learning all of this, you are not alone.
This is where consumer vigilance must play a role. Even listed label ingredients like “natural flavoring” can contain excitotoxins, so we must watch labels and investigate what products actually contain. Calling the phone number on the label and asking for elaboration on an ingredient may be necessary. Eventually, you will establish lists of brands that you do and do not trust. Refuse to buy anything with flavor enhancers or other excitotoxins. Carefully screening brands and learning which ones you can trust will get easier with practice. When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is what my mom taught us when we worked in food service: When in doubt, don’t. The variety of foods on your menu may narrow for a while, but you will eventually replace them with safer options. How to simplify your menu and eat more homemade foods will are covered later in the new book TIMEBOMB.
If the idea of removing excitotoxins from your diet seems daunting, take heart. Most of the time, these ingredients are found in processed food. So, if you simply decide to remove processed food from your diet, you’re likely to eliminate many of these dangerous chemicals from your diet. It will not be easy; even restaurants that boast “no MSG” on signs in their windows are likely buying products that are loaded with the substance. Make inquiries into what, exactly, is being served at restaurants that you frequent. Make up your mind to make small improvements (more on this later) all the time, and take each eliminated or embraced product as one small victory. Remember, each time you purchase something or do not purchase something, you are essentially voting with your money. If the excitotoxin market is driven by consumer demand, then we can make a difference by demanding no excitotoxins in our food.
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[i] Dash, Pramod. “Blood-brain Barrier Maintains the Constancy of the Brain’s Internal Environment.” Neuroscience Online, http://nba.uth.tmc.edu/neuroscience/s4/chapter11.html. Accessed 19 Dec. 2017.
[ii] Brown, Edward. “Psychoneuroimmunology and Chiropractic.” J. Vertebral Subluxation Res. – JVSR.Com,30 Sept. 2005. http://www.mccoypress.net/annals/docs/2005-1147_brown.pdf. Accessed 18 Dec. 2017.
[iii] Lant, Karla. “Excitotoxins: The FDA-Approved Way to Damage Your Brain.” Honey Colony, 22 June 2015, https://www.honeycolony.com/article/excitotoxins-fda-approved-damage-brain/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2017.