In 2006, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to researchers who were exploring the world of induced stem cells. Since that time the volume of research dedicated to study of stem cells has skyrocketed. Why all the hype? Well, it turns out that stem cells are special human cells that are able to develop into many different cell types. Imagine the treatment possibilities if these cells could be engineered, for example, to grow new heart or brain tissue as treatment for heart attacks and Alzheimer’s disease! There’s been a lot of talk about stem cells being collected, re-programmed, and then injected into a person for treatment of specific diseases. This is exciting stuff, but what if you could stimulate the stem cells present in your body right now to multiply and perform regenerative tasks? Although the research is preliminary, there is some data to suggest that this is exactly what you may be able to do. This research, mainly performed in the area of aging, shows that stem cells thrive in certain environments and, where the environment is not favorable, these cells go into senescence. Keeping your biologic environment supportive of these intrinsic stem cells may go a long way in promoting health. Interested in doing this? These are the ways that been shown in research thus far:
1. Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction increases stem cell proliferation.
Studies have shown that the number of circulating stem cells in the blood increases with caloric restriction and there are an increasing number of integrative-minded specialists who are recommending the fasting mimicking diet (FMD) protocol on a quarterly or biannual basis, while following intermittent fasting for anywhere from 12-16 hours the remainder of the year.
2. Maintaining normal glucose metabolism and triglyceride levels supports stem cell health.
Triglycerides (TGs) are storage systems for unwanted carbohydrates. Consuming more carbohydrates than we burn results in high TGs. People with high TGs are more likely to gain weight, resulting in metabolic syndrome and this creates all kinds of health havoc. Additionally, stem cells don’t grow as well in bodies that have high TGs. So start by getting your fasting insulin level checked. This tells us a lot more about what is going on in the way of metabolism than hemoglobin A1C does. Taking more high-quality omega-3 fatty acids can balance out TGs and help stem cell growth as well. Omega-3 fatty acids will also support healthy inflammatory pathways, a marker for stem cell activity. Most studies have utilized administration of high levels of EPA and DHA. Make sure your taking superior quality fish oil with at least 2000 mg of DHA and EPA as a daily dose.
3. Exercise promotes stem cell activity.
Stem cell proliferation is enhanced with exercise. In particular, aerobic exercise has been proven to help stem cells turn into bone instead of fat. Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that stem cells are activated in the muscles during exercise. No one knows (yet) if other types of stem cells are activated by exercise, but this may very well be the case.
4. Supporting healthy inflammation pathways keeps stem cells from being inhibited.
Inflammation inhibits stem cell activity and reduces their production of therapeutic factors. Therefore, to boost stem cell growth, inflammation must be minimized. Since many, if not most, chronic inflammatory processes start in the gut, a 4-6 week gut health protocol may be beneficial.
5. Stem Cell Supplementation
What dietary supplements are supportive? Research summarized in this paper from BioMed Research International shows that these supplements may be helpful:
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
Vitamin D has been found to promote the abilities of stem cells to create new healthy tissue and organs. Vitamin D up-regulates stem cell activities in both embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, so it’s likely that it is beneficial for endogenous stem cells as well.
Mesenchymal (bone and muscle) stem cells are researched and used widely for stem cell therapies. Resveratrol has been proven to aid bone formation. Therefore, it is an important supplement to enhance stem cell capabilities. Resveratrol supports healthy inflammatory pathway properties, and rejuvenates animal cells - especially mesenchymal stem cells.
Not only does consuming turmeric/ curcumin supplements support antioxidant activity thereby lowering free radical accumulation in the entire body; curcumin has also been shown to increase proliferation in neural stem cells (NSC). This is particularly true in the hypothalamus where NSCs have been found to reverse some of the aging process in the brain.
Time and space would prevent elaboration on the remainder, but these are also very important:
Green tea extract (ECGC)
If you’re interested in the biochemical pathways and research supporting all of these natural preparations, read the paper! Here’s the link.
Therefore, based on this research (albeit somewhat preliminary), the following summary can be made if you wish to promote and support your own stem cells:
1. Consider the fasting mimicking diet (FMD) 3-4 times a year and incorporate a daily 12-16 hour fast during much of the remainder of the year. To facilitate this, check out Prolon’s products. Using these preparations will take out the guesswork of the FMD. As an added benefit, you’ll be contributing to further research in this area.
Warning: the FMD is NOT for everyone, in fact in some people with certain conditions, fasting can lead to life-threatening complications. If you are going to do this, you must be under the care of an MD who is experienced in the administration of this diet.
2. Avoid refined carbohydrates and get ample DHA/EPA.
3. Develop a lifestyle of movement or “exercise” if you like that term better.
4. Attain optimal gut health, and when you get it—maintain it!
5. Eat a rainbow of foods and supplement where needed, utilizing the highest quality supplements from reputable sources (this stipulation excludes many, if not most, big-name internet sites!). Focus on vitamin D, resveratrol, turmeric, olive polyphenols, blueberry extracts, cocoa polyphenols, green tea extract (EGCG), and Quercetin.
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