Part I of this article in issue #1, 2021, was an introduction to Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA), the importance of and how to calculate phase angle
The health of your cell membranes is critically important and many factors affect cell membrane health, such as aging, diet, exercise, medications, microbiome, pollution, genetics and stress. I measure cell membrane health using a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) machine, and that allows you to calculate phase angle (average is 5-7).
The key to increasing the phase angle (the higher the better) is improving cell membrane health. Increasing cell wall permeability can help prevent disease and improve performance. BIA in addition to allowing you to calculate phase angle also measures hydration, lean body mass and fat mass along with other biomarkers.
Cell membrane makeup
The cell membrane (plasma membrane) is a thin, semi-permeable membrane that surrounds the cytoplasm of a cell. Its function is to protect the integrity of the interior of the cell by allowing certain substances into the cell while keeping other substances out.
The cell membrane serves to help support the cell and help maintain its shape. The cell membrane is primarily composed of a mix of proteins and lipids:
Phospholipids are a major component of cell membranes. Depending on the membrane’s location and role in the body, lipids can make up anywhere from 20-80% of the membrane, with the remainder being proteins. Phospholipids align fatty acids into the cell membrane bi-layer (instead of just being blobs of fat) and are responsible for a cell’s flexibility, elasticity, fluidity, electrical potentials, and enabling of other compounds and nutrients to move in and out of the cell in a healthy way.
Cholesterol is a major component of cell membranes. Cholesterol molecules help to keep cell membranes from becoming stiff by preventing phospholipids from being too closely packed together. Cholesterol regulates the fluidity of the overall membrane, meaning that cholesterol controls the amount of movement of the various cell membrane components based on its concentrations.4
Glycolipids help the cell to recognize other cells of the body.
Proteins monitor and maintain the cell’s chemical climate and assist in the transfer of molecules across the membrane. They help to give the cell support and shape; they also help cells communicate with their external environment through the use of hormones, neurotransmitters and other signaling molecules.
Glycoproteins have a carbohydrate chain attached to them. They are embedded in the cell membrane and help in cell-to-cell communications and molecule transport across the membrane.
Calculate phase angle and act on improving patient numbers
Over the past 20 years, my number one recommendation to improve phase angle and cell membrane health has been to increase omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils.
I relate the need to take essential fatty acids (EFAs) to my patients’ health and outcomes. The clinical importance of EFAs in our diet:
- Improves visual acuity and lowers risk of age-related macular degeneration
- Promotes cognitive performance
- Lowers risk of dementia
- Lowers triglycerides
- Increases HDL
- Improves blood vessel function
- DHA provides neuroprotection
- DHA is the more powerful of the two EPA/DHA on markers of inflammation in the body
- Dilates or constricts blood vessels, stomach, intestines, bronchial tree, uterus
As a major component of cell membranes, healthy fats are:
- Involved in cell-to-cell communication
- Keep cell walls rigid or fluid
- Control the flow of nutrients in and out of cells
- Required for the production of red blood cells (RBCs)
I recommend at least 3,000 mg of EPA/DHA daily; and sometimes patients need to take three times that amount for a period of time.
Foods for cell membrane and mitochondria health include:
- Pastured eggs
- Bone marrow
- Wild fish
- Bright red, orange, yellow, green and blue fruits and vegetables
- Mushrooms (maitake, shitake)
- Sulforaphane vegetables
- DHA-rich foods
Fatty acids in cell membranes determine how well your cells manage inflammation. Too many French fries, potato chips, and vegetable oils and your cell membranes are in trouble.
I tell patients to avoid soy oil use. Essential fatty acids like DHA and GLA really help cell membranes function better. Cell membranes that are in good condition also naturally produce hyaluronic acid to help maintain the structure which connects cells together.4
Improve cell membrane health
Before you start with supplements you need to do one big, important thing for your patient — you need to discuss getting rid of as much toxic exposure as possible, toxins already present, and any low-grade infection patients have, or you’re not going anywhere with the phase angle.
Why give supplements that the body needs — at that point — until you are ready for them? If a patient has toxic mold exposure (very common), recommend they take care of that. These patients will need aerobic exercise, saunas or something else that gets them sweating. Also recommend charcoal supplements because it will bind cell toxins. Charcoal and other binders remove toxins to improve cell membrane permeability and support mitochondrial function.
Eat dietary cholesterol
Cholesterol is a major membrane constituent — roughly half — being present in about the same amount as the phospholipids. It maintains a balance of permeability and fluidity, and without it the cell membranes would collapse.
Dietary cholesterol is found in pastured eggs, grass-fed meat, pastured dairy and wild fish.
Phosphatidyl choline comes from bone marrow and is created from choline-rich foods including eggs, grass-fed liver, grass-fed red meat, organic poultry and wild fish.
Correlate other tests, like the Coronary Calcium Scan scores and phase angle, and you may require more choline. Normal levels of oxysterols in the plasma will not cause phosphatidylcholine to convert into sphingomyelin and therefore less calcium will bind to it, resulting in less artery blockage.
Phosphatidyl serine (PS) has similar phospholipid-building properties and is good for neurotransmitter support, memory and stress tolerance.
PS is a highly regarded memory and coordination nutrient, known to boost stress tolerance. It is especially good for helping offset the physically draining aspects of emotional stress.
Because it is the fastest-acting nutrient for short-term memory, students often use PS while cramming for an exam. Organ meats such as liver and kidneys and cow’s brain (I know!) are good sources.
More tips include:
Avoid sugar, vegetable oils and fried foods — These contribute to “inflammaging” and also to heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Eat red, orange, green, purple and blue fruits and vegetables — A diet supplemented with antioxidants helps prevent blood vessel intimal thickening. As a chiropractor I am as concerned about my patients’ blood vessel health as I am about nerve function.
Get more sleep — If you aren’t getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, you are missing out on REM and deep sleep, therefore likely increasing mitochondrial inflammation. I encourage patients to watch the sunset (and sunrise) because this helps the brain release melatonin when it gets dark, inducing sleep. Watch the sunrise to awaken the daytime hormones.
Hydration — The cytoplasm is made mostly of water. The entire cell is actually made of around 70% water. That’s why we are made of 70% water, and it’s why it’s so important that we drink plenty throughout the day in order to be healthy and operate optimally. Most patients need to increase fluid intake and avoid dehydration.
Exercise to increase blood flow, oxygen — The reactiveness of oxygen is what makes it useful, but it is also what makes it damaging through free radicals. Fortunately, antioxidants in our diet can neutralize free radicals. Breathing exercises as part of a warm-up and adding some antioxidants in our diet after exercise, including things like vitamin C, vitamin E and flavonoids, are among the best ways to improve cell health.
Things to avoid — Cigarette smoke, sunburn and other toxins (i.e. mold) that wage war on the surface of our cells and can potentially lead to serious problems if they reach the DNA.
Complementary tests you can do to learn about and improve cell membrane health other than BIA are: genetic tests, microbiome stool tests, zinc test and nitric oxide saliva tests.
In Part III of improving cell membrane health we will examine how to improve and calculate phase angle through supplementation, and the differing modalities for improving cell membrane fluidity.
JEFFREY TUCKER, DC, is the current president of the ACA Rehab Council. He practices in Los Angeles, Calif., and can be reached at DrJeffreyTucker.com.
1. H202: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763257/
2. Cell Membrane, C and E: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK9898/
3. PUFA http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005273612000156
4. CoQ10: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11229531
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6. Strawberries: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24962387
7. Superoxide in Mitochondria:
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9. NO and ONOO-: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10989653
10. Melatonin, vitamin E: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7776173
11. OH in Mitochondria: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19490751
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13. Vitamin A: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891584900002835
14. Reishi: http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2013/2/how-reishi-combats-aging/page-01
15. Omega-3’s: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3205506/
16. mDNA by Ward Dean MD: http://www.vrp.com/neuroendocrine-theory-of-aging-chapter-3-part-two-the-energy-homeostat-the-source-for-cellular-energ?
17. Reece, Jane B., and Neil A. Campbell. Campbell Biology. Benjamin Cummings, 2011.