They are not herbs, vitamins or minerals...so what are they?
What are glyconutrients?
The Greek word "glyco" means "sugar". Most people think of cake and ice cream when they think of sugar! However, there are actually TWO kinds of sugars. Refined or "extracellular" sugars are the sugars that have been long associated with human disease. The second type of sugars are "intracellular" sugars and can be found in fruits, vegetables, and plants, providing the body with the nutrition it desperately needs. These sugars, also known as "complex carbohydrates" have been studied for years. However, only recently have we begun to understand their crucial role in cellular communication and what this means to our health.
Glyconutrients are, simply put, are the building blocks of our cellular "alphabet." These "sugars" stack on the outside of our cells much like a cellular telephone antennae (see picture below), and they facilitate communication between our cells.
In the last ten years, scientists have isolated eight of these "sugars" that are considered to be essential for proper cell-to-cell communication. The problem lies in the fact that our modern diet only provides us with two of these eight. Our diets have changed in response to the demand for quicker, cheaper food, and the other six "sugars" have essentially disappeared, rendered unavailable (in our diets) because of things like questionable farming practices, early harvesting, and environmental toxins.
So what exactly is cell-to-cell communication and why is it so important? We've all seen the cell phone commercials that started the phrase that is now the maxim of every cell-phone user -- "Can you hear me now?" Our cells suffer the same fate when faced with "poor reception." So what happens when our cells can't communicate properly? The answer is simple -- auto immune diseases or compromised immune systems.
Take this simplified illustration. Our cells roam around our bodies and "talk" to other cells they come across. So let's say that one cell says to another cell, "How are you?" The second cell might answer, "I am fine." But what if the second cell was missing just one piece of its cellular "alphabet," and instead of the word fine, used the word "fire." I am fire?!? Oh, no! The first cell has no choice but to call in the macrophage (the cellular equivalent of 911) to eliminate any possible threat to itself or to the body. The macrophage surround and destroy the innocent but poorly communicating cell that lacks the "vocabulary" to identify itself as friend, not foe. Doctors call this phenomenon by multiple names -- rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease ... just to name a few! Furthermore, when our immune systems are compromised because of poor cellular communication, we see diseases such as cancer or heart disease.
Current scientific research has demonstrated that glyconutrients can have a significant effect on health.
If these essential "sugars" are no longer found in our diets, where can we get them?
The body can use the two sugars that it does get in our diets to produce the other six. However, this is an energy-intensive process, stealing valuable resources that could be used for crucial health maintenance. Ideally, we need to supplement the remaining six sugars with natural glyconutrients.
If this technology is so great, why haven't I heard of it? Why hasn't my doctor recommended it?
I remember feeling the same way when I first heard of these supplements. The science of glyconutrition has met with resistance in portions of the medical community. But this isn't the first time that the field at large has been skeptical about a new discovery. Years ago, the medical community discredited the use of Vitamin C as a treatment for scurvy ... until its use totally eradicated the disease! This example serves as proof that even though doctors are highly educated and intelligent individuals, they are not immune to the human condition of being "misinformed." Dr. Bill McAnalley, who is credited with key discoveries in glyconutrition, states it eloquently. "One of my professors told us that half of what we would learn in medical school would be wrong--we just don't know which half." In addition, recent research reveals that the majority of the funding for medical institutions is provided by pharmaceutical companies, who have a vested interest in continuing the medical model (treating disease instead of promoting wellness and healing through nutrition). Further research indicates that 84% of physicians report that their prescribing practices are influenced by pharmaceutical reps, who are not educated in glyconutrition.
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