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‘It helps to help’: Organ donor’s mom urges more families to say yes to donation

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After doctors broke the news to Kelly Patterson that there was nothing left they could do to save her son, Steven, after he suffered massive head injuries in a car accident, they asked if she would donate his organs.

It was four in the morning on a September day, two years ago, and the Nova Scotia woman was numb, exhausted and overwhelmed.

But in that horrible moment, Patterson said yes — she’d already had several days to think about organ donation as Steven lay lifeless in a hospital bed.

It could’ve gone differently.

“If I had 10 minutes to think about it, or the approach was wrong, absolutely I would’ve backed off in a minute,” Patterson said from the Berwick, N.S., home that’s adorned with family photos and memorials to Steven.

“We’re talking about my son, my baby.”

Her decision meant his 26-year-old heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas were donated to five people waiting for an organ transplant. Pneumonia had set in while Steven was in hospital, so his lungs could not be used.

Just 16 organ donors in N.S. last year

But even though she’s a strong supporter of organ donation, Patterson’s decision to consent was still a struggle — and helps to explain why there’s a national organ shortage.

Most Canadians say they support organ donation but only about 20 per cent register. And only a fraction of them actually become organ donors when they die.

The national rate of organ donation is 20.9 people per million. In 2016, 4,500 people were on an organ transplant list, but only 2,835 organs were transplanted. That year, 260 people died — five Canadians a week.

Nova Scotia used to have a strong track record in organ donation but has fallen behind, according to Dr. Stephen Beed, the medical director for the Nova Scotia organ and tissue donation program.

Dr. Stephen Beed is an intensive care physician and head of Nova Scotia’s organ and tissue donation program. As Nova Scotia’s only donation doctor, he supports ER doctors and cardiologists in identifying whether a patient is a candidate for organ donation. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

There were only 16 organ donors last year, down from 26 in 2011. This year, however, is showing improvement with 20 donors as of Tuesday.

The news is urgent for 125 Nova Scotians who are on a list waiting for an organ transplant. So far this year, eight people have died waiting for the call that never came. 

So why is there such a critical organ shortage? 

Only a tiny portion of patients who die in hospital are candidates for organ donation.

Patients become organ donors in one of two ways: when their brain has died (neurological death) or when their heart has stopped (cardiocirculatory death).

They may include people who have suffered severe traumatic brain injuries, a brain aneurysm, a massive stroke or a heart attack, or someone who has drowned. In all cases, they are injuries the patient will not survive.

Missing a ‘rare’ opportunity

Beed said the biggest problem stems from the fact organ donors are overlooked in critical moments. Emergency room physicians and cardiologists often don’t recognize the life they’ve tried to save could also be an organ donor, he said.

Without that on their radar, there’s no referral to the organ donation team.

“These are rare opportunities, and missing a single one is a big deal,” said Beed. 

Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia lead the country in organ donation rates and have programs that feature mandatory referral and hospital donation specialists to ensure donation opportunities are identified.

Beed also works at a hospital in Saskatchewan, which is trying to boost its organ donation rate. Based on the success of other provinces, he’s advocating for a rebooted program in Nova Scotia that creates a network of intensive care physicians — acting as donation doctors — to support health professionals in regional hospitals provincewide.

He hopes Nova Scotia can return to its place as “the best or pretty near the best” donor province within five to 10 years.

If the province matched the highest organ donation rates in the world, it would have 40 to 50 donors annually, he said.

Families can overturn consent

Many organ donors suffer an unexpected death that leaves families making a life-saving decision after receiving devastating news. The conversation between families and the organ donation team can last hours, but once consent is given, work begins immediately to get the viable organ to a matching donor.

Patterson understands why some families say no.

“You’re brought in the hospital, and told that your child or your mother or your father’s not going to make it — that’s all you can bear to hear,” Patterson said.

Kelly Patterson’s son Steven (left) died in 2016. She donated his organs and since his death, she and her eldest son, Ryan (right), have decided to become organ donors. (Submitted by Kelly Patterson)

“Who’s thinking about what you can do for others? Who’s thinking about organ donation?” 

Families have the final say whether to consent to donation, even in cases when a patient is registered as a donor. 

About 12 families decline donation each year in Nova Scotia.

Beed said the organ donation team’s job is to “enable our families to make their best decision on their worst day.” Consent helps them craft a legacy for their loved one that they’ll carry forward, he said. 

Leaving a legacy behind

Nine years ago, Pat Popwell of Reserve Mines saw a need to start a support group for people in Cape Breton who need or have received a lung transplant. 

Pat Popwell is a retired nurse and started a lung transplant support group in Cape Breton. (Pat Popwell)

The retired nurse and a registered cardiopulmonary technologist thinks a donor’s wishes should be honoured and not overturned by families whose emotions are running high.

“It’s the worst time ever to make a decision because you want to hold on to them but you want to let them go.”

Even family members of people who need a transplant can be stricken with fear, she said.

Popwell praises Patterson’s decision to change lives through donation. She’s watched group members struggle with the most basic thing in life: taking a deep breath. 

Consenting to donation is an act of grace, courage and selflessness, she said.

“I would love to have that legacy.” 

A grateful recipient reflects

Patterson had never talked to Steven about organ donation. She didn’t think there was a need — he was in his 20s, healthy, and strong. So she had to make the decision for him.

She now urges all her family and friends to have a conversation about organ donation so if tragedy strikes, more families will say yes without having to endure agonizing decision-making at a traumatic time.

Her decision still helps her cope with grief.

She’s overcome with tears at a letter from one of Steven’s organ recipients. The man received one of Steven’s kidneys on his 53rd birthday — the day after Steven died.

“I am here today because they took the time to make a selfless decision to share their loss to help another grateful person,” wrote the married father and grandfather.

Kelly Patterson treasures this letter from one of Steven’s organ recipients who received a kidney. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Patterson finds some solace in that gratitude.

“Knowing that Steven saved the lives of five people, not only five people — five families, five wives or husbands, daughters, sons, grandchildren — that helps,” she said. “It helps to help.” 

Beed has worked many Christmases in Nova Scotia and he’s noticed a trend. A potential organ donor typically emerges over the holiday season.

“It’ll probably happen this year,” he said ruefully. 

“We need to at least make sure if it happens, we give that family the chance to help someone through donation.”

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Researchers warn about the severe psychological distress caused by eating junk food

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(Natural News) Does junk food make you sad? While the current state of the American food industry is more than enough to make anyone feel depressed, new research from Loma Linda University demonstrates a link between junk-laden diets and psychological distress. Based on their findings, it appears that what you eat can and does affect your mental health — and that the prepackaged garbage peddled as “food” can have a seriously deleterious effect on your emotional well-being.

Even after adjusting for other external factors, the scientists found this relationship held steady: The more junk food a person ate, the more distress they reported feeling. When you consider the physiological effects junk food has on the body, it is no wonder that people report feeling like they are more distressed: They are in distress, they just don’t know it’s because of what the “food” they’re eating is doing to them on the inside.

Estimates suggest that the average American gets 60 percent of their daily calories from processed or junk food. Junk food consumption is a widespread problem here in the United States. Now, there are questions about whether or not junk food is a driving force in the plague of insanity (and stupidity) striking the U.S.

Scientists link junk food to poor mental health

Published in the journal International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in early 2019, a study from Loma Linda University scientists finds a link between poor diet and poor mental health. Even after adjusting for external factors such as gender, age, education and income level, the association between junk food intake and mental illness remained.

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Study leader Jim E. Banta, Ph.D., MPH, an associate professor at the school, says that their conclusions support the findings of previous research. To conduct their study, Banta and his team looked at data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). The scientists used 240,000 phone surveys conducted by CHIS between 2005 and 2015, and included data on socio-demographics, health status and health behaviors.

“This and other studies like it could have big implications for treatments in behavorial medicine,” Banta said of the findings.

“Perhaps the time has come for us to take a closer look at the role of diet in mental health, because it could be that healthy diet choices contribute to mental health. More research is needed before we can answer definitively, but the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction,” he added.

The fact that scientists in the 21st century are only now just beginning to even consider the possibility of a relationship between nutrition and mental health is truly disturbing. Natural health practitioners have long been aware of the importance of good nutrition for total well-being, including mental state.

Is poor nutrition turning America insane?

Vitamin D deficiency is a well-known cause of depression. B vitamins, iron, selenium and magnesium also support good mental health and deficiencies in these nutrients can also cause depression and anxiety. There is a growing body of research which strongly supports poor nutrition as a causative factor not only in depression, but in other mental illnesses — including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD and more.

For example, Dr. Banta notes that some research has linked high sugar consumption to bipolar disorder, while fried foods and processed grains are linked to depression. There is no ignoring the link between diet and disease — whether it is of the body or of the mind makes no difference.

Nearly 60 percent of the American population’s diet comes from disease-causing food, and it is hard not to wonder if obesity, heart disease and death aren’t the only problems being caused by junk food diets.

Are the increasingly insane leftists just running around in a nutrient-deprived, sugar-spiked frenzy? Whether you’re talking about the inanity of “social justice” score-keeping or the rapid acceptance of censorship to silence conservatives, it’s clear that the far left is missing a few bolts upstairs. A diet of GMOs, pesticides and toxic food additives will do that to you, though.

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Eat healthier to improve your physical and mental well-being

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(Natural News) The physical health and mental well-being of a person depend a lot on nutrition and the food that he eats. Diet also influences the risk of developing chronic diseases. While the relationship between physical health and diet is well-understood, little is known about how diet and its quality influence the development of mental disorders. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Regensburg in Germany investigated the behavioral effects of a Western diet on pattern separation – the process of keeping items distinct in memory. They discovered that a diet consisting of increased amounts of sugar and saturated fatty acids, reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and an increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids (Western diet) harms memory. The results of their study were published in the journal Food Science and Human Wellness.

The Western diet impairs pattern separation

In this study, researchers investigated the utility of spatial separation – a behavioral process associated with the hippocampus – in the assessment of dietary interventions and the behavioral effects of the transgenerational administration of a Western diet on pattern separation. Pattern separation is the process of keeping items distinct in memory and is mediated by the hippocampus. Previous studies have suggested that there is a relationship between hippocampal function and diet quality in both humans and animals.

To examine the association between them, the researchers used rats, feeding over seven generations a diet containing increased amounts of sugar and saturated fatty acids, reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and an increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids. This diet composition is characteristic of a diet known as the Western diet. The researchers administered it transgenerationally because previous studies have shown that interventional diets need to be implemented over several generations to induce behavioral effects.

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They compared the spatial pattern separation (or local discrimination) performance of these animals with that of rats fed a standard diet. For the test, they presented the rats two locations and allowed them to learn across trials to respond to the correct location. During spatial discrimination training, they designated a location as the correct one and rewarded the rats if they touched the correct location. They reversed the correct and incorrect locations every time the rats successfully got the correct ones nine times out of 10 trials.

The researchers found a separation-dependent difference between the standard and Western diet groups in the number of discriminations performed in the pattern separation task. The rats fed with a Western diet performed fewer discriminations. Rats with lesions in the dorsal hippocampus showed impaired pattern separation when the locations were close together but not when they were far apart. The researchers associated this impairment with hippocampal dysfunctioning. Their results align with previous studies which demonstrated that consumption of a Western diet impaired cognitive functions, damaged brain regions, and contributed to the occurrence of neurodegenerative diseases. Their results confirmed that pattern separation could be negatively affected by transgenerational administration of a Western diet.

The researchers concluded that spatial pattern separation can help detect the effects of dietary interventions and that the Western diet can impair pattern separation.

How to make your diet healthier

A healthy diet can provide many benefits, the most important of which is the prevention of chronic diseases. Here are some things that you can do to make your diet healthier:

  • Eat slowly
  • Choose whole grains
  • Add probiotics to your diet
  • Increase your protein intake
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid frying food and eating fast food
  • Take vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Try new and healthy recipes
  • Eat vegetables first before every meal
  • Eat fruits instead of drinking them
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stop drinking sweetened beverages
  • Get adequate sleep

Eating healthier and becoming aware of your nutritional needs will not only improve your physical health, but these will also benefit your mental and emotional well-being.

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Apples: Eat them to keep the doctor away – and boost stem cell therapy

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(Natural News) There is some truth behind the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are superfoods, and they are good sources of antioxidants that protect cells from oxidative damage and boost the immune system. They also contain dietary fiber, which is good for digestion and the maintenance of gut microbiota. But there is more to apples than just being healthy, antioxidant fruits. In a recent study published in the journal Nutrition Research, researchers from Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea showed the beneficial effect of apple extracts on the proliferation of adult stem cells. They also identified the possible molecular mechanisms underlying apple’s pro-proliferative effects.

Apple ethanol extracts can enhance the proliferation of stem cells useful for tissue regeneration

Tissue regeneration using adult stem cells (ASCs) has significant potential in the treatment of many degenerative diseases. It also provides a promising means of repairing chronic tissue or organ failure due to injuries, congenital defects, and aging. Stem cells are essential in regenerative medicine because they can be used directly in cell replacement therapies. However, studies on their application in clinical settings suggest that age negatively affects the proliferation status and differentiation potential of ASCs. This presents a possible limitation in their therapeutic use.

In the hopes of addressing this limitation, researchers turned their attention to the pro-proliferative activity of apples. Apples are rich sources of valuable phytochemicals that are known to be beneficial to human health. They possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even anticancer activities. These antioxidants can help maintain human cells and protect them from harmful oxidation products. In addition, apples contain metabolites that could ensure longevity and increase the number of human cells in culture. (Related: Apples could hold key for increasing lifespan.)

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Because of this, researchers hypothesized that apple extracts might exert beneficial effects on ASCs. They obtained apple extracts using ethanol as the extraction solvent and tested these on human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADSCs) and human cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells (CB-MSCs). They also used 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide and Click-iT 5-ethynyl-2?-deoxyuridine flow cytometry assays to evaluate the pro-proliferative effects of the extracts.

The researchers found that treatment with apple extracts promoted the proliferation of ADSCs and CB-MSCs. Apple extracts also induced the stepwise phosphorylation of p44/42 MAPK (ERK), mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), p70 S6 kinase (p70S6K), S6 ribosomal protein (S6RP), eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 4B, and eIF4E in ADSCs. p44/42 MAPK (ERK) is a signaling pathway involved in the regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation. Inhibition of this pathway results in cell apoptosis. mTOR is a key signaling node that coordinates cell cycle progression and cell growth. p70S6K is a cytokine that regulates cell growth by inducing protein synthesis. eIFs, on the other hand, are proteins or protein complexes involved in translation and protein biosynthesis.

The researchers also reported that apple extracts significantly induced the production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) in both ADSCs and CB-MSCs. VEGF is a potent angiogenic factor, which means it promotes the formation of blood vessels. VEGF also plays a role in other physiological functions, such as hematopoiesis, wound healing, and development. IL-6 is a promoter of proliferation. The researchers further confirmed that the apple extract-induced proliferation of ADSCs under serum-free conditions is mediated by ERK-dependent cytokine production because when they pre-treated cells with PD98059, a specific ERK inhibitor, it inhibited the phosphorylation of the mTOR/p70S6K/S6RP/eIF4B/eIF4E pathway.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that extracts from apples are potent pro-proliferative agents, and the beneficial effect of apple extract on the proliferation of ASCs may overcome the limitation in their therapeutic use in tissue regeneration.

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