Tuesday, 27 December 2011

BETA BLOCKERS

This article is about the synthetic drug propranolol which is commonly called “beta blockers”.

Chemistry

I am always curious about where things come from nowadays, and although I’m not a scientist, I try to understand the science behind things.  Wiki explains that propranolol is synthesized using a substance called epichlorohydrin which is known to upset the stomach and is a carcinogenic.  This is reacted with 1-naphthol which, if you are a young man may interest you to know, is a metabolite of the insecticide carbaryl and naphthalene that has been shown to decrease testosterone levels in adult men, or in other words, decrease masculinity.  This substance is further reacted with another chemical, isopropylamine, which is primarily used in glyphosate herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup (see here for my article about Monsanto).

Of course, if you eat conventionally grown foods, you are prone to having some of these chemicals in your food, but whether the reacted ones are worse for health than each chemical on its own is debatable.  The web gets very intricate when looking at these strands of the puzzle, but let’s suffice it to say that beta blockers are comprised of and derived from some very nasty man-made chemicals.


Some Possible Side-Effects

After reading about the chemistry, it's not surprising that there are side-effects (short-term ones that is) associated with taking beta blockers.  Some of the possible side-effects of propranolol are :

·        light-headedness (especially when getting up from a sitting or lying down position)
·        fainting
·        dizziness
·        tiredness
·        blurred sight (but meanwhile the drug is used to treat glaucoma)
·        feeling or being sick
·        stomach upset
·        cold hands or toes
·        tingling feelings
·        sexual problems
·        shortness of breath
·        disturbed sleep
·        mood changes
·        headache

As usual, not only are the side-effects nearly worse than the original complaint, they may even cause it, as well as other problems.  These aren’t just side-effects, they are symptoms that the drug is making you ill, and possibly, permanently so. On this basis, propranolol is a poison.

Indications

Beta blockers are primarily prescribed for heart conditions such as the management of an irregular heartbeat after a heart attack to ‘protect’ it, and hypertension.  But they are also frequently prescribed for ailments associated with adrenaline such as anxiety, cluster headaches/migraines, shaky hands (for surgeons!), social anxiety (stage fright), tremors and panic because it mediates the “fight or flight” response.

Besides those given the drug for heart problems and nervous conditions, psychiatric patients have also been experimented on (but hey, isn’t it all experimentation?) to treat excessive drinking of fluids, antipsychotic induced akathisia (inability to keep still – could be most people nowadays), aggressive behavior of patients with brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder, and as mentioned above, glaucoma. “Propranolol is also used to lower portal vein pressure in portal hypertension and prevent esophageal variceal bleeding.” (see Wiki for references).


Some Statistics

Despite the poor performance of beta blockers, people expect it to aid in their performance.  Musicians and other performers have been commonly known to take them.

Interestingly enough, propranolol is one of the banned substances in the Olympics.  Lucky them.

In 2006, the BBC news online did a Q&A about beta blockers in which it is claimed that about two million people in the UK were being treated with beta-blockers for hypertension.  They also quoted the Blood Pressure Association in saying that “there is no immediate risk to your health if you are taking beta-blockers”.  This is a common problem.  There may be no immediate, noticeable risk to your health, but it is almost a dead cert that there will be a long term risk.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that the short term damage may be hard to notice but is nonetheless occurring and the long term damage is guaranteed to cause illness.  Even if one stops taking this drug, like having an operation, the body will mend but never be as strong as it was beforehand.

But What Are Beta Blockers?

There are three known types of beta receptor (aka, beta blocker).  Notice that there may be others that we don’t know about.  We know that these receptors control several functions based on their location in the body, but this knowledge is incomplete too, as I outline below.
  • Beta-1 (β1) adrenergic receptors are located in the heart, eye, and kidneys;
  • beta (β2) adrenergic receptors are found in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, liver, uterus, blood vessels, and skeletal muscle; and
  • beta (β3) adrenergic receptors are located in fat cells.
Non-selective beta blockers, for example, propranolol (Inderal), block β1 and β2 receptors and, therefore, affect the heart, blood vessels, and air passages.

Beta blockers disrupt the effect of norepinephrine (aka, noradrenaline) and epinephrine (which I will refer to the more commonly known name, adrenaline).

Adrenaline is a hormone (i.e., a chemical released by cells to send a message to other cells) and neurotransmitter (local signalling which occurs between nerve cells).  Cell communication is vital for the survival of the whole organism.  Beta blockers affect the body like interference on a radio or television transmission.  The message is no longer clear.  In fact, the message can be completely blocked.  Why this is considered a beneficial outcome is beyond me.  If the body is in pain, it doesn’t follow to shut down its mechanisms for communicating because the body is the only one that can figure out how to stop the malfunction.

Examples of beta-blockers are:
  • acebutolol (Sectral)
  • atenolol (Tenormin)
  • bisoprolol (Cardicor, Emcor)
  • carvedilol (Eucardic)
  • celiprolol (Celectol)
  • labetalol (Trandate)
  • metoprolol (Betaloc, Lopresor)
  • nadolol (Corgard)
  • nebivolol (Nebilet)
  • pindolol (Visken)
  • propranolol (Inderal)
  • sotalol (Beta-Cardone, Sotacor)
  • timolol (Betim)

  Cell Communication and Brain Activity


Perhaps cell communication takes on an even more vital role in the brain.  Although the primary resources on the Internet do not specify that the brain is affected by beta blockers, they do own up to the fact that the drug affects blood vessels and skeletal tissues, both of which, surprise, surprise, are found in and around the brain. 

As mentioned above, hormones are used by the body to communicate and the ones that we know that are affected by beta blockers are adrenaline and noradrenaline.  The communication capability of these hormones is diminished with the use of beta blockers (that’s why they’re called blockers).

The brain is the central part of the nervous system with blood vessels that enter through holes in the meningeal layers (membranes that surround and protect the brain, and also the spinal cord).  Furthermore, in my article on arthritis, I explained that the skull consists of immovable joints which are surrounded by connective tissue which is part of the musculoskeletal tissues.

It gets even more interesting as we dig deeper.  As discussed in an article about biogenic amines, adrenaline is one of five of these biogenic amines which are also known as neurotransmitters. The others include dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), histamine and serotonin.  Neurons in the central nervous system that contain adrenaline are found in two groups in the rostral medulla (the caudal portion of the brainstem, which extends from the pons to the spinal cord.), and their function is unknown.  To clarify the situation, we may not know what effect beta blockers have on the functioning of the brain, but we do know that they have one because of the presence of the biogenic amines, and in particular, because of the presence of adrenaline and noradrenaline which would be specifically blocked by the drug.  Here is a quote from this article on biogenic amines:

“The pons plays an important role in coordinating movements involving right and left sides of the body as it relays sensory information between the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex, controling arousal, and regulating respiration.  Below the pons is the medulla, which is continuous with the spinal cord and transmits ascending and descending nerve fibers between the spinal cord and the brain. The pons is irrigated by pontine arteries.”

This could be a good explanation for the dizziness, fuzzy thinking and aggravation of asthma which are known side-effects of taking this drug.

I found some research that has shown that bipolar disorder is due to a disruption of cell to cell communication in the part of the brain that governs emotion.  Considering the brain’s functions, I would hazard a guess that disrupting the communication of the brain cells would cause or contribute to more than just bipolar disorder.  So you can add mental illness to the list of side-effects, although it’s likely to be referred to as ‘mood changes’ as noted above.


Cholesterol

Another problem along these lines is that the government and most doctors, dieticians and nutritionists following suit, advise people, particularly those with heart problems who would be more likely to be prescribed beta blockers , to eat a low fat diet.  It just so happens that cholesterol and saturated fats are what cells need to communicate effectively.  In fact, adrenaline, as well as cortisol, trigger the production of cholesterol.  This makes sense when you think about the fight or flight scenario because more cholesterol would be needed for the added stress and possible injury.  If you block the messages to produce the needed cholesterol and with less in the diet, the body is likely left with a serious deficiency.

Furthermore, as I discussed in my article on natural treatment for blood cancer, there are small cell-signalling protein molecules called cytokines (Greek cyto-, cell; and -kinos, movement) that are secreted by the glial cells of the nervous system (brain cells that support neurons by providing nutrition for the neurons and protecting them from toxic molecules and infection).  They are also secreted by many of the cells of the immune system throughout the body.   These molecules are used extensively in intercellular communication, i.e., communication between cells, and cholesterol is needed to transport them into and out of the cells.

So if one is eating a low fat diet and taking beta blockers, there is a double whammy affect on the ability of cells in the body to communicate.  No wonder things start to go haywire!