Preserve Your Plasma Membranes
What is a plasma membrane, anyway?
As I look out my window, I see pretty white blossoms on my pear and plum trees. Spring is when Mother Nature expresses life and a renewing through new leaves, green grass, crocuses, daffodils, and asparagus.
Spring is new life, rebirth. We see the cycle of life, age, death, rebirth, and growth happen all around us. We don’t see or feel this cycle happen in our bodies, but it is there. Our cells are continuously dying and being replaced. In fact, we lose between 50 and 70 billion cells each day, which means that our bodies are making the same number of new cells every day just to maintain our health.
Some cells live longer than others. Skin cells live from two to three weeks. Lower GI tract cells only live 3 or 4 days, while brain cells live our entire lifetime. Red blood cells typically live from 90 to 120 days. This is why the A1c test for diabetes is a 90 day test. We need to measure the degree of glycosylation that occurs in the cell over its lifetime.
Making all of these new cells every day requires nutritional building blocks: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. The two primary nutritional building blocks for red blood cells are protein and one of the two essential fatty acids called alpha linolenic acid, or omega 3 fatty acid.
These nutrients are essential in building new plasma membranes. The plasma membrane is what keeps everything outside the cell outside the cell, and everything inside the cell within the cell. But this membrane must be permeable, meaning that certain things must be able to pass through it. Nutrients must be able to get in the cell, and waste products must be able to get out of the cell. So a healthy plasma membrane is permeable, fluid, and flexible.
When our bodies get enough high quality nutritional building blocks, we are able to replace all of these cells and more if necessary. But what happens if we don’t get the required nutrients? What happens if we don’t get enough alpha linolenic acid in our diets?
Lack of Essential Acids
Since alpha linolenic acid is the most lacking of all the essential nutrients in the typical American diet, our bodies must sometimes use the “second best” nutrients for manufacturing these critical plasma membranes. This second best material is trans fats. Trans fats are what happens to natural fats when they are subjected to high heat or other processing techniques. They are believed to be some of the most harmful substances we can put in our bodies, yet they are what the body is forced to use if insufficient alpha linolenic acid is available.
A Losing Battle
When the body is forced to use this inferior nutritional building block, the plasma membrane it manufactures is not of the same quality as the one it replaced. Many researchers believe that when the body is forced to use trans fats as building blocks, our plasma membranes get more rigid, less fluid, and less permeable. As a result, our new cells aren’t able to work as efficiently as the ones they replaced. And when this process happens billions of times over and over again, the performance of our bodies begins to suffer. Each new cell works just a little worse than its predecessor, and after a few thousand life cycles, our cells can’t process glucose as effectively as before. It’s like taking a copy of a copy of a copy.
What can we do? Well, we can insure that we get enough omega 3 fatty acids in our diet. Eat plenty of fish, flax oil, olives, olive oil, and avocados. This will insure the healthiest possible plasma membranes in our bodies. And in the meantime, check out our Facebook group for help along the way.