Glossary of Medical Terms

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. While the body can make certain amino acids, others are required from the foods we eat in order to manufacture proteins in the liver. Ingested proteins are broken down into amino acids, and then absorbed, in the small intestine. 

Antibodies (immunoglobulins [Ig]) are specialized proteins produced by white blood cells that circulate in the blood, hunting for and binding to foreign proteins, microorganisms or toxins in order to disable them. They are a critical part of the immune response. (See also Autoantibody)

Antifungals are medications that target fungus (yeast) via absorption into the blood stream, allowing the compound to permeate all tissues. Examples are Diflucan (Fluconazole), Sporonox (Itraconazole), Nizoral (Ketoconazole) and Lamisil (terbinafine). These differ from Nystatin, which does not enter the the bloodstream and has yeast-killing effects only in the gut (with benefits that may, however, extend beyond the gut).

Antioxidants are beneficial substances that inhibit oxidation, or reactions promoted by oxygen, peroxides, or free radicals. They also support detoxification. Beta-carotene and vitamin C are examples.

Apraxia loss or impairment of the ability to execute complex coordinated movements without muscular or sensory impairment.

Asperger syndrome a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction, which lacks delays in cognitive development and language.

Autism Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize.  Autism has a strong genetic basis, and environmental triggers, such as prenatal or postnatal exposure to heavy metals, germs in an already sensitive and dysfunctional metabolism.

Autoantibodies are antibodies that mistakenly attack the body’s own tissue as if they were pathogens.

Biofilms are colonies of connected organisms that can be a mix of different species. Examples vary from dental plaque to certain specialized bacterial colonies used to clean up oil spills. Biofilms also line the human bowel.

BPA  Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound; used to make certain plastics and epoxy resins.  It is used to make a variety of common consumer goods (such as baby and water bottles, sports equipment, and CDs and DVDs) and for industrial purposes, like lining water pipes. Epoxy resins containing BPA are used as coatings on the inside of many food and beverage cans. It is also used in making thermal paper such as that used in sales receipts.

Candida albicans is a fungus (“yeast”) naturally found in small amounts in the body; it can cause infection if the natural flora is thrown out of balance (usually by the use of antibiotic medication). These infections can be localized (e.g. a vaginal “yeast infection” or a rash on the bottom), or systemic. (candidiasis is the name of an infection of a body part with a fungus from the genus Candida.)

Carbohydrates are any member of a very abundant and widespread class of natural organic compounds that includes sugar, starch, and cellulose. They are commonly classified as monosaccharides (simple sugars e.g., glucose, fructose), disaccharides (e.g., sucrose, lactose), oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides. Carbohydrates are the quickly accessible reservoir of energy, and oxidation of glucose in tissues supplying energy for metabolism.

Casein is one of several proteins found in all milk from humans and other mammals.

Cysteine is an amino acid that binds heavy metals such as lead and mercury, thereby helping to detoxify them.

Concussion mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), a head injury with a temporary loss of brain function, concussion causes a variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms, which may not be recognized if subtle. Treatment involves monitoring as well as physical and cognitive rest (reduction of such activities as school work, television watching, and text messaging). Symptoms usually resolve within three weeks, though they may persist or complications may occur.  If so, HBOT may be considered.

Dysbiosis is a state of living (due to putrefaction, fermentation, deficiency, or sensitization) with intestinal flora that have harmful effects. A number of inflammatory diseases within the bowel, but also perhaps involving skin and connective tissues, have been reported in association with dysbiosis or germ overgrowth.

Enzymes are biological catalysts that increase the speed of a chemical reaction without themselves being changed in the overall process. Enzymes are vitally important to the regulation of the chemistry of cells and organisms. In digestion, they break food down so it can be absorbed by the body.

Epigeneticis is the science that studies processes that change gene activity without changing the DNA of the gene. Methylation of DNA is the most-studied factor so far, and known or suspected drivers behind epigenetic processes include many agents: heavy metals, pesticides, diesel exhaust, tobacco smoke, hydrocarbons, hormones, radioactivity, viruses, bacteria, and basic nutrients. An example of epigenetic influence is the commonly observed difference in appearance between identical twins as they grow older. Some epigenetic changes can be passed in the gene code from parent to child.

Essential Fatty Acids Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 fatty acids are essential nutrients. A balance is necessary between the three, with the best source of  Omega-3 usually coming from purified fish oils, and Omega-6 from vegetable oil.

Excitotoxins are substances that cause damage or death to living cells. First discovered by some scientists in the 1950s, who noted that when they fed monosodium glutamate (commonly used at the time in Chinese restaurants to stimulate taste buds) to baby mice, it destroyed the nerve cells in their eye retinas. Some excitotoxins are produced by the body, some come from outside.

Folate and folic acid are forms of water-soluble B vitamins. Folic acid is the synthetic vitamin and folate is the form found in foods (the term comes from a Latin word that also gives us “foliage”—folate is found in leafy vegetables). Critical for the proper development and maintenance of cells, especially during times of rapid cell-division such as fetal development and childhood, it was discovered several years ago to be critically important for avoiding neural tube birth defects, so folic acid supplementation is recommended for all woman who are pregnant or may become pregnant.

Glutathione (GSH) is the major antioxidant in cells; along with cysteine, it is critical for binding and detoxifying heavy metals and free radicals. GSH is also required for synthesis of methylB12, so low levels can contribute to the reduction of methionine and therefore to impaired methylation. (see Methylation)

Gluten is the protein found in the grass family of wheat, oats, barley, rye and triticale. Derivatives of these grains might contain gluten, including malt, grain starches, hydrolyzed vegetable/plant proteins, textured vegetable proteins, grain vinegar, soy sauce, grain alcohol, flavoring and the binder and fillers found in vitamins and medication.

HBOT – Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy – increased oxygen at increased pressure that can help to treat inflammation due to inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune conditions, concussion or other traumatic brain injuries

Immunoglobulins (Ig)  (antibodies) are proteins produced by plasma cells. They are designed to control the body’s immune response by binding to substances in the body that are recognized as foreign antigens. Antibodies are diverse, with more than 1010 possible variations, yet each is designed to recognize only a specific antigen. The antibodies are released into the intercellular fluid, where they bind to the infecting antigen, identifying it for destruction by the immune system. Immunoglobulins also pay a central role in allergies by binding to antigens that are not necessarily a threat to health, thus provoking an inflammatory reaction. There are five main types of antibody; IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG and IgM are the most common.

Inflammation normally, inflammation is part of a healthy immune response, an orchestrated onslaught of cells and chemicals that heal injury and fight infection-think redness, pain, swelling. But chronic “hidden” inflammation occurs throughout the body when something kick-starts the immune system and disengages the shut-off button. Regardless of the cause, the end result is the same: an endless trickle of immune cells interferes with body’s healthy tissues.

“Leaky Gut” Syndrome is an increase in intestinal permeability that allows passage into the bloodstream of food elements that don’t belong there.

Lymphonodular hyperplasia (LNH) is an overgrowth of cells in the lymph nodes. If found on the gut lining, it’s described in one study as “common, but not an innocent bystander. Significantly related to a diagnosis of GI food allergy in this study, it is an expression of mucosal immune response…if present in the terminal ileum, it may be related to food allergy but also to a variety of other immunologically active disease states.”

Metabolism the chemical changes in living cells by which energy is provided for vital processes and activities and new material is assimilated.

Methylation is the transfer of a methyl group from one to another molecule, thus changing their structure and function; for instance, it makes epinephrine (adrenaline) from norepinephrine, and melatonin from serotonin. It is crucial for the transcription of DNA, turning the expression of genes on and off, and is a metabolic pathway that produces molecules affecting detoxification and anti-oxidation. If methylation is impaired, then neurotransmitter function, protein and cell membrane structure and function, fatty acid metabolism, allergic responses, myelination, and cellular energy transfer are all adversely affected.

Migraine  A recurrent throbbing headache that typically affects one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision.  Can also be seen with only abdominal symptoms or behavioral changes.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a precursor to intracellular glutathione. It is a known nucleophile and free radical scavenger; a potent and important antioxidant. 

Neurotransmitter a substance that transmits nerve impulses across a synapse (a synapse is the point at which a nervous impulse passes from one neuron to another).

Oxidative Stress is caused by the normal by-products of metabolism (energy use), or the result of environmental and lifestyle insults like smoking cigarettes and chemicals like insecticides. It can cause damage to cells, premature aging, and disease, and is counteracted by supplying antioxidants from good food sources or supplements, as well as removal of factors that are not good for the body.

Oxalate is a very simple sort of molecule; it links up with calcium and crystallizes under some conditions, including encounters with damaged tissues. The crystals formed this way can be painful to tissues in which they cause or increase inflammation.

Oxytocin is a hormone that also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain; it is thought to be released during hugging and touching in both sexes. It is involved in social recognition and bonding, and may be involved in the formation of trust between people.

PANDAS an acronym for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Strep

PANS an acronym for Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome

Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (commonly abbreviated as PDD-NOS), which is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met

PITANDS an acronym for Pediatric Infection Triggered Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders

PCBs Polychlorinated Biphenyl belongs to a broad family of man-made organic chemicals; they were domestically manufactured from 1923 until 1979, and in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications including electrical, heat transfer, and hydraulic equipment; as plasticizers in paints, plastics, and rubber products; in pigment, dyes, and carbonless copy paper; and many other industrial applications.

Phenols are similar to alcohols but form stronger hydrogen bonds with water (see bonding) so they dissolve more rapidly in water and boil at higher temperatures. They may be colorless liquids or white solids; many have a sharp, spicy odor. Some are found in essential oils. 

Porphyrins are complex molecules in the body that combine with iron to produce heme, which is responsible for giving blood its red color, and helps form hemoglobin. Heme delivers oxygen through the circulatory system and is therefore important in metabolism. Disordered urinary porphyrins can indicate a toxic exposure. Urinary porphyrin concentration vary substantially with age among children and adolescents; its important to be careful about reference ranges when interpreting lab results.

Probiotics are certain friendly bacteria that are beneficial in preventing and treating some intestinal problems. They improve the environment in the intestinal tract by producing acids and other compounds that inhibit the growth of undesirable bacteria. They’re available in supplement form in the refrigerated section of health food stores.

Transsulfuration is a major detoxification pathyway, the precursors of which are supplied by the methylation cycle. Transsulfuration involves the formation of glutathione as the primary detoxifier; cysteine and sulfate are also produced through this pathway.