The Use of Phosphatidylcholine for Cellular Healing in Mold Patients and Beyond

By Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

In my last article, the importance of cell membrane health was discussed and why it is important to maintain the integrity of this structure.  Phosphatidylcholine or PTC was introduced in that article as a food and supplement to help restore cell membrane functionality; so, I thought it may be helpful to dive deeper into its uses, indications, and method of action.

To recap from the previous article, the membrane of every cell of the body is largely comprised of phospholipids.  The cell membrane is where much of the cell activity occurs—allowing vitamins, oxygen, and nutrients and waste products out. But when the membrane becomes “stiffened” or bogged down by toxins, including mycotoxins, then each cell suffers and so does the body as a whole.

The brain is also comprised largely of phospholipids.  Thus,  it is no surprise that increasing levels of oxidative stress inside the body directly affect the function of the brain cells and may manifest as neurologic or psychiatric disorders and can range from anxiety to Alzheimer’s.  Never would I suggest that the “cure” for any of these disorders is to use phosphatidylcholine, but incorporating its use into a treatment plan may help by enhancing the beneficial effects of other treatments, preventing further neurologic damage by protecting brain cells, and relieving some of the neurologic and psychiatric symptoms. Before I go further into explaining what phosphatidylcholine can do, let’s get into the basics of what phosphatidylcholine is and where it comes from.

Phosphatidylcholine Basics

Phosphatidylcholine, in its simplest terms, is a class of phospholipids (fatty acids plus phosphorus) connected to a choline particle. It is contained in several foods, including eggs (the yolks), soybeans, mustard, sunflower oils and seeds, and beef liver.  In the brain, phosphatidylcholine is converted to acetylcholine which is particularly important for memory and other cognitive functions.  There is evidence that phosphatidylcholine protects the wall of the large intestine and is found to be deficient in people suffering from ulcerative colitis.  It is vulnerable to attack by lipid peroxidation (the oxidation or destruction of cell membranes), which can occur by toxicity, poor diet, viruses, and the general aging process. Protecting against lipid peroxidation is of utmost importance, since it is a self-propagating chain reaction, and the initial oxidation of only a few lipid molecules can result in significant tissue damage. And, since lipid peroxidation has not yet been precisely determined if it is the cause or an effect of several pathological conditions, preventing it from occurring is the name of the game for keeping your body well and out of a disease state. In fact, lipid peroxidation has been implicated in many disease states such as atherosclerosis, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, kidney damage, preeclampsia, and others.

Phosphatidylcholine is a member of the lecithin family, i.e. lecithin contains phosphatidylcholine, but lecithin lacks some of the properties and abilities unique to the mother molecule.  Therefore, when we discuss the clinical applications of using this substance we do differentiate between PTC and lecithin.  Both are emulsifiers and have the ability to break down or liquify fats.  This emulsification ability is the reason you often see lecithin as an ingredient in food products; it can make fats into a more liquid than solid-state.  This is fine for foods, but in the human body, the liquification process is a more dynamic process and requires the much more refined activity of PTC. Unlike lecithin, PTC initiates a continual biochemical reaction and does more than act as a simple emulsifier.

Uses for Phosphatidylcholine in Treatment

There have been some cosmetic uses of phosphatidylcholine, with its being injected just under the skin into fat tissue to “dissolve” the fat.  It has also been injected directly into lipomas (benign fatty tumors) to dissolve them, but I have not used it in either of these conditions.  My thinking is that, at best, it may cause some improvement but without looking at and addressing the underlying conditions, improvements would be temporary. Plus, I imagine it would be a rather uncomfortable treatment!

When I use phosphatidylcholine as a treatment for my patients, it is done for the following reasons:

To help regulate cell communication;

To help release more toxins from the brain and the liver (both of which are dense is fats);

And, to ignite the process of healing by countering any oxidative stress that has occurred.

For PTC to work for the abovementioned conditions, however, it is of utmost importance that the source of toxicity is removed!  That means the patient’s air, diet, and water sources need to be as clean and pure as possible, otherwise, it is like trying to fill a bucket full of holes—no matter what you do, your best efforts will not work!

A Patient Case Study

Leigh, a 48-year-old female patient had significant mold exposure in her home, resulting in severe fatigue, neuromuscular symptoms involving her leg muscles making stair climbing difficult, vertigo, and cognitive impairment. She stated everything felt “slowed down”.   Her house was remediated and fogged with a cold mist fogger and EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate. She got rid of any soft goods that had been contaminated.   Her diet went from a higher carb to a low carb, higher fat diet.   She improved but still felt very tired, with brain fog, and occasional vertigo.   It was decided to try a course of IV phosphatidylcholine and glutathione.   This was done twice weekly for 4 weeks, along with daily PTC oral supplementation.   She felt dramatically better after one week.   After one month she felt almost “normal” or back to how she felt before she became ill.

Her case was exceptional in that she felt improvement so dramatically and quickly.  Part of the reason for this, I do believe, is that ALL the underlying issues and her indoor environment had been addressed, and she was diligent in the continuing surveillance of her air and diet.  Not every patient that has been treated in this manner has had this degree of improvement, but many have reported at least 25-50% improvement when PTC is included in their treatment when we evaluate them using as objective a tool as we can, a self-evaluation questionnaire.  In other clinics, patients on PTC treatments have been referred for neuropsychiatric evaluations, and these give much more quantifiable and objective data.  However, the availability of this type of testing is both location and expense prohibitive in many cases.

Phosphatidylcholine Supplementation

The IV PTC product used in Leigh’s treatment is a pharmaceutical from Switzerland, called Lipostabl.   There are compounded forms made by pharmacies in the US, but quite frankly, I have not found these to be as effective as the original Swiss product.   As for safety, like anything, PTC is a drug, however natural it may be.  Thus, there can always be side effects.  The most common side effects have to do with the site of injection becoming very sore and red, but careful administration minimizes this risk.  There have been patients who have had severe nausea and diarrhea after its use; most of whom were not following a proper diet and who were on multiple pharmaceuticals.

Not everyone has access to IV phosphatidylcholine making oral use much more available and practical.  There are a few rules to follow here, though, if it is to be successful.  First, the form of the product must be liposomal, that is, carried in with a fat molecule, to be able to be absorbed and utilized well by the body.   It must be made by a third-party certified lab.  Oxidized fats or impure products will do nothing to improve health!  And remember, PTC is not the same as lecithin, which is much cheaper and more readily available. The problem is that lecithin does not work.

Liposomal phosphatidylcholine is available both as a gel capsule and as a liquid.  The gel caps are large, and some complain of difficulty swallowing them.  If you can add the liquid to a shake or drink, this may be the best way for both absorption and ease in taking.  The taste and consistency of the liquid are very off-putting to many, however.

What about dose?  Up to 3 grams daily for 6 weeks, then reducing to 1.5-2 grams per day is considered effective.   A doctor friend of mine gave a good directive: “This (PTC) is liquid gold, so take as much as your stomach and your pocketbook can tolerate.”  In other words, PTC is not a cheap supplement, but if you can afford to supplement, it can definitely make a positive difference in your health. The expense is why I advocate the use of foods containing this substance in addition to the supplement. We try to keep all treatments as do-able on all levels as possible.

Who Can Be Helped With Phosphatidylcholine Supplementation?

Well, obviously, it is not bad for ANYONE, but should not be used without attention to other nutrition, including minerals and other essential fatty acids, in order to derive the intended benefits.  But, the big question, when it comes to PTC is, for whom is it going to be a gamechanger?  For anyone suffering from toxicity, I think it is worth at least a 6-week course, as well as for anyone suffering from cognitive decline, anxiety/depression, ulcerative colitis, fatty-liver disease, or recovering from hepatitis. In all of these disease cases, cellular/tissue integrity has been compromised, so doing anything that helps to stabilize the cellular membrane is extremely beneficial.

Brands I recommend for phosphatidylcholine may be found on the Wellevate portal and include for gel capsules, BodyBio PhosChol, Nutrasal PhosC 900, and Thorne Phosphatidylcholine, and for liquid formulas, Micellized PC Liposomal by Quicksilver Labs, and BodyBio PC liquid.

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