Tag Archives: Obesity

Difficulty Losing Fat? This May Be the Cause

Look at the styrofoam cup, not the coffee!  I have been writing about obesogenic pollutants for some years now. This article by Dr. Grisanti talks about some of the most significant. Also see my article Chemicals and Obesity: What if it isn’t all your fault? Here is Dr. Grisanti’s take on the subject:

Obesity has hit epidemic proportions and the world is desperate to do anything to lose their unwanted fat.

Although eating a healthy diet and exercise is paramount to losing fat, there is one little unknown fact that will prevent millions of people from ever losing fat.

According to the US government this one thing is the considered the number one pollutant in the human body and will put a quick halt to ever reaching your desired level of fitness and fat loss.

One of the major causes of the obesity epidemic is the unprecedented level of phthalates or plasticizers.

The problem with these toxic environmental toxins is the fact that they are difficult to impossible to avoid. In fact they are found in every species even in the most pristine wild.

In fact we have so damaged the chemistry of even animals in the wild that the polar bears in the Arctic have human diseases such as hypothyroidism and osteoporosis.

Phthalates are the highest pollutant in the body being over 10,000 times higher than any of the thousands of other environmental toxins.

In fact they are so pervasive that now children six years of age have levels that used to take adults until the age of 40 to accumulate.

coffee in styrofoam“Phthalates are the highest pollutant in the body being over 10,000 times higher than any of the thousands of other environmental toxins.”

The government agencies, scientific and medical literature have clearly documented that a huge amount of these environment toxins (phthalates) come from our water, soda and infant formula bottles, food packaging, cosmetics, nail polish, mattresses, couches, carpets, clothing, medications, styrofoam cups, IVs, vinyl flooring, construction materials, home wiring, computers, industrial and auto exhausts, etc.,

The sad point is the fact that these toxins stockpile in the body and overwhelm our ability to detoxify them.

We routinely measure them with a wonderful test called Phthalates & Parabens Profile (https://www.gdx.net/product/phthalates-parabens-test-urine)

In addition to the damage these environmental toxins do to the biochemistry of losing fat they have also been known to be associated with difficult to treat chronic fatigue syndrome,fibromyalgia, ADD, syndrome X, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, allergies, and much more.

In fact the label that a disease has is now unimportant. All we care about is what caused the disease and what biochemical corrections are necessary to get rid of it and actually bring about a true solution, a word you rarely hear in drug-oriented medicine.

What is even worse is the fact a pregnant mother’s phthalate levels (look at how many are continually drinking from plastic water bottles, etc., thinking that it’s something healthful) hugely influence not only the development of the child’s brain and glands, but even future fertility and cancers in their unborn children, not to mention, of course, obesity.

What you need to understand and something the researchers have forgot to mention is the fact that fat stores a huge amount of our chemicals, so the fatter you are the more the difficult it is to lose fat. Interesting and at the same time depressing.

The bottom line is many people will never lose weight or solve their medical problems because they have not gotten rid of the phthalates and other environmental pollutants that have damaged their chemistry and genetics.

One of the key ingredients to ridding the body of these harmful toxins is first to do what you can to avoid it (STOP DRINKING OUT OF STYROFORM CUPS and PLASTIC BOTTLES) and invest in a far infrared sauna
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References:

Heindal JJ, Endocrine disruptors and the obesity epidemic, Toxicol Sci 76; 2:247-49, 2003

Baillie-Hamilton PF, Chemical toxins: a hypothesis to explain the global obesity epidemic, JAIt Complement Med 8;2:185-92, 2002

Alonso-Magdalena P, et al, The estrogenic effect of bisphenol A disrupts pancreatic B-cell function in vivo and induces insulin resistance, Environ Health Perspect 114:106-12, 2006

The Hundred Year Diet in the Wall Street (May 10, 2010, A I5)

Vom Saal FS, Welshons WV, Large effects from small exposures. II. The importance of positive controls in low-dose research on bisphenol A, Environ Res, 100;1:50-76, Jan. 2006

Feige JN, et al, The endocrine disruptor monoethyl-hexyl phthalate is a selective peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma modulator that promotes adipogenesis, JBiol Chem 282:19152-66, 2007

Hatch EE, et al., Association of urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations with a body mass index and waist circumference: a cross-sectional study of NHANES data, 1999-2002, Environ Health 7:27, 2008

Clark K, et al, Observed concentrations in the environment. In: The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry. Vol 3, Part Q. Phthalate Ester (Staples CA, ed). New York: Springer, 125-177, 2003

Feige JN, et al, The pollutant diethylhexyl phthalate regulates hepatic energy metabolism via species-specific PPARa-dependent mechanisms, Environ Health Persp, 118; 2:234-41, Feb 2010

Jaakkola JJK, et al, The role of exposure to phthalates from polyvinyl chloride products in the development of asthma and allergies: A systematic review and meta-analysis, Environ Health Perspect 116:845-53, 2008

http://www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com/public/835print.cfm

Before starting any self treatment Dr. Grisanti recommends that you consider consulting with a doctor trained in functional medicine. Visit www.FunctionalMedicineUniversity.com to find doctors thoroughly trained in functional medicine

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Grisanti and his functional medicine community. Dr. Grisanti encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional. Visit www.FunctionalMedicineUniversity.com to find practitioners thoroughly trained in functional medicine. Look for practitioners who have successfully completed the Functional Medicine University’s Certification Program (CFMP). This content may be copied in full, with copyright, contact, creation and information intact, without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit format. If any other use is desired, permission in writing from Dr. Grisanti is required.

© 2016 Sequoia Education Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction without permission prohibited.
http://www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com Used with permission.

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Is Your Blood Pressure High Enough?

English: Blood pressure measurement.
English: Blood pressure measurement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For most of my life my blood pressure has been on the low side of normal.  Considering that fat people are told that this is desirable, I was never cautioned by a doctor that I might want my blood pressure at the higher end.  But several things caused me to wonder whether this conventional wisdom was valid.

When I was in college and stressed, I assumed that stress translated to hypertension and took a physical education class based on the ideas of Hans Selye using breathing to lower my blood pressure, which it did.  I realized that I always felt worse after class, dragging myself home and feeling sleepy for hours.

As a budding herbalist I learned that European doctors often diagnose and treat low blood pressure whereas US physicians rarely do.  I find no difference in official guidelines today where 90/60 is the accepted lower level except for trained athletes in both locales.  Unless one is in shock, fainting or frequently dizzy there is no official concern about low or borderline low blood pressure. Still American doctors are more concerned about hypertension than hypotension.

Wikipedia lists low blood pressure symptoms, many of which are related to causes rather than effects of hypotension:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • irregular heartbeat
  • fever higher than 38.3 °C (101 °F)
  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • severe upper back pain
  • cough with phlegm
  • prolonged diarrhea or vomiting
  • dyspepsia (indigestion)
  • dysuria (painful urination)
  • adverse effect of medications
  • acute, life-threatening allergic reaction
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness
  • profound fatigue
  • temporary blurring or loss of vision
  • connective tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
  • Black tarry stools

When I was doing my EMT training on oxygen therapy it occurred to me that many of the symptoms I felt were symptoms associated with oxygen hunger.  Was it possible that with my borderline low blood pressure, blood wasn’t delivering enough oxygen to my brain?  After all blood needed to get through the contracted muscles and  herniated discs in my neck. This was reinforced by my experience in acupuncture class where walking briskly around the block during break kept me more alert than going across the street for hot coffee.

I propose that borderline low blood pressure which is currently classified as “asymptomatic” often leads to low brain oxygen, brain fog, cold and tingling extremities, and what we call in Chinese medicine yang deficiency.  It probably interferes in the desire to exercise, the levels of possible exercise and the benefits of exercising.  Chances are that it is a factor in at least some patterns of obesity.

Look for low capillary refill when you press on a fingernail. pulse oxymeter readings below 95%, cold hands and feet, brain fog, and poor memory.

Then there is the common sense issue. Obesity adds miles of blood vessels. For every ten pounds of fat gained, your heart has to pump blood through an additional 35 miles of blood vessels, and ten pounds of muscle has about 65 miles.  So it makes sense that some degree of elevated blood pressure might be needed to push nutrient and oxygenated blood through them.  Shouldn’t a 250 pound person have more pressure than a 150 pound person to get through an extra 550 miles of blood vessels?

Note I am not suggesting that the extra burden of pumping through blood vessels isn’t hard on the heart or kidneys. The negative cardiovascular effects of hypertension are well known.  What is less understood is the adverse effects of low blood circulation on the brain with lowered delivery of oxygen and other blood-borne nutrients.  In the obese, elevated blood pressure may be the body’s way of compensating for oxygenating extra mileage.

There is currently a special standard based on age but very little addressing constitution.  According to JAMA’s 2014 evidence-based guideline for the management of high blood pressure in adults: report from the panel members appointed to the Eighth Joint National Committee:

There is strong evidence to support treating hypertensive persons aged 60 years or older to a BP goal of less than 150/90 mm Hg and hypertensive persons 30 through 59 years of age to a diastolic goal of less than 90 mm Hg; however, there is insufficient evidence in hypertensive persons younger than 60 years for a systolic goal, or in those younger than 30 years for a diastolic goal, so the panel recommends a BP of less than 140/90 mm Hg for those groups based on expert opinion.

Still two persons of the same age might have different optimal blood pressures. One who demonstrates what Chinese medicine calls Heat- inflammation, red skin, rapid pulse and a scarlet tongue probably needs blood pressure controlled more vigorously than one who demonstrates Cold signs like cold extremities, a slow pulse, a pale tongue and pale skin.

I also need to point out that too-small blood-pressure cuffs in an increasingly obese population will tend to overdiagnose hypertension and will engender treatment when not needed.  IOW ask for a large cuff if you are heavy or you may make things worse.

This doesn’t mean that anything goes.  You don’t want to stroke out.  I am talking about expanding the marginal limits of what is acceptable in blood pressure standards at both ends.  In other words blood pressure should be high enough to circulate blood trough the tissue, and when it gets higher, an individualized consideration of how high is acceptable should be undertaken.

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Digestion and Weight Gain

2014 Year of the Horse
2014 Year of the Horse

I occasionally read through veterinary catalogs for horse supplements.  These animals, worth up to millions of dollars get the best of care and often state of the art medicine before it percolates down to humans. Many herbal and nutritional supplements are described for effectiveness in terms that the FDA would prohibit for people -which tends to prevent good information from getting to us about how to use nutritional supplements.

As I was reading through the catalog it struck me that the weight-gain supplements contain some of the very same ingredients that are touted for weight loss in articles and ads all over the web.  What gives? Continue reading Digestion and Weight Gain

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If you are into herbs, health and diet, why are you fat?

Me in Guatemala doing acupuncture outreach, not waiting around for life.

I  was recently asked, under the anonymity of a Google comment, how I can be into herbs and health when I am clearly fat,  I’m sure the question has been let unasked a lot more than it was voiced.  And my first instinct was to get all defensive:  the great American herbalist Michael Moore was fat.  The great Annishinabe medicine woman and ethnobotanist Keewaydinoquay  Peschel was fat.  What does fat on your body have to do with what you know, anyway?

The short answer is that once you are fat, unless you are slightly fat or you had a short term weight gain, it is incredibly difficult to reverse. You can lose weight, but it doesn’t last. You can do quite a bit to stay healthy via your diet and lifestyle, but you may end up healthy and fat.

I’ve been fat since age 5, with a short break during my late teens and 20s when I felt like and metabolically was an underweight fat person. Maybe it was my grandmother’s Native genes clashing with a 1960s Standard American Diet- I took after her rather than my parents.  Maybe it was a reaction  (mine? my  parents?) from nearly dying as an infant from weight loss due to digestive problems, although I didn’t notice them pushing food.  Perhaps I caught one of those obesity-promoting adenoviruses. Maybe it was all those fattening antibiotics I had for ear infections before anyone considered that dairy might be the culprit.  Perhaps my body had to sequester exposures to pesticides painted on the walls at the cabin.  Maybe I overate when they pulled me out of my sweet smelling acacia tree to send me to a dismal school and my happiness quotient fell.  In any event I was on Metrecal, the Slimfast of the day, by the first grade, embarrassed as we discussed our breakfasts in health class.  Junior high was torture, where I was relegated to the few chubette clothes available, until I discovered Guatemalan skirts and peasant blouses. I focused on learning instead of socializing.

I had by this time become quite expert on calories, carbohydrates and food exchanges, not to mention setpoints and portion sizes.  My doctors had suggested everything from locking cupboards, to liquid meals to diet pills that left me wired, but I believed there might be better ways.  I was under orders to lose weight by any means possible. I biked, swam in the summer, lived on a hill so steep the school bus couldn’t drive up so I walked it instead, went hiking in the woods behind our home, and had daily physical education classes taught by self-hating drill sergeants,  I wasn’t exactly a couch potato although I preferred reading, acting in school plays and establishing an underground school newspaper to afterschool sports.

I finally lost weight when I left home, had a new start, and went on a zero carb diet (in Italy, yet.)  I kept most of it off when I got home because I lived a mile’s walk from campus and took five 1-2 hour dance classes a week, blessedly subsidized by parents and low tuition.  And as a young single who chose a bike rather than a car, I swam daily and went scubadiving on weekends, so it only slowly crept back.  But the job ended, I moved to New York where work hours were long, picked up an inactive husband who preferred restaurants to Appalachian trail hikes and saw my weight skyrocket with the hormonal changes of pregnancy.  Periods of stress drove my cortisol through the roof.  By the time my children were born I was over a threshold where I could lose weight without getting sick or exercise without injury.  Not that I didn’t try:  Weight Watchers, Optifast, vegan diet, vegetarian diet, Atkins diet, metabolic bump diets, macrobiotic diet, fermented foods, paleo diet, Paul Bergner’s insulin resistance class, hypnosis, therapists, personal trainers, one- hour exercise sessions that didn’t work, two- hour exercise sessions that burned fat but left me too exhausted to work.  There was a lot of good stuff in many of those plans. I lost some weight. And I gained everything back.English: Typical Atkins diet meal

Was I perfect?  Of course not. As a teen I had justified saving calories from eggs  for ice cream (after all, a calorie is a calorie isn’t it?) I have caught myself eating emotionally, but it was aberrant enough to stand out and my thin friends do the same on occasion.  Portion size may be an issue, but the fat cells themselves call out constantly to eat more, something not true of thinner people. Occasionally I go on tiramisu jaunts.  I go between wondering if I am gluten-sensitive or just carb-sensitive and go in and out of drinking milk.

The International Journal of Obesity says that of people who lose 75 or more pounds, 95-98% gain back every pound within 3 years, 2/3  of them within the first year.  Even Oprah who can afford cooks, a personal trainer and all the backup possible gains it back. People who keep weight off are a statistical aberration, unless the gain was transient. Younger men who haven’t been obese long and are willing to, say, become exercise instructors or indulge in full time physical labor stand the best chance of  joining that elusive 2-5%. as do people who spend the rest of their lives monitoring every mouthful and every bit of exercise.  The National Weight Control Registry tracks strategies and data on those who lose at least 33kg and keep it off or 5 years. Even they say that only 20% of dieters are successful at a 10% weight loss for over one year.   You have to make your life about keeping weight off and maybe change your work to something physical all day.

Three adult Hymenolepis nana tapeworms. Each t...
Three adult Hymenolepis nana tapeworms. (length: 15 to 40 mm) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t tried everything.   Tapeworms, for instance  seemed to work for Maria Callas, but I’m squeamish and like my B vitamins.  Nor have I tried surgery, although I did check it out.  The painful death of my pharmacist after gastric bypass surgery destroyed any question I might have had about a procedure that creeps me out on the face of it.  (What colonizes that empty length of intestine cut off by the surgery?)  Two of my obese patients had the surgery and are still fat- and one lost her spleen during the operation.  And while a lap band seems less intrusive, I watched one patient struggle for a year with infected ports. For a cool $25,000 plus extra surgery for the sagging skin you get an 80% complication rate and 5 years of becoming thinner before you gain it back.  Even if you get thin, you are metabolically fat compared to an always thin person, with every deflated cell urging you to eat at any moment.  And the yo yo is harder on your heart and toxin release harder on your brain than just staying fat.  Thanks, I’ll work on health at any size.

The truth is, despite Joy Nash’s wonderful YouTube  Fat Rants, fat is a matter of shame in our society.  We don’t criticize the selfish or the vain nearly as much as the fat.  Obesity is treated as a character flaw instead of  just extra avoirdupois.  It is extra flesh not failure incarnate. Heck we have a worldwide epidemic of obese 6 month olds who probably eat and move much like infants always have, so it makes no sense to blame.  And we need to get real about it.

Diagram of a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.
Diagram of a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. (Wikipedia)

I have no question that if I had bypass surgery and lost weight that people would congratulate me on becoming healthier and it might well help me get a teaching job or keep patients.  It would not be true. My digestion would be permanently ruined, I’d weaken the muscle in my heart along with all the other muscles (non ketogenic weight loss lowers your muscle mass and the heart is mostly muscle) and I would have scars through my meridians.  To be fair my feet and knees would feel better and I might have more energy during the low weight  phase, but the assumption of health would be falsely generalized.  It is possible that I would live up to 3 years longer, although those figures were not derived by comparing fat and formerly fat people and they certainly didn’t sort out the physically fit fat people for comparison.  We aren’t talking decades of life.  Besides the most recent word is that thin people with big bellies die sooner than the obese.

What I can do, even if the fat is intractable, is something about is my health and fitness.  A low carbohydrate diet including good fats, green vegetables, seaweeds, low glycemic flavonoid-rich fruits and clean protein will keep my blood sugar down and normalize my cholesterol and triglycerides.  Exercise will keep my circulation and lung function intact.  Weight training will build muscle mass.  Yoga, qigong, MELT or Pilates will stretch my muscles and strengthen my core.  Regular acupuncture, massage or craniosacral balancing will keep me centered and enough sleep will allow restoration.

Most important I love the work I do and would rather be fat than work at a different, more physical job or spend an additional hour at the gym when I could be spending time figuring out how to affect patients with difficult problems that don’t lead to easy resolution.  While my preference for treating zebras, as difficult cases are called, may not make me thin or rich, at least I learn things that help others.

So what have I learned about weight loss?

  • Statistics on health and Body Mass lump couch potatoes together with the fit fat people.  You don’t want to be a couch potato.  If you work out regularly and eat well, your main problems will be structural.
  • Overweight people react differently to dieting strategies than do obese people.  Formerly fat people are metabolically quite different than always thin people of the same weight.  Don’t assume that everyone can do the same thing to either lose weight or stay thin.
  • Most fat people do best on low carbohydrate diets, without appreciable grains.  Even if you might have done well with grains pre-obesity, your metabolism is probably damaged by long term weight gain. Go Paleo, for good.
  • If you want to lose weight, you need to restrict food even on a low carb diet.  You may be too satisfied to overeat, but many fat people have lost touch with their body’s signals.
  • Ketosis (not the dangerous ketoacidosis) metabolically causes you to lose fat rather than muscle, provided that you don’t overeat. There are entire civilizations in ketosis (traditional Inuit, Bantu, hunter-gathers) who are not in active weight loss. Nonetheless I know of no better start for fat burning.
  • To start a ketogenic diet, mineralize yourself with magnesium, potassium, iodine, trace minerals, sea vegetables and kale.  Otherwise the first two weeks while you are transitioning from glucose-burning to ketone (fat) burning will be hell.  Which is probably why Atkins allowed free consumption of fats during that induction period.
  • For a long term diet, a food plan that hovers between ketosis and low carb just above ketosis is probably the best.  Green vegetables and clean fish or pasture-raised meat, eggs from outdoor chickens and small amounts of berries, yellow fruits and vegetables or pickled root vegetables should be the basis of your diet.
  • This actually can be done with a vegetarian diet but will be a lot more interesting with animal protein.  The infamous low glycemic vegetarian diet that beat the ADA diet for diabetes was basically vegetarian Atkins.
  • Weight gain after periods of intense stress may be more benign than other self-medication (although others may not act as if it is.)  The weight won’t necessarily go away when the stress does or just because you take up yoga, even Birkram.
  • There is a threshold beyond which losing weight is close to impossible without extraordinary changes, so don’t get there. Overweight is better than obese.
  • The kind of extraordinary changes that allow weight loss include moving away from family and friends who may reinforce inactivity or stress, changing to a very physical profession, radically increasing exercise and changing the kind of food you need and a spiritual renewal that doesn’t involve lots of sitting  or reading. Move to a 5th floor walk-up or work a  half hours walk from home to build in exercise.  You also need to make peace with monitoring everything you eat, monitoring exercise and monitoring weight.
  • Some people become fat in reaction to sexual abuse, negative feedback from family members, dissatisfaction with a lack of purpose, or to hide sources of shame.  Others pick up a sense of shame after they become fat.  Continued emotional eating may or may not play a part in this reaction.  Getting rid of the shame is essential to your well-being, whether or not it converts to being thin.
  • If you suddenly gain weight, loose it as soon as possible so that your setpoint weight doesn’t increase.
  • When you take medications like steroids, antidepressants, antipsychotics, long term antibiotics or insulin you will probably gain weight, often substantial amounts. Statins can cause diabetes, but are pushed on people with insulin resistance.  It may be worthwhile, but consider the effect in evaluating your course of treatment and also whether protective lifestyle changes are realistic.
  • Most benefits of weight loss happen in the first 10%.
  • After 10% weight loss, your setpoint tries like crazy to make you regain the lost weight.
  • While some people can, I have never lost weight from exercise alone but I also don’t lose significantly without exercise, including interval aerobics, weight training and stretching. Don’t skip the stretching, because heavy weight predisposes you to injury if your muscles are in the wrong place.

    Chickweed
    Chickweed
  • If you lose weight, you will free toxins locked up in your fat which may be redistributed in your organs.  Take detoxifying herbs like dandelion, chickweed, Oregon grape, triphala or coptis and seaweeds to tie them up.  Getting sick will derail your exercise program.
  • Extra weight is especially hard on your feet, hips and knees.  A heel spur or knee problems will also derail exercise.  Get good shoes, watch Katy Bowman’s biodynamic body DVDs, stand on little balls to massage the small areas of your feet, vary your exercise and be proactive about foot, leg and hip care.
  • Modify exercises to function like they should, not to look like what thin people do.  Maybe that means your toe touch only goes to your thighs.  Maybe your push-up is against a wall, not the floor.  And you need a total substitute for the plough asana if your bust or belly won’t let you breathe.
  • Minerals are essential, especially magnesium which is no longer in soils in appreciable quantity, iodine, potassium, chromium and trace vegetables.  Seaweeds are the main food source of minerals.  Additionally octacosanol will bring down triglycerides.
  • If your endocrine system is unbalanced, try adaptogen herbs like rhodiola, ashwaganda, ginseng and eleuthero.
  • Weight loss herbs basically fall into a few categories:  detoxification, bulk laxatives, liver support, starch blockers, fat blockers and thermogenic herbs. Studies are minimal and are often done on small groups of slightly overweight people.
  • Thermogenic (heating) herbs like cayenne are fine if you run cold.  Otherwise go to cooler circulatory herbs like turmeric, frankincense, myrrh or chuanxiong.  A bit of pepper, long pepper (pipalli) or prickly ash will help the herbs to penetrate and won’t be too hot in small doses.
  • Starch blockers, from phaseolus beans usually give you gas while you don’t assimilate the starch.  Just stay away from starch.
  • Liver herbs like dandelion leaf, green coffee extract, Oregon grape, berberis and milk thistle will help you convert fat and get rid of toxins that were locked up in your fat. Also see detoxification herbs.
  • Fat blockers  are basically liver herbs that cause you to dump.  The pharmaceutical version Olestra (orlistat) can cause explosive diarrhea and deplete you of fat-soluble vitamins and EFAs, but does cause your body to dump toxins.  A less intensive intervention using 7 fat free Pringles a day got rid of both persistent organic pollutants like chlorohexabenzene and fat in some studies.  Pringles of any sort are not food, but personal experience using fake fats to get rid of artificial toxins were not notably successful.
  • The only laxatives I would suggest are triphala, a nourishing and detoxifying group of fruits, and if you are constipated, psyllium, flax or cannabis seeds (sterilized and legal in Chinese medicine stores.)   If it is really bad one dose of senna, cascara sagrada, aloes, or da huang (rhubarb), but only for the first bowel movement.  Eat seaweeds and okra.  Take probiotics or probiotic foods. Drink lots of water.
  • Did I say drink lots of water?  And yes, some of that can be coffee or teas.  Best to avoid diet drinks, even the fairly benign stevia-sweetened ones.  Or save them for special occasions.  Taste can trigger your insulin secretion.
  • Go for periods of time without appreciable carbs, like between dinner and lunch with salmon salad or a veggie frittata for breakfast. When your blood insulin goes up you can’t burn fat or make muscle.
  • Don’t graze.  See above for why.
  • Eat before exercise, which brings your insulin curve back down.  If you eat or swill a sports drink afterwards, you defeat the metabolic effect of exercise.   (Marathoners or Iron Men are an exception and aren’t losing weight, but if you have read this far it probably doesn’t apply to you!)
  • Exercise after eating, even a short spin around the block.
  • Take pride in what you do well, how you affect the world and in who you are.  There will always be people willing to see you as a size rather than a person.  Don’t fall for their shortsightedness.

See also:

Our Symbionts, Ourselves

Chemicals and Obesity: What if if isn’t all your fault?

Why A Parasite Cleanse Can Make You Worse

Probiotics and Probiotic Foods

 

 

 

 

 

 

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H. Pylori Can Keep You Thin

This month’s Scientific American has an article on a subject close to my heart, “Your Inner Ecosystem.”  Only 10% of the DNA in our bodies is human.  In other articles I have advanced the idea that we are walking colonies of microbes, worms and fungi in a human superstructure, where ecological balance is the goal of health rather than purity.  That begs the question of which creatures might be pathogenic- I certainly don’t want ebola in my ecology. Not only doesn’t  it play well with my other creatures, but it is deadly.

Ebola is easy to classify.  However some organisms are difficult to classify.  Acidophilous is great in your gut, especially if you have difficulty assimilating nutrients but it can eat away at your teeth where you might prefer Streptococcus oralis.  There are benign E. coli strains, sold in Europe but not the USA as probiotics, which  tend to predominate in thin people while firmiciute bacteria like the Lactobaccili predominate in fat people and can make thin rats fat.  Even low level staph infections on the skin may crowd out nasty drug-resistant MRSA.

Heliobactor pylori is another example.  This bacteria increases acidity in the stomach, resulting in both the environment where it thrives and breakdown of food.  However in susceptible individuals, it causes ulcers.  When Dr. Martin Blaser, now professor of microbiology and internal medicine at NYU found H. pylori 25 years ago, he approached it as a simple pathogen causing ulcers- and with antibiotic treatment ulcer diagnoses have reduced by more than 50%.  But in 1998 he published research showing that in the vast majority of people H. pylori is beneficial, regulating the acidity of the stomach properly.  H. pylori was also linked to a reduction in adenocarcinomas.  In 2008 he found that H. pylori regulates ghrelin which tells your body to stop eating.  When ghrelin levels are high you become hungry.  After you eat -unless your H. pylori levels are low- ghrelin levels plummet.  In a study of 92 veterans treated with antibiotics to lower H. pylori for ulcers, gained weight in comparison to uninfected peers.  Lower H. pylori is also linked to higher diabetes rates.

Helicobacter Pylori, Stomach Biopsy, Giemsa Stain
Helicobacter Pylori, Stomach Biopsy, Giemsa Stain (Photo credit: euthman)

One of the curious things is that two or three generations ago something like 80% of children were hosts to H. pylori.  Now fewer than 6% of children have the appetite suppressing bacteria, perhaps because of broader-range antibiotics and the inclusion of antibiotics in meat production which could account for less exposure to seed the microbiota.  There is apparently preliminary information suggesting a second mechanism for this where antibiotics silence bacterial signalling for undifferentiated stem cells to make tissue other than fat.

The hygiene hypothesis also may affect the acquisition of H. pylori.  Water is cleaner.  Plant food trucked across the country may contain fewer live bacteria.  Increased C-section rates may prevent the transmission of a mother’s microbiota to the infant in the birth canal.  We have fewer commensal bacteria now altogether and H. pylori is a stunning example of the reduction of a bacteria that can help keep us thin.

However it appears that adding H. pylori may not be helpful once you are fat and possibly the age of acquisition is important.  In further experiments people who were obese and diabetic had higher levels of H. pylori.  Researchers think lowering H. pylori with antibiotics might help lower A1c levels in diabetics.   Is H. pylori exerting a U-shaped influence where too little and too much cause weight gain?  We don’t really know. In the human body with all its feedback loops, direct interventions work quite differently than in petri dishes.

Still, farmers have known for some time that adding antibiotics and increasing starchy feed is the best way to get animals fat for market.  When we do this to ourselves and our children, it should not surprise us if we get the same result.  While it is not a likely single cause of obesity and diabetes, its effect may be far from trivial.

Sources:

Your Inner Ecosystem: Jennifer Ackerman  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ultimate-social-network-bacteria-protects-health

Endosymbiosis: Lynn Margulis http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/_0/history_24

Ecological and Evolutionary Forces Shaping Microbial Diversity in the Human Intestine http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0092867406001929

Gut Reaction: Environmental Effects on the Human Microbiota http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=2685866&blobtype=pdf

Immune Gene Evolution May Be Driven By Parasites http://www.dana.org/news/features/detail.aspx?id=22816

The Body Politic http://seedmagazine.com/content/print/the_body_politic/ (picture from this article.)

Gut Bacteria Do More Than Digest Food http://www.hhmi.org/bulletin/aug2010/features/gut_bacteria5.html

Swapping Germs:  Should fecal transplants become routine for debilitating diarrhea? Maryn McKenna  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=swapping-germs

See Also:

Our Symbionts, Ourselves

Chemicals and Obesity: What if if isn’t all your fault?

Why A Parasite Cleanse Can Make You Worse

Probiotics and Probiotic Foods

How to Make Miso


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Kids with High Body Mass Index Not Necessarily Fat

A recent large study of children with high body mass indexes (BMI) found that many children of normal body mass had high fat percentages while 25% of children with high BMI were not obese by fat percentage criteria.

BMI (weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) does not distinguish between the weight of muscle, fat or bone and has a statistical artifact that tends to classify tall children as overweight. Continue reading Kids with High Body Mass Index Not Necessarily Fat

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Fermented Blueberry Drink Prevents Diabetes and Obesity

For some time I have been promoting probiotic foods (foods with “good bacteria” for the gut) as superior to probiotic pills.  The probiotics in food are present with their prebiotic food sources, often have fat or other compounds to protect them from digestive juices and are found in the forms that our bodies evolved to expect.  Now a study from the University of Montreal shows that fermented blueberry juice, using the organisms that are found on Continue reading Fermented Blueberry Drink Prevents Diabetes and Obesity

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Obesity and Swine Flu: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

Flu virus diagramA recent report report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy indicates that 25% of hospitalized H1N1 victims in a California study were morbidly obese versus 4% of the US population and more than half were obese.  It did not collect data on whether the heavy patients had other underlying conditions although the analysis found that probable. Now the question is, is obesity an independent risk factor or a proxy for other conditions that make flu infection worse? Continue reading Obesity and Swine Flu: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

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Sleep, Disease and Herbs for Insomnia

insomnia.jpg-1In the 1920s, when electricity was not nearly as prevalent (but sources of artificial light were common), Americans were surveyed on sleep habits. The average American slept 9 hours a night, which meant that many slept more. Today the average American is believed to sleep 6 1/2 hours a night. We have not biologically evolved to need less sleep.

There are many types of insomnia: trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, waking too early and sleeping at too superficial a level. People with sleep apnea may believe they sleep like a log, but they have hundreds of micro-awakenings from not being able to breathe, which send their adrenals into fight or flight mode and which leave them exhausted throughout the day. Sleep problems can be occasional, transitory (for short periods of time) or chronic. But the problem I see the most in practice is that people aren’t spending enough time in bed.

Why is this a problem? In a nutshell, it makes you fat, stupid and sick. Continue reading Sleep, Disease and Herbs for Insomnia

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Primates Prefer Cooked Meat and What It Means to Us

Richard Wrangham a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard and the author of  “Catching

Richard Wrangham
Richard Wrangham

Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” was interviewed on NPR.   He worked with Jane Goodall, and is director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project  in Uganda.   According to Wrangham, great apes prefer cooked food to raw food or they have no preference.  They prefer cooked meat to the raw meat that they occasionally form hunting parties to obtain,  but are hampered by not controlling fire.   Great apes, when given a choice, never prefer raw food to cooked food.  Chimps will go into areas of wildfires and eat foods that they would never eat raw.  Meat (at least wild meat)  is tough when raw, but is much more easily assimilated when cooked.

Cooked food increases the proportion of nutrients that you actually digest. This was not widely appreciated for many years because scientists sampled the food going into the mouth then compared it to fecal output.  But fecal digestibility does not really look at assimilation.  We can only assimilate proteins in the small intestine, not the large intestine.

Continue reading Primates Prefer Cooked Meat and What It Means to Us

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Diets Cause More Harm Than Good

I know, we all want to blame it on studies of bad diets-maybe it included Ornish, or Atkins, or the Standard American Diet or fads, which could muddy the data.  That could be a problem with a mega analysis but this study seems well done.  No one wants to believe that permanent weight loss isn’t possible (unless you didn’t have that much to lose to begin with).  The researchers think that unless you are in the 1-2% who can change your life enough to keep weight off, dieting (as opposed to healthy eating) will only make your weight problem worse.  And it isn’t just psychological feelings of deprivation.

UCLA psychologists Traci Mann (right) and Janet Tomiyama analyzed 31 long-term studies on dieting. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Los Angeles)
UCLA psychologists Traci Mann (right) and Janet Tomiyama analyzed 31 long-term studies on dieting. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Los Angeles)

Dieting Does Not Work, Researchers Report

ScienceDaily (2007-04-05) — Dieting does not work, report researchers who analyzed 31 long-term studies on dieting. “You can initially lose five to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back,” said Traci Mann, UCLA associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more.  Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070404162428.htm#

  • The study was perhaps the most rigorously analyzed and most comprehensive of its type
  • At least one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number may well be significantly higher
  • The study underestimates how many people fail at diets since the failures are reluctant to return for follow-ups.  Many studies have less than 50% followup and rely upon self-reporting of weight levels.
  • Several studies indicate that dieting is actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain.
  • One study found that both men and women who participated in formal weight-loss programs gained significantly more weight over a two-year period than those who had not participated in a weight-loss program.
  • Even when you follow dieters four years after the diet, they are still gaining weight.
  • Exercise may be the key factor leading to sustained weight loss. Studies consistently find that people who reported the most exercise also had the most weight loss.
  • None of this means that eating healthy foods in moderation and exercise are not worthwhile.  You can be healthy and improve blood sugar levels or blood lipids.

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Time Article Misses the Point of Exercise in Weight Loss

An article by John Cloud, Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin on Time.com misses the point of why exercise is important.  Time Exercise IssueIt is true that exercise only burns an infinitesimal number of calories.  If you are into the calories in, calories out frame of mind, you will need to exercise for 10 hours to cover a Big Mac.  20 minutes of jogging barely covers a small chocolate chip cookie.  It isn’t even a matter of converting fat to muscle:  if you converted 10 pounds of fat to muscle, you would be able to burn an extra 40 calories a day, which isn’t that much.  No, the reason to exercise is metabolic, and you need to match that with metabolic eating.

Say you eat an apple which is all sucrose and some fiber.  Half of sucrose is glucose and 76% of that burns off at the first pass while 24 % of it goes into the liver where most of it is stored as glycogen and the rest powers mitochondria for energy.   Maybe a half a calorie goes through the TCA cycle which will turn into VLDL cholesterol, used to store fat.  The other half is fructose of which 72% goes into the liver.  The breakdown products of this fructose in the liver is far more pernicious, including uric acid which causes gout and hypertension, but more importantly Continue reading Time Article Misses the Point of Exercise in Weight Loss

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Fructose, Sugar, Poison and Obesity

The video by Robert Lustig of UCSF is extremely interesting, but wonky. If you work in health care or are dealing with blood sugar issues, I highly recommend listening.   I do anyway.  But here are the highlights for the rest of you:

  • We have a worldwide epidemic of obese six month olds.  Yes, 6 months.  So it isn’t all about more food in and less exercise out.Baby with juice
  • Americans now eat 141 pounds of sugar per year, 63 pounds of which is high fructose corn syrup and over half of which is fructose in all forms.
  • A calorie is not a calorie.  Some calories are nutritious, some are merely empty, some are poisonous.
  • If we are consuming 275 extra calories a day compared to 20 years  ago, it is because our regulatory hormones like leptin are not stopping us.  We had as much food available 50 years ago, but less obesity.  Something in us changed.
  • And it isn’t our fat consumption, which has dropped.  Fat dropped significantly after 1992 when the food pyramid was established, suggesting we increase our carbohydrate consumption.
  • Continue reading Fructose, Sugar, Poison and Obesity

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