This represents the final article in Dr. Gardner’s series on achieving a balanced weight. If you would like to participate in a survey that identifies weight-related challenges, please click here. Dr. Gardner is developing a program called Ease on Down, to help people achieve a healthy balanced weight.
From Nutrisystem, to Jenny Craig, to Weight Watchers, to Atkins, to HCG, MedFast, Gastric Bypass Surgery—to cutting out sugar, the Zone Diet, Vegan, Raw, and Cabbage Soup—and these are just the tip of the iceberg!—we are desperate to lose weight.
So why don’t these diets work for YOU? What is it about your body that is unique? And how come other people seem to cut out a little bit and drop pounds easily, while you struggle, strain, workout, starve yourself, and gain?
Regulation of weight gain and weight loss is complicated, and I don’t think we know all the answers. We can, however, work with what we know. Only occasionally does the ‘calories-in, calories-out’ plan work like a bank, but for some that is part of the solution. The rest of us have to figure out what’s going on, get healthy, and our weight will start to balance naturally.
How Your Body Functions
Our individual bodies are unique, and what manifests in our body is the culmination of many factors, including our thoughts, our genetics, the types and sources of food we consume, the liquid we drink, our activity style and ratio in comparison with our sedentary time, our overall health.
The body functions somewhat like an orchestra: each of us plays a different melody; comprised of various instruments playing at different times. Here are some of the possible instruments that we need to examine and evaluate (and this is only a partial list—there are literally hundreds of causes and variations to be carefully determined). If any instruments are out of tune, or playing the wrong notes entirely, we can re-evaluate their performance and work with them individually (and collectively) to help them make the right “music” again. So let’s review what we know about some of the possible causes (and some initial potential solutions) for weight gain:
• Energy metabolism is down, the body feels sluggish.
There are herbals, drugs, and certain specific types of exercise that can stimulate metabolism. This will help with the ‘calories-out’ part.
• Some of us eat too much. We grew up in the clean-your-plate-club era, reminded of all those starving children in _(name your 3rd world country) .
The message of fulness may not be getting to the hunger center at the appropriate time. The stomach may be overstretched with repetitive overfilling, which delays the message of fulness, or satiety, to the hunger center.
• Some of us eat too much sugar. We load up on carbohydrates and that messes with our systems. Or we are obsessed with chocolate because of cravings or addictions.
The neurotransmitter serotonin may be low, which also causes depression, anxiety, poor sleep, and exhaustion.
• Stress blocks the ability of the body to reduce weight, as it may perceive the stress as a time of starvation and conserve energy (as fat) instead of burning it.
This may be from sleep deprivation or poor sleep, toxin exposures and retention of toxins in the fat tissue, or emotional strains as part of life.
See the fourth article in this series, for further information.
• Hormonal imbalance may wreck havoc with your system.
Low thyroid reduces metabolic stimulation and decreases energy production. Menopausal changes in estrogen and progesterone (and who knows what else) are devastating for some people. Testosterone and DHEA reduction occur with age, each adding their piece of imbalance to the picture.
• There are some medications that cause us to gain weight, especially anti-depressants.
Too much insulin in the body, called insulin resistance, may be blocking the ability of the body to break down fat to be used as energy. Because insulin resistance is so common, I have chosen to write about some solutions with that in the rest of this article below.
As you can see, many potential possibilities for breakdown and treatment can be present. And these are only a few of the things we know about—what about all those things we don’t know about?
Blood Sugar, Insulin Resistance, and Some Myths
Dr. Michael Cutler, America’s M.D. ‘Consumer Advocate,’ says: “Beware of ‘The two biggest mistakes most people make trying to control their blood sugar!”
Mistake #1—trusting the Medical Establishment’s standard therapy of intensive blood sugar control.
Mistake #2—believing conventional wisdom which says natural solutions for blood sugar control aren’t strong enough or won’t work.
Looking at History
Fifty years ago, the cholesterol theory of heart disease was introduced into the United States. This was followed by a shift in food intake, including an 18% reduction in fat intake. Unfortunately, this caused a corresponding rise in carbohydrate intake. In fact, candy could now be classified as healthy—because it is ‘cholesterol-free.’
Saturated fat intake was also vilified, but when it was discovered that it was actually the unknown trans-fats that were the villain in the original tests, no change was made in philosophy. Are we seeing some correlations to the obesity “plague” here?
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is the precursor of many critically important hormones, including the 3 estrogens, all the androgens (testosterone), DHEA, our 3 natural steroids and aldosterone which regulates salt and water in our body. Cholesterol is a prominent part of bile, which helps in detoxifying us, and it helps to break down fat in the intestinal tract.
Cholesterol is also one of the good antioxidants in the cell wall, protecting the contents from the damage of free radicals. As cholesterol levels diminish in the body, all of these important functions are compromised. This may be the reason why the levels naturally go up as we get older.
Saturated fats join the unsaturated fats in the cell membrane of every cell in our body to permit the cells to function normally. We don’t want to have an imbalance or overabundance of saturated fats. However, it is the short and medium chain saturated fats that have anti-viral, anti-bacterial and even anti-fungal activity. (One of the best non-prescription supplements for Candida and yeast is caprylic acid, a 16-carbon saturated fat).
In our diet today, carbohydrates have taken the place of fat intake. Why is that a problem? Because fat is what slows down digestion in the body, and tells the hunger center that it is full sooner.
How Carbohydrates Contribute to Blood Sugar Problems
Sugar intake has increased along with our consumption of processed grains and fruit. In the absence of fats and fiber, wide swings in glucose (sugar) levels and insulin levels occur in the blood stream. The cell walls eventually thicken, become inflamed, and become resistant to the influence of insulin. This means the sugar levels go up in the blood, increased insulin is needed to bring the sugar levels down, and more of the sugar is converted into fats (triglycerides).
What do high sugar levels cause? Glucose binds to proteins in the body by a process called glycation. The symptoms are related to where this binding takes place.
If glycation takes place on the nerve, it causes
• numbness, or
• pain called neuropathy;
If glycation takes place on the platelets, it makes them sticky and they clump together, thus blocking blood vessels;
And if glycation takes place on the blood vessel wall, it initiates clotting, leading to vascular disease;
If glycation takes place in the kidney, it causes decreased function;
if glycation takes place in the eye, it leads to diminished vision.
The Effects of Insulin
What do high insulin levels cause? Insulin is the most inflammatory substance the body makes. As insulin levels go up, inflammation and swelling increase. Insulin also blocks the conversion of fats into energy, thus maintaining more fats in the body. This makes it extremely difficult to lose weight, as long as the insulin levels are high.
If This is at the Root of Your Weight Gain…
Is there anything that can be done to stop and reverse this process? YES!
First and for foremost you must reverse the cause—stop the intake of sugar, processed grains, and high fruit intake. In fact, it may take a reduction of carbohydrate intake down to 60 to 100 grams per day. If this step is not taken, it is doubtful that anything else will help. We certainly don’t want to add insulin to a body that is already overloaded with insulin.
There are nutrients that decrease insulin resistance—chromium and vanadium are the two minerals that are most effective. Extra biotin may also be helpful. To slow down the harmful effects of glycation, alpha-lipoic acid and cinnamon have proved useful.
Most people with high sugar levels are deficient in magnesium. Take 600 to 800 mg of magnesium per day if your bowel will tolerate it. A potent multi-vitamin and appropriate essential fatty acids, both omega-3 and omega-6, will be important. Extra antioxidants, vitamins C and E, and perhaps selenium and N-acetyl cysteine (as a precursor of glutathione) may also help.
Changing Our Tune
Each of the triggers for weight gain and a body out of harmony can be addressed and fixed. Your personal melody can be played more beautifully when you have the right music in front of you and the instruments are tuned.
It is immeasurably helpful when the conductors (your body’s regulatory systems) have the right music in front of them. When all are in harmony, the resultant music will be more beautiful.
You may need to take herbs, or start adding H.I.T.S.™ (a system I have named that describes a specific kind of exercise with high intensity training spurts). Sauna and chelation may reduce toxins. In consultation with a knowledgeable physician, laboratory levels of neurotransmitters, thyroid (more than just TSH), and other hormones can be obtained. Many medications can be discontinued when the cause is addressed and other non-drug substances can be used in their place. For this and all other medical decisions, make sure you consult with your doctor.
Diet intake is still critically important in this process. You need to know what to eat, what to avoid, how and when to eat. Fiber, water and healthy fats cannot be ignored, as they each play an important role in creating your unique melody.
Thanks to all of you who have shared your comments or questions in my survey on weight balance. If you haven’t taken the time to do so, I welcome your thoughts.
And if any of these issues apply to you, you can learn more about them on my website, www.stangardnermd.com.
Focus on getting healthy. Your weight will come into balance more readily when it understands the music and can play its melody.
To your dynamic health and energy!