What You Need To Know About Dieting
By Greg Ashby
Have you ever wondered why there so many diet theories and programs out there?
Believe it or not, most of them work, at least for someone. This is called Biochemical Individuality, a term coined by Dr. Roger Williams.
So what is Biochemical Individuality?
We each have unique biochemical traits that determine who we are and how we interact with the world around us. Biochemical individuality results from a combination of your genes and your environment – Nature and Nurture. These factors play a big role in determining how healthy you are and what ailments you are likely to experience.
Individuals vary in their sensitivity to dietary salt, cholesterol, sugar, fat and alcohol. About 20% Americans are sensitive to sodium and will tend to develop high blood pressure with a high-salt diet. Approximately 1 in 5 will respond to a high-sugar diet with elevated blood fat. An estimated 1/3 of Americans are sensitive to dietary cholesterol – their elevated serum cholesterol level puts them at high risk for developing clogged arteries.
Biochemical individuality may explain, in part, why only a fraction of those who drink alcohol become addicted. But your environmental influences are now having a major effect on your health.
Stress, age, genetics, diet, emotions and your environment all influence your body. When was the last time you felt in harmony with your body and your emotions? Many of us fill up our lives with busy-ness to give us the illusion of control. But in reality, your busy-ness is just a way to avoiding things you don’t want to deal with. All this avoidance does is create stress. Yes, emotions do have a big influence on your health and what you eat.
Emotional stress has been shown to elevate cortisol, the stress hormone, faster than physical stress. Emotions also influence your weight gain or your ability to lose weight and maintain it. Physical stress is usually situational, but emotional stress can be relentless, like burning a candle at both ends.
We Don’t Work In Pieces
There is a program I use that gets to the core of health. In Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), your Core Essence, your Life’s essence, makes it’s home in your gut, the region of your GI tract, kidneys and adrenal glands. Since the adrenal glands are subject to influence by blood flow and alignment of the body, chiropractic adjustments can be helpful for balancing these glands.
While many people report alleviation of symptoms, research in this area is sparse. Cell biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, emphasizes the importance of the adrenal glands and the HPA axis in maintaining health and creating immediate response to situations.
Excessive HPA activation inhibits the immune system. The HPA axis is involved in the body’s stress response, from the blood brain barrier to the intestinal lining of your gut. If you have a leaky gut, it most likely means you have a leaky BBB (blood brain barrier).
Just think of the HPA axis as a musical instrument. All the keys and strings have to be in-tune with each other to work in harmony. Now consider the HPA axis as your “Hormonal Instrument.” This program gives you the ability to tune-up your hormones, which can aid in weight maintenance, leaky gut, stress management, autoimmune conditions and the uneasiness that is stopping you from living fully.
When you have chronic stress, your body increases its production of cortisol and insulin.
Your appetite increases and your eating nothing but sweets and fats. Then, because of this, a little hormone called 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (let’s say HSD1 for short) makes you store more fat, pumping even more of it as well as inflammatory chemicals into the liver. This can create a resistance to insulin, which makes your pancreas secrete more insulin to compensate. And all this does is make you hungrier, so the cycle begins – eating because you’re stressed.
When you are trying to manage stress with food, you activate the pleasure, feel-good center of your brain. But when this wears off, you reach for more food. Then with emotions of stress and anxiety, it’s more difficult to control your eating. Therefore, you gain weight around middle.
According to leading Nutritional Therapist, Dr. Marilyn Glenville, storing fat around the middle is not just a cosmetic issue, but also significantly increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and high blood pressure. Scientists call the cluster of problems associated with apple-shaped fat distribution metabolic syndrome.
Marilyn explains that fat in the stomach region is metabolically more active than fat stored around hips and thighs, acting like a hormone-secreting organ with a mind of its own. Belly fat (visceral fat) manufactures agents that cause inflammation, raise blood pressure, secrete estrogen and interfere with insulin. Although useful in small doses, elevated cortisol upset the delicate biochemistry of the body and contribute to disease if produced in excess.
So, what causes some people to collect fat around their middle while others do not?
Storing belly fat is all to do with the action of stress hormones in your body. The stress hormone cortisol is particularly to blame, as it maintains the fight-or-flight response by increasing levels of fat and sugar in the bloodstream. If you are in a state of chronic stress, cortisol levels remain elevated or resistant for a long time.
All that extra energy in the form of fat and glucose has nowhere to go and is simply re-deposited as fat around the middle, because it’s close to the liver where it can be quickly converted back into energy. To make matters worse, people under constant stress feel hungry all of the time because their body is urging them to stock up on sugary, fatty foods.
Allergic reactions to food also raise levels of cortisol (sourced from the book, Fat around the Middle). This form of fat – visceral fat – causes inflammation and impacts the health of the whole body. Cortisol also inhibits sodium loss through the small intestine, which in turn, raises blood pressure. High blood pressure along with inflammation can damage the cardiovascular system, ultimately shortening your life.
Inflammation is important for the body to function properly, chronic inflammation, however, is not. When the body is overwhelmed with stress responses, whether it’s emotional or physical, this affects every major organ system. Stress increases HSD1 conversion of inactive cortisone to cortisol, which increases inflammation, visceral fat and leaky gut.
Obesogens, a newer threat to your health and therefore your life, are endocrine disruptors. Research less than 10 years old points to chemicals that disrupt the HPA axis and therefore alter your adipose accumulation by an over regulation of HSD1, resulting in visceral obesity.
Now what can be done about this? The herb Licorice root is a natural HSD inhibitor. But this is only a start.
I know this is a lot of information to digest, but the good news is that although we may be predisposed to certain tendencies, we have the power to change our biology with dedication and action.
Check out some of Fitlife’s other posts HERE and HERE and let us know your personal experience in the comments below.
Integrative Health Coach and Functional Nutrition Consultant
at Ask Dr. Garland
Greg Ashby, CHHC, AADP lives in Ogden, Utah and is an Integrative Health Coach and Functional Nutrition Consultant. Greg has been in the Health and Wellness industry for over 20 years.
Because of his personal experience with Adrenal and Thyroid disorders, as well as Cancer, he’s committed to the areas of Autoimmunity and Cancer prevention and management when it comes to research and his work. He enjoys studying the Psychology of Eating and Behavioral Disorders.
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