Wednesday 30 December 2015
The white stuff may be the most common and primary addiction — a cycle that starts with a stressed brain, triggering further unhealthy eating. Breaking this vicious cycle starts with understanding it.
Sugar addiction is universally rampant and a leading cause of ill health and disease. Few people, however, realize that addiction to this dangerous substance is also at the root of other addictions as well — including alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, and even vices such as gambling, sex, shopping and working too much.
Most people with addiction issues tend to believe their personal compulsion or obsession is the worst of the world’s addictions. The fact is an addictive personality housed in the brain plays a primary role in the addictive process.
Feeding the brain with artificial rewards is a primary problem that must be addressed if addiction is to be properly remedied. The brain is influenced by lifestyle, which influences actions. In the case of addiction, this means seeking unhealthy habits that reward the brain.
The highly complex process goes something like this:
Physical, biochemical and mental-emotional stress affects the brain.
These stresses affect the body’s metabolism in an unhealthy way.
Stress leads to carbohydrate cravings.
Cravings can lead to disordered eating.
The use of drugs or actions that reward the stressed brain follows.
This leads to what is known as addiction.
As poor diet further impairs the metabolism, it usually increases body fat. (Those who don’t end up with increased body fat still have the metabolism of an overfat person.)
And the cycle continues . . .
Since the immediate and long-term influence of carbohydrate food can dramatically impact the brain, influencing the metabolism and cravings, stress and poor dietary habits are the two main factors that fuel the addiction cycle.
Drs. Rajita Sinha and Ania Jastreboff from Yale University School of Medicine have extensively reviewed the published research on this topic in “Stress as a common risk factor for obesity and addiction” in the journal Biological Psychiatry (May 2013), and the topic is also researched by other experts in this field.
My perspective is as a holistic healthcare fascilatator, with many years of helping people eliminate the causes of addictions is that Stress is almost always a key factor. It comes in many forms and often plays a key role in instigating the addiction cycle:
Physical stress such as muscle and joint problems, dental neglect, neck pain, foot problems, excess sitting, poor posture or gait.
Biochemical stress including hormone imbalance, digestive problems, poor diet and drug problems (excess alcohol or caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, etc.), prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
Mental-emotional stress can be seen in poor personal relationships with people both personally and professionally. This may be partially due to physical pain, brain injury, confusion or lack of understanding about one’s health, such as how best to eat or work out, and even understanding addiction.
The accumulation of stress adversely affects the brain, impairing metabolism, and causing abnormal blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to carbohydrate cravings. One common reward-seeking behavior is eating refined carbohydrates, AKA sugar. Eating these foods affects the brain’s reward center. Addiction follows, and if one does not address this key factor, the vicious cycle continues.
The process also leads to increased body fat, weight and BMI, adding to more disordered eating, and more stress. While some people reduce food intake as a result of stress, many people eat more, especially through added snacking on junk food.
Addressing addictions by removing secondary substances such as alcohol, nicotine or cocaine, while a positive step in the process, may not break the addiction cycle because the primary problems in the brain and metabolism that influence cravings and the need for rewards remain. Often, the person finds another addictive substance, or just continues rewarding the brain with sugar, maintaining addiction.
Let’s look at the addiction mechanism with a wider more detailed view.
Mechanisms in the hormonal and nervous systems are responsible for the brain’s stress response. While this mechanism is intended to help us adapt, the ongoing driving stress can lead to disordered eating and addictive behavior, along with reduced immune function, chronic inflammation, impairment of glucose metabolism, and carbohydrate intolerance.
Some end-result signs and symptoms include:
Increased body fat.
Infections and other illness (e.g., allergies and asthma).
Cravings for sweets.
Overtraining syndrome (in people who exercise).
When chronic, the process of disease development follows:
Associated conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, high blood cholesterol and triglycerides, cognitive dysfunction such as memory loss, and poor quality of life.
Food reward is a behavioral issue common with stress, with sugar singled out as the most common food. Continuing to consume it can maintain the vicious cycle with stress triggering a desire for a sweet reward, followed by addiction and more food stress.
Basically, as researcher’s Sinha and Jastreboff write, stress potentiates cravings for desserts and other carbohydrates. Stress also diminishes emotional, visceral and behavioral control, while increasing impulsivity and leading to greater use of reward.
In addition, it does not take long for the brain to learn the reward, with memory and emotional processes involved in negotiating behavioral and cognitive responses.
Sweet foods are rewarding, stimulating the brain’s reward pathways and, via learning and conditioning mechanisms, increasing the likelihood of seeking out more sugar, just like the incentive that draws people to drugs like alcohol, nicotine and cocaine. Studies show that those with higher body fat seek rewards more easily.
The clinical indications of these addiction patterns were evident many years ago, and the most effective approach in dealing with addiction for my patients — and me — was simple: Eliminate the sugar addiction first, then any and all other addictions to drugs or other issues would more easily be eliminated.
The Fix: Break the Sugar Addiction Cycle
It was not long ago that the mention of sugar addiction would be countered by questions such as, “what?” or, “where’s the research?”
Today, many clinicians, researchers and most others have jumped on the sugar addiction bandwagon with a new common question: “How do I know when my sugar addiction is gone?” Like other addictions, the short answer is simple: when sugar no longer controls you. More importantly, when addiction itself no longer controls you.
Others ways we know include:
When the sugar devil no longer can tempt you.
When you stop rationalizing that refined carbs are part of a healthy diet.
When you no longer believe that humans are glucose-dependent.
When you understand that sugar does not give you long-lasting healthy energy.
After reviewing some of the mechanisms behind the very common problem of sugar and other secondary addictions, here’s the key point: The remedy is simple — breaking the cycle. I don’t wish to oversimplify an emotionally painful and complex physiological condition, but this involves reducing stress, especially from the diet.
While individuality is important, in my experience there are two starting points:
The Stress List.
This can help you organize your primary physical, biochemical and mental-emotional stresses in a way that begins the process of eliminating some, reducing others, and helping the body best adapt to those that remain.
The Two Week Test. Remove all sugar/junk food from the diet for 2 weeks. This helps break the stress cycle by reducing excess carbohydrate foods, addressing sugar addiction, and helping to learn intuitively how to individualize healthy eating habits.
By kicking your addiction to sugar and reducing other stress factors, you will be confronting the root of all addictive processes, which can lead to successfully giving up other bad habits and addictions as well.
This article is adapted from a blog written by a college of mine- Dr Phil Maffetone. Full accreditation goes to him.
This is the time of year to care for bone health
Bone health is quickly becoming a concern for more and more people. Of course, with our aging population of baby boomers, the number of people who will suffer the brittle bone disease of osteoporosis is already skyrocketing, making hip replacements and orthopedic surgery a very busy and expensive profession. And just like everything else in healthcare, bone health is becoming less black and white. People are suffering more and more with little hope for healthy options to prevent the high cost of diseases like osteoporosis.
It is no longer simply about adequate calcium ingestion (actually, it never was; that was just successful marketing by the dairy industry). We’ve limited our attention to bone health to include only osteoporosis and the reduction of bone density. If you think the only people who have to consider bone health are menopausal women, you are sadly mistaken. New research is opening our eyes to more of what impacts bone health and total health. Our bones are incredibly complex organs, just as complicated as any other system in the body.
A recurring theme in my journey as a natural health care facilitator is the fact that we must expand our knowledge of how our body expresses health. This is because we live in a time where the number of environmental factors that interfere with us living a healthy life has reached a point of critical concern.
Our bones are responsible for so many seemingly unrelated functions. They provide critical feedback to our brain and nervous system, they help to regulate scores of hormones, and they are factories for our immune and blood cells. Therefore it stands to reason that diseases of bone like osteoporosis have consequences beyond brittle bones.
Bone health begins at birth and never stops until you die. Waiting until you are 60 years old and diagnosed with low bone density before you take action or consider bone health is like waiting for your first heart attack before you consider your heart health.
Bone health contributes to many things, from sports injuries in the professional athletes to the folks who just want to work out to be fit and healthy. Some examples:
Chronic joint pain
Sever’s disorder of the heel and osgood schlatters of the knee (apophysitis)
Here are some little known facts about bone health.
Hormones that regulate energy production and hunger, such as leptin, play a major role in bone health. Leptin resistance is a condition of abnormal energy production and storage that is seen in our modern world, too much refined carbohydrates, fizzy drinks, sweets, sugar and even so called ‘healthy’ complex carbs.
Decreased progesterone and high oestrogen levels in all ages contributes to bone loss.(high levels of oestrogenic compounds from the petrochemical industry in our atmosphere ‘mimics’ oestrogen in the body, raising oestrogen and lowering progesterone.) This is often not considered until menopause, but progesterone levels can actually be negatively impacted throughout your life.
DNA transcription factors found in the gut and impacted by diet directly impact the differentiation of cells in our bone to become osteoblasts and osteoclasts. The cells responsible for laying down new bone and remodeling bone. Linking gut health and bone health.
Bone health is directly impacted by the interplay of several key hormones, all of which requires LDL cholesterol for their production. There is a link between taking statin drugs and poor bone health.
Osteocalcin is a hormone produced by our osteoblasts and is involved in creating insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is the opposite of the pre-diabetic state of insulin resistance. Osteocalcin also helps us to make more testosterone, which improves bone health in both men and women.
Vitamin K2 ( found in pesticide free/organic eggs)and the hormone osteocalcin together are involved with where and how calcium can be deposited in bone, teeth and even arteries. K2 is deficient in our culture due to its loss when processing food. When there is a deficiency of vitamin K2, calcium loses its ability to go where it is needed and may result in calcium being deposited where it is not needed (plaque formation in the arteries) and result in cardio vascular disease.
Osteocalcin needs to be activated by a process of adding a carboxyl group. Carboxylation of osteocalcin is inhibited by insulin resistance and diabetes.(high carbohydrate diet.) This explains the increased risk of osteoporosis for diabetics. The interplay of vitamin K2, blood sugar/insulin regulation and osteocalcin carboxylation make it difficult to do a simple blood test. A clinical picture and AK testing will give us a healthy insight into the risk factors of poor bone health.
Interestingly calcium can also be deposited in teeth as plaque. This may be a better indication of vitamin K2 deficiency and poor activation of osteocalcin.
Vitamin K2 is present in unprocessed foods. Organic green leafy vegetables have vitamin K2, but produce that is exposed to pesticides is depleted of vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is indirectly produced in our bodies by the bacteria present in our gut, if our gut is healthy. Poor gut health and microbiome can be another indicator of poor Vitamin K2 levels.
Exercise can be helpful, especially weight bearing and MAF aerobic training, but the positive effect of exercise must be supported by a low carb, higher fat/protein/fruit/veg diet.
Poor bone health does not cause diseases like atherosclerosis, diabetes, heart valve disease, immune challenges, and sleeping disorders. Rather, poor bone density and health are valuable indicators for a dramatically increased risk of all these conditions.
The best steps you can take to begin to improve bone health.
Reduce leptin resistance with a food combination/paleo style diet that focuses on fresh organic vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, organic eggs , healthy meats and healthy animal fats like EPA and DHA (animal source Omega 3 fat).
Limit dairy milk but organic pesticide free butter and cream and yogurt are ok.
Vitamin D. Supplements vitamin D3 in hemp oil and black cummin seed oil during autumn, winter and spring. In summer make sure at least 40% of your skin is exposed to the sun for at least 1 hour per day.(no sun block)
Vitamin K2 at 50-150 mcg per day in hemp oil.
Dietary control of gut inflammation- reduce grains/pulses/beans and absolutely no refined carbohydrates/sugar/junk food.
Practice intermittent fasting. Fasting is a great way to temporarily decrease the antigenic load in the gut where 85% of the immune activity resides. Fasting shuts down much of our inflammatory processes. In other words give the gut a rest.
Gut inflammation is further inhibited by supplementing L-glutamine and Liquorice(DGL) regularly, especially if you are aware the gut dysfunction is a part of your health history.
In 35 years of practice I rarely find the need for calcium supplementation. If you have a diet rich in whole, healthy foods, please do not supplement calcium. This has been shown to lead to adverse outcomes for reasons discussed above.
Regular intake of liposomal turmeric and resveratrol to regulate inflammatory cytokines, increase IGF-1 and at the same time (in the case of resveratrol) increase bone density and decrease bone resorption.
Increasing neuronal and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) and decreasing inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) with MAF exercise and L-Arginine supplementation. iNOS will contribute to proinflammatory processes and bone loss, whereas eNOS will contribute to increased bone density.
Sleep is critical to total health, recovery and healing. Addressing emotional and stress issues that interfere with sleep is essential.