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Saturday, June 25, 2011

How To Avoid or Heal Out-of-Control Inflammation

Chronic inflammation (the out-of-control kind) is the immune response that changes biology from normal to simmering disease incubation.  Chronic inflammation is the body's attempt to heal insults to its biology.  Get a bee sting?  Your immune response walls off the poison with swelling, keeping it localized.  It gets red, hot and painful while the body heals the insult.  Get cut and the same response occurs.  If you are invaded by noxious viruses, your sinuses swell, become inflamed, your nose runs and you might run a fever.  Normal immune response.  Serves us well.

But when your body receives an insult that human biology didn't have to deal with in earliest  development, like something slightly toxic--not enough to kill you, but enough for the immune system to respond, it doesn't have an immune response pre-programmed in.  So your body does the best it knows how.  It causes inflammation just like it would for a bee sting or cut or virus.  Only the response is body wide because the insult isn't localized.  Every cell, now, not just a local area, gets a dose of those inflammatory chemicals the immune system uses for insult repair.

Over time, with enough chronic insult to your biology, inflammation begins damaging the body instead of repairing it.  The damage (as in the last post here) might be low thyroid or depression or the aches and pains of arthritis (or any other itis) or exhaustion.  Chronic inflammation is at the root of all of our wellness woes, large and small.  To the degree you are not vibrant, energetic, pain free, disease free, you have allow this normal repair process to go awry.


There are three main ways chronic inflammation becomes part of your experience.

   1.  Eating or being exposed to things you are allergic to or that are toxic.  Smoking, alcohol, pesticides, smog, food allergies (known and unknown) industrial chemicals, air fresheners. 

   2.  Eating things that raise blood sugar and insulin.  High blood sugar is toxic and the insulin your body releases to deal with it is inflammatory.  A double whammy.  What raises blood sugar?  Most of the foods that are a) expensive and b) advertised endlessly!  Sugar, wheat, flour, oats, barley, rice, corn--and anything made from any of those like bread, pasta, deserts, ice cream, soda, cake, cookies, corn meal, hamburger buns, lemonade, sweet tea, crackers, chips, candy, fruit drinks, dipping sauces--well, you get the idea.  If it has sugar and or flour in it it's going to raise your blood sugar and cause inflammation.

   3.  Omega fatty acids out of balance.  Omega 3 fatty acids metabolize into anti-inflammatory chemicals.  Omega 6 fatty acids metabolize into pro-inflammatory chemicals.  If they are balanced, your body works beautifully.  About 30 or 40 years ago you were sold a bill of goods about animal fat ("dangerous" saturated fat equals heart disease)  and told to use vegetable oils instead.  But animal fat is high is Omega 3's vegetable fat is high in Omega 6's.  Hydrogenated vegetable oil is a highly toxic frankenfood!  By time a few brave souls challenged the whole saturated fat and vegetable oil bad-science-hypothesis, America was badly inflamed and sick as dogs and the medical industries dealing with that were entrenched. 

No one has a vested interest in telling you this stuff.  There's no money to be made in telling you you have total control of your wellness.  If no one bought fast food or junk food and things made from wheat, what would happen to the Gross National Product.  If no one got diabetes or cancer or arthritis, what would haven to hospitals, oncologists and endocrinologists and orthopedic surgeons???  What a financial disaster that would be!  But the alternative is that it's a disaster for how people feel, age, and their health.

You have control.  Your wellness is in your own hands.  I won't tell you that it's particularly easy to swim upstream from the conventional wisdom that "everyone knows."  I will tell you that it matters to your life and your aging and when and what you die of.  Best wishes!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Inflammation in two disorders

I  listened to a podcast today by a fellow who calls himself the Healthy Skeptic.  Click here   He often has interesting things to say about health and nutrition.  The first subject he covered today was about thyroid supplements.  That was interesting enough, but buried in there he made an almost off-hand comment.  It was that  older women often show some hypothyroidism because chronic inflammation interferes in the conversion from the inactive to the active form of thyroid hormone.

Ah, so as we age (and if we don’t pay attention to chronic inflammation) that increasing inflammation can be at the root of low thyroid.  Most doctors simply supplement levothroxine the pharmaceutical form of T-4 the inactive form of the hormone.  If the problem is in conversion to the active form, clearly that prescription will give nice numbers but not change symptoms.

So thyroid problem as we age are also laid at the door of inflammation.

You may have heard me say that many mental disorders are now known to be caused by chronic inflammation—including depression. 

Meanwhile, the magazine “Psychology Today” had a recent article titled, Depression - Caused by Inflammation, Thus Like Other Diseases of Civilization.”    See the article here.

It very thoroughly talks about the mechanisms by which out-of-control inflammation triggers depression.  In my e-book, “Inflammation Run Amok” I talk about the mechanism of inflammation causing heart disease and other diseases.  Here, then, in my version of in a  nutshell how it causes depression.

1.  Tryptophan, an amino acid is a precursor of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter.  But tryptophan is also the precursor of a lesser known neurotransmitter—kynurenic.   In the presence of inflammatory cytokines, tryptophan converts much more to  kynurenic and not to the serotonin, leaving serotonin in short supply.

2.  We have receptors (called NMDA receptors) for a neurotransmitter (glutamate) that causes excitation.  Too much glutamate pounding on these receptors causes depression among other brain problems.   Cells called astrocytes are supposed to clean up extra glutamate to prevent that.  It turns out that inflammatory cytokines interfere with the mop up process.

3.  The article doesn’t explain this thoroughly, but simply states that inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) push the brain from “happy” plasticity to a neurotoxic environment by depressing the production of a type of brain “fertilizer” called BDNF.

To sort of tie the two subjects together today, one of the symptoms of low thyroid is depression (along with a myriad of others) and now we can see that chronic inflammation is playing its negative chemical message in both thyroid and depression problems.

Why inflammation makes some people get a heart attack, some get depressed and some others get diabetes or cancer or osteoporosis (and on and on) I do not know.  It’s easy to just say we’re all different and we all have different histories, diets, and genetics.  As the scientists discover these different pathways to dysfunction, I will continue to report.  Reduce inflammation to reduce risk, cure ailments and age with vigor and function into your late years!!!

Want help with that?  Email me with questions and concerns.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Saturated Fat Again...

I’ve been on the lookout for an organization with whom I could volunteer some time and perhaps make a little difference in the world.  A friend sent me some info about a group locally that is teaching “Better lifestyle habits” to kids.  Since I support that concept I asked for information from the group coordinator.  In the material she sent me was a sample lesson plan, and among it was a unit about how low fat milk or skim milk was the way to go.

Even though there is oodles of research that debunks the "fat is bad" theory, it is persistent and ubiquitous among the “experts” especially those with a formal education in nutrition (registered dieticians) where they’ve been pushing this nonsense for decades!  (And how’s that working for you, America?)

So I thought I’d hit it once again from the perspective of the ‘minority report’—the information that’s not subsidized by special interests or pharmaceutical companies.

Humans developed in bands of family groups living on animal products plus the few fruits, berries, leaves, nuts and roots they could find.  The biology of those ancestors (10,000 years ago or beyond) was EXACTLY the same as our biology.  We are not designed for vegetable oils, grains, tofu and the convenience of fast food or packaged meals.  Those are constructs of profit driven industries looking for the cheapest and most addicting way to separate you from your money.

Grains are a subject for another day and another post.  Fat—especially animal fat—is my subject today.

Our ancestors not only ate all the animal fat they could get (admittedly, antelope or mastodons probably had little extraneous fat) but they also ate every edible part of whatever animals they hunted.  That would include bone marrow, liver, other organ meats including the fatty brain.  That’s our heritage.  If it were bad for survival, we wouldn’t be here; homo sapiens would have died out or been out-competed by some other species.

So with the profit motive in place, we were sold a bill of goods about 40 or 50 years ago.  Saturated fat is bad, substitute vegetable oil and eat a low fat diet.

An America got fatter and sicker.

Animal fats are good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids.  Vegetable oils are mostly Omega 6 fatty acids.  You need both but in a balance to each other because they mediate the balance of inflammation.  Enough inflammation to protect you from bacterial invaders, to clot your blood when injured, to manage anxiety so you’re alert but not paranoid, to constrict blood vessels when needed.  But too much inflammation and those actions (in hyperdrive) cause disease (yes all disease starts with too much inflammation).  See my e-book, “Inflammation Run Amok” for lots more info.

As long as omega 3 and omega 6 oils are about even, your body produces the right chemical messengers for just the right inflammation.  Drop Omega 3 fatty acid sources (animal fats) for Omega 6 fatty acids (vegetable fats) and inflammation quickly get out of hand.

There’s more to this inflammatory story, of course.  High blood sugar and high insulin are also inflammatory.  So are allergens.  So are smoking and environmental toxins.  But the body can handle some assault—it was designed that way.  What it can’t handle is low animal fat and high vegetable oils over years, along with the other assaults. 

By the way, vegetable oils are hidden in most of the restaurant and prepared and packaged foods you may be buying.  Read labels.  Decrease Omega 6 oils and increase animal fats.  Yes, butter, whole milk (if you drink milk) beef, pork, lamb and fish.  Of the animal products readily available in your grocery, chicken is very high in Omega 6.  Less chicken, more beef.

Right, beef fattened with corn is not my preference—grass fed, not factory farmed beef—would be first choice.  But factory farmed beef beats vegetable fats and grains—hands down!
Need some experts’ information?  Here’s a bit: 

In 2001, Dr. Hu, writing in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, noted, "It is now increasingly recognized that the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health problems." [duh] Or, as Michael Pollan pithily puts it in his In Defense of Food, "The amount of saturated fat in the diet may have little if any bearing on the risk of heart disease, and the evidence that increasing polyunsaturated fats [vegetable sources] in the diet will reduce risk is slim to nil."

See for answers to health questions and e-books for real health!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why intermittent fasting is a great thing for us oldsters

Weight loss past age 60 or so gets much more difficult.  Ask anyone past 60 with weight to lose.  Not so easy as when we were 30 or 40 or even 50.  I know because I've been there, got the t-shirt.  In my e-book on losing weight I explained a lot about metabolism--the fat storage system, the carbohydrate/insulin system, the information about calorie reduction.  I even laid out a "diet" that makes sense.  But I can't stick to that diet.  Along comes late in the day munchies and cravings that cannot be denied. 

I lowered calories.  I lowered carbohydrates.  I tried Atkins. (Gained 3 lbs in 10 days).  I tried cutting more calories.  I tried eliminating a lot of fat--not low fat because I know it's not healthy. (Got that t-shirt, too).  While I lost some weight it wasn't much or enough and I was left feeling incompetent, like a failure, stupid and guilty for and ashamed of my psychological flaws that made me eat ravenously at night.

Along come Ori Hofmekler, an Israeli fitness expert and scientist who pointed out something that is pretty obvious when I was reminded.  For me, anyway, BREAKFAST MAKES ME HUNGRIER!  I knew that when I was in high school, with a mother insisting that breakfast was good for me. 

Over the years, I bought into a lot of conventional wisdom that was just plain wrong.  This may be be just another bit that needs re-evaluating.  Those cravings --always at night, right?--maybe are not personality flaws so much as they are a result of normal physiology.

So here's the theory, first, of intermittant fasting.  When you fast, your body uses first your glucose stores, then your fat reserves for energy. The more you shift from sugar to fat used, the more fat you will burn, i.e. weight lost. The longer you fast, within reason, the more body fat you will lose. Often, a 16-hour fast is enough. Intermittent fasting not only reduces body fat but also helps control insulin sensitivity, which can promote long-term fat loss. 

Along comes Ori Hofmekler in the video I reference before explaining more about this.  Look at it again if you need reminding.  Or here's my take.

We have an autonomous nervous system that controls all functions that are not under our conscious control (for the most part).  It'd be a pain if you had to think about making your heart beat or your kidneys work all the time.  And the autonomous system has two parts, as well.  The sympathetic (promotes a "fight or flight" response, arousal and energy production, but inhibits digestion--it allows the body to function under stress) and the parasympathetic (promotes a "rest and digest" response, calming of the nerves and promotes digestion--feed and breed).  Think of these two systems as the gas and the brake of a vehicle.  Go and Stop!

Eating kicks us out of sympathetic into parasympathetic.  Have any doubt, try giving a seminar to a group of people after lunch.  They are resting, digesting and so NOT alert.  Hofmekler also says sympathetic nervous system is responsible for creativity and innovation.  It stands to reason.  But the most important thing about this is that it's during sysmpathetic arousal when we burn fat.  Eat a meal, and you shift immediately to using that meal for fuel not stored body fat and you're in "down" mode.

So I looked at these two different ways of talking about the same state of being I want to be in--namely fat burning.  If I eat breaklfast, I lose that immediately.  It also cranks up blood sugar (yea, even for those of us doing fairly low carbs) and then insulin.  Insulin is the hormone of hunger.  The theory then, tells me that if I postpone the cranking up of the insulin response, I will be less hungry. 

That is precisely what my experience shows me.  When I do a fast from dinner to about noon or 1 PM, Roughly 16 hours) I do not have ANY cravings at night.  I eat normal meals, pretty much all I want and don't EVER feel frantic for more.  What???  Cravings are not a personality flaw but a normal physiological response to high insulin!  I don't know about you, but that information is huge for me--releasing me from a whole lot of misplaced guilt.

If all this had no other effect but this one thing--no cravings--I'd subscribe to it whole heartedly!  But the rest of the story is that I'm losing weight again.  It's slowed way down from when I first reported.  And without blood work, I cannot tell you for sure if it's entirely because of staying in fat burning longer, or if it's because of reducing calories.  Probably both.  I don't care as long as it works and works in a healthy way.  I can tolerate being hungry in the morning but cannot tolerate being hungry at night.  Yes, I'm slightly uncomfortable, but it's very manageable.

If you are like me, finding the conventional wisdom of weight loss quit working for you at about age 55 or so, you might want to experiment with depleting your body's fuel from food (glucose) and kick it into fat burning by not eating breakfast.  I caution any readers, to continue to pay attention to the glycemic load of what you put in your mouth.  The carb/insulin/glucagon system IS how your body metabolizes and cannot be ignored without a high biological cost.

Remember, too, this is probably how early humans were adapted.  They didn't awake to food, they had to go get it.  It was never high insulin producing, either!  They needed to be alert in daylight for their world held perils if they were not.  They burned fat stores while they hunted and gathered and the largest meal of the day was late.  No more guilt about night eating.  It's physiologically the sensible time to eat a big meal.

I'd love to hear your experiences with this if you try it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

About Binges

My thanks to Anne for a guest Post today!

Some people apparently don’t have trouble with binge eating. I do, at least some of the time.
Okay, first let me tell you that Ellie has talked me into not eating wheat, and in fact dropping all grains., Although I haven’t lost weight on a Paleo type diet, I have felt markedly better and have had more energy, and even maybe an indication that some weight might eventually drop off.
I’m not sure exactly what happened between my ears, but I started with a popcorn binge. I’ve learned enough to avoid canola oil, so it was ‘organic’ popcorn and probably less bad for me than others. And I put the butter on rather than buying the stuff that has “some artificial flavoring.”
I’ve gotten pretty sensitive and while the popcorn didn’t affect my breathing nearly as much as wheat did, I wasn’t breathing quite as freely as I do without it.
Then something else kicked in… some sort of notion that I wanted a cookie. Sigh.
Again I shopped carefully, but couldn’t find a single cookie that wasn’t loaded with chemicals. I ended up with a bag of oatmeal chocolate chip things that was, again, less bad than some of the others. I could feel  even one cookie, but over several days I ate them all.
Yesterday I felt pretty awful. Headachy, low energy, but I got back on the low carb no grain eating plan that’s been working for me.
Much to my amazement I feel 90 percent better today and know, from experience, that by tomorrow I’ll be almost 100%. I’m amazed because my energy is returning so fast!
Will I even pretend I’m not going to binge again? Heck no – I’d be lying for sure. Will I work to postpone the next binge? Yes. If I binge will I again work to eat only the less bad foods rather than the others? Yes, because that seems to make me feel less bad.
Am I suggesting binging is okay? No. Emphatically I’m not. But for some of us it happens. What I am suggesting is that while we work to let binging go entirely we can minimize the damage and get back to healthy eating sooner rather than later.
Anne Wayman is a ghostwriter, writing coach and blogs at www.whengrandmother and