Study shows desserts and processed carbs really are addictive

processed carbs addictive

Scientists may have confirmed what millions of us could have already told you: One cookie is too many and 20 are not enough. Many people have found they can go along comfortably on a diet free of sweets, pastries, and desserts until they have that one bite. Then—zing!—the addiction sets in and you feel like you might die if you don’t eat more. Turns out you’re not weak or gluttonous, it’s just your brain responding to the highly pleasurable and stimulating effect of cookies, cake, chips, and candy as if they were powerful drugs (which, really, they are). It’s no mystery why they’re also referred to as comfort foods.

These processed carbohydrates appeal to the same parts of the brain involved in substance abuse and addiction, as anyone with a carb addiction can tell you. A major player in addiction is the neurotransmitter dopamine, which gives us the feeling of reward and pleasure associated with activities that can be addictive. For instance, drug use, smoking, and gambling all release dopamine. In rat studies, rats given the option of pressing a lever that stimulates dopamine’s pleasurable effects or a lever for food chose the dopamine to their death.

In the recent study, researchers gave two groups of overweight men a milkshake. One group’s milkshake was higher on the glycemic index than the other group’s. This means it was sweeter and more processed, causing blood sugar to rise more quickly and then crash. Then four hours later researchers scanned the brains of both groups using an MRI.

The men receiving the high-glycemic milkshake felt excessively hungry and scans revealed intense activation in the area of the brain involved in addiction. These brain changes can trigger overeating.

Avoid high-glycemic foods

Avoiding triggering the pleasure centers of your brain with food is one of your most powerful allies in healthier eating and weight loss. Eating a whole foods diet that is satiating and prevents hunger is key to curbing cravings and taming carb addiction. This means including healthy proteins and fats to stabilize your blood sugar and sustain your energy, as well as plenty of vegetables for the fiber, which also helps keep your energy on an even keel.

The glycemic index measures how quickly foods become glucose after you eat them. The glycemic load factors in the amount of the carbohydrate eaten. So although a piece of candy has a high glycemic index, the glycemic load might be small if you eat a very small piece.

High-glycemic foods that can trigger carb addiction include:

  • White potato
  • White rice
  • White bread, bagels, muffins, rolls, etc
  • Pastries, cake, cookies, etc.
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Popcorn
  • Dried fruit
  • Ripe banana
  • Soft drinks
  • Fruit juice
  • Pizza
  • Candy bars

Ask my office for more strategies on how to turn off carb addiction in your brain.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . Comments Off on Study shows desserts and processed carbs really are addictive

Why menopause and midlife can cause sleep apnea

326 menopause causes sleep apnea

We commonly think of sleep apnea as being caused by obesity or structural problems. However, in women the transition into menopause can contribute to sleep apnea too. When estrogen is low, the brain fails to signal the palate and tongue to retain its tone during sleep. As a result they over relax and block the airway.

Female hormones play a role in sleep

The hormonal factors that contribute to sleep apnea are different in women than in men. In a study involving rats, researchers discovered that young male rats respond to normal episodes of hypoxia, or brief periods of oxygen deprivation, during sleep by increasing brain activity to take deeper and more frequent breaths. The older male rats did not have the same response.

But when scientists looked at female rats they discovered they reacted much differently to these hypoxic episodes. For instance, older female rats had a more positive response to oxygen deprivation than the older males. That response was even better during certain stages of the menstrual cycle in younger female rats, suggesting female hormones play a role in the response to hypoxia during sleep.

This could help explain why many women begin to experience sleep problems during perimenopause (pre-menopause) and menopause, when estrogen production begins to decline. Estrogen influences serotonin, an important brain chemical that transmits signals, including to the tongue and palate.

To test the theory, researchers removed the ovaries from female rats, inducing estrogen deficiency and menopause. They found less serotonin in the region of the brain controlling the tongue, which compromised the female rats’ ability to respond to hypoxia during sleep. The lack of estrogen affected the brain function involved in breathing. This is consistent with evidence that shows the incidence of sleep apnea increases in women during midlife.

The rate of sleep apnea also increases in midlife for men, as declining testosterone results in worse brain coordination for sleep. This helps explain why many people start snoring as they get older.

Middle-aged men tend to snore more and experience the cessation of breathing during sleep. Middle-aged women, however, more commonly complain of insomnia, headache, fatigue, and irritability related to poor sleep. That estrogen deficiency promotes weight gain only compounds the problem of sleep apnea. Estrogen deficiency can also play a role in restless leg syndrome.

When estrogen begins to decline in women, the adrenal glands ideally take over the production of estrogen. The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys and regulate the body’s response to stress. Stressful lifestyles, processed foods, high sugar intake, and other factors of modern life leave many women entering midlife with poor adrenal function. As a result, estrogen levels may drop too low during perimenopause and menopause. Estrogen is vital for all aspects of a woman’s health, including that of her brain, bones, immune system, and ability to sleep well. Adopting a whole foods diet free of processed carbohydrates and supporting adrenal health are some strategies to support estrogen levels.

For more information on supporting hormone levels and proper sleep, contact my office.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , . Comments Off on Why menopause and midlife can cause sleep apnea

When heart disease is autoimmune

324 heart autoimmunity

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, affecting about 11 percent of the population. For the majority of people, heart disease is driven by diet and lifestyle factors, however research shows an increasing number of heart disease cases can also have an autoimmune component. This means the immune system is mistakenly attacking and destroying heart tissue, causing symptoms and weakening the heart.

Typically heart disease is linked with a diet high in processed foods, sugars and refined carbohydrates, lack of activity, and obesity. The good news is that means people who make the effort can ameliorate or reverse their condition through a whole foods diet and exercise.

However, when an autoimmune reaction is part of the picture, the approach is more complicated. If the autoimmunity has destroyed enough tissue, it can be too late to reverse the condition and its symptoms. With autoimmune rates exploding in recent years, hopefully more doctors will screen for autoimmunity so an autoimmune heart condition can be caught in time to manage it.

Heart autoimmunity

The symptoms of an autoimmune reaction against the heart mimic heart disease symptoms. They include cardiomegaly (enlarged heart), fluid retention, tiring easily, chest pain, breathlessness, palpitations, edema with exercise, and difficulty breathing. An unmanaged autoimmune reaction to the heart can cause inflammation, scarring, and, in rare cases, sudden death. Also, poor heart function affects the lungs, liver, and other organs and systems in the body.

Typically, doctors in the standard health care model do not screen for autoimmunity until the end stages of disease when symptoms are severe. Fortunately, you can identify an autoimmune reaction before it’s too late with a blood serum antibody panel.

This panel screens for autoimmunity against heart tissue by checking for myocardial (a protein the heart releases in response to stress) or alpha-myosin (cardiac tissue) antibodies. If these come back positive it’s an indication the immune system is attacking heart tissue. If the condition is more advanced, you may be given a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, or disease of the heart muscle.

If you know you have an autoimmune condition, you can take the steps to potentially slow or halt its progression through proven diet, lifestyle, and nutritional therapy strategies. You should also regularly monitor your heart health.

Gluten sensitivity affects heart autoimmunity

Sometimes gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are associated with cardiomyopathy and a gluten-free diet can improve the condition, sometimes profoundly. For some it even reverses the condition. Cardiomyopathy has also been shown to worsen in those with celiac disease who continue to eat gluten. People with cardiomyopathy or a history of heart inflammation should always screen for gluten sensitivity using newer, more advanced testing since a gluten-free diet may significantly improve the condition.

Other strategies for heart autoimmunity

When a person tests positive for autoimmunity, a gluten-free diet should be adopted given the links between gluten and autoimmune disease, including heart autoimmunity. A more intensive autoimmune diet may be necessary to repair the gut, dampen overall inflammation, and help balance the immune system.

Ask about my office about nutritional therapy strategies to manage heart autoimmunity.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , . Leave a Comment »

How to become a morning person

how to be morning person

Are you one of those people who wishes the work day started 11 a.m. so you can go to bed late and sleep in? Staying up late keeps you caught up with David Letterman but puts you at odds with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Humans aren’t designed much differently than other animals when it comes to sleeping and waking—our internal clocks are set to the rising and setting of the sun.

This cycle is called the circadian rhythm and it affects more than when we wake up and go to bed. The circadian rhythm plays a role in hormone function, mood, immunity, and brain function. One way scientists have learned about the importance of the circadian rhythm is by studying the health of night shift workers, who have a higher risk of health disorders because of their disordered circadian rhythm.

Studies show early risers tend to be slimmer, happier, and healthier. Research also shows they earn better grades in college, are more organized and proactive in life, more physically active, and they enjoy deeper sleep. Early risers also report enjoying the time in the morning to exercise, meditate, or work uninterrupted.

Taking care of your circadian rhythm also promotes better brain health. The area of the brain that governs circadian rhythm—the hippocampus—also governs our short-term memory. The hippocampus is the first area of the brain to degenerate in dementia. In fact, sleep disorders are being recognized as an early sign of dementia in seniors.

How to become an early riser

Deciding to become an early bird when you’re used to being a night owl can be tough at first, especially since genetics play a role. But here are some tips from the research that can help you reset your body’s clock.

  • Go camping for a week. Recent research has shown that sleeping outdoors for a week without the use of electric lights (camp fire only) put every study participant on a sleep schedule in synch with the sun’s, regardless of whether they were a night person or a morning person. Also, all electronic devices were banned for the week.
     
  • Exercise discipline. Many people stay up late to watch their favorite TV shows or surf the web. Record TV shows, rearrange your schedule, reward yourself for compliance, or do whatever else it takes to get yourself to bed earlier. You also need to get up at the same time every morning, including weekends. Otherwise you throw off your rhythm.
     
  • Expose yourself to sunlight first thing and during the day. The body takes its cues from nature, so exposing yourself to sunlight can help reset your clock. Get out in the sunlight first thing in the morning for at least 20 minutes and then on your breaks during the day. You can also use a full spectrum light box to simulate morning sun.
     
  • Minimize exposure to light after dusk. To contrast with daytime sun, you need to mimic the outdoor world by minimizing your exposure to light in the evening. Ideally this would include avoiding your computer, tablets, smart phones, and television, all of which emit sleep-sabotaging blue light. A more flexible option is to wear special glasses that block blue lights, use light bulbs that do not have blue lights, and install a F.lux  program on your computer that adapts the color of your screen to the time of the day so it is pinker in the evening.
     
  • Exercise intensely first thing in the morning. In his book Why Isn’t My Brain Working? Datis Kharrazian explains how exercising at your maximum heart rate for even just a few minutes can help you re-establish your rhythms so you’re more alert in the morning. You can do this through jumping jacks, sprinting, push ups, jump squats, or other activities that get you out of breath. You need to do this within a half hour of waking. You can do your regular workout later in the day—exercise is another way to establish a healthy rhythm.

These are just a few ways you can help nudge yourself to waking up and going to bed earlier. For advice on nutritional support to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, contact my office.

Posted in Latest Health News. Tags: . Comments Off on How to become a morning person

How to use the placebo effect to your benefit

322 use placebo effect to benefit

The placebo effect—when a sham treatment produces desired results—is the bane of science, sometimes skewing results and outperforming pharmaceutical drugs. But instead of cursing the placebo effect, why not put it to use? Although it disrupts some studies, in other studies researchers look to understand why and how it works. By understanding the placebo effect as a valid phenomenon, you can employ it to improve your own health outcomes.

How the placebo effect works

The placebo effect happens in studies in which one group of participants is given a new drug or procedure, one group is given a sham drug (such as a sugar pill), and the results are compared. Neither group knows whether they received the sham treatment or the real drug. In some cases the placebo effect is nearly as good and sometimes even better than the actual treatment.

Why? A person’s beliefs and expectations about a treatment play a significant role in how they respond physiologically. In one study, participants’ pain dropped when they were told they received more of a pain-relief drug even though they hadn’t. Their pain then rose considerably when they were told the medication had been stopped, even though it hadn’t. MRI scans showed the expectation of pain activated the pain networks in the brain. This is an example of the nocebo effect, the placebo effect’s evil twin. In the nocebo effect a negative belief causes a negative outcome.

Putting the placebo effect to work for you

You can enhance or diminish your own results of a health protocol with your belief systems. The person who doesn’t believe in their treatment, thinks their dietary prescription is bogus, and their supplements are all a waste of money is going to set into motion neurochemical responses that work against his or her success. Also, having a negative and pessimistic attitude promotes stress and inflammation, two considerable barriers to healing.

However, the person who believes in their health protocol, understands the effect of their supplements and diet, and enjoys working with their practitioner is creating a positive neurochemical response. This is because an optimistic attitude lowers stress and inflammation and promotes health.

Of course, the placebo effect doesn’t have a perfect track record; it’s estimated to work between 18 to 80 percent of the time as many other factors can influence health. And many drugs, supplements, and treatments are obviously powerful enough to influence outcomes regardless of the placebo effect. However, the mechanisms behind the placebo effect are important to consider.

Tips for activating the placebo effect to enhance your protocol

  • Believe in what you’re doing. Educate yourself about your diet, your supplements, lifestyle changes, and so forth. If you know why you’re doing something, it’s easier to believe in it.
  • Develop a positivity habit. A positive attitude, expecting the best, and enjoying your health habits will reduce stress and inflammation while triggering the release of your body’s own feel-good chemicals, which foster good health.
  • Develop relationships that encourage good health. Surround yourself with likeminded people who believe in and practice the same healthy habits. Be wary of people who dwell on the negative and are practicing the nocebo effect.
  • Ask my office for nutritional therapy tips in boosting your ability to feel positive so you can use the placebo effect to your benefit.
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . Comments Off on How to use the placebo effect to your benefit