Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hormone Balance and Estrogen Dominance

Hormone Balance and Estrogen Dominance

HRT vs Bio-Identical Hormones


When it comes to hormone balance and menopause, the medical community generally promotes Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, to combat symptoms. There is a growing number of people who reject the standard treatment, opting for the use of natural progesterone instead. There are lots of reasons why HRT is considered the wrong approach, and what I want to do is present the facts here. Myths abound where hormone changes are concerned, many of those myths propagated by the medical community and pharmaceutical companies. (When I refer to HRT here, I am strictly referring to HRT made by drug companies composed of synthetic hormones. I am not referring to natural, bio-identical hormones.)

Assuming that the medical profession has all the answers is a dangerous assumption. It seems that the older generation in particular has always put unending trust in everything the doctor says, assuming that they are the ones with the degrees on the wall and the extra letters after their names, so they must be right. But even though most doctors do have your best interest in mind and do the best they can, the fact remains that the vast majority of their "knowledge" comes straight from the drug companies and studies funded by them. The whole system is biased in their favor, and whether you want to acknowledge it or not, profit is the name of the game. The Pill, HRT, mammograms and hysterectomies are all big business.

The truth is, you know your body better than anyone else. You know when something is working and when it isn't. And it's no crime to go against their advice; in fact, it is wise to be skeptical. There is no reason to be miserable. We all owe it to ourselves and our families to find out the truth so we can make informed decisions, and that truth often will not be found in a doctor's office. I want to demonstrate the difference between synthetic HRT and natural or bio-identical hormone therapy. I hope that many of you will find answers you have been looking for and find relief.
Women are often in for a rude awakening when they experience firsthand just how badly their health needs have been managed. ---Sellman, Sherrill. Hormone Heresy: What Women Must Know About Their Hormones. Box Hill, Victoria, Australia: Getwell International, 2000, p. 24.
 Woman image is free clip art from clker.com.




Myth Number One: If You Are Menopausal You Must Be Estrogen Deficient




Menopause has been treated as a deficiency disease for decades, running on the assumption that menopause symptoms are triggered by a lack of estrogen. Menopause was presented as a horrible time of decay with estrogen therapy as the miracle "fountain of youth" to prevent aging.

Early on, estrogen alone (or unopposed estrogen) was prescribed to save women from the horrors of menopause. But it soon became apparent that just estrogen was causing more problems than it was helping. Enter synthetic progesterone, or progestins- chemical concoctions that mimic the actions of progesterone but are not natural. More on that later.

The bottom line is that the medical community has pretty well assumed that women become estrogen-deficient, triggering menopause symptoms; and it is estrogen that women need to make it through the change of life and beyond. HRT is promoted as a preventative for heart disease and osteoporosis when in fact, the opposite is true.

This basic assumption has not changed in spite of the fact that most doctors now agree that estrogen alone is just plain dangerous, greatly increasing the chances of cancer and heart disease. And even though the dangers of the currently prescribed HRT with synthetic progestins are being clearly demonstrated, doctors still push estrogen as a fix-all; they are still influenced fully by the drug companies that make this stuff.

Female symbol is free clip art from clker.com.



Myth Number Two: HRT Will Save You from Heart Disease and Osteoporosis


False, and unequivocally so. This line is foisted upon the female population every day, instilling fear, and of course their answer is in their miracle drug, HRT. The truth is just the opposite- the progestins in HRT actually increase risk of heart attack, and estrogen increases blood clotting and reduces vascular tone. A large study called the Women's Health Initiative was designed to study the effects of HRT on heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. The study was halted because "a reduction in cardiovascular disease was not observed for most women and some women had dangerous side-effects" (Wikipedia). In other words, the study was shut down early because women were experiencing serious problems because of the medication, breast cancer in particular.

In a statement from the American Heart Association, HRT is no longer recommended for heart health- "HRT should not be initiated for the secondary prevention of CVD." This is a very long, technical article, but the bottom line is that they no longer recommend HRT for heart disease prevention. Looks like the mainstream medical community may finally be seeing the truth.

As for osteoporosis, this is true but only to a degree. Estrogen does indeed prevent bone loss (at least for awhile) but as stated earlier, most people are awash in a sea of estrogens anyway and certainly don't need any more. It is progesterone that actually stimulates the production of new bone tissue.  Dr. John R. Lee MD has proven over the years that osteoporosis is indeed a reversible disease with progesterone supplementation.

This goes entirely contrary to prevailing thought, so don't expect to be supported by your doctor in this. They will try to convince you that you will lose bone density if you don't take HRT. Don't believe them- this is ultimately nothing but a scare tactic emanating from the drug companies that influence your doctor.

Osteoporosis is also caused by a diet that is unbalanced where pH is concerned. An acidic diet that is high in protein and carbs will leave your body overloaded with acid residue that must be neutralized to be excreted. Calcium will be leached out of bones to do the job, to maintain the vital pH balance required. This can result in osteoporosis and bone spurs, the sites where calcium is being leached.

Dr. Lee's website is by far the best place to go to begin educating yourself about hormones and hormone replacement therapy. Dr. Lee is the one who coined the phrase "estrogen dominance".

Human skeleton is free photo from Wikimedia Commons.


Estrogen Dominance

Balance is the name of the game with hormones. No matter how much estrogen you actually have, it has to be balanced with the right amount of progesterone, or you will suffer symptoms of too much estrogen. Theoretically, you could be producing just small amounts of estrogen, but if you are producing little or no progesterone to balance it, you could still suffer the effects. Estrogen dominance is simply a state in which estrogen is not balanced out with the correct amount of progesterone to prevent side effects.

The truth is that, generally speaking, most women have an excess of estrogen all the time and are in need of progesterone to balance it out. First of all, estrogen is manufactured by fat cells. If you are over 50, you are more than likely well aware of the tendency to gain weight around the middle. Just look at sugar, and it flies straight to your hips and stomach! This is natural to a degree - it is your body's way of continuing to produce estrogen after 50.

Estrogen continues to be produced by the inner part of the ovaries (the "inner stroma") after menopause. The outer part is retired, with the stroma becoming active for the first time at menopause. Far from being useless, ovaries continue to produce hormones as we age. (p. 17 Sellman).

A side note: like the ovaries, the uterus is anything but useless after menopause. It continues to produce a hormone called prostacyclin that protects against heart disease and unwanted blood clotting. The medical industry actively promotes hysterectomies, the removal of an organ that has a definite purpose throughout life. (pp. 17-18)

Another factor is the proliferation of xenoestrogens in the environment. We are positively surrounded by synthetic estrogens all the time in plastics, pesticides, household cleaners, etc. All these products permeate our environment and affect our hormone balance.

Another source is commercial meat. Estrogen is added to cattle feed to fatten them up faster, demonstrating the fact that estrogen promotes weight gain. So we are exposed to more estrogen by eating the meat, as well as the fact that cattle waste no doubt contaminates ground water supplies.

I believe that estrogen dominance plays a rather large role in the obesity epidemic in this country. Between estrogen and our addiction to sugar, obesity has become a national plague. And the catch-22 is that fat cells just produce more and more estrogen that triggers more weight gain . What is so sad is that an overweight woman will walk into a doctor's office with estrogen-dominant symptoms, and that doctor will more than likely prescribe yet more estrogen. The medical mindset does not change readily.

Stress is another very important factor in estrogen production. Stress creates a vicious cycle that leaves you "tired but wired" and is generally accompanied by higher levels of adrenaline and/or cortisol. Cortisol shuts down progesterone production, and triggers symptoms such as memory loss, mood swings and bone loss. Chronic stress will also result in chronic fatigue. There is a definite connection between exhausted adrenal glands and estrogen dominance. If stress is not managed, cortisol levels will remain high, and there is only so much progesterone will do. Stress management is vital to good hormone balance.

Scales are free clip art from wpclipart.com.


Signs of Estrogen Dominance

By now you may be wondering just what the symptoms are of estrogen dominance. Dr. John R. Lee compiled a list of symptoms that can be found in almost all of his books and on his website:

Weight gain
Water retention
Breast tenderness, fibrocystic lumps, breast cancer
Mood swings
Heaving bleeding
Anxious depression
Migraine headaches
Insomnia
Fatigue
Foggy thinking
Red flush on the face
Gallbladder trouble
Cervical dysplasia (abnormal pap smear)
Hypoglycemia or symptoms of low blood sugar
Symptoms of hypothyroidism such as cold hands and feet
Dry eyes
Osteoporosis
PMS
Candida or yeast infections
Allergies
Hair loss and increased facial hair

All of these conditions can be helped by using natural progesterone. Dr. Lee and others go into detail with all the explanations about why excess estrogen causes these symptoms, and how progesterone works to relieve them; I will just refer you to their books for more information.

Grumpy Woman is free clip art from clker.com.


Myth Number Three: Hormones Produced in a Laboratory Are Perfectly Safe


Drug companies make money off their patents. Drugs they create and patent are a cash cow and are continually altered to keep the patents renewed. There is no money for them in natural products, so they alter nature to rake in the profits.

Huge problems arise when nature is tampered with, and those problems come in the form of side effects. Your body doesn't know what to do with foreign, laboratory-altered substances, so it rebels. We've all heard the ads for prescription medications that list all the possible side effects, making you wonder if it wouldn't be better to suffer than take their products!

Technically, Hormone Replacement Therapy is a misnomer because they don't contain actual hormones; they start with hormones, then alter them to make them patentable. Only the real, natural products are actual hormones; HRT is a drug. The list of side effects of HRT are the same as those for estrogen dominance. Here is a list of side effects associated with just the synthetic progestins- molecularly altered progesterone included in standard HRT. This list can be found in Hormone Heresy by Sherrill Sellman in chapter 6:

Headaches
Depression
Fluid retention
Increased risk of birth defects and early abortion
Liver dysfunction
Breast tenderness
Breakthrough bleeding
Acne
Hirsutism (abnormal hair growth)
Insomnia
Edema
Weight changes
Pulmonary embolism

Be aware that the medical community often uses the terms "progestin" and "progesterone" interchangeably. They aren't, by any stretch of the imagination. Progestins will actually block both the action and production of progesterone naturally manufactured in the body and leave you with the preceding list of side effects in the process. Chemically altered substances just can't be good for you. One study shows that ten years of unopposed estrogen increased chances of breast cancer by 30 to 40 percent, while women who took both estrogen and progestin increased their chances by 100 percent. (p. 47 Sellman) And I find it alarming that many doctors honestly don't know that progestins are not progesterone.

Laboratory is free image from Wikimedia Commons.



Myth Number Four: Blood Hormone Tests Are Accurate

Blood tests are routinely ordered to measure hormone levels, but this does not give an accurate picture of the hormones that are actually bio-available. Progesterone is found in the red blood cells, not in the serum because it circulates in the fatty part of the blood, not in the watery part. Blood tests are notoriously inaccurate, yet they are routinely ordered, resulting in wrong diagnoses.


Bioavailable hormones can be measured accurately in the saliva, not in the blood. And saliva tests can be done at home and mailed in. Kits are available online at a reasonable cost and this will give you a much more accurate reading, giving you a much better picture of where you stand.
They [physicians] don't realize that most of the free bioavailable hormone isn't found in serum . . serum testing (blood testing) of hormones is irrelevant- it doesn't reveal how much of the free hormone is present. Fortunately, the free hormone is soluble in saliva.  Lee, John R. MD, Zava, David, PhD; Hopkins, Virginia. What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer. New York, NY: Warner Books, 2002, p. 160.

Blood test photo is free image from Wikimedia Commons.


Natural Hormone Therapy
The Positive Effects of Progesterone

Natural hormone therapy uses bio-identical hormones rather than synthetic ones. Remember that to your doctor, progestins and progesterone are more than likely synonymous, but your body knows the difference. Progestins trigger side effects because they are chemically altered.

Natural progesterone has a very soothing, balancing effect on excess estrogen. For example, where estrogen tends to wake you up, progesterone has a calming effect. Estrogen promotes cell proliferation, triggering endometriosis and even cancer, while progesterone has the opposite effect, encouraging cells to mature and die when they should. Unopposed estrogen will eventually cause cancer, breast and uterine cancers in particular.
It is estrogen's tendency to promote cell growth that makes its excess such a dangerous promoter of cancer. This is also why it's so important to use progesterone if you have the symptoms of estrogen dominance . . . or if you're taking estrogen for hormone replacement. Progesterone gives your body the ability to keep estrogen's growth-promoting properties in check. Lee, John R. MD, Zava, David, PhD; Hopkins, Virginia. What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer. New York, NY: Warner Books, 2002, p. 98.
Where estrogen promotes weight gain, progesterone aids in fat being used for energy. Estrogen interferes with thyroid function, often resulting in symptoms of hypothyroidism, but progesterone has the opposite effect. While estrogen will prevent bone loss, or resorption, progesterone actually stimulates the production of new bone tissue. A progesterone deficiency will result in osteoporosis, a condition that is reversible, in spite of what your doctor may tell you.

Estrogen will also cause fluid retention, abnormal blood clotting, migraine headaches, loss of zinc and copper, reduced oxygen levels in cells and many others too numerous to mention here. Progesterone has the opposite, balancing effect on all these. One interesting side note- when I read that estrogen reduces oxygen levels in cells, I remembered reading years ago that cancer cells thrive in an "anaerobic" state, an oxygen-free state. Progesterone increases oxygen in the cells, and I would think that this would be another way progesterone inhibits cancer cell growth.

Sleeping Woman is free photo from Wikimedia Commons.


What Next?


The best way to determine where you stand is to take the hormone test at Dr. Lee's website. You may also be able to obtain the test materials from a local apothecary. This will give you an idea of where your hormones are. Saliva tests can be done but often you can just judge what you need by how you feel, and many natural practitioners choose to just monitor symptoms. If you see that you need progesterone, you can keep track of your symptoms as you start to supplement with a cream.

There are some women that will need a little extra natural estrogen, and I am one of them. Dr. Lee's site covers all the possibilities, so you can find the symptom lists there. Generally it will be women who are smaller and thinner. Some women can get results with herbal phytoestrogens in products like soy isoflavones or black cohosh. If this doesn't work, then bioidentical estrogen from a compounding pharmacy would be the way to go.

Finding a doctor that will agree to the use of natural supplements can be hard, but if you follow the guidelines outlined in Dr. Lee's books, this can be done on your own. The key is education- you have to research this for yourself to know how to manage your own treatment because doctors just don't have the background or the time to find out for themselves. I have included quite a few links that will point you in the right direction to the help you need.

Hormone balance is more than just supplementing with progesterone. Stress, diet and exercise all affect your hormone balance and must be considered. For example, a diet high in refined flour products and/or sugar will put on weight, and that fat will produce estrogen. Stress will eventually lead to estrogen dominance through a path explained above. These are all vital aspects of regaining control of our own bodies. And often well into menopause, women find they do need a little natural estrogen. The key is balance. We don't have to be entirely at the mercy of the medical/pharmaceutical industry, but it is a major decision to make.

We have to take charge of our own health and do what is necessary in spite of the opposition we may face in the medical community. It is not a crime to be skeptical. It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to go against the prevailing tide of standard treatment, but it is something we need to do to protect our health. The consequences could be drastic if we don't.

Woman reading is free image from Wikimedia Commons


Recommended Reading

Hormone Balance Made Simple- This is Lee's easiest read- he summarizes his findings and offers guidelines to get your hormones in balance.










What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause- This is Dr. Lee's primary book with the best detailed information on hormones and bringing them into balance.









What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer- Hormone balance as it relates to breast cancer.










Hormone Heresy- Sherrill Sellman's book that covers the hormone topic very well, including information on the dangers of traditional, synthetic HRT.








Internet Sites with Information

Dr. John R. Lee MD- the best place to start; he makes articles, resources, hormone tests and trusted products available here.

Progesterone Info-  Home page for Natpro, a natural progesterone product; this site has good info as well.

Natpro- a facebook page for Natpro

Women to Women- a wealth of information available here; they offer their own natural home program to bring your hormones into balance.



Blog Posts

A Healthcare Revolution-  Science and research are making advances in diet and health, but the medical institution isn't. We need a revolution.

The Science of Weight Loss- Find out why the standard advice won't work and what will.

Breakfast Cereal Diets- Really??- Why eating cereal can't possibly help you lose weight for the long term.

Sugar- The Real Villain- This was my first blog post on this subject; some information is repetitive, but there are other points made, as well as links and a list of sugar substitutes.

"Healthy" Foods That Aren't- Several foods that are perceived as healthy but really aren't.

They Told Me He's a Quack- Several people I have found out about that have gone against the tide of public opinion and "expert" advice and have given thousands of people help and hope.

Alzheimer's, Dementia and Statins- Statins are dangerous drugs that cause memory loss and muscle damage.

Cholesterol- Mother of All Scams- The whole cholesterol scare has been based on faulty research and has been exploited by pharmaceutical companies to keep an otherwise healthy population on their drugs.

Water for Health- Why we need water to stay healthy.

Why You Can't Trust the Medical Industry- The entire medical industry has been corrupted by greed.  It pays to be skeptical.

Arthritis and Osteoporosis: They CAN Be Reversed- Two conditions that can be reversed naturally as proven by doctors who have treated their patients with natural supplements.

Restless Leg Syndrome- Treat the Cause, Not the Symptoms- My experience with RLS and what has helped me.

Phonics and Dyslexia- Information that can help dyslexic adults as well as children, and a post about the phonics-whole language wars and why phonics wins every time hands-down.

Quill pen is free image from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Science of Weight Loss

It's a Hormone Thing, Not a Calorie Thing

The science behind weight loss is actually not what most people think it is.  The common theory, the scenario that we have all been told for decades is that weight loss is a matter of burning more calories than you consume, and of sufficient exercise. But this does not hold up under scientific scrutiny, and because it doesn’t, it explains why weight loss has been such a losing battle for most people.

Here I want to give a brief run-down of what I have found out about why we gain weight and what it takes to lose it. And the actual scientific proof may surprise a lot of you. My information is taken from the book Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, a book that thoroughly examines the science of weight loss and how to win the war on fat. All quotes are from this book unless otherwise noted.

Note: After doing a search online for "science of weight loss" after pubishing this post, I found that there are at least a couple books with that title.  I have not read any of them, and didn't intentionally take that title from those works.

Feet on scales is free photo from wpclipart.com.


Why the Calorie Theory Doesn’t Work

We have all been educated to the notion that weight gain is a matter of consuming more calories than you burn, yet the math just doesn’t add up when you think about it.

According to Taubes, it only takes an excess of 20 calories a day adding up to two extra pounds per year stored as fat to eventually add up to obesity by age 50.  If it is strictly a matter of balancing calories with activity, then most people’s weight must be fluctuating constantly.
If the difference between eating not too much and eating too much is less than a hundredth of the total amount of calories we consume, and that in turn has to be matched with our energy expenditure, to which we are, for the most part, completely in the dark, how can anyone possibly eat with such accuracy?  p. 59
The required balance between energy consumed and energy expended would have to be just too accurate for the calories in/calories out theory to hold water.  There has to be more to the equation. Your body's mechanisms for regulating energy from what you consume is far more complex than the calorie theory allows for.

Another problem with this approach is that the calorie theory essentially turns weight problems into a behavioral problem rather than a metabolic one. It becomes a self-control matter, or as Taubes puts it, “gluttony and sloth”, using terminology that implies a character flaw.  We are told that if we can just control our appetite, eat less and exercise more, we will lose weight.  But it just doesn’t work; in fact, the lack of energy and overeating are actually the result of becoming overweight, not the cause of it. Energy that needs to go to cells is instead pulled off into fat cells, leaving the victim lethargic and in need of more energy (p. 92). It all goes back to the way fat is managed by hormones.
As it turns out, very little evidence exists to support the belief that the number of calories we expend has any effect on how fat we are. p. 43
For a wonderful and detailed explanation of the calories in/calories out theory and why it doesn't work, see How Do We Gain Weight?

Nutrition label is free photo from Wikimedia Commons.


Why Eating Less Doesn’t Work

Limiting what you eat does no good whatsoever. As you restrict your food intake, your metabolism rate slows, you burn fewer calories, and completely defeat the purpose of reducing how much you eat. Those that do manage to lose some weight generally lose small amounts just to turn around and gain it back after a year or so. Research indicates that eating less just doesn’t work.

The Women’s Health Initiative, a study done in the early 1990's, proved this out.  About 20,000 women were instructed to eat a low-fat diet with fruits, vegetables and fiber, consuming an average of 360 calories less per day than they otherwise would, and 20% less than what is recommended. After eight years on this diet, the average amount of weight lost was only two pounds each, and the average waist measurement actually increased. This implies that weight lost was from muscle tissue, not fat (pp. 33-34).

Doctors over the years have reported their lack of results attempting to treat obese patients with undereating (p. 35-37).  It just simply doesn’t work, leaving us to draw the conclusion that if undereating doesn’t fix obesity, then overeating must not cause it.

Taubes says that those who under-eat are “hungry all the time (not to mention cranky and depressed) but lethargic, and they expend less energy.  Their body temperatures drop; they tend to be cold all the time” (pp. 77-78).  Semi-starvation does nothing but decrease the metabolic rate with cells burning less energy, and when allowed to eat, any weight lost will come right back.
. . . the diet advice that our doctors and public-health authorities are invariably giving us is misconceived; that eating less and/or exercising more is not a viable treatment of obesity or overweight and shouldn't be considered as such.  It might have short-term effects but nothing that lasts more than a few months or a year.  Eventually, our bodies compensate (p. 79).
Hungry caterpillar is free image from WP Clipart.


Why the Exercise Theory Doesn’t Work

Half of the prevailing theory of weight gain dictates that you must increase your physical activity to lose weight- burn those calories! The problem with this is that the more you exercise, the hungrier you will get; it’s simple logic.  Physical activity will “work up an appetite”, so that whatever calories you burn up in exercise you are apt to replace the next time you eat.

As already stated, once you burn those calories, your body will compensate by taking in more. Energy expended and energy consumed are dependent on each other- if you change one, you will change the other (p. 78). People who try the standard approach to weight loss- eat less, exercise more- generally don’t follow through by changing their entire lifestyle accordingly.  Most people just can’t live a semi-starved life and aren’t going to.  But that’s beside the point;  this approach just simply doesn’t address the actual cause of obesity.

This is not to undervalue the health benefits of exercise.  Our hearts and muscles all need plenty of exercise, and our bodies benefit greatly in many ways. One benefit of exercise according to Jeff O'Connell in Sugar Nation is that it helps improve insulin resistance in your muscle tissue.  And as you exercise, you build muscle mass. So some people may actually experience a slight gain in weight. Just don’t expect exercise to be the cure for obesity, because it isn’t. For more on this, see a great article by Cameron English.  He has quite a few good articles.

So if eating less and exercising more isn’t the answer, what is?

Woman on exercise bike is free clip art from WP Clipart.


Carbohydrates and the Insulin Connection

The actual science behind weight gain/loss shows that it is a very complicated balancing act that our bodies go through involving hormones and enzymes, but primarily insulin.  Insulin is the fundamental hormone that determines how fat is managed with one of its actions being the transportation of fat into fat cells.  And it is not dietary fat that triggers the release of insulin, it is simple carbohydrates in the form of sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS as found in carbonated drinks) and refined flour products. Here is where the answers lie.

Insulin is the primary determining factor in weight gain; if you don’t eat the stuff that triggers insulin release, you won’t gain weight. Elevated insulin levels essentially assure weight gain.  Insulin will also create new fat cells to guarantee a place for that fat.  A diet heavy in carbohydrates absolutely guarantees obesity, so weight gain is not a matter of how much you eat nearly so much as what you eat.
Let me add a caveat here- there are carbs, and there are carbs. When I refer to carbohydrates, I am referring to grain products, generally the processed, refined junk on the shelves in the middle of the grocery store such as breakfast cereal, pasta products, cereal bars, cake mixes, etc., any product with flour as the main ingredient. And these carbs include sugar in whatever form, including specifically high fructose corn syrup. I am NOT referring to the good carbs found in fruits and vegetables.
Science tells us that your cells are going to burn carbohydrates before they will burn fat for energy. So if you are eating a diet heavy in carbs, cells will burn that up before they will burn any fat. So any fat eaten with carbs is shipped off to fat cells for storage because there is more than enough glucose from carbs floating around to supply your cells with energy.

The whole process of fat metabolism and management is by far too complicated to go into here, so I just want to go straight to the bottom line- when insulin levels go up from the consumption of carbs, fat WILL accumulate in fat cells. When you eat carbs, insulin levels go up and you get fatter.  If you want to understand the process, I will refer you to the book.
So as we fatten, our energy demand increases, and our appetite will increase for this reason as well- particularly our appetite for carbohydrates, because this is the only nutrient our cells will burn for fuel when insulin is elevated.  This is a vicious cycle . . . (p. 126)
So the only diet that will actually work to prompt your body to burn its stores of fat is one that has limited carbs. Any other diet is pretty much a waste of time, and one in particular is actually quite dangerous, that one being the low-fat diet.

Insulin syringe is free photo from Freestockphotos.com.


The Dangers of a Low-Fat or Fat-Free Diet
We Are a Society of Fat-Phobics

The sad thing is that years ago we were convinced by the authorities that carbs are “heart healthy”.  This is when the low-fat diet became all the rage, and the health of the population consequently deteriorated. This is one of the more destructive myths we’ve all been fed all our lives, a theory that has not been based on science.

The low-fat diet has been quite destructive, partially because food manufacturers not only eliminated fat, but increased the sweeteners in their products to compensate. So the fat that was in those products (which was bad fat anyway) was just swapped out for more carbs.  The low-fat craze has filled the shelves of grocery stores with products loaded with the stuff that puts on weight, yet is labeled as “healthy”.  So people buy this stuff thinking they are buying something that won’t kill them, and they continue to pack on the pounds. It’s a safe bet that you can avoid the green packages of “healthy” low-fat or fat-free stuff and at the same time avoid putting on more weight. And these products are just junk food anyway, processed stuff that contributes to the plague of chronic disease in this country.

Another reason the fat-free diet is dangerous is the simple reason that your body requires fat to function. There are fat-soluble vitamins (A, E and K) and other nutrients, calcium in particular, that won’t be absorbed if you truly have a fat-free diet. Then there’s the whole cholesterol myth that comes into play.  Your brain HAS to have cholesterol to function, so a diet with no fat will make things difficult on your thinking processes. Add cholesterol-lowering medications to the mix, and you have memory trouble just waiting to happen. For more on the cholesterol myth, see Cholesterol- Mother of All Scams, and for more information about the connection between Alzheimer's, the low-fat diet and insulin, see Dr. Mercola's article Diet May Slow Alzheimer's Disease.

I ran across this woman's blog, Just Me in T's Health Stuff, and it is well worth going through.  She presents the case against the low-fat diet quite thoroughly and has provided lots of references to her sources, including studies done that verify the effectiveness of a high fat diet in weight loss. This is a must-read, as is another wonderful blogger, Amy Berger, who has posted quite a few informative posts that address the "fat" issue, this one in particular- Mardi Gras!  It's another must-read, and goes a long way toward correcting the barrage of misinformation we have been taught for decades.

Of course there are fats, and then there are fats.  Some are healthy, others aren’t. Science is in a bit of a transition on this subject, with studies coming out that verify that saturated fats are not the evil we have been led to believe they are. Just do an internet search on “saturated fats healthy” and you will find plenty of sites with information on the subject.  For example, try this one- Saturated Fats Are Healthy for You, or an article written for The Times, a major paper in the UK called Butter and Your Heart: The Facts.

But processed corn and soybean oils are still on the blacklist, as are canola and other plant-based oils. The problem is that we have all been told by "the experts" that these are the healthy oils, but in fact, they are the ones that lead to worlds of health problems. It is universally accepted that monounsaturated fats are the best, oils that are found in olives, nuts and avocados. For now, I would say that it would be good to avoid the processed vegetable oils (these are found in most processed foods) in favor of olive oil, butter and/or coconut oil. I have not done the research into this topic yet, but am not nearly as fat-phobic as I once was.

Eggs are slowly being redeemed with studies proving that eggs are actually good for you, yolk and all. Check out Whole Egg Consumption Improves Lipoprotein Profiles. Eggs are considered by some to be as close to a "complete" food as anything, providing complete protein as well as a lengthy list of other nutrients.

Once we shake the notion that fat increases our cholesterol and that cholesterol is to blame for heart disease (which it isn’t), we can happily increase our intake of healthy fats and actually have a meal that satisfies. Fat-free leaves you hungry, but fat fills you up in a hurry and leaves you satisfied. Which leads into the extreme diet, the ketogenic diet.

Butter is free photo from Wikimedia Commons.


Ketosis

“Ketosis” sounds rather ominous, but it is actually a natural state your body goes into when there is no glucose available for energy.  Your body can burn either glucose or fat to obtain the energy it needs, so when your intake of carbs is greatly reduced while raising the level of fat in the diet, energy is obtained from both dietary and stored fat, not from carbs. Fat is converted to ketones, a form of energy used by your body, your brain in particular, but also your muscles and heart. Research shows that your brain and nervous system actually work better on ketones than on glucose. Ketosis is a natural process that happens every night between your last meal of the evening and breakfast the next morning.

A ketogenic diet is one that greatly reduces or eliminates carbohydrates and increases fat intake; this is when you can really lose weight- you are in fat-burning mode. Protein also has to be limited to a degree because excess protein is converted to glucose. This diet  has been employed since the 1920's to treat people, children specifically, with epilepsy. For more information about ketosis and the ketogenic diet, see Ketosis Diet at Livestrong.com.

We have known for decades that inducing a state of ketosis will result in weight loss, yet the official recommendations in recent years have been to shun fats and eat carbs. It's rather ironic that the one thing we have been thoroughly convinced is evil is the one thing we need to lose weight.

A word of caution- a ketogenic diet can result in kidney failure according to Webmd.com, because of the high levels of protein consumed in this diet.  Another problem can be a calcium drain because of the protein, resulting in a calcium deficiency and possibly osteoporosis. A state of ketosis may be helpful initially for a short period, but probably not wise in the long run.  A doctor should be consulted before attempting a ketogenic diet.


Carbs Do More Damage Than Just Put on Pounds

Carbohydrates have been shown to cause a lot more damage than to just cause obesity. The fallout alone from high levels of insulin are staggering.

It has been shown that a diet that replaces carbs for fat will lower your HDL or “good” cholesterol levels and make a heart attack more likely. The primary risk factor for heart disease is the amount of triglycerides that are circulating in your system, and they are created from carbohydrates, not from fats.  This connection was made back in the 1950's (p. 196).

Insulin resistance happens when insulin levels remain chronically high and your cells become resistant. The result is that it takes more and more insulin to get rid of the glucose in the bloodstream, making the pancreas work harder and harder. And all that insulin is just packing more and more pounds on.  Insulin resistance is the precursor to diabetes and either pills or injections of yet more insulin.

Then there’s what is called "metabolic syndrome".  This is a combination of conditions, a cascade effect of an excess of insulin that results in heart disease and strokes. This syndrome includes obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and all these are associated with lower HDL cholesterol, small, dense LDL and high triglycerides, all increasing the risk of heart disease.

High levels of insulin will also cause uric acid levels to increase causing gout and possibly irritation of artery walls, and the insulin itself will stiffen artery walls, triggering the accumulation of cholesterol which is sent there to repair the damage.  And there is oxidative stress on the entire body, accelerating the aging process.

Cancer is also associated with metabolic syndrome in that high blood sugar and insulin both exacerbate tumor growth. More and more research is indicating a link between excess body weight and cancer, which by implication would indicate a connection between carbohydrate consumption and cancer. And to top it all off, Alzheimer’s is now seen to be connected as well (pp. 198-200). There are many that now refer to Alzheimer's as Type 3 Diabetes.

The typical approach doctors take to metabolic syndrome is the standard advice- eat less, exercise more and avoid dietary fats. As already stated, these approaches don’t work; it is the high level of refined carbohydrates in the diet that precipitates all this, so the answer is simply to reduce their consumption, sugars in particular. And sadly enough, the standard diet advice given to people already diagnosed with insulin resistance or diabetes does not encourage the limiting of carbs at all, the one thing that got them into this mess in the first place.
It has been demonstrated in numerous clinical trials that low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets improve each and every one of the metabolic and hormonal abnormalities of metabolic syndrome . . . This suggests the obvious: that the same carbohydrates that make us fat are the ones that cause metabolic syndrome.  p. 198
Heart diagram is free image from Wikimedia Commons.


Article at www.dietdoctor.com with a personal story that demonstrates the effectiveness of a low carb high fat diet to overcome diabetes.


Great list of research links by Zoe Harcombe linking sugar to  chronic disease of all types


The Diet Programs

I went online to find out about some of the diets and their approaches to weight loss.  I've included diets I have personally heard about; I'm sure there are a host of others out there. Here is what I found at webmd.com:

The Diets Promoted on TV

Weight Watchers:  The new Points Plus system allows unlimited fruits and vegetables but still bases its system on calorie counting. They also encourage a low-fat diet. I can see where people would get mighty hungry on this one.  (Info from webmd.com.)

Jenny Craig:  This system is built around their frozen meals that are 50% to 60% carbohydrates, 20% to 25% protein, and the remainder, fat. And they emphasize moderation and exercise. Need I say more? Looks like one more diet that will leave you hungry.  (Info from webmd.com.)

Nutrisystem- This one fully subscribes to the generally accepted concept of a healthy diet and  is very heavy on carbs, though they are whole grain. According to webmd.com:
Dieters choose from more than 150 entrees and desserts that promise to be balanced in protein, fat, and "good" carbs. The diet is made up of 55% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 20% fat. Most of the NutriSystem meals are lower in saturated and trans fats, sodium (approximately 1,800-2,200 milligrams per day), and rich in whole grains. The meals are supposed to be supplemented with 6 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Dieters eat five to six meals a day, which should help control hunger. (emphasis mine)
This looks pretty much like Jenny Craig. Bear in mind that the reviewer at this site is fully on board with this concept of a healthy diet.  By the way, you can go to webmd and put the name of any diet you want to research into their search box.

The Low Carb Diets

LCHF: This is the basic, low carb high fat diet that promotes changing the way you eat that will let you lose weight. The best place to go to find out more information is dietdoctor.com where they have posts, suggestions on how to eat, personal stories and more.

Atkins: Atkins is one guy that was on the right track.  This diet eliminates carbs at the outset in the “induction phase”, which jump-starts weight loss, providing encouragement to stick with the program. Then carbs can be added back in on a limited basis once the weight is under control. This diet is very heavy on protein, but apparently it works. Rather than restricting volume, this diet restricts what a person may eat.  (Read more about the Atkins diet at webmd.com.)

Jorge Cruise and The Belly Fat Cure: This is the diet that first educated me to the insulin connection. His program is a low-carb diet that allows for some whole-grain carbohydrates while going heavy on the protein. I know for a fact that this diet works, and can become a lifestyle without too much aggravation. I have personally limited carbs, cutting out sugar altogether, and have lost around ten pounds in a fairly short amount of time. And my brother lost over seventy pounds initially and  has successfully stayed on this food plan for several years now.  (More info at webmd.com though it's obvious the reviewer is skeptical and still sold on counting calories and exercise for weight loss.)

The South Beach Diet: Much the same as the Atkins diet, and also created by a doctor, a cardiologist specifically. Like Atkins, this diet restricts carbs, encouraging low-glycemic carbs that won't spike your insulin levels, and it bans unhealthy fats while encouraging healthy ones. This is good news- unhealthy fats are at least one of the things that cause inflammation, the one thing that is being targeted as the real cause of heart disease. This diet is based on the premise that most of us are addicted to carbs with the first phase of the diet geared toward getting free from that addiction. Overall, this diet encourages just simply eating right, and is geared toward a true lifestyle change to improve overall health, not just a temporary diet change to lose weight. Sounds like a more balanced approach to the low-carb diet.  Find more at webmd.com.

The Paleo Diet: This low-carb diet is gaining popularity.  It follows a "caveman" diet that is heavy on protein from lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Processed foods are an absolute no-no as are dairy, potatoes, salt and refined vegetable oils. This is a high protein, high fiber diet that will indeed let you lose weight without having to count calories. My information came, again, from webmd.com.

The Mediterranean Diet: This one has been proven out in studies as actually reducing the risk of heart disease because of it emphasis on monosaturated fat from olive oil.  This diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables, fish, beans, and whole fiber grains, with 35% to 40% of the calories coming from fats.  With monosaturated olive oil, your intake of omega-3 fatty acids is greatly increased, protecting your heart and brain.  This diet isn't really a diet, it's a way of eating that will allow you to take charge of your health and stay out of the doctor's office.  For more on this diet check out the overview at Webmd.com.

Diet image is free clip art from openclipart.com.



Keep Your Money
and 
Take Charge of Your Health

You certainly don't have to spend your hard-earned money on some diet program, or product. All you have to do is change what you eat- change what you buy in the store. The diet product industry is huge and working tirelessly to cash in on the desire to lose weight effortlessly. Don't fall for it! I have noticed ads for diet programs, over-the-counter diet pills, and now, not unexpectedly, the drug companies are cashing in as well with some prescription medication I saw advertised for the first time recently. And even exercise equipment is being promoted as weight loss products. Everyone needs exercise, but promoting equipment for weight loss is misleading, though well-intentioned.

Start buying real food- produce, meat, dairy, and avoid the boxes of processed junk in the middle of the store. You may even save some money- some of those processed foods aren't exactly cheap. And consider the cost of medical treatment you will ultimately save as your health issues begin to reverse. As toxic non-foods are replaced with real food, your body's chemistry will begin to balance back out, and your health will improve. Never forget- all those companies want is your money; they don't care about your health!

Piggy Bank is free image from openclipart.



What to Eat and What Not to Eat

Whole Grain vs Refined

By now, I think you can see how our addiction to carbohydrates has very effectively undermined our health in innumerable ways. To regain control, we absolutely must restrict carbohydrate consumption.

Food manufacturers are now using "healthy whole grains" to promote their products as all things wonderful. It is true that whole grains won't spike your insulin levels as rapidly, but they still raise your insulin, and actually they raise your blood sugar more than regular sugar does. There is evidence that flour products have caused us a world of hurt- from arthritis to Alzheimer's- not just celiac disease. The flour we now use causes inflammatory reactions that wreak havoc on our health, arthritis being one very major and common reaction.
For more information about the dangers of wheat see Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD, and Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD, links below.

The Hidden Carbs

There are quite a few foods that we eat without thinking about it that have quite a bit of hidden sweetener in them.  To get a good handle on the problem, you have to consider absolutely everything you eat.  Here are some of the products you may not think about:
  • Salad dressing- most have quite a bit of sugar in them, though if you want to stick with the store bottled stuff, you can use ranch which has the least of any I've looked at. Personally, I hate vinegar and oil, so I use ranch quite a bit, though to be thoroughly healthy, I should switch to a homemade dressing with olive oil. (Update- I tried mixing some dressing by pouring a little olive oil into a dish and stirring in some dry onion flakes, dry minced garlic, pepper, basil and a little stevia. I think I can live with this!)
  • Read the labels on ketchup and barbecue sauce- 1 tablespoon of ketchup has 4g; 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce (at least what I have on hand now) has 11g. It's so easy to pile on either one and go over that serving size. There may be sugar-free versions available at health food stores.
  • Peanut butter- now here's one I didn't expect; they add sugar to peanut butter.  And even most of those labeled "natural" are anything but. (Especially watch those off-brand "natural" products.) Smucker's Natural is one I've found that is truly natural- it's only peanuts and salt. The true diehard health people use almond butter, something that is rather expensive, so I have yet to try it.
  • Milk- the higher the fat content, the less sugar. Skim milk is a sugar disaster. If you use dairy, go high fat.
  • Cereal- You really need to dump cereal altogether and eat eggs. And try going without the toast, and certainly don't drink fruit juice. That's a supersized load of fructose you absolutely don't need. Breakfast is a minefield of carbs- cereal, toast, pancakes, waffles, toaster pastries, donuts, bagels, muffins, etc. Beware of breakfast!
  • Fruit- not all fruit is bad, but some, bananas in particular, are very heavy with fructose as are grapes and raisins. Again, no more fruit juice!  That's WAY too much sugar. Stick with berries and melons and you can get away with some fruit without jeopardizing your eating plan. You can find the sugar content of various fruits at Fruit Nutrition Facts.

Beware of the Green Packages

For more information on the "health food" traps, see my post Healthy Foods that Aren't.

Then there's this one- an ad has been running for years for a popular, been-around-forever breakfast cereal that promotes weight loss by eating their line of products. Their weight loss plan has nothing but carbs in it, making this a blatant marketing ploy rather than an actual effective weight loss plan. If you've read this far into this post, you'll know better than to fall for this one. I decided to do a whole post on this- Breakfast Cereal Diets- Really??

Just beware- the processed food industry wants your money; they don't care about your health either!

Wheat is free clip art from WP Clipart.



Other Hormones

One of the other hormones that can drastically affect your weight is cortisol. Stress and its accompanying cortisol release will trigger fat storage too. Robert Lustig goes into detail on the biochemical processes that occur in stress situations in his book Fat Chance (chapter 6). And the kicker is that when cortisol levels increase due to stress, so do insulin levels (p. 70). Then stress triggers consumption of "comfort foods".

And there are a host of other hormones in play that all have a part in weight gain, a much, much more complicated issue than I care to delve into. Lack of sleep also can play into all this, once again, getting too complicated for me to get into. (All those biochemical pathways just make my head swim!)  Another one- weight gain in menopause. Doesn't that just scream hormones?! Bottom line- insulin is the primary hormone to get under control via diet, then look at stress levels and your sleep patterns. They are all involved.
  One outcome of stress is reduced sleep, which is both a contributor to and a consequence of obesity. p. 68
Sad Man Sweating is free clipart from openclipart.


Putting It All Together

To my way of thinking, it looks like there's only one sure-fire way to lose weight, and that is to change what you eat. Even though you desperately need exercise for other reasons, that won't help you lose weight, and there is no miracle supplement. To me, it's just ludicrous to think that you can pop a pill and still eat Twinkies, drink Coke, and expect to lose weight.

If you boil it down, there seem to be a couple factors at the root of the obesity epidemic.  First, the food supply has been adulterated and contaminated by its industrialization. Grain and meat processing has stripped nutrients and added contaminants that have seriously undermined the health of the nation. Second, when the low-fat trend became an official mandate, the entire population was brainwashed into believing fat is bad and carbs are good. So the prevailing mindset has been one that has systematically destroyed our health with chronic disease. If I have helped you reprogram your brain, I will have done something.

If your doctor is convinced that this kind of diet will kill you with cholesterol, you will be fighting an uphill battle. Just think twice before starting statins (see my posts on the subject- Cholesterol- Mother of All Scams and Alzheimer's, Dementia and Statins), drugs that should never have been approved by the FDA in the first place.

Going against the tide of this mindset that has been accepted for decades is what is difficult. Actually going low-carb isn't all that hard. If you are determined to lose weight and regain control of your health, it is very do-able. If you choose to try either Atkins or Cruise, I encourage you to be careful about the fats you choose to eat, understanding that saturated fat isn't evil, but vegetable oils aren't the healthy alternative they have been promoted to be.  Isn't it nice to know you can lose weight and not go hungry? Please feel free to leave comments or any suggestions for diets that follow the low-carb pattern.


Recommended Reading

LCHF for Beginners- This is a great site I just recently found that will be a wonderful start for anyone wanting to change their lifestyle and lose weight. It stands for Low Carb High Fat.


 Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes.  I can't recommend this book highly enough.  All the science is presented on how your body regulates your fat and how to manage your weight.








Fat Chance by Robert H. Lustig.  This one takes everything Taubs presents a step further, and is written in an easy-to-read humorous style. Lustig presents more on the hormone system of regulating fat, and why fiber is so very important to weight loss. I highly recommend this book. I found it first in our local library, but opted to buy my own copy to mark up.






Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD. Both this book and the next one, Wheat Belly, dissect the body processes that are triggered by eating the modified, hybridized version of wheat we now consume. The consequences are far-reaching, affecting our health in innumerable ways.









Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD  Obesity is only the beginning of the fallout from eating flour products.





The South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston, MD. I haven't checked into this one yet, but it looks very promising.  Lots of copies available through amazon for good prices, and I'd wager you can find a copy of this one or the updated version at your library.




 Belly Fat Cure by Jorge Cruise- this book explains the insulin connection and includes recipes to get you started.










The New Atkins for a New You, by Eric Westman and Stephen D. Phinney.  Updated version of the popular and successful Atkins Diet.










The Mediterranean Diet  by Marissa Cloutier and Eve Adamson; includes meal plans and recipes.








Sugar Nation by Jeff O'Connell is a book I just recently purchased. This is the one that absolutely convinced me of the necessity of reducing my carb intake. He goes into great length explaining how carbs are at the root of our insulin resistance and diabetes problems, and how official guidelines offer completely misguided advice. The author, anything but obese, was diagnosed with insulin resistance, and his father died of diabetes complications. This is one book that is a real wake-up call. His recommendations in a nutshell- fiber and exercise.




LCHF
Banting, Paleo and Others

The Low Carb High Fat way of eating is becoming more and more popular as people are finding out about the way carbs affect your body. LCHF sites abound. Here are a few:

Diet Doctor-  "The idea to eat less fat and less saturated fat was certainly a mistake. Inadvertently that advice may be the biggest reason behind the epidemics of obesity and diabetes. More and more people realize this. It’s time for a health revolution." This site is #1 on my list. If you don't check any others out, check out this one.

LCHF, Paleo and Health- explanations of low carb and Paleo, recipes and a blog

Eat Like a Swede- LCHF- by Jimmy Moore with links to his books, blogs, videos, etc.

Tuit Nutrition- Amy Berger is a very well educated blogger presenting heaps of great information that corrects all the bad information we have been taught for years.

The Harvey-Banting DietWilliam Banting was a British undertaker who lived from 1796 to 1878. He went on a low-carb diet on the advice of his doctor, Willliam Harvey and subsequently published a pamphlet called Letter on Corpulence, available online. "Banting" is a term often used for an LCHF diet.

For more information, just do internet searches for LCHF, Banting Diet and Paleo Diet.

LCHF logo taken from Eat Like a Swede.



My Blog Posts

A Healthcare Revolution-  Science and research are making advances in diet and health, but the medical institution isn't. We need a revolution.

Sugar- The Real Villain- This was my first blog post on this subject; some information is repetitive, but there are other points made, as well as links and a list of sugar substitutes.

Breakfast Cereal Diets- Really??- Why eating cereal can't possibly help you lose weight for the long term.

Water for Health- Why we need water to stay healthy.

They Told Me He's a Quack- Several people I have found out about that have gone against the tide of public opinion and "expert" advice and have given thousands of people help and hope.

Alzheimer's, Dementia and Statins- Statins are dangerous drugs that cause memory loss and muscle damage.

Cholesterol- Mother of All Scams- The whole cholesterol scare has been based on faulty research and has been exploited by pharmaceutical companies to keep an otherwise healthy population on their drugs.

Why You Can't Trust the Medical Industry- The entire medical industry has been corrupted by greed.  It pays to be skeptical.

Hormone Balance and Estrogen Dominance- Regularly prescribed HRT has serious side effects; there is an alternative.

Restless Leg Syndrome- Treat the Cause, Not the Symptoms- My experience with RLS and what has helped me.

Arthritis and Osteoporosis: They CAN Be Reversed- Two conditions that can be reversed naturally as proven by doctors who have treated their patients with natural supplements.

Phonics and Dyslexia- Information that can help dyslexic adults as well as children, and a post about the phonics-whole language wars and why phonics wins every time hands-down.

Quill pen is free image from Wikimedia Commons.