Today I'm just giddy to share with you a guest post by one of my favorite bloggers, Matt Stone, who embraces the subjects of health and nutrition with an unprecedented level of unorthodoxy you can't help but appreciate. Anyway, there's nothing I can say that can add to the fantastic post below, so dig in and enjoy! You won't be disappointed:
Hello fans of Nourished Life, this is Matt Stone of http://www.180degreehealth.com/. Recently Elizabeth and I connected and have been hitting it off really well. This is one way of saying that I have been brainwashing her thoroughly over the past couple of months, and she is soaking it up like a sponge. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome, or whatever that thing is where the captive starts really digging the captor.
The Nourished Life is the sole possessor of the best name in the internet health blogosphere. Nothing could possibly resonate more deeply with my own inner desires to live a life of abundant nourishment – not only with food but with deep emotional nourishment, being nourished by being in the pursuit of our greatest passions in life, finding intellectual nourishment for those pesky brains of ours that seem to have an insatiable appetite for growth and learning, and more. In fact, the original name for my blog was “Sacred Self,” as I, at that time, felt that I had uncovered a powerful mindset towards pursuits of all kinds… Love yourself, respect yourself, always be on your own team, trust the wisdom of your own mind and body and be there to meet its needs, and strive to nourish yourself with abundant and high-quality nourishment.
Anyway, let’s talk about abundant nourishment, what it means to have such a communion with your mind and body, and why living in a constant battle with your own urges, desires, cravings, and hunger is not only a futile pursuit – it is extremely harmful, self-deprecating, and counterproductive to whatever health endeavor you may be seeking. Pardon me while I geek out a bit. I don’t know what it is about The Nourished Life that makes me want to blind you with science, but I simply can’t help myself. It’s just too flippin’ interesting.
Elizabeth, with a little prodding from me, recently decided to try the old-school milk diet. I have aspirations to try this at some point later in 2010 myself. It is the epitome of trying to take the maximal amount of quality food – teeming with enzymes, vitamins, minerals – and calories, while resting deeply on a physical, mental, and emotional level as much as possible. Elizabeth referred to this as being sort of a spa treatment – but one in which the person is well-fed instead of starved on salads, beet juice, berries, soy milk, wheatgrass juice, and flax crackers. Yes, nourishment like a baby gets--not a young rabbit, like typical spa food is geared towards--in which afterwards the little tyke gets that stoned look of deep satisfaction, gives a little belch, and then passes out cold. Now that’s nourishment.
Why is this important? What could this possibly do to heal us from chronic illness? How could chugging 25% more calories than you’re used to getting while exercising less help someone deal with, say, a weight problem – one of the most common illnesses in the United States and countries like it (particularly in Elizabeth’s home state of Alabama)? Well, let’s talk about it.
Modern humans are literally starving. Now this might seem strange, but hear me out. There is hardly a bigger and more powerful shift in thinking than what you can achieve by realizing this nearly-irrefutable truth.
It is known that Americans, for example, have increased their caloric consumption over the past few decades while obesity rates have climbed. Why did we eat more? Because we were hungrier. Why were we hungrier? Because we were starving.
During that same time period the average body temperature declined. Even the NY Times has written about this in a recent article entitled “Rethinking 98.6.” Why did body temperature decline? Because we are starving. The body does not run its temperature at below-ideal levels for fun. In fact, if you want to read about how little fun it is, I suggest you read the 80-plus chapter on symptoms of having a low body temperature in Mark Starr’s, Hypothyroidism Type 2: The Epidemic.
The body lowers its core temperature to conserve energy – which is one of the first and most reliable changes that occurs when someone decreases their food intake.
Along with this drop in body temperature and increase in hunger, we have other powerful starvation phenomena going on. One is that food that we eat is packed away into fat cells instead of being used as energy or to build lean tissues (like muscle). After all, if we are starving, and the body is taking obvious strides to conserve energy by lowering the basal temperature, why would it build more lean tissue? Lean tissue burns tons of calories and requires more nutrients than fat, which are the worst enemies in the face of starvation.
Intelligently, our bodies seem to know, when we’re starving, what foods will provide the greatest storage of fat and least deposition of protein into active tissues like muscle, organs, and bones. Starving thus changes our appetites. Therefore, generally speaking, the more a person is starving the more they will crave the most fattening things on earth. The big three are: alcohol – especially beer, sugar/sweets, and white flour. We are likely to crave, not just these 3 primary things, but we crave these foods paired with lots of fat in the most rapidly-digestible form. Uh-oh. Bad combination. We are in fat storage mode and crave the most fattening things combined with lots of fat to assist with building fat. Oh, and let’s not forget, while we’re at it, that being in calorie conservation mode due to starvation causes us to be more fatigued, lazy, unmotivated, and tired.
But how in the world can a person that is 100 pounds overweight be starving you might ask? Doesn’t this mean they ate too much and exercised too little? Took in more calories than they burned? Yes and no. They ate too many fattening foods, exercised too little and burned fewer calories from having low levels of lean body mass and a low body temperature, built too much body fat, and so forth BECAUSE THEY WERE STARVING. In other words, all of the problems leading to their weight problems were a result of the body’s natural adaptation to starvation. They did not get fat because they were exercising too little and eating too much. They did not get fat because they stored more calories than they burned. They were eating too much and exercising too little and storing more calories than they were burning because they were starving. That’s just what starving people do.
Obesity researcher M.R.C. Greenwood did a study comparing genetically-prone-to-become obese mice vs. regular mice. Each group was given the same amount of food. One group turned that into muscle, bone, and energy – the other group of mice turned that food into fat while they had no energy and their lean tissues starved. After they got fat, they began eating more food. In other words, if you’re going to store 20% of your food as fat, you need to eat 20% more food. People overeat because their food, instead of going to their lean tissues and being used as energy, goes to their proverbial “hips, butt, and thighs.”
In other words, if your lean tissues and basic energy requirements demand that you eat 3 slices of pizza to meet your needs, and you slip one of those slices into your back pocket, you’re going to need to order 4 slices to get the same amount of pizza to your body as it takes for a lean person to get 3. So what in the world is causing these bizarre fat storage phenomena?
The low-carb masters of the universe will tell you it’s all about insulin. When you eat carbohydrates, your insulin levels rise, which stores food into fat cells (after all, that’s what it does… insulin – as in ‘insulation’). Makes sense right? Well, it does to some extent. Fat people do produce more insulin and therefore store more fat. But when you consider that half the world’s population eats a very high-carbohydrate diet without having any of these problems, the low-carb mantra doesn’t look so nice, neat, and pretty anymore.
In actuality, a hormone called leptin was discovered by Jeffrey Friedman of Rockefeller University in 1994. Leptin is a hormone that is produced by our fat tissue. It then gives a report back to the rest of the body to tell it what the nutritional state of the body is. It functions like the treasurer and calories are the currency. When fat tissue increases, leptin is secreted, which:
1) Lowers appetite
2) Decreases sugar/alcohol/and refined carbohydrate cravings
3) Raises body temperature
4) Increases fat burning and decreases fat storage
5) Increases energy
Yes, the body has a simple system of regulating energy. Eat more, and the body does everything it can to insure that you burn more calories, ingest less, shed fat, and stop storing it.
Basically, what the entire modern epidemic of obesity boils down to is the leptin system – more or less. There is a “fault” with the energy regulation system. People are “resistant” to the action of leptin even though 99.9% of overweight people produce lots of it. They are basically unresponsive to the hormone and operate like a starving person in all regards – low body temperature, fat storage, insatiable appetite – particularly for junky sweets and alcohol, low energy, and, as a bonus, they often display several of the 80-something pages worth of “hypothyroid” symptoms excavated by Mark Starr. Yes, there’s hardly any system in the body that is not impacted directly by cellular and systemic energy metabolism. Not a big shocker really when you think about it.
The big question is “what causes leptin resistance?” A big question indeed. Here are a few primary going theories. After all, it’s only been 16 years since the discovery of leptin. No one knows, with exact certainty, how leptin resistance arises and what can be done to overcome it.
1) Omega 6 overload – Omega 6 is a type of polyunsaturated fat found most abundantly in nuts, seeds, grains, and the oils from those food sources. Although it’s rare that a person, prior to the 20th century would have too much omega 6 overload on a cellular level, since the dawn of refined vegetable oil in the early 1900’s, omega 6 has been consumed in unimaginable and unprecedented quantities. This is key because several inflammatory molecules associated with obesity and numerous other inflammatory disorders (like autoimmune disease, asthma, allergies, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and so on) have a strong association with inflammatory cytokines. Two in particular, TNF-alpha and IL-6, have the strongest correlations, and studies have shown that the quantity of omega 6 ingestion is closely correlated to higher concentrations of these two inflammatory cytokines in a dose-dependent fashion. This is very relevant to obesity because inflammation of any kind is met with a surge of the hormone cortisol – a natural anti-inflammatory adrenal hormone that very likely triggers leptin resistance. Not only that, but a protein called SOCS (suppression of cytokine signaling) is also released as an inflammation response to IL-6 in particular, and the latest in biochemistry is pinning much of the leptin-resistance blame on SOCS. Read a little more about SOCS in this paper: http://www.jbc.org/content/278/16/13740.full.pdf
2) Cortisol – Cortisol, as mentioned above, is also implicated in the causation of leptin resistance. It’s well-known that having too much cortisol – in the blood or at the cellular level (which blood tests cannot reveal), is easily capable of inducing weight gain – particularly abdominal fat, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and so on. The extreme form of high cortisol levels being referred to as Cushing’s Syndrome, which you can read about at Wikipedia. Excess inflammation from omega 6 overload is not the only aggravator of cortisol though. Cortisol can be raised by any chronic stressor – from dieting to overexercising to mental/emotional stress to injury to chronic infection to free radical damage to environmental pollutants. There is no one single cause of high cortisol levels. This is often why people gain weight after divorce, death of a loved one, during stressful times, and after restricted dieting of any kind. Yes, I consider unwanted attempts to eat less and exercise more to certainly be a primary cause of obesity – not a cure. Hence 180DegreeHealth. [Elizabeth here: read more on cortisol at this post.]
3) Fructose – Researcher Richard J. Johnson has shown clearly in a laboratory setting that excess fructose consumption can lead to leptin resistance in lab animals. This makes a lot of sense considering that fructose consumption has radically increased in modern times, taking an even bigger leap along with obesity and type 2 diabetes rates when high-fructose corn syrup began displacing other sweeteners in the late 1970’s. If this induced leptin resistance, and leptin resistance made you crave more sugar and be ever-hungrier, than this would certainly explain the self-perpetuating nature of sugar consumption, which is known to be powerfully addictive. Hence ever-larger drink sizes since the dawn of Coca-Cola and the powerful obesity correlations with the consumption of fruit juice and sodas in young children.
4) Nutrient deficiency – Leptin resistance could very well be a natural human response to a lack of any particular nutrient. This is a fascinating thought, as nutrition pioneer Robert McCarrison noted in laboratory animals in the 1920’s that no matter what type of deficiency he created, his animals always showed the same endocrine patterns – the most significant being enlarged adrenal glands (think more cortisol in response to the obvious stress of nutrient deficiency) and atrophying of the thyroid gland (a subsequent response to stress as the metabolism drops in response to stress/cortisol).
It is certainly obvious why one would try to nourish themselves with the greatest abundance, from natural and traditional foods as advocated by Elizabeth Walling, in response to the greater biochemical understanding of modern health epidemics – obesity just happening to be one prevalent manifestation. Nutritional superabundance, lots of rest and relaxation, a diet that stresses natural fats over oxidized and omega 6-loaded vegetable oils, elimination of refined sugar, strict avoidance of stressful hunger-inducing diets masquerading as health programs, and more are all extremely vital in addressing our individual and collective health problems as a society.
So you best be listening to Elizabeth Walling. She is on the right track, has the right attitude, and is thirsty for more (milk).