From Debra Stark’s desk
A repeat from 2013 because it’s time to recalibrate….
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, family physician and a four-time New York Times bestselling author, we’re battling a “diabesity” epidemic. Diabesity, he says, is when our bodies move from balanced blood sugar to insulin resistance (the state when our cells become numb to the effects of insulin and need increasing amounts of it), to full blown diabetes and obesity.
Diabesity occurs, Dr. Hyman says because we’ve drugged our cells with too much sugar and starch (yes, this is an oversimplification on my part…).
But what if we can’t stop eating carbs and sugar? What if we can’t resist that big bowl of pasta? What if eating cake is routine instead of an occasional indulgence?
I recently read a book published in 1999, called The Diet Cure: feel better in 24 hours, naturally by Julia Ross, M.A., which encourages us to stop dieting, to balance the body’s chemistry so we don’t have the cravings in the first place. The book says that dieting and pep talks won’t help when what we need is a biochemical overhaul.
According to Ross, amino acids (isolated protein fragments) are the key to getting off the treadmill. Amino acids are, she says, stronger than willpower. A brain that has these nutrients has no need for a sugar high, she claims.
My own personal experience bears this out, and I found that taking supplemental amino acids works quickly. I found that within 48 hours after taking specific amino acids (l-glutamine, in particular), food cravings were manageable. I wasn’t driven to eat that bowl of pasta for dinner. Sure, I thought of it, but I was able to scramble some eggs and make a salad and bake a yam. I enjoyed the meal that wasn’t pasta!
Mind you I hadn’t been able to do that for some time. Was it placebo affect? I don’t think so.
The question, then, is, are we sliding down the continuum towards diabesity not because we’re weak willed, but because we’re low in certain brain chemicals that our body craves? And why is our body deficient in these brain chemicals to begin with?
This is a complex subject, and I certainly don’t have the answers. It could be what we eat. Are we eating too many drug-like foods? Refined sugar, refined flours and alcohol, for instance, can unbalance things and create cravings. (So, it seems, can certain medications.)
Deficiencies might occur because we inherited them from a mom who lived on chocolate bars when she was pregnant. Deficiencies happen when we’ve been under too much stress, because stress does a number on us.
If we’re eating too little protein, the food source of amino acids, we can’t make the mood-enhancing chemicals we need.
How much protein is recommended to make those mood-enhancing chemicals and stabilize blood sugar? The current advice says to eat three eggs, a chicken breast, or a fish or tofu steak at each meal (of course with fresh veggies and other good food too).
Interestingly, The Diet Cure says that sugar is almost identical to alcohol biochemically because it’s instantly absorbed and doesn’t need digestion. It raises blood sugar levels, and then allows them to plummet. It makes us moody, unstable, full of cravings.
And it’s interesting that Dr. Joan Mathews Larson, author of the book, Seven Weeks to Sobriety, suggests using amino acids to feed the addicted brain. Amino acids in protein fill up empty mood-
chemical sites in the brain. Forrest Tennant, MD, says that alcohol is the ultimate carbohydrate drug,
and that one eventually needs more and more to get that “good feeling.”
He has found that fish oil and another essential fatty acid called GLA, found primarily in borage oil, may make an interest in alcohol disappear.
For most of us, sweet and starch act like drugs to temporarily lift mood and then deplete our natural chemistry.
While there’s no room here for the protocol in The Diet Cure, I found the amino acid L-glutamine, which is the most abundant amino acid in our bodies, seems to curb sugar and carb cravings. I followed the recommendations in the book which suggested two 500 mg tablets 3 times a day between meals. I did this for about a week.
Where can you find amino acids, aside from taking them as supplements? In food, as we’ve mentioned above. There are 22 amino acids. Fish, eggs, chicken and beef contain all 22, including the 9 that are considered essential. However, even foods like avocados have protein, as do, of course, nuts and seeds, beans and whole grains. While some say we need to combine vegetarian sources of protein to make sure we’re getting all 9 essential amino acids, others say the body does a pretty good job banking what we eat and doing the combining itself.
If adding the right amount of protein to your diet doesn’t correct imbalances for you, your solution might be as simple as balancing body chemistry by taking a supplemental specific amino acid for a short time.
Don’t forget to eat the good fats – fats are not the enemy with regard to diabesity. Every cell in our body has a coating of fat because fat acts as a barrier to keep out harmful microbes. Our brain is 60% fat. Fats regulate all body functions at the cellular level, and fat is required for production of serotonin to elevate mood and promote good sleep too. Good fats=nuts, seeds like hemp and sesame, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, butter, ghee, borage and flax oils, etc.
The body is a wonder and lets us know it’s time to take action. We just have to listen. January 2018 seems like a good time to listen again. Here’s to balance, eating better, having more energy and less belly fat. No more sliding down the continuum towards diabesity.
Green Tea to Help Keep Us Healthy
Another food to help us? Green tea. Green tea, Camellia sinensis, has been used medicinally in China for over 4,000 years. Green tea contains antioxidants, and antioxidants are what prevents cells from damage and premature aging.
Not only has green tea been shown to support the body’s immune system (try gargling with it if you have a sore throat or are afraid you’re coming down with a cold or the flu), but Japanese studies have shown green tea can lower blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels from rising inappropriately. As an antibacterial, green tea inhibits dental plaque and cavity formation. Try sipping green tea after each meal as do the Japanese to prevent bad breath.
Researchers surmise that Japanese men, 75% of whom are heavy smokers, are relatively free from heart disease or lung cancer compared to us because they drink of green tea.
Two everyday types of Japanese green tea: Bancha is made from tender spring leaves which contain unprocessed, bioactive caffeine for mental clarity and weight loss. It is less expensive than Sencha, another Japanese green tea. Kukicha is roasted, made from twigs and stems, contains less caffeine and is noted for its blood cleansing qualities, high calcium content and stronger, smokier flavor.
Green tea contains caffeine, though only about a third to half the amount in a cup of coffee, and L-theanine, an amino acid that produces an anti-stress effect. The caffeine and L-theanine combine, creating this sense of calm, alertness. A perfect pick me up without the jitters.
How to prepare: Don’t boil your green tea. Bring water to a boil, add tea and let steep for several minutes. Explore the world of green teas. Like any plant, there are variations due to climate, geography, rain, sun, etc. Enjoy them all and do yourself good!