Welcome to Week Five of our journey to UltraWellness.
This week I'll show you how the small molecules that help keep your body in balance may have gone haywire and are causing your current health problems.
**Remember, I will be launching an entire video course on the 7 keys to UltraWellness starting tomorrow, Thursday, March 8th. To sign up for that now, go to website below:
Last week, you learned how keeping your gut and digestive system healthy can clear up many problems you might be having. That's an important key to UltraWellness, but we still have a long way to go.
On to this week's topic: your hormone and neurotransmitter systems.
So, how are you feeling today?
Do your mood and energy swing up and down?
Do you crave sugar or salt?
Are you overweight and putting on more and more belly fat?
If you are a woman, do you have premenstrual syndrome, painful or heavy periods, and low sex drive?
Are you depressed? Do you sleep poorly?
Do you feel tired but wired?
Do you rely on coffee in the morning and a few glasses of wine at night just to wake up and calm down every day?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you're not alone!
In fact, this is how most Americans feel.
We are living out of harmony with our natural biological rhythms.
The cause: The small molecules that help keep your body in balance have gone haywire.
These molecules are involved in almost every function of the body, and they are critical to wellbeing.
They are the hormones-messenger molecules of your endocrine system and the messenger molecules of our brain and nervous system, called neurotransmitters.
Understand how and why these systems get out of balance and you will go a long way toward understanding why Americans run around tired, depressed, and overweight!
The hormone and neurotransmitter system is another one of the core systems of the body we must address to achieve UltraWellness.
Today, I'm going to explain why these systems get out of whack -- and how to get them back in balance for good.
First, let's review how they work and why so many of you may feel miserable.
==> All of our hormones and brain messenger chemicals work together in a symphony.
The hypothalamus and pituitary glands in your brain are the command and control centers for all the endocrine glands.
They send signals to distant parts of the body to control everything from your stress response through your adrenal glands, your blood sugar balance through your pancreas, your thyroid hormone via your thyroid gland, your sexual behavior and function through your reproductive organs.
They also control growth, sleep, mood, and much more.
Neurotransmitters send messages throughout the body to every cell and organ and tissue and help you do everything from move your arm to feel happy or sad.
They are like a finely orchestrated symphony that must work together to keep every thing in balance.
No wonder these chemicals are so important to good health!
And when they become unbalanced, your health can suffer.
Three major causes of poor health in America today are triggered by unbalanced hormones: too much insulin (from sugar), too much cortisol and adrenalin (from stress), and not enough thyroid hormone.
==> This week, I'm going to talk about what happens when your insulin gets out of control.
(For a much more detailed and in-depth look at balancing your hormones, fixing your insulin problems and the other 6 keys to UltraWellness, please go to http://www.ultrawellness.com/p?i=8 -- remember, the course starts tomorrow, Thursday.)
Let me tell you about a patient of mine whose story may sound all too familiar to you.
James was a 46-year-old Wall Street executive who came to me for a cardiac stress test. He was a hard driving, don't-look-up type of guy who was convinced he was dying of heart disease.
Every day during in the late afternoon, he would experience the sudden onset of sweating, a racing heart, anxiety, and shortness of breath.
In other words, he thought he was going to die!
He was thick around the middle and after listening to his story and taking one look at him, I said, "You don't eat breakfast do you?"
"And you feel tired after eating so that is why you skip food during the day - to keep sharp for work, and when you feel like that you go for the vending machine or a soda and get a quick sugar fix and in a few minutes you feel better."
Shocked, he said, "How did you know?"
I explained to James that he was fighting with his genes and was insulin resistant, leading to wide swings in blood sugar that were responsible for his symptoms.
In other words, his hormones were severely out of balance.
He couldn't control his metabolism of carbohydrates because he had too much insulin.
So his blood sugar was out of balance, leading to all his symptoms -- and taking him down the slippery road toward high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, cancer, brain aging, dementia, and more.
James is not alone.
In fact, some 80 million Americans suffer from this condition, called insulin resistance.
It affects everyone a little differently, but the ultimate consequences are similar.
Most people with insulin resistance have extra fat around the middle.
(You can check this yourself by measuring your waist around your belly button and dividing that number by the measurement around your hips. If the result is greater than 0.8, you likely have insulin resistance.)
However, the only sure way to know is with an insulin response test, which measures blood sugar and insulin levels while you are fasting and then one and two hours after you consume a 75-gram sugar drink.
So why do so many people have insulin resistance?
The answer is simple.
==> We have strayed from eating in harmony with our genes.
Historically, people ate the equivalent of only 20 teaspoons of sugar a year as a hunter/gatherer species.
These days, we eat a whopping 150 lbs per year per person, or about 1/2 pound each day. The average schoolboy eats 34 teaspoons of sugar a day!
Well, we evolved in a world without grocery stores, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants. We had to work for our food and had limited access to refined foods or excess calories.
In fact, our genes are pre-agricultural. We only started farming 10,000 years ago and only started refining flour about 200 years ago.
But with the appearance of 15,000 low-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie foods over the last 15 to 20 years, we have created an epidemic of increasing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
You see, your body normally produces insulin in response to food in your stomach, particularly sugar.
We once thought that insulin's only role was to help the sugar enter the cells to be metabolized, transforming the stored energy of the sun (in plant foods) with the oxygen we breathe into the energy we use every day to run our bodies.
But we now know otherwise.
Now we recognize insulin as a major switching station, or control hormone, for many processes.
It is a major storage hormone -- fat storage, that is.
As long as your insulin levels are high, you will fight a losing battle with weight loss. That's because insulin acts on your brain to increase appetite, specifically an appetite for sugar.
Here is what too much insulin really does to your body and health:
* It increases LDL ("bad") cholesterol, lowers HDL ("good") cholesterol, raises triglycerides, and increases your blood pressure. In fact, insulin resistance causes 50 percent of all reported cases of high blood pressure.
* It makes your blood sticky and more likely to clot, leading to heart attacks and strokes.
* It stimulates the growth of cancer cells.
* It increases inflammation and oxidative stress and ages your brain.
* It increases unhealthy homocysteine because sugar consumption decreases your levels of vitamin B6 and folate.
* It also causes sex hormone problems and can lead to infertility, hair growth where you don't want it, hair loss where you don't want to lose it, acne, low testosterone in men, and more.
* It also leads to mood disturbances.
Clearly, more insulin isn't a good thing!
==> Balancing blood sugar and correcting insulin resistance is well within our reach.
Scientific advances during the last few decades have revealed the solution.
While there are some new medications that can help, such as Glucophage, Avandia, and Actos, they have side effects and are only a band-aid if you use them alone.
Instead, I recommend following a comprehensive nutritional, exercise and stress management plan.
My goal is to make your metabolism more efficient and to make your cells more intelligent and cooperative, not resistant.
In other words, you will need much less insulin to accomplish the task of balancing your blood sugar.
You can reset your metabolism of sugar and insulin by stopping the things that knock you off kilter and providing the things that balance your body -- allowing you to thrive.
==> Here is what to do:
1) Stop eating flour and sugar products, especially high-fructose corn syrup.
2) Don't consume liquid calories like those in soft drinks and mixed drinks. They don't make you feel full, so you eat more all day!
3) Stop eating all processed, junk, and packaged foods. If it doesn't look like the food your great-great-great grandmother probably ate, then stay away.
4) Stop eating trans and hydrogenated fats.
5) Slow the rate of sugar uptake from the gut through balancing your meals with healthy protein (nuts, seeds, beans, small wild fish, and organic chicken), healthy carbs (vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains), and healthy fats (olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocadoes, and fish oil)
6) Rough it up: Eat plenty of soluble fiber (30 to 50 grams a day)
7) Eat smaller, more frequent meals
8) Get an oil change: Eat more omega-3 fats to fix cell membranes so that they can more readily receive messages from insulin.
9) Move your body: Exercise improves your cells' ability to work better, respond to insulin better, and burn sugar faster.
10) Relax! Stress reduction also helps improve blood sugar control.
11) Make your cells smarter by increasing your intake of specific nutrients, such as chromium, vanadium, magnesium, vitamin E, biotin, the B vitamins, zinc, bioflavinoids, and some newer compounds, including alpha-lipoic acid, arginine, and carnitine.
12.) Herbs may also be of benefit. These include Panax ginseng, ginkgo biloba, green tea, fenugreek, gymnena sylvestre, bitter melon, and garlic.
Try this plan and see how it works for you.
I think you'll find that just balancing this one hormone -- insulin -- can have wide-ranging effects on your health.
Join me next week to continue our journey to UltraWellness, when I'll tell show you how to optimize your detoxification system so you can achieve good health -- and avoid becoming a toxic waste dump.
Now I'd like to hear from you...
Do you have symptoms of insulin resistance?
How does the food you eat seem to influence your mood, weight, and other symptoms?
Have you tried any of the recommendations here? How did they work?
Do you have any other examples of how hormones or neurotransmitters can get out of balance and cause problems?
Please click on the Add a Comment button below to share your thoughts.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, M.D.