As pointed out in my book, a lot of obesity or being overweight is due to stress. It is obvious that so many of us that are stressed turn to fast foods and high caloric foods for comfort (comfort foods). We also overeat (snack) as a coping mechanism since a lot of junk food is high in sugar which stimulates the serotonin centers. Unfortunately this stimulation only lasts a short time with these foods so more of the high sugar foods need to be consumed to keep this happy (but guilty and guilt causes more stress) feeling. Very important is that stress stimulates cortisol (see my other blogs or book on stress for a simple but extensive explanation) which ultimately leads to the liver constantly putting out sugar for the “fight or flight” response. This outpouring of sugar which cannot be used ends up being stored as triglycerides (fat) and therefore weight gain and insulin resistance and then finally the Metabolic Syndrome (another blog on this Syndrome). This is true even if one has dieted and lost weight, the probability of gaining it back is high since the stress still exists.
Synthetic substitutes are even worse then sugar for causing weight gain and evidence suggests strongly many are carcinogenic. There is scientific evidence that diet drinks and sugar substitutes (aspartame, saccharin and others) surpass the detrimental effects of regular table sugar. Here we get into leptin resistance; leptin hormone (Greek for thin) regulates appetite and fat burning and tells us to stop eating. Fat tissue produces leptin. Therefore the more fat the more leptin which leads to leptin resistance and therefore the appetite is not suppressed. Leptin actually signals the brain’s hypothalamus to signal the body to stop eating and start to burn fat and glucose. This gives more storage space to renew storage of glucose in the muscles thereby taking it out of the blood. Therefore, the pancreas does not have to produce more insulin and the body is burning more fat and avoiding insulin sensitivity to sugar cell receptors. Obese people have leptin resistance because the fat cells (adipocytes) have produced so much leptin and therefore desensitized the mechanism to stop eating. Red meat and dairy also seem to halt the leptin signaling. There is more complicated biochemistry to leptin but not for this blog. A good source for information is Perter Kash’s book Freedom from Disease.
There is no way of avoiding stress, it is part of our lives: But it is not the stress itself but how an individual deals with stress. The response to stress is an individual one; something that really freaks out one person may be no big deal for another. As said, it is not the stress itself that is the problem but how we cope with it. There are ways of responding to stress that are not detrimental. I believe that stress is the cause for almost all illnesses as I point out and reference with evidence based scientific research in my book. Eating as healthy as one can and exercising is a must (as now is seen in our children where I of 3 is overweight or obese); but it is not the full solution. One must uncover the reason for their overeating and especially of “dead foods.” Some people are prescribed pharmaceutical(s) for the stress problem especially antidepressants which can cause the side effects of weight gain, depression and sexual dysfunction obviously causing more stress. It is now known they have a possibility of suicide and aggressive dangerous behavior.
Taking pharmaceuticals for obesity or choosing surgery too often gives the patient false belief they can continue a poor life style since they are on medication or had some type of stomach-intestinal intervention. I believe that finding the cause is especially important even before a person is persuaded into doing one of the many stomach procedures such as bypass stomach surgery or balloons: and the education that they still have to deal with their life style. If they keep eating the same way they may not gain weight (or they may) but are still clogging their arteries leading to cardiovascular problems and high glucose consequences such as the Metabolic Syndrome (see my blog or book on this) or diabetes. After all, the sugar and fats have to go somewhere. Also, shortening the digestive tract will not allow for normal absorption for instance certain vitamins like ADEK which depend on fat for their absorption.
Although I am an holistic physician at times pharmaceuticals may be temporarily necessary. Let me explain; if a person has a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) there are supplements that possibly may cure it; but rather then put the client through the risk of the possibility of getting the sequel of polynephritis or glomerelonephrits I would rather treat that person with an antibiotic to prevent these serious possible problems. What I would do at the same time is double their probiotic and keep them on it (which all people should be forever) for at least two weeks after the infection is gone. Also, I would be seeking the cause of the UTI especially if they get frequent ones. There is room for both types of medical treatments depending on the illness and the client. Discussion and input from the client is essential.
If a stressed person’s belief is in holistic medicine and wants to be off pharmaceuticals like antidepressants they should not spontaneously abort them which can cause withdrawal problems. Also the person may be too scared to stop taking them for fear of the return of depression or other anxieties for which they are using the pharmaceutical. (This is true for all diseases and medications). There are many ways to perform weaning off of a medication and either simultaneously using a supplement or/& an alternative life-style route. But notice how many people on medicines have not changed their life style to help themselves. They believe that the pharmaceutical is their panacea. Also, if on pharmaceuticals it is important to re-examine oneself and for the physician also to do so because If you are one of the smart people, that is pro-active, with your life style you may not need them anymore and can be weaned off of them and on nothing. I have seen this with so many of my clients for many chronic dis-eases. Staying on an unneeded medication or supplement is not only expensive but the chemical may have a long term negative affect.
Now realize that there are some real medical conditions that cause weight gain and obesity. For example, hypothyroidism untreated since one is not metabolizing their food intake. This is not a difficult diagnosis for a physician to make with lab tests and a good interview with an exam of symptoms and signs. But even in this condition a holistic approach can often alleviate or cure hypothyroidism. Again, the patient and the physician must remember that hypothyroidism, and for that matter any illness may carry along with it stress to different degrees depending on the person and the illness. Part of the cure in any illness is the individual’s stress diminution.
I find that hypnosis, learning self – hypnosis, meditation, yoga, exercise etc. are especially helpful. Hypnosis and guided imagery get quickly to the cause of stress, depression and poor dieting problems and is relatively an inexpensive path to follow.
Alan J. Sault MD, AB HM-diplomat
Author: Emotional Vampires and Your Hormones: an holistic physician’s view of how stress affects your well-being and what you can do about it