digestion

Chronic stress, appetite suppression, control and metabolic inflexibility.

It was the famous stress scientist Hans Selye who suggested that stress can be a positive or negative force. But how do we know whether we are dealing with stress effectively? There’s a common theme among clients both male and female who have got used to feeling in control of their health by suppressing appetite, symptoms and a false sense of health by perhaps feeling in control. Is this control a false economy? A well-known symptom of stress is a loss of appetite and skipping breakfast, it feels better to perpetuate the production of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to liberate energy from stored fats and stride through the day with their endorphin like qualities. A common theme of females suffering from poly cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is chronic irregular eating or over eating in the obese. High stress can be chronic and perceived as the norm. I’ve observed the former in my eldest daughter through under eating as a product of emotional stress

‘For those habituated to high levels of internal stress since early childhood, it is the absence of stress that creates unease, evoking boredom and a sense of meaningless. People may have become addicted to their own stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, Hans Selye observed. To such person’s stress feels desirable, while the absence of it feels like something to be avoided.’ Gabor Mate

It should come as no surprise why some studies suggest that short term fasting, and calorific restriction seem to be productive in reversing aspects of inflammation and auto immune disease. When the body is stressed even eating certain foods becomes stressful. Dairy, sugar, fruits, grains all get the blame. I feel better when I don’t eat these some say. I feel better when I don’t eat others say. Is it the food or is it you? Can you be so fragile that eating some fruit for example is enough to send your biology into a tail spin. Eating sugar in excess can be problematic but then so can eating fat or anything in excess.

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A foundation of good health is built upon biological flexibility, potential and far away from equilibrium states.

The inability to utilise carbohydrate is a snapshot of the inflexibility of an individuals’ metabolism and not the carbohydrate. Evolutionary biology has provided efficiency by aerobic metabolism of carbohydrate and fat. The loss of efficient use of carbohydrate/sugar is the hallmark of a loss of function or flexibility and the chronic use of fats as a fuel is problematic due to increased oxidation of these lipids which can damage the aerobic apparatus within the mitochondria. The Randle cycle or glucose fatty acid cycle should allow flexibility between using either fats or carbohydrate as a fuel (Randle, Garland, Hales, & Newsholme, 1963). It’s often the lack of flexibility, decreased oxidation of carbohydrate and perpetual use of fats that damage the energy producing cells. Saturated fats are the preferred fuel of aerobic (oxidative) metabolism but in aggressive metabolism of cancer cells, unsaturated fats are utilised perpetuating the damage, promoting inefficient glycolysis or anaerobic metabolism that creates the acidic state of the cell.

The dogma that persists in nutrition circles is not based on sound reasoning but limited ideas that look at short term studies related to carbohydrate restriction. When a system loses its capacity to regulate sugar, we blame sugar instead of looking at the variety of factors that are responsible for degraded biology, carbohydrate utilisation and insulin responses.

Whether excessive exercise or inadequate nutrition the end result may be similar and its effects are far reaching into metabolism, cardiovascular, sexual and reproductive physiology.

By improving life conditions (in many ways) the hormones of pleasure can have a bigger role in our physiology. I think the experience of pleasure (whatever capacity for pleasure there is) increases the ability to experience pleasure, but I don't offer this with much hope as a therapeutic approach, since I know of people who say that running to exhaustion makes them "feel good" - neither "feeling good" nor "having orgasms" has a clear meaning, at present. Ray Peat

I’m not suggesting that going long periods without eating are necessarily bad, nor if you enjoy running is that bad either. Context is key. If you enjoy running run. If you have the capacity to go long hours without eating, then do that too. However if you have a system that lacks flexibility these actions can be problematic.

Have you ever considered not engaging in intense exercise for a couple of weeks to see how your body really feels?

I think this is a useful test to discover where your biology is really at. It can help determine whether you have been propping up a dysfunctional biology with intense exercise that falsely elevates your body temperature through activation of the sympathetic stress pathway. Slowing down and just focusing on walking and a few stretches shouldn’t feel stressful. Equally an individual who switches to eating regularly every 3 hours or so with the same amount of calories they were previously eating shouldn’t feel stressful. We all have patterns, routines and to the extent that they are effective or not is dictated by the metabolic flexibility that one should have. I’ll also suggest that metabolic flexibility could be analogous to emotional flexibility and mood states. A sign of improvements to metabolic flexibility and flux is return of energy, ability to tolerate exercise, good sleep, libido and emotional responses among other aspects of function. How do you know if it’s working? This diagram suggests what drivers are necessary and how to overcome your unwanted symptoms with the right inputs.

Metabolic inflexibilitY.jpg

Some patience seeking the return of these aspects of function is needed. After all, if you have spent decades constrained by negative symptoms then it may take more than a few weeks or months to fully resolve these patterns. In addition to the foundational work on hormones and chemistry, some people might find a need to address belief systems or require counselling for trauma or emotional grief to help resolve emotional stressors.

 References

Mate, G. (2008). In the realm of hungry ghosts. Close encounters with addiction. Canadian Family Physician.

Randle, P. J., Garland, P. B., Hales, C. N., & Newsholme, E. A. (1963). The glucose fatty-acid cycle its role in insulin sensitivity and the metabolic disturbances of diabetes mellitus. The Lancet, 281(7285), 785–789. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(63)91500-9

Peat, R. (1997). From PMS to Menopause: Female Hormones in context.

Selye, H. (1987). Stress without distress. In Society, stress, and disease, Vol. 5: Old age. (pp. 257–262). http://doi.org/10.1080/00228958.1983.10517713

 

Free Happy Hormones Copy

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Feel free to share around.


Download Happy Hormones

I wrote this book several years again and am in the process of creating a new, more complete text on the subject. Please feel free to download and share. All I ask is that you leave some comments on what you liked or disliked about it.

If you need any assistance with resolving energy, sleep, digestion, mood, libido, pain or other hormone issues then please check out the members area for more information or even the free resources section.

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A Bioenergetic Approach to Restoring Gut Function: Part 2

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Oops - A bioenergetic approach to restoring gut function part 1 was almost two years ago, my studies got the better of me, I’m sorry. Following on from the information of how to restore energy and digestion by simply removing foods that are difficult to digest, promote endotoxin, decrease energy and digestion. Replacing them with easily digested, protective nutrients can negate the need for expensive, reduced testing and a supplement list that causes you to rattle as you stroll down the street. Much like the decreased need for stool testing, I have rarely recommended a food allergy or sensitivity test for the same reason that I haven’t used a stool test for many years (or had the luxury of a nice cash kickback from the labs I used to use). Why? Because these tests show the body in a stressed, energy wasting state that is prone to inflammation and reacts with many foods like dairy. Is it the food? No. Could it be you? It’s possible.

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It’s not the dairy it’s you

Elie Metchnikoff suggested over 100 years ago that as putrefaction within the bowel occurs, function and immunity is compromised

 

Many clients have rolled into the office clutching their food sensitivity tests in a file, with dozens of other tests. Red bars, yellow bars, all highlighting so called problem foods. During bouts of stress (pollution exposure, psychological, under eating etc, excessive exercise, poor sleep) the body is prone to decreasing available levels of organisational hormones such as thyroid and progesterone. Usually the adrenal glands have to pick up the slack and compensatory stress hormones such as cortisol, glucagon, adrenaline and activation of serotonin (not a hormone) which  suppress thyroid and progesterone are perpetuated. This often creates a high sodium (salt) and magnesium wasting state and poor digestive function that facilitates increased sensitivity via increased serotonin and histamine levels. This also increases demand for vitamin C for gut mucosa maintenance and adrenal responses.

If this state is perpetuated increases in endotoxin (the by-product of bacterial metabolism and degradation ) burden the digestive system, liver, and can damage the gastrointestinal lining. Endotoxin levels are also  increasing through airborne environmental pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons  from fossil fuel use and industry (Annamalai & Namasivayam, 2015), so it’s worth considering that some people in a high pollution area, with poor digestive function are at increased risk of presenting with food sensitivities. They get tested, part with their cash and told to cut out 20 foods that they eat on a regular basis. Problem solved? Well no, it’s an intervention that will have some success but it’s some distance of what the person really needs.

 To simplify some of the well-known digestive issues with two ends of the spectrum.

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Restore function

Restore appropriate movement

Constipation – failure to go to poop daily, hard to pass.

 

IBS irritable bowel like issues. Loose often more than 3 times per day.

 

There’s plenty of reasons to link constipation with a low energy, functionally hypothyroid, subclinical or overt hypothyroid state (Lauritano et al., 2007) and increased bacterial overgrowth like SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The digestive system is energy and thyroid hormone dependant and restoring energy by supplying easily digested high energy foods can be a simple intervention with effective results.

Often when you dig into a person’s history, you might find that those with IBS like states often describe a period of constipation. It’s not impossible to suggest that sustained constipation will lead to increased endotoxin, serotonin and histamine that damages the bowel lining. When this environment is perpetuated by stress, poorly digested foods and low energy, the digestive system is maintained in a high stress state, sensitive and ready to reject any remotely objectionable substance. Any food can become problematic when the digestive system is over-burdened or sustains damage to enzyme producing structures in the villi and microvilli.

 If you follow the chart suggested in restoring gut function part 1, you should find yourself in a much improved state. If you need further improvement then the following factors have always worked well:

 

Constipation:

 Magnesium in forms such as chloride and glycinate or very useful for decreasing perceived stress and lowering the incidence of sensitivities and 400mgs to 1g is useful to experiment with and complements dietary changes suggested.

To restore bowel movement magnesium sulphate or Epsom salts will mobilise the digestive tract and I have found that clients if needed try half to a full teaspoon to grease the wheels.

Vitamin C is a great way of decreasing constipation. A few years back I would recommend a dose of 1-2 grams  but equally I feel adequate intake of orange juice will do a great job. The added benefit of orange juice (polyphenols) has been shown to decrease inflammation and endotoxin which is often present in both high fat and carbohydrate meals (Ghanim et al., 2010).

 

Cascara Sagrada If you need a good clear out to restart function then cascara is an extremely effective solution.


‘ An effective laxative (besides preventing inflammation) causes not only coordinated contraction of the smooth muscles of the intestine, but also adjusts secretions and absorption, so that an appropriate amount of fluid stays in the intestine, and the cells of the intestine don’t become water-logged.’ Ray Peat.

 

Caffeine seems a logical choice and the research on caffeine as a potent factor in the fight against cancer and neuro degenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is very positive. Coffee stimulates bowel function and like the suggestions above is useful to decrease the reabsorbed metabolites and toxins that may be instrumental in systemic inflammation. The aerobic/respiratory system is enhance and protected by coffee consumption, providing protection to the mitochondria (Eskelinen & Kivipelto, 2010).

 

Irritable bowel

Carrots I have posted about the power of grated carrot to reduce the irritated state many times and have seen some clients with over 20 years of IBS resolve with this simple addition. Carrots act as a natural antibiotic, lowering endotoxin and other bacterial end products (Babic, Nguyen‐the, Amiot, & Aubert, 1994) and bamboo shoots have the same effect. As increased bacterial issues stimulate endotoxin production the daily use of a carrot salad can be one of the simplest yet most effective tools that you can have to improve bowel function.

Bone broth, gelatin and glycine are also great for helping to support gastrointestinal mucosa, improve the brush border enzyme function and decrease the proinflammatory effects of eating tryptophan and iron rich muscle meats that can also irritate the bowel when excessive.

Mushrooms  when boiled also have a similar effect as the carrot by decreasing aromatase enzymes and estrogen  acting as a natural antibiotic.

I would challenge anyone who either has paid money for a food sensitivity test or who is thinking about it ,to simply try the suggestions set out in these two posts. Over the last few years I haven’t seen anyone who has failed to improve digestive function. Although sometimes other mechanisms involving hormones may need to be explored.

References:

Annamalai, J., & Namasivayam, V. (2015). Endocrine disrupting chemicals in the atmosphere: Their effects on humans and wildlife. Environment International. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2014.12.006

Babic, I., Nguyen‐the, C., Amiot, M. J., & Aubert, S. (1994). Antimicrobial activity of shredded carrot extracts on food‐borne bacteria and yeast. Journal of Applied Bacteriology. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2672.1994.tb01608.x

Eskelinen, M. H., & Kivipelto, M. (2010). Caffeine as a protective factor in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Vol. 20). http://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-2010-1404

Ghanim, H., Sia, C. L., Upadhyay, M., Korzeniewski, K., Viswanathan, P., Abuaysheh, S., … Dandona, P. (2010). Orange juice neutralizes the proinflammatory effect of a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal and prevents endotoxin increase and toll-like receptor expression. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. http://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.28584

Lauritano, E. C., Bilotta, A. L., Gabrielli, M., Scarpellini, E., Lupascu, A., Laginestra, A., … Gasbarrini, A. (2007). Association between hypothyroidism and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 92(11), 4180–4184. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2007-0606

 Peat, R. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/cascara-energy-cancer-fda-laxative-abuse.shtml

Body temperature and health

Most people are so confused as to what constitutes good health these days and when they turn up to my office in low metabolic states with digestion, sleep, energy, mood and other issues. One of the first things that they say is that they eat really healthily. If you throw into the melting pot the obsession with the keto diet, chronic calorific restriction (CR) or other modalities, those short term gains have turned into long term deficits. I’ve long opined that health in general terms can be defined by:

 

·      Good energy

·      Good Digestion 2-3 bowel movements per day

·      Restorative sleep

·      Balanced mood free of depression or anxiety

·      Desire for life, motivation, hobbies and interests

·      Healthy libido

·      Absence of pain

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What does your body temperature suggest about your health?

Get cold…read on

I’ll also add to that list a warm body and the ability to generate efficient energy,  a phrase biologists might use is a state of negative entropy. Entropy is a state associated with decay and disorder and as entropy increases, equilibrium is achieved - where a state of no energy in and no energy out or death of a living system occurs. The basis for life and metabolism is governed by the enzymes. Enzymes function well in an appropriate temperature and in a medium that is neither too acidic nor too alkaline. Mammals and specifically humans are endotherms that regulate their temperature in  tight range at approximately 37 degrees Centigrade (C) or 98.6 Fahrenheit (Bicego, Barros, & Branco, 2007). The central compartment theory of temperature  suggests that the head and the core should maintain a relatively stable temperature, due to the rich vascular supply and that the periphery may vary some 2-4 C.  

In a recent study that I conducted I suggested that the peripheral and core temperatures should remain at a similar level of about 37 C . The suggestion that a decreased body temperature recorded in the head, might be the last place that you would see a reduction due to the large quantities of glucose that the brain uses to maintain function. It’s possible to suggest that the slowing of function in low energy and hypothyroid states might be observed initially in the trunk or core. The well documented symptoms of constipation, decreased heart rate, slowed contraction relaxation of the heart and arteries and reduced peripheral relaxation of tendons (Achilles tendon reflex) might appear in the trunk and peripherally due to the preferential oxidation of glucose initially. Due to the vast systemic implications of low thyroid function, many different paths of decreased function might occur, dependant on nutrition, environmental stimulus and other stressors. In my study I didn’t find this but what I did find is strong linear correlations between low body temperature in both the mouth and armpit, multiple low thyroid symptoms (mean 6.8 per subject) and yet normal blood values.

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Thyroid hormone affects all aspects of biology

 

There are many factors that can decrease body temperature such as CR, fasting, estrogen, stress, pollution, over exercise and more. CR has been suggested as a mechanism for maintaining longevity but studies lack any conclusive evidence (Carrillo & Flouris, 2011) and a theory that a cold body, decreases metabolism, oxidation and damage therefore preserving tissues. Another emergent theory and results show in rodent studies, that mammals with a high energy intake, high metabolism and organised biology can increase life span (John R. Speakman et al., 2004) (J. R. Speakman, 2005). Think about this for a minute:

Calorific restriction makes the body cold, decreases metabolic rate  (via inhibition of thyroid hormone) and disorganisation of tissues. Entropy State

Adequate energy, maintains body temperature and organises tissues to function at their best. Negative entropy state.

From an evolutionary perspective fasting due to lack of food was a necessity. Fasting these days could be a useful tool, if you were prone to constant overeating but if your system lacks the flexibility to do so problems can occur. That’s not to say that calorie restriction for weight loss isn’t helpful but sustained CR in a system that doesn’t respond well might be counterproductive. Pollution has increased at a phenomenal rate clearly affecting physiology and hormones (Gore et al., 2015). Does it make sense that a so called detox diet, low in calories, protein, carbohydrates can enhance the function of detoxification, when liver function is energy and thyroid dependant? Skipping breakfast alone in some is associated with increased cortisol, glucagon and metabolic inflexibility (Jakubowicz, Wainstein, Ahren, et al., 2015) (Jakubowicz, Wainstein, Ahrén, et al., 2015). These factors can also decrease the mitochondrial uncoupling proteins which are responsible for increased body temperature.

Ageing is also associated with decreased metabolic rate, colder bodies and accepted increases in thyroid hormone stimulating values (TSH) (Laurberg, Andersen, Pedersen, & Carlé, 2005) . If symptoms of failing biology are present with isolated thyroid symptoms such as increased cholesterol,  , high blood pressure and sugar, cardiovascular issues and even cancer the acceptance of TSH and other thyroid hormone analysis to accurately predict hypothyroidism should be considered. Body temperature and metabolic rate was reliably used in the last century to diagnose hypothyroidism with qualitative analysis of symptoms and symptoms resolved with thyroid hormone treatment (Barnes, 1942) (McGavack, Lange, & Schwimmer, 1945) (Peat, 1999). Whilst thyroid is useful for restoring function, food and other factors can be used to restore and maintain function (previous blog on maintaining the aerobic system)

Certain nuances exist in temperature regulation that are dependant on acute or chronic exposure to stressors and a slowing down of the system through  a functionally, subclinical or overt hypothyroid state. In short term fasting, TSH is initially raised then decreases, negating thyroid blood tests. In the same manner the time frame of any stressor can dictate whether short or long term compensations of  the sympathetic adrenergic system is supporting the system. In well established feedback mechanism it’s known that as TSH increases so does cortisol and as body temperature approaches hypothermic levels (around 35C) cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline can increase body temperature as a protective response.

In a world where excess environmental and social stressors are ever increasing - it might make sense to maintain an efficient, organised warm body rather than reducing its function and heat.

 

References:

 

Barnes, B. (1942). Basal temperature versus basal metabolism. Journal of the American Medical Association, 119(14), 1072–1074. http://doi.org/10.1001/jama.1942.02830310006003

Bicego, K. C., Barros, R. C. H., & Branco, L. G. S. (2007). Physiology of temperature regulation: Comparative aspects. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpa.2006.06.032

Carrillo, A. E., & Flouris, A. D. (2011). Caloric restriction and longevity: Effects of reduced body temperature. Ageing Research Reviews. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2010.10.001

Gore, A. C., Chappell, V. A., Fenton, S. E., Flaws, J. A., Nadal, A., Prins, G. S., … Zoeller, R. T. (2015). Executive Summary to EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s second Scientific Statement on endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Endocrine Reviews. http://doi.org/10.1210/er.2015-1093

Jakubowicz, D., Wainstein, J., Ahrén, B., Bar-Dayan, Y., Landau, Z., Rabinovitz, H. R., & Froy, O. (2015). High-energy breakfast with low-energy dinner decreases overall daily hyperglycaemia in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomised clinical trial. Diabetologia, 58(5), 912–919. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-015-3524-9

Jakubowicz, D., Wainstein, J., Ahren, B., Landau, Z., Bar-Dayan, Y., & Froy, O. (2015). Fasting until noon triggers increased postprandial hyperglycemia and impaired insulin response after lunch and dinner in individuals with type 2 Diabetes: A randomized clinical trial. Diabetes Care, 38(10), 1820–1826. http://doi.org/10.2337/dc15-0761

Laurberg, P., Andersen, S., Pedersen, I. B., & Carlé, A. (2005). Hypothyroidism in the elderly: Pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment. Drugs and Aging. http://doi.org/10.2165/00002512-200522010-00002

McGavack, T. H., Lange, K., & Schwimmer, D. (1945). Management of the myxedematous patient with symptoms of cardiovascular disease. American Heart Journal. http://doi.org/10.1016/0002-8703(45)90476-5

Peat, R. (1999). Thyroid Therapies, Confusion and Fraud. Retrieved from www.raypeat.com/articles/articles/thyroid.shtml

Speakman, J. R. (2005). Body size, energy metabolism and lifespan. Journal of Experimental Biology. http://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.01556

Speakman, J. R., Talbot, D. A., Selman, C., Snart, S., McLaren, J. S., Redman, P., … Brand, M. D. (2004). Uncoupled and surviving: Individual mice with high metabolism have greater mitochondrial uncoupling and live longer. Aging Cell. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1474-9728.2004.00097.x

 

Better gut health with less bacteria?

Can you have better gut health with less bacteria? There’s an old saying in the integrative health world that ‘ Death begins in the colon.’ These were the words of the 1906 Nobel science award holder Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian scientist who did much to elaborate on the mechanisms of embryology, immunology and other aspects of health and disease. These days there’s much that has been written about the micro biome and the suggestion that diverse microbes within the bowel are an important factor in health. How we need to eat plenty of fibrous and fermented foods for better health. But how true is this and are more bacteria necessary for better digestion and longer life? “The retention of faecal matter for several days very often brings harmful consequences. Organisms which are in a feeble state from some cause are specially susceptible to damage of the kind referred to.” (Metchnikoff & Metchnikoff, 1908)

Ok so you aren’t likely to die anytime soon from being constipated for several days, you might feel like crap (excuse the pun). But what if the repetition of constipation is over years? We have seen that hypothyroidism and constipation is clearly linked and can induce small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (Lauritano et al., 2007). An inability to remove the waste products is a particular burden on a stressed system.

"Not only is there autointoxication from the microbial poisons absorbed in, cases of constipation but microbes themselves may pass through the walls of the intestines."

This description of endotoxin and other bacterial end products damaging and permeating the intestinal wall is a well-known modern concept of leaky gut or intestinal hyper permeability. Metchnikoff’s describes the putrefaction (think fermenting mass of stinky stuff) of foods within the bowel that lead to the damage described in a permeable gut lining that allows bacteria and endotoxin into the blood stream.

There’s a theory that I have, as it’s clear that not all people have constipation. Many present with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) like states, loose and perhaps a product of irritation induce by high serotonin and histamine (which by keeping to a minimum can also improve sleep and mood). It’s plausible to suggest that some people have already gone through a constipated phase induced by either a low energy or thyroid state, which may give way to a high adrenaline state over time. The lack of movement in the bowel for some can set the scene for future IBS reactions due to the accumulative damage induced by constipation, putrefaction, bacterial end products and increased irritation. Some clients have noticed that they previously went through a constipated phase before they arrived at their suggested IBS.

So if the current theme of recommending probiotics, raw and fermented foods is in vogue. What does that mean for the digestive system. I remember a newsletter from Ray Peat suggesting that animals born in a sterile environment generally live longer and have a higher metabolic rate. This in itself is a hard, near impossible feat to achieve outside of a sterile laboratory but consider this - Most babies are grown within a womb that does not contain any bacteria, as soon as they come through the birth canal and into the world at large. The bacterial management of life comes into play and had it come any sooner, may have had disastrous consequences. Other observations of Metchnikoff related to the longevity of birds, which have a high metabolic rate and limited intestinal flora -

‘Even in birds of pray which feed upon putrid flesh, the number of microbes in the intestine is remarkably limited. I have investigated the case of ravens which I fed flesh which was putrid and swarming with microbes. The droppings contained very few bacteria, and it was remarkable that the intestines had not the slightest smell of putrefaction. Although the opened body of a herbivorous mammal, such as a rabbit, gives off a strong smell of putrefaction, the body of a raven with its digestive tube exposed has no unpleasant smell. The absence of putrefaction in the intestine is probably the reason of the great longevity of such birds as parrots, ravens, and their allies.’

Metchnikoff also states that despite the absence of bacteria, their organisation and metabolism may be the primary driver for long health. Therefore if we were to keep bacterial interference at bay might we be better at living longer lives by improving our gut health? Our metabolism and cellular health is the key to prevention of many disease states. Extra bacteria may just be another factor that our immune system has to contend with and may be at the heart of autoimmune issues. From a comparative biology standpoint many other herbivorous animals don’t live as long as omnivorous animals. Horses, cows, and sheep live very short lives in comparison to other mammals that eat a wide range of foods. The main exception being the elephant, which has an extremely large intestine like other vertebrates.

Probiotics and fermented foods provide a mixed bag of research(Goldenberg et al., 2015). In many studies bacterial infections and digestive issues have not been resolved by probiotics. They do seem to be particularly effective at reducing bacterial/food poisoning cases and decreasing the diarrhoea like state by a day or two. Primarily this acts as a competing organism in the battle of the bowel and maybe why faecal implants have been shown to beneficial in the short term for some.. Even beneficial strains of bacteria such as lactobacillus can be problematic in excess due to the high levels of lactic acid leading to d-lactate acidosis, decreasing our gut health and overall wellbeing.

After all increased bacteria equals increased immune system responses and constant battles, for some there’s only so much that a faltering metabolism and immune system that one can take. Providing easily digested nutrients that limit bacterial growth and metabolites, that doesn’t burden a compromised digestive system seems prudent. In hypothyroidism gastric secretions such as hydrochloric acid are often lowered, further compromising digestion. Easily digested nutrients equals easily available source of energy and macronutrients.

To read more on how to combat these issues, to improve your gut health, digestion, mood and energy, this article is extended in the members’ area or there's also some information in this blog from 2017.

References:

Goldenberg, J. Z., Lytvyn, L., Steurich, J., Parkin, P., Mahant, S., & Johnston, B. C. (2015). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Vol. 12). http://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD004827.pub4

Lauritano, E. C., Bilotta, A. L., Gabrielli, M., Scarpellini, E., Lupascu, A., Laginestra, A., … Gasbarrini, A. (2007). Association between hypothyroidism and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 92(11), 4180–4184. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2007-0606

Metchnikoff, E., & Metchnikoff, I. I. (1908). The Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies. Our post human future. Consequences of the biotechnology revolution. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=U8bgKGvZJV0C&pgis=1

Sleep, stress, sugar. Eat sugar for better sleep.

Onset of sleep

Onset of sleep

Can you improve sleep and decrease stress by eating sugar for better sleep? If you put sleep, stress and sugar in the same sentence, most people think they have already put the three together with something like; too much sugar causes stress and affects your sleep. If you read on you should find yourself advantageously aware of sleep biology and why consuming sugary foods before sleep, and indeed if you wake up are the answer for a deeper nights sleep.

Ah a good nights sleep. You remember one of those don’t you? As a father to 3 children I have had my fair share of sleepless nights but a recent 11 hour sleep whilst my kids slept for 12 hours, recently reminded me of why everyone should strive for better sleep and the common approaches that people tend to fail to implement. A couple of years ago I studied a short course on the neurobiology of sleep with the University of Michigan and I found it useful as it correlated with aspects of serotonin function that Ray Peat (7,8) had talked previously talked about.

Generalisations of sleep biology phases are:

Sleep latency - Getting your sorry arse to sleep

NREM sleep - Keeping your sorry arse asleep

REM sleep - Deep arsed sleep

Wakefulness - Wake your sorry arse up

One of the primary driving factors of the onset of sleep or sleep latency is the production of adenosine. Caffeine is a well-known antagonist of adenosine and therefore many a wise word about not drinking caffeine after 3-4 pm as it has a half-life of 6 hours are well heeded (yes I know there are some of you that metabolise caffeine really well after that time with no impact on sleep, STOP SHOWING OFF).  Avoiding caffeine though out the day isn’t necessary and caffeine is a widely mis-understand compound that shows many beneficial effects, if you follow the rules for its consumption.

Often there is much focus on the role of melatonin and sleep induction and structures like the suprachiasmatic nucleus and waking. Melatonin does indeed promote sleep but so does adenosine and I think the supplementing of melatonin misses key biological functions that induce sleep more effectively and without the negative effects associated with its use.

Serotonin and melatonin confusion

Sleep wake compounds

Sleep wake compounds

Just like the holistic health practitioner that suggests that coffee causes adrenal fatigue (it doesn’t but that’s another blog by itself), some practitioners recommend the use of 5HTP - tryptophan supplements (tryptophan converts to serotonin) for better sleep but this is misguided for the following reasons. It’s true that melatonin is a hormone of sleep and that it is derived from serotonin and that serotonin has a small but limited role in inhibiting the cholinergic system responsible for keeping you in an alert, thinking state. In the diagram below and born out of many studies is that serotonin is a powerful compound of wakefulness that synergises with histamine and the histaminergic system to bring you out of the deeper REM sleep, and start the process of waking you the hell up. The diagram from Brown et al (Brown, Basheer, McKenna, Strecker, & McCarley, 2012) highlights the complexities of the sleep wake compounds but also useful for highlighting serotonin's role (5HT) in the excitatory waking state. It’s also a great overview of the many areas and compounds that aren’t addressed in this blog. One thing that should become clear is that the neural structures controlling sleep are many and so are the interactions between hormones and other compounds of wakefulness. My advice below is not complete but merely a reflection of some of the simple changes that you can do (and which I have done with many clients) to create better sleep and recovery. 

Here are a few pointers on serotonin and melatonin.

  • Many people are aware of the fact that at least 95% of the body's serotonin is produced in the intestines - namely the enterochromaffin cells.

  • People associate serotonin as a hormone of calmness. 1) It’s not a hormone 2) well known side effects of serotonin excess are insomnia and anger.

  • Serotonin induces spasticity of the colons smooth muscle tissues

  • Eating excess muscle meats increases serotonin (as does eating poorly digestible foods), inflammation and can contribute to increased wakefulness by synergising with histamine.

  • Melatonin may be implicated in seasonal affective disorder due to increased levels in darker winter days. Sunglass wearing may pose similar issues (Alpayci, Ozdemir, Erdem, Bozan, & Yazmalar, 2012)

  • Supplementation with melatonin during the day can induce disruptive changes to fertility and also suppress thyroid hormone (Creighton & Rudeen, 1989).

  • Peak concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) occur at night and might be suggestive of thyroid hormone suppression induced by melatonin and other hormones. The pituitary responds by increasing TSH to bolster thyroid hormone supply.

Of course there are other compounds which include acetylcholine, GABA, oxycretin, histamine and many other areas of the central nervous system that could be mentioned but I have tried to stick to the mechanisms that can be changed and promote change in a short space of time.

If you find it hard to drift off, these are my suggestions as to why this might happen:

  1. You are eating foods that promote intestinal inflammation and increase serotonin and histamine.

  2. You are exposed to excess stimulus such as blue light, Wi-Fi or other source.

  3. Your blood sugar levels are not balanced and promote the stress hormones that liberate glucose from stored fats and proteins - adrenaline-glucagon-cortisol.

If you wake up at night the following might be also be an issue

  1. You are eating foods that promote intestinal inflammation and increase serotonin and histamine.

  2. Your blood sugar levels are not balanced and promote the stress hormones that liberate glucose from stored fats and proteins - adrenaline-glucagon-cortisol.

Point 2 may be a significant factor for many people and available efficient glucose production may be one of the most under-rated factors in both the onset of sleep and maintenance of sleep. Waking up to urinate at night is a feature of the diabetic like state. Poor blood sugar regulation requires, that instead of relying on blood and liver glucose stores, the stress response be relied upon to liberate energy from stored fats. This is an inefficiency that requires a stressed state. You should not be waking at night to go for a pee.

Morning Cortisol profile

Morning Cortisol profile

You can see from the average nighttime cortisol profile that cortisol generally starts to rise around 2 am, steadily increasing prior to the onset of waking. If your ability to regulate blood sugar levels is compromised this can increase the burden to blood sugar regulation and increase waking further. The REM phase of sleep uses a similar amount of glucose as the waking state.

Here are some useful tips that I use with clients to promote better sleep and recovery.

  1. Take a look at the previous post on resolving digestion issues. This helps to take away some of the factors related to serotonin and histamine excess.

  2. If you are exercising hard, low carb, busy parent or whatever form of stress and therefore don’t manage your blood sugar levels, you don’t manage your sleep. If you struggle getting to sleep a sweet drink like milk and honey (yes the old wives tale works like a charm). A glass of fruit juice with gelatin is also good. Any pattern with something with sweet with a little protein/fat is useful.

  3. Add some salt - increased stress burdens the adrenal glands, usually though thyroid hormone suppression. Salt is wasted in this state and so is magnesium. Salt spares magnesium, so adding a little salt also helps magnesium regulation.

  4. If you wake during the night. This can be common when trying to resolve these issues as liver function and hormone regulation take a little time to adjust. Therefore having something sweet by the bed can help to help you re-enter sleep. Squeezy honey tube or pouch of juice with straw I find useful so that the juice goes straight down rather than covering my teeth.

  5. I have often found that progesterone and thyroid play a key role in sleep and many clients have benefitted from resolving the states of low progesterone/thyroid, which may not have resolved with food alone.

  6. Optimal blood sugar regulation often starts with eating breakfast to decrease adrenaline, glucagon and cortisol (Jakubowicz et al., 2015)(Levitsky & Pacanowski, 2013). Drinking a kale smoothie or coffee on an empty stomach is not the best way to break your fast and set up the day.

  7. Of course aspects of sleep hygiene related to no phones, WI-FI etc goes without thinking and go as far as turning your router off at night.So armed with some facts that you can decrease stress and improve sleep by eating sugar in the right amount, you can go and experiment for yourself.

References:

  1. Alpayci, M., Ozdemir, O., Erdem, S., Bozan, N., & Yazmalar, L. (2012). Sunglasses may play a role in depression. Journal of Mood Disorders, 2(2), 80. http://doi.org/10.5455/jmood.20120529055051

  2. Brown, R. E., Basheer, R., McKenna, J. T., Strecker, R. E., & McCarley, R. W. (2012). Control of Sleep and Wakefulness. Physiological Reviews, 92(3), 1087–1187. http://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00032.2011

  3. Creighton, J. A., & Rudeen, P. K. (1989). Effects of Melatonin and Thyroxine Treatment on Reproductive Organs and Thyroid Hormone Levels in Male Hamsters. Journal of Pineal Research, 6(4), 317–323. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-079X.1989.tb00427.x

  4. Jakubowicz, D., Wainstein, J., Ahrén, B., Bar-Dayan, Y., Landau, Z., Rabinovitz, H. R., & Froy, O. (2015). High-energy breakfast with low-energy dinner decreases overall daily hyperglycaemia in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomised clinical trial. Diabetologia, 58(5), 912–919. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-015-3524-9

  5. Levitsky, D. A., & Pacanowski, C. R. (2013). Effect of skipping breakfast on subsequent energy intake. Physiology and Behavior, 119, 9–16. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.05.006

Online:

7. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/serotonin-depression-aggression.shtml

8. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/serotonin-disease-aging-inflammation.shtml

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Being holistic versus (holistic) critical thinking.

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Is being 'holistic' an advantage to holistic critical thinking? It’s relatively easy to get drawn into a naturalistic fallacy of consuming all foods in their most raw natural state. Perhaps you’re someone who went from a fast food diet, where you didn’t feel your best, to consuming more whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables? It’s easy to see how a switch and positive changes can occur in the short term. The next step is to start preaching to the masses how sugar is bad, how your life will be saved with green smoothies, nuts, seeds and coffee butt cleanses. For the record this is a waste of coffee and not to far from what I was preaching a decade ago. So what does it mean to be holistic?There’s a large movement within the health fitness and wellness industry (and lay people) that are drawn to  'holistic' thinking, and their definition is often enforced by the fallacy that everything in its most natural state is better for human health. This appears to include foods like nut milks (yes you can milk a nut), kale smoothies, seed oils like flax and undercooked broccoli and other greens, despite their negative effects on human health when consumed in substantial amounts. It’s a religion, and much like religion and with this mind-set it isn’t going to make you any healthier. I’ll make reference here to the late, great Beastie Boy, MCA who despite being a vegan and a Buddhist died far too early from throat cancer.

It is true that eating plenty of foods in their most natural state f(or some foods) can be important for health. But the image on the right highlights the faulty narrative of being holistic without thinking about the consequences. Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meats and the like require minimal processing but in the quest for longevity, taste and profit, adding preservatives and flavour enhancers causes our food sources to become problematic. The so called ‘holistic’ folk get lost in this narrative urging your diet to become abundant in the rawest, greenest and brownest foods, that are most indigestible and contain potent inhibitors of biological function.

To integrate a level of holism into nutrition and function requires a level of critical thinking. What do these foods contain? How do they affect physiology? It’s well known that the brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts contain potent compounds that decrease energy output. These goitregens inhibit thyroid output and isothiocyanates found in cruciferous vegetables affects TPO or thyroid peroxidase, both of which are exacerbated when iodine uptake or restriction is present. Research tends to support these problematic effects (Choi & Kim, 2014)(Truong, Baron-Dubourdieu, Rougier, & Guénel, 2010), but much attention is focused on the smaller compounds that seem to work well in test tubes, rather than its global effects. As the environment becomes more stressful for biology do we need more building or reducing factors within our control?

The environment can be a harsh place. There are plenty of pollutants that have a negative effect on fertility, metabolism and other key endocrine aspects of health, some of which are industrial, others purposively added to food (arguably another form of industry) (Rajpert-De Meyts, Skakkebaek, & Toppari, 2000)(Upson, Harmon, & Baird, 2016). We can argue that the environment has always been a harsh place and adaptation has taken place as a response to selective pressures at the heart of evolution. Yet currently we are heading towards a tipping point, as environmental stimulants appear to be at the heart of acquired biological damage that is inherited by offspring. Cancer, fertility and other metabolic diseases are more common than ever and yet the approach is to keep seeking the magic bullet to ameliorate the fate that awaits many of us.

If we were to ask:

What enhances biological function, makes us more robust and allows us to have a stronger conversation with a stressful environment?

Rather than succumb to its stressors.

The highway to health

The highway to health

A biological system in its best working order could be represented, as an infinite road stretching into the  distance, perhaps with the odd bump along the way or a slight deviation but an ability to get back on track is available. Compare that to the inhibitory T-junction where the body cannot function as the clear straight road, it deviates from its true organised direction. The journey is laboured and restrictive. The ability to flux and respond to stressors is key and adequate energy is an essential component of reorganisation.

Nutrition is an important factor for such conversations with the environment. Eating a diet that is dominated with foods that are difficult to digest, decrease energy availability and create more stress are not going to make chatting any easier. If we make the effort to understand what keeps a cell and its mitochondria functioning at its most efficient state, we can understand why aspects such as sugar, adequate protein, moderate exercise, light and other factors, can play a role in overcoming current stimulus that decrease function and increase disease states.

The following article is definitely worth a read for an understanding of the concepts that I have talked about. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/vegetables.shtm

References:

Choi, W. J., & Kim, J. (2014). Dietary factors and the risk of thyroid cancer: a review. Clinical Nutrition Research, 3(2), 75–88. http://doi.org/10.7762/cnr.2014.3.2.75

Rajpert-De Meyts, E., Skakkebaek, N. E., & Toppari, J. (2000). Testicular Cancer Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Endocrine Aspects. Endotext. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25905224

Truong, T., Baron-Dubourdieu, D., Rougier, Y., & Guénel, P. (2010). Role of dietary iodine and cruciferous vegetables in thyroid cancer: A countrywide case-control study in New Caledonia. Cancer Causes and Control, 21(8), 1183–1192. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10552-010-9545-2

Upson, K., Harmon, Q. E., & Baird, D. D. (2016). Soy-based infant formula feeding and ultrasound-detected uterine fibroids among young African-American women with no prior clinical diagnosis of fibroids. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(6), 769–775. http://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510082

Nutrition and Exercise dogma

Dogma creation If you haven't yet met someone who has recommended you either some form of diet or a type of exercise, you are unique, in fact a real rarity, and somewhat lucky.

The fitness and wellness industry is awash with much dogma, often created by short term ideologies, that in long term may be harmful to ones health. A friend sent me a link to a simple yet effective graph from Keith Norris's blog  on chasing performance goals and their impact on health.  This got me thinking about the fields that I work in and how much of the recommendations are riddled with dogma and lack critical thought processes.

There's often a reason for this dogma existing and for many it is due to the anecdotal gains that can be experienced in the short term. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • High carb to low carb
  • Eating grains to not eating grains
  • High meat eater to vegetarian
  • Sedentary to high intensity exercise
  • Modern SAD to Paleo
  • Regular diet to juicing

There are plenty more and the point to be made is, some positive gains can be made in the short term, change to metabolic markers, restriction in excessive calories, weight loss and a variety of other markers. From the diagram above you can observe that whenever there is a change to the input of a system, change can occur and especially when there has been little variance in the past. As change occurs and an almost linear increase in perceived health markers also occur, a Zone of Optimisation and resultant dogma often ensue.

'This really worked for me, and it will do for you, trust me!'

Is the problem for many people, those often short term gains, on the way up on your performance curve, may actually start falling sooner than you think.

For the performance exerciser, poor movement, compensation and ultimately pain will ensue.

For those to the new diet, great results could  turn into stagnation, weight gain and a host of metabolic disturbances.

Is it working for you? Well do you:

  • Have good digestion?
  • Have deep restorative sleep?
  • Balanced energy?
  • Healthy libido?
  • Balanced emotions
  • Good stress response

If you don't, you may just be coming down from that peak of physiological and biochemical gains. When might it happen, 1, 2 or even 5 years down the line perhaps?  Hysteresis or a systems memory can be changed with ease if there exists, little underlying metabolic damage and a reduction of factors that increase resistance to repair  that system. Supporting metabolic processes should be first and foremost.

Understanding that fitness is not always a healthy pursuit and paying attention to markers that increase vitality should be a goal, and be pursuant to any fitness goal.

Move, play, eat, digest and sleep well.