libido

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.

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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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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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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

 

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.