by: Frank Wilhelmi
A big scare these days is the skyrocketing cost of medical care, with estimates that the system will be broke by such-n-such a year. A big cry goes up for better preventive care, and in the next breath the medical community calls for more frequent screening to allow early detection, as though that will reduce the cost of health. The only thing that will really reduce the cost of medical care is if people stop getting sick until much later in life, and then don’t fight death with every high-tech weapon available when finally on the way out.
We are living longer – average life span in the US has increased dramatically since 1900. This is largely because we have defeated those infectious diseases such as pneumonia, parasitic illnesses, infant mortality and childhood diseases. However, these have now been replaced by heart/vascular disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia, all of which are inflammation-related degenerative diseases of aging. The primary issue with these pathways to death is that they take a long time to play out and treatment of these conditions is very, very expensive. The incidence of these diseases is climbing steadily. The biggest indicator that we are doing something very wrong is that these degenerative conditions are manifested at younger ages in our population with every passing decade. We now have children with type II diabetes; we are doing something very wrong in terms of lifestyle and nutrition. Recent science is pointing to three predominant areas wherein these mistakes are being made: nutrition/eating, sleep quality and exercise (or the lack thereof).
Foremost in importance is how we eat. We somehow think that a full belly is the only important aspect of eating that counts. We will not tolerate a moment of minor hunger. This is the underlying cause of obesity in this country. The primary objective of eating should be to provide all the raw materials the body needs to run at optimum efficiency; to maintain the immune system at top performance, repair damage to joints, muscles, and connective tissue and keep organs functioning optimally. Along with this, we should eat to prevent the accumulation of excess fat, particularly internal abdominal fat that has been finally understood to be an inflammation factory, cranking out pro-inflammatory signaling chemicals that ramp up inflammation throughout the body and brain.
So, most people understand that we should be reducing our sugar intake, our use of refined seed oils that are omega-6 dominant and flush with trans-fats, and eliminating manufactured foods like chips, white breads or cookies. Most people understand that drinking water is far healthier than downing a 20-ounce high fructose corn syrup-laden or diet soda 3-4 times a day. They just don’t chose to act on that knowledge. The first consideration in nutrition is to eat a wide variety of real foods, and to reject the manufactured pseudo-foods that clutter the inner isles of our grocery stores. Choosing from the true foods found on the outer walls will bring the best health return. Give consideration to how those foods are grown and raised – there is a profound difference in nutrient and toxin levels between big-industrial farm products and natural organic-grown foods.
The newest understanding of how food works in the body involves the hormone leptin. Leptin regulates metabolism to control energy production based on food availability. It is the chief survival hormone, down-regulating metabolism in times of famine to insure the body survives until food becomes available. It also operates on a short term basis to tell you when to stop eating. It is produced by white fat cells, and in this short-term control process, when you have eaten enough to start storing triglycerides in fat cell, leptin levels rise in the blood, cross into the brain and signal the hypothalamus to turn off your appetite. Recently, numerous studies have shown that people with excess body fat are resistant to leptin’s signal – the hypothalamus never gets the message, the appetite never slacks and the brain wants us to eat more carbohydrates, far more often.
This leptin resistance is the precursor to elevated blood sugar, elevated insulin levels, insulin resistance and on into type II diabetes. Body fat levels continue to rise with age, as do levels of inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the arteries leads to vascular/heart disease. Inflammation in other tissues leads to cancer of the breast, liver, pancreas and prostate. Inflammation in the gut leads to colon and other digestive system cancers. What very few people yet understand is that this whole cycle can be prevented by eating in harmony with leptin signaling.
The information that follows has been assembled by Byron J Richards, CCN, and founder of www.wellnessresources.com. This site is the internet arm of his popular nutritional clinic in Edina, Minnesota. Byron is one of the first clinicians to bring together the rapidly unfolding significance of leptin in the field of nutrition, and to devise strategies for fostering correct leptin function. The key learning to be understood is this: when you eat is every bit as important as what you eat.
How do you eat in harmony with leptin? It is incredibly simple and totally revamps your body in a very short time. It eliminates the progression of these disease states in blinding speed – it is bazaar how profound it is, and yet you never heard of it. Here it is:
1. You eat nothing after dinner, which should be finished about 3 hours before bedtime, and you go to bed on an empty stomach – hungry – yes hungry; it’s fundamental to making the body switch to burning stored fat after you are asleep. This alone will improve liver function. You need 7 – 8 hours sleep for leptin and insulin to function best; anything less pushes us toward insulin resistance rapidly.
2. You only eat three meals a day, about 6 hours apart, and you have NO snacks or caloric intake in between. When you get hungry about 3 hours after a meal you start drinking water; it will slack the hunger, and rehydrate you properly. If you are hypoglycemic as I have been for 45 years, then make sure you eat low glycemic foods for your meals: a good protein source, plenty of vegetables, adequate good fats and few starches or sugars.
You will be surprised to find that if you eat right, your liver will deliver glucose to your blood as it is supposed to between meals and you won’t have low glucose events. Don’t drink coffee between meals, as it will drive your blood sugar down too far. That is the only time I have had a problem with blood sugar, and now I know better. I think it is important to learn to appreciate the sensation of hunger, and start thinking of it as a signal of thirst instead – at least it has been working for me with no problem.
3. Do not eat large meals. Finish eating when you are slightly hungry; the key to this is to eat more slowly to let the ‘I’m full’ signal catch up to the meal. If you feel like you would like another serving, walk away. Chew your food; it adds to the pleasure and takes longer. I would also add that the size of your meals should be relative to output for the day. So, if you dug a trench around your half-acre lot, it is ok to pack in more than if you typed articles like this most of the day.
4. Eat significant protein at breakfast – it begins the rebuilding and repair process for the day. It is a very important factor in creating the thousands of enzymes your body will need to run its chemistry for the day, and very important for proper liver function. My advise: don’t fall for the ‘eggs are dangerous’ lie – they are the stuff required for life to begin, and a very complete food.
5. Reduce the amount of carbohydrates (particularly starches and sugars) in your meals. Excess carbs in any meal become triglycerides and get stored as fats. They run your insulin levels too high and cause a crash later as blood sugar falls too far, too fast.
That’s it! How simple is that? Here is what will likely happen as a result. Your body will finally start burning fat for energy instead of storing it. Your fat will melt away effortlessly and without a pause until you are lean as you should be. Inflammation levels throughout your body will be drastically reduced, energy level will rise, and your thyroid and adrenal systems will start operating better. Most people see a return to normal levels of cholesterol, reduced fasting blood sugar and better blood sugar regulation. Blood pressure should improve and blood circulation throughout the body generally improves. Statistically, your odds of ‘catching’ cancer, heart disease or diabetes will be greatly decreased.
To get the most health benefit from this strategy, you need to sleep correctly. Lack of sleep, on an even short-term basis, is a huge life-stressor. Poor sleep quality will push even young people toward metabolic syndrome in just days. Recent research has shown that even 2 consecutive nights of 5-hour sleep increases blood sugar, baseline insulin level, and creates a powerful craving for carbohydrates to support energy production. Order your life so as to get 7 to 8 hours quality sleep every night, and if this pattern is interrupted by newborns and sick children, restore it to a healthy pattern as soon as possible.
Finally, exercise – purposeful, sustained movement of the body - is REQUIRED for health. The human body is designed for motion and application of force to the world around it. Just consider the changes that occur to a person when they spend a month in a hospital bed – everything atrophies. Muscles evaporate; bones weaken and lose calcium, energy production grinds to a minimal level – not a pretty picture. This process is also manifested in the process of aging; like a 50 year version of a 3-month stay in a hospital bed. However, the body responds to the stresses of appropriate exercise by getting stronger – at any and every age! It is never too late to push against your physical limitations and coax the body to respond by building itself new muscle and strength. I consider strength training to be the closest thing to a fountain of youth, and the older you get; the more you need to be doing it. But start moving somehow, anyhow, and build upon the progress. Be particularly concerned with maintaining leg strength – the day you can’t get up from a seated position on the ground, independent living is pretty much over.