How Does Exceeding Your Body Fat Capacity Make You Sick?

In a recent post, Seriously Now – How Much Can I Afford to Weigh?,  my message was that the fat capacity of any individual, the point at which fat cells are full and cannot store more fat, is the key to the many inevitable manifestations of ill health associated with obesity.

As that post describes, it isn’t how much you weigh. It’s not if you are obese or even if you are thin. Its how much more you can weight without getting sick.

Your fat capacity (technically called fat threshold) is genetically defined; it is what it is. The question is how does exceeding that threshold make you sick and what can you do about it?  In the end, it all boils down to understanding insulin.

The symptom of diabetes is high blood sugar. Just the symptom. But the cause of diabetes is excessive insulin (technically called hyperinsulinemia) followed by the inevitable insulin resistance. And excessive insulin has many more health consequences than diabetes.

Insulin is a hormone like cortisol or estrogen and many others. Under normal circumstances each and every hormone in your body increases and decreases as required over time and isn’t supposed to stay persistently high. Anytime one hormone stays high for a long time, body cell receptors recognize the error and resist accepting the hormone. It might be floating around in your blood but it isn’t doing its job.

Consider cortisol, a stress hormone.

Quoting from WebMD, “Cortisol receptors — which are in most cells in your body — receive and use the hormone in different ways. Your needs will differ from day to day. For instance, when your body is on high alert, cortisol can alter or shut down functions that get in the way. These might include your digestive or reproductive systems, your immune system, or even your growth processes.”

“— (once) the pressure or danger has passed, your cortisol level should calm down. Your heart, blood pressure, and other body systems will get back to normal. But what if you’re under constant stress and the alarm button stays on?”

When stress and cortisol levels remain persistently high, receptors resist. Consequently all those happy things that are supposed to happen from the normal body use of cortisol get whacked up.

Now let’s consider insulin.

At the simplest possible level, when everything is working as intended, three things are of particular importance.

(1) Insulin permits glucose in the blood to deliver to body cells for the production of energy. It also allows the liver to store a small amount of that energy in backup glucose storage (glycogen).

(2) When excess energy is available (beyond that required for energy production and glucose storage in the liver/) the liver converts the extra into fat and insulin permits that fat energy to be stored as body fat.

(3) And because glucose and fat are not supposed to wandering around in the blood at the same time, insulin also stops fat cells from releasing fat freely into the blood. When insulin is low fat cells are permitted to release fat, also used for energy as plan B.

Here is how resistance starts.

The occasional higher insulin demand attached to a meal (or a piece of cake) is not a problem. But when the diet (or some other factor like stress, illness, medication) results in a persistent amount of insulin in the blood stream, resistance first build up in the body cells, muscles as an example. The message from the cells is “I have all the energy I need and I don’t want any more.”

The resistance fails to permit the delivery of the glucose. Hiding behind all that glucose in the blood stream is an increasing level of insulin working to compensate for the excess glucose. And it works, at least for a while.

Eventually the high blood sugar levels damage the pancreas (the maker of insulin) and its ability to generate insulin is compromised. Then blood glucose goes even higher. Understand that the persistently high blood sugar alone (without consideration of the insulin effect) also damages the kidneys, the eyes, the brain, the blood vessels, nerves, etc.

In the face of insulin resistance in the body cells, the liver is working hard converting the excess glucose into fat, which is then permitted to go into fat storage. Note that the last place that insulin resistance develops is in fat cells.

Excess insulin, excess fat. So you can conclude all on your own that obesity is the result of excess insulin.

NOW, when you reach the fat capacity of your fat storage, there is a new problem. The fat cells now develop their own insulin resistance. “Nope, there is no more room here either, do something else with that stuff.”

And it’s not just an ability to store more fat that is blocked. One of the jobs of insulin was to keep fat in the fat cells when the blood stream is dealing with glucose. But in the presence of insulin resistance, the fat cells don’t hold on to the fat already there. It starts to spill over into the blood. Fat and glucose are not supposed to be present continuously at the same time.

Remember that the look and feel of a person’s body fat may not reflect the capacity problem. There are examples in my previous article. But the problem is exactly the same, obviously obese (diabetic or not) or looking fine (but diabetic). The fat has to go somewhere. Nothing just disappears in the human body.

When your capacity for subcutaneous fat is reached, energy is already not storing properly. Blood sugar goes higher and higher. Your cholesterol and triglyceride levels get too high. You start to have heart trouble. Your blood pressure goes up. Your (other) hormones get messed up and you have lots of symptoms. And your liver has to figure out where to put that excess energy that can’t be stored in your fat cells.

The only option open is to stuff the fat in and around your muscles and body organs like the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and heart. So you have non-alcoholic fatty liver and then the doctor gets really excited.

We have now arrived at the end of the journey that started with continuously high levels of insulin and ended in a very bad place.

The fix for this problem has to come from where it started –  with high insulin. What usually starts accumulation of body fat from high insulin is diet.

It sometimes takes only a small reduction in body fat to get below your fat capacity threshold. This may not take extraordinary effort. Rather, even just a reduction in carbohydrate foods that require a lot of insulin may be all that is required. These are invariably processed foods in sacks and boxes, primarily including sugar (pies, cakes, cookies) and starches – starches like grain (wheat, corn, etc as in flour and cereal) and root vegetables (potatoes).

It is actually remarkable how quickly body fat can disappear with that dietary change.

Sometimes we hate changing. But considering the long term health implications of high insulin described above, it is certainly worth a shot.

Just remember that whatever dietary change you employ, it needs to be permanent and not a one-time shot. Otherwise you just put the fat back on and the cycle starts all over again.

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry); chairman of the Tasty Acre project; and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her website is http://allaboutthefood.org/

Seriously Now – How Much Can I Afford to Weigh?

I know two women who weigh about 400 pounds. One is healthy as a horse, climbs stairs with no difficulty, feels and looks fine, no symptoms and no medications. The other is a diabetic with heart trouble, rides in a cart at the grocery store, can barely walk around. I also know a man no one would not call fat but has a bit of  “pot belly ” hanging over his belt. He is diabetic and has a “fatty liver.” Obviously any one-size-fits-all definition of a healthy weight may be wrong. How can that be? Continue reading

What do Diabetes and Epilepsy have in common?

This morning I watched a youtube presentation from the latest low-carb summit (Low Carb Breck 2018) by Dr. Eric Kossoff, specialist in epileptic children and ketogenic diets.  It brought back a memory. Two years ago I wandered the aisles in the health food store in Hot Springs looking for a low carb protein powder I could use to make faux pizza crust. As a diabetic I don’t “do” grain but occasionally would like to create a substitute. The sales clerk was very interested in my mission because her daughter is epileptic and treated with a ketogenic diet. Apparently this diet had almost completely eliminated her daughter’s seizures. So the question is, what do diabetes and epilepsy have in common? Continue reading

Stop the assault on your body

In a recent post, Every Bite You Eat Is Either Fighting Disease or Feeding It, I said that “hundred or so years ago most of the chronic diseases so common today were rare or had never been heard of. There is a message here. These days we are feeding disease”

Read here an earlier post describing three real people with autoimmune diseases who reversed their conditions with dietary changes. These are people who stopped feeding their disease.

Those folks and the rest of us are all different. Our genetics are not all the same. How our bodies react to certain foods or chemicals is not the same.  You cannot presume that because John can’t eat grain, dairy, or oranges doesn’t mean that you can’t. Nor does it necessarily mean you can.  So anyone (including the government) that suggests there is a perfect diet for everyone is, frankly, smoking something.

What matters is whether certain foods make you sick. Your challenge is determine what diet is right for YOU. So let me help you figure that out.

Start here. A chronic disease is a condition that persists ongoing. Anything that can’t be “cured” with a medication is chronic. Cured means it goes away and doesn’t come back. A “treatment” points at symptoms but doesn’t cure a condition.

Chronic diseases come with degrees of severity and consequences.

The worst will be those most affecting the brain, worsening at varying speeds, and ultimately robbing you of your very self.  Examples are MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, a variety of dementia including the scariest, Alzheimer’s. There are no truly effective treatments or cures for these.  And the chances of a cure discovery don’t seem to be good.  Pfizer Drug recently halted research on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Next would be autoimmune diseases.

The job of the immune system is to recognize and eliminate stuff that is harmful to you. Under persistent circumstances (like the immune trigger happens a lot) the immune system can get confused and attacks some protein in your body (like maybe your knees), misreading your knees as something pathogenic and needing elimination. You can treat these by medically turning down the immune system (which actually creates a whole new set of problems) but there are no medications that will cure them.

Then there are conditions like cardiovascular disease and heart failure, diabetes, obesity, etc. You can treat these with medication but there are no medications that will cure them.

Then there are the sometimes uncomfortable symptomatic reactions that are clues that something may be leading to the conditions above.  These would be stuff like weight gain, stomach ache, acid reflux, bloating, pain, constipation, rashes, headaches, mental confusion, anxiety, high blood sugar, etc. etc. In many if not most cases, persistent uncomfortable symptomatic reactions will eventually become debilitating.

I spend my time researching the prevalence, causes, and fixes of chronic diseases. And here is what I know.

Everything I listed above is the result of an assault on the body. That assault could be chemicals arriving in the environment (air, water, anything around you that isn’t you). But the biggest and most common assault has to do with the food you put in your mouth. The effect of the assault can be made worse by your genetic makeup but, in most cases, eliminating the assault makes genetics less important.

Maybe you have been convinced that you will always be sick when you are old. And indeed your chances are greater because you have a lifetime of continuous assault that your body hasn’t been able to overcome. Today is the day to stop the assault.

You can accomplish that by paying really close attention to symptoms. For clarity, if you can say you feel good and are able to attack each day with gusto, you have no symptoms. On the other hand, if there are days when this is not true, then you do have symptoms attached to something.

Don’t be tempted first to take up the perfect diet you just read or heard about. Paleo, keto, LCHF (low carb/high fat), Mediterranean, South Beach, Weight Watchers, vegetarian, vegan, some supplemental drink, carnivorous (all meat), there are so many. First you must ask yourself some questions.

Can I easily connect my symptoms to something I ate or did? Like “every time I eat xxx I get heartburn.”  “Anytime I do xxx I don’t sleep well and I get a headache.” “Every trip to my mother-in-law‘s makes me sick.”  You may be surprised how good your instincts are when you don’t ignore them.

When I don’t eat/do/expose myself to that “something” do my symptoms go away? Is my diet dependent on commercially processed and fast food? These are the foods that are calorie dense (lots of them), chemically dense (in the processing and ingredients), and nutritionally empty (the nutrients so important to your body are largely missing.)

I spent some time with a friend yesterday who was deathly ill for months. Persistently she figured out the causes which were sugar, gluten, and acid foods. She sticks religiously to her diet which unavoidably includes no commercially processed food; she feels and looks wonderful.

You too can eliminate those symptoms by simple avoiding that “something.” Stocking up on Nexium, Ambien, and Tylenol is not the right answer. In other words, your symptoms are giving you clues about how to make your diet and lifestyle appropriate for YOU. It may take some work on your part but it is certainly doable.

The more “symptoms” you have, the more they will interfere with your life and the greater the chances that you health will escalate to the more chronic and debilitating conditions common with age. Today would be a good day to stop the assault.

 Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry); chairman of the Tasty Acre project; and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her website is http://allaboutthefood.org/

 

Blossom Time!

With a friend at a local eatery for breakfast the other morning I observed a grandma and grandpa seated with their son and a grandson  who was about three years old. I should point out here that both grandma and grandpa were definitively obese, filling their chairs with overhang. The son is on the road but has not yet arrived. The grandson was not even overweight.  All three adults are enthusiastically helping this boy decide what to eat. Continue reading

So – What about Inflammation

Inflammation is a hot health topic but I often wonder if folks understand what that means to them personally. Really important for those with diabetes, heart and various autoimmune diseases. These are people with extreme inflammation. From a dietary perspective, grain and legumes (beans) are particular contributors. Here is why.

Continue reading

Every bite you eat is either fighting disease or feeding it.

A hundred or so years ago people ate whole food from their garden or farm and pasture raised or wild caught meat and fish. All the nutrients our bodies needed to fight infections and bugs were in the food. All the nutrients needed to create the food were in the soil. A hundred or so years ago most of the chronic diseases so common today were rare or had never been heard of. There is a message here. These days we are feeding disease.

Now how the heck did that happen?  

A more complete explanation is provided in my book, It’s All about the Food. But here is a high level summary.

People left the farm and moved to the city, leaving gardens and pastures behind. Commercial farms continuously growing massive quantities of the cheapest crops possible became common. Those cheap crops are grains like wheat and corn along with soy beans. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides were developed to increase yield and provide cheap maintenance. Eventually those chemicals and the prevalence of single crops damaged (and continues to damage) the soil and the food.

The meat in our diet evolved from the animal in the pasture to commercial feed lots supplying our grocery stores. As you might expect the animals are fed that very same grain (remember, it’s cheap) even though that is frequently not their natural food. Consequently they tend to get sick and antibiotics become a staple. And the plus for the meat seller is that that animals put on lots of (saleable) weight. We humans have the same problem with weight for the same reasons.

Commercial processed food manufacturers saw the light and figured out how to use all those cheap crops in every way possible. The main ingredients in cereal, pasta, bread, cakes (cookies and pies), chips, etc are grain of some sort. Another way to use cheap crops is to make vegetable oils from them. Consequently there hardly exists a processed food today that does not include grain or soybeans in some form – content that is calorie dense (as in lots of them) and nutritionally deficient.

Just because you may not see those particular words on the box or bottle ingredient list does not mean they aren’t in there.

The processes and chemicals developed to make those processed foods palatable are mighty handy. Why use real blueberries when you can achieve the taste, smell, and texture of blueberries chemically! Americans crave the right taste and processors know how to appeal to that craving. Americans love convenience and cheap food. Processors and fast food restaurants have made cheap (or at least they seem cheap) and easy into a fine art.

We are now paying a different price for cheap and easy. We have ceased to fight disease and are now feeding it.

Is food all that matters?

Not really. Persistent stress in our lives and lack of sleep are serious contributors to ill health. And toxic chemicals abound, well beyond those found in food. Chemicals are in your water, dirt, clothes, cleaners, skin products, building and home good, on and on forever. Chemicals contribute mightily to disease but it will be impossible in this world to avoid those toxic chemicals completely.

So my subject here is food. You are totally in charge of what goes in your mouth. Commercially processed food and vegetable oils are the number one contributors to chronic disease and extra weight.

I could talk for many more pages on the negatives of commercially processed food including vegetable oils. I could make massive lists of additives found in processed foods and explain why each is bad for us. But that isn’t my interest here. My interest here is the vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids, etc. that occur naturally in whole food and are ESSENTIAL to our health but are missing in commercially processed foods.

Essential is a real word. It means something is required. Commercial food processing significantly reduces or destroys the natural nutrition in food. Odds are the nutrients listed on a food label were added chemically. What we have is taste without substance.

Our poor bodies know what is required nutritionally and are designed to use those nutrients to keep us running and well. And when we don’t get those nutrients our bodies become chronically inflamed and we will be sick. We will be sick!

And we are sick which explains the escalating levels of chronic diseases, stuff like diabetes, arthritis, blindness, atherosclerosis, obesity, kidney disease, celiac disease, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), a long laundry list of autoimmune diseases.

Some want to believe that they can take supplements instead of eating properly. However, there are literally hundreds of nutrients required for our bodies’ operation. Only nature knows how to combine nutrients together in food and deliver them in the most absorbable way. God did not create your body to expect that your vitamin C, calcium, or any one other nutrient would arrive in a pill.

Supplements are commercially manufactured, frequently contain additives contributing to toxic load, and are not in a form that our bodies can easily absorb. For your entertainment do an internet search on the different forms of magnesium supplements along with the pros and cons. You get to choose. And if you make that decision based on price, you might make a poor choice.  A really good supplement will be pricey. And don’t depend on supplements (cheap or expensive) to do the job of food.

My advice, therefore, has not changed from the day my book was published. To the very largest degree possible, eliminate commercially processed foods and oils from your diet. You spent a lot of money for your kitchen. Learn to use it in a healthy way.

Probiotics? What the heck!

https://www.nowfoods.com/sites/default/files/thumbnails/2015-now-probiotic-infographic-thumb-2x.jpg

I see tons of advertising on TV and Facebook for probiotics. Just recently I read an excellent post from Silver Sneakers on Facebook, The Best Foods for a Healthy Gut Unfortunately the reader needs to know just a bit more than the article provides.

The question is – why and when are probiotics necessary and what is the best way to take them? Continue reading