The old saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” implies there is a deep connection between emotions and eating. My guess is no one is really surprised by this idea. Both men and woman can identify ways in which their mood and appetite are intertwined and it is no mere quirk of man’s personality that this is true.
Evolution tells us that we were born to eat. The earliest creatures in the world’s history were simple eating machines. Their bodies consisted of an entrance for food, a digestive tract and an exit for refuse. In order to become more efficient at getting food creatures developed a system to locate food and to move toward it. This system is known as a nervous system. The first creature to have this ability is the worm. Eventually the nervous system controlling the digestive system (enteric nervous system) began to sprout nodes which were early brains. As time went on and the brain became better developed it split off from the nervous system that controlled the digestive tract. Everything that followed in evolution, has served the purpose of developing increasingly efficient brains (central nervous system) for acquiring the fuel of life.
Another example of how deeply connected the gut and brain are, is to look at the development of the fetus. When a human fetus is still just a lump of jelly, the digestive and nervous systems are one structure. Soon this organ splits into two, one to become our gastrointestinal tract and the other the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Even though they become physically separated the chemical signals used by the gut and nervous system remain virtually identical. These chemicals comprise the groups known as neurotransmitters and hormones.
The same chemicals in the digestive tract that cause the intestines to twist and convulse (peristalsis), in the brain stimulate the emotion of anxiety. This explains why people get “butterflies” in the stomach or diarrhea when they are nervous. The brain chemicals involved in depression can cause constipation. The syndrome of irritable bowel disease (IBS) with its cycles of diarrhea and constipation is thought to be a reflection of an emotional rollercoaster. The chemical relationship between mood and appetite is even more complex but no less real. One of the most common side effect of mood altering drugs is increased appetite and weight gain. Just ask anyone who has been on an anti-depressant drug such as Prozac, Zoloft or Abilify. The chemical in marihuana that gets people high is famous for triggering the eating binge called “the munchies”.
Appetite suppressant drugs often have effects on mood and can be the source of major side effects. One new generation of appetite suppressants being developed, Acomplia, failed to be approved by the FDA because it caused severe depression and suicidal thinking.
In the next part of this series we will look at ways we can influence the brain to control our appetite.
Many members at metabolism.com have expressed concern that their cortisol level is either too high or too low. I thought it would be helpful to highlight the latest exchange I had on the subject.
Hello: My overall dhea and cortisol levels are ok but cortisol is a little high what can i take to stabilise the level of cortisol, i know reducing stress and exercise e.t.c but i mean in terms of products is there anything that can balance cortisol, because i am suffering from low t3 and i know without good adrenal fnx
thyroid supplemts wont be as effective
As you know the adrenal gland produces a hormone that is vital to survival known as cortisol, cortisone, or glucocorticoid. You are correct that during stress the adrenal will produce more cortisol which helps prepare the body for aggressive activity or injury. When the stress is relieved cortisol levels return to normal. Excess of cortisol causes a disorder known as Cushing’s Syndrome and a deficiency is called Addison’s Disease or adrenal insufficiency. Both of these disorders can cause illnesses serious enough to result in death. Fortunately cortisol excess or insufficiency is very rare and when diagnosed in time can be controlled. Several years ago there was an unethical company marketing a product called Cortislim which they claimed reduced cortisol levels to induce healthy weight loss. This product was removed from the market. As far as I’m concerned there is no legitimate product that will safely reduce cortisol levels, nor should there be. The body regulates production of cortisol very carefully because it is such a potent hormone with potential to help and harm in major ways. I believe you would be safer letting your body decide what your cortisol level should be rather than trying to do it yourself. You can check out another of my blogs on the subject of adrenal function. My book Metabolism.com includes a section where I review the controversy about adrenal fatigue as well.
One aspect of lifestyle that is often overlooked is time spent sleeping. Getting adequate sleep is often sacrificed due to the demands of job and family. In the Sleep Heart Health Study over 1400 men and women were surveyed about their sleep habits and its relationship to diabetes and prediabetes. It was found that sleeping less than 6 hours per night was associated with increased risk of having diabetes. Interestingly, in those sleeping more than 9 hours per night there was an increased risk of diabetes and prediabetes.The authors of the study recommend trying to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night to minimize the chances of developing blood sugar problems. To learn more about ways of preventing diabetes see pages 90 to 98 in my ebook “Metabolism.com”
Maintaining ideal body weight with diet and exercise is also crucial for avoiding diabetes and prediabetes.In overweight adults for each2.2 pounds(1 kilogram) gained per year the risk of developing diabetes increases about 50% over the next ten years. By losing 2.2 pounds per year the risk of developing diabetes is reduced about33% for the next 10 years (J Epidemiol Community Health. 2000; 54(8):596-602).
Speak to your healthcare professional to find out if you are at risk for developing diabetes and to learn ways you can avoid it.
Gary Pepper M.D.
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Hello, I am brand new to these forums and hope someone can give me some insight and/or feedback. I am have had odd symptoms over my life; some treated and some “seemed” to correct themselves. I know I have low T, but what concerns me is that I am receiving treatment and like usual; no reasoning as to why this has taken place (cause). Reading your forums made me wonder if it is just low T or if it is a combination of things. A little about me; I am male, just turned 40, slightly overweight and went from being an athlete to a work-a-holic with a semi-sedentary job. I was diagnosed with low T (197) and received some treatment which helped moderately but now I am going two months without anything (medication) and I honestly can’t believe how bad it is. Here is a list of current symptoms:
Depression, anxiety, anger and mood swings.
Absolutely no energy at all. Literally, it takes effort to make a phone call and I am always tired.
Weight gain, primarily around my midsection and some in my breasts. I am about as pear shaped as you can get.
Lately, can’t think straight, can’t remember simple names and places.
Significant loss of muscle, feeling weak and body aches like I am 40 years older than I am. Getting off the couch is a chore.
Questions: Can all this be attributed to low T or severe low T? Will it get better with medication (typically)?
Now here is a condensed list of other issues I have had over the last 20+ years:
Inconsistent erections and lack of full erections.
Poor sleeper, go to bed at 1-2 and wake up at 7 or 8. Can’t get comfortable, can’t shut off brain and always hot.
When I get hot, I RARELY sweat. Instead, I feel like my insides are boiling and nothing can seem to cool me off once I get hot. I just moved to Louisiana, so it like the worst place for me!
Extremely inflexible. Even when I was playing sports competitively, it took forever to loosen up. This lead to a multitude of pulled muscles, bad back, you name it.
Went from skinny 6’4″ 180 in high school to 280 in a few years after stopping sports.
I have been on medicine for ADD (adderrall) for 10 years and was given medicine for depression which was later discontinued.
I had an instance where where liver inflamed for no reason and my Billirubin (?) counts went to 6 times normal. Nothing could be figured out as to the cause, but I remember feeling a lot like I do now.
The reason I am providing all this information is because I hope to quit treating symptoms and help my doctor find a cause. I am tired of taking medications and remember what it felt like to feel good, think clearly and not be such a mental case. Maybe it is all just low T or maybe these symptoms match something(s) else. Either way, I just want to have hope that I will stop feeling this way. Thank you for your time.
Sally Anne’s submission was chosen by Beth Ellen DeLuglio as the winner of a free nutrition consultation. Beth and Sally have already been working together for the past week. We look forward to keeping members of metabolism.com posted on their progress.
We thank those of you who submitted your thoughts to this contest and hope that by keeping up with Sally’s comments, problems and progress that you can gain useful information to help you achieve your own goals. We also plan to rerun the contest in the near future so keep your eyes open for more information.
Sally’s winning comment is as follows:
The biggest obstacle to acheiving my weight loss is many-fold and complex as I believe it is for most. I believe my sleep apnea is the worst “culprit”. I also have Hashimoto’s thyroid disease and in 2006 I crash dieted and lost 82 lbs in 11 months only to suffer a rapid rebound weight gain of 40 pounds. For over two years, I have not been able to get this weight off. I was previously insulin resistant and had surgery on PCOS. The fibromyalgia affects working out. I feel that all of these issues feed off one another. It is crystal clear to me that feeling poorly every day from debilitating fatigue is the biggest obstacle to acheiving the weight loss I so desperately need. I really do need help. I want to live before I die.
Good things can develop during a crisis situation. For me it was the eye opening experience I had this week by participating in The Thyroid Patient Community Call. The Thyroid Patient Community Call is a group internet telephone call hosted by Janie Bowthorpe, author of Stop The Thyroid Madness. During the 90 minute session I was able to interact with dozens of callers as well as Janie herself. Needless to say, Janie’s audience is mostly individuals who are deeply committed to maintaining Armour Thyroid as a treatment option and who are equally angry with the field of Endocrinology which backs the ban on dessicated thyroid hormone. I knew this audience wanted answers to some very tough and troubling questions. For a few days before the call I needed to review for myself just how this crisis developed, and how I became a lightning rod for the growing controversies. I believe this process was necessary and therapeutic.
Being a strong advocate of t4 plus t3 therapy and of Armour Thyroid, I was in sync with most of the topics being discussed on the call. What was hard for me was hearing the out pouring of stories describing how endocrinologists had alienated (infuriated) so many thyroid patients. How to explain but not excuse the inflexibility, wrong headedness and arrogance of a whole field of medicine on a topic central to its mission, my own field for the past 25 years? My head still hurts thinking about it. For those wanting to hear how this played out can visit Talkshoe.com which hosts these shows and follow the instructions for listening to past episodes of Janie’s show. Perhaps Janie can give more specific instructions by posting them here.
I came away from Janie’s session with a firm recognition that the field of Endocrinology is in serious need of a make-over. Imagine a Democrat walking into a room full of staunch Republicans and asking everyone to join him in a sensitivity training program. It is a lonely job.