Do you crave a sweet, a chip or a caffeinated beverage at least once a day?
Do you have to eat snacks in between meals to prevent your blood sugar from crashing?
Do you carry extra weight around your belly, hips or thighs?
Are you experiencing more and more “senior moments” with uncharacteristic brain fog?
All of the above are early signals that may point to the body experiencing a specific combination of factors that experts are seeing bundled together so often, it is being dubbed “the next epidemic.”
I always tell my patients to learn to listen to their bodies’ signals when they are whispering, and not to wait until their bodies start screaming. In this article, I’ll talk about the symptoms of this epidemic, the cyclical stress effect that wreaks havoc on the body, and ultimately, how to safeguard your health by using simple tools to master the underlying keys to this epidemic: your metabolism, cravings and weight.
The Next Epidemic
This next epidemic involves a staggering number of health concerns linked to the combination of unhealthy blood sugar levels and holding on to extra weight. (1) This silent but deadly duo is what experts are calling the largest epidemic the world has ever faced, (1) and one that is predicted to affect 366 million people by the year 2030. (2)
The Stress Effect
According to new research, a lifestyle of stress, overeating, lack of exercise and a diet of processed and indigestible foods results in the body producing a cascade of damaging bio-chemicals. (3) One of these bio-chemicals, called cytokines, are small proteins that plays a key role in cell signaling, essentially telling other cells what to do. (4)
When under excess stress, the body produces these cytokines as the first and necessary response to heal. The problem is, these cytokines are ultimately damaging and lymph-congesting, and they disturb blood sugar hormones from properly metabolizing fats, sugars and proteins. (5) When the lymphatic system becomes congested, the body holds onto water and lymphokines, a type of cytokines that get stuck in traffic. Over time, the lymphatic system can’t circulate well and may directly weaken the immune system.
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGES) are also a major contributor to the next epidemic. They are produced when excess sugar in the blood binds to certain proteins. The end products, called “AGES,” clump the blood and wreak havoc on all the tissues in the body. This glycation process has an affinity for two proteins responsible for the youthful look, function and glow of the skin: collagen and elastin. Losing the services of these two proteins may compromise the health and beauty of the skin on the outside as well as the inside of the body, which is a gamble we don’t want to take.
Even though we all want to look good and age gracefully, it is the inner skin – the skin that lines the arteries, gut and respiratory tract – that will deliver a long and healthy life and, as a bonus, beautiful skin!
Researchers believe that the process of glycation as a result of blood sugar levels even within the “normal” range (just reaching the high end of what is considered normal) may be the silent contributor to the next blood sugar, weight and health epidemic.
What Happens When Your Blood Sugar Crashes?
In discussing glycation and its end products above, I’ve mentioned that this is caused by excess sugar, or glucose, in the blood. Let’s take a closer look at the signs of excess blood glucose and, more importantly, how we can tell if we are at risk.
Many of us have experienced a “blood sugar crash.” You’re fatigued, maybe you haven’t eaten and a headache is creeping in, you can’t concentrate and your mood is starting to suffer. Moodiness, difficulty focusing, and irritability are all signs of blood sugar “crashing,” and this is so common that it is often accepted as a normal part of life.
As common as they are, a blood sugar crash is actually a big stressor for the body, and has a cascading, domino-like effect throughout all the body systems that can easily be prevented.
Effect #1: We Stop Burning Our Fat
When under any kind of excessive stress – even stress due to too much exercise or a blood sugar crash – the body produces degenerative stress-fighting hormones that have a litany of effects, including causing the body to store fat, rather than burn it.
Because of excess lifestyle and dietary stress, we have lost the ability to burn fat well as a culture.
Fat is the calm, stable and detoxifying fuel. Carbohydrates, which are the body’s other primary source of fuel, burn quick, resulting in ups and downs in energy. Because of excess carbs in the diet, we as a culture have been riding the blood-sugar roller coaster ride of quick-burning carbs.
Each time the energy goes up after a satisfying high-carbohydrate or sugary meal, it quickly crashed. The body responds to this crash as a fat-storing, sugar-burning
emergency. From here, the body starts producing the stress-fighting hormones, cytokines, and AGES that wreak havoc on all the body’s tissues.
The Role of Good Fats
We have been told for 30 years that fats are bad, all the while we subsidized farmers to grow wheat and corn (sugar, basically) for pennies on the dollar.
So we replaced fats, the source of fuel that we are genetically wired to burn, with carbs and sugars, which burn quickly and leave us hungry.
Of course, by being told that “fats are bad,” we have only been told half the story, because all fats are not bad – just the cooked, processed and refined ones that can sit on a shelf for months at a time without going bad.
Effect #2: Lymph System Backup
Lifestyle and dietary stress causes the lymph to congest, which will:
- Slow down a healthy immune response.
- Slow the body’s natural detox pathways.
- Cause poor waste removal and weight gain.
- Additional weight gain causes further cellular and lymphatic congestion, exacerbating all of the above symptoms.
Effect #3: Cravings
Lifestyle and blood sugar stress will trigger cravings for sweets, salty and stimulating foods and drinks. As a result:
- Blood sugars are forced to spike and fall excessively during the cycles of crave/eat.
- Pancreatic insulin and digestive enzyme production lags due to blood sugar stress.
- Blood sugars rise, elevating insulin and cortisol, which store fat 4 times faster around the hips, organs and belly than anywhere else on the body. This is also the most dangerous place to store fat in terms of health risks.
Effect #4: Irritated Intestinal Mucosa
Excessive lifestyle and dietary stress irritates intestinal mucosa, which compromises detoxification, nutrient assimilation, and fat metabolism.
- Reactive intestinal mucus causes bowel inflammation and Gut Associated Lymph Congestion.
- Trillions of microbes, which support immunity and most bodily functions, are damaged with a stress response.
Effect #5: Compromised Pathways
Digestion, assimilation and detoxification pathways are compromised, leading to:
- Increased lymph congestion defaults toxins to the liver, which overwhelms liver function.
- Thickened bile and congested bile ducts.
- Congested pancreatic ducts, which share an opening with bile ducts, causes more pancreatic stress, fewer digestive enzymes, and insulin concerns.
- Congested bile cannot neutralize stomach acids. To prevent the digestive tract from being burned by stomach acids that are too strong, the body produces weaker stomach acids, leading to indigestion. As a result, we have another epidemic brewing in parallel, one related to an inordinate amount of people intolerant to wheat and dairy.
- Undigested food irritates intestinal villi and mucosa, and causes lymph congestion.
THE RESULT: The combination of lymph congestion, weight gain, and unhealthy blood sugar levels initiates a process that takes years to develop into the bundle of full-blown symptoms that experts are calling the next epidemic. We are simply not genetically wired to deal with a sedentary lifestyle, excess processed foods and a diet of primarily fast-burning carbs and sugars. The bottom line is that if we eat more fuel than we can burn, we will convert it into fat. Excess carbs or fat will end up around the belly.
We have spent millions of years evolving to endure famine and trying to store fat at every chance we could. In the last fifty years, we have finally reached a point where, for some people in some parts of the world, famine is no longer a concern. But we are still genetic experts at storing fat. Once, it was our primary means of survival. Today, it is slowly killing us.
Interestingly, our new epidemic is not from eating too much dietary fat, but too many simple carbs which store as fat more quickly than good old-fashioned dietary fat. We have never had to deal with excess food until recently, and we have to make some changes accordingly.
Tools to Master Your Metabolism, Cravings and Weight
- Make an effort to exercise at least 5 days a week
- Remember to avoid processed foods
- Get into the habit of eating smaller quantities of food, less frequently (2- 3 meals a day is best)
- Focus on eating nutrient-rich foods
- Get good fats back in our diet
- Mitigate stress, so that we have energy during the day and sleep well at night
- Monitor and regulate your blood sugar.
It sounds simple – and it is. So let’s do it! Our health and longevity depends on it!