Many chemical messengers* must be properly balanced in order for the body to maintain its own ideal weight. (*Chemical messengers include hormones, neurotransmitters, and cytokines.) Here are a few imbalances that Dr. McKay commonly restores in clinic, in the course of weight loss treatment.
INSULIN: Excess insulin instructs the body to lay down adipose (fat) tissue — and then insulin also prevents this lumpy stored fat from being burned for metabolic fuel (how unfair is that?) The SAD (Standard American Diet) is much too high in dietary sugars and starches, causing habitually high releases of insulin from the pancreas, which re-shapes bodies into the current alarming state of affairs: about two-thirds of Americans are currently overweight or obese. Excess insulin is well-known to reduce life span in all animals, and it induces insulin resistance or hypoglycemia or metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes, if permitted to continue running its course uninterrupted. Dr. McKay is on a personal, life-long, heartfelt mission to prevent and cure this tragic series, because she has witnessed its health-robbing pain in her own immediate family.
CORTISOL: Excess cortisol generates a spare tire around the midsection and in prolonged cases it creates a fatty pad at the back of the neck as well. The popular press has made this connection well-known in recent years, thank goodness; however, many people still struggle with elevated stress levels, multiple daily stress reactions, and the ensuing cortisol body type that in extreme cases can resemble the Alice in Wonderland characters Tweedledee and Tweedledum with large bellies and skinny limbs. All this can be caused by ordinary, garden-variety stress, which is why stress management, blood sugar control, and adrenal restoration are essential to health, well-being, and weight management.
LEPTIN-GHRELIN: Poor leptin-ghrelin balance leads to lack of satiety, that is, never receiving the bodily cue that it’s time to stop eating. The brain gets de-regulated and cannot sense fullness if it has been over-exposed to fructose, which comprises 50% of table sugar, 50% of maple syrup or honey, 55% of HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup), up to 90% of agave syrup, and a very large fraction of both soft drinks and fruit juices. You read that right: fruit juices, which most people view as healthy, actually contain so much naturally-occurring fructose that they are classified as both appetite de-regulators and inducers of fatty liver disease which can include high blood pressure. (Thank you, Dr. Robert Lustig, for making this so clear in your popular YouTube lecture.)
TESTOSTERONE: Testosterone has roughly opposite effects in males and females (no surprise there!) — including the prevention or induction of abdominal obesity. In men, adequate testosterone is essential to maintain lean body mass, mental drive, ambition, libido, and healthy blood cholesterol levels. However, in women, excess testosterone is associated with abdominal obesity, hirsutism (unwanted facial hair), irregular periods, and insulin resistance or pre-diabetes.
FAT ITSELF: Adipose (fat) tissue is extremely hormonally active. Anyone who is 10 or more pounds medically overweight should view their fat deposits as another endocrine organ, a hormone-producing machine that tries to self-perpetuate. Adipose tissue continuously sends out cytokines (cellular messenger molecules) that cause inflammation throughout the body and brain. Inflammation refers to arthritis, brain fog, allergies, cancer, hardening of the arteries, and many other discomforts. In males, the enzyme aromatase can become overly abundant in adipose tissue; aromatase then turns good masculine testosterone into feminizing estradiol (a type of estrogen) which robs men of vigor, lean body mass, and well-being; in severe cases, actual breast tissue (gynecomastia) can be induced by the enzymatic activity from adipose tissue. How’s that for an unfair reaction to carrying extra pounds?
BRAIN CHEMISTRY: Neurotransmitters are another form of messenger molecules, sometimes overlapping with hormones; together with cytokines, these three types of messengers carry information and instructions from one body tissue to another. Imbalances can range from imperceptible to lethal and everything in between. Imbalanced brain chemistry is epidemic these days; psychotropic (brain-altering) prescriptions represent billions of dollars in commerce — and millions of people with sub-optimal health. Depression and anxiety plague us all to some degree or another, in some cases completely ruining quality of life. And the abilities to regulate appetite, weight, and body composition are all profoundly affected. Dr. McKay prefers to utilize nutrition with real foods, plus nutritional supplements when needed, and stress-management techniques, before resorting to extreme measures such as brain-busting prescription medications. The prescription painkillers in the opiate family (codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone) all have profound, unwanted effects upon digestion, elimination, and even suppression of most hormones.
SELF-MEDICATING: Many, many people are self-medicating their imbalanced and impulsive moods by over-eating or otherwise harming their health. Seeking wise counsel and good-humored coaching can be a life-saving turning point. Please do not allow prescription medications or an eating disorder to ruin your appetite control, your weight, your metabolism, your libido, or your ability to be fully yourself. Seek help sooner rather than later.
ENVIRONMENT: Our social environment with respect to food often aims us in the wrong direction. We are so flooded with advertising and factory-farmed commercial products that we’ve lost sight of Mother Nature. As a nation, we are both over-fed and under-nourished. Eating real food, in healthy portions, which is something we ought to be able to take for granted, has become an arduous project — think of it as swimming upstream, instead of comfortably floating down the river. Although simple, it’s not easy!
DYSBIOSIS: Our digestive tract is an ecosystem with an ever-changing balance of friendly bacteria and other micro-organisms who do much of our digesting for us. When unfriendly bacteria, or even fungi (yeast, candida) grow out of balance, there are profound effects on biochemistry throughout the body. The immune system and the brain may be especially hard-hit, with inexplicably strong urges to consume starchy or sweet foods, or with indigestion and frequent illnesses that just don’t make sense. Correcting the balance of the intestinal ecosystem can clear up bloating, cravings, and many other problems.