Food Junkies, a Book

coke-addict
When Food Junkies was published, it was reviewed by Dr. Arya Sharma, who founded the more than 10,000-member Canadian Obesity Network. At the University of Alberta, he is Professor of Medicine and holds the Obesity Research and Management chair. The book’s author is Vera Tarman, M.D., a self-identified food addict whose practice specializes in addiction.

The first thing to know about Dr. Tarman’s worldview is that she divides people into three categories: normal eaters; people with eating disorders; and food junkies. Normal eaters may have their bad habits and their bad days, but they are capable — through education, coaching, and practice — of pulling themselves into the safety zone.

Eating disorders are driven by emotion, and might be as extreme as binging. By handling their psychological difficulties, for instance, via cognitive behavioral therapy, people can abolish their disordered eating patterns. Then in the third category, there is such a thing as addiction to certain foods that people get strung out on just like drugs:

[…] with the same clinical signs that range from denial and loss of control, to physical symptoms on “withdrawal” and relapse that can be prompted by minimal exposure, even years after being “clean” or “sober.”

The bad news for these folks is that the condition is permanent, with the only answer being complete and perpetual abstinence from the problem foods, preferably under the auspices of a 12-step program. Dr. Sharma’s summation is full of quote marks but the meaning is clear:

For the true “food addict”, no amount of education, psychological counseling or attempt at “moderation” will ever lead to success. Any attempt to get the “food addict” to learn how to “use” their “drug” in moderation will be as futile as trying to get a drug addict to learn how to use alcohol or heroin (or any other drug) in moderation (the vast majority will fail).

More than likely, a person’s trigger foods or problem foods will contain sugar, flour, fat, or salt, or a combination of those ingredients, or even a grand slam of all of them.

Dr. Sharma calls Food Junkies a “compelling treatise in support of the existence of a discrete and definable subset of obese (and non-obese) individuals who may well be considered ‘food addicts’.” The book contains case histories of the co-authors and various patients who succeeded in eliminating the dangerous problem foods from their lives.

The review was followed up by a guest post in which Dr. Tarman addressed several topics. These are her thoughts on engineered, processed hedonic food:

The food industry has created foodstuffs that provide an highly efficient delivery system to our brain’s reward center. This manipulation gives us a copious amount of delight immediately: the quick fix… Our primal brain which is accustomed to moderate pleasure is overwhelmed with the euphoric bliss of highly palatable foods. Willpower sags under the strain.

Like Dr. Pretlow and many others, Dr. Tarman sees that the addict can’t learn moderation, because any amount of a problem food can trigger aberrant behavior. Still, as Dr. Pretlow will be the first to remind readers, successful weight loss might not immediately show up as a result of quitting the specific problem foods.

However, the quitting itself does work. Dr. Pretlow says:

In our three studies involving 127 young people, nearly all were able to successfully withdraw from at least one problem food, and the majority were able to withdraw from all of their problem foods.

There is also the confidence factor. Success in one area is a predictor for success in other areas, and this is especially true of the young, who don’t have a huge backlog of life experience to compare anything to. Also, we too often forget that influence does not always lead to immediate behavioral change. Sometimes it takes a while for ideas to sink in, and emotional states to stabilize. A 10-year-old might master the skill of quitting the problem foods, and remain content with that accomplishment for years, and only later decide to really get in shape.

While not implying that Dr. Tarman specifically endorsed W8Loss2Go, she did write:

A food addiction treatment plan may also include ample amounts of food so that the person does not over/under eat. To this end, it may even be necessary to weigh and measure foods. This is not about calorie counting or food restriction, it is about keeping the food addict safe by controlling the amount and type of food choices. The result of such a plan is not deprivation. It has given many a new freedom from the compulsion to compulsively overeat that some of us have lived with for too many years.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Does Food Addiction Require Abstinence?,” DrSharm.ca, February 2015
Source: “Guest Post: Food Abstinence for Food Addicts: Deprivation or a New Freedom?,” DrSharma.ca, February 2015
Photo credit: beketchai via Visual Hunt/CC BY-ND

Taste Receptors Are Everywhere

lit-up-face
Childhood Obesity News has been looking at enteroendocrinc cells (EECs) and what they do. These random phrases come from a study of EECs and their potential to be utilized in treating obesity:

[…] the microbiome and its products directly influence differentiation and function of EECs…

[…] prebiotics change the gut microbiota composition […] and thereby increase the integrity of the gut barrier and prevent bacterial metabolites from crossing the barrier, entering the circulation, and promoting systemic inflammation…

[…] changing the quality of nutritional intake is accompanied by a modulation of the gut microbiota, which in turn probably affects EECs…

Learning about gut peptides or hormones can lead to surprises. For instance, taste receptors (bitter, sweet, etc.) exist not only in the mouth, but also in the intestinal tract, and exert influence over what the neurotransmitters and neuromodulators do throughout the body.

Why does the stomach have taste receptors? For Gizmodo.com, Esther Inglis-Arkell writes:

Bitter-flavored compounds have an effect on us as they are digested. The effect takes about a half hour, and it kicks in only after a decent meal, but eventually the bitter flavor causes the stomach to stop emptying, making us feel fuller longer.

Researchers have developed a theory about this. Since bitterness could be a sign of toxicity, which might overwhelm the body’s defenses if released all at once, the stomach retains these contents longer so the other organs have a chance to handle the possible threat in an orderly manner.

The taste receptors in the mouth are connected with the conscious mind, for the pleasure of eating, of course, but also to warn us about things that we should make the decision immediately to spit out. As the other half of an elegant two-part expulsion system, there are also taste receptors deep in the colon, over which we have no conscious control. But if it detects too much bitterness, the colon “triggers a release of ions, which in turn causes water to pour into the gut via osmosis, and the body experiences diarrhea.”

The main thing to know about the interior taste receptors is that in obese people, they are somehow out of whack. For example:

Altered expression of taste molecules, including increased expression of gustatory signaling elements and a decrease in T1R3, the sweet-umami receptor, has also been reported in the gastric mucosa of morbidly obese patients compared to controls.

The point here is, chances are good that members of the gut microbiome are capable of either enhancing or impeding the efforts of EECs to do the right thing. If the bugs can help prevent or reverse obesity, their help needs to be enlisted.

As these study authors express it:

The identification of sensory receptors detecting changes in luminal contents in diet-induced weight increase represents an important step toward the elucidation of the molecular events underlying intraluminal chemosensing and ultimately the discovery of new therapeutic approaches for obesity.

The other point is, when faced with the challenge to rewire eating habits, there is no better tool than W8Loss2Go.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Regulation of Appetite, Satiation, and Body Weight by Enteroendocrine Cell,” Karger.com, February 2015
Source: “You Have Taste Receptors in Your Colon. Here’s Why,” Gizmodo.com, 08/18/15
Source: “Expression of the Bitter Taste Receptor, T2R38, in Enteroendocrine Cells of the Colonic Mucosa of Overweight/Obese vs. Lean Subjects,” Plos.org, 02/11/16
Photo credit: Pierre Vignau via Visualhunt.com/CC BY

EECs, Prebiotics and Hormones

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The gut, now acknowledged as the body’s largest endocrine organ, produces over 30 different hormones. Here is a nice description:

The enteroendocrine system orchestrates how the body responds to the ingestion of foods, employing a diversity of hormones to fine-tune a wide range of physiological responses both within and outside the gut. Recent interest in gut hormones has surged with the realization that they modulate glucose tolerance and food intake through a variety of mechanisms, and such hormones are therefore excellent therapeutic candidates for the treatment of diabetes and obesity.

The website of Karger Medical and Scientific Publishers contains a section specializing in pediatric hormone research. There are strong indications that both obesity and type 2 diabetes are affected when the gut microbiome is tweaked. The ingestion of prebiotics can improve states of inflammation, metabolic endotoxaemia, and gut barrier function.

Performance nutritionist Danny Lennon of Sigma Nutrition Radio is a fan of prebiotic fibers, because they increase the numbers of L cells, one of the enteroendocrine cell (EEC)  types. Prebiotic fibers occur in leeks, garlic, onions, blueberries, apples, and many other foods.

Lennon is also in favor of foods that are highly colored by nature, because they promote the growth of bifidobacteria (the kind essential for babies to get from their mothers). When chewed up and partially digested food comes through the GI tract, the mucosa of the intestine acts like a sensory organ thanks to the EECs, which then send messages telling the rest of the body what it’s dealing with.

Many mysteries are yet to be revealed. For instance, science knows a fair amount about what EECs are doing in the upper gastrointestinal tract, but their activities in the lower gut are not so discoverable. Comprising less than one percent of the epithelial cells, they live widely separated from each other.

EECs sense “mechanical distension” and track how desperately full the bowel is. One of their sub-categories are enterochromaffin cells, which used to be credited with making all the body’s serotonin.

Then, new research led to new theories:

Microbes can activate EECs to secrete, for example, serotonin and thereby stimulate enteric nerves and regulate GI motility and secretion. There is evidence that the EEC metabolism is controlled by the microbiome.

Serotonin affects the appetite — here we are, back at obesity again — and it is also a psychobiotic, meaning it affects the mind. The American Psychological Association assures us that 95% of the body’s serotonin is manufactured by its gut bacteria. The chemical of happiness and balance and anxiety reduction is made — along with feces — in the intestines.

The very optimistic “Conclusion” section of the Karger report says:

Recent advances in our knowledge regarding the food-sensing skills of EECs and the interaction with different macronutrients or diets and the gut microbiota may lead to new therapeutic approaches, starting with dietary modifications and prebiotics as a considerable strategy to prevent and treat metabolic diseases.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Enteroendocrine Cells: Chemosensors in the Intestinal Epithelium,” AnnualReviews.org, February 2016
Source: “Regulation of Appetite, Satiation, and Body Weight by Enteroendocrine Cell,” Karger.com, February 2015
Source: “Episode 31 with Mike Mutzel,” SigmaNutrition.com, October 2014
Source: “Classification and functions of enteroendocrine cells of the lower gastrointestinal tract,” NIH.gov, August 2011
Source: “The gut microbiome: how does it affect our health?,” MedicalNewsToday, 03/11/15
Photo via Visual Hunt

Motivation and Pokemon GO

inflatable-pikachu
How many times has Childhood Obesity News discussed motivation? Yesterday we looked at the pros and the cons of a new motivator that has appeared on the cultural scene and that seems to exert nearly universal appeal. Pokemon GO only came to public awareness less than a month ago, and already it has been incorporated into an app that keeps track of kids’ physical activity with the aim of clocking an hour of exercise per day.

This is where things start to get fuzzy. The hour-per-day recommendation made for kids by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention references the kind of exercise that keeps a person nearly out of breath. They’re talking about aerobic activity, like running and jumping rope, and muscle-strengthening activity, like pushups.

This is probably not the level of activity that Pokemon Go inspires. Still, it is undeniable that some exercise is better than none.

According to the people interviewed by journalist Chris Weller, the game “creates an incredibly strong desire for you to seek rewards.” Prof. Ian Kellar said it employs techniques that are…

[…] successful in convincing people to change their habits… [T]he game is leveraging 3 out of the 4 most well-evidenced behavior change techniques in this context.

The mechanism here is artificially implanted motivation, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In the broadest sense, that is what the entire education system aspires to. In theory, anyway, we aim to expose kids to many different areas of human knowledge and endeavor, in hopes that they will be drawn toward actions that will both satisfy them and benefit society. Ideally, that is how it’s supposed to work, and Pokemon GO seems to be working that way.

On the other hand, motivation can spring from the dark side. What if a person is motivated to do something destructive to self or others, like start a habit that could become more like an addiction, which video games have been known to do?

As Weller mentions, the game is said to have an attraction “so powerful that people forget they’re making themselves tired.” Could Pokemon GO, Ingress, and other games that encourage wandering around at night, become just another problem for society to solve?

The M word

Wisconsin reporter Andrew Dawson obtained quotations from people in two different demographics:

I want to be the very best like no one ever was. You got to catch them all. — C.J. Mulnix, age 21

I did it to vex my children, who sometimes think that they are only ones on the cutting edge. — Maria Bisceglia, age not given

Chris Weller interviewed Jane McGonigal, director of R&D in the games sector at the Institute for the Future, whose bio lists a remarkable number of accomplishments for such a young person. She mentions the dopamine rush that can be obtained from achieving each incremental win that the game offers. That is what makes a person goal-oriented, which is pretty much the same as motivated.

Motivation is similar in many ways to addiction, and there is no point in kidding ourselves about it. A great deal of progress can be made by helping people segue from harmful addictions to beneficent ones. McGonigal says:

Pokemon GO may gamify exercise, but it never makes exercise the priority. The game is always the hero. Less successful games fail to motivate people because users know they’re supposed to be getting “tricked” into enjoying exercise. Pokemon GO comes at it from the opposite angle. People don’t have to want to exercise; they just have to want to play this game.

The TechInsider page also offers a 3:16 video demonstration that doesn’t really go far toward explaining how this works in the real world. But more than likely, everybody already knows.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How much physical activity do children need?,” CDC.gov, undated
Source: “‘Pokemon GO’ may have gotten kids more active in a week than the White House has in years,” TechInsider.io, 07/13/16
Source: “Imaginary Pokemon causing some real world issues,” JournalTimes.com, 07/13/16
Photo credit: David Woo via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

Crisply Current — Pokemon GO

pokemon-figurine
A lively description of the latest trend was written by David Bartosiak:

Pokemon is short for Pocket Monsters… This Pokemon Go mobile game is the latest installation and brings with it a major paradigm shift. It’s the first blockbuster augmented reality game.

Augmented reality is a cross between mundane reality and full-tilt virtual reality. Apparently, this game involves locating 151 imaginary creatures who are superimposed over the bricks-and-mortar environment through the magic of smartphone technology.

Another description is from Mark Boresi of ChicagoParent.com who describes Pokemon GO as:

[…] a game for your handheld device that uses GPS and your camera to make Pokemon (little magical anime-looking creatures) appear around you (on the screen). You can catch them in virtual “Pokeballs,” which you collect, along with other items, by standing near predetermined real world locations which your phone will identify.

Believe it or not, this is a video game that encourages fitness. You have to actually walk to play.

Boresi writes that his daughter “delights in recalling what real world landmarks are pictured on the app as Pokestops and then racing to them.” The game is said to affect people of all ages. It gets them outside and moving around. They explore their neighborhoods and make new friends.

Chris Weller notes that people who generally self-identify as couch potatoes are into the game, and adds:

Players need to travel to Pokestops and gyms, hatch eggs, gain medals, and outperform their friends. Even the slogan of the game — “Gotta catch ’em all” — serves as a “prompt to form an intention…” The biggest way “Pokemon GO” promotes physical activity is its system of endless rewards, evolving, and leveling up.

It’s actually all about behavior modification, which many people are wary of on principle, but which may be a better alternative to unnecessary suffering. If a game can inspire people to become more fit, why not? But there are other downsides.

In Wisconsin, journalist Andew Dawson looked into situation. The local police speak of curfew violations, suspicious people, trespassing, and the like, and strongly hint that Pokemon GO is responsible. One drawback is that the app purposely lures people together, including human predators. One officer is quoted as saying there has been “an increase in people in parks and other areas of the village,” which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The game is criticized for taking people to dangerous locations, but locations become hazardous because they are deserted. Why shouldn’t everybody take back the night? Imagine if people were truly free to exercise at night, because maybe that fits in with their work shift, or because in the summer it’s cooler outside at night. There have been worse ideas, in the history of fitness.

Another serious problem is that the game uses up a lot of juice. Depending on what kind of phone plan a person has, it can become expensive.

Genuine mom Jen Mcguire writes:

It is truly a good time. It’s not a difficult game to follow along, which means you aren’t going to be straining your brain too hard. Essentially, users track Pokemon hiding within their local flora and fauna with their phone’s GPS, and, once they’ve found the erstwhile little Pocket Monsters they have to catch them with their phone. Which means you’ve got to get outdoors if you want to find the little critters — they will not be coming to you.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Old Guys Guide to Pokemon Go,” Zacks.com, 07/12/16
Source: “Pokemon GO: 7 things a parent needs to know,” ChicagoParent,com, 07/12/16
Source: “‘Pokemon GO’ may have gotten kids more active in a week than the White House has in years,” TechInsider.io, 07/13/16
Source: “Imaginary Pokemon causing some real world issues,” JournalTimes.com, 07/13/16
Source: “Do You Have To Go Outside To Play Pokemon Go?,” Rompercom, 07/13/16
Photo credit: nina.jsc via VisualHunt.com/CC BY

The Third Bariatric Surgery Roundup

girl-in-hospital-bed
This is the third collection of Childhood Obesity News posts about the same very current and significant topic. The first was “Many Aspects of Bariatric Surgery for Teens” and the second was “Another Teen Surgery Compendium.”

Let’s Talk About Gastric Banding” describes the AGB, or Adjustable Gastric Band, which has overtaken earlier methods to become the surgery of choice whenever suitable. Part of the reason is that it is the least invasive type, and has the advantage of being reversible, should that become necessary. As in every other post about this method, we mentioned how easy it is for a patient who is not fully committed to overcome the disadvantage of having a very small stomach and stretch it back out into a large stomach.

Gastric Band Complications and Risks” discusses some of the other problems that can arise with the AGB method. Of course not every patient experiences complications, but enough do to make it a worrying prospect. Some kids need to be operated on again, and the long-term results are not really that impressive.

Gastric bypass surgery has an encouraging long-term success rate, up to a point, but submitting to this procedure brings a lifetime of adjustments and compromises. Patients who are approved for gastric bypass surgery often are required (especially by their insurance companies) to begin exercising, if they haven’t been, and to prepare by losing a certain amount of weight beforehand.

The big question is, if diet and exercise can help these patients lose weight, why are they having surgery in the first place? If they are capable of losing in anticipation of the surgery, why not just go on losing without surgical intervention? Also, we are told that one of the criteria for acceptance is “a history of unsuccessful weight loss attempts by other means.” It seems to add up to quite a Catch-22.

Gastric sleeve surgery, or sleeve gastrectomy, is another irreversible method, and particularly suitable in certain difficult cases. For some reason it has gained a popularity that its adherents might come to regret. In the realm of serious lifestyle change, the duodenal switch procedure is in a whole other class, requiring the most dedicated commitment and a fair amount of money for life-long nutritional supplementation. But it can eliminate or alleviate obesity-related co-morbidities better than any other surgical intervention.

Bariatric Surgery and the Reversibility Factor” addresses that exact topic, and adds information about the very newest device, a balloon that is meant to stay in place for only six months. Like everything else, it has its drawbacks. If the balloon worked in an ideal way, giving a head start to a person who would then go on to an all-round healthful lifestyle, that would be wonderful. It will be interesting to see how this intervention turns out in the long run.

The Progress of Weight-Loss Surgery,” as its title suggests, talks about some other new advances in the field. “Paradoxes of Bariatric Surgery” provides a comparative glimpse of how cases are handled in Great Britain, Wales, and the U.S.

Two Very Obese Little Boys” is pretty self-descriptive, a post about morbidly obese male children, one in China and the other in Saudi Arabia.

All bariatric surgery methods have this in common: the need for both a preparation period, and an afterlife of strict adherence to a whole new set of habits. The W8Loss2Go program is the tool that can help with both, and greatly increase the surgical patient’s chances of ultimate success.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Photo credit: Eric Lewis via VisualHunt.com/CC BY-SA

EECs, Obesity, and the Microbiome

small-intestine
Our enteroendocrine cells (EECs) are important because they influence obesity in ways that are not yet fully understood. The gut microbiota influence the EECs, also in ways that we don’t intellectually grasp. But the potential is breathtaking.

The hope is that metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity can be controlled by adjusting the production of gut hormones through diet. A possibility is that manipulating the populations of gut bacteria could accomplish this. At present, however, it is not even clear whether the gut hormone anomalies that show up with metabolic disease are cause, effect, or both.

Some EECs are found in the pancreas and stomach, but mostly they grow in the small intestine. EECs act as chemoreceptors that sense the presence of nutrients. They secrete gastrointestinal hormones or peptides that send messages about those incoming substances, and basically control the functions of the digestive tract.

EECs prepare the body to deal with whatever chemicals are entering, and regulate food intake, lipid metabolism, glucose manufacture, and energy expenditure. They also detect harmful substances and initiate defensive responses if necessary.

The intestinal lining is designed to squeeze maximal utility from its limited real estate. Tiny finger-like projections cover the whole surface, and EECs start out as gut stem cells that live in the spaces or “crypts” between the villi. They differentiate into about 15 kinds of cells, and each one only lives from three to five days, so they are constantly being replaced. By necessity, they share quarters with their roommates, the members of the gut microbiome.

Our EECs, and 400 to 1,000 species of bacteria, marinate in each other’s secretions and relate to each other in ways we are only beginning to guess at. For instance, did our EECs evolve with such short lifespans in order to obligingly feed the gut bacteria with their dead fragments? What benefits do our cells receive in return?

Types of EECs

One subdivision is the I cell, which makes CCK, a hormone whose production is stimulated by dietary fat. It then helps to digest fat and protein in the upper stretch of the small intestine. (Just to hint at how complicated this whole picture is, CCK is also released from the central nervous system.) When obesity is the problem, food intake is an issue, as a report from Nutrition.org tells us:

CCK also stimulates pancreatic enzyme secretion and inhibits gastric emptying and food intake… The food intake inhibition effect is observed relatively shortly after food ingestion; however, its duration is also brief.

L cells make GLP-1, which regulates appetite and food intake “by directly stimulating anorectic pathways in the hypothalamus and brainstem and by acting through the vagus nerve,” and GLP-2, which has something to do with obesity-associated inflammation. Here is one clue about how the gut bacteria fit into the picture:

Basal GLP-1 levels have been observed to be significantly increased in obese rodents with chronic administration of the prebiotic fiber oligofructose compared to the nonfermentable fiber cellulose. In the same line, chronic administration of nondigestible carbohydrates in humans, which are fermented by intestinal microflora, have been shown to increase postprandial GLP-1 levels…

L cells also make PYY, in such sub-varieties as PYY1-36 and PYY3-36. The latter can “potently decrease appetite and reduce weight gain.” Such prebiotics as fructooligosaccharides (found in onion, garlic, and other vegetables and fruits) are metabolized by the intestinal microflora in such a way as to affect the sensation of satiety.

Feeling full is good, because it reduces the likelihood that a person will overeat. But in an already obese subject, the work of PYY is somehow interfered with, which indicates another way in which the microbiota might be enlisted to help out.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Diet: Friend or Foe of Enteroendocrine Cells — How It Interacts with Enteroendocrine Cells,” Nutrition.org, January 2012
Photo credit: euthman via VisualHunt.com/CC BY

The Microbiome Gains Ground

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Appetite is the healthy expression of the body’s need for fuel. When appetite goes wild, a craving is manifested. If the body really needs a particular nutrient urgently, the craving is legit, but if some trickster bugs hoodwink the body into believing it has to have a particular input right now, that’s a problem.

The various populations of bacteria that make up the gut microbiome generally work together well, but they do have their own agendas. Apparently, if Bug A isn’t happy about the incursions of Bug B, Bug A can convince its human host to commit chemical warfare by eating something that isn’t good for Bug B. While we prance around, kidding ourselves about free will, the “microscopic thugs” (so named by Billi Gordon, Ph.D.) are in charge.

The notion that they might run the show is gaining traction. This is from a 2013 study:

New studies show that bacteria, including commensal, probiotic, and pathogenic bacteria, in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can activate neural pathways and central nervous system (CNS) signaling systems.

Three years later, evidence is piling up that tiny creatures can readjust our taste receptors, mess with our hormones, and tweak our reward systems. By regulating bile acids, they influence fat absorption. They affect the uptake of other nutrients too, and strengthen or weaken the integrity of the intestine’s lining. Lab work has shown that the microbiome regulates glucose and energy homeostasis. A lot happens down there.

After leaving the stomach, partly digested food travels approximately 20 feet through the three parts of the small intestine. Pancreatic enzymes and bile from the gallbladder flow into the duodenum. The jejunum is mainly about absorbing nutrients, and the ileum absorbs bile acids to be recycled. Throughout its length, “the small intestine activates sensing mechanisms that affect both glucose production and food intake.”

When food intake is affected, we’re back to talking about appetite and cravings, and obesity. Here is an interesting observation:

Duodenal nutrient sensing acts as a protective mechanism… [H]owever, this mechanism appears to be impaired after excess caloric intake.

Definitive demonstrations of the exact relationship between the microbiota and the intestine’s nutrient-sensing mechanisms have yet to appear, but it seems clear that a relationship exists. For instance, despite many remaining questions,

[…] recent advances in our understanding of the pathways regulating gut nutrient sensing provide compelling support for potential new therapeutic targets to restore glucose homeostasis in diabetes… [I]t is believed that the progression of obesity/diabetes can be attributed to the intestinal microbiota–host relationship.

It almost seems like too much to hope for — but what if millions of diabetics no longer had to stick themselves with needles? What if their lives could be normalized by reconfiguring their gut microbiota? That is a dream worth pursuing.

Meanwhile, it appears that the bugs can also influence enteroendocrine cells, and if they can, this is also worth knowing about.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression,” Cell.com, 2013
Source: “Nutrient-Sensing Mechanisms in the Gut as Therapeutic Targets for Diabetes…,” DiabetesJournals.org, September 2013
Photo credit: Skley via VisualHunt/CC BY-ND

Who Is “We”?

lone-ranger-movie-still
From 1949 to 1957, a TV series called “The Lone Ranger” chronicled the fictional adventures of a crime-fighting cowboy and his Native American sidekick, Tonto. They inspired many versions of a basic joke, of which this is one example:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto are surrounded by hundreds of hostile Indians.

The Lone Ranger says, “Well, Tonto old friend, it looks like we’re done for.”

Tonto replies, “Who is ‘we,’ white man?”

The trope became entrenched in America’s lexicon and imagination. According to pop culture historian Brian Cronin:

It has become very popular in recent years as a rhetorical device for essay writers who wish to write about situations where someone takes for granted that someone is his/her ally.

There is an entity who does this all over the world — who preemptively commandeers a person into “we”-ness without consent. The creature is the Addiction Monster, who apparently lives inside almost everybody, lodging in the oldest part of the brain. That is the connection to obesity — more specifically, to obesity that stems from addiction to eating.

Since all addictions are basically the same, parallels drawn from the world of alcoholism fit here too. Childhood Obesity News previously mentioned the first drinking experience of comedian Jayson Thibault, who heard a voice say, “This is who we are.” Explaining the seemingly multiple personality, Thibault said, “It’s me and this disease, this other thing, that addicts just naturally live with all the time.”

We have also quoted another recovering alcoholic, John McC, also known as A. Orange, who is very familiar with the relentless voice that will rationalize, cajole, or nag, in the attempt to persuade, seduce, and outwit a person into having a cocktail (or a slab of chocolate-covered bacon.) He writes:

Old lizard brain will scream at you, and order you to eat, smoke, drug, or drink… It doesn’t even understand anything like morality, or that it might be wrong to lie to you. All it knows is that it wants a drink or a smoke, or dope, or sex, or food, or something… And it will say or do anything to get it.

Note how the Addiction Monster often uses the word “WE” as in, “We should just have a little one.”… Who is “we”?

John McC describes how the lizard brain often functions as a separate being that relates to the higher brain with strained politeness. Cooperation is needed from the smart, civilized part of us, to drive to the liquor store or ice cream shop and get hold of some addictor. Philosophically, the base brain has little tolerance for us, and would actually prefer autonomy.

The lizard brain can’t sue for divorce, but why does it so badly want to? If a person has only the minimal life functions provided by the base brain, she or he is in a hospital bed. In those circumstances, not many hedonic desires are likely to be indulged. But the base brain is too stupid to realize that.

On the other hand, it is smart enough to recognize how easily it can be vetoed and rejected by the higher brain. John McC suggests that the Addiction Monster can be not only outwitted but out-waited. Once you assert dominance over the addictive voice, it starts to weaken. The longer you resist, he says, the easier it gets:

Fortunately for you, the higher you who is reading this, you are more powerful and more intelligent than base brain. You can over-rule base brain, and make it obey your orders. You can dispute the addictive voice that is alternately begging you and ordering you to drink or smoke or take drugs.

You are not powerless over alcohol, or your addictions, or any of that stuff.

And that goes for food and eating addictions, too. Success has a lot to do with learning to identify the sneaky, undermining voice in order to challenge it: “Who is ‘we,’ Addiction Monster?”

Reactions?

Source: “Comic Book Legends Revealed #329,” Comicbookresources.com, 08/26/11
Source: “The Lizard Brain Addiction Monster,” orange-papers.org, undated
Photo credit: sheldonschwartz via Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

Meet the Addiction Monster

grim-repaper-figurine
In line with the notion that all addictions are essentially one, John McC elaborates on the proposition that the particular substance or behavior are really a secondary issue. It all boils down to addiction to feeling good, because the primitive “lizard brain” has a one-track mind about that. He writes:

Food is our first addiction… If we don’t get our fix, we start to experience withdrawal symptoms like stomach aches and headaches, and then we develop a snappy short temper, and feel weak and shaky. Then we will start feeling desperate, and start thinking about stealing or mugging someone to get money for a fix. And the longer we go without a food fix, the worse it gets. That sure sounds like a strung-out junkie to me.

Addiction to some other drug is just confusing the base brain about what food we need to eat now. Notice that, after you have quit your addictions, your cravings are always at their worst when you are hungry. The old A.A. warning about being in danger when you are “HALT — hungry, angry, lonely, tired” is true.

The author quotes Gary Zukav’s idea that, if we are not conscious of all our different parts, the part that is strongest will win. So, we need to identify the urgings of the monomaniacal lizard brain, whose mantra is “I want it all and I want it now.”

How do we differentiate between the voice that Jack Trimpey calls “The Beast,” and messages from higher brain centers? In other words, how do we become conscious?

Trimpey’s book Rational Recovery, endorsed by many former addicts, recommends “Addictive Voice Recognition Therapy.” Here is a tip that can save a life. If the voice says this, it’s the voice of “The Beast”:

We’ve been off of it long enough; we have it under control now. It will be okay to just have one now.

Remember John McC’s story of how one drink at a friend’s birthday party turned into a nine-year alcohol binge? Such reminiscences can be heard by the hundreds in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings throughout the country, any day of the week. There are, on the other hand, very few stories of recovering addicts who are able to take “just one” of anything. It’s simply not a chance worth taking.

Remember the children who write to Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website, saying things like, “If I have that one slice of cake, next thing I know I’m having another one, and another one and yet another one”? As Childhood Obesity News has repeatedly mentioned, people with eating issues have to be especially vigilant at holiday dinners and other festive occasions when a well-meaning “just one bite” pusher is likely to come out of the woodwork.

What appears to be a friend full of celebratory cheer might actually be what John McC has visualized as an Addiction Monster:

[…] seven feet tall, a dark-faced ghoul like the Grim Reaper, dressed in a hooded robe, with burning eyes and a spirit of pure hateful anger, saying, “I don’t care what the cost is, or who dies, I want my fix.”

For a recovering addict, there is no “just one drink” or “just one bite.” If potato chips are a person’s nemesis, potato chips will always present the same hazard. This is why the W8Loss2Go program helps children to become unhooked from their particular problem foods, and create a better life without them.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Lizard Brain Addiction Monster,” orange-papers.org, undated
Photo credit: JD Hancock via VisualHunt/CC BY

Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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