• It’s Complicated: How Stress, Neurotransmitters and Inflammation Affect Weight

    by Dr. Susan Sklar
    on Dec 9th, 2014

Weight is a complicated matter.  There are many chemicals in our bodies that influence weight.  One of them, cortisol, is on overdrive for many of us.  Stress raises cortisol.  High cortisol promotes fat storage, especially in the mid-abdomen and increases cravings for starches which are then deposited as fat.  High cortisol levels interfere with sleep.  Lack of sleep then unbalances our hunger hormone system.  Reducing the harmful effects of stress  with meditation, deep breathing, and supplements will help weight loss efforts and overall health.

Other chemicals that affect weight are called neurotransmitters.  They are the chemical communicators between nerve cells in the brain.  When neurotransmitter levels, especially serotonin, are increased, there is less food intake, less weight gain and increased activity. While there have been pharmaceutical agents in development, serotonin can be boosted with the use of the amino acid precursor, 5-hydroxytryptophan found in nutritional supplements. 
Lastly, inflammation is the most important factor in health and disease.  Obesity is a state of chronic low grade inflammation.  Many inflammatory chemicals are made in body fat.  This contributes to the development of insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.  90% of chronic diseases are caused by inflammation, contributing to decline with aging.  While pharmaceutical companies are looking for drugs to address this, studies show that dietary and supplement treatment can do a lot. 

Omega -3 fatty acids like the ones found in fish oil help to lower inflammation in fat. (You have to eat fat to lose fat, but it must be healthy fat.)  Resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes, has been shown to lower inflammation and help with blood sugar regulation.  Probiotic supplements help to restore a healthy intestine. 

Elimination of refined carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar) and even the elimination of all grains may lower the chronic inflammation in the intestinal tract that contributes to weight gain and insulin resistance.  Lowering body fat is an important step to healthy longevity.  When inflammatory chemicals are lowered through supplements and weight loss, our hunger signals are normalized and our health is increased.

Author Dr. Susan Sklar

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