How often have you ever felt like you just couldn’t control yourself? How many times have you ever felt like someone or something else was pulling your strings? How often have you ever felt like your emotions and decisions were under the control of someone or something else? How comfortable did it make you feel? You knew you shouldn’t be feeling this way, but you just couldn’t help it. It’s like you’re almost you were being forced to do something you know that you shouldn’t be doing.
You’re not alone. This happens to almost everybody (except for those on a low carbohydrate diet). It’s the nature of addiction. When this happens, that’s your hormones talking to you. Your hormones are the governing agents in your body. Beside dictating almost every function in your body, they dictate when you’re hungry and when your not. They also dictate how much to eat and when to stop. Being a high carbohydrate diet turns control of your hormones over to the food you’re eating instead of keeping it under your control.
This is the biggest benefit of living a life without carbs’ influence on your body. It begins to manifest itself when hormones come back under your control and not that of your high carbohydrate diet. Once carbs are out of the equation, and no longer influencing your hunger hormones (Leptin and Ghrelin), that leaves the door open, for you to control your own hormones and thereby control how these hormones work within your body. The two most important hormones, as far as hunger and your body mass are concerned, are Leptin and Ghrelin.
Leptin and Ghrelin are the two hormones that regulate your digestive system, by telling you when you’re hungry and when you’re not, so that’s what we’re going to look at in this post.
According to Nora T. Gedgaudas, an acclaimed nutritional therapist, “Leptin essentially controls mammalian metabolism.”Leptin decides whether to make us hungry and store more fat or to burn fat. When your stomach is full, fat cells release leptin to tell your brain to stop eating. This is your body’s brake for the fork to mouth syndrome. Dr. Perlmutter goes on to say in Grain Brain that “millions of Americans qualify as bona fide members of the leptin-resistant club. It’s practically a given if you’ve been eating a high carb diet and don’t sleep well. A few of the signs of leptin resistance; being overweight, unable to lose weight and keep it off, constantly craving comfort foods, fatigue after meals, feeling hungry all the time or at odd hours of the night, a desire to snack right after a meal, problems sleeping to name a few. For the complete list, read Grain Brain. Leptin resistance is not a condition to strive for. It’s leptin resistance that leads to overeating and it’s a very common condition while on a high carbohydrate diet.
Leptin is the hormone that tells you when to stop eating. It’s called the satiety hormone, but that’s not what’s interesting about Leptin. What’s interesting about Leptin is that it’s created by your body fat. That means, the more body fat you have, the more Leptin you’ll have. The more Leptin you have, the more resistant to its charm you become, meaning that you become Leptin resistant. This means that you eat more food because your hunger takes longer to satiate. This, in turn, will turn you insulin resistant and that, you don’t want. That’s type two diabetes and it’s bad news.
According to Wikipedia; “Although leptin reduces appetite as a circulating signal, obese individuals generally exhibit a higher circulating concentration of leptin than normal weight individuals due to their higher percentage body fat. These people show resistance to leptin, similar to the resistance of insulin in type 2 diabetes, with the elevated levels failing to control hunger and modulate their weight. “
It’s this Leptin resistance that gives control of your hormones over to the foods you eat most, high carbohydrate wheat and grains.
It’s this cycle of carb-fat-hormone control that causes obesity, diabetes and the myriad of other illnesses and diseases that come to this high carb diet. It starts with the plaque that the combination of excess sugars and fat, cholesterol and protein have when they combine within your bloodstream, cause. There are several kinds of plaque that all have damaging effects on the body and it starts with excess glucose in your blood.
It’s this cycle also that contributes, more than anything else, to a smaller brain, Studies have shown that obese people have smaller brains than normal weight people. These studies have also shown that the fatter you are, the smaller your brain is likelier to be.
Although that doesn’t, in itself, explain why your brain shrinks when you’re fat. How you metabolize carbs explains how that happens along with the effect of the excess sugar in your bloodstream. When sugar meets fat, cholesterol, and protein in the bloodstream, the sugar glycates the fat, cholesterol and proteins in your blood, turning them into plaques. It’s these plaques that gum up your arteries as well as your brain, therein shrinking its capabilities. On top of that, the gliadin that’s in the gluten, that’s in many grains, has the capability of causing brain damage itself, by forcing your body to create anti-gliadin antibodies, which in turn can attach themselves to Purkinje cells in your cerebellum enabling that cell useless, which is then discarded by the brain. Hence, brain damage and smaller brain from eating wheat and grain-based products.
Dr. William Davis in Wheat Belly, says: “The antigliadin antibodies triggered by gluten can bind to Purkinje cells of the brain, cells unique to the cerebellum. Brain tissue such as Purkinje cells do not have the capacity to regenerate: Once damaged, cerebellar Purkinje cells are gone . . . forever. ”
Ghrelin, on the other hand, is the hormone that signals your brain that you’re hungry. According to Dr. Perlmutter, Ghrelin is the yin to leptin’s yang. This hormone is secreted by the stomach when it’s empty and increases your appetite. As much as leptin tells you to stop eating, Ghrelin is the one that tells your, brain it’s time to eat.
Ghrelin is first and foremost a growth hormone, as well as a hunger hormone, but it also serves many other functions. These functions include, but are certainly not limited to, the following attributes (according to Wikipedia);
- “Ghrelin promotes intestinal cell proliferation and inhibits apoptosis during inflammatory states and oxidative stress. It also suppresses pro-inflammatory mechanisms and augments anti-inflammatory mechanisms, thus creating a possibility of its therapeutic use in various gastrointestinal inflammatory conditions, including colitis, ischemia-reperfusion injury, and sepsis. Animal models of colitis, ischemia-reperfusion, and sepsis-related gut dysfunction have been shown to benefit from therapeutic doses of ghrelin. It has also been shown to have regenerative capacity and is beneficial in mucosal injury to the stomach.”
- “The hippocampus plays a significant role in neurotrophy: the cognitive adaptation to changing environments and the process of learning and it is a potent stimulator of growth hormone. Animal models indicate that ghrelin may enter the hippocampus from the bloodstream, altering nerve-cell connections, and so altering learning and memory. It is suggested that learning may be best during the day and when the stomach is empty since ghrelin levels are higher at these times. A similar effect on human memory performance is possible.”
- “Although the vast majority of neurons in the mammalian brain are formed prenatally, parts of the adult brain (for example, the hippocampus) retain the ability to grow new neurons from neural stem cells, a process known as neurogenesis. Neurotrophins are chemicals that help to stimulate and control neurogenesis.”
Looking at the attributes above, Ghrelin not only supports anti-inflammatory mechanisms, but it’s this last attribute that sets it apart from all the other benefits that this diet provides, as it promotes neurotrophins in the brain which in turn help the brain to produce new cells. In other words, it makes the brain grow. That means that going hungry turns on factors in your brain that actually make it grow. BDNF is just one of these neurotrophins that I talk about on the MY Life Without Carbs page. There are a few others you can find out about at the previous link.
So Ghrelin not only tells when to eat, it also inhibits cell death, it helps control pain and disease by controlling anti-inflammatory mechanisms as well encouraging our brain to grow by encouraging neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells. It’s this one factor that intrigues me the most. This means that I can grow new brain cells, something that I thought was lost 30 years ago after my severe closed head injury. I didn’t use to think that brain cells couldn’t grow back, when in all actuality, they’re growing all the time, through neurogenesis, (at least for those who want them to grow).
The question, therein lies, how do we encourage this neurogenesis? I hinted to that in the previous paragraphs and Ghrelin plays an important role in it. But something else just as important, influences
brain growth and that’s exercise.
This is what I talk about when he mentions that our ancestors ran for their food in primitive times as well as ran for their lives. It was this action (exercise) that set us apart from other species. We could not only run hungry, we could run longer and harder because of the diet we were on, as a species at that time (carbs weren’t part of our diet at then). But they are now. What’s worse? They’re in our diet in abundance. And what’s even, worse yet, is that we live a sedentary lifestyle, and it’s this lifestyle coupled with an insatiable appetite for high carbohydrate foods that are causing this obesity epidemic as well as diabetes epidemic, cancer epidemic, gastro-intestinal epidemic, heart disease epidemic, and that of all of the other diseases that go with it. This to me is the most absolute worst thing that this food is doing to our society, it’s making us dumber.
High carbohydrate diet + sedentary lifestyle = obesity, smaller
brain, disease, and death.
Low carb diet + exercise = longer life, bigger, smarter brain and better immunity to fight off illness and disease.
This one attribute, in my estimation, is the most important attribute of eating a low carb diet. Dr. Perlmutter puts it this way, the fatter you are the smaller your brain. And what we’ve just looked at proves that. It also proves that the thinner you are the larger your brain is likely to be.
To me, that says, those who can’t break their addiction to the carbohydrate curse, are destined to be dumber than those who can break this addiction. The writing of this entire blog in the last three weeks has proven this fact to me, that it is possible to expand our brains as well as the capabilities of our brains. Thank you, Dr. Perlmutter, for helping me to realize and understand this. And with this blog, compared to the length of time it took me to write my short bio, I think I’ve proven that.
Studies have shown that calorie restriction in the elderly has improved their memories, as evidenced by this study; A. V. Witte, et al., “Caloric Restriction Improves Memory in Elderly Humans,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 4 (January 27, 2009): 1255–60, The gene that turns on BDNF is activated by a variety of lifestyle habits, including physical exercise, caloric restriction, following a ketogenic diet, and the addition of certain nutrients like curcumin and the omega-3 fat DHA. According to Dr. Perlmutter, exercise, as well as calorie restriction, creates BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). BDNF is a protein that actually builds new neurons in your brain and makes them work together, by setting them up in neuro networks. It also works well protecting existing neurons, as evidenced by the study above. It’s more influential in building your brain than anything else and it’s difficult for an obese person to manufacture.
We all know that exercise is good for you, but did you know before today that it helps to grow your brain cells? What you probably didn’t know, was that hunger can produce similar results in helping your brain to generate new brain cells. This to me is what’s so exciting. Just by going hungry, I’m encouraging my brain to generate new brain cells, as well as encouraging my body to easier fight illness and disease by boosting my immune system, by boosting my anti-oxidants exponentially. WOW! How good can this be? All I have to do is to stop eating the foods that cause this kind of behavior in my body and I can be rid of the worry of most everything listed in my first post, Carbs, The Newly Discovered Death Sentence.
If that’s not good news, I don’t know what is.