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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dousing the fire: Resolving the many causes of high weight gain

Dr. David Edelson describes one of his best patients:

She had a whole series of issues: sleep apnea [blockage of the airway, cutting off breathing for 20 seconds or more], hypothyroidism [a slowing of bodily processes due to an underactive thyroid gland], insulin resistance [misuse of the insulin produced in the body], binge and impulse eating. She wasn't exercising and was slightly depressed; she had a whole spectrum of different issues.

One by one, we worked through them, both with lifestyle changes and others. In our practice we have a gym with a personal trainer, so she'd work out with him/her two days a week. We have a nutritionist, who put her on a low-carbohydrate, higher omega (heart-healthy) fat diet. She'd been a terrible carb addict, and was pre-diabetic, with metabolic syndrome. For her, eating our Western high-starch, high-fat diet is like throwing gasoline on a roaring fire.

By getting her to eliminate all these white starches, and eat more whole grains, healthier grains, fish, avocadoes, olives, etc., that almost instantly turns off the metabolic syndrome, instantly dousing the fire. It got her metabolism back on line, and her carb cravings under control. The exercise and diet got her to burn her mesenteric (belly) fat. That began the process of getting those issues under control.

Then we added other things: nutritional products to fight the insulin resistance like high doses of fish oil, an herbal product with chromium, and cinnamon, a good insulin sensitizer.

Initially, we started with some medications to tip the energy balance to the right direction. We put her on a combination therapy of low-dose Phentermine and Topamax (that combination is now in development as a single drug called Qnexa). We use that in people with very strong eating urges, and binge-eaters, to help control their eating impulses and reduce their appetite. We also put her on Metformin, which is for people with diabetes and metabolic syndrome, a pre-diabetic condition which she had. That brought the insulin resistance under control.

With the exercise, the diet, the supplements, and stress management, she turned her life around, and adopted better behaviors. We have a Reiki master who does a lot of natural stress reduction, who did weekly sessions with her for a while. That's a cross between hypnosis and energy healing, so people can learn to manage their stress and bring stress out of the body, liberating the internalized stress.

She had sleep apnea, and was a terrible sleeper. She'd stop breathing 50 or 60 times an hour! Her oxygen was in the low 70s; it should be 98%. It was like standing on Mt. Everest without oxygen. That put a huge strain on her body. It even causes weight gain, because it affects a lot of hormones like ghrelin, leptin, and growth hormone secretion; they all get adversely affected.

By treating her sleep apnea with a CPAP machine [providing continuous positive airway pressure], she got normal sleep patterns, which turned her metabolism back on, and gave her more energy during the day. It's classic, like with a car with a lot of different parts that are failing, so you change the filters, tighten the belts, and align everything so it can run properly again.

Now, we can reduce her medications. She has lost 65 pounds, and is close to her ideal weight, with the lifestyle changes fully in place to maintain her weight where it is. She has been exercising to build lean muscle tissue, which has raised her basal metabolism. Now she's burning calories 24 hours a day, so we can wean her off the medications.

My complaint about the diet industry is this: They tell people they can do something on a short-term basis and lose weight permanently. There's a lot of magical thinking going on, since without changing behavior, lifestyle, or identifying the underlying medical causes of weight gain, 98% of dieters regain the weight within two years. A crash diet or drug or supplement is not going to create long-term weight loss. It will get short-term effects, but then the person will regain the weight, and then some. This is the basis of yo-yo dieting.

It's like stretching a rubber band: you can pull on it temporarily, but when you release it, it'll snap back. That's the set point theory: our bodies become set at a certain weight level. The only way to get long-term results is to relocate the set point. As you stretch the rubber band, you take what it's attached to and move it to a new position. This can only be accomplished by finding out why each individual gained the weight in the first place. Then you can address the specific causes, such as lost lean muscle mass, insulin resistance, sleep disorder, depression, injuries, hormonal imbalances…whatever has moved the set point to this new higher position.

So no one practitioner can effect long-term success with weight loss. At HealthBridge, we have an entire team, including medical doctors, sleep disorders experts, a nutritionist, personal trainers, a physical therapist, chiropractor and acupuncturist, a hypnotist and Reiki master, each experts in addressing a specific underlying problem that can arise in weight gain. If someone has a hip problem, or a back problem, they can't exercise, and start gaining weight. Here our physical medicine team would be called in to fix the problem and get them back to the gym for fitness training. I like to call this a plug and play model, with all these components at the same facility. We look at every puzzle piece: fitness, genetics, hormones, sleep – the whole list, and see which pieces are out of alignment, and need to be fixed. We use the individual practitioners, and put the whole puzzle back together.

Dr. Edelson's practice is in Great Neck on Long Island in New York as of May 2011.

Read Aquameliza's weight loss story in Ken Farbstein's book, Getting Your Best Health Care: Real-World Stories for Patient Empowerment, or get it at Amazon.

1 comment:

Patricia Woods said...

I have low thyroid as well. Oh, I get sweaty and experience hot flashes. I am also prone to moodiness. So far, natural porcine thyroid has positive effects on me.