The Challenges of Managing Appetite – How You Can Hack Your Brain To Help You Lose Weight

The Gut and Stress
Stress is another important factor to consider when we talk about the integrity of the microbiome, managing appetite and the health of the gut. Once again, it has a lot to do with the gut-brain connection. As you know, cortisol, the immune system, and inflammation are linked.

But the other big link is that the gut contains two-thirds of your immune tissue. So a lot of the immune response and the subsequent inflammation response begin in the gut, and the microbiome acts as a mediator in this process. This supportive relationship between the microbiome and the immune system goes all the way back to its development during infancy, and maintaining this supportive balance is one of the best ways to avoid inflammation.

Healthy gut flora help with the body’s resistance against other harmful microbes, and they help retain more nutrients and energy from the food that goes through the GI tract by fermenting the non-digestible material.

What’s also very interesting about gut flora is their effect on gene snip activation. Although this is still being studied, what we do know is that the microbiome in the gut contains around 100 different species that account for 3 million unique genes combined. That makes the gut’s genome 100 times larger than the host’s genome. Also, the bacterial cells in the GI tract outnumber human cells tenfold.

Soon, as the field of epigenetics grows, we will understand the implications of these numbers on genetic variations and the gut-brain connection even more.

What we do know for sure is that any kind of dysbiosis can lead to intestinal permeability, which can then create leaks in the endothelial cells that line the gut, and that lets particles into the bloodstream that shouldn’t be there.

And what happens when foreign particles enter the bloodstream? An immune system reaction, and with it, the NEM’s inflammation response.

The inflammation response is essential to maintaining health, as it is responsible for eliminating the cause of cell injury, clearing out damaged cells and other by-products, and initiating cell repair. It’s when inflammation is constant that you get a lot of health problems, and a leaky gut is a major factor in chronic inflammation.

Because so many of the body’s neurotransmitters are made in the GI tract, and the microbiome-gut-brain axis is a regulator of the body’s neurotransmitter pool, any inflammation in that area can affect neurotransmitter balance and production.

Plus, the leaks let in substances that can reach the nervous system, triggering inflammation there, which can cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health and neurological issues. SSRI drugs can be useful in treating some of these problems because they are very anti-inflammatory.

Gut Hormones and Stress
Inflammatory cytokines – the proteins, peptides and glycoproteins that are used to help the communication between cells involved in the immune system response – can retract or damage dopaminergic beds. Because dopamine is stored in the beta-cell vesicles in the gut, rather than in the brain, inflammation that begins in the gut can really deplete dopamine levels.

But the GI tract has other important hormones that affect weight and are involved in managing appetite:

Gastrin – stimulates acid secretion
Cholecystokinin (CCK) – stimulates gallbladder, pancreatic enzymes, and motility
Ghrelin – stimulates hunger
Peptide YY (PYY) – induces satiety, slows motility, increases efficiency of nutrient absorption
Glucagon like peptide-1 (GLP-1) – influences incretin activity and satiety
Serotonin – influences motility
Chewing your food slowly gives your gastric acid time to release, and gives you more CKK, which regresses hunger signaling. This helps you feel fuller faster and is one small change you can implement to help with more sustained weight loss.

Incretins are hormones involved in glucose homeostasis. They stimulate a decrease in blood glucose levels by increasing insulin. Dopamine is considered an anti-incretin, so it is anti-insulin by default.

That’s why obese people with low dopamine will have problems with insulin resistance, and insulin resistance is one of the four main conditions that lead to obesity. The other three are an increase in glucocorticosteroid concentrations in plasma (such as cortisol), mutation of leptin receptor (which affects appetite control and insulin), and an increase in neuropeptide Y (NPY), mRNA, and NPY release.

NPY comes from the hypothalamus. It stimulates hunger and decreases the urge for physical activity. It is triggered by low blood glucose and is inhibited by leptin and PYY. Obese people secrete less PYY and have leptin resistance, which then creates more NPY. Plus, when their microbiomes are off balance, they don’t make PYY, and so gain more weight and increase their insulin resistance, up-regulating NPY.

Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is a common symptom in AFS, and as such, AFS can increase NPY release, which then stimulates hunger and decreases the urge for physical activity.

This cycle, combined with low dopamine (which lowers motivation), plus insulin resistance (which decreases energy as the cells are not getting the glucose they need), plus already carrying a lot of weight, will also naturally lead to a decrease in physical activity. Less physical activity will create a problem with gastric emptying.

Physical activity improves gastric emptying. Improved gastric emptying impacts dopamine levels and the reward system, and it alters the gut-brain axis. It is also one way to manage stress. But how do you start moving when you’re suffering from all of the above?

In AFS recovery, we outline exercises that are very gentle, meant to take you from the most fatigued and weakened state up to a point where you can do other types of exercise. You will first start with adrenal breathing exercises and slowly, very slowly, move to adrenal yoga exercises.

As your adrenals get stronger, you will find that your energy levels improve and you are capable of doing more. The more active you become, the better your gastric emptying gets, and the healthier you’ll start to feel, enabling a rebalance in your reward system and helping you in managing appetite and weight.

With a correction in dopamine and serotoninergic drive, your chances of managing appetite, modifying your behavior, and addressing the stresses in your life increase a lot.

Tips for Managing Appetite
We just outlined one way to help you in managing appetite and gaining more balance in your physical energy and health. But AFS recovery is actually focused more on diet than exercise, and the adrenal fatigue diet is one of the best diets for gradual and sustainable changes in weight.

First of all, it is not a calorie-restricted diet that is difficult to maintain. It is a lifestyle change that you take on gradually so that you can keep it up long term. Even more importantly, it is low in sugar, processed foods, and other inflammatory foods, so it is anti-inflammatory by default. Reducing inflammation is already a huge step in restoring health and vitality, as well as in balancing the reward cascade.

Also, it will help a lot with insulin resistance. Insulin helps regulate dopamine signaling as well as reward behavior. Insulin resistance, on the other hand, can get in the way of dopamine turnover and clearance, leading to imbalance in the dopaminergic reward circuitry. Increasing insulin sensitivity will give your cells the energy they need, prompting you to be more active, and staving off the sugar cravings that come from hypoglycemia.

Increasing your consumption of resistant starch, such as 30-60 g of Hi-Maize, can lead to a 33-69% increase in insulin sensitivity starting at just 20 minutes after ingesting it. This can provide a significant improvement in blood glucose levels and body mass index, and can be a great help in managing appetite.

Also, resistant starch has been shown to upregulate GLP-1 and PYY in a sustained manner in rodents. If you remember, GLP-1 influences incretin activity and satiety, and PYY induces satiety, increases the efficiency of nutrient absorption, and slows motility.

Although increasing resistant starch intake is a small change with big rewards, if you have AFS, especially in the more advanced stages, you’ll want to first check with your doctor if this might interfere with your digestion. Some people with AFS experience constipation, and so slowed motility due to an increase in PYY may aggravate this. Generally, however, increasing resistant starch intake is safe and good for your health.

Other products and supplements that have been found very useful for managing appetite and balancing the reward cascade include:

Mucuna seed – contains L-dopa and increases dopamine levels
Green tea leaf – a strong antioxidant that improves immunity, fat metabolism, performance and mental clarity. It has been clinically proven to help reduce BMI and central obesity
Theacrine – activates dopamine receptors, improves focus, modulates other neurotransmitters, and decreases inflammatory cytokines in the nervous system
L-tyrosine – a non-essential amino acid that is a precursor to dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. It combines with iodine to form T4 (thyroid hormone), it helps to make cortisol when you’re under chronic stress, and it supports the dopamine pool
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) – an amino acid precursor for serotonin that is made from L-tryptophan. It supports serotonin pools
Evodia fruit, standardized to 98% evodiamine – a traditional medicine in Asian cultures that helps with blood glucose control and weight control. It converts tryptophan to 5-HTP, is anti-inflammatory, improves insulin sensitivity and increases the adaptive stress response

There are endless other supplements that can help with blood sugar control, adaptation to stress, reduction of inflammation, weight loss, managing appetite, balancing neurotransmitters, and balancing gut flora. So the trick is not to just take a bunch of different supplements, hoping that something will work. At best, you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t and will have to keep taking that shotgun approach to maintain your results. At worst, you may end up with adverse effects and experience a crash.

This is especially the case if your body is inflamed and you suffer from adrenal fatigue.

So, although balancing the reward cascade is a much more sustainable way to lose weight and keep it off, you have to approach this endeavor with caution, as you will be playing with important, mood-and-health altering chemicals in your body. If something doesn’t go well, and your adrenals are too weak to respond to this stress properly, it may lead to a lot more harm later down the line.

The best method is to start with the basics, which are diet and stress management. Following the adrenal fatigue diet, as we said, is the best way to ensure lower inflammation and increased adrenal strength. Stress management can include the use of therapy, meditation, support groups, journaling, and breathing exercises.

Once you have your new diet in place and you feel comfortable with it, you can explore some of the different supplements suggested above, but only do so under strict supervision. Try one at a time and then wait to see how it affects you. Make sure you note down the changes before you move onto another.

Finally, adding light to moderate exercise, as well as improving sleep quality and getting enough rest, will round out your health regimen to make it as holistic as possible.

It is understandable that you want to lose weight quickly, but give yourself the time to do it without damaging your health and without falling into the dieting trap that has defeated 90% of all those who have tried to lose weight. With such a big undertaking, you’ll want to put your focus on taking small steps, one step at a time.




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