02 November 2012

Factors not being properly considered as causes of obesity (Part 2)

In a previous post I mentioned some factoids that I've gleaned from years of searching for answers as to why I am obese. I have discovered that my obesity is a result of several key factors that I have yet to see scientists fully explore in their research. I will address each of these factors in a multi-part series here on my blog. 

Factor 2--Endocrine Disruptors

As a long-term sufferer of endometriosis, my endocrine system is extremely compromised. It happened because of the chronic state of stress my body was under while the endometriosis (believed to possibly be an autoimmune disorder itself) wreaked havoc unchecked for decades.

Here's what Dr. Andrew Cook has to say about this phenomenon:
"The human body has a wonderfully complex inter-relationship of organ systems. The body acts as a buffer system, processing and eliminating both internal and external factors. Multi-System Disease (MSD) describes an overall decrease in the functionality of multiple organ systems, resulting in an overall decline in health and functionality of the person as a whole. The initial agent, or 'insult' that starts the process, can be any one of countless possibilities [e.g., endometriosis]; but it is one that chronically stresses the body's buffering capacity. Over time, additional factors accumulate, adding an increasingly large burden on the buffering capacity of the body. This is much like adding straws to the camel's back until it finally breaks. The different organ systems which can be involved include the endocrine system (this includes all of the various hormones released by the body – estrogen, progesterone, androgens, thyroid, growth and the stress hormone cortisol), the nervous system, including the autonomic nervous system with the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), many aspects of the immune system, and possibly even the coagulation system. In its most severe form, this disease process results in virtually a complete decompensation of almost all of the vital organ systems, and thus the decompensation of the overall health of the patient. He or she can be left in a state of such low body function that performing even routine functions becomes nearly impossible.  
"I believe that women with advanced endometriosis have MSD. This is a good example of a disease process where truly integrative approaches, including surgical, traditional medical and alternative therapies, are required for successful treatment. The endometrial implants are a disease in the body that must be removed surgically. This anatomic disease is like a boat anchor that drags down the health of the individual. No matter what other treatments are instituted, the body will have to deal with the disease, since there is no non-surgical way to remove endometriosis from the body. Conversely, the endometrial implants present in the pelvis may not represent all of the ill health of the patient. Patients with systemic (overall body) symptoms may well be suffering from MSD. This is one reason that even complete surgical removal of the endometrial implants may only treat part of the overall disease process of endometriosis patients. These patients in particular will most likely benefit from an overall approach to improve their underlying health to maximize the buffering capacity of their bodies, and thus the ability of their bodies to detoxify and regain optimal health." (from VitalHealth.com)
I have experienced what Dr. Cook describes above. I have fibromyalgia, Vitamin D deficiency, insulin resistance and odd thyroid function to name just a few of the things that I do know that have gone wrong in my endocrine system.

What is an "endocrine disruptor"?

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences:
"Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. A wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, including pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A. Endocrine disruptors may be found in many everyday products– including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides. The NIEHS supports studies to determine whether exposure to endocrine disruptors may result in human health effects including lowered fertility and an increased incidence of endometriosis and some cancers. Research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming." (NIEHS.com)
A large percentage of endocrine disruptors fall into the category of what is called "obesogens":
"Obesogens are foreign chemical compounds that disrupt normal development and balance of lipid metabolism, which in some cases, can lead to obesity.  Obesogens may be functionally defined as chemicals that inappropriately alter lipid homeostasis and fat storage, change metabolic setpoints, disrupt energy balance or modify the regulation of appetite and satiety to promote fat accumulation and obesity." (from wikipedia)
Dr. Oz did a great write-up about obesogens on his website after doing a segment on his show. Included in his article is a list of common places to find obesogens:
  • In your faucets: Pesticides seep deep into the soil and find their way to the water table and into your tap water. The main obesogen in tap water is atrazine. Banned in Europe, but found around the United States, atrazine slows thyroid hormone metabolism. Another culprit found in tap water, tributylin, a fungicide painted on the bottoms of boats, stimulates fat cell production. 
  • Cans and water bottles: Bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen used to make plastics hard which has been banned from baby bottles, but is still present in many other plastics (especially sports water bottles) and the lining of most cans, has been shown to increase insulin resistance in animal studies. 
  • Nonstick pans and microwave popcorn: Animal studies have shown that early exposure to a chemical used to make items non-stick – Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – leads to obesity in later life. It also is known to affect thyroid glands, which are important regulators of hormones that control weight. Found mainly in products like Teflon pans, it’s also hidden in microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes. 
  • Shower curtains and air fresheners: Phthalates, chemicals found in vinyl products such as shower curtains and fragrance products such as air fresheners, may lower testosterone and metabolism levels, causing you to gain weight and lose muscle mass. They’re also found in vinyl flooring and industrial-grade plastic wrap used to shrink wrap meat in the grocery store.
Dr. Oz then goes on to point out helpful ways to avoid obesogens:
  • Buy wild fish (such as salmon, which is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids) and meat products that are hormone- and antibiotic free. 
  • Install a granular activated carbon filter on your faucet to filter out chemicals such as atrazine. 
  • Use aluminum water bottles or those that are BPA-free. 
  • Steer clear of plastics with the number 3 or 7 on the bottom, which may leach BPA. Instead look for the numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6, which are unlikely to contain BPA. 
  • Keep water bottles cool (warm temperatures increase BPA leaching) and never microwave plastic. 
  • Eat fewer canned foods. Opt for frozen or fresh instead. Tuna can be found in pouches that do not contain BPA. 
  • Get rid of your non-stick pans if possible. If you must use a Teflon pan, never use a metal implement on it that can scratch the surface and release the chemicals inside, and throw away any scratched non-stick pans. 
  • Buy meats straight from the butcher counter (instead of pre-packaged) and ask that they wrap them in brown paper. 
  • Skip the air fresheners, open the windows, and try a vase of dried lavender instead.
What changes I've made and the result of each change

Over the past year, I have progressively incorporated certain changes into my life. Like a lot of people, I have to start gradually so I'm not overwhelmed by too many big changes all at once. But little by little I've incorporated significant changes into my life and seen positive results from them.

Buy and eat only organic fruits and vegetables
I started out by deciding to buy only organic fruits and vegetables at the store. I wanted the endocrine disrupting pesticides out of my diet. I had to be pretty ruthless when it came to corn (I love corn). Corn is a huge culprit because of the highly prevalent GM corn grown (do a Google search on "gmo corn bt toxin" and you'll be amazed at what our corn contains). Now I only eat organic corn if I eat it at all. And I try to avoid all corn products in other forms unless it's organic. I've noticed significant digestive improvements once I implemented these changes. If I do consume something at a restaurant that isn't organic, my digestive system lets me know.

Buy and eat only organic milk and dairy products
I also started out by deciding to only buy organic milk and dairy. Milk can be one of the biggest culprits in introducing endocrine disruptors into one's diet. So I did some research and found that Organic Valley brand goes the extra mile in making sure that the cows are fed pesticide-free grass in addition to no antibiotics or growth hormones (not all organic milk goes that extra mile). The bonus is that Costco carries Organic Valley milk at a great price. We also switched to organic butter, cheeses and eggs. I've seen an incredible result from this change. I feel better. My digestive system is much happier.

Stop consuming artificial sweeteners
That meant no more diet sodas. Yeah, it hasn't been easy. But I feel so much better.

Get rid of all non-stick pans
This was a hard one because cookware isn't cheap and my husband is a stickler for having nice chef-quality cookware. He'd acquired quite a collection of cookware with non-stick surfaces. But it was necessary to make this change because I was noticing that the non-stick surfaces were beginning to leave little flecks in some of my foods like scrambled eggs and omelets. My solution was to take Hubby shopping at TJ Maxx. We were able to put together an entire replacement suite of stainless steel cookware to replace what he already had. The cookware he found was top-notch and the greatly discounted prices meant we got an entire new set of pots and pans for less than $300. My health started to improve once we did.

Stop microwaving plastic
It took a lot of discipline to do this one but I've trained myself to heat leftovers and other meal items only on ceramic plates. I noticed that my food tasted better and I started feeling better after I implemented this change.

Stop using bug spray in the house and garden
This was so hard. I grew up in a house where the solution to any errant fly, moth or spider was to spray a spritz of Raid at it. After I implemented this one, I had a lapse of judgment and used some bug spray on a moth or two. Boy, was I sorry. I felt physically ill for days afterward. I've recommitted to not using bug spray again just so I can avoid feeling so horrible.

Install a granular activated carbon filter on the kitchen faucet to filter out chemicals such as atrazine
Although I was already drinking filtered water through the water dispenser from our fridge, I needed to also have filtered water when preparing foods and cooking. The filter isn't uber-chic as far as my design aesthetic goes but my health was more important than how my kitchen looked. In the end, a water filter took up permanent residence on our kitchen tap.

I have many more changes that I can still make to remove endrocine disruptors (obesogens) from my life. But like I said before, I am taking a gradual approach. Each change I make brings about an added layer of wellness.

I've found that my body doesn't hold on to weight as much as it did prior to the changes. I haven't had weight "falling off" my body in huge amounts, but I've noticed my clothes are looser and I'm slightly smaller. Over time, my body may find a more appropriate set point weight. That would be nice.

But what is more important to me is that I am feeling better. My energy levels are more even-keeled, my pain levels are lower and I feel like I'm fighting against my body less and less. Over time I hope that I will continue to see the improvement I've seen in the past year or so. 

1 comment:

Joanie said...

I'm amazed at the amount of research you've done (but I shouldn't be as you are the research queen) I appreciate you sharing this information.
I'm so glad that you are feeling better.
Hugs and love...

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