As you get older, your metabolism naturally slows down. Your metabolism is determined by a massive genetic equation, which takes into account your age and your current health. This equation looks like this:
Rate of Metabolism =
Your hormones [growth hormones, estrogen, testosterone]
Your bone strength, muscle strength, and active neurons [working brain chemistry]
The number of diseases you currently have
As you age, your hormones drop, muscle is lost, bone density is lost, and your brain cells fizzle. At the same time you accumulate illnesses. All of these factor into your metabolic rate. However, by reversing these individual health issues, you can increase your metabolism, feel younger, and lose weight.
When you were young, the food you ate supported your growing brain and body. Yet once you reached your final adult height, you may have experienced weight gain even when you were eating the exact same foods in the same quantities. The problem: Your metabolism weakened over time. To compensate, you need more voltage, or Dopamine, to jump-start your fat-burning furnace. Without it, you'll just continue to accumulate body fat.
The good news is that you can jump-start your fat-burning furnace by concentrating on foods and nutrients that naturally increase your metabolism and boost your dopamine. Your metabolism works as an automatic system that is set by the fuel you throw at it. If you've been eating junk, your metabolism is working like a low-burning fire. However, when you provide it with lots of dopamine, this brain chemical acts like a pile of coal, and ignites your metabolism to burn off your calories.
Remove Foods That Deplete Dopamine
Many common foods actually can deplete your levels of dopamine. For example, sugar and its many hidden forms (high fructose corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, sucralose, molasses, syrup, and others) should be avoided. Better alternatives would be pure honey, or maple syrup because they contain additional vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that may benefit your health. Stevia is another natural sugar substitute. It's 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, so just a tiny amount will do the trick, and it contains 0 calories.
Also avoid simple carbohydrates and high glycemic foods which are foods you crave if you are dealing with a dopamine deficiency, because they give you the feeling of increased energy in the short term. These are generally the "white" foods such as cakes, crackers, chips, potatoes, white breads and rice, processed foods, etc.
Which Foods Should You Eat?
Instead of sugar-laden and "white" foods, choose more colorful versions that have more nutrients. Whole grain, colorful carbs (such as sweet potatoes, and brown rice) provide lots of energy without being instantly converted into body fat. Although they don't create more dopamine, they won't feed into the food addiction cycle.
Dopamine enhancing foods are by nature calorie dense, so eating in moderation will be key in not consuming more calories than your body needs. Foods high in the amino acid, phenylalanine, will boost your metabolism. These include such proteins as lean beef, chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, oat flakes, yogurt, turkey, etc.
The amino acid, tyrosine, is another precursor to dopamine. Tyrosine-rich foods include: beef, chicken, cottage cheese, duck, granola, pork, wheat germ, wild game, yogurt, etc.
By increasing your consumption of phenylalanine and tyrosine, you can reverse your dopamine deficiency. Be sure to add spices to your meals - they are nutrient-dense and provide between 20 to 80 different nutrients. Try to include hot or cold tea to your day - they are metabolic enhancers that can help you burn calories and body fat. Colorful vegetables and salads should be included in your meals as a low-calorie, antioxidant-rich, and nutrient-dense benefit.
Call to schedule an appointment for a full exam. We can help you to reverse the affects of aging so you can be a Younger, Thinner, Healthier You.
Serotonin is the brain chemical that allows you to experience pleasure and feel good about yourself. When your serotonin levels are strong, you feel alive and excited about taking on new challenges. At night, serotonin allows the brain to recharge and rebalance as you experience deep, restful sleep, so every morning you begin with a fresh start. That's why I equate balanced serotonin to complete serenity. And when your brain is balanced and refreshed, you'll even find it a whole lot easier to lose weight.
Yet as we get older, serotonin levels begin to wane. You may notice that your mood is the first aspect of your overall health that has changed. While dopamine and GABA deficiencies affect our emotional life, serotonin deficiencies are markedly different, and even more pronounced. Instead of feeling fatigued (low dopamine) or anxious (low GABA), without serotonin we don't feel much of anything. That's why the stereotypical aged person is often portrayed as crotchety or withdrawn. This is an example of someone who has burned out their serotonin.
Both sleep disturbances and depression are associated with low serotonin levels, and therefore influence weight gain. Emotional upheavals can subliminally lead you to self-medicate through food, fostering specific food cravings that when satisfied, can temporarily change your mood. For example, have you ever told anyone "I eat when I'm depressed"? If so, think about the foods you choose when you are in a funk. If you are low in serotonin, chances are very good that you are a "salty snack" binger: simple carbs and salty foods actually provide more energy to combat fatigue, and actually help to release stored serotonin. But even though highly salted carbs, like potato chips, provide the lift you are looking for, they don't provide the nutrition your body desperately needs.
You can boost your serotonin levels in a variety of healthy ways and become younger. You can learn how to get out of a black mood without the help of fattening foods so you can reverse your bad and often dangerous eating habits. You can also learn the tricks you need to get a better night's sleep so your brain can rest, allowing you to make better food choices the next day.
Strategies to Create/Increase Serotonin
If you are low in serotonin, tryptophan is vital because it induces the creation of this brain chemical. Tryptophan is an amino acid the brain and body needs, but cannot make on its own. The foods that are key to producing serotonin are those low-calorie foods that are high in tryptophan, such as avocados, eggs, or cottage cheese. Here's a list of foods containing significant amounts of this amino acid. Try to incorporate as many of these as possible into your diet each day:
While many spices can make your meals more flavorful, specific spices will act as antidepressants, naturally increasing your serotonin levels. Good choices are saffron, marjoram, peppermint, spearmint, dill, nutmeg, licorice (anise), and turmeric.
Many foods that are high in tryptophan do not provide significant levels in diet-size portions. You would have to eat a whole cup of granola to get the levels you need. Another way to increase your tryptophan and other serotonin-boosting nutrients without adding calories is through vitamin and mineral supplements.
Consult your healthcare provider to see which of the following supplements may be appropriate for you. Some supplements can interfere with medications you might be taking - especially antidepressants.
THE CORTISOL EQUATION:
LOW DOPAMINE = BIG BELLY FAT =
A HEAVY BURDEN TO CARRY FOR
BOTH BRAIN AND BODY
When you have a dopamine deficiency, the body naturally increases the production of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is the backup energy hormone; it provides us with additional power so the brain and body can continue to function without the right levels of dopamine.
Cortisol is also released when you are under stress, whether or not your dopamine is low. But, when you are stressed, you naturally burn more dopamine, which is why the cortisol is released.
While cortisol can be helpful, I call it the obesity hormone. Even though it effectively keeps your brain running, it does not improve your dopamine levels. It actually forces your metabolism to slow down, because when brain energy falters (low dopamine), the body is forced to send up to the brain its reserve units to pick up the slack, in the form of steroid hormones (cortisol) from the adrenal glands. The cortisol increases the effectiveness of catecholomines like adrenaline and creates the necessary energy, while conveying a feeling of happiness. However, this dopamine substitute is supposed to be a temporary safety mechanism.
When your brain is continually turning to cortisol for energy, it becomes a way of life. In the end, you get puffy, round-faced, blood pressure rises, your appetite increases, and you experience weight gain (especially around your midsection).
It has been linked as a direct cause of belly fat in both men and women: It causes fat to be deposited in the abdominal area where there are the most cortisol receptors. So if you're a "high energy" individual but are stuck with an apple body shape, chances are your cortisol levels, instead of your dopamine, are supporting your body's energy needs.
A big belly is also an indicator that you're at high risk for metabolic syndrome, which from a brain chemistry perspective, is primarily a loss of metabolism: a low dopamine condition. When you see someone with a big belly, think of brain burnout. It is often accompanied by a poor attention span, poor sleep patterns and attention deficit problems.
Cortisol also boosts adrenaline, which can make you feel restless: When your adrenaline is pumping, you might be anxious during the day and not able to sleep at night. These two factors also contribute to weight gain. Anxiety tends to cause us to self-medicate with "comfort foods," and a lack of sleep prevents your brain from resetting its other chemicals to the right levels.
Strategies for Increasing Dopamine:
We at PATH Medical can help you to re-balance your brain. Our exams include a full brain exam, because brainpower is the fire that keeps your mind alive, awake, alert and aware.
To my mind, diets that do not address brain chemistry fail for two reasons, which are:
First, when you restrict certain macronutrients (like carbs or fat), your brain isn't getting all the nutrients it needs, so the body sends out a hunger signal that results in overeating. Instead, my key to weight management is not found in counting carbohydrates, fat grams, or calories; but, instead, in balancing brain chemistry through nutrition - something anyone can do easily and effectively. It is an eating plan you can follow for life.
Second, when we diet, we often deprive ourselves of vital nutrients, so our mental state becomes taxed and we make bad food choices. We are too fatigued, so we eat to boost our energy. We are depressed, so we eat excessively to force sleep. These mental states are aging you far beyond your chronological age. The good news is that by following a diet that enhances brain chemistry, each of these mental states can be completely reversed naturally. That's why my Younger (Thinner) You Diet is all about.
On the Younger (Thinner) You Diet, you will not only lose weight because your are increasing your brain chemical, Dopamine, but as you balance your brain, you will also become more fit as you increase another brain chemical - Acetylcholine. You will become calmer as you learn to stabilize your GABA. And you will be happier and sleep better with more Serotonin.
The Basics of the Younger (Thinner) You Diet
Make sure that you are eating foods that are nutrient dense, rather than calorie dense. This is key in maintaining weight loss and a balanced brain chemistry. You want every square inch of your food to be packed with nutrients, not calories.
The Younger (Thinner) You Diet offers hundreds of good choices: complex carbohydrates, which include lots of fruits and vegetables; lean meats; healthy fats; wonderful herbs and spices that are chock-full of thermogenic nutrients including antioxidants; and soothing, healing teas. A diet rich in these will naturally provide plenty of fiber to aid in digestion. They are also considered "high volume": You can eat lots of them and feel full because they take up space in your stomach, yet they are still low in calories.
Best of all, you can eat healthy-sized portions of these foods and still lose weight, because the nutrients-to-calorie ratio is the highest of any diet around. You won't feel hungry all day, and at night, you'll sleep well. Not only has this way of eating been proven to improve the way you use and burn your food, but these foods support an anti-aging strategy to get you feeling healthier and younger.
Here's a page from my book, Younger (Thinner) You Diet - How Understanding Your Brain Chemistry Can Help You Lose Weight, Reverse Aging, and Fight Disease. These are a few examples of what to eat to balance your brain chemistry and to lose weight. For more help and/or information, make an appointment with us - we can help you with your health and weight loss needs. You can also find some recipes in the recipe section of my blog (at PATHmed.com) or on Pinterest (search for Eric Braverman, MD).
One of the greatest brain defenses is the addition of spices to your meals. Spices function like little brain medications. They are nutrient dense; each can provide between 20 and 80 different nutrients. By using them regularly, you are benefitting by getting more important vitamins, minerals, and even antioxidants.
Every time you add spices, you're adding nutrients and upgrading your meal without having added a single calorie. And because they are nutrient dense, they are thermogenic, which means they naturally increase your metabolism, helping you to burn more of your food as fuel, and to store less as body fat.
In this recipe, the allspice helps reduce blood pressure. Nutmeg can help alleviate depression. Cinnamon lowers blood sugar and boosts your metabolism, making it a super dopamine-boosting meal. The fruit increases your other biochemicals. Spices are also helpful in better metabolizing your food. Try adding yogurt for an extra health boost.
I like to think of tea as the Tree of Life that saves your health. It's a much healthier option than coffee, because it is also high in nutrients and antioxidants, yet does not contain a single calorie. Make an effort to drink SEVEN 6-ounce servings of tea per day - hot or cold.
The health benefits of drinking tea add up fast. Not only does it get you in the habit of drinking more beverages, you are simultaneously flushing out of your system the toxic foods you've been eating. The nutrients in tea speed up your metabolism.
By itself, tea has no calories and can stimulate digestion, cleanse the body, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and give you lots of energy. These are all necessary for losing weight and reversing the aging of every part of your body.
A cup of hot tea is also the perfect antidote for calming an anxious mind. Both black and white tea are derived from the same green tea, but each has a different taste and appearance. White tea is growing in popularity because it has a higher antioxidant value than green and black.
Green, black, and white teas all contain the nutrient L-theanine, which has been shown to stimulate alpha brain waves. These waves are associated with a relaxed but alert mental state, which may increase attention span. Because theanine helps the mind to stop racing, it also seems to help promote a more restful, sound sleep.
There are many health care professionals, today, that still focus on treating disease once it is diagnosed. They're still not getting the big picture and miss 90% of silent disease. While early detection is key, prevention is equally important in guaranteeing a longer, healthier life. By focusing on preventive treatment, my patients don't experience unexpected illnesses or surprise deaths.
Preventing Heart Attack and Stroke
We can now conclusively predict who is most likely to become the victim of a stroke or heart attack, even though the majority of patients who die of a sudden heart attack have few or no symptoms. For example, a major study of 28,000 women at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital provided conclusive evidence that painless inflammation of heart and blood vessels is a major trigger of heart attacks - even more so than high cholesterol. Women with high levels of inflammation are twice as likely as those with high cholesterol to die from heart attacks and strokes.
The collective condition known as "cardiovascular disease" refers to disorders of the heart as well as the vascular system. Below are signs and symptoms that you want to be on the lookout for; and if they occur, talk to your doctor immediately.
Signs and Symptoms of Heart Attack
Signs and Symptoms of Stroke
A C-reactive protein blood test is one of the simplest ways to identify chronic inflammation that may be smoldering in your body. Coronary computed tomography angiography (CTA) is another useful technique for identifying heart disease.
The key to prolonging good heart health (and overall health) and continuing to lead a vibrant and active life is the ability to identify the aging parts of your body that may already be experiencing the ravages of silent disease.
Your Waistline Predicts Your Heart Health
You can never start a cardiovascular program soon enough. In assessing your heart attack risk, simply look at the notches on your belt. An increasing waistline is a reliable risk indicator of heart disease.
Potential heart disease patients may benefit from preventive hormone therapy, especially testosterone therapy (in men). Testosterone and other hormones strengthen the heart muscle, which will aid in heart contraction and improve the heart's pumping ability. DHEA may help protect against atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Contact our office for an appointment to discuss further hormone therapies.
Natural Supplements For a Younger Heart
Dietary Modifications For a Healthy Heart
By following a healthy lifestyle including exercise and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy whole grains, and plenty of low-fat protein (including eggs, which are a perfect protein source rich in amino acids), you may lose excess weight that can contribute to heart disease and stroke. You also need to eat foods that are low in sodium, which will naturally reduce internal swelling and water retention. For more information on my Braverman Protocol and Rainbow Diet, you can read my book, The Amazing Way to Reverse Heart Disease Naturally. But a yearly exam that includes early detection tests is a must.
At PATH Medical, we can help you with all of your health, dietary, and supplemental needs.
Other recommendations for a weight-loss program:
Reports keep coming about the role natural supplements, and diet and lifestyle changes play in improving health and lowering the cost of medical care. For a nutritional consultation and/or AgePrint quiz, and for all of your supplement needs, call PATH Medical today.
The Easiest Way to Become a Younger, Healthier, Thinner You
Sleep's Effect on Hunger
Have you ever had a restless night's sleep and felt famished in the morning? The cause of your hunger is actually too little sleep. Most of us have a sleep deficit (getting less than 7 hours per night or less than 49 hours per week). The result from being overtired is that your body and your brain are primed to make bad decisions.
When you wake up starving, you might reach for something easy and quick to eat, such as a breakfast of cereal, toast, or a bagel to provide an energy burst as well as satisfy your hunger. But literally feeding your energy needs this way will only slow you down. Your body will turn these directly into body fat. The next carb-heavy meal will do the same thing, and eventually you will train your body to store all carbs and never burn them. This leaves you more tired and ultimately heavier.
Sleep's Effect on Ghrelin and Leptin:
Poor sleep can also affect your internal chemistry. Sleep directly influences two key hormones that regulate satiety and hunger: ghrelin and leptin. Elevated levels of ghrelin increase feelings of hunger, while leptin acts to suppress appetite. Interestingly, serotonin is vital to regulating the brain's response to both of these hormones. When you suffer from sleep deprivation (or a sleep deficit), your body's levels of leptin and ghrelin fall, creating that "hungry but never satisfied" feeling.
To help balance your serotonin levels and regain your health, try my Younger (Thinner) You Diet. It's not necessarily a low-carb diet, but it does require you to choose more complex carbs that provide nutrition as well as the building blocks of serotonin. These carbs are slower to digest, so you feel full longer, and the body has more time to use them as fuel. That way, you're burning more and storing less. You are retraining your body, which will facilitate weight loss. And with more serotonin, you'll also get more sleep.
For more help, you can contact us to make an appointment or schedule a phone consultation.
Part 4 of the Series: Aging and the "Pauses of Life"
Cardiopause - a decline in pumping power, valves and blood flow
Vasculopause - a decline in blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body
Let’s look at the connection between your heart and your brain’s own age accelerators. Basically, when the brain breaks, the heart breaks. Now you have a broken heart and a broken brain. A lack of the following neurotransmitters can put you at risk for cardiopause:
Dopamine: A lack of this neurotransmitter may lead to obesity, which accelerates all forms of heart disease because it causes your blood vessels to become clogged with fat. Addictions (food, alcohol, smoking, cocaine, etc.) can all accelerate heart disease.
Acetylcholine: A lack of this can cause your brain and mind to deteriorate and heart disease can accelerate as a result.
GABA: A GABA deficiency typically begins as a loss of calm and a simultaneous increase in blood pressure. Anxiety and stress are well-known causes of heart disease.
Serotonin: A lack of this brain chemical may lead to depression, which often disrupts sleep patterns. Too little or too much sleep might increase your risk of developing heart disease. What’s more, coronary artery disease is often associated with depression.
When Vasculopause Strikes – vasculopause usually begins around age 50. It is the second limb of heart disease and is equally as important to detect and reverse as cardiopause. It refers to changes in your blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. The vascular system carries oxygen-rich blood away from the heart through blood vessels, arteries, and tiny capillaries into the tissues, and back to the heart through your veins.
These are likely scenarios of vasculopause:
Unfortunately, high blood pressure is painless, symptomless, and often unexpected. It affects the middle-aged and elderly who are obese or heavy drinkers. It also affects women who are currently taking oral contraceptives or using recreational drugs.
Pain and emotional distress are certainly age accelerators leading to high blood pressure, and GABA deficiencies leading to pain and anxiety contribute to high blood pressure. If you can boost your GABA, you’ll watch your blood pressure drop.
Cardiopause and Vasculopause can be Reversed:
I have witnessed long-term improvement in patients - in some cases almost full reversals that last for years. These results are possible because we look at heart failure as a systemic issue. In other words, we treat the whole person, not just the pumping condition of the heart (although that’s obviously a key element of our program). This treatment includes making healthy lifestyle changes as well as introducing nutrients and supplements, bio-identical hormones, and medications if necessary that are designed to improve the heart’s and vascular system’s functions and prevent future problems without negative side effects.
My Rainbow Diet is a good place to start as a nutritional approach to controlling high blood pressure and heart disease. It’s an eating plan that is based on incorporating the seven major colors of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet – into the foods you eat. Fruits and vegetables of all colors are packed with disease-fighting nutrients.
We at PATH Medical can teach you how to use these nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as the addition of lean protein (especially fish), fiber-rich whole grains, legumes, healthy fats and oils, and lots of spices and herbs, to help you achieve your optimal weight, and to improve your blood pressure, cholesterol, and your overall cardiovascular health.
Indian dishes are loaded with spices. There are so many spices in the Garam Masala that will enhance and boost all of your brain chemicals, and they will also effectively boost/rev your metabolism. The chicken is an excellent source of protein that will also enhance all of your brain chemicals. The yogurt is high in both calcium and protein, which together are known to raise metabolic rate and improve digestion and bowel health. It also supports your immune system, reduces overall inflammation, and lowers your LDL, or "bad" cholesterol. That's why I consider this dish to be a Younger (Thinner) You superfood.
Study after study shows the benefits of spices. For example, the cinnamon (one ingredient of the garam masala), has tremendous blood sugar benefits.
Ginger can help to improve blood circulation and digestion, as well as lowering blood pressure.
Coriander alleviates indigestion, lowers serum cholesterol, increases HDL cholesterol levels, lowers LDL cholesterol levels, and facilitates the removal of aluminum, lead, and mercury from the body.
Cumin can lower elevated blood sugar, lower cholesterol and elevated triglycerides, and alleviate intestinal cramps.
Cloves may suppress some forms of bacteria, improve digestion, and alleviate pain.
Fennel can alleviate diarrhea and indigestion, improve kidney function, improve liver function, and improve brain metabolism.
Mustard seed may increase metabolism, alleviate bronchitis, and alleviate the common cold.
All of the spices in this recipe have potential health benefits and are brain chemical augmenters. Keep leftover Garam Masala in a container with a tight-fitting lid and use it to spice up any poultry, fish, or meat dish.
circulation, and prevent and fight colds and viruses. Garlic reduces heart attack risk, improves blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, eliminates intestinal parasites, stimulates the immune system, and so much more.
Some herbs, such as basil, lemon balm, sage, and mint can help improve your brain speed as they stimulate acetylcholine receptors. So, go ahead and boost your brain speed and overall health. It's as simple as sprinkling herbs on every meal of the day.
Are you overweight? One way you can determine whether you need to lose weight is by identifying your leptin levels. Leptin is a hormone secreted by the body’s fat cells. Its receptor is found in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls your hunger and body weight. The discovery of this hormone has led to a greater understanding of how fat cells are formed and how we respond to hunger. These fat cells are no longer viewed as a part of tissue that merely stores excess calories. Instead, we now know that they are dynamic cells that work with the endocrine system to produce hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism.
Each fat cell has an internal sensor that demands food. As more fat enters the fat cell, that cell secretes leptin in response. The secretion of the leptin hormone signals your brain, “telling” you that you’ve achieved satiety: the feeling you get when you’ve eaten enough. The more leptin that’s present, the stronger the signal to your brain, and the less hungry you feel. However, if there is leptin overload, which often occurs when you are overweight, or if the signal doesn’t get received, your brain won’t transmit the message to stop eating. Unfortunately, the consequence is that you will continue to eat past the point of satiety, which leads to the accumulation of body fat. It becomes a vicious cycle then as, subsequently, more fat cells also accumulate and their food requirements need to be met.
As we age, our bodies can become resistant to the leptin message. This happens because the heavier you get, the more resistant you become to the leptin you produce, resulting in a weaker signal to your brain. A low leptin signal then sets off a cascade of brain chemical reactions, particularly in relation to metabolism. For example, when leptin is released, dopamine (a main brain chemical) production also increases, that enables you to be able to burn off the foods you eat instead of storing them as fat cells. However, without the leptin message, metabolism falls as well.
High leptin levels are correlated with obesity, while moderate to low leptin levels are associated with better fitness. However, extremely low leptin levels may be associated with other hormonal loss. For example, increased levels of the hormone cortisol also lead to increased leptin resistance, which contributes to even more weight gain. Also, low leptin levels lead to lower levels of estrogen and progesterone for women, which signal menopause; and for men, testosterone, which signal male menopause.
Your leptin level can be determined by a simple blood test. Call to make an appointment today to have a full body check-up and to learn more about nutrients and diet that positively affect leptin and other hormonal imbalances. You’re Only as Young as Your Oldest Part.
Eric R. Braverman, M.D.
Dr. Braverman is a Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brandeis University and NYU Medical School, did brain research at Harvard Medical School, and trained at an affiliate of Yale Medical School. He is acknowledged worldwide as an expert in brain-based diagnosis and treatment, and he lectures to and trains doctors in anti-aging medicine.