Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hypothalamus and Menopause Weight Gain

The hypothalamus contains several groups of nerve cells, which has the ability to impact emotions, regulate body temperature, and control thirst, the feeling of fullness and salt cravings (when sodium levels are too high within the body, the hypothalamus sends a signal to drink fluids). Body weight is controlled by the hypothalamus through modifying our metabolism. The activities of the hypothalamus are influenced by stress, light, steroids, insulin, pleasant food smells, and invading microorganisms. This explains why we tend to overeat when we are stressed out, when the daylight time becomes shortened and when we smell something good.
Hypothalamus Controls Appetite. When menopause comes, the imbalance of the estrogen, progesterone, GABA, serotonin and dopamine profoundly influences the neuronal activity of the hypothalamus, which can cause women to be more emotional, to crave for sweets and salty food, and to have insomnia, hot flushes and night sweats. Many women told me that they cannot stop eating even though they know they are not supposed to eat too much of a certain kind of food. In this scenario, if they eat the wrong kind of food such as cookies and ice cream or drink too much coffee, their stomachs will not receive the full sensation; they can keep eating until they damage the majority of their nerves and blood vessels. We have trillions of neurons and blood vessels; if we destroy 60% of them, our body can still compensate. Once the majority of the nerves and blood vessels are damaged, it is too late to change. When we consume sugary stuff, our rewarding center lightens up, our body releases a lot of dopamine and we feel happier for a moment. The problem is that our body's function is not improved by eating junk food. We have to continue eating those rewarding foods to maintain our happiness. If we use healthy ways, such as physical exercise, taking herbs or having acupuncture treatments to produce more dopamine, we have to make an effort to initiate them. On the other hand, if we just put a piece of chocolate into our mouth, we do not need a strong will to do that, but our blood vessels and nerves are going to be damaged without our seeing them until one day our brain cannot remember our family member's name and the dementia becomes irreversible. The simple sugar is even worse than alcohol or tobacco because you can eat the sugar any time with any amount without getting drunk or being punished. On the other hand you can only drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes at certain times and places. A positive side is that when people eat sugary stuff, they become more friendly and sociable at the moment. Why can most men eat one piece of chocolate, then stop, while women have to eat ten pieces? Because women's estrogen levels fluctuate each month from 10 to 100 while men do not have these big hormone changes unless they are alcoholics or drug addicts.