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Turning off the obsession genes that cause eating disorders.

July 2, 2011 – 3:49 am

By re-identifying your bad eating behavior you can stop your eating disorder – this has been proven more than once.

Some of you may say, “How will I re-identify my behavior to stop my eating disorder?
I got this disease because I have an obsessive gene from my mother. You can’t eradicate this gene from my genetic makeup.”

No, you can’t eradicate the unwanted gene from your genetic makeup and we are not trying to do this. What we are trying to do here is to change your response to the thoughts and feelings your brain generates.

Our genes have two kinds of fundamental properties. One of them is something that is not in our control. We have a certain set of genes we’re born with that keep replicating themselves. 

But the other aspect of our genes is in our control and it can be turned on and off according to how we live our life. This we can do something about, with the help of neuroplasticity.

Our brains are ever changing over the course of our lives. And your brain’s map is going to be determined by what you do day by day. You can start out doing new things today and in three weeks time your brain’s map will be completely different from what it was when you started.

This is what we call brain plasticity (or neuroplasticity), and the human genetic inheritance includes brain plasticity. This process occurs throughout our whole life. Brain plasticity can be controlled and directed if the person is aware of it and if the person wants to change his/her brain.

 It is interesting to note that our genes get turned on and off all the time. Even when you go to sleep some genes are turned on and others are turned off and when you wake in the morning other genes join the game. Research has shown that our thoughts also influence these switches and this gives us a lot more control over our genes that we realise.

 Now, I have the highest regard for genetics, but now it is certain that some aspects of genes can be controlled by our will, life style and habits. Just the fact that the brain can change itself in accordance to what we do and how we think. This means we have to place a lot of importance in the power of free will over our lives.

So, the notion that an obsession gene (that caused your ED ) is controlling your life appears to be false. It is how you perceive and respond to the messages from the environment that controls your life.

If, in your environment you perceive yourself as fat, ugly, anxious or inappropriate and your response to this kind of perception is to starve or binge, purge, take laxatives or over exercising to feel better, then you are letting the environment control you.

 What you should be doing is working through them trying to overcome the false urge? This will make much more of a difference to your outcome than blaming a genetic predisposition for your eating disorder.

Go to http://www.eating-disorders-books.com for more information.

Dr Irina Webster MD.

Can a University Course help with eating Disorders?

December 8, 2010 – 1:35 am

It was with great interest I read the press release “University course to study bulimia and anorexia” 11-11-10 on the Wales online website.

The Cardiff University is putting together a Collaborative Working in Eating Disorders module to be studied as part of the School’s MSc in Advanced Practice by the university’s school of nursing.

 Although this seems a noble cause I do get a little concerned when academia and governments gets involved with the treatment or suggested treatment of a disorder. Academics are renowned for not being able to think outside the square and get bogged down with dogma, so will concentrate on the so called conventional approach to eating disorders.

Governments are even worse tending to back the established approach even if it does not work, they can’t afford any political backlash if they make a mistake. Plus it is always good to be seen as doing something in the eyes of the voters. So to save themselves down the track they also back the conventional approach.

From reading the article it seems apparent that the course will have its basis on the conventional approach to the treatment of eating disorders and this is worrying and will only produce much of the same thinking that is prevalent now. 

As an eating disorder specialist, author of two books on the subject and an ex-sufferer of anorexia and bulimia myself: I know the conventional approach is not that great. I myself did the rounds of therapists etc, to no avail for years and I was training to be a doctor, so you would think it should have worked.

 I am not the only person who has gone through multiple treatments only to find they did not work; I get emails everyday from people telling me the same thing.

Here are a few abbreviated emails.

 I am helping a young adult girl whom I have become extremely fond of!… At the age of 14 she became anorexic and eventually bulimic. She has been in clinics a number of times, but every time she just goes home things just continue where she left off…
Charleen SA.

My daughter is 22 years old and she was suffering ED for 2 years… For your information she has been treated in the ED clinic as outpatient, visiting the internist doctor and the psychologist regularly to no avail…
Li Australia.

My daughter has been in and out the eating disorder clinic in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the last 4 years. I’m tired of them, she continues to struggle…
D M USA.

I took her to our health care Clinic and they seemed to have a handle on the disorder and they seemed to be helping with all kinds of counseling, nutritionist, psychiatrist and nursing… but once home she “back-slid” back into binging and purging.
VF, GB.

These emails are very typical from people contacting me still searching for answers when the conventional treatments have failed.

There is a very good reason why this happens and why sufferers fail to get better after showing promise while in the clinic? Conventional treatment methods do not confront the disorder where it lives in the subconscious mind of the sufferer. They do not understand that an eating disorder is a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

But unlike the person who has to wash their hands 100 times a day, or the sufferer who has to check to see if the gas is turned off 200 times before they can leave their home. These people get nothing but pain from their OCD, whereas the ED sufferer actually gets pleasure from their disordered eating habits.

This extra element of pleasure adds a different dimension to the disorder and is most difficult to treat with conventional approaches used in clinics and by therapists. Sitting and talking to a therapist rehashing old hurts for hours is not going to help. This is a logical approach to a disorder that is not the least bit logical. After all why would someone purposely starve themselves to death and know they are doing it?

In my view there is really only one method that can beat an eating disorder and that is one that attacks the ED where it lives in the subconscious mind of the sufferer. To do this you have to use the power of Neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability to change the way our brain functions by how we think, feel and act.

With the use of specialized methods to promote positive feelings, emotions, action and pictures we can change the faulty neuronal pathways and negative programming that has occurred in mind of the sufferer. The beauty of using a specialized neuroplasticity approach to curing eating disorders is it can be used at home.

This is the place all ED sufferers fail and relapse back into their old habits, because the triggers that control their habits are all at home, they are not in the clinic or therapists rooms.  

 I believe that any university course however noble it may seem if it does not incorporate the use of neuroplasticity and a method to change the neuronal pathways in the brain will not help. This will only produce a whole new batch of conventional method thinkers to the detriment of the eating disorder sufferer.

To read more about Neuroplasticity is the key for eating disorder help go to http://www.eating-disorders-books.com

What are Neurotransmitters and How do they Influence the development of Eating Disorders?

June 8, 2009 – 1:58 pm

What are Neurotransmitters and How do they Influence the development of Eating Disorders?

Neurotransmitters are chemicals which facilitate the transmission of signal from one neuron to another. Neurotransmitters are released in synapses (or where the ending of one neuron connects to the endings of another neuron).

There are different types of neurotransmitters. Here we will look at the most important ones.

Acetylcholine:  Acetylcholine is a chemical which are involved in memory, learning and attention. When you learn something and pay attention to it – you stimulate the production of acetylcholine.

To maintain this chemical at a certain level you must keep your brain busy with attention requiring work. Study, read books, create something, solve puzzles, get a job where you can use your brain. Just do something that can stimulate the production of acetylcholine in the brain.

Eating disorder sufferers have often a very low acetylcholine level especially when they give up their studies, job and other productive activities for the sake of their eating disorder. They normally explain this quitting as the inability to concentrate, being too weak and etc.

This all happens because the level of acetylcholine in their brain is low. But they can improve it by exercising their own will, going back to study  and beginning to  learn again and paying attention to something more useful and constructive than their eating disorder.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which produces a sense of well-being calm and satisfaction. Many scientists blame the lack of this chemical for eating disorder problems. Serotonin has a broad function in the brain. It regulates and moderates anger, aggression, body temperature, mood, sleep, human sexuality, appetite, and metabolism, as well as stimulating vomiting.

It is still not clear what exactly happens with serotonin in the brain of eating disorder sufferers, as it is difficult to measure. But we know there are many genetic variations in the serotonin receptors and the serotonin transporters in the brain.
It is most likely that a serotonin abnormality in the brain affects each person differently. Serotonin levels can be increased naturally by taking tryptophan rich foods found in meats and proteins.

Dopamine: Dopamine is a chemical associated with pleasurable activity. It is released when people do naturally rewarding activities like having sex or enjoying food. Some drugs such as nicotine, cocaine and amphetamines can influence the level of dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine is actually the culprit in many addictions such as drugs, food, and sex addictions. Dopamine also has other functions in the brain, including important roles in behaviour and cognition, motor activity, motivation and reward, inhibition of prolactin production which is involved in lactation, sleep, mood, attention, and learning.

Recent research has suggested that dopamine is also released in reward-anticipation activities and when people are motivated to do something. If you have ever wondered why you feel great after doing aerobics or playing sport, this is the brain producing dopamine. Just thinking about doing something pleasurable can produce a chemical ‘reward’ of dopamine being released in your brain.

Enjoyable learning and focusing on something you really like doing will stimulate dopamine production in your brain.
The release of dopamine triggers the desire to eat certain foods. The dopamine does not increase the pleasure of actually eating food but is released when the person sees, smells, thinks or dreams about food. Tasting enjoyable food also provokes the release of dopamine.

Dopamine plays an important role in bulimia and binge eating because these people often dream and think about food. And it is why when a bulimic or binge eater sees food she/he goes on a binge losing all sense of control.

Glutamate –it is believed that glutamate (or glutamic acid) is involved in cognitive functions like learning and memory. Many foods contain glutamate, including cheese, soy sauce, fish, eggs, poultry etc.

GABA is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for muscle tones. GABA regulates the growth embryonic and neural stem cells. Abnormal levels of GABA have been found in people with mood disorders.

Substance P is an important chemical which involves pain perception. It also participates in regulation of mood disorders, anxiety, stress, reinforcement, neurogenesis, nausea and vomiting. The vomiting centre in the brain contains high concentrations of Substance P. Activation of Substance P stimulates vomiting. People who use vomiting as a way of purging have abnormalities in the levels of Substance P.

Conclusion:  Neurotransmitters play an important role in the biochemistry of eating disorders. But… The level of most of these neurotransmitters can be moderated by performing or not-performing certain actions and behaviours. Replacing one behaviour with another can change the level of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Wilful action can produce extraordinary changes in the level of these chemicals.  For instance, if you wilfully stop your binging or purging episodes for at least 2-3 weeks and replace this behaviour with more productive ones, the level of neurotransmitters in your brain will change significantly and can become completely normal again. This works on the use it or lose it principle.

Always remember: your behaviour will change your biology. If you behave better – your biology improves, if you behave worse – your biology becomes worse.

More information: http://www.bulimia-cure.com

Neuroplasticity is the key to Eating disorders treatment.

November 1, 2008 – 5:16 pm

Researchers are now suggesting that neuroplasticity could be the answer to treating eating disorders.
They are of the view that our own brains, thoughts and emotions are not rigid or fixed in place. But can be changed in order to treat and even cure eating disorders.

So what is neuroplasticity? Let’s define it.

The first part neuro is for neurone (which are the nerve cells in the brain) and plasticity means plastic or changeable.

Neuroplasticity is the property of the brain that allows the brain to change itself.
 
These changes occur in four ways:
(1) By responding to the world in a certain way
(2) By perceiving the world in a certain way
(3) By acting in the world in a certain way
(4) By thinking and imagining in a certain way.
 
All these activities can change the brain and the way it functions. With “directed Neuroplasticity” scientists and clinicians can pass onto the brain a calculated sequence of input and/or specific patterns
of stimulation to make desirable and specific changes in the brain for  the better.

For example, under certain kinds of stimulation the brains of eating disorder sufferers can be made to stop focusing on food and weight issues and start focusing on other things. By focusing on other things
(which is called focused attention) the brain develops new connections between neurons and rewires itself. The old neuronal connections (connections responsible for their eating disorder) will became less and less active and eventually completely replace themselves with the new connections. This is how neuroplasticity works: by deleting old defective neuron connections and developing new healthy ones.
 
To make it easier to understand, the brain is made up of many chains of neuronal connections. These chains are responsible for producing certain feelings; thoughts and actions that make people do things.
And by changing these connections we can change how they feel and act.

Some eating disorder sufferers may say: “Oh well, I’ve been suffering  for so long so I have probably done some damage to my brain which is  irreversible.”  But according to neuroplasticity principles the damage
done does not matter and it can be fixed.
 
Even if some parts of the brain are damaged, other parts of the brain can take over the function of the damaged parts; by developing  new brain connections (or neuronal pass ways) and re-routing them.

Having worked with eating disorder sufferers extensively, I have  noticed that many sufferers are aware that what they are doing in terms of eating and dieting does not make sense, and is even doing harm to the bodies.
 
But they still continue their erratic behaviour because they can’t  resist the continuous “voices” in their head telling them that they  are fat and must continue with their starvation, dieting, or continue
to binge and purge. I know I did and I certainly knew the dangers.

When you ask them “What do you think the voice is?” They normally  answer that it is their brain telling them to do what they do. But  when you tell them that it is not their brain, it is their ED (the
faulty wiring) telling them to starve themselves or binge and purge:  their thought processes start to change. And when they start focusing  on the fact that their eating disorder is something separate from
their brain, the changes in their behaviour became more profound.
 
To conclude, neuroplasticity is a great tool in the treatment and in  the cure of eating disorders: simply because the brain is not static, but is dynamic and always changing.  It undergoes many changes
throughout one’s entire life; you do not have the same brain you were  born with.
 
By influencing and directing these changes with the correct program it  is possible to change peoples eating behaviour, body image and self-esteem. Neuroplasticity is the solution to all eating disorder
sufferers’ problems: change the way you think and you change your life.

To learn more read http://www.eatingdisorder-cure.com

Dr Irina Webster.