Cachexia / Catabolism

Natural Support For Unintended Weight Loss

Catabolism means “breaking down” and anabolism means “building up” body tissue. Under normal circumstances, “breaking down” and “building up” are in balance with each other, and a person maintains a consistent weight.

In weight training and weight gain, anabolism or “building up” occurs faster than catabolism, and tissue (fat or muscle) is added to the body. In catabolism, the rate of “breaking down” exceeds the “building up” phase and unintended weight loss results. Cachexia refers to malnutrition and lack of absorption that can cause catabolism.

Causes of cachexia/catabolism include chronic diseases such as tuberculosis and cancer, but catabolism can also occur without the presence of disease. In disease states it is believed that inflammatory substances produced by the body, including interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-6, interferon gamma and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa) play a role in the progression of cachexia.

Cachexia is a common problem in the elderly. Decreased production of digestive enzymes, plus changes in taste and appetite, often lead to decreased food intake. Total lower calorie consumption results in weight loss.

When the intake of protein falls below critical levels, loss of muscle tissue, including heart muscle, can occur.

When digestion and absorption are decreased, even an adequate amount of calories may not prevent weight loss. Remember, anabolism (“building up”) requires sufficient calories, sufficient protein, and normal digestion and assimilation. The above-listed inflammatory substances may prevent weight gain in spite of adequate caloric nutrition.

Diet And Lifestyle Recommendations

  • Diet MUST include adequate, high quality protein. This is even more important than total calories. High quality protein, especially whey protein, can be added to a “blender drink” to boost protein intake in a highly absorbable form. (See “Dr. Myatt’s Super Shake” recipe).
  • Exercise, especially light weight training, encourages muscle tissue to take up amino acids (protein) from the bloodstream. OVER-exercise is not recommended, but mild to moderate weight training exercise will help build muscle tissue.

Primary Support

  • Maxi Multi: 3 caps, 3 times per day with meals.
  • Protein powder: (alternate between whey and soy or use whey exclusively): 30 grams or more (2 scoops) of protein per day. This can easily (and tastily!) be taken as a “milkshake,” “hot chocolate,” or “pudding.”
  • Similase: 2 caps, 3 times per day with meals. (Digestive enzymes to aid assimilation)
  • L-glutamine: 500-1,000mg, 3 times per day with meals. L-glutamine in powdered form mixes easily with recipes. [Target dose: 3,000-5,000 mg per day].
  • CoQ10 (100mg): 1 cap, 2 times per day with meals.

Additional Support

Dr. Myatt’s Comments (Other Considerations)

A complete physical exam is always in order for unexplained weight loss, since many curable illnesses can cause this problem.

Be sure to have a hormone profile, including thyroid and sex hormones. If you have bowel problems, a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) is in order. Low levels of sex hormones and/or high levels of thyroid or adrenal hormones can cause weight loss. Depending on the results of these tests, your holistic physician may recommend DHEA or other hormones.

How to Calculate Protein & Calorie Requirements

Protein: Multiply your weight by 0.7. This will give you the number of grams of protein you should consume each day. Remember, total protein intake is even more important than total calorie intake, because the body cannot make protein from any other food source (fats or carbohydrates). Protein is necessary for maintenance of muscle mass (including the heart) and for an intact immune system. Excesses of protein can be stored as fat, but excesses of fat, calories, or carbohydrates (starches and sugars) cannot be converted into protein. PROTEIN INTAKE IS OF PRIMARY IMPORTANCE IN CATABOLISM.

Example: 106 pounds (put your body weight here) X 0.7= 74 grams of protein (the amount of protein a 106 pound cachexic person needs each day). Normal or overweight individuals have different protein requirements. Please refer to the “Longevity Protocol” audio tape and paper, page 134 of the Holistic Health Handbook, for precise information on calculating protein and calorie requirements in normal and overweight individuals.

Calories: Multiply your weight in pounds by 18. This will give you the number of calories that you need each day to gain weight. (This number also accounts for a mild to moderate activity level).

Example: 106 pounds (put your body weight here) x 18 = 1908 calories. (Normal or overweight individuals have different calorie requirements. Please refer to the “Longevity Protocol” audio tape and paper for information on calculating protein and calorie requirements in normal and overweight individuals.

REMEMBER: People can survive and be healthy being very lean IF they have sufficient protein to keep muscle mass, heart and the immune system functioning well.

Dr. Myatt’s Final Comment

Non-holistic physicians, upon seeing catabolism in a patient, will often recommend a liquid “milkshake-like” canned “nutritional replacement drink.” These products contain more sugar than protein (you need more protein than sugar) and many artificial additives. They are NOT your “best bet” for restoring body mass. Use your own “Super Shake” with high protein and targeted supplements instead and you can do MUCH better. Whey protein is especially valuable because it contains immune factors and cachexia can cause immune weakness.