Weight Loss Program Part II: Take a common-sense approach to weight loss
By Dr. Martin Gleixner, MSc, ND
Last month's column was dedicated to Part 1 of my Weight Loss Program articles. I explained how imbalances such as stress, low thyroid function, a disrupted pancreas, poor liver function and a sluggish digestive tract prevented fat loss even when a superb diet and exercise program were in place.
Let's expand on more hidden reasons that explain why shedding pounds can remain difficult despite one's best attempt to lose weight.
A healthy weight is best obtained through a healthy body. Whether it's hormone imbalances or inflammation in the body, the key to losing weight is to understand and address your medical predispositions to gaining weight. Let's examine these causes and learn what you can do about it:
The feature article "The Fires Within" published in the Time magazine (February, 2004), describes how inflammation (irritation in the body that leads to pain, swelling, redness and heat), may be at the source of most, if not all disease.
Whether it's a sprained ankle, heart disease, diabetes or pneumonia, you have also experienced the effects of inflammation. It's the way our body deals with infections or any other irritations in the body.
Long-term inflammation in the body triggers a cascade of reactions that leads to accumulated body fat, mainly through one of the two (rather complicated) pathways:
- Our body attempts to secrete large amounts of cortisol to dampen this inflammation. Unfortunately, cortisol also causes elevated sugar levels in the blood leading to fat deposition in unwanted places.
- Another important connection is related to PPARs (fat-burning activators called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors) that normally help regulate sugar levels and crank up your metabolism. Inflammation interferes with PPARs leading to poor sugar control and a sluggish metabolism.
Decreasing the fires of inflammation opens up our PPRAs' fat-burning pathways in the body and prevents the wear & tear of the body resulting from excess cortisol output. How can this be done? The most important starting point is to address any underlying health conditions that involve inflammation.
Work with your medical doctor or naturopathic doctor to resolved conditions such as digestive disorders, heart disease, sinus infections, arthritis and joint stiffness, allergies, diabetes, abdominal fat and obesity, autoimmune disease such as lupus, acne, eczema and other skin conditions. Reducing inflammation in the body will go a long way to improving you health status (and losing weight!).
More specific strategies can include: 1) removing food sensitivities; 2) optimizing your digestion; 3) reducing exposure to toxins; and 4) balancing an overactive immune system via herbal medicines.
* Low serotonin and food cravings:
Serotonin levels (a "happy hormone" produced by our digestive system and brain) are directly linked to our mood. When serotonin levels are low, we can become depressed, anxious and crave sugar and starches. No doubt, excess carb consumption can cause weight gain.
Although antidepressant drugs such as selective serotonin receptor inhibitors (SSRIs) can affect serotonin levels, weight gain is a common side effect of these medications.
Improving the way your brain and digestive system produces serotonin is paramount. Be friendly to your brain -- avoid multi-tasking as this disrupts hormone production.
Dietary changes that include more whole foods can provide tryptophan and other minerals and vitamins that are building blocks for serotonin. Several herbal remedies are also very helpful in improving serotonin balance.
* Estrogen dominance:
This term was coined by Dr. John Lee, MD to explain the relative excess of estrogen to progesterone in women which causes a host of problems, including weight gain, PMS, irregular menses and can increase the risk of breast cancer. Men, however, may also have elevated estrogen levels, especially as they age. Excess body fat, the over-consumption of alcohol and high fat diets can increase estrogen levels in both men and women. Avoiding the exposure to estrogen mimicking compounds is of utmost importance. Pesticides found in food and water, dyes, perfumes, flavourings and plastics are a few of the better known sources of these chemicals.
The ingestion of even extremely small quantities (such as is the case of pthalates) has been shown to significantly disrupt sex hormones in the body.
It is equally important to enhance liver and gut detoxification pathways to support the elimination of "bad" estrogens. The use of herbal remedies and detoxifying foods such as broccoli, beets and onions are great ways to balance your estrogen levels.
* Lack of muscle mass:
Since muscle is metabolically active not only during use, but also at rest, the more muscle you have the more calories you'll burn. The rewards of building muscle mass are apparent -- we can burn fat while we sleep or even while watching T.V.!
Avoid using your weighing scale as the only measure of healthy body composition as it fails to measure the amount of muscle mass. A "skinny-fat person" (one who appears slim but has a high percentage of body fat) for example, will lack strength, wellness and hormone balance. Because loss of muscle occurs as we age, cardio is often not enough to maintain muscle.
Unless you chop wood, lift bails of hay, work with heavy piping or fry with iron skillets for a living (or any such strenuous labour), you need to lift weights or do resistance exercises. Yoga for example, offers great poses for strength training.
* Menopause and andropause:
Despite being a natural part of aging, many unwelcomed changes such as weight gain can make this transition difficult for women and men. Strategies to prevent drastic drops in progesterone, estrogen, testosterone and DHEA, is paramount in preventing weight gain (especially around the waist). Whether it's through the use of herbal remedies or other means, restoring hormones is possible. As usual, it is critical to maintain a strong foundation via exercise, good nutrition and stress management.
Remember, the most important way to lose weight is to first figure out what is preventing you from losing it in the first place. Determine and address the root cause by working with your medical doctor or naturopathic doctor. Aim to start somewhere and the rest will follow.
Published by Dr. Gleixner on Wednesday August 19th, 2009 in Times & Transcript.
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