‘Tis the season to be “merry”, when many of us indulge in a few too many holiday treats. However, as the New Year approaches,weight loss will be at the top of our list of New Year’s resolutions. Although eating too many unhealthy foods combined with a sedentary lifestyle can cause weight gain, there are many other contributing factors and it can be more complex than many realize.
Some additional factors that contribute to weight gain include exposure to a host of endocrine disrupters and toxins in our environment, chronic stress, and imbalances in our gut flora and microbiome. In any case, we know that obesity can increase your risks of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
As you start thinking about meal planning and getting back to the gym, you may be tempted to throw in the towel before you even start. “There has to be an easier way,” you tell yourself, and off you go to the local pharmacy to scan the aisle of weight loss supplements. Let me urge you to consider that studies have found that risks of fat-burning supplements can include nausea, headaches, anxiety, indigestion/GI complaints, palpitations, elevations in blood pressure, liver toxicity and trouble sleeping.
Common ingredients found in weight loss pills include caffeine, guarana, green tea extract, garcinia and ephedrine. Some of these are less harmful than others, however ephedrine, for example, has the potential to cause heart attacks, strokes and even death.
With the potential harm associated with these over the counter products, I would recommend looking into less harmful options such as conjugated linoleic acid, grapefruit essential oil, probiotics and turmeric, combined with a healthy diet, exercise and stress reducing activities.
Conjugated linoleic acid can be obtained in the diet by including full fat, organic dairy products and grass fed beef. It can also be obtained through supplements, however, the form of CLA in supplements isn’t the same as when obtained through food and may not be as effective. That being said, there was a study in 2007 showed that CLA mixture between 3-4 grams decreased body fat mass and increased lean body mass.
Fat or adipose tissue is actually thought of as an endocrine organ and is responsible for the production and secretion of several hormones. These hormones control your nutritional intake, control sensitivity to insulin and inflammation. There are two different types of fat in the body, brown or “good” fat and white or “bad” fat. The ratio of brown to white fat will determine the negative effects on your body.
Turmeric has been found to induce “browning” of white fat cells through epigenetic modification or changing a cell’s gene expression. It also stimulates production of new mitochondria, enhances lipolysis (fat degradation) and suppresses lipogenesis (new fat production). Turmeric also has an anti-inflammatory effect and there is some thought that it is for that reason that it has an anti-obesity effect.
Grapefruit may be able to boost metabolism, reduce sugar cravings and can also be a diuretic. One study showed that consuming grapefruit before meals improved HDL and also in another showed improvement in 2-hour post –prandial glucose levels.
Tea, especially green tea, which is high in anti-oxidants called catechins, has been shown to help with weight loss as well. Green tea is more effective than black tea. For weight loss, studies have suggested 3-4 cups per day. There is some thought that the effect is achieved by decreasing the absorption of lipids and proteins by tea constituents in the intestine, thus reducing calorie intake. The second mechanism is by boosting metabolism.
Probiotics are another natural supplement to consider when it comes to weight loss. They are involved in energy homeostasis, regulation of appetite, dietary intake and storage of fat. In fact, in a recent study, a high level of oral Lactobacillus seemed to be related to weight loss among those with medium and low intakes of complex carbohydrates. Absence, or a low level of oral Lactobacillus, may be used to identify those at risk for weight gain in the future. Adding in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir or cultured veggies to your diet as well as taking a broad-spectrum probiotic can be helpful.
Chromium is commonly used in natural supplements to control hunger and food intake, which in turn can be helpful with weight loss.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased weight gain and getting exposure to sunlight and/or taking a supplement can be helpful for decreasing abdominal obesity.
When it comes to your diet, including high fiber foods, quality sources of protein including grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free protein sources, healthy sources of fat including avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, wild fatty fish, nuts and seeds and limiting carbohydrates and sugars will help you to maintain a healthy weight.
At CentreSpring MD, we can help to identify the many possible root causes for your weight gain and partner with you to create an individualized treatment plan to achieve optimal health and wellness! So put down the fat burners and come see us to begin your journey!
|Dr. Tanya Lehine is a board certified physician specializing in family medicine and functional medicine with expertise in women’s health and the mind-body connection to health and wellness.|
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