Resistant excess weight and body fat can be a symptom of many things.
We can all agree that eating well, eating less, exercising and not snacking are important factors when it comes to weight management, but the problem can go deeper than just diet and movement and many people find themselves gaining or unable to lose weight while on an excellent diet.
This is often a complex problem where many factors overlap and in this post I will look at diet and hydration and how this affects hormonal balances, toxicity levels and enzyme activity which in turn is connected to weight management.
In general, a varied plant-based diet consisting of organic foods with plenty of fibre, healthy fats, carbohydrates and probiotics and with slightly less protein is the way to go for weight loss and a healthy body in general, as well as shying away from processed foods, PUFAs, sugar and excess salt.
Whole, organic foods containing plenty of fibre, carbs, healthy fats and probiotics is the way forward alongside a modest protein intake.
Fibre is helpful for digestion and metabolism and it has the ability to bind toxins to excrete them from the body.
Insoluble fibre is a great prebiotic that supports friendly gut flora, it makes stools easier to pass and keeps the bowels healthy. It is also a good tool to help regulate food cravings as it makes you feel fuller earlier.
Fibre is found in nuts and seeds, root vegetables, onions, fruits such as bananas and apples, wholemeal and many greens.
Fibre-rich greens that are simultaneously low in calories are excellent to help with weight loss and they include broccoli, cabbage, celery, mustard greens, dandelion greens (also a laxative, great to help with slow bowel movement), brussels sprouts, collard and spinach.
A raw food diet is rich in fibre and you feel fuller on less food as you can’t eat the same quantities of raw food as you can eat cooked food.
Raw food is hydrating and rich in phytonutrients, enzymes, vitamins and minerals that will all support the hormonal system and the metabolism, two things that are key to weight management.
Carbohydrates, although many may not think so, can help burn fat, especially if eaten within 30 minutes after exercise.
Taken with regular exercise, carbohydrates help you negate the metabolic hormonal issues and keep your fat gains to a minimum as you put on lean mass. Many fibrous vegetables also consist of good quality, slow-releasing carbohydrates.
Eating a low carb diet for extended periods of time will cause a decline in the hormones that are responsible for metabolism.
For instance a hormone called “active T3”, a thyroid hormone that is vital for energy production, muscle gain and fat-burning, will decline when there is not enough readily available energy in the body – energy in the form of glucose derived from carbohydrates.
Another hormone called leptin is responsible for the production of the already mentioned T3 as well as neuropeptides, epinephrine and T4, which are all hormones that affect metabolism. This hormone is activated after exercise and in the presence of sugars derived from carbohydrates.
The omega 3 oil DHA is also very important for healthy leptin function as this lowers the chance for leptin-resistance in the body. Leptin is made in stored fat (white adipose tissue) and one of it’s jobs is to tell your brain how much fuel you have left in the body.
If the leptin gauge is reading high in the brain it means that you have enough fuel to go for a while and your brain will not tell you to eat. If the leptin gauge is low however, your brain may think there is a famine and signal you to eat.
This is why, when the brain becomes insensitive to leptin and has difficulty reading it, some people a tendency to having to over eat in order to feel satisfied: the body is in a false state of perceived starvation. Leptin-resistance or leptin activity disturbance can come from years of over eating and also from environmental poisons.
And speaking of fats, stable monounsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids are also good allies to keep hormones and metabolism in check.
Much research shows that people with a higher intake of saturated fats in their diet lose more weight and this is caused by a number of factors:
- Saturated fats raise the levels of good HDL cholesterol, which among other things play an important role in the production of hormones, which in turn regulate the metabolism.
- Saturated fats in the diet have been shown to encourage the liver to dump stored fat content (too much fat in the liver can lead to fatty liver disease) which is the first step on the way to stop storing fat in the middle body. Saturated fats are the building blocks of the liver, so while eating saturated fats the liver detoxifies and protects the body more efficiently. In fact, anything that is good for the liver helps to reduce excess weight. I will look more into other means of liver support later in this post.
- Saturated fats also support proper nerve signalling as the nerves in the body are built from saturated fat and work best with the right building blocks. Nerves signal messages to each other than influence metabolism, including the appropriate release of insulin.
As you get older enzyme activity declines in the body and this may be one of the reasons as of why many people tend to gain some weight as they age.
Enzymes make every chemical reaction in the body possible and metabolism is definitely a chemical reaction.
Raw living foods and probiotic foods are teeming with food enzymes that will work for us once we ingest them. Kombucha, kefir, pickled vegetables, probiotic vegan or lactose yogurts and fermented nut and seed products are excellent to support the body’s digestive system.
Protein has become very popular lately, especially in shakes.
However, eating more protein than you need can lead to weight gain, dehydration, stress on the kidneys and loss of bone minerals.
If you eat too much protein it will be converted to sugar and fat and the increased blood sugar levels can lead to yeast overgrowth (such as candida overgrowth) and tumour growth. When there is too much protein in the body, the kidneys work overtime to remove excess nitrogen waste from the bloodstream that is created when protein is processed in the body. This can lead to dehydration and kidney problems.
A moderate protein intake with a varied range of amino acids is best and this is best achieved by getting your daily protein intake from a variety of plant sources.
One reason that some people may not be able to shed their weight is the level of toxicity in the body. The walls of the intestine can be lined with hardened mucous and waste products and the body may not be able to digest the food properly, i.e. it cannot draw nutrients and liquid from the food when it is in the intestine as the intestinal wall does not function properly. In the long run this may cause dehydration and even nutritional deficiencies.
Toxicity may be a crucial factor when the body refuses to let go of excess weight no matter what.
When the body has to deal with a toxic overload (environmental poisons, pesticides, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, etc) it may expand the number of fat cells and stuff these cells with toxins in order to lead them away from the blood circulation and vital organs.
The body then refuses to give up the toxic fat that is has stored and you may even poison yourself during weight loss (this may be one of the reasons why non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can be brought on by rapid weight loss). These toxin-filled fat cells also don't work like normal fat cells, for instance they are unable to make leptin normally and their general malfunctioning can also lead to diabetes type 2.
In order to release these stubborn fat cells correctly, proper metabolic efficiency becomes very important.
What you want to do is form new, metabolically fit fat cells (because we do actually need fat cells!) while encouraging your old, toxic fat cells to dump their contents and die.
As research shows that toxic blood triggers the formation of new fat cells, it is important to “clean” your blood as much as possible.
If your blood is too toxic when you embark on losing weight, the toxins that are released with fat cells during weight loss will be taken up again from the blood stream and re-packaged into new fat cells and you will have gotten yourself nowhere.
Chlorophyll, especially from fresh wheatgrass and spirulina, are great blood detergents. Other foods to support the blood include seaweed, beetroot, broccoli, spinach and chlorella.
The detoxifiers of the body – the liver, kidneys and lymphatic system - need to be in prime condition for a safe weight loss. The body will not willingly let go of the stored toxins unless the body is detoxified first!
Using anti-inflammatory support nutrients such as curcumin, vitamin C and grape seed extract may also be advisable in order to prep the body with antioxidants. Fibre, as mentioned before, acts like a sponge for toxins and is therefore important in a weight loss diet.
How do we best support the liver, kidneys and lymphatic system?
For the liver, herbs such as milk-thistle, dandelion root, red clover and gutu kola will give support, as will fresh wheatgrass juice, turmeric juice and carrot juice.
Alcohol and caffeine needs to be limited to a minimum or completely removed.
Castor oil packs and coffee enemas are also excellent tools for liver support, as well as a liver and gall bladder cleanse using lemon juice and olive oil or flax oil.
Alkaline minerals are the best support you can give to your kidneys. After years of an overly acidic diet (meat, processed foods, flour, alcohol) chances are that acids are stored in the kidneys, causing stress and makes it difficult for the kidneys to properly eliminate toxins.
A simple daily routine for supporting your kidneys is having a glass of warm filleted water with fresh lemon juice squeezed in every morning before breakfast. This is deeply alkalising and will help your kidneys flush away toxins.
Limiting your intake of proteins is also important for maintaining good kidney health, as previously discussed.
The lymphatic system supports many functions in the body: the immune system, the metabolism, the nervous systems and detoxification. It is responsible for the flow of extracellular fluids, it is a filtering system for the body tissues and it returns plasma proteins to the circulation after they leave the blood stream.
As it is the body’s drainage system for toxins, a “clogged lymphatic system” will lead to a buildup of toxins and this is why we need to keep the lymphatic system in prime condition.
Exercise is the single best thing for keeping the lymphatic system in good shape. When the body does not move, toxins remain in the muscle. Exercise promotes blood circulation and brings oxygen to the tissues and cells.
Again, milk thistle is a fantastic herb to support the detoxification systems overall.
Last but not least, staying properly hydrated is the most important thing you can do to support your liver, your kidneys, your lymphatic system… Indeed, your entire body.
In fact, dehydration alone can lead to excess weight gain.
Without water the bowels become constipated and this leads to waste matter in the bowels and impure blood, without water the skin cannot eliminate through sweat, the kidneys are less able to eliminate waste products and acids and the lymphatic system slows down.
This is how dehydration can lead to toxicity and the storage of toxic fat cells as discussed above.
Hormones, too, need water to be stored and transported in the body and these are essential for many things including proper metabolism.
In the face of dehydration and toxicity the body may react by creating oedemas (water pockets in the body and surrounding tissues) that show themselves as weight gain. The body does this in order to store water as it thinks there is a draught because of years of dehydration, and also to protect body tissues from toxins by using a wall of water.
As we age, water intake becomes more important as hydration decreases in body tissues. Without water, the fluids around enzymes shrink and they cannot do their work properly. Add to the fact that, as already mentioned, enzyme activity slows down with age and you already have a great excuse to up your water intake.
Health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 litres or half a gallon per day. The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is roughly about 3 litres a day and 2.2 litres for women. This is the baseline of water intake. A good rule of thumb is to add 0.25 litres of water for every hour you are active or sweating in the sun.
Drinking more water is a great place to start, but it is also important to add hydrating foods and drinks to your diet.
Cutting dehydrating drinks like alcohol and caffeine is important. Instead, limit your alcohol intake to an occasional glass of red wine and instead of having an alcoholic drink you can experiment with refreshing lemonades, water kefir mocktails, kombucha and fresh juices.
Coffees and black teas can be substituted with almond milk matcha lattes, herbal teas and green teas. Raw foods have a much higher water content than cooked foods and are therefore preferable. Smoothies, hot or cold soups and fruits are hydrating alternatives to fried or overcooked foods.
Salads are also good for hydrating as they often contain the most hydrating vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces, radishes and spinach.
I specialise in eliminative therapies to support the body's removal of toxins as well as cleansing diets and I am happy to carefully guide you through a programme that suits your needs.
Please contact me for details.