With the New Year, you may be motivated to make yet another stab at your weight loss attempt or have already felt defeated with the progress you’re making. Clients who come to me often eat very carefully, exercise regularly, and feel like they’re doing everything right, but they feel stuck because the weight is not budging. Does this sound like you? Diet and lifestyle are the obvious factors that are driving the weight merry-go-round, but there are other underlying causes that can throw a wrench in your progress. If you’ve already exhausted yourself with diet and lifestyle and are not getting the results that you’re looking for, then tune in. You may be surprised at what’s keeping you from shedding those extra pounds and causing inflammation in your body.
Find Out What Your Food Triggers Are
Most people don’t think of trying a food elimination diet if they’re having difficulty losing weight, but this can be very insightful into uncovering your hidden symptoms and a powerful push in dropping stubborn pounds. Food allergies are often easy to identify because it triggers an extreme reaction. However, identifying food intolerances or sensitivities are not easy because the symptoms can be vague. Helping clients uncover food sensitivities is one area I work with in my clients. And often the results they get are extremely shocking once the food is eliminated and then reintroduced properly.
Food sensitivity testing can be useful in some cases, but they can also commonly generate false negative and false positive results. The gold standard for testing is by doing an elimination diet to test your bodies response. If you’re new to an elimination diet and don’t know where to begin, then a good base to start from is by taking the foods out of your diet that you frequently eat every single day. For most people, it’s gluten and dairy. These two foods commonly make their way into every meal, if not all three. They are also two foods that I see that cause the most issues in people.
Weight struggles can also be a result of an autoimmune disease. Now if you have an autoimmune condition or have already tried a gluten and dairy-free diet and are still experiencing symptoms, then following the Autoimmune Paleo diet can be very helpful in further determining the foods that could be problematic or unhealthy for you. This diet eliminates nightshade vegetables, grains, eggs, beans, legumes, soy, nuts and seeds, and a few others. Now keep in mind as you’re eliminating these foods, you’re also following a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet as this is key for any diet you follow. You will also want to strictly avoid these potentially reactive foods for a minimum of two to six weeks, and possibly longer before you introduce each one at a time. For more information on how to effectively do an elimination diet, stay tuned for my next post.
The Scoop on Thyroid Dysfunction
The health of your thyroid has a direct impact on your metabolism. And when your metabolic function is disrupted, you gain weight that is not easily lost. A very classic symptom of low thyroid function is weight gain despite adhering to a low-calorie diet. The body is throwing up a flag saying, “Pay attention to me.” If you’re one of these people, you may have a thyroid problem. I recommend requesting a full thyroid panel that includes TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, TPO Ab, and TGB Ab. You can develop a thyroid disorder at any age, so routinely checking a full panel is recommended if you have a family history or have many classic thyroid symptoms.
Unfortunately, many thyroid disorders don’t get caught early leaving many people suffering. This is because their labs fall within the “normal” range when they get tested, or only a TSH test is ordered. What’s considered “normal” for most thyroid markers in conventional medicine is by far not optimal. If you have thyroid symptoms, but your doctor states that everything looks great with your labs, it’s worth your health to seek out a holistic or functional medicine practitioner that can take a closer look for you and possibly address the conditions that caused the thyroid to slow down if that is indeed the case. Further, a lot of people feel that if they get on thyroid medication they will lose weight, but since it doesn’t address the root cause of the thyroid imbalance, it often doesn’t work.
Address Gut Infections
If our gut health is poor, we suffer. Most chronic diseases, including obesity and weight gain, benefit greatly when we heal our gut.
If you think of your gut in terms of a garden, this will help you get a clearer picture of how important gut health is. For healthy plants, you need healthy soil that is balanced with the proper pH and nutrients so your plants can thrive. The same goes for your gut. If the balance of healthy gut flora is disrupted by things like stress, alcohol, high sugar intake, poor diet, and certain medications like ones to suppress stomach acid and antibiotics, then this will lead to dysbiosis, which is just an imbalance of healthy gut flora. Now if your garden has a poor pH, then it increases your chances of developing invasive weeds and may result in increased problems with disease in your plants. Again, the same goes for our gut. If your healthy flora is disrupted, common infections like parasites, Candida, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can easily develop.
In my practice, I suspect dysbiosis in anyone with digestive issues, which include symptoms of gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and reflux. You can test for gut pathogens, but some of the best functional stool tests can have false negatives, so I tend to rely heavily on symptoms. Cleaning up the diet and adding probiotics and fermented foods can help, but it’s often not the fix, especially if you have a very invasive weed in your garden. A more targeted approach would be warranted using antiparasitic and antifungal herbs to properly restore balance.
Address Nutrient Deficiencies
Nutrient deficiencies are due to many things including certain medications, stress, diet, lifestyle, and heavy metal toxicities. If we’re deficient in a vitamin or mineral, it can create other deficiencies and also affect other body systems including our hormones and our ability to effectively detox. So, if you’re trying to lose weight and you lack certain nutrients, this can slow down your metabolism. Deficiencies can also create many symptoms that one would likely get you prescribed a drug that would further deplete the very nutrient that caused the symptoms in the first place; It’s a vicious cycle!
Vitamin D may be the first deficiency caught because it’s commonly the only vitamin that is included in a health screening. Vitamin D is extremely important to address if deficient or suboptimal as this can affect your ability to lose weight. Others important nutrients to look into include zinc, selenium, vitamin A, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B12 because they are all required for the thyroid to function properly, which affects your metabolism. Symptoms and medication history can be used to determine which supplements are appropriate, but testing is ultimately the best, especially if you continue to struggle with symptoms and weight issues. Sometimes testing individual nutrients is all that is needed, but for a more comprehensive approach, I prefer to check a whole panel. I use SpectraCell’s Micronutrient test as it measures 31 vitamins, minerals, amino/fatty acids, antioxidants, and metabolites at an intracellular level.
It’s next to impossible to avoid most of the stress we encounter in our lives often due to a full-time job and family life, but how we view stress and how we handle it can make a significant difference in how it affects our health. Cortisol is the most powerful stress hormone that is associated with weight gain, especially around the belly. Small cortisol surges are normal and healthy to get us through the day, but chronic surges in cortisol not only contribute to weight gain but the inability to lose it too. If you’re constantly analyzing or thinking about negative events, are in an unhealthy relationship, or are miserable at your job, they are all contributing to your weight.
Mind-Body exercises like yoga, Tai Chi, breathwork, meditation, and scheduling daily self –care are ways to attenuate the stress response and reduce the risk of stress-induced diseases. They’re also powerful tools in moving your life in a more positive direction so that you’re in a healthier state to make needed changes to your life. However, just like exercise, you have to do it consistently to experience the benefits, so you will want to find something that you enjoy doing that you can commit to.
Stick the Course
Once you make up your mind to adhere to a specific health protocol, don’t stray from it. And when you do, get right back to it. This will make for easier adjustments if needed to continue your weight loss journey. If you hit a plateau or get stuck with your progress, seek support to get you moving in the right direction.
At the end of the day…just remember that every step you take is a step that is moving you closer to your goal. If you feel you need a little extra guidance, you can contact me.
I recently watched the Lyme Summit #3 produced by Dr. Jay Davidson and was so impressed with the amount of information and the diversity of speakers included in it that I had to share some of the knowledge nuggets that I learned. In the summit, Dr. Jay Davidson covers the latest testing and treatments on Lyme. If you suspect Lyme, are dealing with Lyme, or are not seeing resolution of your chronic symptoms, I encourage you to check out this summit as it is a great resource for information.
Interestingly, Lyme disease affects more people annually than breast cancer. Many people can live their lives suffering from Lyme disease and not even know that they have it since symptoms may be few and lack the obvious like joint pain that is commonly associated with the disease. It’s known as the “Great Imitator” because the symptoms can mimic almost any chronic condition causing the individual to be misdiagnosed. If you feel you’re not at risk for Lyme disease given your location, think again. Lyme disease is more prevalent in northeastern states, but cases of Lyme have been reported in all 50 states.
Most people associate getting the bulls-eye rash with Lyme disease, but that does not commonly occur. Early symptoms can result in flu-like symptoms and fatigue within a week or two, and since most people forget about being bit by a tick by then, or don’t even think to associate their symptoms to the tick bite, correlation can be very hard to discern. It is also not uncommon for some people to not experience any symptoms until a strong emotional event or trauma occurs much later in life, which can trigger an immune response and causes the Lyme bacteria to become active.
Symptoms vary across the board and many symptoms can often be mislabeled as another chronic disease or autoimmune diagnosis like Fibromyalgia, MS, Parkinson’s, ALS, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Here is a list of common symptoms to look out for.
Lyme and Co-infections
Lyme disease is caused by a type of bacterium referred to as a spirochete called Borrelia burgdorferi. Once a person is infected with this type of bacterium, the spiral-shaped spirochete can invade various parts of the body, including the brain. Co-infections are common with Lyme since the infected host can harbor other parasites, bacteria, fungi, and viruses along with it. A few of the co-infections associated with Lyme include the following:
Testing for Lyme disease can be very complicated, expensive, and can often result in false negatives. If you suspect Lyme disease and have received a negative from a test, please don’t discount it. No Lyme test is 100% accurate. You may need to do a handful of other tests before a diagnosis of Lyme disease can be confirmed. Working with a Lyme literate medical doctor (LLMD) or another practitioner with experience in treating Lyme is highly recommended as it may involve a thorough history and exam before a definite diagnosis can be made. The standard two-step lab test recommended by the CDC is the most well- known test by physicians and is the most commonly used method of testing. It looks at antibodies the immune system produced after coming into contact with the Lyme bacteria. However, many people can have Lyme disease but not have antibodies that are being produced or picked up at the time of testing. This test may be covered by insurance and is more affordable than some of the advanced Lyme tests depending on your insurance, so it can be a good place to start. The following is by no means a comprehensive list of testing options for Lyme (as there are many), but rather some of the tests that the experts in the summit referenced:
IGeneX- Uses advanced techniques for Lyme testing and offers a broad range of panels to choose from. It’s one of the most popular tests amongst healthcare practitioners that I have found as it has gained a great track record for accuracy. A physician order is required for this test.
DNA Connexions- Uses advanced techniques for Lyme testing. One Lyme panel offered, which tests for 4 different genes that are the most common cause of Lyme disease along with 8 common Lyme disease co-infectors. You can test without a physician’s order.
VCSTest- Visual contrast sensitivity test is a test created by Dr. Shoemaker which measures your ability to see details at low contrast levels. It is not used as diagnostic tool for a specific health condition, but a positive result could indicate exposure to mold or biotoxins like Lyme along with a number of other different conditions. It does not require a physician’s order and can be taken from your computer or mobile device. When I did a little research on the test, it looked like it would be a good test to re-take to monitor the progress of treatment after a diagnosis of Lyme was confirmed.
ART- Autonomic response testing developed by Dr. Klinghardt is a form of biofeedback testing that uses kinesiology both with the diagnoses and treatment of Lyme disease. This specific form of testing can pick up on underlying issues that are commonly missed by conventional testing if carried out by a trained practitioner.
Testing for Lyme disease is difficult because the Borrelia bacteria do not typically hang out in the blood. Because of this, provocation before blood or urine testing is recommended. Deep tissue massage or exercise were suggested that will help to provoke the Lyme bacterium from the tissues. One technique that Dr. Klinghardt has found to be very successful and one that he uses in clinic involve the use of ultrasound over areas where Lyme is suspected. The ultrasound will help to draw out the microbes within the tissues and bring them into circulation prior to collecting urine using a PCR test for Lyme. Another interesting technique noted was mentioned by Dr. Rudy Mueller. He uses glutathione as a binder to the mycotoxin, similar to using a chelating agent like DMSA for heavy metals, so that it can liberate it from the tissues and pull it into circulation.
Genetic analysis is becoming a popular trend for improving treatment in health. There are a handful of genetic variants that may impair critical functions in the body relating to detoxification and nutrition, so knowing what your genetic variants are or SNPs can help to better personalize treatment with Lyme disease. Some may feel that their genes determine their destiny, but this is far from the case! It is important to note that environment and circumstances trump genes, and genes can be turned on and off, which is known as epigenetics. Dr. Rob Miller is a genetics expert who uses genetic testing like 23 and me and ancestry.com to look at genetics for detox support. He started seeing a lot of Lyme patient’s and realized there were unique genetic components to all of them that were similar. He covered a myriad of information that would help to personalize treatment for a Lyme patient based on their genetic report. More information can be obtained from his site to learn more. He spoke quite a bit on the HFE 1 and the GAD genes. HFE 1 gene is involved with how we absorb iron. He noticed that this gene was much higher in those that could not beat Lyme disease no matter what they tried and those with this defect should be very careful with iron supplementation. The GAD gene takes glutamate and converts it to GABA. If a Lyme patient has too many GAD genes and they are given GABA for anxiety, they could potentially feel worse, so he suggested that it would be better to start on a low dose of glutamine instead and slowly increase the dose.
Mold exposure can be a trigger for Lyme and co-infections. It can also be the reason that you are not getting well if you have a chronic illness like Lyme disease. Insomnia, GI discomfort, irritability, nose bleeds, and headaches are just a few symptoms of mold. Someone can be exposed to mold and not have any issues, but it can eventually be set off with certain triggers like poor diet, emotional and physical stressors, and other environmental toxins. Mold can be hidden in areas such as bathrooms, HVAC systems, kitchens, carpeting, laundry rooms, and basements. Green Home Supply was a company recommended by Dr. Scott Richmond that can test your home for mold, and they also sell specialized enzymatic products for remediation. There are many labs that can determine exposure to mold, but the Great Plains Mycotox test is one in particular that Dr. Richmond mentioned. It screens for different mycotoxins using a sample of urine. Great Plains is a company I use for my clients, and they are definitely well known for advanced testing in chronic illness. If someone is sensitive to herbs and other treatments, he definitely considers mold to be an issue. When purchasing a new house, he suggested hiring a certified mold inspector to look at dust samples, air quality samples, environmental factors like radon, and signs of water damage, and be sure to ask the owners for disclosure.
Building up the health of the gut is essential to ensure adequate recovery. Eliminating inflammatory foods, difficult to digest foods, and any known food allergens or sensitivities goes right along with this. A whole food, Paleo approach to diet can be very beneficial to supporting the immune system and to lowering inflammation. Most experts agree that eliminating inflammatory foods like grains and refined sugar can be very beneficial for boosting immunity. Sarah Ballantyne (a.k.a The Paleo Mom) reviewed a wealth of information on the Paleo diet pertaining specifically to gut health. A plant-based Ketogenic diet, which Dr. David Jockers did a very interesting segment on, has also shown to benefit those suffering from Lyme disease. However, a Ketogenic diet is not for everyone, and it should always be individualized as with any diet. Darren Schmidt talked about the importance of detoxing and addressing any mold issues before going into ketosis and how cycling in and out of ketosis is the ideal route to go.
Address Lyme and Co-Infections Last
If someone is dealing with Lyme disease, they are almost guaranteed to be dealing with other toxicities, viruses, infections, and pathogens. Healing the gut, adrenals, and supporting the organs of elimination should be addressed first. Drainage was a big topic covered, which includes supporting the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, colon, and lymphatics. Nick Ellenson discussed doing coffee enemas several times a week for liver/gallbladder and detox support. More information including the exact preparation and brands of coffee to use for the coffee enemas can be found here. Homeopathy, acupuncture, ionic foot baths, and castor oil packs were a few other drainage modalities mentioned. Removing parasites after addressing the gut and drainage also takes high priority as it can be extremely difficult to heal from Lyme with them present. Parasites can harbor Candida, heavy metals, and other infections, and they can also clog up the bile ducts, because of this, it’s crucial to get them out to begin to heal. After a parasite infection is removed, then one can begin to work on other areas like heavy metal toxicity, mold, and viruses if present, then begin moving towards tackling Lyme and other co-infections last.
CBD Oil for Symptom Management
Philip Blair discussed the use of CBD oil from hemp for rebalancing the endocannabinoid system and for the management of symptoms related to Lyme disease like pain, anxiety, and insomnia. He stated that people who took antibiotics for Lyme but still had symptoms are due to the cytokines caused by Lyme disease. CBD oil can help because research shows that it crosses the blood-brain barrier and calms inflammation in the brain. He recommended specifically the Elixinol brand and stated that it is best to take all forms under the tongue (gargled and swirled around in mouth) for maximum absorption and benefit. An initial dose of 15 mg 2 times a day was suggested, which can then be titrated up until results noted. He also mentioned that Omega-3s are an important component of healing the endocannabinoid system, so cod liver and fish oil, walnuts, flax seeds, and egg yolks are good sources to include in the diet.
When you’re dealing with any chronic illness, it’s important to address not only the physical side but also the emotional and spiritual side so that the body has a better chance of healing. Emotional traumas can often be the trigger for the disease, so it’s not just about genetics and lifestyle. Trina Hammock states that Lyme disease on the emotional level is set off by a separation conflict by your family or clan, and a great deal of healing can occur once this is resolved. Emotional trauma will show up in different parts of the brain, which Hammock states look like tree rings that you can see on a no-contrast CT. If you have similar patterns or conflicts resurfacing in your life, she states that your subconscious will bring them back up to get you to resolve them. Emotional work takes time, just like healing does, but once you move through it, you will feel more at peace with life and your gains in health will be noticed.
Disclaimer: The information was taken as notes during the summit and is not intended to serve as medical advice.
I'm Meagan Reynolds- a registered dietitian and certified functional medicine practitioner in Nashville, TN who teaches people how to reclaim their health so they can be the brightest version of themselves. My specialty is in thyroid disease and the many symptoms associated with it. I'm passionate about helping my clients find the root cause of their symptoms and supporting them on their healing journey.