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'm Meagan Reynolds- a certified functional medicine practitioner and dietitian located in Nashville, TN. After overcoming my own health challenges with hypothyroidism, I was motivated to create my own practice where I help women reverse their thyroid, gut, and hormonal issues so they can reclaim their health.