1) Adrenal depletion / Chronic stress
Stress at work and/or at home, long working hours, poor diet, lack of exercise and sleep cause chronic stress resulting in feeling fatigued and lethargic even when at rest. Cortisol, the stress hormone produced by the adrenals, regulates blood sugar levels and thus contributes directly to weight gain when it’s out of balance. It works with insulin to keep the blood sugar stable to prevent cravings, overeating and mood fluctuations. Importantly, when cortisol is out of balance the body will store body fat rather than burn it for fuel i.e. the normal fat burning mechanism is severely impaired or broken.
Cortisol levels first rise when we are stressed and go back to normal when the stress is gone, but if stress continues without enough rest and recovery, the adrenal glands become exhausted and are unable to produce enough cortisol and subsequently its level drops. This has a major impact on metabolism slowing it down and resulting in weight gain accompanied by fatigue, anxiety and depression, among others.
- Signs and symptoms – low energy levels ( especially in the morning), constant fatigue, brain fog, irritability, short temper, sleep problems, muscle and/or joint stiffness and pain, lower back pain, hormonal imbalances in both men and women, decreased immune function leading to frequent illness, various digestive symptoms.
- Solutions – it takes time to heal exhausted adrenals depending on the level of depletion. Embark on a comprehensive adrenal restoration process involving tailored supplementation which is vital for recovery, nutrition improvements and lifestyle adjustments, especially stress management activities. The Kalish Method is a very effective adrenal recovery program that is based on lab tests results, tailored supplementation (including adaptogenic herbs) plus diet and lifestyle modifications. Call or email me to discuss how this method could help you.
2) Clogged liver
The liver plays a central role in the metabolism of all foods, it also is the body’s major detox centre, it produces bile which is essential for fat digestion, balances sugar levels, and most importantly for weight loss, it converts fat into energy. When we put on weight quickly, the fat can’t be stored in the fat tissue fast enough and part of it goes to the liver as a backup location for storage.
As a result the liver gets clogged with excess fat and can’t work properly – that’s when fatty liver develops. When the liver can’t keep up with the workload, metabolism slows down and weight loss stops. Having a fatty liver doesn’t only affect weight loss, detox and digestion, it also increases the risk for type 2 diabetes by 500% (1).
- Signs and symptoms – elevated liver enzymes on blood test, headaches especially behind the eyes, poor digestion – excessive gas and bloating, eating fatty foods cause indigestion or nausea, skin rashes and itchiness, coated tongue, sensitivity to perfume or household cleaners and a yellow skin tone.
- Solutions – eat whole organic foods to decrease pesticide levels, supplement with liver-helping herbs such as St Mary’s thistle, globe artichoke or dandelion (seek professional help before using herbs in any form) and lipotropic nutrients such as choline, lecithin and inositol, reduce or eliminate alcohol. Eat good quality protein daily, when you don’t eat protein (e.g. during a juice fast) your liver actually slows down and your metabolism and detoxification function are impaired even further. Including whey protein in smoothies and snacks is a quick and effective option for busy people to make sure they have enough protein daily.
3) Accumulation of plastics, pesticides and chemicals in body tissues
The body’s detoxification system (including the gut, liver, kidneys, lungs and skin) constantly remove harmful chemicals generated by the normal body functions, as well as toxins acquired from the environment such as any chemicals, pesticides and herbicides, plastics (such as PCBs) plus other pollutants we are exposed to in the air and water.
We accumulate more and more toxins as we get older. Many of the toxins are fat soluble and they mostly accumulate in our fat cells, especially around the abdomen. Therefore managing the body’s detoxification systems is a key factor controlling how successful we are at losing weight and whether or not we reach and maintain our goal weight.
The pesticides, chemicals and PCBs accumulate in the food chain in fish, animals and the milk they produce which are then consumed by us. Toxin excess is a common reason for weight gain in people whose detoxification systems are compromised. When we start losing weight, toxic compounds are released from stored fat and start circulating in the blood affecting functions of a number of organs including adrenals, thyroid, the liver, endocrine and nervous systems, to name a few.
This increased concentration of toxic pollutants is a side effect of weight loss and a risk for developing many health problems leading to tissue damage (2). The more weight we lose the more exposure we get. If detox process is impaired and the toxins are not able to be excreted, they are re-directed back to the fat stores to protect the body. Often new fat cells are created to accommodate the toxins which means weight gain continues. This can become a vicious cycle hard to break for many individuals.
Some people are just too toxic with their detox systems clogged as they embark upon weight loss. As stated above, under such circumstances weight loss is very difficult and such individuals need to start out not only by improving their diet and doing moderate exercise, but also by repairing their detoxification capacities.
If such individuals embark on any of the quick and crude over the counter weight loss systems or other quick-fixes found on the internet, they further damage the already compromised detox systems by flooding them with toxins which include the often inappropriate and low quality supplements that are part of those methods. The results are often disastrous and could put the person in danger of seriously damaging their organs and metabolism for a long-time. Unfortunately, I see many such patients in the clinic.
- Signs and symptoms – chronic unexplained anxiety and nervousness, brain fog and memory problems, insomnia, chemical sensitivity (e.g. to perfumes or cleaners), hormonal imbalances manifesting as PMS, fibroids, endometriosis, infertility and PCOS. For example too much estrogen makes women feel bloated, fatigued, irritable and crave sugar thus putting on weight. Gut symptoms are also very common including food allergies and intolerances, bloating, leaky gut, constipation, liver damage, and others. Importantly, many vegetarians who eat insufficient protein are at risk of detox problems and toxicity.
- Solutions – switch to organic food as much as possible, avoid all chemical sprays and commercial household cleaning products, use organic cosmetics, shampoos and body lotions. Embark on supervised, 4-6 week detoxification program at least twice a year (beginning of spring and autumn are good times) when you can slowly and safely excrete the toxins over time.
Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below – but remember, I can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure you focus on sharing your health journey, valuable tips and what you’ve experienced and learnt so far. If you’d like to contact me directly click here.
Naturopath Herbalist Nutritionist
1) Jeffrey D. Browning, Brian Weis, Jeannie Davis, Santhosh Satapati, Matthew Merritt, Craig R. Malloy, Shawn C. Burgess. Alterations in hepatic glucose and energy metabolism as a result of calorie and carbohydrate restriction† Hepatology 2008 November http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hep.22504/full#bib7
2) Hue O, Marcotte J, Berrigan F, Simoneau M, Doré J, Marceau P, Marceau S, Tremblay A, Teasdale N. Increased plasma levels of toxic pollutants accompanying weight loss induced by hypocaloric diet or by bariatric surgery. Obes Surg. 2006 September 16(9):1145-54. Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Laval University, Québec, Canada.
3) Wellness Resources www.wellnessresources.com
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