When you decide to lose weight, there are moments when you find yourself reflecting on what has led you to carrying the excess pounds. Your first thoughts might go right to the times you indulged on unhealthy foods or the times you chose to watch TV versus going for a walk. You told yourself, “I don’t eat this every day” and “I just need to relax.” And perhaps, too easily, this became your everyday or weekly pattern of behavior.
It is important to understand that there is more to weight-loss beyond working out and eating right. In previous blogs, you have learned how your genetics, early life experiences, hormones and toxins are all factors that may have contributed to your excess weight. But one of the most important risk factors affecting your weight is the influence of your gut and your gut’s microbiome.
At the Grewal Center for Mind Body Medicine, understanding what your microbiome does, can be the greatest tool for guiding the direction of your weight-loss or wellness journey.
So, what is a microbiome?
Your body is host to numerous amounts of microbes consisting of bacterial, protozoal, viral and fungal microorganisms. In fact, there are over 100 trillion types of these microbes in your body, with the diverse microbiome of your gut acting as control center for your overall health and weight. These microbes are all set to their own tasks that can either help you or slow you down as you aim to take control of your weight and health.
A crucial task your microbiome has is to aid in digestion, gathering energy and nutrients from the food you eat, boosting your metabolism. They can regulate fat composition, prevent bad bacteria from taking over your gut and assist in the development of your immune system. Your microbiome is also where many hormones are produced and sent throughout your body signaling physiologic and psychological responses.
Once established, it is relatively stable throughout your life but can be altered by bacterial infections, antibiotic treatments, surgeries, changes in diet and lifestyle. Shifts in your microbiome can increase your risk of disease so maintaining a balanced flora in your gut is essential.
And the good news is this: while your microbiome was formed by genetics and as an infant at birth, diet is considered one of the main forces in shaping your microbiome across your lifetime. You have much control over the efficiency of your microbiome’s functions by deciding to use food as nutritional fuel for your health.
Another issue that can be interfering with your weight loss is leaky gut.
Your gut lining plays a huge part in controlling the nutrients that pass through and enter your bloodstream to support the functions of your organs. It also forms a relationship with the flora in your gut to help support a healthy immune system. However, when the barrier of your intestinal lining is damaged, higher amounts of bad bacteria and toxins can pass through, negatively affecting its functions. This is referred to as, ‘leaky gut.’
This underlies symptoms of fatigue, inflammation, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and other food sensitivities. It also decreases the efficiency of your intestines ability to digest food and absorb beneficial nutrients by negatively affecting the flora in your microbiome.
As we discussed earlier, when you have an imbalanced microbiome, you can throw off the properly functioning balance of many systems within your body.
A properly functioning digestive system is critical to healthy weight and overall good health. In fact, problems with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can cause more than just issues with weight, stomach aches, gas, bloating or diarrhea. GI issues may underlie chronic health problems that seem unrelated to digestive health. This includes autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, skin problems like rosacea, acne and eczema.
While you may have a genetic predisposition or might be sensitive to changes in your digestive system, the causes of leaky gut are heavily determined by the foods and drink you ingest. If you are not eating enough fiber, eat a lot of sugar and saturated fats, have heavy alcohol use or are chronically stressed, you are setting yourself up for a potential case of leaky gut.
Your gut communicates with your brain in what is called, the Gut-Brain Axis. Chronic stress mentally, will release hormones that negatively affect your gut by causing inflammation and killing off good bacteria. In response, your gut will release stress hormones to your brain, perpetuating this vicious loop.
So, in the bigger picture, how can you deal with all that can go wrong in your gut?
When deciding to go on a weight-loss journey or to make changes to your diet, it is a good idea to seek the help of a functional medicine physician. There is not one diet that benefits everyone who uses it. Because any changes to your gut and microbiome will affect your whole body, you want to make sure you are supporting your gut health as you implement those changes.
I consider information from your matrix, personal life experiences and lifestyle. It is vital to go over any triggers or habits that are contributing to your gut issues. This information, combined with lab results that show the composition of your microbiome, allow me to prescribe a diet that is designed specifically to you.
A great way to start restoring your gut health is through my Tiredness Elimination Diet. I often use this within a functional medicine program that goes by the simple acronym of the ‘5 R’s’: remove, replace, re-inoculate, repair and re-balance. When applied to various chronic health issues, the 5-R program can lead to dramatic improvement in symptoms, weight loss and sometimes even complete restoration of gut health. This is one of many protocols that I use when helping my patients take a functional medicine approach to weight loss.
Here are a few tips that can benefit your gut TODAY:
-Eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi. Consider taking probiotic supplements to boost the good bacteria count in your gut.
-Meditate. Practice even just a couple of minutes a day to calm your nervous system. This will help soothe inflammation. When meditating, I find it great to turn on my diffuser and add some essential oils. Here is a link to read about my two favorites: Essential Oils
-Quit eating refined carbohydrates and processed foods! This is a BIG one! In your busy day it is all too easy to go for what’s quick and seemingly satisfying. But these foods not only hinder your digestion, they leave you craving more. Instead, make it a habit to reach for plant-based foods. Vegetables and fruits not only satisfy your hunger better they boost your gut with digestion-friendly fiber and nutrients.
For more information on Functional Medicine visit my website at KiranGrewalMD.com
To Your Health,