Are you under- or over- weight? … If so here are some Naturopathic and nutritional lifestyle changes that could help you maintain healthy weight.
The BodyMindLink series by Dr Ray Pataracchia ND provides insight on Nutritional and Naturopathic approaches that matter most and have the potential to benefit both your physical and mental health. In this series we look at the treatment approaches and body-mind-links of aging, tiredness, mental performance, work performance, digestive problems, food intolerances, stress, cardiovascular health, insomnia, weight problems, and chronic disease. Winter 2014 blog themes rotate between the topics of longevity, immunity, and weight problems. Clinical approaches discussed are implemented by the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic in Toronto, Ontario.
Healthy Weight (Part 3): A Naturopathic Lifestyle Perspective
Healthy Weight – A Three-Part Blog Series
We divided ‘Healthy Weight’ blogs into three subtopics: i) Weight Loss Nutrition & Naturopathic Considerations, ii) Underweight Health - Nutrient & Naturopathic Perspectives, and iii) Healthy Weight Lifestyle Perspectives (current blog).
General Lifestyle Considerations for those with Unhealthy Weight
You will have a better chance of maintaining healthy weight if the top 15 syndromes associated with optimal physical and mental health are in balance. These syndromes are intertwined with basic metabolism issues that affect us all.
1. Lifestyle Considerations if you are Overweight
As described in Part 1 of this blog series, a sluggish thyroid (iodine deficiency), leptin (fat hormone) imbalance, carbohydrate dominance and food intolerance are pivotal considerations if you are overweight.
Sluggish Thyroid & Iodine Deficiency: A Healthy Weight Lifestyle Consideration
Iodine is needed for thyroid hormone manufacture as it is one of the building blocks of thyroid hormone. To maintain thyroid health iodine is a basic nutrient necessity. Iodine deficiency is considered by some a ‘silent epidemic’. Over the past four decades there has been a 4-fold rise in iodine deficiency. Iodine deficiency is described in detail in my book on Trace Minerals in Health & Disease. The benefits of iodine can be profound for overall health and weight loss.
Optimal iodine intake varies from person to person and many require much less than 1mg per day. Mainland Japanese diets (1963 dry weight calculations; Ministry of Health, Tokyo, Japan) consist of ~14mg of iodine a day. Caution is warranted with excess iodine consumption (from food or supplements) because overstimulation can occur (e.g. heart palpitations, neck rashes, overheating, and irritability). About one in twenty people poorly tolerate iodine (most likely in autoimmune thyroid cases). Iodine supplementation or high dose food iodine consumption requires regular lab and symptom monitoring.
Food Sources of Iodine
Iodine is found in seaweed or sea vegetables such as kelp, nori, dulse, wakame and kombu. Other good sources of iodine include saltwater fish, shellfish, beans (navy beans), cranberries, strawberries, potatoes, eggs, soy, iodized salt, and if you tolerate dairy, milk, cheese and yoghurt.
Iodine Deficiency: The BodyMindLink
Physical health symptoms associated with iodine deficiency include hypothyroid effects (obesity, fatigue, poor digestion, constipation), goiter (if large can cause problems swallowing and breathing), pregnancy issues (miscarriage, pre-term birth, stillbirth, congenital problems (mental retardation/cretinism), growth/speech/hearing delay, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and some cancers (e.g. breast cancer). Iodine deficiency is also paradoxically associated with hyperthyroid symptoms such as heart arrhythmia, muscle wasting (hence underweight issues), and higher bone porosity.
Mental health symptoms associated with iodine deficiency include hypothyroid effects such as mood and behavior disorder, psychosis, brain fog and cognitive deficits. Mild thyroid compromise during gestation is associated with low intelligence offspring.
Leptin Dominance: A Healthy Weight Lifestyle Consideration
Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells and after eating and releasing from fat cells it signals us to ‘eat less and expend energy’. Leptin resistance described in part two of this series, occurs when leptins in the blood remain continually high and our body without ‘seeing’ leptin, shuts off the signal to ‘eat less and expend energy’ and remains in the ‘I need to eat more and conserve energy’ phase. Leptin dominance ultimately destabilizes thyroid hormone metabolism which reduces the ability to use stored fat; thyroid balancing approaches are therefore important here.
Leptins & Insulin Dominance
A lifestyle approach to avoid leptin dominance/resistance does not include a ‘reduced calorie diet’ because this backfires when blood leptins are high (explained in the previous blog). So what can be done?
To avoid leptin dominance you need to control insulin release which can be done by consuming more soluble fiber.
Insulin stimulates fat cells which release leptins so a spike in insulin after a meal (especially a high carbohydrate meal) leads to a surge in leptin.
Both soluble and insoluble fiber are healthy for you. Soluble fiber however slows the transit of food in the digestive tract allowing the gradual release of insulin. Insoluble fiber (fruit skins, structural parts of vegetables) adds stool bulk and helps move contents through.
Sources of Soluble Fiber
Sources of soluble fiber include fresh vegetables (has both soluble and insoluble fiber), fresh fruit (mostly soluble fiber, except the skin), legumes, and if you tolerate gluten or gliadin, barley and oatmeal. Psyllium is a good non-gluten soluble fiber supplement. Soluble fiber intake is associated with healthy cholesterol and blood sugar metabolism. Note that you need to maintain adequate water intake when you increase fiber so as to avoid constipation.
Leptins & Protein
If you have a carbohydrate dominant low protein meal that creates an insulin spike the body vents sugar to fatty triglycerides that can block leptin receptors at the blood-brain-barrier (thereby blocking the brains’ signal to ‘tell you to eat less and expend energy’).
To reduce leptin and insulin release you therefore need to maintain a high quality protein diet.
Leptins & Digestive Tract Inflammation
With leptin dominance you have poor ability to control inflammation in the digestive tract.
When you have excess ‘bad’ bacteria in your intestines (dysbiosis) you have a major cause for digestive tract inflammation. One well-known bacterial toxin produced by ‘bad’ bacteria is the lipopolysaccharide toxin, a toxin that is often elevated in obesity.
A stomach and pancreas hormone called Ghrelin plays a protective role in combating lipopolysaccharide toxicity, but when blood leptins levels are high, Ghrelin is reduced.
This lipopolysaccharide toxin can also be dominant in cases with excess carbohydrate intake, food intolerance, or any digestive condition (dysbiosis, malabsorption, IBS, colitis, Crohn’s) that causes digestive lining compromise.
A secondary complication of dysbiosis and lipopolysaccharide toxicity is a greater demand on your liver to eliminate toxins. In dysbiosis, mal-digested matter (especially in cases with poor stool transit) can build-up and clog the digestive lining causing more inflammation and, a reduction in the surface area that the intestine needs to absorb nutrients.
If there are digestive problems that cause inflammation this puts greater demand on the protective role of Ghrelin, which is reduced when blood leptins are high. To improve this inflammatory state you can: 1) increase fiber (not tolerated however in some digestive disorders); 2) avoid processed food; 3) get adequate physical activity and sleep; 4) lower triglycerides (in part by reducing carbohydrates); 5) eat high quality lean protein (improves leptin sensitivity); and 6) get adequate probiotics.
Leptin Resistance: The BodyMindLink
Leptin resistance affects your physical and mental health. The physical health conditions associated with leptin resistance include obesity, ‘yo-yo’ diet cycling, poor food intake regulation, reduced energy expenditure, digestive inflammation predisposition, fatigue, bone metabolism imbalance, infertility issues, and immune compromise. The mental health issues associated with leptin resistance include poor cognition, brain function compromise, and mental health issues associated with low thyroid metabolism (see above).
Carbohydrate Dominance: A Healthy Weight Lifestyle Consideration
Sugar/Carbohydrate Addiction is common in obesity as is described in the previous blog of this series. One of the best methods of curbing this is to eat nutrient dense high quality protein food early in the day and at every meal. Protein treatment and carbohydrate dominance are found extensively throughout my BodyMindLink blog series.
Food Intolerances: A Healthy Weight Lifestyle Consideration
Food intolerance is extremely common and for those that are overweight we often see a puffiness (a ‘water-like’ retention, ‘puffy weight’) that is intimately associated with food intolerance. This metabolic imbalance and the physical and mental health symptoms associated with it are described in the previous blog of this series. Top among these food culprits are gluten and dairy; these allergens are common among adults and kids.
2. Lifestyle Considerations if you are Underweight
A good number of those that are underweight have a fast oxidizer profile. For such individuals a high protein, high fat diet is often well tolerated and beneficial. It is not uncommon to see underweight kids (‘failure to thrive’) and adults. About 20% of kids and adults have a varying degree of this fast oxidizer profile. Kids and adults with this profile may have the classic ‘mind-running’ symptom.
High protein and fat are suitable here to address a protein deficient component which may or may not be accompanied by elevated cortisol levels. To help lower cortisol dominance, Naturopathic interventions may be needed.
In fast oxidizer subtypes we typically see copper deficiency, calcium deficiency, and accelerated thyroid and adrenal metabolism.
To tame accelerated thyroid and adrenal metabolism there are some specific Naturopathic approaches for consideration. In cases with copper or calcium deficiency, there are some dietary changes which may help.
Food Sources of Copper
Copper is high in avocados, beef liver, oysters, crab meat, cashews, other nuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, lentils, mushrooms and chocolate.
Copper Deficiency: The BodyMindLink
Copper deficiency affects your physical and mental health. The physical health conditions associated with copper deficiency include fatigue, weak/inflexible skin or connective tissue, anemia, inflammation, weak immunity (bacterial infection dominance), and osteoporosis. The mental health issues associated with copper deficiency include any syndromes associated with dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine imbalance which would include any condition (mild or severe) that affects mood, thinking, and behavior.
Food Sources of Calcium
Calcium is found in most all food products and the list is exhaustive. Calcium sources include dark leafy greens, watercress, bok choy, broccoli, tofu, okra, snap peas, almonds, fish, and dairy products (if you are not sensitive to dairy). Whole grains are also a good source of calcium and despite their phytate content, whole grains contain phytase enzymes that during the doughing process free the calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron bound to phytate.
Calcium Deficiency: The BodyMindLink
The physical symptoms of calcium deficiency include problems falling asleep (also found in cortisol dominance), poor bone health, lethargy, finger numbness/tingling, muscle cramps, poor appetite, and dermatitis. The mental health symptoms of calcium deficiency are described in my blog on Calcium & Your Mental Health.
Disclaimer: Information provided is not to be used for self-assessment, diagnosis or treatment. We advise the public to discuss these topics with their health care provider or book an appointment with our Toronto clinic.