AUTHOR: DR. JASON GRANZOTTO
Weight loss is one of the top reasons why people seek out naturopathic services. There are so many specialty diets and conflicting information out there that people can’t determine which diet is right for them. The answers can vary and I personally wouldn’t tout one diet over another for weight loss. Instead, I look for the cause of the weight gain, which lets me identify the best weight loss diet or protocol. However, there are some general concepts that apply to most patients.
One of the first misconceptions about gaining or losing weight is that it is based on how much you eat or how much ‘bad food’ you consume. I have met overweight people who either under eat or eat only healthy food. In these cases, being overweight may be due to a thyroid problem, their frame, or genetics. Stress certainly has something to do with it. But in every case, digestive health is at the heart of the problem.
Amazingly, we ignore the signs our body gives us and carry on with our diets without responding to these messages from the body. Bloating, irregular bowel habits, excessive gas, nausea, lack of appetite, or fatigue after a meal are just a few of the very overt signs that our digestive system gives us. This is the gut’s way of saying “I can’t digest that”. But patients carry on thinking “this is normal for me” or “I can’t give up my favourite food” or “but what I ate is ‘healthy’, so I’ll deal with the symptoms”.
Healthy food should be interpreted as foods that are healthy for you. This is why diets tend to be very individualized and can change over time. And this concept applies not only to the diet but also to the supplements or exercise that you utilize. These are tools to bring us health, and we need guidance and experience to learn which combination of tools is right for you.
A combination of prebiotics and probiotics is most commonly the digestive healing intervention I recommend for weight loss. Improving the gut flora is the best place to start when aiming to repair the intestinal wall to reduce inflammation, to stabilize the immune system, to improve nutrient assimilation, and to promote regular bowel habits. In conjunction with this, I recommend a diet with very few simple carbohydrates to minimize the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and, at the same time, to reduce blood sugar dysregulation – a major cause of insulin resistance and fat deposition.
In my experience, a diet that helps reduce the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the intestines while also stabilizing your sugar metabolism can be a very effective intervention for weight loss. Coupled with exercise and stress management, this seems to be a recipe for success. The use of sensitivity testing and/or an elimination diet with reintroduction to identify irritating foods is helpful in further tailoring the diet to the patient.
Success occurs when the patient seeking weight loss realizes that the diet has healed them. This is achieved not through starving or binging, nor through extreme avoidances. Food is medicine – use it to heal.