If you struggle with your weight then consider the role of digestive health when it comes to your weight loss efforts. Believe it or not we help many people lose weight by solely focusing on their overall digestive health. The gut plays such a vital role in total health that we are starting to address it with all our new patients, especially in our weight loss program.
We start by revamping the diet. Cut out the simple sugars and high-glycemic foods such as bread, potatoes and pasta, particularly the refined carbohydrate products. Go for the whole-grain if you have starchy foods. This lowers insulin and inflammation.
Removing foods that you are allergic to amounts to removing toxins from the body. Common delayed food allergens are wheat, dairy, egg, corn and soy. Gluten is in wheat, barley and rye. One can do blood testing to identify problem foods or simply eliminate them from the diet for a month and see how you feel. Getting processed, additive laden packaged foods out of the diet is another toxin to remove.
We then revitalize nutrition by focusing on getting 6, 8 or even 10 servings per day of fresh, preferably organic fruits and vegetables. Especially emphasize the greens, with red, yellow, orange and purple vegetables. Some fruits, such as banana or pineapples are over-rated due to the high fruit sugar content. Berries, apples, pears and such make the best choices. Add protein at every meal, preferably lean meats high in anti-inflammatory fats such as fish, poultry or venison. Whey protein makes a fantastic protein supplement. Also consider healthy fats at every meal as they provide long lasting energy and don’t stimulate insulin release.
Increase fiber in the diet with whole grain and raw vegetables. This adds bulk for proper digestion and helps “clean” the digestive tract. Fiber supplements are a good idea, such as glucomannan or “Fiber-Plex” from Douglas Labs.
Now it is time to restore, replenish and repopulate the gut. Restoring stomach acid is necessary in many people, especially if over the age of 50 or so. Unfortunate over-prescribing of acid blocking medications has left many people without proper stomach acid to start digestion of proteins or absorb vitamins and minerals such as B12, calcium and iron. Betaine HCL is a good acid supplement but should be taken under knowledgeable supervision.
Similarly, many people need to supplement the enzymes that break down food for absorption. Enzymes are found naturally in raw food which is another reason to get your fruits and veggies fresh and not from a can! We recommend “Ultrazyme” by Douglas Labs, but there are many quality pancreatic enzyme supplements available and they are safe to try on your own, especially before heavier meals and meals with more protein or fats. Bile from the gallbladder is necessary to emulsify and start the breakdown of fats, and as such, many people that have had the gallbladder removed benefit from a bile supplement such as “ox bile”.
The good bacteria in the gut play a HUGE role in human health. Known as “probiotics” these good guys interact with our immune system, start the metabolism of some hormones prior to the liver, help activate certain hormones such as thyroid, and play a role in digestion of foods. There are over 500 species of bacteria in the intestine and they evolved right along with humans, depending on a certain diet, and not doing so well with toxins and antibiotics and the like. We recommend supplementing at least 5 to 15 billion organisms daily.
Finally, repairing the gut is important. “Leaky gut” is a very well known and well researched process whereby the intestine actually develops leaks that allow large undigested food particles and toxins to get through, which is NOT supposed to happen. Since the immune system is so tightly involved with the gut it is the first to “see” this and boy does it not like it! Provoking the immune system like this is similar to the food allergens, which results in the immune system releasing inflammatory chemicals called “cytokines” and ultimately leading to more of the stress hormone cortisol, and more insulin, all of which impairs metabolism and hinders weight loss. Supplements such as L-glutamine, aloe, mallow, and deglycyrrhizinated licorice root all soothe and heal the gut. We recommend “Intestamine” from Douglas Labs.
Many of our patients note losing weight after a few months of focusing on digestive health. They also note things such as more energy, less “brain-fog” and better memory, reduced aches and pain, and resolution of digestive symptoms including indigestion, gas, bloating or abdominal pains. I don’t have “irritable bowel syndrome” on the problem list of my patients for long if they will focus on digestive health – this syndrome is usually curable!
In addition to weight loss, symptom improvement, and increased over-all well-being, we are finding digestive health plays a role in many disease states, especially autoimmune conditions. The inflammation in the gut serves as a “trigger” that insults the immune system and can overwhelm the regulatory T cells in the immune system. These T cells serve as the “air-traffic controllers” of the immune system and when they get bombarded by persistent abnormal insults they eventually lose the ability to oversee the immune system. The end result may allow autoimmune diseases to flourish. We are documenting case after case of reversing autoimmune diseases by restoring proper gut function!
Digestive health is such a foundation for so many aspects, from nutrition to metabolism to hormones to the immune system, that it truly deserves the title of “pillar” to human health.
Scott Rollins, MD, is Board Certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement for men and women, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions. He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.com). Call (970) 245-6911 for an appointment or more information.