Bodies In Balance COLUMNS HEALTH

Weighing in on the Problem of Weight

Tracy ErflingTHERE IS NO MORE concerning issue facing my patients, our country and the world than our increasing weight. It is a complex and multi-faceted issue, which is by no means solved with a single recommendation, but instead a careful evaluation of the individual. I would like to attempt in this article to shed light on some of the contributing factors and potential solutions. Some of you will relate, others will continue to be perplexed, but my hope is that everyone will see the possibilities for success.

Starting with the obvious, diet and exercise is a must. When counseling people on weight control it is imperative that this issue is explored in detail. Just laying out the basics is often an eye opening experience for many, especially if they have never been given some simple guidelines, which frankly are rarely addressed. Let’s first look at eating patterns…do you regularly skip meals, go long periods of time without eating, or frequently go without breakfast? Now by the calorie only theory this method would seemingly work because we are using more calories than we are consuming. Indeed a useful thought, unfortunately there is a big BUT here (unintended pun). When there is no fuel coming in we have to create it from within and this happens by means of cortisol, our adrenal stress hormone. When we overproduce this hormone there are many consequences, one of which is the release of insulin, our storage hormone, so fat storage begins. When insulin is released in this way (as opposed to the increase of blood glucose from food digestion) we begin to become less sensitive to its message, which then compounds the whole problem.

Another important question is not so much what you eat but what are you drinking? Many are consuming high amounts of sweet beverages – sodas, juices, flavored waters, sport drinks, and the ever popular coffee drinks. Now granted many of these drink may be sugar free or have low calories, but even so they are sweet! Just having something sweet sets off this whole insulin cascade; add to that the fact that beverages are fairly instantly absorbed into the blood stream (no fat, protein or fiber to slow the digestion) means they almost immediately affect the blood sugar/insulin system. So back to plain old boring water huh? Yep! OR make sure your sweet beverages are consumed with a meal versus alone, AND set some limits on this treat for your taste buds. Also worth checking out are beverages that aren’t sweet, green or herb teas, black coffee, or mineral waters (for those who like the bubbles) are some ideas to try.

Exercise (like water) is just a must, I can’t think of any way around it. These bodies are meant to move, they were not designed to sit all day! This is where we return to calories in calories out. It is indeed an important balance of weight maintenance. So for a very sedentary person there are WAY fewer calories necessary than for a more active person (regardless of weight). There are some terrific websites or apps for your smartphone to help track this balancing act, and of course this is also the keystone for many popular weight loss programs. I will add that exercise is very different from an active job/lifestyle. There are some very essential reactions from a vigorous walk as opposed to running around after your toddler. One of which is the effect on blood sugars, so yes I am saying that if you have that double mocha latté AND go to your spinning class you’ve created far more balance than without…FIND THE TIME!!

So you knew this already, many of you did and hopefully you are employing that knowledge! The connection recently made to me, and hopefully a new insight for you, was related to estrogen. This is a powerful hormone which although associated primarily with women is also pro- duced in small amounts by men and is certainly a player in weight management for both sexes. Estrogen and cortisol are in cahoots with one another, meaning when one is high it can increase the other. Estrogen is also increased with inflammatory conditions again through this cortisol connection. What are some other sources of estrogen? Well if you are already overweight it is stored in and released from your fat cells, and sadly much comes from our environment. Plastics, skin care products, food additives (i.e. dairy and meat) to name a few; it is an incredibly prevalent hormone which is creating some unfortunate consequences in our health. What’s the answer? Good quality dietary fiber, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts and cabbage), and progesterone balance. But as with all hormones this is not a solution to take lightly, whenever I suggest hormones I can only recommend doing it under the supervision of a qualified professional as all too often I see self administration of hormones causing as many problems as it can potentially solve.

Sleep! A good night’s sleep will help to clear many of the problematic hormones mentioned above. Good elimination, this is something to optimize from the bowels, liver, skin and kidneys. If you are not pooping, peeing, sweating or detoxifying properly, weight loss will be more difficult. And how can we ignore the ever important endocrine glands, especially the thyroid and adrenals. There are of course some great lab tests available to evaluate these, but a simple in home test would be to average your first morning temperatures for 5-7 days. If you are averaging below 98 degrees Fahrenheit then you may be a good candidate for professional evaluation and treatment.

Phew, weight loss is exhausting and for many a life-long pursuit. I hope I have shed light on some new food for thought, or better yet action against this weighty concern.

Do something you love, Be with someone you love, Eat your vegetables, Drink clean water, Breathe deeply, and Move your body EVERYDAY!!

Welcome Back Hipfish! Thanks to all who helped contribute to the return of this fabulous monthly.

I am delighted to be sharing my health musings once again…

By Tracy Erfling

Dr. Tracy Erfling is a naturopath physician in the Lower Columbia Region. Questions?