Whenever I am working with a patient who is having a hard time getting off of a weight plateau I think of 4 main problems:
- Nutritional imbalances
- Gut dysfunction and
- Environmental toxins.
Why are these 4 areas more important to look at than how much the person is eating or how long they are working out? Simply because the vast majority of people have already tried calorie restriction and exercise and it didn’t work! You see, if your gut isn’t working well, you don’t have critical nutrients that fuel energy production in your cells, your hormones are out of whack and your cells are full of toxins, your body simply can’t stay at an ideal weight. You can’t produce energy when you work out so your exercise creates even more hormone imbalances and you can’t effectively burn stored fat from your calorie restricted diet because your cells are nutrient depleted.
Environmental Toxins and Weight
According to a statement issued in 2016 by the Endocrine Society, their summary links endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure to two of our biggest public health risks, diabetes and obesity.
This news builds upon the Endocrine Society’s 2009 report, which examined the scientific evidence on endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) or “obesogens” and the health risks associated with them. Since 2009, additional research has demonstrated that exposure to EDCs is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and obesity. Evidence indicates that this exposure is also linked to infertility, hormone-related cancers, neurological issues and other chronic diseases.
EDCs mimic, block or interfere with the body’s natural hormones and, as a result, they alter the way cells proliferate and develop.
Examples of EDCs:
- Bisphenol A (BPA) – found in food can linings and cash register receipts
- Phthalates – found in plastics (PVC products, vinyl shower curtains) and cosmetics (perfumes, nail polish, lotions)
- Flame retardants, solvents, lubricants (PCBs, PBBs, and PBDEs)
- Pesticides (sprayed on conventional fruits and vegetables), insecticides
- Heavy metals – cadmium, lead, arsenic, mercury
Today, these chemicals are so common that exposure to them has touched each and every one of us. An analysis published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in March 2015 estimated that EDC exposure will likely cost the European Union $209 billion a year in actual health care expenses and lost earning potential. And the evidence is mounting. Hundreds of studies have confirmed over and over again that EDCs disrupt hormones in a manner that harms human health.
The danger is of particular concern to unborn children who are exposed to EDCs. Studies have demonstrated that exposure to even very small amounts of EDCs during pregnancy can trigger obesity in the child later in life. Furthermore, studies have also found that some EDCs directly target beta and alpha cells in the pancreas, fat cells, and liver cells, which can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
This recent report also linked EDCs to reproductive health issues, hormone-related cancers, prostate disorders, thyroid disease, and neurodevelopmental issues. Most of us are already aware that many of these conditions have been linked to EDCs; however, the number of supportive studies continues to grow.
The truth is, we all live in an ever-increasing toxic environment. More than 80,000 chemicals are introduced into the world each year. We are exposed to pesticides, herbicides, chemical solvents, xenobiotics, and industrial chemicals of all kinds through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. These toxins accumulate in our bodies and contribute to the total toxic load that can cause a variety of health problems. Keep in mind that our indoor environment is likely more toxic than our outdoor environment.
Tips to Help Avoid EDCs:
- Eat organic produce (join your local CSA or ask your grocer to stock organic)
- Buy free-range, organic meats to reduce exposure from added hormones and pesticides
- Buy products available in glass containers rather than plastic or cans when possible
- Store food in glass containers, especially if reheating in the microwave
- Cookware: replace non-stick pans with glass, ceramic, stainless steel or cast iron
- Drink filtered water
- Use a shower head with a filter
- Use household products that are free of fragrances, phthalates and BPA
The basic foundation of a detox friendly diet is the Healing Diet Reset program. This diet is nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory and designed to stabilize blood sugar. The diet includes an abundance of organic non-starchy vegetables, fruits in moderation, nuts, seeds, fish, grass-fed organic meats and eggs and a variety of healthy fats and oils.
In addition during a detox diet, we stress incorporating additional nutrients to assist the gut and liver and kidneys to eliminate toxins more effectively.
There is significant research on the benefits of diet and nutritional supplementation in maintaining detoxification pathways.
- Milk Thistle is one of the most protective herbs for the liver with hundreds of studies that confirm its protective properties.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine supports phase II detoxification and is a precursor to glutathione.
- Calcium D-Glucarate aids in liver detoxification through the glucuronidation pathway. Xenobiotics, environmental toxins, and excess estrogens are cleared through this pathway.
- EGCg is the most extensively studied green tea polyphenol. Green tea supports detoxification by enhancing the glucuronidation pathway; in addition, it helps modulate blood glucose, and offers antioxidant and cancer-protective properties.
How Long Should a Detox Diet Last?
I’m sure you’ve seen advertisements for “3-Day detox” or “7-Day Cleanse”. Let me ask you, do you really think changing your diet for 3 days is going to undo the damage that has accumulated over a lifetime? Of course it isn’t!
The key to detoxification programs is to take it a bit slower and stretch them out over 21 days. This “slow burn” approach is not only more effective at detoxification it lowers the risk of any unwanted side effects like a headache or fatigue.
The IdealBody Cleanse
Several years ago we decided to take the best of several programs that we had been through and design a simple but effective 21-day cleanse program. We call it the IdealBody Cleanse and it has been a major player in helping hundreds of our patients improve their overall health and lose weight.