In order for us to lose weight safely and efficiently, we first need to ensure our organs of elimination are functioning optimally. These organs are the lungs, intestines, kidneys, skin, lymph and liver. If one or more of these systems are sluggish or not working as well as they should, we may experience negative symptoms when trying to lose weight, including headaches, skin breakouts, muscle aches, fatigue and nausea. This happens when certain toxins are released in the body from fat cells, but cannot be eliminated efficiently; therefore they can get re-circulated, causing further stress on the liver, which is our major organ of detoxification.
More and more research is coming out about the microbiome (inner eco-system of gut bacteria) relating to all aspects of our health. A well studied area is the relationship between our gut bacteria and weight. Dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of good/bad bacteria, can create inflammation and changes to our metabolism. It is also believed that people with low diversity of bacteria strains are more likely to be overweight than those with a diverse ‘rainforest’ of species living inside of their colon. To overcome this, we can regularly consume a wide range of plants (vegetables, fruits, fibres, herbs) which feed different types of healthy gut bacteria, therefore increasing our bacterial diversity. Eating fermented foods or taking probiotic supplements can also help to optimise digestive function and support weight loss.
Consuming 35-50 grams of fibre per day (for those without major digestive issues) helps to eliminate toxins from the body, supports the digestive tract and is important for healthy hormone levels. ‘Used’ hormones, such as oestrogen, need to be assisted out of the body through urine and stool after they have done their job, otherwise, we can end up in a state of ‘oestrogen dominance’, potentially leading to symptoms such as PMS, heavy bleeding, breast tenderness and weight gain. Psyllium is rich in fibre and acts like a ‘broom’ in the intestines, sweeping out old debris and toxins.
Dulse, wakame, arame and kombu are all types of seaweed rich in iodine and other minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Iodine is a nutrient that is often overlooked in the area of weight loss, however it is very important. Our thyroid gland, which is responsible for metabolism, requires the building blocks iodine, along with the amino acid Tyrosine, to make thyroid hormones. If we are deficient in iodine we will therefore be unable to produce adequate amounts of thyroxine (thyroid hormone) potentially leading to hypothyroid symptoms such as weight gain, feeling cold, hair loss, dry skin and constipation. If you are really struggling to lose weight even though you are eating healthy and exercising, I would ask your GP to investigate your thyroid function. Iodine is a ‘goldilocks nutrient’ and I recommend taking caution when consuming seaweed or taking iodine supplements, as too much can cause symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as sweating, palpitations, diarrhoea and anxiety. For most people, adding a serving of seaweed to your diet 2-3 times a week is recommended, with the addition of 250mcg of iodine from a supplement or multivitamin. If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, hyperthyroidism, Graves Disease or autoimmunity, I would speak to a health practitioner before incorporating sea vegetables into your diet.
Curcumin, the main compound behind turmeric’s amazing health benefits, helps to stimulate the gallbladder to release bile, which improves liver function. Turmeric protects the bile ducts by improving bile flow, which cleanses the liver. It can also help to rejuvenate liver cells and prevents toxins and alcohol from being converted into harmful compounds that damage the liver. As I mentioned earlier, the liver is an important organ to address for healthy weight loss, therefore turmeric is a great herb to add to your daily routine. In order to enhance the absorption of turmeric you should combine it with black pepper, (which contains piperine), and a source of healthy fat like traditional cultures do. An example of this is using black pepper, turmeric and ghee in curries or making a delicious golden milk drink using coconut milk, black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon and other spices.
This herb has a lot of research and clinical evidence in the role of supporting liver health and detoxification. Milk thistle is able to supports all 3 phases of liver detoxification and can actually support the regeneration of liver cells. Some common reasons, apart from alcohol, that can cause the liver can become damaged or sluggish include, excess sugar/refined carbohydrates, bacterial overgrowths, yeast/candida infections, nutrient deficiencies, trans fats, medication use and environmental toxins. There is no escaping our exposure to environmental toxins such as phalates, PCB’s, dioxins and pesticides, even if we are living ‘clean and green lifestyles’ inside our homes. These toxins known as xenobiotics (chemical compounds not produced or recognised by the human body), have been linked to infertility, hormonal imbalances, cancer and obesity amongst many other things. There is actually a term, ‘obesogens’, which means foreign chemical compounds that disrupt normal development and balance of lipid metabolism, which in some cases, can lead to obesity. A milk thistle tincture, tea or supplement is a great way to gently lower your toxic burden and assist your liver to function optimally, in this toxic world.
One of my favourite foods, beetroot, is an amazing food to consume if you are trying to lose weight. It is rich in fibre, which helps you to feel satiated, and is rich in nutrients such as phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, copper, potassium and vitamin C. Betaine, a compound found in beetroot, supports methylation, our cardiovascular system and bile flow. Bile is produced by the liver and released from the gallbladder and it acts like detergent in the small intestine, emulsifying fats, ‘disinfecting’ the colon and breaking down our food, so that we can absorb the nutrients. Sluggish bile flow can therefore lead to digestive issues such as burping and bloating, malabsorption of nutrients and overgrowths of bacteria. These can create inflammation in the body which raises cortisol, our main stress hormone. When cortisol is high we tend to gain weight as a protective mechanism, and this weight is mainly stored around the midsection as belly fat. Beetroot provides our body with anti-inflammatory nutrients and antioxidants which can help to combat some of the damage associated with elevated cortisol levels.
Along with the changes to our diet and nutrition we can include things in our daily routine which help to improve detoxification, thus supporting weight loss. These include dry skin brushing, rebounding on a mini trampoline, self massage, using non toxic cleaning and skincare products and moving your body throughout the day.
IN THIS BLOG SERIES:
Find out more about the foods & herbs that can help you achieve your weightloss goals by offering that bit of motivational support
If you are trying intermittant fasting or The 5:2 diet for weightloss then understand how superfoods and herbs can offer the right nutritional support