Does this look familiar? … If so it might be good to consider naturopathic and nutritional approaches that help you maintain healthy weight.

The BodyMindLink series by Dr Ray Pataracchia ND provides insight on Nutritional and Naturopathic approaches that matter most and have the potential to benefit both your physical and mental health.  In this series we look at the treatment approaches and body-mind-links of aging, tiredness, mental performance, work performance, digestive problems, food intolerances, stress, cardiovascular health, insomnia, weight problems, and chronic disease.  Winter 2014 blog themes rotate between the topics of longevity, immunity, and weight problems.  Clinical approaches discussed are implemented by the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic in Toronto, Ontario.

Healthy Weight (Part 1): Weight Loss Nutrition & Naturopathic Considerations


Healthy Weight – A Three-Part Blog Series

We divided ‘Healthy Weight’ blogs into three subtopics: i) Weight Loss Nutrition & Naturopathic Considerations (current blog), ii) Weight Gain Nutrition & Naturopathic Considerations, and iii) Healthy Weight Lifestyle Perspectives.

Overweight Considerations

Good nutrition can help prevent and reduce body weight and other problems caused by being overweight.  The health benefits of losing weight are well documented and include an increase in stamina, energy, mobility, well-being and lifespan, and reduced risk of type II diabetes (including early onset diabetes), high blood pressure, and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease.  Other conditions associated with being overweight include malnutrition, poor lipid profiles, iron-deficiency, oral diseases, osteoporosis, diverticulitis, constipation, and some types of cancer.

Due to the individuality of everyone’s metabolism, weight management often includes a crossover of common primary and secondary nutrient and naturopathic imbalances.  Here we focus on sluggish thyroid metabolism, leptin (fat hormone) imbalance, carbohydrate dominance and food intolerances.

Overweight & Sluggish?  Is It Your Thyroid?

The low thyroid, slow metabolism scenario is a classic overweight presentation.  If you have inadequate thyroid hormone at the DNA level all cells suffers.  Thyroid hormone is the green light at the DNA promoter region to initiate specific protein manufacturing needed for all cells and also for specific cell functions.  If you do not make ATP (our body’s top energy molecule) for example you will be tired and sluggish and have little energy to metabolize fat.  Such protein metabolites are essential to how our body utilizes fat which should be regularly taken out of storage and used for energy production.

Thyroid panel blood results might appear normal or clearly abnormal [Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels above range].  Endocrinology experts look at the TSH ranges differently today and high normal TSH levels are being strongly considered abnormal, even when TSH levels are above 2 units.  Other low thyroid clinical indicators including body temperature, iodine status, specific hair mineral ratio’s, and physical signs and symptoms.

By contrast, note that it is common see people with sluggish thyroid metabolisms who have normal body weight.  This reinforces the global-ness of thyroid hormone imbalance which has the potential to affect several other body systems (the brain/mind, the digestive system, the skin, the immune system, etcetera).

Sluggish Thyroid Metabolism: The BodyMindLink

Sluggish thyroid metabolism affects your physical and mental health.  The physical health conditions associated with low thyroid metabolism include weight gain, constipation, slow speech, cold intolerance, tiredness, delayed reflexes, pale skin (poor blood flow), dry/rough skin, brittle/coarse hair, water retention, enlarged tongue, hoarseness, shortness of breath, high cholesterol, and high or low blood pressure.  The mental health issues associated with sluggish thyroid metabolism include inattention, emotional fluctuation, poor concentration, ‘brain fog’, poor memory, dementia (especially the functional and cognitive deficits of dementia), depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, OCD, and ADD.

Leptin – The Master Body Weight Regulating Hormone

When we eat we consume fats that deposit in the body inside fat cells and fat cells produce a hormone called leptin; the more the fat cells, the more the leptin.  Normally when we eat, leptin release is proportionate to the fat intake and leptin tells the brain (hypothalamus) to stop eating and it’s okay to exert yourself and burn calories.  And when leptin is not being released the brain normally tells us to eat and conserve energy/calories, lest we starve.

In people with weight gain issues leptin levels are chronically high and the brain doesn’t respond to it or ‘see’ it (leptin resistance); a situation analogous to type II diabetes where body cells don’t ‘see’ insulin (insulin resistance).  The result is that ‘the leptin switch’ in the hypothalamus is never turned on and the consequence of this is that the brain, by default, remains in starvation mode and tells us we NEED to seek food, eat and conserve energy.

So is it just a simple matter of dieting to reduce fat intake?  Unfortunately the problem is that any attempt at dieting backfires if you have leptin resistance.  In such cases, the initial success of reduced calorie dieting is short lived because the brain’s defense mechanism kicks in with an intense need (=a strong biochemical force) obliging one to ‘eat back’ that which they lost, thus creating the well-known ‘yo-yo’ diet effect.

Leptin also hampers TSH and Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH) metabolism and effectively reduce thyroid hormone which is bad as explained above due to poor ability to utilize fat out of storage.

Leptins are intimately involved in energy maintenance, immunity, fertility, brain function, and more (Maria Dalamaga et al. Leptin at the Intersection of Neuroendocrinology and Metabolism: Current Evidence and Therapeutic Perspectives: A Review. Cell Metabolism; 18(1) (July 2, 2013); 29–42).

The prevention or correction of leptin resistance is associated with the reduction of inflammation (associated with gut tissue integrity, avoidance of processed food, reduced soluble fiber intake), having adequate physical activity, getting good sleep, lowering triglycerides (in part accomplished by reducing carbohydrates), eating high quality lean protein (improves leptin sensitivity), and other targeted naturopathic approaches.

Leptin Resistance: The BodyMindLink

Leptin resistance affects your physical and mental health.  The physical health conditions associated with leptin resistance include obesity, ‘yo-yo’ dieting cycling, poor food intake regulation, reduced energy expenditure, fatigue, bone metabolism imbalance, and immune compromise.  The mental health issues associated with leptin resistance include poor cognition and any mental health syndromes associated with low thyroid metabolism (see above).

Carbohydrate Dominance: The Overweight Connection

It is well known that sugar/carbohydrates that are ingested in excess (or in greater proportion than protein and fat, i.e. carbohydrate dominance) convert to fat.  One of the best methods of curbing this is to eat high quality protein nutrient dense food early in the day and at every meal.  Protein treatment and carbohydrate dominance are found extensively throughout my BodyMindLink blog series.

Food Intolerances- A Biochemical Problem Associated with ‘Puffy’ Weight     

Food intolerances are extremely common.  In my experience, the effect of correcting them translates on average to a minimum 30% lift in energy.  For those who are overweight we often see a puffiness (a ‘water-like’ retention) that is intimately associated with food intolerances.

When we eat foods with large proteins that the body reacts to it can disrupt metabolism quickly or insidiously.  Unfortunately we may not be aware of food items that we are intolerant to unless we avoid them for a period of time, especially those that have a delayed response (IgG versus IgE responses).

There are blood tests that can help assess what food items have the greatest likelihood of causing negative effects.  Top among these food culprits are gluten and dairy; these allergens are common among adults and kids.

Food Intolerances: The BodyMindLink

Food intolerances discussed are associated with the passage of substances throughout the body that disturb mental and physical health at all levels and degrees of severity.  Food intolerances are associated with brain function alterations that cause poor academic and work performance, irritability, brain fog, mood imbalance, sleep disturbance, behavior problems, poor cognition, altered sensory processing, and hallucinations. The physical problems caused by food intolerances are extensive because the toxic release of byproducts of mal-absorbed food proteins can hit any and all body organ/glandular systems;  food intolerances are associated with skin conditions, digestive disturbances, headaches, inflammation (puffy weight, water weight), muscle and joint pain, insomnia, heart palpitations, stress reactions, weight gain, chronic disease and yes, fatigue. 

Disclaimer: Information provided is not to be used for self-assessment, diagnosis or treatment.  We advise the public to discuss these topics with their health care provider or book an appointment with our Toronto clinic.