What's the deal with coffee? And why do some people do well on diets, and others don't? Why are these two topics related?
You might have noticed lately that there seems to be a few studies coming out about coffee. And they are confusing, right?
One study tells us that coffee will help prevent cancer. The next tells us that coffee may cause cancer. Coffee helps us lose weight. Coffee is bad for cardiovascular disease. And so on.
So what do we make of this information? Do we drink coffee or don’t we? Maybe we can limit it to one or two cups a day. But is that enough to get the benefits? Or is it too much?
And then there are the diets. Paleo, Primal, Atkins, Vegan, Low Carb, Low Fat, High Carb, High Fat, Fasting, Eating more…. Where do you start to work out what is best for you?
The easiest way to cut through the confusion is to remember that we are all different. Very different.
Our genomic make-up, the environment we live in, the food we eat, the activities we undertake, whether we are stressed or relaxed, how much sleep we get, our family history, our hormone health, our happiness levels all vary and make us the individual we are.
This is something that naturopaths have always taken into account when helping our clients get healthier. It is why your first consultation with us can take up to 90 minutes, and we also make use of some pretty comprehensive questionnaires and use functional pathology testing in clinic to get a holistic picture of who you really are.
It is why we recommend you consult with someone trained in vitamins, minerals and herbal medicines before taking supplements. What works for one person, may not be great for another.
And now we even have access to looking at your how your genomic profile influences your health. As we learn more about our genes, we are starting to get some pointers to a range of health clues through genomic profiling tests which can tell us:
• Your ability to metabolise sugar and, in turn, your risk of diabetes.
• Your in-built stress response and the impact stress has on your body.
• Your personal need for a range of key nutrients vital for health including omega 3, vitamins, and CoQ10.
• The best way for you to reduce and maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
• Your liver detoxification ability.
• The optimal amounts of fats and salt your body requires to support health.
• Your risk for late onset lactose intolerance and coeliac disease.
• How your body responds to caffeine and the impact caffeine has on your body.
• Bone health for prevention of osteoporosis.
• Your oestrogen detoxification ability.
• Your inflammatory response to food and lifestyle.
• Antioxidant response and antioxidant levels.
• The best exercise regime for strength and stamina for you.
• And even your seasonal variation to sleep, mood, appetite and social activity.
The emerging science of epigenetics reveals that how genes express themselves are influenced by what we eat and ingest, our lifestyles, emotions and environment.
By accessing your genetic profile, you can learn how to optimise your diet and modify your lifestyle to “turn of” genes that have the potential to cause harm and “turn on” genes that help to prevent disease.
It is an exciting time we live in to be able to access this information.
PS – if you want to learn more genomic wellness testing, then right this way!
Jackie*, a 37 year old accountant, came to see me in my Sydney clinic, wanting help with low energy, low motivation and difficulty concentrating at work. She told me that she would try to eat well during the day, but at night would eat compulsively. She craved chocolate and salty foods especially.
She had had a child 6 years ago, and in that time had gained almost 30 kgs and now weighed 102 kg, which made exercising difficult.
She had tried different diets, including shakes and then a low-calorie, home delivery meal program, but it left her feeling unsatisfied.
During the day she was very tired, but then would have trouble sleeping at night. She was plagued by regular headaches and had also developed eczema on her hands, inside the elbows and behind the knees.
A recent course of antibiotics had complicated things by causing bloating in the abdomen and reflux.
Her mood was very low, and she felt “heavy and stuck”. She found that she was not coping with stress very well.
We undertook some tests which showed that Jackie’s cortisol was elevated, and she also had an imbalance of several key nutrients.
WHAT WE DID
I first started Jackie on a six week nutritional detox program with specific strains of probiotics to support the liver function and establish a healthy flora balance in the gastrointestinal tract. We cut out many processed foods, especially refined carbohydrates and sugars, and started on a “cleaner” way of eating.
At the same time, I prescribed a herbal medicine to help support the nervous system, energy production, stress response and low mood; a high quality fish oil; and also a herbal and magnesium sleep formula.
By week two, Jackie reported a significant improvement in both mood and energy levels along. By week four, she told me her concentration had started to improve, and her bloating reduced. She felt that she now had the energy to start going for a regular 30 minute gentle walk each day.
After 6 weeks, her eczema had improved significantly, and Jackie noticed she didn’t get a headache as much, in fact she couldn’t remember when she had last had one. Even though we hadn’t yet started focusing on weight loss, she lost 4.5 kgs in those 6 weeks, and was thrilled with this.
She was keen to continue with weight loss as an objective, so we commenced on an efficient weight loss protocol with the aim to improve leptin sensitivity (the hormone which regulates appetite) and also discover if there were any particular foods causing inflammation.
By week 10, she had lost a total of 11 kgs. Jackie noticed that she could think more clearly and had a lot more energy and so had joined a gym, where she especially loved the aqua-aerobics classes. She had noticed that she was able to deal with challenges at work which previously used to stress her out.
Jackie had started to enjoy cooking and eating wholesome foods, and had cut out some specific foods which she noticed gave her a headache and skin rashes - a sign of inflammation in the body which can contribute to weight gain.
By week 14, she had lost a total of 15.5 kgs, and her energy had improved so much that she wanted to start training for a 5 day hike in New Zealand, something which had been on her dream list for a long time.
At this point, I moved from Sydney to Coffs Harbour, but I asked Jackie to promise to tell me when she achieved her hike.
Jackie’s case shows how strategic detoxification and weight loss can have so many positive effects on the mind and body. Jackie did all the hard work, but I was proud to be involved with such a positive change.
UPDATE: 3 Years Later
I received an email from Jackie recently who reported that she had spent her 40th birthday in New Zealand, where she completed a 10 day hike (her third long hike!).
She now weighed 72kgs, which was less than before she had her daughter. She had been offered a partnership in her accountancy firm, and she also cheekily shared that her libido had improved.
Her next goal was to start sailing, and to take the family sailing around the world for a year. I can’t wait to hear from her when she achieves this.
Thank you Jackie for letting me share your story today.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is how can a naturopath help me lose weight?
Weight management is one of those areas that naturopathy can really make a difference. Because we don’t have a “one size fits all” approach, and have a lot of tools and strategies available to us, naturopaths tend to achieve very good results for our weight loss clients, and most importantly, help our clients keep the weight off as well.
Why is this?
First of all, naturopaths are trained in nutrition. We keep up to date with the latest research in nutrition, and are often aware of new emerging science in this area.
Naturopaths are also well versed in how hormones can affect weight. We understand the relationship between reproductive, adrenal and thyroid hormones, and how an imbalance in one hormone can go on to affect those hormones which influence how we store fat. We also have testing methods available to us to pinpoint if there is a specific hormone balance in a client, and then can recommend a combination of specific nutrients and herbal medicines to help restore balance in this area. In these clients, sometimes just rebalancing hormone levels can result in weight loss, even without any significant changes in diet.
Which brings me on to nutrition. Often undetected food intolerances can cause inflammation throughout the body, which can result in… you guessed it… weight gain. A variety of food intolerance testing is available to naturopaths to help work out which foods may be causing the body to hold on to fat and extra fluids, resulting in a puffy, bloated appearance.
Emotional health is also something that naturopaths can help with. Often clients with a long-term weight loss are subconsciously holding on to the extra weight for emotional reasons. Naturopathy can help address this with lifestyle advice and herbal medicines which help strengthen the nervous system.
If sugar cravings or poor liver function is part of the client’s health picture, then we are also able to look at addressing this. Herbal medicine is particularly helpful with sugar imbalances and improving liver function. Naturopaths are also able to organise tests to help look at what is happening in these areas.
Most naturopaths have available a wide range of nutritional programmes to help with weight loss. As a naturopath, I take some time during a consultation to help work out with the client which is the best approach specifically for them. Some clients do best with a structured programme with prescribed meal plans or natural meal replacement options (although definitely not those chemical-laden “diet foods and shakes”!). Some may be interested in trying approaches such as paleo, primal, vegan, low carbohydrate or the HCG programmes. Others just need some professional guidance to help tweak an existing good diet to get results. Or perhaps it is to be accountable to someone through regular follow up appointments.
If you think naturopathy may be able to help you with weight management, consider booking in for an initial consultation to get started.
Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist