During the first visit with a new patient, I go over their typical diet to see where it can be improved, especially if weight loss is an issue. Diets can vary greatly, for some I recommend wholesale changes, others, only small ones. For many, weight loss is about margins, the extra 200 – 300 calories they are eating a day that is sabotaging their weight loss attempts. Most people are habitual eaters; we get into ruts and tend to stay there. Consider this, most people when asked to name the foods that they typically eat on a regular basis, can only name about 10 foods. If your rut includes certain foods, you may be sabotaging your weight loss attempts.
Alcohol: For many weight loss patients, alcohol intake is one of the more common problems I see. It is surprising how many people have 2 – 3 alcoholic drinks at least 3 days per week. This may not seem like a lot but consider this; a single serving of alcohol is typically between 100 – 150 calories. Doing the math this equates to about a pound per month in calories. If you are in the habit of drinking a couple drinks on most days of the week it adds up a lot faster, more like a pound every couple of weeks. I have seen more than a few patients cut back on this one area of their diet that gone on to finally lose those last 5 pounds they have been struggling with. With alcohol it is not just calories in, it is also the nutrients you are not absorbing because of the interference caused from the damage alcohol can cause to your GI tract. Nutrients that help to fuel your metabolism for fat burning, especially the B vitamins which are typically low or deficient with chronic alcohol intake.
Dairy, more specifically cheese. Like alcohol, cheese is a staple in the diet of most Americans and couple of servings a day can equate to a big source of calories over time. Unlike alcohol, half of the calories from cheese come from saturated fat one of the culprits in causing high cholesterol in some people. Another issue with dairy and the third food that might be affecting your weight loss attempts, Gluten, is that they tend to cause inflammation in the gut. Food allergies, and the chronic inflammation they can cause, are gaining steam as a culprit in many of the chronic health problems we have in America.
Gluten. Gluten is the portion of wheat that contains a protein called Gliadin. Celiac disease is a condition caused from an allergy to gliadin which causes damage to the lining of the intestines. This damage can interfere with digestion and absorption of healthy nutrients and can also allow toxins to be absorbed that would normally pass through the intestines and go on to be excreted. This additional toxic burden on our bodies can tip the scales for some people and it is believed it plays a role in conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. I also see chronic allergy type conditions such as eczema and asthma as well as common gut issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and constipation greatly improve when gluten is removed from the diet. Removing gluten is not easy, it is in many common foods that contain wheat so do a quick google search for foods containing gluten if you plan to try to remove it from your diet. FYI, if you drink beer you get a double whammy of the empty calories from alcohol in a drink that also contains gluten!
Full blown celiac disease is not very common but gluten sensitivity is. Many patients have a low-level sensitivity to foods such as gluten and dairy which causes a simmering inflammation in their gut that wreaks havoc with their health. Consider this: 90% of the serotonin, one of the main, “feel good,” neurotransmitters in your body is secreted from the cells in the lining of your intestines. If you have chronic inflammation and damage to these cells, you tend to have less serotonin which is a major cause of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Medications such as Prozac, Lexapro, and Paxil work by increasing the amount of serotonin in your body.
Gut health has become a primary focus in the anti-aging world because of the enormous effect it can have on health and longevity. It can also play a role in weight loss. Our weight loss and detox programs include a phase of removing inflammatory foods from your diet such as gluten and dairy and many times we see improvement in weight loss as well as other areas of health. So if you are trying to lose weight and one of these foods is part of your normal intake, try to go a month without one or all of them in your diet and see what happens. You may be surprised by the results.
Until next time, stay healthy and live well… Dr. Mike