Natural Treatment of Overweight/Obesity in VT
It is estimated the about 2/3 of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. This is a major public health issue because being overweight increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers, among other diseases.
Treatment of a weight problem for most people falls into 4 main categories:
- Decrease caloric intake (eat less)
- Increase caloric output (exercise more)
- Correct a hormone imbalance (primarily low thyroid)
- Change your body’s metabolism
It is this last area that we will mostly focus on, because most physicians don’t talk about this.
Changing Your Body’s Metabolism
To understand how to change your body’s metabolism, you have to first understand the Glycemic Index (GI). When you eat most starchy or sweet foods (like bread or ice cream), your blood sugar rises rapidly. Even though most bread contains very little sugar, the starches in it are rapidly digested by your body and turned into sugar, which is then rapidly absorbed into your blood. The GI is a measure of how much your blood sugar goes up after you eat any given food. The scale goes from 0 to 100, with 100 being equal to pure sugar (glucose). The higher the number, the more impact a food has on your blood sugar. White bread has a GI of about 75, for example, and mashed potatoes are about 87. Dried beans (like kidneys beans), on the other hand, have a GI of about 24. The type of carbohydrate in beans is digested very slowly and therefore has very little impact on your blood sugar.
When you eat a high GI food and your blood sugar goes up, your body has to make more insulin to bring your blood sugar down. In the short term, this is what should happen. In the long term, however, the cells in your body can become resistant to the insulin from repeated exposure to high levels of insulin. As this progresses, it takes more and more insulin to have the same effect. This is known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the process that eventually leads to adult onset diabetes.
Unfortunately, insulin tells your fat cells to turn sugar into fat. If you are trying to lose weight, lots of insulin is therefore not something you want. Reducing your intake of high GI foods (sugars and starches) lowers your blood sugar and insulin levels and can therefore be very effective for weight loss. We call this a Low Glycemic Eating Plan (LGEP).
The Low Glycemic Eating Plan to Lose Weight
There are a variety of diets that have been popularized that are all based on the GI to one extent or another. Examples include the Atkins diet, the ketogenic diet, the paleo diet, South Beach, Sugar Busters, and others. All of these approaches can be effective. When we designed our Low Glycemic Eating Plan, we tried to make it as simple and easy to follow and still be effective. It is much less restrictive than the Atkins, ketogenic, and paleo diets, for example. You may be able to lose weight faster with a ketogenic diet, but most people are able to lose weight more sustainably and more safely with my Low Glycemic Eating Plan.
Our Low Glycemic Eating Plan has only 3 simple rules:
- Avoid added sugars like cane sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, and honey
- Limit your starches from grains and potatoes (bread, pasta, cereal, etc.) to 1 whole grain per day
- Eat all the fruit, vegetable, and protein you want
Reducing high GI foods with any of these diets also generally makes people feel better in addition to losing weight. Here are some other changes people often see when they follow a low GI diet:
- More energy, less fatigue (this is very common)
- Better mood (less anxiety and depression)
- Less inflammation (less pain)
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Better cognition (memory, focus, concentration)
- Fewer cravings
With a calorie restricted diet, most people see none of these other benefits. Getting these additional benefits can be a powerful motivator to continue with the diet, and also helps to make it more sustainable.
Low GI diets may help people to lose weight in at least 3 different ways:
- Lower insulin levels mean less sugar gets converted to fat
- Fewer cravings means you eat less without trying and without being hungry
- Increased mitochondrial function
Mitochondria are the power plants in your cells. They are where most of your calories are burned to make energy. Increasing mitochondrial function means you can burn more calories (and lose more weight) and feel more energetic.
How We Can Help
Naturopathic doctors are physician experts in treating the underlying cause of disease and using natural medicines to help people get and stay well. For help with weight loss or to find out which natural treatments are appropriate for you, schedule an office visit.