In my practice, the majority of the people I help are women, especially those over fifty who are struggling with fatigue, weight loss resistance, and hormonal issues. Often at this stage women want to get into the best shape of their life, both physically and spiritually. Many are tired of dragging themselves around day after day, and feel that they are not at their ideal weight and have begun to exercise more; even more than younger women will make the time to do.
I have a patient, I’ll call her Kate. She loves to travel; in fact it is a priority for her. In addition, volunteering, expanding her social network, taking trips to galleries and to the theater, attending concerts and other cultural events are some of the things she dreamed about doing in retirement. She is thinking about new ways to express her talents, creativity and wisdom gained from life experiences, maybe writing a life journal for her family or publishing her own book. Or she may be thinking of turning a hobby into a new career. And there is on ly one person she wants to work for… herself… on her own terms and hours, with the options and flexibility to travel, spend time with adult children, grandchildren, and aging parents (who she may find necessary to take care of). She wants to give back maybe she wants to renovate her present home or simplify life and downsize and move closer to her family, or spend winters in a warmer climate. She loves her vitamins D and C (dogs and cats), and is on the lookout for ways to experience life to its fullest in the best possible health she can attain.
Frustratingly, she has been struggling with low energy and fatigue that hasn’t resolved, even after trying various medical and alternative approaches. She has found herself gaining weight over the past few years and has probably tried a few different types of diets, including low carb, high protein, low fat and low calorie diets. The combination of dieting and intense exercising helps her take off about ten pounds before hitting the wall and getting stuck or regaining the lost weight. At this point she may feel that she doesn’t have any options and may have to live in this rut for the rest of her life. She may have a condition commonly known as weight loss resistance.
What Causes Weight Loss Resistance?
The phrase, “anything can cause anything,” is an understatement when it comes the possible underlying imbalances that can contribute to the cause of this problem. Weight loss resistance involves digestive imbalances, food intolerances and leaky gut syndrome for some. It involves chronic systemic inflammation, adrenal fatigue, thyroid imbalances, and what I have found to be the primary underlying factor in most cases: hormonal imbalances due to environmental toxins.
The Hormone/Toxin Connection
Leptin is the hormone that tells the brain to burn fat for energy. Leptin, produced by fat cells, signals a part of the brain (hypothalamus) that we’ve taken in enough calories and that we should now stop eating. You feel full. As we age our cells become more leptin resistant, similar to insulin resistance. The most accurate marker of systemic inflammation, C-reactive protein, binds leptin and prevents it from crossing the blood brain barrier to signal satiety. According to Dr. Michael Greer, this is proof that the systemic inflammation and detoxification failure plays a very powerful role in weight regulation. Since the leptin cannot get into the brain cells to signal satiety, the person is always hungry.
Toxins are the primary factor in leptin resistance. An article in USA Today stated that according to the Enivironmental Protection Agency, since World War II, approximately 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into the marketplace. Not one was tested for toxicology before 1976. Today only ten chemicals per year of the approximately 1,500 new chemicals introduced each year are tested.
When toxins enter the body, they attach to the outer cell membranes of fat cells, causing cells to continually release leptin. When leptin is elevated too frequently, the cell receptors burn out, satiety is not reached, and the brain is not signaled to burn fat for energy, resulting in weight gain which does not respond to exercise or diet.
According to Dr. Daniel Pompa, the toxins also cause the release of chemicals called cytokines, which further damage leptin receptors in the brain (hypothalamus). Once the receptors to leptin have been damaged, weight loss resistance is only the first of many problems. Toxins can interfere with your mitochondria which are the power plants of your cells that burn fat for energy. In addition, high fructose corn syrup is also known to impair the ability to recognize leptin, disrupting the body’s ability to control blood sugar and raising the risk factor of fat storage and weight gain.
Handling Weight Loss Resistance
The first step in handling weight loss resistance is to understand what causes it and realizing there is hope. You will need to work with a practitioner who can identify and correct all the imbalances that make up weight loss resistance. Everyone is unique and needs a customized program to address their particular needs. It involves detoxification, therapeutic whole food supplementation and an anti-inflammatory diet. The right type of exercise is the icing on the cake.
Environmental toxins including heavy metals, a few of which include mercury, aluminum, lead, cadmium, and arsenic have to be handled as well as chemical toxins. Chemical toxins are seemingly everywhere today. We can find them in our food supply, lawn and garden products, cleaning products, cosmetics, in our air supply in the form of petro chemicals, exhaust, pollution, even in our water supply in the forms of plastics, chlorine, fluoride and medications to name a few. According to GMO opponents, Genetically Modified foods such as corn, soy, beets, alfalfa, and other GM foods such as Hawaiian papaya or eating meat fed these products contribute to leaky gut syndrome.
Decreasing Exposure to Toxins
You can begin the process of decreasing your exposure to toxins in your own home. There are many non-toxic cleaners on the market today and many of them you could easily make on your own. Consider switching to organic whole foods including fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, eggs and dairy. The Environmental Working Group has released is 9th annual “Dirty Dozen” list of common fruits and vegetables sold in grocery stores that have been contaminated with the most pesticide residues, and also the “Clean Fifteen” which lists fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide contamination. Whenever possible purchase organic, free range meat and eggs, which unfortunately are some of the priciest foods, however many of the supermarkets are now adding their own organic lines and helping reduce costs. Shopping at local farmers markets in season is a great way of finding fresh, organic fruits and vegetables to help reduce costs.
Every woman is unique and needs a customized program to address her particular condition. No two people have the same health history and toxin exposure in their body and the remedies must be matched specifically to that individual’s needs for best results. With detoxification protocols designed specifically for her, reduced exposure to toxins, therapeutic whole food supplementation, and adapting an anti-inflammatory diet, she can correct the underlying imbalances and have hope of reclaiming her energy and health, freeing her to create the next, best chapter of her life … and be the wife, friend, grandmother, entrepreneur and world traveler she truly desires to be.
Dr. Donald L. Piccoli is a chiropractic physician and certified in advanced Nutrition Response Testing. He is the director of Holistic Solutions in Kensington, CT.