Functional Medicine Approach to Weight Loss

Did you start this year with the promise to lose those extra pounds? Is this your second, third, fourth or umpteenth attempt to lose that weight that just doesn’t want to go away? If so, and you haven’t made it yet, it’s not too late. It is time for you to achieve that goal that you set so much for yourself. This article will be your guide on the weight loss journey, which includes finding the perfect diet for you, overcoming the underlying causes of weight gain, as well as perfecting your diet for your unique needs with the focus of functional medicine.

What is functional medicine?

The term, and the field of functional medicine, refers to something completely different than what we have so far come to know as conventional medicine or the standard model of care. To fully understand what functional medicine is, it is important to contrast it with conventional medicine.

Herein lies the clear distinction and definition of functional medicine. Instead of asking, „What medications match this disease?“ Functional medicine asks the vital questions that very few conventional physicians ask: „Why is function lost?“ „Why do you have this problem in the first place“ and „What can we do to restore function?“ In other words, functional medicine seeks to find the root cause or mechanism involved with any loss of function, which ultimately reveals why a set of symptoms is there in the first place, or why the patient has a certain disease.

Functional Medicine Approach to Weight Loss

In functional medicine, when carrying out a diet, it is first of all necessary to eliminate all toxic and inflammatory foods from it, and identify any personal food sensitivities. If you are eating a processed junk food diet (yes, even junk food labeled „healthy“, „gluten free“, „low calorie“, or „low fat“), or you are eating foods that have a sensitivity, you are continually damaging your gut, altering hormones, and stressing your immune system, all of which can cause weight gain.

Your body is designed to eat and digest real foods – meats, vegetables, and fruits – not those foods that are packaged, even those labeled gluten-free or other ingredients that cause intolerances. When you feed your body processed foods that are high in calories, poor in nutrients, and full of toxic chemicals, it doesn’t work properly. Your systems get out of control, the pounds begin to pile up, you tire easily, and it can become difficult to concentrate. Does it sound familiar to you?

The good news is, you just need to change your diet to one of clean, whole foods that your body can digest to reverse all these symptoms and give your weight loss a boost. After your body has had a break from constant inflammation, and you have begun to digest the „real“ foods, you can add foods one at a time, to find out which ones you do get along with (and can continue eating), and with which ones you have a sensitivity.

How to combat the underlying causes of stubborn weight?

For a small group of people, switching to a clean, anti-inflammatory diet is helpful, but it is not enough to get you all the way to weight loss. If you are in this field, it is very likely that there are underlying health problems that sabotage your weight loss. Let’s take a look at what the underlying health issues might be, and how you can overcome them.

1. Underactive thyroid

An estimated 20 million people in the US alone have a thyroid problem, and only 60% of them are fully aware of it. Hypothyroidism, which is an underactive torus, accounts for 90 percent of all thyroid imbalances, and one of the main symptoms of hypothyroidism is unexplained weight gain or the inability to lose weight.

This is because the thyroid is responsible for regulating many of your body’s processes, including metabolism. So, if your thyroid is underactive, your metabolism will slow down and your total energy production will decrease. In addition to an inability to lose weight, hypothyroidism can lead to fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, muscle and joint pain, hair loss, constipation, mental confusion, and a low body temperature.

If you suspect that you may have hypothyroidism, it is important that you get a complete thyroid blood test or exam to get a proper diagnosis. Most conventional physicians only use one or two tests, compared to a full panel of tests, and use the „normal“ laboratory reference ranges as their guide.

2. Chronic stress as a factor to gain weight

You’ve likely heard that stress contributes to weight gain, but it goes way beyond the urge to go for chocolate after a long and stressful day. When you experience stress, your body releases a large amount of cortisol, the hormone that powers the fight or flight response. One unfortunate side effect of cortisol is that it can actually make you gain weight and prevent you from losing it.

On the other hand, when you’re chronically stressed, your cortisol levels keep rising, which can cause progressive weight gain or a drop in weight loss.

Numerous studies have shown that when an animal is stressed, it tends to gain weight, even if it is eating the same number of calories as before it was stressed. These studies also showed that stressed animals gain more weight than non-stressed animals, both eating exactly the same number of calories.

If you are having a hard time losing weight, take an honest look at your daily stress levels. Are you constantly being overworked? Are you doing something to reduce stress? If not, you will need to incorporate stress reduction techniques into your program.

3. Other hormonal imbalances that help you gain pounds

Thyroid hormone imbalances and stress are common causes of an inability to lose weight, but they are not the only hormones that can cause a problem. Imbalances in insulin and sex hormones (estrogens, progesterone, testosterone) are also the most common culprits of stubborn weight.

When insulin and blood sugar levels are low, you can experience sugar cravings, weakness, irritability, and excess belly fat. An imbalance in sex hormones can lead to an inability to lose weight, in addition to loss of muscle mass, poor sleep, memory problems, and sexual difficulties.

4. Toxic overload

Today’s modern world is full of dangerous chemicals, heavy metals, drugs, and other toxins that can wreak havoc on the endocrine system. Many of the toxins in your water and household and personal care products, such as shampoo, lotion, candles, and makeup, mimic the activity of hormones, such as estrogen. This disruption in the natural hormonal cycle can cause an inability to lose weight, as well as other more serious problems, such as autoimmune diseases.

How to Optimize Your Diet for Even More Weight Loss?

If you have already adapted to a clean diet that is suitable for your particular needs, you have identified all the underlying causes of weight gain, and you want to optimize your weight loss even more, let’s dig a little deeper.

These are some additional tips within functional medicine that can help you fine-tune your diet, and achieve a balance in your lifestyle.

  1. Get a clear picture of the total calories you eat versus the calories you burn.

Calorie counting within functional medicine is generally not highly recommended as, as mentioned, it can create added stress and extra work for many people, but you have already ruled out all underlying causes and are not making as much progress as you wish, the cause may simply be that you are eating too many calories. Even excess calories from healthy foods can cause weight gain.

There are many exercise and calorie apps out there that you can download right to your phone. These tools estimate your optimal daily calorie intake based on your height, weight, and gender, and then compare it to the actual number of calories you consume throughout the day. Most of them also allow you to track your exercise, so you can compare the total calories ingested with the calories burned.

You don’t have to count calories throughout the entire program, but you can spend a few days or a week in putting your meals and workouts to get an idea of ​​where you stand. If you find that your daily calorie intake exceeds your recommended calorie needs, back off a bit by reducing your portion sizes or cutting back on high-calorie foods.

  1. Find the right balance between carbohydrates, protein and fat.

If you’ve tracked calories and are within the recommended ranges, take a look at your macronutrient ratio – carbohydrates, protein, and fat. In the 1980s and 1990s, low-fat diets were all the rage. Fat was demonized and blamed for excess weight and health problems. In functional medicine we know that healthy and beneficial fats are very important, and the pendulum is turning the other way, as low-carb diets are gaining popularity.

The truth is that there is nothing 100% certain for weight loss, or health in general. It is true that fat is high in calories and that protein and carbohydrates can cause unwanted spikes in blood sugar, but the goal is not to cut completely with entire groups of macronutrients. All three types of macronutrients are essential for your body to function, the goal is to find the right balance for your body.

If you need to cut down on total calories, you could try cutting fat (but not cutting it off). If you’re not doing well on carbohydrates, focus on getting them through low-carb foods, like green vegetables, rather than higher-carb foods like sweet potatoes.

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