“Life’s already complicated, weight management shouldn’t be”-Naria Le Mire, RD
Weekly nutrition posts about weight management, hormones, and gut health!
Happy gut, healthy life!
When most think of gut health many different thoughts come to mind including pre- and probiotics, fruit and vegetable intake, fiber and an overall healthy diet with minimally processed foods. Which yes, they are extremely important and should be considered when aiming to improve one’s gut health. However, many tend to miss a vital predictor of gut health which is anxiety and stress levels. How does stress affect one’s amazing microbiome AKA gut health?
Well, first let’s briefly review the microbiome. Every human has a microbiome full of microbiota (the bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract), and as we know, beneficial and non beneficial bacteria exist and that includes the ones in our gut microbiome. This unique ecosystem requires an equilibrium that helps not only the gut microbiota AKA gut health flourish but also benefits one’s health via prevention of illnesses and infections. When the equilibrium is off (possibly related to chronic stress), it can result in gut dysbiosis (imbalance in the gut) which increases the risk of illnesses and infections. Now, back to the question.
As humans living on earth, some anxiety and stress is expected. During stressful events our bodies release certain hormones to combat the stress which is normal. However, individuals who experience chronic stress may create imbalances, basically their bodies ability to “combat” stress becomes fatigued. Overactivation of stress related hormones such as glucocorticoids can impair one’s immune system and negatively affect their gut health.
Fortunately, you can be proactive and have a healthy microbiome! You can first consider practicing mindful stress management techniques. Oftentimes, when I begin working with my clients, I inquire about their stress and anxiety levels because I know the massive impact it can have on their gut health. Simple changes in one’s daily routine to reduce anxiety and stress can include taking mindful breaks and walking outside and to get fresh air, taking deep and slow breaths or adopting new habits (personally I began cycling and I love it!). As a dietitian nutrition coach, a massive part of my practice is to prevent chronic conditions and therefore focusing on gut health is vital! You can’t talk about health without mentioning the gut. And again, apart from stress management, focusing on a variety of fruits/vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and a minimally processed diet must also be considered such as the Mediterranean diet (which I personally love).
In summary, happy gut, healthy life! (6/2/22)
How can hormones impact your weight management goals?
As you pursue to improve your health, it’s vital to consider various factors that are often missed.
Often, simple changes including improving sleeping patterns and practicing stress management techniques can greatly improve your health and help support weight management goals.
How does stress and inadequate sleep impact your weight goals?
Under normal circumstances, hormonal changes can counter the change due to stress.
However, chronic stress (stress that is not managed and has been present for months/years) does not have the same effect with the counter interactions.
You can think of this as your body getting tired of “fighting” back and the counter effects are no longer as effective.
What does that mean?
Hormones that are related with hunger regulation are not working as they normally would which can lead to INCREASED appetite.
SImilarly, unhealthy sleeping patterns can cause hormonal changes including leptin (helps with appetite regulation), ghrelin (increases appetite) and cortisol (primary stress hormone that increases blood glucose and can cause undesirable weight gain).
What can you do?
Prioritize sleep! Turn off the television, leave the phone outside your bedroom. Simple changes and removing distractions can help support healthy sleeping patterns.
Practice mindful stress management techniques! Breath, walk, and/or swim. Do something that brings your soul to ease.
Your body will thank you.
Remember, you’re in a relationship with your own body and if you don’t treat it correctly, it will become fatigued. We ask a lot from our body, so fuel it right!
How can you improve your gut health?
The connection between your gut and body is getting A LOT of attention from researchers as we are seeing MORE and MORE that many illnesses begin in the gut.
So what can we do to help and support this amazing system we have?
Respect that it’s a HARD worker and fuel it so it can help you in return!
Consider pre and probiotics- These are what helps fuel our GI system. What do they mean?
Prebiotics: Found in fruit, vegetables and grains. You can think of these as the “food” for you microbiome (also known as the bacteria in your GI system)
Probiotics: Found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha.
NOTE: You may or may not benefit from a probiotic, consult with your gastroenterology team to review options.
Are you considering your fiber intake?
Yep, you should be getting both SOLUBLE and INSOLUBLE fiber from your diet.
What does this mean?
Soluble: This fiber helps create a stool that can move along easily.
Insoluble: This fiber adds bulk to the stool. It can also help reduce LDL cholesterol (bad), about 10 grams of insoluble fiber can help reduce your LDL by >5 points!
Consuming adequate fiber and properly hydration KEEPS THINGS MOVING and prevents toxic materials that remain in the gastrointestinal tract longer than necessary (reducing your risk for colon cancer). That makes your gut microbiome (bacteria) happy and allows them to flourish.
So eat your fiber, drink your water and treat your gut right!
Is lean body mass important?
It’s all over social media, models, movie stars, and even our friends and family are doing it. I’m referring to rapid weight loss to fit into a dress or to obtain a certain look for summer or an important event. Although the short term outcome may seem desirable, those who pursue rapid weight loss should also consider the risk involved with such drastic changes.
As we lose weight various changes occur that are often missed as they are not visible, at least not at first. Risks of rapid weight loss include development of gallstones (from changes with fat metabolism), loss of lean body mass, and an increased risk for non communicable conditions such as alzhmeiers, cancer and heart disease.
Lean body mass is beneficial as it can: 1) Improve metabolism-The more lean body mass you have the higher your basal metabolic rate (BMR) will be which means the calories your body needs to simply exist can be higher compared to someone with lower BMR. 2) Reduces inflammation- Chronic inflammation increases risk for various health conditions including heart disease, arthritis, alzheimer’s disease, cancer and diabetes. 3) Boosts your immunity- When we become sick (illness, infection, wounds etc.), our bodies demand for protein increases. This new demand may not be fully met by one’s diet and therefore the body begins to break down stored muscle to meet new protein needs. These are just to name a few benefits, we didn’t even talk about how stress involved with rapid weight loss (or any stress) can dramatically impact one’s health! Therefore, hold onto your lean body mass as it’s gold!
As a weight management dietitian, I can tell you that weight loss is not as simple as calories in and calories out. Our bodies are built to survive, it will catch on and alter your BMR. Weight management is largely based on habits, our day to day choices. Our food choices and physical activity habits will largely dictate your results. However, food choices play a larger role than physical activity when discussing weight management. And yes, genetics do indeed play a role in weight management. However, your genes do not determine your outcome, just your path.
Crash diets and rapid weight loss can be a path to eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and other health conditions. As any health provider will say, the dangers of crash diets outweigh the short term benefits of any glorification. As influencers seek validation and acceptance from the public, it often takes priority to the message that should be sent to young individuals. As we recently noticed, Kim Kardashian lost a vast amount of weight in a short period of time. Although the prestige and glorification of wearing such an amazing dress may have seemed worth the effort, it wasn’t. Truth is, she could have simply worn a replica or chosen a different dress. She would have looked just as amazing and her fans would have praised her for it. Having an open mind to these types of crash diets can be extremely damaging for the youth who look up to people like her. Although it’s not the responsibility of famous individuals to encourage healthy habits, they should definitely empathize with the need to encourage these things. Further, I would highly encourage parents to talk to their children about healthy habits. As a parent myself, we have to be aware of what is out in the world and address it at home.
Simply, working on sustainable changes with gradual weight loss is most often key to long term success. As I always mention to my clients, “Are we worried about today or 5-20 years from now?” Our quality of life as we get older is largely dictated by the choices we make today. Therefore, choose wisely friends.
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