It is no secret that obesity has skyrocketed in the past 20 years. This metabolic epidemic accounts for 21 percent of all health care costs in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 1/3 of Americans are obese and another third are overweight. From diabetes, heart disease to cancer, obesity is linked with an increase in almost every chronic disease plaguing western society. For the first time ever, in 2011, chronic disease killed more people than infectious disease.
The weight loss industry is a multibillion dollar juggernaut, offering countless ways to "get skinny quick!" with the next popular magic pill or product. It may be just me, but in my opinion, there are no magic pills! Conventional wisdom tells us that the key to weight loss is based on the rough concept of "calories in vs. calories out." That if, if you just restrict the amount of food you consume and eat like a rabbit , you'll be a supermodel. This antiquated view brings the yo-yo dieter short-term success at best.
So what's the missing link here? In Functional Medicine, my goal is to look at the underlying causes of chronic issues like weight loss resistance. As with any chronic condition, weight loss resistance is multi-factorial, having many pieces to the puzzle. One of the biggest pieces of the weight loss puzzle is where the majority of your immune system resides, and where almost all of your body's serotonin — your mood regulator — is produced: your gut.
The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, collectively known as the microbiome. Your body is comprised of 15 trillion human cells, and about 90 trillion bacterial cells. The bacteria in our bodies contain at least 150 times more genes, collectively, than our human genome — you could say you are more bacteria than you are human!
Our Western diet, filled with refined grains, sugar, bad fats (such as canola, vegetable, corn and soybean oil) and environmental toxins, causes inflammation in the gut, which can lead to leaky gut syndrome. This increased gut permeability allows endotoxins from bacteria to escape the protective gut lining and circulate through the body, causing systemic inflammation. This systemic inflammation can affect the hypothalamic cells of your brain — known as Leaky Brain Syndrome — which can lead to leptin resistance. Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, is supposed to tell your brain to burn fat for energy and to tell your body when it is full. With leptin resistance, the brain doesn't get the message.
Welcome to weight loss resistance. A struggle with weight loss can be an issue from childhood for some people. C-section births or antibiotic use, while sometimes necessary, come with a cost of a disadvantaged microbiome. From the moment we are born through the birth canal, we acquire beneficial bacteria. Throughout time our gut has depended on our environment — our food, animals, being outside — to provide the diverse healthy bacteria that keep us healthy and at our optimal weight. Our sanitized life came with a price tag of chronic disease and obesity.
So what's the solution?
1. Comprehensive gut diagnostics to uncover underlying gut issue.
2. Remove yeast, fungal, parasitic or bacterial overgrowth.
3. Repair the gut mucosa.
4. Reinoculate friendly flora with fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kimchi.
5. Restore liver detoxification, so your body can eliminate toxins properly.
So remember, being overweight is not the cause of why someone is unhealthy, it's a symptom. Furthermore, weight loss is not synonymous with health. Arsenic and cancer will cause you to lose weight, too.
We have to realize that the end doesn't justify the means. We should get healthy to lose weight, not lose weight to get healthy. When we find the underlying pieces of the puzzle, like leptin resistance and gut distress, we can create sustainable solutions for optimal health.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian,The Inflammation Spectrum, and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.