Nutritional Therapists look at the human body like the roots of a tree. Feed the roots and the tree thrives. Feed the roots of health in the human body and the body thrives. In Nutritional Therapy, we call these roots Foundations. When these Foundations crumble, the health of the body crumbles. For most people that equates to weight gain. Weight gain is just a symptom of underlying imbalances in these Foundations.
If you’ve been reading these blogs I’ve already discussed at length what is in my opinion, the #1 underlying cause of not only weight gain but also poor health in general: Blood Sugar Balance. Everyone must have stable blood sugar to be healthy. Too much sugar will raise cholesterol, withdraw minerals from your body, suppress the immune system, lead to heart problems, type II diabetes, etc. etc. I’ve talked at length about this so I don’t want to repeat myself. Just read some of my recent posts and that will get you up to speed.
Beyond sugar, there are other underlying issues that contribute to weight gain and poor health. Over the course of the next several blogs, I will detail these underlying issues and tell you what you can do about it.
But before we dig in, a shameless act of self-promotion. In a few weeks I’ll be starting a 12 week weight loss program that is designed specifically to get at the roots of weight loss. If you live in the Pioneer Valley and would be interested, please check out the ‘weight loss program’ link right here on my website. My friend, Nancy, has created a short video describing the program.
OK, no more self-promotion!
Ready to truly get at the roots of your weight issue? Let’s go!
Underlying Cause #2: Digestion
50% of all Americans have some degree of digestive dysfunction. You can eat a healthy diet but if you don’t have the digestive capacity to break down and absorb the nutrients in your food, you cannot be healthy. I see this all the time. Heartburn, bloating, constipation, IBS and candida are just a few common digestive problems that are afflicting more and more people at younger and younger ages.
Let me ask you a question: Why are antacids the best selling drugs in America?
Don’t answer. I will tell you: Because they work!
However, they solve a symptom not a cause. Let’s understand why.
Your stomach is akin to a blender. That blender must be on high speed to break down your food so that it can be easily absorbed in the small intestine. And the acid in your stomach determines the speed. It drives digestion. What happens if that blender speed slows down, if that acid diminishes? You guessed it, digestion slows. Undigested food now sits in your stomach. You feel bloated. You feel sick. Remember your stomach is much warmer than room temperature. It’s hot in there! So now the food starts to ferment, putrefy and expand. You burp after meals. You get gassy. Your breath stinks.
If a little of that putrefying food refluxes back into your esophagus, you get a burning sensation. This is heartburn. Unlike your stomach, the lining of your esophagus is not made for the acid. So it burns.
So you take an antacid. The burning stops. But the underlying issue persists. So you start taking antacids like Tums, Rolaids, Alka-Seltzer or Pepto-Bismol. But then they stop doing the job so you move up to more powerful drugs known as acid blockers that literally shut down the acid producing cells in your stomach. Prilosec and Zantac are two examples.
So the question is what is the underlying cause of low acid levels? At the top of that list would be nutrient deficient, processed, sugar-laden foods. To produce stomach acid, your body needs things like zinc and B vitamins for proper production. The S.A.D. does not provide the raw materials for this. Things like overeating, over consuming carbohydrates, stress, alcohol and of course antacids themselves have been show to diminish acid production as well.
And when this happens, our metabolism slows.
Digestion is also a north to south process. Poor acid production also affects things further south in the digestive process. If food is not broken down properly, it assaults the intestines with just that, undigested food. And more problems result.
So what to do?
If you’re deficient in vitamin D, you take vitamin D, right? Deficient in minerals? Take minerals. Well, when the acid in your stomach becomes deficient, it is no different. Supplement with acid! You might be surprised to learn that all health food stores sell supplemental hydrochloric acid for use as a digestive aid. Dosing can be a little tricky as some need more than others, so be sure to see a qualified practitioner.
There are many other things that can boost the body’s acid production. One of the most low tech methods is to take a little apple cider vinegar before meals. Various herbs and bitters are known to help as well.
But to me the most important thing is the diet. I’ve seen so many cases of heartburn and stomach problems resolve with dietary changes alone. Start there. Reduce the starches and sugars in your diet and see what happens. At the top of that list would be refined carbohydrates. Next would come grains, even whole ones, as they’re hard on the body’s digestive system. You might find that not only do your digestive symptoms improve, but the numbers on the scale start going down too.
So Nutritional Therapists always help people with their digestion. Together with balancing the blood sugar, these two are in my opinion, the ultimate Foundations. I call them the twin pillars of good health. Because when they start to correct, many of the other roots of the tree start to correct on their own.
Of course, if we’ve been eating the SAD for decades, it can take some time for the roots to start thriving again. In the next blog, I’ll detail some of the other roots that need additional attention and support as well.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.