I’ve discussed at length on this blog and in my other resources on the importance of a healthy gastrointestinal tract being a necessity for long-term weight loss.
The GI tract is where the majority of nutrient assimilation takes place, the degree of which is determined by the balance of good and bad bacteria there.
A poor diet, primarily high in sugars, starches, refined foods, etc, combined with elevated levels of stress and inactivity, antibiotic use, excessive alcohol consumption, and other factors can all contribute to gastrointestinal imbalances.
This imbalance can happen slowly over time and is not always evident by the individual. Hormonal changes such as those associated with menopause, or due to certain medications, a stressful period of your life, etc, can trigger an overgrowth of yeast in the gut and make symptoms more noticeable.
More after the jump…
I refer to this as a hidden obstacle to fat loss as many people fail to address GI balance in part of a weight loss program because they don’t think of it being a factor. Make no mistakes however, it most certainly is a key factor.
While the contributing factors that lead to GI imbalances are numerous, in today’s post I want to focus on some common ground with foods to help restore balance.
The first and most obvious step is to minimize or eliminate processed and refined foods. The diet must be made up primarily of whole, natural foods, for balance in your gut to be restored. Yes, that means cutting out the sodas, sugary snacks and foods, excessive alcohol, and high consumption of starch carbohydrates.
Here is a list of foods I’d recommend pulling out or minimizing while looking to restore GI balance:
- wheat products (including those which are gluten free)
- malt vinegars
- processed sugars
- “sugar-free” processed foods with sugar alcohols
- fried foods
- pretzels, chips, and other processed snacks
- high sugar fruits like melons
- pasteurized milk
- ice cream
- processed cheeses
What do these foods have in common? They either contain yeast or they’re high in sugar content, which serves to feed yeast and other bacteria in your gut. By feeding the “bad bacteria” and yeast, this increases inflammation in the GI tract and results in metabolic wastes and toxins leaking from the gut into the bloodstream.
Chronic inflammation triggers an immune response and cortisol levels are increased to deal with the internal “stress.” Long story short, your body is out of balance and fat stores are increased to deal with the toxins.
So let’s look at the flip side, what are some foods that help to restore GI balance?
- raw apple cider vinegar
- ginger root
- berries and other low sugar, high fiber fruits
- psyllium husk powder
- lean proteins
- black teas
- raw almonds
- flaxseed oil or flaxseed meal
- fish oils
- chia seeds
- cayenne pepper powder
What do these foods, drink, herbs, etc, have in common? They’re not feeding the yeast and bacteria in your gut and in many cases may assist with killing off the yeast.
In addition you’ll want to increase your consumption of fermented foods such as the following:
- Cottage cheese
- Plain all natural yogurt
- Greek yogurt
- Pickled cucumbers
- Pickled beets
- Pickled radishes
- Korean Kimichi
- Fermented Tofu
These foods all contain healthy prebiotics which serve to build up the balance of probiotics in your gut, the “good guys.”
Taking probiotics in powdered or capsule form may be very beneficial as well. In essence, you want to remove the foods the feed the yeast, while consuming food, drink, and herbs that work to restore a healthy balance in the gut.
I can’t say enough about the benefits of soluble fiber like psyllium husk powder, which acts as nature’s broom cleaning out the walls of the GI tract.
One of my top recommendations to new personal training clients starting out on a weight loss program is to begin with a detox/cleanse. There are numerous ways to do a detox/cleanse, but my top choice for beginners is to do a gradual, gentle cleanse.
The Advocare Herbal Cleanse is an excellent product to use during this phase. It contains fiber, probiotics, and herbal compounds in tablet form, which all work synergistically along with a clean diet to restore GI balance.
Click here to learn more or to order the Advocare Herbal Cleanse
It won’t have you running to the bathroom all day or leave you struggling with headaches, strong hunger, sugar cravings, etc, associated with more aggressive cleanses and detox’s.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of short term green and juice fasts (2-5 days), going raw, and other more aggressive cleanses. I’ve just found that it’s best to work up to these with first going on a more gradual approach.
Major swings in diet often come with their own set of challenges and difficult symptoms. My ultimate goal is restoring balance for the long-term and this will require some “stick-with-it-ness.” Look to make gradual changes with your diet and your compliance and chances for success will be significantly increased.
One thing that doesn’t always get discussed enough is the rapid release of toxins and metabolic waste from aggressive approaches. This often contributes to the individual feeling worse before they feel better. For obvious reasons it may be best to minimize the harsh symptoms of detoxing and cleansing.
We’re an instant gratification society and want to see results come rapidly, but that may not be in your best interest. This is a marathon and not a sprint. Make changes you can live with and simply look to commit to the big picture with restoring your health. One or two things at a time, instead of a major overhaul.
That’s the best piece of advice I can provide after working with weight loss clients for over twenty years. Take it slow, be methodical about your changes, and stay focused on the big picture. You won’t undo months or years of damage from a poor diet, etc, in a matter of days. It’s going to take some time, so be patient.
Let the gradual increases in energy, improved sleep, increased focus, and the other small improvements provide the momentum towards continued progress. Don’t get overly focused on the scale as your sole indicator for progress.
Work from the inside-out and you’ll establish a foundation for long-term, lasting weight loss.
Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. He specializes in helping people achieve a body transformation with burst training exercise and whole food nutrition. You can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal fitness programs and start experiencing the Shaping Concepts difference today.