Wellness

Is inflammation the reason for your weight gain? Six tips to help

Inflammation isn’t just linked to swollen joints — it plays a role in digestive disorders, allergies and abdominal fat.

Photo: Stephanie Rausser/Trunk Archive

Believe it or not inflammation isn’t just linked to swollen joints — it plays a role in everything from digestive disorders and allergies to autoimmune diseases and abdominal fat. Even more so, it’s very presence can greatly interfere with your fat loss goals.

What does fat loss have to do with inflammation?
Excessive or persistent inflammation leads to tissue destruction, disease and weight gain. Reducing inflammation is an absolutely vital step in allowing the body to lose unwanted fat. Essentially PPARs are the masters of the fat-burning pathways in our liver and muscle cells. They influence the interaction between our insulin sensitivity, inflammation and weight. A PPAR imbalance contributes to inflammation, obesity and insulin resistance. Because of this interaction, anti-inflammatory supplements and insulin-sensitizing lifestyle habits, which help to optimize the fat-burning capabilities of our PPARs, can be highly beneficial in the fight against obesity. Incorporate these six suggestions to get your inflammation under control – and slim your waistline.

1. Improve your digestive health
A whopping 60 percent of the immune system is clustered around the digestive tract. Compromises to digestion, including food allergies, bacterial imbalance, deficiency of enzymes or acids, yeast overgrowth, parasites and stress, negatively affect not only the process of digestion but also our entire immune system. I begin the treatment of every patient by focusing on digestion first simply for these reasons. Painful conditions such as gas, bloating, heartburn, reflux, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are all related to inflammation in the digestive system. Find out how well your digestive system is working here.

2. Get your immune system in check
Many experts now view inflammation as a symptom of an immune system in constant overdrive. When the body is stuck in this state, even ordinarily mild stressors such as viral infections, emotional stress or exposure to household chemicals can cause the immune system to wildly overreact. Allergies, autoimmune disease and tissue destruction can result when our immune system is working too hard to protect us. If you have thyroid antibodies for example, you can believe your immune system has gone awry.

Bottom line: I recommend taking 200 mcg selenium along with plant sterols to calm an overactive immune system — and in turn reduce inflammation.

3. Nix nasty nutritional habits
Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that overconsumption of any one macronutrient — protein, carbohydrate or fat — can contribute to inflammation. They also identified immediate effects of specific foods on inflammation. Orange juice, for instance, was shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Red wine was found to be neutral, whereas cream promoted inflammation. The team also discovered that overweight test subjects experienced significant changes in free radical stress indicators and inflammation just one week after starting a more nutritious diet. Considering the long-term health benefits of reducing inflammation — from bathroom scale to joint health and beyond — this rapid change is extremely encouraging.

4. Test your blood inflammatory levels
Two blood tests for highly sensitive C-reactive protein and homocysteine are the simplest and best diagnostic tools currently available to assess inflammation and can be ordered through your physician. Hs-CRP is a marker of inflammation and a risk factor for arterial disease. Levels tend to increase as body fat increases and with insulin resistance. An optimal value is less than 0.8 mg/L.

Homocysteine is an inflammatory protein that, if elevated in the blood, is a proven independent risk factor for heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. And like Hs-CRP, homocysteine has been found to increase with insulin resistance. An optimal value is less than 6.3.

5. Add in systemic enzymes
There are certain proteins in the body that stimulate and others that suppress inflammation. Under normal circumstances, your body balances the two. In the case of an inflammatory or immune response, however, your body can get out of control. Systemic enzymes support that balancing process, assisting normal inflammatory responses. The most popular brand is Wobenzym, which has shown to improve everything from thyroid antibodies, endometriosis, and joint pain to post-surgery recovery and scar tissue.

Bottom line: Take 3-8 tablets with water 2-3 times a day on an empty stomach (30 minutes before eating or 2 hours after food). I find dosing on rising and before bed to be the simplest schedule to stick to.

6. Switch your fish oils
While for many purposes a regular extra strength fish oil is exactly what the doctor recommended, when it comes to high levels of inflammation I often have my patients switch to a fish oil with a 6:1 EPA/DHA ratio for a period of three months. EPA alters the level of a hormone called eicosanoids, which controls inflammation and pain. Fish oil that favours EPA can be extremely effective at breaking the inflammatory cycle.

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.