Fat Flushing has always defied conventional wisdom.
Its novel approach to weight loss first made waves in the Fat Flush Plan when I suggested there are “hidden” weight gain factors, beyond diet, exercise, and your own willpower, that are making you fat. Research now confirms weight loss is also about an array of newly uncovered concerns that are contributing to the unrestrained obesity epidemic. When you address and correct seemingly unrelated factors like microbes, fish oil, iodine deficiency, and copper overload, you can drop those pounds for good. You’ll restore the body’s natural ability to regulate metabolism and detoxify. Controlling what is really weighing you down might just change your total outlook and your outfit.
So let’s take a more careful look at the new research that has enhanced many of the fundamental Fat Flush protocols.
Gut Bacteria Tied to Weight Loss
Counting on supplemental probiotics (beneficial bacteria or friendly flora) may be the real deal when it comes to losing weight. A newly introduced probiotic, which can also be used as a natural sweetener, is the Fat Flushing response to the research published in Nature (December 2006), which suggested there is a strong connection between obesity and the levels of certain types of bacteria in the gut. The researchers basically found that without the right amounts of friendly bacteria, animals got “twice as fat” and utilized more calories from the same amount of food than those with the more normal bacteria ratio.
For years, beneficial bacteria (or friendly flora) have been well known to fight yeast, combat disease-causing bacteria, help clean out parasites, and break down toxins. A lack of the beneficial bacteria has been connected to ulcers, digestive difficulties, bad breath, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, menopausal discomforts, acne, eczema and psoriasis, arthritis, persistent aches and pains, as well as asthma, sinusitis, and kidney stones. And now there is a connection to weight.
Probiotics, which means “for life,” play an important role in the digestion of foods and help to produce B vitamins, vitamin K, as well as digesting fiber—the short-chain fatty acids upon which your colon desperately relies. These friendly flora assist your system in the production of digestive enzymes and stomach acid while helping to transport nutrients.
In the right balance of power, a ratio of 85:15 in favor of the “good guy” bacteria, probiotics are so vital to good health they are considered an “organ” by many experts. In reality these friendly flora also make up most of your immune system because 60 percent of your immune system’s receptor cells are in your large intestine while another 15 percent reside in the small intestine.
Probiotics represent the next wave of health and healing and are intimately involved with every organ, tissue, and health concern of the body. It should come as no surprise that researchers made a link between weight and gut bacteria in two studies published in the journal Nature.
This groundbreaking research, conducted at Washington University’s Center for Genome Sciences, initiated a whole science called “infectobesity” that looks at obesity from the microbial and viral standpoint. Simply put: viruses and bacteria may impact the absorption of food and influence gut hormones that regulate appetite and metabolic rate.
The lead author of the study, Jeffrey Gordon, M.D., stated, “Our studies imply that differences in our gut microbial ecology may determine how many calories we are able to extract and absorb from our diet and deposit in our fat cells.” Gordon’s studies showed a significant difference in the bacterial balance in the guts of animals and humans, noting decreased microflora in the gut of those who were obese. While it is still unclear whether this imbalance is a cause or consequence, the potential implications for obese humans to reduce weight by balancing gut bacteria is downright fascinating.
For years, probiotics have been an integral part of my dietary protocols in books like Guess What Came to Dinner, The Fast Track Detox Diet and The Gut Flush Plan. For the basic weight loss and cleansing purposes of Fat Flush for Life, I am recommending a powdered probiotic supplement that I have been using in private practice for over a decade, Flora-Key. It can do double-duty as an immune booster and natural sweetener since we are cutting out sugar, sugar alcohols, and even artificial sweeteners like aspartame or Splenda®. My one exception is the legal cheat Stevia.
In Fat Flush for Life, Flora-Key is a key dietary ingredient in no-heat foods like frappes, fruits and the Green Life Cocktail (more about that in a moment). It contains a basic combination of lactobacillus, bifidobacterium and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) from complex sugars that function as a prebiotic. A prebiotic is a food that feeds the beneficial bacteria while discouraging pathogens. FOS is a naturally occurring sweetener in fruits and some vegetables, which provides the taste buds with the sweetness of sugar but the molecules are too big to be digested by the body as sugar. Since FOS is digested, this sweetener doesn’t affect blood sugar levels. It also can’t be utilized by Candida albicans, other yeasts and some bacteria. The best news about FOS though is that it provides a benefit that none of the other sweeteners do: It nourishes and promotes the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria such as bifidobacteria in your large intestine without feeding pathogenic bacteria.
This makes it a potentially good-for-you sweetener for people struggling with weight, yeast infections, and other GI disorders. With Flora-Key, you get the best of both worlds: a probiotic fed by a prebiotic. You can take two to three teaspoons per day.
For heavy-duty immune enhancement, I stand by Dr. Ohhira's Probiotic 12 Plus™, found in health food stores all over the country. It contains all the beneficial lactic acid bacteria found in humans. Perhaps its major claim to fame is its patented TH10 strain that neutralizes the smart bugs (like salmonella and E. coli ) that spread food borne disease and are resistant to antibiotics. More than a probiotic, this product represents a flora-balancing system. It improves gut pH for the benefit of other friendly flora while requiring no refrigeration and is dairy, soy, and gluten-free. Best yet, the product is backed by nearly 15 years of university backed scientific research.
Aiding the probiotic process, are even more potent fat-flushing elements like chia seeds and the Green Life Cocktail, a green superfood drink. Chia seeds are the richest known source of omega-3s and blood sugar controlling soluble fiber which act as a fuel that probiotics ferment into healing compounds strengthening the GI tract and boost immunity. The Green Life Cocktail provides purifying chlorophyll that also promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria to assist in longer lasting weight loss while tamping down inflammation. Chlorophyll carries significant amounts of oxygen that zaps disease-promoting anaerobic bacteria in the gut.
Fish Oils Linked To Tummy Fat Reduction
While mainstream media and mainstream products are thankfully taking a more reasonable approach to fat in the diet, gaining an awareness of bad and good fats is critical to maintaining health and achieving weight goals. Along with high lignan flaxseed oil, fish oil is another option. This is because of the reams of research demonstrating how fish oil can make you thinner, soothe arthritis, improve focus, protect the eyes, lower cholesterol, balance out blood sugar, prevent heart disease and boost brainpower. An earlier weight loss study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1999 suggested the EPA and DHA essential fatty acid components of fish oil were responsible for the increased oxidation of fat, the activation of genes that break down fat in the mitochondria, a reduced number of fat cells especially in the tummy region, and an improvement in insulin response.
In terms of weight loss alone, in another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, individuals who consumed fish oil and walked 45 minutes three times a week, lost up to five more pounds than the control group! Researchers noted the combination of fish oil and exercise significantly reduced body fat, which indicates the potential benefit of a combined treatment strategy for optimizing body composition in overweight or obese subjects. Fat Flush for Life reflects this research with the addition of a fish oil option to the original protocol.
Iodine Deficiency and Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism (under activity of the thyroid gland, your body’s energy burner and thermostat) is epidemic. I hear from women of all ages, starting in their late 20s, how the doctor has put them on thyroid meds like Synthyroid® and Armour®. Although the latest statistics suggest that four out of ten Americans have hypothyroidism, I think the number may even be higher due to subclinical thyroid conditions. Next to diabetes, hypothyroidism is the most common endocrine disorder in the country these days. A low-functioning thyroid will slow down your body’s metabolism as well as influence your heart and muscle strength.
Besides the inability to lose weight, hypothyroidism is linked to depression, hair loss, poor eyebrow growth (especially the outer third of the brow), dry skin, irritability, aching wrists, fluid retention, constipation, a coarse voice, decreased blood pressure and premature graying of the hair.
The connection between thyroid function and iodine levels became clear about 60 years ago. The thyroid gland depends upon iodine to make its hormones. T4 has four iodine molecules attached to it and T3 has three iodine molecules. If your body lacks adequate levels of iodine, your thyroid gland can’t produce those all-important T3 and T4 hormones. Why are they important? T4 is a hormone that regulates energy metabolism; it determines how fast your body burns food for energy. T4 is converted to T3. T3 is the active, intracellular thyroid hormone that stimulates energy burning within a cell. And you need 20 times as much T4 as T3 to operate normally. The bottom-line is that iodine is able to restore balance to thyroid hormones whether they are high or low.
According to David Brownstein, M.D., over the past three decades, iodine intake decreased fifty percent while thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroid disorders, and thyroid cancer) increased significantly. Brownstein tested more than 1,000 people at his Michigan clinic and discovered that 95 percent had low, inadequate iodine levels. His findings mirror results found by a national laboratory that tested more than 4,000 individuals.
So how can you tell if your thyroid level is low? Other than the symptoms I describe above, the best way to know for sure is to get tested. You can test and effectively treat your iodine levels by doing a special, iodine loading test pioneered by Guy Abraham, M.D. the visionary endocrinologist. Dr. Abraham’s 24-hour urine test found that most individuals need about 50 mg of iodine per day — far more than the RDA’s recommendation of 150 mcgs.
In higher amounts, iodine acts as an adaptogen and plays a significant role in disorders like polycystic ovary disease, fibrocystic breast disease, sleep apnea, cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, and hormone imbalances. As my friend and colleague Nan Fuchs, Ph.D. points out, while 150 mcg of iodine per day is adequate in preventing goiter there are many benefits to taking more— especially for women. Since women have larger breasts than men and iodine is concentrated in the breast tissue, women simply need more iodine to protect against disease and possibly cancer.
It is important to also note that a low hydrochloric acid level (HCL), healthy stomach acid, can be triggered by an iodine insufficiency because we need iodine to enable chloride to enter the stomach cells. Without enough HCL, the body won’t digest protein or use iron or calcium and magnesium. As we hit the age of 60, our HCL levels decrease by almost half. Increasing your iodine is one good way to increase HCL production naturally, thereby improving digestion.
In light of the importance of iodine to so many bodily functions, you will be shoring up your iodine levels with iodine-rich sea vegetables (hijiki, wakame, kombu, agar, and nori) at least twice a week on the Fat Flush for Life menu plans and incorporating an iodine-rich seasoning (Seaweed Gomasio) for flavor and health.
Copper Overload and Hypothyroidism
Besides being affected by iodine, your thyroid can be suppressed by an elevated copper level. Copper, like iodine, can also inhibit the conversion of the thyroid hormone thyroxin (T4) resulting in a slow down of metabolism on the cellular level. In my experience with Tissue Mineral Analysis (TMA) over the past two decades, I have observed that an elevated tissue level of copper is frequently linked with hypothyroidism, especially when the zinc/copper ratio is higher than ten to one (ideal is eight to one in favor of zinc). In fact, women with low zinc levels also tend to have high copper, a connection that I’ve found in 70 to 80 percent of women. Zinc is typically very deficient in vegetarians, individuals under stress, and those who don’t eat zinc-rich sources of foods like red meat, eggs, and pumpkin seeds.
A copper/zinc imbalance also affects the liver’s ability to detoxify. Copper and zinc are both needed to activate key liver enzymes, so if they are out of balance then your liver is out of balance. This leaves the liver less able to eliminate toxins, including excess copper. The result is high copper and poor liver function.
Copper levels seem to rise and fall in tandem with estrogen levels. So if you are deficient in zinc, the balancing mineral to copper, and/or lacking in progesterone, the hormone which balances estrogen, copper levels tend to rise. Weight gain as well as frontal headaches, menstrual irregularities, food cravings, mood swings, fatigue, depression, and yeast are all common symptoms of copper overload.
Lowered adrenal gland activity is another key reason behind high copper levels. Interestingly, TMA results from my clinical experience show that seven out of ten women have weak adrenal glands. Adrenal gland activity is required to stimulate production of ceruloplasmin, the leading copper binding protein. With diminished adrenal activity, the liver makes less ceruloplasmin and unbound copper starts to gather in various tissues, organs, and glands—like the thyroid.
There are a myriad of external sources for copper exposure. Drinking water (occurs naturally in drinking water in some areas and in some areas it is actually added to municipal water sources as copper sulfate), copper water pipes, copper cookware, birth control pills, copper IUDs, dental fillings, and crowns, put you at risk for copper overload. But the interesting thing is that the typical vegetarian menu contains a high copper and low zinc assortment of foods. Add to this a diet high in phytate-rich grains (like whole grains) known to lower zinc levels and the trouble becomes two-fold.
The truth is we need just a pinch of copper in our bodies. The average person ingests 2.5 to 5.0 milligrams of copper per day; those who eat vegetarian diets typically take in more. The range that is considered safe and adequate to meet our needs is 1.5 to 3.0 milligrams per day; the recommended dietary intake for adults is 2.0. In light of the copper overload from the environment, controlling dietary copper is paramount.
As mentioned earlier, these newly uncovered concerns that are contributing to the unrestrained obesity epidemic. When you address and correct seemingly unrelated factors like microbes, fish oil and iodine deficiency, and copper overload, you can drop those pounds for good. You’ll restore the body’s natural ability to regulate metabolism and detoxify.
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS
Visionary health expert Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, has always been a trendsetter. With millions of followers nationwide, she has the uncanny ability to pinpoint major health concerns and provide solutions years ahead of anybody else.
Highly respected as the grande dame of alternative health and award-winning author of 30 books, she single-handedly launched the weight loss/detox revolution in her New York Times bestseller The Fat Flush Plan. A Connecticut College and Teachers College, Columbia University graduate, Dr. Ann Louise was recognized as one of the top ten nutritionists in the country by Self magazine and was the recipient of the American Medical Writers Association award for excellence. She has been a popular columnist for First magazine since 2003.