Functional Medicine weight loss isn’t a magic pill, and it’s not a new fad diet with the “perfect” exercise plan. Functional Medicine recognizes that weight gain and obesity have deep-rooted causes that cannot simply be corrected by restricting calories and exercising more. Weight loss and obesity are signs of immune dysfunction, or in other words, inflammation. To be successful at losing weight and keeping it off, we must consider what is activating the immune system and causing inflammation to go unchecked. Sure, eating a better diet and moving your body are important habits for supporting immune function, and that may be exactly what some people need to do to correct the inflammation. But for others, there are other factors that go unaddressed and leave your efforts futile and frustrating.
So what might be causing your inflammation and resistant weight loss? Diet? Toxins? An imbalanced microbiome? Lack of (or too much) movement? A suboptimal thyroid? Nutrient deficiencies? Food sensitivities and intolerances? There’s a lot to consider, but it’s worth it and I’ll walk you through it.
Below are the recommendations I make over and over in my Functional Medicine practice for those seeking to optimize their immune function, decrease inflammation, and lose weight.
Functional Medicine weight loss requires you to find the right diet – for YOU
What works for your best friend or coworker may not work for you. There is no successful one-size-fits-all diet plan. There are many things to consider when trying to determine what foods you should (and should not) be eating: food sensitivities and intolerances, gut health needs, activity levels, toxin exposures, stage of life, GI surgeries, and many other things.
- Identify food sensitivities and intolerances with an Elimination & Reintroduction Diet.
- A short-term keto diet or low-carb diet may help people with high blood sugar and high blood pressure.
- Don’t throw out entire food groups long term. It takes a little time, but it is worth experimenting to figure out what forms of each food group you can handle and can’t handle.
- Quality matters more than anything. It is important to purchase grass-fed, pasture-raised/ free-range, organic meat, poultry, and eggs. Purchase organic produce as much as possible, and definitely prioritize the “Clean 15” fruits and vegetables that are most likely to have high levels of pesticides on them.
- Not all calories are equal. 100 calories of grass-fed organic beef are very metabolically different than 100 calories of donut.
- An imbalanced microbiome produces metabolites that communicate with your brain and directly contribute to cravings.
Address your gut health with Functional Medicine principles – your microbiome must be optimized!
The microbiome (the bacteria, yeast, and viruses) that reside in your gastrointestinal tract (mostly your large intestine) is the control center for your body. You have 10 times more cells of bacteria in your gut than the rest of your body, and over 100 times more bacterial DNA than your own DNA. This ecosystem has a profound impact on your metabolism and hormone production and detoxification – which explains why it has so much influence on your weight status. Additionally, 70% of your immune system resides in your gut and the microbiome is a large component of that. So it makes sense then that a suboptimal microbiome leads to suboptimal immune function.
Most people may not realize their inflammation is coming from the gut because their symptoms show up elsewhere, like in their weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, or hormonal imbalances. You don’t have to have GI symptoms to have a gut issue. The inflammation that starts in the gut travels through the blood stream and shows up wherever you have a genetic susceptibility for illness or dysfunction. Weight gain is just one symptom of immune dysfunction and inflammation.
There are lots of things to consider when working to optimize the gut. I break them down in this podcast, but I also have an online program that walks you through it.
Decrease stress where you can, and implement habits that build resilience
Stress is a huge contributor to immune dysfunction and resistant weight loss. Even if it isn’t the primary or sole issue, stress must be addressed in combination with other lifestyle and environmental factors. We aren’t made to live in “fight or flight” mode all day long as we do in the fast-paced modern world. Living on the go is having a tremendous impact on our immune system, allowing inflammation to burn constantly in our bodies. Weight gain is just one symptom of the stress epidemic.
Exercise is not optional, but more isn’t always better
Exercise is one of the best medicines out there, especially for weight regulation.
- Exercise increases the number and size of mitochondria in your body, which are the energy-factories within your cells, and directly impacts your energy levels and metabolism.
- Exercise promotes hormonal balance.
- Exercise improves immune regulation.
- Exercise helps you sleep, and getting adequate amounts of high-quality sleep is imperative for weight loss and weight management.
- Exercise is great for stress management. Stress wreaks havoc on the microbiome, creating imbalances that can fuel inflammation. It also contributes to other poor lifestyle choices that promote inflammation and weight gain.
- Too much exercise or too much intensity in a season of stress (mental stress, toxic burden, poor sleep, etc) can promote hormonal imbalances that cause the body to retain or put on weight.
Reduce your toxic burden by decreasing toxin exposures and supporting detoxification processes
Toxins are rarely discussed in conventional medicine but it is an environmental impact that MUST be considered when trying to lose weight. Toxins stress the body. Period. Occasionally someone will have a single toxin that is wreaking havoc on their body and/or immune system, but more often than not we are concerned about the overall toxic burden. Toxins can be much more potent when mixed together, and our bodies are exposed to hundreds of toxins on a daily basis. A great resource for learning about toxins in your environment and cleaner alternatives is www.ewg.org.
These are my must-do recommendations:
- Eat clean food. As much as possible for you and your family, opt for foods that are organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, pasture-raised, free-range, wild-caught, etc. Quality matters.
- Drink clean water. A good filter is worth it folks. At the very least, make sure chlorine is filtered out, as it is with most filters. But, if you’re concerned about your thyroid, you probably don’t want to be drinking water with fluoride, which will likely require a reverse osmosis filter like an AquaTru or Berkey.
- Breathe clean air. Change your filters regularly and opt for HEPA filters when you can. Make sure you aren’t exposed to mold.
- Change out your personal and beauty products for more natural, non-toxic alternatives.
Amy’s Total Gut Job is the Functional Medicine program I developed to help clients lose weight, gain energy, balance hormones, optimize thyroid function, heal the gut, and feel better – and it works!
Amy’s Total Gut Job combines the above recommendations into an 8-week, online program you can do anytime. It includes an Elimination & Reintroduction Diet, nutraceuticals to heal the gut and reduce inflammation, 3 hours of educational and instructional videos. I’ve used this protocol with clients for several years with great success, so I made it available to non-clients in hopes of helping even more people lose weight, feel better, and finally understand their body’s needs from a Functional Medicine perspective.
Work With Me & My Team
Interested in using a Functional Medicine approach to losing weight? Here are a few ways you can work with us to implement Functional Medicine principles to lose weight and decrease inflammatory symptoms.
Check out Amy’s Total Gut Job: Dr. Beard’s tried and true GI & Detox Protocol that is now available as an 8-week online program you can do on your own.
Become a (100% Virtual) Client: Dr. Beard’s coaches and clinicians work with clients all over the United States to develop personalized Functional Medicine plans.