"I've hit a stubborn weight-loss plateau," writes this week's house call, "even though I seem to be doing everything right, like eating the right foods and exercising. How can I overcome that obstacle?"
I've discussed different reasons for weight-loss resistance in past blogs. Many obstacles have nothing to do with what you eat or how much you exercise. Instead, they involve things like nutritional imbalances, chronic inflammation, metabolic challenges, leaky gut, changes in your microbiome, environmental toxins and your genes.
One huge but often-overlooked reason for weight-loss resistance involves hormonal imbalances.
No contest: The monster hormone that causes weight gain, inflammation and chronic disease is excess insulin. Think of this hormone as your fat cell fertilizer! My new book, Eat Fat, Get Thin, discusses how to naturally regulate insulin so you can shift your body from fat storage mode to fat-burning mode.
At the same time, insulin isn't the only player; other hormones also affect your weight and health. Three big disruptors are: thyroid, cortisol and sex hormones. I discuss these hormones in-depth in The Blood Sugar Solution, however, let's briefly look at each of them here.
Many things contribute to these imbalances. In my e-book The UltraThyroid Solution, I explain how diet, nutrient deficiencies, stress and environmental toxins impact your thyroid and how to address these problems.
A common cause of hypothyroidism is gluten intolerance.
Other major culprits that interfere with thyroid function include pesticides and heavy metals. Nutrient deficiencies can also slow things down. Your thyroid needs specific nutrients to run optimally including selenium, zinc, iodine and omega 3 fats.
Most doctors don't test for thyroid function correctly. Even when they do diagnose it, they don't treat it effectively by optimizing thyroid function through diet, supplements and the right thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
That's unfortunate, since thyroid function plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy weight and hypothyroid is a major player in weight-loss resistance. Among my patients, I've found these four strategies can optimize thyroid function and weight loss:
1. Get the right tests. Ask your doctor to check your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH and free T3 and T4, as well as thyroid antibodies including thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. I cover this extensively in my e-book. Some people may need to dig deeper and get a special test called reverse T3 to learn if something like heavy metals (mercury), pesticides, yeast or nutritional deficiencies like selenium, vitamin D, zinc or even iodine could block thyroid hormone function. Reverse T3 is the brake that stops your thyroid hormone from working at the right times. Unfortunately, toxins and inflammation increase levels of reverse T3. Even if regular thyroid tests appear normal, high levels of reverse T3 mean your thyroid is not working properly!
2. Eat right for your thyroid. Limit soybeans, raw kale and other raw cruciferous veggies, which might contain thyroid-blocking compounds called goitrogens. I know this sounds confusing. After all, I usually recommend plenty of cruciferous veggies. In this scenario, I am saying it's okay to eat them … just not raw! You should limit the kale juice and kale salad. One study in The New England Journal of Medicine looked at a woman who ate two pounds of raw bok choy a day and went into a hypothyroid coma! I know that sounds extreme, but it could happen. I also recommend wild-caught, low-mercury fish and seaweed for additional iodine, the mineral your thyroid hormones are made from. Since people eat less iodized salt, you might be iodine deficient. Over-exposure to fluoride and chlorine also create iodine deficiencies. Pumpkin seeds and oysters provide excellent zinc sources and Brazil nuts provide selenium and iodine.
3. Use quality supplements for thyroid health. A good multivitamin that contains the above nutrients, plus fish oil and vitamin D, makes an excellent nutrient base. Some people may benefit from iodine supplements. Just be careful not to overdose and be sure to get your iodine levels measured regularly.
4. Replace the right thyroid hormones. Most doctors will only prescribe T4 (such as Synthroid), the inactive form of thyroid hormone your body must convert to its active form T3. Most people do better on bioidentical hormones (like Armour, Westhroid or Nature Throid) or a combination of T4 and T3. A Functional Medicine doctor who understands how to optimize thyroid balance can customize a nutrient protocol.
Another source of weight-loss resistance is stress. Yes, you actually can think yourself fat or think yourself thin and science proves it. Stressful thoughts activate metabolic pathways that cause weight gain and insulin resistance.
Remember, stress is a response to stimulation that makes you feel threatened and not always provoked by real circumstances, rather a perception that you are being attacked.
Most stress isn't real. A worry, thought, fear or projection into the future of what might go wrong can all become real stressors. While short-lived, we carry them with us and don't know how to reset our mindset. If you have survived trauma, it can live in your body even after the original stressor is gone.
Regardless, stress is any real or imagined threat to your body or ego. While that might mean someone putting a gun to your head, it could also mean thinking your boss is mad at you (even when they aren't).
Stress creates hormonal responses that cause weight gain and insulin resistance. Cortisol is an adrenal hormone that helps you to run faster, see further, hear better and pump fuel into your bloodstream for quick energy. It is the hormone that helps us survive in the face of true danger. It also shuts down digestion and slows your metabolism.
All of this is perfectly normal in the short term, yet if left unchecked, prolonged stress and high levels of cortisol cause high blood sugar, increased belly fat, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and muscle loss.
You can't eliminate stress completely, but you can reduce it with meditation, yoga or deep relaxation. These activities activate pathways that promote weight loss and health.
A few simple ideas I find helpful to reset the stress response include:
1. Fix your thinking. This is the most powerful long-term way to be happy and reduce stress. We often get into habits of thinking, beliefs and ideas that keep us stressed. Don't believe every stupid thought you have!
2. Practice active relaxation. That might be as simple as learning deep breathing or trying a sauna or steam bath, which elevates body temperature to help discharge stress from the body and help reduce stress hormones. Or try meditation. It can be powerful. Check out Ziva Meditation for a great online course on meditation—I did it and it changed my life!
3. Make time to be a human being, not a human doing. Make time to love and connect with others. Taking time with family and friends to love and be loved is powerful healing medicine.
Sex Hormone Imbalances
Sex hormone imbalances, such as estrogen and testosterone, can also cause weight problems. Having too much estrogen causes weight gain whether you're a man or a woman. Do you know how ranchers fatten steer before they go to market? They implant them with estrogen pellets.
For both genders, too much sugar, refined carbs and alcohol spikes estrogen. Keeping your gut healthy also cultivates healthy sex-hormone metabolism. Too little fiber or too many antibiotics damage the gut, triggering estrogen spikes because your body can't properly detoxify or excrete waste. Environmental toxins thrive on pesticides called xenoestrogens, because even at lose doses, they act like estrogen in your body.
Symptoms of excess estrogen in women include breast tenderness, fluid retention, bad premenstrual syndrome, fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding.
In men, excess estrogen can cause loss of body hair (including chest, legs and arms), a beer belly and "man boobs." Low testosterone in men can also accelerate aging. Lack of exercise, alcohol, stress, environmental toxins or diseases like diabesity or even pituitary problems can also lower testosterone.
Low testosterone causes men to lose muscle and gain fat, leading to sexual dysfunction, low sex drive, fatigue, mental fogginess and bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis.
Interestingly, cholesterol produces testosterone and other sex hormones. Eating a low-fat diet and taking statin drugs that block cholesterol production can negatively impact your sex hormones.
If you suspect imbalances, you'll want to get tested for imbalances. In my free e-book, How to Work with Your Doctor To Get What You Need, I explain exactly how to test for these and other hormone imbalances. These five strategies can help get you started:
1. Eat a hormone-balancing diet. The nutritional principles in Eat Fat, Get Thin, which is low in sugar, high in good fats and high in fiber, can help balance hormones. My own testosterone went up 500 points when I ate more healthy fats!
2, Bulk up on fiber. Ground flaxseeds provide optimal fiber and lignans, which balance hormones. Even two tablespoons a day to a shake or a salad can help. You'll also want to eat fiber-rich organic fruits and veggies.
4. Limit or remove alcohol. Excess alcohol can compromise liver and kidney function, which inhibit detoxification and create hormonal imbalances, high triglycerides and fatty liver.
While many culprits contribute to weight-loss resistance, I find addressing these three hormonal imbalances helps many patients lose stubborn weight. Hormonal balance might require working with a Functional Medicine practitioner, yet for most patients these strategies become the ticket to ignite weight loss.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Alexandra Rowles
Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.
However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.
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By Emily Grubert
Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.
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What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
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For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.
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Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
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By Charli Shield
When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.
Elephant Burial Grounds<p>Highly social creatures that form deep familial bonds, elephants have long been observed gathering at the site where a peer or family member has died — often spending hours, even days, quietly investigating the bodies or the bones of other dead elephants.</p><p>Although the popular idea that dying elephants are instinctively drawn to special communal graves — so-called "elephant graveyards" — is a myth, their tendency to go out of their way to visit the bones and tusks of the deceased isn't unlike human rituals at graveyards, says animal psychologist Karen McComb.</p><p>"They spend a lot of time touching and smelling skulls and ivory, placing the soles of their feet gently on top of them, and also lifting them up with their trunks," McComb, who's been studying African elephants for 25 years in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, told DW.</p><p>The most striking part of watching an elephant experience loss, Poole recalls, is the quietude. She still remembers one of the first elephant deaths she witnessed; a mother who birthed a stillborn calf. That elephant stayed with its baby for two days, trying to lift it and defending it from vultures and hyenas.</p><p>"I was so struck by the expression on her face and her body. She looked so dejected. It was really like, 'Oh God, these animals grieve…'. It was just so different," Poole told DW. </p>
Witnessing Emotions in Animals<p>Not all scientists are comfortable concluding that elephants grieve. Among the more than 30 reports of elephant reactions to death that Wittemyer co-reviewed in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10329-019-00766-5" target="_blank">a study published in November 2019</a> were accounts of "enormous variation and nuance" he says. "It can be incredibly involved and intricate for extended periods or can be relatively cursory checks."</p><p>In Wittemyer's own experience, it can be difficult not to attribute some kind of emotional experience to the more involved interactions between elephants and their dead.</p><p>He shares the story of an "extraordinary event" involving the death of a 55 year-old matriarch in Kenya in a protected area that happened to be near his place of work. She was visited by multiple unrelated families while she was dying, including another matriarch that exerted such enormous effort attempting to lift her to her feet that she broke her tusk, which Wittemyer says, is "like breaking a tooth." </p><p><span></span>"It was a remarkable example of this heightened emotional state, it was very clearly a very stressful interaction," he says.</p>
A Different Sensory World<p>One factor that limits our ability to fully grasp the way elephants process and respond to loss is our markedly different sensory experiences of the world.</p><p>An elephant's world is fundamentally olfactory — based on smell. Ours is visual. Previous <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25053675/" target="_blank">research</a> has shown elephants possess the most scent receptors of any mammal, and can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17949977/" target="_blank">use smell</a> to discern the difference between different human tribes from the same local area.</p><p>That could explain why elephants exhibit such interest in sniffing the bones and tusks of others, as a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617198/" target="_blank">2005 study</a> from McCombs highlighted. When presented with the skulls and ivory of long-dead elephants and those from other large herbivores, including rhino and buffalo, McCombs and her team found elephants approached and were specifically attracted to the remains of their own species. </p><p>Without access to the smells an elephant picks up on, Wittemyer says "an enormous amount of stuff" could be missed by humans when studying these behaviors.</p>
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