Excessive weight can have detrimental influences on both our physical and psychological well being. Returning to what is good for our bodies — a healthy diet, enhanced movement and energy and balanced emotions — is integral in the pursuit of weight loss. So if you are having trouble losing weight, maintaining weight after dieting, or you are gaining excessive body fat, here’s why naturopathy for weight loss is worth considering.
What is naturopathy?
Naturopathy is a holistic approach to wellness that treats the cause of health issues, not just the symptoms and the whole person, not just the affected area. It is based on the principle that the body has the inherent ability to heal itself. Using a range of therapeutic techniques, the mind, body and emotions are supported during the healing process. Naturopathy can alleviate a wide range of conditions and is suitable for all ages, and you do not need to be unwell to benefit from naturopathy.
These include treatments that boost the body’s natural healing potential, restoring harmony and helping to prevent disease, including:
- Herbal medicines to help prevent and treat various illnesses.
- Dietary and nutritional advice for the restoration of balance, detoxification and the prevention of disease.
- Lifestyle advice to reduce stress and promote well-being.
- Hydrotherapy to stimulate the immune system and the body's natural defences.
- The use of packs and compresses to stimulate organ function and to reduce pain.
Some Naturopaths are also trained in:
- The use of flower essences to enhance the emotional aspect of healing.
Soft tissue manipulation to rebalance the body's systems, to reduce pain and enable detoxification.
What are some of the reasons for weight gain?
Weight gain is a complex process of biochemical reactions and navigating this for your own individual body composition can be difficult (which is why we recommend talking to a nutritionist). A healthy weight is much more than a number on the scales, counting kilojoules, or being a “size”. For some people, it can be more complex than just eating less and exercising more. Some of the underlying causes of weight gain can be:
- Insulin resistance
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Pituitary gland disorders
- Adrenal fatigue
- Hyperglycaemia or imbalances in blood sugar levels
- Insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome
- Hormonal imbalances
- A fatty liver
- High cortisol due to prolonged stress
- Genetic influences that alter the way an individual burns fat
- Persistent, low-grade inflammation
- Abnormal appetite regulation
- Medication-related issues
- Addiction to the wrong types of food and drink
- Lifestyle influences
Does naturopathy work for weight loss?
The simple answer? Yes. If your weight gain is due to poor diet, overeating or a bacterial imbalance, it can often be corrected with a gentle cleansing/detox program, some extra physical activities or gut health advice with the guidance of your naturopath.
Naturopaths look at your overall, holistic health, including assessing your medical history, dietary habits and identifying any underlying issues. The reason many people fail when trying to lose weight is because they don't address these issues. So as soon as they stop their weight loss program, they put the weight straight back on again.
Naturopaths will typically start by helping you to uncover the underlying cause of your weight problems. They will then decide on the most effective holistic treatment for your individual needs, and the treatment will differ depending on many factors.
A holistic approach is effective because, as mentioned above, weight gain can be a symptom of other unaddressed issues. Not only can these impact your body composition, but they also affect your overall health and wellbeing, as weight issues can become the cause of other diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Treating weight issues in this way can therefore not only assist with achieving adequate and lifelong weight control but also other health issues.
What are some of the areas naturopaths target?
Weight loss methods
Some studies have shown that up to 95 percent of weight-loss diets fail, and most people regain the weight they had lost within a five-year period. This can be due to:
- A failure to address the patterns and behaviours that caused the weight gain in the first place. Optimising your health and wellbeing is an ongoing way of living, not something that’s done for a few weeks and then stopped.
- Undertaking radical diets that aren’t sustainable. “Quick fix” solutions you may source from a chemist or retailer generally only make you lose lots of muscle and “water weight”, which can initiate the commonly experienced cycle of weight loss followed by more weight gain.
Naturopaths will work with you to create a plan that involves “real life” recommendations to help you lose weight at a consistent and steady pace. This will involve making nutritional recommendations and teaching you the principles of healthy eating so you can develop a healthy relationship with food and a happier, healthier body.
Good nutrition and food choices matter, and natural, whole and chemical-free foods are the foundation for good health. Studies have shown that many Australians aren’t getting the vitamins and minerals they need for a healthy lifestyle — these include zinc, iron and magnesium.
This is alarming, as zinc is an essential mineral required for metabolism and good immune function, iron is involved in essential bodily functions, including the transport of oxygen in the blood, and magnesium is essential for healthy nerves, muscles, bones and blood sugar levels.
In terms of a naturopathic diet for weight loss, naturopaths will help create a diet and exercise plan that works best for you and your requirements. They will also identify any nutrients you may be lacking to ensure your body is being supported throughout the program. This may come in the form of natural supplements, herbal remedies or dietary adjustments.
Muscle vs. fat ratios
We are all individuals, however, our optimal weight is a balance between our muscle levels and our body fat, and they are influenced by our height and the size of our frame. Ensuring that you have enough muscle is critical to helping you keep your weight stable.
Muscle cells have many important functions, including supporting fat burning, metabolism and providing structural support. Resistance training is vital for building muscle, however, balancing your nutrition is also a key determinant. This is because your body requires specific nutrients to help muscle cells function optimally. If these are missing, it won’t matter how much weight training you do, your muscle cells won’t be able to do what they are supposed to, and you will be left feeling tired and unable to shift weight.
Muscles also weigh more than fat, so the muscles you build with weight training need to be of good quality. Naturopaths can offer this through a Vitality, Longevity and Health Ageing analysis (VLA test). Also known as a Cellular Health Analysis, it is a scientifically validated test that uses a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis to accurately measure some of the key biological markers of ageing.
It works by passing a very small electrical current (which you cannot feel) into the body at the hands and feet and measures how much electricity is passed from the hand to the foot. It works with a software program that can accurately calculate a range of body parameters, including:
- Body fat and muscle levels
- The quality of muscle
- Fat loss and muscle gain targets
- Body fluid balance
- Cellular function, which relates to toxicity, energy levels and healthy ageing
Those who can benefit from a VLA test are those who want to:
- Manage their weight more effectively
- Increase muscle tone and fitness
- Improve energy levels
- Support healthy ageing
- Support the nutrition and health of their body.
Regular readings done by your naturopath will allow them to gauge your muscle mass and whether you are losing fat. So essentially, if the scales show you’re heavier, they can determine if this is due to gaining fat or muscle.
Sometimes the emotional attachments or “baggage” we carry around manifests into physical weight. Failure to address these emotional drivers prevents us from losing weight, no matter how hard we try. You may be aware of them, or they may have been slowly building and compounding over time.
This emotional weight, which can become physical weight, can be used by us as a form of protection and serve as a way to keep us “safe” if you are fearful of a weight loss journey.
Optimal weight loss happens when your head, heart and body are all on the same page. Naturopaths can work closely with you to help you minimise some of these emotional roadblocks and encourage you to live the life you truly want to live.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, excessive weight gain is caused by an imbalance in the body of the liver and spleen organ systems, leading to poor metabolism. Increasing scientific evidence shows that acupuncture can support your weight loss journey. Some of the ways acupuncture can assist with weight loss include:
- It can curb your appetite or food addiction by lowering levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone. Specific acupuncture trigger points can also release serotonin, a mood-boosting chemical that has been linked to decreased appetite. Ear-based acupuncture, also known as auricular acupuncture, can help people manage food addictions that lead to weight gain.
- It can help increase energy levels. This means you may have more energy to exercise, and increased energy can boost your metabolism. By combining this with healthy eating patterns, you can burn more energy and lose more weight.
- It can release calming endorphins and block stress-induced spikes in stress hormones like cortisol. It can also slow down the sympathetic nervous system, decrease heart rate and lower blood pressure, which can help with stress and emotional overeating.
- It can help support glycemic health and regulate and balance blood glucose levels. When a person’s sugar cravings are under control, they can make wiser food choices.
- It can help “quieten” the sympathetic nervous system and improve blood flow to your stomach to aid digestion. It can also give your metabolism a boost by helping to regulate insulin and reduce leptin resistance. Both insulin and leptin are appetite-regulating hormones that play a role in long-term weight loss.
- It can assist with helping you sleep better, which is an important aspect of effective long-term and healthy weight loss.
Chinese herbal medicines are mainly plant-based, but some preparations include animal products or minerals. Depending on the herb and its intended use, they can be packaged as pastes, powders, tablets or lotions.
Different herbs have different properties and can balance particular parts of the body. Prescribing a particular herb or concoction of herbs means the naturopath’s diagnosis has taken into account the state of your Yin and Yang and the elements governing the affected organs.
There are a range of traditional herbs that can assist with weight loss and support your body during and after losing weight by:
- Aiding digestion
- Acting as an appetite suppressant
- Boost your metabolism
- 2021, Naturopathy for weight loss, Brisbane Natural Health
- 2021, Healthy weight loss - losing weight using naturopathy, Health & Healing Wellness Centre
- 2021, Weight loss, Rebecca Warren Practical Naturopathy
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