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“Ayurvedic Approaches for Weight Loss”

January 5, 2012

Are you among one of the many who have struggled with weight loss; been on yo-yo diets and find yourself still seeking an answer?  I have personally been on this roller coaster and have found Ayurvedic medicine to be an all encompassing and healthy answer to weight loss.  This multi-factorial approach goes beyond “dieting” and is really about changing your lifestyle and making a daily decision to put you and your body as a top priority, even in the fast-paced and busy world in which we live.

Ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine native to India that was established over 5,000 years ago and is still used today in all parts of the world.  Ayurveda translated from Sanskrit literally means the science of life.  The three fundamental concepts in Ayurveda are that food is medicine, disease can be prevented and eradicated through daily habits, and lifestyle recommendations are based on an individual’s physical, emotional, and mental makeup.  According to Ayurveda, we are all born with a particular dosha or body type (vata, pitta and kapha) in which one or more of the three is dominant.  Each dosha reacts differently to weight gain:

Vata:  have sudden and fluctuating weight, either over, under or normal.  Hunger is variable and they eat sugar to calm their nerves, eat for a feeling of security, or eat during hormonal changes.

Pitta:  the main cause for overeating is due to a strong appetite.  They may have an addiction to sugar and red meat. Weight develops from muscle and flabbiness.

Kapha:  most common dosha that develops obesity, slow metabolism, easy weight gain, eating addiction, hormonal conditions that cause retention of weight (water and fat), low       energy, flabbiness, pallor, excess phlegm or saliva and subcutaneous fat deposits.

Ayurveda identifies that there are seven different tissues in the body-referred to as dhatus-which are very similar to the major tissues identified by modern science. When food is fully digested, the building of these tissues begins.  The process begins in a sequential manner and each layer builds upon one another.  An imbalance in any of the tissues will affect the rest of the system.    The food we eat nourishes our entire deep and complex structures, so proper nutrition and digestion are the most effective ways to ensure that proper tissue renewal occurs. The Seven Dhatus:

1. Secretions (Rasa)

2. Blood (Rakta)

3. Muscles (Mamsa)

4. Fats (Meda)

5. Bones (Asthi)

6. Bone Marrow (Majja)

7. Hormones (Shukra)

The meda dhatu or fat tissue, in Ayurveda, is made up of predominantly the elements water & earth.  In teachings of Ayurveda, they say that food is for the body and love is the food of the soul and consciousness.  But food can become a substitute for love and cause obesity.  Disorders in meda are brought on by excess sugar, salt, dairy products, sedentary lifestyles and unresolved emotional issues.  The kapha body type is made up of the elements water & earth, giving this dosha its definitive qualities.  Kapha comprises all of our cells, tissues and organs.  The water & earth elements give the qualities of heavy, slow, hard and dense to create a strong and large body frame.  Kapha people usually have a hard time losing weight and tend toward slower digestion, metabolism and water retention.  Sometimes people who are not constitutionally a kapha may have what we call a “kapha wrap.”  They may look and behave like a kapha, but the original body type may be hidden under the kapha layers, typically due to sexual, mental and/or emotional abuse.

According to a 2010 article in JAMA, almost 80% of US adults may be carrying excess body fat, which may predispose them to chronic health problems.  Extreme obesity is particularly important, given the association with increased mortality that is largely attributable to cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and cancer. With these figures, it is no wonder that the weight-loss industry is taking advantage.

So, do fad diets work?  In 2002, the Federal Trade Commission released a “Report on Weight-loss Advertising: An Analysis of Current Trends.” It reported that weight-loss products and ads are misleading and that weight loss claims have increased over the past decade.  In the report, it estimated that 40-55% are false and misleading in their representation.  Americans spend around 40 billon dollars a year on weight-loss products.  An article reported in the New England Journal of Medicine states that there is not much return on this investment because most people who participate in weight-loss programs “regain about one-third of the weight lost during the next year and are typically back to baseline in three to five years.”

Fortunately, Ayurvedic medicine encompasses every aspect of one’s self for overall health and maintenance and believes that the best route for successful weight loss is one that is slow and steady.  An Ayurvedic weight loss perspective is based on the concept of ama, or toxins, that accumulate from a poor diet, chronic stress or environmental impurities.  Most of these toxins get stored in our fat, creating the fat cell to expand and making it more difficult to lose weight.  To rid the body of ama and assist in weight loss it is recommended to perform a cleanse, either using Ayurveda and/or in combination with a naturopathic medically supervised cleansing program.

Ayurvedic Weight-Loss Concepts

It is important to take care of your whole self when embarking upon a cleansing program and creating a lifestyle change.  An Ayurvedic lifestyle avoids these following dietary habits:

  • Overeating
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Emotional eating
  • Drinking fruit juice during a meal
  • Drinking chilled water during a meal
  • Eating when constipated or emotionally disturbed
  • Eating before 7 am or late at night
  • Eating too heavy or too little food
  • Eating incompatible food combinations

A key concept to maintaining your new lifestyle is balance.  To maintain overall balance and health within your dosha try to have regularity in sleeping, waking, eating and elimination.  We should also strive for maintenance in our relationships and emotions, so we can have total awareness in our thoughts and actions.  Relationships should be filled with love, compassion and clarity.  Our emotions are actual biochemical processes in our body and when seriously challenged, could become poisonous to us. A useful tool that is free and can be used daily is meditation.  Meditation can be helpful in bringing awareness along with cleansing our minds, body and consciousness.

Ayurvedic treatments may also include recommendations for sleep, exercise, yoga, breathing exercises, nutritional modifications and herbal supplementation.  These strategies are all meant to help and target stress management.  Chronic stress can contribute to many harmful physiological events by releasing cortisol.  Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands, located on top of the kidneys.  The function of cortisol is to regulate and mobilize energy to different areas in the body.  Cortisol mobilizes energy by tapping into the body’s fat stores and moving it to another location.  When chronically stressed, fat can be mobilized to the abdomen.  Research has shown that fat cells in the abdominal area have a higher level of the enzymes needed to convert cortisol into its active form, thus producing weight gain around the abdominal area.

Thermogenic Spices

Research has shown that the following spices help burn fat.  Fortunately, many can already be found in your kitchen cupboard or can be found in your local store.  These spices can easily be added to soups, salads, vegetables, meats or smoothies.  Try some freshly grated ginger and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon into your fruit smoothie for a fat-burning meal or snack!

  • ·Black Pepper
  • ·Ginger
  • ·Capsaicin
  • ·Turmeric
  • ·Trikatu (black pepper, long pepper, ginger)
  • ·Cinnamon
  • ·Fenugreek

It is recommended to have a naturopathic physician specifically guide you through the detoxification process to help provide you with the necessary tools and reveal the underlying root cause by utilizing lab testing and body composition analysis.  At our office, we utilize Bioimpedance Analysis (BIA), to assess your body composition, a measurement of your body fat in relation to lean body mass.  Over 100 independent studies, conducted by researchers over the past 20 years, have shown the efficacy and usefulness of bioimpedance analysis for testing body composition.  Body composition testing is also a tool used with most patients to measure progress as they work toward their goals of better health.  Also, unique to our practice is FirstLine Therapy, a personalized lifestyle medicine program centered on therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) such as healthy nutrition, nutritional products, exercise, and stress management.

A healthy approach to weight-loss is about cleansing your mind, body and spirit and using a practical and common sense approach that you can integrate into your daily life.  You can still reap the many rewards from Ayurveda by just incorporating a few ideas into your regimen.  Wishing you a New Year full of wisdom and health!

Dr. Lindsay Jones is a licensed naturopathic physician in Connecticut, and is an active member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Whole Health Associates, LLC is the premier location in the Farmington Valley for natural medical care for the entire family, offering naturopathic medicine, chiropractic care, acupuncture and massage therapy. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please visit www.wholehealthllc.com or call 860-674-0111. See ad on page .

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