Low-Carb Lifestyle Slowing you Down?

( [email protected] ) Sep 24, 2004 11:44 AM EDT

Carbohydrate restriction is a proven way to stimulate weight loss; removing foods like bread, pasta, cereals, rice, muffins and other grain products from your diet for a period of time assists with “retraining” and improving your body’s response to insulin, the ultimate key to any effective weight loss plan.

Keeping insulin levels low is the rationale behind low-carb diets and the reason we recommend low glycemic foods in Phase I of our weight loss plan. But the low-carb lifestyle can have drawbacks. Some people feel a slight decrease in energy or in mood when they limit carbs, and because these foods are a source of fiber, removing them often causes a nasty case of constipation!

Why is constipation so bad?

If things are not “moving along” properly at least once (optimally, three times) per day it is tough to feel healthy, let alone slim. Obvious negative issues associated with constipation include feeling bloated, pain in the abdomen, occasional cramping and abdominal distention.

Not only is constipation unpleasant, it is not without repercussions on other aspects of your health. Simply stated, the longer waste remains in your large intestine, the longer undesirable byproducts of digestion and elimination will be permitted to reabsorb into your system. This can result in headaches, fatigue, increased menstrual pain and cramping, acne and other signs of toxicity. Chronic constipation can increase the risk of certain types of cancers; breast and colon cancer rates have been found to be higher in women with a history of chronic constipation. I encourage you to do something today if this is a pattern of constipation in your past or if you experience an acute response to reducing grains in your diet.

Why are laxatives not your best option?

In my opinion, it is always better to ease constipation without the use of laxatives, even avoiding herbal laxatives like senna and cascara if possible. Dependency on laxatives is common with chronic use and some laxatives can be irritating to the digestive tract lining. Laxatives can also act as a diuretic and cause loose stools. This leads to fluid and electrolyte loss, placing stress on the body’s ability to maintain hydration and may result in muscle cramps as potassium and magnesium are depleted. Over time, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance results, putting stress on all the internal organs.

What can you do?

It is not always necessary to add grains back into your diet to correct the problem. There are highly effective ways to re-establish healthy bowel function while continuing your low-carbohydrate diet. Many supplements and foods have beneficial effects on the process of digestion as well as other aspects of your health, making them a great choice when you need a little extra “encouragement.” These include:

1. Acidophilus: The friendly bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus lives in our digestive tract. Healthy bacterial balance in our digestive tract is easily affected by poor dietary habits and by the use of medications, such as birth control pills, corticosteroids and antibiotics. Everyone can benefit from the use of probiotics for healthy digestion, regular bowel function and immunity.

Acidophilus has also been found useful in the treatment and prevention of skin conditions such as eczema and also allergies. Studies have found that school children and adults who supplement with acidophilus get colds and the flu less often. Finally, healthy bacterial balance is essential for the breakdown and elimination of estrogen. If a bacterial imbalance is present, estrogen may not be properly broken down and removed from the body, resulting in symptoms like PMS and other hormonal imbalances.

2. Flaxseed: Add two to three tablespoons of ground flaxseed to your daily smoothie. It is a cheap and effective source of fiber and healthy oils. It is a potent protector against breast cancer because it contains lignands and also helps to prevent excess production of estrogen. Flaxseed acts like a natural aromatase inhibitor, the new class of drugs currently used in breast cancer treatment.

If you purchase ground flaxseed, ensure it is stored in a vacuum-sealed package and keep it in the freezer. Alternatively, you can grind it yourself with a coffee grinder. If you grind it yourself, prepare only enough to last a few days and keep it in the fridge. Once flaxseed is ground, the oils are exposed and may become rancid if not properly stored.

3. Essential fatty acids: Oils like fish oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil or hemp oil are great for healthy bowel function, natural anti-inflammatory protection, assisting with a healthy mind, memory and mood as well as smooth and supple skin. A tablespoon or two per day or three to four capsules per day may be all that is required. Simply add these to your smoothies—you won’t even know they’re in there!

Here’s another tip: avocados can help protect against cancer due to their high levels of the antioxidant glutathione. Furthermore, researchers at Oxford University found that avocado extract inhibits glucose uptake by tumor cells by 25 to 75% and inhibits the growth rate of certain cancer cells. Try adding avocado to your salads or sandwiches for a dietary source of essential fatty acids.

4. Magnesium citrate: Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant. It reduces sugar and chocolate cravings and is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Many people tend to hold tension and stress in the muscles of the abdomen and digestive tract. Taking magnesium (starting with a dose of 250 to 300mg twice per day) can reduce tension and cramping and may ease constipation without creating dependence. This is a much better choice than milk of magnesium.

5. Vitamin C: Vitamin C is absolutely crucial for a healthy immune system, collagen synthesis and repair, antioxidant protection and wound healing. It is also essential for support in times of stress. Taken in slightly higher amounts, it is a great natural laxative, making vitamin C all that plus a big o’ chips! The laxative effect of vitamin C will be reached in different people at different doses. Begin by taking 1,000 mg twice per day and increase the amount until you obtain the desired effects. It is best to take the vitamin C in divided doses throughout the day rather than all at once.

6. Consider a fiber supplement: Fiber not only promotes health, it can reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases like colon cancer, breast cancer as well as heart disease. Fiber may help lower LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and total cholesterol and can help lower blood sugar, allowing better treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes. It also may assist in weight loss. Insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation and promotes regular bowel movements. Foods like green beans, flaxseeds and cauliflower are high in insoluble fiber. A supplement of psyllium may also be helpful; it contains a mix of both insoluble and soluble fiber.

7. Always drink two liters or more of water each day.

Your weight loss program…putting it all together

With any weight loss program it is always more important to concentrate on wellness rather than just a drop in the number on the scale. This means maintaining healthy bowel function; getting a balanced intake of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates; exercising; getting optimal sleep and managing stress. Always remember that it is loss of fat that you desire—not muscle, our metabolically active tissue.

To prevent unhealthy weight loss, be sure to follow your Truestar nutrition and exercise programs closely. Never starve yourself or overtrain, your body composition will suffer as will your wellness!