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Nutrition for Weight Loss

Link to the Episode

Anshu Bahanda: This is Anshu Bahanda on Wellness Curated. Thanks for joining me on this podcast. My mission is to empower you with health and wellness so that you can then go and empower others. 

Hi Olga.

Olga Hamilton: Hi, lovely to see you.

AB: So. Welcome, Olga. We’re really happy to have you here. So, Olga is a nutritional therapist. She’s based in London and her approach is quite scientific. She applies a lot of the latest research and advance in the field of nutrition, nutrigenomics, nutrigenetics, and functional medicine. And she works with very highly complex biodata to identify any imbalances in your body. And then she rectifies those imbalances. And she specializes in weight management. She’s a TEDx speaker. She has a bunch of specializations like digestive disorders, antiaging, skin conditions…, but what we’re going to talk about today, which I’m very excited about— is weight loss. Welcome, Olga.

OH: Well, thank you very much for having me. I’m very pleased to be here and hopefully, I can give you some really good tips and tricks that would help you to manage your weight better. So I know that you have some questions for me.

AB: Yes, thank you very much. So the first question is— now I know this is a very long subject and I have heard you talk for two and a half hours just on explaining how basic nutrition works, but can you explain to us very quickly how nutrition works? You know, our whole conversation is half an hour, so go ahead.

OH: Yes, I’ll try to. Well, nutrition is so fundamental to our health, because we are really built from the things that we eat. And the food that we eat builds ourselves. This is how important it is. There is obviously environmental stress and sleep and everything else is also important for our health. But the things that we eat are perhaps the biggest priority in our health. And in terms of weight regulation, nutrition is obviously very important. And this is a good place to start for everyone. Not everyone’s got… there is no one perfect diet that would be suited to everyone. And that’s another complication, I’m afraid. And that whatever works for me doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for you in the same way and give you the same results. And this is why it’s really important to find your perfect diet. And in that process, we need to find out everything about you, about how your biochemistry works and how your physiology works and what your cells are doing and how your DNA plays a role or has an effect on how you metabolize different nutrients. So yes, nutrition is a massive thing and there are just so many elements to eat and so many different topics and sub-topics in nutrition that are really important. And perhaps today we’re going to cover some of them in more detail.

AB: Okay, lovely. So what are the reasons that people put on weight? You know how people say I don’t eat too much, but I’m still putting on weight, or people say I’m on a diet, but I can’t lose weight. A lot of people really struggle with this topic. Why is that?

OH: Yes, well, weight regulation is multifactorial. There are so many different reasons why a certain person can have difficulty losing weight, even though [they are] following a perfect weight loss diet or perfectly balanced healthy diet. Well, first of all, if someone comes with a resistant weight loss situation, we normally check all of the potential contributory factors that are very well known. Some medical conditions, things like undirected thyroid function, because we have thyroid hormones and they regulate our metabolism. So this is really important for weight regulation. If we have an underactive thyroid or something, that means that you don’t produce enough active thyroid hormones. This could be the reason why all of your efforts in weight loss are just not working at all. So first, we need to address your thyroid issue and then we will see that it will work for your weight loss as well. Other things that are also really important to address will be, of course, your sleep. And we do know people who don’t sleep very well or suffer from insomnia or wake up at night, they are more likely to eat during the day because they feel tired, of course. So that would be another big contributory factor. The other thing that people present with could be that their gut microbiome is balanced. So this is another very interesting and big subject. We’ve seen more and more scientific evidence about how our gut microbiome helps us in our weight regulation.

This is a fairly new field of research, but it’s very exciting. So what we’ve seen [is that] there are certain types of bacteria, one of them is called Akkermansia, which is very interesting. So when we test your stool and we can see if you have Akkermansia in the first place and if you have a good level of Akkermansia, even without seeing a client, a person, I can tell if they struggle with their weight just by looking at how much Akkermansia they have in their large intestine. What this Akkermansia does is that you can eat almost as much as you want and Akkermansia will block the absorption of certain carbohydrates fats and calories from the diet that you eat. And this is the difference between two people having the same diet. One is losing weight and the other one is not, just because of the gut bacteria. Yeah, so this is another thing that we look at. Again, if I’m presented with a very challenging weight loss case, then I’ll do all of these investigations just to see where exactly the problem is and how we can address that because we can grow that Akkermansia in you. In the specific types of fibres that you can have that grow specifically, I think it’s the brown seaweed, but the fibre from brown seaweed that you need to eat. And also I think it’s a glucomannan powder. Again, that’s just the fibre.

AB: Glucomannan?

OH: Yes.

AB: Okay.

OH: So it’s very specific and the research every day comes back with more and more specific things that we need to feed our gut microbiome in order to grow this beneficial bacteria that help with our weight regulations. Very exciting.

AB: Yeah, I know. So is gut microbiome the same as probiotics or not?

OH: Yes, so our gut microbiome, when I say microbiome, I refer to different types of bacteria that lives inside of us. We can, if we don’t have specific types of bacteria in the gut, we can use probiotic supplements and probiotic foods to introduce that beneficial bacteria in our large intestine.

AB: Okay, fantastic. So how do you recommend people go about their weight loss journey? Because that’s the big question, right? So, what do we do?

OH: Yes, well, first of all, of course, we need to identify the culprits in your diet. What is it that makes you put on weight or what is it that prevents you from losing weight? And it could be anything. So we could look at the timing of eating? Yes, that’s also, again, the new research shows us it doesn’t [only] matter what you eat, of course, but it also matters when you eat. And it’s the whole concept of intermittent fasting and how we can use intermittent fasting to aid weight loss. And it does work in many people, depending on your schedule or how you work in life, we can choose a specific type of intermittent fasting that works for you.

The main thing that you need to find is something that works for you long term. It’s not required that you go on and then go off. This is something that needs to happen once and ever. So all of the changes that you do to your diet are permanent changes and you need to be comfortable with them and they need to work for you and they need to be effective, of course. So you could look at different types of timing. So it could be, either you could have just three meals a day without the snacks in between, that helps with weight loss, or you could just move all of your meals within an eight-hour fasting period and just consume all of your calories there. But the important thing here is to fast for 16 hours. During that fasting window, your body is forced to go into your fat stores and burn them for energy. And this is the only case when your body will be forced to do that. If you provide your body with carbohydrates or sugars or glucose during that window, you stop the fat-burning process because your body gets what it needs, it gets the glucose and it can use glucose for energy. It doesn’t need to go to your fat stores to burn them. So you kind of have to find a way with how you can push your body into doing that. And the other way, how you can do it is, of course, to restrict carbohydrates. So this is another very popular method from here.

So here of course, there are so many different types of, I don’t want to call it a diet plan, but I want to call it a nutrition program, so to say. It could be a low carbohydrate type of eating, it could be ketogenic even. You know, the ketogenic is quite extreme. But it does work for certain cases when weight loss is required urgently. And for example, before operations like knee and hip operations, surgeons would normally send the clients to us for very rapid weight loss. And this is what makes something a bit more dramatic. Yes, but for each person, I would recommend working with a professional to identify exactly where your perfect diet is. Do you need to go low on carbs? Do you need to do time-restricted eating? How far do you need to restrict carbohydrates? Is it healthy for you because it’s not suitable for everyone? We do need to run some blood tests just to make sure that your liver and kidneys are fine. Of course, restricted eating regimes are not allowed for people who have had a history of eating disorders, for example, or who have issues with their stress levels, because when you fast, your body will have a stress response, and it’s already not tolerating stress very well. It’s not going to be beneficial for you. It can damage you, it can damage your health. So you have to be very careful with what you do. So that’s why I recommend, of course, working with a professional.

AB: Okay. And are there vitamins and supplements that aid with weight loss that you feel that if someone is on the weight loss journey and they’re trying lots of fasts, lots of different diets, is that something you could recommend which can help?

OH: Yes. Well, first of all, we do know that there is a link between vitamin D and weight, but scientists still can’t make up their minds about what comes first. Some scientists think that vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is the side effect of being overweight.

AB: Right.

OH: But we also have some scientific evidence to show that if people are overweight and they’re struggling to lose weight, and they are vitamin D deficient, by supplementing vitamin D, it helps them to lose weight faster.

AB: Oh, that’s interesting. Okay then.

OH: Yes. And in the same way, B vitamins, especially vitamins B 12 and B 9 are important for us to metabolize our carbohydrates. So that means to make energy from the foods that we eat, from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. And if we are deficient in B vitamins, we’re not going to be very efficient at that process, and that could interfere with our weight loss.

AB: Okay.

OH: So definitely, yes. Do make sure that you are not deficient in very important nutrients. So you can do lots of different tests to see, for example, even iron. I know a lot of women are iron deficient, especially women who still menstruate because we lose a lot of iron. And of course, because a lot of people are now on vegan-type diets, so I see a lot of iron deficiency. And that could also be a factor in your weight. Because imagine that, you have all of the intention to go to a trainer, go for a run and eat healthy, but you feel exhausted.

AB: But you’re exhausted. Exactly, yes, you can’t get out of bed.

OH: Yes, exactly. How effective are you going to be? You know, you need to address that first. I forgot about the question now.

AB: No, I was just asking about the vitamins and supplements.

OH: Yes, that’s right. There are others. As I mentioned before, we know that our gut microbiome is important in weight regulation, and it’s important to feed those good types of bacteria. And we know that they like to eat fibre— fermentable fibre. And this is why eating a lot of vegetables is good for us because they provide fibre. But you can also get fibre from the supplements. And this glucomannan that I mentioned before, it actually carries a claim for weight loss because of the studies [that they’ve done]. It’s very effective and has been shown in studies to be very effective for weight loss. But it only works, of course, if you also do other dietary things. Like, it’s not going to work if you overeat every day, and eat really badly and take the fibre. It’s probably, marginally going to help, but it’s not going to help you lose weight or achieve your results. So in conjunction with finding your perfect diet, take in some type of fibres will also affect you.

AB: What about something like magnesium? A lot of people say you get stressed if you don’t have magnesium, and your body doesn’t lose weight. Is that true?

OH: Exactly. Yes. Perfect. Yes, it is true, and it is another very big contributory factor. And so stress response is also very important to look into because if we stress and we have this fight or flight response, we produce cortisol, which is a stress hormone. This can interfere with our weight regulation as well. And to help that stress response, if we take magnesium, we’re not going to be that reactive to stress or that sensitive to the stressors. So the stress is always going to be there. Yeah, there are some stressors that we can’t control. What we can control is how we react to the stressor, and magnesium helps us to calm down and not react. And that is also helpful. Yes, you’re right.

AB: But over here, I’d like to say that, as Olga said, it’s quite important that you do have your blood done because if you just start popping, say, a B complex, but your B vitamins are high, or they’re towards the top end of the scale, then it’s probably dangerous, right?

OH: Yes, exactly. Yes. With B vitamins, it’s okay if you overdose because it’s a water-soluble vitamin, you’re just going to pee it out. That’s okay. But it’s your money down the loop. That’s it. It’s not going to help you if you are not deficient. But in certain cases, it can be dangerous. Vitamin E, for example, if you are not deficient and you take a high amount of vitamin E as a supplement.

AB: Toxic, right?

OH: Toxic. Yes, it’s toxic. And you can end up in the hospital. So that’s pretty serious. So you need to be careful.

AB: Okay. And what are the factors, Olga, do you think, besides the obvious, besides nutrition and exercise and supplements, what else assists in weight loss?

OH: As I mentioned, sleep is very important. Our environment is very important. We need to consider things like Xenoestrogen. So perhaps if someone is very sensitive or hormonally sensitive, and they use a lot of cleaning products, household products, or makeup or skincare products. We absorb all of that through our bloodstream. And if it’s bad chemicals, toxic chemicals, they interfere with our hormonal balance. And of course, that can have an effect, a very negative effect on our weight loss efforts. Other things, like meditation, for example, are helpful for us to reduce our stress response. That would help, of course. There are a lot of different things that come to mind, so we need to really, when I take a client, I kind of try to learn everything about them. So it’s a holistic approach. 

AB: Which is what I was going to ask you. I’m going to turn on the commenting and let people ask the questions. But in the meanwhile, can you tell us what is your process? How do you go about testing a person for their weight? And I’ll let people send in their questions.

OH: Yes. When a client comes to my clinic, I ask them to complete a nutritional questionnaire first. It’s a five pages nutritional questionnaire, where people tell me about their signs and symptoms. So the signs and symptoms sometimes are a good indication of deficiencies or could be a good indication of deficiencies. And that helps me narrow down the specific tests that I would recommend then, just by looking at how are you tired or when are you tired exactly. If you’re tired in the morning, I’m looking at iron, I’m looking at the thyroid. If you are tired in the afternoon, I’m looking at your stress response and blood sugar regulation. So it gives me a really good indication of what to do with the client, and how to customize and tailor my program as per the client. And once they’ve done the questionnaire, I will have an initial consultation, which is about an hour, and then we decide on the changes in the diet if they need to happen. Obviously, we’ll discuss and kind of agree on a plan or certain changes to the diet, and then we just monitor them for the next four weeks and see how effective they are. If they’re not effective or if the client can’t cope with them or they are unrealistic changes, we’ll try something else. There is always something else to try. And meanwhile, of course, we’ll do the tests necessary and then when they come back, it also helps me to find or to tailor the program for the client further for it to be more effective. Like, for example, recently, I had a client who tried time-restricted eating. So she was eating for 8 hours and she was eating very healthily as well. And she didn’t have much to lose at all. But she struggled with that last 5 kgs. Nothing worked and it actually got worse. And then we did her stress response. We took her Cortisol test and her Cortisol was very high throughout the day. That means she just can’t fast. She had to be on medication and then I had to put her on five small meals per day instead. And guess what happened? She lost the weight and but I couldn’t have known it until I’d done the test, you see.

AB: So what is the best response you’ve had? Like, what is the best weight loss story without obviously giving away client confidentiality?

OH: Yeah, so I was saying that the most effective one I had was 30 kgs in eight months.

AB: Oh wow.

OH: Yeah, but the person had a lot to lose. She had a lot to lose.

AB: Wow, fantastic. Okay, I will come to the client’s questions now. So the first one is what helps in reducing stubborn belly fat?

OH: Well, first of all, we have to identify why you have it in the first place. Is it just on your belly? Does it look like it’s love handles? So it’s like a spare tire around? If it’s that, I would probably say it’s the carbohydrate and sugar excess in the diet. It could be as easy as that.

AB: And it could also be hormones, right? Okay, the next question is, can we increase gut [micro]biome randomly or are there different ways to go about it?

OH: There are different ways to go about it, yes. And again, it needs to be tailored to you perfectly.

AB: So don’t just start popping in pills which say you’ll increase gut microbiome.

OH: Yes, I mean, there are broad guidelines that you can use, like to eat more coloured vegetables. Colours help us grow different types of gut microbes. If we eat a lot of fibre, so that also helps because it feeds our gut microbes. Obviously, try and go organic because that helps. Pesticides can sometimes damage our gut microbiome, or artificial sweeteners damage our gut microbiome. Antibiotics, air pollution, stress, poor sleep, all of these are negative factors. Just kind of using all of this and trying to make everything better would help. But if you’re still struggling, we do need to find your specific problem.

AB: How do you get rid of bloating? 

OH: That’s an interesting one. It depends on when you get the bloating. So if you get the bloating within an hour after eating this suggests that you have bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine.

AB: An hour? Okay.

OH: Yeah. So we’re supposed to have bacteria in the large intestine, but we are not supposed to have bacteria in the small intestine. The small intestine is 7 meters long and this is where we absorb and digest our food. If we have bacterial overgrowth there, bacteria just start eating fermentable fibres from the food that you’ve just eaten. And then they ferment it and they produce gas as a byproduct and this is the gas that bloats you.

AB: Okay, interesting. And then if you have it later, you said 1 hour was small intestine. What are the other scenarios?

OH: The other scenarios could be within 2 hours, which still suggests small intestine. But we would suggest doing the test first, to see if that’s the case because then it’s a completely different approach. If you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, you will feel bloated after vegetables, after legumes, lots of people react to lentils and beans. That’s another sign. Garlic and onion are big because they contain a very high amount of fermentable fibre. And this is when people have very bad reactions concerning bloating if they have an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Then it’s not helpful because you’re going to feel ill every time you eat fibre. So we have to completely change your program.

AB: So that is one of the things which I thought was very interesting when I heard you talk in detail— about the small intestines, because a lot of people talk about the intestine, but they leave that bit out, about the bacterial overgrowth. So thank you for that. Someone wants to know what is the best probiotic that you can recommend.

OH: Again, I would rather choose a probiotic based on your stool test results. But in general, I do like Optibac probiotics. They have a range of different, they’re quite specialized, I think now. I think there is one for women there that I take, actually I quite like that. And there is one for people who are on antibiotics and there’s one for travelling. So you could use it that way. I also like Bio-Kult probiotics. They only have one, but they have like, I think it’s 14 different strains in them. So they would be effective as well. But again, they have contraindicated, if you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, taking probiotics is not going to help and perhaps even going to make you worse with your bloating.

AB: Okay. And then someone is asking is dairy bad?

OH: Not necessarily. Again, it depends. Can you digest dairy? We can test for that. Do you have the genetics or DNA that can build the enzyme that digests lactose and dairy? If you don’t have it, you’re not going to digest lactose and it will be fermented in your gut. It will produce some kind of symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, so it’s a good way to tell. Or some people have sensitivity to casein, which is the main protein in dairy. And yes, for example, a majority of European-wide population, we do have the enzyme, but like, for example, a lot of Asian populations, you just don’t have the enzyme to digest lactose at all. 

AB: I guess we’ve overdone the lactose. We’ve grown up having so much lactose, some of us. Now someone has the opposite issue. There’s someone here who’s saying he had Jaundice in 2008 and since then he’s unable to put on weight.

OH: That’s interesting as well. I would probably still check your stool test just to see, maybe you have some kind of parasite or maybe some kind of worm or some kind of potentially pathogenic type of bacteria. Because Jaundice is quite serious, isn’t it? This is when your bile just goes into your blood. So it makes me think something happened, maybe some kind of food poisoning, maybe you picked up some kind of pathogenic bacteria and that could prevent you from weight gain. Yeah.

AB: Someone else is asking that they have bloating everyday at night, no matter what they eat. Looks like they need some tests done, right?

OH: And that’s probably SIBO, yeah— the Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.

AB: How good is a pickle for gut health? 

OH: Pickle, yes…

AB: And I’ll ask you about Kombucha and all fermented things while we’re talking about that.

OH: Yes, all of the fermented things are probably better than probiotic capsules because they contain more bacteria. Like a teaspoon of Sauerkraut contains more life bacteria than a whole pack of supplements— probiotic supplements. And also depending on how they were made and which bacteria was used to ferment those products. All of the products are fermented with different types of bacteria because fermentation is a natural process, without the use of any starter cultures, even. So, they are more beneficial, I would say, than probiotics.

AB: So natural probiotics like yoghurt or kombucha or anything more natural. Okay, thank you. And the last question I have for you, someone said, some days they burp a lot and some days they don’t. So what could be the reason for that?

OH: Yeah, well, the same reason. So thinking out logically, burp is the air that’s trying to escape your digestive system. Either when you eat, you swallow a lot of air. Try maybe to eat slower, maybe chew better. If that doesn’t help, then something’s producing gas in the small intestine, that’s my thinking straight away. Because that gas needs to escape somehow, and it goes through here [mouth] or through the other end.

AB: Okay. So one last question, and that is— what helps in reducing water retention? Is there anything you can recommend?

OH: Yes, the most important thing, I think, the most effective thing would be to reduce salt. That definitely helps. One thing I really love doing, and it does help, is the dry skin brushing, with the dry skin, so that’s before a shower for a couple of minutes and there are lots of tutorials online. You can find out how to do it properly because you have to do it from the extremities towards your heart. So that helps. [With] diet, I would probably say, I mean we get water retention if we are sensitive to some kind of food. That can happen. So maybe try an elimination diet and see what you are sensitive to. You probably will get that straight away. A lot of people I know react to coffee in that way, for example, or caffeine. Some people react to dairy in that way. It just shows some kind of food intolerance, I would say.

AB: But tell me, can you remove food intolerances? Because everyone I know has some sort of food intolerance. So if you sorted out people’s guts, can you remove food intolerance?

OH: Yes.

AB: Completely?

OH: We can certainly reduce how you react to foods. Can we remove it completely, yes. I have had cases when it wasn’t allergy it was food intolerance or food sensitivity. And we did manage to remove any symptoms of that completely after healing the gut, yes.

AB: Thank you all, Olga. It was so amazing having you here today. I will put Olga’s contact details. Thank you Olga. Loved the chat. I’m going to try and apply some of your recommendations and let you know.

OH: You can also mention that I offer 10% discounts on my services for everyone who was on the call today.

AB: Yes, thank you. Thank you for that. Olga has very kindly offered to give you people a 10% discount. So please take advantage of that. Thank you, Olga. Take care, bye bye.

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