Summer is just around the corner, and you are dreading being in more revealing clothes, yet again? You just can’t seem to budge that layer around the midline, feel bloated often, but can’t pinpoint why?
Over the next few weeks, I will share 12 simple tricks to finally beat the bloat and get rid of that muffin top for good, by addressing the underlying triggers.
As always, I will touch upon the underlying biology, so that you can learn the why’s behind the strategy, start making educated choices and become the CEO of your own health, rather than yet another fad diet and wagon to fall off.
If you are impatient and would like to get to it all at once, click here to download the entire 12 steps as a free pdf booklet, or DM me your email so I can send it to you:
To watch the full playlist on this 12 step series (a new video of the series will be released every few days), click here:
Step 7: Get rid of inflammation and bloating triggered by candida and an imbalanced gut microbiome
You may or may not have heard about the importance of a healthy gut microbiome by now. We all have bugs in our gut. If they are the right kind, they help break down foods, assimilate nutrients, keep our gut lining and immune system strong. If we have the wrong kind of bugs in there, our immune system becomes alert, leading to chronic inflammation.
The wrong kind of bacteria and fungi also weaken the gut lining, allowing larger than normal food particles to pass through into our blood. This can trigger food intolerances, as our immune system does not recognize these larger than normally present food particles, in turn again mounting an inflammation to aim at fighting them off.
As briefly mentioned in tweak 6, having chronic inflammation makes us more insulin resistant, stalls our metabolism, and directs our body to store fat in the midline rather than burn it.
A commonly overlooked gut microbiome (bug) imbalance is not having enough of the good guys in there, and too much of a fungus called candida albicans. Every time we take antibiotics we wipe out all bacteria, good and bad, allowing for this fungus to take over. That, in addition to a diet high in sugars which feed candida albicans, not enough fiber rich and plant based foods to feed the good guys, and a ton of stress and alcohol which both degrade our gut lining’s intrinsic immune system, allow for candida albicans to grow, and become systemic, or other bugs to start growing in the wrong parts of the gut (also called SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). These all can lead to not only food intolerances, inflammation and belly fat, but also bloating, gas, IBS, and down the line contribute to more serious conditions.
- Add more fiber rich and plant based foods to your diet, such as vegetables
- When choosing your carb portion, go for foods high in fiber and plant nutrients, such as apples, berries, not quite ripe bananas or cooked and cooled (sweet) potatoes or other starchy foods. Once cooked and cooled, or if not quite ripe, the starch is in a resistant form, feeding your good gut bugs, rather than spiking your blood sugar.
- Lower alcohol intake and stress
- Add in herbs such as oregano and rosemary, which have been shown to help kill of bad bugs
- Lower your sugar intake to avoid feeding candida albicans
- Implement some probiotic, aka fermented foods such as kimchi or sauerkraut. Avoid products fermented with yeast such as kombucha, nutritional yeast, yeast in stock cubes, excess beer/ wine, unless you have done a IgG test for candida albicans and yeast and know for sure that these are not a problem for you.
- You may want to take some probiotics, prebiotics and Berberine to give your body a bit of a kickstart
To take this to the next level, do a comprehensive stool test. If you have opted for a food intolerance test, I recommend the one by Great Plains Laboratories which includes IgG to both yeast and candida albicans,and is a great starting point.
Watch the video here
Step 8: Reduce alcohol intake
Alcohol not only puts strain on your liver, increases inflammation and free radical damage and increases estrogen, but also takes away inhibitions and may make you overeat while tipsy, but also the next day.
While research is inconclusive about whether or not being teetotal or adding small amounts of alcohol into your week are healthier, with one factor likely also being the often associated social aspect, what is clear is that any more than 7 servings a week, and any more than 3 in one setting, have exponentially detrimental effects. Must I remind you that 1 serving is not equal 1 drink, and in the UK, a glass of wine often already entails 2 servings!
Examples of 1 serving of alcohol (approx..):
- Wine 150ml
- Beer 350 ml
- Spirits 25ml
Ideally stick to low or no sugar choices, such as dry red wine, champagne, spirits on the rocks or with sparkling water, rather than the sugary versions like rose, sweet wines,
Step 9: Add anti-inflammatory foods & supplements
In the previous sections we have spoken about the role of inflammation, stress and insulin resistance in your fight against abdominal fat. If you are not already, implement the following foods and, if wanting to dial it up a notch a few supplements to your routine over the next weeks, or maybe stick to them long-term:
- Omega 3 rich foods such as found in salmon, king prawns, sardines or supplement at least 1000, better yet up to 4000 IU EPA and DHA per day: lower inflammation and have been shown to balance cortisol response. Test your levels at some point to see if you need to increase or lower the dosage.
- Oleic acid such as found in olives and avocados have been shown to lower inflammation and reduce appetite and cravings
- Fiber rich & fermented foods to support a healthy gut microbiome, such as sauerkraut (or probiotics. Read the label to make sure they do not contain saccharomyces boulardii), eat the rainbow in vegetables.
- Vitamin C rich foods (and supplement): broccoli, lemon, peppers, etc
- Berberine, a supplement shown to improve blood sugar and gut microbiome health
- Magnesium at night to help you get a good night’s sleep. Opt for magnesium malate or glycinate to avoid you getting diarrhea next morning.
- Iodine rich foods to support your thyroid, such as found in seaweed.
- Cooked cruciferous vegetables to support estrogen detox
Step 10: The importance of both rest & exercise
Moderate intensity exercise such as a brisk walk, bike ride, etc have been shown to improve your body composition by a range of factors, such as lowering your stress levels, helping you get a better night’s sleep, improving insulin sensitivity. We have spoken about the importance of all these in the previous sections. Aim for daily movement of at least 30 minutes, better yet 1 hour.
When it comes to more intense workouts, please remember that exercise is great, but make sure to give yourself rest days too. High intensity exercise pumps out cortisol, and like most things in life, are best done in moderation, and not simply along the motto of ‘more is better’. Aim for no more than 2-3 high intensity workouts (ideally in the earlier part of the day, and where possible, when fasted).
Also note, that you ‘can/t out-exercise a bad diet’, and if weightloss is your goal, you do not want to simply start running for hours on end. Research shows that women are more likely to overeat if overtrained, so more training is not always better.
Step 11 Core training – a mini tutorial on how to engage your deep core muscles for a flatter tummy while preventing low back pain at the same time
This series would not be complete if we didn’t spare a moment to mention our deep core muscles. If a slim waistline and hourglass shape is our goal, fixing the inside, aka blood sugar balance, inflammation, etc is core (pun intended ;)), but to give it the cherry on top, our actual core also.
Pilates is a great way to tone up those deep core muscles without bulking up. Often people mindlessly start doing a ton of crunches and sit-ups, without knowing how to engage their deep core muscles, leading to a bulge in the lower part of the abdomen, that area between belly button and the private parts, unneccessarily putting pressure onto the lower back and overworking the hip flexors, leading to low back and hip pains.
In order to prevent that, and instead flatten your belly, and also prevent low back pain and incontinence post pregnancies, it is crucial to first learn the basics, and then incorporate that into your regular exercise routine.
Research shows that normally, before we lift an arm or a leg, our brain sends a signal to our deep core muscles to gently engage and stabilise the spine. The brain then sends a signal to legs or arms to move, from a stable core. This is called feed forward mechanism.
However, if we have experienced any injury or pain in our back, or have either been very lazy, or on the contrary, overtraining, often this mechanism doesn’t work properly anymore. Instead of first signalling to the core to engage and stabilise, the brain forgets, and only once movement of arm or leg has initiated, sends signals to the core – with resulting tension on the spine. This is called feed backward mechanism.
In order to fix this, and to re-learn and re-engage this deep core muscle ‘corsett’, one needs to make this movement conscious and learn how to actively ‘turn the core on’.
You may choose to try some online youtube tutorials, or go see a physio or clinical pilates instructor (most normal pilates instructors won’t know the different between deep and superficial core or how to differentiate between the two!) to give you a helping hand to make sure you are doing it right, and then you can go and practise it by yourself, and eventually incorporate into your normal workout routine.
Step 12: Optional add on: cryotherapy, cold showers for brown fat cell stimulation
If you want to dial it up a notch and kickstart your fat burning journey, but also reap some extra anti-inflammatory, blood sugar balancing and overall anti-ageing benefits, you may want to consider adding in some cold showers, or better yet, ice baths or whole body cryotherapy into the mix.
Research suggests that it doesn’t only help speed up recovery (athletes have used this for a long time after strenuous training or injuries), but also stimulate our fat cells to produce anti-inflammatory chemicals and speed up our metabolism, a process called ‘beiging’ of our white fat cells.
In one study done on menopausal women, 5x/ week whole body cryotherapy exposure for 3 minutes each, for a total of 4 weeks, abdominal circumference went down, and their metabolic markers in blood improved.
Who is in? Brrr – no pain no gain! 🙂
Side note: a cold plunge will temporarily spike your cortisol, so best done in the morning, and in moderation. (I keep repeating myself! .. but hopefully you got the point! :))
If you’ve gone and seriously given the above a good go, but at no avail, it may be time for you to see an experienced Functional Medicine practitioner that can help you dig deeper. There are many other reasons why things don’t work, including autoimmune conditions, more hormone imbalances and more. Feel free to reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like my help on this journey to your optimal health.