August 29, 2011

Ask John Douillard: Why did I gain weight this summer?

Photo: iamtrendywendy

Are you experiencing summer weight gain, bloating, constipation?

Even though you didn’t really eat “bad” or “pig out”?

You may be experiencing a very natural phenomenon that is easily fixed! I know this sounds hard to believe, but we all have a slower and weaker digestive system during the summer months. Our body’s digestive acid reduces in the summer which helps to avoid the risk of overheating, thus also reducing our ability to digest heavier foods.

3 simple tips for summer eating:

  1. Eat largest meal at mid-day. Eat larger portions of salads, fruits, and veggies.
  2. Tone, cleanse, and stimulate the digestive tract with Triphala, an Ayurvedic formula.
  3. Engage in some kind of detox this fall.

Keep reading, or watch the video:

Our body protects itself.

One of the keys to human survival throughout the millennia has been linked to our ability to tolerate heat. We have, unlike most animals, very sophisticated mechanisms for removing heat out of our body. These include sweating, breathing and standing, which can reduce solar exposure by 60%, just to name a few.

Our body’s digestive acid reduces in the summer which helps to avoid the risk of overheating. In the same way we cool our house with an air-conditioner, we automatically adjust for a hot summer with a cooler digestive fire. Luckily, the foods that are harvested in the summer are very easy to digest and don’t require a big furnace to be properly cooked and therefore, digested.

In the winter, we experience the opposite. The cold temperatures require us to hold onto heat and thus our digestive fire and strength is much greater. We naturally turn on the digestive furnace in the winter and not in the summer. Again, nature cooperates with a heavy, dense and harder to digest harvest that requires more digestive heat.

Eating with the Seasons.

If we exclusively lived off the land, we would be forced to eat more meat, fish, dense root veggies and nuts in the winter. These foods are more insulating, but are also harder to digest so they require a strong digestive fire. Easy to digest summer fruits and veggies from the garden are in such abundance that it is challenging to eat them fast enough.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t eat only foods as they come in season as I discuss in my book, The 3-Season Diet. I think most of us naturally crave more salads and fruit in the summer and heavier soups and stews in the winter but we don’t necessarily restrict ourselves to eating only these foods.

This results in eating heavy, hard to digest foods in a season when the digestive fire just can’t muster up enough oomph to cook, digest, assimilate and eliminate those popular summer foods, such as: burgers, fried chicken, barbequed wings, french fries, chips, pizza, ice cream, and well, I think you get the picture.

It’s as easy as one, two, three!

  1. If you are going to indulge in these harder to digest foods, enjoy them as a larger mid day meal when digestion is stronger rather than in the evening or late at night when the digestive fire is less efficient.
  2. Yes, it is OK to eat some of these harder to digest foods in the summer. Just do your best do eat smaller portions of the barbecue and much larger portions of the salad, fruits and veggies.
  3. Look at our Summer Grocery List, which offers suggestions on how to limit heat-increasing foods (or pitta) and increase heat-reducing foods. Circle the foods you like and simply make a point to eat more of them. Think this: “What can I eat more of?” Not this: “What can’t I eat!”

Try this herbal formula: Triphala

In Ayurveda, there is a famous herbal formula that can rejuvenate the intestinal tract that is called Triphala, literally translated as “three fruits”. These three fruits help to tone, cleanse and stimulate the digestive tract. This is a perfect solution to the digestive sluggishness that takes place each summer. During the summer months, as little as one capsule before bed can boost digestive efficiency.

According to the text, Ayurvedic Medicine by Sebastion Pole, the three fruits in trifala are described as follows:

1. Haritaki: (pronounced har-ee-ta-kee)
    Tones the muscles of the gut

  • • Active ingredients are tannins, which support loose bowl function, and sennosides, which support better elimination.
  • • Supports irritated mucus membranes in the gut which may protect against excessive intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome.
  • • Increases digestive fire and clears undigested food (which, in ayurveda, is called ama).
  • • Tones the muscles of the gut.

2. Bibhitaki: (pronounced bib-ee-ta-kee)
    Helps remove mucus from the gut

  • • Bibhitaki literally means “fearless of all disease”.
  • • Astringent and strengthening properties for the mucus membranes throughout the body.
  • • Helps clear mucus from the lungs, intestines and urinary tract.
  • • Pulls excess, unhealthy mucus off the gut wall (excess mucus can compromise absorption of nutrients and detoxification).

3. Amalaki: (pronounced ah-ma-la-kee)
    Supports repair of the intestinal mucus membranes

  • • Well-known for its Vitamin C content, which is about 20 times that of an orange (23mg of vitamin C per 1 gram of the dried Amalaki fruit).
  • • Traditionally used for irritation of the intestinal tract.
  • • Supports the repair of the intestinal mucus membranes.

A personal story:

Not too long ago, a woman came into to my office and told me she was so grateful for the advice I had given her a few years previously. I had told her to take Triphala after each meal as an intestinal sweep to help make her digestion more efficient. She told me that she has been doing that ever since our consult and lost 50 pounds. She said she didn’t change her diet at all and just added the Triphala.

I can tell you from many years of experience that this herbal formula is not a weight loss pill and may not have this dramatic of an effect. Triphala is a tonic for the intestinal tract that supports digestive efficiency and elimination.

Prepare for winter, detox.

At the end of summer, every living creature is making a life changing transition to prepare for winter. This is the time of the year the body prepares to detoxify. Helping to take the stress off the digestive system, as I described in this newsletter, is a part of this natural process. Follow nature’s lead this fall and engage in some type of detox.

At LifeSpa, we have four different cleanse options:

  1. The Short Home Cleanse: a free 4-day cleanse you can do at home.
  2. Colorado Cleanse: a 2-week home detox and digestion boot camp guided by Dr. John every spring and fall.
  3. Anytime Colorado Cleanse: a self-guided 2-week detox program that you can do at home.
  4. Panchakarma: deeply rejuvenating detox retreats at our clinic in Boulder, Colorado.
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