Weight loss can be a challenge for many people. We all know that the goal when trying to achieve weight loss is to use or burn more calories than you take in or ingest. To accomplish this, you can carefully track your calories by recording your daily diet and exercise to ensure you are reaching your goals. It sounds easy enough, but unfortunately, many people struggle with weight loss and lack the discipline and motivation to keep to a healthy diet and do regular exercise.
If you have decreased motivation, increased appetite, food cravings, anxiety, or depression, then accomplishing this seemingly simple task can be quite challenging. It’s beneficial for people that have trouble losing weight to have a complete medical evaluation. This evaluation will help see if there are undiagnosed physical or chemical imbalances that might be contributing to the problem. Naturopathic physicians routinely run specialty tests that evaluate things like a
An imbalance in neurotransmitters is often overlooked as a cause or contributing factor when evaluating difficulties losing weight. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that affect the function of the body and influence our appetite, mood, energy, and sleep. There are many types of neurotransmitters, but there are a few that are key to achieving healthy weight loss.
Serotonin is present in the brain and digestive tract, and is an essential factor in mood, depression, anxiety, sleep quality, emotions, and the regulation of appetite and motivation. Low serotonin levels can trigger “emotional eating,” increased appetite, sugar cravings, and lack of motivation. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed medications that increase serotonin levels to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, many people have side effects with these medications, including weight gain. Fortunately, there are natural alternatives that can support serotonin levels without unwanted side effects. Normalizing serotonin levels is vital for successful weight loss.
Dopamine plays a role in behavior, learning, sleep, mood, focus, immune health, and the pleasure and reward response. Pleasurable situations, such as eating, stimulates the release of dopamine. Dopamine can help us to stay focused, energized, and motivated. If your dopamine levels are low, then you’re more inclined to overeat. Also, sugar and stimulants like soda and coffee are frequent cravings for those with low dopamine function. People with low dopamine levels tend to crave the brain stimulation that overeating provides, which can lead to unhealthy eating habits. Ensuring that your dopamine levels are normal is a helpful strategy to prevent this tendency.
GABA is the most important inhibitory/calming neurotransmitter. It gives us the ability to relax. Those who have low GABA levels feel an inability to relax and often suffer from anxiety and insomnia. They also tend to overeat to deal with conditions brought on by stress or anxiety. Low GABA levels can lead to “emotional eating.” There are natural supplements that can raise levels of GABA, inducing a calmer state of mind, decreasing the tendency to turn to food for self-soothing effects.
Ensuring that your neurotransmitter levels are normal and balanced is an essential element of successful weight loss. A simple urine test can evaluate the levels of these important neurotransmitters. If you have had difficulty with weight loss, ask one of the naturopathic doctors at Living Wellness Medical Center about neurotransmitter testing and balance to achieve success with your weight loss goals or call: 480-588-6856.
By Dr. Sarv Varta Khalsa, NMD