Most of the time, I don’t post about weight loss and instead focus on nutrition and general health. The reason being is that I don’t endorse particular diets or trends; we’re all different and many of the diets on the market aren’t suitable for those with gut issues; particularly with IBD (which I myself struggle with). Despite the fact that many people lose weight with digestive disorders (due to lack of appetite, malnutrition and diarrhoea; just as many struggle with banishing excess weight (due to things like not having a varied diet, unable to exercise, bloating and of course the dreaded steroids). Today I am going to sharing my own suggestions as a Nutritional Therapist in training on how to lose weight safely without annoying your gut.First up here’s what not to do….
1. DON’T suddenly increase salad and raw vegetables. The first thing many of us do when we want to lose weight is to turn to greens. However, a sudden increase in salads and raw vegetables (such as trendy kale) can irritate the gut and cause diarrhoea. This is because raw vegetables and salad contain insoluble fibre-which while really beneficial for our gut- is also tough to break down and largely remains intact in the digest system- which can irritate a sensitive or inflamed gut.
This blog post outlines some different sources of insoluble fibre. It is important not to avoid this type altogether (since a wide range of fruit and vegetables are needed for a diverse gut bacteria) but you might wish to introduce this type of food slowly; juicing particularly tough veggies and using well cooked root vegetables (e.g. parsnip, carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash) as these tend to be more tolerable.
2.DON’T Switch to ‘sugar-free’ or low fat’ Although they might seem healthy, sugar-free is often code for ‘sweetener heavy’ and while sweeteners are low in calories; they are not kind on our gut. The worst offender, Aspartame- has been linked to all kinds of health conditions. Xylitol is a healthier option but that too causes laxative effects in big portions. The best suggestion is to try to naturally sweeten foods with fruit puree, cinnamon or raw honey. Stick to homemade fruit infused water as most supermarket versions are full of sweeteners.
3. DON’T give up on oily fats.
One of the most frustrating things for me as a Nutritional Therapist is that many low-fat diets assign high value to oily fats- such as salmon and avocado (a whopping 9.5 ‘syns’ on slimming world) It is important to recognise the health value of these- oily fats are crucial for anti-inflammation (those that consume omega 3 regularly report much lower levels of inflammation in cells) and essential for all cell functions (including the muscles in your digestive tract) Salmon, Avocado and Flaxseeds are all excellent sources of omega 3- so considering supplementing if you’re not consuming regularly and use your fat allocation for health sources.
4. Do get creative on low-residue. Many people on low residue diets; get frustrated as it is often seen as a ‘carb heavy’ diet with low in fibre ‘white’ items being on the menu. There are ways to get creative when on low residue- well-cooked veggies are allowed and juicing is another way to get the goodness without any fibre (see my juicing guide)
5. Do try to exercise where possible. Although it’s common sense that exercise helps weight loss, this can be difficult if you are low on energy or struggle to do high impact exercise with gut health issues. I am not an exercise expert so asked for the opinion of a PT, Trevor McClintock who suggested: low-impact, moderate cardio work and beginning slowly with 3 times a week. Great activities include swimming, yoga, cycling and power walking. I personally recommend yoga as a way to begin exercise (there’s loads more info on how yoga can help your gut and a 2 free week class pass in this post)
6. DO focus on increasing good quality protein.
My turmeric fish recipe is a well-balanced, healthy recipe with plenty of protein and can be adapted to Slimming World, low fat or low residue diets.
Many slimming diets like Weight Watchers and slimming world, focus on protein (for example; lean protein that is not cooked in oil is all considered ‘free’ on slimming world). This is where these diets can be beneficial as increasing protein can help with things like anaemia and controlling blood sugar (since regular protein intake stabilises glucose in the blood). Protein can also provide energy and satiety- meaning you are full for longer.
Interestingly, many food plans specifically for gut health- such as Paleo and SCD (more on different gut health plans in this blog post) also centre around protein; since this reduces the carbohydrates in the diet (which may ferment in the gut) and can also help with gut healing- the amino acids in meat can help support the gut (L-Glutamine being a key one. The best sources of protein for your gut to tolerate tend to be chicken, turkey and fish. While red meat is undoubtedly good for iron; many people with all kinds of digestive disorders struggle to digest it due to its high fat content and low stomach acid (see this video for more info on stomach acid) If you’re vegetarian or vegan, adding a good quality pea or hemp protein powder may be beneficial- I personally use My Protein orgainc hemp ( you can often get discounts on this on this site)
Trying to lose weight without annoying your gut is a tricky thing! I’d love to hear your experiences below.