Can’t lose weight?  Your gut could be the problem.  Expert Smriti Kochhar talks about fad diets, gut health and weight loss [Exclusive]

Can’t lose weight? Your gut could be the problem. Expert Smriti Kochhar talks about fad diets, gut health and weight loss [Exclusive]

Can’t lose weight?  Your gut could be the problem.  Expert Smriti Kochhar talks about fad diets, gut health and weight loss [Exclusive]

Intestinal health and weight loss

Smriti Kochar talks about intestinal health and weight loss

Photo: Times Now Digital

Weight loss! It is perhaps the most common advice given by doctors today and the hardest thing to achieve. Whether you’re trying to lose 10 pounds or 50, the struggle is real and the road is cloudy. Many of us have tried everything from calorie deficit training to extreme diets like keto diets and more. Yet after months of trying, the excruciating and unsatisfying lack of results leaves us wondering what we’re doing wrong.

Anything! Says intestinal health expert Smriti Kochar. In a heart-to-heart exclusive, Smriti explains how people have actually screwed up the one important system that controls us all: our gut. The gut—essentially the body’s entire digestive system, including the stomach, pancreas, intestines, liver, and more—is key to healthy living. And vice versa, the intestines of all troubles.

A functional medicine practitioner and gut health expert, Smriti explains how good health is about effective nutrition. “In conventional medicine today, you basically go to different healthcare providers. You know, if you have a brain problem, you go to someone, you have a bone problem, you go to someone, you have digestive problems, you go to someone. And mostly what you’re really looking at is sorting out those symptoms in some way,” he points out.

Unfortunately, while we manage the symptoms, we never really realize the root cause of the problem. That’s where functional medicine helps. Smriti explains: “Take a medicine or a pill and somehow manage that symptom. But you don’t really understand where it all comes from. Today, if I’m not digesting my food, why is this happening? If I have osteoporosis, how did I get it? If I have arthritis, why? Let’s say my hair is falling out in batches, like alopecia, where does it come from? Functional medicine addresses all of this. Functional medicine really means that we get to the root of the problems, understand the biochemistry that runs within us, understand how each of our bodily organs work, and use nutrients to function.

It is, as Smriti simply explains, it all starts with our gut. And since all problems start at Gut, the answer or solution must too.

“It all starts with the gut. And if healing is to begin, it also begins in the gut.”

– Smrit Kochar

But how does Gut impact us so much? Does acidity make me fat?

The key is of course the systems and how each system in the body is interconnected. From the immune system to the metabolic system to our endocrine system, it all depends on the nutrition or food we eat and how well our intestines function. A disorder leads to a chain reaction that continues and it all starts with poor nutrition and the imbalance of our gut microbiome.

“We host trillions of pathogens in our bodies. So many bacteria in our small intestine, large intestine, sometimes even stomach,” Smriti explains.

“We have more DNA in our bodies from bacteria than we have from human DNA!”

– Smrit Kochar

But why do we harbor these pathogens? “Because we need it,” she explains. “Our entire immune system, our entire digestive system, and our entire brain health depend on this bacterium functioning well.”

We’ve all heard of good bacteria and bad bacteria in our gut. Sometimes, due to ineffective nutrition and poor lifestyle choice, we get what is termed as dysbiosis or an imbalance in bacteria. And this is where it all begins.

“There are unwanted pathogens growing and the beneficial ones aren’t enough to basically maintain that balance.

So when the unwanted ones start to go, they cause a lot of problems. They can wreak havoc in our gut, bringing a lot of inflammation, leading to a lot of intestinal diseases, like lots of loose stools and constant diarrhea, chronic constipation that doesn’t go away no matter how much we hydrate ourselves.

Of Slimming Diets and Functional Nutrition

“Functional nutrition is basically nutrition to support the functionality of your body,” she shares. The body, a combination of various systems such as the immune system, digestive system, metabolic system, nervous system, lymphatic system, runs on nutrients. But if your digestion is not right and you are unable to get the nutrients then the systems would be disrupted.

“If you don’t absorb what you’re eating into your cells, you’re starving your biochemistry. You don’t have the nutrients to perform that biochemistry. All these biochemical pathways that take place within us are interrupted”.

He adds that managing these biochemical pathways can help relieve symptoms and many “diseases” as well.

Many symptoms and very often the diseases are just dysfunctions and easy to reverse and put into remission. Just go upstream and look into all these features and you will get your answers. And it’s easy to fix with food.

Talking about weight loss and fad diets, Smriti points out that fad diets do more harm than good. He talks at length about the keto diet and the latest fad of OMAD (one meal a day). Eliminating food groups, warns Smriti, is just an invitation for trouble at a later stage.

“If you’re cutting carbs, especially for women, understand that your thyroid the gland will work eventually, because the thyroid needs a lot of carbohydrates to function.

Not everything is bad. Keto, for example, is a good diet for managing metabolic dysfunction and even cancer, but not for weight loss.

Similar is the case with calorie deficit and OMAD diets. “When you go on a starvation diet, it’s a calorie restriction diet. What happens is our bodies use all the nutrients that you eat from the food, to function, as I said, in all of this, as I was talking about it, when you eliminate that nutrition, your body has to stop certain functions, because it doesn’t have enough to do what it was doing,” he adds.

And the cycle doesn’t end there. Smriti cautions how crash diets can lead to a long-term impact on overall health. “You will end up with hair loss, sagging skin, dry skin, wrinkles and a lot of digestive dysfunction, because you have also shut down your microbiome. If you don’t feed your beneficial bacteria the things they need, it will have a big impact on your digestion and immune system later on.

So what should be done?

Smriti advises reason and prudence. Being thin shouldn’t be the goal.

“I think what you need to do is eat more mindfully. Limit your carbs a bit yes, especially processed foods, grains, sugary foods, anything that can harm your system but not real fruits and veggies and whatever nature wants us to eat we should eat. Don’t go on a crazy diet because you want to look good and look slim. It’s okay to have some weight as long as it’s not visceral fat. Don’t take fatty liver and fatty pancreas, it’s harmful. It’s okay to have some weight and not be thin and not compromise your system.

Watch the full interview as Smriti lists what we Indians are doing right in our diet and what we are doing wrong. Small changes can make a big difference.

Smriti is a leading health coach and functional medicine practitioner, based in Gurgaon, India. She consults people around the world (online) and specializes in work on the drivers of chronic disease. She believes that most chronic diseases can be put into remission through personalized, science-backed dietary and lifestyle interventions. He deals with gut health, brain health, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, asthma and allergies, immune system dysregulation, skin conditions, skin rashes, food intolerances and metabolic dysfunction.

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