Weight Gain: The Usual Suspects

We are constantly bombarded with diets upon diets, each promising a thinner waistline, a bigger and better way of melting off pounds, etc. With our preoccupation of fad diets and intense workout routines, how is that the rate of obesity continue to climb in our society?

What are we missing?

Of course, there are certain dietary and lifestyle practices that understandably apply to most everyone, i.e. limiting trans-fat in your diet, maintaining some form of physical activity each day, etc. The main thing we must consider is that we are all different, from our genes, our hormones, to the environment we are subjected to. All these play a role in our ability to gain and lose weight.

When those pounds are weighing you down, look deeper into the following list of potential triggers to weight gain. (Click on each to read more)











Weight management is not as simple as counting calories. It is a multifaceted phenomenon that needs to take into consideration all aspects of a person’s life, from genetics, to individualized biochemistry and physiology, to external influences. The functional medicine approach takes into account these factors, as well as what could’ve triggered and maintained the weight change.

Food Sensitivities:
An estimated 12 million Americans suffer from food intolerances. When your body reacts to an undesirable item, it mounts an inflammatory response via the immune system. Fluid retention is one way your body may dilute this undesirable response. More on Food Sensitivities

Chronic Stress:
We exist in a world where we experience constant undulating stress with not much room for respite. Our bodies are amazingly resilient, and can usually return to a healthy homeostasis after a stressful event.  Specific hormones (i.e. DHEA, cortisol) and neurotransmitters (i.e. epinephrine, norepinephrine) are released to help our body deal with stress. With chronic stress, our bodies can’t keep up with incoming demands for the production and release of these hormones, and start to break down. When these hormones stay high, there is an increased tendency towards stress eating, especially towards carbohydrates.  There is also increased ingestion of sugar and caffeine for continued “stimulation.” Chronic elevations of stress hormones contribute to fat storage, especially around the abdominal area. More on Adrenal Fatigue

Hormone Deficiency:
Our sex hormones have so many more functions than we usually credit them for. When these hormones are out of balance, it can affect the amount of lean muscle mass we have, our insulin sensitivity, our ability to lose weight and fat, even our craving for certain high sugar foods. Hormonal imbalances can arise from genetic and environmental factors(i.e. PCOS, PMS, synthetic hormones, environmental estrogens, impaired elimination of hormones, etc.), and affect men and women alike.

Insulin Resistance:
Insulin helps our cells utilitize glucose as fuel. With insulin resistance, there is a problem with this mechanism. Consequently, there is an increase in insulin secretion to combat this problem. Insulin elevation can also result from chronic stress, insomnia, alcohol abuse, and overindulgence in carbohydrates and processed foods; this can lead to increased fat:muscle ratio, as well as decreased fat burning potential.

Your thyroid serves a crucial role in your body’s metabolism, heart function, thermoregulation and bone development. In mice studies, when certain thyroid functions were disrupted, the mice being researched experienced problems with weight gain and breaking down fats.

Impaired detoxification:
Toxic buildup can disrupt different bodily functions (especially those of the endocrine system), contributing to weight gain. More on Detoxification.

Being overweight sets up an inflammatory cascade within your body. Fat is not an inactive entity; it produces hormones and inflammatory mediators that can keep you from losing weight. Additionally, oxidative stress caused by free radicals from the environment, and as a byproduct of biochemical reactions, can contribute to this inflammation.

Sleep deprivation:
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation, as compared to sleep extension, is associated with increased hunger and appetite, as well as hormonal imbalances that may contribute to weight gain. Studies have showed decreased secretion of thyroid hormone, insulin, and increased cortisol in sleep deficit.

Diet and Lifestyle:
It’s not just about counting calories. Understand that your body utilizes food as information.  If your body is being fed “poor” fuel, it won’t be able to function at it’s maximal potential. For instance, many low fat foods replace fat with more sugar, thus disrupting hormonal signaling important in fat loss. Additionally, the way you eat may impact whether or not you lose weight. Some work well eating frequently, others not so much. Some follow the Paleolithic diet, others the Blood Type diet. One size does not fit all. It’s important to listen to your body, making sure hunger, energy and cravings are kept in check.

Gut infections:
Our digestive tract houses numerous microbes, some which serve a symbiotic relationship with our body. There are other organisms which are not supposed to be there, or have overgrown, thereby causing problems with absorption, digestion, and weight gain. This includes yeast infections, which if left chronic, can be a reason why you may have trouble staying away from sugar. (Read more Stool Tests)

Research continues to progress around weight management, its causes, and the best way to tackle it. This is an ever-evolving area of medical research, as we continue to battle obesity in our population.

No matter how you look at it, weight gain and/or inability to lose weight is frustrating. It may take some trial and error as you further investigate the root cause and the best regimen to manage your weight. Do understand that ultimately there may be lifestyle changes that have to be addressed, i.e. dealing with chronic stress, staying away from certain foods, etc. Fad and crash diets don’t work; they usually make matters worse. During this time, you may fall off the wagon. It’s ok, as long as you get back on your feet and continue working towards your health.

CALL THE OFFICE TODAY. TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH. Ask Dr. Nguyen how you can test if any of these potential triggers may be affecting your weight.

Dr. Nguyen also provides injections that help with ENERY, as well as BOOST AND SUPPORT FAT LOSS!

Hormone Replacement Therapy: FRIEND or FOE?

By 2020, approximately 100 million women will be entering menopause.

As they age, women experience a decline in their sex hormones, most well known being estrogen. Unfortunately, this very normal transition often comes with unpleasant symptoms.

Estrogen provides many benefits for our bones, brain, heart, joints, sleep and overall quality of life.  So, what happens when there is a dramatic decline in the production of estrogen? It’s different for everyone, but once can experience any or all of the following:

  • Hot flashes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood changes
  • Harder time losing weight
  • Lipid abnormalities
  • Increased fracture risk
  • Decreased libido
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Etc.

Many women can find symptomatic improvement in HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). There are two questions I often hear when women are trying to decide on HRT:

  • 1.   Is it safe?
  • 2.   Should I do bioidentical?

Early 2000, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) reported on the use of animal derived and synthetic (non-bioidentical) hormones as a treatment for menopausal symptoms.  The negative press generated from this report resulted in millions of women stopping HRT.

Since then, numerous studies have shown that there actually may be benefit, especially between the ages of 50-59years of old. This newer research suggests that hormone therapy may have far reaching benefits with cardiovascular health, bone and brain health.

In a 2012 issue of Menopause, the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) stated that estrogen is the most effective treatment for hot flashes.  Shortly after, the WHI reported slight drop in all cause mortality and heart attacks with estrogen therapy with women under 60years of age.

Currently, most research studies are on the effects of animal derived, non-bioidentical sources of estrogen and progesterone. Not much has been done on the use of bioidentical hormones. Bioidentical hormones are plant derived and are completely identical to what is produced in our body, thus it is metabolized and excreted in the same manner. When the decision comes to use bioidentical or not, it really comes down to preference.

Research continues to evolve around the safety, risks and benefits of HRT. It is important that women arm themselves with the most up to date information, and work with their doctors to formulate the best course of action.  Each woman needs to be evaluated as an individual. Symptom severity is assessed alongside personal risks, potential benefits, individual priorities and concerns.

            Is HRT the only opfion?

There are many diet and lifestyle modifications, vitamins/nutrients, and herbs that can be used to alleviate symptoms of menopause.  Additionally, other body systems can also affect not only your symptoms, but hormone production/metabolism, including the thyroid, the adrenals, and the gut. All of these should be evaluated and treated if not functioning optimally.

Dr. Nguyen uses both bio-identical and conventional hormone replacement. She utilizes single and combination hormone protocols, based on each individuals concerns and preferences.


CALL TODAY to make an appointment! (310) 553-8883 OR (310) 914-5010

Tired of Stress? Is Stress making you Tired?

These scenarios are commonly seen with Adrenal Fatigue, what Dr. James Wilson termed “The 21st Century Stress Syndrome.”

Although oftentimes missed in conventional medicine, Adrenal Fatigue is a very real problem.  Most of us actually experience it to some extent, but don’t deal with it, mainly because amidst the million and one things we have to tend to, we just don’t have enough time to care for ourselves.

What exactly are the adrenals?

Two small bean shaped organs that rest atop our kidneys, the adrenal glands secrete hormones that are involved in a multitude of actions, including responding to “fight or flight” situations, helping to regulate blood sugar and tissue repair, modulating the immune and inflammatory response.   Our adrenals help us adapt to stressful events.

Stress can come in mental, physical and/or emotional forms: chronic colds, surgeries, relationship strife,  death in the family, project deadlines. Our forefathers dealt predominantly with hunting and gathering. The stressors that we experience nowadays take on a much different form, but they affect our bodies the same way. When we encounter a stressful event, our body secretes cortisol, which will then initiate a cascade of physiological and biochemical reactions that help us to deal with our environment. Fat and protein are broken down to make more glucose, a consistent form of energy utilized by our body. Cortisol also helps to bring blood flow and nutrients to the organs that need it, i.e. the heart, the extremities, etc. Additionally, it improves alertness and nervous system responsiveness.

Can the adrenals fight on forever?

Our bodies are amazingly resilient, as long as we are provided the opportunity to rest. Unfortunately, in this day and age, we can’t afford the extra time to rest, to restore and replenish our adrenal stores. We learn to endure and move on. Too often, I’ve heard patients say, “I just suck it up,” when asked how he/she copes with stress. Stress, in whatever shape or form, and as unrelated as they may seem, produce a cumulative effect. With time, with no respite, our body begins to break down, crumbling under the pressures of stress. Our bodies become exhausted. Whereas before, cortisol was used to help us bounce back, it undergoes a downward spiral towards depletion, for demands are now far exceeding supply.

Can I test for adrenal fatigue?

YES! There are now salivary and blood tests that can help assess your adrenal function.

If I have adrenal fatigue, do I still have hope?

YES! First, it needs to be understood that in order to truly get well, we need to reframe our mindset. Although we can’t always quit that job, leave unfinished our school/work projects, or predict arguments with loved ones, we can, to an extent, control how we deal with these stressors.

1. Choose a clean, balanced diet. Nourish your body with regular meals. Sugar and processed foods tend to provide us with a quick sugar fix. Unfortunately, it’ll also cause insulin to release quickly, thus resulting in an equally quick sugar crash.

2. Engage in stress relieving practices, i.e. meditation, etc. This allows the adrenals to recover, and promotes a relaxation response: breathing and heart rate calm down, muscles relax, and brain emits alpha waves

3. Exercise will help raise depleted cortisol stores

4. Sleep promotes adrenal recovery.

Additionally, there are nutrients and herbs that can help restore and optimize your stress response. Stress increases cellular metabolism, depleting vitamins and nutrients more quickly.  B vitamins are used heavily by the adrenal cascade, and thus these should be supplemented. Vitamin C can also help boost the body’s immunity, thus improving the body’s ability to handle stress better.

Herbs such as glycyrrhiza, ashwaganda, ginseng all help to support as well as optimize function of the adrenals.


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