Written by Brian Rigby, well-known to our readers from his previous post on chronic inflammation and ways to combat it. Reviewed by Dov Michaeli, MD, Ph.D.
Other changes and supplements for belly fat
Another beneficial effect of exercise is stress-reduction, but not all stress reduction needs to come from exercise. There are also lifestyle changes you can make and supplements you can consider. Because stress influences belly fat not just directly, but also through insulin resistance, tackling stress is key to reducing the amount of fat the body stores as belly fat.
Stress is not only a feeling capable of being changed through physical intervention (massage, aromatherapy, etc.), it is also a chemical change in our body which can be treated with supplements. While stress is, itself, an unpleasant psychological state, it is cortisol which wreaks havoc on our body when it is chronically high, and it is cortisol which tells the body to store belly fat.
Psychological aspects of stress may encourage “stress eating” or other detrimental behaviors. For this reason, stress management techniques are important. But in the short-term, we can also try to fix cortisol levels and reduce the overall health risk associated with chronically high cortisol levels and the belly fat it encourages.
Relora can really help: Dr Oz and JJ agree…
Relora, recommended by Dr. Oz, is a mixture of herbs of and B vitamins which helps to control cortisol levels in the blood and relieve feelings of stress and anxiety. The difference between Relora and Relora Plus is the additional B vitamins, which play crucial roles in the formation of new neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, all of which stress can rapidly reduce.
Furthermore, because stress and anxiety are so often connected to an increased risk of depression, and depression itself can be the result of certain B vitamin deficiencies, it can be doubly important to maintain healthy levels of B vitamins in the body. B vitamins are also water-soluble, meaning your body cannot store them as it can vitamins like D and A, making these vitamins important to take on a daily basis.
Adaptogenic herbs can also play a role in cortisol levels and stress reduction. Ashwagandha prevents decreases in vitamin C and cortisol content of the adrenals during stress. Siberian ginseng has been found to reduce the cardiovascular response to stress.
Panax ginseng may inhibit an enzyme which converts inactive cortisone into active cortisol, providing a lowered stress response in individuals with high levels of cortisol. All of these herbs, and a few more which help moderate other aspects of our endocrine system, can be found in Phytisone.
Vitamin C is another vitamin crucial to the stress response. Before cortisol is released, our adrenal glands release vitamin C. The reasons are currently unknown, but it is believed to be a form a damage-control—stress can create a lot of free radicals in our blood, and the released vitamin C attenuates the damage. Regardless of the reasons, chronic releasing of cortisol means a higher probability of the chronic release of vitamin C! If your diet is not high in fruits and vegetables, then you run the risk of depletion and increased free radical damage.
Eating fruits and vegetables with every meal is the best response, as they also contain numerous phytochemical compounds which may alter the stress response. Another good idea is to supplement with high-quality vitamin C, which will ensure your adrenals always have plenty of vitamin C to release. As with the B vitamins, vitamin C is water-soluble, so it should be taken daily (if not multiple times daily).
Reducing cortisol levels will help turn the tide against how your body wants to store fat, and may also help you lose weight by removing the obstacles standing in your way. People who are not stressed are more likely to make healthy decisions, allowing them to improve their health further and make a more significant impact on their belly fat.
Insulin resistance is the final piece of the puzzle
After exercise and stress, insulin resistance is one more aspect of your physiology which may be causing you to create more belly fat and hold onto it for longer. While most evidence suggests that the majority of insulin resistance is caused by belly fat, it would be unwise to ignore the role all of us play in the formation of the belly fat and insulin resistance.
The most important thing to change with insulin resistance is the diet. Diets high in fat and refined sugars can cause insulin resistance even in healthy individuals with no belly fat. So, when trying to reduce belly fat and insulin resistance, your diet’s focus should change to foods which are lower in fat and you should preferably eliminate refined sugars. Fat, itself, is not the enemy, nor is sugar when it is consumed in a healthy form such as berries or oranges (for most people). Instead, it is overconsumption of either of these nutrients which causes a severe rise in blood concentrations of free fatty acids, which then causes insulin resistance. In moderation, our body knows how to handle fat and sugar; insulin resistance is a product of the high-fat, high-sugar foods we’ve processed.
Ideally, your diet should be around 25-30% protein, 40-45% carbohydrates, and 30% fat. The protein and the fat help slow the digestion of the carbs and make you feel satisfied. The carbohydrates provide a slow stream of glucose to supply your brain and muscles with sufficient fuel. Eating a diet with these proportions will do a lot to balance your blood sugar (provided you don’t eat too much!) and reduce the evolution of insulin resistance.
As with stress, there is also a chemical part of the equation which you can address with supplements. Insulin resistance cannot be reduced to one factor; there are many factors which may contribute to it, and fixing those factors may help reduce the risk.
Vitamin D is an extremely important nutrient which many people worldwide are insufficient in. Traditionally, vitamin D is the “sunshine vitamin”, but nobody spends eight hours a day shirtless and outside anymore (nor should we!). For this reason, supplementation is very important for most people and could help fight insulin resistance. Hypovitaminosis D (low vitamin D levels) is associated with beta cell dysfunction (beta cells are the pancreatic cells which release insulin) and has been strongly correlated with increased insulin resistance. Taking a vitamin D supplement (most people need at least 2000 IU) may help your body become more insulin sensitive.
Chromium is another nutrient which may play a role in insulin resistance, especially diet-induced insulin resistance. Studies show that in high-fat diets, chromium helps the body clear glucose from the blood faster than diets without added chromium. Chromium also helps the body clear excess free fatty acids. Both effects contribute to a lowering of insulin resistance
There are also certain herbs which help regulate blood sugar. Gymnema leaf extract has been shown to help with blood glucose homeostasis in diabetic patients. Bitter melon extract can lower blood glucose. Bilberry extract may help treat hyperlipidemia, which means exceedingly high blood lipids; use of this extract may help our body naturally lower them. All three support the body’s natural ability to regulate insulin and may be a useful tool in the fight against insulin resistance and belly fat. All three are found in Diabenil, which also contains chromium and a few other nutrients useful for fighting insulin resistance.
Combining diet changes with the above supplements is an effective way to treat diet-related insulin resistance, which is an important step along the way to fighting belly fat and the innate insulin resistance it can cause!
Three steps to a flatter belly
Though the above changes were listed sequentially, they should ideally be pursued altogether. Exercise is key to losing the belly fat, but no step can be ignored if you truly wish to succeed! Making a lifestyle change which includes additional exercise, stress-reduction plus cortisol control, and diet-change plus glucose and lipid control will provide your body with everything it needs to get rid of your gut and all the detrimental health effects it brings with it!
Making a conscious effort to reduce your belly fat is one of the most important ways you can improve your overall health, and the benefits you receive may be enough to get you motivated to improve all the other aspects as well! No one other physiological change can make quite the same difference as reducing belly fat because only belly fat carries the increased risk of insulin resistance, cortisol activation, and chronic inflammation.
Try to get at least an hour and a half to two hours of aerobic exercise in per week. More is even better, and will reduce your belly fat that much quicker. If you don’t have the time for this much exercise, up the intensity. Four fifteen minute burst sessions will provide about the same benefit as two hours of light jogging. Resistance training, while it won’t directly burn the belly fat, will increase your overall metabolic rate and encourage weight loss.
Stress management techniques should be combined with cortisol managing supplements until your stress is under control. The body is capable of regulating cortisol effectively when it is healthy, but the belly fat activates an undue amount of cortisol and increases its level in our blood, even absence of stress! Managing cortisol with supplements until belly fat is under control is a good way to increase the efficacy of your belly fat reduction plan.
Insulin resistance is a dire consequence of belly fat, but it is also a step along the road to belly fat. High-fat, high sugar diets not only cause insulin resistance in healthy people, they also encourage excess fat deposition. Fixing your diet goes a long way towards reducing insulin resistance, but because belly fat plays such a role in its formation, fixing blood glucose and lipid levels can also help in the meantime. Certain vitamins and minerals, like D and chromium, have roles to play in insulin sensitivity. Some botanicals can also work on hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia (high blood sugar and lipids, respectively).
Any one change will play its role, but the best results will come from the best effort: Changing all three at once. If you reduce your belly fat but don’t fix its underlying causes, you will need to reduce it again, a tiring prospect! On the other hand, if you fix all three aspects, you are much more likely not only to take it off, but to keep it off as well, giving you a much more promising prospect for a healthy life!