That’s not fat!? Why your stubborn fat might not be what you think (Part 1 of 3)

  • July


    Most people immediately assume that it’s fat, but when the normal methods of eating well and exercising doesn’t seem to get your weight to budge, there might be something else going on… and it may even be emergent.

    It’s important that you know the signs and symptoms of an emergency but also how to identify differences and effective management for your weight concerns.

    The 3 most common reasons for your clothes fitting snugger are:

    1. Inflammation
    2. Edema (aka. water weight)
    3. Adipose Tissue (visceral and non-visceral)

    And sometimes they are all happening at the same time.

    Today, we will look at Inflammation and discuss:

    • What is it?
    • How does it look and feel?
    • When is it emergent?
    • What to do?

    1. Inflammation

    What is it?

    Inflammation is a normal process that your body takes on to help heal a physical injury, infection or allergy. But it can also happen when we are under stressful conditions and eat certain foods that cause distress on the body.

    Inflammation is the process of accumulated blood, immune cells (neutrophils, leukocytes), immune system cytokines, nutrients, and fluid (aka. edema) from the blood vessels into the injured area of the body (interstitial space of the tissue), making it look larger than normal. It’s why your ankle swells up after you sprain it.

    The process of inflammation is important and shouldn’t be completely eliminated. The act of blood, immune cells and cytokines converging into an area is to help heal. However, there can be problems when too much inflammation starts to damage healthy surrounding tissues.

    For example:

    Think about a water balloon between 2 piles of sand. If you fill up the balloon a little bit of water it won’t affect the sand too much. And if you fill it up even more, it might topple a bit of sand off the top and sides. But if you fill it up to it’s maximum the whole piles will be knocked over and the balloon itself may stretch too far and break.

    Pro-inflammatory cytokines and cells

    There are certain cytokines (cellular molecules) and immune cells that induce inflammation and are called pro-inflammatory cytokines and cells”.

    • Interleukin (IL) 1, 6, 8
    • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha
    • Interferon (IFN) gamma
    • Neutrophils (acute inflammation)
    • Lymphocytes (chronic inflammation)
    • and PLA2, COX2, NO- inducing processes
    • and mast cell, histamine- induced allergy response

    Again, these are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The proportion and frequency of inflammation is what that can lead to further harm and tissue damage.

    But don’t forget, if you have an infection, you want the inflammation and immune cells to protect your body from further harm as well.

    Certain foods increase these “pro-inflammatory cytokines” and should be eaten in moderation to allow healing of the gut mucosa and healthy digestion.

    Pro-Inflammatory Foods:

    • Animal fat (severe): grain-fed beef, pork
    • Animal fat (moderate): cheese, egg yolk
    • Trans-fatty acids: some crackers, cookies, chips, etc
    • Insulin-inducers: sugar, candy, sweets, processed grains
    • Beverages: soda, juice from concentrate, alcohol
    • Food allergies and sensitivities (ie. dairy, corn, soy, gluten, and eggs are the top 5)

    Many pro-inflammatory foods are unhealthy for the body, however other food sensitivities also offer nutritional benefits and should NOT be avoided completely (ie. eggs). The body requires some inflammation and stressors to maintain proper immune function.

    How does it looks and feels?

    1. External inflammation

    External inflammation to a body part is swollen, typically warm to touch, red and fluid filled. If you were to press down on the swollen area it would be tender, soft to touch and would bound back once the pressure was removed. It’s often painful to use and may have surrounding bruises from the injury. It takes 7-14 days to heal, depending on the severity of the inflammation and if you support its healing.

    With allergic reactions (ie. mosquito bites) the inflammation is localized, slightly red with a defined boarder and itchy.

    Mosquito bites are itchy, localized, swollen with defined boarders. (

    Mosquito bites are itchy, localized, swollen with defined boarders. (

    2. Internal inflammation

    When there’s internal inflammation you may not be able to visually see the swelling, however, like the over-filled water balloon, it can displace the neighboring organs, tissue and fluid. You may also have a slight fever, feel sluggish and tired, have trouble breathing or have signed of systemic inflammation (ie. joint swelling and pain).

    With anaphylaxis, the biggest concern is the throat (trachea) swelling and limiting the breath. Always have your Epi-Pen on hand in case of an accidental allergic exposure.

    3. Gastrointestinal inflammation

    Excessive and chronic gastrointestinal inflammation is also known as “Leaky Gut Syndrome”, which involves an IgG immune reaction. When a sensitized person repeatedly eats a particular food over a short period of time it can cause a delayed hypersensitivity immune response (IgG).

    The effects progress gradually and are non-specific and often dose-dependent. Symptoms can vary, learn more here:

    • migraines, cognitive ‘brain fog’, fatigue, lethargy, low energy
    • chronic digestive concerns (constipation, diarrhea, excessive gas, IBS, IBD)
    • skin issues (acne, eczema, atopic dermatitis)
    • weight gain, water retention, joint pain, and increased yeast, fungal and sinus infections.

    Inflammation of the small intestine disrupts the mucosal cells and allows large molecules (ie. food) to pass through the tightly packed cells of the mucosal lining. Small disruptions are often no problem for the GIT but excessive inflammation can allow these large particles to pass the gut lining and into the blood stream where antibodies will be created to these ‘foreign bodies’. This is known as leaky gut syndrome. Now that the body has created ‘food antibodies’, the next time you ingest that food you will have an IgG response.

    Sometimes food particles have similar structures as molecules in your body and the antibodies can start to attack your own cells. This is called autoimmunity and can take on many different forms, such as:

    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Addison’s disease
    • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
    • Graves’ disease
    • Multiple Sclerosis
    • Psoriasis

    When is it emergent?

    1. Anaphylaxis

    Anaphylaxis is a common emergent condition. Parents and people with severe allergies should always carry an Epi-Pen (Epinepherine dose) with them. If there is trouble breathing or a systemic (full body) reaction, administering a single dose will prolong the symptoms so that you can get to your local hospital.

    An EpiPen should be carried by any person with an anaphylactic allergic reaction

    An EpiPen should be carried by any person with an anaphylactic allergic reaction

    2. Sepsis or cellulitis

    If you see a swollen foot or leg with a streak of red spreading up the leg or extending outwards from an infection (over the course of a few hours) this may mean you have an infection that has gotten into the blood stream or is infecting surrounding skin/tissue and can be life threatening. This is called sepsis or cellulitis (and I don’t mean the dimples in your butt) and you need to go to the Emergency Room (ER) immediately!

    Sepsis and cellulitis is a bacterial infection that has spread beyond control and requires emergent medical care

    Sepsis and cellulitis is a bacterial infection that has spread beyond control and requires emergent medical care (

    Sepsis often starts with a wound to the foot that becomes infected. People with peripheral neuropathy (ie. diabetics) can injure their feet or legs without feeling the pain and because their immune system is inefficient, it allows the infection to grow quickly. If the infection get’s into your blood stream, this is called “sepsis” and can affect your entire body. You may have symptoms resembling a cold (ie. fever, chills, body ache).

    If you have poor wound healing or trouble feeling your lower limbs, make sure to check your legs, feet and in between your toes each night for cuts, bruises, discoloration or swelling. Clean any injury thoroughly with soap and water, and visit your doctor if you have any concerns.

    If there is a rapidly growing red streak or red area (especially coming from an infection), use a pen to draw a line on your limb at the highest point and note the time. If it continues to grow (ie. 1cm in an hour) re-mark the expansion with the time and go to your closest hospital. This is an emergency case and if left untreated may lead to the loss of a limb or fatality.

    3. Deep Vein Thrombosis

    Another emergent condition may be Deep Vein Thrombosis for those with blood clotting issues. It will cause inflammation in your legs with deep pain (but may also be without symptoms). The dangers with blood clots in the legs (ie. thrombosis) is that they can become dislodged and travel up your blood stream and lodge into your blood vessels surrounding your heart and lungs, which is a life-threatening process called Embolism.

    This doesn’t always happen, but if you have blood clotting issues with recent leg pain or swelling with no injury, visit your medical doctor. If you then experience chest pain, trouble breathing, or fainting go to the Hospital immediately or call 9-1-1.

    What to do?

    1. Typical sprain or strain

    With normal inflammation from a sprain or strain, use the practice of R.I.C.E. for the first day of the injury to allow for controlled inflammation (but NOT eliminate inflammation):

    • Rest (minimal use if there is pain, but maintain some movement)
    • Ice (10 minutes on: 10 minutes off: 10 minutes on)
    • Compress (allow blood flow)
    • Elevate (above level of heart)

    After the acute phase of inflammation, regular movement and activities should begin to encourage circulation of blood, nutrients and cytokines. If there is continued or aggravated pain, swelling, redness and heat, complete one round of R.I.C.E. and follow the following food suggestions.

    Topical arnica cream or homeopathic arnica is indicated for non-open injuries (ie. no break in the skin) that cause trauma to the tissue.

    Persistent inflammation could also indicate a broken bone or more severe tissue damage. If you’ve had a slow-healing injury for more than 1 months, visit your MD, ND or physio-therapist for further evaluations

    2. Non-emergent infections

    If you have an infection, allow the inflammatory process to happen. And help your body by taking immune supportive foods and supplements- Read here.

    Persistent infections will also need to be treated (but are not usually emergent), either by natural herbal and supplemental treatment or antibiotics in severe cases.

    3. General health

    Anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients to speed up healing:

    • Cold-Water Fish: wild Atlantic salmon, sardies, herring, rainbow trout, mackerel (high in EPA and low in mercury); fish oil (3:1, EPA:DHA)
    • Protein Foods: chicken, eggs, soy, fish, nuts (walnut), legumes, seeds (flax, hemp)
    • Fruits: citrus fruits (oranges, lemons), tropical fruits (papaya, pineapple), berries
    • Veg: onion, garlic, parsley, spinach, sweet or red peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, beets, avocado, olive oil
    • Beverages: green tea, red wine (≤1-2 glasses a night)
    • Spices: turmeric, garlic, ginger, cinnamon
    • Supplements: bioflavonoids, vitamin C, quercetin, bromain, papain, glutamine, probiotics
    • Herbs: Boswellia, Angiographis, Curcumin, Chamomile, Ginger, White Willow Bark
    • Topical: Arnica, Calendula, Magnesium,

    4. Limit inflammatory exposures

    It’s important to limit pro-inflammatory foods and food sensitivities until the gut lining is healed, then introduce in moderate and infrequent doses. You don’t need to completely eliminate any food unless you have an anaphylactic reaction. Download your anti-inflammatory protocol here.

    Reducing your stress will also aid in your digestive processes. Try taking 3 deep and slow breaths before you eat and go to the washroom. Also practice proper sleep hygiene to ensure you are healing your body during deep restful sleep.

    If you aren’t sure what foods cause you aggravation, try a Hypo-Allergenic Diet

    –> To get your free comprehensive Hypo-Allergenic eManual including dietary guidelines, recipes for a 7-day meal plan, shopping lists, and food re-introduction schedule, sign-up HERE.


    5. Limit food and environmental allergens

    Surprisingly, allergic foods and environmental factors should be limited (but not necessarily excluded) to very minute doses and with consistent exposure. It’s been shown that extremely minute doses of an allergen can help build tolerance and the ability to re-introduce that food or environmental factor back into a person’s life without complications.

    Several studies have looked at oral immunotherapy for severe allergies (especially to peanuts) and over the course of 3-4 months, were able to successfully re-introduce moderate doses back into their lives without fear of accidental anaphylaxis.

    For example, Anagnostou et al (2011), started with 5g of peanut protein (<5% of 1 peanut) daily and increased according to the patient’s symptom response every 2 weeks. At the end of 4 months, participants were ingesting up to 800mg per day and were kept on a maintenance dose of 5 peanuts per day.

    NOTE: If you or your child has anaphylactic responses, make sure you have medical supervision and DO NOT try this experiment on your own.

    6. Deal with your stress constructively

    The definition of stress by the Oxford Dictionary is,

    “Pressure or tension exerted on a material object.”

    This includes the mental and emotional strain from demanding circumstances. However, it can also be the effort exerted while exercising, which strengthens your heart, the muscles being worked and the bones that are attached to those muscles.

    Stress is normal. It’s even healthy at times. How you manage stress is what causes the accumulation of disharmony and disease in the body and mind.

    Effectively managing stress takes practice, daily practice.

    It’s not about taking hours a day to meditate or planning out an exit strategy for every possible stressor. It’s about quality not quantity.

    Making small manageable steps will produce big results without you even realizing it.

    Click the link to read the full list of “15 Simple Daily Practices For a Healthy State of Mind”.

This website is NOT to be used as a diagnostic or treatment tool. Always consult with your Conventional Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor for specific concerns. In cases of medical emergencies visit your nearest hospital or call 9-1-1.