Metabolic Matrix Diet Plan
With so many diet strategies to choose from, it becomes confusing to decide on the one that’s right for you. The idea of “30-40-30”, the “Type O Diet”, “Macrobiotic”, or “Insulin Resistance” are attractive because they are seemingly simple concepts. The problem, however, is that in order to attain a state of balance amidst the complexities of the human body, we have to look at the whole picture, not just a piece of it.
In my recent book, Thyroid Balance, I used the term “Metabolic Matrix” to describe the constant communication between our organs, our environment, our digestion and our psyches. Traditionally, the body has been separated into parts. Conventional medicine has done this completely, creating fields like “cardiology”, “gastroenterology”, “psychiatry” and the like, even though we know these systems actually work together seamlessly as one organism. So, emotional stress is a great factor in heart health, food affects mood, and the same neurotransmitters that we treat with antidepressants are as abundant in the digestive tissues as in the brain. These are artificial divisions, and ultimately interfere with our ability to properly address our health. It is a way of thinking that leads us to heart medications that depress us, mood enhancers that irritate our stomachs, etc.
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But nutritional medicine also has suffered from this simplification problem. So, weight gain is blamed on the thyroid, or on insulin resistance, or on an immune pattern. Unfortunately, the proper answer is not simple at all. Our bodies are a web of constantly-adjusting focus, much like the internet has no center but is a mass of communication back and forth. So, in order to address metabolism, we need to look at digestion, the environment (internal and external), the thyroid, the adrenal-stress response, the liver and how it detoxifies, the brain and mood and the nutrient balance. In other words, we need to address this entire Metabolic Matrix.
The Metabolic Matrix Diet Plan is accessible to anyone, whether they want to change their diet and lifestyle drastically, or if they only wish to change a few things—lose a couple pounds, feel a little better about themselves, etc. There are three basic paths you can take to incorporate the Metabolic Matrix Diet Plan into your life. In addition, you can choose from a set of Lifestyle Change suggestions that help you to improve your mindset and to be more positive in your everyday decisions and perspectives.
Because everyone has a different situation, a different body and different goals, we have set up a process that will allow you to choose your individual and personalized path to health.
Your first assignment! Take out a piece of paper and, off the top of your head, list:
- Your top five health goals/habits you want to change (this includes physical and emotional/mental health). If you have more than five, that’s great! Write them all down.
- The top five habits that make you proud (again, if there are more, write them down!)
Now, looking at what you have written, assess whether each list is more related to your physical health or more to your emotional/mental health. If you find that your goals are more related to physical health, you may want to take the more intensive diet route—that way you will be able to see the changes you are looking for quickly. If your goals are more emotional/mental health-related, you may want to focus your energy on the Lifestyle Change suggestions we will be making below. If you’re a little bit of both, you might just pick a few changes for your diet and a few changes in your lifestyle and see how it works out. There is no best way or worst way. Choose your own path.
Overall, the idea is that we will increase the habits that make us proud and decrease the ones that we feel are unhealthy. Start small—you’ll be surprised at how easy it can be when you’re not overwhelming yourself with too many challenges at once.
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Here is an example:
1. Top goals
- Exercise more
- Lose 15 pounds
- Spend more time taking care of self
- Bring lunch to work 4 times a week, eat out only once
- Cut back on coffee drinking
- Stay in touch with old friends better
2. Top habits that make me proud
- I am a good cook
- I am punctual
- I am friendly and like spending time with friends
- I have a good eye for decorating
- I am considerate and a good listener
So, looking at our goals, they’re both physical and emotional/mental. So we’ll combine part of the Metabolic Matrix Diet Plan and some of the Lifestyle Changes for this specific case. Keep reading…
The Metabolic Matrix Diet Plan is broken down into seven steps that will happen over the course of seven weeks—that’s less than three months—to help you meet your goals! Each week is devoted to one of the systems in your body—the digestive system, detoxification of the liver, boosting metabolism, the adrenal system, sex hormones and vitality, the immune system and finally, the nervous system. By the end of the seven weeks, you will have combined specific suggestions for each system and your whole body will be functioning at a healthier level.
The Lifestyle Changes are suggestions that, although unrelated to diet, can help you lose weight and become more fit. If you shift your energy towards positive action, the results effect your body as well as your mindset.
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The Seven Week Metabolic Matrix Diet Plan
For sample recipes to use in the Seven Week Metabolic Matrix Diet Plan, click here (Microsoft Excel needed)
For recipes using UltraMeal, click here (Microsoft Excel needed)
Week One: Digestion
If food doesn’t get broken down, it won’t be useful. Many of the problems called “food allergy” can be alleviated if we digest foods properly. When food is improperly digested, it remains in small bits, chains of protein or carbohydrate that can cause problems for us.
To solve the digestive problems that plague so many people, there are several options. Broad-spectrum digestive enzymes that are plant-based can be used to break down foods. Eating should also be approached as its own activity—not a part of watching TV, business meetings, driving, or other pursuits that keep the body’s focus away from digestion. Intestinal bacterial replacements like acidophilus can be used to treat bloating and gas. Meals should be simple, with few choices for an exhausted digestive tract.
Week Two: Detoxification
The liver processes our foods, our medications, our hormones and any toxins that enter our bodies. Just as we have to clean debris from machinery in order for it to function properly, we need to clear out toxins in order for metabolism to occur efficiently. This can mean heavy metals like lead and mercury. But the liver can also get bogged down from the effects of medications, stress hormones, products of inflammation, and the chemicals in our environment.
In order to address the problems of the liver, it is important to remove toxins and additives from the diet, including excess caffeine and sugar. Proper nutrients for the liver include zinc, selenium, vitamin C and alpha-lipoic acid, as well as garlic and milk thistle. At this point, heavy metal toxicity testing can be done and aerobic exercise is especially helpful. Cut out saturated fats, fried foods, “junk” food, preservatives and additives. Be careful of pesticides on foods—wash fruits and vegetables well. Apple cider vinegar is an old remedy for weight loss and liver detoxification. Put a teaspoon or two in a glass of water or juice and sip it during a meal, at least once a day.
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Week Three: Metabolism
Thyroid hormone is made up of a protein, tyrosine, in combination with iodine. Adequate protein intake is critical in boosting metabolism. The Metabolic Matrix follows a lower-carbohydrate strategy, in order to prevent insulin resistance. This means cutting down on breads, crackers, pastries, rice, white potatoes, flours (even whole grain ones) and other carbohydrates. In addition, sugar and grains should be limited. A good meal consists of protein and vegetables, with a piece of fruit for dessert. To lose weight, protein should be lean mean, fish or poultry, about 4-6 oz. per serving. Eggs are also a good option, especially poached or hard boiled and kelp or other sea vegetables are useful for their iodine content.
Three meals and two snacks help maintain a steady blood sugar and thus prevent hunger cravings. Sometimes, a good-quality protein supplement can be helpful. We use UltraMeal, a delicious protein drink that has proved successful in studies of weight loss. In addition, various nutrients and herbs can be useful to support metabolism. The amino acid L-carnitine, along with the herb rosemary support thyroid function by aiding in the utilization of active thyroid hormone by the cells.
Week Four: Stress Reduction and the Adrenals
Stress can put on calories! In addition to increasing fat stores and blocking the effects of thyroid on metabolism, high levels of adrenal stress hormones lead to osteoporosis, high blood pressure and lowered immunity. Foods that give us quick stimulation usually do this by exhausting our adrenals. The best solution is an elimination of these stimulants, along with a good stress reduction program.
At this point, avoid coffee (although a cup or two of green tea is okay) and cut out sugary snacks or foods with added sugar. Cigarettes can have problematic effects on the lungs, liver and adrenals, making weight loss more difficult, even if they seem to curb appetite temporarily. Diet remedies that contain ephedra are also a bad choice—they over stimulate your system with the same results as the items already mentioned.
Instead, yoga and meditation are two good ways to lower stress. Adding herbal support for your adrenal gland is helpful—Siberian ginseng (eleutherococcus), astragalus and rhodiola are all good!
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Week Five: Vitality and the Sex Hormones
All humans produce male and female hormones, which have different functions for men and women. Male hormones (testosterone and DHEA) add muscle and bone strength to both men and women, while some estrogens can lead to fat buildup. These hormones are produced in the sex organs and the adrenal glands, so the adrenal recommendations are also helpful to the sex hormones. But in addition, essential fatty acids are critical to good sexual function and vitality. Certain foods contain lignans, substances that protect us from the over-stimulation of estrogens and other hormones.
One tablespoon of high-lignan flax oil should be taken every day—this can be used in salad dressings, along with a handful of nuts, particularly almonds, cashews and walnuts. Avocado contains good oils and alfalfa supports hormone production (try sprouts!). Remember, fat you eat does not make you fat unless you overeat it. Soy and other so-called ”phyto-estrogens” are health-promoting foods for both men and women but be careful of soy supplements, as high doses can actually suppress the thyroid, thus slowing metabolism.
Week Six: The Immune System and Strengthening Resistance
A healthy immune system should be able to fight off colds and infections but not over-react to foods and inhaled allergens. Since the digestive tract is 28+ feet lined with antibodies, a healthy immunity starts with good digestion. It is also good, however, to look at foods that commonly cause allergies, and remove them if necessary. Most commonly, allergic foods result in bloating right after eating, puffiness, and fluid retention or sinus and mucous production. If the immune system is spending energy reacting to foods, it cannot protect us from viral or bacterial infections or from the altered cells of cancer. Wheat, yeast and dairy are the biggest culprits—if you suspect food sensitivities, eliminate these foods while trying to lose weight.
Eliminate cow’s milk, including cream, milk, cheeses and butter—yogurt is usually okay. Oftentimes, mucous and digestive problems can clue you in to this food sensitivity. Wheat and sometimes rye, oats and barley can be allergic foods—fortunately, these are already on the list of foods to avoid in order to help the thyroid and adrenals. Coffee (which, again, is already on the list) can cause allergies, even if it’s decaf. Finally, try to avoid yeast in any form; bread, pizza dough, beer, etc.
Week Seven: The Brain and A Positive Outlook
Nothing is more critical to a good weight management program than having a positive attitude! Set realistic goals—goals you can imagine yourself achieving. Maybe this means cutting down on coffee and processed foods, limiting portions and taking a long walk each day. Maybe it means three weeks without any flour products. Or, maybe it means a period of time using UltraMeal and eating a low carb diet, taking a yoga class and supporting your metabolism with herbs.
If food has the ability to comfort you, find foods that fit within the diet and can serve that purpose. Make a fresh vegetable omelet for breakfast and have fresh berries with crushed nuts for dessert. Make sure to exercise—even walking is good for the Metabolic Matrix. Being completely sedentary makes losing weight, no matter what other changes you may make, very difficult. Check your eating habits and make it into a conscious activity; not something you do in front of the TV. Try new foods! Root vegetables like beets, carrots and parsnips are tasty and contain valuable minerals to help the nervous system. Try green tea once or twice a day—it contains theanine, which calms the nervous system and boosts your mood!
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Lifestyle Changes—these will be helpful, no matter what stage you are at and can be taken to whatever level of intensity you wish.
*Walk to work, walk to the bus stop, walk to get coffee, walk to the park. Get outside whenever you can. Buy a comfy pair of shoes so that you have no excuse! Choose a favorite tree and go visit it at least twice a week to see it bud and bloom and change over the spring, summer and fall. Take your camera, walk until you have found something beautiful to photograph. Borrow a neighbor’s dog if you need a reason. Make walking dates with your friends. There is no better motivation than an agreement with a friend. You can make little changes in your everyday schedule or you can plan something big; a trip on the weekends. But keep doing it, and pretty soon you’ll feel antsy if you haven’t walked, guilty if you drive to the corner store, your legs will be stronger and you will feel more confidant in every part of your life.
*Take care of yourself! Set aside at least one or two nights during the working week where you can come home, cook yourself dinner, take a bath, stretch, read, catch up on the news, tidy up the surfaces in your house and get some down time. If you are stressed out a lot, often times you will make decisions to pamper yourself which end up compromising your health. You need energy, both physical and mental, to stay healthy! If you have had a long day at work, don’t stop at the bakery on the way home, splurge on some interesting produce to cook and buy yourself some calming essential oils.
*Surround yourself with beauty. Being comfortable in your space is essential. You need a place you can let down your guard and relax. You shouldn’t waste energy worrying about cleaning up the huge mess in the kitchen or getting around to painting your bathroom. Take care of it and then reward yourself. If your home (or your room, if you live with others) is how you want it, it will be restful for you to spend time in that space. Once you have taken a weekend to get things in order, get some plants to add green to your space. It is energizing to see a plant flourish and bloom. If you don’t know how to take care of it, call a gardening store and ask—there are plenty of foolproof plants! When your space is how you would like it to be, you are more likely to have people over—it’s cheaper than going out and you don’t have to worry about second hand smoke or loud background noise. Make your space into a project and your reward might be to have a dinner party! Your space should be a safe place. What is important to you? That it be well lit? That it smell nice? That it be soft and inviting? You can achieve whatever it is, no matter what size your home.
*Smile! It sounds far too easy to be true, but smiling will improve your mood if you keep at it. Think of five good things that happened to you each day. Think of people that care about you when you’re feeling down. Think of little gestures that you might make to show the people you care about that you are thinking of them. Enjoy the sun on a clear day, enjoy the sound of the rain on a cloudy one. There a million ways to cheer yourself up. Be kind to a stranger—you would be surprised at how positive the effect can be. Once a month, if you’re out buying a cup of coffee, pay for the person behind you in line too. Watch how many people are touched by the gesture! Instead of being upset when someone is rude or driving badly, consider all of the possible reasons they might be acting that way—what might have happened to cause them to be upset. Regardless of what their reason is, it is much easier to forgive and forget than to hold onto anger all day. Listen to music that makes you happy—it can change your mood in a matter of minutes! Kindness to both yourself and others is imperative if you want to be a calmer, more content person.
*Instead of coffee, try tea—it’s better for you, contains anti-oxidants, less caffeine and there are so many flavors. Go to the grocery store and pick out one that sounds good. It’s also much cheaper than buying a cup of coffee on the way to work…No excuses—if you have a coffee pot or microwave, you can make hot water. This will help you feel less up and down, energy-wise, during the morning, afternoon and evening.
*Whenever you have the chance, baby yourself and go to bed early. After all, we’re not in junior high any more and staying up late is hardly as exciting as it used to be! If you can be in bed early enough to feel completely rested, it will help you feel better about your whole day! If you usually hit the hay at 11:30 or so, try 10:30. The difference the extra hour makes can be astounding. Just make sure you don’t have any caffeine late in the day or you might have trouble falling asleep. If that’s the case, then put on your pajamas and read for the extra hour. Don’t be distracted by things you “should be doing.” This will help you be more productive the next day!
*Instead of buying lunch when you’re at work, plan ahead. It takes about five minutes to make a lunch and not only are you saving money, but with just a little effort, you can be ten times healthier too! Think color and flavor—the more natural colors you eat, the more vitamins you are getting (and the more attractive your meal). Spice you meal up with natural flavors, sprinkle curry powder, freshly ground black pepper, cumin, or lemon pepper. They can make more of a difference than tablespoons of mayo. If you buy yourself new foods to try out on the weekend, you can spice up your lunches with exciting ingredients—sprinkle pumpkin seeds on your salad, cream cheese and sprouts on your sandwich or have edamame with sea salt for a snack. Pick out some fresh fruit that’s in season and munch away—it would take three apples to equal the calories in a little bag of chips!
*If you need a break at work, instead of going to the kitchen, do some yoga stretches. Don’t worry—they don’t all involve pretzel-like maneuvers. There are stretches you can do sitting down! Try inhaling then, as you exhale, roll your ear towards your shoulder. As you inhale and exhale again, roll the other ear towards the other shoulder. Next, try stretching your spine: cross your right leg over your left and grasp your right knee with your left hand. Slowly, inhale then, as you exhale twist your body to the right to look over your shoulder. Try the other side. There are dozens of stretches like these that you can do at work without attracting your co-workers attention. Just look online or buy a book on yoga. Once you start doing these, you’ll realize how much they can help with concentration and sore muscles.
*Breathe right! It helps concentration, reduces stress and doesn’t require you to get out of your seat. Try it out—take a deep breath and try to fill up your belly, the bottom of your chest, then the top of your chest….hold it….and let it out slowly. Try rolling your shoulders while you breathe. It only takes a few minutes and it will help you wake up if you’re hitting the mid-day slump.
*Carry a book with you wherever you go. That way, when you're stuck on the bus or waiting for a late appointment, you can read instead of feeling frustration at being delayed. If the book is really good, you might even hope they'll be late!
Get started! click here for a quick quide to starting down the path to health!
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For recipes using UltraMeal, click here (Microsoft Excel needed)
At WholeHealth New England, we frequently use a meal replacement for people who want an added boost in their weight-loss plan. We feel that this meal replacement, called Ultra Meal, is superior to many others on the market, and some clinical studies support this. A good meal replacement must preserve muscle mass while helping the body to burn up fats. Ultra Meal has been shown to do this better than other products to which it was compared. It is made of good-quality protein, with the necessary nutrients to aid in weight loss.
Ultra Meal is a powder that comes in several flavors including chocolate, vanilla, mocha, berry and orange. We usually put our patients on one drink (two scoops mixed with ice water to make a good-tasting shake) in the morning, and another one at lunch. Dinner is a protein-and-produce meal, and we allow two snacks. The Ultra Meal stems cravings remarkably, and we've had good success.
To order Ultra Meal, click here
Other Components of Treatment
- We pay a lot of attention to the need for hormonal support, particularly thyroid and adrenal. For sluggish thyroid, we usually use the active hormone T3 (either as the medication Cytomel or a specially-made slow-release form) in very low doses, about 5 micrograms twice a day. To support the adrenal, we usually give a small dose of the reserve hormone DHEA, which has been shown to help weight loss by itself. In order to assess hormone function, we usually do screening of thyroid and adrenal hormones utilizing state-of-the-art saliva testing.
To learn more about saliva testing of thyroid and adrenal hormones, click here
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is an oil that helps to mobilize fats from cells, especially when you are exercising regularly. We frequently give this to our patients. To order CLA, click here
- The Metabolic Matrix requires certain nutrients for proper function, particularly if we are trying to coax it into better balance. In our weight-loss patients, we use two supplement mixtures containing vitamins, minerals and some herbs that promote weight loss.
This supplement contains caffeine, and should be avoided if you do not tolerate caffeine: MetActive
This supplement does not contain caffeine: Weight-Less.
- Both supplements can be used together.
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