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 'Herbal Weight Loss'
by Susan Rutter:
Author, publisher, nutritionist, instructor
Feb  2003

Herbal Weight Loss -- The Skinny on Diet Herbs

Thousands of herbs are available worldwide for a dizzying array of diseases and disorders. And consumers are sold on them: A recent survey found that one in three people spends an average of $54. a year on herbal remedies.

Without question, herbs do work wonders in treating many illnesses and improving health. But herbal medicine has a far less effective track record when it comes to weight control. Only one herb -- ephedra --is believed to directly promote fat-burning, but it's dangerous side  effects make it unsafe and unwise to use.

There is one particular aspect of your weight you can control to some extent by supplementing with herbs, and that is water weight. Let's say you weigh 150 pounds. About ninety of those pounds are water; thirty are fat.

The rest is lean tissue -- muscles, organs, and bones. So normally, most of your body weight is water. Sometimes you may retain water. You look and feel fat, even though you may have lost a significant amount of body fat. Some days, you can't even fit into clothes you wore the week before!

Puffiness does masquerade as pudge. Disheartening and uncomfortable, periodic bouts of water retention, medically known as edema, may be the result of any number of factors: excess sodium in the diet, food allergies, premenstrual changes, hormone imbalances, a hot climate, and kidney or heart disease. If you're chronically plagued by edema, have it checked out by your doctor.

You can lose some of that fluid by taking a prescription "water pill" (diuretic) or by forcing yourself to sweat in a sauna or steam bath. Neither is a good idea, though,
because they can lead to life- threatening dehydration and mineral imbalances.

Some herbs, however, may offer a gentler solution. Most of the herbs promoted for weight loss are diuretics -- agents that cause the kidneys to draw extra water from the blood into the urine and stimulate the excretion of water. This action promotes temporary water loss. There's certainly nothing wrong with regulating water weight by using herbs, as long as you use them on a short-term basis and with the full
knowledge of your physician. In most cases, herbal diuretics are safer than their prescription counterparts. But long-term use of either can flush vital nutrients from
the body and cause irreparable harm.

Other weight-loss herbs are really nothing more than laxatives, which also force water from the body. It's much healthier to follow a high-fiber diet and drink plenty of pure water daily than to rely on laxatives for elimination. Prolonged use of laxatives and diuretics, even natural ones, can lead to dependence and serious health problems.

Susan Rutter: author, publisher, nutritionist, instructor
Assists patients and the public make healthy choices and changes
in their lives.

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