Dear Pharmacist: I am 90 pounds overweight and just began taking the medication Xenical. Is there another drug that works better than this? Are there any supplements you recommend? - J.M., Dallas
Kudos to you for getting on the path to wellness. This topic could encompass an entire book, and if there was one easy answer it would be great, but there's not. There isn't a medication that I recommend for weight loss, and although orlistat (Xenical) is commonly prescribed to assist in weight loss, it is not a fat burner. It is a fat blocker. It reduces intestinal fat absorption by blocking an enzyme called lipase. One way to prevent fat in the first place is to keep your cortisol levels down. Cortisol will rise in the presence of chronic stress, fear and grief, and the hormone contributes to belly fat. You can evaluate cortisol and other adrenal hormones with urine and saliva tests.
There's probably no faster way to lose weight than to just eat meats, veggies and nuts/seeds and drink only water, tea or coffee. Testing your thyroid is important because that is often very low, despite normal blood tests. Leptin resistance can cause you to hold on to weight, and leptin can be measured via blood tests, too. (How to test your thyroid and leptin is discussed in my new book that's coming out soon, "Thyroid Healthy." When you have adequate levels of thyroid hormone, you can turn food into fuel.)
As for supplements, there are only a handful that can assist you, and I want you talk to your doctor before taking anything new, because I don't know what's right for you. I've included a partial list here; for the full list, please visit my website, SuzyCohen.com. In no particular order:
Tyrosine An amino acid that is considered a gentle appetite suppressant. It helps you make thyroid hormone, which regulates metabolism and burns fat. Turning calories into energy is important. Unburned calories equals stored fat on you. Tyrosine helps you make dopamine, a happy neurotransmitter that influences appetite. You often see this compound in thyroid supplements and diet aids.
Phenylalanine An amino acid that helps you make tyrosine (see above) while also triggering the release of CCK (cholecystokinin), a compound that helps you feel full. It's what we call a satiety hormone. People often take this amino acid before meals. If you take tyrosine, you would not need this and visa versa. People with phenylketonuria should never take this supplement.
Avocado extract It comes as a capsule, tablet or powder. It's a gentle appetite suppressant and people say it reduces carb cravings. It should improve your glutathione status. Glutathione is a major liver antioxidant that you want more of.
Cumin A spice you can buy at any store that some tout as a natural appetite suppressant activity. Sprinkle it on food.
Peppermint tea Drinking peppermint tea with your meal could help you reduce appetite, but be careful, as it may exacerbate reflux.