Weight Management: Hormonal Influence

When it comes to weight management, we have all heard the sayings “It’s about calories in versus calories burned” and “it’s all about will power”.  It may be all about balance, but not just the balance of calories taken in versus calories burned by exercise and daily living.  What science is telling us more recently, that it is about balancing all aspects of both our body , mind and spirit that affect our size.   Imbalances within our organ systems, not only affect our size and our inability to shed those extra pounds.  It affects functions that start on a cellular level and ultimately affect function of an organ and our overall health.  So, yes it is all about balance and that balance can be disturbed long before a person sees symptoms, changes on the scale or tighter clothes.   It is difficult to divide the body into parts to discuss imbalance because everything works together.  Therefore, in dealing with a client whose goal is to lose weight, we have to drill down and find out what triggered the weight gain to begin with and address the cause.  Weight management is a long-term journey, not a short-term goal.   Here are some hormonal imbalances that affect weight gain and difficult weight loss:   Hormone Imbalances– “Hormones are the chemical messengers in the body that travel the bloodstream to the organs and tissues. They slowly work and affect many of the body’s processes over time. Endocrine glands, which are special groups of cells, make hormones”.  (Hormone Overview Medline Plus 2010) Insulin– Insulin is produced by the pancreas to promote the absorption of glucose from the blood to skeletal muscles and fat tissue.  It is acutely affected by the amount of carbohydrate, starches and sugar that is consumed.    The more carbs and sugar, the more insulin.  The more insulin, the more storage and, voila!,   more fat is stored in organs and around muscle.  Typically, elevated insulin levels will lead to insulin resistance and pre-diabetes. Cortisol- Cortisol is a corticoid hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress.  It increases blood sugar and suppresses the immune system.  It also aids in the metabolism of fat, carbohydrate and protein.  By increasing blood sugar, insulin release will be stimulated which, will increase fat storage. Leptin- A hormone, secreted from body fat, that tells the brain how much energy is available and how much is needed.  When imbalanced, due to excess body fat, inflammation or gut bacteria imbalances, then leptin resistance occurs.  That means a person doesn’t feel satisfied, even after a meal, and therefore eats more. Estrogen-Estrogen is a necessary hormone but needs to be in balance.  Estrogen is a female sex hormone and is also found in males in smaller amounts.  If not detoxed properly, then it can actually be stored in fat cells as a toxin.   Both men and women are exposed daily to estrogen mimics called xanoestrogens.   If you are a golfer, work out in the yard with pesticides, herbicides, or eat conventional foods, you will be exposed to these chemicals.   Xanoestrogens look so much like estrogen, that they hook onto our cellular receptors and can cause disruption on a cellular, biochemical level.  What are some of the symptoms of estrogen/ xanoestrogen overload?  It can exhibit as estrogen dominant disorders such as fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovary  disease, gynomastia (“male boobs”) and a large gut- fat around the middle.   So how do we balance these hormones naturally?  Here are some easy tips:

  1. Eat Organic!   Make sure milk and poultry are hormone free.   See the  www.ewg.org for more information on foods safe to eat conventional and what you absolutely should buy organic.
  2. Lower total carbohydrates in the diet.  Eat unlimited low carbohydrate veggies and limit starchy veggies such as potatoes, corn and peas.  Limit fruit to 2-3 servings per day.  Limit starches and grains to 2 servings per day.  Avoid sugar, syrups, and even artificial sweeteners.  If you must have something sweet, then use stevia in small amounts.
  3. De-Stress!!!!   Remember, cortisol will drive inflammation and elevate insulin.  Do deep belly breathing, especially before eating.  Do not eat if upset or have an argument during a meal.  It will sabotage how that meal is metabolized.
  4. Take a probiotic daily.  This should be a high quality broad spectrum, GMP certified probiotic.  This can help rebalance the gut bacteria that communicates to the gut, brain and help leptin to get rebalanced.
  5. Decrease inflammation.  Address food sensitivities, and any gastric imbalances.   A great place to start is an 28 day elimination diet.  This eliminates gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, alcohol and caffeine to start.  After 28 days, reintroduce one food at a time, being very mindful of any symptoms including brain fog, joint pain, gut issues, bowel function, etc… A good functional practitioner will help you with a plan.
  6. If you find you are estrogen dominant- eat lots of cruciferous vegetables- broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, arugula, onions and cabbage.  These help block estrogen from going down a toxic pathway and get stored in the body.
  7. Have a practitioner evaluate your supplements and develop a supplement plan for you. All biochemical processes in the body depend on nutrients.  Nutrients are key in assimilation, metabolism, detoxification.

Instead of focusing in on calories in versus calories out, try working on improving imbalances!  You will see a big difference!