Your Hormones and Weight LossJennifer Meredith
Of the some 50 hormones that circulate in the human body, there is not one that should be judged as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but all should rather be evaluated from a perspective of balance. Some commonly found hormonal disregulations, such as insulin resistance, estrogen dominance, chronic high cortisol (aka – stress hormone), amongst others need to be addressed in order to not only start burning fat, but also to keep it off once it has been burned off. Even with multiple hormonal issues and imbalances, and if you are overweight you most likely have a slew of them, DietWell can help you achieve your ultimate health transformation goals. Although hormone imbalance does play a very large role in losing weight, this article is not a get-out-of-jail-free card that completely takes away your personal responsibility for your weight issues.
How many times have you heard someone make reference to their hormones as being the culprit for all of their weight woes? Or maybe the thought crossed your mind that the reason you can’t lose weight is because you have “low thyroid”. If you do in fact have a thyroid issue perhaps you have somehow felt vindicated that there is a true medical reason for your struggles with your weight loss. Well that may be partially true, but even so you must not think that you can’t reach your weight loss goals and that your body does not have the ability to regain hormonal balance.
Let’s examine the key hormone players when it comes to weight loss: OPT IN TO READ MORE
Insulin – the hormone that allows sugar to enter into cells for energy. High sugar levels means high insulin levels. In the presence of insulin fat will stay stored away and cannot be burned for energy. That’s a big problem if your goal is to lose body fat. Insulin surges may additionally effect the hormones that regulate our circadian rythyms and can create a cascade of dysfunction with sleep cycles and adrenal function. More on this in a moment.
Insulin surges and it’s related dysfunction create much more insidious irregularities in a couple of ways. First, the excessive insulin output necessary to handle a carbohydrate dominant diet will create insulin receptor sites to essentially “wear out” and become unable to get glucose out of the bloodstream (i.e. high blood sugar.) This is called insulin resistance. Second, the body will signal the pancreas to produce more and more insulin and this will eventually result in compromised insulin output. These two issues are the cause of type 2 diabetes. Short of the long, don’t eat a carbohydrate dominant diet. Insulin resistance has been shown to improve by staying away from a carbohydrate dominant diet (i.e. the DietWell Eating Plan.)
Now back to the adrenal glands. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenals and is often referred to as our “stress hormone.” Cortisol is a fat storing hormone and in high levels can make weight loss very difficult. Cortisol levels will increase with stress and lack of sleep. Foods containing gluten put a high demand on our bodies, essentially stressing them out. The same is true of any highly processed food. Do yourself a favor by sticking to the real food on the DietWell Healing Foods Shopping List to ensure minimal internal stress. DHEA is another hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Often portrayed as the anti-aging hormone, DHEA influences our ability to lose fat and gain muscle. It boosts libido and helps us feel motivated, youthful and energetic. It is a precursor to estrogen and testosterone and helps to counteract the negative effects of cortisol. DHEA is often found to be low and compromised with chronic high cortisol levels and adrenal burnout.
Ghrelin – the “I’m hungry hormone” – the hormone that tells you that you must eat RIGHT NOW! – it’s the 500lb monkey on your back that ceaselessly drives forward it’s agenda of getting you to eat. One would think that Ghrelin levels would decrease in overweight and obese individuals. Unfortunately, Ghrelin levels increase with increasing levels of bodyfat. Yikes! Ghrelin also increases when you don’t get enough sleep.
Leptin – the “I’m full hormone”- the hormone that tells you that your body has been given enough food – the satiety hormone. For each pound added to an overweight body more and more metabolic dysfunction is created and this causes leptin resistance (i.e. you never feel like you’ve had enough and therefor find yourself reaching for another and then another serving.) Your body needs to become resensitized to leptin in order to get the proper signaling that you are full. Studies show insufficient sleep knocks leptin, your satiety hormone, out of balance.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) – a powerhouse hormone that affects just about every cell in the body and has a major impact on our feelings, actions and appearance. HGH tends to decline with age and is released during deep sleep and while we exercise. It’s essential for tissue repair, muscle building, bone density, and proper body composition. Abdominal obesity has been linked to low HGH secretion. There is miniscule support for the supplementation of HGH as a means of losing weight. Rather it is found that losing excessive belly fat leads to increased HGH production. So essentially, as the belly fat comes off you optimize your body’s HGH production leading to the potential for increased fat loss and lean muscle building. On a side note, adequate HGH production for children is absolutely imperative for their proper growth and development. Obese children are found to have less HGH than children with normal body compositions. It is absolutely detrimental that children who are overweight resolve their weight issues so that they can reach their full developmental potential.
Thyroid hormones- these are very important hormones in our body because they interact with every cell in the body. Thyroid is the catalyst for your metabolism and weight loss and gives us a good mood and warm and toasty limbs to boot. When it comes to understanding your thyroid it is important to understand the multiple components that make up a full thyroid panel test. It is of utmost importance to know if you are dealing with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an auto-immune condition that is the leading cause of low thyroid issues. Hashimoto’s expert extraordinaire, Isabella Wentz – The Thyroid Pharmacist, just informed me at a recent conference that 97% of low thyroid sufferers in fact have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. It’s also possible that your thyroid function is being undermined by other factors like stress, blood sugar issues, gluten sensitivity or environmental factors (like endocrine (i.e. hormone) disruptors – truly scary chemicals like BPA that slow thyroid function by blocking thyroid receptors.) It’s good to point out here that around 20% of folks with type 2 diabetes have hypothyroidism. A very simple overview of how the thyroid works is this: Thyroid Stimulating Hormone TSH is released by the Pituitary Gland and activates the Thyroid Gland to release Thyroid hormone (~90% T4 and ~10% T3.) Think of T3 as the super premium gasoline that stimulates your metabolism and T4 as crude oil that needs a bit more processing within the whole thyroid feedback loop. T4 is further converted not just into T3, but also a small portion of T4 is made into reverse-T3, which slows your metabolism in order to save energy. While reverse-T3 is intended to keep T3 in check and create homeostasis under normal conditions, it may be found that reverse-T3 is high, meaning it is slowing the metabolism beyond what is necessary.
Sex hormones – how is it your sex hormones get involved in things when you are overweight? Maybe you thought that low sex drive of yours was there just because you weren’t feeling comfortable in your own skin and your self-esteem is shot carrying around your love handles. Yep – that’s a part of things certainly, but more importantly you have to understand that body fat actually becomes its own hormone-producing organ. Fat is living tissue that has a survival instinct. It wants to live and stay put just where it is. It is highly vascularized, with approximately 7 miles of blood vessels per pound of belly fat. Belly fat produces estrogen….
High Estrogen: Abdominal fat in men increases the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. As estrogen levels rise, so does the tendency to accumulate more abdominal fat, fuelling the situation. The risk of prostate cancer also increases with higher estrogen levels. A premenopausal woman with high levels of estrogen (also known as estrogen dominance) will likely have PMS, too much body fat around the hips and difficulty losing weight. Menopausal women and, yes, men too, may experience low libido, memory loss, poor motivation, depression, loss of muscle mass, and increased belly fat.
- Low Testosterone: Testosterone levels decrease as abdominal fat converts it to estrogen, and also with increasing stress. While you are under stress, your body will tend to make more stress hormone (cortisol) than testosterone. Testosterone levels tend to taper off with aging, obesity and stress, but today men are experiencing testosterone decline much earlier in life. This is quite an alarming finding, considering low testosterone has been linked to depression, obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease and even death. Researchers from the University of Washington found that men with low testosterone are more likely to develop a potbelly and other body fat. They also found that testosterone may prompt the loss of body fat when deficient levels are replaced. Other signs that you may have low testosterone levels include a loss of muscle tissue, depression, and decreased strength, stamina, drive and motivation.