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HORMONAL WEIGHT GAIN
You’re not imagining it: Your hormones can make you hungrier, fatter and miserable.
The truth is, weight loss is not about willpower or calories in/calories out. Both are myths promulgated by the diet industry that doom us to failure. Fad diets simply don’t work – over 95% of dieters gain back the weight they lose and more – because they oversimplify a very complicated process.
The main factors that block weight loss are: hormonal imbalance, many years of exposure to toxins, inflammation (due to dysbiosis, yeast overgrowth and food sensitivities), immune system imbalance, stressors (emotional and physical) .
If you feel as if you are not overeating, exercising regularly and still not losing weight, you most probably have a hormonal problem or imbalance.
We have learned that you have to get healthy before you can lose weight and keep it off. Once you establish baseline health, your body will naturally seek and maintain its ideal weight. The first step is to follow nutritional and lifestyle guidelines’s like those we suggest in our Weight Loss Program.
HORMONAL WEIGHT GAIN IS MOST COMMONLY CAUSED BY:
- deficiency of thyroid hormones (low thyroid or hypothyroidism)
- excess of stress hormone (cortisol)
- abnormal insulin-glucose relation (insulin resistance)
- polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- low progesterone (perimenopause)
- progesterone-estrogen imbalance (menopause)
- low testosterone (affects men and women)
- low HGH (human growth hormone) and DHEA levels
Remember: it’s impossible for your body to balance its “minor” hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) until your “major” hormones (insulin, cortisol, thyroid hormones) are balanced first. To put it simply, if you are overweight and you are insulin resistant, it’s going to be nearly impossible to lose weight without first healing the insulin resistance.
Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid occurs when there is an inadequate production of thyroid hormones, resulting in a slowing down of the body’s metabolism.
- Weight gain
- Puffy face and eyelids
- Loss or thinning of eyebrows
- Cold intolerance
- Low sex drive
- Abdominal bloating
- Cold hands or feet
- Dry or thinning hair
- Joint or muscle pain
- Thickening of the skin
- Thin, brittle fingernails
Is based on your symptoms, results of a blood test (measures levels of thyroid hormones) and a positive Basal Body Temperature Test, which involves taking your temperature first thing in am for 5 days in a row, tucking the thermometer snugly in your armpit for 10 minutes as you lie there. If your thyroid function is normal, the temperature should be in the range from 97.8 to 98.2 F. If your average temperature is lower than 97.8 F- your thyroid may be hypoactive.
Thyroid hormone replacement therapy to normalize thyroid hormone levels and improve symptoms.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone made in the adrenal glands, which are small glands adjacent to the kidneys. Cortisol is released in the body during stress; hence is called the “stress hormone.” But cortisol is more than a simple marker of stress levels – it is necessary for the function of almost every part of the body.
Excess production of cortisol is on the rise in today’s world because the level of stress in modern society is on-going and increasing. So in turn, weight gain is also on the rise in part due to increasing stress.
Testing salivary cortisol levels several times during the day at home or at work by collecting saliva into test tubes and sending it off to the laboratory.
Suppressing cortisol by using drugs is not the solution, nonetheless – decreasing stress, exercising regularly, eating correctly, and balancing the entire hormonal system is the answer to a ‘hormonally-related’ weight gain.
There are natural ways to reduce stress and maintain cortisol levels. Magnolia Bark, Epimedium, Theanine, Banaba leaf, green tea, Beta-sitosterols, chromium, and vanadium are natural methods to suppress cortisol and reduce the effects of stress.
Over 25% Americans suffer from insulin resistance. Women who are insulin resistant are at much greater risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, breast and uterine cancer and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Insulin resistance often accompanies the most common complaints – fatigue and weight gain. As women approach menopause, they find it easier to gain weight, especially around their waists. Afternoon blahs, sugar crashes and carbohydrate cravings may all be early insulin resistance symptoms.
HOW INSULIN RESISTANCE DEVELOPS:
Insulin is responsible for maintaining stable blood sugar levels by telling the body cells when to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Being insulin resistant means that your body stops to respond to insulin. Since it can’t process ingested carbohydrates, it stores them as fat. So no matter how little you eat, you will gradually gain weight. At the same time the cells cannot absorb the glucose they need, so they signal the brain that you need more carbohydrates. The result is persistent food and carbohydrates cravings.
Evaluation for insulin resistance includes a blood test for glucose and insulin levels after fasting for 12 hours (we hope to see glucose levels of no more than 75–80 and insulin of less than 14; higher levels indicate a risk of insulin resistance). Increased triglycerides are suspicious too. We also take into account the patient’s lifestyle, diet and exercise patterns, as well as stress factors. All of this can be changed.
I recommend changes in diet and exercise habits. I encourage all patients to shop on the periphery of the supermarket, and to avoid aisles of processed food, sugar cereals, high-sodium snacks and soda.
A diet that consists primarily of lean meats and dairy; high-fiber grains, vegetables and legumes; leafy greens; and fruit will substantially aid the body’s ability to balance insulin levels. A meal plan should consist of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks. Each meal should have no more than 15 grams of carbohydrates in the form of vegetables and fruits (and prohibiting “white” food altogether, such as bread, pasta, and sugar) and some lean protein. Each snack should contain only 7 grams of similar carbohydrates.
Healthy fats, or those rich in essential fatty acids (EFA’s), are also important in an insulin-resistance diet. EFA’s can be found in avocados, cold-water fish like salmon and tuna, flax seed, and eggs and can also be taken in supplement form. (See page on Dietary Supplements for our recommendations on a pharmaceutical-grade nutritional supplements, which can help decrease carbohydrates and sugar cravings, normalize hormonal function and decrease insulin resistance).
Regular exercise of 30 minutes or more per day, 3–5 times a week is also beneficial for regulating metabolic function and hormonal balance.
Decreasing stress, thereby lessening strain on the adrenal glands will result in better overall health and contribute to keeping the body’s insulin levels in check.
Stopping smoking, moderating alcohol intake, and proper sleeping habits (8 hours is a must!) will help to alleviate blood chemistry surges, which in turn will promote a thriving, well-balanced body.
WHAT IS IT?:
PCOS is the most common female hormonal disorder and is characterized by multiple ovarian cysts. Most cysts are harmless but they are a hallmark of PCOS. About 5-10% of women are affected by PCOS and it’s the most common cause of infertility in US.
PCOS can include excessive weight gain and obesity, inability to lose weight, irregular, heavy or completely absent periods, lack of ovulation, ovarian cysts, excessive facial or body hair, Alopecia (male pattern hair loss), acne, AcanthosisNigricans (brown skin discoloration around the neck and under arms), high cholesterol levels, depression, fatigue, decreased sex drive and excess of the testosterone (male hormone).
At the present time, there is no cure for PCOS, but since PCOS is often caused by a hormonal imbalance brought on by Insulin Resistance, the same combination approach recommended to reduce insulin resistance will work here too (with nutritional supplements, gentle endocrine support, enriched nutrition and regular exercise being the first line of treatment and birth control, metformin and spironolactone being the second).
If you have PCOS or think you do, I hope that you will realize there are many things you can do to alleviate your symptoms naturally, without drugs. Like any condition related to hormone imbalance, taking the right steps to improve your lifestyle and nutrition will do wonders to restore your well-deserved good health.
As many women enter menopause or approach perimenopause, they experience unexplained weight gain, especially around the waist and hips, despite their best attempts to diet. Often the methods of weight management that worked for them for years are suddenly ineffective.
For women in perimenopause, weight gain is a result of widely fluctuating progesterone levels, and for menopausal women: diminished levels of estrogen and progesterone.
Adequate levels of both hormones seem to help in hunger regulation, simulating the soothing “full” effect of serotonin. An imbalance in the ratio between estrogen and progesterone triggers cravings, as anyone who is familiar with premenstrual binges can attest.
Why does weight gain occur so universally for women during menopause? Weight gain is just another symptom resulting from your system being out of balance. It depends on the individual, but there are a few causes that are very common. Your fat cells and your hormones are part of a system-wide biofeedback network that orchestrates your appetite, metabolism, heat regulation, digestion, and detoxification. Any chronic disturbance in the cross talk among systems has the potential to cause weight gain (and a host of other menopausal symptoms, like hot flashes and food cravings).
Menopause is also the time when many conditions that have been developing for a long time, such as insulin resistance or adrenal fatigue, become more noticeable and easier to diagnose.
For information on menopause management please go to our page: Menopause Clinic
HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE (HGH) AND DHEA DEFICIENCY
HGH and DHEA are steroid hormones that play a role in ramping up metabolic function. Both hormones are being referred to as “Youth Hormones”. One reason our metabolism slows as we age is the decline in these hormone levels.
If a woman is testosterone deficient, which can occur with poor nutrition or during perimenopause, she lacks the ability to build muscle mass no matter how much she works out. Testosterone production relies on adequate levels of cholesterol, the building blocks of DHEA, and progesterone. Most common cause of low testosterone before menopause? Taking birth control!
So now you know all the factors that affect your weight loss. The question then becomes what to do with it all…