5 Examples of Hormone Imbalance That Make Losing Weight so Hard
Maintaining a healthy weight may require you to look at a lot more than just your diet and fitness plan. As we age, gaining weight seems a lot easier for many of us – and that’s because it is. Hormone depletion is a major issue in humans, and it all starts about the age of 30. Specifically, those hormone levels start to drop a few percentage points each year, which is why many of us start to wonder at some point in our thirties where all this extra weight is coming from despite eating the same way we always did and still working out. And it’s not just about hormone depletion, but also imbalance, which can be caused by a number of factors.
A look at a few of the main hormones of the body tell us a lot. In this article I am going to discuss five that can have a major impact on weight. Let’s get to it.
The journey to shedding excess weight is never easy, and it could be especially discouraging when you do everything by the book but still can’t seem to lose the stubborn pounds. If you’ve done it all, from cutting off processed foods to shunning carbs but still can’t get the desired results, you might want to check the function of your thyroid.
The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland, located behind your vocal cords, has pretty much the upper hand when it comes to weight control. You see, the thyroid gland churns out hormones to regulate metabolic processes, and if you’ve got an underactive thyroid, you’ve most probably got a sluggish metabolism – a potentially major factor in weight gain.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include dry brittle hair, constipation, fatigue, low energy, depression, and cold hands and feet. Women are more susceptible than men. Thyroid evaluation is best determined through a good history and exam, together with blood tests and a thyroflex test. The best way to overcome hypothyroidism is through dietary change, which would include avoiding refined sugar, carbs, and processed foods. You’ll want to eat a diet rich in iodine, with healthy doses of vegetables and meat. But do keep an eye out for foods containing goitrogens, as these can inhibit thyroid function. A few examples of foods with goitrogens in them include peanuts, soy, broccoli, and strawberries.
As for treatment: The best way to replace thyroid hormone is with a combination of T3 and T4.
Estrogen is a key hormone with many beneficial factors. For women, estrogen is needed for sexual reproduction, memory, and bone health; in men, it is important for sexual maturation, bone health, and maintaining cholesterol metabolism. However, too much of a good thing rarely results in a positive outcome, and when it comes to estrogen, one of the negative results of having too much is in fact weight gain.
The body can produce an elevated amount of estrogen in both sexes where lack of exercise and poor nutrition are present, and this puts us at risk of overweight and obesity. The environment also plays a considerable role in making you estrogen dominant. This has been coming to light in the past few decades due to the increasing amount of toxicities in our environment. Environmental estrogen mimickers called xenoestrogens (obtained from chemicals and preservatives) and phytoestrogens (obtained from food and plant pesticides) have been increasing each decade, which is why in this day and age we need to be especially wary of what we bring into our homes.
In order to avoid accumulating an excess amount of estrogen in your body, opt for organic fresh foods and avoid harsh chemicals in the household or your personal care products. Avoid processed foods spiked with preservatives, as well as food that’s been wrapped in aluminum or BPA plastic for a prolonged period of time. Also, avoid drinking out of plastic bottles.
An adequate level of testosterone is necessary for both men and women in order to enhance libido, build muscles, burn fat, and sustain memory. Falling levels of testosterone can often lead to weight gain in both sexes. Low testosterone levels are a problem now in many younger men, and this is due in large part to our toxic environment. As mentioned above, the excess estrogen found in chemicals and food can play a major role in creating imbalances in your hormones, and this also directly result in lower levels of testosterone. Even carrying your cell phone in your pocket can decrease testosterone levels. In order to reverse this problem, men and women above the age of forty can take natural hormone therapy replacement.
Insulin and leptin
If you’re one of my regular readers, you’ll know by now that sugar is one of the awful things to have made its way into our lives. Most of us today are living with chronically high insulin levels due to our Western diet high in sugars and grains. And this is the main culprit behind weight gain. When that insulin response gets out of whack due to our poor diets, then all heck breaks loose, and fat stores start to build up much more easily.
Another reason why you might find it hard to lose weight is due to elevated leptin levels or leptin resistance. Leptin is secreted by fat cells to signal your brain that you’re full after a meal. However, an overproduction of leptin stops sending those signals to the brain, which leads to overeating and weight gain (leptin resistance).
Symptoms of insulin and leptin resistance in women include pre-diabetes, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and fertility problems. In men, symptoms include pre-diabetes, a waist circumference of over 40 inches, impotency, and fatigue. Avoiding processed foods and refined sugar is the first step in reversing excess insulin and leptin.
If you’re under a lot of pressure you might find yourself having difficulty losing weight. Anxiety and chronic stress can severely affect your cortisol levels. Cortisol is your “stress” hormone that usually switches on when you’re in a fight or flight situation. However, when you’re in a state where you are continuously stressed due to “life,” the cortisol switch stays on, thus increasing your weight and making it hard to lose those pounds.
Cortisol releases a lot of energy, and if you don’t burn it off through exercise it can also make you especially hungry, which often leads to “stress eating.”
Not getting enough sleep is another reason for high cortisol levels and weight gain. This is where a sleep cocktail is useful, and I always recommend vitamin D (5000 IUs), magnesium (500 mg), and melatonin (3 mg) just before bed to calm your mind and induce sleep.
Symptoms of excess cortisol in both sexes include fatigue, weight gain, acne, lowered immune system, a craving for unhealthy foods and a low sex drive. In order to reduce excess cortisol practice meditation, exercise, and avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar.
I always carry out a complete hormone map on my clients when I suspect hormone imbalance, and where necessary I prescribe bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (never synthetic). Usually, within weeks of beginning the therapy, the fat starts to drop off and muscle tone increases.
If you are struggling with maintaining a healthy weight and are bothered to the point of wanting to do something, get your hormone levels tested. In addition, you’ll want to take a closer look at diet to make sure you are following a strict Paleo regime.
The body is complex and we often feel a sense of helplessness when it comes to conditions such as weight gain, fatigue, mood, and that general lack of well-being. But you’d be surprised what a massive impact balancing out your hormone levels can have on both mental and physical health.