Throughout the natural course of life, women experience fluctuating levels of hormones. Hormones are very powerful chemical messengers that help to regulate normal body functions; without them our body would not work properly.
Hormones are necessary to sustain life but they can also wreak havoc if they are imbalanced.
This brings us to the topic of hormone imbalance and its relation to weight gain! As women, we have so much to deal with when it comes to hormone fluctuation on a monthly basis and if that wasn’t enough we also have menopause to look forward to which brings on a host of other issues!
Although hormone fluctuation and imbalance can’t be totally avoided, we can make daily choices to ensure we are optimizing our ability to avoid the weight gain that can come along as a result.
Usually it goes a little something like this:
Decreased Activity + Hormonal Imbalance = Decreased Muscle Mass + Decreased Metabolism =
There are few hormones that can lead to weight gain but I will be focusing on Estrogen and Cortisol.
Estrogen and Progesterone are the female sex hormones that are responsible for producing secondary characteristics at puberty, developing the reproductive system and maintaining pregnancy. When they are in balance everything works as it should, but when we develop what is called estrogen dominance, there are many symptoms that can occur one being weight gain.
Estrogen > Progesterone = Weight gain (especially in the midsection)
Estrogen dominance is when there is an overabundance of estrogen in ratio to progesterone. This can result from abnormal hormone secretion due to medical conditions, menopause, exposure to environmental estrogens and our own lifestyle choices.
But what can you do about this???
Unfortunately, we don’t have control of when we start to enter menopause or if we have some medical condition that is leading to hormone imbalance. However, we DO have control over our lifestyle habits and what we expose ourselves to on a daily basis.
Earlier I mentioned “Environmental Estrogens” and you may be wondering what they are….well let me tell you!
Environmental estrogens are things that we are exposed to daily from the chemicals we use to the food we consume. Pesticides, hormones in animal products, plastics (especially those that have been heated), parabens and nail polish are just a few examples.
Try some of the following to help prevent weight gain due to estrogen dominance:
- Increase fiber intake by eating lots of veggies, this will help to eliminate excess estrogen through the digestive system.
- Decrease consumption of meat, especially meats with added hormones. Try to buy hormone-free, antibiotic-free, grass fed meats.
- Exercise daily, this helps to detoxify the body though sweat and of course increasing your activity levels will help with prevention of weight gain.
- Incorporate weight training as this helps to maintain human growth hormone (HGH) levels. HGH helps to keep you looking young, lean and firm. Not to mention building lean muscle tissue will help you burn more calories as muscle naturally burns more calories than fat.
- Eat fresh organic fruits and veggies to limit exposure to pesticides.
- Avoid drinking and eating out of plastic containers, especially those that have been heated up by being in a hot car or a microwave.
- Use natural skin and hair products with no parabens. If you wear nail polish, buy brands that are nontoxic (there are plenty of options out there).
This hormone is often referred to as a stress hormone but actually has a few functions. Cortisol also helps to regulate blood glucose, blood pressure and it also suppresses the immune system.
During times of stress your body focuses on functions that are important to surviving the threat or stressful situation. But if your stress is constant this will eventually take a toll on the body.
For example, during stress the body thinks, “Oh No! We are in danger!” As a result, cortisol is released because your body figures you need energy to escape the situation. Cortisol causes fat stores to break down, which releases glucose (sugar) causing blood sugar levels to rise in order to produce energy.
Now this is all fine and dandy if we are running from a threat and actually using the energy that has been released. But if you are in a constant state of stress due to work, family issues or whatever the case may be, the glucose is not being used up for a physical need. When this is coupled with not being active then this released sugar will be removed from the blood by insulin and go right back into to our fat cells. Unfortunately, in this case it usually goes to the abdomen.
Try some of the following to help reduce stress and balance cortisol levels:
- Manage stress through meditation, yoga, deep breathing and spending time outdoors.
- Daily physical activity will help to relieve stress and anxiety by releasing feel good hormones like endorphins and enkephalins. Not to mention this will help you rest better at night.
- Getting plenty of good quality sleep will help to control cortisol production. It is recommended that women get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily. If you have trouble falling asleep start a bed time routine where you turn off all electronics an hour before you go to bed, this will help to relax your mind.
- Limit caffeine consumption, as increased caffeine levels can cause the body to release more cortisol. You especially don’t want to consume caffeine within 4 to 6 hours of bedtime as it can affect your ability to rest.
- Stick to eating habits that limit processed foods that are high in fat, sugar and artificial ingredients as this can lead to inflammation. Inflammation puts stress on the body and can lead to many chronic diseases. When the body is inflamed, cortisol levels rise.
As you can see hormones are very powerful and if not properly secreted can lead to various signs and symptoms including weight gain. By incorporating some of the suggestions above, you can develop a lifestyle that can help keep the weight-off due to hormone imbalance.
It is key to remember that everyone is different so what works for one person may not work for another. You must also be consistent in your efforts to see results.
Find Health Every Day!
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