Weight loss is a multi-billion-dollar industry that continues to grow. According to the National Institute for Health, in the United States, 30.7% of adults are overweight and 42.4% are obese.
Obesity can increase the risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, which are all prevalent in the U.S.
Weight loss can be difficult when the focus is quick fixes, strict diets, extreme workouts, and prescription medications. There are also many issues that are related to social inequities (food deserts, access to healthcare, social support, affordable gyms, etc.) in marginalized communities but that will not be the focus of this blog.
Traditionally weight loss has been simplified into “eat less, exercise more” but, the focus should be on optimizing metabolism to promote weight loss and maintenance. When you rely on quick fixes and extreme diets the results are temporary and wreak havoc on your natural metabolism making it even more difficult to lose weight.
One way to optimize your metabolism (how efficiently your body breaks down the food you eat) is to balance your hormones. Hormones play a role in managing your appetite, how much you eat, blood sugar, energy levels, and lean muscle mass which all influence your ability to maintain a healthy weight.
Cortisol and Insulin
Cortisol is commonly referred to as the “stress hormone.’” During times of stress, cortisol breaks down stored sugar (glycogen) to produce the energy needed to escape from danger. Cortisol also stops insulin’s ability to remove sugar from the blood (insulin resistance) to ensure fuel is present to escape.
If you are in a state of chronic stress, which is very common in modern times, cortisol levels can stay high resulting in high blood sugar and insulin resistance, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. All these factors affect metabolism making it difficult to shed unwanted pounds if they are not addressed.
Ghrelin and Leptin
Ghrelin and Leptin are two of the hormones that work to control your appetite. Ghrelin makes you hungry (think stomach growling) and leptin decreases your appetite. Keeping these hormones in balance is a key component in regulating your appetite and managing weight.
Poor sleep habits are one factor that can lead to an imbalance in these two hormones. Sleep deprivation can be caused by staying up too late watching TV, scrolling social media, high caffeine intake, or shift work (working midnights).
Lack of sleep increases ghrelin and lowers leptin. Resulting in increased hunger and the desire for more high-calorie, fatty foods (burgers, pizza, fries, sweets, chips, soda, etc). On top of eating more unhealthy foods, there is less physical activity due to fatigue resulting in weight gain.
Estrogen and Testosterone
Estrogen and testosterone both play a role in the ratio of fat and lean muscle mass. Estrogen promotes storage of fat in females which is important during reproductive years. Testosterone helps to maintain muscle mass and energy levels in both males and females.
Several lifestyle factors can affect the levels of both estrogen and testosterone. Too much estrogen can lead to weight gain specifically in the waist and hips, and low testosterone can reduce muscle tone, resulting in more fat tissue on the body. High estrogen can be caused by:
- High Alcohol Consumption: The liver must focus more energy on eliminating alcohol from the system, reducing the ability to break down estrogen, and allowing it to build up in the body. Low testosterone can also be caused by excess alcohol consumption because it increases an enzyme called aromatase. Aromatase converts testosterone to estrogen, so as it increases more testosterone is converted to estrogen creating more of an imbalance in these two hormones.
- Poor Gut Health: Beta-glucuronidase is an enzyme that breaks down estrogen into its active form to be eliminated or absorbed back into the body. Bacterial overgrowth and the lack of diversity in the gut can increase beta-glucuronidase levels, which can increase the amount of estrogen reabsorbed, leading to estrogen dominance.
- Exposure to Xenoestrogens: Xenoestrogens are synthetic chemicals found in personal care products (shampoo, lotion, deodorant), household cleaning products, air fresheners, plastic containers, cosmetics, nail polish, and paper receipts. These chemicals can accumulate in fat tissue, alter metabolism, and increase appetite leading to weight gain.
Natural Ways to Keep Your Hormones Balanced:
- Manage your stress levels: Incorporate habits to manage mental stress. Take regular mental breaks, do more things that bring you joy, don’t overcommit, and work to create healthy boundaries with family and friends.
- Get deep restorative sleep: Create a bedtime routine, and get in bed by 10 p.m. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and heavy meals before bed as they can prevent quality sleep. Blue light from technological devices tricks the brain into thinking it is daytime by decreasing melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleepiness. Instead, read a physical book, magazine, journal, or stretch to wind down.
- Nourish the body: eat a variety of different fruits and veggies, buy organic when possible, and drink plenty of water. This will help to improve liver function, and gut health and ensure the bowels are eliminating waste in a timely manner.
- Move your body: Aim to be physically active every day, this improves insulin sensitivity, reduces stress, improves sleep quality and sweating helps the body to remove toxins.
- Switch products: Switch out cosmetics, personal care, and household products for more natural options. The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) is an excellent resource to research your current products to see how toxic they are. You can also do things like use glass storage containers instead of plastic, get receipts emailed instead of printed, and use essential oils** instead of air fresheners. (**If you have pets research which oils can be toxic to dogs and cats before use.)
If you are ready to take charge of your hormone health, schedule your consultation today!
Schedule your consultation: https://healthymotives365.as.me/healthyhormones
Dr. Lindsay Banks
Hormone and Gut Health Expert