Are you doing everything right, but still not losing weight?
You’ve likely been taught that if you decrease your caloric intake by 3500 calories or increase your metabolism though exercise to expend an extra 3500 calories, you will lose 1 pound. Cutting calories and increasing exercise has been the foundation of weight loss protocols for years. This weight loss equation only applies when your hormones are perfectly balanced.
If you are having trouble losing weight despite proper diet and exercise, you have to address your hormones. Thyroid, cortisol insulin and estrogen are the 4 most common hormone imbalances that prevent weight loss.
Are hormone imbalances preventing you from achieving your weight loss goals?
Research shows 1 in 5 women suffer from hypothyroidism. This means that the thyroid gland is under active and is not producing enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid function plays a central role in maintaining a healthy weight. Other symptoms of an underactive thyroid include; fatigue, depression, dry skin, hair loss and constipation. Unfortunately, almost half of hypothyroid cases are missed with conventional blood work. If you suspect hypothyroidism it is important to get a complete thyroid panel including TSH, free T3 and free T4 which are the active hormones the thyroid produces. If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism but are still experiencing symptoms, your medication may need to be switched from a T4 only medication (like Synthroid) to a bioidential thyroid medication (like ERFA) which contains a combination of T4 and the more active hormone T3.
Another cause of inability to lose weight is high cortisol. Cortisol is an adrenal hormone that is released in times of stress. This includes both real and imagined stress. If you are struggling with hard to lose belly fat, low energy, poor sleep, and sugar cravings, cortisol may be to blame. High cortisol levels wreak havoc on other hormones including thyroid and estrogen, which further contributes to weight gain. While cortisol is an essential hormone of the body, optimal levels are necessary to achieve healthy weight loss. Cortisol imbalances are best diagnosed through a saliva test looking at levels at 4 specific times throughout the day because it is secreted in a cyclical nature. You can help your body reduce cortisol levels by reducing physical and mental stress, improving sleep, implementing relaxation techniques and eating a nutritious diet.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar. Insulin production may be over-stimulated by a diet high in sugars and carbohydrates. High levels of insulin in the body leads to weight gain. Chronic levels of high insulin in the body causes our cells to become desensitized to its effects. This is referred to as insulin resistance and can eventually lead to Type II Diabetes. Balancing blood sugar levels with dietary and lifestyle changes is essential to weight loss and weight management care.
Estrogen balance is essential in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. If you are postmenopausal and have noticed weight gain despite proper nutrition and exercise, it may be related to declining levels of estrogen. Low estrogen stimulates appetite. Studies show that estrogen uses the same biochemical pathways in the body as leptin, a hormone released by fat cells that tells your brain you are hungry and need to eat. Other symptoms of estrogen deficiency include: hot flushes, depression, brain fog, headaches and insomnia. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy along side dietary and lifestyle recommendations can be an effective treatment for post-menopausal estrogen deficiency.
In premenopausal women estrogen dominance is a common cause of weight gain. Estrogen dominance occurs when the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is off, most commonly estrogen is high is relation to progesterone. High levels of estrogen leads to insulin resistance and weight gain. It also interferes with thyroid hormone production therefore decreasing metabolism. There are two ways to accumulate excess estrogen; we either produce too much of it on our own or acquire it from our environment or diet. We are continuously exposed to estrogen-like compounds in foods we eat containing pesticides and hormones, and the chemicals in our care products. Other symptoms of estrogen dominance include PMS, tender breasts, swelling, infertility, excessive or scanty blood flow during your period, and mood swings.
As you can see, there are a number of hormones that play a role in weight loss. These are the most common imbalances I see in patients, however there are many other hormones that can come into play. If you're ready to balance your hormones naturally to lose weight and recover your metabolism, lets talk!
Dr.Marissa Gaucher, ND
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