The burning question: Are your hormones causing you to gain
I would love to answer with a simple yes or no, but as you will
read in the following article it’s a little more complex than
that. The good news is: You can make some healthy changes that
will not only go a long way toward loosing excess kilos but it
will help to balance your hormones as well.
Let us Begin with Stress Hormones
Hormones are produced in your body in response to various
triggers. One of these triggers is stress, which precipitates
the production of Cortisol and Adrenaline. These hormones are
specifically designed to get you out of danger (from sabre tooth
tigers and the like), get your mind clear and focused and run
fast! Cortisol increases your heart and respiratory rates so
your muscles will respond quickly. This was very handy when
there was sabre tooth tigers around. What happens after we have
escaped the imminent danger the adrenaline levels drop and we
calm down, all is OK in the cave. The cortisol takes longer to
clear as it’s purpose is in part to get you ready for the next
‘tiger’. After you have run back to the cave and calmed down
Cortisol makes sure that you refuel for the next tiger. Feed up
on quick action foods to keep the muscles fuelled; I.e.
carbohydrate and sugars.
We can see from this scenario that stress can trigger the
hormones that in turn urge you to eat certain foods. I know
there are not many sabre tooth tigers around these days but
there is plenty of stress.
This becomes a vicious cycle of stress elevated cortisol
followed by that lovely cookie you have to have. Which leads to:
What's even more worrisome is the type of weight gain this cycle
encourages. Cortisol, along with adrenaline, travels to the
body's fat cells, allowing them to open and release fat - what
the body knows as fuel - into the bloodstream, to the liver and
then to the muscles to use as energy.
Toxic Abdominal Weight
It has been found that fat cells deep inside the belly are
especially good at attracting cortisol. Simply put, the cascade
of responses caused by stress encourages the accumulation of
excess 'stress fat', the layer of fat below the abdominal muscle.
This creates "toxic weight" - or extra fat inside the abdomen -
which is the only type of fat on the body associated with death.
This type of fat has been linked to heart disease, high blood
pressure, stroke, cancer and diabetes.
Thyroid hormone deficiency can decrease metabolism of food,
causing appetite loss and modest weight gain. Weight gain is
from fat accumulation and fluid retention caused by protein
deposits in the body.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include fatigue, lethargy,
swelling of the face or around the eyes, dry, coarse skin,
decreased sweating, poor memory, slow speech and hoarse voice,
weakness, intolerance to cold and headache.
Blood Sugar Imbalance
Eating simple, refined carbohydrates can cause rapid
fluctuations in blood sugar levels. For example, eating
chocolate increases the amount of sugar in the blood. The
hormone insulin is released which causes sugar to be stored away
and blood sugar levels to be lowered, which can trigger cravings
for more sweets in order to stabilize blood sugar balance.
Hypoglycaemia is a state of low blood sugar levels characterized
by sharp spikes in glucose after a meal followed by serious
drops within an hour or two. The hypoglycaemic whose blood sugar
is dropping may experience dizziness, sweating, weakness, hunger,
irritability and nervousness. As the level continues to drop,
symptoms increase to fatigue, tremors and palpitations, and
below a certain level (40 mg per 100 cc of blood; 80 to 100 mg
is normal) unconsciousness is likely to occur.
Unlike a diabetic, a hypoglycaemic must eat sugar and
carbohydrate-rich foods regularly to keep blood-sugar balance.
Hyperglycemias occurs when blood sugar levels are too high
because either not enough insulin is being produced, or the
body's cells are not accepting fuel with normal levels of
insulin-they have become desensitized. Typical indicators of
hyperglycemias are increased hunger, thirst and urination, but
may also include weight loss, blurred vision, fatigue and dry or
Estrogen Lower levels of estrogen may cause a variety of
physical side effects. First, because estrogen is stored in fat,
many researchers believe that, when you enter menopause --
whether naturally or through surgery, your body responds by
holding on to fat cells in an effort to boost the lagging
estrogen levels. The result? It’s tougher to lose fat and much
easier to keep the pounds on. Second, as estrogen levels drop,
your level of androgens -- the so-called "male" hormones --
increases in relation to the estrogen. Unopposed by the higher
levels of estrogen your body used to have, the androgens produce
male characteristics -- in this case, the shift in body fat from
your hips, thighs and buttocks to your midsection, resulting in
the "apple" shape that is more common in men and in
postmenopausal women (which, incidentally, also increases your
risk of heart disease.) Third, low estrogen levels affect the
production of collagen -- which results in drier. thinner skin,
sagginess of tissue, and lack of muscle tone -- all of which
contributes to a change in your body shape. Low progesterone
levels (in relation to estrogen -- which is popularly called
"estrogen dominance") also cause a number of side effects. Among
the more common ones: increased bloating and water retention --
which may not be actual fat, but makes you look heavier, and
blood sugar fluctuations -- which can increase your appetite and
slow your metabolism.
The Mood Connection.
As you know, declining hormone levels can cause mood swings,
depression, anxiety. This is because the levels of serotonins
and endorphins in your brain apparently drop in the face of
fluctuating hormones. What raises serotonin levels in your brain?
Certain foods, like chocolates. Often, when you go through
premature menopause, you notice you have food cravings -- much
like you did when you had PMS. But unlike PMS, your hormones
don’t bounce back to regular levels, so you may have food
cravings longer than in the past. . . and, unfortunately, cave
in and eat more of the foods you shouldn’t, like fats, salty
snacks and sweets.
Eating in excess to the amount of energy you burn can and does
cause weight gain.
Diet - Reduce Processed Foods
One of the best ways to combat stress and anxiety is to eat
foods that give you long-lasting energy, such as whole grains.
Avoid foods that release sugar into the bloodstream too quickly,
such as highly processed foods made with white, refined sugars
and white starches - pasta, white rice, potatoes, and white
bread. These increase the amount of insulin, another hormone
that plays an important role in weight gain and appetite.
Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency
Essential fatty acids, such as in flaxseed oil, are good fats
that are needed by the body to make hormones and maintain the
body's metabolic rate. A deficiency may cause cravings,
particularly for fatty foods.
Other important elements to address when embarking on a weight
loss program are; Nutrients & herbal combinations to assist with
glucose utilisation. Put simply: natural ways to control blood
sugar balance. Nutritional support to overcome the growing
problem of “overfed and undernourished’ this can be safely and
naturally covered with the support of your trained natural
health practitioner (Naturopath)
Katherine Sabathie-Edwards BHSc. ND. Naturopath and Health Coach
Whole life Vitality Weight Loss program information can be found
The Whole Life Vitality Weight Loss program covers the vital
aspects of healthy weight loss with Katherine’s speciality of
health coaching which works to overcome the mental/emotional
obstacles to effective weight loss, building life long
natural health and vitality habits.
Click here for more information www.thehealthnut.com.au
Naturopath and Health Coach with over 15 years clinical practice.
Publishes free online newsletter, e-course as well as e-books and wellbeing programs. Comprehensive Natural Health and Holistic Healing programs for women, with special interest in Natural Hormone Balance, Healthy Weight and Natural Vitality