If your weight-loss plans seem to be able to make no headway against the weighing scales, no matter how careful you are about your diet and exercise, your endocrine system could be the problem. Do you know that the balance of sex hormones doesn’t just regulate your libido but could impact your waistline too? Or that a stress hormone could bring on weight gain? With some simple fixes, you could actually balance your hormones and watch the fat melt away.
Are you careful about what you eat but still can’t seem to lose the extra weight? Is your battle with the bulge a never-ending story? If you’re like so many others who seem to be reasonably active and not especially bad about what they eat, a hormonal imbalance may be to blame. Thankfully, the fixes, while requiring expertise and proper diagnosis, are not as hard to implement as you might imagine.
The Insulin Issue
Insulin is a hormone you’ve probably heard about a lot in the news, thanks to its central role in new-age problems like metabolic syndrome. Insulin regulates how your body uses food for energy or fat storage. When you are insulin-resistant your body doesn’t respond to insulin normally, causing your body to produce more and more of the hormone and eventually resulting in diabetes or prediabetes. The body is then unable to process glucose properly. Weight gain is a common fallout. Other problems like polycystic ovarian syndrome are also linked to insulin resistance.1 You may need medication to help correct the problem and will need to get on a strict low-glycemic index, low-carb diet. Build some regular exercise into your routine to help correct the underlying hormonal issues that are worsening the weight gain. Luckily, many of the rules for weight loss will also help with some of these endocrine problems, so get with the program!2
Fix Your Cortisol Connection: Stress And Weight Gain
Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s meant to regulate your reaction to stressful situations. Unfortunately, if you expose yourself to too much stress because you’re not getting enough sleep3, have a stressful work or personal life, or are simply not eating right (too much caffeine, perhaps?), you could end up with a surge of cortisol in your body that then lingers constantly. When you’re stressed, you’re likely to crave fatty sugary foods to ease that stress – and that’s a recipe for weight-gain disaster. In addition, if you’re sleep deprived, higher cortisol levels can link to insulin resistance, which puts you at further risk of obesity. So ensure you sleep well and take up some stress-relieving activities like yoga or meditation.4
Watch Those Estrogen Levels
Estrogen, while more well-known as a female sex hormone, has an important role to play in regulating your body weight too. In the right amounts, it regulates insulin levels in your body, ensuring your body keeps its blood sugar levels steady, supplying it as energy to muscles to be burnt as a fuel. However, an imbalance of estrogen can be caused by too much intake from dietary sources like meats or too little due to polycystic ovarian disease or obesity – both ends can present a problem. This in turn could put you at risk of insulin resistance, with less sugar going to your muscles and more remaining in the bloodstream. Your body then starts storing the excess glucose as fat.5 So get your estrogen levels checked and speak with your specialist about suitable treatment. You can also cut back on your red meat intake.
Appetite Control With Leptin
The body’s appetite is regulated by a couple of hormones, one of which is leptin. It regulates the energy balance in your body and, by extension, your appetite over the long term.6 Sometimes, your body may develop resistance to leptin, making it ignore the signals this hormone is sending out. The result? You won’t be able to tell when you’re actually full and should stop eating. Left unchecked, you’ll see the weight pile on as you eat more than you need to over time. So how does this happen? If you have a diet that’s high in fructose and processed food, it can cause leptin levels to spike. Conversely, eating a low-fructose diet can help keep this problem in check. Avoid processed foods and sugary snacks, check labels before you eat, but also get more of your “daily five” from vegetables rather than overloading on fruit (especially fructose-rich fruit like pineapple or melons).7
Not Enough Testosterone?
The male sex hormone is an important piece of the metabolism puzzle in both men and women. Not having enough of it in your body could cause you to have higher fat mass and lower muscle mass, which in turn dampens your metabolic rate or ability to burn fat and carbs. In addition, a testosterone deficiency is also linked to higher cholesterol levels, increased triglycerides, and even insulin sensitivity. All of these are implicated in weight gain and fat buildup.8 So to fix this problem, you may need to check the levels of foods that mimic estrogen and avoid foods that lower testosterone in the body, like bread9 or water from bisphenol A (BPA)-laden plastic bottles10
Get Your Thyroid In Order
Thyroid hormones T3 and T4 also have a part to play in body weight regulation. Hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid can cause your metabolism to become sluggish and bring on weight gain. You may also experience tiredness and constant fatigue that make exercise and activity a challenge. Digestion too can take a hit, making the balance of thyroid hormones vital to weight loss.11 An endocrinologist will help you decide on an appropriate course of treatment. You can treat your thyroid problem naturally by cutting down on soy, iodine, caffeine, and refined carbohydrates; eating more protein; and being mindful that goitrogenic vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, or cauliflower raw can aggravate thyroid problems. Practice stress alleviating techniques since thyroid problems have a close association with stress.12
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Insulin Resistance, PCOS Foundation.|
|2.||↑||Prediabetes and Insulin Resistance, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|3.||↑||Loss, Sleep. “Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening.” Sleep 20, no. 10 (1997): 865-870.|
|4.||↑||Gibson, Edward Leigh. “Emotional influences on food choice: sensory, physiological and psychological pathways.” Physiology & behavior 89, no. 1 (2006): 53-61.|
|5.||↑||Gupte, Anisha A., Henry J. Pownall, and Dale J. Hamilton. “Estrogen: an emerging regulator of insulin action and mitochondrial function.” Journal of diabetes research 2015 (2015).|
|6.||↑||Klok, M. D., S. Jakobsdottir, and M. L. Drent. “The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review.” Obesity reviews 8, no. 1 (2007): 21-34.|
|7.||↑||Vasselli, Joseph R. “The role of dietary components in leptin resistance.” Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 3, no. 5 (2012): 736-738.|
|8.||↑||Kelly, Daniel M., and T. Hugh Jones. “Testosterone: a metabolic hormone in health and disease.” Journal of Endocrinology 217, no. 3 (2013): R25-R45.|
|9.||↑||Weber, K. S., K. D. Setchell, D. M. Stocco, and E. D. Lephart. “Dietary soy-phytoestrogens decrease testosterone levels and prostate weight without altering LH, prostate 5alpha-reductase or testicular steroidogenic acute regulatory peptide levels in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats.” Journal of Endocrinology 170, no. 3 (2001): 591-599.|
|10.||↑||Li, De‐Kun, Zhijun Zhou, Maohua Miao, Yonghua He, Dandan Qing, Tongjun Wu, Jintao Wang et al. “Relationship Between Urine Bisphenol‐A Level and Declining Male Sexual Function.” Journal of andrology 31, no. 5 (2010): 500-506.|
|11.||↑||Hypothyroidism, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|12.||↑||Thyroid and Diet Factsheet, British Thyroid Foundation.|