Are you struggling to lose weight even though you are doing everything “right”? Are you gaining weight even if your diet and exercise routine has remained the same? If so, then your hormones may be partially to blame. I’m not just talking about your “sex hormones”, but also the hormones that control appetite or how we store/burn fat.
Hormones are special substances our bodies make that affect specific bodily functions. They also play a significant role in our ability to lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight. But when hormonal imbalances occur, it’s important for us to realize what is happening in our bodies and correct them in order to reach or maintain our weight loss goals.
To understand how hormonal imbalances affect our bodies, it’s first important to understand what some of these hormones actually do.
Estrogen, the reproductive hormone, is naturally produced by men and women. In man, small amounts of estrogen are produced in the adrenal glands or converted by an enzyme in the body. In women, estrogen is produced by the ovaries. An excess of fat in belly (or visceral) fat in men can cause testosterone to be converted into estrogen. As the estrogen levels rise in men, more fat accumulation occurs, causing the circle to continue. This can lead to prostate cancer and heart disease in men. But estrogen is different in women because both high and low levels of estrogen contribute to weight gain and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. And of course, estrogen levels can fluctuate throughout a woman’s reproductive life. If you suspect an estrogen imbalance, have your healthcare professional test your hormones. If an imbalance occurs, your healthcare professional can help guide you to the appropriate treatment. It’s also important for you to eat a healthy diet that includes green tea, flax seed and chia seeds that help your body in the processing of estrogen.
Testosterone, the “sex” hormone, is also produced both in men and women. Increased stress, with the resultant increase in cortisol levels), abdominal fat and aging all contribute to low testosterone levels (Low-T levels). Low-T can also lead to conditions such as obesity, depression, loss of muscle tone, decreased stamina and decreased libido with resultant erectile dysfunction. This can be detected by a simple blood test. Correcting testosterone levels, if low, can help men reduce their body fat, improve stamina and muscle mass and increase libido. Weight-bearing exercise and a diet high in protein (branch chain amino acids) can help naturally increase testosterone levels.
DHEA , also known as the “mother of all hormones.” is a precursor hormone made in our adrenal glands in both men and women. DHEA can be converted into testosterone or estrogen. DHEA levels usually reach its peak in our 20’s and then declines as we age. DHEA is also responsible in our body’s ability to burn fat and keep it off. Correcting an imbalance can improve libido, energy and weight loss.