Mar 19, 2012

Are Your Hormones Making You Fat?

From Exercise and Biology
I have been recently researching (and currently obsessed with) learning about hormones.  Chances are you've heard of some hormones such as insulin, leptin, estrogen, testosterone, and maybe cortisol, but chances are you don't know about all of our hormones and how they all work together.  I certainly didn't until recently.  Basically, I've learned hormones are the bedrock of our health.  If your hormones are off, your health is off.  It's that simple. Just about everything is tied to hormones, including aging (aging is the loss of hormones), chronic diseases most of what is age related, weight and body composition and appearance, your memory and brain function, fertility, your immune system, sexual appetite, etc.

I feel very strongly that understanding our hormones is necessary for everyone to know, because we as patients need to know enough about health care to connect to our bodies to know if what our doctors are suggesting make sense or not.  I will be posting more about hormones in the future as well as my own personal hormone imbalance story.  But for this post we will focus on the role of hormones and weight and body composition.

My Weight Loss Story
If you follow this blog you most likely are aware of my ekk my baggy jeans are super tight on me moment of realization that I was at my heaviest weight ever.    I realized upon writing this post that my old system of losing a few pounds and maintaining my ideal weight might not work this time.  Not because it's incorrect advice, but because 80 % of weight loss is due to diet and frankly my husband and I have been eating increasingly healthier over the years and we really have gotten to a point where there is not much room to improve.  Granted you can always improve, and I'm always learning more about nutrition and tweaking our diet accordingly.  The tips I gave in this post will work fantastically if your eating a poor diet.  For example, if you drink a can or more of pop or another sugar drink and you follow my tip of only drinking tea and water, I'd be amazed if you didn't at least lose a pound or two without doing anything else.  I have stopped drinking sugared drinks for over a year, so that trick doesn't work anymore for me.  The one component of weight loss I have been lacking in is exercise.  I have been following through with my promise to myself to actually exercise everyday.   But is that enough?  Is inactivity due to the winter the cause of my sudden weight gain?  I really didn't over eat over the holidays.  My husband is convinced it's because I made cookies twice in a month.  I made a healthier version of carrot cake cookies and chocolate chip cookies as part of recipe development.  (I haven't perfected those recipes enough to post here yet).  I am not convinced that eating some extra cookies over a couple weeks could cause me to gain 5-10 lbs (I don't weigh myself often so I'm not sure how much I gained or when).  I have been less active, especially due to the fact our cat wanted to snuggle nonstop since he is cold in the winter and I tend to sit more often than I would otherwise.  Could that really be why?

The thought of hormones being a factor never entered my mind.  I happened to decide to check out Suzanne Summer's book "Breakthrough 8 Steps to Wellness" about hormones and anti aging medicine or as she calls it break through medicine.  I checked it out from the library merely out of curiosity and a desire to learn about natural medicine and the vanity in me likes the idea of anti aging.  I mean who wants to look or feel old?  This book blew me away.  I highly recommend reading it.  While reading this book I closely related with the description and symptoms (one of which is gaining weight suddenly due to no change in diet or lifestyle) of estrogen dominance and premenopause.  So the question is was my weight gain due to my hormones?

My weight has remained steady for the most part (I've gained or lost a pound here or there) over the last month, until a few days ago.  I finally lost 5 lbs (literally overnight that's weird huh?) and  am out of what I call the danger zone (the I think I need to buy a whole new wardrobe zone) and kept it off for about two weeks so far.  So the question is was it due to lifestyle changes or hormones?  The only things I have been doing is exercising for 20 min 2-4 times a week (I never exercised before), eating every 3 hrs, less coffee and more tea and therefore less caffeine (for the last couple of weeks), increasing my proteins (I have some protein in every snack or meal) and fiber (I've been adding organic phyllis husks to my food), no sugar and refined carbs (only complex carbohydrates), and going to bed a half hour earlier (most days), and I've increased my supplements (I'll go over this more in depth in future posts).  

The Yeast Connection
 A few years ago I noticed that I could hardly eat anything without my tongue being in pain and it had bumps on the sides and a white coating.  I was so alarmed!  I found out it was due to me biting my tongue in my sleep!  After I knew that I forgot about the fact that it doesn't explain the fact that my tongue has a white coating.  I became use to it and haven't thought about it since, it just became normal to me.   Recently I was watching Dr OZ and he was talking about white coatings on tongues and how it usually acid reflux (even though I don't think that's the case with me) it reminded me of the fact that I do and should probably look into that.  When I did, I realized I must have oral thrush (yeast infection). Mainly due to the fact that I have been on antibiotics for over a year due to cystic acne (which I know believe was most likely due to an hormonal imbalance).  I have taken probiotics with it, but in a weak dosage (in the millions) and only probably for the last 6-9 months.  I have had a yeast infection in another area) while first going on antibiotics (after I was given a strong dose) which I cleared up.  I can't believe I've neglected myself so much I actually didn't realize I had an infection for several years (I think it's likely I might have even had a yeast overgrowth for many years even prior to this story).

 I started studying about how to clear up this infection and found a great book "The Yeast Connection" by William Crook MD. My take on this book is that William Crook in his practice started noticing that by identifying when people had yeast infections and knocking out the infection patients with a certain variety of preexisting conditions got better with their existing diseases.  He doesn't claim that yeast infections cause these diseases but rather that their must be some connection.  Interestingly enough one of the connections is weight gain, PMS and Endometriosis (which is one of the possible conditions I may have developed) I have had PMDD since I began having my monthly friend, so I was really interested in this connection.  I found out there is a connection to being estrogen dominant and an increase in yeast, hmmmm...  Why I bring this up is one of the probably easiest and most natural ways to try to clear up a yeast infection (along with many other measures) is to avoid all sugars any yeasty foods and take a strong probiotic, which I have been doing for the last few weeks.  Could that be why I lost weight so suddenly too?

Hormones and Weight Gain
Let's take a brief look at how hormones can effect weight:
Estrogen
When women have less production of estrogen from their ovaries their bodies try to pull estrogen from fat which also produce and store estrogen.  The women's body will then try to hold on to and increase the amount of fat to ensure that estrogen levels remain as optimum as possible.  When men have lower amounts of testosterone, it increases the amount of estrogen in their bodies causing them to gain weight and to develop "man boobs" and "beer guts".  Estrogen also increases sugar and carb cravings. 
Progesterone
Progesterone is closely linked with estrogen and needs to maintain balance with estrogen.  If it is too low in relation to estrogen, it can cause bloating and water retention making you feel bigger than normal but does not cause you to gain weight.
Cortisol "the stress hormone"
According to the Univesity of MN, cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands located on top of each kidney. Fasting, food intake, exercising, awakening, and psychosocial stressors cause the body to release cortisol.  Energy regulation and mobilization are two critical functions of cortisol.  Cortisol mobilizes energy by tapping into the body’s fat stores and moving it from one location to another, or delivering it to tissues such as working muscle.  It can also move fat from storage depots and relocate it to fat cell deposits deep in the abdomen.  High levels of cortisol cause fat stores and excess circulating fat to be relocated and deposited deep in the abdomen, which left unchecked can develop into or enhance obesity. In addition, hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidemia (elevated lipids), and hyperglycemia (elevated glucose) have been linked to elevated cortisol levels.
Human Growth Hormone
HGH is produced by the pituitary gland to fuel growth and development in children. It also maintains some bodily functions, like tissue repair, muscle growth, brain function, energy, and metabolism, throughout life.  HGH production peaks during the teenage years and slowly declines with age
Testosterone
Helps build muscle and muscle burns more calories than fat cells do, increasing  your metabolismExcessive levels of testosterone can lead to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in w2omen. This causes excess body hair, oily skin and fertility problems. Too little testosterone affects a man and woman’s sex drive.
Hypothyroid (low thyroid)
Thyroid hormones essentially regulate calorie consumption in the body. With an underactive thyroid, fewer calories are burned and converted into energy. Instead they are stored in the body.
Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance causes calories taken in to turn into fat. Over time, processed and refined foods may make a  body's resistant to insulin produced in the blood stream.

 Dr Hotze on hormones and weight gain (6min).  
Note the supplements he mentions L-carnitine and L-alphic Acid   mentioned in this video are believed to help in lowering blood sugar and burn fat, according to the University of MD, but can interfere with thyroid function and should not be used on someone with hypothyroid unless working with a physician.

Study Shows Why It's Hard to Keep Weight Off
A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine explains why it is so hard for some people to lose weight and keep it off.  According to the NY Times, the study was conducted by Joseph Proietto and his colleagues at the University of Melbourne.  The subjects weighed an average of 209 pounds. At the start of the study, his team measured the participants’ hormone levels and their hunger and appetites after they ate a boiled egg, toast, margarine, orange juice and crackers for breakfast. The dieters then spent 10 weeks on a very low calorie regimen of 500 to 550 calories a day intended to makes them lose 10 percent of their body weight. Their weight loss averaged 14 percent, or 29 pounds.

Their hormone levels changed in a way that they were hungrier than when they started the study. They were then given diets intended to maintain their weight loss. A year after the subjects had lost the weight, the researchers repeated their measurements. The subjects were gaining the weight back despite the maintenance diet on average, gaining back half of what they had lost and the hormone levels offered a possible explanation.  Leptin, fell by two-thirds after the subjects lost weight. When leptin falls, appetite increases and metabolism slows. A year after the weight loss diet, leptin levels were still one-third lower than they were at the start of the study, and leptin levels increased as subjects regained their weight.
Other hormones that stimulate hunger, in particular ghrelin, whose levels increased, and peptide YY, whose levels decreased, were also changed a year later in a way that made the subjects’ appetites stronger than at the start of the study.

So the moral of the story is if your eating healthy organic whole foods (not any processed foods), and exercising regularly and still not losing weight, don't be hard on yourself it could be due to your metabolism (your hormones).  And you can do something about it.  When your hormonal imbalance is fixed it is likely that your health overall will increase as well as losing weight.  Because as I said before if your hormones are off, your health is off as a result.  The increase in weight is your bodies way of letting you know something is off before your health declines further.  I encourage you to study more about hormones and how you can improve your hormonal imbalance through diet, lifestyle, and supplements.  I will be sharing what works and doesn't work for me in my journey to hormonal balance.

Disclamer
I am not a doctor. I have ZERO medical training and NO formal nutritional training.  The information provided on this site, such as text, graphics, images, is for informational purposes only. It is not to be construed as medical care or medical advice and is not a replacement for medical care given by physicians or trained medical personnel.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider(s) when experiencing symptoms or health problems, or before starting any new treatment.

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