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How do Hormone Imbalances Make us Gain Weight ? Let’s Count the Ways!

In my last post I talked about the hormonal links to unwanted weight gain and immovable belly fat. If you simply cannot figure out why you can no longer shed pounds easily like you used to even though you try to eat right, exercise, and take your vitamins every morning, you might be walking around with an undetected hormone imbalance that is sabotaging your best efforts. How does hormone imbalance contribute to weight gain? Let me count the ways!  Better still I’ll let naturopathic Dr. Amy Shah, boil it down for you here (with a few italicized notes from me in there)….read on:
These are the top areas women neglect, even when they think they’re being healthy.
1. You have an estrogen to progesterone imbalance.

Many women — especially those of child-bearing age — have an estrogen dominance problem. If you exercise daily, it’s likely that you’re using up your progesterone and estrogen is dominating. Other causes of estrogen dominance include environmental factors such as pesticides, plastics, industrial waste products, car exhaust, meat, soaps, furniture and carpet.

Diet, most importantly making sure you eat “hormone-free” (the label should clearly read “these animals were raised without hormones or antibiotics) environmental avoidance of xenoestrogens, and taking supplements can bolster your progesterone and decrease estrogen dominance. Check out the Environmental Working Group on line (www.ewg.org) for the full revelations and actions you can take!

2. You’re not getting enough vitamin D.

Possibly due to our awareness of skin cancer and the use of sunscreen, our levels of vitamin D are lower than they were decades ago. Not to mention that we are spending more time working indoors in front of computers, or exercising inside vs. in the great outdoors. Vitamin D in that is it synthesized by the action of sunlight upon the skin acts like a hormone in our bodies, and deficiency has been linked to allergies, asthma, weight gain, fatigue, food allergies and even cancer. Vitamin D levels can be tested by your healthcare provider, and supplemental vitamin D can be found in various forms.

3. You have high cortisol.

High levels of cortisol (our “stress hormone”) is another big reason we tend to store fat and keep weight on our abdominal area until the stressor is minimized or resolved.. I used to wake up very early to do a spin class or intense run, then race home to get ready for work, then deal with my young kids and chores. That increased my cortisol levels and working against my goals of having a lean body.

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If you feel like you need to be on a caffeine drip at all times, it means you’re having too many highs and lows with cortisol as a big culprit. Cortisol is associated with increased appetite, cravings for sugar, and weight gain, belly fat in particular. You need to unwind everyday with whatever it is that shuts off your hypervigilence — even if it’s for 10 minutes per day.

4. You’re eating processed “healthy.”

Excess sodium, GMOs and sugar are all hidden ingredients that are both inflammatory and causes of excess weight gain. Just because it’s at a health food store and it’s “gluten free” or “low fat” or “natural,” DOES NOT mean it’s good for you. It took me a long time to get over this, because packaging with the words “natural” and “healthy” are very enticing.

5. You’re eating too much fat.

Paleo and other higher-fat diets work for some people, but many women, such as myself, don’t do well with them. Our bodies may do well with fat — especially when added to greens — but be careful not to go overboard.

6. You’re skimping on quality sleep.

This still remains tried and true. Your hormones need it. Your muscles need it for repair, and your brain needs it. The two hormones that are key in the relationship between sleep and weight loss are ghrelin and leptin. These hormones operate on the sleep-wake cycle so when you get less than 7 hours a night appetite hormones are disrupted. Put very simply, leptin tells us when to stop eating and when you’re sleep deprived it plummets so you have less. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you’re sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin and more appetite but may never feel full.

Often when I am having sleep disturbances or jet lag, I use melatonin and magnesium (an all too common deficiency associated with sleep disturbances AND chocolate cravings) as supplements to get me on the right track.

7. You’re not eating your cruciferous vegetables.

Cruciferous vegetables from the vegetable family Brassicaceae include cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli and other similar green vegetables. Not only are they good for you because of the feeling of fullness you get from the fiber, but they’re also good for estrogen metabolism through a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C). It is a natural source of DIM (3,3-Diindolylmethane) that helps promote estrogen balance AND helps clear the body of the toxic xenoestrogens we pick up from the environment. This is the cheapest, easiest way to get your hormones — and your weight — in balance.
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http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10296/why-so-many-healthy-women-cant-lose-weight.html

 

 

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Top 10 Hormone Rebalancing Tips: YOU could be walking around with a hormone imbalance and Not Even Know It! Oprah said that but what did she mean? Hormone imbalance defined.

Return to Balance

No one likes being out of balance, especially when the hot flashes, foggy thinking, and mood swings of menopause leave us feeling like a pale reflection of our former selves. During this hormonally challenged time its important to realize that the extent to which we suffer from troublesome symptoms has much do with the extent to which our lives – and our hormones – are out of balance.

Picture if you will synchronized swimmers all pointing their toes in perfect petal formation at the exact same moment. Suddenly, one of the swimmers takes off in a different direction, let’s call her progesterone, another dives to the bottom of the pool (call her testosterone), a few more decide to make waves (call them cortisols) while the last but not least of swimmers (call her estrogen) takes over the whole routine. All that beautiful synchrony, gone.

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Key hormone players achieve balance through synchrony

And so it goes with us. When our hormones are out of sync, we are out of sync – physically, mentally, emotionally. And because hormones are so mutually dependant (a deficiency of one creates a surplus of another), there are countless opportunities for imbalance. As Oprah put it at the opening of her show on women and hormones, “You could be walking around with a hormone imbalance and not even know it!” Knowing the signs and symptoms of a hidden hormone imbalance is your first big clue, testing and exploring your options is next  …. But before we go any further, let me explain what a hormonal imbalance is…. It’s what happens when one or more of the key hormone players (see Kyle’s most recent blog): estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and/or Cortisol, fall out of proportion to each other, (or like our synchronized swimmers above, swim off in different directions) that we are left with excesses of one hormone and deficiencies of another, a working definition of hormone imbalance. These unwelcome but inevitable shifts in hormonal milieu can be handled but until we learn how, they can seriously disrupt our  moods, memory, mojo, and zest for living. It can happen to the best of us …I would describe myself during my early experience of imbalance as feeling addled, exhausted and unloving…in a word or two: basket case.  Here now are some of the more common (preventable – seize on that word ladies) doozies:

Estrogen Dominance (flabby, crabby and fed-up) – this mother of all hormone imbalances results from high estrogen levels relative to low progesterone as a result of erratic ovulation, normal aging, hysterectomy (particularly if estrogen therapy is prescribed post-surgery in the absence of its balancing partner, progesterone), and exposure to environmental chemicals known as “xenoestrogens” (see my Feb 1st post: the Cruciferous Connection). Too much estrogen triggers multiple symptoms like weight gain, mood swings, heavy periods/no periods, lost libido, lost pzazz, lost YOU…. It typically begins at Perimenopause (early to mid-40s) when hormones wax and wane, and ends with Menopause (early 50s) when cycles cease and the ovaries stop making hormones for good. Younger women who don’t ovulate regularly (note that lack of ovulation = lack of progesterone) can also be estrogen dominant, plagued by PMS, monthly migraines, tender breasts, water retention and painful periods. So when it comes to hormone imbalance, too much estrogen is just as much an issue as too little. Having said that….

Estrogen deficiency (hot, sweaty, weepy) – low levels of estrogen can trigger that hot flash in the middle of an important meeting, or night sweats in the middle of the night, as well as other bedevilments like vaginal dryness, thinning skin, brittle nails, bones, heart palpitations, fragile emotions, muddled mind….

Imbalances of Testosterone/DHEA and Cortisol (no longer lean, just mean) are a bad combination that deplete energy, metabolism, mental clarity, stamina, and the strength of our bones, muscles, and libido. When for instance, the stress hormone cortisol goes up or stays up, testosterone goes down along with our enthusiasm, drive, and zest for living.

Adrenal Imbalances (tired, wired, and bummed-out): Lows and/or highs of cortisol resulting from unresolved stress, junk food, lack of sleep and exercise, can cause rapid aging and belly fat bigtime – not to mention allergies, insomnia, and chronic fatigue.  This under-recognized imbalance generally makes an appearance in mid-life when the adrenal glands have to pick up the slack in hormone production. The once and future energizer bunny no longer hops but plops, her sunny mood submerged under a black cloud. This is the time when the flack hits the fan if we don’t take better care of ourselves; tired, overworked adrenals eventually burnout and so do we…

Fluctuating hormones at perimenopause when hormone production becomes erratic are usually behind the hair-raising symptoms known to everywoman as the “emotional roller coaster.” That’s when all hell breaks loose and we’ll do anything for relief!

Fortunately we have a lot more control over these ups and downs than we might think. Consider these Top 10 Tips  to empower yourself and return to balance:

1.   Determine your symptoms of hormone imbalance http://www.hormonesynergy.com/women.asp  or http://www.theseventhwoman.org

2.   Test your hormones to detect hidden imbalances http://www.canaryclub.org or http://www.zrtlab.com

3.   If you have an imbalance and need to supplement insist on bioidentical hormones – they are better and safer!

4.   Learn how and when to use natural progesterone, the “great balancer.” http://www.theseventhwoman.org

5.   Support adrenal health with optimal C and B-complex, D3, and herbal tonics such as Dong Quai, Astragalus, Maca, Rhodiola, etc.

6.   Avoid xenoestrogens – eat “hormone free” foods, go GREEN with home, garden, bodycare; microwave in ceramic/glass; reject synthetic hormone replacement (HRT) and any products with unpronounceable ingredients, exercise in the open air whenever possible.

7.    Counteract stress by releasing tension: stretching, deep breathing, yoga, pilates, zumba, walking. Strength train to boost hormones naturally.

8.   Take your vitamin Zzzs – power nap!

9.   Make more ME time

10.  Act the way you want to feel! ( The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, order at http://menopausibilities.com/womens-health-shop.html)

How do YOU rebalance? Have you got a top 10, or 5, or a Numero UNO all-time best tip you can share? We’d love to pass it on!

Rebalancing amongst the Rhododendrens

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Filed under Candace Burch, Hormone Imbalance, Women's Health & Happiness