Tag Archives: weight gain

Thyroid Games: The 2014 month-long awareness campaign needs to include hormone balance in the big picture of thyroid health

The average person who can’t lose weight – despite eating right and exercising – is generally frustrated and frankly stumped.

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For many, diet and exercise have generally proven effective, and yet now – for some reason – they don’t. Sometimes just a little. Sometimes not at all.

Those who dig deeper often find that weight problems could be due to a sluggish thyroid. Feeling an inkling of hope, many ask their doctors to run a test, and lo’ and behold the results often come back normal.  How can this be?

These results tend to stun – especially when weight gain continues to be an issue and/or we suffer from other hypothyroidism hallmarks – feeling cold, old, stressed and depressed.

Given that so many symptoms of low thyroid overlap with other hormone imbalances, we may not get the answers needed unless we find a healthcare provider who goes beyond the standard TSH test to address thyroid disorders in the broader context of hormone imbalance.

Our bodies produce more than one thyroid hormone. The most abundant is thyroxine (T4), which converts to triiodothyroinine (T3), the most active thyroid hormone in the body. We need our bodies to make plenty of these two hormones since we rely heavily on them for an active metabolism. Image

So one clarifying answer to the original question about that so-called “normal” test result is that testing TSH alone is not going to give us the whole story because it fails to take active thyroid levels into account.

Nor can a single thyroid test identify imbalances of the steroid or adrenal hormones that serve to seriously inhibit thyroid function.

Discovering how well our thyroid is actually working requires a bigger picture assessment of all the hormone levels that matter, not just TSH, T3, and T4, but estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol.

It should also include an assessment of iodine, zinc, selenium and other mineral levels that if out of balance can run interference on thyroid hormone production. That’s because when it comes to a healthy thyroid, the efficient conversion of T4 to T3 is imperative – a must occur – if we want an active vs. sluggish metabolism. So, anything that interferes with that crucial conversion process will decrease thyroid function, slow metabolism (to make weight loss even harder), and trigger a raft of low thyroid symptoms.

From hormone imbalances to mineral deficiencies and environmental pollutants, a range of factors can interfere with thyroid production and testing can help identify the worst culprits.*

At the top of the list:

Estrogen dominance – Thyroid problems are far more prevalent in women, particularly those in the menopause transition. That’s because an overstock of  estrogens has the effect of binding up active thyroid hormones on their way to the cells that need them, so it may not necessarily be a failing thyroid gland that is the issue, your thyroid may be working just fine but is encountering the estrogen roadblock! Similar barriers are raised by:

Elevated cortisol stress hormones
Iodine deficiency
Selenium and zinc deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency
Arsenic or mercury toxicity
Xenoestrogen burden
– those big bad environmental chemicals that effectively disrupt estrogen metabolism

Taking action to target and take out these hidden saboteurs of thyroid health can help us master the thyroid games. I’ll talk more about natural ways to win the battle and defeat the enemies of a healthy thyroid function in a follow-up post next week.
*ZRT Lab just recently launched a new Thyroid-Elements test profile available online at http://www.zrtlab.com or http://www.canaryclub.com

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Banishing The Seven Dwarves of Menopause

September is Menopause Awareness Month but if you listen to certain talking heads in the media lately you’d think we were in the midst of Menopause UNAWARENESS month! Just the other day I heard a so-called expert refer to the perils of progesterone, and how it can cause cancer. But what she was really talking about was its evil twin PROGESTIN, the synthetic form known to heighten risks in women who use it in HRT combos. Real progesterone (aka bioidentical) is a far cry from the Fake synthetic stuff, and there is not a shred of evidence – trust me, the science is on our side here – that natural progesterone in the proper balance does anything but protect us against estrogen-driven breast cancers, AND while its at it, can also bring sweet relief from hot flashes.

Before I descend from my soapbox, allow me to persuade you in our national conversation about menopause this month, to doublecheck what you hear about hormones from a reliable source (like Menopausibilities of course, and others, e.g. virginiahopkinshealthwatch.com; womenin balance.org), and refuse to resign yourself to a bad, sad menopause.  I will gladly go out on a limb here to assure you that nine out of ten times, the extent to which we suffer from the itchy bitchy sweaty (let’s not leave out flabby and crabby) dwarves of menopause is the extent to which our hormones are out of sorts, out of sync, out of balance!

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  • So. If you are feeling:
    ITCHY – your estrogen and/or testosterone levels are likely to be less than optimal
  • SWEATY – your estrogen is probably running low and your progesterone even lower causing hot flashes or night sweats or both!
  • SLEEPY – your master stress hormone, cortisol is upsetting your master sleep hormone melatonin, making it tough to get to sleep and/or stay asleep, thus you are sleepy. (Know any other women awake at 3am?)
  • BLOATED – (and cannot lose weight no matter how hard you try) sounds like estrogen dominance
  • FORGETFUL – (and no way, no how, can you keep a number in your head for longer than 2 seconds) your estrogen testosterone and stress hormones may have gone AWOL along with your memory
  • BITCHY – your cortisol and testosterone levels are out of control, and…
  • PSYCHO – chances are good that your hormone levels overall are seriously out-of-whack!

How do you find out how seriously out-of-whack your hormones really are? By asking your provider to test them to pinpoint specific imbalances (please see my previous blog:How to find a natural hormone friendly provider) or by ordering a test kit online from ZRT Laboratory www.zrtlab.com AND with test results in hand set about exploring your options for rebalancing your imbalances with a qualified provider or hormone health counselor: www.yourhormonebalance.com Image

 

What most women are all too well aware of – like hot flashes, turning 50, and discovering our first chin hair – is that menopause is normal, natural, inevitable. Right. But when it starts to turn into your very own fractured fairytale and the wicked witch is staring back at you in the mirror – this is NOT normal – and it is most decidedly NOT the menopause you were meant to have. We get it that hormones WILL shift and decline as we age, but what makes the difference between a good or a bad menopause is just how shifty the shifting gets and how swift or steep the decline. What matters to menopause is how we live it: how we eat, exercise, take stress in stride, and expose ourselves (unwittingly or not) to toxins that mess with our hormones. Its about that work/life balance and whether we make sacred time for ourselves and those who matter most to us in all the world. And ultimately, it’s about how we support our natural hormonal foundations by topping up (as needed based upon tested hormone levels) with bioidentical hormones that to mimic mother nature without side effects

This is the GOOD Menopause. A time of life when you can find yourself feeling stronger, back in the swing and better than ever! Who Knew? We do! _DBP0555 - Version 2
Please join the conversation and comment here on the blog to tell us how you’ve kicked the seven dwarves to the wood shed ….

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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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Belly Flat to FAT…Blame it on your hormones!

Got Menopause, Perimenopause and BELLY FAT that won’t budge despite your best efforts?

I just turned 65 last month and let me tell you…it has been WONDERFUL! Why because despite my Michelle-less upper arms, I feel good, have energy to go, and can sleep at night….my hot flashes are pretty much gone, my skin is still mostly sticking vs. sagging, and I owe my generally even moods and middling to good memory to bioidentical hormones, a health aware diet, herbs, vitamins and cultivating stillness at some point in my day….now if only I can get rid of this belly fat, all of it, for good… Obviously I’m a work in progress, finding balance being my every day goal…and I’m getting somewhere…. if I want to keep on feeling and looking good for my age vs. feeling my age whatever my age, , than I’ve got my work cut out for me …and speaking of cutting out…the wine, white flour carbs and late night snacks were the first to go (that is, AFTER thoroughly indulging myself birthday night on the incomparable macaroon dessert at Cocotte in SE Portland) in my  ongoing quest for upper arms that won’t swing when I do on the dance floor 2 weeks from now at my daughters wedding (!!) Image

To that end I’ve been doing some serious strength training in this, my sixieme decade, and getting stronger for sure, in my core and round the biceps, AND burning off some of that belly….speaking of burning  vs. storing  – fat’s favorite place to pile on in the presence of elevated stress hormones is in the abdomen – a process dramatically hastened by imbalances of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and thyroid hormones,the key  players in regulating whether you gain, or lose, or gawd forbid (but it happens all the time!)gain it all back and then some!  In fact stress hormones actually signal your body to hang on to stored fat – for dear life – its a stress response, a survival mechanism…so if you simply cannot shed pounds or always tend to gain back more weight than you lost, no matter how little you eat, or how much you exercise, you are one of us! That is before we found out that we were being hardwired by our hormones….by hidden hormone imbalances programming us to overeat, overcaffeinate, overbook, give in to sugar cravings, and give up on ever shedding those 10 (20, 30..) perimenopause pounds (i.e. STOP the roller coaster, I want to get off! ) If this sounds like your life story at the moment, I have to ask…Have you tested your hormones lately? If not, allow me to convince you that hormones are the missing link to weight loss. I’ll tell you more in part 2 of this piece….Stay tuned!

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by | August 10, 2013 · 3:58 am

Re-woman Returns to Confess and Re-balance Her Hormone Resolutions for 2013

A scant year ago in this blog I declared my New Years aspirations to remake my post-menopausal self into a more serene, cleansed, and hormonally balanced version of me. I believe I gave myself the first 30 days of 2012 to become a new woman, a re-woman if you will. Hah! 352 plus days later I am here to report back on the past years’ effort to live up to my aspirations and practice what I preach, followed by an honest as I know how to be, no BS commentary on how I did last year with readjusted expectations for 2013.

2013  Inauguration day

Rewoman and great friend Pamela Bateman (left), founder of the Seventh Woman Foundation (www.theseventhwoman.org) for breast cancer prevention, reinaugurate their pledge to stay (warm) and  balanced at the reinauguration of our 44th President in D.C.!

1) Get into that bed one hour earlier every single night.

Ooops! Well maybe not a total flop …. if you’re a night owl like me you know that getting to bed before midnight is a major feat.  Rewoman confession: I did not live up to the every night part of the aspiration, but did manage to get in bed with a book around 11ish a couple nights of the week. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Lights out by midnight every other night of the week. The earlier bedtimes will lower my cortisol stress hormones to resting levels sooner rather than later, leading to that much coveted deeper sleep and satisfied appetite hormones, thus reducing overeating, cravings and the dreaded result – belly fat!

2) Rise one hour earlier to a cup of green tea instead of coffee.

Green tea is one of the best alternatives to coffee, get to know the different brands….Joy is introducing the Genmaicha powdered version and sharing a cuppa’ with a friend…what could be more healing or stress reducing?

Small triumph: My typical waking time before I made this resolution was 9ish…I now get up about 30 minutes earlier most days, without an alarm clock, now that is progress.  Rewoman confession: I did not convert to the green tea in the morning until just last month when following Kyle’s group cleanse. Good thing I did stop the coffee a week before I went on to do my annual ‘master cleanse’ a detox that can bring on killer headaches, but I never suffered a single one. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Aim for the full hour earlier each day in concert with at least 8 hours of sleep the night before. Studies at Stanford and U. of Chicago observe that “short sleepers,” (defined as 7 hours a night or less) have stress-related hormone imbalances linked to weight gain and higher body fat, a raging appetite, mood swings, memory lapse and low libido.

3) Spend at least 15 to 20 mns. morning and/or evening in stillness: no talking, no electronic stimuli, no nothing – just breathing. (This practice will help me to calm down, FOCUS, and eventually become the most serene woman I have ever met.) Thumbs up: I certainly feel more focused and balanced throughout the day when I spend that first 30 minutes stretching, breathing, sipping or gazing into the distance. Rewoman confession: Well I’m not going to claim I’m the most serene woman I know … but then I have to ask myself how many women I know who describe themselves as serene…perhaps it is the difference between feeling half-crazy and stressed-out when your hormones are out of balance, and the feeling of calm that descends once balance is restored. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Learn to meditate for once and for all, and study up on more deep breathing techniques. Make cultivating stillness my mantra for finding balance within. Also, read: QUIET: the Power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.

gaing out

Gaze into the distance, quiet your mind and find balance in silence some part of every day.

4) Rev up my 40-minute walk to 1 hour a day – and walk faster. No lollygagging and no excuses, even if I have to walk in the rain and the dark.  (This will help to humidify my skin and oxygenate my brain and body so that I will live forever, or at least look and feel like I can!) Getting there! I am up to an hour every other day… and exercising on average 6 days a week; it’s become so normal now that I feel completely out of sorts if I miss a day….have so far invested in warm, absolutely waterproof (don’t settle for water resistant especially in wintry climes) pants, gloves, hat with flaps, and am so far so good, perfectly warm and dry. Not only that, by deciding to take all my exercise outdoors I’m saving 160 bucks a month in athletic club dues. Rewoman confession: I have not done strength training or weight bearing exercises consistently enough to build lean muscle, the key to reviving strength stamina and natural hormone supplies as we age. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Join the Sierra Club to get in more hill walking and hikes that will boost my muscle and bone mass, metabolism, mood, memory and even libido. Always room for improvement there!

CandaceRainGearWeb

Re-woman aspires to walking not 6 but 7 days a week, every day in the great outdoors AND stay completely warm and dry…the key is waterPROOF (as opposed to water resistant …it isn’t protective enough if you’re walking in all weather) gear: windbreaker, vest, overalls, gloves, and boots, a warm hoodie and your favorite hat with a brim (essential for rewomen who wear glasses! ) …45 minutes to an hour a day boosts natural hormone levels, mood and muscle!

5) Learn how to make Brussels sprouts taste good! (Adding way more cruciferous vegetables: kale, chard, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage) to my daily diet will help to metabolize excess and/or toxic, i.e. ‘xeno’ estrogens from my body, thus clearing my onward path to natural hormone balance.) Done! was this ever a success thanks especially to all the great recipes YOU readers sent (see Jan. 15, 2012 blog comments for recipes!) Rewoman confession: I have become addicted to Brussels Sprouts.  Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Learn how to make cauliflower mouthwatering…any recipes for this one ladies?

6) Tune out talking heads before bedtime. (This will stop the overstimulation of the 24/7 news cycles and rid my tired brain of useless chatter AND prevent me from becoming one of those people who develops ADHD in her 60s, heaven forbid!) FLOP: Pre-election addiction to the latest news from the campaign trail made me a liar on this aspiration HOWEVER I did find that after following the cleansing fast this past month (and of course after the election was finally over) I did not feel like watching the news much at all. Rewoman Confession: I still watch Washington Week in Review on Friday nights and Meet the Press on Sundays, but I follow it up with Downton Abbey, a real escape from the here and now… makes me wonder how women stuck in the British class system at the turn of the century dealt with their symptoms of menopause? Readjusted aspiration for 2013: No-TV-at-all-nights, at least twice a week. Continue to beat husband at scrabble. Learn Bananagrams. And Chess!

Mind/body balance: part of the equation for all of us

Tune out to practice  balance

7) Reject all foods that are genetically modified and/or any household or personal care products  that contain  pesticides, synthetic hormones, xenoestrogens, antibiotics, or empty calories. (This will significantly reduce my risk of getting indigestion, a fat belly, and a leaky gut, gluten-intolerance, insomnia and hormone imbalance, not to mention diseases of aging like breast cancer!) Challenge: This one is tough since we health care consumers cannot be sure what we are getting…witness the failure of Californians to pass a ballot for GMO modified foods to be labeled as such (in the face of enormous pressure from the likes of Monsanto…but that’s another blog).  At the very least we can inform ourselves to choose foods raised without (make sure the label reads that way) synthetic hormones, RBST, or antibiotics. If you do nothing else, do this! Rewoman Confession: I have on more than one occasion had my hair colored in salons that do not use plant-based dyes and products. In my defense there are not many hair colorists who do use completely non-toxic hair products. Nevertheless this cannot be an excuse. These are toxic chemicals that once slathered on my head, sink into my very tissues, putting me at risk for gawd knows what, hormone imbalance at the very least, and I let it happen! Why? because the color lasts longer. So who is gonna’ last longer if I get cancer after all these years of allowing toxic chemicals to seep into my brain, just because I am not ready to go gray!  Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Never again upon pain of bladder cancer risks, use harsh ‘endocrine disrupting’ (e.g. man-made toxins lethal to normal hormone operating systems) chemicals on my hair; seek out more hair salons that offer organic, ammonia-free, plant-based hair dyes (Google: Aveda and local colorists that use organic hair dyes, bleaches and styling products.)

8) Cancel at least one appointment a week and banish anything, anyone, and everything else in my life that is an unnecessary stressor. (This will enable me to become more authentic and the most stress-free person I could ever hope to meet!) Score: I averaged 2 cancelled appointments a week, have erased at least 3 high-maintenance soul-draining so-called ‘friends’ from my contact list, and changed jobs! Rewoman Confession: I’d been carrying a few dysfunctional relationships  against my better judgment for far too long.  Shedding them at long last feels good, a liberation! Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Choose friends who nourish one’s strengths vs. one’s weaknesses; do not allow what I do to become who I am; and for goodness sake, stop overbooking however well-intentioned!

9) Re-testing my hormones was also on the list for 2012: Check! Rewoman confession: found out through testing that I’d been over-supplementing a bit, so made the necessary adjustments – this  by the way is one of the most important benefits of testing your hormone levels at least once or twice a year, especially when using supplementation, its’ essential to get the dose right!

10) Last but not least, I aspired to redouble my efforts to educate more women and I just might get the chance as I’ve been invited to travel to China to give a talk on hormone balance this March. Evidently this is a topic of interest to women around the world! If YOU have a Re-balance plan you’d like to share, or for that matter, a great mouthwatering cauliflower recipe you can pass on PLEASE sign up to become a follower and comment right here on the blog!! We’re all ears!

Masking the menopause madness

Rewoman behind the scenes:  getting your hormones back in sync can’t be a rehearsal, its a balancing act we practice every day.

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