Hormonal Influence on Weight Loss

weight-loss

I have the privilege of working with individuals everyday who are motivated to optimize their health. So motivated in fact, that many have been on an exhausting journey for years trying to figure out their bodies recipe for success.

Since I do a lot of lifestyle management and weight loss, many of these individuals have been to countless programs and tried countless diets, cleanses and products in search for their answer. Many of them are told to eat less, and exercise more and they will lose weight.  I can tell you, and the new research will back me up that the calorie in/calorie out theory of weight loss is proving to be too simplistic.

Sure caloric intake is a part of weight loss, but it is not the whole picture. Many times there is a web of complex and interacting hormones that are telling your body to store or lose fat.

Let’s take a look at some of the most influential hormones in weight loss….

 

Inflammation

When you sprain your wrist, it gets swollen and red. This is inflammation at work. The inflammation we are talking about is similar but is more silent and systemic. You may not necessarily know that you are inflammed, but certain symptoms will give you a clue. Symptoms like chronic joint pain, asthma, allergies, skin inflammation, high blood pressure, IBS and fatigue can all be the bodies way of telling you that you are inflamed.

Chronic inflammation has now been linked to many chronic diseases like cardiovascular, cancer, depression and diabetes. It is also at the root of sluggish weight loss, as it tends to interfere or aggravate many other hormonal players in weight management

Inflammation is one of the first hormones that I target in a weight loss case. It can be discovered by symptom history of the patient, or by a simple blood test called hsCRP.

Inflammation is treated by looking at contributing factors like stress, diet, lifestyle, low vitamin D, sleep management, movement and yes weight loss.

The vicious cycle is the more belly weight you have, the more that belly weight produces it’s own inflammatory markers. You lose weight, you decrease overall inflammation.

 

Insulin

If you often feel “hangry” or deposit weight primarily around the middle, it is possible that this hormone is a problem for you.

Insulin is the hormone that is released after the consumption of carbohydrates. It’s job is to get blood sugars into the cell to be converted into energy. There is a vast proportion of our population that has been shown to be having some degree of insulin resistance. Simplistically this means that insulin has a harder time getting blood sugars into the cell and instead we end up with a lot more insulin being released. Since insulin is a storage hormone, it tends to store it’s excess blood sugars as fats which get deposited around the middle.

Dr Osama Hamdy from the Joslin Diabetes Centre at Harvard has been quoted to say that 60% of today’s population is genetically predisposed to this carbohydrate intolerance. Insulin is also a hormone that will precede diabetes by 10-15 years.   

If you have these symptoms have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or PCOS, or a first degree relative with diabetes it is important to get your insulin level checked.  In my practice, I usually run a fasting and 2 hour challenged insulin to see if this hormone is a problem for you.

 

Cortisol

Stressed is Desserts spelled backward! Coincidence…I think not. They both are big players in our battle against weight.

When you are stressed, you release a hormone called cortisol which sends of an increased rush of glucose into your tissues. Since our genes are still locked 10,000 years ago your body doesn’t understand that you have just had an argument with your spouse, but instead thinks that you are being attacked by a bear. It wants all hands on deck, and makes sure you get enough energy in your system to RUN!!! In response to this rise in blood sugar, you guessed it…your system releases insulin.  You know what insulin does…stores fat.

In addition to its relationship with insulin, cortisol also signals the body to store fat, and this fat is specifically targeted to the belly and around the organs where there are more cortisol receptors and a greater blood supply.

I typically access cortisol by questionnaires. In fact, you can do an easy version right now. If you think about your stress response (including all factors…relationships, money, work, family, health) rate it 1-10 with 10 being the highest you could ever imagine.  If you rate yourself 5+ on average, you will want to be assessed for stress as a contributing factor to sluggish weight loss.

 

Thyroid
Many patients will come in questioning their thyroid function, but tell me their blood work keeps coming back normal.

They may already be on thyroid medication and still don’t feel well, or are not currently diagnosed but present with all of the symptoms.

These symptoms can include: sluggish weight loss, dry skin, hair loss, constipation, headaches, muscle aches, cold hand and feet, cold intolerance and fatigue to name a few.

In my clinic, patients are assessed for thyroid function in two ways. The first is by taking a thyroid panel which includes hormones like TSH, T4, T3 and thyroid antibodies. This gives us a better overall assessment of thyroid function.  I also ask the patient to take their temperature. Since the active thyroid hormone T3 mobilizes fat from cells, and also governs temperature…it is a perfect tool to assess the thyroid’s role in fat loss. Take your temperature 3 hours after waking and then 3 hours after that. If your temperature is below 36.4 on average, we look to the thyroid as a player in sluggish weight.

For more information on thyroid health, read my blog post “I Feel Like I have a Thyroid Problem but my Bloodwork is Normal”.

 

Are you are struggling with your health and weight, and feel like you are not getting the answers you need?  Find a practitioner that you can work with to determine some of these hormonal imbalances. Once rebalanced, not only will you feel great but your weight loss will be much easier to achieve and maintain.

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