In the recent ZRT-hosted webinar, we answered the question: what's the hormone weight gain connection?
We discussed the key hormones involved in weight management - estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, thyroid, insulin, and vitamin D. And we outlined their respective roles in regulating blood sugar, insulin, fat storage, and metabolism.
We received a variety of questions from the audience - some of which we were able to answer during the live session, and others that we promised to answer after the fact.
Here is the collection of questions and answers regarding the role of hormones in weight management:
Q: You say that the body tends to store fat in the abdomen when stress hormones are high - why there?
A: A variety of hormones control when and where the body burns or stores fat. For example, insulin, a fat storage hormone rises along with elevations of cortisol stress hormones and blood sugars - promoting fat storage in the abdomen and inhibiting fat release. Fat cells actually have special stress hormone receptors for cortisol, and there are MORE of these on intra-abdominal fat cells than on fat cells in other parts of the body. This makes sense, since the abdominal "fat depot" provides an easily mobilized fuel supply for the stress response.
We covered the main causes of hormone imbalance. It starts with aging, when hormone levels begin to decline, and is compounded by stress, poor diet, inactivity and environmental toxins. We also illustrated that the highest prevalence of obesity in America is found among adults over 40 - that stage in life coinciding with shifting hormones and imbalances that trigger weight gain.
Q: So is obesity inevitable as we age?
A: Aging itself is inevitable, along with a drop in peak hormone levels. What is not inevitable is an undetected, uncorrected hormone imbalance made worse by poor health habits. Such habits lead us down the path to (preventable) risks for obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes.
The main hormone imbalances were identified - estrogen dominance, adrenal imbalance, insulin resistance, thyroid and vitamin D deficiencies - in concert with the weight related symptoms they cause, including:
- Weight gain in hips, thighs
- Belly fat
- Bloating / water retention
- Increased appetite / sugar cravings
- Loss of lean muscle replaced by body fat
- Low thyroid symptoms: stalled weight loss, sluggish metabolism
Q: What does estrogen dominance have to do with low thyroid?
A: Excess estrogens trigger increases of 'binding proteins' that actually bind up and inactivate available thyroid hormone, thus slowing metabolism and weight loss.
In discussing ways and means of preventing hormone-dependent weight gain, we highlighted the importance of optimal nutrition, exercise, stress relief, sleep and avoidance of environmental toxins called xenoestrogens.
Q: Can you say more about xenohormones and how to avoid them?
A: The "xenos" refer to man-made chemicals or toxins that, although unnatural to the human body, can mimic and disrupt hormone function. Avoid them by choosing foods labeled organic and "hormone-free." Also use green household, gardening and personal care products. Be sure you're drinking water from stainless steel or BPA-free bottles, and switch to ceramic or glass containers for heating / storing food. For more information visit www.endocrine.org.
In terms of appropriate hormone therapies to help balance hormones and our weight, we suggested bioidentical hormone therapies (BHRT) as needed, a safer alternative over synthetic hormone replacement (HRT).
Q: Why are bioidenticals better than standard forms of HRT for rebalancing hormone levels?
A: The short answer is that they are natural, as opposed to HRT - which is inherently unnatural. The long answer is that bioidenticals are derived from plant compounds and made to duplicate the exact structure and function of the hormones our own bodies make. The consensus: natural relief with fewer side effects.
Find Your Missing Link
In summary, hormone imbalance is the missing link to weight management. And the good news is that a simple test can pinpoint hidden imbalances that sabotage our best efforts to lose or maintain a healthy weight.
To find out whether you're one of the thousands affected by hormones and weight gain, start by locating a provider in your area, have your hormones tested, and use test results as a guide to start your way back to balance.