It’s easy to look to the pile of candy bar wrappers on the coffee table as the culprit for a recent weight gain, but that’s not always to blame. While a healthy diet and regular exercise habit are important for overall health, in some instances a hormonal imbalance is the cause of stubborn weight gain.
Extra weight, especially around the belly, can be an indicator of one or more hormones being out of balance. It could be low thyroid, high estrogen, low testosterone, high cortisol, high insulin, or low DHEA to name just a few hormonal imbalances. Hormones are the messaging system of the body and when these levels get out of balance or become deficient the body responds in a number of ways that can lead to weight gain. Below are some common hormone related causes of weight problems.
- Hypothyroidism – An underactive thyroid can fail to produce enough thyroid hormone resulting in a slower metabolism. This is a very common and often misdiagnosed and under treated disease, especially in women. Be sure to have a thorough thyroid blood panel done with more than just the TSH. And test antibodies to rule out autoimmune thyroid, otherwise known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a condition that often tags along with hypothyroidism.
- Stress – Anxiety and stress can fuel a hormonal imbalance that triggers weight gain because the body is more likely to store fat due to the extra production of the stress hormone cortisol. Be sure to do things that help you de-stress and take supplements like Vitamin C, B complex and other Adrenal Support supplements.
- Depression – Depression can cause hormonal signals leading to weight gain as people eat more to deal with the sad feelings. It’s a vicious cycle of feeling down, increased appetite and eating poorly to indulge cravings as a result. A good thorough blood panel to dig deeper into hormonal causes before jumping right into antidepressant therapy is recommended, though in some cases, short term antidepressant therapy can be a good adjust therapy too. But look for the cause rather than just treating the symptom.
- Syndrome X – Weight gain can be caused by resistance to the hormone insulin which has adverse effects in corresponding hormones that control metabolism and fat storage. This is also known as insulin resistance. Test your fasting glucose and fasting insulin with your doctor along with women’s hormones and thyroid too.
- Peri-menopause and menopause – As important hormones decline with aging (can start as early as mid 30’s in women) metabolism slows and hormone deficiencies cause more fat storage. Be sure to test all of your women’s hormones and consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to optimize levels, protect health and increase metabolism.
- Hypogonadism– Low testosterone in men causes more fat storage, a slower metabolism, muscle atrophy, blood sugar dysregulation, depression, weight gain and sexual dysfunction. Be sure to have testosterone levels tested and consider bioidentical forms of testosterone therapy if levels are low.
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)– This is by far the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed hormonal imbalance that contributes to weight gain in women– especially younger women. If you have even just one or two of the following, consider getting tested…. irregular periods, fatigue, weight gain, infertility, miscarriages, high testosterone, acne, and ovarian cysts.
How to Balance Hormones
Hormonal imbalances and deficiencies not only lead to weight gain but also to a host of other health problems and symptoms that cause suffering, including heart disease, osteoporosis, blood sugar problems, insulin resistance, memory loss, mood swings, depression, hot flashes, night sweats, trouble sleeping, irritability, and sexual dysfunction….just to name a few! It’s important to get hormones optimized back within levels that will help improve and maintain health and well being. There is no better way to achieve healthy aging and practice preventive medicine than hormone balancing and optimizing hormone levels. There is a definitive three step approach to getting hormones back in balance and at healthy levels:
Consuming foods high in sugar, refined flour, polyunsaturated fats and drinking too much caffeine can create and exacerbate hormonal imbalances. Eating lean and clean (organic) proteins, antioxidant rich vegetables and fruits, healthy fats from Omega-3s and healing herbs and spices will of course help you feel better and support better hormone health. Eat whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals to support healthy hormone levels. Avoid refined, processed, or packaged foods.
One of the most important factors in hormone balance is getting adequate and good quality sleep. If someone is only getting three to four hours of shut-eye per night their hormones simply can’t reset and regenerate themselves. Another important lifestyle factor is incorporating exercise into a weekly routine (although too intense workouts are actually a hindrance) and avoid stressful situations if at all possible. Walking, biking, hiking, and yoga are all good forms of exercise to encourage hormone balance, and 30 minutes at a time just 3-4 times a week is enough to make a big difference!
While a healthy diet will help support and maintain hormone balance, we can’t always get around the need to optimize declining hormones that happen due to aging, stress or diseases. It’s important to consult a trained, experienced specialist in hormone balancing. And it is also important to get ALL of your hormones tested with a thorough panel that checks thyroid levels, women’s/men’s hormones and adrenals.
About Maturo Medical: While excess weight can be frustrating, in many situations the remedy involves testing hormone levels. For more information on hormone balance and Doctor Maturo, visit: maturomedical.com today!