Your hormones are the base of your health, form, and function. If hormones aren’t at their optimal levels you are going to feel it. Today we are just going to be briefly discussing a few major hormones, what they do, and how to potentially optimize them for weight loss and feeling your best.
CORTISOL AND THYROID HORMONES
First, let’s talk about Cortisol and Thyroid Hormones. Cortisol is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands that help your body cope with stressful situations. When chronically elevated (meaning you are stressed all the time) this becomes a problem. Cortisol isn’t bad, it’s good, but it starts messing things up when you are producing it all day, every day. Cortisol shuts down other hormone pathways while it is elevated in order to get you out of danger. In doing this it lowers sex hormones, Testosterone, Estrogen, and Progesterone. You need these hormones for proper metabolism, energy output, sleep, sex, and mood regulation, amongst other things.
When chronically stressed your Thyroid hormones are also affected. Your Thyroid produces hormones that help with glucose uptake, energy, metabolism, and a host of other bodily functions, and when cortisol is high it inhibits metabolic output and lowers metabolic rate. So, needless to say, managing your stress is a must if you want to have balanced hormones. The biggest contributors to thyroid dysfunction are insulin resistance and excess cortisol. Thyroid hormones and insulin resistance are interlinked and dysfunction with one can lead to dysfunction in another. Your Thyroid produces TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), T3, and T4. Low T4 levels are often correlated with increased visceral fat and insulin resistance. T3 helps improve glucose metabolism.
Having a low-salt diet is a big contributor to Thyroid dysfunction and insulin resistance. Our body needs sodium, ATP, and magnesium to get iodine into the Thyroid. Salt restriction makes the body release insulin in order to retain sodium, as a result, it raises aldosterone, which increases oxidative stress ad cortisol. So, as you can see, it can be a vicious cycle and one always affects the other.
Next, we will talk about Leptin. This is a satiety hormone, it is released when you are full from eating. When Leptin is chronically elevated you become leptin resistant, very much like insulin resistance. When you are eating all the time, snacking or eating 6 meals per day, and never sitting down to eat a real meal where you were hungry then ate to satiety, your leptin gets released all the time, therefore your cells become insensitive to their cue. Leptin is also stimulated by fat tissue. So the more fat tissue you have the more leptin you will produce.
The third hormone I want to touch on is Testosterone. We all make Testosterone. Men and women, men just make more of it. It helps us gain and maintain lean muscle mass and it suppresses fat gain, amongst other things. It also gives us energy and a sex drive! When testosterone is low it affects our sleep, skeletal muscle mass, and Basal Metabolic Rate (this is how many calories your body burns to stay alive) You need sleep, muscle mass, and a healthy BMR to feel good and live a long healthy, life.
Consuming alcohol lowers testosterone by converting it to estrogen-this is not good for men and women! And just 4 nights of sleeping 4.5 hours reduces testosterone, reduces insulin sensitivity, increases ghrelin (your hunger hormone), and reduces Leptin. Prolonged calorie restriction also reduces testosterone. Excess body fat lowers testosterone by aromatizing it into estrogen. One other hormone that elevates testosterone is Dopamine. Foods that support dopamine production are beets, eggs, nuts, dairy, and meat. Chocolate is a good one too, just make sure it is dark and minimally processed.
Lastly, I want to talk about Estrogen. Estrogen and Progesterone are made by the pituitary gland. Progesterone is a calming hormone that aids in better sleep and declines with age. But Estrogen tends to get a bad rap for being known as a hormone that promotes fat storage in the breasts, hips, butt, and legs, but NOT Abdominal Visceral fat. Your body makes 3 types of Estrogen: Estrone, Estradiol, and Estriol.
Ladies, if you are pear-shaped, be thankful, this is a good thing and will benefit you in the long run. This is also why women look different than men. We have more Estrogen than they do. However, Estrogen has a lot of important functions such as regulating bone turnover and cholesterol levels. It isn’t bad, but when it’s out of balance with your other hormones it CAN lead to negative health implications.
Low estrogen causes a drop in serotonin, resulting in moodiness, irritability, and increased appetite. Low estrogen also often leads to weight gain. This is why often women in peri-menopause and menopause see a rise in belly fat because their estrogen is dropping, along with progesterone and testosterone. Probiotic-rich foods, such as Kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt with live cultures, and other fermented foods are great for the gut and increasing serotonin. Typically women start seeing a decline in Estrogen in their forties.
Chronic low-calorie diets, chronic stress, ovary removal, overtraining, and insulin resistance, also lower estrogen. Too much estrogen is also a problem for women and men. Excess alcohol consumption and obesity are the biggest cause of this. Increasing exercise, fiber, and cruciferous vegetables reducing alcohol consumption, and removing xenoestrogens are ways to lower estrogen.
Your hormone health and metabolic function determine the way your body will regulate its energy expenditure, satiety, and thyroid function. The best way to make sure you are optimizing your hormones is to find out what your lab values are either through your General Practioner or a Functional Medicine Practioner. Then, start moving each day, Eat REAL food, get sunshine, reduce your stress, and take back your HEALTH!
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