Weight loss resistance is extremely common, but instead of looking under the hood and exploring why there is such resistance, we oftentimes double down on fad diets and intense exercise to try to shift our numbers on the scale. The problem is this can have the opposite effect on us and cause more resistance to weight loss. Often the real key to losing belly fat and gaining energy, a better mood, and a focused brain lies with our hormones.
Understanding the hormones that have the greatest impact on our weight is key. These same hormones impact our mood, our happiness, sleep, motivation, and nearly every aspect of our lives. Learn what to look at if your hormones are out of whack, how to reset your metabolism, break food addictions, and some of the most important things about hormones - regardless of weight loss resistance or a healthy weight.
Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers, controlling such important elements as growth, sexual function, reproduction, metabolism, and even your mood. And changes in these hormones can sometimes result in unexpected — and uncontrollable — weight gain. A few examples include:
- Estrogen shifts. During menopause, a decrease in estrogen is linked to lower muscle mass and increased fat stores for women, usually around the midsection. Conversely, higher than normal estrogen levels can cause endometriosis, fibroids, or menstrual bloating.
- Testosterone decreases. For both men and women, a decrease in testosterone means a reduction in muscle mass, which lowers the body’s metabolic rate, resulting in increased body fat.
- Increased androgens. In women, an increase in hormones called androgens is linked to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which not only interferes with fertility but can cause cysts and weight gain.
- Diabetes. Treating diabetes can cause weight gain if your daily prescribed insulin intake is higher than the energy you burn each day.
- Thyroid deficiency. Underactive thyroid, also called hypothyroidism, slows the body’s ability to burn calories.
- Stress. Prolonged stress causes an increase in the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which can lead to high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems and weight gain.
- Medical treatments. Anti-inflammatory corticosteroids (a synthetic form of the hormone cortisol) are often prescribed when dealing with medical issues such as cancer, lupus and some skin conditions. Unfortunately, a side effect of this treatment is often weight gain.
The main culprits of haywire hormones are:
- Nutrient deficiencies. For instance, not enough vitamin C can lower your progesterone. Progesterone is nature’s Xanax, so a deficiency makes you feel overwhelmed and anxious.
- Excess toxins. Bisphenol A is a good example: It can interfere with the estrogen, insulin, thyroid, and testosterone messages in your body.
- Poor stress coping. I put myself in this category. Again, the root cause is that the alarm system in the body doesn’t turn off, so you make too much cortisol at the expense of other hormones.
- Age. Women’s hormone levels change throughout their reproductive years and through perimenopause, menopause, and beyond. Common life events, such as menstruation and pregnancy, can throw your hormones off balance, as can medications like birth control pills.
- Poor sleep. Only 3 percent of the population does well on less than 7 hours of sleep. Sleeping 7 to 8.5 hours every night keeps cortisol in check. Alcohol raises estrogen and cortisol levels, robs you of deep sleep, and lowers metabolism by more than 70 percent, as mentioned previously. I always suggest my patients get off alcohol completely for a minimum of two weeks, twice per year, to give the liver a break.
Can I Lose Hormone Weight?
The first step is always to work with your doctor to diagnose the underlying cause. This often includes a blood or urine test to check current hormone levels and identify any inconsistencies. Functional medicine doctors also take this a step further and do stool or saliva tests.
Should test results reveal your weight gain is related to estrogen or testosterone deficiencies, hormone replacement therapy can be a viable option, but comes with risks and side effects. For example:
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), while able to correct some physical issues, is also linked to an increase in sleep apnea, acne, and raised red blood cell counts, which can raise your risk of blood clots and heart attacks.
Estrogen replacement (HRT) is not safe for a number of different types of women and the treatments come with risks - it’s worth it to look at that list.
Thyroid issues like hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can stem from autoimmune thyroid disorders, inflammation, or be hereditary. Treatment is a lifelong, daily medication regimen designed to replace your missing or imbalanced hormones. If the hormone imbalance is caused by an autoimmune condition like Hashimoto's disease or Grave’s disease, your doctor will advise you on the risk of side effects from iodine and supplements, food and medicines to avoid.
Personal experience has shown going to a functional medicine doctor can open an entirely new world of possibilities. A stool test can reveal gut health issues that will consistently cause hormone imbalances. Functional Medicine doctors try to get to the root cause and heal from there. They offer panels to fully understand the vitamins and minerals you’re missing that are necessary for your hormones to function properly. Also, for thyroid there are alternative solutions like Armor or medications that most doctors will not prescribe, but that can be immensely helpful.
If you need support finding a functional medicine doctor visit the Institute for Functional Medicine to find a practitioner.
To support any treatment program, changes in your diet and exercise may also be required. And since important hormones that control glucose regulation and appetite control, namely leptin, and ghrelin, are released as you sleep, be sure you get plenty of rest.
What are some Natural Tools from Ayurveda to support us in Menopause, Perimenopause, and for these Hormonal Imbalances:
Take Adaptogen Teas that help balance hormones like Hormone ReBalance Tea - made of Shatavari, 3 types of Tulsi, Triphala - herbs that cool menopause symptoms, balance hormones overall, and improve gut health
Take Sleep Support to improve the quality of your sleep and build nightly sleep rituals with Deep Sleep Tea and Deep Sleep Formula
Take an excellent high quality probiotic to improve gut health like Megasporebiotic Probiotic
Also taking metabolism igniting teas with supplements that help balance blood sugar levels and eat cleaner can support like Metabolism Tea and Carb Control.
- And of course, reducing Inflammation helps our hormonal system and all other bodily system work better - taking natural turmeric supplements like Turmeric Gold and Inflammation Relief can help you get there.
Losing hormonal weight is possible, and together with your integrative health practitioners, you can develop a program that works best for you. Taking the supplements and nutrient-rich diet, paired with a focus on optimizing sleep and an emphasis on healthy movement for the body, and you’re on the right track to balancing your hormones, getting rid of that resistant weight gain, and feeling like yourself again.
Dr. Shivani Gupta is a pioneer who redefined the health and wellness industry by bridging the gap between ancient and modern medicine. She holds a Ph.D. in Ayurvedic Studies, a 5,000-year-old philosophy that prevents disease and illness through the connection of mind, body, and spirit.