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Hormonal weight gain in my forties has been a challenge for me, luckily with my background in nutrition and fitness I’ve been able to control my weight and balance my hormones.
Some of you are probably experiencing weight gain and difficulties trying to lose weight. You may not even realize that it could be a hormonal imbalance. Therefore, I want to share what I have learned in hopes that it might help some of you too.
WHAT EXACLTY IS A HORMONE IMBALANCE
Having low progesterone and high (bad) estrogen. Both of these hormones have to be balanced to optimize your weight loss.
WHAT ARE ESTROGEN AND PROGESTERONE?
These hormones are secreted by the ovaries and contribute to a woman’s menstrual cycle and fertility.
Here are some of the effects of estrogen and progesterone.
|Increases body fat||Helps use fat for energy|
|Salt and fluid retention||Natural diuretic|
|Depression and headaches||Natural antidepressant|
|Interferes with thyroid hormone||Facilitates thyroid hormone action|
|Impairs blood sugar control||Normalizes blood sugar levels|
|Decreases sex drive||Restores sex drive|
So you can see that if you don’t have enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen, it could cause these issues.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A HORMONE IMBALANCE
Some of the most common symptoms of a hormone imbalance (low progesterone) include:
- Heavy or irregular periods
- PMS symptoms (migraines / headaches, cramping, moodiness, tender breasts, cravings, etc)
- Weight gain (especially around the stomach)
- Low libido
- Fatigue and low energy
- Anxiety, irritability and depression
- Poor sleep and insomnia
- Hair loss
- Hot flashes
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Infertility (not permanent – fertility will come back when your hormone balance is restored).
HOW LOW PROGESTERONE / HIGH ESTROGEN CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN
When you have too much estrogen it can increase your insulin. High levels of insulin can lead to sugar cravings. This is why you will reach for that chocolate bar during PMS or if your experiencing loads of stress. Progesterone has the ability to lower your insulin levels.
High levels of estrogen also cause more fatty tissue growth, and your fat cells, in turn, creates extra estrogen; so it’s a vicious cycle. This excess fat is usually around the stomach area, because estrogen also dictates where the body distributes fat. This cycle can be helped by balancing out estrogen with progesterone.
Being estrogen dominant can cause fluid retention. Progesterone is a natural diuretic and can eliminate bloating and fluid retention.
DECREASE IN THYROID FUNCTION
Low progesterone can affect your thyroid, and thyroid issues can cause weight gain/difficulty losing weight. When you have low progesterone, your liver produces excess TBG (a protein). TBG binds to the thyroid hormones and blocks them so your body can’t use them properly.
APPETITE & SLEEP
Progesterone has a calming effect on the brain, whereas estrogen has an excitatory effect. This means that women with high estrogen experience sleep difficulties.
A lack of sleep disrupts the hormone that is in control of your appetite (leptin). When you are sleep deprived, this contributes to an increased appetite and you eating more.
CAUSES OF HORMONAL IMBALANCE
For me, the hormone imbalance has probably been caused by a few things; but the main contributor has been the use of antibiotics in the past, age and stress. Also, if you are currently taking birth control it can cause hormonal imbalances as well.
Birth control contains synthetic progestin which lowers progesterone levels. Other causes can include stress, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, menopausal changes and xenohormones (found in plastics, solvents, adhesives, etc).
HOW TO REPAIR YOUR HORMONES
For me, the first thing I did was reduce stress and had my blood work checked. You just don’t want to pop pills and not know your levels.
Within 2 weeks I noticed my stomach looking leaner than it had in about a year. And I didn’t really do much different with my diet or exercise.
This is probably due to both losing fat and a decrease in fluid retention.
There are several ways you can naturally rebalance your hormones to lose weight, but there are too many to list in this blog post.
A few things you can do is to take 1tsp of maca powder each day – this is supposed to be great at balancing out your hormones and increasing your DHEA. Buying organic meat (with no added hormones) is also a good move. I have also been taking a natural supplement called DIM and to help my hormones restore themselves naturally.
My best suggestion is to visit a naturopath that specializes in hormones for women and get some testing done.
The testing they do will be different from your OBGYN. The blood tests your OBGYN will take may not accurately represent your hormone levels. It is best tested through a saliva or urine test. Once you have results, your naturopath will be able to recommend treatment.