How To Balance Your Hormones For Weight Loss
Hormones are your body’s natural chemical messengers. They effect just about every system within the body – especially the digestive, immune, central nervous and reproductive systems. When certain regulatory hormones are either under or overproduced, you can feel anxious and irritable, find that you’re gaining weight despite not changing your diet, struggle with fatigue, experience bone loss, and increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Imbalances in certain stress or appetite hormones, for example cortisol, can accelerate the aging process in many ways – since they ultimately control how the body uses and stores all sources of energy. Since individual hormones never work alone, but rather communicate with various other hormones, an increase in one hormone can mean a dip in another. This is exactly how we lose the delicate “balance” that keeps us functioning best. One example is what happens when you produce too little or too much appetite hormones, including ghrelin and leptin: a drop in leptin can lead to increased ghrelin, cravings and weight gain.
The solution for balancing hormones? A full-body approach that addresses hormone fluctuations on multiple levels – taking into account your stress levels, diet, sleep and lifestyle choices which can all deplete or increase hormones.
Cortisol is the body’s primary “stress hormone”, which means it has both positive and negative roles in the body. Cortisol helps us stay alert and motivated, but too much cortisol has been linked to weight gain, early aging and inflammation in hundreds of clinical studies.
Elevated cortisol levels can affect just about every physiological system in your body, including your metabolism, thyroid gland, reproductive capabilities, digestive system and adrenal glands. When cortisol increases too much, the body experiences a “fight or flight” response, meaning the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated. This causes your adrenal glands to work on overtime, while also decreasing digestive and reproductive abilities. For example increased cortisol can decrease your digestive secretions, increase blood pressure levels and hinder the balance of female/male sex hormones which can lead fertility issues.
Actively lowering stress levels is the most important way to balance cortisol. To prevent your body from remaining in a state of constant stress which can wind up burning out your adrenal glands, it’s important to build stress-reducing practices into your day. Some proven ways to beat stress? Try meditation, exercise, yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture and writing in a journal.
Insulin is a fat-building hormone, so the more insulin that’s released, the more weight gain that occurs. Insulin’s biggest role is ushering glucose from carbohydrate food sources into our cells to be used for energy. The more glucose (or sugar) we consume at one time, the higher amounts of insulin we release. Over time we can produce such high levels of insulin due to a high-sugar diet and inflammation that we become “insulin resistant”, which is the precursor for diabetes.
Balancing insulin requires eating balanced meals, combining types of foods that control or release insulin appropriately. This means eating meals containing carbohydrates along with fats and protein. Instead of consuming sugary foods or carbohydrates alone, if you pair them with protein and healthy fats (like nuts, seeds, olive oil or avocado for example) you experience less of an “insulin-spike” and more balanced blood sugar levels, leading to better appetite control and less weight gain. BalanceDiet also offers 00 Ultra Sugar Stabilizer , a medically formulated supplement that helps to control the levels of blood sugar in your system and reduce the release of insulin.
Produced by our body’s own fatty tissue, leptin helps to keep us at a stable weight (sometimes called our natural weight “set point”). Leptin is one of the most important appetite hormones we have, helping to make us feel full after eating. Decreases in leptin can occur due to dieting, cutting calories too low, reducing body fat too much (especially in women) and over-exercising. Lowering leptin levels too low can actually backfire if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight, since this can cause the metabolism to slow down and therefore for you to burn fewer calories. You’re also more likely to feel hungrier, more irritable and more vulnerable to cravings when leptin levels drop.
The body needs to have enough leptin to feel satisfied and “safe’, so it’s important to not deprive yourself or limit calories too much in order to prevent leptin from plummeting. This means avoiding fad diets, over-training and not getting enough rest. Instead of making drastic changes to drop weight, try to gradually introduce healthier foods into your diet and make smart swaps, without attempting to lose too much weight too soon.
Ghrelin and leptin work together closely. Ghrelin is a powerful “hunger hormone” which makes us want to eat, since it increases digestive enzymes and makes us seek out food. When leptin levels drop too much, ghrelin will increase in order to make you eat enough to put back on weight. A poor diet that’s low in fiber and nutrients won’t be as effective at controlling ghrelin as a nutrient-dense diet, which is one reason why eating lots of junk food can become “addictive” and encourage you to keep eating even more of it.
Both ghrelin and leptin are influenced by the health of our gut, since nerves communicate feelings og hunger from the digestive tract to the brain, letting our conscious mind know what we have eaten, how full we are, and if we need more food (we call this the “gut-brain connection”). Some foods help foster a healthier gut environment than others, especially probiotics (like yogurt or fermented veggies), vegetables, easily digested fats like coconut oil and starchy veggies like sweet potatoes for example. Foods with fiber also help control ghrelin, turning off our hunger and appetite for junk foods. High fiber foods include whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruit.
Adiponectin is called a “fat cell hormone” because it’s actually produced by existing fat that’s stored on your body. It’s involved in regulating glucose levels and helping us to break down, digest and potentially store fats. It also plays a role in preventing insulin resistance and heart disease, since it helps stop plaque from forming in our arteries and keeps our cells responsive to normal amounts of insulin.
To balance adiponectin you should focus on eating balanced meals at regular times, the same way you would to manage insulin secretion. This means eating every few hours (including breakfast, followed by ideally not going more than 3-5 hours with nothing to eat), avoiding high amounts of sugar, and eating enough healthy fats and proteins throughout the day. The goal is actually to produce enough of this hormone, since low adiponectin levels have been associated with obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease and other risk factors referred to as “metabolic syndrome”. Reducing inflammation in general, which means trying to lower stress and eat a healthy diet, help us maintain high enough levels of adiponectin so that fat cells continue to use insulin normally.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jillian Babcock is an experienced Health & Nutrition Counselor and Writer, Board Certified as a Holistic Health Practitioner and also a Yoga Instructor. She writes for various websites, magazines and online publications including Yahoo Health, Rodale Health, MindBodyGreen and Daily Meal.
She is truly passionate about all things nutrition, health, yoga/fitness related and has helped a variety of companies and individuals work on projects such as health/wellness e-books, healthy cookbooks, health related blog posts, informative nutrition video scripts, nutrition/ health mobile apps, and more.
Currently she a leading staff writer for DrAxe.com