STRESS, HORMONES and 8 REASONS WHY YOU CAN'T LOSE WEIGHT!
By: Dr. Marianne Beck, DC
It's been months now since the New Year began. How have you done so far with your New Year's resolution to finally lose that excess weight, especially your stubborn belly fat? Don't worry-it may not be entirely your fault. Weight loss is not a matter of willpower and your food cravings for sugar, carbohydrates or alcohol are signs of hormonal imbalance rather than some addiction that only shear willpower will cure! Understanding the true barriers to weight loss can help you finally reach your weight loss goals and keep those pounds off! So, here are the 8 most common reasons why you are having difficulty shedding those excess pounds.
1- CHRONIC STRESS Chronic stress elevates cortisol, "the stress hormone". When people think of stress, they usually think of emotional stress such as fear, anger, frustration, worry, death of a loved one etc. However, there are many stressors to the body such as nutritional stress (nutritional deficiencies, eating refined carbohydrates, eating too much sugary foods, yo-yo dieting etc), traumatic stress (physical injury, surgery, childbirth), physical stress (hard physical work, running a marathon, not exercising, and over exercising), chemical stress (environmental pollution, pesticides, cleaning products, prescription and over the counter drugs), mental stress (anxiety, compulsions, obsessions, high responsibility) and electromagnetic stress (computers and cell phone exposure etc).
All of these life stressors put demands on two tiny glands that sit on top of your kidneys know as the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are the stress-handling glands that act as the "control center" for over 50 hormones which are involved in a large number of bodily functions. They also have an effect over the body's metabolism, blood sugar levels, fluid retention and they produce the steroid hormones that determine your overall energy and stamina. In today's society we are inundated with stress-stress that does not let up. We keep producing large amounts of cortisol until our adrenal glands can't produce enough to keep up with our demands. Eventually we slide into adrenal fatigue /adrenal exhaustion.
The effects of chronic stress have been seen to be more and more debilitating over time, including hypoglycemia, insulin resistance and excess fat around the middle.
2-SLEEP DEPRIVATION Numerous studies have linked even mild sleep deprivation to obesity. Even losing 1 hour of sleep each night can decrease insulin sensitivity. Lack of sleep increases your cortisol levels which leads to the problems associated with stress. Difficulty falling asleep is associated with increased cortisol levels while waking in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back to sleep is associated with adrenal fatigue. When we get a great night's sleep we replenish our serotonin levels which puts us in a better mood for the next day. So, if we are grouchy and angry because we didn't get a good night's sleep, we only add to our stress levels during the day which alters cortisol levels which again interferes with the next night's sleep! Sounds like a vicious cycle doesn't it?
3-NEUROTRANSMITTER IMBALANCES Unfortunately, if you are not sleeping well, are under chronic stress or have nutritional deficiencies, you may suffer from neurotransmitter imbalances. Our body produces key neurotransmitters that help control appetite and cravings. Chronic stress has been found to deplete two key neurotransmitters-serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine helps with regulating appetite, among other things such as drive and motivation. Serotonin levels are lowered when cortisol levels rise causing carbohydrate and sugar cravings. Low levels of serotonin prevents the production of melatonin which is necessary for deep sleep.
4-THYROID FATIGUE Low thyroid function can affect the body's ability to balance sex hormones, build muscle and lose weight. High stress can reduce the body's ability to convert the thyroid hormone T4 into T3. T3 is the active thyroid hormone necessary to burn fat!
5-THE TOXIC BURDEN Each year 80+ billion pounds of toxins are released into our environment. Toxins (pesticides, environmental chemicals, heavy metals etc) are stored in our fat cells allowing the body to hold onto fat in order to protect our organs! A high toxic burden can lower thyroid function in an attempt to slow down the body to lessen the damage from the effect of the toxins in our system! Research has found that metabolism could be slowed down by as much as 30% due to toxic burden. Toxic chemicals also affect sex hormone balance and cause increased adrenal stress.
6-FOOD SENSITIVITIES AND GUT ISSUES If you have chronic problems with gas, bloating constipation etc, you will not be able to absorb nutrients from food and supplements very well. Even mild nutrient deficiencies can have a major impact on weight loss! Some vitamin and mineral deficiencies lower the ability of your body to burn fat! If we have unknown food sensitivities (different than food allergies) to foods we eat on a daily basis such as dairy, soy, eggs or wheat(gluten), the body initiates an immune response that puts increased stress on your adrenal glands and can cause chronic inflammation, mood disorders, joint problems, autoimmune disease etc.
7-INSULIN RESISTANCE Insulin resistance occurs when the insulin receptors become 'resistant" and the pancreas has to overproduce insulin, which can happen due to a variety of factors, including overeating, eating high refined carbohydrates and sugar and chronic stress! If insulin remains high, it locks the doors to the fat cells so that the body can't burn off fat weight.
This results in hypoglycemia, chronic inflammation dementia, diabetes and increased fat around the abdomen.
8-HORMONE IMBALANCES The levels of hormones can affect weight loss in many ways. Low DHEA will reduce fat burning. Lower estrogen in women and testosterone in men can mean lower levels of serotonin which causes increased sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings! Progesterone levels that are too high can create insulin resistance and therefore weight gain! Chronic stress can lower sex hormones and cause early menopause and andropause (male menopause) and worsening PMS symptoms. Synthetic hormones or incorrectly dosed bio-identical hormones can also cause weight gain!
Wow!! It seems that the inability to lose weight has a lot to do with stress, your adrenal glands and your hormones, doesn't it? And, after reading this article you must realize that there is a vicious cycle going on with stress in all of its forms and the effect of stress on your body's hormone production.
So, what should you do about this if you truly want to lose that excess weight?
The first thing is to ascertain just how stressed out you are by taking an Adrenal Saliva Test to measure your levels of cortisol and DHEA. You need to know if you are in Adrenal Stress or Adrenal Fatigue or somewhere in between. You may also want to check your sex hormones (progesterone, estrogen and testosterone) and check to see if you have food sensitivities to milk, soy, eggs and wheat (gluten) by using saliva testing.
You can start making dietary changes today by avoiding refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods. Stop using stimulants such as caffeine, herbal stimulants and appetite suppressors. Several cans of Red Bull for energy are sure to wreck your adrenal glands! Instead eat good quality protein at each meal, vegetables and low glycemic fruits. Lower your toxic burden by eating organic meats (without antibiotics) and vegetables (grown without the use of chemicals and pesticides). Use less chemicals to do cleaning at home and use more environmentally safe products for personal grooming. To get a good night's sleep don't drink alcohol or eat a large meal or eat sugary foods before bedtime. Also, shut off your computer at least one hour before going to sleep and sleep in the darkest room possible. Your body will make more melatonin in the dark which will help you sleep deeper and make more serotonin. Use stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, walking, massage etc to reduce stress levels. And finally, make a list of the stressors in your life and how you deal with them. See if you can make some improvements in how you deal with these stressors. Alcohol, drugs and sleep aids are not they way to deal with excess stress! See how many "self imposed" stressors are on your list and see what you can do to eliminate them.
If you are finally tired of being "sick and tired", contact Dr. Marianne Beck at Women's BestHealth today. Call 954-782-4855 to to set up an appointment.
Women's BestHealth is a functional medicine and nutritional health center specializing in women's health issues and wellness. Dr. Marianne Beck, founder and director, provides natural treatment for menopause, perimenopause, adrenal fatigue/stress, thyroid problems, Hashimoto's, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal problems and autoimmune disease. We offer our services locally in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.
Serving: South Florida (South Fl), Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Sunrise, Oakland park, Pompano Beach, Deerfield, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Miramar, Coral Springs, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coconut Creek, Weston, Hollywood, Plantation, Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.
Marianne Beck, D.C., Functional Medicine Practitioner and Director, Women's BestHealth