Fasting, Hormones, & Health Part 2: Hormones & Weight Loss
Hormones and weight loss: are they connected? Our hormones are directly responsible for nearly every function in the body. They are chemical messengers and are responsible for almost every bodily process. Something that is directly affected by hormones is our metabolism. While we most often associate our hormones with ideas like sexual health, energy, or emotional stability—they can also be associated with appetite, hunger, and fullness. They have a significant impact on body weight.
In part 1 of our series “Fasting, Hormones, & Health” we explored intermittent fasting. Our registered dietitian breaks down the hormone insulin found in our bodies, showing how fasting can help to fight against glucose production and in turn, fat loss. She also walks you through how to go about practicing it and how it affects our bodies. Check it out here if you missed it!
Now, in part 2, our hormone therapy provider Judy will better connect the dots between our hormones and weight loss. Balanced hormones are critical in our efforts to lose weight, especially with age. Keep reading to understand this relationship and what you can do to keep those hormones balanced and your health at optimal levels.
Hormones That Affect Weight Gain & Loss
Most everyone is aware of our sex steroid hormones like: Estradiol, Progesterone, DHEA, and Testosterone. Having these balanced in our bodies (perimenopause and menopause in women, andropause in men) is essential not only to maintaining an ideal body weight. It also helps prevent things like: heart disease, Insulin resistance, Metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis and many others.
Low Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone contribute to insulin resistance. While our sex steroid hormones, when in balance, play an enormous role in keeping us healthy there are several other hormones that are even more specific to weight gain. Let’s break down each of these hormones and how they affect our bodies.
How Does Insulin Resistance Affect Weight Loss?
Insulin is a major hormone in our bodies. Its main function is to convert the food we eat into fuel for our bodies. It does this by directing glucose into the cells. Insulin directly affects metabolism, weight gain, aging, and our overall health. This master hormone is also known as the fat storing hormone and is often felt to be the most impactful hormone when discussing weight gain in both men and women.
Insulin is secreted in the body from the pancreas in small amounts. Insulin and the hormone “glucagon” control blood sugar and direct the use/storage of glucose in the body. Like our sex steroid hormones, when insulin is out of balance, it can contribute to weight gain—this is called insulin resistance. When this occurs in our bodies, a common finding in both the male and female body is that as we age, our cells become resistant to the insulin. This can then cause blood sugar levels to be elevated as well as the insulin levels to be elevated.
What Causes Insulin Resistance? Is There a Solution?
When insulin resistance develops, the body will go into a fat-making and storing mode. This resistance can be hereditary, but mostly it is triggered by being overweight, eating a diet high in carbohydrates, or a sedentary lifestyle. Insulin resistance can happen at any age. It also increases the risk for serious diseases such as: heart disease, weight gain, type II diabetes, breast cancer, osteoporosis, and dementia.
Insulin resistance can in fact be reversed, or at least slowed down, with intermittent fasting. This involves eating a balanced diet, incorporating exercise into a more active lifestyle, while practicing a calculated fasting regimen. Again, check out part 1 of this series where our registered dietitian breaks down how to start intermittent fasting!
If the insulin resistance is severe, a medication like Metformin may be required as an additional tool to decrease insulin resistance.
Weight Gain and Cortisol: Are They Connected?
Cortisol is another hormone that, while vital to our bodies function, out of balance can contribute to fat storage. It is a stress hormone produced in the adrenal glands. Stress increases the levels of Cortisol in our bodies and these higher levels can cause Insulin resistance. Chronic stress also causes high levels of Cortisol which can lead to symptoms like overeating, weight gain, and anxiety.
Treatment of elevated Cortisol begins with decreasing/ removing the chronic stress, getting adequate sleep, and again incorporating Intermittent fasting with a healthy balanced diet. Check out our previous blog on “Adrenal Fatigue” which helps break down the cortisol hormone even further.
Leptin & Ghrelin
Do Leptin & Ghrelin Levels Affect Weight Gain?
Two additional hormones that impact weight gain are Leptin and Ghrelin. These two hormones tell the brain when we are hungry and full. When out of balance, the communication breaks down and this leads to overeating and weight gain.
What do Leptin and Ghrelin Do?
Leptin is released from the stomach and when balanced, you won’t overeat. Diets high in carbohydrates and highly processed foods will cause an imbalance in our Leptin hormone levels. This then tends to lead us towards overeating. High levels of Leptin will make it very difficult to lose weight.
The hormone Ghrelin tells our brain we are hungry. Ghrelin is released from the stomach, the level will be highest when the stomach is empty and should decrease after eating. If Ghrelin is out of balance it does not decrease after eating so the brain does not know we are full, again causing us to overeat and gain weight.
Hormones and Weight Loss
We hope you can now see the direct relation between our hormones and weight loss. While there are other more minor hormones that can affect weight gain, it’s really the ones discussed here that have the most impact when not in balance: Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, Cortisol, Leptin, and Ghrelin. It is possible to re-balance these hormones with a healthy diet, exercise, and intermittent fasting, but sometimes a little extra help is needed. That’s where hormone replacement therapy can help.
Struggling to Lose Weight? Have Your Levels Checked!
As we age, our hormone levels naturally drop and become imbalanced—it’s completely normal. What shouldn’t be normal, however, is the idea that we have to live with that imbalance. With a simple blood test, you can see where you hormone levels stand and decide whether natural hormone therapy is right for you. For women, click here to learn more and how to get started. For men, click here to do the same.
You can also fill out our initial consultation form here. A member of our staff will get in touch to answer any questions you might have, as well as get you scheduled with one of our highly-trained and certified hormone therapy providers.
Take action on your health and wellness today! And as always, we’re here to help.