This post is part of my series about the metabolic hormones and how they especially influence the weight.
We need to figure out why our hormones are messed up in the first place. Then we can address the real problem and restore our hormonal balance naturally. It is important to realize that our hormones are manipulated by various things that we eat or are exposed to. Luckily, there are things that can be done about it so that you can take charge of your metabolism.
The first step is to realize what made the hormones go out of whack so we can remove the cause, next we have to restore and rebalance so that the hormones realize that they don't need to hold on to the fat.
Metabolism is made up of various hormones and as long as they are functioning there's nothing to worry about. When everything is perfect your insulin stays stable and your muscles use just the right amount of blood sugar. You thyroid is working normally and you burn off energy as you take it in. Unfortunately, when the hormone levels are disturbed, each gland start to under- or over producing hormones in order to compensate and to restore homeostasis. The metabolism is affected by anything that gets in the way of your normal hormone production.
What's an endocrine disruptor?
An endocrine disruptor is a substance or influence that alters the way the body's hormones work. They can increase, decrease, or change the way the hormones work. For example, endocrine disruptors can:
- Increase or decrease the number of hormone receptors in the body
- Change the amount of hormones being produced
- Block the real hormones from accessing their receptors
- Mimicking a real hormone and take its place in the receptors, setting it off as it was the real hormone doing it
- Influence the processing speed of the hormones in the body
Unfortunately, these actions above sets of a chain of events in the body. Studies have shown that exposure to BPA, which is considered to be xenoestrogens, decreases the blood sugar levels and sharply increase the insulin levels within 30 minutes of exposure. After four days of exposure the BPA manages to stimulate the pancreas to secrete more insulin. This means that the body is starting to become insulin resistant.
Many studies have also linked BPA to early puberty in girls, lower sperm counts, and harmful breast and prostate tissue growth.
BPA can be found in polycarbonate (No. 7) plastic. It can be found in baby bottles, plastic liners of almost all food and soft drink cans, food storage containers and so on. So, the goal should be to remove as much plastic as possible.
Many other plastics such as polyvinal chloride (No. 3), and polystyrene (No. 6), also known as styrofoam, contain hormone disrupting chemicals too. Be careful not to heat up the plastic, and replace with glass containers instead.
Don't forget to exercise
Most of our hormones decline as we age. Leptin decreases so it is not as easy to feel fullness when we eat, which easily leads to over eating. Female hormones are reduced in women and insulin is not as effective anymore. This easily leads to weight gain. Testosterone and DHEA decline in men as they age, which leads to decreased energy and muscle mass while insulin resistance and belly fat are increased.
According to a study of 1100 men, it is possible to add 10-15 % to the hormonal levels if a healthy weight is maintained, only drinking moderately, and by staying away from diabetes and serious illnesses. Our hormonal balance will be better if we eat clean, live clean, and exercise. We can do something about age related muscle decline. Exercising reduces weight gain hormones such as cortisol by releasing endorphins to combat stress. It also increases fat burning hormones like human growth hormone, DHEA, testosterone, and thyroxine.
No more Yo-Yo diets
Starvation diets are catabolic, which means that the body is cannibalizing your muscles for fuel. You need your muscles. The metabolism is slower without muscles and this causes the thyroid hormones to decline. You don't want your body to prepare for a famine and hold on to all the calories, so don't cut your calorie intake drastically. A couple of weeks of a crash diet of only 800 calories can really mess up the metabolism. The gherlin rises, the T3 levels plummet, and the sensitivity to insulin and leptin takes a hit.
Throw out the processed foods
Processed foods are made of chemicals. If you think about it, most of the processed foods don't fit into any food groups. The food is full of unrecognizable chemicals. 60% of all the food consumed by most in this country is processed made of refined grains, vegetable oils, and added sugar. Toxic chemicals found in processed foods are bad news for your hormones. Your body cannot recognized them as foods. I will talk more about specific ingredients in the next post.
Pesticides in the food
Most crops are genetically modified or sprayed with endocrine disrupting pesticides. Pesticides accumulate in the fatty tissues of us and the animals we eat. People with high levels of POP such as dioxin, PCB's, and chlordane were 38 times more likely to be insulin resistant in a study of more than 2000 adults. People that were more obese but didn't have any trace of POP had much lower rate.
Pregnancy hormones are also given to dairy cattle to improve their production, and also growth hormones to create more meat.
Toxins are everywhere
Endocrine disrupting toxins are found everywhere around us. Flame retardant in mothers milk doubled every 5 years from 1972 to 1998 according to a Swedish study. When boy rats had been exposed to one dose of dioxin in the womb they produced 74% less sperm than those that had not been exposed. The testosterone levels were lower than normal, and the size of their genitals were slightly reduced. Exposure to dioxin and PCBs causes the thyroid glands in animals to change similar to how people react to Hashimoto's disease. Pregnant rats exposed to increased levels of PCBs give birth to babies with less thyroid hormones and messed up neurotransmitters.
Women with PCOS have higher blood levels of BPA compared to women who don't have the disease. Low doses have shown to create new fat cells and increase their size. More than 130 animal studies have linked low dosages of BPA to breast and prostate cancer, brain damage, obesity, hyper activity, damaged immune system, diabetes and low sperm count.
Hormonal induced cancers
The endocrine disruptors may give us hormonal induced cancer in addition to messing with our metabolism. More than 50% of the prostate cancers are linked to excess estrogen in the body. The Physicians for Social Responsibility claims that the most common pollutants in fuels, drugs, plastic, and pesticides cause cancer in animal. This is because they interfere with healthy hormone activity.
Do you work too much and do you get enough sleep?
I think most of us know that long term stress is not good for us. According to Dr. Scott Isaac, stress can cause:
- Higher cortisol levels
- Lower levels of growth hormone
- Lower testosterone levels in men
- Lower estrogen levels in women
- Insulin resistance
- Leptin resistance
When these hormones change the metabolism will slow down and cause weight gain. The lack of sleep may be the biggest cause of the hormonal shut down. The obesity rate nearly doubled between 1960 to 2002, and interestingly to note is that the percentage of young adults sleeping 8-9 hours per night was cut almost in half for the same period of time.
Many pharmaceuticals have been found to have endocrine disrupting chemicals in them. SSRIs have been linked to metabolic syndrome. Several medications have been found to cause weight gain according to one major review:
- Steroid hormones
Unfortunately pharmaceuticals could seriously influence your hormonal health. While helping one part of the body with drugs you may mess up another part at the same time. Unfortunately, pharmaceuticals have been found in our water supply. 56 different drugs such as sex hormones, antibiotics, mood stabilizers, and anti-convulsants were found in Philadelphia's water supply. It is best to use a water filtration system for your drinking water and install a filter in your showers.
I have often heard that people say that don't want to quit smoking because they don't want to gain any weight. Smoking impacts many endocrine glands such as the thyroid, pituitary, testicles, adrenals, and ovaries. As we know it damages the lungs and every cell in the body, as well as the brain and heart. Smoking may also aid in causing insulin resistance and diabetes as well as increase the cortisol levels, this may lead to a larger belly. Smoking may also lead to hypothyroidism due to increase in levels of thiocyanate.
You are not doomed even though it may sound like it
This post kind of make it sound like you're doomed, but the body has an amazing capability to heal if the right tools are provided. We will go into more detail on how to do so in a later post. Generally it comes down to living as natural as possible in order to avoid all these toxins that mess up your hormones. Use glass instead of plastic, buy organic food if possible, cook from scratch with real ingredients, and clean with vinegar, salt, and baking soda.
Holistic point of view
From a holistic point of view, cleansing or detoxification, is very important. For example, the liver is responsible for breaking down excess hormones and environmental toxins. You can help your liver get rid off excess xenoestrogens and other toxins by supporting it with appropriate food, herbs and supplements. When the body has a sufficient amount of nutrients it can better cleanse toxins out of the body, so make sure that the body is fully nourished.
Next we will take about hormonal anti-nutrients in more detail so we know what kind of things we need to avoid and why.
This information is for educational purposes only. Seek the advise of a health care practitioner if you suspect that you suffer from hormonal imbalances.
Thanks for visiting!
Johanna is an aromatherapist and an independent distributor of Young Living Essential Oils and Nature's Sunshine. She is passionate about educating people about health, essential oils, real food, natural remedies, and nutrition so they make healthier choices in their lives. She also runs Naturally Sports & Wellness together with her husband.
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