Karen Boyle has kindly let us use her blog on our site. She is interested in Functional Health at Amchara (Somerset, UK & Malta) which has been voted ‘Top 10 wellbeing retreats in the world-2017” by CNTraveller.com & ‘Top 10 retreats for health in the world-2016” by Telegraph.co.uk. Amchara Health Retreats have been featured in: VOUGE, INDEPENDENT, PORTER, MARIE CLAIRE, HEALTH & FITNESS, CHANNEL 4 and more.
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Multiple factors contribute to loss. Focusing solely on calories is not sufficient to fight obesity or to lose weight. Everyone knows at least one person who eats more than them, doesn’t exercise regularly and yet manages to maintain a slim waistline. Also, everyone knows at least one person who doesn’t eat much, has a reasonably active lifestyle and yet struggles to lose weight. This is primarily because of the various elements that affect our bodyweight
Basic Biological Reasons of Weight Gain
At a superficial level, most people understand and even accept the concept of weight gain simplified into a case of consuming more calories than what one needs or burns. Delve a little deeper and metabolic rate will become a determining factor. A full medical check-up of an obese or overweight person will reveal that she or he has many more and much larger fat cells than someone who has a healthier body mass index. Genetics plays a role in weight gain, so do hormones. Everything from what you eat to when you eat, your gut health to quality of sleep, whether or not you exercise and various other realities, many pertaining to your personal life and some related to your professional life, will have a direct or indirect impact on your weight.
The Significance of Balanced Hormones
Hormones are signalling molecules. They are secreted by different glands and circulated throughout the human body to regulate various bodily functions, including behaviour and physiology. There are three types of hormones in the human body: amines which are simple molecules, proteins and peptides which are chains of amino acids, and steroids which are essentially derivatives of cholesterol. There are around fifty different hormones secreted by the endocrine glands.
- The hypothalamus secretes thyrotropin releasing hormone, somatostatin, gonadotrophin releasing hormone, corticotrophin releasing hormone and growth hormone releasing hormone, affecting everything from growth to regulating various hormones.
- The anterior pituitary gland secretes thyroid stimulating hormone, luteinising hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, growth hormone, prolactin and adrenocortical-trophic hormone, affecting and regulating multiple bodily functions including ovulation and growth of organs.
- The posterior pituitary gland secretes vasopressin and oxytocin to regulate blood pressure.
- The thyroid gland secretes thyroxine and tri-iodothyronine, primarily affecting metabolic rate.
- The parathyroid glands secrete parathyroid hormone and calcitonin, regulating calcium levels in the blood.
- The adrenal cortex secretes cortisol, aldosterone and androgens. The adrenal medulla secretes adrenaline & noradrenaline.
- The pancreas secretes insulin, glucagon and somatostatin, regulating blood sugar.
- The ovary secretes estrogens and progesterone. The testis secretes testosterone. All three hormones have a direct impact on weight, appetite and metabolism.
- The stomach secretes gastrin and serotonin, the duodenum & jejunum produce secretin and cholecystokinin, the kidney produces erythropoietin, the heart produces atrial natriuretic factor and the skin produces vitamin D.
If any of these hormones is not secreted by the specific endocrine gland or if the quantity is insufficient or excessive, there will be a direct impact on the bodily functions that the hormone is supposed to support or facilitate.
Hormonal Imbalance and Weight Gain
There are more than ten hormones that directly affect your weight, including leptin, cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, insulin, thyroid, ghrelin, melatonin and glucocorticoids. A hormonal imbalance of any of these ten will lead to weight gain.
- Leptin is a hormone tasked with the responsibility to tell your brain that you are full, which is basically an indication that you must stop eating. Excessive leptin in your system will not convey this message and hence you will end up eating much more than you must. In a way, leptin increases appetite.
- Cortisol is the hormone associated with stress. An excessive secretion of cortisol will convert sugar in the blood to fat and that will be stored for the long term, much like hoarding. The body goes into survival mode when it is under stress. Too much cortisol raises the red flags and the body starts to hoard fat, which is a source of energy should the body be deprived of the minimum nutrition to power the various vital functions.
- Estrogen can help you stay lean when you have balanced hormones. When you have hormonal imbalance and your estrogen is threatening to go off the charts, it will start to enlarge your fat cells. Estrogen has a direct correlation with insulin, which is a quintessentially important hormone as it manages level of glucose or sugar in your blood. Excessive estrogen or a serious deficit will lead to weight gain and an imbalance of insulin will also raise blood sugar.
- Testosterone can alter your metabolic rate and hence how much calorie you can exhaust through the day. Testosterone also balances estrogen and contributes to the growth of muscles. Hence, any serious hormonal imbalance will lead to accumulate of more fat, the muscles will become weaker and there will be an estrogen imbalance.
Prevent or Remedy Hormonal Imbalance for Weight Loss
Avoid processed foods, added and refined sugar, excessive fruit intake or foods rich in fructose to reduce the secretion of leptin. No one needs an introduction to stress or cortisol. It is caused by everything from rush hour traffic to the steaming cup of coffee. Elevated cortisol levels will always compel the body to store fat and you will find it hard to shed. Get rid of stress, in all its forms. Avoid foods that cause stress. Avoid activities that cause stress. Physical exhaustion should not be treated as stress. The sense of tiredness you feel after a long jog is not causing stress. Prolonged sitting is what raises your cortisol levels, not moderate exercise.
To avert hormonal imbalance of estrogen and testosterone, limit the servings of meat and increase your intake of vegetables. The human body needs proteins, but it also needs fibre. Excessive protein intake, especially in case of red meat, will affect estrogen secretion. Fibre will regulate it. Since modern livestock is fed on steroids and antibiotics, they have a direct impact on estrogen. These toxins behave in a similar manner as estrogen does in the human body, thus confusing the ovary which then alters the quantum of estrogen produced.
Sleep well and keep yourself hydrated. It doesn’t matter when you sleep. What matters is for how long and whether your body is well rested. If you are feeling perpetually fatigued, then you will suffer from hormonal imbalance. Dehydration will also cause hormone imbalance. Do not reach out for diet sodas or any beverage as a substitute for water. Nothing is an alternative to plain water. Your daily fluid intake, in the form of water and through properly cooked meals using fresh produce, should not be compromised at any cost.
Detoxify to maintain optimum gut health. We are exposed to innumerable toxins every day. We breathe in polluted air, we consume pesticides and herbicides, traces of fertilizer and a plethora of artificial ingredients or outright chemicals used in most foods and we expose ourselves to a ton of healthcare and skincare products that contain synthetic materials. All these lead to an alarming build-up of toxins in and on our body. Detoxification is quintessential for balanced hormones, which is necessary for healthy and sustained weight loss.
Go for a Hormones Test, Avoid Unnecessary Medications
If you are experiencing any feeling or any change in your body, mood, behaviour or craving, get your hormones tested. Avoid all unnecessary medication that can directly impact your natural hormonal secretions. Be proactive so you don’t suffer from hormonal imbalance. It is not just about weight gain or weight loss. Hormonal imbalance has far-reaching consequences.
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