No matter how well you eat or how hard you exercise, there are numerous reasons why weight loss can be beyond your reach. Nutritional imbalances, chronic inflammation, metabolism challenges, leaky gut, changes in your microbiome, environmental toxins, and your genes can all be standing in the way of getting you healthier.
One enormous but often-overlooked reason for weight loss resistance involves hormonal imbalances. The "monstrous hormone" that causes weight gain, inflammation, and chronic disease is insulin. However, you can naturally regulate insulin so you can shift your body from fat storage mode to fat-burning mode resulting in feeling and looking better.
But insulin isn’t the only potential culprit; other hormones also affect your weight and health. Three big ones are cortisol, thyroid and sex hormones. let’s briefly look at each of them.
Chronic stress is a very common reason for weight loss resistance. Stressful thoughts activate metabolic pathways that causes weight gain and insulin resistance. This is because cortisol is an adrenal hormone that helps you run faster, see further, hear better, and pumps energy into your bloodstream for quick oomph, in part of the fight or flight response that helped us when we were still cavemen (and women). It also shuts down digestion and slows the metabolism.
All of this is perfectly normal in the short term (and was helpful at the times we had to flee sabretooth attacks), yet if left unchecked, continual stress and high levels of cortisol cause high blood sugar, increased ab-flab, hypertension, high cholesterol, and muscle loss.
Finding ways to manage stress—including meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and changing your thinking—has become central to overcoming weight loss resistance.
The function of our thyroid gland plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy weight, and hypothyroid becomes a major player in weight loss resistance. Research shows hypothyroidism, or low thyroid functionality, affects 20 percent of women and ten percent of men. For various reasons, over half of these cases, goes undiagnosed.
Many things, including diet, nutrient deficiencies, stress, and environmental toxins, can contribute to these imbalances. A common cause of hypothyroidism is gluten intolerance, which accounts for up to 30 percent of the thyroid-attacking autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s.
Other major players that can interfere with thyroid function include pesticides and heavy metals which we get mostly through the food chain. Nutrient deficiencies can also slow things down. The thyroid needs specific nutrients for optimal operation including selenium, zinc, iodine, and omega 3 fats. I recommend working with a functional practitioner to address these and other thyroid issues.
Sex hormone imbalances like oestrogen and testosterone may also cause weight loss resistance. Having too much oestrogen causes weight gain regardless of your gender. For everybody, too much sugar, refined carbs, and alcohol can spike oestrogen, leading to putting on weight.
Keeping the gut healthy may also cultivates a healthy sex-hormone metabolism. Too little fibre or too many antibiotics damages the gut, triggering oestrogen spikes because our body can’t properly detoxify or excrete waste.
Environmental toxins like pesticides are called xenoestrogens because they imitate oestrogen in the body.
Low testosterone in men can also accelerate aging. Lack of exercise, alcohol, stress, environmental toxins, diseases like diabesity, or even pituitary problems can also lower testosterone.
If you suspect that you might be suffering from sex hormone imbalances, you’ll want to get tested. Among strategies to balance these hormones include regular exercise and eating the healthy fat-rich / low sugar diet. While many factors can contribute to these and other hormonal imbalances, dietary and lifestyle factors play a major role. In other words, don't blame yourself: it’s not your fault but there is a lot you can do to balance your hormones through your nutrition, fitness and stress management.
Testing for hormonal imbalances
I would like to start by stating that certain tests are for both genders and some tests are gender specific. In addition, not all tests are created equal. In other words, some tests are more accurate and more thorough than others.
For the purpose of this blog I would like to focus on 2 specific cutting edge tests which due to their novelty are not yet available through most doctors:
Adrenal Stress Profile - This saliva test comes from Genova Diagnostics can detect imbalances in the daily circadian secretions of the stress hormones cortisol and DHEA. Imbalances in these hormones can indicate an inappropriate response that can negatively impact energy levels, emotions, and many other health complaints. These include anxiety, chronic inflammatory conditions, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, depression, migraines, headaches, recurrent infections, menstrual difficulties and infertility. Requirements: 4 saliva samples (5ml) collected at specific times over a 24-hour period and posted to the UK lab.
DUTCH Test (dried urine total complete hormones) – This test comes from Precision Analytical uses dried urine, is the simplest, most elegant and informative test for anyone considering bioidentical hormone therapy, or suspects they might have a hormone problem. The DUTCH test is a urine steroid hormone profile that measures hormones and hormone metabolites (called conjugates) in a dried urine sample, and is performed from the comfort of your home. It is the most cutting-edge way to truly see what’s going on when it comes to your hormones, because it doesn’t just measure hormones, but also something called “metabolites”, which are a measurement of hormone production and hormone breakdown. Measuring both hormones and their metabolites can give you or your health care practitioner a much better overall picture of hormone production. For example, a DUTCH urine steroid hormone profile on someone with low salivary cortisol could show normal cortisol production, but high levels of metabolites. In other words, this would indicate that you are producing enough cortisol, but it’s just getting broken down into its metabolites very quickly. There are also some metabolites that are important markers for cancer risk that can only be measured in urine.
With serum (blood) and saliva hormone spot-testing, it’s possible to track variations in hormone release throughout the day – and this is a great way to measure how your hormones change during a 24-hour period (your circadian rhythm). In contrast, a standard 24-hour urine collection many physicians use reflects your total hormone output in a 24-hour period.
But by using the DUTCH urine steroid test, you get the best of all worlds: blood, saliva and urinary results with just a urine collection.