By Louise O'Connor, Naturopath + Wellness Coach
Hormones are powerful messengers directing appetite, metabolism, sleep, blood sugar control and more importantly your sense of wellbeing.
Could fine-tuning your hormones be the answer to lasting weight loss? Here are six simple strategies to help balance your hormones for permanent weight loss:
If you exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and still struggle to lose weight it could be your hormones.
There may to more to dieting than just willpower. Your digestive system is capable of producing an array of hormones that regulate your appetite.
The appetite regulating hormones are part of a complex system that evolved to help the body deal with periods of famine. Two of the most potent hunger hormones are leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin is secreted by fats cells and sends a signal to your brain when you have eaten enough. Overweight individuals can develop leptin resistance making them unresponsive to the controlling effects of leptin.
Ghrelin is produced in the stomach and has an opposing effect. Ghrelin is often called the hunger hormone; it drives the appetite, stimulating the desire for high-calorie foods.
Expert tip: To kick patterns of overeating focus on mindful eating. Practice portion control and select foods to delight the senses.
Do you ever ask yourself why do I wake dog-tired and then struggle through the day? These are the tell-tale signs of adrenal fatigue, a state of exhaustion caused by low adrenal function.
The adrenal glands regulate your critical 'fight or flight' stress hormones to help you deal with the demands of modern day life. Over time too much stress weakens the adrenals.
Individuals with this condition usually overeat in an attempt to bolster lagging energy and then end up gaining weight. In addition cortisol, the main stress hormone tells your body where to store fat, with greater amounts stored as fat around the middle which is a big risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Expert tip: A plentiful supply of B group vitamins, particularly vitamins B5 and B6 can help recharge the adrenals.
One of the key goals to enhancing weight loss is to improve insulin activity. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas in response to elevated sugar in the blood. A diet high in refined carbohydrates can cause the pancreas to secrete vast amounts of insulin.
In combination with a lack of physical activity this can contribute to development of blood sugar problems. An insulin controlling plan is needed. Eat regular, healthy meals through the day. Getting your quota of 6-8 hours of sleep can also improve insulin action.
Expert tip: Chromium is an essential nutrient to assist blood sugar control. Chromium nicotinate and picolinate supplement forms are more bioavailable.
A well functioning thyroid is crucial to keep your metabolism humming. Thyroid hormones are like a throttle, boosting your body’s ability to burn calories.
An under active thyroid, or hypothyroidism will slow metabolism to a crawl making it almost impossible to lose weight. If you are worried about hypothyroidism a fad diet that cuts calories sinmply won’t work.
Restricting calories further inhibits thyroid hormone activity. This is the body's natural response to conserve fuel during periods of starvation. Instead choose a natural thyroid diet to achieve slow, steady weight loss.
Expert tip: Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) is a prized thyroid tonic traditionally prescribed to treat weight gain associated with hypothyroidism. This herb is a rich source of iodine. This mineral is used to produce the key thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
If you suffer food cravings that are hard to ignore you may have a hormone imbalance that triggers compulsive eating.
Serotonin is the body’s primary mood regulating hormone. It has a powerful effect on your mood and appetite. Low levels can result in powerful desires for sugary foods, even uncontrollable food binges.
Choosing foods to nourish the nervous system can help curb cravings. Serotonin is naturally produced from protein foods. Good sources of protein include fresh fish, lean red meat, organic poultry, organic eggs or secondary protein such as wholegrains, legumes and activated nuts and seeds.
Expert tip: Emotions play a big part in food cravings. Allow time to relax and bring focus to your life. Yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises are powerful tools to calm the senses.
Menopause marks an important life stage for women. It is also the time when hormone fluctuations can lead to a range of symptoms including fatigue and weight gain.
Many clients report they feel ‘tired, grumpy and weighed down by life’. These are the unmistakable signs that too much stress has been a dominate feature of their lives. They have relied on the energy of the stress hormones to help them cope, arriving at menopause with adrenal glands that are simply exhausted.
When called upon to prop up declining oestrogen the adrenals are unable to meet demand. Without the adrenals ability to buffer the impact of declining hormone production from the ovaries women experience more severe menopausal symptoms.
Expert tip: Withania (Withania somnifera) has long been used by Ayurvedic practitioners as a rejuvenating tonic. It is particularly indicated for nervous exhaustion due to long term stress.
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