Did you know the body makes more than 100 different hormones? And when some of these hormones get out of balance it causes problems with aging and weight gain. When these hormones are in balance, most of the time the person is able to maintain a healthy weight. Some of these hormones that play a role in maintaining a healthy weight are:
- thyroid hormones,
- human growth hormone
- sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone),
- cortisol, and
Insulin and glucagon have opposing effects. Insulin helps get sugar into the cell and contributes to fat storage; however glucagon helps to pull the sugar out of storage so the body cn use it for energy. What can a person do to maximize the effects of glucagon and minimize the effects of insulin? Well, one tip is to decrease the amount of processed foods and sugar in the diet and increase the amount of whole grains, veggies , fish (especially salmon, mackerel and sardines) which are high in omega 3 oils. When you have a diet that is high in carbohydrates (particularly with a high glycemic index, the pancreas pours out more insulin and so the end effect is to store calories and gain weight. Also adding chromium to the diet helps to normalize blood sugar and reduces the amount of insulin the pancreas produces. Brewers yeast is a good source of chromium, and adding 1-2 Tablespoons to the diet every day will help. The other tip to increase your glucagon level is to only have 3 meals per day. The frequent meal plan actually contributes to increasing insulin levels which will have the effect of causing weight gain instead.
Now what about leptin? This hormone plays a role in telling the brain when you are full when you are eating. If you do not have enough leptin or too much leptin the end effect is to increase appetite. Diets high in processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, transfatty acids cause the body to metabolize calories differently so that you store calories as fat, even if you are trying to reduce calorie intake.
Low thyroid can also contribute to metabolic imbalance, meaning that calories get used up far more slowly than they should. Having a poor diet makes this condition worse. Conversely, by improving your diet, you can actually help your thyroid. It is important to include a natural source of iodine in your diet such as in sea salt, or kelp, or other forms of seaweed such as nori and wakame, and limit the amount of salt that you get in processed foods (by eliminating the processed foods!) Also eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits helps your body make more of the active form of the thyroid hormone.
Everybody is talking about human growth hormone (HGH) and how it helps maintain a normal hormone balance and helps people loose weight. And it truly does help because it helps to build muscle. As people get older, they tend to make less HGH and so have a higher percentage of body fat than muscle. There are a lot of companies out there selling HGH. Studies have shown that if you eat less frequently the HGH rises. Other tips to increase HGH which don’t cost anything include:
- getting sufficient sleep at night;
- exercising on a regular basis;
- normalizing the blood insulin level (which we have discussed above);
- managing stress (which can be done by #1` and #2);
- and getting your sex hormones in balance.
OK, so how do you get your sex hormones in balance? Women start making significantly less progesterone beginning at around age 35; whereas men start making less testosterone beginning about age 20. When women hit menopause they are making essentially NO progesterone and only a little less estrogen and a little less testosterone. (Women that are underweight will make significantly less estrogen as they go through the “change” and can be deficient in estrogen as well.) Ways to get the hormones in balance naturally include eliminating sugar, smoking, caffeine and alcohol. Also increasing exercise improves the hormone balance. Foods that contribute to a better balance in both men and women include eggs, chicken, whole milk, ground flax seed, ground chia seed which are high in the omega 3 oils and fiber. Of course it is better to eat these proteins from organic sources where hormones and antibiotics are not used. For example eggs from free-range chickens have a different cholesterol content than eggs from chickens that are fed hormones and that do not run around to find their own food.
Cortisol is made by the adrenal gland and is the primary “fight or flight” hormone. When a person is stressed out regularly, this hormone gets depleted over time. When it is elevated it contributes to storing calories as fat particularly around the middle (meaning the belly). Ways to reduce stress include yoga, deep breathing techniques, tai chi, meditation and avoiding processed foods.
DHEA short for DiHydroEpiAndrostenedione is one of the hormones made by the adrenal gland that is really the building block for both estrogen and testosterone. Diets that are high in trans fats, coffee, processed foods cause this hormone to be produced in smaller amounts. Tip: Avoid these foods. Add some saturated fats such as coconut oil and palm oil, in addition to mono-unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocados and nuts.
There is a recurring theme here, did you notice it? Avoid processed foods, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and go organic, more fresh vegetables and fruits, with higher fiber and whole grains. Exercise regularly, get some sunshine which will boost Vitamin D levels, and get enough sleep every night.