We have all heard that obesity is on the rise; “The next epidemic” in America. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, nearly two out of every three Americans are now overweight or obese. That is nearly seventy percent of our population currently at an unhealthy weight. Clearly, something is out of kilter with the way Americans eat, right?
Well, yes. But, it comes down to more than just calories consumed vs. calories burned!
Most often, the blame for this epidemic gets placed on poor eating habits: Too many French fries, not enough vegetables. This philosophy is no doubt frustrating for people who are making lifestyle changes, eating better, exercising, and still not losing weight. Recent studies, however, may be able to shed some light on this. The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity along with many research studies are now reporting that while eating a balance diet certainly plays a vital role in healthy weight management, there is also another critical factor that plays a part in how well our bodies can manage weight: Hormones.
Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that work much like a switchboard operator, transferring information and directing cells to do one thing or another. When hormones become out of balance (and there are many ways for this to happen), then weight control can become hard to manage.
How Do Hormones Become Out of Balance?
Hormones can become out of balance in several ways.
If your body is not able to adequately metabolize hormones, which is common today due to a myriad of factors including genetics, stress, and diet and lifestyle, then excess hormones may begin to circulate and get stored in your body. This would be considered an endogenous, or, internally influenced hormone imbalance, as it is caused by an insufficient internal biological function (detoxification). Long term circulation of hormones can lead to an excess of certain hormones, particularly estrogen, in the body tissue. We will further discuss estrogen’s role in weight management later in this article.
Additionally, if your body is exposed to exogenous, or, external hormones or hormone like substances, then this too, can throw your body off kilter. You may be surprised to learn that most of us are being exposed to many hormone like substances every day that may be directly contributing to weight gain and persistent poundage. These substances, which are actually able to mimic hormones in the body, are now being called “obesogens”, a term coined by biologist and UC Irvine professor and researcher, Bruce Blumberg. Obesogens may be a contributing factor in why so many people today are struggling with frustrating and stubborn weight gain.
Examples of EDCs/obesogens that many of us encounter every day include:
- Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides found on conventional produce and in tap water. Instead, try to buy organic, or at least wash your produce thoroughly. Be sure to drink pure filtered water.
- Conventionally raised meat and dairy which often contain hormones and antibiotics.
Instead, buy organic or hormone and anti-biotic free.
- Plastic cans and bottles, many of which contain Biphenyl-A (BPA). Instead, use glass jars or metal (try to avoid aluminum) water bottles. Avoid leaving plastic water bottles in the sun or exposing to heat, especially microwaves.
- Non-stick Pans (Teflon pans), which contain Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Instead, use cast iron or hard anodized aluminum (processed so that aluminum cannot leech into food).
- Vinyl products and air fresheners, which contain Phthalates. Instead, use natural products.
- Creams and lotions containing estrogenic ingredients like parabens. Instead use natural products and oils. See Energetic Nutrition’s all natural EDC free RegenaCell anti-aging cream.
- Common cleaning chemicals which omit toxic fumes. Instead use natural, non-toxic formulas. You can even make your own cleaning supplies.
Why Do Obesogens Make Us Fat?
Blumberg and other researchers have concluded, following much study on endocrine disrupting chemicals/obesogens, that they are actually able to disrupt normal function of metabolic hormones. Metabolic hormones are produced in the endocrine system, and are responsible for a wide range of functions in the body. Metabolic hormones do everything from regulating hunger, to deciding where and how body fat is stored and/or burned in the body.
The endocrine system consists of:
• The hypothalamus and pituitary gland, also known as the “master glands” because they control much of the other endocrine gland functions.
• The thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism, temperature, and weight.
• The adrenal glands, which moderate mental and physical stress.
• The reproductive organs or, gonads (testes/ovaries), which produce sex hormones including testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.
• The pancreas, responsible for blood sugar regulation and enzyme production.
• The pineal gland, responsible for secreting melatonin, the “sleep” hormone.
Obesognes affect the endocrine system in several ways.
According to Blumberg’s study, obesogens are actually able to target signaling proteins to tell a growing fetus (yes, it really does matter what you eat and what you are exposed to while pregnant) to make more fat cells. This can have lifelong consequences, and increase the likelihood of body fat accumulation as a person ages. It can also make it more difficult for a person to lose excess weight. This may be a key factor in the rising childhood obesity epidemic.
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals can promote weight gain and obesity in that they increase the number of fat cells a person has. This can change the amount of calories burned at rest, affecting energy balance and the metabolisms of ghrelin and leptin, the chemicals which control hunger and satiety.
Estrogen and Weight Gain
Many Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals/obesogens, including those listed above, can also be known as xenoestrogens, or substances that mimic estrogen in the body. Xenoestrogens work by docking onto estrogen receptor sites in the body, and in doing so, can actually mimic estrogen. This can create a circumstance of too much estrogen, also known as estrogen dominance. It is important to note that both women and men can be estrogen dominant. Estrogen Dominance can occur as a result of too much estrogen, or as a result of insufficient progesterone, or both. Read more on estrogen dominance here. Symptoms of estrogen dominance include:
• Thyroid dysfunction
• Adrenal fatigue
• Excess weight, particularly in the abdomen and chest
• Fibrocystic breasts
• Uterine fibroid tumors
• Estrogen positive cancers
• Prostate problems
• PMS and/or painful cramping
• Irregular or heavy menstruation.
Estrogen dominance can play an important role in stubborn weight gain, and likewise, weight gain plays an important role in estrogen dominance. Excess weight, particularly around the abdomen, thighs, and the back of the arms are common in people who are estrogen dominant. When a person is overweight, often excess estrogen is produced by a process in which an enzyme called aromatase converts adrenal steroids (hormones) into estrogen. Then, in a cruel twist of biological fate, that estrogen prompts the formation of more fat cells, and the cycle perpetuates itself. This can be especially troublesome for men and women in middle age, as hormone production shifts from the gonadal glands to other parts of the body, including the adrenal gland and adipose (fat) tissue. Because the body is trying to find ways to maintain adequate hormone production as we age, we will often hold on to body fat, as body fat can synthesize hormone production. So, if a person is overweight, then likely they have excess estrogen in their tissues, which as we now know, promotes the creation and storage of more fat.
Stress Plays a Part
Also important to consider is stress. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland, blocks weight loss. This is a basic biological function intended to protect us from starvation. When we experience high levels of stress, we produce high levels of cortisol, and our bodies store fat, sort of like an emergency backup plan. So if you’re leading a high stress lifestyle, and wondering why you can shed those pesky pounds despite your best efforts, finding a way to de-stress is a must.
Creating Hormone Balance to Support a Healthy Weight
There are many components to a successful weight management program, including a healthy diet, exercise, stress management, and hormone balance. If EDCs/xenoestrogens and/or poor biological estrogen metabolism are contributing to hormone imbalance and excess fat storage in your body, then ensuring you take the steps to restore hormone balance is a must. This means eliminating xenoestrogens from your everyday life, limiting phytoestrogens, and supplementing with high quality products designed to support healthy estrogen metabolism and hormone balance.
Products to Support Healthy Estrogen Metabolism
|DIM is a phytonutrient found naturally in cruciferous vegetables. DIMPRO, an exceptional bioavailable form of DIM, promotes beneficial estrogen metabolism and healthy hormonal balance for both women and men. This optimizes the ratio of estrogen metabolites that is crucial for breast, uterine, cervical, and prostate health, and for healthy weight management. Dr. Michael Zeligs reports that DIMPRO reduces the levels of estrodiol (the problem or “active” form of estrogen) and promotes its conversion into more healthy estrogen metabolites that can actually burn fat.|
|Myomin is a Chinese herbal blend suitable for both men and women. Myomin has been shown to help metabolize unhealthy estrogens and promote proper hormonal balance within the body. Studies show that Myomin can effectively inhibit aromatase, an enzyme that converts androgens (testosterone) into estrogen.Additionally, Myomin competes with estradiol at estrogen receptor cites, and may therefore be especially effective for estrogen-dominant conditions including hormone related weight gain.|
|Calcium D-Glucarate is a relatively common nutrient found in many fruits and vegetables. Many believe that this nutrient aids the body in the elimination of many harmful substances and helps to lower abnormally high levels of steroid hormones including estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.One tablet (500 mg.) of Source Naturals Calcium D-Glucarate is equivalent to the phytonutrient activity found in 82 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. This nutrient is currently the subject of numerous clinical studies and is proving to have great potential for addressing various health concerns.Supplementing with Calcium D-Glucarate can help support healthy estrogen metabolism and detoxification, thus promoting healthy and sustainable weight loss.|
|Natural progesterone like that found in Progesta-Care is used to maintain a normal level of progesterone and a balanced ratio of estrogen to progesterone. It is especially helpful for those who are estrogen dominant due to a deficiency of progesterone.Symptoms of progesterone imbalance include:|
In the right amount, bioidentical progesterone can help:
|Cleansing is an important component of weight loss, as we now know how accumulated toxins can affect the body. PuraCell Systemic Cleansing System is designed to cover multiple facets of cleansing and detoxifying. It is an all-encompassing formulation that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and refreshed after just a few short weeks. It is a powerful blend of minerals, herbs, enzymes, and cracked wall chlorella that can be used as a “Gentle Daily Detox,” or a “Quick 30-Day Detox.” Few other products, if any, can deliver such thorough coverage on such a vast array of toxicity concerns, especially in such a gentle manner.|
The Role of Diet in Balancing Hormones and Losing Weight
It is important to note the critical link between insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas to bring glucose into cells and balance blood sugar) and body fat. Many people today are on a low fat, high carbohydrate diet that includes an abundance of processed foods like bread, pasta, crackers, etc. When we consume more carbohydrates than our body can burn, our blood sugar rises. Over time, this creates what is known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance promotes fat storage and long term “communication damage” to insulin receptor sites, meaning that if you have become insulin resistant, even the best diet will likely not be enough to shed the pounds. To counter insulin resistance, a low carbohydrate diet high in non-starchy vegetables, lean protein, and a moderate amount of good quality fat, along with moderate daily exercise is recommended.
Weight loss can be a very complicated and frustrating topic. As we begin to understand the important roles that hormones play in weight loss, however, it becomes easier to better tackle the increasing problem of obesity in America. If you are dealing with frustrating weight gain and can’t seem to shed the extra pounds, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Then, take the information provided above, and put it to good use! Diet, exercise, and healthy hormone balance, along with avoiding those substances known to disturb hormones and health, will go a long way to living a happy, healthy, energetic lifestyle.
Connelly, A., Zeligs, M, . (2000). All About DIM. New York: Avery a Member of Penguin Putnam Inc.
Lee, J. (2004). What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause. New York: Time Warner Book Group.
Mercola, J. (2011). Complications Regarding Progesterone Cream. Mercola.com. April First, 2011
Pick, M. (2005). Estrogen Dominance- Is It Real? WomenToWomen.com. April 1st, 2011.http://www.womentowomen.com/menopause/estrogendominance.aspx
The Endocrine Society. (2009). Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. The Endo-Society.org. April 1st, 2011
University of California, Irvine. (March 2009). Endocrine Disrupters as Obesogens. PubMed Central. April 1st, 2011.
U.S. Surgeon General. (2003) The Obesity Crisis in America. Surgeongeneral.gov. April 1st, 2011. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/news/testimony/obesity07162003.htm
White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity. (May 2010). Solving the Problem of Childhood ObesityWithin a Generation. Let’s Move.gov. April 1st, 2011. http://www.letsmove.gov/sites/letsmove.gov/files/TaskForce_on_Childhood_Obesity_May2010_FullReport.pdf