One of the most frequently asked questions by women as they get older is: “Why is it so hard to lose weight if I’m eating right and exercising?” You may be doing the same exact things you’ve always done, but suddenly find it’s just not enough. What you might not realize is that hormonal fluctuations could be playing a part in your weight gain. Many women’s first thought is: “can estrogen cause weight gain?” Well, estrogen dominance can—it’s when you have a disproportionate amount of estrogen in relation to your progesterone.
There are also other hormones that need to be balanced at any age in order to maintain a healthy weight. You already read about cortisol and leptin in our two previous articles and how they affect weight gain after 40. Read on to discover how estrogen and insulin affect your weight and how to balance them naturally to lose weight and feel great.
How Estrogen & Insulin Affect Your Weight
Your hormones impact many things, your mood, energy levels and even your weight. Your hormones fluctuate monthly, but also throughout the course of your life as you go from puberty to adulthood and then into menopause. If you have stubborn weight that just won’t come off, you’ve probably gotten so frustrated that you feel like it’s impossible. But you can lose weight, get healthy, and you can do it naturally by bringing key hormones into balance.
Hormones dictate what your body does with food, and the impact is stronger than calories alone. Many women are obsessed with calories, but they are only part of the equation when it comes to nutrition and weight loss. Approximately 99% of weight gain is hormonal. Resetting your hormones is often the missing ingredient for successful weight loss.
Estrogen is the hormone responsible for the development of female sexual characteristics. There’s an interesting connection between estrogen and weight gain. As you age, levels of all your hormones tend to decrease, including estrogen and progesterone. Your doctor may have told you that your estrogen levels are plummeting, which is why it’s confusing to hear that estrogen dominance can cause weight gain in menopause.
While estrogen levels decrease during menopause, if your progesterone levels are decreasing more than your estrogen, you can still have estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is really about the ratio of estrogen to progesterone—if you have too much estrogen compared to your progesterone you can gain weight and store more fat around your middle. It’s believed that most women tend to have an estrogen dominance. Another factor contributing to estrogen dominance is exposure to environmental estrogens which are estrogen-like chemicals in our environment. Some of these are things we ingest like pesticides, hormones in animal products, and plastics—all known as “endocrine disruptors.”
Think – Estrogen Dominance
If you have . . .
- sugar cravings
- difficulty with certain foods, such as chocolate or ice cream
- high, low, or borderline blood sugar (fasting is normally 70-85 mg/dL)
- trouble lasting longer than 3 hours between meals
- a muffin top (waist > 35 inches in women)
- A lack of weekly exercise
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)—a problem with irregular periods, acne, increased hair growth, and sometimes infertility and/or cysts on the ovary.
Insulin is a hormone created by your pancreas and it helps regulate glucose (blood sugar) in your body. If you’re overweight or even “skinny fat” (storing too much visceral fat around your organs) your body’s glucose regulator, insulin, gets thrown off balance and you have a harder time losing weight. In addition, if you tend to eat sugary foods throughout the day, you keep your insulin working overtime trying to clear the sugar from your blood. What does insulin do with the extra sugar you ask? It stores it as fat. This is the easiest hormone to reset: do it in less than 3 days, according to recent studies.
Think Insulin Resistance
If you have . . .
- trouble sleeping
- more than one cup of coffee per day and giving it up seems outrageous
- anxiety or irritability
- burn out
- gut problems such as indigestion or ulcers
- thinning bones
- overeating when stressed
How Estrogen and Insulin are linked
Estrogen itself has many beneficial effects on the body, including helping optimize the action of insulin, the hormone that prevents high blood sugar levels. Consequently, low estrogen levels may lead to insulin resistance, or impaired insulin action. Insulin resistance is linked to metabolic syndrome, a group of traits and medical conditions that increase the risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart attack and stroke. Low estrogen levels and insulin resistance can have negative health consequences, and your doctor can best guide you on how to manage and treat these health concerns.
Estrogen and Insulin Resistance
A review of animal and human studies published in the March 2016 “Journal of Diabetes Research” discussed the known association between estrogen and insulin action. In addition to impairing insulin action, low estrogen levels may hinder the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Insufficient insulin causes the liver to produce excess glucose and send this surplus into the blood. Estrogen deficiency may also cause inflammation, which can further impair insulin action. Adding to the complexity of this issue, certain conditions characterized by insulin resistance — obesity, pregnancy and polycystic ovarian disease — are associated with high estrogen levels. Therefore, additional quality research is warranted to fully understand the effects of low estrogen on the body.
Warnings and Precautions
Insulin resistance increases the risk of serious health problems, and low estrogen levels may be related to insulin resistance. While insulin resistance usually occurs without any symptoms, it may be more likely to occur if you have gained unwanted weight or have extra belly fat. If you have insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, work with your doctor on a treatment strategy that should include regular physical activity and a healthy weight loss plan. If you are postmenopausal, or if you suspect you have low estrogen levels, speak with your doctor for guidance on treatment options.
How To Balance Estrogen For Weight Loss
To avoid estrogen dominance, you want to keep a fine balance between your progesterone and estrogen. You can naturally balance estrogen dominance by:
- Exercise daily to promote detoxification
- Try to eat 35 to 45 grams of fiber per day
- Eat a pound of vegetables per day
- Take or eat Wild Yam (Dioscorea Villosa) in capsule or dried herb form
- Reduce your red meat intake
- Eliminate excess sugar or processed foods
How To Balance Insulin For Weight Loss
Ways to naturally balance your insulin levels include:
- Get Enough of the Right Kinds of Exercise
- Increase Your Protein Intake
- Eat Low Glycemic Index Foods
- Include “Good” Fats for Healthy Hormones.
- Balance Your Meals
- Enjoy a Healthy Breakfast Every Day.
- If You Need To Snack, Snack Healthy.
- Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time.
- Get enough sleep
The bottom line is this: if you’ve been struggling to lose weight but can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong, your hormones are probably to blame. You can ask your doctor to test your hormones, as well as use the information to try different techniques to bring suspected problem hormones back into balance. It’s your body, and you should know everything you can to not only lose weight but feel happy, healthy and whole.
Whether you are currently at a gym, in a group exercise program, working with a personal trainer, or managing your fitness routine on your own, understanding the role that stress and hormones play go a long way.
Our Personal Trainers have helped hundreds of people in Howard County and the surrounding areas lose weight, tone up, and become stronger. Our neighbors in Highland, Clarksville, Columbia, Burtonsville, Olney, Ashton and Silver Spring love their personalized training program. Unlike group fitness classes, each client receives a custom program. We’d love to help you too. Call us at 301-452-5547 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to see for yourself. Mention this article for a free session!