Different hormones can have a substantial impact on how the body works. Hormones are chemical signals that the body uses to control bodily functions, such as hunger, stress, reproduction, mood and emotions.
The balance of your hormones is influenced by both internal and external factors, ranging from age and gender to the food you eat and the environment you’re in. Ensuring that you have the right hormone balance can maximize how your body operates. Hormones also impact how the body stores and retain fat, meaning that correctly managing hormones can have a substantial impact on fat loss efforts.
Here are some general healthy habits for helping your hormones stay balanced:
- Healthy Eating: Try to ensure that at least 80-90% of your diet comes from fresh, high-quality whole foods. Nutrient dense foods with a variety of different colours, spices and flavours fuel your body with the nutrients needed to operate.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. It gives your body a chance to recover, relax and rebalance.
- Reduce the amount of stress in your life. Easier said than done, but even small changes can have a substantial impact on the demand placed on your body.
The way the body produces hormones is complex and unique to each person but committing to these healthy habits can help your body function as it should. These are some of the specific hormones that can impact weight loss:
Cortisol is the stress hormone. It’s released as a response to any source of stress. This makes it one of the most difficult hormones to manage with all the different internal and external sources of stress.
A busy and stressful lifestyle can mean that your cortisol levels are constantly raised. Increased Cortisol can lead to increase stored body fat and water retention, in particular around your abdominal area. This is a survival response, done to help protect and guard our internal organs in the presence of potential life-threatening stress. Constantly elevated Cortisol will also facilitate the breakdown of muscle tissue for immediate energy while also shuttling triglycerides (fatty acids) into the bloodstream. Insulin resistance can also occur as a result of this; the end result, loss of muscle mass and an increase in body fat and fluid being held in areas you don’t want them.
Here are some basic tips for naturally managing cortisol levels:
- Identify and reduce sources of stress in your life. Whilst this is easier said than done, it’s essential to be able to manage external sources of stress to help reduce your cortisol levels.
- Implement some low-intensity exercise such as a daily walk to help de-stress and clear your mind
- Reduce overall caffeine intake. This will allow your adrenal gland to re-balance its hormonal output.
- Adaptogenic herbs can help normalize cortisol levels. They may help reduce the severity of internal stressed from toxic, immune and inflammatory triggers.
Ghrelin and Leptin
Leptin and Ghrelin are the hormones that adjust appetite, with Leptin acting as an appetite suppressant and Ghrelin working to increase your appetite when you need food. Ghrelin also instructs your body to take in more calories and store the fat, which has been important for survival in the past by helping people maintain a healthy weight. However, if not properly managed it may contribute to weight gain as it prompts you to eat and store more calories. Some studies have found an increase of Ghrelin levels with stress, which explains why some might feel hungrier when feeling stressed. Another study also found that lack of sleep resulted in higher levels of Ghrelin which meant that participants wanted to eat more. This same study found that participants who consistently lacked enough sleep reduced fat loss by 55%.
Insulin is a storage hormone in the body that is responsible for blood sugar regulation and nutrient partitioning. Insulin resistance is a state in which your body will no longer produce Insulin or enough of it when food (carbohydrates in particular) is consumed, leading to unmanaged blood sugar levels that will cause the calories you consume to be stored as body fat as appose to being burnt for energy.
Having excess levels of glucose and sugar in your bloodstream for extended periods will prompt your body to hold onto more stored body fat, as it is not needed as a source of fuel when glucose levels are elevated. Insulin resistance can often leave you feeling tired, lethargic and run down with a severe lack of energy to carry out day-to-day tasks.
Insulin resistance can be easily managed, preventing the development of more serious health issues down the track. Managing it can start with what you eat.
- Reduce your intake of simple, processed sugars.
- Choose whole food sources of Carbohydrates such as oats, rice, quinoa & veggies.
- Select low GI carbohydrate sources predominantly- this won’t raise your blood sugar levels as much as high GI food choices.
- Increase your exercise and incorporate some resistance training. This improves our body’s sensitivity to Insulin.
- You don’t need to completely cut your favourite foods, just be mindful about your eating habits and make good food choices 80-90% of the time.
Estrogen is most commonly known as the female sex hormone, responsible for female development, reproductive processes and regulation of the menstrual cycle. However Estrogen is not female specific, men also have levels of estrogen just as females have small amounts of Testosterone; it is the balance and ratio of these two hormones that determine gender and the way our body works.
The important thing about Estrogen is that it can have prolific effects on fat loss and body composition. If our body doesn’t have the right amount or even the right type of Estrogen (both in males and females) then it becomes very difficult to achieve your weight loss goals, regardless of how hard you’re working for it.
Xenoestrogens are one of the biggest contributing factors to our body’s Estrogen imbalances; Xenoestrogens are toxic forms of Estrogen that enter our body through exposure to toxins such as petrochemicals, pesticides, plastics, pollutants, paints and much more. With so much exposure to these Xenoestrogens, it is easy to see how we can develop such imbalances in our hormonal profiles. Estrogen dominance and imbalances will lead to fat and fluid being held in certain areas such as the hips, thighs, back of arms, lower abdominals and breast. These distinct pockets of stored body fat, cellulite and fluid can become very difficult to shift and often hang around until our hormones are re-balanced. No matter how much we diet and exercise, they just won’t shift. The best way to reduce and resolve these issues is to be aware of our environment and be mindful of the things we do.
- If and when possible, reduce your exposure to toxins such as petrochemicals, pesticides, plastics, pollutants and paints.
- Wash your foods before consumption and ensure food preparation is done correctly- this means when possible, avoid heating and cooking with plastics.
- Eat a good amount and a variety of cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and bok choy to name a few, these veggies assist in the detoxification pathways that will help strip out Xenoestrogens.
- Take care of your liver- detoxification pathways are managed by the liver and are far more efficient and effective when it’s in a healthy state.
From reading this, you should have an idea of how complex hormones are. There’s no simple way to ensure the perfect balance of hormones, but investing in healthy and sustainable practices can make a difference in health and wellbeing.
All of these hormones work together to keep your body operating, and whilst they’re not solely responsible for fat loss, they can have a drastic impact on your results.