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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Hormones Have Strong Impact on Weight Gain: No matter what we do to lose weight, sometimes the scale won't budge -- and hormonal issues may be the reason, according to Dr. Alan Christianson

Apr 01, 2013 02:45PM ● By Alan Christianson, NMD

Even if we are taking all the right steps of eating healthy foods and being consistent with our exercise routine, sometimes the scale just won't budge. That’s because our hormones may need some fine-tuning. Good nutrition (proteins, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains) is key to helping the body make the hormones we need. If our body cannot make hormones, then it cannot be in balance. If it's not in balance, we’ll be wearing our fat jeans for longer than we’d like.

We should focus on adding foods with good fats, such as salmon, walnuts and avocados to our diet. Pair these good fats with dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach and asparagus and snack on vitamin-rich fruits such as blueberries and bananas to give our body the nutrients it needs to stay in balance.

Which hormones do our bodies use to stay in balance and help achieve and maintain a healthy weight?

Thyroid Hormones

These hormones control how our body converts calories into energy. When they are too low, the calories turn straight to fat, leaving us tired and heavy. Weight gain can be an indicator of an underactive thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism. When the thyroid gland is underactive, our metabolism is not burning as many calories as it normally would. We also do not have as much energy, which can make it harder to get out and exercise.

Other indicators of thyroid problems include dry skin, brittle nails, achy joints and constipation. To help the thyroid, be sure to take a multivitamin with 100 to 200 mcg of iodine and 200 mcg of selenium. Iodized salt and Brazil nuts are also great sources of these thyroid-friendly minerals.

Adrenal Hormones

Cortisol is a hormone that gets elevated in stressful situations. The crazy thing is that either too much or too little can cause weight to hang on. Some of us lead such stressful lives that our cortisol levels are always high. Eating fast food and simple carbs stress the adrenals, which increases cortisol levels. This can lead to weight gain, especially around the mid-section.

Conversely, if we are not producing enough cortisol, we may have trouble getting out of bed in the morning or may not have enough energy throughout the day, much less exercise. When we’re tired and sluggish, we tend to crave sugar and simple carbs because they give us quick energy. Ironically, the sugar and simple carbs deplete the adrenal glands, making us even more tired and sluggish. Take time for fun and rest. We should try to be consistent about what time we eat our meals, sleep and wake up. Eating smaller meals every several hours can also help.

Reproductive Hormones

Whether we are male or female, the right balance of sex hormones is important for more than our libido. Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are all key in keeping extra weight off. Adrenal problems can affect the synthesis of sex hormones. The adrenals produce large amounts of DHEA, which is converted to testosterone and estrogen. Stressed adrenal glands produce too much DHEA, and depleted adrenal glands don't produce enough.

Weight gain may be a symptom of too much estrogen or too little progesterone in women or not enough testosterone in men. Testosterone helps maintain lean muscle mass. Low levels are linked to lack of motivation in men. If you think these are waning, exercise is the best home remedy. Don't expect hours plodding on the treadmill;  train at high intensity for shorter bursts and fewer repetitions of heavier weights.

If these home measures are not doing the job, a doctor should be consulted. It’s difficult to obtain and maintain hormone balance without lifestyle modification. Every one of us needs to manage stress in our lives, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly and get proper nutritional supplementation, including adrenal and thyroid support. When our body is in balance nutritionally and hormonally, then it can balance itself physically. Skinny jeans, anyone?

Dr. Alan Christianson is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Thyroid Disease. His medical practice focuses on optimal diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disease. For more information, visit


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