Why am I putting on Weight? And WHY is it so HARD to take it off?
If you’re putting on weight easily and having a hard time taking it off, you should know that hormonal imbalances affect weight loss and weight gain. These imbalances could be part of the problem or the entire problem. In fact, some hormonal imbalances can make it downright impossible to lose weight!
Plenty of people attempt various diets and exercise programs with the intention of taking off excess weight. And it can be frustrating when they don’t see results — and can give up altogether. What many people don’t realize is that many underlying health issues can impede weight loss attempts. These same issues can actually be the cause of the weight gain in the first place, in addition to poor diet and lack of exercise.
We frequently get phone calls from patients who are desperate for help because the pounds keep packing on no matter what they do. Hormone imbalances and other deficiencies can likely be the reason. Unfortunately, many of them have sought help from their doctor, only to be told that they just need to eat less and exercise more, period. This not only leads to feelings of shame but also helplessness and can be quite demoralizing.
Common Hormonal Imbalances That Affect Weight Loss
In addition to circumstances where hormones affect weight loss, other factors can impede weight loss. These include Candida (an overgrowth of yeast in the gut) and sleep deprivation. But first, let’s discuss hormone issues.
Insulin Resistance affects millions of Americans, and many don’t even know they have it. The hormone insulin is made by the pancreas, and it’s activated whenever we eat. Its main job is to act as a key to unlock the cells so that glucose (blood sugar) can enter and give us energy from our food. Insulin also regulates blood sugar levels.
However, the cells themselves can become resistant to insulin and can’t use it as they should. This causes blood sugar levels to stay high (up to seven times higher than normal) in the bloodstream. This, in turn, affects the metabolism because it inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize fats.
Higher insulin levels signal the body to store more fat, especially around the abdominal area. This particular fat (also called visceral fat) is hazardous to health and can cause fatty liver disease and increased inflammation levels. And this can lead to many serious diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
High triglycerides, a form of cholesterol, are one cause of Insulin Resistance. These high triglycerides greatly contribute to cardiovascular-related diseases and, over time, can increase the risk of death. Belly fat also releases more triglycerides into the system, so it becomes a double whammy.
The two biggest causes of Insulin Resistance are eating a diet high in processed foods and sugars and not getting enough exercise. A poor diet not only leads to obesity but also creates an imbalance in the gut microbiome.
INSULIN RESISTANCE AND METABOLIC SYNDROME
Insulin Resistance can lead to Syndrome X, also referred to as Metabolic Syndrome. This occurs when a person has high blood pressure, elevated glucose levels, abnormal cholesterol, and excess abdominal fat. These issues are a recipe for disease and will almost certainly contribute to a life of poor health and early death if they are not addressed at their root cause. Dr. Mark Hyman, the director of functional medicine at the Cleveland Clinic and best-selling author, refers to Insulin Resistance as the “fat cell fertilizer.”
The easiest way to reverse Insulin Resistance is to exercise and change your diet. Not only does exercise help you to burn calories so you can lose weight, but it also causes muscles to be more insulin SENSITIVE and open the cell doors to receive glucose. Fad diets or calorie-restricted diets are not needed to reverse resistance. Instead, cut out processed and high-sugar foods and increase physical activity. These two things alone will go a long way toward better health.
Our providers always check insulin levels as part of our routine lab work. We understand the role that Insulin Resistance can have on both weight and overall health. Other providers usually only test blood sugar levels and the A1C, which will show whether a person is diabetic. However, blood sugar levels may not be elevated with Insulin Resistance, so it’s important to test the amount of insulin in the body. That’s why we test blood sugar levels, A1C, AND insulin.
Currently, one in five women and one in ten men in the United States have an underactive thyroid gland. This condition is called hypothyroidism. Symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and more. What’s particularly concerning is that over half of the hypothyroid population remains undiagnosed.
Often, folks are eating right, exercising, and doing all of the right things for their health. However, if the thyroid is low functioning, it causes the entire metabolism to be slow, which makes weight gain likely, often in short periods of time. Hypothyroidism also makes it much harder to lose weight, even with proper diet and exercise.
Additionally, a common cause of hypothyroidism is a condition called Hashimoto’s Disease. This is an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies attack the thyroid gland causing degradation to the gland itself. Over time, the thyroid can’t produce enough hormones for the body’s needs.
COMPREHENSIVE THYROID TESTING
The mainstream medical profession tests TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) during routine lab work. However, other thyroid problems exist which will not show up on this test. We get hundreds of calls a month from patients who have either been told that they are testing in the “normal” TSH range and therefore do not have a thyroid problem, OR they’ve been prescribed T4 hormone in the form of Synthroid or Levothyroxine, but they are not feeling any better.
T4 is the hormone made by the thyroid gland and secreted throughout the body. However, T4 needs to be converted into T3 hormone in order for the cells to function properly and produce energy. And not everyone can convert T4 into T3; it’s actually quite a common problem. When this is the case, no amount of Synthroid or Levothyroxine is going to correct an underactive thyroid.
Our providers at Leigh Ann Scott, M.D. ALWAYS run a full thyroid panel test to determine exactly where the problem is originating so that it can be treated correctly. Once the root cause of the problem is identified and treatment protocol begins, patients begin to feel better within just a few weeks — and their metabolism starts to function as it should again.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and is referred to as the stress or “fight or flight” hormone. Obviously, our ancestors needed this to survive. If faced with danger or imminent death, cortisol levels and adrenaline would rise. This caused all energy to be diverted to the heart, lungs, and muscles in order to fight for survival or flee for one’s life. When the “fight or flight” mechanism kicks in, blood flow to the digestive system slows down, and your body starts storing fat.
The problem is that in the modern world, our brains have this same stress response when we worry or fear that something will happen. You may work at a stressful job that requires time demands and multi-tasking. A relative may be ill, or your child might have problems in school. Physical illness, chronic poor health, or trauma also put stress on the body.
The adrenal glands don’t have any way of differentiating between being chased by a lion or having a stressful job; they perceive both as danger, which can keep the body in an almost constant state of “fight or flight.” This is normal in the short run, but if it goes on for long periods of time, prolonged stress and high levels of cortisol can cause high blood pressure, elevated glucose levels, increased belly fat, and even muscle loss. If we don’t know how to manage our stress levels, the adrenal glands produce less and less cortisol. And this leads to another condition called adrenal fatigue, which causes a chronically sluggish metabolism.
Adrenal fatigue affects not only the entire endocrine system but also makes it harder to cope with everyday life events and makes us much less resilient and more prone to disease.
Many associate the testosterone hormone with men, but women need this too, just in smaller quantities. There are a lot of things that can cause low testosterone such as obesity and alcoholism, but the most common cause is age. Levels begin to wane for both men and women in their late twenties to early thirties and by the time we’re fifty, levels are about half of what they once were at their peak.
Testosterone has a lot of functions. It is responsible for building and maintaining muscle mass and skin tone. When levels are low, visible changes can be seen as fat starts to dominate over muscle mass and skin begins to sag. It has been said that testosterone gives us the “pep in our step” and helps to keep us vital.
Another big role that testosterone has is that it helps activate insulin, and thus, if levels are low, can contribute to insulin resistance issues and as we’ve already discussed, insulin resistance causes increased belly fat.
For more information about the symptoms of low-T in women, click here.
Estrogen imbalance can occur at any age. If the ratio of estrogen to progesterone (more estrogen, not enough progesterone) is off, a condition called Estrogen Dominance occurs. It is also possible to have deficient estrogen levels and still have Estrogen Dominance if progesterone levels are very low.
This is common, especially as women enter their forties and begin their transition into menopause (also referred to as perimenopause). Progesterone is usually the first hormone to wane, which creates an imbalance between the two hormones. One symptom of Estrogen Dominance is weight gain, especially around the abdominal area. Remember, too, that belly fat causes insulin levels to rise and can be a cause of Insulin Resistance.
As we reach the menopausal years and ovarian production of estrogen declines, the body looks for other sources of estrogen. One storage source for estrogen is in the fat cells. Our bodies react to this by converting more of the calories that we eat into fat to have more estrogen to draw upon. Declining estrogen levels, just like testosterone, also cause muscle mass to decline, resulting in more body fat.
While Candida is not a hormone, it can be a contributing cause of weight gain. It’s a fungus that’s usually found on the skin, mouth, vagina, and also the gut. It requires a steady supply of sugar and carbohydrates to flourish. One symptom of candida overgrowth is strong sugar cravings.
Other things that can make someone particularly susceptible to candida infections are eating a diet high in sugar and/or refined carbs, alcohol abuse, diabetes, use of antibiotics (particularly if prolonged or repeated), or a weakened immune system. When candida becomes prominent in the gut, it can cause changes to the gut wall, which causes the barrier to be compromised and toxins released into the body. The liver, which is responsible for flushing toxins, can quickly become overloaded and can’t keep up, so it stores the excess candida to be filtered at a later time. Unfortunately, the “storage area” lies in the fat cells around the midsection.
The adrenal glands are particularly vulnerable to candida toxins and react by producing even more cortisol which establishes a pattern of storing body fat rather than using it for energy.
Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep both contribute to weight gain. The National Institutes of Health provide many studies showing the connection between the two. One study suggests that “short-duration sleepers” are 88% more likely to be obese compared to people who get the proper amount of rest.
Chronic lack of sleep doesn’t just affect obesity levels; it adversely affects every biological system in the body and can lead to disease and early death.
It’s also been proven that someone who has been awake for 16 hours or more and gets behind the wheel is just as impaired as someone driving under the influence of alcohol.
We offer informed discussions about ways to get higher-quality sleep based on your lab results and symptoms, and we help you find solutions specific to your needs.
Our providers understand how hormonal imbalances affect weight loss and overall health in general. We use a science-based, holistic approach to your health and treat you as an individual so you can look and feel your best.
If you are struggling with weight issues, we can give you answers and offer solutions so you can restore your health and live a vibrant life again. Our appointments with you last an hour so we can provide you with quality support, guidance, and the tools you need to succeed.
For more information about Hormone Balancing, click here.
Free Phone Consultation with Our New Patient Coordinator
The health and safety of our staff and patients is a top priority for all of us at the office of Leigh Ann Scott, M.D. We offer both virtual appointments and in-clinic appointments, whichever you prefer. If you are coming in to see us in person, keep in mind that we maintain the highest standards when it comes to the safety of our patients. We sanitize rooms between patients and shared surfaces, such as door handles, throughout the day.
Should you choose to have a telemedicine appointment, you will still be able to see your provider, just as if she were standing in front of you in the office. You’ll still get the same “connection” as if your appointment was in the clinic. Additionally, we have mobile phlebotomy services available if you do not want to go to a public lab.
Our providers at Leigh Ann Scott, M.D. are devoted to understanding our patients’ health concerns and symptoms. We use scientific-based protocols to find the root cause of hormonal imbalances, thyroid dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies, and more. We believe that spending quality, personalized time with each patient provides the necessary foundation to help you achieve optimal health and wellness. Our system incorporates provider consultation, comprehensive health assessment, and laboratory testing in a warm and caring environment.
Contact our New Patient Coordinator for a Free Phone Consultation. She can explain our protocols and fees in more detail, answer any questions or concerns you have, and explain how our approach can help with hormonal balance, anti-aging, and disease prevention so that you can enjoy a vibrant and healthy life!
For More Information, call our New Patient Coordinator at 972-960-4800
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