Taste For Life proudly hosts blogs from some of the top nutritionists and life coaches in the country. Opinions expressed by the author are their own, and do not necessarily represent those of Taste For Life or its editorial staff. For questions about this blog or its content, please contact Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., C.N.S..
“I can’t lose weight because my hormones are out of whack.” I have heard this sentiment from countless female clients. Women suffering from fatty liver, prediabetes, high cholesterol, gallbladder problems, and depression feel powerless in their struggle to lose weight and feel healthy.
Hormonal imbalance has long been to blame for unexplained weight gain. As we age, many factors can upset the delicate balance between our hormones.
Why is it then, after addressing these factors, some of us still have difficulty losing weight?
Why Hormones Need to Be Reset
It’s simple. Every hormone is a key that must turn a lock in order to be effective. These “locks” are called receptor sites. Inflammation—from a variety of seemingly unrelated factors—can alter the shape of our receptors, making our hormonal “keys” ineffective.
Here are the hidden sources that can clog up receptor sites and “gum up” your system:
- Constant exposure to xenoestrogens (estrogen mimics) in our diet, environment, and even our personal care products.
- Sugar, alcohol and caffeine intake (coffee, black tea, green tea, and white tea).
- High fructose intake (even from natural foods like unsweetened applesauce and tomatoes).
- Stress, EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies) and sleep deprivation.
- “Grain Drain” from wheat, rye, barley, and corn based products (which are usually genetically modified, to add insult to injury).
- Meat, dairy and eggs from animals treated with growth hormones
Your Personal Hormone Tune-Up
By making a few tweaks in your daily routine you can easily re-shape your receptors for a personal hormone tune-up, resulting in lasting weight control and well-being.
Estrogen is the ultimate hormone magnet for sodium and fat. When out of balance with its sister hormone progesterone, estrogen dominance creates an increase in water retention, migraines, memory lapses, and will promote fat storage around hips and thighs. It can even accelerate aging!
- Topical Progesterone crème can help offset estrogen dominance.
- Reduce copper-rich foods like chocolate, nuts and seeds, soy, avocados, and shell fish. Copper is closely associated with estrogen, so women using copper IUDs or birth control pills are at high risk for estrogen dominance.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove estrogen-mimicking pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.
- Do not re-heat food in plastic containers, and choose a water bottle made of glass or stainless steel rather than plastic.
- Avoid personal care products that include endocrine disruptors like parabens and phthalates.
- Sweep away excess estrogen by using two tablespoons of lignan-rich toasted cold milled flaxseeds each day, sprinkled on your food or blended in smoothies.
- Season soup, stew, chili or other bean dishes with 2 to 3 cardamom seeds. Cardamom is a digestive aid with the unique ability to cleanse and detoxify the liver, which is essential for hormone balancing.
- Optimize estrogen metabolism by supplementing with DIM (diindolylmethane). Take 100 mg twice daily with meals.
Tune-Up Tricks for Clean Insulin Receptors
Insulin levels skyrocket with excessive intake of sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. Meals that are not properly balanced with blood sugar-stabilizing protein and fat also spike insulin, overwhelming receptor sites and triggering fat storage. When receptors are blocked or already saturated, insulin resistance occurs, giving rise to metabolic syndrome and contributing to high blood sugar and elevated triglycerides.
If weight gain, cravings for sugar, intense hunger, feeling frequently hungry, difficulty concentrating, feeling anxious or panicky, lacking focus or motivation, fatigue are your major symptoms, then it is time to clean up your insulin receptor sites.
- Sip on a glass of water with 1 teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar during each meal. The acidity of ACV slows the digestion of carbohydrates and can lower blood sugar by as much as 30 percent!
- Enjoy hot lemon water first thing in the morning in place of one of your cups of coffee. Coffee consumption while fasting is associated with increased fasting insulin concentration and decreased insulin sensitivity, as determined by The American Diabetes Association.
- Supplement with 400 micrograms (mcg) chromium, which is a key mineral for blood sugar regulation and is commonly deficient in our diet.
- Use stevia in place of sugar in beverages, smoothies, and baking. Stevia is a naturally sweet-tasting herb that does not cause an increase in blood sugar.
- Season your food liberally with cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, and coriander—which are all proven to help your body metabolize sugar.
Tune-Up Tricks for Clean Leptin Receptors
Leptin is the hormone of satiety. If you never feel satisfied after a meal, then clogged leptin receptors is likely your problem. Levels soar when you’re eating high amounts of fructose and not enough essential and healthy fats. Receptors are never able clear out.
- Avoid foods high in fructose, which stimulate the appetite. Obvious offenders are processed foods and drinks that contain high fructose corn syrup. Less obvious are natural foods like tomatoes, unsweetened apple sauce, and agave. Fat free salad dressings, ketchup and barbeque sauces pack an unsuspected punch as well.
- Eat protein within 30 minutes of waking. Enjoy a plant-based protein smoothie as a clinically proven way of clearing out leptin receptors and promoting satiety.
- Reactivate leptin receptor sensitivity by including omega fatty acids 3, 6, and 9 in your diet. Black currant seed oil offers an unparalleled combination of these essential fats that increase metabolism, fight inflammation, and add luster to hair, skin, and fingernails.
Tune-Up Tricks for Clean Cortisol Receptors
Fat-promoting cortisol is activated by stress, EMF exposure, and sleep deprivation. Just one night of poor sleep can raise cortisol by 45 percent! A stressful conversation at work is enough to overload cortisol receptors within minutes, and 24/7 use of wireless devices add insult to injury by ramping up cortisol production, with the creation of over 20 heat-shock proteins. Excess circulating cortisol is responsible for weight gain around the midsection, low immunity, salt and sugar cravings, tissue destruction and inflammation—all of which begin a vicious cycle that can quickly lead to adrenal burnout.
- Treat yourself with coffee whipped up with 1 tablespoon each of coconut oil and vanilla whey protein. Black coffee on an empty stomach tanks blood sugar, which sends cortisol levels through the roof. Blending with a little healthy fat and protein, however, can prevent the cortisol spike.
- Practice yoga and meditation. These stress-relieving activities are proven to lower cortisol.
- Put down electronics one hour before bed. EMFs affect the body on a biological level, raising cortisol. To wind down and promote restful sleep, disable your wireless router, switch mobile devices into airplane mode, and read a book instead of watching TV.
Tune-Up Tricks for Clean Thyroid Hormone Receptors
Your thyroid is a key metabolic driver. When it is under-active, you’ll be experiencing fatigue, joint pain, depression, impaired memory, constipation, cold hands and feet, dry skin, hair loss, and weak fingernails.
- Go grain free. Many grains contain gluten, which is a type of protein that looks so similar to thyroid hormone that it can actually trick our bodies into producing less of this critical hormone. Eliminate gluten containing grains from your diet to naturally reset thyroid hormone production. Wheat, rye, spelt, kamut, couscous, oats, triticale, and barley should be avoided. Gluten-free alternatives are millet, brown or wild rice, taro, teff, buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth. Instead of flour, consider using arrowroot or tapioca for thickening.
- Cook with coconut oil. This healthy fat is a rich source of medium chain fatty acids that improve the efficiency of your thyroid and boost metabolism by 56 percent!
- Get tested. Ask your doctor to order a comprehensive thyroid test that evaluates TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies. Keep in mind that “normal” values for these hormones are not always the optimal level for your unique biochemistry. I like to see T3 at the upper quarter of the normal range.
Tune-Up Tricks for Clean HGH Receptors
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is not only a key player adolescent development, it plays a crucial role in bone remodeling, cardiovascular protection, and body composition as we age. Too bad that once you turn 40, HGH production decreases by 14 percent every decade! The issue is further complicated by exogenous sources of HGH in meat, dairy, and eggs treated with growth hormone rBST. This unnatural hormone exposure can fool our bodies into producing less of our own bioavailable HGH. Symptoms of low HGH include muscle loss, high body fat percentage, anxiety, depression, low libido, and high blood pressure.
- Eat Montmorency tart cherries, a naturally rich source of melatonin. Italian researchers discovered a 157 percent increase in HGH levels when study participants took 5 mg of melatonin at night before bed. I encourage my clients to sip on ¼ cup tart cherry juice diluted with 1 cup of water between 7 pm and 9 pm.
- Adopt an interval training exercise program. Alternate short periods of high intensity activity with longer periods of low to moderately intense activity for a surefire way to increase HGH production by more than 500 percent!
- Ground yourself. The revolutionary Earthing technology naturally raises melatonin levels while simultaneously lowering cortisol and eliminating inflammation.
- Eliminate dairy. While most milk labels assure that cows were not treated with rBST, many other dairy products are not able to make this claim—think butter, sour cream, cheese, yogurt, coffee creamer, etc. Keep the synthetic HGH out of your diet!
- Choose only organic meat and eggs. USDA organic standards prevent the use of growth hormone in animals.
The Daily Detox
Fat stores more than just excess weight—toxins of all types are stored in fat, too. Heavy metals, chemicals, drug residues, and excess hormones are sequestered in our fat cells as a method of protection, so as we burn fat and lose weight many toxins are released into circulation in our bodies.
Since we can’t just let those toxins circulate, it’s crucial to have tried-and-true detoxifiers to bind with and eliminate these dangerous compounds. Incorporate as many of the following finale “tune-ups” to ensure a thorough hormone and weight loss makeover!
- Soak in a luxurious detox bath once or twice per week. Add 2 cups baking soda and 2 cups sea salt to a hot bath and relax until that water cools. Towel off and do not rinse for 4 hours. The initial hot water brings toxins to the surface of the skin. As the water cools, osmosis draws toxins away from the heat of the body and into the cooling water. This is especially good to alleviate jet-lag and radiation-related fatigue.
- Cran-water and pure water are essential to keeping your lymph flowing, which is a main means of toxin removal.
- Fiber up with flax and chia seeds. Their soluble and insoluble fiber ensures toxins that are dumped into the digestive tract are bound and promptly eliminated. Flax and chia seeds are wonderfully detoxifying in this way, so try incorporating 2 to 4 tablespoons per day into your diet.
- Try activated charcoal, which uses the principle of absorption to soak up toxins in the stomach, like a sponge soaking up water.