Our hormones are kind of like a chain of dominos. When one gets out of balance, it can pull the others along with it, and our metabolism too – this can contribute to a myriad of symptoms, including very stubborn weight gain. Like – no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get that weight in your midsection to budge.
One very important hormone that is often the trigger to pull the rest of the dominos down is insulin – it is responsible for removing glucose from the bloodstream and delivering it into the cells. When that mechanism is not working correctly (as in insulin resistance)- then our blood sugar can stay elevated, the cells get starved for energy, and the glucose ends up getting stored – as fat.
Another hormone imbalance that can cause metabolic mayhem is a very common condition is called estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance occurs when estrogen is out of balance with progesterone and testosterone. You can even have low levels of estrogen, but if it is high in relation to your testosterone and progesterone (because they are in the tank), then your estrogen can still be dominant.
Women are not the only ones affected by this condition, in fact – there is increasing evidence that excess estrogens could also be having devastating consequences for males.
I uncovered a fascinating and disturbing documentary called The Disappearing Male, which examines the impact that the more than 80,000 xenoestrogen chemicals in our environment has had on the male species – I was shocked to learn that boy births have been on a serious decline in the past few decades. So much so, that 3 million fewer boys have been born since 1970. Other problems include lower sperm counts, genital birth defects, weight gain, and increases in cancer. I highly recommend watching this documentary – it is in the references section below.
One place that we can see the evidence of the impact of chemicals on the male species is in pesticide-laden Lake Apopka in Florida – where male aligators are not really very male anymore. They have smaller genitals (25% smaller), low to no sperm count, and testosterone levels of a female. In contrast, in other nearby lakes that are not polluted with pesticides, the male aligators are quite normal. According to this PBS article, this phenomenon was repeated in the laboratory.
Some possible symptoms of estrogen dominance include:
Conditions that estrogen dominance could promote:
1. Avoid endocrine interrupting and obesogenic chemicals.
Although it is nearly impossible to avoid chemicals entirely, it is prudent to do your very best to become aware of them, and avoid them as much as possible. Certain chemicals are called “obesogenic” because they are linked to weight gain. Some are endocrine interruptors that can raise our estrogen levels and cause estrogen dominance and the myriad of related symptoms. These chemicals may also raise our risk for cancer, and heart disease.
Some of the common gender-bending chemicals to avoid:
Find a more detailed list of chemicals and toxins to avoid and practical suggestions for detoxification in chapter – 5 ‘Lose the Toxic Weight’ – in my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan.
2. Avoid a high sugar diet.
A study conducted at the University of British Columbia found that a diet high in sugars, especially fructose, could interrupt our sex hormones, leading to fertility issues, PCOS, and endometriosis. Diets high in sugar and simple carbs can cause aromatization –which is the conversion of one hormone to the other – which can lead to estrogen dominance conditions . Diets high in sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause fat storage – and fat is like an endocrine organ itself, which increases estrogen levels. Another reason sugar can interrupt hormone imbalance is in part the strain that is put on the liver to metabolize the fructose. The liver is very important for detoxing hormones. Chapter 1 of The Perfect Metabolism Plan is titled ‘Break up with Sugar,’ because it is the #1 thing we need to do to line up those hormones and get the metabolism working again.
3. Reduce Stress.
Cortisol is an important hormone, but when we are under high levels of chronic stress, the body can pump out too much cortisol. When cortisol is elevated, so is insulin (fat storage hormone), and digestion is shut down. So you can see how high levels of stress can mess with our hormones and metabolism. And if you keep pumping out cortisol – it will steal from the sex hormones in order to make more. So this can lead to imbalances in the sex hormones – which can cause estrogen dominance. Chapter 7 of The Perfect Metabolism Plan details ways to get stress levels under control and improve sleep.
4. Exercise Smarter.
Doing too much cardio exercise can also cause our stress hormone cortisol to rise. So instead of exercising harder and longer, just exercise smarter. Lift weights, do interval training with short cardio bursts, and balance those out with stress lowering exercises like yoga and walking. Chapter 10 of The Perfect Metabolism Plan is all about ‘exercising smarter, not harder.’
5. Support the liver.
The liver is the “general of the army” when it comes to detoxing the body, it also plays a very important role in sugar metabolism. And in our increasingly toxic world, and high sugar diets – our livers are getting extremely taxed, there has been a exponential rise in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. One of the liver’s important jobs is removing excess estrogens. So when the liver is burdened, excess estrogens tend to hang around and recirculate causing havoc. Read: 20 Signs Your Liver Needs Some TLC for more information.
Resources and additional references:
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
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