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Meet Your Weight Loss Hormones

Hormones are critical chemical messengers for the body. They are created by the glands of the endocrine system- the thyroid, adrenal glands, pituitary glands, pancreas, ovaries, and testes.

These messengers are carried through the blood and deliver their messages to our organs and tissues by binding to their receptors on the outside of the specific cells that they’re delivering their message to. This connection is like a battery snapping in to place in a flashlight, when the hormone and receptor bind, the cell or tissue snaps into action.

Hormones work in synergy with each other for many processes in the body. The most important hormones that affect weight gain are cortisol, insulin, ghrelin and leptin.

When the hormones cortisol and insulin are imbalanced, they negatively affect metabolism and the ability to maintain a healthy weight. Eating an unhealthy diet affects our ability to regulate these hormones. An imbalance in any of these hormones can lead to insulin sensitivity, diabetes and obesity.

Regulating these hormones is extremely important because 2 of them - ghrelin and leptin are our hunger hormones. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you you’re hungry and leptin is the hormone that tells us we’re full.

Cortisol is our main stress hormone and the one that turns on our fight or flight reaction to stress. It is increased by the consumption of caffeine (don’t shoot the messenger!!), unhealthy dietary fats and sugar. The body’s ability to metabolize carbs efficiently so that our blood sugar levels don’t spike and crash is what influences the release of cortisol.

If you’re someone with poor eating habits – consuming processed foods, alcohol, processed carbohydrates and sugar, it’s likely you run on a lot of cortisol.

Increased cortisol production impacts your health in many ways:

When there is excess cortisol in the body blood is shunted away from the gastrointestinal tract, causing GI problems, it can cause deficiencies in other hormones, it elevates glucose, lowers metabolism and immune function and decreases adrenal gland function causing adrenal fatigue.

To decrease cortisol levels, eat foods with omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in foods like salmon and walnuts. Consuming foods high in vitamin C aid in clearing cortisol from our system, helps to regulate the future release of cortisol, and prevents blood pressure from spiking in response to stressful situations. B vitamins -leafy greens, beef, salmon, black beans and chickpeas - have also been shown to decrease cortisol levels.

Insulin plays a major role in overall hormone regulation and the storage of excess carbohydrates and proteins in our fat cells. Insulin brings the glucose from foods we eat into storage. When there’s too much glucose and not enough storage space the body keeps releasing insulin trying to do something with that excess glucose, when there is too much insulin in the blood you develop insulin resistance. This leads to a whole host of health issues that throw off hormone balance, cause weight gain and unhealthy aging.

As previously mentioned, the hormones leptin and ghrelin are our hunger hormones. They work together to suppress or stimulate your hunger and satiety in order to maintain weight and energy.

Leptin tells us when we’re full, its main job is to keep the body at a healthy weight. It is produced and lives in fat cells. When the body is functioning optimally, excess fat will make leptin and leptin triggers the brain to suppress hunger, and excess stored fat will be used for energy. When you have too much fat and store too much leptin, the body becomes desensitized to hunger suppression cues causing leptin to constantly tell the brain to suppress hunger, but you keep eating.

Ghrelin is our hunger hormones. It is produced in cells in the stomach lining and the pancreas. It sends hunger cues to the brain when your stomach is empty and stimulates the reward center of the brain, when we smell, taste, or even think about food ghrelin is produced. Ghrelin is the hormone that signals for the release of insulin.

To bring both of these hormones into balance, we need a diet high in fiber and good fats, and adequate sleep. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and an increased body fat percentage.

I speak of gut health all the time, and a conversation about hormones is no different, especially when it comes to weight loss and gain.

Hormones and the gut have a tightly wound and synergistic relationship. Hormones affect the gut, and, in turn, the gut affects hormones. When your digestive system is off, it can cause problems with nutrient absorption, malnourishment, and lead to a number of chronic problems and symptoms, including acid reflux, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, unhealthy aging and more. It can also directly impact overall health and the health of your immune system, your nervous system, and hormones. All of this can lead to the body holding on the excess weight.

Need help balancing your gut and hormones? Click here to schedule a discovery call to see how we can work together to help you reach your health goals.

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