Thanks to the modern sedentary lifestyle, obesity is one of the most common public health issues these days. A common complaint from people these days is unstoppable weight gain. Almost 42.4 percent of adults in America are overweight.
From the obese population of the U.S., half of them are at a high risk of developing chronic conditions such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Along with this, the modern lifestyle has also normalized stress, increased fatigue, and brain fog—conditions people try to live with; till they can’t take it anymore.
If you are someone with weight loss issues, facing fatigue and memory loss, wondering why you aren’t losing weight, this blog is for you. You will learn about specific hormones that you should get checked first thing while facing weight loss issues, understand their function and dysfunction, and how to resolve it.
In this blog, we’ll be delving into three hormones that might be contributing to your weight gain:
Grab a pen and notebook, and let’s get started!
Please note that the following hormonal imbalances are not limited to morbidly obese individuals—they can be observed in skinny-fat individuals with a normal BMI too.
Hormone #1: Leptin
The first hormone is produced by the fat cells called leptin. The function of this hormone is to signal the brain to regulate appetite.
Back-story: The food you eat provides glucose to the cells of your body to produce energy. This glucose in your blood is transported to the cells via a mediator called insulin.
Now, in the modern life of abundance, people tend to eat more than what their cells need, so there’s always some extra glucose left in the blood. Insulin stores this extra glucose in the liver and muscles. Even after that, if there’s still some excess glucose, a new storage called adipocytes (fat cells) is created. These adipocytes also have endocrine functions: the production of the leptin hormone.
What is the function of the leptin hormone?
The leptin hormone signals the brain to stop send the hunger signal to the body when there is excess energy in the cells.
Nevertheless, having a lot of leptin is not actually a good thing. Your levels of leptin go up indicating that your fat cells are increasing. When your fat cells increase, they take up most of the glucose from the blood; glucose that the body cells need to produce energy. As the body cells are deprived of glucose, the brain gets the signal to increase the hunger cue; resulting in incessant hunger and overeating.
This turns into a condition called leptin resistance. The most common abnormality with people who gain weight but have normal blood glucose is leptin resistance.
The high levels of leptin not only affect the brain but also the beta cells in the pancreas—increasing fat storage, insulin levels, and insulin resistance.
All of this drives up inflammation.
How do you know if you have leptin resistance?
You probably have leptin resistance if you:
- Wake up with no hunger and go hours without the first pang of hunger hitting you in the middle of the day.
- You feel hungry till bedtime, even after eating.
- You face a lot of difficulties losing weight.
Ways to resolve Leptin Resistance:
- Intentional Fasting: This fasting cycle intends to shift your metabolism—shifting the use of energy from glucose or carbohydrates to the utilization of fat through a process called ketosis. As this shift happens, your leptin resistance starts to go down. Leptin resistance can be handled by postponing your first meal and preponing your last meal.
To practice Intentional Fasting:
- Stop eating after dinner.
- Avoid bedtime snacks.
- Have dinner three hours before bedtime.
- If you feel the hunger before bed for the first few weeks, drink a little water.
- After waking up, break the fast around midday, but check the ketose level before doing that.
- Caloric Deficit: Leptin resistance happens when you eat more than your body needs, turn it around by a slight caloric deficit. Track your calories, reduce your caloric intake.
- Do HIIT (High-intensity Interval Training) workouts: Start small and slowly build up the speed and number of reps. Start with ten squats or wall push-ups. Anything that gets your muscles moving and induces sweating. Consistency is the key.
The next hormone is completely in contrast with leptin as it has all the opposite functions.
Hormone #2: Adiponectin
Adiponectin is a protein hormone secreted by the adipose tissue that regulates glucose levels and aids fatty acid breakdown. As the adiponectin levels go up, fat cells go down, as adiponectin stimulates glucose utilization from fat cells for energy expenditure.
One of the early signs of metabolic syndrome is low levels of adiponectin. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that involve:
- Increased Triglecerids
- Low HDL cholesterol
- Increased fibroids
- High abdominal fat (Men: 40-inch in; Women: 35-inch)
- High fasting blood glucose
What does adiponectin do?
Adiponectin helps in:
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving insulin sensitivity
- Increasing the anti-orthogenic, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties of the body
- Reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Improving glucose metabolism
Getting the adiponectin high (in double digits) is what doctors look for when resolving metabolic syndrome.
Ways to increase Adiponectin Levels:
Adiponectin cannot be injected to increase its levels in the body. However, some simple lifestyle measures can increase the levels of adiponectin in the body.
Follow all the afore-mentioned measures for resolving leptin resistance, and long with these:
- Add aged garlic to your diet: Increases your adiponectin.
- Eat monounsaturated fats like avocados, nuts, olives, and olive oil.
- Consume fiber-rich foods daily.
Hormone #3: Cortisol
In the modern lifestyle, with the abundance of stress, people experience a chronic alleviation of stress. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland in this chronic state of stress. The hormonal imbalance is the impairment of the hormonal rhythm of cortisol in the body.
When we look at the normal rhythm of cortisol—every hormone in our body has a rhythm—it gets high in the morning and goes down as the day goes by and becomes a little lower at night so you get to sleep. This normal rhythm gets disrupted when a person is stressed at all times, and chronic stress is not sustainable.
Study on Cortisol Rhythm
A study was conducted among a group of people about psychosocial stressors. These people were divided into two groups:
- People with a normal Body Mass Index (BMI)
- People with a high Body Mass Index (BMI)
While performing the interventions, the researchers took 4-point measurements of the levels of cortisol:
- Late afternoon
The two specific interventions they did to observe the rhythm of the cortisol were:
- Measuring the participants’ cortisol after eating lunch
- Measuring the participants’ cortisol after giving them dexamethasone (external steroids)
The reason behind these interventions was to check the response of cortisol levels to stressors like food or external source of cortisol which should suppress your internal production of cortisol so your body doesn’t get an excess of cortisol.
Group A: The rhythm of cortisol in the people from group A was normal—high in the morning, gradually lowering by the day, low at night.
- After eating lunch, their cortisol levels would peak.
- Ingesting dexamethasone would suppress the internal production of cortisol in their body.
Group B: The cortisol rhythm of people in group B was rigid. It did not have the specific ‘S’ shaped curve in the cortisol rhythm. Their brain-adrenal connection had become rigid to all the stressors, stimuli, and suppression.
- When they had lunch, there was barely a peak in the cortisol levels.
- There was no response after the ingestion of dexamethasone.
Conclusion: The brain-adrenal connection is an indicator of excellent health. The absence of this connection and the rigidity of hormonal rhythm puts you at a high risk of chronic diseases like metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.
What does cortisol do to the body?
Cortisol impacts our health by affecting glucose metabolism. Chronic stress, resulting in high, non-responsive, and rigid cortisol has metabolic implications that promote inflammation and disease.
High levels of internal cortisol production result in:
- Increased blood glucose
- Increased visceral fat accumulation
- Increased leptin and insulin resistance
- Decrease in the sex and growth hormones
- Increased risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of blood vessels)
- High blood pressure
- High risk of cardiovascular diseases
Affect of Cortisol on the Memory
When your cortisol levels are persistently high and rigid, it damages the hippocampus—the area responsible for information retention and learning.
So, what can be done about this rhythmic impairment?
The rise in cortisol levels and the rhythmic impairment of cortisol are due to chronic stress. People feel stressed when they feel helpless about problems that are not under their control—work problems, issues in relationships, financial stressors, etc. Over time, these stressors build our cortisol because we think the same way every day resulting in chronic stress.
Cortisol rhythmic impairments should be addressed by managing stress and clearing the mind:
- Right after waking up, shut off all external stimuli by closing your eyes.
- Spend five minutes listening to calming music or sounds around you, and breathe.
- Focus on your breath.
By doing so, you are changing your physiology and bringing your cortisol levels down. Then, no matter how busy your day gets, you will know how to ground yourself.
Hopefully, this information has opened your mind to a different way of thinking and different ways of living. Health is intuitive and it’s your business.
Look at your habits and shift them little by little.
Our goal is to help people understand that disease is not inevitable by giving you knowledge in bite-size portions about the changes you can potentially make, get to know your body, and reverse disease with everything that’s within your power to change.
This blog covers the highlights from the latest episode of Chillin with Dr. Chellam on The Three Hormones That Jeopardize Weight Loss by Dr. Nisha Chellam, Board Certified Internist, and Founder of Holistic ICON. You can check out the full video on our YouTube channel by clicking this link: https://youtu.be/6F5PU8siG7Q
Hoping this blog was helpful. If you have any other questions related to weight loss and hormonal imbalances, please drop us an email with your question and a brief about yourself at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will get back to you shortly.