The human body naturally produces a number of different hormones that support healthy overall bodily function. Hormones play vital roles in your body’s cellular metabolism, reproduction and sexual development, heart rate, digestion, and more. When you’re in good health and your body functions optimally, your hormone levels can maintain a healthy balance. However, some unhealthy lifestyle habits could result in hormonal imbalance and increase the risk for diseases such as obesity and cancer. Contributing factors may include poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and lack of sleep.
If you’ve been experiencing difficulty losing weight through diet and exercise alone, it’s possible you’re not making progress due to hormonal imbalance. Here are three hormones that can affect your weight-loss progress, as well as tips on how you can balance these hormones in a healthy manner.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that rises and fluctuates when you experience any type of stress, whether it’s from coping with unruly family members or putting in too many hours at work. Cortisol can cause your body to store more fat, especially in your abdominal region, and makes your other hormones go into overdrive to counteract the rising cortisol levels. Hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin can rise when cortisol rises, and lead to overeating and cravings for junk food. Most individuals under stress tend to sleep less and make poor nutrition choices.
The most ideal way to balance your body’s cortisol levels is to find new ways to manage stress, or work on eliminating stressors from your life. Start exercising regularly, find new enjoyable hobbies, or if possible, remove yourself from situations that cause undue stress.
Estrogen is more commonly associated with females, but men also produce estrogen in smaller amounts. Estrogen imbalance, which is also sometimes be referred to as estrogen dominance, can lead to weight gain and increase your risk for other health problems, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and breast cancer. Estrogen imbalance can be caused by excess exposure to free radicals and toxins, poor nutrition, smoking, stress, and alcohol abuse. To balance your body’s estrogen levels, start exercising regularly and consume a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, protein, and healthy fats. Eating fresh, whole foods can help your body flush out excess estrogen.
Insulin management isn’t just for those who have diabetes. Insulin allows your body to use sugar for energy, but individuals who consume high amounts of sugar from desserts, snacks, and processed foods will sometimes become resistant to insulin and end up storing more fat as a result. Most individuals who become overweight from eating too much sugar are often at higher risk for type 2 diabetes due to insulin resistance. The most ideal way to manage your insulin is to exercise regularly, and omit fatty, sugary foods from your diet. Instead of consuming processed sugars, turn to fresh fruits, which contain natural sugars and can help regulate your blood sugar.
Over time, as you continue to practice healthy lifestyle habits consistently in an effort to lose weight and become healthier, your hormones may eventually begin to balance out. Consult with your health care provider to learn more about other factors that can throw off hormonal balance, such as birth control pills and medications. Your doctor may be able to recommend alternative treatments associated with lower health risks.