By Bill Kalman, RPh., Essential Wellness Pharmacy, Peoria
With the start of summer comes warmer weather, swimsuits, and shorts. Have you tried and struggled to lose weight? Have you told yourself or others that you “are doing everything right so why can’t I lose weight?” Do you work out and “eat right” and are still struggling with weight? Have you tried different diets and yet find it difficult to shed those pounds? There may be other reasons that are preventing you from losing the weight despite your best efforts. There may be physiological reasons which prevent your weight loss.
One of the first things a doctor may check is your thyroid level. The main job of the thyroid is to control our metabolism. It is one hormone which acts as a “gas pedal” for our metabolism. There are two different types of thyroid hormone in our body commonly referred to as T4 and T3. When a doctor orders a “thyroid” test, it is typically for TSH which stands for thyroid stimulating hormone. This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland and not the thyroid. It has a reverse relationship with thyroid levels. If thyroid hormone is low, TSH is high. Some doctors may test total T4 (bound and unbound T4) or Free T4 (unbound and able to be used by the body) or both. This thyroid hormone is NOT active and needs to be converted to T3. Some doctors actually test Free T3 (the active thyroid hormone). Just because your TSH, T4, or T3 is within “normal” ranges doesn’t mean it is optimal for you. Minor adjustments may make a difference in your energy and weight loss.
Other hormones which can act like a gas pedal for our metabolism are the “sex” hormones of estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA. All of these have other functions in the body besides reproduction. Testosterone and DHEA are used for muscle production and energy in both men and women. High levels of these can lead to weight gain on the waist. If this is the case, lowering any supplementation or increasing their clearance may help. One of the main drivers regarding weight loss is the balance between progesterone and estradiol. Though we think of these two as “female” hormones, everyone makes them. Estrogen tells the body to hold onto fat and hold onto water, especially on the hips and waist and progesterone balances that to lower this occurrence. When the ratio of progesterone to estradiol is less than 100 to 1, our bodies go into a state referred to in functional medicine as “estrogen dominance” meaning the estrogen works more unopposed by progesterone. It does not matter which gender you are and it doesn’t matter if the woman is still having menstrual cycles or not. Your body still produces hormones all your life, just at varying levels. Often times adding progesterone replacement can put the body back into the proper balance and allow you to shed that weight. Prior to any hormone adjustments, testing, either by blood or saliva, should be conducted.
Lastly, weight may be affected by our cortisol levels. I’m sure many of you have heard commercials on TV about high cortisol causing belly fat. Stresses increase cortisol levels. Stress does not have to be a feeling or emotion. Stress can be a job loss or change, a death in the family or of a pet, drinking caffeine, illness, or even exercising too much. Yes, you can over exercise. High intensity exercise such as cross training; long distance running, swimming or biking; and extreme weightlifting/cardio increases cortisol. Multiple studies have shown the best type of exercise for weight loss is low to moderate intensity workouts. If high cortisol is part of the cause, there are supplements which may lower it. Just because you suspect you have high cortisol does not mean it is. Long term stresses can actually put the body into a state of adrenal insufficiency, referred to in functional medicine as adrenal fatigue. To determine if this is the case, a saliva or urine collection test which tests throughout the day can determine your levels.
Any imbalance with one of these three systems can throw off the other two systems. Depending upon your test results, changes in lifestyle, diet, and exercise and non-prescription supplementation can help correct these systems and assist you in your weight loss goals.
If you are interested in learning more about physiological reasons preventing weight loss and implementing healthy lifestyle changes or any other health issues, please feel free to contact Essential Wellness Pharmacy, located at 4625 N. University Street in Peoria, at 309-681-8850 to set up a FREE one-on-one consultation with the most experienced health and wellness pharmacists in the Peoria area. We look forward to serving you and your family and assisting with all your health needs.