By Saliha Nasline
Hormones do everything in your body. They determine almost everything from growth, mood and behaviour to digestion and fertility. Your hormones are responsible for ensuring you function properly and stay healthy.
For some people, whatever exercise and diet they follow, they struggle to lose weight. Do you wonder why? The answer is hormones. There are many hormones that control your metabolism and hunger and decide whether to store or burn body fat. The fact is, they actually have the capability to make you gain weight or lose it.
“When we grow older, our metabolism becomes slow, because of which we cannot burn calories or lose weight. There could be many reasons, including lack of sleep, hormonal imbalance, etc., which can make us feel hungry,” said Annie Katare, nutritionist at DocsApp.
Katare said high estrogens, low testosterone, low DHEA (a hormone of the adrenal glands), high insulin and high cortisol (stress hormone) are the weight-gain hormones. However, leptin is one of the hormones which tell the body that you are full. When we have lots of sugar and processed food, our body releases high amounts of hormones, and due to this our body stops understanding the signals released by these hormones. This gradually leads to deposition of fat in our body. Also, when the level of cortisol rises, it encourages the conversion of blood sugar to fat, she said.
According to Dr Arpandev Bhattacharyya, consultant endocrinologist and diabetologist at Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru, “The important hormones on which metabolism depends are thyroid hormone, cortisol or steroid, and androgens in women. Also, steroid hormones, whatever the source from our body or taken from outside (for whatever reason) they cause lipogenesis, or fat cell accumulation. Even deficiency of thyroid hormones can cause weight gain.”
EFFECT OF DISRUPTIVE HORMONES
Bhattacharyya was of the view that weight gain is not good for health; this is related to health hazards like diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, high uric acid, heart issues, and on top of this, mechanical problems like osteoarthritis of the knees.
It should be our constant effort to keep our weight in the range specified for our height,” he said.
Katare said, “Hormones function as messengers between body systems to regulate your physiology and behaviour, such as digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sleep, stress, growth, movement, reproduction and mood. Disrupted hormones can cause weight gain, PCOD, PCOS, menstrual cycle disturbances, pregnancy issues and skin-related problems such as acne, hair fall and pigmentation.”
According to Dr Srinath A, consultant endocrinologist at BGS Gleneagles Global Hospitals, Bengaluru, “Thyroid hormone deficiency slows general body metabolism. Elevated cortisol levels raise fat metabolism, leading to loss of muscle mass. Raised insulin levels lead to low blood glucose and to avoid it, one tends to eat more, causing weight gain, which eventually leads to insulin resistance.
Deficiency of sex hormones in males leads to loss of the male hormone, testosterone, which can reduce muscle mass, elevate fat mass and accelerate ageing. In women, after menopause, low estrogen levels tend to shift fat at the hips, thighs and buttocks. Deficiency of growth hormone leads to defective carbohydrate metabolism, leading to weight gain.”
However, the good news is, hormonal imbalances can be regulated with simple lifestyle changes and exercises.
There are plenty of ways to balance your hormones and improve your overall wellbeing, and for that finding out whether you have hormonal imbalance is important. “Common symptom is extreme fatigue, when there is an imbalance with either deficiency of essential hormones or excess of stress hormones. For example, hypothyroidism can cause hypercholesterolemia and, thereby, can precipitate cardiac illness. Cortisol in excess can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, bone fractures, etc. Decline in sex hormones can also affect libido, in addition to metabolic effects,” said Srinath.
According to Dr Subramanian Kannan, senior consultant, department of endocrinology, Narayana Health City, Bengaluru, “Maintaining a good balanced diet, restrained eating, avoiding binge eating, eating breakfast daily, avoiding night eating are simple ways to help weight loss and maintain it.”
Simple exercises, including aerobics, muscle-building exercises and avoiding sitting for more than four hours at a stretch are simple measures to lose weight, he added.
Kannan said weight loss should not be the only barometer for good health.
“Metabolic effects of weight loss, such as good diabetes control, improved blood pressure control and lowering of cholesterol and regularising menstrual cycles, occur with weight loss amounting to only 5-10% of body weight. So, rather than focusing on getting back to the old skinny jeans, it’s important to lose a critical mass and maintain that weight loss over a period of time,” Kannan said.
“If your weight is on the higher side, it does not mean you are at fault and you should not feel guilty. You should be taking good care of your health like healthy eating, timing, exercise, avoiding smoking, moderation of alcohol, etc. Please sleep on time to keep God-given day-night cycle,” said Bhattacharyya of Manipal Hospital.
Also, it is important to maintain a healthy diet by avoiding too much sugar, and adopting low-carbohydrate and high-fibre diet. There is a role for probiotics too and consulting a dietician for advice might do the trick. Alcohol has an adverse effect on weight as it can increase estrogen levels in men and can cause weight gain, especially central obesity, called beer-belly. One should maintain a healthy exercise regimen lasting 20 to 30 minutes five times a week with brisk walking, swimming, etc, said Srinath. Sleep is the most neglected among all classes. Aim for a good seven-hours of sleep this eases stress hormones. Finally, include meditation in your daily routine, he said.
EXERCISE CAN DO WONDERS
Pankaj Arora, fitness enthusiast and managing director of Technogym, a manufacturer of fitness equipment, said, “Exercise is a better way of balancing your hormones, such as adrenal distress, compromised immunity, sleep disruption, etc. Workout is an amazing stress reliever; lengthy workouts can definitely crank up your cortisol levels.” The right level of cortisol is necessary to increase your body’s metabolism of glucose.
Therefore, to balance the hormones and get better result, prefer circuit training. For maximum benefits, complete your exercises with little rest between each circuit session, which keeps your heart rate high throughout your workout. Circuit training is also the best type of workout for boosting testosterone and stimulating growth hormone, so you spend less time exercising while reaping more benefits, Arora explained.
“Keep your heavy-weight exercise and cardio separate because I found that less fat was burned and less growth hormone was released by the group that completed cardio, followed by weights. At the same time, adding cardio to the end of a particular weight-training session can cause a spike in cortisol, because the entire workout ends up being too long and stressful. If you do wish to do them together, do cycling, treadmill and cross-trainer after your strength training, keep it short and stick to intervals for maximum benefits. Yoga and pilates have so many benefits; they improve flexibility, strength, posture, stress and mood,” added Arora.
Also, there is a reason behind why people find it difficult to achieve their weight goals. It is their food habits: because most of the time people have food items full of carbs and less protein and nutrition. Firstly, start having seasonal boiled or raw green vegetables before lunch and dinner, which helps to enhance your metabolism, releases toxins from the body and converts your carbs into energy instead of fat. Go with light dinner, take a cup of green tea before going to bed for sound sleep and a little bit of workout helps you out in better and faster result, Arora said.
ROLE OF FOOD
Eating a variety of foods high in short-, medium-and long-chain fatty acids is key to keeping your hormones in check. Your body needs various types of fats to create hormones, including saturated fat and cholesterol. Not only are these essential fats fundamental building blocks for hormone production, they also keep inflammation levels low, boost your metabolism and promote weight loss, said Katare of DocsApp. Katare said with these foods, you will be able to keep your hormones in balance. They are: vitamin-A rich foods like sweet potatoes, broccoli, lettuce, spinach and carrots; antioxidant-rich green tea; fibre-rich foods like lentils, peas, sprouts; seasonal fruits and vegetables; add coconut oil to your diet; add herbs and omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods too.
Avoid processed foods and red meat, cut down sugar, salt and alcohol.
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