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The Most Common Hormonal Imbalances and How to Recognize if It’s a Problem for You

Insulin Excess: Insulin is an essential substance whose main function is to process sugar in the bloodstream and carry it into cells to be used as fuel or stored as fat. There are several reasons for excess insulin, but the main culprits are: stress, consuming too much nutrient-poor carbohydrate—the type found in processed foods, sugary drinks and sodas, packaged low-fat foods, artificial sweeteners—insufficient protein intake, inadequate fat intake and deficient fiber consumption. Heart palpitations, sweating, poor concentration, weakness, anxiety, fogginess, fatigue, irritability or impaired thinking are common short-term side effects of high insulin. Unfortunately our body typically responds to these unpleasant feelings by making us think we’re hungry, which in turn causes us to reach for more high-sugar foods and drinks. We then end up in a vicious cycle of hormonal imbalance, a condition called insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, which only furthers weight gain and our risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Toxic Estrogen: Researchers have now identified excess estrogen to be as great a risk factor for obesity—in both sexes—as poor eating habits and lack of exercise. There are two ways to accumulate excess estrogen in the body: we either produce too much of it on our own or acquire it from our environment or diet. We are constantly exposed to estrogen-like compounds in foods that contain toxic pesticides, herbicides and growth hormones. A premenopausal woman with estrogen dominance will likely have PMS, too much body fat around the hips and difficulty losing weight. Menopausal women and, yes, men too, may experience low libido, memory loss, poor motivation, depression, loss of muscle mass and increased belly fat.

Low thyroid: Without enough thyroid hormone, every system in the body slows down. Those who suffer from hypothyroidism feel tired, tend to sleep a lot, experience constipation and typically experience weight gain . Extremely dry skin, hair loss, slower mental processes, feeling cold, brittle hair, splitting nails, diminished ability to sweat during exercise, infertility, poor memory, depression, decreased libido or an inability to lose weight are also symptoms to watch for. If you suspect you have a thyroid condition, make sure your doctor assesses you and your full range of symptoms, not just your blood work. Even levels of TSH (an indicator of thyroid function) within the normal range has been proven to accelerate weight gain and to interfere with a healthy metabolic rate in both men and women.

Low serotonin:  Serotonin exerts powerful influence over mood, emotions, memory, cravings (especially for carbohydrates), self-esteem, pain tolerance, sleep habits, appetite, digestion and body temperature regulation. When we’re feeling down or depressed, we naturally crave more sugars and starches to stimulate the production of serotonin. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that depression and anxiety will soon be the number-one disability experienced by adults. Plenty of sunlight; a healthful diet rich in protein, minerals and vitamins; regular exercise and good sleep support serotonin production. When we measure our current lifestyle against all the elements necessary for the body’s natural production of serotonin, the wide ranging epidemic of low serotonin is certainly not surprising. Add in chronic stress and out-of-control multitasking—two of the main causes of serotonin depletion—and it’s no wonder many of us suffer from depleted serotonin.

High Cortisol: Under situations of chronic stress—whether the stress is physical, emotional, mental, environmental, real or imagined—our body releases high amounts of the hormone cortisol. If you suffer from a mood disorder such as anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder or exhaustion, or if you have a digestive issue such as irritable bowel syndrome, you can bet your body is cranking up your cortisol. Through a complicated network of hormonal interactions, prolonged stress results in a raging appetite, metabolic decline, belly fat and a loss of hard-won, metabolically active muscle tissue. In other words, chronic stress makes us soft, flabby and much older than we truly are!
 

Hormonal Imbalance Questionnaire

Hormonal Imbalance 1: Excess Insulin

Age spots and wrinkling
Sagging skin
Cellulite
Skin tags
Acanthosis nigricans (a skin condition characterized by light brown to black patches or markings on the neck or underarm)
Abnormal hair growth on face, chin (women)
Vision changes or cataracts
Infertility or irregular menses
Shrinking or sagging breasts
Menopause (women); andropause or erectile dysfunction (men)
Heart disease
High cholesterol, high triglycerides or high blood pressure
Burning feet at night (especially while in bed)
Water retention in the face/puffiness
Gout
Poor memory, concentration, or Alzheimer’s disease
Fat gain around “love handles” and/or abdomen
Fat over the triceps
Generalized overweight/weight gain/obesity
Hypoglycemia; craving for sweets, carbohydrates, or constant hunger or increased appetite
Fatigue after eating (especially carbohydrates)
Fatty liver (diagnosed by your doctor)
Diabetes (type 2)
Sleep disruption or deprivation
TOTAL (Warning score: > 9)

Hormonal Imbalance 1: Excess Insulin

A high score for Hormone Imbalance 1 indicates excess insulin (or insulin resistance) is a factor that could be interfering with your weight-loss goals. Although insulin plays an essential role in healthy body function, an excess of it will certainly make you fat. Too much insulin not only encourages your body to store unused glucose as fat, but also blocks the use of stored fat as an energy source. For these reasons, an abnormally high insulin level makes losing fat, especially around the abdomen, next to impossible.

Hormonal Imbalance 8: Excess Estrogen
Spider or varicose veins
Cellulite
Heavy menstrual bleeding
PMS characterized by breast tenderness, water retention, bloating, swelling and/or weight gain
Fibrocystic breast disease
Prostate enlargement
Erectile dysfunction
Breast growth (men)
Loss of morning erection
Irritability, mood swings or anxiety
Headaches or migraines (especially in women before their menses)
High alcohol consumption (> 4 drinks per week for women and > 7 drinks per week for men)
Autoimmune disease or allergies
Fat gain around “love handles” or abdomen (men)
Fat gain at the hips (women)
Current use of hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills
TOTAL (Warning score: > 6)

Hormonal Imbalance 8: Excess Estrogen

Estrogen balance is essential for achieving and maintaining fat loss.
In men and premenopausal women, estrogen dominance causes toxic fat gain, water retention, bloating and a host of other health and wellness issues. While premenopausal women with too much estrogen tend to have the pear-shape body type with more weight at the hips, both men and menopausal women with this excess exhibit an apple shape with more fat accumulation in the abdominal area. Researchers have now identified excess estrogen to be just as great a risk factor for obesity—in both sexes—as poor eating habits and lack of exercise.

Hormonal Im,balance 14: Low Thyroid
Dry skin and/or hair
Acne
Hair loss
Brittle hair and/or nails
PMS, infertility, long menstrual cycle (> 30 days or irregular periods)
Abnormal lactation
Fatigue
Lack of sweating, feeling cold or cold hands and feet
High cholesterol
Poor tolerance for exercise
Heart palpitations
Outer edge of eyebrows thinning
Aches and pains
Water retention/puffiness in hands or feet
Poor memory
Loss of libido
Depression
Loss of motivation or competitive edge
Iron deficiency anemia
Hives
Generalized overweight/weight gain/obesity
Constipation
Use of corticosteroids
Current use of synthetic hormone replacement or birth control pills
TOTAL (Warning score: > 8)

Hormonal Imbalance 14: Low Thyroid Hormone

Thyroid hormones regulate our metabolism and organ function and directly affect heart rate, cholesterol levels, body weight, energy, muscle contraction and relaxation, skin and hair texture, bowel function, fertility, menstrual regularity, memory, mood and other body processes.


Hormonal Imbalance 3: Low Serotonin
PMS characterized by hypoglycemia, sugar cravings and/or depression
Feeling wired at night
Lack of sweating
Poor memory
Loss of libido
Depression, anxiety, irritability or seasonal affective disorder
Loss of motivation or competitive edge
Low self-esteem
Inability to make decisions
Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Bulimia or binge eating
Fibromyalgia
Increased pain or poor pain tolerance
Headaches or migraines
Cravings for sweets or carbohydrates
Constant hunger or increased appetite
Inability to sleep in no matter how late going to bed
Less than 7.5 hours of sleep per night
Irritable bowel
Constipation
Nausea
Use of corticosteroids
TOTAL (Warning score: > 4)

Hormonal Imbalance 3: Low Serotonin

Balancing serotonin is critical for effective weight loss. Though serotonin is typically recognized as a brain chemical, most of this neurotransmitter is produced in our digestive tract. Serotonin exerts a powerful influence over mood, emotions, memory, cravings (especially for carbohydrates!), self-esteem, pain tolerance, sleep habits, appetite, digestion and body temperature regulation. When we’re depressed or down, we naturally crave more sugars and starches to stimulate the production of serotonin. By now, we all understand that excess carb consumption causes weight gain and possibly insulin resistance. While antidepressant medications such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are effective in raising serotonin in the short term, some evidence suggests these medications actually deplete serotonin over time. Furthermore, weight gain is one of the most common side effects of antidepressant drugs.

Hormonal Imbalance 5: Excess Cortisol
Wrinkling, thinning skin or skin has lost its fullness
Hair loss
Infertility or absent menses (unrelated to menopause)
Feeling wired at night
Heart palpitations
Loss of muscle tone in arms and legs
Cold hands or feet
Water retention in face/puffiness
Poor memory or concentration
Loss of libido
Depression, anxiety, irritability or seasonal affective disorder
High alcohol consumption
Frequent colds and flus
Hives, bronchitis, allergies (food or environmental), asthma or autoimmune disease
Fat gain around “love handles” or abdomen
A “buffalo hump” of fat on back of neck/upper back
Difficulty building or maintaining muscle
Loss of bone density or osteoporosis
Cravings for sweets or carbs, hypoglycemia or constant hunger
Difficulty falling asleep
Difficulty staying asleep (especially waking between 2 and 4 a.m.)
Less than 7.5 hours of sleep per night
Irritable bowel or frequent gas and bloating
Use of corticosteroids
TOTAL (Warning score: > 8)

Hormonal Imbalance 5: Excess Cortisol

A high score for Hormone Imbalance 5 in your Hormonal Health Profile suggests stress is negatively affecting your metabolism and your health. Unlike adrenalin, which draws on your fat stores for energy during stressful situations, cortisol consumes your metabolically active muscle tissue for fuel. Prolonged stress can, therefore, lead to muscle wasting and high blood sugar simply because your body is struggling to adapt. When these conditions take over, stress becomes extremely destructive to your metabolism, body composition and wellness. Cortisol also depresses your metabolic rate by blocking your thyroid hormone, fuels your desire for fatty foods and carbohydrates and boosts abdominal fat storage.


Excerpted from The Supercharged Hormone Diet by Dr. Natasha Turner, N.D. Copyright © 2011 by Natasha Turner, N.D.. Excerpted by permission of Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

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Hormonal Imbalances