Can we just stop pretending that our hormones don’t mess with our weight?
There are a lucky few who seem to breeze through hormonal changes without consequence.
I am not one of them.
You’re probably not either.
A little over a year ago I started having hot flashes. There, I said it. I suppose one reason many of us don’t talk about these things is because it’s an admission that we’re getting old. So the jig is up, I guess.
I am getting old.
Anyway, the hot flashes were fast and furious, and seemed to take on a life of their own. They hijacked my normal life and sent me to my gynecologist searching for answers and relief. I got some answers, but not much (read: no) relief. Several months, multiple tests and procedures, and synthetic hormone replacement therapy later … still no relief. In my overheated and moody exasperation, I sought out a naturopath.
After a lengthy interview, thorough examination and testing, she put me on a very strict elimination diet. It was a detox from nearly every potential dietary source of inflammation and sensitivity. It was quite possibly the hardest six weeks of my life. (Side note: I didn’t lose a pound doing it. Dammit.)
In conjunction with the elimination diet, my naturopath prescribed bio-identical (that is, not synthetic) hormones and other supplements to support hormonal and neurotransmitter health. And in case you didn’t know (I didn’t), neurotransmitters are the brain’s chemical communication system and key mood regulators.
Turns out both neurotransmitters and hormones can get outta whack. (That’s a scientific, medical term so try to keep up.)
Sometimes life events such as puberty, pregnancy or menopause bring about periods of wild fluctuation in hormones, but there can be other reasons hormones and neurotransmitters get off kilter too.
One of the best articles I’ve read about hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalance – and what we can do about it – is authored by Dr. Sara Gottfried: “5 Signs Your Hormones are Out of Whack + How to Balance Them.”
The fallout for hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances can be significant and far-reaching, as Dr. Gottfried explains. In my case, my cortisol level (stress hormone) was ridiculously high and my serotonin level (calming neurotransmitter) was almost zero. I also had estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency. Wicked bad combination.
I’ve been struggling to fully adhere to the dietary changes that Dr. Gottfried and my naturopath recommend. In the “100 days of awesome!” we’re shaking off sugar, emphasizing healthy fats and eating more greens, all of which are great changes.
But I need to go a little further. I’ve discovered that both dairy and gluten cause problems for me, so I’m limiting both significantly. Like I said, I’m a work in progress on that front. (As evidenced by the Dark Chocolate Chunky Brownies with Goat Cheese Swirl that I made a few days ago. Ahem.)
The long and short of it is that, despite my vigilant efforts to maintain my weight, I’ve gained ten pounds in the last year.
My plan is to follow Dr. Gottfried’s and my naturopath’s dietary guidelines, eliminating the few processed foods that still remain in my diet, and of course, continuing to exercise, getting lots of rest, staying hydrated and trying to minimize stress. (That last one may be the toughest of the bunch.)
Weight loss – especially for women – is rarely a simple mathematical equation. Too often the complexities of how we lose (and gain) weight are glossed over into an oversimplified one-size-fits-all approach, and that simply doesn’t work very well. Thankfully the medical community seems to be paying more attention to how all of these forces converge and the role that each plays in our health.