Weight loss research shows that the average person will add one to two pounds around their abdomen each year between the ages of 35 and 55 without changing their eating or exercise habits. Physiologically, these are the same years when progesterone levels begin to decline in women and testosterone production begins to drop in men. Mid-section weight gain – those stubborn pounds stuck around your belly, butt, thighs, and hips – is just one signal of an underlying hormone level imbalance. Even worse, fat cells produce even more estrogen, placing you in a no-win cycle of increasing estrogen dominance. If left unrecognized and untreated, those pounds around your middle can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, thyroid disorders, certain types of cancer, dementia, and early mortality.
Estrogen Dominance and Belly Fat
Estrogen dominance causes weight gain around the belly, butt, thighs and hips. Worse news: fat cells produce even more estrogen. When the body is estrogen dominant:
- Hypothyroidism slows the body’s metabolism
- Abdominal tissues retain more water causing bloating to be a constant issue.
- Unnatural insulin release results in constant hunger and food cravings for sweets
Here’s what happens when the amount of progesterone circulating within the body is elevated (via bioidentical progesterone replacement) to a level that is sufficient to neutralize the underlying condition of estrogen dominance:
- First, the hypothyroid condition is eliminated. In other words, bioidentical progesterone triggers a metabolic response allowing weight loss to occur.
- Secondly, when progesterone is added back into the body via bioidentical progesterone cream, it acts as a natural diuretic, thereby reducing the bloating.
- Finally, when progesterone and estrogen levels are re-balanced, insulin release is tempered. The result: normalized blood sugar levels and reduced food cravings.
Numerous studies in the last several decades have confirmed that physical activity has a positive effect on longevity and mortality and that a lack of physical activity is associated with an increased risk of disease and disability. But did you know that, in addition, regular physical activity helps balance your hormones? Exercise helps regulate cortisol production—making it less likely that surging levels will contribute to anxiety and an expanding waistline. Studies in such respected medical publications as the Journal of National Cancer Institute and Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Preview have shown that after twelve months of regular exercise (30 minutes/five days per week), estrogen levels drop an average of 13 percent. Exercise can also cause the release of chemicals called endorphins into your bloodstream. Endorphins give you a feeling of happiness and positively affect your overall sense of well-being. Exercise is more than just “burning calories”; it is an important part of restoring healthy hormone balance.
The release of hormones by the pituitary gland (the “master gland” of the endocrine system) is significantly affected by lack of sleep. Researchers have found that after several days of partial sleep loss, early evening cortisol levels are much higher and take six times longer to decrease before habitual bedtime. Medical evidence suggests a domino effect between estrogen dominance, lack of sleep, and the impaired production of the hormones “ghrelin” and “leptin.” These two hormones work together to regulate your appetite. Leptin is released by the fat cells in your body and sends a signal of satiety (“fullness”) to your brain, while ghrelin is secreted by the stomach and stimulates your appetite. After only one day of sleep restriction, studies have found that ghrelin levels are markedly higher, while leptin levels are markedly suppressed. That’s why, when you are chronically tired, you also feel ravenously hungry. Your body is playing tricks on your brain! When you have chronic lack of sleep, it also disrupts glucose and insulin metabolism, leading to a condition called “leptin resistance.” When you become leptin resistant, your brain can no longer “read” the signals of fullness from the leptin in your body. This leads you to overeat, since you are unable to recognize when your body is “full.”
The significant impact of lack of sleep on your health is not as well known as other factors, like diet and exercise. However, more studies are proving that chronic sleep loss causes weight gain, increasing your risk for obesity and diabetes. There is also evidence that sleep loss weakens the immune system. A Gallup poll confirmed that 40 percent of American adults get less than seven hours of sleep!
A diet rich in high-fat meats (such as spare ribs, pork sausage, and bologna), French fries, commercial salad dressings, butter, lard or margarine, simple carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, sugar) has been found to upset hormone balance and increase levels of circulating estrogens. Instead, add some of the following foods into your diet to help support hormone balance and fight estrogen dominance:
The consumption of cruciferous vegetables is important. How estrogen is metabolized in the body is determined by an individual’s biochemical make-up, with some persons producing more 2-hydroxy derivatives (the “good” estrogens) and others producing more 16-hydroxyesterone (the “bad” estrogen). Consuming large amounts of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, brussel sprouts, celery, beet root, kale, cabbage, parsley root, radish, turnip, collard and mustard greens has been shown to improve the production of “good” estrogen and foster an optimum 2/16 estrogen ratio. Cruciferous vegetables contain a phytonutrient called Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C). I3C has been shown to act as a catalyst to pull estradiol down a benign pathway to 2-hydroxy estrone thus decreasing levels of the carcinogenic 16-alpha hydroxyestrone. This means that cruciferous vegetables can help decrease the body’s load of unhealthy estrogens and reduce an overall unhealthy condition of estrogen dominance. A very noticeable benefit of eating more cruciferous vegetables will be decreased abdominal circumference of the waist. Another less obvious but very real bonus may be a reduced risk of developing breast, uterine, or prostate cancer.
D-Limomene, found in the oils of citrus fruits, has been shown to promote detoxification of estrogen. Common citrus fruits include oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons, limes and tangelos. Research also found that, when administered an extract of D-Limomene, both male and female lab mice evidenced lower body weight.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is degraded by bacteria in your colon. Soluble fiber forms a gel in your intestines which regulates the flow of waste material through your digestive tract. This type of fiber is found in oatmeal, oat bran, dried peas, beans, lentils, apples, pears, strawberries and blueberries. Soluble fiber is good for you but, no matter how much of it you eat, it won’t influence your hormonal equilibrium.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, can directly impact your hormone balance by helping decrease estrogen overload. Insoluble fiber binds to extra estrogen in the digestive tract. This extra estrogen is later eliminated in the body through the feces. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, sources of insoluble fiber include: whole grains, whole wheat breads, barley, couscous, brown rice, whole-grain breakfast cereals, wheat bran, seeds, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, celery and tomatoes.
Ground or milled flaxseed, sesame seeds and flaxseed oil are part of a food group called lignans. The friendly bacteria in our intestines convert plant lignans into the “human” lignans, primarily enterolactone, that have a weak estrogen like activity. When there are low estrogen levels in the body these weak lignan ‘estrogens’ make up some of the insufficiency. When the body is estrogen dominant, however, the lignan ‘estrogens’ bind to the human body’s estrogen receptors thereby reducing human estrogen activity at a cellular level.
Supplements for Success
Hormone production and metabolism are impacted not only by the aging process, but also by environmental influences and lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, stress levels and sleep habits. The body works hard to maintain hormonal equilibrium and very often, the right supplements can help to facilitate this process. In our clinical practice, we have tested and observed the beneficial and balancing effects of scores of natural herbal supplements. The best of these are available in our online store, with detailed descriptions of the role they play in hormone support. We recommend a select group of supplements to enhance healthy hormone balance and also promote weight loss and weight management.
Calcium D- Glucarate is a natural substance that promotes the body’s detoxification process and supports hormonal balance. Calcium D-Glucarate facilitates the detoxification process by inhibiting the re-absorption of estrogen-like toxins into the bloodstream, allowing them to leave the body and be excreted in the feces. Calcium D-Glucarate has been found in animals to lower unhealthy estrogen levels and thereby inhibit the development or progression of cancer.
DIM is a phytonutrient akin to the Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) found in cruciferous vegetables. DIM has unique hormonal benefits. It supports the activity of enzymes that improve estrogen metabolism by increasing the levels of 2-hydroxyestrone, e.g. the “good” estrogen. When taken as part of a healthy diet, we have found that DIM helps support PMS symptoms, fat loss and healthy estrogen metabolism.
Studies have shown a strong correlation between blood levels of Vitamin D and breast cancer risk. A 2008 study in the medical journal Carcinogenisis found that women with highest level of vitamin D had a nearly 70 percent reduction in their risk of breast cancer compared with women with the lowest Vitamin D levels. Multiple studies indicate that vitamin D suppresses growth of breast cancer by 1.) blocking signals that stimulate cancer cell growth, and 2.) optimizing signals that inhibit cancer growth.
Recent studies have examined the relationship between iodine deficiency, fibrocystic breasts, breast cancer risk and thyroid disease. For breast patients, iodine’s therapeutic mechanisms of action is that it desensitizes the estrogen receptors, alters the chemical pathways as well effects on the genes, resulting in less cell growth, and causing anti-tumor effect by causing apoptosis (programmed cell death) of malignant cells.
The B Vitamins
The B Vitamins, such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and folate, do a lot within your body to support estrogen detoxification. Conversely, if your body is deficient in B vitamins, you will have higher levels of circulating estrogens. By now, you definitely know that increased estrogen levels lead to estrogen dominance and estrogen dominance will most certainly lead to weight gain and the inability to get that weight off. B vitamins also impact estrogen activity for the hormone receptors at the cellular level. Clinical studies have shown that high levels of intracellular (e.g. within the cell) B6 can decrease the binding response at the estrogen hormone receptor site. What happens at the cellular level is sort of like an internal game of musical chairs: If the music stops and B6 sits down in the “estrogen chair” then the estrogen molecule is out of the game. Because the B vitamins work together to perform such vital tasks at the cellular level, I recommend that you take the entire B-complex, not just one or two of the vitamins. To treat symptoms of hormone imbalance, you will need between 50-100 mg of B Complex that contains 50 mgs of thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niaicin (b3), pantothenic acid (b5), P6, PABA, choline, inositol,; 50 mcg B12, and 400 mcg of folic acid.
Researchers studied the effects of Vitamin E in reducing the effects of menopause and most studies found Vitamin E to be helpful. Vitamin E has been shown to reduce PMS related breast-tenderness, nervousness, depression, headache, fatigue and insomnia. Low Vitamin E levels were linked to estrogen dominance. Furthermore, Vitamin E deficiency has been found to inhibit estrogen detoxification.
Calcium – Magnesium Combo
Most women and men find it difficult to get 1000 – 1200 mg of needed calcium from their diet. As a rule, I recommend supplementing calcium intake with a calcium-magnesium combination supplement. Magnesium is another supplement that helps the body to eliminate excess estrogen. For women, magnesium levels tend to fall at certain times during the menstrual cycle. These shifts in magnesium levels can upset an optimum calcium-magnesium ratio. In proper balance, the body better absorbs and assimilates the calcium it needs and allows calcium to migrate out of tissue and organs where it doesn’t belong. Without magnesium, calcium may be not fully utilized. Under absorption of calcium can lead to menstrual cramps. Similar to a Vitamin E deficiency, when the body does not have enough magnesium to support calcium absorption, many women report PMS symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, headaches, and sleeplessness. Premenstrual chocolate craving is a phenomenon that has puzzled a great many physicians. They have been unable to explain why some women have this overwhelming urge to eat chocolate right before their periods yet, at other times of the month, their chocolate cravings remain under control. The PMS-chocolate connection actually makes a lot of sense, because chocolate is very high in magnesium content. Keeping an optimal balance of calcium and magnesium is critical for optimal physical functioning and for hormone balance. Dr. Randolph recommends that each day you take a calcium-magnesium supplement that combines these minerals in a ratio of two parts calcium (1200 mg) to one part magnesium (600 mg).
7- Keto Dehyroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is one of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands. After being secreted by the adrenal glands, it circulates in the bloodstream as DHEA-sulfate (DHEAS) and is converted as needed into other hormones. While many anti-aging enthusiasts are familiar with DHEA, far fewer are likely to be as aware of its metabolite, 7-Keto DHEA, which functions within the body to safely boost immune function and help reduce body fat. The term 7-Keto DHEA is in fact a brand name for the chemical compound 3-acetyl-7-dehydroepiandrosterone. Human blood levels of both 7-Keto DHEA and DHEA tend to rise and fall in a similar pattern with age: increasing until the twenties, beginning to decline in the thirties and continuing decline until the levels are reduced by about 50% by age fifty. Clinical studies have shown that, as 7-Keto DHEA levels go down in middle age, body weight tends to goes up. 7-Keto DHEA stimulates weight loss through a process called “thermogenesis.” This term refers to the creation of heat at a cellular level. The more thermogenesis, the higher the metabolic rate and the more fat that is literally burned up as energy. Studies have also demonstrated that 7-Keto does not accumulate in the body over time and is free of unhealthy side effects. Because 7-Keto DHEA is a natural hormone metabolite, it benefits the body in two ways: 1) it helps restore hormone balance, and at the same time, 2) works internally to melt away those unwanted pounds that can produce excess estrogen.