Weight Loss, Insulin Resistance & Hormone Imbalance
July 27, 2013
Cortisol is one of your stress hormones, and it is a key player in insulin resistance. Cortisol is a steroid hormone, as are the sex hormones – testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. The very simplified cascade for production of these hormones is:
When your stress is high, your body will “steal” pregnenolone from the sex hormone pathway in order to make enough cortisol. That means a deficiency of sex hormones – for both men and women. Is it any wonder that your sex hormones are off balance when you have insulin resistance?
You may remember from previous blogs that the insulin resistance saga starts with factors that cause inflammation, and inflammation causes or contributes to a host of problems. We don’t need to treat each symptom separately. It still goes back to: eliminate the toxins and allergens that increase the cortisol; nourish your body with real food – fresh, organic, unprocessed and low carb; get good restorative sleep, preferably to bed by 10; and get consistent exercise.
You can find a lot more detail in Dr. Mark Hyman’s book, “The Blood Sugar Solution”. He goes more in depth on both causes and treatment, and he has written a cookbook which includes how to prepare your kitchen, how to shop, what to eat and how to prepare it. My goal is to break the solution down into “baby steps”. Some of my patients have said that the whole process is too overwhelming, so I’m blogging to provide ideas on how to slide into making the necessary lifestyle changes. You can make the transition as fast or as slow as you want, but please educate yourself on what happens if you procrastinate.
Baby step for today: if you aren’t already exercising, start by moving your body for 5 minutes, once or twice a day. Walking is great, but not everyone can walk well enough to make it their exercise choice. Other movements could be to use a stationary bike, cross-crawl in a standing or seated position, or arm movements with or without light weights. You start from where you are and move what you can move, and that’s your exercise.
Gaining It Back – Again
So you’ve tried many diets and lost the weight – many times. It (the weight) keeps finding you again! It could be worse, because there are many people who can’t lose the weight – even if they practically starve themselves – because they have leptin resistance. Let’s get serious about this weight management thing before you move into that group. For those who are already there, don’t despair, it can be reversed. (See “What Is Leptin Resistance” July 2013.)
To defeat both insulin resistance and leptin resistance to lose that weight – and keep it off – certain factors need to be addressed:
- You need to be comfortable with having a thin body. There may be unconscious fears about being attractive.
- You need to want to be thin and healthy more than you want the foods that put the pounds on, in other words, being thin should feel better than eating goodies. It needs to be worth the perceived sacrifice. I say “perceived” because adopting the lifestyle that makes you healthy and attractive shouldn’t be a sacrifice.
- For most people with weight issues, there are emotional factors involved. Even if it’s just “stress eating”, you may need help dealing with it. That help can be as simple as a support group (usually not your family), or you may need to seek professional help for a time. Believe that you are worth it, because you are!
- Realize that addiction is probably a factor in your eating pattern, and treat it as such! Once you have been free of your problem substance(s) for a couple of weeks or more, don’t go back! Many of our most addicting substances, such as chips, are actually designed by chemists to be addicting, and they will pull you in again. Just say NO! Then get away from the temptation, put a piece of gum in your mouth, and call someone in your support group – whatever it takes to avoid taking that “just one bite” of a forbidden food.
NAET1 can minimize or even eliminate withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, etc. because an addiction is actually a type of allergy. For the emotional component of weight loss, two of the techniques I use in my practice are EFT2, and Ask & Receive3. I have provided links below to check out the techniques just mentioned. You can learn the emotional release techniques to use for yourself and others whenever you need them!
Whether you are comfortable with seeking help from a professional or a support group, or you are a dedicated DIY person, don’t overlook either the emotional aspect or the chemical addiction component for a permanent weight loss solution.
Where should you start? Committing to never bring the problem foods into your home again is a great first step. A close second would be to get all of these foods out of the house – all of them, including any and all secret stashes. Then you are ready to start shopping for the good stuff. And you are on your way!
What is Leptin Resistance?
There is a lot that we don’t know yet about leptin resistance. What we do know is that it is related to obesity. It appears to be caused by obesity as well as to promote and sustain obesity once it has been established.
Leptin is produced by adipose tissue, especially white fat. The more white fat in the body, the higher the leptin levels. Leptin is a hormone, as is insulin. Like other hormones, when the levels are too high for too long, the receptors for these hormones become less sensitive to them, preventing these hormones from performing their normal function(s).
Leptin plays a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure, including appetite and metabolism. When working properly leptin connects with receptors in your hypothalamus, providing the signal that you have had enough to eat. When it cannot connect effectively with those receptors, you remain hungry, regardless of food intake.
Researchers are diligently looking for the precise way in which leptin works so they can manufacture a drug to conquer obesity. So far, that has not worked with insulin resistance. A better solution is to be proactively pursuing the only way known to reverse both insulin resistance and leptin resistance – that would be lifestyle modification.
Just a couple of hints to get started:
Try not to use the “d” word (diet), because that implies something temporary.
Look for “Frankenfoods” you can replace with healthier choices, such as replacing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) with other sweeteners. Ultimately, you will want to minimize the use of sweeteners altogether, however, you don’t have to start with perfection. Baby steps are okay!
Get your body moving. Whatever your level of activity, check with your doctor first, then start to safely increase your activity level.
Thanks for visiting my blog, and please come back soon.
What is insulin resistance?
Many of you already know because you have had the diagnosis. Considered to be a precursor to Type II Diabetes, insulin resistance means that the cells of your body that need insulin in order to ingest glucose are not allowing that insulin to do its job. On a blood test, the insulin level will test normal to high, and so will the glucose – because it can’t get into the cells. You crave more sugar/carbs because your cells are sending signals to your brain that they need more, so the brain tells the pancreas to make more insulin. Your cells are “starving in a sea of plenty.”
How did this all start? Stress of all kinds causes your body to produce more cortisol, and cortisol raises your blood sugar. Elevated blood sugar causes more insulin to be produced in order to allow the glucose into the cells. (Insulin plugs into receptors on the outside of the cells much like a keycard at a door, allowing the glucose to enter.) When the cells have had all the glucose they need – over and over again – they eventually “downregulate” the receptor so it doesn’t work as well, or not at all. This downregulation is the insulin resistance.
Some examples of the stresses that feed into this problem are: toxins, allergies, chronic infections, poor nutrition, not enough sleep, relationship issues, PTSD, overdoing anything including good things, and just plain living in a too much and too fast society.
What can we do? First of all, take time to evaluate where your stresses are coming from, and rate them. It’s not going to do much good to ignore the elephant in the living room and just work on the little things. Identify your elephant(s), and start leading them out of your house. If diet is your biggest pachyderm, that’s where you need to start. If it’s doing too much for too many because you can’t say “no” to anyone, that’s where you start.
Second, don’t try to do this alone. If you are on the cusp of diabetes, there is no time to waste. You need support from people who will hold you accountable for the steps you need to take to turn this around. Studies have shown that support groups, especially small groups, are immensely helpful in making and sustaining lifestyle changes.
Third, get professional help as needed, and keep going to the support group.
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, etc. Keep going to the support group!
That was a longer break between posts than I had planned, but my Christmas happened at the end of January – and came unexpectedly! I’m getting back on track now, so here goes.
Last time I ID’d inflammation as the bad guy in many health problems. So the question becomes, “What causes inflammation?” Let’s start with allergies, since pollen is floating through the air this very moment. Pollen typically causes an IgE or histamine response, which is the reaction a western medical allergist considers a “true” allergy. Swollen, red, itchy eyes and sneezing, as well as hives are classic IgE reactions. Everybody agrees that this is allergy and inflammation.
Other types of inflammation include arthritis, colitis, gingivitis, dermatitis, meningitis, and to name a few. It is now recognized that plaque does not accumulate in arteries without inflammation, therefore, no arterioscleroses unless there is inflammation. Some of these inflammatory health conditions may also be a result of an IgE response, but other causes include chronic hidden infections, toxins, nutrient deficiencies and stress.
For this article/blog I’m going to address allergies. An allergen is a substance that “offends” your body, causing it to launch a response, typically involving inflammation in some way. Common solutions are: 1) avoid the allergen; 2) take drugs, such as antihistamines, to control the symptoms; and 3) some sort of desensitization process.
Ideally, we would like to encourage the brain to develop a compatible relationship with the substance. For forming that new relationship, the medical allergist will use a series of injections to get the body to develop a tolerance to the substance. An alternative practitioner will use an energy medicine technique, such as NAET, to teach the body how to remain energetically balanced and unblocked in the presence of the allergen. When the body learns to do this on its own, there is no more allergic reaction!
An allergy is not just an inconvenience. It’s a health condition that can contribute to serious consequences over time. Recent research has shown that some allergens can lead to autoimmune conditions such as thyroiditis and diabetes. Please inform yourself and take action now to minimize this source of inflammation.
PCOS and Insulin Resistance
Oh my goodness! I just read an article on PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). The writer viewed this symptom as a primary disorder, accompanied by insulin resistance, hypertension/cardiovascular disease, hair loss, belly fat, depression, celiac disease, dementia, as well as other symptoms. The writer listed numerous medications to handle the numerous symptoms. I searched the internet and found that this is indeed still the commonly held opinion of western allopathic medicine.
What a nightmare! Fortunately, there is now updated information available about how all of these symptoms are tied together. Functional Medicine ignores the artificial divisions between the systems of the body, which were created by modern medicine, in order to identify the common underlying cause of malfunction(s) in the body. Functional Medicine is based on fundamental biological principles. It asks the question, “Why is this happening?” FM’s treatment protocol is to use the right tool(s), at the right time on the right patient, and in the right dosage(s).
For PCOS and Insulin Resistance, along with a host of other issues, as listed above, picture an hourglass, with all of the causes at the top running through the narrow neck, which is inflammation, and piling up at the bottom as the symptoms or syndromes listed above (and many more). The Functional Medicine approach addresses all of the causes of inflammation to put out the fire, and then supports the whole body in repairing itself.
If you find yourself dealing with some combination of these symptoms, please read “The Blood Sugar Solution” by Dr. Mark Hyman, and find a Functional Medicine practitioner near you. I am currently studying functional medicine myself, and I have started a support group in Walnut Creek, CA through Meetup.com. The name of the group is “Weight Loss and Blood Sugar Control.” If you live in the area, please join us. If you can’t make it in person, participate online through this blog, my facebook page “Weight Loss & Insulin Resistance”, or through the meetup site. You may also find help through Dr. Hyman’s website.
Stay tuned for future posts on inflammation, its causes, and its consequences. You may recognize more than you expect!