Your metabolism depends on your thyroid gland that regulates how efficiently your body converts food into energy. However, your thyroid is not the only factor that can slow your metabolism. It is a part of the endocrine system that actively interacts with production of other hormones.
Besides thyroid, there are 6 other hormones that affect your metabolism, the way how you feel, your weight and energy levels. If they are out of balance this is when women start to suffer with their weight and a host of other symptoms.
Hormones dictate what your body does with food. If you have tried different diets in the past and didn’t see desirable results, most likely your hormonal imbalances were in the way.
Today I want to talk about the other 6 hormones that are out of balance in addition to thyroid when you cannot lose weight and feel miserable.
When it comes to frustrating weight gain for women over 40 it’s often about estrogen dominance. It happens when estrogen is disproportionately high compared to its counter-balancing hormone progesterone.
Factors that are mainly responsible for the high levels of estrogens are:
- Xeno-estrogens in our environment and food
- Decreased ability of liver to process and clear the body from estrogen
- Use of birth control pills.
On the other hand, hypothyroidism and stress lead to low progesterone.
Estrogen dominance seems to be one of the triggers of autoimmunity including Hashimoto’s disease and secondary hypothyroidism. This could be compared to a situation when you take your foot off your metabolic gas pedal AND then slam on the brakes at the same time.
Leptin regulates your body weight and together with “hunger hormone” ghrelin directly affects your appetite.
Leptin signals the thyroid to speed up the metabolism, causes feeling being full, reduces sugar cravings and signals to the liver to start burning fat. So when the levels of this hormone rise we naturally tend to eat less, burn calories and fat more easily.
However, medical research has found that many people who struggle with weight loss have plenty of this hormone readily available and low levels are not the problem for the majority of us.
What prevents the weight loss is the body’s inability to use leptin for the fat burning which is known as a leptin resistance. So, once you become leptin resistant, you also become body fat loss resistant.
Insulin doesn’t affect your ability to burn fat but it makes your body shift into a fat storing mode and rapidly accumulate fat. Insulin helps to process the glucose that comes from the digestion of carbs and sugars you eat.
But when insulin levels become constantly elevated, your cells become less sensitive to insulin’s blood-sugar lowering ability. Just like you can become leptin resistant, you can become insulin resistant when it is very difficult to lose weight.
To make matters worse, hypothyroidism negatively affects your body’s ability to process carbohydrates making you predisposed to insulin resistance and diabetes.
A combination of autoimmune Hashimoto’s disease, insulin resistance (or diabetes type 2) and high testosterone was found in more than 40% of the PCOS women. The vast majority of them had insulin spikes or constantly elevated insulin levels called hyperinsulinemia, which are the underlying causes of PCOS and drive autoimmune thyroid disease.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands to help regulate blood sugar metabolism, create a fight-or-flight response at the times of acute stress and is responsible for an adequate immune response to infections and inflammation.
High cortisol has a dual anti-metabolic effect:
- It is a catabolic hormone meaning it breaks down the body’s tissues and muscles.
- It suppresses TSH, inhibits the conversion of inactive T4 into active T3 and increases metabolically inactive reverse T3 that also blocks T3 thyroid hormone receptors.
Too low cortisol is usually a sign of an adrenal problem and that the thyroid gland slows down. Adequate amounts of cortisol are required to convert inactive T4 into active T3 and let it enter into the cells.
Both low and high cortisol levels mean impaired thyroid function, low metabolism and weight gain.
5. Growth Hormone
Growth hormone is an anabolic hormone. When everything is in balance it works together with cortisol and adrenaline to burn fat and build muscle. Most growth hormone production happens during deep sleep and when you exercise.
It is very common to see women start to lose muscle, gain body fat and feel off balance when they start to naturally make less growth hormone as they age and also going through menopause.
However, high insulin levels, endocrine disrupters such as BPA and chronic stress can suppresses growth hormone synthesis and release in some women as early as their 30s and 40s.
Symptoms of growth hormone deficiency include low energy levels, decreased sex drive, muscle loss and weight gain.
Both too low and too high levels of testosterone are usually triggered by other hormonal imbalances and very common for women with hypothyroidism.
Testosterone is very important for metabolism and energy levels. It is made in the ovaries and by the adrenal gland in women and in the testes and adrenal glands in men.
Studies have shown that hypothyroidism leads to low testosterone levels and as a result a person feels a lack of energy and has low libido. When the thyroid imbalance is corrected, testosterone levels also return to normal.
An excess of insulin stimulates the ovary’s hormone production causing high androgen levels. At PCOS, conversion of testosterone to estrogen in the ovaries is impaired and results in high testosterone levels. Male pattern baldness and hair loss are common symptoms of PCOS due to the conversion of an excess of testosterone to its metabolite DHT.
Why It Is So Hard To Get Your Body Into Balance?
When you have a sluggish metabolism instead of focusing on your thyroid imbalance alone it is usually more superior to address the functioning of the whole endocrine system and to understand the cross-relationships between different glands and different hormones.
All hormones affect each other. If you have hypothyroidism your health issues and symptoms are usually not limited only to a thyroid problem alone. If you think that PCOS is just a high testosterone issue or a high insulin problem then you are mistaken. You have to keep in mind that when you are doing certain things to increase or decrease one hormone the others will be changing too.
One hormonal imbalance triggers another because of the feedback loops in the body. This means that for the majority of patients optimizing for one of these hormones isn’t going to solve all their health issues and improve all symptoms.
There is a direct link between the foods you eat and the seven key hormones known to throw your health out of whack. Even better, eating (or not eating) certain foods could actually reset those hormones and get you off of your emotional rollercoaster, help lose weight and make you feel better.
When was the last time you felt strong, slim, energized, balanced and truly happy with your body? Was it a month ago or 5 years ago or never?
Far too many women (and men) go through life feeling fat, worn out, overwhelmed and ashamed about the way they look and feel.
If you have tried different diets that leave you hungry and miserable, medications that don’t work and detoxes that leave you feeling worse than when you started, then you should focus on how to get your hormones back on your side and start to work for your health again.
P.S. Many of you asked me to recommend foods to eat and not to eat when you have a thyroid disease especially hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s. My answer was always: It depends on your specific thyroid condition and what triggers it.
We all have different triggers and there is no diet that works for everyone. If you want to know more about thyroid foods, watch this in depth interactive workshop Understanding Your Symptoms where Thyroid Health Coach Lisa helps you to identify so called “healthy foods” that may be not so healthy for your thyroid after all.
P.P.S. The best of all is that you can create your own personal thyroid diet. Contrary to a popular belief that it is very difficult to find out what foods to eat and what not when you have hypothyroidism and autoimmune Hashimoto’s, Lisa shares her approach how to do it safe and easy within just 17 days. Discover your personal thyroid diet here
* Some images are courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net