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Estrogen-Progesterone Factor In Weight Gain VS. Loss


Weight gain in the abdomen is one of the most common complaints of women whose hormones have begun to change signaling peri-menopause.
There are a number of factors that contribute to this phenomenon of weight gain, including
  • Hormonal imbalance– By the time women are in their later thirties or early forties, the aging ovary cannot produce enough progesterone to maintain balance with the body’s estrogen. In essence, women then have a relative excess of estrogen in relation to progesterone. This “estrogen dominance” results in weight gain around the middle. In general, the midluteal (middle of the second half of the cycle) progesterone in a non-pregnant patient is 8 to 10, but can be as high as 20 ng/ml. Besides, Progesterone has a positive effect on the thyroid, increasing the activity and stimulating the utilization of stored fat being used for energy.
  • The body’s inclination to hold onto estrogen-producing fat cells in midlife– At above 16% body fat your estrogen levels begin to increase and the more body fat you accumulate the more estrogen you will have. By consistently staying at 16% body fat or slightly under, you will not only grow better, but your muscle maturity will increase over time tremendously. There is a chemical reason for this. Therefore, now the extra calories required to gain muscle have a higher probability of getting stored as fat. Try to stay between 16-18% body fat. Once 16% body fat is reached, then one should go on a fat burning phase and get back down to 12 or 14%. Going up and down in this manner systematically will give you better muscle and much better definition over time. When in excess, estrogen elevates the growth of estrogen sensitive tissues, causing an increased size of adipose (fat) tissues in the waist, thighs and other estrogen sensitive fat tissues. Especially in women one can see the effects in the belly, lower butt, upper thighs and sometimes in the back of the arms. Since, our body’s hormones have a direct impact on our appetite,metabolism and fat storage, during menopause the estrogen levels fall rapidly causing the body to stop ovulating. As a result, the ovaries produce less estrogen and the body starts searching for other places to compensate or fill up for the deficit. As the fat cells in our body can generate estrogen, the body works harder to convert calories into fat to increase estrogen levels. Unlike the muscle cells in our body, the fat cells don’t burn calories, which causes the accumulation of those unwanted pounds and the body ends up storing more fat than it used to.
  • High cortisol levels from ongoing stress– Unchecked stress in our lives can cause our bodies to release cortisol. If the negative situations continue on for some months and cortisol levels are high, one result will be gaining abdominal weight. The stress hormones actually block weight loss. Stress disrupts the communication network between the four controlling glands (pituitary, thyroid, adrenals and ovaries), resulting in an inappropriate release of hormones.  Stress hormones block the formation of LH and FSH, reducing overall oestrogen production, and causing progesterone levels to drop.  Your hormones are all over the place, interfering with the length and regularity of your cycle.
  • Lack of sleep –   Researchers say that how much you sleep and quite possibility the quality of your sleep may silently orchestrate a symphony of hormonal activity tied to your appetite. Making the effort to get a minimum of eight hours of sleep every night will contribute to a healthy appetite and reduce the tendency to overeat.
  • Exposure to toxins in our food and environmenttrans-fats  contribute to lessening the impact of the xenoestrogens on the waistline. Xenoestrogens means foreign estrogens. Some of the 70,000 registered chemicals for use in the United States have hormonal effects in addition to toxic and carcinogenic effects. Also the synergistic effects are well documented but also largely unknown. These chemicals that affect the hormone systems of the human body occur at 100 to 1000 times greater concentration than that of the normal human hormones.
Studies show that women taking higher dose pills, tend to have an average of about 5 lb weight gain. Higher doses of estrogen in birth control pills is known to cause weight gain in women due to fluid retention. Direct stimulation of kidney substances called renin-angiotensin, by the estrogen in the pills, causes water retention which further leads to sodium (salt) retention in the body. Although, this weight gain is temporary, using the lowest possible estrogen containing birth control pills will help reducing weight gain and swelling due to water retention. More on birth control pills and weight gain.
Estrogen and thyroid hormones have opposing actions, hence, estrogen hormone being more dominant interferes with the thyroid hormone activity causing hypothyroidism which eventually leads to weight gain. More on estrogen side effects.

Tips to boost progesterone level in the body

  • Ensure you are getting enough micronutrients.
  • For optimal progesterone production the body requires adequate intake of B-Complex vitamins, in particular vitamin B6.
  • The other key nutrient in progesterone production is magnesium and zinc. Eat plenty of organic dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, eggs, meat, black strap molasses, seeds, nuts and beans. They are all good sources of B vitamins and magnesium. Fish, nuts and seeds for zinc.
  • Eat a serve of good quality organic protein, the size of you palm 3 times a day. Hormones are made of protein so you want to make sure you are getting plenty in your diet.
  • Eating these foods can help improve your progesterone levels: Wild Yams, walnuts, whole grains, soy milk, red meat, chicken, shellfish, turkey, turmeric, thyme and oregano.
  • Include soluble fibre such as oats, pulses, lentils, brown rice, fruit and vegetables.  This will help to keep your bowels regular and remove any excess toxins and hormones from building up.
  • Include some form of relaxation and/ or exercise into your weekly routine.  Something like 3 sessions a week of aerobic exercise and a yoga class is ideal.  The important thing is setting time aside for you.
  • Cut down on alcohol, caffeine and smoking, as these three factors cause your body extra stress, as well as depleting the nutrients needed for hormone production and balance.
  • Find Natural Supplements: Look for supplements that match what you require to properly regulate progesterone production. They are available in oral, intra-vaginal, injectible and intra-dermal forms. Oral supplements are generally only available through a prescription from your doctor. Please be sure to research each supplement before starting to take them to determine side effect and allergy issues.
  • Avoid These: Avoid blue cohosh, vitex, Saw Palmetto berry, lavender , tea tree oil, licorice, hops , rhodiola rose root, black cohosh, don quai , Red Clover blossom and motherwort leaf as they all increase levels of estrogen further lowering progesterone.
  • Last but not the least, Stay Tested: Be sure to keep seeing your doctor and get regular testing on your hormonal levels. The balance needs to be maintained. High levels of progesterone can be just as risky as low ones.

There is no reason to settle for less than our best selves. Especially as we age, the choices we make can go a long way in optimizing our overall health and enhancing our pleasure in life. So, take one step in the right direction today and one tomorrow. Step by step you’ll end up on the right path.

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