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Wrangling hormones to improve weight, mood, sleep and energy

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how stubborn hormones can profoundly affect your weight, especially after menopause — and how estrogen therapy can reduce fat and improve insulin sensitivity (to lower type 2 diabetes).

So for reasons that significantly impact your health and quality of life, you should fully understand your options surrounding hormone replacement. Estrogen supplementation improves menopausal symptoms, including staying leaner.

But understanding the role your hunger hormone, leptin, plays in weight gain after menopause can also give you an upper hand against these symptoms and the health risks they set you up for.

Bio-identical transdermal estrogen

Large clinical trials have now verified that natural estrogens are effective for curbing menopausal symptoms. Taken as cream or troches, not pills, natural estrogen (compounded estriol plus estradiol) is the one hormone that a woman in menopause can take to curb symptoms of estrogen deficiency, and it is usually taken with progesterone for heart health and cancer-reducing benefits.

A study using estriol therapy that was reported in the November 1987 Hormone and Metabolic Research 1 showed that it reduced menopausal symptoms in 92 percent of subjects, and completely elimination hot flashes and sweating in 71% of the subjects.  It completely eliminated depressed moods in 24 percent and this was reduced in severity for an additional 33 percent. It also reduced headaches by two-thirds and skin improved in some of the subjects. There were no significant side effects reported.  Furthermore, natural estrogen provides these longer-term health benefits:

  • Prevents memory loss 23 and reduces Alzheimer’s disease 4
  • Decreases cardiovascular disease risk 5
  • Treats and prevents osteoporosis (strengthens bones) 67
  • Reduces breast cancer risk when added to natural progesterone 891011

In the female body, there are almost 400 known functions of estrogen. Of these, the following indirectly help reduce abdominal fat, and will encourage lean muscle development through exercise:

  • Enhances sexual desire, which in turn…
  • Increases physical stamina:
  • Improves positive mood and enthusiasm
  • Contributes to brain, joints and immune system health

Leptin — the “feel full” hormone

Let’s look at Leptin, your satiety hormone. It shuts off your appetite. Fat cells produce it mostly, and so does skeletal muscle, bone, stomach, ovaries and breasts.

Is there a way to harness this hormone to help turn off your hunger more quickly? What’s more unfair for people who already struggle with being overweight is that most obese people and people who regain weight rapidly after losing it have what is called leptin resistance. 12 Studies suggest that in obese individuals the majority of leptin circulates in free form, presumably bioactive protein, and thus obese subjects are resistant to the “full feeling” effect of free leptin. 13 Therefore, appetite is not effectively suppressed in such people.

We know that chronic fructose consumption triggers leptin resistance. This was shown to show up, even before one becomes overweight and before elevated levels of leptin, insulin, or blood sugar (glucose intolerance or type 2 diabetes) are measurable. 14  Please note that fructose that has been refined, processed, and then added to sweeten empty-calorie foods is what is implicated here.  Consuming fruits (which contain fructose) is not implicated because fruits also come with high amounts of fiber and other micronutrients.

Other studies seem to indicate that exposure to toxins can lead to leptin resistance and exacerbate weight gain. 1516

Dietary rules to reduce leptin resistance

  1. Never eat after dinner, and eat dinner before 6 pm whenever possible. Don’t eat big and then sit before bed.
  2. Eat three meals per day so your leptin feedback loop can function best
  3. Eat healthy meals S-L-O-W-L-Y, giving time for your brain to register what you’ve eaten already
  4. Eat high protein (e.g. eggs, plain yogurt), some healthy oil (pour into your smoothie), and fruits and only complex carbs such as oatmeal for breakfast
  5. Keep a close eye on the amount and timing of simple carbohydrates (breads, sweets, sweet juices, etc.) you eat. Eat these rarely and always right along with one or more servings of vegetables (cooked or raw) or fruits (raw).
  6. Consume plenty of healthy oil in your diet: you want to eat high amounts of omega-3 such as coconut, olive, avocado, flax, and krill oils; and from grass-fed meat, and fish. You want to reduce food high in omega-6 (inflammatory) oil such as you’ll find in processed meats and processed vegetable oils (e.g. Canola oil) and also in trans-fat (deep-fried foods, and yes that means most French fries).These changes should not only improve your mood, sleep quality, and energy levels fairly quickly, but if you are overweight you can expect to see some gradual weight loss within a couple of weeks.

    Bulletproof coffee and diet

    You’ve probably heard of the bulletproof coffee and diet. It’s a concept that may have merit. It is simply an addition of fat (preferably healthy oil, but butter is what they use) to your morning coffee.

    It is thought to work because fat contains 9 Cal/gram (but sugar and protein only have 3.5 Cal/gram) and gives you a full feeling to help shut off your food cravings — giving you a leptin effect. There is also a Bulletproof diet 17 that limits fructose and toxins, and reduces food rewards and cravings. They claim it resets leptin levels (“…and allow[s] for effortless weight loss”).

    But I’m not sure this diet is exclusive to these effects…

    A seven year study proved that eating fat helps you lose weight. According to the research, people who suffered through a low-fat diet over a seven year period experienced a greater increase in waist circumference than people enjoying a diet higher in fat. Researchers also found that people eating a high-fat diet lost more weight than those on a low-fat diet.

    Of course, you can’t just eat any high-fat diet and expect to experience these types of benefits. The key to a diet including high-fat foods that is actually good for you is knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats. The Mediterranean diet fits the bill.

    I hope you are seeing that there are ways to wrangle these hormones so you can enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Next week I want to share with you some specific herbs that are known to help with leptin resistance.

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