Hormones are messengers. They come in different chemical forms like steroid types and peptide types. They are produced in one organ or tissue and then released to circulate in the bloodstream and to then attach or bind to a different organ or tissue or cell to tell it something to do. They generally affect growth or metabolism of the contacted cell.
Hormones behave like the mail or email in our daily lives, but give instructions for our cells to take some action. Hormones have control mechanisms in place to keep them at optimal levels. These optimal levels, however, can be influenced by many things including diet, sleep, exercise, weight gain and weight loss. Stress can alter our hormone levels. These hormone levels can also be affected by abnormal or disease processes that can develop.
A common hormone that most people are familiar with is thyroid. Our thyroid gland is the factory to make and convert thyroid hormone into its active form. Thyroid hormone regulates our metabolism and our temperature control. The thyroid gland is controlled by an area of our brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus creates and sends a hormone to the thyroid gland to tell it to make more or less thyroid hormone. Thyroid production is therefore like our furnace and thermostat in our home. When it’s too cold the thermostat senses it and tells the furnace to come on. When our brain senses the thyroid level is too low it sends more hormone signals to the thyroid gland to make more thyroid hormone which then messages every cell of our body.
This production / feedback loop is common in our body with most hormones. This is important to understand because when there are significant deficiencies or excesses of certain hormones, the feedback loops can become disturbed. This occurs when we mistreat our body with excess food, drink, alcohol, or other substances. Too much sugar or fat in our diet can have a negative effect on our hormonal balance.
Our collective fat in the body behaves as an organ. Fat also produces hormones and hormone-like substances. When we store too much fat in our body there is an excess of these fat created messengers, our body starts to alter its behavior. Over time this excess fat in the disease state of Obesity leads to Hormone Chaos.
Here I’ll talk about specific hormones and my intent is not to overwhelm you with scientific terms but to express the significance of this chaos on our body. This chaos leads to an inability to lose weight, increase in blood pressure, increase in blood sugar, and many metabolic disturbances that can not only make us feel bad, but cause other diseases.
With this Obesity related hormone chaos comes a decrease in Adiponectin, a hormone which regulates blood sugar and fat burning. Leptin goes up. This hormone regulates calorie balance and appetite. Other hormones that elevate are insulin along with resulting insulin resistance, Resistin, Visfatin, and other adipokine hormones. Our system that controls fluid balance and vascular pressure becomes activated and our body increases oxidative stress and develops abnormal lipid metabolism.
All of these above hormone and chemical changes occurring in our body as a result of too much fat is a BAD thing to put it simply. As weight and body fat percent continues to rise, the problems become worse and normal hormone signaling to our cells is compromised. Cells, tissues, and organs begin to falter in their normal response. Other hormones such as thyroid, cortisol, insulin, estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone develop imbalance.
We are now in hormone Chaos. When this happens, how do we feel? We feel like crap!. We are tired, weak, hungry, and irritable. Our bowels don’t function properly. Our blood pressure rises. Headaches and sleep issues are prevalent. Sexual function goes down and depression can increase. When we go to our Doctor, a diagnosis of depression may be given and some anti-depressant drug may be prescribed. Most likely, we will feel worse.
The underlying problem is the negative effect on our hormone functions due to the excess fat in our body. The treatment is to lose body fat, increase physical activity and adjust any hormone imbalance during the weight reduction phase. Monitoring these hormone levels can allow for adjustment of dosing to best improve health and body function.
A good example of hormone chaos is with men. As men age their testosterone levels tend to drop. As body fat increases testosterone levels drop further and free testosterone which is the functional testosterone is dramatically reduced. This hormone deficiency spirals downward and gets worse over time.
The same occurs in women with estradiol. The more body fat present the more abnormal the estradiol levels. Thyroid, cortisol, and insulin all behave in a similar chaotic fashion. To feel better and to be able to lose body weight and excess fat, we must balance hormones and stabilize them so they are not in chaos. This requires treating all five components in the weight loss treatment plan.
If your doctor doesn’t want to discuss or evaluate your hormone status when you struggle to lose weight and feel bad, it’s time to get a second opinion. Many patients come to me and tell me that their body is not behaving the way it used to. They know something has changed but feel that many physicians are not listening to them. Though unfortunate, it indicates time for a change in your health care provider.
During my 38 years in Primary Care, I would have a patient that I didn’t fell I was helping and at that point asked them to go for a second opinion just to make sure I wasn’t missing something. All doctors should listen to their patients and as one of my training mentors told me years ago, “if you listen to the patient long enough, they will tell you what’s wrong with them”. They may not have the medical term, but my patients will usually guide me toward a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
It’s your body and only you know how you feel. If you feel your body is not doing what it should, you are correct and need help to get it functioning properly.
It’s time to take control of your body and get the right treatment plan – today.