We all come in different shapes and sizes. We know this well and society has come a long way to becoming more body positive, encouraging us to embrace what makes us uniquely different. This is great, but what dictates that shape? Certainly, the most common ideas that come to mind are what we eat and how much we exercise per week. Yes, these factors are true. However, there is more to it.
Have you ever thought about what else could be going on internally that affects the shape of your external body? You may be one of the many women out there that no matter how hard you work out, you cannot lose weight in the hips, thighs and/or buttocks.
If you’re nodding your head ‘yes’ in agreement, you’re not alone and you aren’t going mad. It’s quite common and many women feel the same that no matter how much running, spin classes or Pilates they do, they never see changes to those areas.
Why is this?
There are two main reasons, and both have to do with hormones:
- Estrogen Dominance
- Too much stress on the adrenal glands
1. Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance is a common issue seen in women when the amount of estrogen in the body exceeds the amount of progesterone. Some common symptoms seen when one is estrogen dominant include: intense PMS symptoms, weight gain, irregular periods, loss of sex drive, foggy brain and moodiness (1,3).
Estrogen carries out a number of functions in the body. It is made in the ovaries and then circulates in the body binding to cell receptors which act as signals to carry out other action in the body, such as maintaining a normal body temperature, regulating the menstrual cycle or supporting the cardiovascular system (1,3)
Once estrogen has done its job, it is then metabolized in the liver. There it is broken down into metabolites. One is considered ‘good’ and the other ‘bad’.
- The good pathway: The 2-hydroxy pathway. These beneficial estrogen metabolites are released into the bloodstream and account for many benefits previously attributed to estrogen, such as, prevention of heart disease, the building of strong, healthy bones, and soft, supple skin (2)
- The bad pathway: The 16-hydroxy pathway. Estrogen broken down in this pathway results in metabolites responsible for many of estrogen’s undesirable actions, including weight gain and an increased risk of breast and other gynecological cancers (2)
In addition to these bad guy metabolites, we are also exposed to chemicals in our environment which contain ‘xenoestrogens’. These trick the body and mimic the action of estrogen by binding to the same receptors (2). However, they don’t have the same positive effect of estrogen and can cause havoc on the system and need to be metabolized and eliminated as well.
How to Eliminate Excess Estrogen
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The real key here is to take care of your body in ways that help maintain a healthy balance of estrogen. This means getting rid of the bad guy estrogen and xenoestrogens in the system. For some, their bodies do this more efficiently, but for others more effort is needed. Here is what you can do to help (1,2,3):
- Support the liver with medicinal herbs, like milk thistle and dandelion root, or healthy food sources like beets and quality proteins.
- Eat foods that have a compound called DIM, a plant-based compound that is also found in cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts. DIM helps maintain the right kind of estrogen and helps increase the detoxification of the bad kind. Keeping estrogen in its healthiest form, and speeding up the removal of harmful estrogens and xenoestrogens, can play a major role in reducing PMS and menopause symptoms and reducing your risk of cancer.
- Take care of your bowels by taking a probiotic, drinking lots of water and getting enough fiber. This is the exit route for excess estrogen, so it is important the way out is in good health.
2. Too much stress on the adrenals
The second reason for holding on to weight has to do with our stress glands: the adrenals. They help modulate our stress response by secreting the stress hormone: cortisol. Cortisol sends signals to other areas of the body to protect us but if it is secreted in excess then it can cause some issues (4). A state of chronic stress can be due to lots of things in life. For instance, we may be overworked and lack family time, we may not be getting enough sleep or eating properly, or we may have experienced emotional trauma. The continual secretion of cortisol over a long period of time leads to the adrenals becoming fatigued (4). You may have heard the term ‘adrenal fatigue’. Adrenal fatigue may present itself in many ways such as being very fatigued and crashing mid-day, experiencing cravings or having trouble sleeping (4).
Another key symptom of adrenal fatigue is weight gain around the mid-section (4). Our body does this because it thinks it is in danger and it reserves fat for later use (4). This is a protective factor that our ancestors actually did need way back in the day when they were hunting for their meals and were in danger in the wild. In today’s modern society, where there are many productivity and environmental demands, stress is common. It is necessary to find ways to manage stress in a manner that works for you. Some ideas are: regular exercise, meditation, and being deliberate about spending quality family time with loved ones.
This amazing guest post was written by Stephani Fenk, holistic nutritionist and health blogger. We encourage you to check out her website!
1.Northrup, C. (2001-2018). What are the symptoms of estrogen dominance? Accessed online Apr 22, 2018 at < https://www.drnorthrup.com/estrogen-dominance/>
2.Revolution Health & Wellness. Estrogen Metabolism. Accessed online Apr 22, 2018 at < http://www.revolutionhealth.org/estrogen-metabolism/>
3.Turner, N. (2016). How to manage your estrogen levels. Chatelaine. Accessed online Apr 22, 2018 at <http://www.chatelaine.com/health/diet/how-having-too-much-estrogen-can-make-you-gain-weight/>
4.Wilson, L. J. (2014). Clinical perspective on stress, cortisol and adrenal fatigue. Advances in Integrative Medicine. 1(2), 93-96.
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