This blog is written by my wife and was orginially posted on her blog. I felt this needed a broader audience since it seems to affect so many women.
It's harder for women to lose weight…period…end of story. This is a women's blog, so I'm not going to skirt around the issue and say that we all have an equal playing field when we don't. I know some men like to say women use this as an "excuse", but it's simply a fact. Our hormones (and often the imbalance of them) play a key role in weight loss and make it more difficult for us to lose fat.
So what do we do? Today I want to help you reach your fitness goal with 3 E’s. Educate, evaluate and eliminate (as much as possible) the negative side effects from our hormone imbalances.
Warning: I'm not a doctor. I'm not diagnosing you. I'm educating you on how your hormones can be the driving force behind your plateau, and what can be done. Always seek professional help if you feel you have a hormonal imbalance. I’m also not prescribing any of the products below (nor do I sell them). These are suggestions on how to help certain hormone imbalances (some of which I am personally using), and I’m just passing along my knowledge.
Educate– DHEA is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is the building block that is necessary to make estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. DHEA drops as we grow older. DHEA helps the function of your immune system, improves brain function, increases energy, reduces body fat, reduces cholesterol, and is a potent anti-cancer supplement and relieves stress.
Evaluate-Because low DHEA is closely associated with adrenal fatigue/imbalance I’m going to list some common systems of both below (I personally have low DHEA and adrenal fatigue):
• Extreme fatigue ** (Do you feel like a bus hit you at 2-3 pm and want to pass out? Ya…. Me too)
• Lower Sex Drive
• Low Immunity (getting sick more often)
• Joint pain (aches)
• Decrease in muscle mass
Eliminate– Since this is something that I am personally going through I will tell you exactly what I am taking (what my doctor recommended). The first thing is: Adrenal Formula (Click on the word to see the supplement).
I am taking these exact adrenal drops two to three times a day. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon. In addition, I am taking DHEA 1 time in the morning. I got a prescription from my doctor for it, but I found these on Amazon that could be an alternative that don't require a prescription: Natrol DHEA 25mg Tablets, 300-Count
Educate- Yes ladies…. testosterone is also a female sex hormone! It’s not just for men, they just happen to have a whole lot more then we do! Testosterone is produced both in the ovaries and adrenal glands of women. Low testosterone contributes to symptoms of menopause and low sex drive. A healthy testosterone level not only increases your sex drive but it also increase energy, helps with menopausal symptoms, strengthens bones, helps prevent osteoporosis, improves skin, muscles, bones, tendons and joints! As far as our fitness goals, testosterone helps increase muscle mass, endurance, strength, decreases fat, and improves well-being and mood.
Evaluate– This is harder to diagnose in women based off symptoms. I had my blood work done, which specifically showed I was low in testosterone. Symptoms may include:
- Low sex drive
- Lower energy levels
- Loss of mental focus
- Loss of muscle mass
Eliminate– There isn’t much for women with low testosterone. My doctor prescribed me a very low dose of bioidentical testosterone. Additionally, this can help to increase your testosterone levels naturally:
- Zinc (pumpkin seeds, beef, spinach, cashew and oysters)
- Magnesium (halibut, spinach, pumpkin seeds, avocado)
- DHEA (mentioned above, DHEA can help level out your hormones)
Educate– Natural estrogens are steroid hormones; they are primary female sex hormones made in our ovaries. They are important for sexual and reproductive development. Estrogen plays a role in bone formation, affects the brain, affects the skin, has been linked to our mood and affects other body functions.
Estrogen levels increase during puberty and pregnancy. However, as we age along with several other conditions, our levels can start to drop. Most common reason for estrogen reduction is menopause (or when we stop our menstruation cycle). Our levels also decrease after childbirth, in cases of extreme exercise or lack of nutrients (especially in cases of anorexia), with women who have low body fat and with people who have lower/diminished functioning ovaries (POS).
In an article by Neal Rouzier, MD called How to Achieve Healthy Aging 2nd Edition I enjoyed this synopsis about estrogen:
“Study after study documents the astonishing effects that estrogen makes women not only feel better but healthier. Estrogen vastly improves the quality of day-to-day life for women by making them more youthful and energized. Women have better muscle tone, fewer wrinkles, stronger, shinier hair, and a more enjoyable satisfying sex life. Estrogen protects against heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders. It protects against vaginal atrophy, urinary incontinence and urinary tract infections. It prevents symptoms of menopause and improves overall well-being. Estrogen deficiency results in urogenital atrophy, incontinence, sagging skin, sagging breasts, increased skin wrinkles, fatigue, depression, mood swings and decreased libido, all of which can be correct by estrogen replacement”.
Be careful though because there are some negative side effects that I’ve found in researching estrogen when used in a synthetic form.
Evaluate-Here are some common symptoms of women that are low in estrogen:
• Hot Flashes
• Skin dryness
• Vaginal dryness
• Bladder problems
• Difficulty concentrating
Eliminate– There are some foods you can take to help with your estrogen levels, specifically foods that are high in phytoestrogens. Foods that are good to help with low estrogen are peas, beans, fruits, flaxseeds and vegetables.
AVOID SOY. Most soy is processed and is not good for balancing your hormones from all the research I have done. If you drink soy milk I’d recommend switching to an almond or coconut milk instead.
Another option is to take a Chasteberry Supplement. There is some research that shows it can increase estrogen levels. You can read some comments and reviews by clicking on the hyperlink to the supplement to see if you’d like to try going the natural route.
My doctor gave me the above recommendations along with prescribing me a vaginal cocoa butter cream (I hope this isn’t TMI for too many of you I’m just being REAL here!).
Educate– Progesterone is another female hormone that is not talked about as often as estrogen but is equally important! It too is produced in our ovaries and helps to balance our estrogen. It can relieve menopausal symptoms, help prevent osteoporosis and protect against cancer and heart disease.
Natural progesterone improves the action of estrogen since these hormones work together to maintain normal hormonal balance. Reduced progesterone can cause similar diseases as a lack of estrogen does.
Evaluate-Blood tests are the best way to check your progesterone level (my blood work showed I was low in progesterone). However, here are a few symptoms, which since it works hand in hand with estrogen are similar to the above:
• Irregular menstrual cycles
• Low sex drive
• Abdominal bloating
• Irritability and mood swings
Eliminate-So here are a few tips on helping your low levels:
De-stress– Easier said then done, I know I know. If you’re stressed this affects your cortisol levels which effects your progesterone levels. I talked about cortisol and DHEA a bit in Part 1 of this article. Try to get to bed a bit earlier, meditate, and take some time for yourself so you can reduce your stress a bit more.
Healthy Adrenals– Remember in part 1 when I mentioned the signs of Adrenal fatigue and what I’m taking to help? Yup, those adrenals house your DHEA, which is crucial in the production of progesterone. Now maybe you’re getting an idea of why all of my hormones are a bit off because they all work together. This is the product I’m taking for my adrenal fatigue: Adrenal Formula
Vitamins and minerals also help. Vitamin B-6 helps in forming your corpus luteum, which helps you produce progesterone. Also, Magnesium is important to break down excess estrogens and make sure your estrogen and progesterone levels are balanced. Keep in mind that you can get these nutrients from food instead of supplements. B6 (sunflower seeds, bananas, tuna, pistachios, lean pork) and magnesium (spinach, pumpkin seeds, beans, avocados). Tumeric and oregano are also known to help with progesterone levels.
Well ladies.. I hope this information just gives you a little more info on our hormones and how they affect our lives and fitness goals. Sometimes I think men have it so easy… ;0)