Why can't I lose weight?
"I've tried every diet pill and followed every diet program there is." "I eat healthy and exercise regularly and I still can't lose weight." These are some of the comments I hear from patients who are frustrated because they can't lose weight, despite their disciplined efforts to do so. What I often find after analyzing their food intake and exercise program is that these patients exhibit a hormonal imbalance. I'd like to explore the three most common hormonal imbalances I see.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas in response to an increase in blood glucose levels following a meal or snack. This process allows our bodies to be effective at keeping blood sugar at a very controlled range. However, when we consistently eat a typical American diet -- high in sugar and simple starches -- over time this system becomes dysfunctional. Over time, we become increasingly resistant to the effects of insulin.
The body then loses its ability to adequately burn carbohydrates and stores any dietary excess as fat. That is how a diet high in carbohydrates can make us gain weight, especially around the waistline. Also known as pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, it currently affects percent of our population.
My advice is to get a fasting insulin level checked. It should be less than 15 microUnits per milliliter, some even say below 5 microUnits per milliliter. Natural treatment will include a strict balanced glycemic diet, exercise and natural botanicals to improve insulin function.
Another common hormonal imbalance I encounter, primarily in women but also in men, is estrogen dominance. That occurs when circulating estrogen levels are higher in comparison to either progesterone in women or testosterone in men. Estrogen slows metabolism by negatively affecting the function of thyroid hormones.
Estrogen also increases fat stores especially around the abdomen, thighs and buttocks. Estrogen dominance can also increase the risk for estrogen-based cancers. Estrogen levels rise in our body from environmental exposure of chemicals in foods, plastics, herbicides and pesticides.
The excess estrogen and toxic substances then need to be broken down and detoxified through the liver. People who are exposed to these high levels of xenoestrogens continually put an increasing burden on the liver. Those who are taking prescription medications, including birth control and hormone replacement, are often more at risk from liver toxicity issues and estrogen dominance. Hormone levels can be measured in the blood, urine or saliva. Ratios of estrogen to progesterone and testosterone need to be compared to identify imbalances. Specialized blood tests can also be run to identify poor estrogen detoxification pathways in the liver. Treatment involves specific liver detoxification, diet and nutritional support to improve hormone balance.
Thyroid hormonal imblance is the most commonly overlooked problem I see in my practice. Typical blood tests only include one thyroid test, the TSH level. That single test is not sufficient for analyzing thyroid function. Also, people will commonly display thyroid symptoms even though their blood tests fall within "normal" ranges. These are basic guidelines but patients that have TSH levels at the end of the normal range can still have a subclinical thyroid syndrome and benefit by natural support to improve its function. I also see greater numbers of autoimmune thyroid disorders. This is where our immune system mistakenly destroys its' own tissue.
Thyroid antibody tests need to be ordered to rule out this commonly missed and serious condition. Medical treatment often involves immune-suppressive drugs which increase risk to infections. Naturally we address this condition by balancing, not suppressing, the immune system. We first run special blood tests to identify food sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies. We then design a specific diet and nutritional program to halt the body's self-attacking process.
Dr. Laura R. Korman is a chiropractic physician and has a diplomate in nutrition. She can be contacted at Korman Relief & Wellness Center at 941-629-6700. She is a consultant to the Cultural Center's Pre-Holiday Weight Loss Challenge.