This is the first in a series on hormones and other biochemistry that will affect your weight loss & gain and what you can do about it.
Oestrogen is balanced in our body with many other hormones but in regards to weight, what we want to look at is the relationship between oestrogen and thyroid hormones. If you are a normal weight these are likely to be in balance. If you are overweight you may have an excess of oestrogen which supresses the production of thyroid hormones. This causes your metabolism to slow down and it becomes very difficult to lose weight. A blood test will easily determine the relationship between your hormones.
Did you know there are three different types of oestrogen the body makes?
E1 (estrone), E2 (estradiol) & E3 (estriol).
Estrone is the main oestrogen made after menopause in the fat cells and is the one believed to be linked to breast and uterine cancers. Before menopause estrone is converted to estradiol in the ovaries. If you have no ovaries and/or carry a lot of fat your estrone:estradiol ratio will be high and you will be at increased risk. Estradiol is 12 times stronger than estrone and 80 times stronger than estriol and the form of oestrogen that is responsible for the 400 odd functions that oestrogen has in the body, including protecting your brain, heart and bones. Estriol protects against breast and uterine cancers. Replacing oestrogen should only be done trans dermally (through the skin). Taking oral oestrogen will increase your carbohydrate cravings – not helpful for weight loss! Orally it can also increase blood pressure, estrone (E1), triglycerides, liver enzymes, testosterone, serotonin and growth hormone.
By balancing your progesterone/oestrogen levels (oestrogen dominance) you may experience an improvement in your thyroid levels, and as a bonus you’ll find your mood and energy levels are improved too! You can get an indication of the balance between your oestrogen and progesterone levels by noting where you’re depositing your fat. Stacking it on to your hips and thighs in pre-menopause indicates your progesterone levels may be low. If you are male or post-menopausal it will usually be around the belly. Saliva testing can be done between day 12-14 of your cycle if you’re female and still menstruating. It may show low levels of progesterone if you have oestrogen dominance. If you’ve had tubal ligation or are taking the pill your progesterone is most likely to be low. Nutritionally supplementing with Vitamin A and magnesium can help if you have symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome. Now, if you think it’s safe to dose yourself with progesterone think again. If the oestrogen:progesterone ratio is not just right and you end up with too much progesterone your fat storage will be increased as will your appetite, carbohydrate cravings, risk of insulin resistance, cortisol levels and it relaxes the small muscles of the bowel causing bloating and constipation, can cause incontinence, supresses the immune system, lower growth hormone and relaxes ligaments giving you backaches and leg and hip aches! Again the best and safest way to supplement is trans-dermally with bio-identical hormones and definitely not with synthetic progestins that are just plain dangerous. An experienced Anti-ageing & Functional medicine doctor will be able to help you correctly balance your hormones – remember one hormone interacts with many, many other hormones and it is dangerous to adjust one without keeping an eye on all the others!
In men oestrogen is made from testosterone by an enzyme called aromatase. When too much is made your doctor may prescribe an aromatase inhibitor. Zinc citrate is an excellent aromatase inhibitor but please don’t self-diagnose and prescribe.
If you get too skinny you might actually suffer from oestrogen deficiency symptoms because you don’t have enough fat cells to oestrogen and particularly if you are female and have had your ovaries removed. Ladies you need to have a good 18% of body fat in order for your hormonal balance to be maintained. It’s unfortunate but men can get away with very little body fat, as low as 6% but women just can’t in the long run!
Here is a list of oestrogen deficiency symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Memory/concentration problems
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Irregular bleeding
- Lower libido (particularly if your testosterone levels are low – yes, women need testosterone too!)
- Dry Vagina (causes painful intercourse)
- Depression/Anxiety/Crying easily
So that we can breakdown fat, which is what we all want to do when we exercise for weight loss, we want to have enough of one our neurotransmitter hormones called epinephrine. Epinephrine stimulates Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL) which is what blasts the fat cells apart. To make sure we have enough Epinephrine to begin with we need to have oestrogen to stimulate it! So you see it’s all a very delicate balance. You also need oestrogen to stimulate the production of Growth Hormone which stops carbohydrates (glucose) from being stored in your fat cells as fat. Growth Hormone lowers your levels of insulin which is good because insulin suppresses HSL that we need to blast those fat cells. Confused yet? Head to your experienced Anti-ageing & Functional medicine doctor to help sort out your hormones.
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this page are based upon the opinions of Dr. Russell & Dorit d’Scarlett and other contributors unless otherwise noted. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains