This chapter was full of information - some depressing, some surprising, and some that I nodded with approval and acceptance. I'm going to talk about cortisol first because it pissed me off. Haha. Wow. Now that's a stubborn hormone. Just reading about cortisol probably released excess cortisol, omitted my relaxation, consumed my muscle tissue, raised my blood sugar level, will slowly destroy my metabolism and my hard-worked for body composition, and will make me use my belly for fat storage. No, seriously, that's how crazy cortisol is FOR REAL. Whether you have emotional stress (unhappy marriage, stressful job, financial worry), physical stress (injury, illness), mental, or environmental - it's stress and stress raises cortisol levels.
Here's the fat on cortisol:
- It pisses off your thyroid and so your thyroid squashes your beloved metabolism
- The stress hormones, cortisol and neuropeptide Y, makes you crave carbs and fat and then makes more room for tummy fat
- It strips away your happy hormone, SEROTONIN, which then makes you the opposite of happy and crave carbs in an unhealthy way
- It messes with your blood sugar levels and can give you headaches, jitters, tiredness, and irritability
- It boosts neuropeptide Y, which makes you eat more and blocks the one thing that will prevent you from wanting to overeat - leptin
- Gradually weakens/destroys testosterone causing chronic "I'm not in the mood, tonight....again." Along with other health concerns.
- Eats muscles and inhibits muscle repair
- Is the evil that gives you those wide-awake nights
- It haunts the productivity of the growth hormone partly responsible for building metabolically active muscles, tissue rejuvenation, and aging.
- Together, cortisol and NPY diminish cellular sensitivity to insulin which causes elevated insulin levels, insulin resistance, and accumulation of tummy fat
Insulin - The Sweet Imbalance of Excess Insulin
I suppose having an imbalance in insulin, or any hormone, isn't very sweet. However, insulin's main priority is to process sugar in our bloodstream and carry it too al of our cells. So digestion starts in your mouth and ends in your small intestine. Your first bite of something begins the process, then through digestion, what you ate is broken down into sugar (glucose). Whatever sugar is there, it enters into our bloodstream and triggers the pancreas to release insulin. The amount of insulin released is dependent on the amount of sugar in your bloodstream.
MORE SUGAR = MORE INSULIN
Three things can happen with insulin.
- Used straightaway as a fuel source. The brain and kidneys burn up most of it
- The liver or muscles can store it as glycogen for later use. BUT space is limited and both can only store so much... like a sock drawer, there's only so many you can squeeze in it.
- If the "drawers" are all stuffed and not immediately used, the body will store whatever is left as FAT - which is much more difficult to burn off rather than the accessible, immediate fuel.
Our tummies and insulin.
With the proper amounts, our bodies thrive. With excess insulin, we gain weight. Why? Well, it actually blocks the use of stored fat as a source if energy. We know our brain and hormones are connected, just like our spinal cord and brain talk to each other, our hormones do too. In the case of insulin, it actually prevents leptin from doing its job in suppressing appetite and when leptin is blocked we eat more and become less active. The second thing we need to know is that insulin causes a spike in dopamine - the reward-seeking hormone. It sparks a desire to eat to achieve a pleasurable rush.
When balanced, insulin is your best!
It's a main anabolic hormone, which not only rebuilds the body's proteins but also prevents protein breakdown, like what happens after you workout. Because it uses testosterone - which grows and maintains muscle tissue. Insulin also allows your body to use sugar as energy.
How do we go into insulin overload?
- eat too many nutrient-poor carbohydrates (processed food, sugary items, packaged low-fat foods, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup products
- not enough intake of protein
- not enough fat
- low fiber intake
- chronic stress
- physical exertion that compromises muscle tissue
- steroid-based meds
- poor liver function and toxin exposure
What we will feel like if we are walking around with too much insulin?
Well, to put it simply, you feel plain bad. Some feelings you could feel are:
- heart palpitations
- poor concentration
- impaired thinking
- water retention
- tummy fat storage
- shrinking or sagging breasts
- abnormal hair growth
- male-pattern hair loss
Ghrelin - huh?! What's Ghrelin? Never heard of it. Well, it's actually super important because it stimulates our appetite. It activates special neurons in our hypothalamus involved in regulating our weight and appetite! When this hormone reaches our brain, it stimulates the release of peptides and neuropeptide Y - remember this one? It stimulate our desire to eat. This is an important one, for sure!
And the winner is? ESTROGEN!
You can't talk about women's hormones without talking about estrogen. The majority of estrogen is produced by the ovaries in response to FOLLICLE-STIMULATING HORMONE (FSH). Before menopause, estrogen is manufactured by the pituitary glands and after by the adrenal glands and fat cells. The first two weeks after menstruation estrogen dominates, stimulating all that good stuff in the uterus while the ovarian follicles develop the egg. Estrogen peaks and then dwindles just before ovulation.
Estrogen is made up of THREE important hormones: estradiol, estrone, and estriol.
- Estradiol: the strongest and most prevalent. It does so much for our bodies and opens up my eyes to the fact that it needs to be in balance, without a doubt. Here's some things that make it special: Primary hormone of our cycle and dictates the thickness of the uterine wall. It controls vaginal moisture and lubrication. It makes us "in the mood" prevents UTI's and urinary incontinence (urgency). It stimulates the cells that build bone and helps the absorption of calcium, magnesium, and zinc for strong bones. It increases your good cholesterol and lowers your bad cholesterol. It has a positive influence on insulin and balancing blood sugar. What else does it do? There can't be more? Well, there is! Estradiol improves memory, helps us sleep, and protects nerve cells. It keeps our eyes moist and is the secret to glowing skin, preventing wrinkles by maintaining skin tone, texture, and thickness. Lastly, it is a mighty antioxidant for our skin and brain cells! Wow! Why wouldn't you want to keep this hormone balanced?
- Estrone - ok, the "Debbie Downer" of this beautiful hormone. Estrone is labeled as the BAD hormone. I would label it as the BIG, BAD, BULLY. When you have too much of this hormone, it's detrimental to the breast and uterine walls and, unfortunately, is thought to lead to cancer. Ok, so before we hit menopause, our ovaries, liver, and fat cells produce estrone. After menopause, it's naturally produced by FAT CELLS. So, if we have excess fat, we are most likely to be estrone dominant. [side note: alcohol feeds this hormone]. To make things worse, this big, bad, bully blocks the beautiful efforts of estradiol, especially in the brain. It increases the risk of blood clots, toxic fat gain, gallstones, and stress on the liver. BOO! We don't like you estrone. Let's NOT have excess estrone!
- Estriol - ahhh (sigh), bring the mood back up. Although it is the weakest of the hormones, it is good estrogen. Estriol is the good girl, she's not super woman like estradiol, but she's a good girl. Estriol is created when estradiol and estrone come together. A little super power comes out to block estrone from attacking our breast cells! As a supplement it can relieve vaginal dryness and symptoms of menopause.
Ok, so how do we even get high estrogen?
- Xenoestogens - found in hormones added to animal products, pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and even cosmetics. Go ALL natural, baby!
- Stress - yes, it's true. If we are stressed, our body will take some progesterone to make cortisol which leaves us with extra estrogen. :-/ Bummer. Yoga and meditation, baby!
- Impaired Liver Function - your liver does a lot and if it's hindered I'd doing its job, it will cause estrogen buildup.
- Poor digestion - a lack of good digestion leads to improper elimination of estrogen
- Alcohol - just don't do it. It spikes estrogen production - even 1 drink!
- A high-fat diet - makes us produce more estrogen
- Nutrient deficiencies - we have nutrients responsible for the break down of estrogen and also for the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Those nutrients are: zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, plus a few other essentials. If you are deficient, they can't do their job!
- Obesity - increases the production of the bug, bad, bully above!
- Lack of exercise
- Sleep deprivation - it reduces melatonin. Melatonin helps protect against excess estrogen. Go get that good nights sleep!
What does excess estrogen look and feel like?
- too much body fat around hips
- hard time losing weight
- history of gallstones
- varicose veins
- uterine fibroids
- cervical dysplasia
- ovarian cysts
Lastly, LOW Estrogen
A shift from hip fat to tummy fat. That dive in estrogen creates an increase in insulin. It also decreases serotonin and makes us crave carbs, which fuels our insulin production.
What does low estrogen look and feel like:
- vaginal dryness
- memory loss/brain fog
- ouch! That hurt! Decrease in pain tolerance
- increased risk of Alzheimer's
- hair loss
- no desire to be "in the mood"
- dry eyes
- urinary urgency
- thinning and wrinkly skin
- waist weight
- loss of bone density
- night sweats
- high cholesterol and blood pressure
- bad sleep
- decrease in breast size
- cravings for carbs
That's it! Truly, that's all she wrote for this 1 chapter! Haha! Honestly, it wa my favorite chapter. I've read it all three times because it was fascinating to me. I hope you enjoyed the recap. Feel free to comment or not!
Be well and big hug!