Weight management is a topic that generates a lot of questions and hormone imbalance is one of them, so I've answered 10 of the most frequently asked questions that arise when patients start to think about getting tested.
Let's jump in...
1. Why do postmenopausal women gain weight? What are the hormone imbalances that trigger this?
Women of any age can have a hormone imbalance that causes them to gain, but those over 50 often find that the end of periods marks the beginning of weight problems. In the absence of ovulation, deficiencies of progesterone create a relative surplus of estrogen - known as estrogen dominance - that triggers weight gain in the hips and thighs, and slows metabolism so that it becomes harder than ever to lose weight.
2. Do men also have hormone imbalances that cause weight gain?
Absolutely. Both sexes share the same hormones, but men have more DHEA and testosterone, accounting for their greater lean muscle mass. As men age, imbalances develop with dropping hormones, a decline made worse by high stress levels. That's when metabolism takes a nosedive and "six pack abs" can slide into a "spare tire" around the middle.
3. I gained ten pounds of belly fat at perimenopause that I still can't lose.
Belly fat is all too familiar in the years leading to menopause as ovulation and hormone levels begin to fluctuate. In particular, cortisol imbalances trigger erratic blood sugar and insulin levels that can increase fat storage in the abdomen. An abundance of fat cells there respond to cortisol signals to hold on to fat stores until the stressor, in this case hormone imbalance, is corrected.
4. What is the first thing one should do if they suspect a hormone imbalance is behind the inability to lose weight?
First, test your hormone levels. ZRT's Weight Management Profile is specifically designed to pinpoint imbalances of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, thyroid, and vitamin D deficiencies tied to weight gain. It also detects risks for insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
5. What's the connection between low vitamin D and weight?
Vitamin D is not in fact a vitamin, but a hormone, made by the action of sunlight upon the skin. Many of us have become deficient in tandem with sunscreen, indoor gyms, and computers that effectively keep us from soaking up sunlight. Studies show that D-deficient individuals have significantly higher levels of visceral fat that surrounds vital organs and is thus more hazardous to health.
6. My blood work says my hormones are normal for my age, but I still can't maintain my weight.
Not all hormone tests are the same.The standard blood test does not measure the fraction of hormones that are active and "bioavailable" to the cells of the body, so it cannot identify specific weight related imbalances. This is why saliva and dried blood spot testing is the preferred method for measuring unbound, active hormone levels which more closely correlate with symptoms. (See answer 4 above for details on the Weight Management profile.)
7. After testing, am I given recommendations to reverse negative findings?
Your hormone test report is a comprehensive evaluation of lab findings, weight related hormone imbalances, and symptoms along with general hormone rebalancing suggestions. Specific therapies and treatment options are not included and should be discussed with your health care provider.
8. Can other hormone imbalances mimic hypothyroidism and cause weight gain?
Yes - for example, undetected estrogen dominance can inhibit or block the delivery of thyroid hormone to the cells that need it, causing weight gain, even when the thyroid gland itself is functioning fine.
9. Can I test while taking hormones? When should I retest?
Testing while taking hormones is the best way to gauge the effectiveness of treatment. Note that with birth control use, hormone levels are generally low. Retest within three months to track progress, especially if supplementing with hormones, to monitor and adjust dosage as needed.
10. How do I find a practitioner who will look at these results and help?
You will want to find a natural-hormone friendly practitioner who measures hormones using saliva and blood spot. One who uses test results as a guide to natural treatments to restore imbalances. Find a health care provider by clicking here.
By Candace Burch, ZRT Laboratory