Written By: Dr. Dominique Vanier, ND, MEnvSc, BScH
Naturopath in Oakville at Abaton Integrative Medicine
Weight loss advice is everywhere. The Internet, social media, friends, celebrities, weight loss experts – you name it.
There is a lot more to weight loss and weight management than calories, food choices, and regular exercise. While these healthy lifestyle choices set the foundation for success, many people experience weight gain despite clean eating and weekly physical activity.
As a naturopathic doctor, I carefully analyze all contributing factors that may be associated with a patient’s weight gain. In many cases, lack of sleep, excess stress, and hormonal imbalances can tip the scale to favour excess weight.
Hormonal balance plays a major role in promoting weight loss. Hormones like cortisol, insulin, melatonin, estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) are all interconnected.
For example, just as sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone can impact the thyroid, a thyroid imbalance can cause a disturbance to ovarian hormones. High levels of estrogen can result in an increase in thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). When TSH is elevated, the thyroid gland may not be working effectively which can slow the body’s “thermostat” and cause weight gain.
As stress plays a pivotal role in virtually all health conditions, it can also lead to a hormonal imbalance. Chronic stress can lead to elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol – our body’s chief stress hormone – is actually a protective hormone. It is meant to raise blood sugar to give us enough energy and “fight or flight” from oncoming danger.
If we are sensing “danger” all the time, such as in the form of excessive work demands or marital difficulties, chronically elevated cortisol can lead to high blood sugar levels, elevated insulin, weight gain, and potentially diabetes. Elevated insulin puts women at risk for developing polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – the primary cause of missed periods and infertility.
Balancing hormones is a major focus of my treatment plans for patients who are seeking help for weight loss. Below are seven hormone-balancing tips that I discuss daily in my clinical practice.
1. Testing. Did you know naturopathic doctors are able to order blood tests? Testing is an integral part in uncovering a hormonal imbalance. I routinely run a full thyroid panel and look at both thyroid hormones and thyroid antibodies. I also regularly order fasting insulin and fasting glucose together, as I have seen countless examples of patients with normal HbA1c and fasting glucose levels, but elevated insulin levels. Lastly, the Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones (DUTCH) is an excellent test that looks at hormone metabolites of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol levels, and many others.
2. Magnesium. Magnesium is an amazing mineral that has been studied to lower blood sugar levels, decrease stress, and promote better sleep. Calming the nervous system and promoting a more balanced stress response may be able to help with one’s weight loss goals.
3. Nutritional intravenous (IV) therapy. Intravenous (IV) therapy is an effective way to help correct underlying nutritional deficiencies and promote detoxification. As an IV-certified naturopathic doctor, I administer IV therapy to help reduce stress and to provide nutrient building blocks (like B vitamins) to support hormonal balance.
4. Berberine. Berberine is a chemical found in several plants that has been clinically studied to reduce fasting insulin levels and inhibit fat stores. I commonly recommend berberine in combination with chromium and resveratrol for my patients who are experiencing weight gain due to insulin resistance.
5. Vitex. Vitex, also known as Chaste Tree, is a botanical herb that has been studied to balance progesterone and estrogen levels. While it does not contain any hormones itself, it is able to act on the pituitary gland in the brain, and can be particularly helpful for women who have excess estrogen levels.
6. Zinc and selenium. Both zinc and selenium are trace elements required for the synthesis of thyroid hormones. As many agricultural soils are increasingly deficient in certain microminerals, providing these nutrients in therapeutic doses in supplement form may help balance thyroid hormones.
7. Probiotics. Did you know there is a connection between a healthy gut and healthy hormone levels? Our friendly gut bacteria are able to regulate estrogen by releasing an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. Impaired digestion can lead to a decrease in this enzyme and lower circulating estrogen levels, which may contribute to the development of obesity. Probiotic foods like sauerkraut are a great way to promote a healthy gut microbiome!
Working with your naturopathic doctor can ensure you receive the right testing and treatment plan, which can help you achieve your hormone and weight loss goals.
Dr. Dominique Vanier is a naturopath in Oakville and is accepting new patients at Abaton Integrative Medicine. Find out more about her Healthy Weight Loss Program here!