Diet combined with exercise is the key to maintain a normal Body Mass Index (BMI). However, in some people imbalances in hormone levels can result in difficulty maintaining healthy body weight. In this article, we shall discuss the major hormones responsible for regulating our body weight.
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It regulates metabolism, the immune response and also plays a crucial part in the body’s response to stress. Due to its role in stress response, its secretion occurs during moments of anxiety, stress, anger, depression, or physical injury. Apart from its stress response function, its major function is regulating the body’s metabolism by energy regulation and mobilization. It does this by assigning each energy source to a respective function. Cortisol reassigns the stored energy i.e. fat from the limbs to the visceral organs thus increasing fat deposition in dangerous areas. Due to an unhealthy lifestyle, cortisol levels remain elevated as the body is under constant stress. This increases visceral fat deposition, which is more difficult to lose than fats in skeletal muscle areas. People with increased cortisol levels have rapid weight gain in the areas around the chest, abdomen, and face whereas their arms and legs are slender.
Conditions that result in its deficiency
- Pituitary gland disorders
- Adrenal Gland disorders
- Estrogen imbalance
- Certain medications.
How to treat it?
- Reduce your stress levels: You can reduce your stress levels by one hour of meditation or yoga daily.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep
- Healthy eating habits: Stop any unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, or taking drugs. Practice a lifestyle with a more healthy nutritious diet.
II. Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
What is HGH?
Human Growth Hormone is an essential hormone produced by the pituitary gland. HGH stimulates growth, cellular reproduction, and cell regeneration in humans. It is crucial for children and adolescents for their physical growth and development. Apart from this, it also has important roles in adults. HGH increases protein synthesis; increases muscle mass and promotes lipolysis. A recent study revealed that HGH deficiency can cause an increase in total body fat by 7 percent, a decrease in muscle mass in a truncal distribution, which resulted in an increase in the ratio of waist to hip. Additionally, the results reported abnormal lipid levels, with a decrease in HDL levels and an increase in LDL levels. LDL enhances plaque formation in the arteries while HDL inhibits this process. Plaque formation can eventually lead to myocardial infarction. An overall increase in vascular wall thickness, as well as plaque formation, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease-related mortality. Thus, patients with HGH deficiency have a higher mortality risk due to the resultant abnormality in lipid levels.
Diseases that result in HGH deficiency:
- Pituitary Gland disorders
- Hypothalamus disorders
- Brain tumors
- Severe head injury
- Radiation therapy
How to increase HGH levels in the body?
1. Lifestyle Changes:
2. HGH Injections (Recombinant HGH Therapy)
Currently, some small studies have been conducted that show HGH injections result in fat loss and muscle gain. HGH injections are not recommended for use as a weight-loss regimen as the risks outweigh the benefits. It should be only be used in people who have proven HGH deficiency.
HGH can be found in injectable form as a weekly dosage but it can only be obtained with a doctor’s prescription. It has been approved for use in adults and children who have a growth hormone deficiency, for organ transplants patients, and for muscle wasting in AIDS patients. In patients with HGH deficiency, HGH therapy can result in significant improvement with changes in body composition. An overall reduction in body fat percentage with an associated increase in muscle mass has been observed in studies. In a study of 24 adults with HGH deficiency, low dose HGH injections were found to normalize lean body mass over a 6 month period.
3. HGH supplements (HGH Releasers)
To bank on HGH benefits many companies have manufactured products, which claim to have HGH in powder or pill forms. They obviously have fewer side effects in comparison to the injectable forms however, their efficacy is debatable in comparison to injectable HGH. For people who do not have a life-threatening HGH deficiency, HGH releasers may be the right choice.
What is Insulin?
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. It is crucial for the transport of glucose from food into the cells for energy. When glucose is in excess than required as energy, it is stored in our cells in the form of fat. Thus insulin regulates the level of glucose in the blood.
When glucose levels in the blood are constantly high due to the consumption of artificially sweetened unhygienic processed foods and drinks, it can result in the development of resistance to insulin by the cells. As the resistance increases over time, the cells do not get the required energy from food. Thus, the person is constantly hungry and thirsty. This results in a vicious cycle of hunger, over-consumption, weight gain, and increasing insulin resistance. This condition is known as Type 2 diabetes.
Diseases that result in Insulin Deficiency/Resistance:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Acute/ Chronic Pancreatitis
- Pancreatic carcinoma
How to treat Insulin Deficiency/Resistance?
- Regularly monitor blood sugar levels: Elevated blood sugar levels can alert people without diagnosed diabetes to make some lifestyle changes to prevent the development of diabetes and the subsequent weight gain. Whereas in people with diabetes, monitoring blood glucose levels regularly is mandatory to avoid some serious life-threatening complications such as diabetic nephropathy, diabetic ketoacidosis, and diabetic coma.
- Physical activity for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week
- Change unhealthy eating habits by avoiding processed foods with high sugar levels.
- Low calorie & High nutrition food intake
- Stay hydrated and drink 3-4 liters of water daily
- In people with insulin deficiency by birth (Type 1 diabetes), insulin injections may be necessary. Consult a doctor to discuss appropriate insulin dosage
IV. Thyroid Hormones
What are they?
The thyroid gland produces three hormones including T3, T4, and calcitonin. The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) produced by the pituitary gland stimulates the synthesis and release of thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism, heart rate, growth, and brain development. Due to disorders in the pituitary or the thyroid gland, the production of thyroid hormones decreases resulting in a condition known as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism subsequently leads to weight gain, depression, fatigue, slow heart rate, etc. There are many causes of hypothyroidism such as gluten intolerance, malnutrition, environmental toxins, etc. In fact, hypothyroidism leads to water accumulation and not fat that makes you look plump. You will gain 5-10 pounds more if your weight gain is only due to thyroid imbalance (1).
Diseases that result in Thyroid Hormone deficiency:
- Pituitary disorders: Pituitary carcinoma or tumors
- Autoimmune thyroid gland disorders: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Thyroid surgery
- Environmental toxins and radiation
How to Treat Hypothyroidism?
- Synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine
- Natural extracts containing thyroid hormone derived from the thyroid glands of pigs
- Use salt containing iodine
- Regularly monitor levels of TSH and thyroid hormones
What are they?
Glucocorticoids are hormones naturally produced by the body. They play multiple roles in the body by regulating metabolism, suppressing immunity, and reducing inflammatory processes. They regulate the body’s use of fats, sugar, and protein. It enhances the breakdown of fat and protein while decreasing the use of glucose and sugar as sources of energy. This leads to increased sugar levels and insulin resistance, which subsequently results in diabetes, and weight gain.
What causes elevated levels of Glucocorticoids?
In certain diseases where overactive immunity causes more harm than good, glucocorticoids can be taken in the form of medications to suppress immunity. They are commonly prescribed for autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, vasculitis, multiple sclerosis, etc. They are also used in Asthma, COPD, rheumatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, and some allergic diseases. In some cases, patients require lifelong treatment with glucocorticoids. The prolonged use of steroids, in turn, leads to serious side effects such as diabetes, weight gain, osteoporosis, hypertension, etc.
How to reduce their effects?
- Change your lifestyle: Increased physical activity, decreased sugar intake, and reducing artificially processed food intake can prevent the development of inflammatory conditions that result in high glucocorticoid levels.
- Regulate steroids dosage: For diseases such as asthma that require prolonged corticosteroid intake, regular visits to the doctor are essential to make sure you are taking the least dosage required to suppress the disease. This is done by reducing the dose of the steroid medication gradually and observing the degree of disease suppression. In some patients, the medication can be tapered off completely after achieving disease remission.
- Reduce risks of inflammation and activation of natural glucocorticoids production: Avoid allergens, maintain hygiene, and get vaccinated with flu shots to reduce the risks of inflammatory diseases.