Losing weight as all about calories in vs calories out……. Or is it? What if your hormones are so out of whack that your appetite, sleep patterns, and blood sugar levels aren’t what they should be as a result of less than optimal hormone production and regulation. If you eat 1000 kcal every day you will lose weight, then your metabolism will adapt, appetite will increase and your body will become more efficient and burn less calories aka the slowing of your metabolism as it reaches its new setpoint. Each week your body will adapt and fight the extreme calorie deficit. By understanding how the body works and what activities and/or foods that we eat can affect or hormones we can work with our bodies systems and process rather than fight against them.
The word hormone is derived from the Greek participle ὁρμῶ,”to set in motion, urge on”. Hormones are signaling molecules produced by glands and transported through the blood to target organs in order to regulate our bodies and our behavior.
Amino acid bases hormones like adrenaline and growth hormone generally are water soluble and act on tissues near where they are produced and they act on the surface of the cell.
Steroid based hormones like testosterone and cortisol are fat soluble and they act on the tissues further away form the place it was produced. Steroid based hormones also penetrate the cell wall and act on the nucleus rather than acting on the surface of the cell.
Some hormones act as hormones and neurotransmitters like norepinephrine *see below for more on this
Hormones generally follow this life cycle
- Biosynthesis – producing the hormone
- Storage and – the pump and storage shed
- Transport the shuttle bus
- Recognition – Hi there I see you
- Relay and amplification -homeostatic negative feedback loop (glucose, pancreas, insulin)
- Breakdown of the hormone
Our bodies have no receptors for calories, if we eat 100kcal or pure sugar you will have a different insulin response than if you had 100kcal from olive oil. Calorie in vs calorie out is a physics term, this concept doesn’t necessarily carry over to physiology, this is an over simplification. There are loads of studies that show that calories consumption is the most important variable to consider in weight loss. Logically if you eat 2000 kcal from mountain dew that that will result in the same weight loss as the same 2000kcal from salmon. The insulin response will be much different and what your body does with those calories will be vastly different.
Our bodies hormonal regulation works on a negative feedback loop. Think of the thermostat in your house, if the thermostat is set to 72 degrees and its summer and hot outside, the thermostat senses it and turns on the AC to bring down the temperature of the house. If its winter and it’s too cold the thermostat senses that and turns on the heat and brings up the temperature. When you try and lose weight, your body will sense it and try and make you gain it back to achieve homeostasis and the contrary would occur if you were trying to gain weight. Our bodies are homeostatic regulating machines. If your fat cells swell to certain point the will produced leptin, this signals to our body that we are too fat, in turn appetite decreases. Many obese people are also leptin resistant, causing high concentrations of leptin to float around the blood (much like how people with type2 diabetes high levels of insulin in their blood). This affects the regulation of leptin and it’s like having a broken thermostat in your body and the negative feedback loop is disrupted.
Below I have listed a few of the most powerful hormones produced in our bodies, where they are made, what they affect, and what we can eat and do to manipulate our bodies hormone production and regulation.
Testosterone – produced in testis or ovaries – muscle growth, bone density, strength – Egg yolks, Beef, Tuna, Salmon – these foods contain vitamin D, Cholesterol and Saturated fat all benefit testosterone production, lifting weights also increases testosterone production, adequate sleep also help regulate healthy testosterone levels,
Cortisol – produced in the adrenal cortex -stimulates production of sugar in the liver (gluconeogenesis)- inhibits glucose uptake into muscle and adipose tissue -affects fat breakdown, inflammation and immunity. Alcohol, caffeine, and trans fats can signal the release of cortisol. A stressful job can cause chronic release of cortisol rather than an acute release that may occur from a temporary and isolated stressful situation, like stumbling upon a rattlesnake on a hiking trail.
Insulin – produced in pancreas – shuttle for other nutrients, bring down blood sugar. Carbohydrates have the greatest impact on insulin and fasting and adhering to a low-carb diet can help create a more stable insulin response
Human Growth Hormone– produced in the pituitary gland, stimulates growth and cell reproduction – in a fasted state our bodies produce more HGH
Oxytocin – produced in pituitary gland – signals the release of breast milk, affects trust, body temperature, activity level and wakefulness. sharing meals, being affectionate with pets, hugging other people, soaking in a hot bath, giving gifts and meditating are activities that can signal a release of oxytocin.
Prostaglandin – derived from fatty acids – affects vasodilation, blood pressure and in (open up blood vessels. Salmon (omega-3’s), almonds (vitamin E), pineapple, pomegranates can all signal to your body to downregulate prostaglandin and keep levels under control
Norepinephrine– functions as a hormone and a neurotransmitter (brain signaling)- In the brain mobilizes the brain and body for action – released during fight or flight response – low levels during sleep, high levels while awake- increase alertness, memory retrieval and formation, improves attention, increases restlessness and anxiety, reduces blood flow to intestinal tract. Foods rich in the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine such as animal protein, nuts and seeds and dark chocolate due to their high levels of B-vitamins, zinc, and magnesium which can support dopamine and norepinephrine production
In the rest of the body – increase heart rate, increase blood pressure, release of glucose from energy stores, increase blood flow to skeletal muscle
Adrenaline/Epinephrine – produced in Adrenal Gland and certain neurons -affects blood pressure, lipolysis (fat burning), increase blood flow, increase heart output, pupil dilation and increased blood sugar, too much caffeine can signal over production and release of adrenaline
Leptin – produced in fat stores – decrease appetite, increase metabolism, a high carb/fat meal aka a re-feed meal can cause a favorable release of Leptin and this can help break through fat loss plateaus, controlling insulin can have favorable effects on leptin concentrations in our blood.
Ghrelin – produced in the intestines – stimulates appetite – causes pituitary gland to secrete growth hormone
Melatonin– produced in pineal gland -affects sleep and circadian rhythms, cherries or cherry juice not from concentrate contains moderate levels of melatonin and can therefore promote better sleep and help regulate heathy circadian rhythms
Vitamin D aka cholecalciferol – affects calcium absorption, mood, immunity and depression – egg yolks and fortified foods are great sources of vitamin D, also getting enough exposure to sunlight is essential for your body to produce enough vitamin D
T3(thyroid hormone)- produced in thyroid – affects metabolism – small amounts of fructose can stimulate the liver an and help with the conversion of thyroid hormone, getting enough iodine is important for thyroid health, cranberries or cranberry juice not form concentrate is an excellent source of iodine
Amylin– produced in pancreas – slows down digestion, reduces appetite – amylin is used in diabetes management due to its ability to reduce appetite and slow down digestion
Glucagon – produced in pancreas – raises blood sugar and blood fat works in opposition to insulin- main catabolic hormone (muscle wasting) – if blood sugar drops too low, pancreas secretes glucagon and this signals the liver to engage in gluconeogenesis (production of glucose from protein), exercising and fasting can signal the release of glucagon causing our liver to release glucose for fuel
Estrogen – produced in testis or ovaries – affects water retention – excessive intake of soy may have an impact on estrogen levels due to their Phyto estrogenic nature
Hormones affect the following process in the human body
- stimulation or inhibition of growth
- wake-sleep cycle and other circadian rhythms
- mood swings
- induction or suppression of apoptosis (programmed cell death)
- activation or inhibition of the immune system
- regulation of metabolism
- preparation of the body for mating, fighting, fleeing, and other activity
- preparation of the body for a new phase of life, such as puberty, parenting, and menopause
- control of the reproductive cycle
- hunger cravings
This is an introduction to our endocrine and hormonal systems of our bodies, in future articles I will highlight one hormone at a time and go more in depth into how we can optimize production and regulation in an attempt to be healthier overall. The goal of this article is to get people thinking outside of the box when in comes to health and weight loss as well as to educate people about our bodies in an attempt to take control of our own health and our bodies, we only get one, its up to us to understand it and take care of it. Controlling your carbohydrates, exercising, and eating specific foods can have a profound impact on our hormone levels and in turn our weight loss and overall health.
Knowledge is power and Ignorance is not bliss.
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