The body is an INCREDIBLY complex web of hormonal communications that all work in systems that rely on the functioning of their neighbours to ensure that daily processes such as rebuilding, repair, burning of fat or the building of muscle can occur.
No one system is isolated in the body and this will determine a LOT about how you look, feel and function as a person.
Now in a society with overexposure to:
- Artificial flavourings, colourings, sweeteners,
- Lifestyle diseases,
- Chronic inflammation in the form of gut imbalances or diseases and
- Injury or general wear and tear on the body
Almost every individual will be in at least some state of dysfunction that can act to throw out our complex hormonal systems, essentially acting as a handbrake to achieving health, weight loss or body transformation goals.
So what are the most common hormonal interactions that are likely to be influencing you, right now?
Well, let’s look at who big 3 players are when it comes to body composition, and how they relate in order to answer this question!
1. Endocrinology - Imbalances between Testosterone, Estrogen and Progesterone are the biggest players at the party when it comes to influencing your metabolism, healing and rebuilding processes as well as the general state of mental disposition. Ask anyone with a background of hormonal imbalances what their state of mood was like day-to-day and you will get a very quick insight into how much this can influence your quality of life!
2. Thyroid /Metabolic Function - Your primary sex hormones as well as secondary regulatory hormones such as Insulin, Leptin, Ghrelin, etc will all influence the subtle nuances of thyroid hormone production and conversion that will ultimately decide your basal metabolic rate. Factors such as low testosterone and insulin resistance can make your thyroid function drastically slow, making body composition changes a far more difficult process!
3. Inflammation, Gut Health Issues, Illness, Stresses - I have a theory that the biggest killer of the modern era will not be smoking, but rather come in the form of stress! Whether it is mental or physiological, a massive array of factors can drive up your cortisol and adrenaline levels, leading to a host of negative feedback loops that will down-regulate the other 2 players of hormonal levels and thyroid function. Inflammation, whether systemic, chronic or acute, will also play on up-regulating cortisol as the body is under constant stress and this can negatively impact gut health, which is fast being recognised as the second brain of the body.
So these are the three big areas to watch for when we are looking at handbrakes to changing our bodies for the better!
Imbalances in your primary sex hormones will lower your thyroid hormone production and conversion making your basal metabolic rate slower. A slow thyroid will lead to fluid retention, weight gain, insulin resistance and nutrient deficiencies.
Sluggish metabolisms, weight gain and insulin resistance go hand in hand with elevated cortisol levels.
Elevated cortisol drives up imbalances in primary sex hormones.
Inflammation and gut dysbiosis drive up cortisol, which drives hormonal imbalances, which then drives down thyroid function.
And round and round the vicious cycle goes, making your body more inflamed, insulin resistant and carrying more body fat in and around your internal organs.
So what can we do to prevent these handbrakes from turning us into a fat storing, inflamed, muscle wasting, anxious wreck?!
Elimination and Moderation of Lifestyle Stressors
Now, this may seem impossible in a modern age, but stress is cumulative in nature and so too can be its reduction.
Whilst some stress is normal, we can work on mindfulness of when we are in periods of elevated stress, work on meditation, introduce regular exercise, and clean up our eating habits to ensure there are minimal stressors acting on our body at any one time.
Limiting exposure to processed foods, pollutants/toxins such as those found in many cosmetics, deodorants, hygiene products and household chemicals will play a large role as well in taking the strain off your detoxification pathways and again contribute to lowering cortisol!
Actively working on gut health, digestion and moderating inflammation
Introduce Apple cider vinegar and drink warm water before meals, start taking probiotics to promote favourable gut flora, and throw in digestive enzymes to assist in the breakdown of nutrients. This will take a massive strain off your gastrointestinal system and allow your gut health to markedly improve along with digestion. Getting gut health and digestive processes improved will, of course, lower systemic inflammation and improve signalling to your endocrine system and thyroid to work more efficiently and will make drastic changes in a myriad of areas in your health.
Supplement to support your Thyroid, Endocrine system and Cortisol exposure
Supplements are always just that, a supplement to a proactive strategy to drive change.
Actively working on exercising regularly, reducing stressors, improving gut health and minimising inflammation will have massive improvements on your health and should be the forefront of your assault on handbrakes to your body transformation goals.
However, supplements can be amazingly effective at promoting this change far more quickly.
Supplements for your endocrine system and to enhance production/utilisation of your primary sex hormones include:
- Tongkat Ali
- Broccoli Sprout/DIM
- Vitamin D, Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B6
Supplements to improve thyroid function, production and conversion pathways include:
- B group Vitamins (B2,6,12 particularly)
- Coleus Forskholii
- Yerba Mate
- Du Zhong
Supplements to modulate cortisol:
- Rhodiola Rosea
- Schisandra Berry
- Turmeric/ Curcumin
You will notice several of these supplements and herbs popped up in all three areas. This further hints at the linked nature of our body's major systems. Withania, for example, lowers cortisol, whilst also promoting a balancing of thyroid function and improving hormone production. This is because to act positively upon one system will have a positive flow-on effect to the others! It's a wonderful supplement-synergy!
Let's bring this home and wrap it up...
The body functions like a symphony of complex hormonal webs that ultimately determine how we look, feel, act and grow.
When we are in a stressed, inflamed, hormonally imbalanced state, all of these systems that rely on each other for harmony within the body are thrown out of homeostasis and it rapidly becomes difficult to achieve body compositional changes.
So to effectively remove these handbrakes our approach must also be multi-faceted and include mindful efforts to reduce influencing factors such as stress, inflammation, gut health issues and imbalances in sex hormones. This can be done by introducing the strategies we touched on above and will ultimately lead to a happier, healthier, fitter you!