Struggling with Weight Loss Resistance? By Kaley Burns, ND

surgeries and exercise regimens with limited, if any, success. Suc- cess rates are so low because there are many complex pathways and chemical messengers mediating the body’s ability to optimize metabolic processes and body composition.


The majority of weight loss resistance is centered in the regulation of hormones. The calorie-in/calorie-out theory has been widely disproven, yet remains a dominant misconception regarding diet and weight loss. Calories do matter, but the updated research supports the concept that hormones matter more. The majority of patients struggling with weight have an underlying hormone imbalance.

Some of the primary hormonal contributors are described be-

low. While these contributors can all act individually, the body is interconnected. It is likely that if one hormonal imbalance exists, there are other discrepancies as well.


Insulin is a fat-storage hormone. Insulin resistance means the cells cannot absorb the blood glucose the body generates from food. Therefore, the liver converts this excess glucose into fat. Insu- lin resistance can often lead to weight gain and even contribute to sugar addiction.

Leptin Leptin is known as “nature’s appetite suppressant.” However,

individuals who are overweight produce excess leptin. When the brain is fl ooded with leptin signals, the receptors stop functioning. This means the body stops getting the “full” indicator. The loss of these signals contributes to eating unhealthy foods in a detrimental pattern and continued weight gain.


Estrogen dominance occurs when there is too much estrogen compared with its counter-hormone, progesterone. Having too much estrogen in the body causes a number of symptoms, includ- ing weight loss resistance, moodiness, PMS, and heavy menses.

Thyroid Hormones The thyroid is generally accepted as the “gas pedal” of metabolism, adjusting how fast or slow we burn calories. When the thyroid is sluggish, weight gain, fl uid retention, hair changes, depression, constipation, and other symptoms can occur.

24 Natural Nutmeg - July/August 2017

ne of the most common patient concerns voiced in the of- fi ce is, “I want to lose weight.” Most patients have already tried a combination of various medications, crash diets,

Cortisol (HPA axis) Predominantly known as the “stress” hormone, cortisol is secreted from our adrenal glands. In the short term, cortisol secre- tion can strengthen our cellular response and promote survival. However, chronically taxing this system can shorten the lifespan. Cortisol is well known for depositing fat around the midsection.

Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis This is a complex set of direct infl uences and feedback inter- actions among three endocrine glands: the hypothalamus, the pitu- itary gland, and the adrenal glands. This combination is often the root cause of metabolic and weight loss resistance. Therefore, the key to weight reduction is to reset this axis, starting with cortisol.

Cortisol is one of the main hormones that disrupts the function of other hormones. Elevated cortisol suppresses the reproductive hormone progesterone, contributing to estrogen dominance. Corti- sol dysfunction also triggers the hypothalamus, a small regulator in the brain, to decrease its activity, reducing metabolic rate, leading to suppression of the thyroid gland.

Optimizing Hormones and Balancing Cortisol Losing unwanted weight and keeping it off requires a variety

of deliberate life adjustments. Quick fi xes and “miracle cures” do not facilitate lasting or nourishing change.

1. Nutrition Modifi cation: The key to better nutrition is to eat more real food. Make a goal to crowd out the “bad” foods with more nutrient-dense options. Removing processed foods, refi ned carbohydrates, trans fats, sugars and sugar substitutes from your diet can decrease infl ammation and support optimal hormone levels.

Reducing alcohol intake further benefi ts body composition.

Even a single serving of alcohol can reduce metabolism by more than 70 percent. While this is a temporary effect, it has the poten- tial to add up over time.

Avoid or limit stimulants such as coffee. This can deplete magnesium, strains the nervous system, and can alter gut bacteria. It has been found that even decaf can do this! Making the switch to green tea, which contains the amino acid L-theanine reduces stress without causing sedation.

It has been found that obesity has a microbial component. Gut bacteria and proper digestive health is vital to harmonizing hormones. Cortisol makes it more diffi cult to digest proteins be- cause it decreases stomach acid, increases intestinal permeability

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