About the Author

Natasha Turner

Books by this Author
The Carb Sensitivity Program

The Carb Sensitivity Program

Discover Which Carbs Will Curb Your Cravings, Control Your Appetite and Banish Belly Fat
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : diets, nutrition
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The Hormone Boost

The Hormone Boost

How to Power Up Your Six Essential Hormones for Strength, Energy and Weight Loss
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
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Excerpt

The conversation that started me down the Hormone Boost path made me realize how many people these days fit into a “just okay” mold—a way of existing from day to day that isn’t awful but sure isn’t great, either. Perhaps you feel the same way. When I stopped and really thought about it, I realized this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. In my practice, I hear from people all the time—all day, every day, in fact—about what they want more of, or what they want to improve. There’s a lot of common ground in these discussions, and chances are good that you’ve had the same thoughts from time to time (or maybe more often). This, then, is where we begin: with the biggest and most important areas in need of a boost.

How ’bout a Boost of These?.?.?.

While there is an almost endless supply of areas in our daily lives that can be improved, the following seven are the ones that crop up most often in the discussions I’ve had about well-being.

Energy

Regular sleep and regular exercise combined with a thoughtful diet should be sufficient to give anyone the energy they need for a busy life. The thing is, if we’re not getting the right kinds of sleep, practicing the right exercises or eating the right foods, we can wreak havoc on our energy levels without even knowing it. If part of how you’re managing your days right now requires the assistance of regular caffeine intake or high-sugar foods or an afternoon nap, you’ll be interested in The Hormone Boost’s plan to power up your energy by targeting the specific hormones and habits that affect it most intensely.

Strength

Being strong isn’t just about being able to open the pickle jar without special implements or assistance. It’s also about creating the optimum conditions for your body to take care of itself and move freely through the world. Whatever your limitations are (in terms of health, work or mobility), a stronger body will improve your energy and quality of life. It can even make sitting at a desk for several hours more manageable, and allow you to burn more fat while doing it! Strong bodies also age more gracefully and recover from illness and injury more quickly. We’re not able to get any younger, but we can always get stronger. The Hormone Boost plan will show you how.

Memory

We might not notice our memory gaps in this always connected ultra-digital world. Can’t remember a celebrity’s name? You can IMDB it. Worried about forgetting a new contact’s number? Put it in your smartphone. Never before have we had so many devices stand in for memory. As a result, unsurprisingly, our memories are not as strong as they used to be. (I once nearly drove myself crazy trying to remember an actor’s name—and I refused to look it up online. It took me three days but I trusted that her name was in there, and sure enough, it was: Reese Witherspoon. Boom.) It’s impractical to disengage completely from all of your devices and external reminders, but you can give your memory a genuine boost by attending to the hormones that give it strength and longevity. Quicker, more intense memory recall is part of a strong, active brain—and it supports your mental acuity.

Metabolism

It’s hard to be healthy and energetic and fit without metabolic support. As I mentioned previously, I went through an intense struggle with my metabolism after graduating from university, and again six years later, after naturopathic medical school. During both periods, my strict diet and rigorous exercise sessions failed to help me lose weight or keep it off. It was during those times that my hormonal health concerns forced me to realize that the formula calories in – calories burned = weight loss was by no means complete. Hormones are the body’s powerhouse; the processes they drive sustain every aspect of health and fat-burning potential (a.k.a. metabolism). Boosting your metabolism means augmenting your capacity to generate and use energy—and that is naturally connected to your health, energy and fitness levels.

Confidence

Regardless of your size or style, you should be confident. Full stop. The people I am most drawn to are those who just seem entirely comfortable with themselves—people who own their worth, who wouldn’t trade places with anyone. This is what I wish for all of my patients and friends, because it can make such a massive difference in every area of your life: professionally, personally (especially in intimate relationships), physically. Confidence walks with a straight back and long strides and a general peace with the world. Balancing your hormones, especially those discussed in this book, will allow you to generate confidence in your sense of surety and comfort with your body, your life and your relationships.

Immunity
The twenty-first century has brought with it an amazing number of quick fixes and surface shortcuts—and we rely on them to make our lives easier in countless ways. Too often, though, we don’t stop and think about the challenges this reliance is creating. Take hand sanitizer. While effective in the immediate biological sense (e.g., after using the toilet), its prevalence is making it harder and harder for our bodies to build up their own immunities. Ditto for antibiotics, which, when overprescribed, compromise our ability to fight off seemingly minor viruses and bacteria. I’m not suggesting you swear off sanitizer entirely or avoid a doctor’s prescription, but I invite you to explore what a hormonally boosted immune system can do. If the metabolism is the body’s powerhouse, the immune system is Neighborhood Watch: it monitors comings and goings and does its best to ensure you’re safe. A hormone boost to the metabolism increases not only its efficacy but also your overall safety.

Mood

Boosting your mood has a more subtle impact, in some ways, than boosting your metabolism or immune system. A mood boost won’t necessarily help you lose a few pounds or fend off the flu that’s going around. But our moods are pervasive, and they have the power to change our perspective, our schedule and our interactions. Wake up in a bad mood? You might swear at the thought of hard-boiled eggs for breakfast and grab a croissant instead. Have an unexpectedly tense confrontation with a client or colleague? You might “treat” yourself to a beer as soon as you get in the door, to help unwind after that adrenalin-inducing conversation. When you’re in a good mood, you are more patient (you’ll walk home rather than jump in a cab), make better choices (cheerfully crunch that salad—and those abs!) and attract the good energies of others (that stranger you bumped into at the produce stand just happens to be a trainer at your local gym and invites you in for a free session). Boosting your mood will have a thousand small positive effects in every area of your life.

The Hormone Boost has been diligently researched and designed to boost every part of you. We’ll explore each boost area and its corresponding hormones thoroughly, unpacking the science behind hormonal health and tracing the connections between what we do and how we feel. I’m also thrilled to be able to share with you some amazing successes from my practice; they demonstrate just how important hormonal health is in all areas of your life. And each chapter will leave you with my recommendations for boosting the hormones that are integral to powering up your body, your mind and your fat-loss efforts. Specifically, we’re going to focus on a group of hormones I’ve come to think of as “the fat-loss six.”

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The Hormone Diet

The Hormone Diet

Lose Fat. Gain Strength. Live Younger Longer.
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : diets, nutrition
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Excerpt

Chapter 14
Sex and Sweat: Why We Need Both For Hormonal Balance
Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions.
Woody Allen

Here’s what you will learn in this chapter:
• Many of us are not enjoying the sex we should
• How sex revs up our fat-burning hormones
• How sex can satisfy cravings and control our appetite
• The benefits of exercise on our hormones for fat burning and metabolism
• The common workout mistakes that slow fat loss and hamper the hormone-enhancing benefits of exercise

Now that you have primed your hormones in Steps 1 and 2, you are set to enjoy the explosive benefits that great sex and exercise have on your hormones, metabolism and weight loss. If you are not in the habit of getting physical on a regular basis, I hope this chapter will persuade you to change. When I say “getting physical,” I mean enjoying two very basic hormone-enhancing, fat-burning, stress-busting activities: sex and exercise. Both involve working up a sweat. Both have wonderful hormone-boosting effects when we engage in them regularly. And, believe it or not, when we do one, we often have more desire to do the other.

Any amount of pleasurable sex is beneficial for you, as is any amount of exercise when done properly. So, I guess in this sense, every workout counts and every make-out session counts — but doing both a few times weekly is even better! Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t exercise and just as many of us don’t enjoy sex as often as we should.

We can come up with a whole host of reasons why we don’t exercise: we’re too busy, too tired, don’t have enough time, not in the mood, don’t like it, don’t feel well enough, don’t know how to do it, don’t think we’re good at it, can’t last long enough, wouldn’t know how to start, don’t like to do it alone, don’t like doing it in public. And I suppose all of these could apply to sex too.

In my practice, I have at times begged patients to begin working out. In some cases I have actually told them not to come back to see me but to spend their money on personal training instead. One patient in particular was terrific about taking her supplements and was spending plenty of good money doing so. I told her she would probably need half the products if she would exercise.

I truly believe there is no better way to change your life than to start exercising. If there’s one thing I pray you’ll do after reading my book it’s to make exercise a part of your life, if it isn’t already. If it already is, perhaps you’ll learn something after you read the second part of this chapter that will allow you to enjoy better results from your efforts. But let’s start with sex first. It’s always a good attention grabber!

Bringing Sexy Back!

Sex is something we can get by without, whether we are in a relationship or not, but we shouldn’t have to. Sex can be a complicated issue because it involves emotions, relationships, past sexual experiences, and physical and spiritual components. It also depends heavily on our current hormonal state, although some experts say our prior sexual functions and relationships are more important variables in determining how much sex we have or how enjoyable it is for us in the here and now.

When a patient comes to see me, I ask two basic questions: How’s your energy? and How’s your sex drive? When a patient tells me either of these aspects of his or her life has changed, I know immediately there’s a bigger health problem at play. Sadly, I’ve found that a surprising number of people ignore these changes for years, simply accepting them as normal or feeling too embarrassed to deal with them.

If this scenario sounds familiar to you, I hope to inspire you to think differently and to take steps to get your “mojo” back. You may be one of the millions of adults who experience sexual dysfunction, the incidence of which appears to be at an all-time high. According to an extensive study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the obesity epidemic is certainly not our only concern at this point. The results revealed that about 43 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men experience symptoms of sexual dysfunction, including lack of desire, arousal issues, inability to orgasm or ejaculate, premature ejaculation, painful intercourse, lack of enjoyment, erectile dysfunction and performance anxiety.

If you think sex has fallen away just because you’re getting older, are not in a relationship or haven’t done it in a long time, think again. Pleasurable sex is something every adult should enjoy for a lifetime — with or without a partner. And remember, sex doesn’t mean intercourse alone. Masturbation (on your own or with a partner) and other forms of sexual play that get your hormones revving are definitely recommended. If you’re currently having great sex, keep at it because it’s good for you. Have sex all your life, and your body, brain, muscles and fat cells will thank you for it. Do it over and over — that’s right, don’t stop.

Are Our Hormones Hampering our Sex Life or Is It the Other Way Around?
The answer is both. Sexual dysfunction is a global concern, as shown by the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors (GSSAB). After 13,882 women and 13,618 men from over 29 countries were surveyed, the researchers concluded: “Sexual difficulties are relatively common among mature adults throughout the world. Sexual problems tend to be more associated with physical health and aging among men than women.”

Sexual Issues for Men
An estimated 1 in 5 men currently experience erectile dysfunction (ED). Although psychological reasons play strongly in cases in men 35 years of age and younger, physiological factors are the main cause for men 50 and up. But ED at any age can provide a much bigger picture about a man’s health besides what’s happening below the belt. We now know, for example, the state of a man’s penis is a very good indication of cardiovascular wellness. Problems in this area are linked to arterial disease, heart attacks, stroke and diabetes.

Ever since that now-famous little blue pill topped $1.5 billion in sales in 2001, becoming a pharmaceutical smash hit practically overnight, drug companies have been working feverishly to produce second-generation medications to deal with ED. Think about that figure — $1.5 billion! And realize at the same time that about 30 to 50 per cent of patients can’t even take Viagra because of contraindications such as heart disease. Since this family of drugs hit the market in the late 1990s, the number of American men with health complaints has increased by 50 per cent. Evidently sex is an important issue and a great source of motivation for seeking medical intervention. Viagra is certainly working wonders for many people, although in my view it represents a “quickie” solution when a “long-term love affair” with lasting lifestyle change is certainly what’s needed. That’s right, I mean the three steps.

That Viagra sales, obesity and stress rates are at all-time highs is no coincidence because the hormonal distress associated with abdominal obesity is a major contributing factor to impotence and erectile dysfunction. All healthy men experience a gradual decrease in testosterone, about 1.5 per cent each year, after age 30. (This percentage appears to be increasing, however — possibly due to toxin exposure.) Although the link between men’s testosterone levels and their desire for sex is not entirely clear, the connection between lower free testosterone and weakened orgasmic function and/or erectile function is definite, according to a 2002 study from the British Journal of Urology.
The hormonal changes men naturally experience as they age tend to happen more gradually than the ones women undergo with menopause, although they can still result in symptoms of reduced energy, poor sex drive, declining muscle mass, increased abdominal fat or irritability. These symptoms may seem uncomplicated, but they are increasingly common in my clinical practice among men in their 30s and 40s and are definite signals of high risk in the field of preventive medicine. Remember, low testosterone in men is linked to heart disease and even death.

Sexual Issues for Women
Drug companies are also scrambling to tap into the sexual dysfunction market for women. Sadly, this market is also huge and, unlike the case with men, the distribution of difficulties is fairly even among women 18 to 59 years of age. About 20 per cent of women experience problems with arousal and, as a result, experience poor lubrication. Drug companies are now looking at ways to understand the female brain and develop a means of stimulating the arousal centres. But more pharmaceuticals are not always the answer. The three steps of the Hormone Diet have the potential to create the perfect hormonal balance for both a healthy libido and successful fat loss, especially because of their wonderful ability to calm the cortisol that can crush a healthy sex drive, even under the best of conditions.

Stress is certainly quick to kill that lovin’ feeling, but menopause is often no help either. The natural dip in estrogen, testosterone and progesterone that are part and parcel of this stage of life can lead to problems in almost all areas of sexual function, including interest, responsiveness and enjoyment. These same hormones also affect mood, sleep, where we store fat and how well we lose it. Considering the incredible impact these hormones have on our life, restoring their balance — either with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy or herbal medicines — is extremely important.

Good Sex Is So Good for You
Sexual function is a lot like lean muscle — if we don’t use it, we lose it and the health and hormonal benefits that come with it. Guys, if your sex life is in the doldrums lately, you likely have less testosterone as well. The fix is pretty straightforward. Research shows if we can get you back to enjoying more frequent sex, your testosterone can, ahem, rise again. A group of Italian researchers looked at men with erectile issues and measured their testosterone status before and after treatment (though not with testosterone replacement). Those whose ED treatment was successful had higher testosterone compared with those whose treatments failed to yield improvements. If you needed a strong argument for having sex tonight, now you have one.

Ladies, the same principles apply to you. Women who enjoy more love in the bedroom have increased estrogen and testosterone. When present in the proper balance, these hormones add fire to sexual desire, give us more sex appeal, improve mood and memory and can even prevent abdominal fat gain. A little precoital cuddling, however, is also very important. Scientists at Simon Fraser University measured the level of testosterone in women before and after sex, cuddling and exercise. Although the women’s testosterone was higher both before and after sexual intercourse, cuddling gave the biggest testosterone boost of all.

Sex Busts Stress
Do I really need to go into detail on the benefits of sex for stress relief? Most of us know that a healthy sex life can help knock the pants off stress. A great orgasm also encourages the release of oxytocin, which makes us feel calmer, more relaxed and can even lower our blood pressure. Orgasms also spark an antiaging surge of DHEA. So having at least two orgasms a week can slow the aging process and indirectly support fat loss, while also offering some protection from the adverse effects of cortisol.

Wait, there’s more. Depending on the duration and “energy level” of the session, sex can help us burn calories and improve the fitness of our heart. Sex (including masturbation) improves our sleep and reduces the risk of depression, both of which are essential in preventing fat gain and improving hormonal imbalance. It also causes the release of endorphins, which can help ease pain and boost immunity. Some research even suggests sex 3 times a week can slow aging and prevent wrinkling around the eyes. Sounds better than any eye cream I’ve ever tried.

Sex Can Curb Your Appetite
Sex is a basic human need, just like food and shelter. You won’t be surprised to learn, then, that our desire to “get some” is controlled by the hypothalamus, which also regulates our appetite, body temperature and circadian rhythms. I once heard Sam Graci, author of The Path to Phenomenal Health, speculate that Mother Nature may start selecting against us when our sex engines cool, simply because of the basic laws of evolution or survival of the fittest. This ideal resonated with me and has certainly motivated me to stay active — and I don’t mean in the gym.

Our libido (that’s scientific lingo for sex drive) is determined by a set of complex physiological processes that involve delicate interactions between our brain, body and hormones. For instance, an appetite-suppressing compound in the brain controls our sexual arousal as well by stimulating the release of oxytocin. Also involved in sexual responsiveness and orgasm, the hormone oxytocin counteracts stress and depression by combating the harmful effects of cortisol.

Frequent hugs between spouses/partners are associated with lower blood pressure and higher oxytocin levels in premenopausal women. Having regular massage can also help to stimulate oxytocin.

The dose of dopamine we get from sex, which increases steadily to the point of orgasm and then declines, also helps curb our need to feed. Apparently, the dopamine pathways in the brain involved in stimulating desire for both sex and food are shut down by the hormones released immediately after we have an orgasm. Can you imagine better news for appetite and craving control?

So if you remember nothing else after reading this book, I am certain this little snippet of advice will stay with you: have more sex. If you satisfy your sexual appetite, you can satisfy your growling stomach and your need to nibble on candy too.
There’s No Pressure, Though
Perhaps you are like many women and men with a lowered sex drive who find the idea of “jumping” into an active sex life hard to imagine. This can change, however, if you want it to. Following the recommendations of the Hormone Diet will help to improve your hormone balance and overall well-being, which will help a languished libido. But you can also fuel sexual desire further with visualizations or small acts of intimacy. For instance, try thinking of positive words on waking — even if you don’t feel positive — like love, joy, peace, strength, happiness, beauty, etc. Next, tailor this simple exercise to help your lowered sex drive by adding words you find sexy — like hot, sensual, sultry or touchable. You can also slowly bring intimacy back into your life with activities to help you feel close and connected again, such as back rubs, foot rubs or date nights.

The Challenges of Sex and Aging
As we age, we tend to have less sex. A good deal of research suggests this decline is caused by hormonal changes that naturally occur with age. But at the same time we know less sex alters our hormones. It’s a real Catch-22.

Experiencing both a decrease in the desire for sex and changes in sexual responsiveness is common for both men and women. As we age, women may notice vaginal dryness or discomfort, decreased lubrication and even pain with intercourse, whereas men may experience more difficulty achieving an erection or erections that are not as firm as they once were. Orgasms may also become less intense for both sexes. All these symptoms are due to the inevitable hormonal shifts that come about as we age. They will occur more rapidly if we stop having sex because we lose all the wonderful hormone-enhancing effects sex has to offer.

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The Supercharged Hormone Diet

The Supercharged Hormone Diet

A 30-Day Accelerated Plan to Lose Weight, Restore Metabolism and Feel Younger Longer
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : diets, nutrition
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Excerpt

Our Big Fat Hormonal Imbalances
 
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-          Albert Einstein
 
Imagine exercising daily, counting calories and excluding food groups only to have your belly fat or love handles grow bigger and bigger. The more you strive to meet your goal, the farther you are from achieving it. It’s the always shocking, incredibly frustrating, unsuccessful dieting phenomenon. And it happened to me.
 
At the time, I was a student and I assumed that the diet and exercise program I was following wasn’t strict enough, long enough, or strenuous enough. Naturally I decided that I simply needed to do them both—harder. So, in desperation I added more cardio sessions and further reduced my food intake. The result? I gained another five pounds on top of the 20 I had already piled on. How could this be?
 
Let’s recall my equation for fat loss from  The Hormone Diet : Lasting fat loss = hormonal balance + (calories in – calories burned)
 
My intense efforts failed because they only served to make my hormonal imbalance, the true underlying cause of my weight gain, worse. Unbeknownst to me, I had a deficiency of thyroid hormone going on in the background. The imbalance only grew worse because the physical stress associated with excessive caloric restriction and over-exercising actually increased the negative impact on my thyroid hormone deficiency and further slowed my metabolism. After this, three things quickly became very clear to me. First; weight loss is by no means only about calories in versus calories out—hormonal balance needed to be added to the equation. Second; hormones are very powerful substances that influence many aspects of our health and wellbeing. And third; the level of one hormone impacts another, which established the need to think big picture when it comes to weight loss.
 
So, if we now know this as the new formula for fat loss, then surely we need to start thinking about all the factors that upset our hormonal balance and, therefore, ultimately make us fat. But I’ll tell you a secret before we get into a discussion of the eight most common fat-packing hormonal imbalances and the reasons why we are fat. This program fixes them all.
 
Tackling the Taboo Topic of Hormonal Health
After the release of my first book,  The Hormone Diet , I received hundreds of emails from people around the globe expressing exuberant relief that they finally found some answers. Many felt as if the book had been written directly for them, and they had at last discovered a solution to their nagging symptoms and hormonal hurdles. People were no longer sweeping their issues under the carpet, making excuses or hitting a wall with no discernable answers. It was exactly why I wrote the book in the first place—to create a practical guidebook that explains the cause, the effect and the solution, so patients can make informed decisions about their own health—one step at a time.
 
But a lot of readers also requested my three-step wellness plan to be more simply laid out. They wanted a more direct pathway to successful solutions—without the science. And so herein lays The Supercharged Hormone Diet 30-Day Plan. I want better health to be accessible to everyone, and this plan is so clear anyone can do it.
 
The pace of life just seems to get more and more hectic. Between work, family and other obligations, we’re all finding ourselves stretched—and stressed. Unfortunately, this busy lifestyle often leads us to place our health at the bottom of the priority list. Without realizing it, we find ourselves beholden to a host of poor habits— eating on the run, skipping workouts, grabbing too few hours of sleep and dismissing everyday symptoms that are often flags for something more serious. Habits that leave us carrying excess pounds, looking drained and feeling, well, just plain bad. Often we respond by seeking a quick fix to lose weight. But when our bodies are so out of balance, long-term weight loss is next to impossible. This book is about all the aspects of your lifestyle that come together to make—or break—your weight-loss success. It’s about taking the time and some simple steps to make yourself, your health and your overall wellbeing a top priority again.
 
Think about what drew you to this book in the first place. Do you have trouble dragging yourself out of bed in the morning? Do you ex - perience uncontrollable sugar cravings at 3 p.m.? Nagging PMS every month? Interrupted sleep patterns? Do you get stressed out just sitting in your office? Do you have difficulty coping with every task? Bloating after meals? Skin that has lost its luster or tone? Belly fat that just won’t go away? The list can go on and on, and I am willing to bet that many of you experience some of these frustrations every day. Believe it or not, these aren’t just factors that make you feel bad. They may be impacting your ability to lose weight!
 
Unfortunately, many of us are too embarrassed or too used to the symptoms to even think about discussing or addressing them. Both women and men have spent too long believing that their hormonal symptoms are a liability or are psychosomatic and can simply be ignored. Yet hormones are powerful chemical messengers in our body—they control everything from our reproductive functions to our mood, sleep, appearance and almost every other aspect of daily life. The very same hormones that are behind a whole host of health concerns (such as the ones listed above) are also influencing your ability to control your appetite, shed body fat and gain lean muscle. They dictate how successful we will be with a given weight-loss program; whether we will be able to drop un - wanted pounds or continue on the diet merry-go-round to no avail. So many of us believe we can get healthy by losing weight. But, it was my goal to teach you in  The Hormone Diet , that we must be healthy in order to lose weight.
 
 
The Eight Most Common Fat-Packing Hormonal Imbalances
If you have been unable to lose weight, even with diet and exercise, your hormones are very likely the reason you have not been successful. Our bodies are hard-wired to send us signals when something isn’t right, but often we’re too busy to hear them begging for attention. Many of us experience signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance every day. Recognizing and treating the subtle signs of hormonal imbalance is essential, yet so many of us have been out of balance for so many years that we don’t know how to recognize what “balance” is anymore.
 
No matter how an imbalance manifests on the outside, the internal reality remains the same—any and all hormonal imbalance leads to difficulty losing weight and increased risk of obesity. Unfortunately, the most common imbalances cannot be solved by dieting alone. In fact, they can prevent successful fat loss, even when great diet and exercise plans are in place. If you have not been successful in the past, one or more of the following hormonal imbalances could be the culprit:
 
Inflammation: Digestive disorders, allergies, autoimmune disease, arthritis, asthma, eczema, acne, abdominal fat, headaches, depression and sinus disorders are all associated with chronic inflammation, which has recently become recognized as the root cause of obesity and unhealthy aging. At the 2007 Postgraduate Nutrition Symposium at Harvard University, researchers revealed findings suggesting that inflammation and excess insulin are the major contributors to rising rates of type 2 diabetes and the overall fattening of North America.
 
Insulin Excess: Insulin is an essential substance whose main function is to process sugar in the bloodstream and carry it into cells to be used as fuel or stored as fat. There are several reasons for excess insulin, but the main culprits are stress, consuming too much nutrient-poor carbohydrate—the type found in processed foods, sugary drinks and sodas, packaged low-fat foods and artificial sweeteners—insufficient protein intake, inadequate fat intake and deficient fibre consumption. Heart palpitations, sweating, poor concentration, weakness, anxiety, fogginess, fatigue, irritability or impaired thinking are common short-term side effects of high insulin. Unfortunately, our body typically responds to these unpleasant feelings by making us think we’re hungry, which in turn causes us to reach for more high-sugar foods and drinks. We then end up in a vicious cycle of hormonal imbalance, a condition called insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, which only furthers weight gain and our risk of diabetes and heart disease.
 
Depression or Anxiety: Serotonin exerts powerful influence over mood, emotions, memory, cravings (especially for carbohydrates), self-esteem, pain tolerance, sleep habits, appetite, digestion and body temperature regulation. When we’re feeling down or depressed, we naturally crave more sugars and starches to stimulate the production of serotonin. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that depression and anxiety will soon be the number-one disability experienced by adults. Plenty of sunlight; a healthy diet rich in protein, minerals and vitamins; regular exercise and good sleep support serotonin production. When we measure our current lifestyle against all the elements necessary for the body’s natural production of serotonin, the wide-ranging epidemic of low serotonin is certainly not surprising. Add in chronic stress and out-of-control multitasking— two of the main causes of serotonin depletion—and it’s no wonder many of us suffer from depleted serotonin.
 
Chronic Stress: Under situations of chronic stress—whether the stress is physical, emotional, mental, environmental, real or imagined— our body releases high amounts of the hormone cortisol. If you suffer from a mood disorder such as anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder or exhaustion, or if you have a digestive issue such as irritable bowel syndrome, you can bet your body is cranking up your cortisol. Through a complicated network of hormonal interactions, prolonged stress results in a raging appetite, metabolic decline, belly fat and a loss of hard-won, metabolically active muscle tissue. In other words, chronic stress makes us soft, flabby and much older than we truly are!
 
Toxic Estrogen: Researchers have now identified excess estrogen to be as great a risk factor for obesity—in both sexes—as poor eating habits and lack of exercise. There are two ways to accumulate excess estrogen in the body: we either produce too much of it on our own or acquire it from our environment or diet. We are constantly exposed to estrogen-like compounds in foods that contain toxic pesticides, herbicides and growth hormones. A premenopausal woman with estrogen dominance will likely have PMS, too much body fat around the hips and difficulty losing weight. Menopausal women and, yes, men too, may experience low libido, memory loss, poor motivation, depression, loss of muscle mass and increased belly fat.
 
Menopause: According to projections by the government of Canada, 1 in 6 women will hit menopause within the next decade. Contrary to popular belief, menopause, which can begin as early as 40 years of age, is not just about estrogen decline. Supplies of other hormones such as progesterone, testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) also tend to dry up, right along with the skin, hair, eyes and libido. So many women come to my office intensely frustrated with the unwelcome changes in their body during this phase of life, especially an annoying thickening of the waistline. Other common symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, headaches, heart palpitations, poor memory and concentration, urinary urgency or incontinence, vaginal dryness, changes in the appearance of their skin and hair and emotional changes including depression, anxiety and irritability.
 
Low Testosterone: Testosterone enhances libido, bone density, muscle mass, strength, motivation, memory, fat burning and skin tone in both men and women. An increase of body fat and loss of muscle may happen, even with dieting and exercise, when testosterone is low. Testosterone levels tend to taper off with aging, obesity and stress, but today men are experiencing testosterone decline much earlier in life. This is quite an alarming finding, considering low testosterone has been linked to depression, obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease and even death. Dr. Mitchell Harman, an endocrinologist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, blames the proliferation of endocrine-suppressing estrogen-like compounds used in pesticides and other farming chemicals for the downward trend in male testosterone levels. Phthalates, commonly found in cosmetics, soaps and most plastics, are another known cause of testosterone suppression.
 
Hypothyroidism: Without enough thyroid hormone, every system in the body slows down. Those who suffer from hypothyroidism feel tired, tend to sleep a lot, experience constipation and typically experience weight gain. Extremely dry skin, hair loss, slower mental processes, brittle hair, splitting nails, diminished ability to sweat during exercise, infertility, poor memory, depression, decreased libido, feeling cold, or an inability to lose weight are also symptoms to watch for. If you suspect you have a thyroid condition, make sure your doctor assesses you and your full range of symptoms, not just your blood work. Even levels of TSH (an indicator of thyroid function) within the normal range have been proven to accelerate weight gain and to interfere with a healthy metabolic rate in both men and women.
 
If you don’t know whether your hormones are in balance or not, or if you may be experiencing one of the eight most common fat-packing hormonal imbalances, don’t worry; you will be able to assess whether one or more imbalance is influencing your health by taking my Hormonal Health Profile later on in this book.
 
Since hormones control our appetite and stimulate metabolism, achieving and maintaining hormonal balance plays an essential role in achieving lasting fat loss. Yes, diet and exercise are important. But the lasting solution must also include sleeping well, conquering inflammation, detoxification, optimizing digestion, limiting stress and introducing supplements or natural (bio-identical) hormone replacement. All of these factors influence our hormonal activity— and, ultimately, our weight-loss success—in truly dramatic ways.
 

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