Watch out for that slow, creeping weight gain that can take us by surprise as we get older. It is a common frustration I see when counseling women at mid-life. How and why does this happen?
So much of this is related to what we eat and our activity level. We may have been able to get away with eating refined sugars in the past, but as we keep consuming foods that contain white flour, white sugar and rich fatty ingredients, our pancreas starts to get overstimulated with all the work it needs to do in trying to get glucose in the cell. The pancreas must secrete insulin to get glucose into the cell to be used for fuel and energy. Instead of secreting insulin just when it sees food (as it should), the pancreas now secretes insulin ALL the time…even when we are sleeping. It now takes even MORE insulin to escort glucose into the cell because the receptors outside the cell have become dysfunctional and resistant. Hence the term, “insulin resistance”. If glucose cannot get into the cell, then it gets stored as fat in our adipose tissue (mainly the abdomen) and in coronary arteries, which leads to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
But that’s not all…
Our thyroid and adrenal glands are also involved. Our adrenal hormones (glands that sit on top of our kidneys) are responsible for helping us adapt to stress, both emotional/psychological and physiologically. Lets face it, we are all under a tremendous amount of stress these days. When women are starting to go through peri-menopause and rocky hormone levels, their adrenals are also being used to cope with this changing internal environment as well as external stressors.
Some adrenal hormones assist in the conversion of thyroid hormones, T-4 to T-3. Some researchers believe that the entrance of thyroid hormone into our cells is under the influence of adrenal hormones. So if we have adrenal fatigue, which most of us do to some degree, then the way we utilize food for fuel will be compromised. This is where low thyroid function comes in. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism are sometimes indistinguishable. We start to put on weight, feel exhausted, have foggy thinking, more constipated, craving sugar, lack of libido, allergies, dark circles under the eyes, muscle and joint pain, dizziness, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, poor sleep, dry skin, cystic breasts, difficulty recovering from stresses like colds or jet lag, no stamina or motivation to do things, tendency to startle easily, lowered immune function, anxiety, depression, and premature aging.
The point is…this doesn’t just happen when you hit a certain age. It’s been happening for many years. It’s that your body now has a hard time compensating with keeping everything in check, so these symptoms start emerging and we call it “aging”. I just call it frustrating, but there is something you can do.
See a practitioner that can test your thyroid and adrenal function. Talk to a good clinical nutritionist who is familiar with insulin resistance and can also rule out food allergies. Gluten allergy has been well researched in its association with malabsorption, blood sugar imbalances, adrenal fatigue and thyroid dysfunction. The main emphasis is on increasing whole grains and dietary fiber along with essential fatty acids, healthy proteins and quality fats. Eat frequently, several small snacks a day instead of 3 larger meals a day and exercise. Exercise has been shown to decrease insulin resistance, lower blood pressure and high cholesterol, reduce stress and help weight loss.
Supplements to consider are chromium picolinate, alpha lipoic acid, selenium, and cinnamon.
You can reverse these symptoms and the time to start is NOW.