When it comes to weight loss, we all know that fad diets are out and good old-fashioned exercise and a healthy diet are in.  Sticking to an exercise routine and a health-conscious lifestyle can help anyone drop weight, but what about those last 10 pounds that everyone is always talking about?

Holding onto those extra pounds that keep you from achieving your ideal weight may not be your fault.  Here are three reasons why diet and exercise may not be enough, and what you can do about it:

1. Hormones

 

When it comes to hormones, there are several common culprits: Estrogen, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), and cortisol.

 

Estrogen:  Excess estrogen leads to weight gain on the hips, thighs and abdomen in women and on the chest and abdomen in men.  To make matters worse, these fat cells produce even more estrogen, leading to further weight gain.

 

TSH: Thyroid stimulating hormone is released by the anterior pituitary.  This hormone acts on the thyroid gland, and is a key factor in determining your metabolic rate.  Often times, high levels of TSH indicate suppressed thyroid function which leads to weight gain, low mood, dry skin, and cold hands and feet.

Cortisol: Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stressful situations.  Chronic stress leads to long-term elevation of cortisol which causes fat deposition and abdominal weight gain.

 

Solution: Hormone testing through the blood or saliva can give useful information about hormone levels, endocrine function, and metabolic rate.

 

Estrogen levels can be reduced by increasing dietary fiber and cruciferous vegetables, and taking supplements that remove excess estrogens from the body such as DIM, I-3-C and sulphoraphane.  Avoid exposure to exogenous  and synthetic estrogens in soft plastic bottles, pesticides, birth control pills, and synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

 

Elevated TSH can be lowered through reducing intake of raw cruciferous vegetables and increasing your intake of seaweeds.  A thyroid supplement containing L-tyrosine, selenium, iodine, zinc, B vitamins and magnesium can improve thyroid function.  Herbal medicines and glandulars are also available.

Cortisol levels can be decreased by getting more sleep, reducing stress levels and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine.  B Vitamins and herbal adaptogens such as licorice and ashwagandha can restore adrenal gland function.

 

Hormone levels may also require balancing through bioidentical hormone replacement.  Bioidentical progesterone may be used to balance estrogen dominance, and bioidentical thyroid hormones can restore thyroid function and a healthy metabolic rate.

 

 

2. Yeast  (Candida)

Candida albicans is a yeast that can colonize on our skin and mucous membranes.  It often shows up in the mouth (thrush), the vagina (yeast infection), and the gastrointestinal tract.  Presence of a small amount of Candida in the gastrointestinal tract is normal, but overgrowth is problematic.

Candida overgrowth, known as candidiasis, can cause symptoms of brain fog, bloating, abdominal pain, irregular digestion, fatigue, sensitivity to smells, sugar and alcohol cravings, weight gain and difficulty losing weight.

Solution: Candida can be tested for, or a diagnosis can be made based on symptoms.  A typical Candida cleanse consists of an anti-yeast diet which excludes foods that promote yeast growth, a yeast killing supplement, and a probiotic supplement.  The yeast killer clears yeast that have colonized in the digestive tract and the probiotic bacteria replace the normal intestinal flora.   Water and a high fiber diet help remove the dead yeast from your system.

Getting rid of a Candida infection helps the body shed retained weight and reduces sugar cravings so you are less likely to reach for the simple carbohydrate snack.

3. Toxins

 

Toxins are ubiquitous in our environment and many are stored within our fat cells.  Heavy metals, pesticides, plasticizers, solvents and synthetic hormones are just a few of the many sources of man-made chemicals that our bodies are susceptible to.

 

Chemicals, such as organochlorine (pesticide), have been shown to increase weight gain by disrupting the body’s own hormones that control body weight.  These toxins, also known as “endocrine disruptors” can throw hormones out of balance, leading to a slower metabolism and ultimately weight gain.

 

It is a known fact that non-organic meat and dairy contain synthetic hormones that promote weight gain in humans and precocious puberty in children, but what else is in our food?  Other chemicals found in livestock include drugs that inhibit the thyroid gland and slow down metabolism, corticosteroids and anabolic steroids, all which promote weight gain and abdominal obesity in humans.

 

Solution: Choose organic foods whenever possible and cut down your consumption of red meats and dairy as these foods have a higher fat content, which equals more calories and more exposure to fat-soluble toxins.  Even with an organic diet, chemicals and toxins are everywhere in our environment, air, and drinking water.  Because of our unique genetic polymorphisms, some of us are more susceptible to the effects of toxins than others.  Detoxification of heavy metals and chemicals stored in our tissues is the best way to keep toxins from building up and resulting in persistent weight gain.  Talk to your naturopathic doctor about the best detoxification program for you.