Over the past four weeks, I’ve been writing about a number of weight-affecting hormone issues – cortisol, leptin, estrogen and insulin imbalances. Now, let’s talk about testosterone and how it affects women.
What is Testosterone
Testosterone (T) is a steroidal hormone produced in humans and although men make greater amounts of T than women, the hormone is essential for a woman’s survival. Testosterone originates in the sex organs in both men and women but circulates in different amounts. Women have one tenth the amount of testosterone as compared to men.
Testosterone helps to burn fat and is the hormone responsible for increased muscle mass, bone density, improves libido, and is imperative for good health. Testosterone boosts strength and decreases body fat. A woman with high testosterone is the owner of a lean body with a flat strong abdomen and high energy. Testosterone is a very versatile hormone. It can convert to either estrogen or dihydrotestosterone (DHT). As testosterone strengthens our bodies and improves our memory, it also creates that essential sense of well-being that makes us all feel wonderful and alive regardless of our age.
Age and stress can significantly reduce the testosterone levels in women. Low levels of testosterone can lead to a number of serious conditions, including increased risk of depression, low sex drive, obesity and osteoporosis. It can also cause less serious conditions such as fatigue and moodiness. All of this can increase stress and inflammation leading to more fat accumulation. And the sad part is …. most women consider these problems a normal part of the aging process.
As women age, they need testosterone to help them control their weight. It is also very important to understand that too much testosterone can be harmful. As women acquire excess abdominal fat, their estrogen levels rise along with their SHBG and their free testosterone also increases. For women, testosterone has the power to decrease fat mass, but it can also promote insulin resistance – thus causing belly fat.
As testosterone levels drop, previously youthful women begin aging rapidly, often becoming overweight and more passive. Women with low T feel tired and lazy and gain weight easily. Women with low T develop heart disease sooner and lose their memory faster than women with normal levels.
Aging is not the only cause for the dwindling of women’s T levels. Medications including the use of birth control pills and the use of a popular class of antidepressants have been shown to cause a negative effect in testosterone levels.
It is clear that as we mature, we should not accept obesity as the norm. Vitality, vim and vigor and permanent weight loss are attainable with enough testosterone, exercise and a healthy diet.
How Testosterone Slows Your Metabolism
Did you know that toxins that you encounter daily behave like estrogen when absorbed in the body?
All this fake estrogen overwhelms your body’s testosterone—which is vital for hormone balance—and contributes to estrogen overload. Testosterone contributes to muscle growth, which in turn supports metabolism. And, as we already know, estrogen overload raises insulin insensitivity. The combination adds pounds to your frame.
Your risk of weight gain and disease from exposure to toxins may be greater than you realize. A survey by the CDC demonstrated that 93% of the population has measurable levels of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in store receipts and canned foods that disrupts estrogen, thyroid, and androgen hormones. Endocrine disruptors have been shown to interfere with the production, transportation, and metabolism of most hormones.
Testosterone and Weight Gain
A hormonal imbalance can result in excess testosterone production and subsequent weight gain in women. Recognizing the symptoms of this imbalance can help you minimize weight gain.
Note that the testosterone does not trigger weight gain, but instead is an accessory symptom. Physicians may test for high testosterone levels when a woman experiences a sudden weight gain and the physician suspects polycystic ovary syndrome may be to blame. Because testosterone circulates in the blood, physicians can recommend a blood test to measure the presence of testosterone in your body.
Testosterone plays a vital role for women who generally gain excess weight when testosterone levels decrease. This can lead to a number of problems. The relationship between women, testosterone and weight gain is, however, a little more complicated than with men. Women tend to gain weight easier than men because of higher levels of estrogen. As women age, levels of estrogen and progesterone, the female sex hormones, begin to fluctuate. Estrogen tends to become dominant and this can often lead to weight gain. Excess testosterone can convert to estrogen thus causing that weight gain.
A decrease in testosterone levels in women can lead to a loss of muscle mass. Muscle mass burns more calories than fat and keeps the metabolism working well, so a decrease in muscle tissue could lead to additional weight gain.
Testosterone and Weight Loss
Increasing testosterone levels and lowering estrogen levels can help to reverse the loss of muscle. To reap the benefits of increased testosterone, estrogen levels must simultaneously be lowered. There is a direct correlation between elevated estrogen and disorders involving obesity. Testosterone plays an important part in the metabolism of fat as well. There is a higher predisposition to being overweight in women with a fluctuating or low testosterone level.
How to Increase Testosterone
There are a few options for treating low testosterone levels: the pharmaceutical approach, the supplement approach, and the lifestyle approach.
- Talk to your doctor to check your testosterone levels.
- Workout regularly to help improve testosterone levels and boost your metabolism. Performing muscle-building exercises will aid in raising testosterone levels.
- Get more sleep and lower stress levels.
- Include fiber rich foods for weight loss in your diet such as flaxseeds, prunes, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, etc.
- Take vitamin C, probiotics, and magnesium supplements to prevent constipation.
- Avoid consuming alcohol as it can potentially damage the liver and kidney.
- Take zinc and protein supplements to improve testosterone levels.
- Doctors can prescribe both bio-identical and synthetic hormones as well.
- Do not start self-medication as weight gain is a multifaceted problem and you should target the root cause to lose weight without harming your health.
- Talk to your doctor and get the necessary tests done to find out if your weight gain is hormonal.
- If yes, whether one hormone is causing the weight gain or there are other abetting hormones as well.
Though it sounds complicated, you now have the tools to determine the reason for your broken metabolism, the reasons regular diets don’t address the root cause of your weight gain and belly fat. Hormones dictate what your body does with food. Losing weight is not just about healthy eating. It’s about keeping your hormones in check.
It’s not easy to lose weight. If your hormones are imbalanced, see your doctor and find your fix. If you are already eating healthy and exercising regularly, your body might slim down without any extra effort from you.
As we have discussed over the last four articles, hormones control critical reactions and functions such as metabolism, inflammation, menopause, glucose uptake, etc. The triggers of a disrupted hormonal balance can be stress, age, genes, and poor lifestyle choices leading to a sluggish metabolism, indigestion, uncontrollable hunger—ultimately leading to weight gain. Though women are accustomed to hormones going wacky, a chronic case of imbalanced hormones can make you prone to all obesity related diseases.
Whether you are currently at a gym, in a group exercise program, working with a personal trainer, or managing your fitness routine on your own, understanding the role that stress and hormones play go a long way.
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