The ZRT Laboratory Blog

The ZRT Blog is an extensive resource for patients and health care providers searching for health and hormone testing information. Here, you can read about ZRT’s cutting edge research, advances in testing, wellness advice, and health industry highlights.

Posted by Dr. Alyssa Burns-Hill on Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Q&A for Weight Loss Winners & Dieting Downfalls

weight_loss_blog_1Many people assume that thyroid hormone deficiency or thyroid imbalance are to blame for weight loss failure, but there are some key factors to consider that might be affecting thyroid hormone function rather than focusing entirely on thyroid hormone levels:

  • For a woman who has recently gone on the Birth Control Pill or HRT (or had her dose increased) it may be interfering with thyroid hormone availability causing a hypo-metabolic state. Higher estrogen may also increase her tendency to eat carbs, especially chocolate! (Remember the premenstrual chocolate munchies that many women succumb to!) The higher estrogen level will increase insulin production, lowering blood sugar and increase carb cravings for energy.
  • Stress is another problem area - for whatever reason(s): work/relationship/health/mood/lack of sleep or even lack of weight loss on a restrictive dietary regime can be stressful. Stress will alter mood and make willpower disappear and comfort eating will take over. Stress and high cortisol will drop blood sugar and create carb cravings too!

There are always a number of factors, it can really make a difference to look outside the obvious or expected hormone box.

What about gluten in the diet?

Most people can benefit from a gluten-free diet, especially if there’s an autoimmune issue such as Hashimoto’s, RA, MS or Ulcerative Colitis. Signs that someone might be sensitive to gluten are:

  • bloating and gas
  • fatigue or brain fog
  • migraine

It’s worth suggesting an avoidance strategy for a week. The individual will be able to recognise for themselves, if there’s any improvement in how the gut is feeling and other signs of malaise that may abate.

What about supplements that can help to reduce estrogens for men (and women)?

Dietary indoles are a group of phytonutrients that can be very supportive of improved estrogen metabolism. Examples are:

  • I3C - Indole-3-Carbinole
  • DIM – Diindolylmethane

These are naturally occurring phytonutrients found in cruciferous vegetables. (I had to eat 2oz of raw broccoli or cabbage every day when I went through a natural approach to breast cancer.) This group of phytonutrients assists in the elimination of toxins from the liver, promotes a healthy balance of oestrogen metabolites and may help to maintain cellular health. Supplements are much easier to deal with than raw veg - I promise!

Chemically-speaking indole compounds help to shift estrogen balance in favour of 2-hydroxyestrone (a protective estrogen metabolite). I3C breaks down to DIM and other dietary indoles once ingested.

Another useful supplement is Calcium d-Glucarate (a supplemental form of D-Glucaric acid), which is another phytonutrient found in fruits and veg, which can support the body’s ability to detoxify hormones and toxins through glucoronidation. During glucoronidation, glucoronic acid attaches to toxic chemicals and hormones, such as estrogen, in the liver to form a substance that can be excreted in the bile.

This can really help to reduce estrogen burden for men or women as it is helping to excrete rather than metabolise.

What are some herbs or supplements that help to balance hormones naturally, while relieving menopause symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings?

When it comes to menopause, the focus is often on estrogen. However, in my experience the menopause story has more than one protagonist!

Estrogen can be low in women who are of slight build (remember that body fat makes estrogen). If a woman is genuinely low in estrogen I tend to work with:

  • Phytoestrogens (and Emerita’s Phytoestrogen Cream is a good partner to Pro-Gest for an effective physiological level dosing regime).
  • Estriol, the softest and safest oestrogen is the best supplement and it may be best to use a compounding pharmacy for this so that you are sure of what you are working with.

Progesterone is so important during the menopause – it will help to potentiate a lower estrogen level. Unfortunately, many health professionals are confused by progesterone and think that its synthetic cousins will do the same job – they do not.

Physiological dosing of natural progesterone can make a profound difference for most women going through the menopause. The best thing is to assess bioavailable hormone levels so that you know what you’re working with, and then provide a dosing regimen that will work with the estrogen available.

Related Blog: How to Convert Patients to BHRT from Conventional Therapies

Caution: too much progesterone too quickly can provoke what I call an ‘estrogen kickback’! This is where PMS-type symptoms can emerge: mood swings, tender breasts, bloating. It just means that estrogen has ‘woken up’ and it’s best to ease back on the progesterone – there’s no point in your patient being uncomfortable, as it doesn’t achieve anything.

There was a question about what estrogen I used for Maria, the case study in the webinar. I didn’t need to work with estrogen - progesterone did the trick very well indeed in spite of the fact that Maria had had a hysterectomy at 32. She was overweight and her body fat was contributing to her estrogen load.

Some major factors for women going through the menopause with issues of hot flashes and mood swings are often related to lack of sleep (in particular waking early) and stress. Sometimes the stress can be because of the mood swings causing guilt because they feel they are losing control and turning into a woman they can hardly recognise as themselves.

A great supplement that can positively support these problem areas is 5-HTP. This is a plant based amino acid that forms a pre-cursor to serotonin, which can significantly help to improve mood and reduce stress. If a woman has less ‘pressure’ on the SNS her hot flashes will subside significantly.

Related Blog: Herbal Remedies for Sleep

The other benefit with 5-HTP is that if taken at night the serotonin converts to melatonin, supporting deeper, longer and more restful sleep. When a person is less tired they are better able to cope and this is much better than an addictive sleeping pill.

I find that noticeable improvements are seen within a week, which beats the timeframe of antidepressants, and, it’s not addictive or dulling to the brain, energy or mood.

5-HTP can also support a weight loss regime because it can help the individual curb comfort eating. Carbs make serotonin in the gut, hence the comfort! So, by adding 5HTP the craving may be circumvented.

I hope you find the above hints and tips (from questions asked at the live event) helpful. Do let me know if there’s anything you’d like to share!

Click here to view the "Avoiding the Hormone Hijack" webinar by Dr. Burns-Hill.

Tagged in: Weight Management Thyroid Health Menopause Melatonin BHRT