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Estrogen and Cortisol: 2 Hormones That Affect Belly Fat: Thomas DeLauer
Estrogen is known as the “female” hormone and testosterone is known as the “male” hormone.
Although they’re identified with a specific gender, both hormones are found in women and men. Women have more estrogen and men have more testosterone
It’s also the hormone that can be the most troublesome in the fat department
At normal levels, estrogen actually helps keep you lean by increasing the production of insulin, a hormone that manages blood sugar. When estrogen gets thrown off, though, it turns you into a weight-gain machine.
Xenoestrogens are fat-soluble and non-biodegradable in nature.
Unfortunately, accumulating estrogen is not hard. We are constantly exposed to estrogen-like compounds since the major sources of these Xenoestrogens are pesticides, detergents, petroleum products, plastic products, cosmetics, etc. (1)
The “thickening” of women’s bodies and the “softening” of men’s bodies are often related to excess estrogen.
When in excess, estrogen promotes the growth of estrogen sensitive tissues, leading to an increased size of adipose (fat) tissues in the waist, belly and other estrogen sensitive fat tissues
In men, fat accumulation is typically in the belly and chest; for women, in the belly, lower butt, upper thighs and sometimes in the back of the arms.
In some cases, excess estrogen causes feminization of men’s bodies with conditions such as genecomastia.
Estrogen sensitive fat tissues are also called “stubborn fat” due to their high resistance to fat burning. Generally, not even diet or exercise can help remove this estrogen sensitive tenacious fat.
Excess estrogen works in a vicious cycle. Estrogen promotes fat gain, and the enlarged fat tissue produces more estrogen within its cells, which then promotes more fat gain, and so on.
Back in the bad old hunter-gatherer days, the human species got a lot of use out of the hormone cortisol. That’s the stress hormone activated during the fight-or-flight response, causing our blood pressure to rise and heart rate to increase.
But in the modern world, there’s little need to either fight or flee. Yet the cortisol release remains functional in the species, only now it’s activated in response to the stressors of modern society (e.g., bad traffic, malfunctioning machinery, domestic discord) rather than natural perils or challenges to survival.
Repeated elevation of cortisol can lead to weight gain in 3 ways:
1) One way is via visceral fat storage. Cortisol can mobilize triglycerides from storage and relocate them to visceral fat cells (those under the muscle, deep in the abdomen).
Cortisol also aids adipocytes’ development into mature fat cells. The biochemical process at the cellular level has to do with enzyme control (11-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase), which converts cortisone to cortisol in adipose tissue.
Vitamin C is probably the best and most cost-effective supplement that you can take to balance high cortisol levels naturally.
Multiple studies have found out that vitamin C supplementation after exercise rapidly clears cortisol and that when vitamin C is administered before a stressful situation it blunts the stress induced rise in cortisol.
Ashwagandgha (Withania Somnifera) is an Indian herb commonly referred to as “adaptogen” because it is a compound that helps the body adapt to stress related stimuli
1) Estrogen Dominance, – Women Living Naturally. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.womenlivingnaturally.com/articlepage.php?id=7
2) Excess Estrogen and Weight Gain: A Nutrition article from Dragon Door Publications | Dragon Door. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dragondoor.com/articles/excess-estrogen-and-weight-gain/
3) Cortisol — Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml
4) Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. – PubMed – NCBI. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16353426
5) A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandh… – PubMed – NCBI. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798
6) Exercising to relax – Harvard Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax