Let’s face it, very few people even think about their hormones at all let alone make any connections between what they put in their mouths and their hormone levels.
Even fewer recognize the links between the different hormones. For example, did you know that the level of one hormone in your body—take coritsol for example—can have a drastic effect on another one of your major hormones like insulin?
In the name of good health many of us have gotten into, frankly, some very bad dietary habits. Sometime during the 90’s we began to develop a fear of eating fat. We turned to low-fat foods, which inevitably introduced our bodies to a growing amount of refined carbohydrates and simple sugars.
Sure, we thought we were doing good things for our health but instead this low fat, high carb, and simple sugar diet was leading us down the road to a major health disaster.
Our bodies were forced to start using a lot more insulin to balance out all the sugar we were putting into our bloodstreams. Eventually, after pumping out so much of the hormone our bodies started to go into burnout mode and they stopped listening to the insulin and in fact became insulin resistant. The result? The Obesity Epidemic.
Insulin and Cortisol Balance
I spoke with Dr. Alicia Stanton, MD functional medicine physician, and author of Hormone Harmony and she shed more light on the relationship between insulin and cortisol.
it turns out that the issue with insulin being out of balance is actually twofold.
First is the direct relationship between insulin and belly fat. The more insulin you have, the more belly fat you tend to put on. This is a problem because belly fat is rich in different enzymes that lead to a hormonal imbalance.
Belly fat takes testosterone and converts it to extra estrogen, creating big health problems for both men and women. Women with too much estrogen can have breast tenderness, heavy bleeding, uterine fibroids, and other problems. That’s why it’s important to keep estrogen and progesterone levels balanced.
An imbalance between estrogen and progesterone, especially estrogen dominance, can occur at any age. It’s tragic to see children…trough an unfortunate combination of genetics and poor diet…develop insulin resistance or Type 2 diabetes, which is traditionally known as adult-onset diabetes.
The second issue with insulin balance stems from the fact that cortisol is the balancing hormone for insulin. This means that if insulin is out of whack, cortisol also gets out of whack. And as your bodies demand for cortisol grows it can begin to cause a cascading effect with other hormones.
For example, cortisol uses the same building blocks as those needed to make estrogen and testosterone. If your body is using all those building blocks to create more cortisol then there will not be enough left to build the other hormones. You also won’t be able to balance your estrogen with the progesterone.
In a nutshell it’s important to watch your diet so that the hormones won’t become unbalanced and cause serious health problems. Stop avoiding fat like it’s the plague and instead treat refined carbs and simple sugars like the enemies that they are. Reduce the amount of processed foods you’re eating and substitute them with fresh whole foods instead.
If you suspect that your hormones may be out of balance you should seek out a specialist in functional and metabolic medicine who can do the proper testing to help you get back in balance and on the right track.
Dr. Cynthia Shelby-Lane, MD is a board certified anti-aging, functional and metabolic medicine specialist, emergency physician, comedienne and talk show host who believes “laughter is good medicine”. Dr. Shelby-Lane has been seen and heard on local, state and national television and radio talk shows, educating Americans on a variety of medical issues. She completed her fellowship in Functional and Metabolic Medicine and she is currently completing her master's degree at the University of South Florida. She is also an oral board examiner for the American Board of Anti-Aging and Functional Medicine, helping to certify qualified anti-aging specialists worldwide.
She has her own private practice in Anti-Aging & Longevity medicine, which incorporates alternative and complementary treatment modalities. Her practice addresses bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, cardiovascular and diabetic concerns, weight loss, chronic fatigue, anti-aging assessments via consultation, both online and in the office, detoxification, and co-cancer management. She also provides consultations via a comprehensive online functional medicine questionnaire helping to guide a person to the best health decisions and follow up.
Shelby-Lane is also a professional health coach, helping people to change their health outcome through a model for change, motivation and accountability.
Shelby Lane MD is currently the producer and host of a health teleseries called Conversations with Dr. Shelby-Lane, interviewing the best health experts on the planet.
ON ONE HAND, Dr. Shelby-Lane is a graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. ON THE OTHER HAND, she is also a graduate of The Second City Comedy School in Chicago, successfully combining a career in medicine and comedy: "DOCTOR BY DAY, COMEDIAN BY NIGHT". She is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Medicine at Wayne State University, the Medical Director of the Laugh Factory because she believes, “Laughter is Good Medicine”, laughing out loud and living longer!