Ab tip #8 will explain the science behind unbalanced estrogen and testosterone and how it can be adding a layer of fat to your belly.
I’ll start with a personal story of how too much testosterone effected me.
I went 2 years without a period 2012-2014. I wasn't abnormally lean during this full two years, so it didn't make sense. I was a natural athlete eating what I thought was really healthy, but very regimented. I, in fact, began to notice I was stuck with this thin layer of belly fat that I had not usually had. As I trained for fitness photo shoots, it seemed nearly impossible to get rid of, no matter how hard I trained or dieted.
I eventually went to see a natural dr. who did testing on my hormones. She concluded that my testosterone levels were way too high and my estrogen was low. My body fat wasn’t low for me personally, so I should have been getting a period.
After her research, she concluded I wasn't breaking down the fats I was consuming properly. I wasn't metabolizing them well. She discovered my diet was lacking sulfur. She asked me if I had been eating a lot of greens and egg whites. I was shocked. I said, “Yes”. As a bodybuilder they were staples in my diet. She told me I needed to add onion, garlic and yolks to my diet, sulfer dense foods. AND get this.... I lost that layer of belly fat within the first four weeks of eating a more balanced diet. I also got my period and I've been healthy since. Crazy that all I needed to lose that layer of belly fat was to get my hormones back on track!
Sometimes our hormones aren’t off due to lack of activity or too much activity/training, but because of a nutrient deficiency or ...too much of a certain type of food or chemical.
Now on to the science…
Both men and women produce and use estrogen AND testosterone. Men produce and use more testosterone, but they also need estrogen. Women produce and use more estrogen, and just like men, they also produce and need testosterone.
Having an imbalance of these two hormones can lead to undue weight gain, particularly in the stomach/waist regions.
Testosterone and estrogen are antagonistic to each other aka high levels of one will usually suppress the other. It would be unlikely to have low levels of both. What sometimes happens is that a high aromatase activity (enzyme that turns testosterone into estrogen) drops testosterone levels.
If you have very high levels of Testosterone, turning some of it into Estrogen is actually a good thing (body is trying to create balance). The problem occurs when your Testosterone levels are too low and Estrogen is too high.
How to naturally reduce Estrogen:
- Eat organic (pesticides = increased estrogen levels)
- Eat crecifouis foods (*see below)
- Sleep well
- Consume less or no alcohol
- Be active
- Increase fiber intake
- Avoid soy products
- Get enough vitamin B12, folate, betaine, and choline.
- See a naturopathic dr. for more advanced, personalized advice
*Cruciferous vegetables (what I was eating too much of) broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts (mostly greens). Also celery sticks, red wine, and oysters. If you increase the amount of these foods in your diet, it should help you reduce Estrogen to balance your horomones.
High levels of estrogen are found in women who are extremely overweight. The same goes for men. Men who are overweight carry a lot more estrogen than men who are a healthy body weight and/or active.
For BOTH males and females TOO much estrogen leads to weight gain in the hips and belly; however TOO much testosterone also leads to this same type of weight gain. Moral of the story… we need balanced hormones to stay healthy and lean. If you’re struggling to get abs and you feel like you’re doing EVERYTHING right, get your hormones tested!
You can go to a medical dr. and get blood testing done OR you can see a naturopathic dr. and they can do EDS testing. The medical dr. will most likely try to prescribe you a medication. The natural dr. will try to advise you on what foods you need to eat more or less of and might recommend a natural herb (or something along those lines).
Symptoms of too High Estrogen in men:
- Sexual dysfunction (low libido, decreased erectile function)
- Enlarged breasts
- Lower urinary tract symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia
- Increased abdominal fat
- Feeling tired
- Loss of muscle mass
- Emotional disturbances, especially depression
- Type 2 diabetes
Symptoms of too High Testosterone in men:
- Oversleeping/sleeping often
- Erectile/sexual dysfunction
- Water retention
- Bone loss
- Fat accumulation (waist)
Symptoms of too High Testosterone in women:
- Lack of period
- Voice box lowers
- Weight Gain or inability to lose weight
- Hair loss
- Acne/oily skin
- Changes in mood including: depression, irritability or anger
- Imbalances of other hormones including: Estrogen/progesterone ratio, other androgens like DHEA and thyroid hormone
Symptoms of too High Estrogen in women:
- Weight gain (particularly around the abdomen and hips)
- Decreased sex drive
- Irregular or otherwise abnormal menstrual periods
- Bloating (water retention)
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Headaches (especially premenstrually)
- Mood swings (Irritability and depression)
- Cold hands and feet
- Hair loss
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Slow metabolism
- Slow thought process, memory loss
So, if you feel like you're doing everything right.... you're eating well, sleeping well, getting enough water, staying active BUT still feel tired and are gaining weight... I recommend you go get your hormone levels checked out! It could be a very simple fix.