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Why are you gaining weight. Part 5

Why are you gaining weight.


I previously discussed how low thyroid function is different than low thyroid hormone levels on blood testing. They are not one in the same. In this blog let’s consider how elevated cortisol (your stress hormone) causes weight gain around the middle, and what to do about it.  

Cortisol excess from stress
Another hormone involved in weight gain is elevated cortisol (your stress hormone).
What happens over the years when you are constantly or repeatedly under high stress demands, be they physical, mental or emotional? You probably guessed it: excess cortisol production. Similarly, what happens if you constantly worry or have to keep a fast-pace life? Yes, the same thing. One of the heralding sign of excess cortisol production from repeated or chronic stress is weight gain around the middle: the classic apple-shape obesity, even if you are exercising and eating healthy!

Elevated cortisol is can be lowered by stress-reduction. Here are some important stress-reduction concepts: Identify your stressors (financial, relationship, ill health, etc.) and evaluate if they are worth keeping in your life. Then do your favorite “feel good technique”:
Deep, slow breathing for 10 minutes while visualizing something you enjoy or that makes you happy, with no stressful distractions. Do this whenever you feel stress building up inside you as a feeling of anxiety, or other negative emotions.
Meditation, yoga, Tai Chi or other meditative exercises
Find your best music and listen to it often to lift your mood and inspire your personal power. Then write how you feel (journaling) to soft music about your major concern.
Tapping techniques are quite effective, but must be learned. Here is a great diagrammatic informational chart to explain what this is and how it works: http://www.projecttapping.com/lp?sr=1&cid=[PT]-Search-EFT-%28US%29-%28Broad%29&aid=[Text-Ad]-EFT&network=g&keyword=eft%20tapping&matchtype=b&creative=32126306169&otag=[PT]&adtag=%28PT%29&adtag_time=30. You can watch a great demonstration of the Emotional Freedom Technique here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWu3rSEddZI
Find inspiring audio instructions from authors such as Wayne Dyer, Michael Beckwith, or Esther Hicks (Teachings of Abraham). For example, you can listen anytime for free to inspiring audio tracks at http://www.abraham-hicks.com/lawofattractionsource/videos.php.

Here are adrenal supporting herbs and supplements to lower the need for high cortisol levels. You may want to learn more about these online:
L-theanine is an amino acid derived from green tea (Camellia sinensis) known to reduce your emotional and physical response to stress. The usual dose is 200 mg once or twice daily.  
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an antioxidant herb that can help reduce anxiety, panic attacks, phobia and depression. In one study, Ashwagandha for five days had anxiety-relieving effects similar to the benzodiazepine medication lorazepam and antidepressant effects similar to the antidepressant medication imipramine.
Siberian ginseng contains a precursor for DHEA and cortisol. Usual dosage is 100 mg twice daily and if it has an energy-boosting effect you can detect be sure to take it in the mornings.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is another useful herb. At 600 mg daily subjects improved mood and calmness in one 2004 study and in another study when combined with valerian root they lowered anxiety.
Kava kava (Piper methysticum), valerian root (Valeriana officinalis), and passion flower (Passiflora incarnate) are relaxing, and sedating. They have GABA-like effects. Taken as pills, they are used to treat both insomnia and anxiety. Tea from chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm, kava kava, passionflower, and valerian root will also calm anxiety when needed.
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is an herb that supports your ability to handle stress.
A study using 300 mg daily for 12 weeks in elderly patients without dementia reduced anxiety and improved cognition.
Essential oils are calming and they are a safe and effective: lavender, sweet marjoram, chamomile, sandalwood, ylang ylang, neroli, bergamot, frankincense or vanilla bean extract.
Magnesium deficiency is a growing concern with the “SAD” standard American diet. Magnesium deficiency is a known cause of anxiety. Magnesium 500 mg daily is a safe starting dose. At higher dosages it could cause diarrhea.  
If you have depressed mood, consider taking 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan) which is a precursor to the brain neurotransmitter Serotonin; SAMe (s-adenosyl-Methionine, an amino acid) 750 mg twice daily or St John’s wort (an herb).  
Vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6 and B12 help you produce more serotonin. Low vitamin B is linked to anxiety, restlessness, and emotional instability. Vitamin B complex supplementation is recommended especially if you are vegetarian.  

In my next blog I’ll explain the effects of the other hormones that can put on weight on you if not in balance.

Best of health,
Michael Cutler, M.D.

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