You Hormones: How They Affect Your Weight (part 4: Estrogen)

Hormones are powerful things; they affect everything.  Different hormones, of course, directly affect different things. Here’s what you need to know about estrogen.

Estrogen is typically thought of as a “female” hormone, while testosterone is considered a “male” hormone.  In fact, both hormones occur in both sexes, and they can impact your weight.

Estrogen gets the spotlight when anyone is discussing menstruation or menopause; women produce this hormone at much higher levels than men do.  Regardless of sex, there still exist other classes of estrogen: phyto-(plant)-estrogens, and xenoestrogens.  Estrogen isn’t just one hormone: it’s a group of hormones and their metabolites.

Phytoestrogen found in plants mimics human estrogen in the body; that is, the body can’t really tell the difference between the two.  Certain plant foods, such as soy and to a much larger extent, flax, have high concentrations of phytoestrogens.  (One should be prudent with flax seed consumption, as some studies have shown too much flax can cause false positives for prostate cancer screening in men; the contributing factor is said to be the high levels of ALA in flax).  In general, one shouldn’t worry too much about phytoestrogens, as they occur in fairly low levels and are flushed from the body within days.

Xenoestrogens, on the other hand, are more important to think about. These are estrogens finding their way into our bodies from our environment–and they are everywhere.  Pesticides, herbicides, pollution, contaminated water, and plastics are just a few examples.  They are in paint, nail polish, lotion, soap.  Food. Not only are these estrogens everywhere, but they linger in the body.

Too many estrogens, and you can become estrogen dominant.  Symptoms of estrogen dominance are: weight gain in the waist and other problem areas, allergies, recurring sinus infections, water retention, fatigue and mood swings.

WHAT TO DO TO AVOID ESTROGEN DOMINANCE:

De-tox.  Clean up your life.  Stop with the synthetic products, the excessive trash and packaging, and drink filtered water (not necessarily bottled) if you can.  Also, eat a nutritious diet rich in onions, garlic, and cruciferous vegetables, as they are rich, flavonoids and indoles--things that help block the effects of xenoestrogen.  Berries and other anti-oxidant rich foods are always a good idea, as anti-oxidants work to reverse many deleterious effects.

Avoid xenoestrogens found in conventional meat and dairy, and certainly conventional (GMO) soy products.  Things heavily sprayed with herbicides and pesitcides (i.e., all conventional food) are also full of xenoestrogens. Avoid drinking things from plastic bottles, and microwaving your food in plastic trays.

Caffeine, also, is a big culprit for estrogen dominance, especially for women (virtually all women who drank coffee had higher estrogen levels than women who did not; women who drink 4-5 cups per day have estrogen levels up to 70% higher than women who do not).  Alcohol is another estrogenic compound; that is, it promotes the production of estrogen in the body.

We’ve never lived in a world this polluted before.

Balance, Stability, & Proprioception

by Maria Stevens, April 2009

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Balance – a state of bodily equilibrium

Stability – firmness in position

Proprioception – The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself

These three things cannot be trained seperately. Balance is important because it allows for harmony within the body, and between individual muscles. Injuries generally are caused from either overuse, or imbalance. Muscular imbalance is a problem for most athletes, who overtrain the muscle groups most important for their performance. This places an unbalanced load on the body.

Stability… don’t fall over. More importantly, it means that you are solid. Core stability is crucial because it is the central link in your bodily chain. During a squat thruster, for instance, you drive with the legs, then press the weight over your head with the arms. But the core had to activate in order to do this–to pass that weight over a threshold from legs to arms. Everything is core training! Stability has more to do with your core than anything else. Core is everything between the bottom of your butt and your sternum. Stability lies in that region. It also turns out to be the biggest region of the human body.

Proprioception… in laymans terms, is the body’s ability to anticipate change. Your muscles learn to fire in anticipation of each other’s movements, to that stability can be corrected before it is lost. (When you drink too much alcohol, your body loses its proprioception. The muscles get stupid.)

Training balance, stability, and proprioception burns calories and challenges muscles in a completely new way.  For example, as you attempt to train a large muscle group on an unsteady platform, you find that other smaller muscles begin to tremble in an effort to keep you stable.  These smaller muscles are demanding a large percentage of your body’s available energy; the resulting effort is greater than simply lifting a heavy weight, thereby burning for mare calories. Think about it. Things that require you to change direction require the most energy. In balancing exercises, you are changing direction (trembling) at a high frequency.

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