We go through periods of time in our lives when the demands are greater and the stress load is heavier. Regardless of the reasons: illness, relationship difficulties, work struggles, caring for an aging parent or ailing child, there can be a physical impact. We may turn to food for comfort, or we may not nourish ourselves adequately. During times of stress there are actual physiological changes that happen in our bodies, one of which is weight gain. It may not happen overnight, but if we do not pay attention to our body’s needs, over time we may notice we are putting on the pounds. Most diet plans never take this into consideration and the follower of the plan fails to make any good progress. The following excerpt from the recently released E-book: “The Weight Loss Puzzle, Finally Solved!” written by myself and Dr. Diane Hayden arms the reader with information on which essential lab tests should be run to evaluate how our bodies are actually responding to daily stress.
Dr. Frank Aieta, ND
The following lab tests should be run in order to assess the function of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands enable your body to respond to every kind of stress (whether it’s physical, emotional or psychological) through hormones that regulate energy production and storage, heart rate, blood sugar balance, muscle tone, and other processes that enable you to cope with stress. When the body senses that it’s under stress it will attempt to stimulate the production of the following key hormones: norepinephrine, cortisol, DHEA-S and pregnenolone. An overproduction of these hormones can lead to the body going into an ener¬gy conservation mode leading to weight gain as other glands like the thyroid, ovaries and testes are affected. In contrast, an underproduction of the adrenal hormones can lead to a variety of other is¬sues including a condition known as adrenal fatigue syndrome which we touch on briefly in the book.
AM cortisol – Cortisol is released in a circadian rhythm pattern and in healthy individuals should be highest in the morning and taper off as the day goes on. It is therefore important for you to get your blood drawn first thing in the morning, around 8 a.m. being optimal. Cortisol plays extremely import¬ant roles in the body such as regulating blood sugar, reducing inflammation, helping you deal with stress and regulating immune function to name just a few. When cortisol levels become too high due to repeated stress, your metabolism can suffer greatly as the body goes into an energy conservation mode by suppressing the body’s conversion of T4 (the inactive thyroid hormone) to T3 (the active thyroid hormone) and increasing the production of reverse T3 (the metabolism suppressing hormone). Blood sugar levels also tend to go up, while you tend to store fat and lose muscle mass. On the flip side, chronically low levels of cortisol can lead to a whole new set of problems ranging from chronic fatigue to anxiety and depression as the body stresses and strains to maintain a normal balance. Optimal range for AM Cortisol is between 18-22 mcg/dL.
DHEA-Sulfate – DHEA is another adrenal hormone that is your body’s repair and regeneration hor¬mone. You can use this hormone to make other hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testoster¬one. The levels should be assessed along with cortisol and pregnenolone to determine if your adrenal system is over or under functioning. Chronically elevated levels, like with cortisol, can not only lead to weight gain but also irritability, sleeplessness and mood changes. Low levels can lead to immune dys¬function and low libido as well as muscle loss and fat gain. Optimal ranges for women are 150-250 mcg/dl and 250-350 mcg/dL in men.
Pregnenolone – This is considered the mother of all adrenal hormones since it’s the precursor to make DHEA, cortisol, progesterone, estrogen and testosterone in both men and women. Your body synthesizes this hormone directly from cholesterol. Pregnenolone decreases with age and can be neg¬atively affected by cholesterol lowering drugs, excessive trans-fats and a lack of healthy fats in the diet. The functions of pregnenolone in the body are as follows:
- Increases resistance to stress
- Regulates the balance between excitation and inhibition in the nervous system
- Improves mental and physical energy
- Enhances nerve transmission and memory
- Reduces pain and inflammation
Since pregnenolone and all the other steroid hormones produced in the body are all derived from cholesterol (a fat), eating adequate amounts of the right fats in the diet is of utmost importance. The ideal range for pregnenolone that I like to see in my patients is above 50 ng/dL with 90-110 ng/dL being optimal. Once again I look at this hormone in conjunction with the other adrenal hormones to determine the overall health of the entire adrenal gland.
Norepinephrine – Norepinephrine is both a hormone and neurotransmitter produced in the ad¬renal glands and also in the nervous system. Along with epinephrine, norepinephrine is part of your fight or flight response when you encounter acute stress or danger. It causes an immediate elevation in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar. Without this crucial reflex it is unlikely that our ances¬tors could have outrun predators or chased down prey. The problem is that in modern life, most of your stressors do not require fight or flight. Your body relies more on the steady release of the other adrenal hormones: pregnenolone, DHEA and cortisol to help you deal with stress, but when the ad¬renal glands are over taxed and you enter into a state of adrenal fatigue you are prone to run on epi¬nephrine and norepinephrine. This can take a major toll on the body. Elevated levels of the hormone leptin coupled with weak adrenals and increased stress can really tax the adrenal and nervous system leading to a major inhibition in weight loss. Chronically low levels can also be problematic and can result in symptoms of fatigue, depression and attention deficit. Ideal levels for norepinephrine are 250 – 350 pg/mL with levels closest to 250 being optimal.
You may be thinking, “Ok, I ran these blood tests and know what my numbers are, now what do I do?” That’s where the chapters on diet, exercise, dietary supplements, mindset, sleep and stress management come into play to guide you along the rest of your journey in solving your own weight loss puzzle.
This is just a sample of what this book has in store for its readers. There are also chapters on weight loss and mindset and more on the proper lab tests to ask for before implementing a diet plan and how to interpret the results. The reader will also be guided towards which diet is truly the best for them as well as choosing the ideal dietary supplements and exercise plan. There is also an entire chapter dedicated to providing the reader with healthy recipes and meal options. The true premise of this book is for the reader to finally take their health back into their own hands by arming them with the complete knowledge to do so.