The hidden hormone that can help weight loss
Want to know how to have more energy and a youthful body? It’s all down to keeping a certain hormone happy and balanced
Our hormonal system is both beautiful and mysterious. We might not always understand it, but we can intuitively feel the power of hormonal changes. When it comes to sex hormones, oestrogen and testosterone tend to get all the press, but an equally vital one is progesterone, often dubbed the ‘feel-good’ or ‘youth hormone’.
“Most conventional doctors only look at progesterone in relation to pregnancy when levels are at their highest, but it has many other health benefits too,” says Dr Sohère Roked, a GP with a specialist interest in integrative medicine. Here’s why progesterone is such an anti-ageing hormone.
IT BLASTS FAT
One reason progesterone is so great is its ability to aid weight loss. “The hormone has a diuretic effect that reduces water retention and bloating, it speeds up metabolism and enhances fat burning,” says Dr Roked. It also helps to prevent oestrogen dominance, which can cause weight gain, especially on the buttocks, thighs and around the middle.
IT CURBS CRAVINGS
Good levels of progesterone help you to make healthy food choices. The reason for this is that it helps regulate blood sugar levels.
“On another level, eating badly can throw hormones, including progesterone, out of balance and make it more diffificult to lose weight,” says nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville.
“If you eat too many sugary foods, this causes insulin spikes. When your blood sugar levels rise too high, your body produces insulin to balance it.
Insulin is our fat-storing hormone. So, the more insulin your body makes, the more stubborn fat you accumulate.”
When you make too much insulin, this means progesterone levels are continuously depleted. Sugary foods also cause the body to produce more cortisol and this further impairs progesterone.
IT BOOSTS ENERGY The thyroid gland releases hormones that control metabolism and regulate many bodily functions, including muscle strength, heart rate, cholesterol levels and more. When your thyroid is functioning properly it’s easy to maintain a steady weight and good skin and hair, plus you have lots of energy.
“Progesterone stimulates the production of an enzyme that makes thyroid hormones. In fact, quite often when a woman has a thyroid imbalance, a GP will only look at her thyroid but it may be that low progesterone is the underlying problem,” says Dr Roked.
CHANGING LEVELS Progesterone levels can fluctuate. During ovulation, it more than doubles, then levels dip just before a period. It’s at its highest during pregnancy and naturally decreases in menopause. The excess cortisol secreted when you’re stressed reduces progesterone, and poor diet, lack of exercise and certain medications can also lower levels. Chemicals, such as bisphenol-A (BPA), found in many plastics, and phthalates, in fragrances, cosmetics, household cleaners and food packaging contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that disrupt hormones generally.
IT MAKES YOU GLOW ‘This revitalising hormone is beneficial for skin elasticity and circulation,’ says naturopathic doctor Natasha Turner. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which helps to regulate the action of an enzyme called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes sebum production that can lead to acne. Balanced progesterone levels helps to keep DHT levels low and skin blemish-free.
IT HELPS YOU SNOOZE Progesterone has a natural calming effect that can help you sleep better. It enhances the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that soothes your brain, making you more relaxed.
Recent studies show that sleep boosts immune function, helps you to avoid weight gain, reduces stress, enhances mental function and has a rejuvenating effect that makes you look younger. It also helps to keep your hormones balanced.
“Not getting enough sleep raises cortisol levels and lowers progesterone, which is then a vicious circle as without progesterone, you won’t get as much shut-eye,” says Dr Roked.
ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO FEEL MORE RELAXED WILL HELP, SUCH AS EXERCISE, MEDITATION & YOGA