Article - Healthy hormones? Kathleen Wills talks energy and weight management

Healthy hormones? Kathleen Wills talks energy and weight management

We’ve all had days when we’re short on sleep, finding it hard to be productive, need a coffee or a sugary treat, and just aren’t at our best. But if any of these are happening regularly, the cause may lie with hormones.

Auckland-based integrative medicine practitioner Kathleen Wills says she often has clients, more women than men, frustrated by weight management issues or constant feelings of tiredness, in spite of exercising and eating healthily.

Kathleen draws on conventional and integrative medicine to take a holistic view of wellness, and to look at the potential underlying causes of people’s symptoms. She was speaking at a recent Wellness Retreats New Zealand retreat in Auckland.

When it comes to low energy or difficulty managing weight, the following symptoms could be cause to investigate whether there is a hormonal imbalance, Kathleen says:

  • Difficulty getting up in the morning
  • Only being able to function after about 10am, once you’ve had a coffee or energy drink
  • Having a regular mid to late afternoon slump
  • Only having energy after 6pm
  • Getting a second wind between 11pm and 1am, and possibly needing sleeping tablets to calm your thoughts and achieve restful sleep
  • Snacking on sweet or salty foods or needing caffeine
  • Feeling run down and not being able to bounce back – if illnesses like the flu are going around, you’re more likely to get them
  • Feeling agitated or anxious, or having panic attacks
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Lower libido
  • Poor sleep - waking up frequently or having trouble getting to sleep

Kathleen says hormones are especially important because they’re responsible for so many chemical messages sent by our brain to essential organs including our endocrine system, our thyroid and our adrenal glands.

She lists what she believes may be underlying causes of weight gain and low energy:

1. Adrenal fatigue (find out more about this syndrome in another ecostore blog)

Kathleen recommends a test for adrenal fatigue if you don’t feel at your freshest between 8am and 9am each day, when there is a natural cortisol peak in the body. She says small protein snacks can give a bursts of energy during the day.

2. An under-active thyroid

Kathleen says a lack of essential minerals like selenium, iodine, magnesium and zinc in New Zealand soil can leave us vulnerable to an underactive thyroid. She says cold hands and feet are a sign of this because the thyroid helps control body temperature, and adds the thyroid slows down at pre-menopause age. Thinning of the outer eyebrows, deeply ridged nails, or depression may also be signs of underactive thyroid, she says. She recommends a thyroid test and an iodine level test –  and low levels of iodine can be treated using iodine tablets.

3. Estrogen dominance or estrogen/progrestorone imbalance (Read our blog on what Dr James Wilson has to say about this condition.)

Kathleen notes early development in girls may be a sign of estrogen dominance and could be related to exposure to environmental estrogens. These can come from the products we absorb when we apply them to our skin, or that we breathe in when cleaning, she says. That’s why she recommends using plant-based products like ecostore’s, which don’t have potentially harmful chemicals that can be found in other personal care or cleaning products.

4. Leptin malfunction

As Kathleen explain, leptin is a hormone that tells our body when it’s full. This article from  News Medical has more about the function of leptin.

Too much soy. Some people choose to give up dairy if they want to manage their weight, but Kathleen says too much of a soy alternative may cause estrogen dominance, even in men. She says women who can’t lose weight are often high in estrogen.

5. Progresterone deficiency

Kathleen says lower levels of this calming hormone that helps you sleep needn’t cause greater problems in the transition to menopause. She suggests exploring botanical remedies for hormonal issues.

6. Testosterone deficiency

This is common in men in their 40s and 50s, says Kathleen, and among younger men drinking soy milks.

7. Sugar consumption

We crave sugary foods to get the ‘dopamine hit’ our body craves, Kathleen says. And although it’s not easy to quit sugar, consuming only the natural sugars found in fruit, and lower glycaemic index sugars, are better options than simple refined sugars, she says.

8. The microbiome

According to Kathleen, the underlying cause of gaining weight is the microbiome – micro-organisms in our gut and mucous membranes.  A healthy gut is so important because these organisms send messages to our brain to “turn on or turn off” certain diseases, Kathleen says. Fermented foods and probiotics may contribute to a healthier gut, she says. And choosing less processed and organic/free range food can also benefit our gut.

9. Insulin resistance – of which diabetes is a common form – or any trouble processing sugars

10. Intestinal dysbiosis

Kathleen says this occurs when bad bacteria over-rides good bacteria in the gut, which can result in weight gain.

11. Over or under exercising

Kathleen believes over exercise can be a big problem because it can create an extra stress load, while some people aren’t building any exercise into their lifestyle.

But one of Kathleen’s most important tips isn’t about food, our lifestyle, or our bodies – it is about the way we act. She says women often perceive their bodies negatively and can be the harshest critics of other women- and this problem is made worse by unrealistic images of beauty portrayed in manipulated images.  Instead, she encourages women to share kind words with others about how they look.

“Remember that we create beauty with our attitudes and action,” she says. “Be kind and support one another. It’s not about being a size zero, it’s about feeling good within yourself and like you’re feeling healthy.”

Further reading:

Institute for Optimum Nutrition article on hormone balance:

Victoria State Government Better Health Channel – Obesity and Hormones:

National Integrated Health Associates - Metabolic Therapy: Thyroid, Adrenal and Hormone Correction:

This article is not intended to substitute for medical advice. Visit your health professional to address any issues or conditions.

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