Weight Management Treatment and Addressing Hormone Imbalance
You’ve counted calories and followed the latest diet fads and exercise routines but the pounds just won’t melt away, at least not for long. What are you doing wrong? There are many complex factors that can lie behind weight gain. Our approach to weight management involves an integrated, scientific approach to the problem. Dr. Varela takes a multifaceted approach to the problem of weight loss. Since weight gain results from complex relationships between the body’s systems and the environment, no single eating program or weight loss method can work for everyone. One size simply does not fit all. One has to examine carefully all of the potential underlying issues that can influence a person’s weight and then develop an individually tailored approach that corrects the imbalances that lead to weight gain. The goal is long-term health, which can be achieved by correcting imbalances, and a healthy eating and exercise plan. Dr. Varela addresses the following issues that can lead to weight management problems:
  • Stress Hormone Imbalances
  • Food Allergies
  • Female Hormone Imbalances
  • Male Hormone Imbalances
  • Pregnenolone imbalance
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Thyroid Hormone Dysfunction
  • Nutritional Factors
  • Chronic Inflammation
  • Gastrointestinal Imbalances
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Toxicity (Immune, Neurological, Endocrine)
  • Neurotransmitter Dysfunction
  • Food Addictions
  • Nutritional Factors
  • Exercise
Stress Hormone Imbalance:Some stress in your life is good. It often helps us focus, concentrate and “get the job done”. However, too much stress can be detrimental to the body and lead to weight gain. Cortisol & DHEA imbalances can lead to fatigue, sugar cravings, mood changes, insomnia, irritability, insulin resistance, thyroid dysfunction, and imbalances in testosterone/estrogen ratio. All of the hormones in your body are designed to work together. In order for you to enjoy good health and lose weight, they all have to be balanced and at an optimal level.Food Allergies:A large percentage of the U.S. population suffers from undetected food allergies. If you are eating foods to which you are allergic, immune complexes form in your body. To minimize this reaction the body retains fluid to try to dilute the immune complexes and make them less concentrated. This excess fluid contributes to weight gain. Many people crave foods they are allergic to. Some of the Physical symptoms of food allergies are abdominal pain, arthritis, asthma, bloating, blood sugar problems, chronic or recurrent infections, cravings for carbohydrates, constipation, eczema, excessive thirst, fatigue, gas, headaches, indigestion (recurring), irritable bowel syndrome, irritability, malabsorption of food, metallic taste in mouth, nausea, rashes, sinusitis, sleep disturbances, ulcers, and weight gain. The top four foods that cause allergies are wheat, dairy, soy, and eggs. Other common foods that frequently result in allergic responses are barley, beef, chocolate, citrus, coffee, nuts, rye, seafood, sugar, tea, and tomatoes. Research also shows that food allergies affect the limbic region of the brain. This area is associated with the hunger response, consequently affecting your ability to lose weight.Female Hormone Imbalances:Female hormone disorders such as PMS (premenstrual syndrome), PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), Peri-menopause and Menopause are also associated with weight gain.Some symptoms of PMS such as abdominal bloating, appetite changes, and salt and sugar cravings affect weight gain. A low progesterone level on days 12-14 of the menstrual cycle very commonly is associated with this syndrome. PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian disease/syndrome, which is characterized by irregular menstrual cycles or absence of menstruation and excess of testosterone (androgen) production. Signs and symptoms of PCOS include obesity, irregular or absent menstrual cycles, infertility/recurrent miscarriage, hirsutism (excessive body hair), oily skin/acne, and alopecia (hair loss). Other symptoms of PCOS include cysts on the ovaries, high testosterone levels, elevated insulin or insulin resistance, elevated cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The hormonal imbalances caused by PCOS lead to weight gain. 

For more mature women, hormones likewise play a role in weight gain. As many women go through peri-menopause and menopause, many women put on extra pounds. In order to lose weight and keep it off, a woman’s sex hormones have to be balanced and replaced if lost. One size does not fit all. What each woman needs is as unique to her as her fingerprints. Therefore her treatment should be customized to her own individual needs. If the body is deficient in hormones, they should be considered replaced with bio-identical hormones. Estrogen has 400 functions in the body. One of those is to make insulin work better which helps to keep a woman’s blood sugar normal. This aids in weight loss. Estrogen also helps the formation of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, which decreases depression, irritability and anxiety. Abnormal levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters can lead women to eat “comfort foods” that can also cause weight gain. One can also have too much estrogen in the body. Estrogen levels must be balanced with other hormones such as progesterone. One of the main symptoms of too much estrogen is weight gain, especially around the abdomen, hips and thighs. An excess of estrogen can result from an imbalance of progesterone to estrogen. Progesterone is also one of the sex hormones that a woman makes that declines with peri-menopause and menopause. Low levels of progesterone are also seen with PMS, PCOS, and postpartum depression. It is made in the ovaries before menopause. After menopause, some progesterone is made in the adrenal glands. Too much progesterone can also affect weight gain. The ratio between estrogen and progesterone also has an effect on ideal body weight. 
While it is well known that a surge in testosterone production in the testes of boys brings about the changes that lead to manhood, it is not well known that women also produce testosterone (albeit at about one-tenth the level as men) in their ovaries and adrenal glands. As in men, levels of testosterone peak in women in their twenties and decline thereafter. Like men, women not only experience a decline in testosterone production, but also in hormones such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which falls dramatically for women after menopause.


Although doctors have known that women produce testosterone, most mainstream physicians have believed that hormones like testosterone are not important for women. Only levels of the “female” hormones progesterone and estrogen were thought to have any significant bearing on a woman’s health and well being. Over the last decade, however, more and more evidence has been brought forth suggesting that testosterone is a very important hormone for women, especially in terms of staying fit, lean, and sexually active.


Male Hormone Imbalances: The impact of decreasing androgens is known as andropause, also called “male menopause” or PADAM – Partial Androgen Deficiency in the Ageing Male. It is a normal part of ageing, although, for some men it is accompanied by a gradual and undesired decline in their sexuality, mood, and overall energy. Many men also experience weight gain, muscle loss, and loss of fitness. Sometimes it can even expose men to more serious health risks. The existence of andropause is recognized by some of the best researchers in medical science, including the international medical community. In fact, a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report, states that “male androgens progressively decline with age.” The study tested androgen levels at age 25 and by age 70, androgen levels were only 10 percent of what they were during youth. Andropause marks a change in hormonal function with testosterone and DHEA declining and estrogen levels elevating. For men, DHEA, cortisol, and thyroid hormones have the same effect on weight as for women. Testosterone and estrogen are also involved in how much men will weigh and how easy or difficult it is to lose weight.


Pregnenolone Imbalance: Pregnenolone is a precursor to (makes) DHEA, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol in both men and women. Your body synthesizes this hormone from cholesterol. Pregnenolone decreases with age. At age 75, most people have a 65% decline compared to age 35. Pregnenolone functions to increase resistance to stress, regulate the nervous system, improve energy, enhance nerve transmission and memory, reduce pain and inflammation and block the production of acid-forming compounds. Your natural pathways for producing pregnenolone are blocked when you eat to much saturated fat and trans-fatty acids. Therefore, when you eat the wrong foods, your body does not deal with stress well, and you do not make the optimum amounts of your other sex hormones. This can cause you to gain weight. Your levels of pregnenolone can be measured and supplemented if you are low.


Insulin Resistance: Insulin is part of the hormonal symphony in the body that is directly related to weight gain for both men and women. Estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, thyroid hormones, and cortisol are all very important for the regulation of glucose in your body. Insulin in the body helps regulate glucose, which is your blood sugar. If insulin is not working effectively in your body this is called insulin resistance. This means that insulin is there but is not working as well as it could. Consequently, insulin levels elevate to compensate for their ineffectiveness. Insulin increases your ratio of fat to muscle. Consequently, an increase in insulin decreases fat burning. Elevated insulin is the common link to obesity, hypertension, and heart disease.


Thyroid Hormone Dysfunction: Thyroid hormone dysfunction can occur at any age. If your level of production is too low, you gain weight. Any imbalance of your thyroid hormone can affect every metabolic function in your body. Your thyroid gland is your body’s regulator. It regulates energy and heat production, growth, tissue repair and development, and stimulates protein synthesis. Many patients are routinely told that their thyroid levels are “fine”, but they actually have severely low functioning thyroids that are not being picked up by the standard TSH and T4 testing, which is the only testing done about 90% of the time. This method of testing only reveals the sickest of patients, leaving the majority of patients misdiagnosed. Dr. Varela utilizes comprehensive thyroid testing that reveals “sub clinical” hypothyroidism.


Nutritional Factors: We provide nutritional recommendations as well as work alongside nutritionists to develop a plan for healthy eating that is tailored to your palate and lifestyle. By eating smart you can assure your body is burning fat for fuel without leaving you feeling hungry or deprived. We can teach you the science behind eating the right foods at the right times and in the right amounts. We also offer intracellular nutrient analysis that determines what vitamins and minerals your body is lacking. By repleating the nutrients your body needs you increase your body’s ability to burn fat and keep it off.


Chronic Inflammation: When you are overweight, this sets up an inflammatory response in the body. Inflammation is used by the body to heal, however, when the inflammatory response is too great; then, it can cause disease. Adipose (fat) tissue produces several different “adipokines” including hormones and inflammatory mediators that produce chronic inflammation. One of these adipokines is leptin. Leptin works on the brain to inhibit food intake and activates thermogenesis (burning of fat) in conjunction with insulin. Decreasing inflammation can help patients achieve weight loss.


Gastrointestinal Imbalances: You may have difficulty staying away from sugar if you have an overgrowth of Candida albicans. Candida albicans is a yeast organism that occurs in the body, but if it is allowed to over-flourish and dominate the intestinal flora, it can become pathologic. By correcting a persons yeast imbalance it is often much easier for him/her to lose weight.


Sleep Deprivation: Adequate sleep is needed to maintain health and to promote weight loss. Ineffective sleep elevates inflammatory markers in the body such as IL-6 and your stress hormone cortisol. Studies have shown that people who get less than six and one-half hours of sleep a night for eight consecutive nights have less insulin sensitivity than those who sleep seven to eight hours a night. Therefore, insulin will not work as effectively in the body, and you can gain weight and predispose yourself to diabetes by not having adequate sleep.


Toxicity: In order to remain healthy and achieve weight loss, your body has to have the ability to detoxify. Your body has four organs that detoxify. They include: the skin, the kidney, the liver, and the gastrointestinal tract. All of these modalities are modified through environmental exposure, diet, and lifestyle. Common symptoms of toxin buildup include headaches, muscular aches and pains, and fatigue. Toxicity also can affect your immune, neurological, and endocrine systems. Immune toxicity may be a factor is asthma, allergies, skin disorders, chronic infections and cancer. Neurological toxicity affects cognition, mood, and neurological function. Endocrine toxicity affects reproduction, menstruation, libido, metabolic rate, stress tolerance, and glucose regulation.


Neurotransmitter Dysfunction: Weight gain and obesity for many people can be related to neurotransmitter dysfunction. There are many other clinical conditions related to neurotransmitter imbalances such as depression, migraine headaches, inappropriate stress reaction, anxiety, insomnia, ADD/ADHD, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue.


Food Addictions: There are some food habits that are hard to break when you look at weight loss because they are physically addicting. Chocolate, cheese, and wheat are such substances, as is sugar. Oftentimes food addictions can be linked to a yeast imbalance (Candida albicans) or food allergy.


Nutritional Factors: Nutrients are very important to help the body function optimally. Consequently, having the right amount of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and other nutrients is a key element in obtaining and maintaining weight loss. Every year over 75% of your body is replaced and reconstructed from the nutrients you eat and take, even the DNA of your genes. The quality of these vitamins and nutrients determines the quality of your cells, how well they function, prevent disease, and how easy it is for you to lose weight.


Exercise: In order to lose weight and keep it off, exercise is key element. Exercise is important to weight loss for the following reasons:

  • It aids in increasing metabolic rate
  • Elevates the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which aids in burning fat
  • Increases growth hormone release, which aids in weight loss and keeping the body younger
  • Improves the sensitivity of insulin
  • Helps fat loss while maintaining lean muscle


Weight gain and obesity are very complex medical disorders that require a multifaceted approach. Successful weight management is done only through optimizing hormonal function, including insulin, thyroid, stress hormones, and sex hormones. The focus on the treatment of weight loss should not be on the “disease” itself, but on optimizing functional systems in the body that are unique to you.

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