Women, Food and Hormones, a book by Dr. Sara Gottfried, is a medical tour de force.
It’s especially valuable for those of us stuck in a healthcare system that focuses its scientific thought, resources, and trials on men.
How to Lose Weight
Gottfried teaches us much about the ins-and-outs of weight loss and gain, and specifically, how to reset the hormones of weight, appetite, and set point.
My favorite ideas of hers are on the hormones ghrelin, leptin, and adiponectin which I will outline below.
Hormones and Hunger
According to Dr. Gottfried, “hormones drive what you’re interested in, and food is no exception.”
Below I outline her views on the most common hormone imbalances that interfere with:
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- Normal Eating
- Weight Loss/Gain
- Fat Storage
- Set Point
The Hunger Hormone: Ghrelin
Let’s start with ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
Gottfried states that, “ghrelin is called the hunger hormone because it tells you when to pick up your fork and start eating. Ghrelin is the counter hormone to leptin.
The more ghrelin in your system, the hungrier you are.”
On the other hand, Gottfried explains, leptin is the hormone for satiation.
Leptin tells your body to “put down the fork.”
Your fat cells secrete leptin which regulates :
- Energy Expenditure
Leptin tells the body how and when to burn energy.
According to Gottfried: based on your leptin pathway, you may have a fast or slow metabolism at rest.
Gottfried states: “when you eat a typical Western diet high in sugar and saturated fat, your cells are at risk of becoming numb to the leptin signal, so your fat cells start to overproduce it, making you inflamed and then more fat by lowering adiponectin.
The more fat cells your body makes, the hungrier you get as the fat cells crave fuel for their survival.
When leptin is in control, you feel satisfied with more modest portions of food, i.e., the right amount for your set point.
Fat Burning: Adiponectin
I was not familiar with the hormone adiponectin until I read Dr. Gottfried’s book, Women, Food, and Hormones.
Adiponectin tells your body to burn fat. Think about it, the word “adipose” stands for fat tissue.
The relationship between adiponectin and fat is inverse –the more fat you have, the lower your adiponectin levels.
This is not a good thing.
Further issues arise due to the fact that when adiponectin decreases, inflammation rises.
Conversely, as adiponectin increases, you not only burn more fat, but inflammation decreases.
Gottfried summarizes the powers of this critical hormone by stating that when you lack adequate adiponectin, you have great difficulty melting fat and staying lean.
Tips on How to Reset Your Hormones
Gottfried analyzes pathways and problems, but also provides the solutions below.
Here are her tips on how to reset hormones of:
- Set Point
Good Night Sleep Tight
Let’s start with sleep. Gottfried recommends more sleep to reset the following hormones to their optimum levels:
She goes on to say that if you have one night of poor quality sleep, you will temporarily worsen your insulin and prediabetes, so it’s even more important to eat well the next day.
Like me, Gottfried is not a fan of sleep deprivation.
She recommends aiming for 7 to 8.5 hours per night, I find I do well with 9 to 10 hours given how active I am throughout the day as well as dealing with fatigue from MS.
For more information on sleep check out the following blog posts:
Fiber is a very underrated food. It serves two incredibly important functions in the body.
First, fiber helps with digestion –one common cause of constipation is a diet low in fiber.
The other critical function of fiber is satiation –fiber fills us up!
Fiber Rich Food
I’m a fiber-aholic, keeping my fiber intake on the high side by eating a plant based diet filled with vegetables.
One of our favorite fiber rich foods is my BBQ Kale Chips recipe, pictured above.
Here are some other fiber sources I like to lean on:
Bone Broth Smoothie
I add psyllium and baobab to my daily Bone Broth Smoothie –its base is made with Kettle & Fire Bone Broth and it’s super easy to whip up.
Sometimes I throw in a bit of inulin as well.
Head over to Instagram for the full recipe. I love bone broth protein because it’s made of collagen, a substance that makes our bones denser and our skin more supple.
Chia Seed Chocolate Pudding
A couple of other great sources of fiber? Chia and flax!
Recipes with chia seed are great for increasing your fiber intake.
My beloved Chocolate Chia Pudding is a delicious low carb high fiber dessert, as is my recipe for Flaxmeal Tea in Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry.
I also want to mention that chia fiber is one of the best constipation relievers out there.
Chia Seed in Water
Just be sure to hydrate the chia seeds with water hot off the boil and let them sit for a couple of hours to unlock the incredible soluble fiber. Drink it down –slime and all!
Go Slow with Fiber
Be careful with fiber! It’s important to build up slowly, as it can have the opposite effect on your bowels if you take too much too quickly.
Chia Seed Constipation
Further, always take your fiber with an adequate amount of water so that it doesn’t build up in a concrete-like way in your digestive system, slowing everything down, i.e., creating constipation.
Fiber Controls Appetite
Why all this fiber? In addition to creating a feeling of fullness and promoting gut motility, Gottfried states that adding extra fiber to your diet helps to lower:
That’s why I have provided so many ways for you to easily increase your fiber intake above.
How to Hydrate Fast
Not surprisingly, Gottfried is a fan of hydration. So am I.
While water is critical for proper hydration, electrolytes are also important.
That’s why when I want to hydrate fast and properly, I drink my water with electrolytes.
I use LMNT to keep my electrolytes balanced because it provides the following critical minerals in the proper doses:
The danger of overhydrating without electrolytes is that you can water down the electrolyte balance in your bloodstream which is dangerously unhealthy.
Overhydration is referred to as hyponatremia –as you can see from the image above, this is something I’ve slightly suffered from.
If you’re concerned about experiencing hyponatremia, leave a comment and let me know if you’d like me to create a homemade electrolyte supplement recipe.
Magnesium Benefits for Women
How does increasing your magnesium levels contribute to weight loss?
Gottfried states that upping magnesium intake raises adiponectin and lowers inflammation.
You can do this with foods such as:
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Leafy Greens -spinach, kale, arugula, etc.
- Supplements -I love Mag Mind pictured above
I take Mag Mind because it contains magnesium threonate.
This type of magnesium doesn’t pass right through you (creating gut motility), but instead is well absorbed by the nervous system.
Morning Coffee Without Caffeine
Gottfried recommends limiting or removing caffeine because in excess this substance raises cortisol levels, and increased cortisol can lead to increased appetite.
Instead of traditional coffee with caffeine, I drink Dandelion Coffee when I’m craving a hot drink with a good hit of bitter.
Dandelion root is a great liver cleanser.
Intermittent Fasting Results
Gottfried recommends intermittent fasting to help lower insulin and your set point. I have a great article for you with detailed information on how to get good fasting results.
How Often Should You Eat?
According to Gottfried, to repair leptin and insulin, stop the snacking –I like this because I think of it as training your body for more serious fasting with mini-fasts.
She suggests eating three meals a day and rather than snacking, have a glass of water, then ask yourself: am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?
Gottfried also recommends not eating more frequently than every 4 to 6 hours on the days you’re not fasting to help optimize insulin and leptin.
How To Get Your Body to Burn Stored Fat
Gottfried states that it is optimal to exercise wisely for a minimum of 30 mins, 4x a week, going on to say that exercise has been shown to lower leptin, raise adiponectin, lower insulin, and burn fat.
I have a fabulous post on gentle exercise called Walking It’s Free that speaks to this.
Balancing Hormones for Weight Loss
I hope this summary of Dr. Gottfried’s fabulous book Women, Food and Hormones as well as my personal perspective and ideas for biohacking your routines have been helpful.
Let me know if you have any questions or leave a comment to share your ideas!
“ If you’re concerned about experiencing hyponatremia, leave a comment and let me know if you’d like me to create a homemade electrolyte supplement recipe.” I would be very interested in a homemade electrolyte supplement recipe. Thank you
I’m working on it!
Daniel T Dues says
Your body doesn’t need nor can ut use any fiber.
All fiber does is fill your digestive track up forcing you to go #2.
Fat and salt help digestion thats why low salt low fat diets are no good!
Our bodies need salt and fat GL
Daniel, yes, that is exactly the point of insoluble fiber, it passes through without being absorbed. Salt is fabulous too because it has an osmotic effect, while fat is a great lubricant.
Thanks for this overview of hormones! I have considered getting Dr Gottfried’s book and now I will. Thanks also for sharing what works for you, and of course your recipes!
You’re welcome Lisa!
Gayle S says
I’ve had hyponatremia, and it’s not fun at all. I’d love a recipe for homemade electrolyte supplements.
Gayle, I’m working away on this with my younger son!
Hi Elana. Thank you for yet another informative post. Yes, please, to the electrolyte drink recipe. I, too, have low sodium and love the LMNT mixes, but I can’t afford them on a regular basis. Im a middle school teacher and would love a recipe that I can use to fully hydrate my body. I find I have more energy and focus in my last period classes when I’ve had electrolytes mixed in.
Julie, I’m the same way –much more focus when properly hydrated :-)