Can a hormone imbalance cause weight gain?
Hormones are the foundations of your body. If your hormones aren’t right, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing with your diet and lifestyle because your foundations are shaky. If you can get the foundations right, everything will flow much better and work optimally. Being overweight often has nothing to do with calories or exercise. But, for many of us, the problem is misfiring hormones.
What exactly are hormones?
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers produced by glands. They trigger activity in different parts of the body and regulate the function of cells and organs. There are sex hormones, hunger hormones, love hormones, happy hormones, and stress hormones (among others). If these are out of whack, they could cause several issues, from insomnia to burnout to weight gain and bloating.
Which hormones are responsible for weight gain?
Both high and low levels of oestrogen can lead to weight gain among women. High levels of oestrogen promote fat deposition, whereas low levels (especially during menopause) result in visceral fat accumulation, especially in the stomach and around the hips. This is usually an issue during menopause when your hormones encourage your body to store more fat as you leave your reproductive years behind.
As your ovaries produce less oestrogen, the body turns to other production sources, and extra fat cells effectively become the body’s safety net. This drop in oestrogen often leads to excess pounds accumulating on your tummy instead of your bottom and thighs. As well, these hormonal changes, and the way they make you feel – often tense, stressed, and anxious – send your stress hormone cortisol levels rocketing. In turn, this increases your chances of gaining yet more tummy fat.
The stress hormone cortisol can create all kinds of trouble for women who want to shed weight. When cortisol rises, it encourages the conversion of blood sugar into fat for long-term storage. Hoarding body fat in this way was a useful survival adaptation for our ancestors when they faced stressful famines. But not so much today. Reducing stress in your life will help rein in this fat-storing hormone but cutting down your caffeine intake can be very helpful too.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone, but it is also crucial for women as it helps burn fat, strengthens bones and muscles, and improves libido. If you are trying your hardest in the gym, or you’re eating healthily and in moderate amounts, but you’re still not losing weight, it could be down to your testosterone levels. Too much testosterone can cause insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain, which explains why androgen excess is a factor in the weight gain associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), menopause, and some types of birth control.
Numerous hormones contribute to weight gain, but none proves more powerful than insulin, your fat-storage hormone. High levels of insulin tell your body to gain weight around the belly whilst driving inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
Eventually, you become insulin resistant, which leads your body to generate belly fat and hold on to that spare tyre despite all your weight loss efforts.
What to do if you believe your weight gain is the result of your hormones
First things first, you should have a blood test to determine your hormone levels and establish any deficiencies so that they can be addressed accordingly.
If you’re struggling to lose, gain or maintain your weight, BHRT may help bring your hormone levels back up to adequate levels, allowing you to lose weight naturally once more. Working with a nutritionist will also help you understand the best foods to focus on for your unique requirements and help you reach your goals quicker. It can help you balance your hormones naturally by making better food choices and giving your hormones the nutrition they need to work optimally.
It is possible to lose weight, so don’t feel disheartened. Instead, start by speaking to a relevant healthcare professional who can help you get to the root of the problem.
If you’d like to find out more about hormone deficiencies and the best treatment options, click here to book a consultation.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that results and benefits may vary from patient to patient taking into consideration factors such as age, lifestyle and medical history.