Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Hormones control and coordinate activities throughout the body. They are secreted by several glands in the body to support growth, development, reproduction, and more. Hormones can also directly affect your weight. In fact, if your hormones do not perform as expected, weight gain often results. Weight gain can be caused by underlying hormonal imbalances in the body. If you aren’t making changes with your diet or exercise routine but have been recently gaining weight, your hormones could have been the reason. Both men and women may experience hormonal weight gain at some point in their lives.
Here’s a list of hormones and how they influence weight gain:
Thyroid gland is an endocrine gland located in your neck. It produces the hormones T3, T4, and calcitonin which all regulate and directly affect the body’s metabolism.
Deficiencies of these hormones lead to hypothyroidism. This condition slows down metabolism which causes modest weight gain.
This hormone is supplied by the adrenal glands, the triangle-shaped organs at the top of the kidneys. It’s the body’s main stress hormone and mainly responsible for your response to “fight-or-flight” situations.
When you deal with too much stress, cortisol level increases, leading to weight gain.
Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men. It also plays a key role in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism.
It has a significant effect on body fat composition and muscle mass in males. As men age, testosterone levels drop. Weight gain is a common symptom of testosterone deficiency.
Progesterone and Estrogen
These hormones are the two most important hormones in females. They are responsible for various female characteristics in the body.
During menopause, women produce much less estrogen and progesterone.
To find estrogen, the body works harder to convert calories into fat to increase estrogen levels since fat cells can produce estrogen. But the fat cells don’t burn calories as much as the muscle cells do, which causes weight gain.
Meanwhile, decreased progesterone levels are associated with water weight and bloating caused by water retention during menopause.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. It is produced by the pancreas. It facilitates metabolic processes that provide the body with the energy it needed.
It also regulates the absorption of glucose or blood sugar from the blood by cells found in muscles, fat, and liver.
Insulin causes weight gain when body cells absorb excessive glucose which then the body converts into fat.
Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells. This hormone sends a signal to the brain that triggers you to stop eating when you are full.
When we eat sugar-rich food, too much fructose was converted to fat and accumulates in the belly and other parts of the body.
As too much leptin builds up in your blood, you risk developing leptin resistance. When this happens, the leptin in your body may become ineffective, resulting in weight gain.
The main function of Ghrelin is to increase appetite. It is a hormone primarily secreted by the stomach and often called the “hunger hormone”. It signals the brain to become hungry and seek food, thus it makes you consume more food, increase calorie intake, and store fat.
Hormonal Weight Gain Treatments
If gaining weight was found to be caused by hormonal imbalance, common treatments include diet and lifestyle modification, hormone replacement therapy, and special medications. If left untreated, weight gain caused by hormone issues can increase the risk for the development of serious conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Luckily, you can make improvements on your diet, become more physically active, manage your stress levels effectively, and start shifting to a healthier lifestyle to reverse hormonal weight gain.
Gaining weight must be given adequate attention. Seek help from a medical professional in addressing potential hormonal weight gain issues.
Dr. Rita Oganwu specializes in a Hormone Replacement Therapy program that addresses hormonal deficiencies and imbalances. Reach out to her with a free 15-minute discovery call to get started.
1 Kelly, D., & Jones, T. (2013). Testosterone: a metabolic hormone in health and disease, Journal of Endocrinology, 217(3), R25-R45. Retrieved Oct 8, 2020, from https://joe.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/joe/217/3/R25.xml
2 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Insulin Resistance & Prediabetes. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/prediabetes-insulin-resistance