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The Link Between a Hormonal Imbalance and Weight Gain

Oct 02, 2023
The Link Between a Hormonal Imbalance and Weight Gain
When you start to gain weight, you may write it off to the fact that you haven’t been hitting the gym as often. Or maybe you’ve slacked off on your healthy diet. While those lifestyle choices may be at play, your hormones could be, too. Here’s how.

Most of the time, you probably blame the weight you gain on the foods you eat or the exercise you don’t do. And much of the time, those factors are in play. Sometimes, they’re the only factors at play.

But as you age, your hormone production slows down, and that can wreak havoc on every system they control (which is most of them). In fact, your cravings for carbs and the fatigue that’s kept you out of the gym may have started with a hormonal imbalance

At Natural Health Specialists, our holistic medicine specialist, Christopher J. Fischer, ND, explores all of the reasons you’ve packed on the pounds and how you can begin to whittle them away. For both women and men, hormones could be at the basis of it all.

How do hormones influence weight gain? Read on to find out.

Hormones are about more than sex

You may know that a surge in testosterone (T) triggers adolescence in males and a surge of estrogen does the same for females. All of the secondary sex characteristics you associate with both adult women and men derive from hormonal actions.

But hormones do more than cause male voices to deepen and female breasts to swell. They also regulate:

  • Metabolism
  • Brain function
  • Repair and growth
  • Hunger and satiety

As you age, you produce less sex hormones, such as T and estrogens, including estradiol. Imbalances of sex hormones can cause weight gain, but your levels of other hormones — such as insulin and thyroid hormone — can also influence body weight.

If you struggle with your weight, especially if you’ve recently developed fat around your middle, you may also have unbalanced hormones. 

Dr. Fischer advises you to get tested for all of the essential hormones to determine whether you need to make lifestyle changes or undergo hormone replacement therapy to improve your quality of life and lose excess pounds.

How low T influences weight gain in men

Normal levels of T vary from 300-1,000 ng/DL, which is quite a wide range. Even if blood tests reveal that your testosterone is within the normal range, it may not be sufficient for your specific physique and metabolism.

When your T drops too low, it affects another hormone — one of the estrogens — called estradiol. You need both T and estradiol to build muscle and burn fat. Your T levels are what allows you to put on muscle, which raises your metabolism.

Estradiol is also essential to keeping up your muscle bulk (and your erections, by the way). When your levels of estradiol drop too low, you start to gain fat, particularly around the middle.

You don’t have to supplement with estradiol to normalize your weight, though. Your body converts T to estradiol. So when you start testosterone replacement therapy, your increased levels of T can once again produce the estradiol you need to stay fit. 

How low estrogens lead to weight gain in women

Women also need testosterone to feel sexually vibrant and maintain their muscle mass. 

During perimenopause, all of a woman’s sex hormones start to plummet, including T, the estrogens, and progesterone. The unpleasant symptoms of menopause — such as night sweats, hot flashes, and weight gain — are the result of low hormone levels.

Estradiol controls both food intake and energy expenditure. In addition, low levels of this hormone affect insulin sensitivity in your brain. When you become insulin-resistant, you’re likely to experience such symptoms as weight gain and brain fog. 

Low estradiol may also trigger your appetite, so you eat more than you would normally.

How insulin and thyroid control your weight

In addition to the sex hormones, insufficient levels of both insulin and thyroid can lead to weight gain. 

Insulin acts as a transporter to move dietary sugars from the bloodstream into the cells to give them energy. When you don’t have enough energy, the glucose remains circulating in your blood, possibly leading to Type 2 diabetes and weight gain.

When your thyroid hormone is low, your entire metabolism slows. Of the approximately 30 million women and men in the United States who have a thyroid condition, 80% have hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid).

If you’re gaining weight and don’t know why, find out if you’d benefit from hormone balancing by subscribing to our new client special. After your initial consultation and testing, you have monthly telehealth sessions to balance your hormones and achieve the physique and vigor you crave. 

Although we’re based in East Northport, New York, Dr. Fischer sees all patients virtually. For an appointment, call 631-742-6697.