Do Hormones cause Weight Gain?

Various factors can cause weight gain. People usually concentrate on dieting and exercising. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it does not. For those who cannot reach their weight loss goal despite putting significant effort on exercising and dieting, hormones are the most likely causes behind the problem. Hormones are actually directly linked with metabolism, appetite and cravings. It also plays a role in determining part of the body in which fat will be stored. Both men and women have hormones. Levels of hormones can go up or down for various reasons. It is mainly lack of balance in levels of hormones that causes weight gain.

High Insulin 

Insulin is produced by pancreas. It helps process blood sugar or glucose in the bloodstream. It helps carry sugar into the cells to be either used as fuel or stored as fat. Being overweight can make insulin go out of balance. Skinny body with too much visceral fat around the internal organs can also get insulin out of balance. Imbalance in glucose regulator or insulin can make weight loss harder. People in many cases consume too much sugary foods. It keeps insulin busy doing extra work to clear sugar from blood. It stores extra sugars as fat. High levels of insulin, when chronic, can cause a pre-diabetic condition known as metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, which contributes to weight gain. According to an estimate, one out of four North Americans has insulin resistance. Insulin imbalance can also be linked with stress, overindulging in alcohol, lack of physical exercise, family history of diabetes, high blood pressure etc.

High Cortisol

Cortisol controls body’s response to stressful situations. It’s known as stress hormone. Due to increase in stress in modern life, many people have extra amount of cortisol in their bodies. Persistently surplus amount of cortisol is injurious to health and body composition. Those who are suffering from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress or any digestive issue such as irritable bowl syndrome, are likely to have problem with levels of cortisol. Having surplus amount of cortisol is linked with increased risks of heart disease and increase in visceral fat, as pointed out by leading cardiovascular researchers at the University Medical Center. Extra amount of cortisol can enhance appetite and cravings. It is linked with loss of bone density, muscle and libido. Number of studies suggest that stress hormone can cause increase in abdominal fat even in people who are otherwise slim. Slim women with high cortisol level also had increased amount of abdominal fat, as found out by researchers at Yale University.

High Estrogen

Testosterone can get converted into estrogen in men due to abdominal fat. Increase in levels of estrogen increases the tendency to accumulate more abdominal fat. Higher estrogen levels can increase risks of prostate cancer. High levels of estrogen in premenopausal woman can cause high amount of body fat around the hips. It can also cause difficulty in losing weight. High estrogen is linked with poor motivation, memory loss, depression, loss of muscle mass, low libido and increased belly fat in both men and menopausal women.

Low Testosterone 

Testosterone levels can go down as fat converts it into estrogen. Testosterone levels can also go down due to stress. It is because body tends to produce more stress hormone or cortisol then testosterone when we are under stress. Testosterone level tends to diminish with obesity, aging and stress. However, today men are having decrease in testosterone much earlier in life. What is quite alarming is that low testosterone level has been linked with heart disease, obesity, depression, osteoporosis and even death. Men with low testosterone are very likely to develop potbelly and other body fat, as found out researchers from the University of Washington. Researchers also found that testosterone might contribute to loss of body fat. Loss of muscle tissue, depression and decreased strength, motivation and stamina may be signs of low testosterone.


DHEA is produced by the adrenal glands. It is a forerunner to testosterone and estrogen. It helps counteract the negative effects of cortisol. It is often touted as anti-aging hormone. DHEA enhances ability to gain muscle and lose fat. It enhances libido and helps us feel energetic, youthful and motivated. Low DHEA can deprive us from the positive effects that DHEA has on the body.


Body’s fat cells produce leptin. Leptin’s primary function is to communicate to our brain that we are full or satiated. Modern diet is saturated with a type of sugar known as fructose. Fructose is found mainly in various processed foods. When we consume too much fructose, body stores it as fat. It causes excess amount of leptin. Too much of leptin can cause leptin resistance. It means body does not communicate to our brain that we are full. As a result, overconsumption of food can happen which causes weight gain.

As imbalances in levels of hormones can cause weight gain. It’s a good idea to work on balancing hormones with help of a doctor. Balancing hormones can help eliminate a significant contributor to weight gain.


Can Estrogen help you to Lose Weight?

Estrogen has both positive and negative effects on fat or weight. When it is about losing fat, estrogen is a tricky hormone to deal with. Having too high or too low amount of estrogen can be equally bad. Normal levels of estrogen however can be good for body composition and health.

Estrogen, Women and Fat Loss

According to some scientists, estrogen may be useful in treating obesity and metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance. Normal levels of estrogen indicate that there is enough food around. For premenopausal women, estrogen may enhance fat distribution in a metabolically safer pattern. It keeps fat located under the skin rather than distributing fat around the internal organs. It may not sound much of a good thing. However, it is actually better to have the excess weight without the negative metabolic consequences rather than to have both the extra weight and metabolic consequences.

On the other hand, estrogen is also in a complicated and tangle relationship with body fat or adipose tissue. Fat cell do not just sit around on your hips doing nothing. Fat tissues are important and active part of the hormonal system. The biggest job of the fat tissues is to produce estrogen. Fat tissues have aromatase, which is an enzyme. Testosterone is converted into estrogen due to aromatase. Estrogen comes from ovaries as well, but fat still remains as important part of the hormonal process. What this means is that increased fat will also lead to increased levels of estrogen? Estrogen also can contribute to fat gain. For example, excess estrogen can aggravate hypothyroid issues, which slows metabolism and causes weight gain. In case, the excess estrogen is caused by obesity in the first place, it can quickly turn into a vicious cycle. If you have thyroid problem, you may have overweight issue. On the other hand, if you have overweight issue then you may have thyroid problems too.

High levels of estrogen may also enhance fat gain by hampering oxidation of fats. During early pregnancy, estrogen levels are high and women gain fat even though they have not started eating for two yet, as found out in a study. This means that more calories can get stored as fat due to more estrogen.  

Ovaries are the major producers of estrogen. Women lose weight when they remove ovaries. They gain weight when they are put on estrogen therapy. During puberty, higher estrogen level causes fat gain as an energy reserve or preparation for possible pregnancy. This is understandable as an evolutionary design feature. This becomes problem only when women indulge in overconsumption of fattening foods. That is how healthy and normal preservation of essential body fat goes overboard. A healthy woman need some body fat.

It is not as simple as estrogen prevents weight loss or makes women fat. Healthy range of estrogen is beneficial for women unlike too much or too little estrogen. Therefore, it is useful to find a balance or maintain right amount of estrogen that is good for health and weight. Finding the balance can be difficult, particularly for obese women when vicious cycle involving fat and estrogen get out of control. Addressing estrogen to get to a healthy range can be helpful to manage weight.

Regulating Estrogen Levels for Weight Loss

In case you are struggling with chronic hormonal issues such as PCOS, amenorrhea or infertility, it is best to find an endocrinologist. Endocrinologist may run blood tests and help you with specific advice. Diagnosis over internet is not a good alternate to seeing a doctor in person. Studies found out that following ideas could also help normalize estrogen levels.


Fiber is anti-estrogenic. Increasing fiber consumption is linked with lowered estrogen levels in premenopausal women.


Moderate carb restriction can also be effective in dealing with female hormonal problems that might be associated with weight gain, as suggested by available evidence. In cases of women with PCOS, 55% of calories from carbs works worse than 30% of calories from carbs. On the other hand, it is not good either to be on very strict low-carb diet. For women, extreme carb restriction can cause problems including infertility, hormonal dysfunction and amenorrhea or loss of normal periods. Sweet potatoes are not bad. You can eat sweet potatoes or potatoes reasonably every day and still keep your calorie consumption from carbs under 30%.


This study involved two groups of women. Group 1 consumed diet with 15% calories from protein. Group 2 consumed high-protein diet (30% calories from protein) with emphasis on low-glycemic-index foods. Both groups resulted in losing weight. Group 2 also experienced impressive hormonal improvements, including an improvement in insulin sensitivity and decrease in androgens and markers of inflammation. Even though the study is little complicated as there were simultaneous interventions of the glycemic index and the protein, this seemingly suggests that enough consumption of protein is helpful for hormonal healing.


Fat is crucial for hormonal health as sex hormones including estrogen and testosterone need saturated fat. Saturated and monounsaturated fat are good. It is good to consume more of Omega-3 and less of Omega-6 in your diet.

Learning how too much or too little estrogen is detrimental to health and weight is useful. Trying to keep estrogen at normal level is good for heath and weight. 


Weight Gain Hormones in Women

Weight gain or loss is not just about eating or exercising. Hormones can also play a role in weight gain or preventing weight loss. Hormonal imbalance can be a big problem in managing weight. Hormones regulate critical functions and reactions such as metabolism, glucose uptake, inflammation, menopause etc. Things that trigger disruption of hormonal balance include age, stress, genes and poor lifestyle choices, which cause uncontrollable hunger, indigestion and a sluggish metabolism, resulting in weight gain. Even though women are used to hormonal imbalance, a chronic imbalance can make you prone to obesity related disease. Hormones that are associated with weight gain in women are as follows.


The thyroid gland produces three hormones including T3, T4 and calcitonin. These hormones regulate sleep, metabolism, heart rate, growth, brain development, etc. The thyroid gland can sometimes under-produce the thyroid hormone causing hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is often linked with depression, weight gain, constipation, high blood cholesterol, fatigue and slow heart rate, etc. Causes of hypothyroidism include malnutrition, gluten intolerance, environmental toxins, etc. Hypothyroidism causes water accumulation, which makes you look fat. Thyroid imbalance can cause you to gain 5-10 pounds.

In order to take care of thyroid imbalance, it is good to get thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) along with T3 and T4 tested and take only prescribed thyroid medicine. It is useful to consume iodized salt, fish oil, vitamin D supplements and zinc sources such as pumpkin seeds and oysters.


Insulin is another hormone secreted by the pancreas. It helps transport glucose to the cells to get used as energy or stored as fat. This is helpful in maintaining the glucose levels in the blood. Overconsumption of alcohol, processed foods, artificially sweetened drinks and other unhealthy foods can result in insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes spike in blood sugar levels, eventually leading to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

In order to take care of insulin resistance, it is important to consult a doctor and get your blood sugar level checked. It is useful to start working out at least four hours a week. It is useful to consume leafy greens, seasonal fruits (3 serving per day), seasonal veggies (4-5 servings per day), nuts, fatty fish, flaxseeds, olive oil, etc. It is good to consume foods that are low in calorie and high in nutrition. It is also useful to drink three to four liters of water every day.


The hormone leptin signals the brain that you are full and should stop eating. Brain can receive the signal under normal condition. Overconsumption of food with high sugar content and processed foods causes fat deposit in belly, liver and other parts of the body. The problem is that fat cells secrete leptin. The more fat gets accumulated, the more leptin gets secreted. Too much of leptin desensitizes the body to leptin causing the brain to stop receiving or reading the signal to stop eating. This enhances overeating and weight gain.

Having proper rest is helpful in preventing leptin level to fall and keeping it at normal level. It is important to sleep at least 7-8 hours a day. Avoiding processed foods and foods with high sugar content is helpful in preventing leptin from going beyond normal level. Consuming green leafy vegetables and healthy snacks is a good idea. Keeping you hydrated is helpful as dehydration causes hunger.


Ghrelin is also known as hunger hormone. It boosts appetite and enhances fat deposition. It is mainly stomach that secretes ghrelin. The brain, small intestine and pancreas also secrete small amount of ghrelin. When levels of ghrelin goes up in the bloodstream, weight gain can occur. Obese individuals are more sensitive to this hormone. When people are on a strict diet or while fasting, ghrelin levels can also go up.

In order to take care of ghrelin, it is useful to eat every 2-3 hours or having five or six meals a day. It is a healthy choice to consume fresh fruits, protein sources, healthy fats, dietary fiber and vegetables. Try to keep yourself active. Drinking half cup of water 20 minutes before a meal is a good idea. It is good to consult a doctor if your problem persists.


Weight gain is linked with both low and high levels of estrogen. Estrogen levels can go up because of overproduction of the hormone by the ovarian cells or a diet that is high in estrogen. Animals are being fed with hormones, steroid and antibiotics, which can behave like estrogen in your body. When you are healthy and produce normal amount of insulin, blood sugar level remains in check. When body’s estrogen levels go up, the cells that produce, insulin is stressed. This can make your body insulin resistant, causing your blood sugar to rise, resulting in weight gain.

Premenopausal women tend to have lower levels of estrogen, which ends ovulation. This lowers the estrogen levels even more, since the ovarian cells produce estrogen. In order to get adequate amount of estrogen, the body stars to look for other cells that produce estrogen. Fat cells is such a source of estrogen. When the estrogen level goes down, the body starts to convert all the sources of energy to fat to refill the glucose levels. This causes weight gain, particularly in the lower portion of the body.

In order to maintain normal estrogen level, it is useful to eat fresh vegetables, whole grains and fruits. Avoiding alcohol and processed meat is helpful. When you are going through menopause, try to remain stress free. If you are struggling to maintain your estrogen levels, consult a doctor for advice.   


Women creates low levels of testosterone. Testosterone burns fat, strengthens muscles and bones and improves libido. In women, ovary produces testosterone. Stress and age can lower the testosterone level significantly in women. Lower level of testosterone is linked with loss of muscle mass, loss of bone density, obesity and can cause depression. This can enhance stress and inflammation, resulting in more fat accumulation.

In order to take care of testosterone levels, it is useful to take protein and zinc supplements. It is useful to consume vitamin C, probiotics and magnesium supplements. It is good to consume fiber rich foods. Regular workout can help improve metabolism and testosterone levels. It is a good idea to avoid consuming alcohol as it can potentially damage the kidney and the liver.


In women, progesterone and estrogen should be in balance in order for the body to function properly. The progesterone level can go down because of stress, menopause, contraceptive pills or consumption of foods having hormones and antibiotics that get converted into estrogen in the body. This can cause depression and weight gain eventually.

In order to take care of progesterone, it is useful to avoid stress, practice deep breathing, avoid processed meet and exercise regularly. It is a good idea to seek expert opinion from a gynecologist regarding options on and suitability of birth control pills.


The pineal gland secretes melatonin, which helps maintain the sleeping and rising time or the circadian rhythm. From evening until late at night, the melatonin levels tend to be on the rise. It then ebbs in the morning. While you are asleep in a dark room, melatonin levels go up and body temperature go down. In relation to rise in melatonin level and drop in body temperature, growth hormone is released. This is helpful in healing the body, improving body composition, building lean muscle and enhancing bone density. Due to disrupted sleeping or rising time, many cannot sleep enough or do not get required darkness to help heal body. This enhances stress, eventually leading to inflammation-induced weight gain.

In order to maintain or increase the melatonin level, it’s useful to get seven or eight hours of sleep every day, sleep in a dark room, turn off all the gadgets before going to bed and avoid eating late at night. It is good to consume cherries, coriander, cardamom, almonds, goji berries and sunflower seeds as they contain melatonin. Insulin resistance can lead to weight gain and diabetes.


Glucocorticoid hormone regulates the use of protein, sugar and fat in the body. It has been found that glucocorticoids enhances protein breakdown and fat breakdown but reduces sugar or glucose utilization as an energy source. As a result, sugar levels go up in the blood, causing insulin resistance in the body.

In order to reduce glucocorticoid, it’s useful to avoid physical or mental stress, get seven or eight hours of sleep every day, drink three to four liters of water every day, avoid stress, workout regularly, spend time with loved ones, etc. It is good to consult a professional when you suffer from anxiety or depression. It is useful to eat leafy veggies, lean protein, fruits and healthy fats such as seeds, nuts, olive oil, fish oil, etc. This type of food can also help reduce inflammation. It is useful to avoid crash diets that tend to increase inflammation in the body.


The adrenal glands produces cortisol, which is a steroid hormone. Cortisol is secreted when you are stressed, anxious, depressed, angry, nervous, physically injured, etc. Cortisol gets involved in energy mobilization and energy regulation. Cortisol controls energy by deciding the type (carb, protein, or fat) of energy to be used to do a certain function. Cortisol facilitates mobilization of energy by moving fats from fat reserves to the hungry cells or working muscles. Cortisol is in demand to deal with short-term physical or mental stress response. Because of poor lifestyle choices, your body can be in constant state of stress. This results in increased secretion of cortisol which makes the body hyperinsulinemia, enhances visceral fat deposition and boosts the maturation of fat cells.

In order to reduce cortisol level, it is essential to combat stress. It is useful to engage in activities that can make you feel good about yourself. Spend time with family and friends, especially the ones who want the best for you and do not judge you. Avoid worrying about what people think of you. Get seven or eight hours of sleep every night. Practice deep breathing or engage in spiritual activities. It is useful to avoid alcohol, deep fried foods and other process foods.

Weight gain due to hormones is not an easy to deal with issue. There has need to be careful while dealing with hormonal imbalances. It is not a good idea to start self-medication. It is because weight gain is a multifaceted problem and the root cause has to be addressed in order to lose weight without harming your health. It is best to consult a doctor and get the necessary tests done to know whether your weight gain is hormonal. Figuring out the specific reason that is associated with weight or belly fat gain, can help address the issue properly.

Last update: October 22, 2017 04:35:29 pm

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