Have you noticed a sudden spike in your weight, or are you losing weight for no apparent cause? Or does your weight continue fluctuating between the same 10 to 20 pounds? If so, your hormones may be to blame.
At Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we can help you better understand your hormone levels and how an imbalance can cause a range of unwanted symptoms.
If you think hormones are impacting your weight, Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is here to help you. Learn more with our free webinar.
How Hormones Affect Weight
You’re probably familiar with hormones like testosterone and estrogen, but your body circulates about 50 different hormones. Hormones are tiny messengers that control a wide variety of functions in the body, influencing everything from your mood to how well you sleep at night. Further, your weight is directly related to your hormones, and hormonal imbalances are a huge but often-overlooked reason for weight fluctuations.
Hormones can wreak havoc on your body without any symptoms, but weight gain is a common and visible sign that you have a hormonal imbalance. Underlying health issues and aging can cause hormones to fall out of step. If you have a hormonal imbalance, you will likely struggle with your weight, regardless of diet or how often you exercise.
What Is a Hormonal Imbalance?
A hormonal imbalance occurs when your body produces too much or too little of a hormone, causing that hormone to no longer be able to do its job properly. When your hormones work correctly, they coordinate your metabolism, fertility, immunity, and mood.
But if you’re feeling moody or exhausted, an imbalance of your hormones could be at the root. The most common symptoms you might notice are weight fluctuations, changes in libido, or abnormal menstrual cycles. Though those symptoms are the most noticeable, other symptoms of a hormonal imbalance include:
- Hot flashes or sweats
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Hair loss
- Fluid retention
- Chronic acne or other skin issues
- Digestion issues
- Loss of libido
- Frequent headaches
- Irregular periods
Various factors could be responsible for an imbalance, such as your lifestyle, age, and diet. But here are some natural reasons you might be experiencing a hormonal imbalance right now.
When women enter menopause, the estrogen hormone starts to decline, stopping menstruation. This decrease in estrogen commonly causes weight gain around the same time, with weight accumulating in your thighs and hips. When men get older, their testosterone levels also decrease, resulting in an increase in body fat and a decrease in muscle mass.
When your body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones, it leads to a condition known as hypothyroidism. When your thyroid underproduces the necessary energy for your body to function, it’s possible you could experience weight gain as a result.
Endometriosis occurs when estrogen levels are too high and progesterone levels are too low. The condition causes the tissue inside your uterus to form outside of the uterine lining. This tissue can then spread to surrounding areas, like your ovaries or fallopian tubes, causing severe pain – especially during menstruation. Weight gain and bloating are common symptoms of endometriosis.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) occurs in people with insulin resistance or excessive androgen levels. PCOS is similar to endometriosis because it is also associated with painful periods, bloating, and weight gain.
Hormones That Affect Weight
It’s important to understand the relationship between hormones and weight gain so you can take the proper steps to balance your hormones and maintain a healthy, sustainable weight. Here are the five most common hormones that affect your weight and tips for keeping them in check.
Insulin is a hormone produced in your pancreas to regulate blood sugar by storing it and utilizing it as your body needs to. It also helps your body break down and store fats and proteins. Insulin decides how much fat your body needs to store and how much it should convert into energy.
If your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or becomes less sensitive to insulin, your blood sugar levels could spike, possibly leading to diabetes. Insulin imbalances are commonly associated with weight gain and – if insulin levels remain imbalanced over an extended period of time – obesity and metabolic syndromes occur.
What you can do: Avoid eating too much sugar, fast food, or processed carbohydrates to help keep your insulin levels in check. Eating a low-carb diet, drinking green tea, or consuming omega-3 fatty acids can also help balance your insulin levels.
Leptin is your body’s primary weight-regulating hormone. It’s made within your fat cells and tells your brain that you are satiated. In this sense, it’s basically an appetite suppressant. A healthy balance of leptins means you don’t overeat because your brain is being told when you are full, but leptin resistance means that your brain isn’t being told to stop eating. As a result, individuals with leptin resistance tend to overeat, leading to weight gain.
What you can do: Eat less sugar and avoid trans fats and processed foods to reverse leptin resistance. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep at night can also help with leptin levels.
Ghrelin is the counterpart to leptin. It lets your brain know when you are hungry and that you need to eat. Typically, when your stomach is empty, ghrelin is released into your bloodstream; after you’ve eaten a meal, ghrelin levels are at their lowest. If you have a ghrelin imbalance, though, ghrelin levels don’t decrease enough after eating, failing to send your brain the signal it needs to stop eating.
What you can do: If you think your ghrelin levels are out of whack, make sure you are consuming enough protein with meals. You should also steer clear of excessive sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
Cortisol – or the stress hormone – is created in your adrenal glands and is released when your body or mind is under stress. When this happens, your body halts many regular functions, including metabolism. In addition, elevated cortisol levels are known to cause cravings for sweet, fatty, or salty foods, which can make you more likely to indulge in unhealthy foods. Chronic stress only exasperates these issues.
What you can do: Try to keep your cortisol levels balanced through relaxation, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep at night.
While estrogen is responsible for the optimal functioning of female reproductive organs, it also regulates glucose and lipid metabolism, which influences the amount of fat in your body. When estrogen levels are balanced, your body stores the right amount of fat needed to carry out female reproductive functions. If there’s an imbalance of too much or too little estrogen, it can cause weight gain.
What you can do: To balance estrogen levels, keep up a regular exercise routine, eat plenty of fiber and cruciferous vegetables, or talk to your doctor about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
Getting to the Root of Your Hormonal Imbalance
Certain lifestyle changes can help you get hormones back into balance, but it’s important to work with a medical professional if you think your hormones are at unhealthy levels. Functional medicine takes the time to learn about your lifestyle, medical history, and current state of health to uncover the root cause of hormonal imbalances.
Hormones and weight gain is a tricky subject that requires patience and thoughtful care. At Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we help you understand hormonal imbalances and the range of treatment options available
If you want to dig deeper into your symptoms and eliminate hormonal imbalances for good, here’s what you can do:
- Watch our free webinar to learn more about balancing your hormones.
- Schedule a free Discovery Call to discuss your health concerns and goals to see if our practice is a good fit for you.
- After your Discovery Call – if we are a good fit for you – schedule a consultation with our doctor to dive deeper and formulate an individualized treatment plan to reach your health goals.
Ready to heal symptoms caused by hormonal imbalances and get back to a healthy weight? Talk to a Practice Member Coordinator today.
Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA.