Weight gain is associated with underlying hormonal imbalances. For men, hormonal weight gain can be caused by high stress or cortisol levels in the body. The heightened levels of cortisol may make the body go into survival mode and induce the production of fat cells which will cause a declining metabolism to store food for later use.
For women, a specific estrogen hormone called estradiol decreases at menopause and helps regulate metabolism and body weight. The lower the levels of estradiol may cause weight gain. Throughout a woman’s life, they may notice weight gain around their hips and thighs.
What are the causes of hormonal weight gain?
Hormonal weight gain can be caused by the following conditions or issues:
- thyroid hormone deficiency;
- estrogen dominance;
- androgen imbalance;
- insulin resistance;
- metabolic syndrome;
- growth hormone deficiency;
- cortisol excess;
- leptin resistance;
- prolactin excess;
- pituitary insufficiency.
What are the signs and symptoms of hormonal weight gain?
Any or none of these may be seen with hormonal weight gain:
- thyroid goiter;
- proximal muscle weakness;
- moon faces;
- central obesity – increase in abdominal and visceral fat;
- purple striae;
- amenorrhea or impotence;
- visual disturbances;
What are the risk factors for hormonal weight gain?
Risk factors include:
- sedentary lifestyle;
- hypothalamic/pituitary tumors or surgeries.
How is hormonal weight gain diagnosed?
An evaluation with an endocrinologist can help determine if a hormonal condition is the underlying cause of weight gain. Declining estrogen, adrenal disorders, hormonal resistance, thyroid imbalance, and several other hormonal imbalances can lead to weight gain.
Laboratory tests give endocrinologists insight into hormonal imbalances when combined with your symptoms and presentation, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story. Blood and urine results can be influenced by many things. For this reason, we suggest special evaluations to see how metabolic information relates to the lab data.
What are the possible treatments for hormonal weight gain?
- dietary and lifestyle modifications, including but not limited to exercise and stress reduction;
- thyroid hormone replacement;
- testosterone replacement;
- other medications that target hormone excess or resistance to norm levels;
- medications to target appetite management and modulate insulin levels;
- surgery (to remove a tumor that may be causing excess hormones to be produced).
Are there preventative steps or measures to avoid hormonal weight gain?
Seeking early evaluation with an endocrinologist so the appropriate interventions can be started sooner will help with minimizing and possibly reversing hormonal weight gain. Additionally, improving dietary choices, increasing physical activity, getting more sleep, managing stress levels effectively, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol are all ways to decrease and avoid hormonal weight gain.
What are the risks if hormonal weight gain is left untreated?
Increased risk for development of Type 2 Diabetes, infertility, mood disturbances, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease (heart attacks), stroke, sleep apnea, asthma, and cancer. Hormonal weight gain can also shorten your lifespan.
Are there other related conditions to hormonal weight gain?
- type 2 diabetes;
- Cushing’s disease/syndrome;
When should I see an endocrinologist for weight gain?
There is a wide range of hormonal issues that may cause sudden, unexplained weight gain. These include thyroid deficiency, declining estrogen (often due to menopause), and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Weight gain may also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as headaches, insomnia, mood swings, and heavy or painful periods. If you find yourself gaining weight with no apparent explanation or changes in diet or exercise, you should discuss this with a doctor. An endocrinologist can help identify hormonal imbalances by reviewing your symptoms and performing laboratory tests when necessary.
Can an endocrinologist help with weight loss?
An endocrinologist can very often help you reverse weight gain that is associated with hormonal imbalances. Potentially useful interventions include lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet modification, or stress management, as well as treatments such as testosterone or thyroid hormone replacement.
Medications may be able to help with weight gain-related symptoms such as increased appetite or moderate excessive hormone levels.
Key Takeaways About Hormonal Weight Gain
Hormonal weight gain is potentially reversible or treatable if the underlying cause is addressed and treated with the guidance of an endocrinologist.
Hormonal weight gain can cause an increased risk for a multitude of other health conditions which can increase morbidity and mortality.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through a balanced diet, regular physical activity, proper sleep, and stress modification can help with managing and reversing hormonal weight gain and decreasing the associated health risks that may result if it is not addressed.