How hormonal imbalances can influence your weight

When most people want to lose weight one of the first things they will look at is reducing the amount of calories they eat and increasing the amount of exercise they do. However, for some people no matter how much they adjust their diet or workout routine they still can’t shift their weight gain and this is because weight isn’t just about how much we eat or move. 

As a Nutritional Therapist I am always looking for the root cause of someone’s health problems and to do this I have to constantly ask the question: why?  Why does this person gain weight so easily? Or why are they finding it so hard to lose weight? 

To investigate these questions further, I need to dig into other signs and symptoms that might be affecting a client’s weight. This might be asking questions about their menstrual cycle, stress levels, digestive issues and sleep patterns.  The body is connected, so treating one symptom in silo doesn’t make sense. For instance if one system is out of balance this has a knock on effect to other areas of the body. 

In order to lose weight for good, our bodies must be functioning properly.

 

Let’s delve into some of the hormones that can impact your weight and I’ll give you some tips to help you take care of your hormonal health.  

Sex hormones

Sex hormones, like oestrogen and progesterone, have a big role to play in regards to weight gain and it’s really important that they maintain a delicate balance in order for the body to function properly. 

Too much oestrogen can lead to weight gain, particularly around the hips and thighs and too little, like during menopause, can increase visceral fat, especially around the tummy. 

Progesterone helps with burning calories by increasing metabolism and body temperature. However, if progesterone levels are too low in comparison to oestrogen this can increase insulin levels, leading to the accumulation of belly fat, and and a slower metabolism.

Thyroid 

The thyroid gland, located in the neck, produces hormones that play a crucial role in regulating metabolism. These hormones, called thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3), are like managers for every cell in our body, helping with digestion and how we burn fat. When our thyroid hormones are in good supply, our metabolism is higher, meaning we burn fat more efficiently.

An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or low thyroid hormone production can slow down metabolism, making it easier to gain weight even with regular diet and exercise. Interestingly, when stress hormones, like cortisol, are high, the production of thyroid hormones decreases. It’s a careful balancing act to keep our body running smoothly.

 

Cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone made by the adrenal glands that sits on top of our kidneys, and even though we usually associate it with stress, it also helps control how our body turns fats, proteins, and carbs into energy, and it can influence the way we sleep.

However, chronically elevated levels of cortisol can lead to weight gain. This is because cortisol triggers your ‘fight or flight’ response, which is needed for intense situations when you need to flee. When it kicks in, your blood sugar goes up, but your metabolism slows down. This is exactly what you want it do, if you’re about to be attacked by a lion, you don’t need your digestive system to be working optimally, you just need to get the out of there as fast as possible. 

The trouble is the body doesn’t know the difference between a life threatening situation and the stress you feel when you’ve got a deadline. The result of elevated stress levels can make insulin less effective and make you hungrier, especially for high-calorie and sugary foods. Additionally chronic stress is also linked to the accumulation of fat around your belly. 

 

Insulin  

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, in response to elevated blood sugar. It acts like a ‘key’ opening doors to your cells so they can let sugar in for energy. As sugar gets let into the cells, your blood sugar decreases.
 
However, if your cells start ignoring this key, instead of sugar getting let into the cells, it stays high in the bloodstream and your pancreas has to make even more insulin to try and keep it under control. 
 
This excess insulin can lead to higher blood sugar levels and an increased tendency to store fat. Moreover, insulin resistance keeps the body in a constant “fed” state, preventing efficient access to stored energy (fat) for fuel. Maintaining a balance and sensitivity to insulin is crucial for managing weight effectively and promoting overall metabolic health.
 

Top Tips 

Regulate your menstrual cycle 

If you’re experiencing hormone imbalances, try eating hormone supporting foods like phytoestrogens (fermented soya, chickpeas, lentils and flax seeds), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower) and oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines). 

Get a your thyroid hormones tested. 

I would recommend you get your TSH, T4, T3 and antibodies tested, so you can get a full picture of how your thyroid is functioning. Your GP will only test for TSH and T4, so it’s a good idea to get this done privately. You will need a qualified practitioner to interpret these results.  

Reduce your stress levels

Make sure you are managing your stress levels and are consistently getting enough sleep.  

Balance your blood sugar 

Eat at regular times of the day, don’t skip meals and ensure you are eating a portion of protein with every meal.  

Key takeaways 

  • Weight isn’t just about how much we eat or move
  • Our hormones can have a a big impact on our weight 
  • It’s important to investigate other signs and symptoms that might be affecting weight gain
  • In order to lose weight for good, our bodies must be functioning properly

If you’re struggling with losing weight and would like to get to the root cause of why this is happening get in touch today to book your FREE 30 minute wellness review. You can learn more about how I can help you by viewing how I work and you can sign up to my newsletter below to learn more about how you can support your hormones.  

Written by:

I’m a Nutritional Therapist, who helps women get to the root cause of their hormone and period related health problems through diet and lifestyle changes.

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