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Ways To Manage Hormones That Cause Weight Gain

Managing hormones might optimize your weight loss regime. High levels of leptin, the hunger hormone, lead to overeating. Manage leptin by reducing your consumption of fructose and getting adequate sleep. High levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, increases appetite and causes overeating. Manage it with stress-relieving techniques. Additionally, cut down on caffeine and exercise regularly. Lastly, low levels of estrogen and testosterone cause fat gain. They can be managed with supplements and strength training.

We live in a world where gyms guarantee weight loss “in 2 weeks,” brands promote pills and potions that burn fat, and food products promise to not pack on the pounds. Hence, it’s safe to say that most of us are looking to lose weight and be fit. But, if you’ve been on a strict diet and haven’t seen the numbers on your weighing scale go down, it can get frustrating.

The culprit here might just be your hormones. And, while that seems like something that’s completely out of your control, there are ways to manage them just enough to give your weight loss routine that extra boost. Here are a few hormones that shape your weight loss goals and how you can manage them.

1. Hunger Hormone

High levels of leptin causes overeating.

Leptin is produced by the fat cells and is secreted into our bloodstream. It hence controls how the body manages its fat stores. Leptin also reduces appetite by acting on specific centers of the brain to reduce the urge to eat.

People who are obese tend to have higher levels of leptin as compared to those who are of normal weight. And, this might lead one to believe that they’d feel full quickly. Unfortunately, leptin’s messages don’t seem to get through to the brain in people who are obese, hence making them less sensitive to the effects of leptin.1 Here’s how you can manage leptin

  • Reduce the consumption of fructose: Fructose is a type of sugar that’s commonly found in fruits. It is also found in soda, candies, flavored yogurt, frozen junk food, and salad dressings. Excessive consumption of this type of sugar is linked to leptin resistance. This means that your brain will feel starved even when your body is full. So, if you do tend to rely on a lot of junk and fruits, cutting down on them might really help.2
  • Get adequate sleep: Lack of sleep is believed to cause obesity by increasing leptin levels and causing leptin resistance. So, be sure to get a good night’s sleep.3

2. Stress Hormone

High levels of cortisol causes overeating.

The steroid hormone, cortisol, is produced in the adrenal glands and released into the bloodstream. It is responsible for managing blood sugar levels, stress, metabolism, inflammatory responses, and memory formulation.4

When too much cortisol is released in the body, it assumes that the body is starving and converts sugar into fat to replenish the body’s energy stores. It also increases appetite so you’d want to eat more to get energy. And, this inevitably leads to weight gain.5 Manage cortisol levels by

  • Leading a stress-free life: Stress leads to excessive cortisol production. So, managing it is key to weight loss. You could start off with relaxation techniques like yoga and physical activities like tai chi. You could also invest more time into your relationships.6
  • Cutting down on caffeine: Caffeine elevates cortisol levels in the body in both men and women. And, although some studies state that regular and moderate consumption might lower this response in the body, the general consensus is that it has a significant effect on cortisol. You could start off by reducing your consumption to one cup a day.7
  • Exercising regularly: Aerobic exercise has a positive effect on your body’s metabolism and stress levels. It also boosts endorphins, the “feel good” hormones of the body. So, be sure to keep up with your workout routine.8

3. Sex Hormones

Estrogen and testosterone determine fat accumulation.

Estrogen and androgen play a vital role in body fat distribution. Estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, is responsible for managing sexual and reproductive development in women. Low levels of estrogen is believed to lead to weight gain. It causes fat storage in the lower half of the body during pregnancy and in the abdomen post-menopause.9

Although there isn’t enough evidence about ways to manage estrogen, it is believed that estrogen supplements post menopause prevents fat accumulation. But, it’s important to consult a professional before you try supplements.10

Testosterone, the primary sex hormone in men, also plays a role in weight management. Low levels of testosterone is linked with an increase in fat mass and reduced lean muscle mass. Research indicates that the best way to manage testosterone levels is through a testosterone replacement therapy. Other ways to do this include

  • Strength training: This form of exercise is believed to increase testosterone which, in turn, leads to muscle gain.11
  • Optimize your diet: Research indicates that a diet rich in protein, carbs, and fats increase testosterone levels. However, be sure to avoid excessive dieting or overeating which might disrupt your testosterone levels.12 13

Additionally, certain herbs like ashwagandha are believed to increase testosterone levels, but there isn’t enough evidence to back this claim.14

When it comes to regulating hormones for weight loss, it’s important to remember that you can only do so much. While you can manage stress and hunger to a huge extent, sex hormones might not be in your control. Lastly, be sure to talk to your doctor about all the things you can do with regards to your hormones and refrain from self prescribing any supplements.

References   [ + ]

1, 9. Obesity and hormones. Victoria State Government.
2. Shapiro, Alexandra, Wei Mu, Carlos Roncal, Kit-Yan Cheng, Richard J. Johnson, and Philip J. Scarpace. “Fructose-induced leptin resistance exacerbates weight gain in response to subsequent high-fat feeding.” American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 295, no. 5 (2008): R1370-R1375.
3. Leproult, Rachel, and Eve Van Cauter. “Role of sleep and sleep loss in hormonal release and metabolism.” In Pediatric Neuroendocrinology, vol. 17, pp. 11-21. Karger Publishers, 2010.
4. The role of cortisol in the body. Health Direct, Government Of Australia.
5. Understanding The Stress Response. Harvard Health Publishing.
6. Moyer, Anne E., Judith Rodin, Carlos M. Grilo, Nancy Cummings, Lynn M. Larson, and Marielle Rebuffé‐Scrive. “Stress‐Induced Cortisol Response and Fat Distribution in Women.” Obesity 2, no. 3 (1994): 255-262.
7. Lovallo, William R., Noha H. Farag, Andrea S. Vincent, Terrie L. Thomas, and Michael F. Wilson. “Cortisol responses to mental stress, exercise, and meals following caffeine intake in men and women.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 83, no. 3 (2006): 441-447.
8. Exercising to relax. Harvard Health Publishing.
10. Lizcano, Fernando, and Guillermo Guzmán. “Estrogen deficiency and the origin of obesity during menopause.” BioMed research international 2014 (2014).
11. Craig, B. W., R. Brown, and J. Everhart. “Effects of progressive resistance training on growth hormone and testosterone levels in young and elderly subjects.” Mechanisms of ageing and development 49, no. 2 (1989): 159-169.
12. Bishop, D. Timothy, A. Wayne Meikle, Martha L. Slattery, John D. Stringham, Marilyn H. Ford, Dee W. West, I. B. Borecki, and D. C. Rao. “The effect of nutritional factors on sex hormone levels in male twins.” Genetic epidemiology 5, no. 1 (1988): 43-59.
13. Lado-Abeal, Joaquin, Daniel Prieto, Monica Lorenzo, Santiago Lojo, Manuel Febrero, Emma Camarero, and J. Cabezas-Cerrato. “Differences between men and women as regards the effects of protein-energy malnutrition on the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.” Nutrition 15, no. 5 (1999): 351-358.
14. Ambiye, Vijay R., Deepak Langade, Swati Dongre, Pradnya Aptikar, Madhura Kulkarni, and Atul Dongre. “Clinical evaluation of the spermatogenic activity of the root extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in oligospermic males: a pilot study.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.