How Hormones Impact Weight Loss
As we age, many people struggle with maintaining a healthy weight. It can be frustrating to put in hours of exercising and eating well only to see little progress on the scale. And while there are many factors that contribute to weight management, the role of your hormones is undeniable.
When out of balance, your hormones will not only prevent weight loss, but can actually lead to weight gain. In this blog, we’ll dive deeper into the role of hormones in weight management and explore what you can do to address these hormone imbalances that are impacting your numbers on the scale.
Below, we've listed the hormones that most impact your ability to drop the pounds and keep them off:
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that is responsible for regulating your blood sugar levels. When working properly, insulin transports the glucose derived from carbohydrates we eat into our cells so it can be used for energy. However, when insulin levels are imbalanced, it can lead to insulin resistance- a condition in which the body is no longer able to use insulin effectively and prevents glucose from entering the cells. Insulin resistance can make it difficult to lose weight and can even lead to weight gain. To compensate, the body produces even more insulin, which can lead to a number of negative effects on your weight and metabolism.
When there’s too much insulin in your bloodstream, your body remains in an anabolic state. This means that it is primed to build and store energy instead of burning it. Further, when insulin levels are high, fat is stored throughout the body, primarily in the abdominal region. This is because insulin also inhibits the breakdown of fat in adipose tissue. So when insulin levels are high, the body is less able to use stored fat for energy. This makes it more difficult to lose weight, as the body may rely more on glucose and muscle protein for energy instead of fat.
So, what causes insulin resistance? There are many factors that can contribute to an imbalance in insulin levels, but one of the primary reasons is a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise. These lifestyle choices will lead to an accumulation of fat in the body and a decrease in insulin sensitivity. A diet high in processed foods and sugar can also contribute to insulin resistance by causing spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Genetics may also play a role in insulin resistance, as some people may be more predisposed to developing the condition due to inherited traits. Other factors that can contribute to insulin resistance include hormonal imbalances, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and low testosterone levels, as well as chronic stress and inflammation.
Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, antipsychotics, and some HIV medications, can also cause insulin resistance as a side effect. Additionally, sleep deprivation and a disrupted sleep schedule may contribute to insulin resistance by altering the body's hormone levels and circadian rhythm.
Overall, insulin resistance is a complex condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including lifestyle habits, genetics, and underlying health conditions. Addressing these underlying factors through diet, exercise, stress management, and medication management can help improve insulin sensitivity and prevent insulin resistance from developing.
Leptin is a hormone that is produced by fat cells and is responsible for regulating appetite and metabolism. When we have enough fat stored in our bodies, leptin signals our brains to reduce appetite and increase metabolism. However, when we have too much body fat, our body is constantly exposed to high levels of leptin. In response to the consistently high leptin levels, the body becomes less sensitive to the hormone and the brain no longer receives the signal that the body has enough fat stored. This causes the brain to think we still need more energy to fuel the body.. As a result, one may continue to eat past the point of fullness, which will lead to weight gain and a slowed metabolism over time.
Conversely, low levels of leptin can also impact your metabolism. When leptin levels are low, the body’s metabolism may slow down in an attempt to conserve energy. This may make it more difficult to lose weight.
What causes an imbalance in leptin? Leptin resistance can develop due to several factors, including chronic inflammation, high levels of free fatty acids, and an unhealthy diet. When the body is constantly exposed to high levels of inflammation or free fatty acids, it can interfere with the brain’s ability to receive and respond to leptin signals. This will lead to a reduced sensitivity to leptin, making it more difficult for the body to regulate appetite and metabolism.
Further, an unhealthy diet will also lead to leptin resistance. Eating a diet high in sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy fats can increase inflammation in the body and lead to an accumulation of fat in the liver and other organs. This can interfere with insulin signaling and leptin sensitivity, leading to leptin resistance. Furthermore, consuming high amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, triggering the release of insulin, which can cause leptin resistance over time. In general, an unhealthy diet that is high in calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats can lead to metabolic dysfunction, including insulin resistance and leptin resistance, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight.
To reverse leptin resistance, it's important to focus on improving your overall diet and lifestyle habits. This includes avoiding highly processed foods, eating a diet rich in fiber and protein, getting regular exercise, managing stress levels, and getting adequate sleep. Certain supplements and medications may also be beneficial in some cases, but should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider.
The sex hormones:
Both the sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone, play a crucial role in regulating body weight. Estrogen is a hormone primarily produced in the ovaries in females and, to a lesser extent, in the testes in males. Estrogen helps to maintain a healthy body weight by regulating metabolism, appetite, and fat distribution. In females, low levels of estrogen can lead to weight gain, particularly in the abdominal area. This is because estrogen helps to prevent the accumulation of visceral fat, which is the fat that accumulates around the organs in the abdominal cavity.
Testosterone, on the other hand, is a hormone primarily produced in the testes in males and, to a lesser extent, in the ovaries in females. Testosterone plays a critical role in regulating body composition, particularly in males. Low testosterone levels can lead to an increase in body fat, particularly in the abdominal area. This is because testosterone helps to increase muscle mass, which in turn increases the body's metabolic rate and burns more calories.
In both males and females, imbalances in estrogen and testosterone levels can lead to weight gain. For example, females who have higher levels of testosterone, a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), often experience weight gain due to an increase in insulin resistance, which leads to an increase in fat storage. Similarly, males who have lower levels of testosterone may experience weight gain due to a decrease in muscle mass and a slower metabolic rate. Overall, maintaining a healthy balance of estrogen and testosterone levels is essential for maintaining a healthy body weight.
An imbalance of estrogen and testosterone can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, aging, lifestyle factors, and medical conditions. In women, hormonal imbalances can be caused by conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, or adrenal disorders. In men, hormonal imbalances can be caused by conditions such as hypogonadism, prostate cancer, or obesity. Additionally, certain medications, such as hormone therapy or steroids, can interfere with hormone production and lead to imbalances. Lifestyle factors such as stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise can also contribute to hormone imbalances. Environmental factors such as exposure to endocrine disruptors, chemicals that can interfere with hormone production, can also play a role in hormone imbalances. It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause of hormone imbalances and the best treatment plan.
Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones. It’s released by the adrenal glands when your body is in a stressed state, initiating the fight or flight response. While cortisol plays a crucial role in regulating the body's stress response, high levels of cortisol can have negative effects on the body, including inhibiting weight loss. Cortisol promotes the breakdown of muscle tissue to provide the body with energy during times of stress, which can lead to a decrease in muscle mass and a slower metabolic rate. This, in turn, can make it more challenging to lose weight.
High levels of cortisol can also lead to an increase in appetite and cravings for high-calorie, high-carbohydrate foods. This is because cortisol triggers the release of insulin, which can cause a drop in blood sugar levels, leading to hunger and cravings. Additionally, cortisol can stimulate the release of neuropeptide Y, a chemical that increases appetite and promotes the storage of fat.
Chronic stress and high levels of cortisol can also lead to the accumulation of visceral fat, which is the fat that accumulates around the organs in the abdominal cavity. This type of fat is particularly harmful as it increases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
A cortisol imbalance can be caused by a variety of factors, including chronic stress, inadequate sleep, a poor diet, certain medications, and medical conditions that affect the adrenal glands. Chronic stress is one of the leading causes of cortisol imbalance, as the body releases cortisol in response to stress. Over time, prolonged stress can lead to high cortisol levels, which can have negative effects on the body. Inadequate sleep can also lead to cortisol imbalance, as the body produces cortisol in response to sleep deprivation. Additionally, a poor diet that is high in sugar and processed foods can contribute to cortisol imbalance. Certain medications such as corticosteroids can also interfere with cortisol production, leading to an imbalance.
If you're struggling to maintain a healthy weight, it's essential to speak to a functional medicine doctor who can help you identify and address any hormone imbalances that may be affecting your weight. Treatment may include hormone replacement therapy, lifestyle changes, and other treatments. By addressing hormone imbalances, you can support a healthy weight and improve your overall health and well-being. Don't let hormone imbalances stand in the way of your weight loss goals.
For more information on hormone imbalances or weight loss at The Johnson Center, click here to contact us or call (276) 235-3205 to schedule your complimentary discovery call.
The Johnson Center for Health services patients in person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!