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The 5 Hormones That Could Be Preventing Your Weight Loss

May 3, 2023

Are there hormones that affect your ability to lose weight? For many of us, losing weight is hard.

Smiling dark skinned lady now realises the hormones preventing her weight loss

It’s much more than eating less of certain types of food and exercising – although these are vital aspects.

One of the other crucial aspects of weight loss is your hormones.

 So today, if you’re having trouble shedding pounds despite sticking to a healthy diet and exercising regularly, you may grapple with hormonal imbalances that impede your weight-loss efforts. 

This post will delve into the top 5 hormones that impact weight loss, including Insulin, Cortisol, Oestrogen, Leptin, and Ghrelin.

Or you can watch the video version.

 We’ll thoroughly explore each hormone’s role in the body and how imbalances can lead to weight gain. 

Plus, we’ll provide you with tried-and-tested tips and strategies for balancing your hormones naturally using lifestyle changes and other remedies. 

Whether you’re a beginner in your weight loss journey or looking for ways to overcome a plateau, this post will empower you with valuable insights and inspiration.

What are Hormones

So what are hormones, and how important are they in this conversation?

Hormones are chemical messengers that operate in the human body. In fact, our bodies make over 50 types of hormones. 

They help facilitate/control several body functions like metabolism, sleep, sex drive, pregnancy, weight loss, etc.

When it comes to our weight, many hormones are involved so lets begin by looking at one of them – produced in the Thyroid gland.

Graphic in blue of the head and neck of the human body showing the thyroid gland highlighted in red - Thyroid hormones play an important role in weight

The Thyroid

Thyroid hormones play a significant role in regulating metabolism and how we burn energy. They are produced in the thyroid gland, a small gland found in your neck.

An underactive thyroid, where your body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, leads to a slowing down of your metabolism.

This means you burn fewer calories. And this may contribute to weight gain or difficulty losing weight.

An imbalance of your thyroid hormones not only affects your weight but other important activities in your body including the way your organs work.

Lack of the hormone can result in serious ill-health.

One of the things to think about if you are working hard with exercise/healthy diet but not seeing the pounds fall is to request a blood test for your thyroid function to ensure this is not related to your difficulty.

If the thyroid hormones are out of balance, for instance, with an underactive thyroid, the solution is to replace the missing hormone.

People with this condition will need to take Thyroid hormone for the rest of their lives

Graphic of the female body in blu ink with the pancreas highlighted in purple - where insulin is made, a hormioe that affects weight loss

Insulin

Insulin also controls metabolism. It is a hormone that develops in the pancreas, an organ between the liver ,stomach and the small bowels. 

Insulin removes sugar from the blood into the cells. The sugar is then used for energy or stored for use later. 

If you overeat carbs, your body must make a lot of insulin – more than it needs. This leads to insulin resistance. 

When you have insulin resistance, it means that your tissues do not respond to the effect of insulin. Thus you have constantly raised blood sugar.

This leads to reduced energy, craving for more food, and your body ends up storing the sugar as fat. Hence you gain weight.

Of course, you are also at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. 

People who are overweight often have insulin resistance and, as a result, struggle to lose weight. 

So, it would be best if you did not wait to be diabetic before you tackle the effect of insulin.

If you frequently consume excess carbs, then your insulin levels are running high and causing insulin resistance to develop. The answer is to adapt your diet and reduce the carb content. This should help regulate insulin production and the body’s tendency to store fat. 

Exercise also helps improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin so the insulin levels can normalise and you stop storing excess fat.

Image of the human body in red ink, depicting the Adrenal glands in yellow - Cortisol is a hormone important in weight gain

Cortisol

Your adrenal glands are responsible for making cortisol. These are two small structures located above each kidney. The body produces cortisol in response to stress. 

It is crucial in the way the body deals with stress. However, when the body makes too much cortisol, it can lead to weight gain. 

Why is this?

 Cortisol makes your body create more glucose. And with this comes an increased craving for sugary and high-fat foods and an increased appetite. But, unfortunately, your body’s metabolism also slows down.

In addition to this, it encourages your body to store fat – especially around your middle.

All this from a stressful life! 

There are other harmful effects of cortisol – it leads to insulin resistance and inflammation, leading to weight gain or difficulty losing weight.

It would help if you recognised and learned to manage stress in your life—meditation, relaxation, breathing therapy, self-care, short breaks, coming out of toxic situations etc.

These can all contribute to cortisol imbalance that affects your weight and makes it hard to lose weight. 

Learn more about how to regulate Cortisol imbalance.

Oestrogen

Oestrogen is another hormone with great importance in weight control.

 In women, ovaries are the site of hormone production, but other tissues (like fat cells) also make oestrogen. In men, it’s a by-product of testosterone which is made in the testicles.

Oestrogen is crucial for reproduction but also has a strong play in weight control. Specifically, it also regulates metabolism, how your tissues respond to insulin and how fat is shared around the body.

It’s also a hormone where balance is important because low and high oestrogen levels can lead to weight gain/obesity.

Low oestrogen causes fat deposits, especially around the tummy, and affects bone strength. 

But when oestrogen is too high (especially relevant to progesterone), you can have increased appetite, fluid retention and reduced energy levels, making losing weight hard. You may know this as oestrogen dominance.

Oestrogen is a hormone that can be affected by many things, including your age – menopause in women, genetics and lifestyle habits.

You can balance your oestrogen levels by consuming foods with healthy fats and fibre; and regular exercise. 

Image of fat cells in a blood vessel - Leptin , the satiety hormone which regulates appetite is produced in fat cells.

Leptin

Leptin is another hormone that controls fat metabolism.

Your body’s fat cells make leptin. We also call it the ‘satiety’ or satisfaction hormone because leptin’s job is to tell your brain that you are full, so your appetite drops.

So the more fat you are, the more leptin you make – but when you think about it, this should lead to weight loss, right?

Wrong. Although people who are overweight have high levels of leptin, their brains are resistant to leptin. So instead, they develop an increased appetite, eat more and gain weight.

To add to this mix, leptin can be affected by stress, inflammation and poor sleep. But remember, these can also increase cortisol? This is because cortisol makes your body less sensitive to leptin.

So how can you address a leptin problem?

Again diet and exercise play a significant part because they can help reduce the inflammation in your system.

Dealing with stress and getting a good amount of sleep daily will also deal with high cortisol and help your brain become more sensitive to leptin, hopefully leading to reduced appetite.

Ghrelin

Ghrelin is made in the stomach, stimulates the appetite, and makes you eat more. So when you have high ghrelin levels, your brain makes you feel hungry, and weight loss is harder.

Like leptin, poor sleep and stress affect your ghrelin status – increasing the levels, making you more hungry, and eating more.

 Ghrelin can also be affected by some medicines like antidepressants, making you eat more.

Paying attention to your sleep habits, stress levels, and things that get you down is important to keep your ghrelin levels at the normal range.

Eating a diet high in protein reduces ghrelin levels and curbs your appetite. Unfortunately, a high-carb diet does the opposite.

So ghrelin can make it hard to lose weight. Still, by focusing on healthy eating, exercise and stress management, you can reach a balance that minimises your appetite-stimulating effect.

Sustained weight loss that you can maintain is more complicated than eating and exercise – getting the right balance of your hormones is also key. Hopefully this post will help analyse your specific situation and get you on the path to your healthy weight goal.

More Reading

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All Askawayhealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care.

The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly

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