Hormones and Weight Gain
Millions of Americans struggle with weight gain, and the inability to lose excess weight. There are many diet and exercise programs available that promise results, but what few people realize is that gaining weight involves much more than just the amount of food one eats, or how much one exercises. The human metabolism is very complex, and a number of hormones are responsible for its proper functioning. Any imbalance in hormone levels, even a small imbalance, can result in weight gain.
Hormone levels in women shift and decline as they age. When a woman’s hormones decline or fluctuate, her metabolism becomes less effective at regulating how calories are stored and burned. Women often see their body shape begin to change in their mid 30’s, with the first sign usually being an increase in abdominal fat. It’s no coincidence that this weight gain coincides with declining hormone levels.
In particular there is a strong link between estrogen and weight gain and aging. Estrogen levels in the body drop substantially during menopause. This is because the ovaries stop producing it. However, fat cells can also produce estrogen. So as the ovaries produce less estrogen, the body starts looking for other ways to produce it. And while the ovaries may no longer be an option, converting calories to fat still is. So the body works extra hard to do exactly that. Unfortunately, this new fat is generally located in the midsection. Further, fat cells produce a type of estrogen that isn’t healthy when produced to excess. Replacing estrogen (the right kind) can help to reverse this cycle.
Estrogen is not the only hormone that has an effect on female metabolism. Testosterone, DHEA, thyroid hormone, and cortisol also play important roles in how the female body regulates weight.
Testosterone, a hormone found in small quantities within the female body, also diminishes during menopause. Testosterone directly affects the body’s ability to build muscle mass, and therefore directly affects metabolism. Put simply, muscle burns more calories than fat; so less muscle equals fewer calories burned, even while sleeping.
DHEA is a steroid hormone that declines sharply in both men and women around the age of 35; and low levels of DHEA have been directly linked to weight gain. Studies have found that using a DHEA supplement can actually reverse age-related weight gain, and change the way the body stores fat.
The thyroid gland is considered the “master” controller of a person’s metabolism because the hormone produced by the thyroid greatly affects how the body burns energy. Low levels of thyroid hormone go hand-in-hand with aging, and often result in weight gain and fatigue.
Cortisol, commonly called the “stress hormone”, is produced by the adrenal glands. While this hormone is essential to survival, chronically elevated levels of cortisol have been directly linked to weight gain. The body makes higher amounts of cortisol in response to stress, whether it be physical stress or mental stress. Various supplements can help control the overproduction of cortisol, but the most effective way to achieve lower levels, and thus avoid any associated weight gain, is to lower stress as much as possible.
A balanced diet and sufficient physical activity are important for overall good health; but diet and exercise alone do not guarantee that a woman will remain in good shape and keep extra weight off as she ages. Any woman concerned about weight gain as she gets older should also make sure her hormones are balanced and at healthy levels. For more information about healthy hormones for women, contact Renew Woman™.