Our endocrine systems are working tirelessly to regulate the body’s processes. Being able to send and receive the appropriate hormones, our endocrine system is able to fine tune the body’s metabolism, growth, immune system, and more. While we regulate our external behaviors, going to work, eating, exercising, getting rest, our hormones are busy contributing to a functioning body. These are all important as we try to control our weight.
Problems arise from times when hormones are not in balance. This hormonal imbalance can disrupt any good intentions on behalf of external behaviors: especially when it comes to losing, or gaining, weight. Hormones play a critical role in the background while you try to manage that number on the weight scale. In fact, in some cases, all the dieting, exercising, and good rest might amount to little because of hormonal imbalance issues. In fact, if those normal behaviors are not contributing to measurable weight loss, consider the possibility that hormonal imbalance might be playing a large part in it.
While the body has many hormones, here are some of the more common contributors to weight gain.
Cortisol: The stress hormone. Cortisol plays a big part in the fight-or-flight reaction when you are responding to an external stimuli. Say there is a loud noise, and you react to it. Your endocrine system will excrete cortisol in response, blood will go from your digestive system to your muscles, your senses will sharpen, and your heart starts to pump faster and stronger. Now picture cortisol in a hormonal imbalance. Your body is constantly under a state of perceived stress because the hormone is impacting your metabolism as less blood reaches the stomach and intestines. The body cannot digest as efficiently, so the food just gets stored as fat, and not utilized for all of its good nutrients. Cortisol contributes to a disrupted metabolism, and the body actively stores fat as it is an evolutionary trait from long ago as a response to stressors.
DHEA: DHEA is a hormone that helps to regulate metabolic function and muscle growth. As the body ages, it creates and secretes less and less. This means that the body just does not create the same muscle mass as it used to. Less muscle means less calories burnt. Less calories burnt means more calories hanging around, and those calories get stored as fat.
Testosterone: Testosterone is another hormone that is abundant in youth, starting after puberty, but declines with age. Like DHEA, testosterone helps to create muscle growth in males. High testosterone is a benefit in the production of muscles, but it can increase the risk for prostate cancer, low testosterone is unhealthy in other ways. The interesting thing about decreased testosterone in males is that it can lead to obesity and diabetes, and the resulting obesity actually contributes to even further reduced production of testosterone. It is a double-edged sword that leads to weight gain. It is important to note that high testosterone in women leads to diabetes and obesity, the opposite effect of what it does in men.
Estrogen: Estrogen production follows cycles in women, declining later in age. Found less in men, it plays a role in metabolizing sugar and regulating blood sugar. High estrogen levels can present a higher risk for breast cancer, but lower estrogen often results in less efficient processing of sugars. These poorly processed sugars are then stored in the gut and midsection, increasing the unhealthy storage of adipose fat tissue. This leads to weight gain.
In conclusion, a certain weight might be an ideal number, but weight gain could be a symptom of something concerning and confusing. Especially if you are integrating good eating, exercising, and resting behaviors, and you are still gaining weight, I recommended a full hormone blood panel be done to assess deficiencies and imbalances. There are many options for treatment. However, careful monitoring is key.