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Help! I Don’t Want to Gain Weight Because of Hormones!

Women’s Hormones & Weight Gain: You’ve Got This!

Puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and post-pregnancy bring a host of less-than-desirable side effects that women must wade through for optimal health. If that wasn’t enough, menopause is yet another phase that brings certain physical challenges for women to overcome, one being bothersome hormonal weight gain.

Women’s hormones do change at 40 just like they do during earlier stages in a woman’s life, but can you do anything about it? In this detailed guide, ARCpoint Labs will walk you through the female hormones that cause weight gain and what you can do about it. Let’s dive in!

What is hormonal weight gain?

Hormonal weight gain refers to weight gain associated with hormonal imbalances. For women over 40, a hormone called estradiol, which regulates metabolism and body weight, decreases at menopause. The decreased levels of estradiol cause weight gain, particularly around the midsection, hips, and thighs.

Which female hormones cause weight gain after 40?

Not all hormones are created equal, and some have a greater effect on weight gain or loss than others. Here are some of the most common culprits of hormonal weight gain in women over 40.

  • Estrogen – A steroid hormone produced by the ovaries and placenta, estrogen levels decrease during the start of perimenopause and drastically decrease after menopause. A drop in estrogen is a boost in weight gain. Thankfully, eating more vegetables, exercising more, and taking flaxseeds can help boost your estrogen levels back up.
  • Insulin – Perhaps you have heard of insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that causes extreme resistance to insulin, a hormone in your body that regulates sugar intake. When your body is not properly utilizing insulin, weight gain, especially in the midsection, is usually the result. Adding green tea and protein and removing sugary foods are ways to put insulin in check.
  • Cortisol – Known as the “stress hormone,” cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by your adrenal glands and is responsible for a variety of functions in your body such as regulating your immune system and your metabolism. Too much stress triggers an increase in cortisol, which causes your body to hold onto and store excess fat. The good news is you can decrease cortisol by reducing your stress. Connect with family and friends, eat a balanced diet, and get at least seven hours of sleep every night to reduce cortisol and your waist size.
  • Leptin – This “fat” hormone is responsible for regulating long-term energy balance by telling your body when you are full. It basically regulates your appetite, but it may not work properly in women who are already obese. Optimize leptin in your body by eating more anti-inflammatory foods such as salmon, berries, broccoli, avocado, dark chocolate, and green tea. Also avoid fatty, greasy foods and strive to get enough sleep.
  • Ghrelin – Famously known as the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin is produced inside the gastrointestinal tract and increases your motivation to eat. Ghrelin levels are highest right before meals, when you are hungry, and lowest right after meals. The key is in keeping ghrelin levels low by maintaining a stable weight (no more yoyo dieting), eating more protein, getting enough sleep, and increasing muscle mass.

What are the signs and symptoms of hormonal weight gain after 40?

Knowing the signs and symptoms of hormone imbalance can help you make better decisions to prevent or correct hormonal weight gain after 40. Here are a few of the most commonly reported signs:

  • Central obesity – Fat congealed mainly in your midsection is called visceral fat. This type of fat is a result of hormone fluctuations and is particularly worrisome as it is a common symptom of heart disease and other life-threatening conditions.
  • Fatigue – Hormonal imbalances, weight gain, and fatigue are the “evil trifecta” for women over 40. If extreme fatigue is coupled with picking up a few extra pounds, you may need to find out if the cause is hormonal weight gain.
  • Acne – Teenagers are not the only ones who suffer from acne due to hormone changes. Women who are menstruating, pregnant, or over 40 may experience acne as a result of fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone.
  • Thyroid goiter – A thyroid goiter indicates that your thyroid is making too much of the thyroid hormone, which in turn affects your weight, and may indicate cancer, among other things.
  • Hair loss – Changing levels of androgen (male) hormones during menopause may trigger hair loss, but other hormonal changes may also have an effect.
  • Vaginal atrophy – Estrogen is a hormone that affects your vagina’s lubrication, thickness, and elasticity. Low levels associated with menopause may cause your vagina to become drier and thinner, with or without inflammation.
  • Galactorrhea – Galactorrhea is the production of milk in the mammary glands not related to pregnancy or recent birth. Abnormal levels of prolactin, estrogen, and thyrotropin-releasing hormones may be the cause.

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What are the risk factors for hormonal weight gain after 40?

Knowing your risk factors is the first step in addressing women’s hormonal weight gain after 40. Here are a few to take note of:

  • Aging
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Genetics
  • Hypothalamic tumors or surgeries

Talk to a healthcare professional about your risk factors and what you can do.

What are the possible treatments or preventative steps to avoid hormonal weight gain after 40?

You don’t have to accept hormonal weight gain after 40 as just another symptom of aging. You can take steps to treat or prevent female hormonal weight gain after 40. Let’s first take a look at possible treatments.

Hormonal weight gain treatments

Here are a few options for treating hormonal weight gain, but be sure to speak with a healthcare professional about what you can do.

  • Healthy diet and exercise
  • Stress reduction
  • Hormone replacement therapies
  • Thyroid hormone replacement
  • Medications that modulate insulin and other hormone levels
  • Surgery to remove a tumor that is causing excess hormone production

Preventative steps to avoid hormonal weight gain

Along with improving dietary choices, increasing exercise, getting more sleep, managing stress, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption, you should also get your hormone levels checked regularly. Knowing your current levels will give you a framework from which to develop a plan of action in preventing hormonal weight gain. Aim for diagnostic testing specifically designed to detect levels of female hormones that could impact weight gain among other issues.

Should I schedule a women’s health panel to check my hormone levels?

Yes! A women’s health panel from ARCpoint Labs will reveal a plethora of issues in your body, including your hormone levels. The women’s health panel includes a complete blood count, complete metabolic panel, prolactin test, and thyroid panel, to name a few components. It gives you a complete look at your overall health so that you can make informed decisions that will not only prevent or correct hormonal weight gain but also put you on a path of optimal health and wellness.

Call your local ARCpoint Labs for more information about all our wellness panels and trust our 20+ years of service in providing accurate, reliable, and confidential testing solutions for you!