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how a hormone imbalance can cause weight gain

Some of you may know that I recently found out I have a hormone imbalance. I have probably had it for a significant amount of time (over a few years) but never really thought to look into it.

As you may know, I always talk about how a hormone imbalance can cause weight gain. I have been experiencing weight gain and difficult losing weight, and it wasn’t until I did a bit of research that I suspected I might actually have a hormone imbalance.

I know there are probably many of you experiencing the same thing and don’t even realize that you have a hormone imbalance. So I wanted to share what I have learned in the hope that it might help some of you too!

WHAT IS A HORMONE IMBALANCE 

The most common one (that I have) and that most young women experience is a progesterone deficiency. Your estrogen levels could also be too high in comparison to your progesterone levels. They need to be balanced.

WHAT ARE ESTROGEN AND PROGESTERONE?

These hormones are secreted by the ovaries and contribute to a woman’s menstrual cycle and fertility.

Here are some of the effects of estrogen and progesterone.

EstrogenProgesterone
Increases body fatHelps use fat for energy
Salt and fluid retentionNatural diuretic
Depression and headachesNatural antidepressant
Interferes with thyroid hormoneFacilitates thyroid hormone action
Impairs blood sugar controlNormalizes blood sugar levels
Decreases sex driveRestores sex drive

So you can see that if you don’t have enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen, it could cause these issues.

SYMPTOMS OF A HORMONE IMBALANCE 

Some of the most common symptoms of a hormone imbalance (low progesterone) include:

  • Heavy or irregular periods
  • PMS symptoms (migraines / headaches, cramping, moodiness, tender breasts, cravings, etc)
  • Weight gain (especially around the stomach)
  • Low libido
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Anxiety, irritability and depression
  • Poor sleep and insomnia
  • Hair loss
  • Hot flashes
  • Fibrocystic breasts
  • Endometriosis
  • Infertility (not permanent – fertility will come back when your hormone balance is restored).

Related post: 6 Unexpected Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight

HOW LOW PROGESTERONE / HIGH ESTROGEN CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN 

SUGAR CRAVINGS

High estrogen can actually cause an increase in insulin. Increased insulin leads to sugar cravings, and this is why lots of women crave chocolate during PMS (and at other times too!). Progesterone helps to lower insulin levels.

STORED FAT

High levels of estrogen also cause more fatty tissue growth, and your fat cells, in turn, make more estrogen; so it’s a vicious cycle. This excess fat is usually around the stomach because estrogen also dictates where the body distributes fat. This cycle can be helped by balancing out estrogen with progesterone.

FLUID RETENTION

High levels of estrogen also cause fluid retention. Progesterone is a natural diuretic and can reduce fluid retention and bloating.

DECREASE IN THYROID FUNCTION

Low progesterone can affect your thyroid, and thyroid issues can cause weight gain/difficulty losing weight. When you have low progesterone, your liver produces excess TBG (a protein). TBG binds to the thyroid hormones and blocks them so your body can’t use them properly.

APPETITE & SLEEP

Progesterone has a calming effect on the brain, whereas estrogen has an excitatory effect. This means that women with high estrogen experience sleep difficulties.

A lack of sleep disrupts the hormone that is in control of your appetite (leptin). When you are sleep deprived, this contributes to an increased appetite and you eating more.

Read this blog post to find out the WORST thing for weight loss (that you don’t know about!)

CAUSES OF HORMONAL IMBALANCE 

For me, the hormone imbalance has probably been caused by a few things; but the main contributor has been long-term use of the contraceptive pill.

The pill contains synthetic progestin which lowers progesterone levels. Other causes can include stress, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, menopausal changes and xenohormones (found in plastics, solvents, adhesives, etc).

HOW TO FIX IT

For me, the first thing I did was stop taking the contraceptive pill. Within 2 weeks I already noticed my stomach looking leaner than it had in about a year. And I didn’t really do much different with my diet or exercise.

This is probably due to both losing fat and a decrease in fluid retention.

There are lots of other ways that you can naturally rebalance your hormone levels, but there are just SO many. I’m not going to list them all.

A few things you can do is to take 1tsp of maca powder each day – this is supposed to be great at balancing out your hormones. Buying organic meat (with no added hormones) is also a good move. I have also been taking a natural supplement called Fem Rebalance to help my hormones restore themselves naturally.

My best suggestion is to visit a naturopath that specializes in hormones for women and get some testing done.

The testing they do will be different to a GP. The blood tests your GP take may not accurately represent your hormone levels. It is best tested through a saliva or urine test. Once you have results, your naturopath will be able to recommend treatment.

24 comments on “How A Hormone Imbalance Can Cause Weight Gain”

  • Renee says:

    Hello there, I recenlty about 9 months ago noticed weight gain (unexplained) and mood changes and tiredness etc. etc. I just now found out the lining if my uterus is thickened due to low Progesteron. It all makes sense now! Excercising and eating well nothing was working with the weight gain. My doctor put me on Progesteron, Can anyone tell me how long before I notcie a difference in how I’m feeling? Thank you

    • Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      We recommend finding a good naturopath because they’re better at helping with hormonal issues than regular doctors.
      It could take anywhere from 2 to 6 months to notice a significant difference.
      I wish you best of luck hun! xx

      Love,
      Diana

  • Jenny says:

    It’s great to see an article about this, and to know I’m not the only one! I’ve been struggling with fat loss for ages, despite making every effort with diet and exercise, consistently. I was so frustrated because looking at my figure, nobody could believe how much I was working out or how healthily I was eating. Some suspected I was binging on chocolate every night, or that I must be doing something wrong because I was always just a bit overweight, with cellulite and water retention around my hips, thighs, and in my legs.

    I knew something was off, because whether I was working out hard 6 days a week and eating a calorie controlled vegetarian diet, or whether I went 2 weeks without exercising and indulging in pizza and chocolate, my weight and body fat levels always seemed to be about the same. Something else was controlling them. Yet no doctors seemed to take me seriously. One of them even insinuated that I might be anorexic – which fortunately is certainly not the case! I was just keen to slim down and also concerned because something was clearly out of whack in my body.

    A functional doctor finally diagnosed me with gut issues, including SIBO and leaky gut, and the same hormone imbalance you describe: very low progesterone. My symptoms were just like yours, and I had stopped ovulating.

    I had been on hormonal contraception (the pill, the injection, Mirena) from the age of 17 to 28 with only about 2 months break. During those two months my body magically responded to exercise and diet and I lost so much body fat and retained water without even trying. I’m hoping this happens again as my hormones start to rebalance!

    So how did I remedy the situation?

    First I tackled my gut issues, as without a healthy gut your body has a really hard time healing itself, getting rid of the bad stuff and absorbing the good stuff.

    Then I switched to the copper coil, which is the only contraceptive option out there that doesn’t contain synthetic hormones. I’ve been using natural progesterone cream (one by Smoky Mountain Naturals, entirely organic, not a synthetic hormone like the progestin they use in some contraception), and taking calcium d-glucarate and DIM which are two natural supplements that help your liver and intestine eliminate excess estrogen.

    It’s going to take a while but it’s so worth it. I just wish more women were aware of this. Xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens are in so many of the foods we eat, products we put on our skin and chemicals we use to clean our homes and clothes. Once in the body, they act like estrogens and further tip the balance towards estrogen dominance. A lot of us are struggling with this imbalance and we don’t even know! It’s also a good idea to invest in a home water filter, as our tap water these days is increasingly filled with estrogens. Eating out of plastic is also a good one to avoid for the same reason.

    I went to so many doctors, including a top endocrinologist and a number of top gastroenterologists, to ask them what was wrong with me – and none of them seemed to take me seriously or were able to identify what the functional doctor spotted. He was the first doctor who’s ever asked me “so how are you?”, referring to all aspects of my life (emotional as well as physical). He took so much time and care to get to the root cause of the problem, not just cover up the symptoms.

    And now I’m on the Lean Legs program and hoping to start seeing results, alongside my hormone rebalancing efforts and gut healing protocol!

    I hope this info is useful to anyone else out there with similar symptoms. Good luck! And thanks Rachael for sharing!!

    • Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      Thanks a lot for sharing your story, we know how tough it can be!
      I’m so glad to hear you’ve been able to start your recovery and take steps towards reaching your fitness goals :)
      I wish you all the best and I’m looking forward to seeing your progress! xx

      Love,
      Diana

  • Kathy Thureen says:

    I can’t lose weight even thou I eat very little. I must have a low metabolism.

    • Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,

      We know that reaching your fitness goals can be hard and that you probably have a lot of questions about how to get that lean and toned body.
      We’d love to help as much as we can :) that’s why we have created our Lean Legs Program and the Lean Legs Training Club.

      The program in the eBook is an 8 week workout and nutrition plan designed to help you get lean and toned without bulking. It will help you slim down your legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body). It also includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe eBook and demonstration videos.

      You can find out more about the Lean Legs program here:

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/lean-legs-program/

      For more helpful info please have a read of this blog post about how to speed up your metabolism.

      Love, Lean Legs Club support xx

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