10 Hormones Responsible For Weight Gain In Women

Losing weight is not just about healthy eating. It’s also about keeping your hormones in check. It’s not easy to lose weight. But did you know that shedding the stubborn fat can be even harder if your hormones are not in balance? Hormones control critical reactions and functions such as metabolism, inflammation, menopause, glucose uptake, etc. The triggers of a disrupted hormonal balance can be stress, age, genes, and poor lifestyle choices leading to a sluggish metabolism, indigestion, uncontrollable hunger—ultimately leading to weight gain. Though women are accustomed to hormones going berserk (read PMS), a chronic case of imbalanced hormones can make you prone to all obesity related diseases. So, let’s find out which hormones are responsible for your weight gain and what can you do about it. Let’s begin!

 1. Thyroid

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The thyroid gland, which is present at the base of your neck produces three hormones—T3, T4, and calcitonin. These hormones regulate metabolism, sleep, heart rate, growth, brain development, etc. Sometimes the thyroid gland under-produces the thyroid hormone leading to hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is often associated with weight gain, depression, constipation, fatigue, high blood cholesterol, slow heart rate, etc. There are many causes of hypothyroidism such as gluten intolerance, malnutrition, environmental toxins, etc. In fact, hypothyroidism leads to water accumulation and not fat that makes you look plump. You will gain 5-10 pounds more if your weight gain is only due to thyroid imbalance (1).

 How To Treat Thyroid Imbalance?

2. Insulin

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Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas, which helps to carry the glucose into the cells to be used as energy or to store them as fat. This helps maintain the glucose levels in the blood. Over consuming processed foods, alcohol, artificially sweetened drinks, and snacking on unhealthy foods (or even consuming too many fruits) can lead to insulin resistance. In this case, the muscle cells are not able to recognize glucose-bound insulin, and therefore glucose remains in the bloodstream causing a spike in blood sugar levels. This finally leads to weight gain and Type 2 diabetes (2).

How To Treat Insulin Resistance?

3. Leptin

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Under normal conditions, the hormone leptin signals that you are full and should stop eating. But due to overconsumption of foods that are high in sugar content such as candies, chocolates, fruits (that are modified to contain a lot more fructose), and processed foods, the oversupply of fructose is converted to fat that gets deposited in liver, belly and other regions of the body. Now, fat cells secrete leptin. As you keep consuming more fructose-containing foods, more fat gets accumulated, and more leptin is secreted. This, in turn, desensitizes the body to leptin and the brain stops receiving the signal to stop eating. This ultimately leads to weight gain (3).

How To Lower Leptin Levels?

 4. Ghrelin

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Popularly known as the “hunger hormone”, ghrelin helps stimulate appetite and increases fat deposition. It is secreted by the stomach mainly. A small amount of ghrelin is also secreted by the small intestine, brain, and pancreas. Higher levels of ghrelin in the bloodstream may lead to weight gain, and obese people are more sensitive to this hormone. In fact, Ghrelin levels are also high when people are on a strict diet or while fasting.

How To Lower Ghrelin Levels?

5. Estrogen

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Both high and low levels of estrogen can lead to weight gain. First, let me tell you how elevated levels of estrogen makes you gain weight. High estrogen levels in the body are either due to overproduction of this hormone by the ovarian cells or due to a diet rich in estrogen. These days animals are fed with steroids, hormones, and antibiotics that can behave like estrogen in your body. Now, when you are healthy and producing the desired amount of insulin, your blood sugar levels are in check. But when your body’s estrogen levels go up, the cells that produce insulin gets stressed. This, in turn, makes you insulin resistant and your blood glucose levels rise leading to weight gain. Secondly, premenopausal women have lower levels of estrogen, which puts an end to ovulation. This further lowers the estrogen levels, as the ovarian cells produce estrogen. Now, in order to get enough supply of estrogen, the body starts looking for other cells that produce estrogen. And one such source is fat cells. When the estrogen levels take a dive, the body starts converting all available sources of energy to fat to replenish the glucose levels. This, in turn, leads to weight gain, particularly in the lower body (4).

How To Maintain Estrogen Levels?

 6. Cortisol

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Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is mainly secreted when you are stressed, depressed, anxious, nervous, angry, physically injured, etc. The two primary functions of cortisol are energy regulation and energy mobilization. Let me explain. Cortisol regulates energy by deciding which type of energy (carb, protein, or fat) is required by the body to do a certain function. Cortisol helps to mobilize energy by transporting fats from fat reserves to the “hungry cells” or working muscles. Basically, cortisol is needed to handle short-term stress (mental, physical, real, or imagined) response. But due to poor lifestyle choices and bad eating habits, your body can be in a constant state of stress. This leads to an increased secretion of cortisol that makes the body hyperinsulinemic, increases visceral fat deposition, and stimulates the maturation of fat cells (5).

How To Reduce Cortisol Levels?

7. Testosterone

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Women also create lower levels of testosterone (15 – 70 ng/dL). Testosterone helps to burn fat, strengthens bones and muscles, and improves libido. In women, testosterone is produced in the ovary. Age and stress can significantly reduce the testosterone levels in women (6). And a lower level of testosterone is associated with loss of bone density, loss of muscle mass, obesity, and cause depression.This can increase stress and inflammation leading to more fat accumulation.

How To Bring Testosterone Levels Up?

8. Progesterone

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The hormones progesterone and estrogen should be in the balance to help the body function properly. The progesterone level can drop due to menopause, stress, use of contraceptive pills or due to consumption of foods containing antibiotics and hormones that get converted into estrogen in the body. This can eventually result in weight gain and depression.

How To Bring Progesterone Levels Up?

 9. Melatonin

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Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland that helps maintain the circadian rhythm, i.e sleeping and rising time. The melatonin levels tend to rise from evening till late at night and ebbs in the early morning. So, as you sleep in a dark room, melatonin levels will rise and your body temperature will drop. As that happens, growth hormone is released, which helps the body to heal, improves body composition, helps build lean muscle, and increases bone density. But due to disrupted circadian rhythm, many of you do not get adequate sleep or the required darkness to help your body heal. This increases stress, which ultimately leads to inflammation-induced weight gain.

How To Increase The Melatonin Level?

10. Glucocorticoids

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Inflammation is an initial step of the healing process. However, chronic inflammation can lead to undesirable outcomes. And weight gain is one of them. Glucocorticoids help reduce inflammation. Now, glucocorticoids also regulate the use of sugar, fats, and proteins in the body. And it has been found that glucocorticoids enhance fat breakdown and protein breakdown but reduces glucose or sugar utilization as an energy source. Thus, the sugar levels in the blood rise leading to insulin resistance in the body. Insulin resistance, in turn, leads to obesity and even diabetes if left untreated (7).

How To Reduce Glucocorticoid Level?

Weight gain due to hormones can be really tricky, and you should be very careful while dealing with hormonal imbalances. Here’s a list of things you should keep in mind.


So, these were the 10 hormones that may be responsible for your weight gain. Though it sounds complicated, you will be relieved to finally figure out the real reason for your weight loss resistance. And nothing can be liberating than that. Follow the tips mentioned in this article, and for sure you will be able to lose weight sooner than you know. Good luck!

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