How Hormonal Imbalance Affects Weight Gain and Loss

Have you been eating right and exercising regularly but still struggling to lose weight or even gaining weight unexpectedly? It is not what you are taking or not taking in your diet, but probably hormonal imbalance. Hormones play a very vital role in controlling metabolism, appetite, and storage of fats.

An imbalance in hormones, therefore, throws the entire process of managing weight off balance. In this article, we answer the question “What does hormonal imbalance mean?” and explore how it affects weight and the various treatment options available.

What is a Hormonal Imbalance?

Before proceeding further, let us define “hormonal imbalance.” Hormones are chemical regulators that are produced by the endocrine glands and transported through the bloodstream. When the amount and ratio of these hormones are well balanced, everything operates normally within your body.

However, if the amount of certain hormones released is too high or too low, then this may create an imbalance, leading to a host of symptoms, including resistant weight gain or loss.

There are three main hormones essential in the body:

  • Insulin: This hormone from the pancreas helps in transporting glucose from one’s bloodstream into the cells for energy. If insulin is chronically high or the cells don’t respond, then one will put on excess weight and eventually suffer from diabetes type 2.
  • Leptin: This hormone is made by fat cells and is responsible for signaling your brain that you have enough stored energy and that you don’t have to eat again right at that time. High consistent levels of the hormone leptin will make the brain become resistant to its signals, and hence, overeating and weight gain.
  • Ghrelin: Known as the “hunger hormone,” it is produced in the stomach and signals hunger. An imbalance can lead to insatiable hunger and weight gain.
  • Cortisol: One of the “stress hormones,” cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands to counter stress. If at high, chronic levels, cortisol causes overeating, insulin resistance, and belly fat.
  • Thyroid Hormones: These are produced by the thyroid and regulate metabolism. An underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism—can make you gain weight—and an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism—can make you lose weight.
  • Sex Hormones: Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone also play their parts in changing body composition, such as weight distribution. Imbalance in these, such as low testosterone in men or estrogen dominance in women, will make it difficult to lose weight and maintain muscle.

Read on if you are experiencing unexplained weight change and suspect a hormone has led to this, as we pick on the signs and what can be done about it.

Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance

Besides a change in weight, mind your hormones if you are facing any of the following:

  • General fatigue
  • Moodiness, irritability, anxiety, or depression
  • Poor sleep
  • Digestive issues
  • Skin breakouts
  • Headaches
  • Changes in appetite or cravings
  • Fertility changes
  • Low libido or sex drive
  • Hair thinning or hair loss in women
  • Sensitivity to temperatures

You should further look into whether this is with a provider who focuses on hormonal health in case you are experiencing most of these symptoms and have stubborn weight gain or weight loss.

How Hormones May Affect Weight Gain

A hormonal imbalance may cause you to gain weight in several different ways:

Insulin resistance and blood sugar imbalance

Normally, after eating a meal, your blood sugar will increase, and the pancreas is signaled to release insulin, which ushers that glucose into the cell to be used for energy. But if one keeps eating a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates, the level of insulin in the blood remains high.

Over time, the pancreas will start secreting even more insulin, leading your cells to be resistant to its signaling. This makes the body have a hard time breaking fat for fuel, thus promoting fat storage, especially around the middle. An overflow of insulin in the bloodstream can lead to inflammation and favor the extra weight.

Leptin resistance

Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells that signals your brain when you’ve stored enough energy and can stop eating. Chronically elevated, just like insulin can be, would lead to leptin resistance, where your brain stops heeding its signaling.

With leptin resistance, though, your brain thinks it’s starving, even though your fat cells are trying to tell it otherwise. This would then promote intense hunger and cravings, making it very hard to lose weight.

Cortisol and stress

When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release cortisol in preparation for you to fight the perceived threat. This is an excellent response in actual emergencies, but in today’s continually stressed world, many people have high cortisol levels all the time.

High cortisol increases your appetite, hence extra cravings, especially for high-calorie comfort foods. High cortisol also signals the body to store fat, especially around your organs—it’s visceral fat. As time goes on, abdominal fat can promote more and more inflammation and hormone imbalances in a vicious cycle.

Thyroid Dysfunction

Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of your neck. It produces hormones that regulate your metabolism – how efficiently your body burns calories for energy.

Low levels of thyroid function can slow your metabolism down so extremely that it feels impossible to lose weight, even when you watch your diet and exercise diligently.

An overactive thyroid, on the other hand, can make your metabolism sky-high and send you dropping pounds like nothing else, while it also causes major anxiety and a fast heartbeat.

Estrogen Dominance

Your two primary female sex hormones are estrogen and progesterone, and they need to be in balance for optimal health. A poor diet that chronically stresses the body and prevents proper nutrients will lead to estrogen dominance, a state of the body where estrogen levels are high compared to progesterone.


Estrogen dominance leads to increases in weight, especially in the hips, thighs, and arms. It also leads to water retention, bloating, and a lack of muscle tone.

Low Testosterone

Testosterone is a man’s important sex hormone, important for regulating muscle mass, fat distribution, and general metabolism. Testosterone naturally wanes with age, making it a bit harder to maintain muscle and keep off belly fat.

However, in younger men, chronic stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise can all contribute to lagging testosterone levels. An additional downside to this hormonal imbalance is that it tends to sabotage weight-loss efforts and adds frustration with fat gain in the midsection.

What You Can Do for Treatment of Hormonal Imbalance

If you believe that your hormonal balance is off and causing an imbalance that’s pulling the strings on your weight loss deal or perhaps responsible for unexplained weight gain, here’s how you can harmonize your hormones.

Consume A Lot Of Nutritionally Rich Whole Foods

Think of lots of vegetables, high-quality proteins, fats that are healthy, and dense fiber carbs in the form of fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Avoid processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats that disrupt your hormonal balance.

Prioritize Your Sleep

Make sure you have 7-9 good hours of quality sleep each night. Sleeping too little can significantly disrupt hormones, including those that control hunger and stress. Try creating a natural sleep routine, making sure your room is dark, cool, and free from electronic distractions.

Manage Your Stress

Find healthy coping mechanisms for stress by implementing yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or time outside in nature. Regular exercise is a great stress buster and can help control hormones like insulin and cortisol.

Get the Right Nutrients

Vitamin D, B12, and magnesium deficiencies are huge contributors to hormonal imbalances. Make sure these levels are tested by a healthcare provider. Omega-3 is also critical; be sure to supplement, if needed, to get back into the ideal range.

Herbal Supports

Some herbs and natural compounds have been shown to support hormone balancing and healthy weight.


Discuss these options with your provider: Maca, Ashwagandha, Chasteberry, and Dim. Remember, too: never begin a new supplement routine without professional guidance.

Work with a Hormone Expert

If balancing hormones seems impossible and all of the above feels like it has been done in vain, perhaps it is time to consider getting on board under the expert care of a hormone specialist.

They can run a wide range of labs to help zero in on specific imbalances and develop a precise treatment plan that will help balance your hormones to optimize weight loss and well-being.


Hormonal imbalance can have a great influence on weight gain and loss. One needs to understand the role of hormones in weight regulation for better weight management. One will be able to balance their hormones and achieve weight management by lifestyle change through dietary modifications, exercise, stress relief, and proper medical treatment.