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How Hormones & Weight Gain Are Related in Women

In women, hormonal weight gain isn’t an uncommon issue. Whenever there’s an imbalance of hormones in the body, be it an excess of hormones or a deficit, noticeable changes are likely to occur. Weight gain due to a hormone imbalance is a well-documented issue in women and can take on a variety of forms and symptoms.

For instance, insulin is a hormone that, if off-balance, can lead to changes in weight. One of insulin’s key functions (although not its only function) is to aid in fat storage. Insulin is responsible for determining how much fat your body stores as well as how much is converted for energy expenditure. When an individual develops an insulin resistance—a condition related to chronically high insulin levels—they are at an increased risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Other hormones in women that, if imbalanced, can lead to weight gain are lepin, ghrelin, cortisol, and even estrogen. Other forms of hormonal imbalance can also play a role.

Consequently, a number of hormonal conditions have weight gain as one of their primary symptoms. For instance, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) sometimes leads to insulin resistance; those affected by PCOS also have an excess of the hormone androgen, another factor that can influence weight gain. Many women in menopause can also experience weight gain, a frequent symptom of low estrogen, on top of the more well-known symptoms of hot flashes, emotional changes, and thinning hair.

Lepin is a hormone directly related to appetite. When it comes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, it’s important to understand the potential effects lepin can have on your body. In a sense, lepin is akin to an appetite suppressant. This hormone is produced within your fat cells, and allows you to feel satisfied while eating. So, if your leptin levels are balanced, the hormone sends signals to your brain to let it know when you are no longer hungry.

However, when an individual eats an excess amount of unhealthy food (such as trans fats or sugary foods), lepin resistance can be the result. Due to this (sometimes extreme) excess of lepin, communications between this hormone and the brain can be damaged. When lepin fails to alert your brain that you have eaten enough to satisfy your appetite, your body can’t register that it is full. This can lead to frequent overeating, if lepin resistance develops.

Seeing weight gain due to a hormonal imbalance can be frustrating. If you ever notice any changes in your weight (outside of normal fluctuation), make sure to consult your doctor about your concerns.