man measuring his fat belly

Hormone Weight Gain

man measuring his fat belly

Hormonal weight gain is weight gain associated with underlying hormonal imbalances.

For men, hormonal weight gain can be caused by high stress or cortisol levels in the body. The heightened levels of cortisol may make the body go into survival mode and induce the production of fat cells which will cause a declining metabolism to store food for later use.

For women, estrogen levels (a specific estrogen hormone called estradiol) decrease at menopause. Estradiol helps to regulate metabolism and body weight, meaning a decrease could make it more difficult to achieve weight loss. Throughout a woman’s life, they may notice hormone-related weight gain around their hips and thighs.

What Causes Hormone Imbalance?

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to hormonal imbalance. The following issues are common contributors:

Thyroid Hormone Deficiency

An underactive thyroid, commonly known as Hypothyroidism, is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism’s deficiency of thyroid hormones can disrupt such things as heart rate, body temperature, and all aspects of metabolism. Hypothyroidism is most prevalent in older women.

Estrogen Dominance

High levels of estrogen can develop naturally, but too much estrogen can also result from taking certain medications. For example, estrogen replacement therapy, a popular treatment for symptoms of menopause, and estrogenic birth control pills, may cause estrogen to reach problematic levels. 

Your body may also develop low testosterone or low progesterone levels, which can upset your hormonal balance. If you have estrogen levels that are abnormally high relative to your progesterone levels, it’s known as estrogen dominance.

Androgen Imbalance

Androgens are a group of hormones that play a role in male traits and reproductive activity. Many women experience adult acne, mood swings, and conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome with excess testosterone and not enough other hormones, as well as hormonal changes and increased risk for a variety of health conditions with not enough testosterone.

Testosterone over or underproduction can eventually lead to gained weight and a decrease in overall health for both men and women, so it is important to discover the underlying cause.

Insulin Resistance

The hormone insulin helps control blood sugar levels. With insulin resistance, the body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin. Both leptin levels and ghrelin levels are affected by insulin resistance. Leptin levels tell the brain you’re full and it’s time to stop eating.

Ghrelin levels tell the brain you’re hungry (also known as the hunger hormone) and in need of more fuel. Insulin issues, eating too much of the wrong foods, and stress can affect these ghrelin and leptin signals.

Understand How Insulin Impacts Weight

insulin hormone weight gain

Insulin is one of the most important hormones when it comes to weight loss and weight gain. Made by the pancreas, insulin is responsible for storing blood sugar, or utilizing it, depending upon your body’s needs of the moment.

After you eat a large meal, a substantial amount of insulin releases itself into the bloodstream. It also enters the bloodstream as needed throughout the day, ensuring that blood sugar levels remain stable.

Another key function of this essential hormone is fat storage. Insulin decides how much fat to store, and how much to convert for energy expenditure. Chronically high levels of insulin can lead to a condition known as insulin resistance, which is linked to an uptick in blood sugar as well as continued elevated insulin levels.

Preventing this insulin imbalance is crucial, as it leads to weight gain, and eventually, type 2 diabetes. When insulin levels remain high over an extended period of time, obesity and metabolic syndrome are often unfortunate outcomes.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

As we age our metabolism slows. It becomes more difficult to maintain a healthy weight, certain hormones decrease production as our endocrine system slows, and hormone disorders may begin to arise.


Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges.

PCOS is usually a sign of a hormonal imbalance and symptoms include weight gain, painful periods or menstrual cycle issues, hormonal acne, female infertility, and other women’s health issues. PCOS is diagnosed by blood test or ultrasound.

Growth Hormone Deficiency

Those suffering from the hormonal imbalance of too little adult growth hormone will have symptoms that include: A higher level of body fat, especially belly fat, and difficulty losing weight, anxiety, and depression, decreased sexual function and interest, fatigue, less muscle mass (lean body mass), and reduced bone mass especially as they get older.

Cortisol Excess 

As mentioned above, cortisol is the stress hormone. Cortisol, like stress, isn’t all bad in small doses, but many of us unwittingly increase our stress levels beyond replenishment, leading to low libido, hair loss, thyroid problems, chronic decreased energy levels, and more; as well as increased fat storage.

Leptin Resistance 

Leptin is a hormone produced by the fat cells in your body. Its main role is to regulate fat storage and how many calories you eat and burn. Leptin resistance therefore may cause weight gain, other hormonal imbalances, and a near inability to lose weight.

Leptin and Appetite

Leptin resistance is another hormonal imbalance that’s essential to understand in maintaining a healthy weight. You can think of leptin as the appetite suppressant hormone. Made within your fat cells, leptin is what makes you feel satiated. It communicates to your brain when you feel hungry or full.

When your leptin levels are balanced, you don’t overeat because you feel full after eating a well-rounded meal, and that fullness lasts for hours. Ever notice how sweets and processed foods leave you feeling empty and wanting for more even after a short period of time? Eating trans fats and processed foods over the long term may eventually lead to leptin resistance; a hormonal imbalance issue that causes many patients to gain weight and greatly affects their ability to lose weight.

Prolactin Excess 

Excess prolactin can cause the production of breast milk in men and in women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding. In women, too much prolactin can also cause irregular periods and infertility. In men, it can lead to lower sex drive and erectile dysfunction (ED).

Pituitary Insufficiency

Hypopituitarism (also called pituitary insufficiency) is a rare condition in which your pituitary gland doesn’t make enough of certain hormones. Hormones coming from the pituitary gland control the function of other glands in your body: thyroid gland, adrenal glands, ovaries, and testes.

Luteinizing hormone (LH) is a hormone produced in the pituitary gland. In females, an acute rise of LH triggers ovulation. In males, LH stimulates the production of testosterone. It acts alongside the follicle-stimulating hormone meaning that insufficient pituitary activity may cause hair loss.

Diagnosis for Hormonal Imbalance

There’s no single test available for doctors to diagnose a hormonal imbalance. Begin by making an appointment with your doctor for a physical exam and bring a list of all medications, vitamins, and supplements you’re currently taking.

Blood Test

blood test

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may suggest one or more diagnostic tests to check for hormone imbalances.

One way to check hormone levels is with a blood test. Your doctor will send a sample of your blood to a lab for testing. Most hormones can be detected in the blood. A doctor may also request a blood test to check your thyroid and your levels of estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol.

Pelvic Exam

If you’re female, your doctor may perform a pap smear to feel for any unusual lumps, cysts, or tumors.

If you’re male, your doctor may check your scrotum for any lumps or abnormalities.

Either of these issues may be a more serious sign of hormonal imbalance.


An ultrasound machine uses sound waves to look inside your body. Doctors may request an ultrasound to get images of the uterus, ovaries, testicles, thyroid, or pituitary gland.

Treatments for Hormonal Imbalances

Weight gain due to a hormonal imbalance can feel overwhelming. However, there is hope for balanced hormones and greater ease of weight loss once the issue is diagnosed.

Treatment for a hormonal imbalance will depend on what’s causing abnormal hormone levels. Some common treatments for hormonal imbalance are described below.

Estrogen Therapy

If you’re experiencing hot flashes or other uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, including but not limited to weight gain, your doctor may recommend a low dose of estrogen.

Anti-Androgen Medications

Androgens are male sex hormones that are present in both women and men. Women with high androgen levels may choose to take medication that blocks the effects of androgens. 

Testosterone Therapy

Testosterone supplements can reduce the symptoms of low testosterone in men. In adolescents with delayed puberty, it stimulates the start of puberty.

Thyroid Hormone Therapy

If you have hypothyroidism, the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine can bring hormone levels back into balance.

Live Longer, Stronger, and Better

woman measuring her belly size

At Tucson Wellness MD, we understand the frustration and hopelessness that can come with weight gain due to a hormonal imbalance.

We believe in a scientific, evolutionary approach to health and use only the most advanced, pharmaceutical-grade products to help you reach your weight loss goals.

Health should fit your lifestyle, and we will work with you to create a plan that meets your weight loss needs and improves your quality of life.

If you or a loved one is struggling with hormone-related weight gain, contact Tucson Wellness for your free consultation. At Tucson Wellness, we are dedicated to helping you be better in everything you do. Excess weight can hurt your overall health and cause disease and injury that might otherwise be prevented. We use safe, natural, and effective methods to help with weight loss and to KEEP IT OFF.

Vail Wellness MD


8290 S Hougton Rd, Ste 90
Tucson, AZ 85747

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