Published March 22, 2021
Hormones are potent organic molecules, one of a class involved in ‘signaling’ – that is to say, transmitting information from one organ within the body to another. This signaling plays a central role in a whole range of fundamental biological processes, including sleep, respiration, digestion and metabolism. The latter is the rate at which our bodies use stored energy.
As we get older, however, hormone levels change and this shift affects the whole body. Levels of the primary hormones testosterone and oestrogen fall, in men and women respectively, and this causes their metabolisms to gradually slow down. A slower metabolism makes it much easier to put on weight – cue middle aged spread, the bane of many people over 40.
Hormonal weight gain symptoms
But age-onset falls in testosterone and oestrogen production are not the only ways in which hormones meet weight gain. Other possibilities include:
This is a disorder of the thyroid, a crucial gland located in the neck which produces three different hormones controlling metabolism, protein digestion and growth. A thyroid that fails to produce sufficient quantities of these can trigger a range of symptoms including fatigue, sensitivity to cold, depression, a low heart rate, and crucially, weight gain.
Although typically stereotyped as a stress hormone, cortisol is actually involved in multiple biological processes including digestion, memory formation and the metabolism of glucose (blood sugar). Cortisol counteracts insulin, the hormone that regulates glucose, so if a person experiences stress for an extended period of time, their cells will start to become resistant to insulin, contributing to weight gain and increasing their risk of diabetes.
Hyperaldosteronism is a disorder of the adrenal glands in which they produce too much of a hormone called aldosterone. This can affect the amount of sodium retained by your body, increasing water retention and blood pressure and again, encouraging weight gain.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
In this condition, sometimes called PCOS, a person’s ovaries produce abnormally high levels of testosterone (which yes, occurs in female bodies too). Amongst other symptoms, this can disrupt the menstrual cycle and (you guessed it) promote weight gain.
Treating hormonal weight gain symptoms
So what can you do about all this? The key is to identify the problem. Speak to your GP and, if necessary, ask to be referred to a nutritionist or other specialist. You may be given prescriptions to keep the symptoms at bay – plus, of course, once you know what’s going on you will be able to devise a suitable diet and exercise plan.
Written by Bev Walton
Food Writer and Nutritionist, dietician
A chef of over 35 years with experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for both magazines, websites and ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I have a degree in nutrition and dietetics and work with restaurants and organisations within the healthcare profession. I am also able to take high quality photographs of recipes created. No writing task is too great, and whilst I specialise in the above, I am able to write about any topic you throw at me. Member of the Guild of food writers.