As we get older, it seems harder to get rid of that belly fat right around the middle. It is a fact of life that we seem to accept with age however, this does not need to be the case. Excess belly fat can be caused by hormonal imbalance. Hormones are chemical messengers produced by the brain and secreted into the blood. They target specific body processes and functions affecting development, growth, sexual function, reproductive health, immune response, cognitive function, mood, body temperature, and more. As women age, hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone begin to decline, which can cause a variety of symptoms and problems. When approaching or experiencing menopause, these hormones, among others, might be the reason that you are unable to get rid of excess weight around your waist.
What hormones Can Affect Weight Gain and Belly Fat?
- Estrogen – Either an increase or decrease in estrogen levels can cause weight gain. This hormone has several roles in the body, affecting sexual development, bone metabolism, cholesterol metabolism, aspects of pregnancy, body weight, insulin sensitivity, and glucose metabolism. There are different types of estrogen – estradiol, and estrone. As your body approaches menopause, it produces less estradiol and replaces it with estrone. When your body produces more estrone, it causes more belly fat to accumulate. This begins a vicious circle as increased fat then increases the production of estrone.
- Progesterone – It is usually produced in the ovaries and is a crucial part of pregnancy and your menstrual cycle. Progesterone helps prepare your uterus for pregnancy, helps your breasts to develop, and is a key part of breastfeeding. However, when you reach your mid-thirties, progesterone levels begin to naturally decline. This decline can manifest in symptoms such as mood swings, headaches, an irregular menstrual cycle, and weight gain. When progesterone decreases it can reduce your metabolism and increase your appetite – leading to weight gain.
- Testosterone – It is also produced by women in the ovaries but in lower levels than found in men. For both men and women, it plays an important role in maintaining muscle mass, promoting muscle growth, and bone strength. It helps to regulate sexual function as well as turning fat into muscle. Testosterone levels can drop during menopause leading to an increase in fat, a decrease in muscle, and feeling a lower sex drive.
- Cortisol – Thisis a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Although released under times of stress, it has many other functions including blood sugar regulation, reduction of inflammation, memory formation, and metabolism regulation. The link between high cortisol levels and weight gain is thought to be due to several reasons. Depression and anxiety can increase cortisol levels, which affects the storage of fat – leading to weight gain. When stressed, it can often affect your sleep patterns which, again increases cortisol levels. Alongside high cortisol levels, stress and anxiety can lead to emotional eating which, in turn, can contribute to weight gain.
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) – Also produced by the adrenal glands and can be converted into estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. It is involved in a myriad of functions including protein production, fat metabolism, energy production, brain function, and more. It is thought that DHEA can reduce by up to 80% as you age, and low DHEA levels have an effect on how insulin works in the body. This can lead to insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels, weight gain, and diabetes.
- Insulin – Produced by the pancreas, it is best known for regulating your blood sugar. However, it also affects the metabolism of fat and protein. Some people can develop a resistance to insulin with age, and this can result in obesity, metabolic syndrome, or diabetes.
- Thyroid Hormones – These help your body to breakdown fat, and to regulate and use energy. Most commonly affecting people over the age of 60, hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when your body does not produce enough of your thyroid hormones. Low levels of thyroid hormone can cause symptoms such as tiredness and weight gain.
What Triggers Increase/Decrease These Hormones?
The main factors that alter the balance of these hormones are aging, menopause, stress, and eating high amounts of simple carbohydrates. As increased belly fat can be caused by a decline of progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone, women approaching menopause will often find it more difficult to lose weight. General aging can reduce levels of DHEA and thyroid hormones, again leading to a decrease in metabolism and an increase in belly fat. Finally, stress, which affects us all at different points in our lives, increases cortisol levels leading to a lack of sleep, emotional eating, and weight gain.
What Measures Can Be Take to Reduce the Imbalance of These Hormones & Help Reduce Weight Gain?
Hormone replacement therapy can be used to replace estrone with estradiol, increase testosterone and progesterone, and increase levels of DHEA and thyroid hormones. By rebalancing the levels of these hormones with hormone replacement therapy, it can help to decrease fat deposits, while also having a positive effect on other menopausal symptoms.
If you have a family history of diabetes or have been diagnosed with diabetes, then dietary changes can also help. These can include reducing simple carbohydrates, increasing lean protein, and increasing complex carbohydrates into your diet. When trying to lose weight and blast belly fat, a healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise are important parts of any weight loss plan. However, imbalanced hormones may have a huge impact on your ability to lose weight, especially belly fat.
Apollo Medical Associates offers a variety of hormone replacement therapies and medical weight loss services to help you with your weight loss journey. We can measure your hormone levels, measure your body fat, and work out an individually tailored plan to help you lose hormonally influenced belly fat. For a consultation telephone us on 719-477-3135 to make an appointment or contact the BHRT experts for more information.