Estrogen is one of the two primary female sex hormones and is involved in the onset of puberty and the menstrual cycle. It has many other essential functions, including:
- helping to control blood cholesterol levels
- promoting bone health
- protecting the brain and mood
The ovaries, which are two small glands in the lower pelvis, are mainly responsible for the production of estrogen. The adrenal glands and fatty tissue also make estrogen in small amounts.
There are three main types of estrogen:
- Estrone, or E1, which the body produces after menopause.
- Estradiol or E2, which women of childbearing age produce.
- Estriol or E3, which the body produces during pregnancy.
How Is Hormonal Weight Gain Diagnosed?
An evaluation with an endocrinologist can help determine if a hormonal condition is the underlying cause of weight gain.
- Declining estrogen
- adrenal disorders
- hormonal resistance
- thyroid imbalance
- Other hormonal imbalances can lead to weight gain.
Laboratory tests give endocrinologists insight into hormonal imbalances when combined with your symptoms and presentation, but it’s not fully reliable. Blood and urine results can be influenced by many things.
Estrogen & Body Fat Distribution
Sex hormones strongly influence body fat distribution and adipocyte differentiation. For women, a specific estrogen hormone called estradiol decreases at menopause and helps regulate metabolism and body weight. The lower levels of estradiol may cause weight gain
Reduced levels of estrogen after menopause can cause fat to be stored around your waist rather than on your hips and thighs. In postmenopausal women, belly fat accounts for 15 to 20% of their total body weight, compared with 5 to 8% in premenopausal women.
Studies have consistently shown that this waistline increase is different from when you were younger. The visceral abdominal fat increases as you enter menopause. Visceral fat is inside your abdomen and surrounds your organs. This is more dangerous than an increase in subcutaneous fat, which is found in places like your thighs, buttocks, and outer abdomen. Visceral fat is thought to be more metabolically active, which has a negative effect on the body. An increase in visceral fat is linked to an increase in insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease and inflammatory diseases.
Key Tips to Manage Hormonal Weight Gain
- Hormonal weight gain is potentially reversible or treatable if the underlying cause is addressed and treated with the guidance of an endocrinologist.
- Hormonal weight gain can cause an increased risk for a multitude of other health conditions which can increase morbidity and mortality.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through a balanced diet, regular physical activity, proper sleep, and stress modification can help with managing and reversing hormonal weight gain and decreasing the associated health risks that may result if it is not addressed.
By trying to keep a healthy weight, or at least minimize any weight gain, then you’ll be able to minimize additional health risks.