Does Estrogen Cause Weight Gain? How To Overcome Weight Gain 2023
If all you want to do is to snuggle up with a blanket in sweats, eat chocolate, and binge-watch your favorite reality TV show, it’s likely that moment in your cycle when estrogen is reaching its lowest level.
Every woman knows that sluggish feeling that comes a few days before cravings and exhaustion are at their highest. It’s also when estrogen and progesterone levels are declining so that your period can begin. We usually associate this decline with a loss in energy and an increase in appetite, but its effects go much further than that.
Estrogen is one of the most important hormones for a woman’s sexual and reproductive health. But an imbalance with too little or too much can completely shift how your body works, making many women wonder; does estrogen cause weight gain? Read on to find out does estrogen cause weight gain or not.
Does Estrogen Make You Gain Weight?
Either a drop or an increase in estrogen can make you gain weight. Estrogen plays a big part in many areas of digestion and health, including glucose and cholesterol metabolism. It affects your appetite, hunger, satiety, and energy levels, and it plays a big part in the salt and fluid balance that affects weight.
The Myth Of Menopause And Weight Gain
Menopause doesn’t equal weight gain. It also doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to get comfortable in a sedentary lifestyle. If anything, the opposite is true.
Hormonal changes alone aren’t always to blame when you notice weight gain later in life. It’s most often attributed to side effects of lifestyles, genes, and aging. Muscle and bone mass usually decreases as we age, but staying active and building muscle will also increase your bone strength. You’ll also have your immune and hormonal systems working better, all while decreasing stress through boosted endorphins and dopamine from the physical activity.
Many women notice a change in their figure and equate that to hormonal weight gain when instead it’s really a shift in fat distribution. Maybe your pants won’t fit quite right, but it doesn’t mean you gained weight.
What Is Estrogen?
Estrogen is a female sex hormone mainly produced in the ovaries. It also can come from adrenal glands, fat tissues, breasts, and the liver. It dictates your body’s sexual and reproductive processes. On top of regulating your menstrual cycle, it affects your urinary tract, heart and blood vessels, breasts, skin, hair, bones, pelvic muscles, and even your brain.
Which Hormone Causes Weight Gain?
There are different types of estrogen, including:
- Estradiol — the primary and most potent form that’s most active during menstrual years. It plays a role in ovulation and builds up the lining of your uterus for pregnancy.
- Estriol — a weak form that only increases during pregnancy. It helps the uterus to grow and prepares the body for childbirth and breastfeeding. Low or high levels indicate a pregnancy issue. It’s also used as a hormone therapy for menopause symptoms.
- Estrone — the weakest form that increases after menopause. Low or high levels can cause fatigue, mood swings, and irregular bleeding.
Due to its loss after menopause, many wonders, does estradiol cause weight gain? Since it helps regulate metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and body weight, lower levels or an imbalance can lead to gaining weight.
Do hormones cause weight gain, in general? The answer is yes — hormonal imbalances will affect how your body functions, including appetite, fat storage, and cravings.
Estrogen Throughout The Years
Estrogen is what rises when you start puberty and creates secondary sex characteristics, like changes in body fat composition and breast development. It partners with progesterone to keep your menstrual cycle regular.
It peaks in the days leading up to ovulation when you’re most fertile, which makes it easier for you to become pregnant. It works to thin your cervical mucus, an otherwise thick fluid that sperm must swim through to reach and fertilize an egg. It also makes sex more comfortable by keeping your vaginal walls lubricated and thick for the mechanical act of intercourse.
Estrogen drops during perimenopause, the period before menopause, whose duration can vary from months to years. Menopause isn’t an off-switch: the approach can take 10 years. It officially begins after a year without your period. Your body stops ovulating and the decrease in estrogen can lead to symptoms like mood swings, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. Estradiol is no longer the primary form of estrogen as the body switches to estrone.
How Does Estrogen Cause Weight Gain?
In a woman’s life before menopause, estrogen affects many areas of cardiovascular, skeletal, and nervous system processes that can affect your overall health and weight, such as:
- Fat storage.
- Mood regulation.
- Cholesterol levels.
- Blood sugar levels.
- Muscle and bone mass.
- Blood flow and circulation.
- Collagen production and skin moisture.
- Brain function, including your ability to focus.
Changes in estrogen levels alter your body’s functioning in varying ways. If you have estrogen dominance, where estrogen levels are too high in proportion to progesterone levels, the body may produce more insulin. This can lead to insulin resistance, high blood sugar, diabetes, and weight gain.
When estrogen levels are too low, the body may begin to store more fat to maintain higher levels, since estrogen is stored and can be produced by fat cells.
Whenever there’s an estrogen imbalance, you might feel an increase in mood swings, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and possibly infertility. These symptoms also all affect hunger, energy levels, and how our brain’s neurochemical and reward systems function. These side effects can easily lead to a loss in motivation to exercise, eat well, and go after our goals. Of course, these may all be subtle, in contrast to that obvious outward sign of irregular periods.
What Leads To High Estrogen
There are a number of factors that lead to high estrogen levels, most of them being lifestyle-related, such as:
- High levels of body fat — fat tissue converts normal circulating adrenal hormone into estrogen.
- Unhealthy diet — imbalanced gut bacteria, magnesium deficiency, and too little fiber can prevent your liver from removing excess estrogen.
- Stress — cortisol increases, decreasing progesterone production and creating an estrogen imbalance and a late or missing period.
- Alcohol — increases estrogen levels and reduces the production of progesterone.
- Hormone replacement therapy — may boost estrogen levels too high, especially in the beginning.
- Synthetic xenoestrogens — environmental chemicals that act as estrogen in the body, such as phthalates and bisphenol A, or BPA. These are found in plastics, pesticides, cleaning products, soaps, and shampoos.
Thankfully, the majority of these causes can all be avoided and managed by focusing on healthy lifestyle habits.
How To Avoid Weight Gain From Estrogen
Here are some of the most important steps you can take to balance your estrogen and overall hormone levels to ensure a healthy weight:
Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
What you eat has the power to change your entire physiology, including your hormonal and mental health. Focus on slowly adding more nutrient-rich foods to create a balanced diet. Magnesium and probiotic-rich foods like leafy greens, legumes, avocados, yogurt, and kombucha may be especially helpful.
Protein is also often overlooked, and the not-so-secret food gives you your best chance at maintaining a healthy weight. It fills you up quickly, keeps you fuller for hours, and doesn’t affect your insulin levels. That means you’re less likely to get cravings or snack mindlessly because you’re never quite satisfied.
Fiber is protein’s best friend when it comes to feeling satiated and keeping cravings at bay. The bulk it produces slows down the digestion/absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, keeping hormones like insulin balanced, and slows food in your gastrointestinal tract, keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Focus on adding vegetables and fruit to every meal; before you know it you’ll be eating the recommended five to ten a day.
Estrogen levels can also be better balanced through a regular exercise routine. Don’t worry, no one’s saying you have to go to the gym five days a week. Finding activities that you enjoy are essential for long-lasting success. Try new hobbies and join classes to find what interests you, like hiking, yoga, or Zumba.
At least 150 minutes a week is going to work towards regulating your hormones and cardiovascular health. If you can include strength and cardio training, you’ll improve muscle mass and make it all the more likely to keep extra weight off in the future.
Create A Healthy Sleep Routine
We all know how just one night’s bad sleep can lead to a cranky day. Sleep massively affects our hormones, and not getting enough can put everything out of whack. Think of what you can do to make sure you get a good night’s rest, like avoiding screens before bed, a light evening walk, or bedtime yoga.
Practice Stress-Relieving Activities
Cortisol is a hormone we produce when stressed, and higher levels are linked to overeating. The only way to reduce it is to prioritize relaxing activities that release endorphins and dopamine, like meditation and time in nature. Spending time in green space is the best all-natural mood regulator there is, working to quickly decrease anxiety and depression. Even 10 minutes a day can lower cortisol levels, so think about a morning, lunch, or after-dinner walk in the park, along with weekend hikes or picnics.
Limit Alcohol, Cigarettes, And Other Drugs
Alcohol, smoking, and drugs can all cause an imbalance in estrogen levels. Moderate drinking is one drink a day for women, and anything more than that is considered heavy drinking and can lead to many serious consequences, including various cancers and chronic health conditions.
Luckily, there are many apps to choose from where you can track your behavior, set goals, and get a community of people behind you to support you. Telling people about your goals, writing them down, and tracking them makes you more likely to be successful.
If you’ve noticed or have been told that drinking or drug use is interfering with your life, contact the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service for 24/7 support, available at 1-800-662-HELP.
The Bottom Line
Many women wonder, does too much estrogen cause weight gain, or does low estrogen cause weight gain? The answer is yes — to both! Any imbalance in estrogen or hormones, in general, can lead to weight gain.
Usually, imbalances are caused by an unhealthy diet, excess body fat, stress, lack of exercise, alcohol, cigarettes, and drug use. Levels also decrease with menopause, but excess pounds aren’t an inevitable part of getting older.
Luckily, you can balance your estrogen levels by living a healthy lifestyle. Even weight gain associated with menopause or age can be managed with exercise, diet, and stress-relieving activities.
If you want to get started and lose weight, take the pressure off of yourself by recognizing that you don’t have to suddenly change your whole life. Changing your habits is a science and not about willpower. Success comes from choosing one very small and realistic goal, waiting until it becomes easy, and moving on to the next goal from there.
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