Hormonal Weight Gain: How Do You Know If Hormones Cause Your Weight Gain

Hormonal Weight Gain: How Do You Know If Hormones Cause Your Weight Gain

Hormonal weight gain is a common concern that can be attributed to various bodily processes.
Changes in weight can happen for all sorts of reasons, many of which aren’t related to hormones. But shifts in hormonal levels, hormonal imbalances, and health conditions that impact hormones can contribute to weight gain or make it more challenging to shed weight (1). 
This article will examine the causes of hormonal weight gain and provide possible techniques for managing its results.


What Is Hormonal Weight Gain? 
Hormonal weight gain is an increase in body weight caused by hormonal imbalances, when your body makes too much or too little of a hormone (1). 
Disruption to the body’s natural balance of hormones can occur as a result of things like: 
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Thyroid disease (2)


Which Hormones Can Cause Weight Gain?
Each hormone has a significant impact on your body, how you feel about food, how full you feel, how quickly your metabolism runs, and how your body distributes fat. When your hormones are unbalanced, things like weight gain can result.
Some examples of hormones that can affect appetite, satiety, metabolism, and weight gain are:
  • Estrogen: This hormone controls a woman's menstrual cycle in addition to having an impact on other bodily functions. Research indicates that changing estrogen levels may influence weight changes in women (3).
  • Ghrelin: The hypothalamus and ghrelin collaborate to regulate appetite, earning ghrelin the moniker "the hunger hormone" (4).  Additionally, it communicates with the pituitary gland to instruct it when to release growth hormones, which aids in the breakdown of fat cells and encourages the growth of lean muscle (5). Before meals and during fasts, the level of the stomach-produced hormone ghrelin increases, causing hunger. After a meal, its levels decrease (4). 
  • Cortisol: The adrenal glands secrete a hormone called cortisol that regulates metabolic and blood sugar control in response to stress (6). When your body is exposed to long-term stress and stress hormones including cortisol, many of the body’s natural processes can be disrupted (7).
  • Leptin: Leptin, which is produced by fat cells, has many physiological effects. Its primary role is to signal to the brain when it is time to stop eating. Leptin helps to control long term food intake and energy expenditure, therefore, low levels (rare) or resistance to its effects can cause problems (8). 
  • Insulin: The pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which aids in glucose absorption from the blood by the body's cells. People who take insulin, including those being treated for diabetes, may be prone to gaining weight (9). 


Conditions That Can Cause Hormonal Weight Gain

Genetics, aging, or other uncontrollable conditions can all be contributing factors to hormonal weight gain. Some of them include the following:


Menopause is the cessation of menstruation, which occurs after a woman has not had her period for 12 consecutive months. The term is used to describe both this condition and its symptoms. 
As women approach menopause, their hormonal balance alters in ways that may lead to weight gain (10). 


Endometriosis is a condition that causes uterine tissue to grow outside the uterus, and this tissue responds to estrogen levels in the body that fluctuate during your menstrual cycle. These lesions or patches can grow on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, pelvic area, and bowels. Weight gain may occur for some endometriosis patients, perhaps due to excessive bloating or fluid retention (11). 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is another hormonal disorder that may cause weight changes. Women with PCOS produce high levels of male hormones (androgens) and can subsequently develop cysts on their ovaries. The link between PCOS and weight gain may be due to insulin resistance (12). 

Insufficient Sleep

Sleep deprivation can increase the likelihood of obesity, as sleep duration has been linked to alterations in appetite regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin. Insufficient sleep is associated with lower levels of leptin, and increased levels of ghrelin (13,14). 

How To Test For Hormonal Imbalance 

There are many ways to test for hormonal imbalance, but one of the most common is through blood testing (2). Blood tests can measure hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA.

Blood samples can also be used to screen for other conditions that may be causing symptoms associated with hormone imbalance, such as Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disorder (2). 

To start, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a physical exam and discuss the symptoms you've been experiencing. Bring a list of all medications you're taking to this appointment.

If your doctor suspects a problem, they may order one or more additional diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms. 

How To Lose Hormonal Weight Gain
Treatment for weight gain caused by hormone imbalance begins with a diagnosis of the hormonal imbalance itself. 
Generally, to meet any weight loss goal, it’s best to adopt a lifestyle that includes the following strategies (15): 
  • Maintaining a diet focused on consuming fewer calories
  • Starting a daily exercise program
  • Following behavioral methods such as setting smaller, more realistic weight goals
  • Ensuring you get adequate sleep each night
  • Taking medications and supplements as recommended by your doctor

If you have been having trouble losing weight, your doctor can help you determine whether your hormone levels are the cause. This will help you and your doctor formulate an efficient treatment plan for your needs.



  1. Department of Health & Human Services. (2001, April 2) Obesity and hormones. Better Health Channel. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/obesity-and-hormones  
  2. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Hormonal imbalance: Causes, symptoms & treatment. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22673-hormonal-imbalance 
  3. Hirschberg, A.L. (2012, March) Sex hormones, appetite, and eating behaviour in women. Maturitas 71(3):248-56. DOI: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.12.016. Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22281161/ 
  4. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.) “Ghrelin.” Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22804-ghrelin 
  5. The Society for Endocrinology. (n.d.). Ghrelin. You and Your Hormones. https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/ghrelin 
  6. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.) “Cortisol.” Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22187-cortisol
  7. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2023, August 1). Chronic stress puts your health at risk. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037#:~ 
  8. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.) “Leptin.” Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22446-leptin
  9. Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.) “Insulin and weight gain: Keep the pounds off.” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/insulin-and-weight-gain/art-20047836        
  10. Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.) “The reality of menopause weight gain.” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menopause-weight-gain/art-20046058 
  11. Villines, Z. (n.d.) “Endometriosis and weight gain: What is the link?” Medical News Today. Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324014#the-link-with-weight-gain 
  12. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.) “Can PCOS Cause Weight Gain?” Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-polycystic-ovary-syndrome-make-gain-weight/ 
  13. Tasali E, Wroblewski K, Kahn E, Kilkus J, Schoeller DA. Effect of Sleep Extension on Objectively Assessed Energy Intake Among Adults With Overweight in Real-life Settings: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2022;182(4):365–374. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.8098
  14. Salamon, M. (2022, April 4). Snooze more, eat less? sleep deprivation may hamper weight control. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/snooze-more-eat-less-sleep-deprivation-may-hamper-weight-control-202204042718 
  15. Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.) “Weight loss: 6 strategies for success.” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20047752