Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate processes in our body. A system of glands, known as the endocrine system, secretes hormones into our bloodstream. The endocrine system works with the nervous system and the immune system to help our body cope with different events and stresses. Excesses or deficits of hormones can lead to weight gain or obesity and obesity can lead to changes in hormones.
Here are six important hormones that play a big role in our system.
Leptin: This hormone is produced by fat cells and is secreted into our bloodstream. Leptin reduces our appetite by acting on specific centers of our brain to reduce the urge to eat and so help in weight loss. But Leptin levels tend to be higher in people who are obese because their brain does not respond to leptin and so they tend not be satisfied after a meal. Leptin levels are also not well regulated in people who stay awake for long hours which also affect their metabolism and weight.
People who undergo bariatric surgeries tend to have this hormone well regulated and that is why, despite the reduced size of the stomach, the main target of those surgeries is to increase the production of the appetite hormone, ‘Leptin’ and lower the production of the hunger hormone, ‘Ghrelin’.
Insulin: A hormone produced by the pancreas, Insulin is important for the regulation of carbohydrates and the metabolism of fat. People with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance lose the insulin signals and tissues are no longer able to control glucose levels which lead to weight gain. or vice versa, weight gain and obesity can lead to insulin malfunction which shuts down the metabolism.
With a proper food plan, this hormone can be fixed, metabolism will speed up and weight will drop again.
Thyroid Hormones (TSH, T3, T4): The Thyroid is a gland that sits in the front of your neck and releases hormones that stimulates fetal growth, regulates heart rate, body temperature and metabolic rate (metabolism). People with ‘Hyperthyroidism’ have this gland overactive, secreting too much hormone which boosts metabolism and leads to a dramatic weight loss. But their hearts may be at risk. On the other hand, people with ‘Hypothyroidism’ have this gland underactive, producing too little hormone, slowing down metabolism and leading to weight gain.
Under the supervision of an endocrinologist and a dietitian, the right dosage of medication and the correct diet plan will be given, reversing the condition.
Cortisol: This hormone is also known as ‘stress hormone’, because its level rises with stress. Cortisol levels tend to be higher in people under chronic stress, the type that lasts weeks and months. Despite that stress drives you to overeat, high levels of cortisol alone increase visceral fat and is also linked to a bigger waistline.
So, if you think you are under chronic stress, find some stress management techniques like exercise, meditation, music or activities with friends and family.
Estrogen: This hormone is one of the main sex hormones for women. It triggers puberty in girls and regulates fertility. Estrogen also helps protect the cardiovascular system and bones and influences mood. With menopause, estrogen levels go down, so women tend to gain more visceral fat especially deep in the abdomen.
Menopause is a natural stage of life and not a disease, so be extra conscientious about nutrition, calorie intake and exercise to keep visceral fat in check. That excess fat puts you at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
Testosterone: This hormone is one of the main sex hormones for men. It triggers puberty in boys and regulates fertility. Testosterone also helps protect the cardiovascular system and influences mood. Testosterone levels slightly drop around the age of 30s (normally), but does not cause any drop in body fat. However, a low testosterone level (Hypogonadism) is found in men with symptoms like low libido, depression, anemia and infertility, which lower the percentage of muscle mass and increase the percentage of fat mass, especially on the belly.
So, if your testosterone levels are normal, do nothing. But if you are diagnosed with hypogonadism, you should consult your doctor about the potential benefits of testosterone treatment. This is the best treatment; testosterone levels will be back to normal and hypogonadism will be cured.
In the end, I can say that levels of certain hormones change with age and can cause weight gain with a drop in the metabolism, affecting your muscle and fat mass. So, keep your hormones in check, be active, lose weight if needed and most importantly take care of your diet.
Diet is important because the energy and nutrients you obtain from food are the main fuel to produce hormones and maintain optimal health.
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