Do you find your weight is fluctuating with seemingly no explanation? Maybe you thought it was associated with your diet? What if it could be as simple as an imbalance in your hormones?
Hormones are essential substances within the human body. They serve as chemical messengers to the brain to facilitate almost every single bodily process, including hunger, fullness, and the function of your metabolism1. However, because of their association with appetite, some hormones also play a significant role when impacting weight gain or loss2. Here are the 9 hormones that may impact your weight, and how you can improve them daily.
Leptin is a fullness hormone that works by telling your hypothalamus — the portion of your brain that regulates appetite — that you’re full3. Leptin is one of the most powerful hormones to control as, without it, your body can never know when it’s full and binge eating may be a result of this.
In some cases (when under stress) your body may produce less leptin to try and keep you eating (nourished) through the stressful times.
Then there is the Leptin Paradox. This is when people have elevated levels of leptin, but they are not responding, this is also called leptin resistance. You tend to see this in overweight and obese individuals or people with eating disorders.
Due to the non-responsiveness (resistance) their brain doesn't receive the leptin signal to stop eating. They then overeat and gain weight.
The direct cause of leptin resistance could be inflammation, gene mutations, and/or excessive leptin production, which can occur with weight gain4.
How can you maintain a balanced Leptin level? 5
o Eat enough fibre
o Limit added fructose and sugar
o Consume complex carbohydrates
o Eat protein for breakfast – kick start the metabolism
o Consume omega-3
o Avoid calories restriction
o Get more sleep
o Reduce / manage stress
o Consume Ketones &/or MCT
Insulin is the main storage hormone in the body, the purpose of it is to promote the storage of glucose (a simple sugar you get from food) in the muscle, liver, and fat cells for later use1. Your body produces insulin in small amounts to help transfer glucose from food into your cells for either energy, storage, or defense.
Insulin resistance is quite common, it is when your cells stop responding to insulin – resulting in high blood sugar as insulin cannot move glucose into your cells1. Insulin resistance can lead to conditions such as type two diabetes, heart disease, weight gain and obesity.
Insulin resistance is often a result of over consumption of sugar or simple carbs. The problem is muscles become insulin resistant but fat cells continue to accept the insulin and excess energy it transports. This results in fatigue due to low muscle energy and body fat gain as your fat cells take up the energy.
Improving insulin sensitivity is important and this can be improved by positive lifestyle choices such as1:
o Regular exercise (especially fasted)
o Improved sleep quality
o Maintaining a moderate weight and size for your height and age.
o Eat more veggies, super greens, proteins, healthy fats.
o Certain supplements like Chromium, Cinnamon and Gymnemma can help.
o More whole foods and less processed foods.
Estrogen is one of the most powerful hormones in the human body. Estrogen has many benefits in men and women including but not limited to…
o Bone development and fracture repair
o Healthy skin and collagen production
o Brain function and mood enhancement
o Healthy hair
o Cholesterol regulation and heart health
o Blood glucose balance and insulin sensitivity
Like many other hormones, estrogen isn’t a problem when in the right ratio to other hormones and in the correct forms. The human body when presented with the right environment can keep hormones balanced. However, most of the time we provide the wrong environment which can lead to ESTROGEN DOMINANCE. Estrogen dominance is when estrogen becomes high in relation to progesterone and testosterone.
Some symptoms of ESTROGEN DOMINANCE include:
o Weight gain (especially around the hips, butt and chest)
o Mood swings
o Anxiety and depression
o Brain fog
o Low libido
o Ovarian cysts (PCOS)
o Menstrual cramps
o Ovarian or breast cancer
However, estrogen dominance is something we can take control of. We can simply add effective changes to help balance our hormones immediately. Some include:
o Eat more organic food and less processed food
o Exercise regularly
o Avoid synthetic estrogen
o Avoid pesticides and herbicides
o Lower stress – Lowering cortisol helps improve hormone balance and thyroid function. Meditation and mindfulness are incredibly helpful
o Sleep better – Magnesium and ashwagandha will help support sleep quality.
o Support healthy digestion and liver function
Supporting detoxification and sleep may reduce your risk of ESTROGEN DOMINANCE and hormonal dysfunction. When estrogen levels are balanced, your health, diet and happiness will improve. No more fluctuating weight. For more information about Estrogen, read our Blog ‘7 ways to balance hormones & avoid estrogen dominance’; found on the Switch Nutrition website.
Cholecystokinin (CCK) is a fullness hormone, much like Leptin. CCK is produced by cells in your gut after a meal, it messages your brain to tell your body you are full and to stop eating. CCK is essential for many bodily processes, such as digestion, protein synthesis and energy production.
Ways to improve your CCK include eating plenty of protein, research suggests that a high protein diet may help increase CCK levels, and therefore fullness. Therefore, people who eat more protein tend to control hunger6 and support weight management better.
Another way to improve CCK is to exercise, movement at regular intervals over the day. Even 10 mins of walking around every hour may help.
Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a hormone that is produced by cells in the brain and nervous system; it simulates appetite and decreases energy expenditure in response to stress or fasting7.
As NPY is a food stimulant, it has been associated with weight gain and weight imbalance1. Fasting is closely associated with increased NPY release. High levels of Leptin will reduce the effects of NPY, hence hormones need to be balanced in order to maintain a constant weight.
Research suggests that consuming ketones or MCT during fasting may help reduce the effects of NPY by supporting Leptin sensitivity.
Cortisol is a stress hormone, and it is produced by your adrenal glands. Cortisol is also one of the hormones that fluctuate weight the most!
Cortisol is vital when in scary or dangerous situations, it allows us to react promptly and rapidly. However, high levels of cortisol may lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disruptions, binge eating and weight gain8. The most effective way to improve your cortisol levels is to have deeper sleep and take calming/destressing supplements. Ingredients such as ashwagandha, zinc and magnesium will help your body, relax, destress, and rest.
Ghrelin is the hunger hormone; it is the hormone that sends a message to your brain from your gut indicating that you are hungry. Ghrelin is effectively the opposite of Leptin; it is produced to increase appetite9.
Ghrelin levels are high when your body is hungry, so before a meal. Then they drop significantly after a meal, which is when leptin and cholecystokinin are high. Weight fluctuation and obesity can be from high ghrelin levels, as it leads to overeating and hormone imbalances1.
Ghrelin is closely associated with metabolism. Restricting calories increases your ghrelin levels as you are hungry; as a result, your metabolism tends to slow down and become less efficient. This then decreases leptin production and hormones become imbalanced, which causes fluctuating weight and cravings.
Tips to manage ghrelin levels include maintaining moderate body weight, having deep sleeps to decrease hunger periods, and eating smaller amounts more regularly. The trick to controlling ghrelin level is to listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry and don’t overeat. Ways to control hunger can be done using supplements. Increased protein intake has been shown to decrease overeating and increase appetite control. High fibre foods are also more satiating and ketone supplements may reduce the overproduction of ghrelin.
Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is a hormone that is produced in the gut, when nutrients enter your intestines. GLP-1 then sends a message to the brain to tell your body that you are full, but it also plays a significant role in keeping blood sugar levels balanced.
If GLP-1 is low, once again your body will fluctuate in weight as you never actually know when you’re full. But to increase GLP-1, there are some easy resolutions.
The first one is, to ingest more protein. Supplements can be helpful – research shows that increasing protein throughout the day has shown to significantly increase GLP-1.
Take prebiotics or super greens – Feeding your intestines with the prebiotics and super greens it craves, will help. Find a supplement that has both!
Peptide YY (PYY) is another hormone that is produced in the gut, its purpose is to decrease appetite1. Thus, if PYY is low you will have an increased appetite and overeating may occur. To maintain moderate body weight, PYY should be balanced. Ways to achieve this are exercising regularly and following a well-rounded diet. Complex carbs, protein, fats, fruit, vegetables, naturally occurring sugars; all foods are good foods, just in moderation.
Hormones play a vital role in our body. They can ultimately tell your brain exactly what you’re feeling before realising yourself. Hormones need to be balanced and controlled to maintain your desired body weight. However, it is important to know that weight fluctuation is normal! Weight change can be from the simplest of things. Stress, lack of sleep, eating too much or not eating enough; are all things that can trigger one of the 9 hormones which can lead to fluctuating weight. Hormones are powerful and there are a lot of them.
The most common suggestions to balance hormones and therefore weight are…
- Exercise regularly
- Get quality sleep
- Eat a varied and balanced diet
- Consume around 2g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day
- Support your gut health with pre and probiotics and super greens
- Manage stress
- Consume healthy fats with each meal
- Support liver health and detoxification
Taking care of your body goals all starts with taking care of your insides first.
Disclaimer: The above article is merely a guide and is in no way a recommendation or a treatment protocol for any health conditions or diseases. You should always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before changing your supplement, training or nutritional strategy. Supplementation should not be attempted by pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone on prescription medication or children under the age of 15 unless advised by your qualified health care provider
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