Can Hormone Levels Be the Key to Maintaining Your Weight Later in Life?
The endocrine system of the human body is a finely tuned machine. Hormones secreted throughout the body regulate everything from our mood to heart rate and even how much fat we accumulate (and where). When we gain weight and add visceral or bad fat (typically around our waist), we can often throw our bodies out of balance and cause hormonal changes that affect our metabolic system significantly.
Both men and women are affected by hormonal imbalances. For example, some of the newest research on obesity and its hormonal consequences revolve around sexual function. In men, obesity can cause erectile dysfunction and infertility. In women, obesity can increase the risk of miscarriage, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and infertility. In fact, one of the most satisfying parts of our jobs is seeing couples that could not conceive before surgery do so afterward. But it doesn’t end there. Dysregulated hormones can promote the development or increase the severity of certain forms of cancer, including breast and colon. Inflammatory secretions from visceral fat can cause our joints to degrade more quickly. The list goes on…
Several life events and lifestyle choices can alter hormones. Still, there is also a natural decline in hormones as we age. In women, this decline happens during menopause, And the change in hormones is nothing short of dramatic. In middle age, women experience a precipitous drop in estrogen, the female sex hormone. Men also lose testosterone production, but this is a more gradual drift. Beginning around the age of 40, men lose about 1% of their testosterone per year.
The loss of estrogen and testosterone has been implicated in several significant changes in bodily function, not the least of which is accumulating excess fat. In turn, the uptake of hormone replacement therapy has increased dramatically, often with unreasonable promises of immediately improved health and weight loss.
Is Re-Balancing Hormone Levels the Way to Lose Fat and Regain a More Toned Physique?
The answer is yes, and no. On the one hand, normalizing hormone levels is crucial to ensuring proper bodily function, including rebalancing fat accumulation in the body. However, doing so without lifestyle change is less than fruitful. Our hormones work far more effectively when we sleep better, eat better and exercise more often and regularly. Simply visiting your endocrinologist and getting an injection or implant without doing the work to support it will have limited benefits.
Think about your weight before middle age. Were you struggling with excess weight or obesity, then? If the answer is yes, then the hormonal imbalances caused by middle age, both in men and women, are less of a factor. These hormonal imbalances may cause you to gain even more weight, but they will not be the answer to losing all that excess weight.
To be sure, however, there are individual cases of hormone deficiencies even at younger ages, and independent of age-related declines. These are not common. If you believe you have a hormonal imbalance and you have not reached middle age, it is essential that you speak to an endocrinologist to see if corrective therapy may be right for you.
What Are the Next Steps?
Ultimately, metabolic disorders are varied and therefore require many angles of attack. You may be referred to an endocrinologist for hormone replacement therapy. Still, if you are overweight, you should also work with a qualified weight loss program to understand your options, including lifestyle change, medication, physician-supervised weight loss, or even bariatric surgery.
We encourage you to visit our office, where we can discuss the particulars of your situation and recommend a plan of action to address any weight issues and endocrine disruptions you may be experiencing.