Did you know that your hormones play a big part in regulating your metabolism, hunger, fullness, and energy, and can even be the cause of unexpected weight gain? If you’ve been struggling to get rid of a bloated belly, it could be your hormones that are responsible.
Hormones are the chemical messengers of the body. They are chemicals produced in the endocrine glands that travel through your bloodstream to different tissues and organs, delivering messages that tell the organs what to do and when to do it. Hormones help to control many of your body’s major processes, including metabolism and appetite, sleep cycles, mood and stress levels, body temperature, heart rate, reproductive cycles, sexual function, and general growth and development.
As you can see, our hormones play a significant role in our health and wellness. Because of this, changes in our hormones can also create drastic changes in our bodies. Even small changes in our hormones can create serious effects, and may lead to a hormonal imbalance. A hormonal imbalance occurs when you have too much or too little of a certain hormone in the bloodstream.
These small chemical compounds affect every cell and system in the body. If you have a significant hormone imbalance it can be debilitating. Some of the symptoms caused by hormonal imbalance include:
- Mood swings
- Unexpected weight gain
- Trouble concentrating
- Hair loss
- Problems with blood sugar
A hormonal imbalance is often the cause of unexpected weight gain in women, and may especially be the cause of a bloated belly. If you have tried everything to get rid of a belly bulge but have found no results, it may be time to address your hormones, as a hormonal imbalance could be the underlying cause.
Causes of Hormonal Imbalance in Women
Some hormonal shifts are normal, such as the monthly fluctuations of sex hormones responsible for menstruation and ovulation, or the changes that occur during pregnancy. Menopause is another time period for a normal hormonal shift in a woman's life. Many women may experience weight gain, mood swings, night sweats, and diminished sex drive during this time as a result of the change in hormones. Other times, however, these fluctuations in hormones may be due to a medical condition or as a result of dietary, lifestyle, or environmental factors that have a negative effect on the body.
Hormonal imbalances occur when the endocrine glands are not functioning properly. Endocrine glands are specialized cells that produce, store, and release hormones into the blood. There are many factors that can influence these important glands, such as medical conditions, certain lifestyle habits, as well as numerous environmental factors.
Some of the primary causes of hormonal imbalance may include:
- chronic or extreme stress
- type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- hyperglycemia (overproduction of glucagon)
- hypoglycemia (more insulin produced than there is glucose in the blood)
- underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
- over- or underproduction of the parathyroid hormone
- poor diet and nutrition
- being overweight
- hormonal replacement or birth control medications
- abuse of anabolic steroid medications
- solitary thyroid nodules
- pituitary tumors
- Cushing’s syndrome (high levels of the hormone cortisol)
- Addison’s disease (low levels of cortisol and aldosterone)
- benign tumors and cysts (fluid-filled sacks) that affect the endocrine glands
- congenital adrenal hyperplasia (low levels of cortisol)
- endocrine gland injury
- severe allergic reactions or infections
- cancers that involve endocrine glands
- chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- iodine deficiency (goiters)
- hereditary pancreatitis
- Turner syndrome (females with only one functioning X chromosome)
- Prader-Willi syndrome
- phytoestrogens, naturally-occurring plant estrogens found in soy products
- exposure to toxins, pollutants, and endocrine disrupting chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides
As you can see, there are many factors that can lead to a hormonal imbalance, and a hormonal imbalance can lead to many different health issues, including excess weight gain and bloating. The bloating and weight gain caused by hormonal imbalance is often referred to as hormonal belly. If you are experiencing these symptoms and have seen no changes from diet and exercise, then you may need to focus on your hormonal health and make an effort to restore hormonal balance.
Signs That Your Weight Gain & Bloating Is Caused by Your Hormones
To determine if your weight gain is caused by hormonal belly, look out for these signs:
You Don’t Feel Satiated After Eating
If you now feel like a meal that used to fill you up isn’t doing the job and is leaving you wanting more, it could be a sign that your sex hormones are indirectly impacting your main metabolism-regulating hormones. Estrogen and testosterone are the two main hormones at play here.
If you have lower than normal levels of estrogen circulating in your blood, you might find yourself not feeling as satisfied after a meal. This is because of the impact estrogen has on leptin, your satiety hormone. Leptin is released by circulating fat tissue and tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. The more leptin you have circulating in your system, the more satiated you’ll feel, and the less compelled you’ll be to reach for seconds.
You Feel Hungry All the Time
Ghrelin, known as the hunger hormone, tells you when it’s time to eat and has a major impact on the size of your appetite. Ghrelin is directly related to our dietary habits. For example, if you decided to skip a meal or two tomorrow, your body would begin to release ghrelin, telling you to eat again. However, if you suddenly began to binge and overeat, your body would quickly cut back on ghrelin secretion.
Research shows that ghrelin secretion can become dysregulated when you gain weight. Overweight individuals tend to have elevated circulating levels of leptin and decreased levels of ghrelin. Consistently elevated leptin levels can lead to dysfunction of leptin receptors which means your brain will not receive the message that you’re full. This can throw your hunger cues out of whack, so you can continue to eat without ever receiving the signal to stop, resulting in undesirable weight gain.
You Feel Stressed All the Time
When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands produce the stress hormone cortisol to help your body respond to the stressful situation. This sudden boost in cortisol can be very helpful in fight or flight-like situations when your body needs to act fast. However, if you’re under constant stress, your adrenals don’t realize they’re releasing a lot more cortisol than is actually necessary, and this can lead to many health issues over time. The stress hormone cortisol increases heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. If your body is constantly under stress, and constantly experiencing these changes influenced by cortisol, then it can also lead to increased abdominal fat.
Your Weight Gain is Only in Your Abdomen
Low estrogen levels caused by excessive exercise, disordered eating patterns, or pituitary gland issues can change the fat distribution of your body, causing you to gain more in the belly as opposed to the hips, thighs, and glutes. Estrogen deficiency can also impair the action of insulin making it harder to regulate blood sugar and leading to increased hormonal belly fat. Women experiencing menopause may also experience low levels of estrogen, as menopause puts your body through a whole host of changes, and during menopause production of estrogen, along with other hormones, takes a dip.
You Have an Intense Craving for Sugar
If you find that you are constantly craving sugar and sweets, it might be a sign that your body is struggling with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance prevents your cells from properly absorbing sugar from the bloodstream—leaving your cells starved for carbs. It can also have a secondary effect on leptin, causing your body to secrete more leptin. Consistently elevated levels of leptin, just like consistently elevated insulin levels, will make your cells resistant to the hormone’s effects. With decreased sensitivity to both insulin and leptin, these regulatory hormones aren’t able to recognize when it is time to stop eating and you will continue to crave sugar.
Intense sugar cravings are not always related to hormonal imbalances, however. Sugar cravings can be caused by a parasitic infection (link article) or Candida overgrowth (link article), both of which can also contribute to bloating, digestive issues, and excess weight gain.
Your Hair is Falling Out
If your weight gain happens to also be associated with accelerated hair loss, then it is a good sign that your hormones are to blame—specifically thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones help to regulate your body weight, as well as your hair growth, so an underactive thyroid could be the cause of hormonal belly if you’re experiencing issues with both weight gain and hair loss simultaneously. When your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones, your metabolism down, reducing the number of calories your body burns on a daily basis. This often contributes to weight gain, particularly around your midsection.
How to Get Rid of Hormonal Belly
If you are experiencing any, or multiple, of the signs mentioned above, then your hormones could be to blame for your excess weight gain. The big question of course, is how do I get rid of hormonal belly?
The answer is: you need to address underlying hormonal imbalances and restore balance to your hormones and endocrine system.
With any significant health issue, it is advised to speak with your doctor about ways to manage the condition. That being said, here are some important steps you can take to restoring hormonal balance.
Avoid Hormone Disrupting Chemicals
The first step is to avoid exposure to any and all chemicals that are known hormone disruptors. Avoid using plastics whenever possible, stay away from junk foods that have chemical additives and other toxins in them, and buy organic produce exclusively, as many pesticides used to grow conventional crops contain hormone-disrupting chemicals. Take an honest look at what you consume on a daily basis—both in your mouth and on your skin—and eliminate all unnatural products and foods that may contain hormone-disrupting toxins.
Focus on Eating a Whole Foods Diet
Eating an organic whole foods diet, especially one that is high in fruits and vegetables, can help your body heal and can help you restore balance to your endocrine system. If you’re experiencing hormonal belly and have low estrogen, then flax seeds, cruciferous veggies, and fermented foods are recommended to include in your diet, as they contain chemical compounds that function as phytoestrogens and help the body process estrogen. Be sure to also drink plenty of purified water each day, as water is essential for so many of the body’s processes, and hydration is essential to our overall health and wellness.
Find Ways to Manage Your Stress Levels
Our hormones are directly affected by our mood. High levels of stress can cause a large amount of cortisol to circulate in the body, and over time, this can have many negative health effects. If you are experiencing a hormonal imbalance, then it is essential to learn how to manage your stress levels (link article). Take time to go outside, go for walks in nature, take up a meditation practice, practice deep breathing, take hot baths, avoid stressful activities or situations if possible—find activities that can help you lower your stress and experience relaxation and ease.
Supplement with Hormone Balancing Herbs
An herbal hormone supplement can make a world of difference in your endocrine health and can help you regulate your hormones and restore hormonal balance. Our Happy Hormones Tonic is a unique women’s hormone formula that contains several medicinal herbs renowned for their ability to facilitate hormonal balance and women’s hormonal health:
Chasteberry (Vitex) a key ingredient in this formula, is a traditional remedy for various women’s health issues and has been used to reduce symptoms of PMS and menopause, and may also help normalize estrogen and progesterone levels.
Evening Primrose has been studied extensively and various studies regard it as being highly effective in treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms.
Shatavari Root is a traditional Ayurvedic herb that has long been used for women’s reproductive health throughout all stages of their life; it is also a potent adaptogenic herb that helps to regulate the endocrine system, enhance immunity, and helps the body cope with physical and emotional stress.
Wild Yam is a plant native to North America, Mexico, and parts of Asia that has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for treating menstrual cramps, PMS, rheumatism, and digestive problems.
Black Cohosh, a flowering plant native to North America, is an active ingredient in various women’s health products and has long been used in Native American medicine to help with menopause symptoms, fertility, and hormonal balance.
Together, these herbs work synergistically to create a one-of-a-kind women’s health product that may help to balance hormones, regulate the menstrual cycle, provide PMS relief, and regulate and support the health of the endocrine system.
Our master herbalist has formulated this product using only wildcrafted, organic, and biodynamically grown herbs, ensuring the highest quality and integrity that we can offer. We do not use any toxic chemicals, fillers, or preservatives in any of our products.
This formula is especially helpful for women who are coming off the birth control pill or going through menopause. For many women coming off birth control, cycles remain irregular for up to two years after stopping the pill. Chasteberry can greatly shorten that time and helps ease the body into regaining its own natural rhythm. This proprietary formula also offers many benefits to women who are menopausal. Chasteberry may help to relieve many of the uncomfortable symptoms of this transition time, including hot flashes, irregular cycles, depression, and flooding.
Our hormones play a vital role in our health. Consequently, they can also play a major role in our illness if our hormonal health is affected. Even small changes in our hormones can create serious effects, and may lead to a hormonal imbalance. A hormonal imbalance occurs when you have too much or too little of a certain hormone in the bloodstream.
Bloating and unexpected weight gain are common symptoms of hormonal imbalance, often referred to as hormonal belly. If you’ve been suffering from unexpected weight gain or bloating, then it may be a sign you need to address your hormonal health.
The information in this article is a great place to get started. For further reading, also check out our articles: