8 Ways to Fix the Hormones That Help Control Your Weight

Hormones regulate almost all processes in the body. Our body weight is also under the influence of chemical messengers. Whether you want to slim down or maintain weight in a healthy range, you need to normalize and balance out hormone levels. Your weight loss/management strategy will be most effective when you take care of your hormones too. To make it easier for you, we’re going to focus on different ways to fix hormones that help regulate your weight.

What hormones control weight?

Your weight is controlled by several hormones, not just one. Before we focus on different ways to fix these hormones it’s useful to learn what they are and how they work. Hormones that help regulate your weight are leptin, insulin, cortisol, ghrelin, neuropeptide Y, estrogen, cholecystokinin, glucagon-like peptide-1, and peptide YY. These hormones are produced in the pancreas, ovaries, or gut and influence your appetite or fat storage. That way, they also play a major role in your weight and the risk of gaining a few pounds. For that reason, to maintain weight in a healthy range or lose it, you need to fix imbalances in these hormones.

Here’s more about them.

Insulin

Cells in the pancreas produce this important hormone. Small amounts of insulin are produced over the day, but much bigger secretion occurs after you eat. The main role of this hormone is to control blood glucose (sugar) levels in the human body. Without insulin, cells can’t get glucose which they need for energy. Additionally, insulin promotes fat storage (1). That means insulin is a hormone that notifies fat cells to keep fat and doesn’t allow the stored fat from breaking down. Higher insulin levels can lead to obesity and health problems such as metabolic syndrome and eventually type 2 diabetes (23). Many people consume too many calories because they overeat. However, overeating can amplify insulin resistance and thereby increase levels of insulin (4).

Leptin

Leptin is produced by adipose (fat) cells. Leptin is referred to as a satiety hormone because it decreases appetite and promotes a feeling of fullness. The main function of leptin, a type of signaling hormone, is to interact with the hypothalamus i.e. the brain area that appetite and food intake. Leptin works to notify the brain that fat storage is “full” and thereby prevents overeating. Overweight or obese men and women tend to have four times more leptin than their counterparts within the healthy weight range (5). But, if leptin lowers appetite then an overweight/obese person with high levels of this hormone should eat less, right? Well, it’s more complicated than that and the reason is leptin resistance. Impaired leptin signaling doesn’t allow proper communication with the hypothalamus so the brain doesn’t receive the message the body’s full. In other words, the brain believes you’re hungry even though the body is not. Chronically higher insulin levels and hypothalamus inflammation are the two most common causes of leptin resistance.

Ghrelin

Ghrelin, known as the hunger hormone, is released when the stomach is empty to notify the hypothalamus that the body needs food (6). The concentration of this hormone is at its highest before eating and lowest about 60 minutes after the meal. Evidence shows levels of this hormone are lower in overweight and obese persons than in their counterparts with a healthy weight (7).

Cortisol

Cortisol is a stress hormone. When levels of this hormone are persistently higher, a person may be prone to overeating and weight gain (8). Persons who are overweight or obese may respond to stress by producing more cortisol than people within the normal weight range.

Estrogen

Estrogen is known as the most important female sex hormone. Estrogen takes part in numerous functions and processes in the body. Both low and high levels of this hormone can cause weight gain. For example, estrogen may promote fat storage to maintain fertility in reproductive years (9). Levels of this hormone also change in pregnancy and menopause, both of which are also associated with changes in weight.

Neuropeptide Y (NPY)

Neuropeptide Y is a hormone produced by the cells in the nervous system and the brain. This hormone promotes appetite, especially carbs. The concentration of NPY is at its highest in food deprivation or fasting. Stress can elevate NPY and thereby lead to overeating and increased fat mass in the abdominal area (1011).

Glucagon-like peptide -1 (GLP-1)

Glucagon-like peptide-1 is a hormone produced when nutrients reach and enter the intestines. This hormone stabilizes blood glucose levels and promotes a feeling of fullness. Scientists theorize appetite reduction after weight-loss surgery could be due to elevated production of this hormone (12).

Cholecystokinin (CCK)

Cholecystokinin is a satiety hormone produced in the gut. Higher CCK levels decrease food consumption in obese and lean persons alike (1314).

Peptide YY (PYY)

Peptide YY is an appetite-controlling hormone produced in the gut. Cells in the colon and the intestine release PYY. This hormone takes part in decreasing food consumption and lowering obesity risk (15).

How to fix these hormones

Problems with these nine hormones can affect your appetite, fat storage, stress response, and thereby contribute to weight changes. Here’s how to fix them.

1. Avoid or limit intake of sugar

Whether you want to slim down or maintain your weight in a healthy range, it’s crucial to avoid sugar. Or, at least, limit its intake. You see, consumption of high amounts of fructose and sucrose can contribute to insulin resistance and increase levels of this hormone (1617). At the same time, high-fructose corn syrups and sugar-sweetened beverages can also impair ghrelin response after meals (1819).

Unfortunately, sugar has become a major segment of our diet and it can be tricky to leave it out. Tricky yes, but not impossible! Here are a few tips to reduce or avoid sugar:

  • Try not to use table sugar whenever you can, both white and brown
  • Prioritize drinking water instead of sodas and sugar-laden fruit drinks
  • Add fruit to your oatmeal instead of sugar
  • When baking cakes and cookies, reduce the amount of sugar necessary for the recipe by 1/3 to ½
  • Make your food taste better by adding cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, or allspice, instead of sugar
  • Reduce intake of ketchup and barbecue sauce, because they also contain sugar

2. Decrease consumption of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are usually considered to be an enemy to people who want to slim down or maintain their weight loss. Our relationship with carbohydrates is complicated. After all, it is one of three macronutrients our body needs to function properly. So ditching carbs or starving yourself with a low-carb diet is not the answer. But you do need to reduce intake of carbohydrates because they cause a spike in insulin levels. A lower-carb diet can also stabilize blood sugar levels. Higher blood glucose could harm PYY balance (202122).

Again, the goal is not to avoid carbohydrates or severely decrease its intake. Just make sure to lower your consumption of carbs and focus on quality sources of this nutrient. Avoid refined and heavily processed foods which would deliver empty calories.

3. Eat more protein

While we usually associate protein as a nutrient necessary for muscle-building and maintenance of muscle mass, it does a lot more than that. Protein can, in fact, cause a short-term spike in insulin. Here’s the catch – it also causes a long-term reduction in insulin resistance and also helps you control appetite, lose abdominal fat, and slim down or maintain weight in a healthy range (2324).

Additionally, the consumption of protein with every meal can decrease levels of leptin and promote a feeling of fullness (25). This is especially the case with protein-rich breakfasts. Moreover, insufficient consumption of protein can also increase the release of NPY which contributes to more intense hunger, higher food intake, and subsequent weight gain (26).

It’s also useful to mention high-protein foods can increase GLP-1 and support insulin sensitivity (2728). Eating plenty of protein can also stabilize levels of cholecystokinin and PYY (2930).

Good sources of protein are lean meats, poultry, fish and seafood, dairy products, eggs, beans, just to name a few.

4. Eat healthy fats

Fat has been demonized for quite some time, but not all fat is bad. While we should, definitely, avoid the intake of trans fats, there are healthy fats that our body needs for proper function. For instance, Omega-3 fatty acids can decrease fasting insulin concentration (31).

Consumption of healthy fat can trigger the release of CCK hormone too, studies show (32).

Good fats primarily come from vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fish and seafood. These include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. On the other hand, trans fats are considered unhealthy. Many people consider saturated fats bad too, but evidence on this subject is mixed.

The point here is to ditch trans fats primarily and focus on healthy fats to normalize the above mentioned hormones.

5. Exercise regularly

Regular exercise is crucial for weight loss and it works through multiple mechanisms. One of these mechanisms of action is the balance of hormones that regulate your weight. Let’s take insulin as an example, regular exercise can improve insulin sensitivity and thereby prevent consequences associated with insulin resistance (33).

Even moderate activity can also promote leptin sensitivity, evidence confirms (3435). Moreover, regular physical activity can normalize estrogen levels in women regardless of age (36).

The biggest problem here is that most of us would want to slim down without exercise. It doesn’t work like that. Exercise shouldn’t be considered a punishment, but an integral component of a healthy lifestyle. Options are endless so you can choose the type of physical activity you like the most. That way, you’re going to stick to it better.

6. Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep affects the balance of your hormones. For instance, sleep deprivation can decrease leptin levels and increase your appetite (37). This leads to overeating and subsequent weight gain.

Besides leptin, cortisol is also sensitive to sleep changes. In one study pilots who lost at least 15 hours of sleep in a week experienced spikes in cortisol by 50% to 80% (38).

Good night’s rest can aid stress management and improve appetite control. Strive to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night.

7. Eat anti-inflammatory foods

Some foods like junk food contribute to inflammation in the body, but others reduce it. In order to fix hormones that control your weight, you should strive to eat foods that fight inflammation. This is particularly important if we bear in mind inflammatory foods like trans fats and sugary drinks can impair leptin sensitivity. On the other hand, anti-inflammatory options like fatty fish can promote leptin sensitivity and thereby fix the balance of this hormone (39).

Since chronic inflammation is associated with decreased production of GLP-1, you should strive to consume anti-inflammatory foods in your diet (40). Good examples of anti-inflammatory foods include berries, fatty fish, avocados, broccoli, peppers, green tea, mushrooms, turmeric, grapes, extra virgin olive oil, dark chocolate, tomatoes, just to name a few.

8. Don’t forget about fiber

Fiber is vital for appetite control because it promotes a feeling of fullness. Eating plenty of fiber can help you if you want to decrease estrogen levels (41). Additionally, soluble prebiotic fiber helps feed microorganisms in your gut and reduces levels of NPY (42). Fiber can also help fix CCK. In one study, subjects who ate a fiber-rich meal had twice as high CCK levels as their counterparts whose meal was low in fiber (43).

Consumption of fiber is necessary for the adequate balance of peptide YY, too (44).

Other things you can do

Besides the above mentioned eight tips to fix hormones that help regulate your weight, you may also want to do the following:

  • Eat magnesium-rich foods to promote insulin sensitivity
  • Drink green tea to lower insulin levels, but also to reduce inflammation
  • Meditate to manage stress and thereby reduce cortisol levels. You can also promote relaxation by listening to music, reading, practicing yoga, and doing other relaxing activities
  • Consume more cruciferous vegetables, they are beneficial for estrogen
  • Don’t go too long without food to fix NPY concentration
  • Take probiotics; they are good for your gut and thereby have a favorable impact on GLP-1 levels

Conclusion

Various factors influence our weight and among them are hormones. As demonstrated in this post, multiple hormones can affect our weight in many ways. It’s easier to fix those hormones than you think. A healthy, well-balanced diet accompanied by regular exercise and stress management is crucial for the balance of hormones and more successful weight maintenance. Try to modify your diet and focus on good sources of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients our body needs to function properly.

References:

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