How To Get Rid Of Hormonal Belly Fat: Causes & Treatment 2023

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Reviewed by Sutton, D., MD

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How To Get Rid Of Hormonal Belly

Belly fat, unfortunately, is seen by many as unsightly, and a lot of it can be adverse to your health. Weight gain around the middle can be caused by many changes in your body, including metabolism, menopause, illness, genetics, or a combination. Regardless of the cause, the accumulation of belly fat can take a toll on the body over time. However, in most cases, belly fat can be treated and reversed. Sometimes this is done by treating the underlying medical condition, other times it may be done by direct intervention like bariatric or cosmetic surgery, or medication. In this article, we’ll cover the common hormonal causes, how to get rid of hormonal belly, and other techniques that can help you with losing it.

What Are The Causes Of Hormonal Belly Fat?

A hormone is a chemical messenger that your organs use to communicate with each other. For example, insulin is released by your pancreas when your blood sugar rises after a meal, telling your body’s cells to take in the sugar. Glucagon, released when you’re hungry or fasting, does the opposite–it triggers your liver to put sugar into your bloodstream. 

Multiple hormones control or influence your body’s fat supply, including insulin, cortisol, leptin, and thyroid hormone. A hormonal imbalance can cause fluctuations in body fat; these imbalances may be from an underlying condition, some of which we’ll explain next. Many times, correcting them can help you lose hormonal belly fat, or assist in helping you decide how to get rid of it.

Menopause

Menopause is a series of hormonal and physiological changes a woman goes through when her reproductive years come to an end, usually in her forties. There are multiple side effects of your hormone menopause, including hot flashes, emotional changes, and gaining weight (usually as fat). 

The mechanism is unclear but believed to be from estrogen levels declining. Estrogen is a hormone tied to your body’s metabolism, directly and by influencing testosterone levels. When it drops your body might use less energy, which can lead to more fat. Additionally, your hormones controlled by estrogen levels and testosterone levels (follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone), increase, causing other metabolic shifts that may add to a woman’s middle section. 

Slow Thyroid

Your thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped organ that sits at the base of your neck; you may now even notice that you have one!. This unsuspecting organ synthesizes thyroid hormones (TH), the hormone that regulates your metabolism. TH activates cells’ metabolism, causing them to be more active and burn more calories. 

In people with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid hormones), too much TH is released and people feel hot, anxious, and energetic, and may experience weight loss. In contrast, people with a slower thyroid and less TH (hypothyroidism), feel colder, more lethargic, and fatigue more easily. They may also experience a hormonal belly weight from lower levels of TH.

There are multiple ways hypothyroidism can be caused; your thyroid hormones are influenced by genetics, autoimmune disorders, diet, and even cancers. When these are treated, people’s metabolism will usually be corrected. 

Increased Or Imbalanced Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is the hormone that gets released by stress. It’s made by the adrenal gland (located by the kidney) in response to stressors like psychological stress or adrenaline. It causes the liver to release glucose, to give your body energy to fight whatever the stress is. 

However, if cortisol keeps putting sugar into your bloodstream, the pancreas will counter it by releasing insulin, which causes your fat cells to turn the sugar into fat, and can lead to hormonal belly weight. Elevated levels of cortisol can be increased by multiple conditions, including chronic stress, estrogen/testosterone levels, malfunctioning adrenals, and tumors. 

Insulin Resistance

Insulin is released in response to elevated glucose (sugar) in the blood. This most commonly occurs after eating a meal, receiving an IV infusion, or by cortisol. When the blood sugar remains high for a prolonged amount of time, such as in uncontrolled diabetes, chronic cortisol release, and metabolic syndromes, insulin levels also remain higher. 

Over time, your body begins to “tolerate” insulin. It simply won’t respond to it. As a result, your blood sugar remains elevated, and your body will respond by storing it as hormonal belly fat. It requires medical treatment with different types of insulin medication, and diuretics, and may lead to metabolic syndromes, and further hormone imbalances.

Low Leptin

Leptin is sometimes called the “satiety” hormone. It’s a hormone closely linked to appetite control and metabolism and is released after a meal by your fat cells. It’s responsible for the full feeling you get after eating. Naturally,  below-average leptin levels will make you feel less full and more hungry. This is why leptin is believed to be a major genetic link to obesity. 

Signs Your Hormones Are Causing Weight Gain

The obvious sign is simply noticing it on the scale or in the mirror. However, if it’s due to hormones, there may be other signs to pick up on. Telling your doctor these signs can help them figure out the cause, and then the solution, more effectively. 

Constantly Feel Stressed Or Anxious

Stress itself can be considered a disease sometimes, or a sign of one. If you’re feeling chronically stressed or anxious or experiencing mood swings in addition to weight gain, it can be from having elevated cortisol levels (the stress hormone), which can cause increased hormonal belly fat.

Losing Hair

Losing hair is another unpleasant cosmetic change. It too can be a sign of prolonged stress or fluctuations in hormone levels.

Experiencing New Cravings

New cravings may be a sign and driver of weight. They can be caused by several conditions, such as metabolic syndromes, menopause, and leptin levels.

Be Exhausted All The Time But Can’t Fall Asleep

This sign is a bit vaguer but coupled with gaining weight,  is also an indicator of some other condition at play, such as chronic stress and cortisol. 

What Can Cause Hormone Imbalance?

As we mentioned, your hormones are the messengers for the body and cause organs to respond to change. Normally, they’re tightly regulated and controlled. But genetic and medical illnesses can cause them to be dysregulated and imbalanced. A hormone imbalance causing belly fat is not uncommon; there are multiple etiologies, and we’ll talk about the common ones.

Lack Of Sleep

Sleep deprivation is simply horrible for the body. It feels downright unpleasant, but it also causes many physiological and hormonal changes, including elevated cortisol, as a response to stress. Epinephrine and TH may also be elevated too, to help keep your brain functioning and offset sleep deprivation.

Change In Exercise Or Diet

Increased fat and carbohydrates in the diet can lead to more glucose in the bloodstream. As we said earlier, more insulin is released to counter this, eventually causing insulin resistance and putting on weight. 

In contrast, exercise raises metabolism and growth factor levels. If you’ve had a certain exercise regimen that you’ve stopped, without changing your diet, your body’s net calories will be higher, causing them to be possibly stored as fat and as weight gain.

Age And Genetics

As we age, our body’s metabolism naturally decreases. This is due to less activity, less muscle, and less thyroid hormone. Women will go through menopause with age and experience subsequent hormonal changes. People’s taste preferences may also change with age, leading to dietary changes. 

And lastly, many of the hormones we mentioned are under genetic control, like insulin, thyroid hormone, and leptin. These changes and their weight gain can be managed with medical care, but they aren’t under anyone’s direct control. 

Tips For How To “Reset” Your Hormones

While you can’t quite “reset” your hormones, especially if you have a medical or genetic condition, there are steps you can take to better regulate them or increase the levels of ones that help with belly fat. A healthy lifestyle and habits are some of the most effective steps that you can take to counter weight gain, and here are some.

Eat Nutritious Meals

By nutritious, we mean rich in complex, unprocessed carbohydrates, “good” fats, and fiber. The fastest way to raise blood sugar, and belly fat, is a diet full of processed carbohydrates and sugar; over time, this diet will raise the odds of insulin resistance. Complex carbs and fibers won’t spike your sugar and are proven to help keep insulin at healthy levels. 

Engage In Regular Exercise

If exercise could come in a pill, it would be the most prescribed drug out there. No exercise is bad for you, but aerobic, cardiovascular, and high-intensity interval training in particular raise your metabolism, cause increases in growth factors and anti-inflammatory hormones, as well as burn calories to stave off weight. Coupled with diet, it can really go a long way to get rid of belly fat, reverse weight gain, and lead a healthier life. 

Take Steps To Reduce Stress

You’ve probably noticed that we’ve mentioned stress several times in this article. Stress is a very insidious problem that brings along many hormonal side effects, including gaining weight. Take steps to address stressors in your life, and engage in activities that eliminate them: exercise, creative habits, and meditation, for example. 

Treatment Options To Get Rid Of Hormonal Belly Fat

We’ve talked your ear off about the many side causes and hormonal etiologies of hormonal belly fat. Now, onto a more positive note–treatment options and remedies for hormonal body fat. Note that not every option will work for everyone’s particular cause, and the best thing to do is consult a physician’s opinion.

Thyroid Hormone Replacement Therapy

The thyroid gland and its hormone TH are big players in regulating metabolism. In patients with hypothyroidism, there simply isn’t enough TH made, and metabolism is lower than normal. One potential treatment is taking artificial thyroid hormone–the same made in your body, but taken as a pill. This helps raise metabolism back to normal levels, and will often help burn off the fat stored in hypothyroidism. 

Body Shaping Procedures

Plastic and cosmetic surgery, and other body shaping procedures, can sometimes help with removing persistent belly fat. It usually is not covered by insurance and can be expensive, but is an effective way to remove fat and restore the confidence in your body image. Common body-shaping procedures for removing belly fat include tummy tucks and liposuction. 

Dietary Changes

Diet is crucial to belly fat. If you have a diet with a large number of saturated fats and processed carbs, your sugar and insulin levels will be much higher than a diet with more fiber and unprocessed carbs. Often, a dietary change like meal prepping or incorporating fresh vegetables and fruits into your meals can be the most effective way to get rid of some belly fat.

Conclusion

Weight around the middle section and belly is something many people around the world struggle with. There are many, many different causes that lead to increased belly fat, ranging from genetics to diet to hormone levels. Your hormones are a potential cause of belly fat and weight gain, but they’re often treatable–though does depend on the root cause, but there are several medical and lifestyle interventions that can help. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I gain belly fat back after a body-shaping procedure?

It depends on the procedure. Some doctors use injectable drugs to break down the fat, while others surgically remove it; the latter is more permanent.

Should I change my diet if I see my belly gaining weight?

Dietary and lifestyle changes are never a bad idea, and they could resolve weight. However, if the diet isn’t helping and you have other signs, you should contact your doctor. 

Are mood swings connected to gaining weight?

It depends. Women going through menopause may experience mood swings due to high levels of hormones and lower estrogen levels. People with hyperthyroidism may as well. 

How do I know if my belly fat is not from hormonal levels?

There isn’t a sure way to know if hormones are the root cause of your weight gain. A doctor will likely order blood and hormonal tests to rule out hormones as the cause. They may also suggest genetic tests too. 

+ 1 sources

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  1. Google Books. (2015). The Belly Fat Fix. [online] Available at: https://books.google.com.vn/books?hl=en&lr=&id=7moCCgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT4&dq=hormonal+belly+fat&ots=_57pNf-LGD&sig=fKLOPP-mAl3Ychoti8z9QZMc-BI&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=hormonal%20belly%20fat&f=false [Accessed 11 Dec. 2022].

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Conor, P., MD
Medical Student
Conor is a 2nd-year medical student with a strong interest in creative writing, copywriting, and business. He is passionate about scientific and medical literacy, as well as innovating in the field of medical technology. In addition to becoming a doctor, one of his great goals is to write a novel that becomes adapted into a movie.

ABOUT MEDICAL REVIEWER

Sutton, D., MD
Medical Writer & Editor
Drew is a retired ENT doctor who now lives in the Southeastern US. He was a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology and an MD degree. He completed his internship in General Surgery and Residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and practiced for almost 30 years in all aspects of ENT, including a specialization in disorders of the ear and skull base. Drew is passionate about communicating his clinical experiences and making his knowledge more accessible to the general public by medical writing.