Estrogen and weight-gain: what is the connection?

Estrogen and weight-gain: what is the connection?
April 25 05:14 2021 by admin Print This Article

The sex hormones – testosterone, estrogen and progesterone are present in both men and women. While men have more testosterone and less of the other two hormones, in women, it’s the other way round.

Among these, estrogen is responsible for a whole lot of body functions;

  • Initiates menarche or the onset of puberty in girls
  • Regulates the menstrual cycle
  • Responsible for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby
  • Helps control blood cholesterol levels by increasing the good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Promotes and maintains bone health by strengthening the bones
  • Regulates brain function and mood, thereby helping fight depression and anxiety

A variation in these three sex hormones can cause weight-gain in both men and women. For the purpose of this article, we are only looking at fluctuations in estrogen levels causing weight-gain in women.

In women, fluctuations in estrogen levels can be due to pregnancy, breastfeeding, peri-menopause (the days leading to menopause), menopause and conditions such as Endometriosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), ovarian cancer, etc. One of the side effects of estrogen fluctuations is weight-gain.

How does Estrogen contribute to weight-gain?

High levels: High levels of estrogen can trigger the pancreas to secrete more insulin. The body cells are constantly signalled by insulin to convert sugar in the blood to energy. After some-time, the cells become resistant to these insulin signals, and the condition is called insulin resistance. Sugar is not broken down or consumed properly now. The result is high blood sugar and weight-gain. Even over-weight women and women in the first half of pregnancy are high in estrogen. While estrogen levels will normalize after child-birth, overweight women go through a vicious cycle of weight-gain and high estrogen.

Low levels: During peri-menopause and menopause, estrogen levels start to drop. Since the ovaries are no longer producing enough estrogen, the body looks at other sources of estrogen. One source is fat cells in the body. To regain the estrogen balance, the body starts converting all energy sources into fat, which leads to weight-gain, especially in the abdomen area. This is compounded by the fact that with age, metabolism and the ability to exercise also reduces. Together, this creates a vicious cycle of weight-gain and reducing estrogen, after menopause.

While normal levels of estrogen cause weight-gain in the hips and thighs before menopause, after menopause, the dropping estrogen levels lead to weight-gain in the abdomen area with fat getting accumulated in the abdominal cavity. This increase in abdomen fat increases the risk of heart attack and brain stroke.

How to overcome or prevent weight-gain due to estrogen

Maintaining a normal hormonal balance is important for a healthy weight. Achieving a healthy weight will require all of these changes in your life.


It’s important to eat a balanced diet as this can reduce abdominal fat:

  • Fibre: Fibrous foods help reduce elevated estrogen levels. Eat a variety of colourful vegetables and whole fruits daily. Vegetables in the cruciferous family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and bok choy, must be consumed daily as they are rich in micronutrients. Include whole grains and lean proteins along with healthy plant-based fats, and fatty fish in your diet. Ground flaxseeds are rich in fibre and lignans, which helps balance hormones. Sprinkle 1 or 2 tablespoons of this powder everyday on a shake or salad.
  • Processed foods: As a natural extension of the above point, avoid all refined grains, processed meats and anything processed, such as ready-to-eat snacks, altogether.
  • Stay hydrated all the time by consuming fruit juices, soups, buttermilk and plenty of plain water
  • Cut down on sugar: Drastically reduce consumption of sugary sweets, syrups, sodas, juices and other beverages. In addition to sugar, some of these items are high in High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which increases your blood sugar levels.
  • Constipation builds up toxins in your body which is bad for hormonal balance. Consume more pro-biotic food and follow the above tips for regular bowel habits.


Cut down on alcohol consumption drastically. Excess and frequent alcohol consumption can affect liver function, kidney function and hormonal balance in the body. This in turn inhibits detoxification leading to a build-up of toxins and high levels of triglycerides in the blood, along with causing fatty liver disease.


Being physically active is very important to maintain healthy estrogen levels and prevent weight-gain. Exercise helps reduce estrogen and increase testosterone which helps lose fat, build muscle and strengthen the bones. Strong bones are required to sustain an exercise regimen. Strength training also helps regulate blood sugar, and lower blood pressure. Commit to an exercise schedule and maintain it rigorously.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 2 and half hours of moderate exercise every week.

  • Examples of moderate exercise include jogging, swimming, walking, riding a bike on level ground, dancing and mowing the lawn.
  • Vigorous exercise includes aerobics, tennis, hiking uphill and running
  • Strength-training exercises include heavy gardening, lifting weights and resistance exercises (situps and squats).

Endocrine disruptors

Reduce your exposure to all those substances or chemicals that can disrupt or interfere with the function of your endocrine glands. These are small organs that secrete some of the major hormones in the body.

  • Examples of endocrine disruptors are chemicals used in plastic containers, cans, or water bottles, such as BPA. Stop using plastic and replace it with metal or ceramic. Never microwave plastic containers.
  • Stop consuming cosmetics and personal-care products that contain phthalates. Read the labels before you buy.


In many women, the above four measures may not be enough in which case, they need to augment their estrogen levels through a procedure called Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT. HRT raises a woman’s resting metabolic rate and that does help slow-down weight gain.

  • Consider bio-identical HRT. This uses plant-based hormones that are identical to those produced naturally by the human body, and helps maintain hormonal balance.


Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Hosur, Salem and Bengaluru, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.

Chennai – 044 4000 6000 • Trichy – Cantonment – 0431 4077777 • Trichy – Heartcity – 0431 4003500 • Trichy – Tennur – 0431 4022555 • Hosur – 04344 272727 • Salem – 0427 2677777 • Bengaluru – 080 6801 6801

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1 Comment

  1. Ramya
    April 27, 03:38 #1 Ramya

    Exercise and balanced diet are always good. Thanks for this post!

    Reply to this comment

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