Dr. Aaron's Blog

Hormonal Imbalance and Weight Loss

August 12, 2015 Addiction, All, Healthy Eating, Hormones, Naturopathic Medicine, Nutrition, Vitamin Therapy by Aaron Van Gaver

Last week I highlighted several aspects of weight loss.  As promised, here is a little bit more about the role of hormones.  Hormonal imbalances are often associated with weight loss. Though not always the case, a slight imbalance can be the barrier to losing those last few pounds.   While numerous hormones, when out of balance can result in difficulty with weight loss, there are few common culprits.  These include thyroid hormone, growth hormone, and cortisol.

Thyroid Hormone

Thyroid hormone, produced by the thyroid gland, is a major metabolic hormone. As a regulator of metabolism, it impacts growth, temperature, heart rate, and appetite, as well as breakdown of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. It also increases the body’s sensitivity to catecholamines such as adrenaline (major stress hormones).  

Too little thyroid hormone leads to weight gain and more commonly, difficulty losing excess weight. Because it also has an impact on appetite, deficient thyroid hormone will lead to a decreased appetite, however this does not have much influence on weight.  Too much thyroid hormone leads to loss of muscle mass and unhealthy weight loss. The metabolic influence outweighs any impact that the changes in appetite could have.

If you have a family history of thyroid disease or suspect your thyroid may be over and under active, I suggest getting it checked out! It may be the culprit of your weight loss battle!

Growth Hormone

Growth hormone is a metabolic hormone meaning that it assists in regulating the breakdown and use of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, to be used as energy.  It naturally declines with age, but is sensitive to sleep loss and inadequate sleep will lead to decreased levels.  Growth hormone is important in protecting lean muscle mass.  Lacking growth hormone can impact fat deposition and body mass index. 

Significant deficiency in growth hormone will result in decreased stature and associated symptoms, but imbalances or relative decreases in growth hormone will impact weight in adults. This is especially impacted by sleep. Losing sleep, especially hours before midnight, will decrease release of growth hormone resulting in increased body fat accumulation and decreased lean muscle mass.  So… SLEEP!


Cortisol is a stress hormone. You have probably heard of it before and it is often blamed for all the negative physiological impacts of stress! Cortisol is very important, in balance, for our immune systems, sleep, appetite, and mental alertness.  Cortisol increases during times of stress and if the stressful situation is sustained, cortisol will eventually decrease.  When cortisol levels increase, we are prone to abdominal weight gain.  This may be why during times of stress you start to notice your jeans are a little tight.  It also plays a role in stress eating – as your body thinks it needs the extra energy.  So the next time you feel the need to reach for the potato chips because you are feeling stressed, you can thank cortisol!

Hope this clarifies any confusion around the hormonal aspect of weight loss. If you are concerned about weight loss and suspect a hormonal imbalance, book an appointment!