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What Is the Connection between Estrogen and Weight Gain?

Estrogen, a key hormone in women's health, has a complex relationship with weight gain. It regulates fat distribution and metabolism, but imbalances can lead to weight fluctuations. As women age and estrogen levels fluctuate, particularly during menopause, the propensity for weight gain increases. How does this intricate dance affect your body? Join us as we unravel the science behind it.
M. Walker
M. Walker

Several scientific studies have found a link between estrogen and weight gain, especially for women going through menopause. The estrogen found in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can have several side effects, and weight gain is one of the most common. Estrogen dominance, which is caused by too much estrogen in the body in relation to other hormones, can cause extra pounds to distribute more in the waist region, rather than the hips and thighs, which can increase the risk of heart disease. Additionally, estrogen and weight gain are further connected because estrogen can cause temporary bloating and increased water retention.

Higher than average levels of estrogen and weight gain both generally occur during perimenopause, or the time just before, during, and just after menopause. Both estrogen and progesterone levels decrease around the time of menopause. As a result, the proportion of androgens in the bloodstream increases because the estrogen is no longer available to cancel out the androgens’ effects. Androgens are also responsible for allocating additional weight gain to the middle section of the body, including the stomach and trunk regions.

Estrogen can cause bloating and excess water retention.
Estrogen can cause bloating and excess water retention.

Hormone fluctuations during menopause sometimes further contribute to an increase in estrogen and weight gain. If a woman’s progesterone levels drop before her estrogen levels or if a woman takes too many estrogen supplements, she can develop estrogen dominance. The increased weight due to water retention is often a temporary side effect of HRT and estrogen supplements, but general hormone fluctuations can greatly interfere with the body’s ability to balance the androgen levels in relation to the estrogen and progesterone levels.

Several studies have linked estrogen to weight gain, especially in menopausal women.
Several studies have linked estrogen to weight gain, especially in menopausal women.

Estrogen and weight gain are also linked in reverse because weight gain can cause an increase in estrogen levels. Fat cells are continuous producers of estrogen, and a large increase in body fat can also boost the amount of estrogen in the body. This in turn can lead to even more weight gain, exacerbated estrogen dominance, and worsened hormone fluctuations, creating a cycle that is difficult for many women to break.

The estrogen found in hormone replacement therapy can have several side effects.
The estrogen found in hormone replacement therapy can have several side effects.

Metabolic changes in the body can also occur as a result of too much estrogen or sudden weight gain. Extra fat in the middle of the body not only increases the risk of heart disease, but it also contributes to insulin resistance and diabetes. It can be difficult to tell whether hormone fluctuations cause these conditions or whether they are a direct result of them, but the various effects are definitively linked.

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Discussion Comments

ddljohn

I had unexplained weight gain last year. When I had blood hormone tests and found out that my estrogen was low, I was shocked. I thought the results would be exactly the opposite.

It turns out that my weight gain wasn't fat gain, it was water retention. My doctor said that both low and high estrogen levels can cause water retention. Once I was treated, the weight disappeared. Hormones are tricky, things aren't always as they seem.

SarahGen

@ankara-- I gained some weight on estrogen but it seems to have settled, I'm not gaining more.

Different estrogen medications can act differently. It also depends on what your current hormone balance is. Progesterone for example, is as important as estrogen.

You might want to have your hormone levels checked again and mention to your doctor about the weight gain.

I also think that some weight gain during menopause is normal because our metabolism slows down. So it might not have anything to do with estrogen.

bluedolphin

I'm taking estrogen since my hysterectomy surgery and have been gaining a lot of weight. Is this menopausal weight gain or because of my medication?

Are there any estrogen medications that do not cause weight gain?

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    • Estrogen can cause bloating and excess water retention.
      By: ruigsantos
      Estrogen can cause bloating and excess water retention.
    • Several studies have linked estrogen to weight gain, especially in menopausal women.
      By: Rostislav Sedlacek
      Several studies have linked estrogen to weight gain, especially in menopausal women.
    • The estrogen found in hormone replacement therapy can have several side effects.
      By: Fernando Madeira
      The estrogen found in hormone replacement therapy can have several side effects.
    • Some women choose to increase their estrogen levels so as to enhance their sex drive.
      By: Photographee.eu
      Some women choose to increase their estrogen levels so as to enhance their sex drive.
    • The side effects of oral estrogen may be different from those experienced while taking the injectable form.
      By: WavebreakMediaMicro
      The side effects of oral estrogen may be different from those experienced while taking the injectable form.
    • Too much estrogen or sudden weight gain can both cause metabolic changes.
      By: Sunshine Pics
      Too much estrogen or sudden weight gain can both cause metabolic changes.