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supplements for hormonal weight gain

5 Best Supplements for Hormonal Weight Gain

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Last modified on November 26th, 2022

Supplements for hormonal weight gain can help if you’re dealing with weight gain because of declining estrogen, thyroid deficiency, or polycystic ovary syndrome. These are just a few hormonal issues that can lead to weight gain.

The best supplements for hormonal weight gain are detailed more below, but include:

  • DIM
  • Black cohosh
  • Pregnenolone
  • Vitex
  • Probiotics

Hormonal weight gain is linked to underlying imbalances.

For men, hormonal weight gain is often caused by high cortisol levels or stress. The raised cortisol levels make the body go into survival mode, leading to increased production of fat cells. Then, men’s metabolism may go down, storing food for use later.

One of the primary reasons for hormonal weight gain in women is estradiol decrease. Estradiol is a specific type of estrogen that declines around menopause, and Estradiol plays a role in regulating body weight and metabolism.

Throughout our lives, women will often notice that we gain weight easily around our hips and thighs because of hormones, at least when we’re premenopausal. For post-menopausal women, weight gain tends to occur most in the belly area.

Along with weight gain and trouble losing weight, signs of hormonal weight gain can also include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Sweating or tremors
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Depression
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Acne
  • Insomnia
  • Brain fog

Hormones that play a role in excess weight gain, metabolism, and more include:

  • Estrogen: This hormone regulates women’s reproductive cycle and other systems, including weight gain. If you have too much or too little estrogen, then your body isn’t able to manage systems normally, which causes weight gain. Imbalances of estrogen and progesterone can lead to problems with metabolism, food intake, body fat distribution, inflammation, and energy expenditure systems.
  • Insulin: The pancreas makes this hormone, which helps your body absorb glucose from your blood. Your cells then use glucose for energy, supporting your organs and other bodily systems. Insulin works with the liver and muscles to store glucose as fat, and the excess is stored as body fat when your glucose levels are too high.
  • Leptin: A hormone secreted by fat cells; leptin acts on the brain. Leptin controls feelings of fullness and appetite control. Leptin lets your brain know when energy stores in the liver or body fat go down. Leptin amounts increase with higher amounts of body fat, but there’s also evidence that people with obesity may be leptin resistant.
  • Cortisol: A stress hormone, cortisol is produced by your adrenal glands. Cortisol also regulates metabolism, inflammation, sleep cycles, and metabolism. Higher cortisol levels are linked to abdominal obesity. Your body may increase its appetite in response to consistently elevated cortisol or increase cravings for sugar and carbohydrates.
  • Ghrelin: Called the hunger hormone, ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and tells the pituitary gland to release growth hormone. Growth hormone can support muscle growth and eliminate fat tissue.

Conditions that can cause hormonal weight gain include:

  • Menopause leads to a slower metabolic weight. Body fat redistributes and decreases lean body mass.
  • Endometriosis is a risk factor for excess estrogen with symptoms including abdominal bloating, fluid retention, and increased appetite.
  • PCOS is a risk factor for hormonal weight gain.
  • Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland can’t produce enough thyroid hormone. People without enough thyroid support supplement can gain weight.
  • Insomnia and not getting adequate amounts of sleep make people more prone to gaining weight. Sleep loss is associated with lower leptin levels, higher ghrelin levels, insulin sensitivity, salt retention, and higher levels of inflammatory markers.

Estrogen and Weight Gain

Many women feel that changes in their estrogen levels affect their weight. Along with noticing that they’re gaining weight, they may find it’s harder to lose weight.

During menopause, many women notice they gain weight because their estrogen goes down. Lower estradiol, as mentioned, tends to lead to menopausal weight gain.

Other reasons aside from menopause that can lead to imbalanced estrogen include:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): With PCOS, a woman will have cysts on her ovaries and hormonal imbalances. Someone with PCOS may experience an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone levels. Women with PCOS often have a higher risk for insulin resistance and heart disease, and their testosterone levels may be higher.
  • Lactation: After giving birth, estrogen levels stay low throughout breastfeeding. The hormonal changes are meant to encourage the production of milk.
  • Ovary removal: A woman with both ovaries surgically undergoes sudden menopause, no longer releasing eggs or producing progesterone and estrogen.
  • Vigorous exercise: If someone vigorously exercises or has extreme workout routines, it can decrease estrogen production.

Estrogen Dominance and Weight Gain

Low estrogen can contribute to hormonal weight gain, but so can estrogen dominance.

Estrogen dominance can occur if someone has normal estrogen levels by low progesterone. That can happen with stress, inflammation, hormonal birth control use, perimenopause, or PCOS.

Another situation is if estrogen levels are high while progesterone levels are normal. This is a risk factor when a woman has excess body fat, gut microbiome imbalances, problems with digestion, impairment of liver detoxification pathways, or they’re exposed to high amounts of xenoestrogens from their environment.

Signs of estrogen dominance can include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Heavy periods
  • Swelling and water retention
  • Breast tenderness
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Painful periods
  • Symptoms of PMS
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Fibroids
  • Sugar cravings
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in brain function and memory
  • Challenges with fertility

Estrogen in normal, balanced amounts doesn’t cause weight gain—the relationship between it and fat changes when it’s out of balance.

With estrogen dominance, there can become a cycle of fat-producing estrogen and then estrogen signaling for more fat storage. That can create weight-related challenges, and high estrogen levels can prevent fat breakdown. Estrogen dominance is often associated with mid-section weight because it blocks fat breakdown.

With all of this in mind, below are five supplements for hormonal weight gain that you might want to think about trying.

1. Diindolylmethane (DIM)

  • What Is it? DIM is a natural compound in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli.
  • The Benefits: DIM can help control estrogen metabolism, promote balanced hormones, and support the liver’s detoxification.
  • How much should you take? The dose for DIM is usually taking around 200 mg a day, in a divided or single dose. Some people can increase that to 300 mg daily without major side effects.
  • Are there side effects? When you first start a DIM supplement, side effects can occur. Headaches are one side effect, as your body is working to detox excess estrogen. Other detox symptoms that can occur within the first week or so of starting DIM include nausea, fatigue, changes in the menstrual cycle, and dark urine.

DIM supplements are something I use every day. They effectively maintain optimal hormonal balance, including estrogen and testosterone. A DIM supplement may promote weight loss and reduce hormonal acne and menopause symptoms.

Too much or too little estrogen causes the body to store fat. Both men and women also produce estrogen in fat tissues. The more fat you have, the more estrogen you make. You’re likely to hold this fat in your hips and thighs if you’re a woman.

DIM helps balance estrogen and can also suppress adipogenesis, which is the process of creating new fat cells.

In animal studies, DIM helped decrease fat accumulation and body weight.

DIM has other potential benefits linked to its hormone-balancing properties as well. For example, it can help with hormonal acne. As a supplement, it can help reduce the symptoms of estrogen dominance, including depression, anxiety, mood swings, PMS, and fibroids.

DIM doesn’t directly decrease or increase estrogen levels—instead, it helps your body metabolize it properly.

There’s even some promising research showing DIM could have anti-cancer benefits, especially for prostate and breast cancers.

DIM supplements that I like include:

2. Black Cohosh

  • What Is it? Black cohosh is part of the buttercup family, and it’s long been used medicinally. Remifemin is a popular women’s supplement containing black cohosh, but other supplement brands are also available.
  • The Benefits: Taking a black cohosh supplement may help with menopause symptoms, like hot flashes, and it may also help with PMS and menstrual cramps.
  • How much should you take? The dosing recommendations vary between brands of black cohosh, but typically, the dose is 20 to 120 mg daily. For menopause symptoms, an amount of at least 20 mg daily seems effective.  
  • Are there side effects? The side effects of black cohosh are typically mild, including bleeding or spotting outside your period, nausea, skin rashes, and breast pain. There are some situations where black cohosh is linked to liver damage, which is rare, but if you have a liver condition or take other medications or supplements that affect your liver, you should be aware of this.

Black cohosh is a flowering plant, sometimes called black snakeroot or bugbane.

In Native American medicine, the roots and flowers of the plant were commonly used. Today, it’s often used as a supplement for women’s health, with benefits for symptoms of menopause, fertility, and hormone balance.

Black cohosh benefits may stem from the fact that it’s a phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogen is a plant compound mimicking the effects of estrogen.

Reducing or eliminating menopause symptoms is the main reason people use black cohosh symptoms, and there’s the most evidence to support this benefit. Black cohosh can help with specific symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes.

Black cohosh may help reduce the size of uterine fibroids, and it can improve the chances of getting pregnant for some women with PCOS. Black cohosh may also help regulate women’s cycles when they have PCOS.

There’s primarily anecdotal evidence that black cohosh can help with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

There’s evidence that black cohosh can have mental health benefits, especially in women who are menopausal. For example, one study found it to help significantly improve psychological symptoms.

Black cohosh can improve sleep quality for women experiencing sleep disturbances because of symptoms like hot flashes.

Finally, if you’re going through estrogen and dealing with unwanted or stubborn weight gain because of a decline in estrogen levels, black cohosh may have benefits in this area.

If you’re on hormone replacement therapy, you should speak to your doctor before taking a black cohosh supplement, as it can have side effects. Additionally, if you take birth control pills, black cohosh could interfere.

Top-rated black cohosh supplements include:

3. Pregnenolone

  • What Is it? Pregnenolone is foundational for all of the hormones in our body, and our bodies convert it into progesterone, estrogen, DHEA, and testosterone.   
  • The Benefits: Supplementing with pregnenolone may help balance all of your hormones, and it helps the stress response system in the body. If you have deficient hormone levels or need help balancing your cortisol to DHEA levels, you might benefit from pregnenolone.  
  • How much should you take? As with most supplements, there is no standard dose for pregnenolone, but doses usually range from 5 to 50 mg.   
  • Are there side effects? Some people using pregnenolone may have side effects similar to a steroid, such as overstimulation, problems sleeping, or irritability. You shouldn’t take pregnenolone with any other kinds of hormones, like estrogen pills or birth control pills.

Pregnenolone is known as a prohormone. It acts as a starting material for steroids that are formed naturally in the body, including progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and DHEA. As a supplement, pregnenolone may help the body detox, prevent heart disease, improve memory, reduce stress, and slow aging.

Menopause symptoms occur because the ovaries no longer produce the same amounts of estrogen and progesterone. Because all steroid hormones are made from pregnenolone, supplementing with it may help with menopause symptoms and optimize your hormones. Pregnenolone is essential for hormone balance.

You need it to balance cortisol, DHEA, and other hormones. It also modulates your stress response system, that’s driven by cortisol.

If you experience a lot of chronic stress, your stress response system is in overdrive. The cortisol rise from this can deplete your pregnenolone and reduce your availability of progesterone and DHEA. Pregnenolone as a supplement can help this.

The supplement may also balance your mood and improve your cognitive health.

Since changes in hormones can trigger mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression, there’s some evidence that pregnenolone can help with these symptoms too. Studies have found a relationship between a deficiency of pregnenolone and depression.

Brands of pregnenolone that I like include:

4. Vitex

  • What Is it? Vitex is also known as chasteberry or chaste tree. It’s often used as a remedy for different female health concerns.
  • The Benefits: Potential benefits of vitex include helping with PMS, infertility, menopause, menstrual disorders, and nursing problems.
  • How much should you take? Most women who benefit from vitex take 100-200 mg daily orally.
  • Are there side effects? Vitex is considered safe overall, but there may be rare side effects like nausea, headache, and gastrointestinal problems.  

Vitex goes by several other names, including vitex agnus-castus and chasteberry. It’s one of my favorite supplements, and I use it daily to promote hormone balance.

The chaste tree produces vitex. The fruit and other parts of the plant are traditionally used to treat various ailments and conditions, and it’s been used since Ancient Greece.

In Turkish medicine, in addition to being used for female health conditions, it’s also used for its anti-anxiety, antifungal, and digestive benefits.

One of the most well-researched benefits of vitex is its ability to reduce PMS symptoms such as constipation, depression, migraines, and breast tenderness. Vitex may work by decreasing levels of prolactin. When prolactin levels are lowered, it can rebalance hormones like progesterone and estrogen.

Since vitex has natural hormone-balancing benefits, it may also help with menopause symptoms.

Because of the potential effects on prolactin, vitex can help female fertility, especially in women with luteal phase defects, meaning a short second half of their menstrual cycle.

If you’re gaining weight or having trouble losing it because of hormones, vitex could be something worth trying.

My favorite brands of vitex include:

5. Probiotics  

  • What Is it? Probiotics are live microorganisms with health benefits when we eat them, and they’re found in supplements and fermented food.
  • The Benefits: Along with improving digestive, immune, and heart health, studies show probiotics can help with weight loss and losing belly fat.
  • How much should you take? There are many different types of probiotics, so how much you take will depend on the manufacturer’s dosage instructions.     
  • Are there side effects? Probiotics are safe for most people, but if you have a suppressed immune system, speak to your healthcare provider before taking them.

Our digestive systems have hundreds of microorganisms, and most are friendly bacteria. These friendly bacteria produce specific B vitamins and vitamin K. They also break down fiber into short-chain fatty acids.

There are two families of good bacteria that live in our guts, which are Bacteroidetes and firmicutes. Body weight appears to be related to the balance of these families of bacteria you have. Animal and human studies have shown differences in gut bacteria in people who are moderate-weight versus people who are overweight or obese. Obese people tend to have less diverse gut bacteria than leaner people.

Probiotics appear to influence appetite and energy use. Certain probiotics may also help block the absorption of dietary fat, so you’re excreting more fat. Some probiotics can help your body take on fewer calories from foods.

Probiotics may release hormones like GLP-1 and PYY, which reduce appetite.

If your goal is to choose a supplement for hormonal weight gain, you might consider L. rhamnosus GG. This strain has increased adiponectin, a hormone that helps your body burn fat. The bacteria strain can also control inflammation and regulate blood sugar.

For hormone balance, you can also consider Lactobacillus gasseri or Lactobacillus acidophilus. These strains help regulate estrogen levels because a diverse and balanced microbiome is important. These probiotics may be especially beneficial if you have estrogen dominance symptoms or are nearing perimenopause or menopause.

Specific probiotics to try if you’re dealing with hormonal weight gain or imbalanced hormones include:

Final Thoughts—The Best Supplements for Hormonal Weight Gain

Hormonal weight gain can occur for a variety of reasons. For example, it can happen if you have too much estrogen or too little.  Hormonal weight gain can be incredibly stubborn to lose, and it often finds its way to areas that hold onto fat, like the thighs and abdomen. With hormonal imbalances, you have to get to the root causes, which is what some of the supplements listed above may be able to help you with.

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