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Causes of Hormonal Belly in Men & Women & Its Treatment

Topic Overview

Fat accumulation is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to the human body. Unnecessary fat generally accumulates due to slow metabolism in the body. This happens as a result of aging or due to some medical condition. A poor diet and remaining sedentary is also contributory towards accumulation of excess fat in the body. However, there is one more aspect towards fat accumulation and that is hormonal changes.[1,2]

According to experts Hormonal Belly is mainly seen in females, although males also have it. They opine that females are especially sensitive to hormonal fluctuations or changes to include progesterone and estrogen. Fluctuations in these hormone change the way fat is stored and processed in the body. Cortisol or the stress hormone also plays a role in increasing belly fat when it is elevated chronically. The question now arises as to what actually causes these changes in hormone levels that leads to accumulation of belly fat which in other words is called Hormone Belly.[1,2]

It basically is caused due to deficiency of certain hormones which affect the metabolism rate of the body causing weight gain and excess belly fat or Hormone Belly.[1,2]

This article goes in depth about some of the causes and treatment options for Hormone Belly.

What Causes Hormonal Belly &How To Treat It?

Thyroid Hormones: This is by far the most prominent cause of Hormone Belly. Thyroid hormones are responsible for controlling the metabolic rate of the body. An underactive thyroid in which there is a deficiency of the thyroid hormone affects the metabolism of the body making it slow, resulting in accumulation of fat. Thus, the most common symptom of hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid is weight gain with fat accumulation around the belly and abdominal areas or in other words Hormonal Belly.[2]

However, there is an alternative explanation of weight gain in people with hypothyroidism. According to the American Thyroid Association, the weight gain may also be due to build-up of salt and water in the body.[2]

Treatment: Levothyroxine which is a drug that increases production of thyroid hormones is the frontline treatment for hypothyroidism. With the use of this medication, an individual is expected to lose at least 10% of the weight gained as a result of accumulation of salt and water.[2]

Cortisol: Called as the stress hormone, cortisol helps our body deal with any kind of stress. When a person is anxious or feels stressed out the adrenal glands produce cortisol to deal with the situation. Due to excess of cortisol, the body starts to conserve or store fat in the body to be used as an energy source. This fat is stored in the face, chest, and the belly. If cortisol is elevated chronically then it causes Hormone Belly.[2]

Another effect of chronically elevated cortisol is the development of Cushing Syndrome, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia. Cushing Syndrome presents itself as a lump of fat in between the shoulders. There is also accumulation of fat at the base of the neck. The muscles also tend to get weak. Some people also get stretch marks around the abdomen, hips, arms, and breasts. Pituitary tumors are one of the primary causes of Cushing Syndrome.[2]

Treatment: The treatment for Cushing Syndrome depends on the cause. It includes medications and even surgery in cases where tumors are the cause of the disease. However, if cortisol levels remain elevated due to continuous stress then the best thing is to devise a coping mechanism.[2]

The individual should consult with a psychologist or a psychiatrist to formulate a plan to best deal with stress. Yoga and meditation are also extremely effective in dealing with stress and reduce cortisol levels in the bod.[2]

Leptin: This is a hormone that is released by the fat cells. It is this hormone that signals the brain that the body has stored enough fat and the person has a sense of feeling full, especially after eating a meal. Studies reflect that the leptin levels in the body tell the story of the amount of fat stored. If the levels are high then the body has stored enough fat.[2]

Sometimes, it so happens that the signals between leptin and the brain malfunction. This causes what is termed as leptin resistance. This results in excess fat to be stored causing Hormone Belly. What exactly causes this leptin resistance is not known but experts believe that a genetic mutation may have a role to play.[2]

Treatment: Some studies are of the opinion that inflammation may also have a role to play in causing leptin resistance. This is the reason as to why physicians recommend lifestyle modifications and dietary restrictions such as taking an anti inflammatory diet to calm down the inflammation and prevent leptin resistance. However, since research is still ongoing about leptin resistance thus no clear cut treatment is available at present for this condition.[2]

Aside from the above mentioned causes for Hormone Belly, there are certain causes which are male and female specific. These include:

For Hormone Belly in Males:

Testosterone Deficiency: This is a vital sex hormone in males. This is the hormone responsible for giving males their characteristic features like body hair and beard.

Testosterone is also important for muscle growth. Studies suggest that with age the testosterone levels in the body start to decrease. This in turn causes weight gain or Hormone Belly. A study showed that approximately 30% of obese or overweight males had testosterone deficiency.[2]

There are also certain medical conditions that can lead to testosterone deficiency including injury or damage to the testicles, autoimmune conditions, pituitary gland diseases, or as a result of cancer treatments. Aside from Hormone Belly, testosterone deficiency can also cause erectile dysfunction, persistent fatigue, hair loss, decreased libido, and depression.[2]

Treatment: The best way to treat testosterone deficiency is to supplement testosterone. This can be done through lifestyle changes like quitting alcohol and tobacco, exercising regularly, and eating diet low on calories and fat.[2]

Estrogen Deficiency: This is yet another cause for Hormone Belly in males. There are basically three types of estrogen hormones, namely estradiol, estriol, and estrone.

The function of estrogen is maintaining libido, produce sperms, and maintaining erectile function. Therefore, deficiency of this hormone can lead to dysfunction of the above aside from causing weight gain and Hormone Belly.[2]

Treatment: Estrogen deficiency can be effectively dealt with dietary and lifestyle changes. There are also medications and supplements that can increase the production of estrogen and improve its levels.[2]

For Hormone Belly in Females:

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: This is the most common cause of Hormone Belly in Females. In fact, the Office of Women’s Health states that PCOS affects 1 in every 10 females in the reproductive age. It also states that females with PCOS tend to have higher levels of androgen which is a male hormone and higher insulin levels. This is the reason why females with PCOS tend to gain weight and have Hormone Belly. Other signs of PCOS include irregular menstrual periods, thinning of hairs, skin discoloration, and skin tags.[2]

Treatment: The frontline treatment for PCOS is hormonal birth control techniques. This is especially effective in females who do not wish to conceive in the future. For increased levels of insulin it is effective to take metformin to lower the levels. Dietary modifications especially avoiding sweets is a good way to keep the insulin levels in check.[2]

Menopause: The estrogen levels of females drop significantly after attaining menopause. Several experts have stated that a drop in estrogen levels causes increased abdominal fat or Hormonal Belly.[2]

Treatment: The best way to deal with reduced estrogen levels is to try hormone replacement therapy. This not only supplements estrogen but also keeps fat accumulation in check.[2]

Fluid Retention from Menstrual Periods: There are instances here females tend to retain fluids when they are going through their menstrual cycle. This also results in weight gain and Hormone Belly even though it is only for a limited period of time. The fluid retention that starts at the beginning of the cycle tends to recede as the days progress. This has been proved to regular data analysis. However, researchers are still to find any concrete relation between fluid retention and menstrual period of a female to explain as to why this happens.[2]

Treatment: The best to deal with this is to make necessary dietary and lifestyle changes. Salt restriction is the mainstay to prevent any fluid retention, especially during menstruation.[2]

In conclusion, Hormone Belly occurs when a person starts to have accumulation of fat around the abdominal area or the belly due to fluctuation of hormone levels in the body. Hormone Belly is not the only health concern that occurs due to hormonal deficiencies. It is vital to consult with a physician to correct hormonal deficiencies and practice good lifestyle and dietary habits. This is essential for good hormonal balance and also to prevent Hormonal Belly.[1,2]


Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 18, 2022

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