Health People walk on a tightrope Slackline

Published on April 5th, 2014 | by Margaret Pardoe


Hormones and Health…”Life’s a Great Balancing Act”…

“Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act”

Dr Seuss

If the detail about hormones bores you rigid, the bottom line is that to maximize your chances of maintaining a healthy weight from the perspective of your hormones, you need to do the following…..most of the time…..!


  • Avoid stress

  • Eat a very high quality diet, rich in vegetables, with moderate amounts of protein, healthy fats and whole fruit, lots of water, very moderate amounts of carbohydrates and minimal processed foodstuffs.

  • Eat moderately
  • Avoid processed food
  • Exercise regularly

BUT if you are already overweight or obese, there’s more you may need to do, such as…..

  • Modified Alternate Day Fasting
  • Emotional Freedom Technique
  • Mind/Body Healing Techniques such as The Journey or Non Personal Awareness


The stuff about how weight gain and weight loss work from a hormonal perspective can be found in the article Hungry Hormones and below in a brief synopsis about individual hormones, including:

  • Adinopectin
  • Cholecystokinin (CCK)
  • Cortisol
  • Ghrelin
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Neuropeptide Y (NPY)
  • Sex hormones: Oestrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone
  • Thyroid hormones



Adinopectin is a mixture of anti-inflammatory peptides secreted by fat cells, and helps to regulate energy balance and the metabolism of sugars and fats, as well as increasing insulin sensitivity. But there’s a paradox – overweight people often have less circulating adiponectin than people who are a normal weight. What triggers secretion of adinopectin from fat cells is not yet fully understood.


Cholecystokinin (CCK)

Cholecystokinin (CCK) is released in the duodenum in response to high-fat or high-protein meals. It signals the brain to produce a sense of fullness or satiety. Fatty meals are an especially effective trigger in the release of CCK.



Hormone secreted by the adrenal glands when you feel under threat can be a life saver in short bursts! But adrenal imbalance can occur when there is chronic anxiety and stress, and cortisol production is directly related to weight gain when it comes to the correlation of unwanted weight and hormonal imbalance.



Ghrelin is a peptide released by endocrine cells mostly within the stomach’s lining. It’s the most predominant “hunger hormone” so far. Ghrelin counteracts the hormone leptin, to increase metabolic efficiency and stimulate the appetite. It usually indicates hunger, but it can also be released after a high-protein meal. NB Lack of adequate sleep leads to an increase in ghrelin, the hormone that says “hungry!”, and a decrease in leptin, the hormone that says “full”.


Insulin is the hormone that affects whether blood sugar gets used right away for immediate energy, or is stored as fat. Plus, because fat is not simply a passive energy-storage system (as believed previously), but functions as an endocrine organ that produces important hormones itself, what we eat really does matter when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off. Insulin levels are directly impacted by our diets, particularly the ratio of carbohydrates to fibre, fat, and protein. Any disruption in the insulin-regulating mechanism, such as insulin resistance, has an immediate influence on several of the lesser metabolic hormones. Insulin decreases ghrelin and increases leptin. When you eat sugar and carbohydrates that break down into sugar this stimulates insulin. Therefore every time when you eat sugar and carbohydrates, insulin stimulates leptin. When all goes as it should, then the appetite is reduced at this point. However when you eat sugar and carbohydrates this results in insulin levels that are too high and you then also have high levels of leptin. The digestive tract breaks down carbohydrates (the sugars and starches found in food) into glucose. Glucose is a form of sugar that enters the bloodstream, and with the help of insulin (secreted by the pancreas), cells throughout the body absorb glucose and use it for energy. So, when blood glucose levels rise after a meal, the pancreas releases insulin into the blood. Insulin and glucose then travel in the blood to cells throughout the body – insulin helps muscle, fat, and liver cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream, lowering blood glucose levels and stimulating the liver and muscle tissue to store excess glucose (glucose stored in this way is called glycogen). Insulin also lowers blood glucose levels by reducing glucose production in the liver.

It’s not completely understood yet, but insulin resistance tends to happen with excess weight (especially around the waist) and lack of physical activity. It increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes (pre-diabetes usually occurs in people who already have insulin resistance). Although insulin resistance alone does not cause type 2 diabetes, by putting a high demand on the insulin-producing cells it can lead to type 2 diabetes via pre-diabetes, which occurs when the beta cells can no longer produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, causing blood glucose levels to rise above normal. Once pre-diabetic, continued loss of insulin production usually leads to type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes have high blood glucose. Over time, high blood glucose damages nerves and blood vessels, leading to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-limb amputations.

Lack of physical activity also seems to be associated with insulin resistance. More glucose is used by muscle in the body than other tissues. Normally, active muscles burn their stored glucose for energy and refill their reserves with glucose taken from the bloodstream, keeping blood glucose levels balanced. After exercising, muscles become more sensitive to insulin, reversing insulin resistance and lowering blood glucose levels. Exercise also helps muscles absorb more glucose without the need for insulin. The more muscle a body has, the more glucose it can burn to control blood glucose levels.

Pre-diabetics tend to progress to type 2 diabetes within 10 years, unless they change their lifestyle. Lifestyle changes include losing 5 to 7 percent of their body weight (e.g. 10 – 14 pounds for people weighing 200 pounds) via dietary changes and increased physical activity.

Other causes of insulin resistance may include ethnicity, certain diseases, hormones, some medication – including steroids, age; sleep problems (especially sleep apnea) and smoking.



Leptin – from the Greek word “leptos” – thin! Leptin is a hormone that is synthesized within fat cells, and works as a “satiety (full) factor” on the hypothalamus to dampen eating behavior while increasing energy expenditure. Leptin acts (at least partly), by inhibiting Neuropeptide Y (NPY) synthesis and release in the hypothalamus.

Leptin resistance (similar to insulin resistance, and often seen together) can be a major contributing factor to food addictions, compulsive eating, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Leptin helps signal the brain that the body has enough energy stores such as body fat. But many obese people don’t respond to leptin’s signals even though they have higher levels of leptin.


Melatonin is the hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm and is also involved in the hunger time-clock. Sleep deprivation affects melatonin production, which in turn influences leptin and ghrelin production. It is also thought that lack of sleep affects your levels of human growth hormone (hGH), because “pulses” of hGH are released at night.

Neuropeptide Y (NPY)

Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a very strong stimulant of eating behavior, and is also the most abundant neuropeptide in the brain. As well as its role in feeding behavior, it is also involved in circadian rhythms, sexual functioning, and anxiety responses.


Peptide YY (PYY)

Peptide YY (PYY) has been shown to slow digestion, suppress appetite, and significantly reduce food consumption.

Sex hormones: Oestrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone

Adequate levels of oestrogen seem to help in hunger regulation, simulating the calming “full” or satiety effect of serotonin. An imbalance in the ratio between oestrogen and progesterone can trigger intense food cravings e.g. premenstrual binges! If a woman is testosterone-deficient, which can occur with poor nutrition or during perimenopause, she will have difficulty building muscle mass no matter how much she exercises and trains. Testosterone production relies on adequate levels of cholesterol, the building block of all sex hormones (so a low fat diet is best avoided).


Thyroid hormones

Thyroid hormones are involved in regulating metabolism, with the relationship to weight gain being more indirect. Sluggish thyroid function is a consequence of an imbalance between other hormones.


And that all just scratches the surface of what is known about hormones and weight gain, with so much more yet to be understood!







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About the Author

Margaret Pardoe

first trained and practiced as a State Registered Nurse and State Certified Midwife in the UK, and thereafter, as a Master Herbalist, Registered Iridologist and Accredited Journey Therapist. More recently she trained as a Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner with co-founder and creator of NLP, Richard Bandler. She has a lifetime of experience in both allopathic and alternative medicine and in mind/body healing techniques.

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