Patients seek bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) for a multitude of different reasons. Perhaps you feel sluggish, fatigued, or unmotivated. Maybe you’re experiencing hot flashes. Or perhaps you’ve run up against a wall when it comes to weight loss, and you’re wondering if hormones have something to do with your inability to lose weight.
Bioidentical hormones can be a powerful contributor to weight loss for some individuals—though that isn’t their primary purpose. In fact, because hormones heavily impact metabolism, minor weight fluctuations are a common side effect that patients experience when starting bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. If you’re determined to lose a few unwanted pounds, the possibility of medication-induced weight gain could be a major concern.
So, can bioidentical hormones cause weight gain? Possibly. It might take a while for you to find the right dose of hormone medications and reach equilibrium, especially if your hormone levels aren’t being monitored appropriately by a qualified practitioner. But with proper maintenance and a comprehensive treatment plan designed to meet your unique needs, BHRT is more likely to help you reach a stable, healthy weight than to put on pounds. An expert hormone health practitioner will be able to provide you with the customized medication, diet, exercise, and stress management strategies you need to alleviate your symptoms and promote overall well-being.
Bioidentical Hormones Can Contribute to Weight Loss … In Some Cases
Contrary to popular belief, bioidentical hormones are not an instant weight loss solution. These medications were designed to address symptoms related to menopause, andropause, or hormone disorders. Significantly, estrogen, testosterone, and other hormones are powerful chemicals that have far-reaching effects throughout the body. While certain medications may have an impact on your appetite or metabolism, they’re not designed to facilitate quick and easy weight loss.
The reason bioidentical hormones are so commonly equated with weight loss is that hormone imbalances can result in plenty of weight-related problems. Men with low testosterone and women with PCOS, for example, may experience stubborn weight gain that doesn’t seem to respond to typical diet and exercise strategies. Hypothyroidism is another common contributing factor to weight gain.
In some cases, supplementing with the hormones your body needs can help your endocrine system function more effectively, improving metabolism and influencing gradual weight loss. But so many other factors influence your body’s natural resting weight. Indeed, diet and exercise are the most important factors for healthy weight loss in the majority of cases. As such, it’s important that you speak with a qualified medical professional to determine which factors matter most for your body—and how they can be combined to help you feel your best.
The Impact of Testosterone Therapy on Weight Loss
Research is actively being done to confirm whether estrogen and/or progesterone replacement therapy directly influences weight loss in women. While some studies have found little or no effect, others suggest that these hormones may have a significant impact on weight in some populations. For example, a 2018 study on 1500 postmenopausal women found that estrogen medications are associated with a healthier BMI, reduced visceral adipose tissue (“belly fat”), and increased lean body mass.
The impact of testosterone replacement therapy in men, on the other hand, is more fully understood. In one particularly interesting study on hypogonadal men, testosterone replacement therapy was clearly shown to improve body weight and metabolism metrics. Significantly, when these men stopped taking TRT, their bodies returned to a pre-treatment state. When they resumed therapy, their weight and metabolic factors improved once again. These results are strong evidence that testosterone therapy (and no other coincidental factor) can help men achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Testosterone may be particularly beneficial to men who struggle with obesity. In a 2014 review by Dr. Abdulmaged M. Traish, the data revealed that testosterone therapy helped a cohort of obese men achieve significant and sustained weight loss, decreased waist circumference, and lower BMI—with or without lifestyle modifications. While we still recommend pursuing a well-rounded treatment plan for weight loss, these impressive results indicate that testosterone therapy may play a very important role in your success.
Can Bioidentical Hormones Cause Weight Gain?
It’s clear that some bioidentical hormones can contribute to weight loss for some individuals. But what about weight gain?
Most conventional hormone medications list “weight gain” as a possible side effect. Without conclusive scientific evidence to the contrary, we can only assume that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy could have the same side effects and risks. However, bioidentical hormones may potentially offer opportunities to minimize unwanted weight gain that conventional hormones do not.
Minor weight fluctuations may be more likely to occur when your are just starting therapy. This is because finding the perfect medication and dose often takes time, and it can be difficult to locate the perfect “sweet spot” between too much and too little supplementation. Imbalance on either end can cause your weight to fluctuate. Over time, as you and your doctor monitor your symptoms, hormone levels, and weight markers, you’ll be able to adjust your medications appropriately to help you maintain a healthy weight. This is where bioidenticals may have an advantage over conventional hormones: bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can be customized for each patient. As such, your practitioner can precisely fine-tune a dose that helps you achieve your goals rather than having to rely on standardized doses that may not give you the results you want.
Of course, there are many factors that could influence weight gain. Depending on your diet and exercise habits, you could gain weight independent of any hormone medications you may be taking. You may also experience weight gain from taking other medications or over-the-counter hormone supplements without guidance from a medical professional.
Using BHRT as Part of a Comprehensive Weight Loss Plan
Weight gain is one of the most common complaints of both men and women during the natural aging process, and it can be truly frustrating to try to lose weight on your own. For many women, the intense symptoms of menopause are troubling enough without feeling concerned about hormone-induced weight gain. For men struggling with symptoms of andropause, the bodily changes that accompany dropping testosterone levels can be equally detrimental.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is a powerful treatment that can help alleviate the symptoms of hormone change and imbalance. In some cases, it can also act as an integral part of a comprehensive weight loss program. With the right strategy, you may see dramatic results in how you look and feel, especially if you partner with an expert hormone health practitioner who can monitor your progress and make necessary adjustments along the way. Excellent practitioners, like those in the BodyLogicMD network, will set you up for success through an integrated combination of hormone medications and lifestyle changes that to help you achieve a stable and healthy weight.
BodyLogicMD is a nationwide network of hormone health practitioners who specialize in hormone health and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. These practitioners help men and women reach optimal wellness through nutrition counseling, lifestyle advice, and hormone medications that help you be your best at any age. Together, you’ll create a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all of your hormone-related symptoms—including unwanted weight changes—and gets you started on the path toward balance. Contact a local practitioner today to schedule your first appointment, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about how hormones help (or hinder) your personal weight loss journey.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.