Excess Estrogen May Be the Cause of Weight Gain

You’ve likely been taught for years that there’s a clear formula for weight loss: eat less calories than you burn and the pounds will consistently come off. But we now know that (at least scientifically) this formula is way oversimplified and is missing key pieces of the puzzle that actually make weight loss effective.

The calories in/calories out may apply in a lab, but your body is a living, digesting, and ever-adapting being. The way its interconnected systems work to gain or lose weight is much more complex than a simple formula (plus, you don’t live in a research lab). So if you’ve been consistent with diet and exercise, but still aren’t seeing the results you want, let’s talk about one of the most crucial factors for weight and metabolism: your hormones. 

Not sure where to start to put all the pieces of holistic health together? Learn with us inside the Superwoman Circle.

Nutrition and exercise are just the tip of the iceberg

Your thyroid gland makes your body’s main metabolic hormone. And these thyroid hormones directly control the burning of calories, plus basic functions like body temperature and overall energy production.

And because the thyroid controls calorie burning, this means it can either slow down this process, or speed it up.

Thyroid hormones also act upon other hormones and receptor sites, helping to keep your body’s entire endocrine system functioning how it should. Optimizing thyroid health is similar to tuning an engine—your body’s whole system simply works better.

In many cases a contributing factor to thyroid hormone dysfunction is imbalanced sex hormones.

Related: Is It Perimenopause or a Thyroid Problem?

Surprising link between hormones and either weight gain or difficulty losing weight

Reproductive hormones—especially progesterone and estrogen—have a powerful influence on the activity and effectiveness of thyroid hormones. Imbalanced female hormones lead to low thyroid symptoms like difficulty losing weight, low energy, or hair loss. Sometimes these symptoms occur even when your lab tests are in the “normal” range (because “normal” isn’t necessarily optimal).

The healthy hormonal balance between estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone changes after childbirth, during perimenopause/menopause, and while using oral contraceptives. The end result can be hormone imbalances that progress to a point that they negatively affect thyroid function, and therefore your metabolism. The following are potential hormone imbalances that affect your thyroid.

Read: 7 Best Herbs to Support Your Thyroid

If you have estrogen dominance

Excess estrogen makes it harder for thyroid hormone to do its job, while progesterone generally facilitates the action of thyroid hormone (1). This is why, in women, weight is intricately tied to the estrogen/progesterone ratio.

Estrogen and progesterone are the main hormones in the female endocrine system, and they fluctuate based on where you are in your menstrual cycle.

Estrogen dominance causes the liver to produce high levels of something called thyroid binding globulin (TBG), which binds thyroid hormone and decreases the amount of “free” thyroid hormone available to the body (2). 

This is why estrogen dominance can result in symptoms of low thyroid function (or hypothyroidism) like fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, weight gain, a depressed mood, or irregular menstrual cycles. The symptoms of estrogen dominance and low thyroid hormones share many similarities.

Estrogen dominance is more common than you think, and can occur when taking birth control, or with certain conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

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If you have a leaky gut

A healthy gut is critically important for any woman who wants to maintain hormone balance and a healthy weight.

In fact, multiple recent studies have proven a direct correlation between body weight and the gut microbiome (3). It’s likely that if you don’t have a healthy gut, you also have a hormone imbalance, meaning the gut can affect weight in multiple ways.

Your gut flora (and more specifically a community of bacteria called the estrobolome) help process and eliminate excess estrogen from the body. So if you’re not having regular bowel movements, or if you have other signs of poor digestive health, you’re likely not getting rid of estrogen properly and this can set the stage for excess estrogen to wreak havoc.

Learn more: PCOS & Leaky Gut | How the Gut-Hormone Connection Can Help

If you have dysbiosis in your microbiome

Thyroid disease and intestinal diseases frequently go hand in hand. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease are the most common autoimmune thyroid diseases and often occur alongside Celiac Disease and non-celiac wheat sensitivity (4).

Additionally, the gut microbiome influences the availability of essential micronutrients needed by your thyroid gland. For example:

  • Iodine, iron, and copper are crucial for thyroid hormone synthesis
  • Selenium and zinc are needed for converting T4 to T3
  • Vitamin D assists in regulating the immune system (protecting against thyroid antibodies)

If you have an autoimmune thyroid disease, you’re likely deficient in these nutrients which play a major role in healthy thyroid function.

Watch: Healing the Thyroid Naturally

Weight gain is not your body’s way of sabotaging you

An increase in body weight—or difficulty losing weight—can be an incredibly challenging time mentally, physically, and emotionally. Many of my patients have spent years entrenched in battle with their own bodies by the time they make it into my office.

But there is one thing I always make clear: Your body’s weight is not an act of sabotage. It’s a clear sign that something bigger is out of balance (i.e. too much estrogen, progesterone deficiency, or other hormones).

It’s perfectly okay to have weight loss as a goal, but I always want to make sure you’re targeting the real, underlying causes and not sacrificing your self-worth in the process.

How do you know if a hormone imbalance is holding back weight loss?

Hormonal imbalances can be difficult to diagnose since symptoms can vary, but if anything feels “off,” whether it’s your sleep, energy, or mood—it’s worth looking into. And because hormones impact practically everything in the body, symptoms that appear will likely be broad and hard to pin down until you get some solid testing.

Which leads to some recommendations:

  • Test! Don’t guess. The only way to have the full picture of your hormones is to get them tested. Talk to your doctor about a full hormone panel as well as fasting insulin/glucose and A1C to get a good look at the current state of your hormones and metabolic function.
  • Sync with your cycle. For women with a period, it’s crucial to consider how your lifestyle, diet, and exercise routines affect your hormonal health. This looks like matching your calorie intake, workout intensity, and rest/recovery time with where you are in your cycle. This will maximize any weight loss efforts, plus keep your hormones from falling out of whack.
  • It’s not about calories in, calories out. The amount of calories you need every day fluctuates, just like your hormones do. For example, you generally need more calories during the second half of your cycle than at the beginning. Fuel your body properly, and it will work better for you. 
  • Adapt your diet. After you get a hormone test done, make changes to your diet based on your results. For example, eat more protein and fiber if you’re dealing with insulin resistance, add 2 cups of spearmint tea per day if you’re managing PCOS, and/or include plenty of nuts & seeds, fish, vegetables, and fruit if you have thyroid or adrenal imbalances. 
  • Prioritize stress relief. After nearly 14 years in functional hormone health, I’ve seen countless women struggle with non-diet-related weight issues that often have a lot to do with chronic stress. So whether weight loss is your primary goal or not, managing stress is crucial for hormone health, mental health, and so much more. This means that stress relief should come before almost anything else—and that includes work, exercising, and sometimes even eating healthy. I know that making time for yourself, going to therapy, getting enough sleep, and finding time for activities you enjoy feels almost indulgent (and impossible) at times, but in terms of managing stress they are priceless. 



  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3113168/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2837662/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7333005/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7353203/
Dr. Taz Bhatia M.D.