Affiliate links on our site may earn us commissions. Learn More.

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this website you are giving consent to cookies being used. Visit our Privacy Policy.

arrow
Newsletter

Discover The Best Wellness Tips In Your Inbox

Subscribe to Health Reporter’s newsletter and get our health experts’ highlights and the latest news about healthy living.
The newsletters are spam-free and sent from our health experts and professionals.
sent

Thank You!

You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter!
Home arrow Fitness arrow Does Progesterone Cause Weight Gain? Unraveling Hormonal Impacts

Does Progesterone Cause Weight Gain? Unraveling Hormonal Impacts

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: January 11, 2024
10 min read 131 Views 0 Comments
clock 10 eye 131 comments 0

Surprising revelations and everything you need to know

does progesterone cause weight gain

When it comes to progesterone, there are several common misconceptions. One huge myth is that only those who are trying to conceive should be concerned about their levels of this hormone.

However, progesterone is essential for a range of roles throughout the body, from regulating the menstrual cycle to maintaining nervous system health. If you have particularly high or low progesterone levels, it’s therefore crucial to tackle this imbalance.

Both natural and synthetic progesterone can be effective solutions, but these medications are often associated with unwanted side effects like weight gain. But does progesterone cause weight gain, or is this just another myth?

Keep reading as we take a deep dive into the scientific evidence surrounding progesterone, weight gain, and how it affects the human body.

Does Progesterone Cause Weight Gain? Understanding the Connection

While taking progesterone doesn’t directly determine weight gain, changes in progesterone levels in relation to other hormones can slow your metabolism and increase appetite. These are both factors that may cause you to gain weight.

Progesterone levels are naturally balanced by estrogen, and vice versa. For example, when progesterone rises during the luteal phase after ovulation and before your period, estrogen falls.

This is another type of sex hormone that is responsible for the development of characteristics during puberty like breasts. It also helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and aids fertility. As part of this role, estrogen encourages the body to store energy as fat in the stomach area, breasts, and hips, while progesterone promotes fat burning for energy. 

When levels are balanced correctly, both hormones work together to regulate each other’s effects, and you should therefore be able to maintain a healthy weight. However, if progesterone levels fall, you may experience estrogen dominance. 

Along with increasing your risk of diseases like cancer and polycystic ovary syndrome in the long run, this can lead to a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including heavy, irregular, or painful periods, headaches, mood swings, bloating, and hair loss. 

Progesterone and estrogen play complex roles in regulating body fat, so imbalances in these hormones may affect fat distribution. There are many factors that contribute to fat retention in areas such as the breasts and hips, including genetics and hormonal balance.

During certain phases of the menstrual cycle, such as the luteal phase, when progesterone levels are higher, some women experience an increase in appetite. This is because progesterone stimulates the activity of ghrelin, a hunger hormone that can trigger cravings and cause you to overeat. 

What is Progesterone?

Along with estrogen, progesterone is one of the two major sex hormones produced during the menstrual cycle. 

Progesterone is primarily produced in the ovaries, the adrenal glands, and, during pregnancy, in the placenta. This hormone reaches its highest level during the luteal phase, which begins on around day 15 of the cycle. This is when the lining of your uterus begins to thicken, ready to hold a fertilized egg.

Progesterone’s main role is to prepare the body for possible pregnancy, while also ensuring the healthy growth and development of a fetus. Apart from its role during pregnancy, progesterone plays several vital roles in the body, including supporting thyroid hormone function, promoting bone health, and supporting brain health. Progesterone also plays various roles in male physiology.

Whether to get pregnant or relieve the symptoms of menopause, those hoping to increase low progesterone levels may choose to take either natural or synthetic forms of the hormone. 

Natural progesterone supplements are made from soybeans or wild yams, which undergo laboratory processing in order to create bioavailable progesterone. Over-the-counter supplements like these are available in cream and capsule form.

Synthetic progesterone is called progestin and is usually prescribed by doctors as a form of birth control or for hormone replacement therapy.

Factors Influencing Weight Gain in Progesterone Users

When it comes to progesterone and weight gain, the answer is far more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no.” Many factors can cause you to pile on the pounds when taking a hormonal supplement, including the following:

#1 Lifestyle and physical activity 

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you are more likely to gain weight than those who are active when using progesterone supplements. 

Whether you love cardio exercises or simply enjoy a brisk morning walk, physical activity burns calories, which can help you maintain a healthy weight. So, if you are worried about gaining fat when taking progesterone, try making a few small swaps to become more active. 

Take the stairs instead of the elevator, get off the bus one stop early, or park in the furthest spot from the grocery store doors. All of these swaps add up to increase your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which contributes to your daily calorie burn.

#2 Hormonal fluctuations 

It’s normal to put on a few pounds here and there, or experience bloating during your period. However, fast and unexplained weight gain can signal that something under the surface is off balance, especially when it comes to hormones.

Research suggests that an imbalance between progesterone and estrogen levels is one of the leading causes of obesity. When levels are balanced correctly, both hormones work together to regulate each other’s effects. However, if progesterone levels fall, you may experience estrogen dominance, which can cause your body to store energy as fat.

Another reason that hormone imbalance may have an impact on your weight is because it can affect your metabolism and appetite. Healthy progesterone levels support the thyroid, which produces hormones that regulate how quickly your body turns food into energy.

Low progesterone can cause thyroid activity to slow down, meaning it will burn less of the calories that you consume and potentially lead to weight gain. 

#3 Individual health conditions 

Making an effort to eat less, yet finding that you’re still gaining weight while taking progesterone? This could be because of a medical condition that you have. 

A hormonal imbalance, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can lead to weight gain. In PCOS, androgen levels (also referred to as male hormones) are elevated, which can affect weight and fat distribution. However, the relationship between androgen levels and specific abdominal fat accumulation is complex and can vary from person to person.

Those with PCOS may also suffer from insulin resistance, leading to chronically elevated blood sugar and therefore weight gain.

Comparing Synthetic and Natural Progesterone

As we’ve already mentioned, there are two types of progesterone that you may take. Although some progesterone medications are considered to be natural, and structurally identical to the hormone produced by your body, they are technically made from diosgenin, a chemical found in plants like wild yam.

The other type is a man-made steroid hormone called progestin, which is often used in birth control pills to correct irregular menstrual cycles, reduce menopause symptoms like bone loss, and treat certain cancers.

Despite being effective for these purposes, studies have shown that progestins may cause adverse side effects when taken to alleviate menopause symptoms, including blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes. Taking progestin is also thought to cause weight gain, but research suggests that this may not be the case.

A review of 22 studies found limited evidence to support a change in weight or body composition for those taking progestin. However, in some of these studies, those using hormonal contraceptive methods containing progestin saw a greater increase in body fat. The hormonal users also experienced a greater decrease in lean body mass. 

This demonstrates that while synthetic progesterone may not be the root cause, weight gain can still occur due to hormonal changes. As we’ve discussed, these changes may increase your appetite and impact fat-burning mechanisms.

Managing Weight While Using Progesterone

Whether through an increase in appetite or metabolism change, there are several strategies that you can easily put in place to help you maintain a healthy weight. Incorporate these 5 tips into your lifestyle to prevent weight gain:

#1 Monitor your diet

If you’re worried about weight gain, the most important thing that you can do is manage what you’re eating. Following a healthy, balanced diet helps to ensure that you’re not consuming more calories than you’re burning, which will ultimately lead to you piling on the pounds.

Try to incorporate a range of weight loss foods into your daily diet, including those that are high in nutrients like fiber, protein, and healthy fats to keep you feeling fuller for longer. 

Some great examples include whole grains, low-calorie fruits, leafy green vegetables, lean meats, Greek yogurt, and avocado.

#2 Stay hydrated

While estrogen allows the body to retain salt and water for hydration, progesterone acts as a natural diuretic to aid water loss. 

Any imbalance of these hormone levels can lead to dehydration, which causes your body to cling to excess water, particularly in the abdominal area. Although you may feel that you’ve put on a few pounds of fat, this is actually bloating, which does not cause weight gain.

Water can also act as a natural appetite suppressant, filling you up without the additional calories. So, try to drink at least 3.7L per day for men and 2.7L per day for women, especially before meals to prevent overeating.

#3 Steer clear of fad diets

While eating nothing but cabbage soup for a week or following Dr Now’s low-carb, low-calorie regime may help you quickly drop the pounds, these aren’t sustainable weight loss methods.

Eating too few calories can leave you feeling tired and sluggish, and may increase your junk food cravings. When returning to a normal eating pattern, you’re hence likely to eat more and are at risk of gaining weight. 

It’s therefore crucial to choose a healthy weight loss diet that takes a well-rounded approach to wellness, including eating enough calories for your energy requirements.

#4 Manage stress

High levels of cortisol, a hormone released when you’re stressed, can be responsible for weight gain. 

Large amounts of this hormone may reduce insulin sensitivity, causing your body to cling onto fat cells. You may also find that your appetite and cravings for carb-heavy, sugary foods increase during this time. 

To prevent this, try building some healthy habits into your routine to keep stress levels low. Along with eating well, research shows that exercising regularly can help to improve mood and motivation. Sharing your feelings with loved ones or using a journaling app may help you to think more positively and maintain a clear mind too.

#5 Consult a healthcare professional

Whether you’re taking natural or synthetic progesterone, the best way to minimize any side effects is by speaking to your doctor. 

They can make personalized recommendations for the best way to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle that will prevent weight gain. For example, they may recommend taking weight loss supplements to boost your metabolism, control cravings, and satisfy your appetite. 

Their advice will take into account any health conditions you may have, your age and gender, as well as your schedule and preferences, to come up with a plan that works best for you.

A Word From Our MD

Expert image border HR_author_photo_Edna
Edna Skopljak, MD
Medical advisor for Health Reporter

There are many benefits that can be gained from taking progesterone. For instance, research shows that progesterone therapy can increase levels of thyroid hormones, which control your metabolic rate. This can be useful for those with a slow metabolism who are struggling to shift stubborn fat.

Although progesterone supplements are often prescribed to help balance levels in the body, there are a range of foods that may naturally encourage production of the hormone.

Try eating Brussels sprouts, beans, kale, broccoli, nuts, and whole grains. Foods like bananas, shellfish, and walnuts may also lower estrogen levels, helping to correct the progesterone-to-estrogen ratio.

Before taking progesterone or adding any supplement into your routine, consult your doctor to check that they are safe and suitable for your unique needs.

FAQs

Will I lose weight after stopping progesterone?

If you have gained weight due to a bigger appetite or slower metabolism while taking progesterone, you may lose weight once you stop taking it. However, there is little evidence directly linking progesterone to weight gain or loss.

Does progesterone make you hungry?

Taking progesterone may increase your appetite, as high hormone levels stimulate the production of ghrelin. This is a hormone that controls your hunger levels.

Does progesterone cause weight gain in everyone?

No, progesterone doesn’t cause every user to gain weight. Factors such as hormonal fluctuations, diet and lifestyle, and other medical conditions can have an impact on your body weight while taking this supplement.

Conclusion

Although there is no direct link between natural or synthetic progesterone and weight gain, hormonal imbalance of any kind does make you more susceptible to piling on the pounds. 

While following a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and keeping stress levels at bay are effective methods for maintaining a healthy weight, you should also consult a healthcare professional for more personalized tips.

Whether you’ve taken progesterone before or are looking to add this hormonal medication into your routine, we invite you to share your experiences in the comments below.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Was this article helpful?
check
Thank you! We received Your feedback
HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: January 11, 2024
10 min read 131 Views 0 Comments
0 Comments

Leave a comment

checked
Thank you for your comment!
We will review it as soon as possible.
HealthReporter
Your Name
Missing required field
Your Comment
Missing required field

company-logo