Overview: Hormones have complex connections to body weight. As a result, it’s sensible to consider how hormones like insulin and testosterone function, especially if you’re looking to lose weight as part of an erectile dysfunction (ED) treatment plan or are concerned about weight gain after quitting smoking.
How Is My Weight Connected To ED?
On a physical level, ED is a matter of blood flow. The penis needs a certain amount of blood to become erect, and obesity has multiple impacts on the circulatory system:
- It increases the amount of work your heart has to do to pump blood through your system. This raises your blood pressure. In turn, this puts strain on your circulatory system.
- Triglycerides go up, which can collect in your arteries and narrow them, making it harder to get blood where you need it.
- It can interfere with insulin production, raising your blood glucose, which can damage the circulatory system.
All of this is bad for your body in general, raising your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other ailments. Your sexual function is something of a canary in a coal mine in the cardiovascular sense.
There is one caveat: Obesity isn’t a well defined target, and body weight is just one factor in health, creating what’s called the “obesity paradox.” There are plenty of “obese” people who are in better health than the thinner person next to them.
This is why doctors are more likely to tell you to eat better, exercise regularly, cut back on alcohol, and stop smoking, rather than to just say you should “lose weight.”
But there’s another reason, as well. Losing weight is a lot harder than you might think, thanks to our hormones.
Which Hormones Control Weight, And What Do They Do?
While the interactions between hormones and body weight are complex, there are several hormones to be aware of.
- Insulin: Produced in the pancreas, insulin regulates the glucose levels in your blood by encouraging the liver, muscles, and fat cells to take it up and convert it to glycogen or similar fuels to be burned.
- Cortisol: Also called the “stress hormone,” think of cortisol as the gas pedal of the body. Put out by the adrenal gland, cortisol tells the body to release energy when it needs it. That said, managing stress is more important for blood pressure than weight loss; cortisol and weight have, so far, only an indirect connection.
- Leptin: Generated by fat cells, leptin is a brake on hunger. Once fat cells have stored enough energy, they tell the body to stop.
- Ghrelin: Produced by the stomach, ghrelin tells the body you’re hungry.
- Testosterone and estrogen: Contrary to popular belief, everyone has some of both these sex hormones in their bodies, and there is no one “ideal” level of either hormone. In fact, one can make the other; men’s bodies will turn at least some testosterone into estradiol, the primary form of estrogen. The impact of sex hormones on weight gain is relatively modest, but important: Estrogen helps your body get the most from its insulin, while testosterone can help you build muscle and lose weight.
- Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH): Produced by the thyroid gland, thyroid helps modulate metabolism.
When all of these work together, they generally do a good job of regulating hunger, fat production, and weight. However, the complex chain of interactions can break down. Over time, a multitude of factors can lead us to underproduce or overproduce certain hormones.
Cells can begin to resist the actions of those hormones for a number of reasons. Even extreme rapid weight loss can backfire, as it knocks your hormones out of whack, slowing down metabolism and increasing hunger.
Then, of course, there are outside lifestyle factors. The nicotine you get from tobacco, for example, raises blood pressure and narrows arteries, which is part of the reason quitting smoking is part of any ED treatment plan. Smoking also increases insulin resistance, raising your risk of weight gain and diabetes.
Yet nicotine is also an appetite suppressant, and smokers see their sense of taste and smell rapidly return after they quit. So they’re hungrier, and food will taste better. You can see the problem from a weight loss perspective.
The key is to work to keep your hormones in balance while losing weight as much as you can.
Do I Have A Hormone Disorder?
Even if you have a hormone disorder, fixing the disorder won’t fix your hormones. For example, diabetes is technically a hormone disorder, but any diabetic will tell you that insulin injections alone won’t help you lose weight. In fact, they often do the opposite.
Similarly, hormones such as testosterone might play a role in an ED diagnosis. Yet while testosterone may help address loss of libido, its connection to ED and sexual desire is less clear.
The data seems to show that most endocrine and metabolic disorders are relatively rare. This doesn’t mean they’re not worth testing for, but remember that even if you do have one, that won’t mean a pill will solve the problem.
Working With Your Hormones To Lose Weight and Address ED
Regardless of your hormones, take the following steps to lose weight and work with them.
- Remember the “core four” lifestyle goals: Eat better, exercise regularly, reduce alcohol consumption, and quit smoking. These have net positive health effects beyond weight loss and ED, and will anchor any treatment plan.
- Set goals for the long term, with smaller and more manageable short-term goals for weight loss, exercise time, and other approaches. It’s easy to lose half a pound a week and walk fifteen minutes a day, so build from there rather than starting with running for an hour a day.
- Use a calorie and exercise tracking app and log your food and weight over time.
- Work with your doctor to choose a diet high in lean proteins and fiber, which will help you feel full.
- Look for exercises that build or maintain muscle as you get more comfortable with exercise.
- Be kind to yourself. Making major lifestyle changes is difficult for anybody, and we all slip off of the path a bit occasionally. Just climb back onto it and keep going.
eDrugstore Has Your Back
Don’t forget that medication can help with short-term goals. Chantix can help you quit smoking. If you’ve tried everything but the weight just isn’t coming off, you may be a good candidate for Xenical.
If you’re suffering from erectile dysfunction, ED medicaton can help in the short term while you work for better sexual health in the long term. Take advantage of a free medical consultation to learn more about Chantix, Xenical, and the ED meds we carry. One of our U.S.-licensed physicians will issue a prescription, and we will ship medications to your door at no charge.
Dan is a long-time freelance writer focusing on technology, science, health, and medicine, with a lifelong interest in physics, biology, and medicine. His work has taken a particular focus on scientific studies “beyond the headlines,” reading the study to more closely examine the results.