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Endocrine System Disorders and Weight Loss

By Linda Ray ; Updated July 18, 2017

The network of organs and systems in the body designed to produce, store and secrete hormones is called the endocrine system. Reproduction, growth and energy levels are controlled by the endocrine system. Growth and thyroid disorders, diabetes, osteoporosis and polycystic ovary syndrome can result from disruptions to this vital system.

Cushing's Syndrome

When the body produces excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol for long periods of time, you may develop Cushing's syndrome. One of the main effects of the disease is weight gain. Cortisol is important for weight loss because it’s the hormone that converts fat into energy. When too much is present, it does not work efficiently, meaning that the endocrine system disrupts this vital function and interferes with your weight loss efforts. Usually Cushing's syndrome is a temporary condition that disappears when you stop taking cortisollike medications to treat other illnesses. Tumors on the pituitary or adrenal glands also can trigger the condition, which dissipates when the tumor is removed.


The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate how your body breaks down food and whether it stores it or uses it for energy. Thyroid hormones are the main arbiter of your metabolism. Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is most common in women over the age of 50 and can lead to obesity, heart disease and joint pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. The condition occurs when your thyroid ceases to produce sufficient hormones. Symptoms are barely noticeable in the early stages of the condition and gradually strengthen as you age. You may feel fatigued and sluggish, be sensitive to cold and experience weakness and pain in your joints. Drugs used to control hypothyroidism typically result in weight loss while also lowering your cholesterol levels and giving you more energy.

Addison's Disease

You may experience unwanted weight loss when you develop Addison's disease. According to the Hormone Foundation, this condition is rare and affects less than 150 people in every million. The disease attacks the adrenal glands and causes them to produce an insufficient amount of steroid hormones in your body. The steroid hormones control blood sugar levels, sexual drive and the ability to fight off the effects of stress and infection. You may feel weak and fatigued and have no appetite as a result of the disease. A lifetime regimen of corticosteroids usually is required to treat Addison's disease and you should be able to get back to a healthy weight.


Type 1 diabetes is an endocrine disorder that usually results in weight loss. Type 1 diabetes, referred to as juvenile diabetes in the past, occurs when the pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin. In addition to unintentional weight loss, you may experience intense thirst and hunger and feel the need to urinate often. The immune disorder commonly first appears in young children and teens. You need regular injections of insulin to manage the disease and maintain a healthy weight. In addition to the weight loss, unmanaged diabetes can lead to blindness, nerve damage, stroke and kidney disease.

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