Hormones and weight: Monitor but don’t stress, y'all

By: Ann Avery, Infectious Disease Physician at Metrohealth Medical Center

Weight loss and gain can tip up and down, including living with HIV. Hormones can play a role in either direction, but have no fear – it happens. Either way, we want to make sure you’re informed about hormones and how they affect our bodies! We’re going to offer some tips dealing with weight loss and gain. We know weight can be a tricky topic to talk about, but we care about you and want you to be informed. 😘

Starting off, we strongly encourage you to talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about your meds, hormones, and your weight. It’s good just to keep that line of communication open. HIV can reduce your appetite or even make your food taste bad. It can also affect how the body absorbs nutrients from foods.

If we’re talking about weight loss and you’ve lost 5-10 pounds without trying (exercise, smaller portions, etc.), be sure to talk with someone. That same somebody can point you in the right direction if you may need to change your meds or start taking a nutrition/diet supplement. A supplement can coat the stomach and ease symptoms. It’s not a guarantee but a good option to have. The healthcare professional can also refer you to a dietician, who can support you in coming up with a meal plan as you boost your calories.  A dietician can assist, especially if you may need to eat bland foods for a while to slow down nausea.

Now let’s talk hormones for a sec. 👉🏾  While growth hormones promote building and development in children, it helps regulate metabolism and body composition for adults. Crazy, huh?! A lack of growth hormone can result in muscle loss, increased fat in the mid-section, a tired feeling, and depression. Using GH can come with side effects like muscle and bone pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and reduced insulin sensitivity. While GH remains an option for HIV-positive people with wasting or lipodystrophy, many physicians prefer to first try other therapies, such as testosterone.

Lipodystrophy often can re-distribute the fat in your body to your belly, while other parts of the body like legs and arms will appear very muscular. Gotta love the human body. 🙄

Wasting often can come from a fast loss of more than 10 pounds and diarrhea that lasts for more than a month. With wasting, you lose muscle and fat.

Thyroid hormones can be affected by HIV medications. Be sure to ask your medical provider about checking on your thyroid hormone levels - a routine screening is highly recommended.

Hormones are in the body, but we also get hormones from the foods and supplements we eat. Do not forget the essentials. There are 6 classes of nutrients the body needs. Reminder: you’re human and worth the care! 👏 Say that louder for the people in the back! 👏  Those classes include protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Here’s a little breakdown of each:

  • Protein is good for building and keeping muscle
  • Carbohydrates (“Carbs”) give you energy and can be found in breads, pastas, vegetables, and fruits
  • Fats give you extra energy
  • Vitamins keep the body regulated. The body is an amazing machine that keeps operating thanks to vitamins
  • Minerals, similar to vitamins, keep the body going and strengthen body tissue
  • Water keeps the body temperature regulated and much more

One of the most important thing to do for yourself is drink that water, gurrrrrlll! 💦  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, y'all! You pretty much can’t go wrong with drinking water. Water has so many pros! The benefits of drinking plenty of water include:

  • Transporting the nutrients you need throughout your body
  • Helps flush out medicines already used in your body
  • Reduces side effects of those medicines
  • Reduces dehydration, thirst, dry mouth, and constipation
  • Helps boost energy so you’re not so tired

Let's not forget about our good friend calories. These are important to have. Drinking protein shakes and smoothies can be good to keep weight. They’re an alternative to a full meal and give you calories that your body needs.

Our bodies are beautiful, our bodies can change, and that’s okay. In fact, our bodies are meant to change and we should love them at every stage! ❤️ Hormone levels also change, and that’s normal. MetroHealth is a resource for you, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions! We gotchuuu!!