Aside from hot flashes, the most typical complaint of women in menopause is unwanted weight gain.
Perhaps your physician has told you that there is nothing you can do about it–that you are just experiencing the usual menopause ‘spread’.
You may have already added more exercise to your daily routine, along with vast improvements to your diet. You count calories religiously, gulp protein shakes, join a yoga class–and still it seems that middle-age spread is winning the war.
Does your bulging waistline have some sort of hormone connection?
The answer is most definitely yes. In his book, The Hormone Solution: Stay Younger, Live Longer, Dr. Theirry Hertoghe sheds light on the underlying–yet unsuspected–cause of menopause weight gain.
“It usually seems to happen despite the attention we pay to what we eat and the time we devote to exercise. Or fighting it off requires more attention and time than we gave before. Even if you’re lucky enough to have your weight stay the same, the loss of muscle mass means that you won’t look as trim as you did before. It’s enough to make most of us want to throw up our hands, accepting the gradual buildup of unwanted pounds as part of getting older, as if it were inevitable.
It’s not…you must also address the hormone deficiencies that underlie almost all accumulation of excess weight. Any diet that doesn’t take hormones into account won’t provide lasting results.” (Page 85, The Hormone Solution: Stay Younger, Live Longer)
And there is more. “To find the hormonal balance that will allow you to keep your weight steady, even as you age, winning the battle of the bulge once and for all–you need to figure out exactly where your imbalance is coming from. There are ten usual suspects: deficiencies in cortisol, aldosterone, DHEA, human growth hormone, progesterone, testosterone and thyroid hormones, and excesses of insulin, estrogen or cortisol .” (Page 87, The Hormone Solution: Stay Younger, Live Longer, Theirry Hertoghe, M.D.)
Christine Conrad, author of A Woman’s Guide to Natural Hormones, and the founder of the Natural Woman Institute, explains the relationship between menopause weight gain, estrogen and certain types of fat cells in the female body.
“The research in this area is fairly new; for the first time, women are getting reasonable explanations for the weight gain that begins to creep in around age 40. Middle-aged spread, it turns out, is at least partly related to your ovaries’ drop in estrogen production. Women have about 30 billion fat cells, which perform a variety of functions…one of these is to produce estrogen. Prior to menopause, your ovaries produce most of the estrogen…When the ovaries begin to slow their estrogen production, your fat cells increase their production to take up the slack…the number of fat cells multiplies, the cells get bigger (by at least 20 percent), and they actually increase their ability to store fat.” (Page 91-92, A Woman’s Guide to Natural Hormones, Christine Conrad)
Dietary Balance And Menopause Weight Gain
Nutritional support (or the lack of it) is critical to ending the cycle of menopause weight gain because it can directly affect the production of certain hormones. Undereating (crash dieting) as well as overeating, will come at a price to your body.
Linda Ojeda, Ph. D., author or Menopause without Medicine, has some great advice about dietary balance and hormones.
“A good rule is never to follow any diet that completely eliminates an entire food group–fats, carbohydrates or proteins. If you eliminate fats completely, you may develop dry and brittle hair, dandruff, swelling in the hands and feet, acne and loss of sex drive…Restrict your intake of fats but do not eliminate them entirely.
Crash diets are counterproductive in more ways than one. Reducing calories to bare minimum levels usually means reducing nutrient stores as well. When the system is depleted of its vitamins and minerals, it triggers the appetite mechanism in the brain to replenish its supply. Result? You are starved, so you eat. Bingeing and compulsive eating are common among habitual dieters…When women ‘blitz’, they often cut fat out of their plans entirely. This, too, is both unhealthy and ineffective.” (Page 213, Menopause Without Medicine, Christine Conrad)
Another casualty of extreme dieting is the thyroid. If you choose to employ a diet that is extremely high in protein, you can unknowingly cause the thyroid to become sluggish, which means the metabolism is slowed down. “Too few carbohydrates can drain your energy and stamina, yet too many carbohydrates will put your insulin levels on a roller coaster ride.” (Page 84, The Hormone Solution: Stay Younger, Live Longer, Dr. Thierry Hertoghe) Even if one consumes fats, proteins and carbohydrates in correct balance to one another, but cuts caloric intake drastically, the end result is still unhealthy.
Says Stephanie Dalvit-McPhillips, Ph.D., author of The Right Bite and Lean Advantage Two:
“Millions of people the world over unnecessarily starve themselves, and in the long term, the only thing they gain is more weight.”
Drastic calorie reduction, it turns out, causes fat to be stored. It does not trigger the body to burn fat, as many of us mistakenly believe.
If your weight gain is accompanied by depression, it may be time to seek out the help of a holistic-minded physician. Yo-yo dieting and extreme dieting are very likely to have disrupted your hormone balance. You can expect to find the source of any hormone imbalances much more quickly with the aid of sophisticated blood tests, urine tests and saliva tests.
Menopause weight gain is an unfortunate side effect of underlying hormone imbalances. Any effort you can make towards balance should help with your personal ‘battle of the bulge’.
Genova Diagnostics Laboratory. Genova Diagnostics Lab; search for provider clients in your state or local area.
Women’s International Pharmacy Compounding pharmacy that fills natural HRT prescriptions by phone and mail order. Click onto the “resources” tab on the front page. Not only can you request a provider list for your area, along with it you will receive a packet of information on natural hormones.
ZRT Laboratories. Diagnostics laboratory that utilizes state-of-the art saliva tests to assess hormone imbalances. No provider directory; however you can order test kits yourself and take the results to a local physician. (Specific rules/laws apply to residents of New York and California.)
Biohealth Diagnostics. This is the client side of Biohealth Centers, Rancho Bernardo, CA. Here you can purchase consults with a doctor, naturopath or nutritionist and arrange for comprehensive testing of hormones, thyroid function, adrenal function, etc.