As you get older, it is not unusual that maintaining your weight becomes more difficult. Weight gain during menopause is one particularly common issue that we see at the Marion Gluck Clinic, and whilst it’s not an inevitable symptom of menopause it is one of the most visible.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural transition for all women and relates to the end of a women’s fertility. Although often referred to as one phase, this time of your life is actually split into two periods.
Peri-menopause usually takes place anywhere from 40 years old and encompasses the time that your hormones are fluctuating before you reach menopause. During this time, women may experience symptoms such as hot flushes, weight gain, depression and loss of libido, but they may still be fertile and continue to menstruate.
Menopause refers to the time when a woman’s menstrual cycle halts completely and they are no longer fertile due to very low levels of key sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Despite this, however, hormones still have a vital role to play in good health post-menopause.
What Causes Weight Gain During Menopause?
Weight gain during menopause can be caused by a number of different factors including hormonal changes and is commonly felt most keenly around the stomach area. However, it is important to look at the full picture and take a holistic approach when determining the cause of weight gain during menopause, as lifestyle, mental health and genetic factors could all play a role.
As you get older your metabolism slows down and your body burns calories at a slower rate. If therefore, you continue to eat in the same way as you always have done but don’t increase the exercise you do, you are likely to experience weight gain during menopause.
Similarly, many people reduce the amount of exercise they do as they get older, which leads to muscle breakdown and increases fat. Unhealthy eating continues to be a big risk factor for gaining weight during menopause, particularly when combined with a slower metabolism.
Looking at your family history can also be an indicator of potential weight issues during menopause, as a genetic predisposition to weight gain at this time is common.
How Hormones Cause Weight Gain During Menopause
During peri-menopause, the first hormone that decreases is usually progesterone. This can lead to estrogen dominance, a common symptom of which is weight gain, causing you to store more fat around your stomach area.
It can often be confusing to hear that estrogen dominance is one of the primary factors that lead to weight gain during menopause, as it is commonly understood that estrogen levels drop during this time.
Whilst it is true that your estrogen levels drop significantly during menopause if your progesterone levels decrease at a faster rate you can still become estrogen dominant, no matter how little estrogen you actually have in your system. So long as you have lower levels of progesterone than estrogen, you are likely to experience many of the symptoms associated with estrogen dominance.
How to Balance Hormones During Menopause
It is important to work with your doctor to get a full picture of your hormonal health before starting any treatment for menopause symptoms. This should involve comprehensive blood tests and consultations to understand your symptoms and how your cycle affects you.
Only when your doctor has a full understanding of how your hormones and symptoms are linked, as well as any other contributing factors, should they prescribe any form of treatment.
For dealing with weight gain during menopause, your doctor may suggest a number of different complementary actions such as:
- A course of bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) to help balance your hormone levels.
- They may refer you to a nutritional consultant who can build a plan tailored to your needs and lifestyle.
- Increase exercise to help reduce the impact of a slower metabolism.
Pros & Cons of Weight Loss During Menopause
Maintaining or reaching a healthy weight is advisable at any stage in life, however, there are important factors to consider when losing weight during menopause. Extreme weight loss, such as that often seen during ‘yoyo’ dieting, can lead to a loss in bone mineral density (BMD). It is therefore very important to get healthy in the right way and to take the necessary steps to aid bone health with nutrition and supplements. You can read all about how weight impacts menopause symptoms and bone health here.
Are you struggling with menopause or worried about perimenopause symptoms? Get in touch today to book an appointment with one of our doctors and find out how bio-identical hormones can make a difference for you. Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter too, for all of the latest news, advice and information.