Article by Dr Marion Gluck
Dr Marion Gluck, Founder of The Marion Gluck Clinic explains why weight gain is common during the Menopause and how women can go about managing their weight.
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.
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 split into two periods.
Perimenopause 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.
There are some simple nutritional steps that you can take to help balance hormones, and these can also help you be more mindful of what you are eating and have the added benefit of improving your diet:
Eat more Fibre
Estrogen and progesterone work in relation to one another and fibre can help reduce estrogen levels which in turn can help progesterone work more effectively. Your body absorbs estrogen from certain foods and therefore the longer these foods take to get through your digestive system the more estrogen is absorbed. Fibre helps improve your bowel movements and makes sure there is less time for estrogen to be absorbed into your system. Foods which are high in fibre include oats, flaxseed and Quinoa.
Introduce a range of foods that include Zinc
Zinc has an impact on a number of different areas of your body which are essential in the production of progesterone, including the ovaries and your pituitary gland. Zinc increases the production of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which in turn causes ovulation and leads to the production of progesterone. Foods which are high in zinc include lean beef, seafood, pumpkin and squash seeds and nuts.
Ensure you are getting enough Magnesium
Magnesium plays a very important role in hormone regulation and is therefore one of the nutrients that boost progesterone levels. The reason for this is that it helps regulate the pituitary gland which produces FSH, Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which lead to the production of both estrogen and also helps to boost progesterone. Foods which are high in magnesium include spinach, fish, dark chocolate, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Boost your Vitamin C
Research has shown that women who take vitamin C have significantly increased levels of progesterone in their systems, in fact, women who took 750mg of vitamin C per day had an increase of 77%. Foods which are high in vitamin C include yellow peppers, oranges, broccoli, kiwi and kale.
Start looking for foods that include L-Arginine
If you haven’t heard of L-Arginine you’re probably not alone but it can be very handy to boost progesterone. This amino acid is found in high protein foods and is important in the production of nitric acid which aids blood circulation. Increased circulation makes sure that your corpus luteum (which produces progesterone following ovulation) and your ovaries can work effectively. Foods which are high in L-Arginine include lentils, salmon, pumpkin seeds, chicken and pork.
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.
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. If you are concerned about your weight or any menopause symptoms it is best to speak with a medical expert and investigate how to get yourself feeling great again, using healthy and regulated means.
Dr. Marion Gluck
Dr. Marion Gluck has gained global acclaim for her work in women’s health and bioidentical hormone balancing therapy which can help reduce menopause and perimenopause symptoms. The Marion Gluck Clinic is the UK’s leading medical clinic that pioneered the use of bioidentical hormones to restore and maintain optimal health and hormone balance for patients. Headed up by Dr. Marion Gluck herself, the clinic uses her pioneering method of bioidentical hormonal treatment to rebalance hormones to improve wellbeing, quality of life and slow down ageing.