Maintaining proper weight is a challenge for people of all ages. However, the older we get, the more difficult it can be. Studies show that the majority of women experience weight gain between the ages of 35 and 55 as they enter the peri-menopausal and menopausal phase of life.
While nutrition, exercise and lifestyle are critical elements to weight loss, correcting the hormonal imbalance that often comes with peri-menopause and menopause is vital to our success in maintaining a healthier weight. Hormones imbalance and weight gain are closely related.
If your hormones are not balanced, you can gain weight, especially with too much or too little cortisol or too little progesterone, testosterone or estrogen. Bio-identical hormone therapy may tip the scales in your favor.
The average weight gain is gradual, about 10 to 15 pounds, starting in peri-menopause around the mid-30s and averaging about a pound a year. However, women who experience early menopause as a result of surgical menopause (hysterectomy) tend to gain weight at an even more accelerated pace. Menopause weight gain tends to be located more on the abdomen but is also increased in the arms, hips, thighs, or buttocks.
The hormone fluctuations in peri-menopause and menopause directly impact our appetite, fat storage, and metabolism. Hormones and weight gain go hand in hand. So, menopausal weight gain may actually be hormone weight gain.
Estrogen: It is common for estrogen levels to diminish during menopause with the cessation of ovarian function. The decreased production of estrogen by the ovaries causes a woman's body to search for other sources of estrogen. Another source of estrogen is fat cells where your body learns to convert more calories into fat in order to increase estrogen production. This means weight gain.
Progesterone: It is also common for progesterone levels to decrease even more precipitously than estrogen during menopause and this imbalance makes you feel heavier and your clothes fit tighter.
Testosterone: Testosterone in a women works to build and maintain muscle mass among other things. Muscle cells are your powerhouse for burning calories in your body and create a much higher metabolism allowing you to burn even more calories and fat during the day and even while you sleep. Levels of this hormone decrease during menopause causing the loss of muscle mass and hence result in lower metabolism and more weight gain.
Other Causes: Insulin resistance and stress are also responsible for a woman's increased weight gain during menopause. Insulin is a fat storing and a fat building hormone. When insulin resistance occurs, the body resists the insulin in your blood stream requiring even more insulin to be produced to keep blood sugar normal, which causes even more fat storage.
Stress is also a contributing factor to menopause weight gain. High stress levels put your body into panic mode, preventing weight loss. Basically, your body begins to store calories from food since stress hormones, namely high levels of cortisol, are telling your body that you will not be eating again for a long time. These increased stored calories result in weight gain. Stress hormones and weight gain are a common problem among women.
Women who use bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) typically experience fewer problems with weight gain and redistribution of body fat. Estrogen enables leptin which is a protein hormone that helps control the way that the body stores fat. Leptin helps by communicating with the brain that your energy stores are full so you eat less and increase the metabolic rate at which you burn calories. In addition to estrogen, testosterone helps maintain lean muscle mass and can also boost energy levels. Many women who balance their hormones with estrogen and testosterone are less likely to experience weight gain and metabolic issues.
Bio-identical hormones and weight loss are closely related. While nutrition and lifestyle account for 70% of your health and exercise accounts for about 20-25%, the hormones may only account for about 5%. However, if that 5% becomes out of balance, the other 95% does not work well. Correcting hormonal imbalance by replacing lost or decreased hormone levels with natural bio-identical ones will not only improve how you feel but also how you look.