Menopause is a biological process in a woman’s life that occurs at the end of the reproductive years. It is a normal life stage in which there are radical changes in hormone levels. Can menopause cause weight gain? Read on!
What is menopause?
The overwhelming majority of adult women in the world undergo a routine and predictable cycle of bleeding through the vagina every month, which is called the menstrual cycle. Menopause is accomplished once a woman, in the correct age group, has an absence of a menstrual period consecutively for twelve months. This occurs when there are no more eggs available in the ovaries to produce hormones. Women then find themselves in transition from a high hormone environment to a low hormone environment.
When does menopause typically occur?
45-55 years of age is the “normal” age range for menopause. Symptoms start as much as 10 years before the end of menstrual cycles and can last for several years afterwards. The age at which half of women have succeeded in achieving menopause is 51. These numbers represent the most common ages, but women between 40 and 45 as well as those between 55 and 60 can also be normal when reaching menopause at these ages.
Common Signs of menopause
- Hot flashes
- Night Sweats
- Mood swings
- Sleep Disturbance
- Vaginal dryness
- Irregular or heavy menstrual cycles
How many women enter menopause each year?
It is estimated that 1.3 million women in the USA enter menopause each year.
Weight gain during menopause
Hormone related weight changes are nothing new for most women. While most women experience less than a 5 pound change in weight associated with the last half of their menstrual cycle, a few women gain as much as 10 to 15 pounds during this time period. Menstrual weight gain can be very different. It is more common to notice an increase in weight around the abdomen instead of the hips. This weight gain occurs independent of the changes in the normal monthly menstrual cycle. Normal and routine methods of weight reduction may prove to be less effective than they were in the past.
The experience of uncontrolled weight increases can be very worrisome to many women. The fear and distress associated with these changes can lead to unhealthy behaviors. Understanding what’s happening and establishing a plan to correct it are vitally important.
Why do women gain weight during menopause?
Fat storage is increased during menopause due to lower levels of estrogen, which affects the utilization of blood sugar and starch. Metabolic rate decreases associated with decreases in growth hormone, affect the calorie burning process. Estrogen therapy, intermittent fasting, caloric reduction, low glycemic eating, plant-based eating, and fat-burning exercise can be useful in resolving this issue.
Another possible cause of weight gain is interrupted or inadequate sleep. There are numerous reasons why sleep can be affected during menopause. Addressing the cause of sleep inadequacy is so important in restoring proper sleep patterns. Great sleep can be the most effective weapon in controlling mild or moderate menopausal symptoms.
Insulin resistance can also be enhanced in the setting of low production of estrogen. Insulin resistance as a precursor to diabetes and a factor in menopausal weight gain is being recognized more and more.
Weight gain is very common, and not at all inevitable, during menopause. Talk to your doctor for strategies to minimize the problem or try to counteract the causes.
Ways to avoid weight gain during menopause
The following are some ways to reduce weight gain during menopause.
Get up and move. Increasing your physical activity can improve your life in many different ways, including help with fighting depression, mood swings, and menopausal weight gain. It can be a great way to socialize and get some peer support. It doesn’t have to be strenuous or too time-consuming; simply taking a short walk will have unexpected benefits. Talk to your doctor about what kind of exercise is best for you and your health goals.
Eat healthy. It is more important than ever before to find a diet that helps you meet your health goals, fits into your normal schedule, and keeps you satisfied, healthy, and energetic. Talk to your doctor before jumping on the latest diet bandwagon, but don’t be afraid to experiment.
Make sure you get enough sleep. Adequate, restful sleep is important for a number of reasons, but it can be especially challenging while dealing with the symptoms of menopause. Make sure you prioritize sleep as a critical component of your self care plan.
“Oh, boy. Sleep changes and hot flashes are the most complained about symptoms, but weight gain is the most dreaded of them all! There are times when hormone therapy can actually make weight gain worse even though other symptoms are better. It’s so important to make an assessment of all of the factors in play for each individual to address weight gain. If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic or had a history of PCOS, low glycemic index eating is crucial. If you are on new medications that stimulate appetite, choosing healthy, low calorie foods to snack upon works wonders. The bottom line? Don’t Panic. You will get this under control and keep it under control when you are able to focus on the healthy ways to combat hormone related changes in weight.”
– Dr. Donna Ivery, board-certified OBGYN
Practice stress and anxiety management. Mood swings and hormone imbalances can increase the amount of stress and anxiety you experience during menopause; which does nothing to help with weight management. Learn simple and effective ways for reducing the stress in your life: meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, tai chi, calming exercise, therapy, journaling, etc.
Limit your alcohol consumption. In addition to its empty calories, alcohol can trigger or worsen some symptoms of menopause. It raises your internal body temperature, which can cause hot flashes and night sweats. Your health and well-being is more important than a buzz.
Limit your consumption of sugar and starches. In addition to triggering menopausal symptoms in the same manner as alcohol, sustained increases in insulin levels contribute to weight gain. Many dietary efforts to address weight gain fail because the impact of insulin is not factored into the timing and food choices we make for our meals.
There are many symptoms and effects of menopause that can sabotage your weight management efforts. However, with some research and discipline, you can minimize the issues and keep yourself healthy.