Weight Gain


Women approaching menopause often endure many disruptive symptoms, but the one most difficult for many women to deal with is the weight gain. Gaining a few expounds, for a woman, can drastically lower her self-esteem and self-image. Many women report that most of their weight is put on around their abdomen and is not proportional to the rest of their body. In addition, weight gain can put a woman at risk for several life-threatening health conditions. Excess weight can increase one’s risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Menopausal weight gain is experienced in about 90 percent of women. Women who educate themselves on menopause often find a way around gaining those few extra pounds during menopause.

symptoms-of-menopause-weight-gain

Symptoms of Weight Gain

  • Body fat percentage increase
  • Larger abdomen due to fat accumulation
  • Breast size increase
  • Slower metabolism
  • Difficulty maintaining normal weight

What is Weight Gain?

Weight gain occurs when a person increases their body mass, either by an increase in muscle tissue, fat deposits or excess fluid. Women approaching or going through menopause experience weight gain by fat deposits that form around the mid-section (abdominal area). Normally weight increases by 12 to 15 pounds from 45 to 55 years of age. Weight gain usually does not distribute evenly throughout the body, but develops in the abdominal area.

Symptoms of Weight Gain

The average woman who experiences a weight gain typically does not need assistance on recognizing the symptoms. However, there are some symptoms that can be directly linked to menopausal weight gain. Common menopausal weight gain symptoms include:

  • Body fat percentage increase
  • Larger abdomen due to fat accumulation
  • Breast size increase
  • Slower metabolism
  • Difficulty maintaining normal weight

Weight Gain Risks

Weight gain during menopause can also lead to serious risks and health conditions. Women who gain over 20 pounds put themselves at risk for breast cancer, but those that loose 20 pounds after menopause reduces their risk of breast cancer by 23 percent. Common health conditions that can develop through weight gain are:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure

  • Breast cancer
  • Osteoarthritis
  • High cholesterol

  • Kidney disease
  • Insulin resistance
  • Sleep apnea

Causes of Weight Gain

As we get older, metabolism decreases and as a result, weight gain often occurs. Women approaching menopause go through hormone fluctuation, which can cause weight gain. It is important for women to understand what hormones cause weight gain and why.

Hormonal Causes

  • Estrogen – The woman’s body begins to produce less estrogen so the body attempts to find the hormone in other places within the body. Fat cells produce estrogen. The body coverts calories into fat to help increase estrogen levels. Because fat cells do not burn calories like muscle, weight gain occurs.
  • Progesterone – Weight and bloating are a result of low progesterone levels. Although it is not considered weight gain, clothing will feel tighter and women may feel heavier than usual.
  • Androgen – The hormone that is responsible for sending weight directly to your mid-section of the hips. Your levels of androgen increase as menopause begins. It increases weight in the mid-section of the hips.
  • Testosterone – helps women create lean muscle. As testosterone levels decrease few are transferred into muscles mass and so the woman’s metabolism rate slows down.
  • Insulin Resistance (IR) - a condition in which body cells become less sensitive to the hormone, known as insulin. IR affects 30-80% of the population and occurs during menopause. It is a time when a woman’s body turns every calorie into fat. After a while, processed and refined food makes the woman’s body resistant to insulin produced in the blood stream. IIR suppresses ovarian function and causes extreme tiredness and weight gain.

Other Causes
Hormones play a major role in menopausal weight gain, but there are other factors that cause menopausal weight gain in women. For example, women over the age of thirty tend to experience a decrease in physical abilities, which can lead to an increase in weight.

  • Stress – Cortisol, a stress hormone, blocks weight loss and the body interprets stress as famine and stores body fat to make up for starvation. Unmanaged stress leads to adrenal fatigue, which causes unnecessary sweet cravings and rapid weight gain.
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Use of medication
  • Excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages
  • Quitting smoking
  • Lowered metabolism
  • Loss of muscle tissue with age
  • Altered habits (Ex: Eating out at restaurants more because your kids are no longer living in the same house as you).

Managing Weight Gain

Dietary Changes

  • Stay Hydrated – One of the most important dietary changes to avoid weight gain during menopause is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. It helps suppress your appetite and speeds up your metabolism. Keeping your body adequately hydrated will significantly aid in managing weight gain.
  • Reduce Calorie Intake – Calories should be reduced by 10 to 15 percent while increasing activity or exercise. As a woman increase in age she should decrease calorie intake by 2 to 4 percent every 10 years.
  • Eat a Well- Balanced Diet - Avoid refined sugars and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Choose foods that are low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

Daily Lifestyle Changes

  • Exercise – Regular physical exercise can help prevent menopausal weight gain. Adopting an exercise regime doesn’t have to be difficult, nor boring. Taking up yoga, walking, rollerblading, bicycling and even taking the stairs are wonderful alternatives to going to the gym. Once you have an exercise routine, you will notice an increase in energy, stress reduction, increase in self-confidence and an improved body image. For those women who consume a normal diet, they can prevent weight gain throughout menopause by doing moderate exercise for up to 45 minutes a day.
  • Practice Portion Control – Practice eating smaller portions and eating more slowly.
  • Avoid Crash Diets – When one engages in starvation or under eating, they are slowing their metabolism down and will cause an increase in weight gain shortly thereafter.
  • Stress Reduction and Relaxation – Relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, massage, hypnosis, yoga and visualization techniques are all wonderful ways to manage weight gain because it assists in minimizing the effects of stress on your body during menopause.

Treatment

  • B Vitamins - Vitamins, as a group, are very important and help to fuel cells, which are then able to burn energy. Vitamin B3 and B6, taken alongside with zinc, is essential for the production of pancreatic enzymes, which help you to digest food. Vitamins B2, B3 and B6 are essential for normal thyroid hormone function production, so any deficiencies in these can affect thyroid function and affect metabolism. Vitamin B5 is involved in energy production and helps to control one’s fat metabolism. Chromium helps to control levels of fat and cholesterol in the blood; Zinc helps with appetite control; Co-enzyme Q10 is needed for energy production.
  • Alternative Medicine – In comparison to pharmaceutical options, alternative medicine involves little or no risk and has been proven effective in treating weight gain. This type of approach can involve different types of therapies. Acupuncture has been a long standing treatment for weight gain around the world. Acupuncture is a medical treatment involving the insertion of fine sterile needles into the body at specific points according to a mapping of various energy pathways.

    The root cause of weight gain is an imbalance within the body caused by a malfunctioning of the liver organ and spleen systems. The spleen is responsible for the proper functioning of the digestive system. If the spleen is not properly functioning, the food will not be transformed into the Qi. If the spleen senses disharmony, your metabolism will slow down, you will retain water and you will gain weight. Acupuncture can treat liver disharmony and keep the flow of your body’s Qi and blood running smoothly.

  • Black Cohosh – One of the most commonly used herbal remedies is Black Cohosh, a perennial plant that is a member of the buttercup family. It provides powerful phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone’s effects and bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and other parts of the body, alleviating hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also known to relieve hot flashes efficiently and is a good alternative to HRT. It is also used effectively for treating PMS, arthritis and lowering blood pressure. Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
  • Herbal Remedies – Two common types of herbs that can be used for managing menopausal weight gain are phytoestrogenic and non-estrogenic herbs. Some of the most common phytoestrogen herbs are Saint Johns Wort, Black Cohosh and Dong Quai – all which contain estrogenic components produced by plants and replace some of the missing estrogen hormones experienced as a result of menopause. Although these herbs are known to maintain the balance of key neurotransmitters in the brain, they can also make your body less responsive to producing its own hormones, causing a further decrease of one’s hormone levels. Non-estrogenic herbs are known to nourish one’s hormonal glands into producing its own natural hormones. By stimulating one’s own hormone production, non-estrogenic herbs, such as Macafem. Macafem is grown in the Andes of Peru and has achieved great success in naturally increasing one’s hormone levels. Other herbs are Ephedra (ma huang), 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), Chitosan, Chromium, Pyruvate, Aloe, Dandelion, Glucomannan, Guarana, Garcinia (hydroxycitric acid), Yerba Mate and herbal diuretics.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy – For more severe cases of memory lapses, women may seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, although it is important to keep in mind that there are many studies showing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases a woman’s risk of elevated blood pressure, endometrial and breast cancers, strokes, blood clots and gallbladder disease. It is advised to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional regarding the negative side effects before you begin treatment.