Menopause, belly fat – Why?
It’s bad enough you have symptoms of menopause but what an outrage that we women, if not careful, have to beat menopausal belly fat, flabby arms and more! In this article, I’ll give you the 6 things you need to get under control to get rid of menopausal muffin tops for good.
Let’s start with the pre-menopause years. First, progesterone goes down.
In fact, that can happen as early as age 25 or so. If you have PMDD (PMS), you have low progesterone for part of your cycle.
As you get older that deficiency will come “full cycle.” This will cause a foggy brain, anxiety, concentration issues, and sometimes worse PMDD.
It can also cause sleep disruptions. In addition, low progesterone starts the slow but steady march to menopausal belly fat.
Then, the low progesterone levels contribute to elevated cortisol levels which then speeds up the deposition of fat in the stomach or “belly” region. The combination of these two hormonal issues then affects your energy and sleep. Remember-you can be “menopausal” (LH and FSH are going up) but still menstruating. In fact, you can have heavy periods due to endometrial thickening while you also have diminishing estradiol levels, so you start getting hot flushes too. Isn’t it great to be a woman? It is, but it’s better after you get these symptoms under control. Speaking of which, let’s touch on sleep and energy for a moment.
Energy and Sleep:
During this time of low progesterone, we see dips in energy. Also during this time, we see a number of sleep issues. An easy explanation of the sleep issues is that more GABA (inhibitory-relaxing) than glutamate (excitatory-arousing) neurotransmitters are required for proper sleep. Progesterone loss also causes a loss of GABA. That’s the short story. I go into “sleep” in depth in other articles. Here is a collection of help falling asleep and staying asleep for the night articles. For instant gratification, if you just want the natural best natural sleep aids explained regarding what part of the sleep cycle they are good for refer to the referenced article. If you need more help in the energy or sleep areas, please consult me.
Well, testosterone levels drop next -that causes loss of libido and muscle mass and starts the reversal of the muscle to fat ratio. Of course, unchecked, this causes weight gain. So, you need to change to an anti-inflammatory diet plan if this is not how you’re already eating. You can also go a step farther and use a Paleo plan or best yet, a nutritional ketosis diet plan. Now, it ( what you eat) becomes critical for health and “muffins.” Supplements such as acetyl l carnitine, BCAA’s and l-glutamine help the cause when it comes to building metabolically active lean body mass.
Next, estrogen drops to the point where you stop menstruating, and the hot flushes come full force. During this time we tend to see increasing insulin levels due to typical weight gain with abdominal fat gain which then causes an increase in inflammation and more of an increase in cortisol.
The hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin go “out of whack” due to menopause too. In short, these control cravings and appetite- again entirely fixable. How? Mainly, with my anti-inflammatory diet (and exercise plus some tricks explained in my weight loss solutions article). As a reminder, I’d like to add two thumbs up for a nutritional ketosis diet. Doing this sort of diet plan which is fully explained in the article just linked, will help with cravings and excess hunger from the high ghrelin levels.
The weight loss that results from the diet will help rein in the high leptin (the other hunger hormone) levels, too. As you lose weight, your insulin levels (signifying inflammation and usually oxidative stress as well) will normalize. To speed that up, I always add a good curcumin supplement and supplements to decrease leptin by increasing BDNF.
Hormones all work “in harmony”
During the menopausal years, the “symphony of female hormones” is sorely out of tune. Estrogen and progesterone both act to prevent the fat storing action cortisol has on the belly. Both of these levels are low when you are in menopause. This issue coupled with the usual stress experienced by menopausal women causes belly fat deposition. Take that physiological fact and add in increases in hunger/cravings hormones, the fat storage hormone (leptin) and loss of muscle mass.
This is why pretty much everyone who is not “vigilant” gains “the menopause 25” and develops abdominal fat. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? That’s why it’s actually easy to treat so don’t fret. Of course, there’s more. Due to the “sandwich generation” effect, the highest stress levels (read-cortisol levels) are reported by menopausal women. Of course, we all know this- kids, parents, you name it, right? Cortisol is associated with stress as you know. More “stress reactive women” release more cortisol and have higher amounts of belly fat whether they are thin or overweight.
Indeed, menopause just makes it worse. Now, I wouldn’t call wanting to get rid of menopausal muffin tops “urgent, ” but then again these muffin tops signify inflammation, higher-than-normal glucose levels, and usually higher-than-normal lipid levels. So if you think about muffin tops and wanting to beat menopausal belly fat that way, it is more of an urgent matter. Let’s talk about the dangers of high cortisol next.
First, how to lower cortisol levels?
Reduce stress ( and therefore cortisol) through behavioral techniques and delegating tasks. Further, you can find other advice on this blog under “Stress and anxiety” management. Try to get “life” under control. Learn how to relax again and start delegating; foreign to a lot of women who reach age 50, having cared for husbands, kids, parents, and bosses or employees. Right?
As of now, you need to have your kids cook and your husband shop for food. They can all be trained and trust me on that. My husband has done all of the grocery shopping for several years now and still asks me what we need. I still laugh and tell him he will have a much better idea than I will. Try it. Seriously. Next, if you don’t know this technique already, it’s very helpful to “get your breathing under control” to nuke an anxious moment- here is how.
If you find you are getting tired more easily and having sleeping difficulties, that often indicates you have a high fasting cortisol. You will continue to put on belly fat unless you lower this level and decrease what is known as “adrenal stress.” The above techniques all help but at this juncture, you need “adrenal support supplements.”
Letting a high fasting cortisol remain high (which is associated with high adrenaline levels) has been shown to lead to a higher incidence of everything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s disease to leaky gut and even cancer. When in doubt, have this level checked. I often do consultations for women who are battling their muffin tops, struggling to fit into their jeans, and wiping off the sweat of “hot flushes.” I would say that 90% of the time, lab work reveals a high fasting cortisol along with a low progesterone level and a high leptin level.
What about hormone replacement?
I’m a hormone specialist, amongst other things; for patients. Therefore, the first thing I’ll recommend is that you do not ask your primary care doctor or your Ob-Gyn for hormones. Please do not ever take synthetic hormones of any type as they cause cancer. Bioidentical hormone replacement, when used properly by a trained A4M M.D. like myself, are safe and effective. The bulk of the scientific literature show exactly that. Indeed, I fully believe that normalizing your hormone levels will do you a lot of good; not just help you get rid of the symptoms of menopause. However, this is still slightly controversial for some reason, and this is your decision. Yes, I am personally on them, of course. If you are not in favor of them, know that pregnenolone will help with low-progesterone symptoms and the combination of this, a ketotic diet and adrenal support is often enough to “do the trick.” A hormone-balancing supplement will help as well. Now let me give you the basics for your eating plan. This is the basic plan you always will come back to even if you eat a ketotic diet to lose weight. (Unless you decide that nutritional ketosis is going to be your new eating plan for life. Here’s why it might be.)
Here are the basics for your new and improved eating plan!
Lean meats as much as desired: turkey, fish (only wild caught), chicken, shrimp, soy (organic & GMO-free) and lean beef (only 2-3 times per week).
Full-fat dairy Greek yogurt: 2-3 servings per week only.
Nuts: 1-2 servings per day; (mainly) almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and brazil nuts.
Fruit: 1-3 servings daily; only whole, fresh fruit. (Best/healthiest fruit=blueberries.)
Vegetables: minimum of 12 servings per day; avoid vegetables that are high-density carbs.
Oils: Coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for salads, etc.
Starches: 1-3 servings daily: only sprouted Gluten-Free Bread, Quinoa, and sprouted brown rice. (Yes I am “in the camp” with Dr. Perlmutter about gluten’s deleterious effect on the immune system and brain, you bet. )
Sweeteners: Stevia; NO other sweeteners. (See this blog and learn why-dangerous for your brain for one thing, and makes you gain weight for another!)
Alcohol: 1 glass of red wine daily is optimal, small amounts of “hops” in beer. Note: Some beers contain gluten and not just wheat beers.
Coffee: 3 cups per day max. Unlimited decaf herbal tea. Note: Green tea is great if you are in Japan, China or Taiwan. What we get here is green flavored water, so you need to supplement to get green tea benefits.
Progressively eliminate and then just avoid the following: sugar, fruit juice, refined carbs, foods labeled as “low-fat,” high starch vegetables, white potatoes, corn, and all processed meats and processed foods. To emphasize, all of this non-whole food “junk” just adds to belly fat.
What about helpful herbs and spices ?
Some herbs and spices plants contain potent compounds that target symptoms of menopause and belly fat by increasing your metabolic rate. They also increase fatty-acid release from deep within fat stores. Here are my top picks:
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed the following: consuming bioactive green tea and participating in three hours of moderate physical activity per week resulted in an acceleration of body fat-burning around the abdomen, as compared to exercise alone.
This is the most proven metabolic booster and a decaf supplement works tons better than green tea because green tea leaves are only “bioactive” at the top 3%.
Cinnamon reduces blood sugar levels in people who are diabetic or pre-diabetic.
Specifically, adding as little as two teaspoons a day of cinnamon to your food has been shown to help regulate blood sugar and insulin response. For example, you can add cinnamon to your coffee, smoothies or morning oatmeal.
Chickweed also has a long-standing reputation for aiding weight loss efforts. It can be eaten raw in a salad or steamed like a vegetable.
This spice has been used medicinally for thousands of years and offers anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer and antioxidant activities. It can also be used as a pain reliever. Known as a metabolic activator, ginger has been thought to increase the thermogenic properties of foods while decreasing feelings of hunger.
There is a lot more to “all of this” so please search the website for resources and don’t be bashful about contacting me for advice. To have optimal health and start off more gradually with your eating plan, try starting with my anti-inflammatory diet.