Weight Gain at Menopause

Menopausal weight gain is a common, yet upsetting, occurrence.

What causes weight gain at menopause?
As estrogen levels decline at menopause, so does insulin sensitivity. Insulin transfers sugar from the blood stream into the tissue and tells the tissue to make fat from this sugar. This means that the body doesn’t respond to insulin as well as it used to, sugar doesn’t get moved from the blood into the tissue as well as it did, which means a need to make more insulin. Since insulin promotes fat production, more insulin means more fat production. If sugar isn’t getting moved into the tissues well, the tissues are lacking fuel which can lead to carb cravings.

So the solution to menopausal weight gain is to reduce carb intake to minimize the need to make insulin and there are various natural means to promote insulin sensitivity. Exercise is one of the best ones. If you are not already exercising somehow daily, that is essential and can make a significant difference.

Growth hormone levels also tend to decline as we age which means decreased muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories even while you are sleeping. Adding weight training to your workouts can help maintain growth hormone levels.

High levels of stress deplete the function of the adrenal glands, your stress glands that help maintain your blood pressure, blood sugar, balance your hormones and keep inflammation in check. Adrenal glands produce at least half of your testosterone and testosterone helps maintain muscle mass. Supporting healthy adrenal glands can help stabilize blood sugar, give you more energy, help you deal with stress more easily and maintain healthy hormone levels as you age.

In summary, at menopause it is especially important to:
1. Lower your carb intake
2. Exercise
3. Weight train
4. Lower your stress level
5. Support adrenal gland function with vitamins, minerals and herbs

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Theories

Some of the prevailing theories as to what is going on with women with PCOS include:

1.  A defect in insulin action and secretion that leads to higher blood insulin levels and insulin resistance.
2.  A defect in the nervous and endocrine systems leading to an exaggerated LH (luteinizing hormone) pulse frequency and amplitude
3.  A defect of androgen (male hormone) production that results in enhanced ovarian testosterone, DHEAs and/or androstenedione production
4. An alteration in cortisol metabolism resulting in enhanced adrenal androgen production (Tasoula et al, Clin Endocrinol, 2004)
5. Intrinsic theca (ovarian) cell hypersensitivity to LH stimulation that results from defective inhibition by FSH that may involve inhibin-B signalling. (Hirshfeld-Cytron et al, J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 2009)

In any case, improvement is usually seen through measures that lower insulin such as low glycemic index, low glycemic load diet, stress reduction and daily exercise. Additional support from insulin sensitizing agents like inositol, NAC, zinc, and cinnamon is also helpful.