As we age, changes in hormone levels can affect the way that we store fat within our bodies. We begin to store fat around our abdomen instead of our hips, and may find our shape-change from a pear to an apple!
It’s well known that those who carry fat around their abdomen are more at risk of other health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Therefore we must be aware of what we can do to help avoid this.
Also, as you go through ‘the change’, you may notice an increase in digestive issues. Changes in hormone levels can influence the delicate balance of our microbiome- these are the millions of microorganisms found in our gut that support digestive and immune health. When our microbiome is thrown out of balance, we can experience digestive symptoms such as bloating, wind, constipation, changes in bowel habits and abdominal pain.
The declining levels of circulating oestrogen during peri-menopause can cause rapid changes in the body’s metabolism, fat distribution, and insulin resistance. Our bodies produce different forms of oestrogen – estrone, estradiol, estriol, and estetrol. Estradiol is the primary form of oestrogen, and it’s the most powerful. Studies have shown that it plays an essential role in regulating metabolism and weight within people’s bodies. Oestrogen interacts with other hormones that control our metabolism. For example, the hormone leptin helps to regulate energy production by inhibiting hunger. Oestrogen and leptin have interacting and overlapping roles in the brain, which influence our appetite and helps to form body fat. Declining oestrogen levels can affect how hungry we feel (and potentially how much we eat!) and can also change where our fat is deposited. When oestrogen levels fall, cortisol levels rise, and as a result, this raises blood pressure and blood sugar. This then slows down the release of stomach acid and the movement of digested food in the small intestine. This results in digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and constipation. Insulin is the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. High levels of blood sugar can cause a variety of problems over time for various parts of our body, such as our cardiovascular system, our nerves, kidneys, eyes, and skin. One of oestrogen’s many beneficial and essential functions is optimising the action of insulin. Inflammation in the body can also impair the effective action of insulin. Oestrogen can help to fight inflammation; therefore, when it declines, it may have a further knock-on effect on insulin efficiency and glucose levels.
While weight gain may be influenced by hormonal changes during perimenopause, it is also linked to the ageing process and lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, diet, and sleep. Our bodies need less energy than when we were young. Often, we still eat the same number of calories – or even more! – as we did back then. Consuming too many calories is becoming too easy in the modern world, with readily available convenience and fast foods typically high in fat and sugar. As we age, our joints become less flexible, and therefore we may find ourselves moving less as well. As a result of this, we are using less energy than we once did. Often, we are under more pressure at this life stage, thanks to work stresses and/or financial strains. This is usually sandwiched between looking after teenagers and caring for elderly parents. Not to mention the added worry and confusion about our menopausal symptoms, and that’s a lot to juggle, even if we are the masters of multi-tasking! However, there are many life-changing activities we can take part in to help us feel more in control of our weight, diet, and lifestyle.
Exercise strengthens our bones and muscles and helps to protect our joints. Exercising regularly can help you maintain a healthy weight, relieve stress, slow down the decline of muscle mass and improve your overall quality of life. Getting outdoors for a brisk walk regularly is not only great exercise, it also helps boost your vitamin D levels and mood. Regular strength training can help reduce body fat, burn calories and strengthen muscles. You can simply use your own bodyweight if you don’t have dumbbells. Also, don’t forget to stretch after exercise, and this will help improve flexibility. Why not try one of my Pilates classes? I have face to face and online classes). Please send me a message for more details! Try to set realistic goals, such as a 30-minute walk 3 times a week. Exercising with a partner or a friend can also help with your motivation. Remember that you don’t have to go to a gym to feel the benefits of exercise. Simple exercises you enjoy, such as walking or even gardening, can improve your health and are all easily achievable.
Hormone Replacement Therapy can help with symptom relief, which does not necessarily lead to weight gain.
You also may find it beneficial to keep a food diary for a week. Are there any particular foods that trigger symptoms, such as bloating and digestive issues? Are your symptoms linked to what you are eating or when you are eating? It’s essential to pay attention to your diet by serving yourself smaller portions – you need less food than you used to. Ensure that you include a variety of different food groups within your diet such as fresh fruit, vegetables, oily fish, nuts, whole grains, and white meat. Think about your sugar intake and try to reduce sugar and processed food within your diet.
Try to reduce anything that is causing significant stress within your life. Stress causes an increase in cortisol which can influence our weight and abdominal fat. Remember to integrate something into your daily routine that helps you wind down and destress. It’s crucial to find what works for you. Meditation and mindfulness are very beneficial. Here is a mediation I recorded for you.
If you would like any help from me, please get in touch. I am in the process of putting together a 14-day Menopause Programme which will be launching soon.
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