Beyond the Hot Flash: Perimenopause and Weight Gain

Beyond the Hot Flash: Perimenopause and Weight Gain

perimenopause and weight gain

By Rebecca Mendoza, CNP, NCMP

Staying at a healthy weight gets a little harder as we age. But perimenopause, which may affect women as early as their 30s, can make the battle of bulge feel more like a 100-year war. When a hormonal issue, one that many doctors don’t even consider until a woman is well into her 40s, may be causing you to carry more fat, diet and exercise alone are unlikely to be enough to help. Fortunately, bioidentical hormone therapy can reduce or eliminate the hormonal imbalances in the body and make it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Low levels of estrogen are believed to contribute to the weight gain many women experience during this stage of life. Researchers have known for a long time that post-menopausal women (women who’ve reached menopause by going a year without a period) tend to gain weight, particularly in the stomach. And because women in perimenopause can start experiencing low levels of estrogen years before they reach menopause, weight gain during this time can also be linked to the same hormonal changes. Anxiety, sleeplessness and other common symptoms of perimenopause can affect your weight negatively, too. Many women eat more when anxious or eat more calorie-rich comfort foods. Too little sleep can disrupt all the body’s systems, including the digestive system. And the fatigue caused by too little sleep can keep energy low, which can make exercise seem an impossible chore. With all this going on, it’s easy to feel like your body is conspiring against you. While too much body fat is a common health problem, belly fat comes with its own set of dangers. It’s one of the warnings that you might be at higher risk of having a stroke or developing serious, chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Belly fat alone doesn’t guarantee any of these issues, but combined with high blood sugar, obesity, and high cholesterol and triglycerides, as it often is, your risks go up substantially. A reduction in stomach fat is one step toward protecting your health. Unfortunately, many doctors misdiagnose perimenopausal symptoms like weight gain, especially in younger women who may be just starting this stage of life. The diet pills and exercise they prescribe might lower your appetite so you take in fewer calories and help you burn a few more, but they’ll do nothing to stop the fat-storage machine that low estrogen has turned on inside your body. Low estrogen comes with an increase in certain proteins and enzymes that not only trigger your body to store more fat, it makes the fat cells you have bigger and more efficient while changing the distribution of fat cells, depositing more in the stomach area than before. The same proteins also make your body less efficient at burning fat. It’s a one-two punch for your weight and your health. Estrogen replacement therapy, particularly with bioidentical hormones that are the same as your body produces, can normalize estrogen levels and halt the process that leads to extra weight. There’s no need to fight an uphill battle with your body. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can give you a much better chance of normalizing your body’s fat storage processes, which is why it’s important to discuss your symptoms with someone who understands perimenopause, the symptoms associated with it, and how it can affect the quality of your life. Bioidentical estrogen can remove the roadblock that your hormones have put between you and a healthy weight.

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