The hormones older women should understand to take control of their weight as they age

Jul 21, 2022
Starts at 60 spoke to a naturopath to help better understand hormonal weight gain. Source: Getty

The role hormones play in impacting weight gain can be difficult to wrap one’s head around. Your body’s hormones operate in unison in a delicate balancing act that control functions such as sexual function, reproduction, metabolism and mood. However, when this balancing act falls out of whack and when a woman’s hormone change it can sometimes result in less than desired results such as weight gain.

As you get older, the most effective way to ensure you get your hormonal weight back on track is to understand which hormones are responsible for the imbalances.

With that being said, Starts at 60 spoke to the Co-Founder and Director of Happy Healthy You Jeff Butterworth, a Naturopath with over 20 years of experience, to help you better understand how to control hormonal weight gain.

What Is Hormonal Weight Gain?

Hormonal weight gain is associated with one’s underlying hormonal imbalances. For women, a particular oestrogen called “estradiol”, which is important in regulating metabolism and weight gain, begins to decrease during menopause.

“As the body reduces its natural oestrogen production from the ovaries, it will start to manufacture the necessary hormones via the adrenals, breast and fat cells,” Butterworth explains.

“If the body relies more heavily on the fat cells over the adrenals for this hormone production, the fat cells expand which is the main reason women gain weight leading into menopause and beyond.”

The hormones in a women’s body that may cause weight gain

As mentioned earlier, oestrogen plays a major role in women’s weight and as Butterworth explains it is more the lack of hormones that is the issue, as oestrogen and progesterone levels from the ovaries start to reduce as we enter menopause.

“This reduction signals the adrenals to produce their own alternative androgen-based hormones such as DHEA and adiol,” Butterworth said.

Abdominal fat can lead to cardiovascular diseases. Source: Getty

Why you should maintain a healthy weight beyond menopause

After menopause, some women may gain weight around their midsection and abdominal areas. The type of fat gained here is called visceral fat and it can be very dangerous as it has been linked to certain medical conditions such as diabetes and stroke.

Visceral fat can also increase a women’s risk of cardiovascular diseases since the fat is stored within the abdominal wall and surrounds internal organs.

Are there steps or measures to take to avoid hormonal weight gain?

For women who may be struggling with their weight post-menopause, there are preventative steps you can take that may help minimise and possibly reverse hormonal weight gain.

“The secret to only gaining a few kilos is to nourish the adrenal glands,” says Butterworth, explaining that by supporting the adrenal system, women can transition sooner into this hormonal shift and the body will rely less on the fat cells as a source of hormone production.

“The adrenal glands produce an alternative hormone system during and post menopause which is more androgen based. Androgen has the same protective effects as oestrogen and progesterone but without the side effects associated with hormone replacement therapy.

“This is the body’s natural process that has been occurring since time began and simply needs supporting.”

Butterworth notes that managing stress, having a healthy diet and lifestyle, as well as supporting women’s hormone control with natural medicines can reduce the natural physiological tendency to weight gain.

While gaining weight during and after menopause is normal, there are ways to control it. Source: Twitter @KomugishaOlivia

Other ways that may present and reserve hormonal weight gain

Butterworth states that supporting your adrenal health with a balanced diet and lifestyle is key when it comes to controlling your weight during or after menopause.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helps women balance their estrogen and progesterone levels and there are many reasons why doctors may suggest women do it, however, this treatment is mainly for women who are near or in their menopausal stage. HRT can help relieve menopause symptoms such as sweating, hot flashes, and mood changes.

Incorporate more physical activities

Having an active lifestyle during and after menopause can reduce the risk of diseases and help maintain hormonal weight gain. The physical activities older women are recommended to try are aerobic exercises as well as straight training.

As per the Australian Menopause Society, women aged 18-64 are recommended to do either:

2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity weekly or 1.25 hours of vigorous-intensity physical activity weekly.

To obtain greater benefits and help weight loss, avoid unhealthy weight gain and reduce the risk of cancer, the recommendation is for women to do:

5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity weekly or 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity physical activity weekly.

Avoid crash diets

A crash diet means severely reducing your food intake over a short period of time. Since a woman’s body is going through a lot of changes during this time, it is likely that you may gain more weight when you start eating regularly again.

Leptin, aka the “fat hormone”, is another hormone that affects body weight management, as it contributes to one’s appetite control and metabolic rate.

Consult your doctor

If you find that you’re struggling to manage your hormone-related weight gain, have any pre-existing medication conditions or haven’t been physically active for a while consider visiting your GP for advice.

 

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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