During menopause, women experience many fundamental physical changes. Uncomfortable symptoms including hot flashes, decreased sex drive, and trouble sleeping often accompany these changes. But the tummy of menopause is the one that, for many, is a challenge to overcome; not only for a healthy vanity, but for health it is essential that you look for ways to lower it. These are some natural ways to help you.
Yes, for many women experiencing an increase in abdominal fat during menopause is a real frustration. Hormonal imbalances drive these changes. Many women gain abdominal fat during menopause, and one of the main reasons for this increase is lower levels of estrogen.
In fact, lower levels of this hormone during menopause often become the main culprits for increased abdominal fat.
Just a note, other conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can also contribute to estrogen imbalances and lower estrogen levels. Here, we will focus exclusively on decreasing estrogen levels during menopause and how they can contribute to belly fat.
Estrogen: the female sex hormone.
Along with progesterone, estrogen is the main female sex hormone or chemical messenger. Your ovaries make most of the estrogen your body makes. Men also produce small amounts of estrogen.
Both men and women produce estrogen at birth. But especially during puberty, women increase the production of this characteristically female hormone. Among its functions, estrogen helps to develop the breasts and reproductive organs, as well as to initiate menstruation.
Throughout a woman’s life, estrogen performs numerous functions, including strong bones, healthy skin, and regulation of mood, including anxiety and depression.
But as with any hormone, you will want to keep the balance with estrogen. Too much or too little estrogen can create problems.
The latter occurs during menopause. During the time leading up to the end of menstruation, called perimenopause, estrogen and other hormones, including progesterone and testosterone, fluctuate.
When a woman has not had her period for a year, she has completed menopause. Your estrogen and progesterone levels remain low.
Symptoms of low estrogen levels.
Low levels of estrogen can create many of the symptoms that women experience during menopause, including:
- Low sex drive.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Dry Skin.
- Trouble remembering things.
- Mood disorders including depression or anxiety.
Estrogen also helps regulate body weight. Animal studies find that lower estrogen levels can increase the unwanted tummy in several ways:
- You eat more.
- You are less physically active.
- You have a lower metabolic rate.
- Your body uses sugar and other carbohydrates less effectively.
- You may have less muscle mass.
A type of estrogen, called estradiol, regulates metabolism and body weight. During menopause, estradiol levels decrease, increasing abdominal fat.
Why do women develop a tummy during menopause?
During menopause, some women find they have trouble losing weight, while others gain weight.
It’s not just the weight gain itself; many women discover where they lose weight changes during menopause. Traditionally, women gain weight around the hips and thighs. After menopause, however, that weight gain is transferred to your abdomen as belly fat.
Researchers aren’t entirely sure how low estrogen levels during menopause increase belly fat, but they do have some theories. Between them:
- Your metabolic rate slows down, so you burn fewer calories.
- Your fat cells change, so you accumulate more fat as belly fat.
- Menopause can affect sleep, which can affect other fat-regulating hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol.
- You may not be exercising as much.
All of these changes can lead to resistance to weight loss during menopause. In fact, obesity increases in women once they reach their 40s, when perimenopause often occurs. About 65 percent of women ages 40 to 59 are obese and 73.8 percent of women ages 60 and older are obese.
Why belly fat is so dangerous?
Belly fat can increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and more.
Fat comes in several types. When you pinch your skin, you feel what is called subcutaneous fat. But there is another type of fat, called visceral fat, that is much more dangerous.
Visceral fat, found deeper in the abdomen, produces hormones and other substances that can increase insulin resistance.
When this happens, your cells cannot absorb glucose as effectively, so your pancreas is forced to produce more insulin. Over time, insulin resistance can lead to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Visceral fat can also increase chronic inflammation, which contributes to many diseases.
This type of fat can increase your risk for specific health conditions, such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and some cancers. A vicious cycle occurs when inflammation forces your body to retain fat and abdominal fat keeps you more inflamed.
7 natural ways to combat menopausal tummy.
Many of the changes that occur during menopause, including hot flashes and night sweats, can be confusing and frustrating, so you’ll want to work with your doctor to address and minimize them.
But the good news is that menopause doesn’t automatically cause an increase in belly fat. You have many strategies under your control to control your weight and other symptoms associated with this crucial time in your life.
Some women consider hormone replacement therapy during menopause. Researchers show that those undergoing hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms have less belly fat.
However, that impact is small compared to changes in diet and lifestyle. In fact, the weight loss results only occurred when the women were on therapy and regained weight once, they stopped therapy.
What you eat and how you live can dramatically improve many symptoms during menopause, including belly fat. Talk to your doctor about specific strategies to address your menopausal symptoms, including hormone replacement therapy, these, and other menopausal therapies.
Choose a healthy diet to lower your menopausal tummy.
While losing weight will reduce belly fat, doing so can also reduce menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. A good nutrient-dense diet contains healthy fats, protein, and nutrient-dense carbohydrates to provide the support your body needs during menopause to lose belly fat and reduce menopausal symptoms.
Reduce or eliminate trigger foods.
Eliminating sugary processed foods provides a solid foundation for reducing belly fat and other symptoms of menopause. But other foods can also store belly fat and contribute to symptoms.
For some women, drinking alcohol can increase symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes. Others may have food sensitivities that trigger symptoms.
Studies show that gluten, for example, can increase belly fat. Keep a food diary to keep track of how certain foods and drinks may be retaining your weight and your symptoms.
Get the right exercise to lower your belly.
During menopause, your body burns fewer calories during exercise. To remedy that, increase the intensity of your workouts. Exercise provides many other benefits during menopause, including a lower risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.
Your body also handles insulin better with regular exercise, reducing the risk of insulin resistance that can contribute to belly fat and diabetes.
Make sleep a priority.
Even a partial night’s sleep lack can contribute to insulin resistance, increasing abdominal fat and other symptoms of menopause.
Some women experience sleep problems during menopause that may require the assistance of a specialist. Many women benefit from good sleep hygiene, which includes relaxing before bed, turning off electronic devices, and taking a sleep supplement to get to sleep.
Practice stress management.
Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes can increase stress levels, contributing to belly fat. Menopause can be an especially stressful time for some women, and learning ways to effectively manage stressors that can ruin your day quickly becomes increasingly important.
Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and brisk walking all become effective de-stressors, but what matters most is what you will do regularly.
Take the right nutrients.
Discuss any additional supplements with your doctor if you have developed menopausal tummy or another condition that is causing you discomfort.
Magnesium. Among its benefits, this mineral helps your body to better regulate insulin, calms you down and helps you sleep better.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Chronic inflammation is an underlying factor for abdominal fat. A vicious cycle occurs as belly fat inflames you more. Among their benefits, the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) provide powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. They can also help you better manage many side effects of menopause. An ideal omega-3 fatty acid formula combines EPA and DHA with other anti-inflammatory fatty acids, including gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
Vitamin D. This fat-soluble vitamin, actually a hormone, can help you better control many symptoms of menopause.
Curcumin. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, provides powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies show that curcumin can have a weight loss effect during menopause.
Work with your chiropractor.
Chiropractic care can help address many symptoms of menopause, including weight gain. Research shows that nearly all women who sought treatment such as chiropractic care during menopause found benefits for sleep problems, stress management, and other symptoms of menopause.
While many women find it more difficult to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight during menopause, you don’t need to succumb to the idea that going through this transition period in life automatically means you have to live with belly fat.
Whether you already maintain healthy habits or need to focus a little more on diet and lifestyle factors, menopause becomes a great time to optimize the way you eat and live to create the vibrant and joyful life that you deserve.