Dr. Laura: 5 Major Factors in Menopausal Weight Gain

Menopausal weight gain is troublesome and annoying.

Menopausal weight gain can increase risks for cardiac events and insulin dysregulation.

5 Major factors in menopausal weight gain:

  • Genetics
  • Sex hormone changes
  • Sleep
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Diet

Figure out what’s going on in your body!  Learn how hormone levels, including the thyroid estrogen and progesterone, sleep hygiene, physical activity, diet and stress play a role in menopausal weight gain.

Sex hormone changes trigger menopausal weight gain

  • When the years leading to menopause set in, ovulation slows down before it stops. Ovulation is required before progesterone can be released. If you don’t ovulate, it creates irregular balances of estrogen and progesterone in the body.
  • Chemicals like BPA (plastics), cadmium, phthalates (soaps, detergents), and pesticides contribute to estrogen dominance.
  • Low progesterone against pre-declining estrogen makes for relative estrogen excess compared to progesterone. This means estrogen dominance for a time.
  • Estrogen dominance leads to poor thyroid hormone availability, reducing metabolism
  • If thyroid function is sluggish, this leads to poor estrogen clearance, more estrogen builds up in the body
  • Poor thyroid function can lead to weight gain and increase in LDL cholesterol. Elevated LDL cholesterol is linked to increase risk in cardiovascular disease.
  • As menopause progresses, estrogen declines. Estrogen decline leads to deposition of fat around the mid section.

Contributing factors to thyroid dysfunction:

  • Sagging adrenals (chronic stress)
  • Estrogen dominance
  • Low iron, selenium, iodine or zinc
  • Poor liver function
  • Poor intestinal flora.

Factors in sleep disturbance that contribute to menopausal weight gain

Poor sleep leads to disruption in balance of hormones and time for healing in the body. Lack of sleep itself can contribute to weight gain. The years of menopause are riddled with hurdles to a good night sleep:

  • decline in estrogen can disrupt sleep due to hot flushes
  • Hormone rhythm imbalance from changes in LH, FSH, estrogen and progesterone are thought to contribute to disrupted sleep patterns.
  • From a Chinese Medicine point of view, the Liver Yang rises in menopause, which explains why the sleep is typically disrupted between the hours of 1-3 am. This is why, naturopathically, we look to calm the liver, cool the body and build Yin. Acupuncture and specially blended plant medicines can be very helpful.
  • sleep apnea (in you or your partner) more prevalent in those who are overweight
  • too much technology before bed, or worse yet, in the bedroom inhibits natural melatonin let down. Relative excess of cortisol as it is unopposed by melatonin disrupts sleep and contributes to midsection weight gain

Factors in depression that contribute to menopausal weight gain

Low mood and lethargy generally lend to poor motivation for exercise and healthy habits, which leads often to weight gain.

Here are some common factors in depression and menopause:

  • declining estrogen
  • sluggish thyroid
  • poor nutrient intake
  • imbalance in the intestinal bacteria
  • inflammation in the brain (usually as a result of imbalance in the intestinal bacteria)

How  Stress Relates to Menopausal Weight Gain

In menopause, the ovaries retire and  hand over their hormone duties to the adrenal gland. This is why it is important to support the adrenals at this time. How healthy the adrenals are will dictate how well our bodies will manage the stress and the change in hormone levels. Areas we may not think about in stress that could contribute to adrenal fatigue:

  • sleep disruption
  • inflammation from infections, intestinal dysbiosis, autoimmune conditions
  • too much or too little exercise
  • poor eating habits
  • conditioned stress response (post traumic stress disorder)
  • relationships with others
  • alcohol intake
  • medications and drugs
  • overwork
  • not enough fun & play time

How diet affects menopausal weight gain

  • Generally with age, metabolism slows down and less caloric intake is required. If activity slows or stays the same and intake is not adjusted, subsequent weight gain is likely.
  • Our intestinal tract flora changes as we age, and this changes how estrogen is metabolized.

It is evident that menopausal weight can happen for a lot of reasons. Some of it is a bit of a chickened an egg, like the estrogen dominance and poor thyroid function. It doesn’t matter what comes first, but if not corrected, they build on one another.  A naturopathic doctor’s role is to look at the individual as a whole, remove obstacles, rebuild the body and stimulate natural mechanisms of healing. Women who maintain a healthy habits, hormones and weight will help stave off risks for osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Solutions to menopausal weight gain include healthy diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, hormone balancing with acupuncture and plant medicines, nutritional and hormonal supplementation.

Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND

References:

Jung SY, Vitolins MZ, Fenton J, Frazier-Wood AC, Hursting SD, Chang S. Risk Profiles for Weight Gain among Postmenopausal Women: A Classification and Regression Tree Analysis Approach. Hsu Y-H, ed. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(3):e0121430. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121430.

Franklin RM, Ploutz-Snyder L, Kanaley JA. Longitudinal changes in abdominal fat distribution with menopause. Metabolism. 2009 Mar; 58(3):311-5.

Gietka-Czernel M. The thyroid gland in postmenopausal women: physiology and diseases. Przegla̜d Menopauzalny = Menopause Review. 2017;16(2):33-37. doi:10.5114/pm.2017.68588.

Van Pelt RE, Gavin KM, Kohrt WM. REGULATION OF BODY COMPOSITION AND BIOENERGETICS BY ESTROGENS. Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America. 2015;44(3):663-676. doi:10.1016/j.ecl.2015.05.011.

Williams LT, Hollis JL, Collins CE, Morgan PJ. The 40-Something randomized controlled trial to prevent weight gain in mid-age women. BMC Public Health. 2013;13:1007. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-1007.

Zheng Y, Manson JE, Yuan C, et al. Associations of Weight Gain From Early to Middle Adulthood With Major Health Outcomes Later in Life. JAMA. 2017;318(3):255-272. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.7092.

Karvonen-Gutierrez C, Kim C. Association of Mid-Life Changes in Body Size, Body Composition and Obesity Status with the Menopausal Transition. Parthasarathy S, ed. Healthcare. 2016;4(3):42. doi:10.3390/healthcare4030042.

Dr. Laura: Root Cause Medicine

Root Cause Medicine

 

How do you get to the root cause of your health problems?

Welcome a medical professional who:

  • Goes over the underlying patterns identified in your recent blood work, imaging and lab reports.
  • Considers laboratory values within ranges and patterns to achieve optimal health, not necessarily waiting until there is frank disease.
  • Collects a detailed health history.
  • Reviews medication side effects
  • Performs an in-clinic physical health screen to look for patterns of cellular health deficits and nutritional decline.
  • Appreciates a medical consideration of how your body, emotional, cognitive and spiritual systems orchestrate and integrate.
  • Knows how to guide you to use food and plants as medicine.

 

Doctor as Teacher

You, at any time, can ask questions. Learn about your condition so you can make an informed decision about your health. You are living in your body 24/7 – so it’s your temple abode. You help your practitioner understand your experience and your practitioner helps you understand why you might feel the way you do.

It is not a one or the other mentality.  You may choose to see your family doctor, your specialist and your naturopathic doctor.

The fist appointment with a naturopathic doctor is about an hour. Based on what is discovered in the first appointment, a treatment plan is created. Things like sleep hygiene, understanding how stress affects the body, diet tips and detoxifying naturally are a part of the general plan, made are made specific to the individual needs.

Recommendations for further testing may be made. Further testing may include things like comprehensive hormone panels, stool analysis, organ system testing, organic acid testing, genomic, nutritional or cardiac profiles, food sensitivity analysis or environmental toxicity.

You may choose to engage in a specific program which helps stimulate your body’s natural mechanisms of healing. These programs may be executed in follow-up sessions that last about 30 minutes and may take place once a week for 4-6 weeks, or may be spaced out more or less, depending on the needs of the individual.

Upcoming Free Educational Seminars

Location: Goodness Me! Guelph

Wednesday April 25, 6:30-8:00pm Simplifying Stress

Wednesday May 16,  Beautiful Botanicals

Wednesday June 13, GUT Circadian Rhythm

Dr. Laura M. Brown ND is a Naturopathic Doctor with a Functional Medicine approach. She is a Certified Gluten Practitioner, a HeartMath Certified Practitioner and is a graduate of Adapt Level 1 at Kresser Institute of Functional Medicine. Essentially, Dr. Brown helps people better digest their food and the world around them. www.forwardhealth.ca

 

Dr. Laura: Is your thyroid to blame?

One in eight women will develop thyroid disease in her lifetime and 15 Million women have a dysfunction, but don’t even know it. Men can have issues too, although at a less rate than women.

Environmental toxins are largely to blame for the rising rates of thyroid disease. Years ago, it was mostly iodine deficiency and this is why iodine was added to salt. Now we point the finger more often at the rising rates of hormone mimickers in our environment like BPA’s and their alternatives in plastics, cadmium, circadian light disrupters, pesticides, herbicides and more.

Untreated thyroid dysfunction can lead to feelings of:

  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Brain fog, difficulty focusing thoughts
  • Unexpected weight gain, and with it increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease
  • High LDL cholesterol – the thyroid plays an important role in fat metabolism
  • Depression – as many as 15% of women on antidepressants have an undetected thyroid problem as the root cause of their depression –but their problem hasn’t been fully investigated. When I check thyroid I check more than the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).  I look sub functioning gland by checkin TSH, T3, T4, thyroid antibodies and look for how well cortisol is clearing on the DUTCH hormone test.
  • Anxiety – often because cortisol is not clearing
  • Increased risk of cardiac arrhythmias and congestive heart failure due to the regulatory control of this hormone has on heart rate and rhythm.

Troubles in the digestive track and liver can lead to poor activation of the T4 to T3 hormones. When I work with patients I am always looking for clues in the skin, stress, and sleep and how well the micro biome functions. A good clue to micro biome function is the Comprehensive Stool Analysis by Doctors Data.

If you suspect you may have a thyroid issue, get it tested!  I’ll look at results from a functional medicine perspective, which mean optimal performance, not disease levels of lab markers.

From the heart and research of Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND.