Despite a healthy diet and regular exercise, many women gain some weight between the ages of 35 and 55. This is often caused by a hormone imbalance and it is the relationship between the two female sex hormones, progesterone and oestrogen, that are critical. Research shows that low levels of progesterone and weight gain are closely related.
Why is progesterone the key hormone to help weight loss?
At menopause progesterone levels will decrease, as will oestrogen but not so dramatically. Women going through menopause often retain water, seen in bloating stomach and tighter clothes and this is related to decreased progesterone levels.
Another feature of having low progesterone levels is that this can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate and this is not good news as it can make you feel hungrier, and a double whammy, also eat more. Unfortunately what we are tempted to eat at this time is usually more high-sugar foods, resulting in yet more weight gain.
What seems even more unfair is that having low levels of progesterone also may slow the metabolism, and this means you can gain weight while eating the same calories as before.
What do mood swings have to do with it?
Most women know that when upset, anxious or depressed the right sort of food is a comfort factor and there is a logical reason for this. Mood swings are often the result of a hormone imbalance so that when the levels of serotonins and endorphins in the brain drop (the ‘feel good’ chemicals) then it seems that women instinctively turn to foods such as chocolate to raise those serotonin levels.
At menopause these mood swings are often very familiar as they are similar to those often experienced as part of pre-menstrual syndrome. Unfortunately, ulike with PMS, the hormones don’t return to a normal levels because the imbalance remains and this means that the food cravings may last longer than in the past. The net result? You eat more of the wrong sort of foods and put on even more weight.
Another factor that can’t be discounted when it comes to weight gain is HRT which is usually combination of oestrogens and a synthetic form of progesterone known as a progestin. Unlike the natural hormone, these have several side effects, including weight gain, fluid retention, breast tenderness and migraines and have also been linked to a higher risk for heart disease.
What you can do about it
Start by tackling hormone imbalance and oestrogen dominance by supplementing with bioidentical natural progesterone. Help keep your moods stable by reducing sugar and refined foods and limit how many caffeinated and carbonated drinks you have – especially any with ‘no sugar’ sweetness as these can all make water retention worse.