Dr. Sharolyn Dihigo, DNP, RN, CPNP-PC,FNP-C // Jun 07, 2019

We’ve all heard hormone fluctuations cause weight gain, and it certainly gets harder to lose weight as we age, but why?

Estrogen becomes a key player in this equation.  First of all, women have more estrogen receptors than men.  Have you ever gone on a diet at the same time as a man only to find that he lost twice as much weight as you?  How frustrating!  Estrogen controls how much fat you burn and where you burn or store it.

Some other interesting facts about Estrogen:        

  • Postmenopausal women have 4 times the amount of osteoporosis as men
  • High estrogen levels and very low estrogen levels can trigger migraines, and women have 2-3 times more migraines than men
  • Estrogen levels can rise 20 times higher than normal during pregnancy
  • Estrogen suppresses the oil glands in the skin reducing acne
  • Estrogen protects your heart, brain, and bones

Estrogen promotes thick hair and good collagen production for less hair thinning and less wrinkles.

Some argue there is no such thing as menopausal weight gain and that aging and genetics are to blame.  Do hormone imbalances really cause weight gain?  To answer this question, just take a look around you at women of menopausal age.

How many struggle with increased weight around the midsection? 

I know women who eat very clean and healthy and exercise and still struggle with their weight.  The authors of a 2012 research study discuss how estrogen plays a key role in maintaining muscle mass in women.  Estrogen prevents us from becoming frail elderly by helping us maintain muscles to burn more calories.  One of the best things you can do is exercise – at least walk or do some light weight-bearing exercises – to maintain your muscles mass and bone mass. 

Women should also have a tiny amount of androgens, referred to as the male hormones, or more commonly testosterone.  Testosterone deficiency also leads to decreased muscle mass.  We really need a balance of all of our hormones for our body’s to work properly.  These include the thyroid hormones, the stress hormone, cortisol, and satiety hormones such as leptin and ghrelin.  Leptin decreases hunger signals and grehlin increases hunger signals.  These additional hormones are another entire blog for another day!

Genetics can play a role in weight gain as well.  Take a look at a group of family members.  If all of the women have extra weight around the middle, then genetics may be to blame.  And of course, what we eat determines how much weight we gain.  Eating clean, more organic and whole foods with less chemical and pesticide exposures help us maintain a healthy weight.

Menopausal weight gain can be minimized with a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and minimal breads, starches, and sugars.

So eat healthy and start walking, my friends!

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