Written by: Dr. Shelly Messer, Medical Director – Red Mountain Weight Loss®
Menopause: the word alone strikes fear through the heart of many women. I often see patients who worry about becoming a red-faced, forgetful, raging lunatic who is drenched in sweat at all times and no longer interested in bedroom activities. However, this does not have to be the case. It is possible to sail through this time with grace and confidence.
The first step is to understand Menopause from a medical perspective.
The average age of menopause is 52, however this can occur earlier for some and later for others. Symptoms include hot flashes, mood swings, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, urinary incontinence and an increase in vaginal & bladder infections.
The most concerning symptom for many, however, is weight gain.
The Science behind Menopause:
As women enter the menopausal transition, ovarian function begins to decline. The ovaries produce less of a substance called Inhibin which normally would inhibit secretion of a hormone called FSH in the brain. Since this process is not as inhibited, FSH levels increase which stimulates the ovaries to produce more estrogen. In time, this process burns out the ovarian follicles resulting in an eventual decline in output of estrogen. With the ovary less active, the other ovarian hormones, progesterone and testosterone decline as well.
When estrogen levels fall, the adrenal glands respond with an increase in cortisol which causes an increase in fat deposition, especially around the abdomen. Burning of fat is also reduced when there is a decrease in circulating estrogen making it more difficult to lose that stubborn belly fat.
What’s the big deal with these lower hormone levels?
Not only does the change in hormone levels contribute to menopausal symptoms, but it is pivotal in explaining the effects on weight during this stage of life.
An aging, tired adrenal gland further results in a decline in estrogen and testosterone, plus makes us feel fatigued. As a result, we often times become more sedentary as we go through this process. Plus, testosterone is needed to stimulate and maintain muscle mass which is very metabolically active tissue.
Declining estrogen and testosterone levels now create a shift in our body composition to one of more fat and less muscle.
An additional consequence of a decrease in estrogen and testosterone is an increase in insulin resistance. When our body is resistant, or less responsive, to insulin, our body takes the glucose we consume and stores it as fat.
Some women sail through menopause with tolerable symptoms and maintain their thin structure. How is this possible?
One good idea is to enter menopause at a normal weight & maintain an exercise regimen, as studies demonstrate thin and active women experience less menopausal symptoms. They also have an easier time maintaining their weight. So, if you are not nearing the time of menopause, now is a great time to ensure you are leading a healthy lifestyle and getting your body to its optimal healthy weight.
For those of who are going through this process or have completed it and experienced excess weight gain, please don’t lose hope. You can still improve your hormonal environment in favor of weight loss & maintenance by taking the following steps:
1. Start a medical weight loss program where the providers can work with you on your individual needs. RM3® is the perfect program to help women through this transitional stage in order to quickly and effectively lose weight.
2. Due to an increase in insulin resistance, reducing carbohydrate intake such as sugars and starches will help minimize fat storage. Most of us have noticed how that cookie seems to show up on our thighs much faster than when we were in our 20’s. Replace excess carbs with lean proteins and lots of fresh veggies.
3. Exercise! Make sure your exercise program involves strength training as well as cardio to help increase your muscle mass.
4.Use the supplement RM Resist. This product helps fight insulin resistance in the body to reduce the amount of glucose that is converted into fat storage. It has added benefits of controlling sugar cravings, increasing energy, and reducing stress & anxiety.
5. Consider hormone therapy. We recommend bioidentical hormones to help restore your levels. Studies do not show an increase in weight with women on hormone therapy other than some water weight gain and breast tissue gain when levels are too high. Hormones can also help improve your sensitivity to insulin to counteract the fat storage effect of too much insulin.
6. Use the supplement RM Resveratrol. RM Resveratrol is an essential supplement for anybody who wants to fight the effects of aging. It is a strong antioxidant that helps fight free radicals in the body which may help decrease risks of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. It also, helps stimulate metabolism and lowers inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been linked as a contributor to weight gain.
7. Take DHEA. This is a supplement available in our offices. DHEA is a product of the adrenal gland that is then converted to testosterone and estrogen.
As you can see, menopause can be successfully embraced. This is a time to celebrate your life achievements and the acquisition of years of knowledge while looking forward to all that is yet to come.