Why can women gain weight during menopause?

Why can women gain weight during menopause?

Many menopausal women find they experience rapid weight gain, all over their body and around the belly and hips, even though they exercise the same way as they always have done, and eat the same number of calories. As you might expect with all things menopause, it is the hormone changes that are to blame!

How hormones affect weight

Although oestrogen declines during the menopause, it initially rises during the perimenopause, causing an imbalance in hormones, and 'elevated oestrogen'.

Hormones can be all over the place during perimenopause due to the signals between the hormone-producing glands that begin to become impaired as a result of menopause.

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Oestrogen promotes fat storage, especially around the hips, which is why many women gain weight going into the menopause. Elevated oestrogen also triggers water retention, causing you to look heavier and weigh more than you would if you did not carry so much water. This is the reason weight gain is a common symptom of PMS as well as a common symptom of menopause.

The decrease in metabolic rate in perimenopausal women leads to fat stores being laid down all around the body, so you may find that as well as an expanding belly, you accumulate more fat across your back, arms, bust and neck. This is discussed by women from across the UK, including Sarah Parish, in our Menopause Roundtable Highlights video.

HRT and weight gain

Hormone replacement therapy medication (HRT) is an individual choice for women to make. Some women find menopausal symptoms almost impossible to cope without taking HRT.

Many women link their weight gain to HRT. Although weight gain may occur at the same time as starting HRT, the two are not linked. Some studies even suggest that women who take HRT gain less weight than those who don’t, or HRT may promote a more even distribution of weight than otherwise commonly seen.

Our advanced menopause supplement MenoFriend® is a natural alternative to HRT, and can also be taken safely alongside HRT. 88% of women enjoy relief from menopausal symptoms with MenoFriend. It is an acclaimed formula of clinically tested botanicals, minerals and phytoestrogens to relieve common symptoms of menopause, including brain fog, hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, poor sleep, fatigue, weight gain and joint aches. Learn more about MenoFriend®.

Does the weight-loss injection work?

You may have heard of a weight-loss injection, also known as 'Saxenda', which works by triggering hormones in your brain that control your appetite and lower your body's resistance to leptin, also known as 'the full-up’ hormone. Leptin provides your sensation of feeling full, so the weight-loss injection works by making you feel less hungry so you consume fewer calories. Saxenda also slows down the rate at which food leaves your stomach, another mechanism that helps you to feel fuller for longer.

Can I naturally prevent weight gain during the perimenopause?

Some weight gain during the perimenopause is not necessarily a bad thing as it may make the menopause a little easier - fat cells produce an oestrogen like chemical which helps to buffer the rapid decline in hormones. Some weight gain at the time may also have a protective effect on bones.

Excessive weight gain can be problematic though. Some women find it cosmetically unacceptable, and excessive weight gain can have many health consequences.

Tips to keep weight gain to a minimum

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is particularly good for increasing insulin sensitivity and therefore reducing fat loss around the middle. Intermittent fasting can be done in a few ways, and the most common method is to only eat within an 8-hour window in every 24-hour period. This allows your body to use its glycogen stores (sugar stores) during the 16 hour period when you don't eat, and helps to decrease fat stores.

You may like to learn more about the symptoms of high and low blood sugar from our experts.

Strength and resistance training

Strength and resistance training promotes muscle mass and a higher metabolic rate. An increase in metabolic rate will decrease the amount of fat stores laid down during the perimenopause. You may be interested in reading about our recommended nutrition tips for exercise and working out.

Strength and resistance training is also beneficial to maintaining bone strength which is very important for women entering the menopause.

Reduce intake of carbohydrates

Foods rich carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates, trigger rapid weight gain, especially around the middle. Focus on consuming foods rich in protein and choose complex carbohydrates over refined carbohydrates. Research also shows, for example, that refined bread is the #1 food trigger of bloating.

Learn about the best carbohydrates to consume for a healthy diet, as recommended by nutritionists.

Increase your fibre intake

Fibre rich foods are bulky and trigger feelings of fullness, while also being low in calories. A high-quality plant-based diet, with wholegrains, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, will provide plenty of fibre to keep you feeling full.

Fibre is essential for a healthy gut - learn more about how to look after your gut through your diet from our nutritionists.

Take Turmeric

Higher levels of oestrogen during the perimenopause can lead to higher levels of inflammation across the body, and is a reason why joint aches and pain are among the most common symptoms of menopause.

Inflammation can trigger excess weight gain, so reducing inflammation may help to reduce the amount of weight gained during the perimenopause phase. 

Turmeric contains 'Curcuminoids', and Curcumin, acclaimed for its antioxidant properties and supporting joint health, is the active ingredient where the real benefits of Turmeric lie. While turmeric contains only 2 – 9% Curcuminoids, 75% of these active Curcuminoids are 'Curcumin'. So do make sure you are taking a supplement high in Curcumin, not just a standard Turmeric powder. Research has also found that supplementing with turmeric can regulate leptin levels and promotes feelings of fullness.

Our Organic Curcumin & Turmeric (3300mg), with a standardised extract of 95% Curcumin (200mg), is a high-strength, more potent and more absorbable formula than standard Turmeric supplements, helping protect your joints and support your digestive function. We also include Ginger and Black Pepper which improve absorption by up to 2000%.   

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