Through my talks, events and clinical work weight gain round the middle is a typical goal for so many of the 40 and 50 year old female clients. It’s common for those entering this stage of life to gain some weight and experience other signs and symptoms such as irregular periods, poor sleep, night sweats, hot flushes, mood swings, anxiety, depression and more. Whilst all of these have a huge impact on day to day life many of my clients find the weight gain their most frustrating symptom. The good news is if you understand a little more about what your body is going through you can begin to change your mindset and your diet for optimal long-term health.
When can the weight gain start?
My clients usually feel the weight has crept up on them during their 40’s and early 50’s, which is the time of menopause transition, also known as the perimenopause. During this time the menstrual cycle may become more erratic as female sex hormones decline and some signs and symptoms may become noticeable.
Causes of weight gain in the Menopause?
Weight gain during this time can be linked to a huge number of factors, which can include:
*Hormone shifts and metabolic changes
*Poor quality sleep (additional hormonal impact)
*High stress (additional hormonal impact)
Medical research around menopause highlights the metabolic changes that take place during this time that present as symptoms. It is considered a time of “major metabolic upheaval”(1).
The loss of oestrogen during this time triggers a decline in glucose metabolism prompting an adaptation by the body to favour fats as the main energy source(2, 3). As the body becomes less efficient at utilising glucose as a fuel source, excess glucose can be stored as fat. So we begin to see our usual diet, which may have contained carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol and caffeine no longer working for us as our hormones change.
Evidence also shows that body composition alters including the loss of lean body mass and redistribution of fat cells. Alongside this the gut microbiome composition is also thought to change(1), which can also affect our metabolism.
How to adapt our diets to support metabolic changes?
With so many changes in the body the main priority is to focus on becoming more metabolically flexible.
Keeping our blood sugar stable is invaluable whether that means following a low glycaemic or low carbohydrate diet. Testing can be a useful tool for evaluating how flexible our metabolism is and can include GP or Medicheck blood tests for liver enzymes, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, HbA1c, uric acid, cholesterol, thyroid function and anaemia.
Optimising our gut health is also essential by focusing on a diet packed with a variety of vegetables, herbs, wholegrains and fruit to support gut bacterial diversity. Including good quality protein with all meals is also fundamental whether that’s meat, fish, eggs, tofu or pulses and fats from oils, nuts and seeds. Choosing natural foods and avoiding processed or refined foods is also key.
To support even greater metabolic flexibility fasting for 14 hours has also been well evidenced. Having dinner earlier and breakfast later can become routine and useful also for sleep and energy.
Keep an eye on your hormones
Many people find it useful to review their hormonal health to identify changes and support those shifts as and when. The Food Teacher™ Clinic is a DUTCH test approved provider. This test provides a comprehensive profile of sex and adrenal hormones along with their metabolites. It also includes information about your detoxification of hormones, stress hormones, your nutrient profile, melatonin your sleep hormone your neurotransmitters. The test report (see sample) can then be used to review current hormone status and alongside your signs, symptoms and medical history a personalised programme to address your needs can be developed.
As with any nutritional advise guidance can not be based on one model fits all. We are all individuals with different habits, genetics, stress loads etc. If you’d like some personalised support around the perimenopause/menopause contact The Food Teacher™ Clinic for a free telephone consultation. You can also book a personalised Nutritional Therapy Consultations.
- Bermingham, K.M., Linenberg, I., Hall, W.L., Kadé, K., Franks, P.W., Davies, R., Wolf, J., Hadjigeorgiou, G., Asnicar, F., Segata, N. and Manson, J.E., 2022. Menopause is associated with postprandial metabolism, metabolic health and lifestyle: The ZOE PREDICT study. EBioMedicine, 85.
- Mosconi, L., Berti, V., Dyke, J., Schelbaum, E., Jett, S., Loughlin, L., Jang, G., Rahman, A., Hristov, H., Pahlajani, S. and Andrews, R., 2021. Menopause impacts human brain structure, connectivity, energy metabolism, and amyloid-beta deposition. Scientific reports, 11(1), p.10867.
- Alemany M. Estrogens and the regulation of glucose metabolism. World J Diabetes. 2021 Oct 15;12(10):1622-1654. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v12.i10.1622. PMID: 34754368; PMCID: PMC8554369.