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Weight gain during menopause is a common symptom affecting up to 50% of women. There are a number of factors that can contribute to this weight gain, including:
Hormonal changes: Declining levels of oestrogen and progesterone can lead to changes in how the body stores and metabolises fat. Oestrogen helps to protect against fat accumulation around the middle of the body, while progesterone helps to regulate appetite.  As people age, their metabolism tends to slow down, meaning that they burn fewer calories at rest. Metabolism is the process by which the body converts food into energy. This energy is used to fuel all of the body’s activities, including breathing, thinking, and moving. The body’s metabolic rate is determined by a number of factors, including age, gender, muscle mass, and activity level.  The body breaks down food into smaller molecules that can be absorbed into the bloodstream and used for energy. This process begins in the mouth, where food is chewed and mixed with saliva. Saliva contains enzymes that begin to break down carbohydrates.  In the menopause, women can suffer from a dry mouth and don’t produce as much saliva.

This food then travels to the stomach, where it is further broken down by acids and enzymes. The stomach also churns the food to mix it with digestive juices.  From the stomach, the food travels to the small intestine. The small intestine is lined with villi, which are small finger-like projections that increase the surface area for absorption. The villi contain enzymes that break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. the intestinal villi have oestrogen receptors which play a role in a variety of functions in the intestines, including:

  • Regulating the absorption of nutrients
  • Promoting the growth and repair of the intestinal lining
  • Modulating the immune response in the intestines

The nutrients from the food are then absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to the cells throughout the body.  The body stores excess energy as fat. This fat is stored in fat cells throughout the body. Fat cells can be found in the skin, under the skin, and around the internal organs.  When the body needs energy, it releases hormones that signal the fat cells to break down the stored fat. The fat is then converted into fatty acids and glycerol. The fatty acids are transported to the liver and other tissues, where they can be used for energy.In addition, oestrogen helps to regulate appetite. Declining levels of oestrogen can lead to increased hunger and cravings, which can contribute to weight gain. Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones that play a role in appetite regulation and metabolism. Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone” because it stimulates appetite and food intake. Leptin is known as the “satiety hormone” because it suppresses appetite and promotes the feeling of fullness.  During menopause, levels of oestrogen and progesterone decline. This can lead to changes in the production and secretion of ghrelin and leptin. During menopause ghrelin levels increase, while leptin levels decrease and may play a role in menopausal weight gain. Increased ghrelin levels can lead to increased hunger and cravings, while decreased leptin levels can make it more difficult to feel full and satisfied after eating.

In addition to their effects on appetite, ghrelin and leptin may also play a role in the breakdown of foods in the body. Ghrelin is thought to stimulate the release of digestive enzymes, which help to break down food into smaller molecules that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Leptin is thought to inhibit the release of digestive enzymes.

The changes in ghrelin and leptin levels during menopause may also affect how food is broken down in the body. For example, increased ghrelin levels may lead to faster digestion, while decreased leptin levels may lead to slower digestion.  This could explain why some women experience weight gain around the stomach during menopause. Central obesity (fat accumulation around the abdomen) is associated with a number of health risks, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.  Finally, the lifestyle changes that often accompany menopause, such as a decrease in physical activity and an increase in stress, can also contribute to weight gain.

Tips for Managing Weight Gain During Menopause

There are a number of things that women can do to manage weight gain during menopause, including:

  • Eating a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet is important for all women, but it is especially important for women who are trying to manage weight gain during menopause. A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also limits processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats.
  • Exercising regularly: Exercise is another important part of managing weight gain during menopause. Exercise helps to build muscle mass, which boosts metabolism. It also helps to burn calories and reduce stress. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
  • Getting enough sleep: Sleep is important for overall health and well-being, and it can also help to manage weight gain. When people don’t get enough sleep, their bodies produce more of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can promote fat storage around the middle of the body. When people don’t get enough sleep, their bodies produce more of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can promote the production of ghrelin and the suppression of leptin. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

If you find it challenging to navigate weight gain during menopause, take the next step consider booking a consultation with Pause and Co Healthcare today. Your well-being is our priority.

Nadira Awal

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