How to avoid menopause weight gain
Weight gain around the middle: a curse of the menopause? Or is there a way to avoid it? The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to keep the creeping pounds away from your waistline. Naturopathic practitioner and nutritionist Anne-Lise Miller tells us how...
What is menopause?
Menopause is characterised by a shift in the types and levels of oestrogen in a woman's body. It's a natural phenomenon and the consequence is the end of menstruation.
The simplistic view, that menopausal symptoms are due to a LACK of oestrogen, is not only confusing but inaccurate. It's actually the other way round.
What is oestrogen and how is it linked to menopause weight gain?
There are three main types of oestrogen:
- Estrodial - secreted by the ovaries.
- Estrone - produced by the adrenal glands and predominent post-menopause.
- Estriol - a by-product left over by the other oestrogens have been detoxified by the liver.
Diseases such as breast and prostate cancer are almost always oestrogen-dependent and there is evidence that we should be more concerned about too much oestrogen rather than not enough. In fact, the expanding waistline so many women experience during menopause is not only driven by excess oestrogen, it produces oestrogen itself!
Oestrogen may partially contribute to bone density and vaginal lubrication, but it also increases fat stores, drives water retention and slows down gut movements leading to constipation and bloating.
What can we do to avoid menopause weight gain?
The answer to a slimmer and happier menopause is to control oestrogen. This can be done by:
- Avoiding loading ourselves with xeno-oestrogens.
- Reducing the load of unfriendly gut bacteria.
- Avoiding foods that lead to constipation.
- Limiting the foods and drink that specifically contribute to intra-abdominal fat.
What are xeno-oestrogens and why are they dangerous?
Xeno-oestrogens (molecules that look like oestrogen but are not manufactured in our bodies) are found in our environment in increasingly alarming amounts and are directly contributing to menopause weight gain. They are found in:
- The plastic around packaged and processed foods (particularly in the coatings of food and drink cans).
- Water bottles and baby bottles/pacifiers.
- Dental fillings.
- Sex toys.
- Contact lenses.
- Sports equipment.
- Credit card receipts.
- Garden hoses.
- Tap water that hasn't been filtered.
- Cosmetics, moisturisers and cleansers - simple organic products with fewer ingredients are great alternatives.
- Perfumes and scented products - use only natural essential oils from plants.
- Bleached, non-organic sanitary products.
- Conventional, non-organic cleaning products.
How can we improve our gut bacteria and prevent constipation?
- Eat ground flaxseed and/or chia seeds daily, both of which are superfoods.
- Eat a diet rich in fibre from pulses, oat bran, nuts and seeds.
- Supplement your diet with fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir.
How do we limit intra-abdominal fat?
- Avoid processed sugary foods. They are never a good idea and go straight for your waistline.
- Avoid (or at least cut down on) booze. Alcohol is processed by the liver and turned straight into intra-abdominal fat.
- Cut down on dairy. It contains a sugar that has a similar metabolism to alcohol and goes straight for the abdomen. It also contains oestrogen and, unless kept to a minimum, will contribute to excess oestrogen.
- Minimise stress. Stress is probably one of the biggest factors and often impossible to avoid, but we can certainly take healthy steps to manage it. Exercise, mindfulness, relaxation or a just a chat with a good friend can make a positive difference.
What else can we do to avoid menopause weight gain?
Improve our oestrogen detoxification. There are a number of ways that this can be done:
- Eat plenty of cabbage, watercress, broccoli and kale.
- Drink green tea.
- Eat organic foods.
- Eat cloves, cinnamon, dill and Holy basil.
- Eat foods rich in phyto-oestrogen that will bind to oestrogen receptors and weaken the negative impact of excess oestrogen. There are many foods rich in phyto-oestrogen but flax, sesame seeds and pulses are among the richest.
You can read more from Anne-Lise Miller in her book Too Young to Grow Old published by Fisher King.