Menopause and weight gain

15 November 2022

Menopause and weight gain

I’ve been busy busy reading and disseminating the most current research papers on menopausal weight gain and metabolic rerangement in preperation for speaking at a  practitioner confernce and, as always to be better able to  help my clients unravel their health goals.
There is an established metabolic phenomenon that occurs in late stage perimenopause and menopause:- abdominal weight gain, increases in cholesterol, insulin resistance and as a result a higher risk to develop T2 Diabetes. It’s complex… and multifactorial for sure. It is FAR more than simply oestrogen and progesterone have declined - replace that- and we are good to go!
Layers upon layers of nuances in any of the following require due attention : nutrigenomic makeup microbiome diversity, methylation status, thyroid health & its genetic vulnerabilities, hormone receptor efficiency, mitochondrial health, cell membrane integrity , personal inflammatory load , toxic burden, detoxification efficiency, metabolic reserves, stress response system adaptability, circadian patterns, hormones: leptin, adiponectin, progesterone, oestrogen , insulin, testosterone, oxytocin, metabolic flexibility.
So, a lot more than the decline of oestrogen and progesterone - albeit this is most definitely significant, but it is not the whole picture! Think about it like a score card, the more elements you have involved on your score card - that greater the negative impact to your metabolism as oestrogen and progesterone fall away- see image. 
Let’s start with some hormones:
  • Oestrogen levels impacts body fat distribution - pre  perimeno encouraging subcutaneous fat stores in the hip and butt regions, contributing to the classical hourglass figure. As Oestrogen declines fat is stored more in the abdomen area - developing more of an apple shape. 
  • Oestrogen actively participates in how we manage glucose -  in other words - how we get it from the bloodstream after we’ve eaten into the cells to make that cell work -  a muscle cell, a brain, a liver cell - basically managing your metabolic rate. Thus a low oestrogen level  escalates the progression to insulin resistance, increasing inflammation and inducing  that dread weight gain around the middle - which to make matters worse, produces inflammatory chemicals of its own darn accord!
If we enter this life stage with an already disrupted insulin and glucose response form maybe not the best diet choices, not paying attention to building muscle or adopting  healthy sleep patterns and / or with a number of strikes on your score card- the drop in oestrogen can be the preferable straw to tipping into metabolic derangement. 

In the depths of the large bowel resides a collection of bacteria and their genetic material; termed the gut microbiome. Within this community, exists a department of about 60 different types of gut bacteria and fungi known as the estrobolome entirely dedicated to the task of regulating our levels of oestrogen.

This estrobolome community possesses a form of super power transforming used  oestrogens that have arrived into the large bowel all ready to be eliminated in the stool , back into an active and usable form. This now active oestrogen can re-enter the bloodstream, acting on oestrogen receptors all over the body to help with better glucose control  AND influence the overall microbiome, especially around the management of blood sugar- insulin resistance and weight gain…

As the image shows:

  1. The gut microbiome of perimenopausal women become more disputed ( term- dysbiosis) meaning less short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) producers such as Faecalibacterium and Roseburia which actively help in managing glucose and insulin by up regulating little hormones in the gut called incretins - GLP1 - and therefore collectively helping to prevent an overall progression into insulin resistance and weight gain.
  2. There is also  less growth of Akkermansia - needed for maintaining the thickness of the barrier.  Its reduced abundance can lead to leaky gut, enhancing the translocation of inflammatory toxins through the gut barrier initiating the development of low-grade inflammation and insulin resistance in the liver, muscles and adipose tissue

Here are some ideas to keep your microbiome diverse and populated with Akkermansia and SCFA producers for at least a decade before perimenopause and then beyond! 

  • Eat as many types of veggies & fruit as possible, and try to eat seasonally: The variety is key, as the chemicals and types of fibre will vary, and each supports the growth of different microbial species.
  • Increase your fibre intake: Aim for 50g+ a day, this is literal fuel for the microbiome
  • Choose food and teas with plenty of colour: This means you are eating high levels of polyphenols that also act as fuel for microbes. Examples are nuts, seeds, berries, olive oil, brassicas, coffee and tea – especially green tea
  • Eat plenty of fermented foods containing live microbes: Unsweetened yoghurt; kefir; raw milk cheeses; sauerkraut; kimchi, tempeh and natto.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin: These reduce gut microbe diversity – and  in animal studies this has led to  a greater development in obesity and diabetes.
  • Embrace nature : Studies have shown that those with pets have more microbial diversity and those living in rural areas have more diverse microbiomes than city-dwellers.

Certain plant-based foods contain phytoestrogens, which are naturally-occurring plant compounds that are structurally very similar to our own hormones. These compounds are found in a wide variety of foods and herbs, falling into three main categories of phytoestrogens:

  1. Isoflavones: found in legumes (beans such as soya beans, kidney beans, lima beans, chickpeas, lentils) and soy products (such as tofu, tempeh, miso)
  2. Lignans: found in  legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, especially linseeds
  3. Coumestans: found in sprouting seeds like alfalfa and soybean sprouts

These “dietary oestrogens” with their similar structure to oestrogen can impact the body by attaching to  oestrogen receptors. The beauty of these compounds is they can either enhance the oestrogenic  effect or slow it down. This is especially helpful for premenopausal and postmenopausal women compensating for the peaks and troughs of perimenopuase. 

A recent study described recently in The New Scientist, reported women who including eating approx 86 grams of soybeans daily, reduces hot flushes in postmenopausal women!