There is a complex interplay between the reproductive hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone and the hormone insulin. The balance of these hormones starts to shift as you approach midlife and begin the journey through peri-menopause (the years leading up to menopause). An imbalance of these hormones can affect your ability to lose weight or maintain your weight.
Before, during and after menopause “peri-menopause”, women’s estrogen levels begin to fluctuate and eventually decrease. This decrease in estrogen often results in weight gain, especially around the abdomen, the so-called “meno-pot”. Fat cells are able to produce this missing estrogen which is one reason why, at midlife, our bodies store more fat as a way of replenishing the estrogen missing in our system.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Women who use Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to replenish and restore their hormone balance in midlife typically experience fewer problems with weight gain and redistribution of body fat than those who don’t. Estrogen is a very important hormone as it enables leptin – a protein hormone that helps control the way that the body stores fat. Leptin helps by making you feel full so you eat less and increase the rate at which you burn calories. In addition to estrogen, testosterone helps maintain lean muscle mass and can also boost energy levels. Many women who supplement with the hormones estrogen and testosterone with HRT are less likely experience weight gain and metabolic issues.
At peri-menopause and through menopause and beyond, diminishing progesterone levels is another source of weight gain. Until recently, (and unfortunately still to this day) doctors continued to prescribe estrogen to women without balancing it with progesterone, a less than ideal practice as estrogen alone can increase the risk of uterine cancer. More and more we are realizing that progesterone needs to be prescribed in combination with estrogen to maintain an optimal hormonal body environment that’s critical for weight loss. Women usually stop ovulating during the peri-menopausal years and therefore make much less progesterone. As well as causing heavy bleeding cycles, this lack of progesterone which can go hand in hand with estrogen dominance (too much estrogen relative to progesterone) which can also make losing weight difficult. Low levels of progesterone cause water retention or bloating. This annoying side effect makes you feel heavier and makes your clothes fit tighter. Progesterone is a hormone that people are realizing is very important to maintain health. Clinical trials with Progesterone are currently taking place around the world to investigate its benefits for many conditions, from menopausal to neurological.
If you’re a woman who has been following our tips and after a couple of weeks you are still not losing weight then its time to see your gynecologist, to have your hormones checked. Realize that for optimal weight loss both your thyroid hormones and your reproductive hormones need to be in balance. Many women overlook the importance of this balance. Many women in previous decades were discouraged from going on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) after hearing exaggerated media reports from a few research studies showing that taking hormones could increase your risk of breast cancer. That risk was wildly over-estimated and, infact, applied only to a few very small, select groups of women. The findings were revised recently and showed that for most women (particularly in the 50-59 age group), the benefits of HRT far outweigh the risks. HRT has also been shown to be effective for the prevention of osteoporosis and it may, in certain age groups, provide protection against heart disease. A 2012 report from the UK Million Women Study MWS specifically showed no increased risk of thrombosis (blood clots) with use of transdermal (skin patch or gel) estrogen HRT. If you’re interested in viewing a time line of the history of HRT since its inception click on this useful link.
Bioidentical estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, rather than synthetic are the recommended choices. Bioidentical hormones are natural hormones that are “bioidentical” to your own. The bioidentical estrogen that is prescribed 80 percent of the time is estriol. It’s natural, not a drug, and you get it at compounding pharmacies.
Our advice to women is to seek out a practitioner who prescribes bio-identical hormones as such a practitioner will have kept up to date with the latest research and can prescribe the necessary hormones for you in the right doses. We have noticed that many of these are solo practitioners or part of holistic health practices. Through Elena’s own personal experience she has found that gynecologists who work for large hospitals tend to prescribe synthetic hormones and in very standard less personalized doses. Solo practitioners often have the freedom to work with independent compounding pharmacies which can prepare bio-identical hormones in specially tailored doses which are customized to the specific needs of each patient. Find a doctor in your area who prescribes Bio-identical HRT.
IMPORTANT: Before going on any hormone regimen you should ask your doctor to perform a genetic test to see if you are sensitive to estrogens. Although extremely uncommon, for some women (both young and old) who are genetically susceptible, taking hormonal estrogen can lead to the development of blood clots. These clots can cause a stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolus, any of which may be fatal.