Menopause: Increase Zest, Decrease Pounds
By Darlene Kvist, MS, CNS, LN
July 13, 2016
Today, up to 70 million American women are menopausal. As a nutritionist, I have come to realize that most of these women have two major complaints: weight gain and mood swings. Both of these issues have a biochemical connection that can be helped with proper nutrition.
The Weight-Gain Issue
I’ve heard it a million times, “I can live with hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness, but I can’t live with this belly fat.” As I consult with menopausal women I often think, “She looks great, but maybe she should be concerned about osteoporosis and heart disease, cancer or diabetes.” But typically, it is the pounds around the middle that stresses menopausal women out the most. It is true that up to 75 percent of women gain weight (against their will) during menopause.
The science of menopausal metabolism points to two major hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Many menopausal women have excess estrogen and a deficiency of progesterone within their bodies. Estrogen is the hormone that gives women curves, attractive breasts and youthful skin. However, too much estrogen causes too many curves—or you might say “bulges.” Farmers have known this estrogen-weight gain connection for years. They use a little synthetic estrogen to fatten their cattle. But women may wonder why they have an excess of estrogen in their bodies if they don’t take an estrogen supplement. The sad truth is that estrogen comes from our food supply and our food choices.
Are you eating a lot of processed carbohydrates?
Your body makes more estrogen when you eat too many processed carbohydrates. Insulin, the master hormone, is secreted from the pancreas in response to sugar and processed carbohydrates. Insulin stores fat in your body and also causes your body to make more estrogen.
The bagel, glass of juice, and latte that once worked for breakfast when you were younger is now too high in sugar, creating an insulin response in your body. Insulin produces more estrogen, which creates more fat cells, which make more estrogen that creates more fat cells. So, your waist size increases, and the jeans won’t snap! At this time in life, you need to reduce your intake of processed carbohydrates, which will reduce the amount of glucose in your blood and result in balanced blood sugar. With balanced blood sugar, less insulin is needed and less body fat is created. For a better metabolism during menopause, eat less bread, crackers, cereal, pasta and sodas. Instead, eat more vegetables, real protein and healthy fats!
Your food sources may also be part of the problem
Unless the meat you eat is labeled “no hormones added,” you are probably eating meat with added hormones. Many commercial farmers of beef and sheep use hormones to promote rapid weight gain in their animals. The U.S. government has declared this practice safe, but the European Union has concluded that meat from animals fed hormones is bad for human health. In fact, the E.U. does not allow American meat to be sold in its member countries. (Source: What to Eat by Marion Nestle)
U.S. officials stand behind their statement that hormone-produced meat is safe. However, more and more informed U.S. citizens are concerned about meat safety and are buying organic meat or natural meat with no added hormones. Perhaps the best choice is organic, grass-fed meat which contains CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Grass-fed animals have twice as much CLA as animals fed grains, and numerous studies have shown that CLA promotes healthy metabolism.
Address your nutrition and be a menopausal woman with zest!
Perimenopause and menopause are times when women need to pay attention to nutrition and food choices in order to maintain normal weight and a balanced mood. Nutrition is complex, especially for women approaching menopause. Weight gain or mood swings might be the result of an insulin response or poor food choices, but there are other possible causes. Lack of sleep, too much stress, insufficient progesterone, adrenal exhaustion, and inflammation all may contribute to your menopausal issues. Interestingly, all these factors have a nutritional connection.
At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we agree with Margaret Meade, the famous anthropologist who said, “The most creative force in the world is the menopausal woman with zest.” Nutrition is your best resource for experiencing zest at this time of life.
Finally, I leave you with the advice of Ann Louise Gittleman, my mentor and the author of more than 30 nutrition books. She advised, “Keeping our bodies in biochemical balance is a lifetime adventure that will assure that our passage through each stage of life is filled with zest. The time to prepare is now.”
For more information, listen to our past radio show episodes on the topic of menopause.