You probably are already aware of the mechanics of menopause and the resulting hormonal imbalance. As estrogen production decreases, a wide array of menopausal symptoms develop that are often uncomfortable and embarrassing. This is an incredibly simplified version of menopause, so a closer look is warranted if you wish to better understand this confusing period of hormonal transition. Knowledge is power, and a better understanding of menopause can better equip you to cope with the many symptoms that accompany it.
Common hormones you may already be familiar with in menopausal context are progesterone, testosterone and estrogen. A widely unknown fourth hormone is cortisol, which only manifests in specific circumstances. Estrogen controls the influence of cortisol by placing a cap on its production when present.
A Lack of EstrogenThe reduced production of estrogen that occurs during menopause allows cortisol (the “stress hormone”) to influence the body’s functions more so than usual. High levels of cortisol in the body can cause a perpetual state of tension and stress, affecting all aspects of your daily life. Your body’s organs and heart function much more rapidly, producing a state of constant anxiety.
Cortisol and Weight GainCortisol is a major contributor to weight gain during menopause. When preparing your body for stressful circumstances, cortisol tells the body to rapidly absorb fatty tissue to provide a quick burst of energy. After the dissipation of said stressful situation, however, cortisol remains in prevalent amounts and maintains its attempts to control bodily functions and sensations. This only occurs when estrogen production is low, as cortisol is then more able to produce such a wide influence.
One way cortisol attempts to mediate the aftermath of a stressful situation is by increasing your appetite, restoring the calories burnt while the body was preparing to endure trying circumstances. Even while simply sitting in front of your desk at work or waiting at a stoplight, you may experience a sensation of incredible hunger due to cortisol’s influence.
This process is only helpful for actually dangerous situations. With a decreased amount of estrogen present in your body, cortisol is able to promote hunger throughout the day even during times of minimal stress or worry. By placing your body in a constant state of tension, you experience a perpetual urge to fulfill your hunger, especially through salty or sugary foods, as these provide the quick burst of energy that cortisol seeks.
How to Prevent Weight Gain during MenopauseBoth the lack of estrogen and cortisol are influencing menopausal weight gain. To prevent and alleviate this aggravating increase in body weight, you need only to make simple lifestyle alterations. A healthier diet and regular exercise are both great ways to promote hormonal balance naturally. Certain types of foods and many herbal supplements even contain natural estrogen, or phytoestrogen, a great way to restore hormonal stability.
Weight gain is important to control, especially during menopause. An immense increase in body weight can put you at risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Learn about fast weight gain during menopause