Menopause is an inevitable stage in the aging process of every woman. It is around this time that they finally get free of that monthly flow of blood that began since early in their teens. It might have been a liberating experience, like, “Wow, I’m free at last.” But it comes with symptoms, some not too desirable, like weight gain for example.
Considering menopause further.
Menopause is defined as the permanent end of a woman’s menstrual periods. Most of the time, it is natural, and happens as part of the aging process. Sometimes however, it can also be brought on artificially by surgery, chemotherapy, or by radiation. These can all stop the ovaries from producing eggs, or in other ways disrupt the menstrual cycle.
Menopause is in four stages, viz:
- Premenopause: This is actually the fertile phase. It is the period of active menstruation, lasting between the first and last menstrual periods, a period of 30-40years.
- Pereimenopause: The prefix ‘peri’ means around. It is the period close to menopause. This is a 4-11 year period that mostly takes place around 40 years of age. It is marked by fluctuating estrogen levels and declining levels of progesterone, which are both hormones involved in the regulation of the menstrual cycle.
- Menopause: Menopause is said to have set in if a woman does not see her period for 12 consecutive months. This happens around 51 years.
- Postmenopause: After these 12 months are over, then the woman has really entered into postmenopause. The term is used interchangeably with menopause however.
Various symptoms that mark menopause.
One of them is weight gain, as we are considering here. However, other symptoms might present, including: hot flashes and sweating, migraines, hair loss, problems with digestion, vaginitis, cellulitis, anxiety and palpitations, depression, and many more of such.
Now let’s talk about Weight Gain.
Weight gain is a rapid increase in weight of a person. It may be due to an accumulation of excess calories or living a sedentary lifestyle, or even a metabolic problem. The basic point of it is, fat gets deposited around the body, leading to an increase in weight.
Weight Gain from an Ayurvedic perspective.
Weight gain can be a tridoshic problem. Primarily though, it is due to an imbalance in the Kapha dosha. Kapha is the earth and water dosha, and is responsible for structures and some fluids of the body too, like the Rasa dhatu(lymph).
With a Kapha disturbance, Meda dhatu(fat tissue) begins to build up more than is necessary, causing weight gain. The mamsa dhatu(muscle tissue) on the other hand, diminishes.
Furthermore, weight gain can be attributed to a problem with a branch of the Kapha dosha, called Manda Agni,i.e., low digestive fire. With low digestive fire, there is incomplete digestion, poor metabolism, and this gives chance to the accumulation of toxins in the body. And it also ultimately leads to weight gain.
What leads to weight gain further?
The main factors that cause weight gain are:
- Age: With age, muscle mass diminishes. Fat increases instead. Also, with age, ability to effectively metabolize diminishes.
- Lifestyle: Individuals with sedentary lifestyles are prone to weight gain. They do not burn calories, do not exercise, but just gather up a lot of fat. This kind of lifestyle is unhealthy. Desk workers can very easily fall into this.
- Genetics: Certainly, you must have observed this yourself. Members of a family are just prone to fat. Most, if not all, of the members of that family are overweight. This is because they have a common set of genes, and one of them is causing them to store excessive fat and to gain weight.
- Hormones: Hormone imbalances for example can make one over-eat, consequently, there’s a gain in weight. High levels of estrogen is a common culprit.
Weight gain can also be caused by a number of other factors, and the reasons can be unique to individuals. It is mostly a matter or nature and nurture, and not either isolated alone.
So what’s the link between Menopause and Weight gain?
Okay, we’ve gotten an overview, howbeit brief, of both menopause and weight gain. But how are they related? Why am I prone to weight gain during menopause, you might wonder. Can’t I just go through the stage and not worry about looking like an elephant because I’m aging?
Well, slow down. You’re not alone. Women have been seen to gain 2.2kg plus or minus 4.41kg in perimenopause. That’s a wide range, because, again, it depends on nature and nurture.
At earlier stages of life, during the reproductive years, there are higher levels of estrogen. This encourages deposition of fat around the hips and thighs as subcutaneous fat. This is not a problem. It contributes to having that womanly figure.
On advancing into perimenopause, estrogen levels start fluctuating greatly, while progesterone start declining. This estrogen issue now encourages storage of fat differently. Fat is now stored around the lower abdomen as visceral fat. This type of fat is not good because it increases the risk of type-2 diabetes, heart diseases, and other overweight complications.
Here’s how menopause contributes to weight gain.
Let’s go through that in these few highlighted points.
- Remember that hormonal imbalances can lead to weight gain. Well, if there’s one period of life where your hormones are in confusion, then it is menopause. Of course, menopause isn’t the only one. The hormones that could trouble you here are:
- Ghrelin, which is higher in perimenopause. This is the hunger hormone. With high levels of ghrelin, you always feel hungry and want to eat. Of course, overeating causes overweight.
- Leptin, the satiety hormone, is affected by estrogen. As a result, you don’t feel satisfied after. So, you eat more and more.
- Menopause comes with age. With age, your activity levels decrease. What’s more likely to lead to weight gain if not being sedentary? With less physical activities, less moving about, and a general decline in activities, excess calories begin to accumulate.
- The stress of children leaving, losing a spouse, life and diet habit changes that come with age can also get to you. Due to this, the stress hormone, cortisol, is produced in abundance so as to cope. Eventually, weight gain results.
When you have gained too much weight, these can happen.
With weight gain, you begin to see symptoms like heart problems, edema, kidney problems, adrenal fatigue, liver problems, dry skin, etc. Other complications might arise, such as respiratory problems, increased risk of colon and endometrial cancers.
How to manage and/or prevent weight gain.
Whether you’ve already added so much weight and you need to shed, or you just feel it coming on, or you want to avoid it completely, then these tips are for you. They are simple tips, including Ayurvedic Diet and Lifestyle for a Healthy Menopause, to keep fit and healthy and prevent excessive weight.
Lifestyle tips to manage weight gain.
- Try as much as possible to not live a sedentary lifestyle. Engage in physical activities, exercise, perform activities to gain muscle, as it helps burn calories faster. Walking briskly or running for 150 minutes and 75 minutes respectively everyday should not be too much work for you. Take up volunteering activities in the neighborhood to keep yourself moving. Exercise lightly after each meal.
- Do not engage in overtly stressful activities. More stress means more cortisol. More cortisol leads to weight gain.
- Sleep and sleep well. With sleep, quantity is not quality. Learn how to sleep well.
- Yoga therapies, meditation, abhyanga, all help with stress. Pankacharma therapy also helps with clearing off toxins, so as to promote weight loss.
- Drop alcoholic drinks. Bid farewell to them.
- Follow Ayurvedic tips to lose weight naturally.
Dietary tips to control your weight.
- Your largest meal should be taken about mid-day. This is when the digestive fire is highest, and you have a good chance of digesting the food completely.
- Embrace a kapha-pacifying diet.
- Reduce calorie intake. With these hormone changes, your metabolism drops by 20%, and your calorie intake should drop accordingly. Take more of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, less processed foods and more fiber.
- Avoid snacking in between meals.
- Take less sugar.
- Ayurvedic herbs like haritaki, bhringaraj, arjuna, amalaki, and triphala also help with weight gain.
- Take top Ayurvedic dietary tips and diets to lose weight naturally.
With proper management, you can get through menopause with minimal or no hassles. Weight gain should not be among your top worries with these tips.