Weight Gain During Menopause–The Hard Truth

It is almost a mantra for women to complain of weight gain during menopause. But are we putting the cart before the horse? Could our view be all wrong?

Before I say anything else, let me just remind everyone of that famous saying…

“Don’t shoot the messenger”

Everyone has heard a 50-something women complain about weight gain associated with menopause.  But is this just an old wives’ tale, or does menopause truly lead to weight gain in some (if not most) women?

First, let’s drop a bombshell that rarely gets discussed.

Menopause may not be related to a woman’s ovaries and their production of estrogen (specifically E2 or estradiol).

I would say that this information has the potential to blow apart the hormone replacement industry, but the news is a little late since the Women’s Health Initiative already did this when the trial was stopped early in 2002 because the data was suggesting that HRT was killing women faster then it was saving them (Wwow!  What a unique story in mainstream medicine!).

 So if it’s not the ovaries, what is it?

The adrenal glands are two small glands located just above the kidneys and, while small, have a massive role to play in our health.  In women, they are responsible for a large chunk of her circulating hormones throughout her life, NOT just post menopausally.

This means that, in a healthy functioning woman with her adrenal glands doing what they are supposed to be doing, even in the peri and post menopausal times there can be circulating levels of some hormones near to that in her youth.

Current research suggests that the adrenal glands may be critical for a healthy menopausal transition and NOT the ovaries (although the ovaries may play a role in triggering the adrenals to pick up the slack).

So why is this a problem?  Because in today’s stressed out society, our adrenals glands are beat up.  During stress, the adrenals glands do a great job of keeping up.  However, driven to work harder over the course of decades leaves them barely able to keep up with demands.

Imagine that your adrenal glands have been overworked for 30 years because you are a stress monster and spend an extra 20 minutes every morning worried about what you are going to wear before you even begin to face the trials and tribulations of the day.  They’re wiped out.

Along comes the early stages of menopause and the trigger goes out from the ovaries for the adrenal glands to pick up the slack.  Ain’t going to happen.  And you’re left with a menopausal transition rife with problems, hot flashes, bone loss and the rapid development of prediabetes.

NOT because of menopause, but because of the 30 years of abuse you’re done prior to that.  Menopause is just when it all comes crashing down.

Luckily, if you have a provider wizened enough to recognize the problem, there are solutions for adrenal problems.  Controlling stress on the front end through exercise, yoga and meditation are important.  In addition there are natural adrenal support supplements that can work very well at helping the adrenals recover from abuse.

One thing is for sure–they do not recover on their own.  They’re going to need supplemental help.

So what does all this have to do with this particular article?

Researchers looked at weight gain and menopause through the lens of the chicken and the egg.  Does weight gain precede menopause, or does weight gain happen before menopause, potentially even triggering the transition?

As I mentioned before, I’m just the messenger.

According to this study, the weight gain preceded the change in hormone levels.

If the weight gain is from menopause, this is the easier answer.  It suggests that there is little women can do; that the process is near inevitable (except for 20 years ago–then they would’ve recommended hormone replacement therapy to keep you in a horse-urine induced youth).

As with much else, the responsibility lies within us.  The good news is that means that we can make choices to improve our health and ease the transition into the postmenopausal period.

What did you find that helped with your own experience of menopause?

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2 thoughts on “Weight Gain During Menopause–The Hard Truth

  1. I’m not shooting the messenger for the message. As a woman who’s approaching the menopausal age group, that was very interesting.

    But perhaps the messenger could be a little more sensitive? You conjectured: “you are a stress monster and spend an extra 20 minutes every morning worried about what you are going to wear before you even begin to face the trials and tribulations of the day” plays on the worst stereotypes of women as vacuous airheads who spend all their time worrying about what to wear. What if my adrenal glands are worn out by the same things that men stress about: passing exams; earning enough to keen the family going; dealing with demanding jobs and bosses; GFC pressures; etc. I thought the messager’s information was interesting. Too bad about the patronising tone.

  2. Beth,

    First of all, thanks for the reply. While I did not delineate them, I did note the “trials and tribulations” of the day, which would include all those things you mentioned. I do not feel that it was demeaning to women to suggest that they spend time in the morning preparing for what to wear in for the day. I know few women who just throw on “whatever” to go to work without planning out how everything is going to blend together. This may be a stereotype applied to women (which by no means potrays them as “vacuous airheads), but there equally as many stereotypes applied to men that fit all too well.

    Thanks for reading.

    Dr. Bogash

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