Is Weight Gain a Natural Part of Menopause?

Weight Gain and Menopause

Maintaining body weight within typical values for your body can be an increasingly difficult task with increasing age.

This can become increasingly problematic for women in the perimenopausal phase. 

The perimenopausal phase is a transition period during which your body goes through hormonal changes that begin with menstrual irregularities and gradually lead to a complete cessation of menstrual cycles. 

Aside from the uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings, the hormonal changes associated with menopause are seen as responsible for an increase in weight gain, especially around the abdomen.

But is weight gain a natural part of menopause or is it something that can be prevented?

Why Does Weight Gain Occur During Perimenopause?

Estrogen is not just a hormone necessary for reproductive functions, but it also plays an essential role in our body’s metabolism.

Estrogen can also influence how our body utilizes starch and blood sugar and lower estrogen levels have been associated with increased insulin resistance.

The decline in estrogen levels can lower the metabolism rate, which is the rate by which our body utilizes stored energy. 

Researchers have demonstrated in numerous studies that a women’s body composition can undergo considerable changes (such as abdominal fat deposition and increased body fat percentages) during menopause.

Such studies have also attempted to understand whether weight gain during menopause is a stand-alone phenomenon associated with increasing age or if hormonal changes are the primary culprit for the weight gain.

Researchers have concluded that weight gain is not solely a consequence of hormonal changes but is a combination of many changes that occur as a natural part of aging, such as lower activity level, family history of obesity, lifestyle choices, AND hormonal changes.

The studies found that the fall in estrogen levels during menopause was associated with an increased tendency for fat deposition in the abdominal area. This finding is further supported by the fact that patients suffering from Turner syndrome suffer from central obesity. It is well known that most women with Turner syndrome eventually develop premature ovarian failure that causes a drastic decline in estrogen levels, simulating menopausal hormonal changes earlier in life.

Several studies have provided substantial evidence that menopause is directly correlated with a rapid rise in body fat mass and abdominal circumference. 

How Does Weight Gain Impact Perimenopausal Women?

While menopause is inevitable, the symptoms associated with menopause can be managed via hormone replacement therapies and traditional herbal medicines. But, with this in mind, obesity and weight gain can worsen the symptoms associated with menopause, increase the risk of cardiovascular disorders, and negatively impact a person’s overall psychosocial wellbeing.

Reductions in body weight can improve some symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, and has a positive influence on mental health.   

How Can Menopausal Weight Gain Be Managed?

Many practical and easy management strategies are available to control weight gain associated with increasing age and menopause. Some common examples include:

Yoga for Menopause

Physical Activity

As exercise is inversely related to waist circumference and body weight, physically active women are less likely to be affected by the weight gain associated with menopause. Participating actively in physical activities can lower abdominal fat deposition, body fat percentage, and higher lean body mass even in women nearing menopause. Sixty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, including daily resistance exercises, is mainly sufficient to maintain average body weight. 

Bringing awareness to our everyday activities is as equally important as exercise. Like weight gain, inactivity can creep up on us in our daily life, and we become unaware of how little activity we do during the day.

While we might do our morning walk, if we sit for the rest of the day, this can affect our metabolic rate and lead to “sitting disease.” The sitting disease is a term coined by the scientific community and is commonly used when referring to metabolic syndrome and the ill-effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle.

Increasing research supports the “sitting disease” and includes important reminders of why movement is so important during our entire life span.

Calorie Restriction

In combination with exercise, restricting calorie intake is best to control body weight and abdominal fat deposition.

A 5% decrease in body weight achieved with diet modification and exercise can prevent not only obesity but also decreases your likelihood of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. These minor changes can significantly reduce your risks of developing more severe health complications like stroke and heart attacks. However, make sure that you choose a healthy way to diet with sufficient protein and essential nutrient intake.

Natural remedies 

Traditional treatment strategies for menopause, including various herbs and even yoga, have been around for centuries. Several studies have also found them to be an effective and safe alternative to assisting with the management of menopause and perimenopause symptoms. 

Low impact meditative exercises like yoga and Tai Chi are great options for anyone looking to increase their daily exercise while reducing stress.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture, a popular traditional Chinese medicine therapy, may also induce weight loss by regulating endocrine functions. A study on laser acupuncture found beneficial effects of this therapy on BMI with similar efficacy as anti-obesity pharmacotherapy. 

It is important to note that acupuncture is an adjunct therapy, meaning that it is intended to be practiced in addition to other healthy lifestyle choices like eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly.

Phytoestrogens

A natural alternative to estrogen is phytoestrogens, which are non-steroidal compounds derived from certain plants, including hops (Humulus lupulus), flaxseed, soy, and red clover. Hops, red clover, and soy contain other compounds with estrogen-like effects, such as daidzein, 8-PN, and isoflavones. Including these foods into your diet is a great way to support your overall health naturally.

Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)

Black Cohosh, a flowering plant found in North America, may be beneficial in managing menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and profuse sweating. Recent studies on the impact of Black Cohosh on menopausal symptoms have demonstrated positive effects on weight gain and metabolic disorders.

Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis) 

Evening primrose oil possesses anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in omega-six fatty acids. As per a small study on the treatment of 56 menopausal women suffering from hot flashes and sweating with primrose oil capsules for six months, primrose oil can provide significant relief from nighttime hot flashes, which can improve sleep, decrease stress, and improve the overall health.

The Bottom Line

Weight gain is frequently associated with menopause, but it is manageable with some safe strategic approaches. You can use these strategies alone or in combination to attain your desired body weight and BMI to better reduce your risk of developing additional health complications as you transition into menopause.

References

  1. Sites CK, Brochu M, Tchernof A, Poehlman ET. Relationship between hormone replacement therapy use with body fat distribution and insulin sensitivity in obese postmenopausal women. Metabolism. 2001 Jul;50(7):835-40. doi: 10.1053/meta.2001.24878. PMID: 11436191.
  1. Kozakowski J, Gietka-Czernel M, Leszczyńska D, Majos A. Obesity in menopause – our negligence or an unfortunate inevitability?. Prz Menopauzalny. 2017;16(2):61-65. doi:10.5114/pm.2017.68594
  1. Davis, S. R.; Castelo-Branco, C.; Chedraui, P.; Lumsden, M. A.; Nappi, R. E.; Shah, D.; Villaseca, P.  (2012). Understanding weight gain at menopause. Climacteric, 15(5), 419–429. doi:10.3109/13697137.2012.707385     
  1. Uebelhack R, Blohmer JU, Graubaum HJ, Busch R, Gruenwald J, Wernecke KD. Black cohosh and St. John’s wort for climacteric complaints: a randomized trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Feb;107(2 Pt 1):247-55. doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000196504.49378.83. PMID: 16449108.
  1. Chenoy R, Hussain S, Tayob Y, O’Brien PM, Moss MY, Morse PF. Effect of oral gamolenic acid from evening primrose oil on menopausal flushing. BMJ. 1994 Feb 19;308(6927):501-3. doi: 10.1136/bmj.308.6927.501. PMID: 8136666; PMCID: PMC2542782.

Vaginal Dryness and Menopause – What You Need to Know

When did you last discuss Vaginal Dryness and Menopause over a cup of tea?

Let’s start the discussion today – it’s important!

As a natural part of the ageing process, many women do not look forward to the many different symptoms that menopause can bring. While it is true that no woman experiences menopause in the same way, there are some common menopausal symptoms that are worth knowing about as your body begins to make the transition into the next chapter.

In this article, we will be exploring one of the most common menopausal symptoms, vaginal dryness, to better understand its causes, learn about its identifying signs, and explore which supplements and natural remedies are worth using as helpful treatment options when you need relief.

We want to share this important information about this taboo topic to let women know that while vaginal dryness may be a natural part of menopause, it does not mean that they need to suffer through the symptoms on their own. Increasing access to educational resources and promoting awareness about common struggles are some of the best ways to ensure that people know when they should reach out for help — and our team at Fit4100 is committed to helping achieve this goal.

With this in mind, here is everything we want you to know about menopausal vaginal dryness:

Why We Don’t Talk About Vaginal Dryness

Caused by the reduced amount of estrogen present in the body after menopause, tissue thinning and vaginal dryness are a normal part of ageing that many women live with on a daily basis. So why don’t we talk about it?

With an estimated 17% of women aged 18-50 experiencing vaginal dryness before they even enter menopause, it is genuinely shocking to learn how little this topic is discussed. As possibly one of the most significant barriers to getting accurate information about vaginal dryness, the stigma against talking about women’s sexual health prevents many women from getting the care they need to reduce their menopausal symptoms.

From doctors historically not believing the severity of women’s health concerns to the taboo nature of discussing sexual health changes with age, it is no wonder that so many women worldwide often feel isolated and alone as they experience symptoms of vaginal dryness and pain.

Thankfully, as access to high-quality medical resources improves and more women feel empowered to tell their stories, the societal stigma is beginning to be challenged. Acting as your own self-advocate, becoming educated and talking about menopause symptoms and available treatment options can help not only your experience, but for the future experiences of women following in our footsteps.

Common Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness 

It is common for most women to develop vaginal dryness during or after their transition into menopause. As a hormonal-based health condition, the severity of the vaginal dryness symptoms that a woman experiences are dependent on her specific body and estrogen levels, meaning that some may have it much worse than others.

While not every woman with vaginal dryness will experience all of the following symptoms, examples of the most common signs of dryness that you may come across during menopause include:

  • Soreness or itchiness near the vagina
  • Pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • Feeling like you need to urinate more frequently
  • An increased risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Decreased overall sex drive

Depending on a variety of factors, including genetic predisposition, age, and pre-existing medical conditions, symptoms of vaginal dryness may change or shift throughout your transition into menopause. If you develop any of the above symptoms, we highly recommend consulting with your primary care provider for additional support and to begin exploring treatment options that will be best suited to your needs.

Vaginal Dryness Supplements and Natural Remedies to Try (or Avoid)

As we mentioned before, just because vaginal dryness is a common experience for many women during menopause doesn’t mean you have to suffer through the symptoms without treatment. With various at-home remedies available for women to try, we wanted to share some insight into which supplements are worth exploring vs which might do more harm than good.

Vaginal dryness supplements that are worth trying include:

  • Vaginal lubricants — Primarily used before sexual activity, vagina-safe lubricants can help offset feelings of irritation or pain caused by vaginal dryness. While these products should not be used on a day-to-day basis, they can be beneficial during periods of profound dryness or for reducing the risk of pain during intercourse.
  • Hyaluronic acid — As a natural substance designed to provide additional support and cushioning to our joints, hyaluronic acid has also been proven effective in treating vaginal dryness. One study found that hyaluronic acid offered comparable results to low-dose estrogen therapy for reducing the symptoms of vaginal dryness in menopausal women, indicating that this product may provide health benefits worth exploring.
  • Vitamin E — This fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant is often recommended as a supplement for anyone looking to support overall health. And while many of these health claims still require additional research to verify, a recent study found that applying vitamin E gel directly to the vaginal tissue was effective in reducing dryness and overall irritation.
  • Replens — For anyone looking for a more long-term solution to their dryness, vaginal moisturisers can be incredibly helpful. Applied to the affected area as a gel, vaginal moisturisers like Replens offer up to three days of dryness relief. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, vaginal moisturisers can be an excellent option for preventing periods of painful dryness.

So while there are many great vaginal dryness options available on the market, there are also some common at-home remedies that should be avoided due to the ability to cause more irritation or discomfort. Here are some examples of vaginal dryness treatments that we don’t advise you use:

  • Coconut oil — As more people are being introduced to coconut oil in their cosmetics, skincare, and even in the kitchen, it is tempting to see if this thick and pleasant smelling oil can help with vaginal dryness. Unfortunately, not much research has been done to understand the full extent of the benefits or risks of using this product to treat menopausal dryness. Additionally, because coconut oil is a foreign substance to the body, it is capable for people to have an allergic reaction, making it not a great choice for treating this issue.
  • Olive oil — Like coconut oil, olive oil is also a foreign substance to the body that can cause additional issues when used to treat vaginal dryness. Messy to clean up and easy to permanently stain your clothing or linens, it is not advised that anyone use olive oil for managing their vaginal dryness symptoms.
  • Vaseline — Known for being incredibly moisturising and slick, petroleum jelly products like Vaseline products may come to mind when thinking of something to assist with menopausal dryness. But, because this product is not water-soluble, using Vaseline on vaginal tissue can actually increase your risk of experiencing friction, discomfort, and developing infections, making it a poor choice for helping with vaginal dryness.
  • Women’s health vitamins — From daily tablets to gummy sexual health supporting vitamins, there is no shortage of supplements claiming to help women transition into menopause. But, with little research available to support the claims of these products, it is best to avoid relying on these products as a way to treat your vaginal dryness. Instead, speak to your primary care provider about what specific vitamins or nutrients you can add to your diet to improve your overall sexual health.

You Don’t Have To Go Through This Alone

If you have been experiencing vaginal dryness as you transition into menopause, the most important thing to know is that you are not alone.

At Fit4100, our team is committed to providing women around the world with access to high-quality medical research and articles designed to empower and inspire women to get the treatment they need. Menopause is a natural part of life — but suffering from symptoms doesn’t have to be.