Aisha, a client of mine,  is an energetic and dynamic woman in the prime of her life. At 49 years young, she’s a loving mother and a dedicated business owner, juggling life’s demands with grace and determination. When I met with her last week, she expressed feeling increasingly frustrated as she’s noticing changes in her body that she never expected. Despite sticking to her tried-and-true diet and lifelong exercise routines that once worked like magic, she’s now facing the reality of having to buy a size up in jeans because her old ones no longer fit. This unexpected shift has left her questioning what’s happening and longing for answers. If you’re having a similar experience (or want to learn how to avoid it!) read on– I’ll share with you exactly how I broke it down for her so that  you can have the knowledge of exactly what steps to take charge of your own body as you navigate these hormonal changes.


Hormonal Changes During Menopause

Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life when her ovaries gradually produce fewer hormones, leading to the end of menstruation. Two key hormones involved in this process are estrogen and androgen (think “male” hormones like Testosterone and its precursor DHEA).  During perimenopause, the 15 year  lead up to menopause, a reduction in estrogen and a relative increase in circulating androgen occur. These hormonal shifts can influence body composition, muscle mass, and the distribution of fat within our bodies.

 A 2021 journal publication  titled “Changes in Energy Metabolism and Lipid Metabolic Abnormalities Underlying Weight Gain in Postmenopausal Women”  breaks down this physiological cascade in detail.  This study focused on understanding how our body’s energy and fat processing change during menopause. During menopause, many women tend to gain weight, and to redistribute fat around the abdomen, and this research aimed to figure out why it happens. First let’s look at the roles these hormones play with fat storage:

  1. Estrogen: Estrogen is a critical hormone that plays many roles in our bodies. One of its essential functions is to regulate fat distribution. Before menopause, estrogen levels are higher, and this helps to keep fat stored in subcutaneous (under the skin) areas rather than visceral (around organs) regions.
  2. Androgen: Androgens are another group of hormones, often referred to as the “male hormone,” though they are  present in women too. (Androgens typically refer to testosterone, DHEA, and their metabolites). During menopause, as estrogen levels decrease, the relative balance of hormones shifts, leading to a relatively higher level of androgen in the body. This shift can contribute to changes in body composition, such as increased fat accumulation in the abdominal area.

The relative balance of estrogen and androgen is crucial in maintaining a healthy body composition and metabolism. When estrogen levels decline during menopause, it disrupts this balance. As a result visceral fat lipolysis increases and Beta oxidation decreases.   Let’s break down what each of those are and what they mean for you:

Visceral Fat Lipolysis

To explain this, let’s imagine fat in our body like tiny little storage units. Visceral fat is a specific type of fat that surrounds our internal organs, like the liver and intestines. When we talk about “lipolysis,” it means the process of breaking down these fat storage units to release the stored fat as energy. During menopause, there’s an increased breakdown of this visceral fat, which can lead to an excess of fatty acids floating around in our bodies. When Visceral Fat Lipolysis increases, due to falling estrogen levels, the body tends to break down more visceral fat through a process called “lipolysis.” This means that the stored fat around our organs is released into the bloodstream as fatty acids. Studies show that having consistently elevated circulating levels of fatty acids in the bloodstream can lead to insulin resistance.

Beta Oxidation

Beta oxidation is like a special team within our body that helps convert these released fatty acids into energy for us to use.Normally, the body efficiently converts these released fatty acids into energy through “beta oxidation.” But during menopause, the team’s performance can be affected because of certain hormonal changes, like a decrease in estrogen. As a result, these released fatty acids may not get converted into energy efficiently, and they end up staying as fat in our bodies, especially in the belly area.

Insulin Resistance

Additionally, the hormonal changes can also contribute to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Increased levels of circulating fatty acids can lead to insulin resistance, where our body’s cells become less responsive to insulin’s actions. This can hinder the body’s ability to use glucose for energy, resulting in higher blood sugar levels.

Metabolic Rate

Furthermore, these hormonal shifts can impact the body’s overall metabolic rate, which is the speed at which our body burns calories for energy. A decrease in estrogen can also  lower the metabolic rate, by upregulating genes that promote fat storage, leading to potential weight gain.

In summary, hormonal changes during menopause, particularly the decrease in estrogen and relative increase in androgen, play a vital role in altering body composition and metabolism. These changes can lead to increased visceral fat lipolysis, impaired beta oxidation, insulin resistance, and a lower metabolic rate, all contributing to menopausal weight gain, especially around the belly area. Understanding these hormonal shifts is crucial for developing personalized approaches to support women’s health and well-being during this natural phase of life. Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals can help navigate this journey with better insight and make informed decisions for a healthier future.


So, What Does it all Mean? 

In simple terms, this study found that hormonal changes during menopause  may lead to an increase in abdominal fat storage and increased tendency to develop insulin resistance, even without changes in diet and lifestyle. However, with informed steps, this challenge can be tackled effectively.

Clinically, I have found four main steps that are essential to preventing or reversing the weight creep up many women experience:


Step 1: Optimizing Nutrition

1. Low Carb Diet Variations:

Exploring lower carb diet variations can be a game-changer for women’s bodies. By focusing on nutrient-dense, low carb foods, we can stabilize blood sugar levels and support your body’s metabolism. It’s essential to find the right balance that suits your individual needs, ensuring she gets enough energy for your activity level while still managing carbohydrate intake.

2. Timing of Carbohydrates:

Timing plays a vital role in optimizing how your body processes carbohydrates. Consuming carbs closer to physical activity allows your body to use them more efficiently as fuel for her workouts. This helps prevent excessive storage of carbohydrates as fat and maximizes their energy benefits.

3. Intermittent Fasting: A Powerful Tool for Menopausal Women

Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, allowing the body to tap into its natural rhythms and optimize various physiological processes, and can be a valuable tool when used in the right way, at the right time. The benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Menopausal Women include:

Hormonal Balance: Intermittent fasting has shown promise in helping to balance hormone levels in menopausal women. By allowing the body to experience periods of fasting, insulin sensitivity can improve, which in turn positively impacts the balance of sex hormones and adrenal hormones.

Insulin Regulation: As menopausal women often face an increased risk of insulin resistance, intermittent fasting can be a powerful strategy. It helps regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the likelihood of insulin resistance and supporting overall metabolic health.

Weight Management: Intermittent fasting can assist menopausal women in managing their weight. By promoting fat burning during fasting periods and limiting calorie intake, it can help shed excess weight and support a healthy body composition.

Cellular Repair and Longevity: Intermittent fasting triggers a process called autophagy, where cells remove damaged components and repair themselves. This process supports cellular health and has been linked to potential longevity benefits.

Enhanced Energy: By optimizing insulin sensitivity and cellular repair, intermittent fasting can lead to increased energy levels and improved overall well-being.

While intermittent fasting can offer numerous benefits for menopausal women, it’s essential to approach this practice mindfully. As we navigate this new aspect of your journey, it’s crucial to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed. Consulting with a trusted expert ensures that intermittent fasting becomes a positive and supportive addition to your health journey.

4. Resistance Training for Muscle Building:

Incorporating resistance training into your routine can do wonders for your body composition. Building lean muscle mass through strength training boosts metabolism and increases insulin sensitivity. As you put on muscle, your body becomes more effective at using insulin to control blood sugar levels.

 The Role of Muscle and Insulin: Muscles are like little powerhouses in our bodies. When you engage in resistance training, your muscles become more responsive to insulin, allowing them to efficiently use glucose for energy. This reduces the risk of insulin resistance, a condition where cells don’t respond well to insulin’s signals, leading to elevated blood sugar levels.

Boosting Mitochondrial Function: Mitochondria are like tiny energy factories within our cells, and they play a crucial role in energy production. By engaging in resistance training and maintaining a balanced diet, you can enhance your mitochondrial function, leading to improved energy levels and overall metabolic health. 


Action Steps: Working with a Trusted Expert 

Functional Medicine testing to optimize hormones and cellular metabolism can take diet and lifestyle efforts to the next level in terms of getting results.  By running hormone testing, you can gain valuable insights into hormone levels, including sex hormones, adrenal hormones, insulin, and other hormones related to metabolism. This personalized approach allows you to tailor interventions that optimize your hormonal balance.

Reprogramming optimal mitochondrial function. We use Organic Acid testing to assess your personal level of mitochondrial efficiency and levels of oxidative stress. We can also gain insights into precisely the nutrients or approaches your body can best use to rehab any shortcomings to optimize mitochondrial function and ultimately your longevity and wellspan/playspan! By addressing any imbalances and providing targeted interventions, you can unlock her body’s potential for renewed energy and vitality.

Remember, this phase of your journey is an invitation to embrace the power within and discover the incredible potential of your body! Embracing this specialized approach to healthcare empowers us to restore hormonal balance and optimize overall well-being. 

If you’re interested in learning more, schedule a free 15 minute call by clicking here. We offer different programs for every need and budget, and would love to help you find the support that’s a perfect fit for you.