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It’s so frustrating with weight gain, hot flashes, insomnia, dryness, depression, fatigue and more. You’re excited to finally be done with annoying periods just to get a different set of annoying problems. Regardless of whether you get all of the peri- and postmenopausal symptoms or just weight gain, it’s discouraging—especially when doctors say it’s normal and you just have to go through it.
“The good news is that you don’t,” Dr. Roberts of Health Utah says.
Even though this article will address weight gain only, it’s important to know that other menopausal symptoms can also be managed with the right protocol. You don’t have to just survive them.
So what does the research say can help reverse menopausal weight gain?
Prevent muscle mass loss—eat more plants
One of the main reasons menopausal women gain weight is they steadily lose muscle mass, according to a 2009 study. Because muscle requires more energy to maintain, the loss of it results in less energy used and more stored as fat. Unfortunately, this muscle loss can cause more than weight gain. It has also been associated with higher rates of chronic kidney disease and diabetes, according to an article published in the journal, Mediators of Inflammation.
Reducing the rate or reversing the loss of muscle is a high priority for both health and weight maintenance. The most obvious way to decrease loss of muscle is to increase exercise, particularly weight-bearing exercise. But this isn’t the entire story. As always, what you eat plays a big role.
For nearly 30 years Dr. Roberts has been working to improve his methods for maintaining optimal health and weight. He has relied heavily on the latest research as well as his own clinical experience.
One 2020 study found increasing protein intake by as little as 0.6% can significantly slow muscle loss. You might be surprised to learn that plant protein was better in aiding weight loss than animal protein. A report published in Current Osteoporosis Reports explains that increasing plant proteins such as those found in legumes, decreased bone loss. Another study found women saw improved insulin sensitivity. and a different study saw a decreased cardiovascular disease risk.
Clinically, Dr. Roberts has seen the same benefits to health and weight when patients increase their intake of more plant-based proteins (relative to animal-based). One way that he has monitored this is by measuring every patient’s lean body mass and muscle mass before and after they have participated in his weight loss program. This is part of the fairly comprehensive metabolic test and 17-page report that everyone gets with a consultation at Health Utah.
Find and eliminate stressors that you can control
To make a bad situation worse, stress often increases the severity or frequency of symptoms you experience, according to the Menopause journal. It’s not enough that you have to suffer through stressful situations, but researchers for the Journal of Behavioral Medicine say you also have more symptoms such as hot flashes.
Why does stress make symptoms worse and why is this significant?
Dr. Roberts says, “It appears to happen if your adrenal glands are having a hard time multitasking. I know that sounds strange, but the adrenal glands take over the production of estrogen and progesterone once the ovaries stop making hormones. In fact, if the adrenals are strong you should produce as many hormones as you need to prevent symptoms. The problem is that when you’re under stress, the adrenals also have to produce stress hormones. If they are weaker than they should be and can only keep up with one set of hormones, scientists believe the body chooses survival hormones over sex hormones. Lower sex hormones make menopausal symptoms worse. Weight gain is one of those symptoms.”
The remedy for this is easier said than done—reduce your stress. For some, that is like telling them to quit breathing. For them life is stressful. The interesting thing, Dr. Roberts says, is that stress comes in many forms. It isn’t just mental and emotional stress that you have to worry about. Your body can also be stressed by the food you eat, poor sleep, toxins, infections, fluorescent lights, you name it. For example, the color red was a very severe stressor for one of Roberts’ patients who had learned about the death of her son as she sat in her truck looking out over the red hood.
The trick is identifying those stressors and then removing the ones you have control over. Dr. Roberts and his team at Health Utah make this easier than it sounds. A combination of physiological testing and a review of your history helps identify those stressors. Once identified, Dr. Roberts prescribes clinically-proven methods of reducing the negative effects of these stressors.
Try herbs like monk pepper
Sometimes looking to the past provides the best solutions for the present. In the middle ages, monks purportedly peppered their food with an herb to help them stay chaste. They called it monk pepper. Today, interestingly enough, it’s referred to as chasteberry. Though it does have a testosterone-lowering effect in men, it has been shown to increase the levels of and balance women’s hormones, according to an article in the Journal of Women’s Health Care.
The first medicinal accounts of using chasteberry for menopause were recorded by the father of medicine, Hippocrates, in the fourth century. Although extensively popular in Europe for centuries, it is relatively new to American women. It is, however, gaining popularity as scientific research begins to confirm the wisdom gained by centuries of traditional medicine.
Other herbs such as black cohosh, licorice, St. John’s wort, red clover and wild yam have also been traditionally used for relief of menopausal symptoms—including weight gain. Since both herbs and drugs can be contraindicated in certain circumstances, it is best to seek the advice of a physician prior to taking them. After conducting a thorough review of your history, Dr. Roberts can determine if chasteberry or one of the other herbs is safe, and likely beneficial, in your particular case.
The take home message
Weight gain is one of many common symptoms suffered by women as they go through menopausal hormone changes. These symptoms are frustrating. You don’t change your diet or activity level but your body changes and you feel helpless as you see the pounds pack on.
Fortunately, scientific and clinical advances are proving that you don’t have to put up with these changes. The key to knowing which of these methods is best for you is testing.
Same-day testing is included in Dr. Roberts’ $59 weight loss testing and consultation package. Call 801-810-CARE (2273) or visit Health Utah today to schedule your weight-loss testing and consultation.
If your significant other would also like a consultation, mention this article and you can schedule the second appointment for no additional cost. That represents a savings of $59.