How Aging Effects our Hormones & Weight
As a Naturopathic Doctor, my patient’s often ask me why their past eating patterns of five to ten years ago, effects them differently today. If the person has been consistently eating the same during the various years, the answer can be quite simple…
For women, the decline in estrogen and progesterone through aging poses a rather ‘annoying’ problem.
Estrogen works directly with insulin as well as cortisol, helping to control it’s negative effects. Progesterone opposes the action of estrogen on insulin, yet works together with estrogen to control the negative impact of cortisol.
When insulin and cortisol are elevated for long periods of time due to stress or poor dietary habits, they are shunted towards fat storage as opposed to building muscle. This in turn reduces the amount of fat a woman burns when calories are high, burning muscle instead.
The story worsens as we age, because women in menopause become more sensitive to carbohydrate metabolism. This is where I often hear, “I eat the same I always have, but I continue to gain weight”.
Is there an Answer?
In order to deal with hormonal changes, women in particular need to address their hormones more so than the calorie-centered approach. However, reduction in high sugar foods (even healthy ones) such as sweet fruits, starchy grains, juices, alcohol and dairy due need to be limited; while replacing them with high protein meals (vegan or not), vegetables, healthy fats and low-glycemic fruits such as apples and apricots.
Intense and short bouts of exercise that raises growth promoting hormones like testosterone actually work with cortisol to burn fat and build or maintain muscle. It is true, that the more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn.
Also, cortisol is something that is lowered through relaxing activities as well such as walking, yoga, and saunas. These activities take the body out of fight or flight mode to allow the body the therapeutic time to heal and rest.
So as you can see, changes in diet, exercise and lifestyle can help to fight weight gain during menopause…there is hope. However, if you still find yourself at a hurdle then an in-depth analysis of your hormones may be essential in identifying more rooted imbalances.
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