What is a menopause belly and how do you fix it?

by Rakib Sarwar, RPh on May 27, 2019
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Menopause is one of the most difficult and most challenging times for a woman. It is a period of great transitions in every woman’s life. These changes imply emotional, physical and physiological changes.

What is menopause?

Before we start talking about all the negative consequences of menopause, let’s say that menopause is a natural event in a woman’s life.

The key change in menopausal women implies reduced hormone production in the ovaries. This primarily implies estrogen. On average, when women reach forty years of age (and sometimes in the late thirties or late forties), the production of hormones in their ovaries begins to slowly weaken. This process gradually increases until the age of 44-45, on average (1).

When the production of hormones in the ovaries falls below the level causing the normal menstruation and menstrual cycle, the period becomes absent. Menopause is the last physiological bleeding from the uterus, which approximately takes place when a woman is 51 years old. The normal range is quite large: from 40 to 58 years.

To sum it up before we start talking about the most annoying consequence of this period – the menopause belly, remember that women lose a significant amount of estrogen hormone during this period. As a result, they experience mood swings, the so-called “heat waves”, as well as night sweating. Now, let’s learn more about what menopause belly is and how you can fix it.

What is a menopause belly?

Menopause belly is one of the most annoying and unwanted consequences of going through a period of “retirement” of the woman’s reproductive system. We know this period as the menopause period.

Before we proceed to the causes of a menopause belly, let’s point out that fat ratio increases in a woman’s body during and after menopause, inevitably. You can alleviate the consequences, as we will advise you in this article, but the fat increase is obvious, according to different researches. Actually, both the overall far and the intra-abdominal fat levels increase (2).

Why does a menopause belly occur? There are several reasons. Actually, the key reason is hormonal changes caused by the menopause. All other reasons represent only a part of the chain. However, hormonal changes trigger everything else and that’s why we will start from this factor.

1. A belly caused by hormonal changes

During menopause, a woman’s body produces a different level of hormones compared to its state before the menopause (3). During this state, the amount of hormone called estrogen, a hormone that normally plays an important role in weight regulation, decreases. As a result, fat begins to accumulate in the waist zone.

It is important to remember that the fat accumulated around your waist is simply the body’s response to the estrogen hormone drop. Long story short, the storage and distribution of fat deposits move from the hips to the waist area. That is why some women can notice a new form of their body, which they are not used to. Namely, women who used to have the shape of the sand clock or the pear shape suddenly turn into an apple shape.

Moreover, the level of progesterone drop. The level of testosterone decreases as well, but at a slower pace. These hormonal changes affect the weight gain in the belly zone.

2. A belly caused by slow metabolism.

Menopause is also marked by a metabolism slower than what you were used to (4). It is not only the direct effect of menopause that makes your metabolism slower. Remember that women usually experience menopause between the age of 45 and 50. Consequently, their metabolism already starts to become slower.

As you age, your body changes the way it gains weight and loses weight. Both men and women experience a slower metabolism as they age. Also, remember that the number of calories your body needs to function is smaller as you grow old. Therefore, you should modify your eating habits to help your metabolism cope with aging.

3. A belly caused by a change in eating habits

We know that we might scare some women who are about to enter their menopause. However, we must talk about another negative side of it. Some women tend to become more depressed during their menopause period.

Also, some of them experience nightmares, night sweating problem, and are hungrier during this period. As a result, they eat more. Some women also crave for junk food. Consequently, their belly fat accumulates quickly.

Some women also experience severe changes in appetite as direct consequences of their menopause (5). Namely, many women notice an increased appetite during their 40s and 50s. This is also caused by hormonal changes.

4. Flatulence belly

If you are in your menopause, you have definitely noticed that your stomach often seems swollen. It might also hurt. This is a symptom that many women complain about.

Flatulence is another annoying companion of menopause (6). Menopause flatulence is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • A sudden increase in body weight after eating
  • Changes in size and shape of your stomach during the day
  • Discomfort in your stomach area
  • Feeling tension and pain in your belly.

Why does it occur? There are several different opinions on the causes of flatulence during your menopause. Those include:

  • Changes in estrogen hormone levels and fluctuations.
  • Water retention in your body.
  • Aging of the digestive system causes the generation of more gas in the stomach during the climax period than in the younger or middle ages.
  • Increased needs for calcium lead to increased intake of dairy products, which may result in flatulence (related to lactose intolerance).

5. Psychological factors that lead to menopause belly

As we have already mentioned, lots of women cope with serious psychological issues during their menopause (1). These include serious mood swings, insomnia, as well as oversensitivity.

As a result, they can even feel depressed. One of the things that follow such a condition is lack of motivation. We have a few questions for you if you are a woman in menopause.

Have you been devoted to exercising in the past few years? Do you feel like you eagerly want to remove the belly zone fat? Do you take care of your diet?

Unfortunately, the odds that you have answered “No” to at least two of these questions are high. Lack of motivation and energy are the usual consequences of menopause.

If you want to get rid of the menopause belly, you need to devote yourself to a healthier lifestyle, a low-calorie diet rich in fiber and low in carbohydrates and sugars. Also, combine it with exercise, especially cardio. If you really want to stay in shape and lose that annoying menopause belly, you’ll have to stay motivated and be persistent.

How to get rid of the menopause belly?

First of all, let’s remind you that it’s very important to remember that women who are going through menopause should keep their weight under control before it becomes a problem. The golden rule says: the later the worse. What does this mean? It means you won’t be able to lose weight easily as you grow old.

Therefore, if you do not take care of yourself before menopause and during your menopause, you will certainly have some belly fat problems.

Here comes the million-dollar question: How to get rid of the menopause belly? There are several good ways to cope with this problem. Let’s see what experts recommend to all women approaching their menopause, as well as those who are already experiencing it.

1. Eat healthily

Easier said than done. True. However, there are ways in which you can make this journey efficient, delicious, and even fun. The bottom line is, you should pay more attention to what you eat. However, if you are wondering how you can do it, stay with us and read more.

First of all, eat foods rich in proteins. This will help rebuild your muscles and keep them healthy. Also, consume foods rich in fiber. Sugar and starch are more difficult to digest. This additionally slows down your metabolism. It also creates more gases.

Eat smaller portions of food with a high glycemic index. Try to avoid gluten. It will bring you trouble. Eat more protein and healthy fats. We recommend eggs, chicken, white meat, fish, cheese, fruit, and vegetables (7).

Also, you should eat fruit separately, as snacks, at least 2 hours before and after meals. Combining fruit with fats causes gases!

2. Tips and tricks

Here are a few tips and tricks you should try if you want to prevent the development of the menopause belly or get rid of it.

First of all, eat slowly and chew your food longer. Chewing your food triggers the production of saliva and saliva contains enzymes play a very important part in this process.

Also, avoid too salty food. We know you are probably enjoying salty food, but losing that belly takes some courage and devotion!

Most noteworthy, drink enough water. Good hydration and sufficient fluid intake will certainly help you lose fatty tissue.

Probiotics can be a solution in some cases, especially when it comes to flatulence.

3. Substitutional hormonal therapy

Contrary to popular belief, substitutional hormonal therapy does not cause weight gain – quite the opposite! It can prevent the increase in fat deposits around your abdomen, as it imitates the way your natural hormones regulate your weight (8).

Substitutional hormonal therapy is a very popular way of coping with menopausal problems. Always take hormonal therapy under the supervision of your doctor.

Now, let’s talk about one of the most important factors – your best allies in the battle against menopause belly – exercising!

How to work out safely for women in their 50s?

Think about your physical activity. How often do you exercise? Do you really make effort or is your exercising just a form of stretching your muscles? Do you usually take the stairs or you choose the elevator? What is the last time you went cycling? Do you enjoy swimming? Why did you stop doing it?

There are many interesting, fun, and safe ways in which you can efficiently work out, even if you are in your 50s. Actually, exercising and physical activity, in general, is even more important during your menopause than before. It helps alleviate negative effects of menopause, including belly fat (9).

As we have already said, during this challenging period, your body changes the way it burns calories. That’s why you must be even more devoted to your exercising routine. Let’s see what you can do.

Expert recommendations

We strongly recommend you to exercise with help from your personal trainer or in a group. This will not only show you the right way but keep you highly motivated.

However, if you prefer exercising on your own, here are a few recommendations from the experts. You should definitely not miss the following abdominal exercises:

  • Reverse crunches
  • Ball Twists
  • Front Plank
  • Side Plank
  • Burpee (be careful with this one if you suffer from osteoporosis)
  • Mountain climber
  • Medicine ball slam
  • The “hundred” exercise.

Try Yoga

Experts also recommend Yoga in your 40s, 50s, 60s, etc. The sooner you start, the better. Certain positions, especially plank and boat pose, will do wonders for your belly.

How much exercise is safe for women over 50?

We talked about the lack of motivation in one of the previous sections. On the other hand, you might easily fall into the trap of being too motivated. Why can this be dangerous?

You might force yourself to exercise more than your body can take. If you are over 50 and you don’t have any health issue, you should be physically active from 30 to 45 minutes when it comes to cardio exercise.

The optimum is four to five days a week. If you are easily bored with your exercising routine, you can switch to different things. For example, go for a swim on Mondays, ride your bike on Tuesdays, jog on Thursdays, and do your regular cardio training or Pilates on Saturdays. You can also take a walk whenever you have time.

If you are in a good physical condition, we recommend you to engage in strength training workouts to tighten and tone your body. Accommodate the recommended types of exercise according to your physical condition.

Keep in mind that exercising during and after menopause can even decrease the negative effects of some types of diseases and conditions, such as osteoporosis (10). Also, we recommend you to consult your doctor, medical care provider, or personal trainer before making your exercising plan.

Conclusion

The bottom line is: aging is inevitable. So is the natural process of losing the reproductive system function. This causes hormonal changes. Women enter menopause between their late forties and 50s.

Most women experience many different negative effects of menopause, including the development of the so-called “menopause belly”. It is caused by hormonal changes, changes in diet, exercising routine, slower metabolism, as well as psychological factors.

You can prevent it and get rid of it if you accommodate your diet to your new needs, establish your exercising routine and stick to it, live a healthy life, and motivate yourself to help your body go through this challenging process. You can even ask for professional help, both in form of therapy and hormonal substitutions (both natural and synthetic, depending on your overall health condition and personal preferences) that will help you stay healthy during and after your menopause, without the annoying belly fat.

References:

(1) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4890704/

(2) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27487528

(3) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3984489/

(4) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4440199/

(5) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4954773/

(6) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3388350/

(7) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4440197/

(8) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6317580/

(9) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3858421/

(10) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296386/


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