For most of us, the New Year is a time for rest, relaxation and reflection. You know, thinking about the year that’s been and what you might want to do differently this year. I know myself that mid-life is a time when our health can change so rapidly. This happened to me as well. That’s why, if you are thinking of setting new health goals for 2021 then I congratulate you. And if these are to do with sorting out your menopause-related weight gain, poor sleep, low energy and sore joints, then you need to know about a condition called ‘oestrogen dominance’ and how to turn this around. I had no idea about this myself when I was struggling, but following hours and hours of study into mid-life weight management as part of my doctoral studies on women’s health and ageing, I began to understand that our Menopause weight loss has more to do with sleeping all night and turning around a condition called Oestrogen Dominance, than doing lots of exhausting exercise or going on diets.
The term ‘oestrogen dominance’ refers to the increased storage of excess oestrogen in fat cells. Many of these excess oestrogen compounds come from pollutants in our environment, foods that contain oestrogenic compounds (e.g. many animal foods), alcohol, and even some medicines and oestrogen-containing menopause HRT.
Your fat cells have numerous oestrogen receptors on them – hence, as we lose oestrogen in menopause, our adipose tissue (fat cells) change in their ability to regulate your weight. They also have an affiliation towards various forms of oestrogenic compounds that you eat from foods, absorb from your environment (e.g. chemicals), or you take as medicines.
‘There are significant differences in fat distribution, adipocyte and adipose tissue function between men and women, which may, to a large extent, result from gender differences in oestrogen receptor expression.‘ [Bluher, 2013].
If your fat cells have been expanding, especially around the belly region, then they may be attracting excess oestrogens in your body. Circulating oestrogens bind to two different oestrogen receptor subtypes, ERα and ERβ [Bluher, 2013] – so, if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, then you will be familiar with this already. It’s why you need to manage your weight, because breast cells are replete with oestrogen receptors too.
With fat cells around the body storing excess oestrogen, this hormone dominates in comparison to it’s opposing hormone progesterone. It’s why fat increase during your menopause transition is associated with oestrogen dominance. Unfortunately, the result can be blood sugar chaos, fatigue, a changing waist-line and (as I experienced too), heavy, bloated breasts, and a sore neck to go with it. Furthermore, at the time, I didn’t realise that my hot flushes were worsening due to the excess weight and my beloved exercise that I’ve done all my life, became exhausting and stressful.
If your weight around your abdomen keeps increasing now that you are in menopause or you’ve moved into post-menopause and are still putting on weight, your fat cells may be storing excess oestrogen.
As such, we have to be careful about exposure to high oestrogen foods in our diet and other oestrogen-mimicking compounds that we can be exposed to in our environment. Even though our body is trying to lose oestrogen as our ovarian function declines, other sources in our environment contribute to our body taking up excess oestrogens. This includes our exposure to pesticides and chemicals.
Fat is metabolically active and oestrogen has a role to play in this. With our fat cells having an affinity to store oestrogen and because women have enzymes that make them store more fat around their abdominal region – which is part of our ancient ‘survival’ physiology – mid-life is a time of our lives, when we become more vulnerable to oestrogen dominance.
But fat-storage of excess oestrogen is not the only part of the menopause weight-gain story. Our liver health matters too and I talked about this in last weeks newsletter. If the liver is fatty or inflamed, it can’t clear these excess oestrogens. For women on higher doses of oestrogen in their HRT, this includes excess oestrogen provided from this source.
When our liver can’t metabolise excess oestrogens effectively, our fat cells store these additional oestrogenic compounds as we move through menopause. Hence, oestrogen becomes the ‘dominant’ hormone in relation to it’s opposing hormone, progesterone. This makes us ‘oestrogen dominant’ and as a consequence of this, progesterone levels may decline more rapidly un-balancing the two opposing hormones as our body moves through menopause.
If progesterone becomes too low in contrast to oestrogen, we feel bloated, heavy, sore and uncomfortable. It’s exhausting carrying all that excess weight around – I so remember the additional hot flushes as we become overweight too.
But there’s more to the oestrogen dominance story and this is my greatest concern for women moving through menopause into post-menopause.
It’s not just the fat cells in the abdominal area expanding with excess oestrogen – fat cells are expanding around the heart muscle as well. This is known as paracardial fat and this type of fat increases our risk for heart disease as we age. Furthermore, the layer of para-cardial fat increases the stress on our heart, especially if we aren’t sleeping. It’s a double-whammy of health chaos as we get older and it’s important to turn this around.
When we aren’t sleeping, when our joints feel sore and we are losing precious muscle and becoming oestrogen dominant, then it’s no surprise that our metabolism changes. It’s why this insight from research out of the Australian National University on fat mass changes in menopause, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology is important. If I had this research a few years ago, it would have saved a lot of lonely research of my own. In a review of studies that included more than 1 million pre- and post-menopausal women, the researchers learnt what I and many other women, have discovered in real life – that our waist circumference increases during and after menopause and as such, there is a shift in our metabolism, which can send us into worsening health with age.
“It’s important to understand how women’s bodies change as they age because women have higher rates of some diseases than men”, said Ananthan Ambikairajah, a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, who led the study. “The implications are important, because central fat has been linked with dementia risk, and central fat is linked with cardiovascular disease risk. As such, more attention needs to be paid to central fat accumulation, because that’s the bad stuff,” mentioned Ambikairajah.
Every extra kilo of weight is an added burden on your joints, heart, liver, cholesterol, muscle function and insulin levels as you age. That’s what was concerning Dianne too.
It’s also the reason that I know that many of you can’t do the exercise necessary to ward off changing heart-health and Type 2 diabetes. Whilst there is an emphasis on more vigorous cardio and strength training as we age, in order to battle the bulge, I know myself that we are often too exhausted from not sleeping to tolerate this type of exercise. That’s how I felt myself – and for someone who has been at the forefront of the exercise industry in New Zealand, I was as disheartened as many of you may be, that exercise was increasingly uncomfortable. Martina felt the same.
If you are struggling with your weight, then please don’t forget about my January intake and ANNUAL SALE for the weight management Transform Me programme. This is already underway and for the first time ever, I have included a bonus package for the ‘Rebuild My Fitness’ programme which is another 12 week programme that women can do after they have lost their weight and are back sleeping.
The programme is online and all you do is to put in the promo code JANUARY21 to access your NZ$100 savings. This price won’t be repeated and you can also choose to upgrade to the Rebuild My Fitness programme too . If you need to know how to turn your New Year goals into action and hold yourself accountable then MyMT™Transform Me is ON SALE all of January and I would love you to join me. Have a listen to this video below where I explain what the Transform Me programme entails. You also receive my FOOD GUIDE, the ‘Restore your Joyful Joints’ module, my new Gut Health module, and my powerful Mind your Mindfulness module as well. That’s another $200 of value for you.
If you would like a scientifically evidenced lifestyle programme that I’ve just designed for women in their menopause and post-menopause transition, that teaches you the step-by-step lifestyle strategies to thrive in menopause and beyond and/or you want to turn around your health and your weight without all the endless exhausting exercise, menopause supplements or diets that aren’t designed for our weight loss as we age, then I invite you to come on board. There is so much living still to be done and I want you to feel as healthy as you can to enjoy your successful ageing.
To get underway please put the promo code JANUARY21 into the sales page here. This will get you NZ$100 off which makes the programme and my private coaching, only NZ$199. [AUS$189, UK£104, €117, US$138 or CA$181] – you can also part-pay over 3 months].
You can also start the programme any time between now and January 31st, 2021. The very first two 60 minute webinars you hide-away and listen to, are called SLEEP All Night and Are You Oestrogen Dominant? – in these I explain what is really going on in menopause and most importantly, you discover my powerful strategies to resolve these issues. Then in 2 weeks time, you receive your next module. That’s how it works – so you don’t feel overwhelmed with too much information at once.
Once you purchase the programme you work through it at your own pace, starting any time from now until the end of January, 2021. You can take as little as three months, or if your busy life gets in the way, then you can take longer, by staying on for a small monthly admin fee of only NZ$12.50. There is no pressure to complete it in the 12 weeks!
I can’t wait for you to join me.
Molecular Metab. 2(3): 130–132.