We’ve created clever euphemisms to describe it – like muffin top, mid-life bulge, and a thickening waist. But however you want to refer to belly fat, it’s an unfortunate fact of life for most women in mid-life and getting rid of it is, as a friend of mine put it, like chiseling cement.
I’ve been in search of diet and exercise books to find the cause as well as a cure to belly fat and I came across From Belly Fat to Belly Flat: How Your Hormones Are Adding Inches to Your Waist and Subtracting Years from Your Life — the Medically Proven Way to Reset Your Metabolism and Reshape Your Body, by Dr. C.W. Randolph.
Dr. Randolph, a board certified OB-GYN, is well known for advocating the use of natural medicine to treat women’s health concerns and he has been a leading proponent in the use of human-identical hormones to treat symptoms of hormone imbalances. I contacted Dr. Randolph by email to ask about the connection between hormones and abdominal weight gain and how hormone-balancing can help. His responses follow:
Wendy: A lot of women begin complaining about abdominal weight gain, along with sleep problems and an inability to focus or concentrate in their 40s, but because they’re still getting their periods, they don’t attribute it to menopause. When do a woman’s hormone levels begin to get out of whack?
Dr. Randolph: In a women’s early to mid-30′s, progesterone levels are the first of the three sex hormones (progesterone, estrogen and testosterone) to decline. In fact, progesterone levels decline 120x more rapidly than estrogen levels. The result is a disequilibrium of estrogen to progesterone medically termed “estrogen dominance.” Too much estrogen with too little progesterone is the culprit responsible for the more subtle (or less well recognized/diagnosed) symptoms of hormone imbalance such as sleep disturbances, foggy thinking and abdominal weight gain. Dr. Erika Schwartz explains it well in her book, The Hormone Solution: Naturally Alleviate Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance from Adolescence Through Menopause”
No, you’re not losing your mind: you’re just losing your much-needed progesterone. When you don’t have enough progesterone circulating, estrogen is the dominant hormone. Estrogen in overabundance makes you angry, edgy, short-tempered and anxious. At the same time, estrogen increases the water content in your brain making you groggy, fuzzy and unfocused.
Wendy: The weight creep experienced in mid-life seems to land (and remain) right in our abdomen. Why is this?
Actually, hormone related abdominal weight gain typically begins in the early to mid-30s, coinciding with decline in progesterone production and the incumbent estrogen dominance. Medical research shows that the average woman will gain one to two pounds each year between the ages of 35 and 55 and these pounds will cement around the waist, butt and thighs.
Estrogen dominance is the culprit. To get and keep those pounds off, it is essential the optimum hormone balance be restored via bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). To accelerate the body’s off-loading of its extra estrogen, there are foods and supplements medically proven to help the body eliminate the extra estrogen.
Wendy: What types of foods do you recommend?
Dr. Randolph: The stars of my nutritional plan are cruciferous vegetables, citrus fruits, insoluble fiber and lignans because these foods will all function within the body to reduce an unhealthy estrogen load. The consumption of cruciferous vegetables is a critical pivot of my plan’s success.
In my next blogpost, I’ll list examples of the cruciferous vegetables that Dr. Randolph suggests. If you’ve tried Dr. Randolph’s estrogen-reducing diet, let us know if and how it’s helped you.
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