Understanding Menopause Belly

Agnes Ryu

Menopause is a significant transition in a woman’s life, marked by various physical and emotional changes. One common concern during this period is the development of “menopause belly,” characterized by the accumulation of abdominal fat.

At Dr Ryu Natural Medicine in South West London, we specialize in fertility issues, hormone health, and metabolism. In this article, we delve into the biological underpinnings of this phenomenon and provide insights on managing these changes effectively.

The Biology of Menopause Belly

Menopause belly refers to the redistribution of fat to the abdominal area during and after the menopausal transition. This shift is not merely a cosmetic concern but also a health issue, as it is associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other metabolic conditions.

The Cessation of Reproduction and Hormonal Shifts

The primary driver of menopause belly is the hormonal changes that occur during this period, rather than excess calories or lack of exercise. As the fertility and reproductive hormone levels decline, fat distribution shifts from the hips, thighs, and buttocks to the abdomen. This transition is further compounded by alterations in other hormones, such as the chronic elevation of the stress hormone cortisol, low thyroid, or insulin resistance. This type of fat, especially visceral fat around internal organs, is metabolically active and can significantly disrupt hormone balances and increase inflammation levels in the body.

The Major Role of Cortisol

The term “cortisol belly” is often used interchangeably with menopause belly, highlighting the significant impact of stress on fat distribution and metabolism during this life stage. Cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands, plays a crucial role in various body functions, including the stress response and the management of energy and fat storage.

During periods of chronic stress, many women experience rising blood sugar levels, even without consuming sugar or other carbohydrates, only to sharply fall into hypoglycemia. Under the influence of constantly elevated cortisol levels, the body breaks down protein for fuel, leading to muscle mass loss, organ deterioration, thinning of skin and membranes, and bone loss—all signs of accelerated aging and degeneration.

Cortisol is indeed a hormone of catabolism and ageing. Chronically raised sugar levels, combined with poor glucose disposal, can lead to the development of fatty liver and diabetes. This is particularly relevant during menopause, a time that may coincide with significant life stressors such as ageing, health concerns, and changes in family dynamics.

Stress: Fattening and Ageing

It is crucial to understand that menopause belly fat gain is primarily hormonal in nature. Therefore, stressing the system further through calorie restriction, fasting, or vigorous exercise regimes can backfire, even accelerating ageing. Such approaches may lower energy metabolism even further and raise stress hormones, leading to the breakdown of protein and fat formation from high blood sugar levels.

Stress management and lifestyle factors should be taken seriously during this transformative yet vulnerable period. At Dr Ryu Natural Medicine, we work closely with our patients to balance hormones and calm high cortisol levels.

We employ the use of herbal tonics specifically designed to protect from ageing effect and energize the body, enabling it to tackle stress more effectively. Only when cortisol levels are sufficiently decreased and the body is no longer in a catabolic state will fat gain around the abdominal area cease. By achieving this balance, my clients can benefit from maintaining a shapely figure without feeling exhausted or hungry.

It is also notable that high cortisol levels and belly fat are not compatible with fertility. Anyone who wishes to prolong fertility and experience a smoother menopause transition should make a conscious effort to manage stress and understand the catabolic nature of cortisol to prevent belly fat gain. By addressing these factors, women can not only improve their overall well-being but also potentially extend their fertile years and navigate menopause with greater ease.

Dr Ryu Natural Medicine is dedicated to providing comprehensive support and guidance to help our patients achieve hormone balance, reduce stress, and improve energy metabolism during this significant life stage.

Agnes Ryu

Agnes Ryu

Dr. Ryu is a clinician and biochemist specializing in integrative medicine. Her clinical interests include fertility, hormones, metabolism, healthy ageing, menopause, and natural breast cancer care. As an integrative practitioner, Dr. Ryu aims to uncover the root causes of health issues and strives to empower patients with the knowledge and tools to take charge of their own health.

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