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This is such helpful information. I have often wondered who 80:20 is good for and who 50:50 is good for.
One thing I’m still confused by is the estrogen weight gain component. You said that estrogen (as well as menopause in general) could be the cause of her weight gain. I can relate. I was very thin my whole life, now 53 and about 30 lbs overweight. But you also said she might benefit from getting her estrogen balanced, and she was not using enough.
If too low a dose made her gain weight, won’t an increased dose cause more weight gain? I have heard other podcasts and read articles that in menopause, we gain weight because our estrogen falls. Estrogen seems to be blamed for weight gain, whether it’s high or low. Can you help clarify? There’s something I’m not understanding. Thank you! Tracy
Often estrogen has been the scapegoat for weight gain. I’m sure you have heard too much causes weight gain. Too little can pack on the pounds. It can be pretty confusing. So which is it? Is too much estrogen causing my pants to become uncomfortably tight? Or is it too little estrogen that has given me the gut I never had?
Well, it’s not that simple. Estrogen levels do have a hand in weight gain and weight loss. But it is not the only variable. It really is the combination of the balance of estrogen with other hormones in your body. To name a few main players, progesterone, insulin, and cortisol, as well as enzymes, lipoprotein lipase (LPL), and hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL). Okay, I know that sounds vague and doesn’t answer the question. Let’s back up a bit and look at what women are saying about estrogen.
As soon as menopause hits, women complain that they are instantly 15-30 lbs heavier. Not because of diet or lifestyle. It’s like menopause adds an unwanted 15-30 lbs overnight. Then some women are on hormone replacement therapy, taking estrogen, and are horrified because the HRT caused them to gain 10 lbs in a month. So what is it? Did the lack of estrogen in menopause cause that 20 lb weight gain? Or did that hormone replacement estrogen create rolls that were never there? Well, actually, both are true. Before you throw out your jeans in favor of high-waisted yoga pants, let’s learn about the other players in weight gain.
Progesterone will “buffer” estrogen. Estrogen does like to ‘grow things’. That is why in puberty, you grow breasts and hips. Progesterone helps to balance some of the ‘growth’ that estrogen can cause. That is why in perimenopause, when the progesterone drops and the estrogen is running the show, the weight gain begins. That is also why when a woman starts estrogen therapy for menopause but not enough progesterone, there is weight gain.
Cortisol and insulin are one of the biggest players in weight gain. In fact, insulin is the only hormone that will cause fat storage. Insulin is secreted from the pancreas in response to a rise in blood sugar. If you drink apple juice, your blood sugar (glucose) will rise. And in response, the pancreas will release insulin to unlock the cell door to allow glucose to enter. If you do not burn that glucose, then it is stored as fat. I know this is a simple description; otherwise, we could be here for a while.
Elevated levels of cortisol will cause the body to release glucose from muscle stores. In the ‘wild’, a vicious predator will lunge at me, causing a tremendous release of cortisol and adrenaline. That release of cortisol and adrenaline will cause my muscles to release glycogen (stored sugar), and then I can either put up my dukes or run like the wind. Hence the familiar term, ‘fight or flight.’
Our society has a different kind of ‘wild’ to it. There is no life-threatening creatures to tear me limb from limb. But there certainly are stressors that seem as looming as a bloodthirsty Orc. Too many commitments, family drama, work emails, bills, the news, politics, health ails… you get the idea. All these stressors can cause a rise in cortisol. Hence, a rise in insulin and thereafter, another inch to your gut.
You might be asking, ‘I thought we were talking about estrogen’? What does cortisol and insulin have to do with the estrogen causing weight gain?
Lipo Protein Lipase (LPL) is an enzyme that causes fat storage. Estrogen will turn off the enzyme LPL. That means estrogen can inhibit LPL hence, causes no fat storage. Cortisol will turn on the enzyme LPL. Meaning cortisol will cause fat storage by way of LPL. In menopause, the estrogen levels drop, decline, and are nonexistent. Then LPL is more easily turned on because there is no estrogen to inhibit it. And there is plenty of cortisol to turn it on.
Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL) is also an enzyme that can turn on fat burning. For weight loss, we want to turn on HSL. Insulin is directly released to HSL. Insulin will turn off HSL causing a decrease in fat burning. A lack of insulin will turn on HSL promoting fat burning.
So ideally, you want to have estrogen to turn off LPL and hold back the effects of cortisol. You also want enough progesterone to balance the estrogen. And holding back the cortisol by way of enough estrogen will inhibit insulin (unless needed for digestion) from keeping HSL turned on for fat-burning.
If you have questions regarding your hormones, feel free to Contact Us.
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