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Can Menopause Cause Weight Loss?

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Menopause is a phase dreaded by nearly all women from around the world, and it’s no surprise why. Along with severely ‘blue’ moods, hot flashes, and sleeplessness, comes the problem of putting on weight, especially near the stomach area.

Certain women, however, experience a loss of weight as they transition into their menopausal stage. It may seem like a blessing to most of us who struggle with fighting unwanted layers of fat, but on the contrary, this is actually indicative of far more serious health conditions.

Menopause Does Not Cause Weight Loss

Weight gain — not weight loss — is what most women complain about when they reach menopause, even though it is not caused by menopause itself. The fluctuating hormonal levels are responsible for the redistribution of fat around the abdominal and stomach area that makes us overweight. Other age-related factors such as slower metabolic rate, less physical activity, loss of muscle mass, stress, etc. also make it even more difficult to maintain weight during menopause.

Why Am I Losing Weight During Menopause?

Menopause is marked by hormonal fluctuations that make you more susceptible to a wide range of health disorders and diseases. Estrogen is an essential hormone that protects the skin, brain, vagina, heart, and bones in women. With menopause, comes a significant decrease in estrogen, and this has a profound impact on your health, especially when it comes to your heart and your bones.

If you are losing weight during perimenopause, menopause or even after, it is possible that it is really some adverse health condition, and not menopause itself, at play.

Conditions That May Cause Weight Loss

Menopausal women find themselves at the wrath of a wide variety of diseases and health conditions that may or may not be responsible for causing weight loss. Some of the most common ones are as follows:

1. Diabetes

Diabetes May Cause Weight Loss

As you age, your glucose tolerance levels significantly decrease. This factor, along with the hormonal changes make most women above the age of 44 experience an increased risk of diabetes type II.1 Low estrogen levels can up your body’s insulin resistance triggering sweet cravings that lead to gaining weight. This will only add to your chances of developing diabetes. Women who face risk factors like a family history of diabetes, a history of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (a condition associated with insulin resistance), obesity, and gestational diabetes, need to be extra careful.

Treatment – The American Diabetes Association advises women to get themselves tested every 3 years starting at 45 years, especially if you find yourself weighing more than you ought to.2

2. Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary Tract Infections May Cause Weight Loss

Estrogen is one of the most important hormones of the urinary system. It plays an important role in strengthening cells of the bladder and maintaining the elasticity of tissues. It also protects the urinary tract from bacteria from entering, and with lower levels of estrogen, you’re very likely to experience an increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Research shows that postmenopausal women show higher chances of contracting UTIs, with most of them experiencing recurring infections.3

Treatment – Topical estrogen treatment is a good cure that can help prevent UTIs without having to go through the risks of hormone replacement therapy. To further prevent UTIs, it is advisable to drink plenty of fluids and visit the bathroom before and after intercourse.

3. Stress And Depression

 Stress And Depression May Cause Weight Loss

The hormonal changes during menopause can cause severely low mood points in women that include stress, irritability, and hopelessness. Sometimes, this is just a normal symptom of menopause, but there are times it could lead to chronic depression. This, paired with difficulty in sleeping that comes in naturally with age, can lead to loss of appetite, and in return, an unhealthy loss of weight. This is just as bad as putting on weight, as the body still needs a healthy balanced diet to perform all its functions properly, irrespective of what the age may be.

Treatment – A healthy diet can be very beneficial in boosting mood levels, especially if it includes foods that are rich in magnesium. Try and get some physical activity every day as exercise releases endorphins or “feel good” hormones and can significantly help in bringing down your stress levels.

In case you feel your mood swings are too severe or indicative of a more serious condition, such as depression, it is very important to seek professional intervention. Consult your doctor for advice; he will discuss the possibility of various treatments with you, such as antidepressants which can help ease your symptoms.

Note: Always seek the guidance of your doctor first and never start taking antidepressant drugs on your own, for you may be unaware of the serious side effects they could have on your health.

References   [ + ]

1. Shimokata, Hiroshi, Denis C. Muller, Jerome L. Fleg, John Sorkin, Andrzej W. Ziemba, and Reubin Andres. “Age as independent determinant of glucose tolerance.” Diabetes 40, no. 1 (1991): 44-51.
2. 2. Classification and Diagnosis of Diabetes. American Diabetes Association.
3. Foxman, Betsy. “Urinary tract infection in postmenopausal women.” Current infectious disease reports 1, no. 4 (1999): 367-370.