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Episode 203: Getting to the Root of Menopause Belly

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Last week I was chatting with a new client who was struggling with a serious case of menopause belly. 

You know that little (or not so little) tire of fat that forms around your midsection when you hit menopause that seems to defy the laws of weight loss??

The one that resists every diet attempt and workout routine? (Because hot flashes, low libido, and poor sleep aren’t bad enough, am I right??)

While I’m sure you’re familiar with the fact that hormonal changes play a significant role in menopause belly, it turns out gut health is a major player too!

Here’s how:

  1. Hormone metabolism: Our liver doesn’t just filter out toxins and suffer through happy hour, it also is responsible for metabolizing estrogen, our primary female sex hormone. During menopause, when estrogen levels drop, if our liver isn't functioning optimally it can negatively impact estrogen levels even further, in turn affecting fat distribution (hello belly fat). How? Low estrogen decreases a woman's resting metabolic rate and causes the body to regulate blood sugar less effectively which leads us to our next point...
  2. Insulin resistance: Imbalances in the gut microbiota (ie the community of microorganisms living in our gut) can make it harder for the body to regulate blood sugar. This leads to greater spikes in insulin, making us more likely to store fat (particularly around our midsection). 
  3. Leaky gut syndrome: Menopause can lead to changes in gut permeability, commonly known as "leaky gut syndrome." When the intestinal barrier becomes compromised, it allows toxins, bacteria, and other substances to enter the bloodstream that shouldn't be there. This triggers a ripple effect of inflammation throughout the body causing 1. disruption to the central nervous system which turns on the fight/flight response and the fat-storage hormone cortisol. 2. Poor carb metabolism. 3. Damage to fat cells contributing to obesity and diabetes risk. All of this leads to not only abdominal fat accumulation, it can cause other fun menopause symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, depression, anxiety, and impaired sleep. 
  4. Metabolic rate and nutrient absorption: We all love to talk about metabolism when it comes to weight loss. But remember, you aren’t just contending with your metabolism. You’re contending with the metabolisms of trillions of bacteria living in your gut. So alterations in the gut microbiota during menopause affects how many calories we burn at rest, and how we absorb and utilize the nutrients from the food we eat.

Now that you know why you may be experiencing menopause belly, you’re probably wondering what you can do about it??

Do you take a probiotic? Eat fermented food? Eat more fiber?

The truth is it depends!

For some probiotics could be a game changer, for others it would be like pouring gas on a fire.

For some eating more fiber makes them feel amazing, others have hidden infections like SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), making them feel gassy and bloated after fiber.

For some eating more protein stabilizes their blood sugar, for others it actually spikes it. 

That’s why as a functional nutritionist we test, don’t guess!

We’ll get a snapshot of what good and bad bugs are inhabiting your gut, see how your mucosal barrier is holding up, check what hormones need rebalancing, take a look at your liver function. All to figure out exactly what foods and supplements will get you feeling better and losing belly fat, pronto! 


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"I cried when I saw the number on the scale - tears for so many reasons but mostly because I'm slowly starting to feel like ME again. I am seeing that I am enough, I am capable, and I am worthy of feeling good and shedding the weight I've been hiding behind. 8.3 pounds gone in 20 days and this I know is only the beginning." - Caryl


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