If you've seen your 40th birthday go by and have begun to put on weight for no apparent reason, chances are that perimenopause has begun to take effect. Unexplained weight gain is quite common during this phase of life, as the body begins the transition from the childbearing years to the menopausal ones. Often, hormone imbalances are at the root of perimenopause weight gain, a problem that can usually be resolved with the help of an attentive and understanding health care provider.
Firstly, unexplained weight gain can be caused by a number of health conditions and diseases, such as thyroid disease, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, certain cancers and pituitary disorders. For that reason, any woman who has seen a change of ten pounds or more without altering her diet or activity level should see a doctor to rule out underlying health problems.
If your doctor has given you a clean bill of health, hormone fluctuations are likely to be the reason for those extra pounds. During perimenopause, the body begins a gradual adjustment process as the reproductive system begins to wind down in preparation for menopause. The production of hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, begins to diminish, which can have a number of effects on the body.
Hormones are powerful little chemicals that play many vital roles in the body, so those fluctuating levels can be the source of a wide range of symptoms. Among the most common are hot flashes, mood swings, feelings of stress, anxiety or depression, fatigue, forgetfulness, diminished sex drive and unexplained weight gain.
Weight gained during perimenopause can be very difficult to lose, since the fault generally lies with changing body chemistry. Hormone imbalance slows your metabolism, causing weight gain without an increase in daily caloric intake. Dieting under these circumstances can actually be counterproductive, causing the metabolism to slow even more as the body struggles to maintain hormonal balance.
So if the numbers on your scale are climbing despite your best efforts at weight control, talking to your doctor about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) may be your best option for real progress in the battle of the bulge. Restoring hormonal balance can help put a stop to perimenopause weight gain.
However, it is important that you are very specific in requesting bioidentical (or natural) hormones, since synthetic hormone replacement has been linked to very serious side effects, including increased risk of heart disease, stroke and, most recently, breast cancer. Bioidentical hormones, which have been used since the 1930's, have been shown in numerous clinical studies to be a safer option.
Bioidentical hormone therapy (or "natural hormone therapy") also holds an advantage over synthetics terms of effectiveness. Since the chemical composition of bioidentical hormones is the same as that of your native hormones, the body can use them more efficiently than synthetics. BHRT is personalized therapy, with hormone supplements given in dosages that are determined by assessing the needs of each patient, while synthetics are given in standardized, one-size-fits-all treatment regimens.
While avoiding perimenopause isn't an option, thanks to today's more advanced medical knowledge, minimizing its troublesome effects is possible. These days, women do not have to accept unexplained weight gain as an inevitable effect of middle age. With therapies like BHRT available, today's women can maintain that pear shaped figure through the perimenopause years, rather than turning into an apple.