If you’re struggling to lose weight, you likely have questions about hormone replacement therapy and weight loss. You’re making healthier dietary choices and increasing your activity, but your weight isn’t budging. Or, perhaps you’ve noticed that your weight is creeping up, even though you haven’t changed your lifestyle.
Data indicates that many women gain between 2 and 5 pounds once they enter the perimenopause stage. If they’re already overweight, this figure is likely to be even higher.
Changes in estrogen levels that occur during menopause may cause the body to gain fat. This fat is also more likely to be in the abdominal region.
Abdominal fat is associated with a higher risk for many health ailments, including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one way for women to find the weight gain that occurs with menopause. Here’s what you should know about HRT and weight loss.
How Hormones Change Before and During Menopause
Hormone replacement therapy is the process of administering medication with female hormones. This medication is intended to replace the hormones that the body stops producing when a woman enters menopause.
When a woman enters the perimenopause stage, her progesterone levels start to decrease while her estrogen levels may wildly fluctuate. While they’ll eventually trend downward, in the short term, they may be completely erratic and even fluctuate significantly throughout the day.
This is a miscommunication between the pituitary gland, hypothalamus and ovaries that results in fluctuating estrogen levels. Declines in progesterone tend to occur more steadily, over time.
As women enter the later stages of perimenopause, estrogen levels decrease. Once a woman enters menopause, her estrogen levels drop even more.
These changing hormones are responsible for many of the symptoms women experience, including hot flashes, changes in the menstrual cycle, headaches, depression and weight gain.
HRT seeks to stabilize the hormone levels so that symptoms are lessened and women are able to maintain a healthier, happier life. Fluctuating hormones are linked to higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that indicates you’re hungry.
Low estrogen levels impact the body’s ability to recognize when it’s full. Women may eat more calories than needed simply because their bodies haven’t indicated that they’ve had enough.
Fluctuating hormone levels make many women feel uncomfortable. It’s much more difficult to get adequate sleep, follow a healthy eating plan and maintain an active lifestyle when you feel poorly.
How Hormone Replacement Therapy and Weight Loss are Linked
The objective of hormone replacement therapy is to alleviate the physiological symptoms and bodily changes that women experience due to changing hormone levels. Once estrogen levels start to decrease, replacing them can reduce the effects associated with the lower levels.
By restoring the estrogen levels to higher amounts, the body is less likely to exhibit the changes associated with reduced estrogen levels. For example, the body may be able to better recognize when it’s full, enabling women to better manage their calorie consumption.
Low estrogen levels are also associated with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance makes it harder for the body to process carbohydrates and use the glucose molecules for energy. The body’s cells don’t correctly respond to insulin, allowing glucose levels to increase.
Your blood sugar levels will increase, increasing your risk of type two diabetes. It’s also harder to lose weight when your body is insulin resistant because your blood sugar labels aren’t stable. When your blood sugar levels are too high or too low, this causes you to feel hungry.
Research indicates that HRT is an effective way to decrease body fat levels. Another component that’s less measurable is the quality of life improvement that many women experience when they utilize HRT.
Perimenopause and menopause are associated with symptoms that make women feel bad, mentally and physically.
Hot flashes and an intolerance to heat don’t necessarily impact body fat levels or weight management on their own. They do make it more difficult for women to obtain a night of restful sleep. If you’re constantly waking up because you’re hot, your sleep is going to be disjointed and less disruptive.
Or, if you’re worried that you’re suddenly going to feel overwhelmed by the heat, you might be less likely to participate in active excursions. The exercise class that you used to love and evening walk that you formerly looked forward to all day may seem like an overwhelming source of potential discomfort.
While hormonal fluctuations contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression, the other symptoms of perimenopause and menopause also contribute to these mood disorders. Women may feel depressed that they can no longer comfortably participate in activities that they used to enjoy.
Menopause indicates that they’re getting older. Some women embrace the opportunity to grow older, while others may struggle with what growing older means for them.
Even if they’re comfortable with the physiological changes associated with aging, they might have concerns about what aging means for their finances or living situation.
Though HRT obviously can’t alleviate these concerns, it can help them maintain a healthy mental state to process the lifestyle changes associated with getting older.
When you undergo hormone replacement therapy, any weight that you do lose will benefit your overall health. When your hormones are returned to healthy levels, you’re likely to have high levels of belly fat that put you at risk of suffering from associated ailments.
Many women find that’s easier to lose belly fat when their hormones have been restored to the correct levels.
How to Maximize the Benefits of HRT
It’s essential to note that HRT isn’t a miracle drug. Your hormone replacement drugs aren’t going to counteract a diet that’s high in calories and low in nutrients. HRT won’t dramatically increase your metabolism so that you can lose weight without even trying.
You have to combine HRT with a healthy diet and active lifestyle to obtain the maximum benefits. Make sure that you’re consuming ample protein, and avoid processed carbohydrates.
Not sure if your portions are in line with your needs? Consider meeting with a dietician who can help you understand the size of a healthy portion. They can also offer guidance about your caloric and macronutrient needs.
Many women struggle with exercising enough as they get older. They might feel tired and experience an overall decrease in energy.
Look for small ways to add additional movement to your day. A short walk a few times a day adds up. If you aren’t already, add strength training to your exercise regimen.
Women tend to lose muscle mass as they get older, in part due to their decrease in activity. As you lose muscle mass, your metabolism will decrease. Per pound, muscle burns more calories than fat.
Strength training helps you retain your muscle mass. Aim to strength train at least a few times a week.
Don’t feel like you’re restricted to lighter weights. Heavier weights are much more effective at increasing your amount of muscle.
Over time, aim to change the exercises that comprise your workout routine. This will help you continue to challenge your body and mitigate boredom that makes you feel tempted to skip your scheduled exercise sessions.
Many women feel better mentally and physically when they regular exercise. Outside exercise in particular is associated with lower occurrences of anxiety and depression. If HRT helps you resume these activities, your quality of life will benefit.
Options for Your Hormone Replacement Therapy
If you’re interested in HRT to assist with your weight loss efforts, it’s essential to schedule an appointment with a doctor experienced in hormone replacement therapy.
Your doctor will schedule a consultation and evaluate your hormone levels. They’ll then determine the ideal levels for your HRT medication so that they’re restoring your body’s hormones to healthy levels.
With HRT, a higher dosage isn’t better. Instead, the dosage should be catered to your body’s needs. You’ll need to have your body’s hormone levels tested occasionally so that your doctor can determine if any adjustments are needed for your medication.
There isn’t a specific period as to when you should stop your hormone replacement therapy. Some women may require therapy for a few years, while others may benefit from utilizing HRT for an extended period.
The answer depends on your overall health situation and whether you continue to have ailments that HRT can alleviate.
You have a few options for taking your HRT medication. If you’re concerned that you won’t remember to take a pill each day, you can opt for a skin patch or vaginal ring that delivers hormones to your body.
Both a patch and vaginal ring administer hormones to your body with minimal effort on your part. Patches usually need to be changed every few days, while vaginal rings require changing every few months.
You may prefer a less invasive method for your HRT. If so, ask your doctor about using a cream or gel for your hormone replacement therapy.
Once you apply the cream or gel according to the instructions, it delivers the necessary hormones to your body. Or, if you’re more comfortable with conventional medication, your doctor can prescribe your hormones in the form of a tablet.
When it’s time for you to stop your HRT, your doctor will provide you with detailed instructions as to how you should taper off your medication. Don’t stop your therapy cold turkey unless you consult with your doctor beforehand.
Have more questions about hormone replacement therapy and weight loss? Contact Blue Sky MD today to schedule an appointment!