BELLY FAT IN WOMEN

When we find our waistbands starting to get tighter or we suddenly see a bulge over our waistbands and cry out “oh no…muffin top!”, this accumulation of belly fat is a tell tale signal of imbalance in the body. Belly fat in women can be caused by different factors than belly fat in men. How
women gain weight is intimately tied into the balance of their hormones, especially as they enter peri-menopause and menopause Therefore, belly fat is more than an indicator of obesity. It is a signpost of ill health on the horizon. Do not ignore it as a mere cosmetic inconvenience.

With increasing age comes a steady decline of hormones in both men and women. No matter how much we exercise or watch our diet, some of us will find excess weight gain accumulating in our abdomens. Our feminine hourglass figure may swell to, bulging muffin tops in our jeans or worse, the abdomen may become so distended to make the woman appear pregnant when she is not! This type of fat accumulation can begin as early as our teens and young adulthood or may not start until we reach peri-menopause sometime in our mid thirties or forties or  start as late as actual menopause (2 years without a menstrual cycle).

Two hormones have a significant effect upon the storage of fat in the abdomen, they are testosterone and cortisol.  Cortisol follows a certain biorhythm during the day. If at any time of the day one’s cortisol output is excessive, it will affect our blood sugar and insulin secretion. Our lifestyle has a huge impact on our cortisol production. Stress (emotional, physical, chemical, pathogenic, nutritional) will increase cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol levels makes us hungry all the time. If its elevated at night we get the night time munchies. Along with hunger is the excessive output of insulin. This causes our body to store the food we eat during our hunger “attacks” into fat…in our belly!
A simple saliva test can determine one’s relative cortisol biorhythm for the day. See the graph below for an example. The dotted line shows the normal range for cortisol. This example shows a patient with low cortisol values. Test kits are available online at www.immunematrix.com  (5-Salivary Hormone-Diagnos-Techs, Inc. SKU: SKU16266). When you get the kit, check all of the 4 cortisol boxes and the dhea box, you will get your test results and a consultation from Immune Matrix in approximately 2 weeks time.

When your cortisol is elevated you must find out why. Excess job or family stress, caffeine, late nights, overstimulation at home with computers or TV, or chronic infection are the most common culprits. (Please see our other articles about cortisol for an in-depth discussion on lifestyle factors that elevate cortisol.) Working to lower elevated cortisol will

  • improve your blood sugar
  • reduce sugar cravings and nighttime hunger
  • and improve the quality and length of your sleep

and over time…eliminate that muffin top!

Phosphotidylserine helps the body to detoxify and break down cortisol. Taking phosphotidylserine at the specific times of day when your cortisol is elevated will help you to detoxify excessive cortisol provided you also deal with the stimuli creating the excessive output of cortisol.

The other cause for accumulation of belly fat in women is elevated testosterone.  Elevated testosterone is often a silent condition in women except for the tendency to retain weight in the waistline. On rare occasions will elevated testosterone affect fertility or one’s menstrual cycle. It can affect a woman’s mood, making her feel more aggressive and elevate her libido. Rarely will there be male pattern hair growth. Therefore, it is best for women to have their free testosterone and dihydrotestosterone levels checked when they do their annual blood test screening. Elevation of dihydrotestoterone can cause hair loss but not abdominal fat storage.

In most cases it’s sufficient to take a methyl donor supplement such as DIM, or Methy-SP. Methionine is an amino acid essential for the liver to be able to detoxify estrogens and other hormones and toxins. Insufficient methionine and core trace minerals and vitamins that fuel the methylation pathway of the liver will slow the body’s ability to detoxify hormones. These products are designed to give the liver what it needs to detoxify hormones.

Hormone balancing in women is more complicated than men due to their monthly cycles and the fact that many women are on hormone therapy for birth control or hormone replacement. This aggravates the body’s ability to optimize and balance hormones. Any woman taking exogenous hormones (HRT) needs to have her hormone levels checked every three months to catch the development of elevated hormones and reduce her risk for estrogen based cancers.

Do not rely on your prescribing doctor alone to test your hormone levels as they should be tested every 3 months until they remain in a safe range at least for 2 consecutive readings, AND the hormones are tested via saliva testing not serum testing! When saliva testing is done in most cases the elevation of circulating hormones is revealed and dosages for hormones need to be adjusted down to accommodate for the woman’s apparent inefficiency to recycle and detoxify her hormones, which puts her at risk for breast and uterine cancer. Do not assume that lack of symptoms on HRT means you are not in the process of developing a estrogen based cancer.

Elevated DHEA levels can increase a woman’s sex hormones including testosterone. Again, supplementing the diet with more methionine can help to improve detoxification of elevated sex hormones.

As you can now see, lifestyle, stress, medications, diet, and how your body makes and stores hormones forms a complicated interplay that can lead to more than belly fat. Work with a knowledgeable health care practitioner that will do more than put you on multiple medications to control symptoms. Work with a health care practitioner that will help you reverse the cause for your hormonal imbalances and ultimately prevent the cascade of disorders than will result if allowed to progress unchecked.  It will make you healthier, happier, and sexier!

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Anna Manayan

Anna Manayan