Menopause & Weight Management – Part 3 – The Role of Neurotransmitters

Menopause & Weight Management – the Role of Neurotransmitters

In Part 3 in our series of blog posts on Menopause & Weight Management, we take a closer look at the role of neurotransmitters in the brain, our reward centres and the impact that can have on our hunger hormones and eating habits.

As we covered in Part 1 (Fluctuating Hormones) and Part 2 (Genetics & Hunger Hormones)of this series, there are several important factors which play a significant role in weight management and a change of body shape including:

What are Neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are released in the brain and affect our mood and rewards centres in the brain.  They include:

  • Dopamine – is released when we think about a pleasurable experience and is linked to repeated behaviours such as comfort eating
  • Oxytocin– is produced by the brain and gut and is an important player in our gut health
  • Serotonin– is also produced by the brain and gut. As well as regulating our mood, it regulates our appetite. This is why we need to look closely at our gut health in order to improve our mood and weight.

Changes during (Peri)menopause

These are a few of the ways in which our body changes at (peri)menopause causing weight management challenges.

HRT can replace the hormones which play such a significant role in this but this transitional time in life is a great opportunity to look at our general health and wellbeing and press the “reset” button. Our plan should not be short term and looking at the scales but instead making small changes for the long term benefits and optimising our physical as well as psychological health.

Speak to a healthcare professional who can analyse your health and make a personalised plan which is right for you.

How can I optimise my hunger hormones and manage my weight?

  • Eliminate/reduce added sugar (including sweeteners) and simple carbohydrates from your diet
  • Reduce alcohol intake-empty calories, negatively impacts on your sleep and can also trigger hot flushes during menopause
  • Consume healthy fats- olive oil, fish, avocado, nuts
  • Eat more healthy carbs like whole grains as well as lean proteins – this can reduce ghrelin and keep you feeling fuller longer
  • Get enough sleep- 8-10 hours a day as opposed to 7 or less results in leptin sensitivity and reduced cravings
  • Learn how to manage stress to support healthy levels of cortisol – meditation, tapping and breathing are great options
  • Increase your activity- moderate aerobic exercise can improve leptin resistance in people with diabetes and obesity
  • Staying active, particularly doing strength exercises, can also help building muscle. Muscle burns more energy than fat, and women start losing muscle mass (a process called sarcopenia) at an 8% rate per decade once they reach their 40s.
  • Stay well hydrated- a full stomach turns down the ghrelin signal
  • Keep a food diary- meals/snacks/mood/Identify the tricky times-are you snacking because you are stressed or bored, have you skipped meals, sugar dips because too many refines carbs
  • Look after your gut health- eat a variety “rainbow” of fruit and vegetables, replace the good microbiome by eating fermented foods and fibre-rich foods
  • Include herbs such as cinnamon, fresh turmeric and fresh ginger into your diet (e.g. in teas, smoothies, dishes) to support healthy blood sugar levels, digestion and fat burning
  • Avoid quick fix diets- these can reduce your metabolic rate, increase cortisol (stress hormone) which can result in more stubborn fat deposition at the expense of losing muscle. It results in poor quality of hair and skin.
  • Aim to 3 main meals a day and avoid snacking – eating less often avoids constant peaks of insulin in the bloodstream (remember insulin promotes fat storage). Make sure your 3 main meals are balanced containing protein, healthy fats, fibre, and complex carbs.

If you’re struggling with symptoms of weight management and body shape through perimenopause and menopause and would like to find out how OMC’s personalised treatment plans can help you, get in touch via our Contact page or Book a consultation with an experienced menopause doctor.