We call it middle-age spread, pot belly, love handles and beer belly. It’s all belly fat, the most obvious and telling feature that you’ve gained weight. The average person adds one to two pounds around the middle every year from age 35 to 55, a total of 20 to 40 pounds of belly fat. Sound familiar?
It’s Not Your Fault
Most people have tried to lose their belly fat. In fact, you may be one of the millions who exercises regularly, eats well and still can’t lose weight and keep it off. Stop blaming yourself. It’s not a lack of will power or self-control. For most of us, the root of the problem is an underlying hormone imbalance.
While a variety of hormone imbalances can contribute to weight gain, the most prominent imbalance involves estrogen. Dr. John Lee, MD, was the first to use the term “estrogen dominance,” referring to when your body has too much estrogen in relation to progesterone. Estrogen dominance can be triggered by many factors, but the main cause is when you are not producing enough progesterone to balance or oppose normal estrogen production.
Progesterone production begins to decline in women in their 30s, and by age 40 has decreased fifty per cent. After age 50 it can be close to zero. In men, progesterone levels start to fall in their 40s. According to Dr. C.W. Randolph, MD, “it is this downward shift in progesterone production that causes the body to become estrogen dominant.”
A hallmark symptom of estrogen dominance is excess fat stored around the waists, hips and thighs in women, and spare tires and man boobs in men. Unopposed estrogen impairs thyroid gland function, causing your metabolism to slow down. It also causes your body to release insulin, the infamous fat storage hormone. Fat cells produce even more estrogen and this leads to even greater estrogen dominance. It’s a vicious cycle of more estrogen and more belly fat.
In addition to a bigger waistline, studies have linked estrogen-related belly fat to multiple long-term health risks. It’s a contributing risk factor for heart disease, Alzheimer’s and stroke. Estrogen dominance increases the risk of breast and uterine cancer in women, and prostate enlargement and prostate cancer in men.
One of the most effective ways to eliminate estrogen dominance is to replenish progesterone stores through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Progesterone helps your body burn fat and counteracts the weight gaining properties of estrogen. Determination of whether progesterone can be of benefit to you requires individual assessment and laboratory testing of your hormones levels.
Progesterone hormone is available only by prescription and treatment must be medically supervised. It is important to note that progestin (Provera), a synthetic hormone, is often confused with progesterone, but it is not bioidentical progesterone. And many creams containing soy or wild yam that claim to have natural progesterone do not contain progesterone hormone.
Thyroid and adrenal gland function, insulin and cortisol levels, and environmental estrogens may also need to be addressed for weight loss. Of course, diet and exercise are important, but remember that as long as your body is compromised by estrogen dominance, belly fat will be nearly impossible to lose.
Say Goodbye to Belly Fat
Estrogen dominance is a common hormonal imbalance that occurs naturally. When corrected with progesterone therapy, your hormones are reset, balance is restored and your body will be ready and able to lose fat and keep it off. You can win the battle of the bulge and safeguard your health at the same time.
Dr. Denise De Monte is a naturopathic physician at the De Monte Centre Natural Medicine in Vernon.