The war between hormones and pant size
Hormonal fluctuations often have a significant influence on weight, not to mention the many different hormone disorders which can ruin your figure! Oestrogen imbalance, hypothyroidism... Dr. Pierre Nys, endocrinologist and visiting consultant at Parisian Hospitals, lifts the lid on hormonal imbalances which affect not only women but also men.
Doctissimo: For women, the menopause is generally considered to be the period when there is most risk of hormonal changes affecting weight. Is this the case?
Dr. Nys: It is true that the menopause is a particularly difficult period. All the statistics show that women do put on weight, and the menopause is a real milestone involving many different physiological changes. There is a hormonal imbalance in the ovaries, which causes fat to be stored up and cellulite to form. There is a decrease in physical activity at the same time, and the menopause can be accompanied by other disorders, particularly in connection with the thyroid. Preventing weight gain can be achieved through a healthy lifestyle and diet, and regular physical activity.
Often, women are concerned by their stomachs which have a tendency to become rounder after the menopause. You should accept that this is completely normal. It linked to the compression of the discs in the spine and to combat it, you need to retrain the abdominal muscles. Taking hormone replacement medication is not advised for avoiding weight gain, and it is becoming increasingly controversial in any case. If it is taken in too high a dose, it can actually encourage those extra pounds!
Doctissimo: Can a draconian diet regime upset hormonal balance?
Dr. Nys: In order for a diet to provoke serious hormonal disorders, it would need to be more than just a simple low calorie regime. You actually see catastrophic hormonal imbalances in anorexics for example, but this is not the case more generally. On the other hand, diets can lead to deficiencies in oligo-elements and vitamins which can cause fatigue and even, paradoxically, prevent you losing weight!
Doctissimo: Adolescents often worry about gaining weight when taking the pill. Are these concerns well founded?
Dr Nys: Yes, unfortunately! All the same, it should be emphasised that the different types of pill available now have weaker doses than before. Nevertheless, certain women, more predisposed to weight gain than others, can experience numerous problems in connection with taking the pill. In these cases, they must try to find a pill that is suited to them. FOr others, taking oral contraceptives may be inadvisable.
Doctissimo: Do you gain weight just before your period?
Dr. Nys: Certain women can suffer from premenstrual tension before their periods. This is a phenomenon due to complex mechanisms connected to an imbalance between oestrogen and progesterone. Premenstrual tension can lead to moderate weight gain, of one or two kilos at the most. But often, it is more the feeling of being bloated rather than actual weight gain.
At this point in your menstrual cycle, you need to take care what you eat, drink a bit less water (not more!) and limit your salt intake. Make sure also that you don’t eat anything with diuretic properties. While, at the beginning, diuretics improve the problem, they will go on to aggravate it even more. If this problem doesn’t go away even though you have taken these steps to avoid it, do not hesitate to ask your doctor about it.
Doctissimo: Apart from ordinary hormonal fluctuations, there are also disorders which affect the hormones that influence weight. Can you tell us more?
Dr. Nys: Among these hormonal disorders, the most common is hypothyroidism. Women who suffer from it experience a weigh gain of around 4 to 5 kilos. Putting on this amount of weight would merit closer investigation in order to determine if there is a thyroid problem. But women affected should feel reassured: this trouble is easily treated, and the treatments are highly effective. Hyperthyroidism, which causes regular weight loss, is very rarely the underlying cause of weight gain. Other rare illnesses can also have an effect on your figure, such as suprarenal gland disorders or hypophysis.
Doctissimo: It seems as though hormonal changes mainly affect weight in women. Are men spared this?
Dr. Nys: Hypothyroidism affects men as well. But the main issue which arises for men is that of the male menopause. This reduction in male hormones occurs at a later stage than the female menopause. It leads to weight gain, but also to increased fatigue and a drop in libido among other problems. But these will disappear with the right treatment.
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