Menopause: Why some women have it worse

Obesity is defined as having an excess amount of body fat. It’s the fat, not the number of pounds you carry, that can cause a boatload of problems…

On the scary end of the spectrum, obesity increases the risk for certain cancers — and while cancer rates in general have been decreasing, obesity-related cancers are on the rise.

Obesity also causes chronic inflammation which can lead to poor immune system response.

And obese people who undergo surgery often have a harder time recovering.

Now, research has found that for obese women, going through menopause can be a particularly difficult period of life, compared to how it goes for women who weigh less.

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Menopause + obesity = worse symptoms

At the 2023 Annual Meeting of The Menopause Society, the results of a pilot study were presented showing that being obese may worsen a woman’s menopause symptoms and limit the amount of relief she gets from hormone therapy (HT).

The findings were based on a five-year study involving 119 patients with obesity, defined in this study as having a BMI greater than or equal to 30.

When compared with women without obesity, those with a BMI of 30 or greater were significantly more likely to report menopause-related vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats (74% vs 45%).

In addition, women with obesity were more likely to report vaginal and urinary symptoms of menopause, including vaginal dryness, urinary tract infections and inflammation of the vagina (60% vs 21%).

Mood disturbances like anxiety and depression (11% vs 0%) and decreased libido (29% vs 11%) were also more common.

Are women with obesity being underdosed with HT?

Dr. Anita Pershad of Eastern Virginia Medical School, who led the study, reports that women with obesity were less likely to feel symptom relief after using menopausal hormone therapy (HT) compared with women without obesity.

However, Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director for The Menopause Society, speculates on the possible reason behind this.

Dr. Faubion’s theory is that doctors aren’t putting women with obesity on adequate doses of hormone therapy, possibly because of concerns about cardiovascular risk factors.

“This is important for healthcare professionals to consider when counseling their patients on the various options for managing their menopause symptoms,” she says. “Considering that more than 40% of women over the age of 40 are classified as obese according to the CDC, these results could be meaningful to a large percentage of patients transitioning through menopause.”

Earlier this year, we learned that being obese can modify the effects of drugs used to treat common conditions. In some cases, it can render the drugs ineffective and in others, downright unsafe for people with obesity.

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Menopause relief without HRT

There are things women can do to help reduce their menopausal symptoms that have nothing to do with hormone therapy.

A diet heavy in fruits and vegetables and low in meat, dairy, processed foods, caffeine, and salty foods can help control symptoms like hot flashes. Just stay away from citrus fruits if you’re having bladder control issues.

And get this…

A 2022 study proved that a low-fat, vegan diet that included half a cup of soybeans daily was virtually as effective as HRT (88% vs 90%) at controlling hot flashes!

Making these diet changes to relieve menopause symptoms may also have the bonus side effect of weight loss.

But embarking on a strict weight loss diet while trying to handle menopause at the same time could be daunting, to say the least.

If that’s the case, this is one time where, if you and your doctor agree, weight loss surgery may be the better choice.

A study from just a couple of years ago found that the metabolic benefits from weight loss surgery may outweigh natural weight loss — including a 40 percent reduction in risk of death and heart complications in patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Of course, many are quick to jump on the Ozempic bandwagon. Just do your research first, and be aware of the risks, of which rebound weight gain may be the least, and the Ozempic plateau we’re just starting to hear about.

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Menopausal Women With Obesity Endure Worse Symptoms, Less HT Relief — Medpage Today

Obese women have worse menopause symptoms nd get less relief from hormone therapy — Eureka Alert

Obesity is a killer in nonsmoking women — Science Daily

Study shows certain foods reduce hot flashes associated with menopause by 88% — Eureka Alert

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.