So you’ve reached that critical time of every woman’s life – menopause – and it seems like you’re eating a bit more than you did several years ago. You keep feeling hungry even though you’ve just had your last meal and can’t resist binge eating.
That’s your menopause hunger. And this ravenousness won’t stop until you fill your stomach, yet it comes back when your body says it’s time to feast again. Learn how to control your menopausal hunger and maintain a healthy weight during this time.
Why Do Some Women Go Through Menopause With Increased Hunger?
Does Menopause Make You Hungry?
Unfortunately, menopause isn’t only about hormonal fluctuations and vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Instead, this period influences women in every aspect of their lives. For example, you may have mood swings, which cause you to lose control of your emotions and express unpredictable feelings. Also, menopause pushes you closer to osteoporosis, which weakens your bone and increases the risk of fracture.
But menopause doesn’t only stop at that. It entices you to search for food in the fridge constantly. Because of the dramatic changes in hormone levels, menopause disrupts the eating habit once controlled by hormones like leptin and ghrelin. According to a study on 94 women, the menopausal transition was accompanied by increased hunger. Interestingly, their desire to eat was psychological rather than physical.
Menopause and Increased Hunger
So how does menopause affect your eating habits and make you unable to resist the tempting call of the pantry? If you think you only want to eat when your stomach is empty and you’re burning more calories than before, you’re wrong.
Your fluctuating hormones can be the culprit behind your food cravings.
The hormone leptin, made by fat cells in the body, works on the hypothalamus in the brain to control appetite and energy balance. It suppresses hunger and tells the brain that the body has had enough energy in the form of fat reserves, which causes a decrease in food intake and increases energy expenditure. The opposite happens when the body’s leptin levels are low, causing hunger and weight gain.
According to a study on leptin in postmenopausal women, aging causes a decline in leptin levels, making women feel hungrier. Still, decreased leptin isn’t associated with spending more energy, meaning you may eat more calories than you need.
In contrast to leptin, the hormone ghrelin is primarily produced by the stomach to increase appetite and food intake. Ghrelin levels increase before meals and decrease afterward, helping control when meals are started and how much food is consumed. Although ghrelin performs additional responsibilities, such as affecting glucose metabolism, its primary function is controlling hunger and food consumption.
According to a study on ghrelin and menopause, women going through menopause may have higher ghrelin levels compared to those in postmenopausal periods. And elevated ghrelin means you want to eat more while failing to tell when you’ve had enough.
Does Estrogen Make You Hungry?
Estrogen is very powerful. Although we think of estrogen as a reproductive hormone, it also plays a crucial role in controlling hunger hormones. So yes, a decrease in this sex hormone during menopause can increase appetite in women in several ways.
Estrogen regulates energy balance and decreases leptin resistance, resulting in lower feelings of hunger. Meanwhile, estrogen also affects ghrelin secretion, and some research even suggests that it can lower ghrelin levels and reduce food cravings.
According to a study on estrogen and leptin, estrogen directly interacts with leptin signaling and is a potent energy regulator. Leptin and estrogen both have an impact on reproduction while also reducing hunger and body fat. This effect is due to the changes in the melanocortin system, a neuronal pathway involved in regulating food intake.
How to Control Menopause Hunger
Ozempic, sold under the brand name Wegovy, is a weight-loss drug that acts as a GLP-1 receptor agonist, which works by slowing the process in which the stomach empties itself. In other words, Ozempic prolongs the time your stomach needs to be empty again and feel hungry. This effect reduces the feeling of appetite and food intake.
Moreover, Ozempic also works as a neurotransmitter that sends satiety signals to the brain. It tells our bodies when we’ve had enough food and are satiated by stimulating specific neurons and inhibiting the neuropeptides that regulate hunger.
Tirzepatide, sold under the brand name Mounjaro, is an even better alternative to Ozempic. This new weight-loss drug has a dual action as a GIP/GLP-1 receptor co-agonist, mimicking what the GIP and GLP-1 peptides do in our bodies and further slowing down the gastric emptying process. This effect reduces food intake more effectively than Ozempic.
How to Maintain a Healthy Weight
Personalized Weight Loss
If you’ve tried everything to keep yourself off binge eating, from drinking more water to fill up your stomach to increasing fiber-rich foods, and it still seems like nothing works, it’s time to consider enrolling in a personalized weight-loss program.
This weight-loss program is designed specifically for individual needs to maximize its effectiveness. Since no workout or dietary regimen is one-size-fits-all, you need something more intricate that targets your condition. This unique weight-loss plan also comes with prescription medications, hormone optimization, and nutrition support to ensure you lose weight and keep it off for good.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
As mentioned earlier, your fluctuating hormones can be why you can’t resist food cravings. To deal with this problem, you must correct your hormone levels, which is especially vital during menopause. So hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be the right solution to keep your hormones in check and fight off the decline.
HRT increases estrogen levels in your body to the point where it’s sufficient to allow your body to function correctly. Because estrogen directly affects your leptin and ghrelin levels, the two primary hunger hormones, having enough estrogen keeps you off binge eating and tells you when it’s good to stop having more foods.
With that said, the most important thing is that you must be aware of the effects of menopause on your eating pattern and take action about it. But don’t torment yourself by stopping eating altogether. Maintaining healthy eating habits is what matters the most.
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