In my previous post I talked about the onset of hot flushes, and the role your hormones play. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to read it first, to get the background information. Today we’re looking at whether your current body fat percentage may affect the severity of your hot flushes.
And this is an interesting and dividing question.
Excess body fat contributes to known hot flush triggers - inflammation, insulin resistance, and leptin resistance. (More on these below)
A study was done that showed that women with higher body fat/BMI (BMI = Body Mass Index, a general body fat measurement tool) when hot flushes first occur, experience them more strongly than women with a lower body fat/BMI. This makes it look like the problem is linked to weight.
Others say that having a higher body fat percentage could lessen the severity of hot flushes. WTF? Well fat tissue is quite dynamic, and it has the ability to make small amounts of oestrogen. So, you could reason that more fat means more oestrogen, and therefore fewer hot flushes.
But I have had clients with a normal range body fat percentage who have really bad hot flushes! How can this be?
This is where we need to turn to science.
HOW YOUR FOOD CHOICES CAN MAKE MENOPAUSE HOT FLUSHES WORSE
When a group of scientists decided to take weight out of the equation, in a study done on women with normal BMIs, they found that those with the most severe hot flushes had these four things in common:
So the research found that women with the most severe hot flushes were leptin resistant, insulin resistant, and had higher than normal inflammation. These are all problems that are directly related to poor nutrition choices.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance means that your body cells are resistant to the influence of insulin.
Insulin is a fat storage hormone. When the carbohydrates you eat break down into sugar, insulin is the hormone that tells that sugar where to go.
Some sugar goes into your muscle and liver cells, where they are stored as ready-to-use energy. The remaining sugar gets stored away as fat in your fat cells, your long-term energy reserves for lean times (which in this day and age may never come!).
If you are constantly eating sugary, processed foods and lots of carbohydrates, insulin stays elevated and keeps telling your cells to store sugar. Over time, your cells get exhausted and stop responding to insulin’s demands. This is insulin resistance.
Once you are insulin resistant, your pancreas pumps out more insulin to force your cells to respond, leaving you with the high blood insulin levels seen in women with severe hot flushes.
What is Leptin Resistance?
Leptin is a hormone made by your fat cells, and Leptin resistance is like insulin resistance.
When your body is functioning optimally, the presence of leptin signals to you that you are full and you feel satisfied. It also tells your fat cells to start burning fat.
But if you overfeed your fat cells with a high intake of sugar, carbs, and processed foods, leptin loses its effectiveness, and you become leptin resistant. You will also gain extra body fat.
Remember both insulin and leptin resistance are the outcome of poor nutrition, meaning a diet that is high in sugar, carbohydrates, grains, and processed foods. Which means your hot flushes are linked to what you are eating more than you probably thought!
And of course, these poor nutrition choices also lead to excess body fat. Which as you now know can cause those hot flush triggers - inflammation, insulin resistance, and leptin resistance. 😳
I guess your next question is “How should I eat to avoid these crazy hot flushes?”
And that is the topic for next week’s post!
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Click below to listen to a podcast episode I was interviewed for, about building resilience and my journey to being a Health Coach