Fourteen years after my mom passed away, I finally got around to cleaning out the boxes containing her belongings. There was lots of memorabilia, and seeing old photos of my mom spawned what I hope is a timely subject.
I noticed in her photos that as she went from childhood to young womanhood to motherhood, and finally to old age, she never went from looking thin to getting a square shape and a big belly! Hmm…thinking, thinking. Seeing those old family photos triggered a question in my mind: What exactly is this “belly fat” phenomenon so many of us battle? And more importantly, why did my mom not have it?
Lynn Mayer, CNC, is a close associate and a Standard Process mentor. During a recent visit in her home, we discussed this very subject. I thought to share some of that conversation with you, my dear readers. Back when I first met Lynn to discuss several health issues, including belly fat, I weighed 160 pounds at a short 5 feet, 4 inches. Approximately 8 months later, I’m at 135 and moving down nicely to my natural weight prior to menopause, 115 to 120 pounds. For whatever it’s worth, to anyone out there agonizing over extra weight, sluggishness, or related symptoms such as middle-age spread, this article is for you!
I would often hear my mom discuss this issue with her neighbor. About other women she would say, “Oh, she’s just in the change of life.” At a certain point in everyone’s life, that change takes place—and sometimes it’s a harsh one at that!
This change of life also applies to men. So listen up gentlemen, as much of what happens to women will also happen to you. In the case of females, this time in our life is referred to as “premenopausal,” and it can last for years. Because this topic involves the complex subject of how changes in the endocrine system cause such disruption, I’ve chosen to keep my explanations and recommendations, based on my conversation with Lynn Mayer, as short, simple, and easy-to-understand as possible.
What causes the so called “change of life” in our bodies as we age?
We all have a highly complex endocrine system. This group of glands and organs is most vital during our childbearing years. When your body senses that this time is coming to an end, regardless of whether or not you had any children, the endocrine system begins to decrease its output of certain hormones either gradually or abruptly. An abrupt decrease may have a medical reason such as a hysterectomy or some other type of disturbance.
The result of a decrease in hormones is that the body begins to recognize that something is very wrong. In its infinite wisdom, it tries to deliver the message with a cascade of uncomfortable, unwelcome symptoms. Yes, change is an ordeal!
Without making this article into a book, you can get a deeper understanding of the endocrine system here.
What are premenopausal symptoms?
Although many women go through this period of life with little or no symptoms, others experience mild to severe repercussions like the following:
- Changes in menstrual cycle
- Hot flushes (frequently called flashes)
- Vaginal dryness/pain with intercourse
- Frequent urination or incontinence
- Urinary tract infections
- Decreased libido
- Depression, brain fog, fatigue, mood swings
- Weight gain
What medical remedies can be used?
Bio-identical hormones – For the most part, these are considered a safe choice to help relieve premenopausal symptoms. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and several medical specialty groups, the hormones marketed as “bio-identical” and “natural” aren’t any safer than hormones used in traditional hormone therapy, and there’s no evidence that they’re any more effective. Natural means the hormones in the product come from plant or animal sources rather than synthesized in a lab. But many of these products still need to be commercially processed to become bio-identical. From a holistic point of view, as Lynn Mayer and I discussed, I thought to present a safer option.
What are the main culprits behind weight gain and other symptoms?
Due to the complexity of this subject, I’ll only discuss what happens with two of the major hormones when they’re not in balance: adrenaline and cortisol, both of which are produced by the adrenal glands. (Note: The adrenal glands are encased in layers of cholesterol, which is why cholesterol is such an important component of healthy adrenals.)
The adrenaline hormone serves as a warning signal that danger is afoot. It accelerates our heartbeat and increases our rate of breath. It can also produce hyperventilation and asthma-like effects, as well as anxiety, fear, and other symptoms. Adrenalin causes multiple chemical changes in our brains and bodies to help us defend ourselves from whatever danger we’re in—or that we perceive we’re in! In due time, consistent overstimulation caused by the ongoing outpouring of this hormone may cause adrenal fatigue.
Once the adrenals reach this dangerous stage, cortisol becomes dysfunctional. It can no longer do its job of moderating our blood sugar levels and controlling how our bodies use fuel sources (fats, carbs, and proteins). This can cause dysfunctional aerobic/fat burning action so we burn more sugar and less fat. The end result is, of course, belly fat, thigh fat, butt fat, and emotional distress. This leads to a distortion of our once normal size, and it affects our overall health. It may contribute to diabetes, heart disease, depression, and many other serious health issues.
What are some natural techniques to bring hormones into balance?
Once again, I can only share the techniques I’ve learned from my own experience. I’ll list them in the order of importance and what worked for me.
In my opinion and experience, desire alone will never bring success. After numerous starts and stops, I recognized my incredible laziness when it came to follow through! I finally realized that I catered to my bad habits when I resisted changes that would help me. The worse habit was getting easily discouraged when change was too slow.
I finally had to make a commitment to be ruthlessly faithful to my plan, day after day after day, no matter what! My recommendations below may give you a launching pad if you’re truly ready to lose the excess weight. Have faith that you can simplify your routine for the sake of your adrenal glands and live a longer, calmer life as you age.
I’m defining stress as “activity without real, daily relaxation.” The stress I’m talking about isn’t emergency related or due to some other negative occurrence. That kind of stress sometimes cannot be avoided, and we may need an occasional adrenaline rush to quickly move to a safe place both physically and mentally. But the most damaging kind of stress happens when we’re constantly on the go, rushing through every meal and trying to accomplish more than we could ever fit in one day.
It’s even worse if we don’t take the time to pause several times each day for 15–20 minutes of real relaxation. If we don’t find the time to do this, our adrenal glands can’t recoup from the outpour of adrenaline hormone and/or the emotional garbage we’ve accumulated throughout the day! At some point in time, the adrenals become fatigued and the cortisol hormone starts malfunctioning. See my post “Relaxation: The Cure-All Vitamin” for some tips on how to find real relaxation.
I’m highly involved with the diet philosophy of Sally Fallon Morell, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and I often share my knowledge with Lynn Mayer. When I first asked Lynn how I could get rid of my belly fat, she answered simply and softly, “Don’t eat so much!” It genuinely shocked me as I didn’t think I was eating too much!
I did, however, take her advice to heart. I began looking for ways to reduce the amount I ate without giving up complex carbs, animal fats, meats, organs, broths, raw dairy, whole grains, and other foods I enjoy, which are all a part of a healthy Weston A. Price diet. My studies eventually led me to a small but wonderful book called The Cortisol Connection. (Though I recommend the book, I don’t recommend the specific supplement brands or types of supplementation in it. You should consult your own holistic practitioner for testing and spend your money on what your practitioner says is best to fill your needs.)
The Cortisol Connection outlines a unique idea of portioning foods, suggesting that you use your own hand as a measuring tool. The inside of your palm is your allotted amount of protein per meal; your closed fist is the amount of complex carbohydrates; and your entire open hand is the amount of greens and/or vegetables. I was surprised that when I combined this step with the others, within 2 weeks I could feel my slacks getting a bit looser, and my discouragement became an enthusiastic high! Thank you, Lynn!
Here are my two favorite suggestions for revving your metabolism: take 3–4 tablespoons of coconut oil every single day. The fact that coconut oil contains fewer calories isn’t the main reason for its reputation as a low-calorie fat. Rather, the advantage it offers in weight management has more to do with its affect on metabolism. “The Fat That Can Make You Thin” by Dr. Bruce Fife, ND, will teach you more about this ingredient—it’s a must-read article for success.
It’s also important to go for a daily walk, breathing only through your nose, usually for 45 minutes to an hour, or till a good sweat breaks. At that point you’ll be in a fat burning mode for the next 12 hours.
The following supplements address the decrease in estrogen secretion caused by menopause.
Wild Yam Complex – This combination of wild yam, Shatavari and Korean Ginseng provides gentle estrogenic activity to alleviate the menopausal reduction in estrogen. The sage is specific for hot flashes, while St. John’s Wort supports the nervous system and may lessen depression. Last but not least, Black Cohosh is clinically proven to be effective in alleviating menopausal symptoms and is beneficial in osteopenia.
Note: Korean Ginseng is an adaptogen, which greatly improves your body’s ability to adapt to stress, whether it’s due to a hectic schedule, heat or cold, noise, high altitudes, or any number of other stressors. These elite herbs impart strength, energy, stamina, and endurance, and they improve mental clarity.
Rehmannia Extract – Provides excellent support for the adrenals and is also beneficial for excessive stress.
Supplementation: Standard Process
Diaplex – This excellent product addresses blood sugar handling imbalances for both pre-diabetics and diabetics.
Simplex F – Indicated for overall endocrine system support. Used for premenstrual symptoms, hot flashes, hypo/hyperthyroid, adrenal conditions, and sympatric autonomic nervous dominance.
Foods and Recipes
One of the best sources of coconut oil recipes can be found here. However, you should still adhere to Sally’s recommendation below concerning adrenal stimulants and choose recipes that exclude chocolate, caffeine, and/or high sugar content. Here are some more tips to keep in mind:
As stated above, Sally Fallon Morrell discourages chocolate, coffee, and/or any caffeine or caffeine-like stimulant foods or beverages. Chocolate contains theobromine, a strong adrenal stimulant similar to caffeine. Also be sure to avoid alcoholic beverages. They truly have a strong depressive effect.
Consider using organic green powdered Stevia to reduce any sugar highs that may affect the pancreatic function.
Finally, it’s no myth that we can carry an extraordinary amount of fecal matter in our bowels due to poor gut health. This not only adds weight to our body, but it’s also a serious issue that can keep us from achieving superior health. To avoid the consequences of this problem, you must consume a sufficient amount of high fiber whole grains and complex carbohydrate vegetables. Additionally, increasing your consumption of fermented foods should help keep the colon clean. If you’re not familiar with lacto- fermented foods, consider buying my DVD and booklet “Cook Your Way to Wellness.”
Photo from iStock/goa_novi
Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.