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Microbiome and Metabolism: Key Factors in Menopause Weight Loss for Athletic Women

For athletic women over the age of 40, maintaining a healthy weight can become increasingly challenging. Hormonal changes as you approach and enter menopause can bring about metabolic shifts that make weight management a complex effort.

Recent research highlights the crucial role played by gut health and the microbiome in weight management.

In this blog post, we will explore the intricate connection between hormones, metabolism, gut health & the microbiome, in the context of weight management for athletic women approaching menopause.

Hormonal Changes and Metabolism

During perimenopause the decline in estrogen levels can have profound effects on the body's energy utilisation. Oestrogen plays a pivotal role in regulating metabolism by influencing how the body processes and stores energy.

Metabolic efficiency refers to the body's ability to effectively convert consumed energy (calories) into functional energy or store it as needed, minimising excess energy storage as fat and optimising energy use (calories “burned”).

When oestrogen levels drop metabolic efficiency may be compromised as estrogen helps maintain insulin sensitivity, allowing cells to effectively take up glucose from the bloodstream. With reduced oestrogen, insulin sensitivity can decrease, leading to higher blood sugar levels and a greater likelihood of fat storage. This shift in energy utilisation can contribute to weight gain and alterations in fat distribution, particularly an increased propensity for abdominal adiposity.

During this transitional period, hormonal fluctuations also affect the body's ability to switch between different energy sources efficiently. Metabolic flexibility refers to the capacity to adapt to various fuel sources, primarily carbohydrates and fats, depending on energy demands. This adaptability becomes especially important as hormonal changes can impact insulin sensitivity and the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels.

The Gut Microbiome

The gut microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms in the digestive tract, vital for maintaining gut health. Recent research suggests that the composition and diversity of the gut microbiome can have a profound impact on metabolism and weight regulation.

1. Microbiome Diversity: A rich and balanced microbiome can influence how our bodies process food and regulate weight. Diverse microbiota help break down complex carbohydrates, produce beneficial metabolites, and contribute to energy regulation.

2. Gut-Brain Axis: The gut and the brain communicate bidirectionally through the gut-brain axis. Microbial metabolites and signals produced in the digestive tract, communicate with the brain. This communication system influences appetite, food preferences, and even mood.

3. Nutrient Absorption: A healthy gut microbiome plays a critical role in nutrient absorption. Gut bacteria help break down complex carbohydrates & fibre and facilitate the absorption of essential nutrients. This is particularly important for athletes, as they have specific nutrient requirements to support muscle maintenance and repair.

4. Inflammation Control: Dysbiosis in the gut microbiome can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation, which has been linked to metabolic disorders and weight gain. Maintaining a diverse and balanced microbiome can help mitigate inflammation, potentially improving metabolic efficiency.

5. Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs): Certain gut bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) as a byproduct of fibre fermentation. SCFAs play a role in regulating appetite and energy metabolism. An imbalanced microbiome may lead to lower SCFA production, potentially affecting metabolic efficiency and weight management.


Dysbiosis, an imbalance in the gut microbiome, can manifest through various signs and symptoms, significantly impacting metabolism, hormones, and weight loss. Common indications of dysbiosis include gastrointestinal disturbances such as bloating, irregular bowel movements, and food sensitivities. However, its effects extend far beyond the digestive system. Dysbiosis can disrupt the body's hormonal balance, particularly impacting sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and exacerbating menopausal symptoms in women. Additionally, this imbalance can contribute to chronic inflammation and insulin resistance, both of which can hinder metabolic efficiency and make it challenging to shed excess weight.

Bringing it all Together: The Connection Between Microbiome, Metabolism and Hormones.

The connection between the microbiome, metabolism, and hormones is intricate and dynamic. Hormones, particularly oestrogen, influence the gut environment, affecting the composition of the microbiome. In turn, the microbiome impacts hormonal regulation. This bidirectional relationship is especially evident during hormonal transitions like menopause.

· Perimenopause and the Microbiome: Hormonal changes during menopause can impact the composition of the microbiome. Reduced estrogen levels may lead to shifts in gut bacteria, potentially contributing to dysbiosis, an imbalance that can affect digestion and metabolism.

· Oestrogen and Energy Metabolism: Oestrogen influences insulin sensitivity, supporting the body's ability to regulate blood sugar and utilise carbohydrates for energy. As oestrogen declines, insulin resistance can emerge, leading to inefficient carbohydrate metabolism and potentially promoting fat storage.

· Microbiome and Carbohydrate Digestion: Gut bacteria are involved in breaking down complex carbohydrates into absorbable forms. A diverse and balanced microbiome supports efficient carbohydrate digestion, aiding in the prevention of blood sugar spikes and crashes.

· Microbiome, Metabolism and Gut-Brain Axis: The gut microbiome communicates with the brain through the gut-brain axis. This bidirectional communication system affects appetite regulation, energy expenditure, and metabolic responses. An imbalanced microbiome can disrupt this axis, potentially leading to overeating and metabolic dysfunction.

Practical Steps for Optimal Gut Health and Weight Loss

1. Dietary Diversity: Consume a wide variety of foods rich in fibre, prebiotics (such as garlic, onions, and leeks), and probiotics (found fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar and kimchi). This diversity can promote a healthier gut microbiome.

2. Limit Processed Foods: Highly processed foods often lack the nutrients necessary to support a diverse microbiome. Reduce your intake of sugary snacks, refined grains, and artificial additives, choose foods that are as close to their natural form as possible.

3. Regular Exercise: Physical activity has been shown to positively influence the gut microbiome. Engage in a mix of aerobic and strength-training exercises to support your metabolism.

4. Adequate Sleep: Prioritize quality sleep, as insufficient rest can disrupt the gut microbiome and lead to weight gain.

5. Stress Management: Chronic stress can negatively impact the gut microbiome and metabolism. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or mindfulness practices into your routine.

A note about Probiotic Supplements: Strain specificity is important when choosing probiotic supplements. Different probiotic strains have distinct benefits, and selecting the right strains tailored to individual needs ensures targeted and effective support for overall health and specific goals. Refer to your natural health practitioner for support when choosing the right probiotic supplements for you.

Weight management for active women pre and post- menopause is a complex journey, influenced by hormonal changes, metabolic efficiency, and gut health. Understanding the intricate connections between these factors can empower women to make informed decisions about their nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle choices.

If you would like support and guidance for weight management and body composition, book a Free 10 minute Discovery Call to chat with me.

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