Is your body fat becoming an endocrine organ?

I can’t tell you how many women I’ve come across over the years who as they get into peri and post menopause struggle with increasing body fat, regardless of the amount of exercise they do and relentless food restrictions.

We know that it’s not just about diet and exercise. We know that stress plays a big role in the formation of ‘stubborn’ fat, so stress reduction techniques have always been a factor in programming to address this.

But what’s interesting is the role that changing hormones and hormone production play in this process. Our sex hormones, while obviously for reproduction, also play many protective functions in the body. In premenopausal women, sex hormone production is the realm of the ovaries 95% of the time (the adrenals produce the remaining 5%).  The transition into peri and post-menopause sees sex hormone production reduce and shift away from the ovaries and over 90% of sex hormones is then produced by the adrenals.

The adrenals.  That organ that deals with stress by releasing the hormone cortisol.

In today’s society, women (and men) are living increasingly stressful lives. It’s not just the  mental/emotional stress of family, work and money, there’s also lifestyle stressors of food and sleep quality, exposure to chemicals in our environment, inflammation caused by gut issues, liver congestion, immune issues or past infections and much more. It’s this wide-ranging, all encompassing, stress that our adrenals prioritise to allow us to survive.

Our adrenals will prioritise processing our stress over the production of sex hormones. However, we still need sex hormones for a range of body functions, but our adrenals are too busy with our stressful lives to be able to accommodate this. And this is where it gets interesting.

You’ll note above that over 90% of sex hormones in peri and post menopause should be made in the adrenals. The other 10% or so comes from body fat tissue.

If your adrenals are otherwise preoccupied with stress, you’ll still need to make some sex hormones somewhere.  That somewhere is your body fat. Your body fat will increasingly take on the demand of producing those hormones and to help itself out it will lay down increasing amounts of body fat – it becomes an endocrine organ in itself.

So this is the ‘stubborn’ fat that just won’t shift, no matter what we do. When we know why these processes are happening, and how its caused in each individual (and it can be different from person to person) we can start to put in place interventions to help address it – we can start to unpick the stressors, reduce inflammatory processes and rebuild healthier pathways.

If this is a concern for you, talk to me about how I can help.